Title: The Qualities of a Ranger

Disclaimer: Not mine. Never will be. Aragorn belongs to the great Tolkien.

Rating: PG-13.

Warnings: Slight AU warning. No romance (Except to some Aragorn/Arwen), no slash, and the violence is only mentioned.

Summary: Concerning a tattered, leather-bound book of a certain Ranger. "One does not learn to be a Ranger in a day, a week, or even a month," Estel writes in his journal. That may be the case, but if one were to compare his writings from when he first joined the Dúnedain to the time he was known as "Strider," many differences can be found. 3rd Place Winner in the Teitho Contest "Well-Laid Plans."

A/N: Many thanks to all who voted for this story!


This is only the original version. When I have time, I plan to expand this, and post an EE (Extended Edition) of this story.

The word "plan" most likely appears nowhere in this story. However, this story does include plans, plans that Estel/Aragorn makes. :) Be warned, however, that because this is a journal, thoughts may be scattered, the entries may jump topics, and that there are some grammar mistakes.

Aragorn was never known for his writing!


The Qualities of a Ranger

(Excerpted from the journal of Estel Elrondion.)

Part I

April 3, Year 2947 of the Third Age

I dislike writing by the light of only one candle. However, that cannot be helped; I'm supposed to be in bed at this moment, but am feeling too excited to sleep.

Ada has finally given his blessings for me to join my kin, the Dúnedain. I have waited for him to say those words since I was thirteen. Now, after four years, he has consented (Not that he is entirely happy with the idea; today he continuously tells me how I should be careful, and how I must always listen to the advice of my elders). I leave tomorrow with Elladan and Elrohir, heading to the nearest Dúnedain village. Dan says we should reach the place in three days.

Once I learn to be a ranger, then maybe Ada will let me wander on my own when I turn twenty—an age impossibly far away.

Of course, there are also the rites that I have to perform before I am deemed an adult and a warrior. (1) Sometimes I wish that growing up and becoming a warrior does not require so many rites and responsibilities.

Ada says that "Warriors are made, not born. It can be a title, but it is a title that must be earned, and it comes with the traits of bravery, strength, wisdom, patience, humility, and self-sacrifice." I usually don't remember his long proverbs and sayings, but this one stuck out. Maybe because I don't exactly have those traits?

I would like to consider myself a warrior. My brother says I fight well, and I can use nearly every sort of weapon I come upon. I have the blood of both Elves and Men; a funny combination.

But do I have the quality?

Bravery: Well, the only thing I fear at the moment is Ada's anger, Orcs, and wargs. But I don't think that counts as bravery.

Strength: I know Ada does not mean physical strength—I would lose to the strength of a troll. But what sort of "mental" strength does he mean? The strength to not show pain? Nay, that is more like bravado. Perhaps…strength in doing the right thing? Ada can be so vague at times. It ties in with bravery, I know that much.

Wisdom: I definitely do not have that yet. I'm too young to be considered wise.

Patience: I am ashamed to say I have very little of this. Ada is ever after me for being too impulsive.

Humility: I have tried at this and failed. Perhaps when I am old and venerable I shall be considered humble.

Self-sacrifice: Another one of Ada's sayings—"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood become a matter of life and death to you." (2) The thought of that is frightening. Ada can do that, Elladan and Elrohir can, and so do Glorfindel and some others I know. But can I? Valuing something or someone—unless they are my family—over my own life just does not sound like a bright future.

This is all very tiring. I'm beginning to think that these things are like instincts the Eldar have.

And now I must end here, because Glorfindel is threatening to tell my father I am still awake. I wonder how he knew, though. I stuffed a blanket under the door…

April 8

One does not learn to be a Ranger in a day, a week, or even a month.

I have found this out the hard, painful, and embarrassing way.

Elladan says that rangers are "scruffy but ingenious." I think I fit neither criterion. Perhaps it is because I have lived among Elves for most of my life, hence the "un-scruffiness." As for the ingenious part, I have failed my first test regarding that.

The journey had been uneventful enough; we ran into no trouble. The weather was fine, and I spent most of the ride talking with my brothers. We reached the outpost as the sun was setting, and I met with my kin.

This was not the first time; they had occasionally traveled to Rivendell. I knew the names of several, including Halbarad, my cousin and the closest kin I have.

The Dúnedain are fascinating, I will admit. They are men, edain, like me. But I am not one of them…at least, not yet.

Would it be an insult if I said I felt closer to the Elves than to the Dúnedain? The only resemblance I have is the dark hair and grey eyes we share. These men looked at me curiously, and questioned my brothers regarding my upbringing, my education, and my skills.

The word "awkward" isn't enough to express how I felt.

They spoke quietly of the "Heir of Isildur" to my brothers, glancing at me when they thought I wasn't looking.

I, an heir of anything?

Unlikely.

In fact, I find that ludicrous. I'm not a leader of any sort. I am merely Estel, the adopted son of Elrond. Though he speaks little of my blood father, what I can garner makes the possibility of me being an heir impossible.

Perhaps I bear resemblance to the Heir; I don't know. I hope that does not effect their assumptions about me.

They then questioned me. Ada told they might, so I was not surprised.

I think they were impressed. Or, at least, they were impressed until it came to my first test. I am rather ashamed to write it down, but since no one will read this journal except, I'll write it down. Maybe in my old age I will find it humorous.

My brother taught me many skills, and not just weapons, but also things such as hunting, tracking, and the like. I am fond of them all, except one—

Traps. I'm clumsy at setting them. Making them takes me a long time. I prefer the simplicity of using a bow.

Was it my bad luck that Halbarad told me to make one on the spot? I could swear that my brothers were laughing behind my back as I did so. At least I was successful today.

Until sometime later, while talking, I was pacing, and quite forgetting about that snare, stepped right into it. And there I hung from a tree, upside down for the entire world to see. Elladan and Elrohir were beside themselves with laughter. And the men were smiling.

I spent the rest of the day nursing my sore ankle and bruised pride.

During the night, I asked Elladan if I had the skill to be a Ranger someday. He told not to worry, that I was still young and had plenty of time.

"You always say that!" I said in frustration.

"But it is the truth." he had replied. "One day, little brother, you will learn that being a Ranger actually does not require skills, or even talent. It requires a lifetime of learning and adapting."

A lifetime. The horrors! I do not have the lifespan of the Eldar. How do they expect me to do that?

He sounds too much like Ada when he spouts such sayings. Do all the Eldar enjoy puzzling me all the time?

On a lighter note, tomorrow I am to be tested in my swordsmanship and bowmanship. I think that should be easy enough.

April 24

I have not written for some time—too busy. I must wake up early, before dawn, and I bed down in the dead of night. My many duties keep me at work most of the time. I like most of them, except that I had to learn how to sew (My fingers are permanently scarred!), cook (What I cook is only fit for pigs), and I saw other things I thought fit only for females.

Much to my shame my mistakes are many. It is a small wonder that Ada says patience is a virtue. I hope that one day I will do something without making myself look the fool.

I have been with the Dúnedain for at least a fortnight. And it has been a very long fortnight. I am beginning to feel like a Ranger (Even smelling like one. I'm not sure I like the "scruffy" part, though).

My brother left me only a week ago, on my own. I think they were reluctant, but this had already been planned beforehand.

When still in Rivendell, I thought I would be glad to be out of their care.

I was wrong. I miss them, and I can say on the first night they were not there, I cried, but only a little. I couldn't help it. After seventeen years of their company and Ada's, this feeling of being on my own is foreign to me.

The Rangers are kind and helpful, especially Halbarad. He goes of his way to teach me things, and even engages in lively conversation. They are not terribly grim, like in some stories that I have heard.

But they are not my family. As much as I wish to become one of them, the longing to be home is still there.

It is why I have not been writing. Keeping myself occupied and too tired for writing chases any thoughts of home. But it still does not dull the longing. I feel it most keenly during the nights, when I am alone. I try not to think about how long I will stay here.

Four months is a very long time.

March 1

My eighteenth birthday has come and gone. No one made any mention, and neither did I. Today was spent like any other day. I have feeling that once I am a Ranger, more birthdays will pass without notice.

Its days like these, days that are memorable to me, when my mind turns home.

Elladan and Elrohir are either at home or out on one of their excursions. Ada is probably busy, doing what he always does. His life goes on even without me.

I wonder if he thinks of me. I think of him often. His face was sad, resigned, when I left, as if he knew what paths I would be taking. I want to make him proud of me.

Love and approval are two different things in my thinking, no matter what my father says.

I wish my future were not so cloudy, nor my mind so undecided. For example, a part of me wants to grow up quickly. Another part wishes for life to slow down. A part of me wants to be famous, someone renowned and respected. But another part of me enjoys the anonymous life the Rangers lead.

In two years, I will be twenty. No longer a boy, a youth, but a man. An adult (No matter what Ada says).

Shall I ever know what sort of I will become?

Will I be a Ranger, and proud to be one of the Dúnedain? Will I have the qualities needed? So many questions, and I cannot find the answers.

March 15

We reached the main Dúnedain community today. I was more than nervous, because Halbarad had told me that I will be able to meet more of my kin.

I did not ask him why my kin did not take me in—I could not. Rather, I could not bear the thought that my life might have been different from the one I had known scares me.

When we entered the village, I had an odd feeling that I had been in it before. Something about the place, with all its vast differences from Rivendell, triggered something.

It was as if I once knew the place.

Before I could ponder it, I had to meet with more Dúnedain men, and, for the first time, women and even children my age (For in Rivendell, I had only seen ellith, and there no children save for me).

The children stared; I did the same. I wondered what it would be like growing up here. Most likely my life would be a grimmer one. I heard them whispering when I thought I did not hear them.

The morning went well enough. I was given the afternoon to explore and acquaint myself with the village. That went well enough, too. Until I met a rather condescending boy by the name of Maenhir. He said some rather insulting things to me, and we quarrel, and then went further than that.

I note, with satisfaction, that he came out of it worse than I did. Needless to say, Halbarad was not impressed. He gave me a lecture as scathing as Ada's speeches and sent me away—with no dinner—to "think over my actions."

At the moment, I am staring at the wall of the room I have been given. It is half the size of my room back in Rivendell, and the only hint of color is a drawing tacked up on one wall. At least it is warm; the fireplace was lit, and blankets are thick and soft.

Forgive me for saying this, but the women are rather plain compared to the Elves (My brothers would be laughing at me for saying this) I grew up around. I have no doubt that they are fearless and hard-working, but it makes me wonder all the more if I will ever marry (Marrying an elleth is, well, not likely if Ada has his way). I have yet to fell in love.

The other thing that bothers me is the drabness of everything. The houses are brown and dull. Their clothes are varying shades of brown, dark green, and bits of blue and some red. The only bright colors were the sky and the grass. In Rivendell, everything had color and life.

Wait.

I sound as if I resent being here, complaining and sighing.

(Here, two lines are blotted out.)

I am ashamed of myself.

I have just read some of my previous records, and I find that I have been either been finding fault, or moaning about my plight. What is wrong with me? I want to be here—I begged Ada for a long time.

Then why these conflicting thoughts? I am not a spoiled child who begs and whines for what he cannot have. Valar forbid that I become one!

I have the urge to wander, to collect my scattered thoughts and feelings.

Is it wrong to wistfully think of my home? Nay, for Ada tells me that over and over. Then why am I unhappy? Uncontented?

Perhaps I am looking at everything in the wrong light.

How I wish I could ask my father, or my brothers. They would know. But they are not here. Instead, I have to think for myself, solve my own problems.

Maybe that is what growing up is—to learn to be independent, and still a little dependent.

I will be a Ranger. But I will go nowhere if I cannot learn the qualities and traits.

Bravery, strength, wisdom, patience, humility, and self-sacrifice—

Istaiathon.

--

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

- The Fellowship of the Ring

--

Part II

December 23, Year 2989 of the Third Age

Rarely these days do I find time to write. I find myself longing for the days of my youth, when I was carefree and uncaring of the world and her troubles, and when I had all the time I wanted.

I remember when I was young, only five years of age. I fancied myself an elf, even calling myself one. When Lord Elrond first corrected me, I had cried in dismay. He then told me there was no shame in being the child of Men.

And I believed him. How could I not? His word was like ink written on parchment—always right, never unfailing. I trusted him whole-heartedly.

But now there is shame, for I have gone from being the son of Elrond to the Heir of Isildur and the Chieftain of the Dúnedain. They are titles, but trivial ones in my eyes. What matters is the fact that I am related to one of the most arrogant men on this earth.

Isildur.

The one who could not overcome the power of the Ring and took it for himself. It was why my people have come to ruin. Here I am now, trying to lead a scattered people who dwindle as the years go by.

I wish there was someone more capable than I could lead.

I am fifty-eight years of age—still young by the reckoning of the Númenoreans. But how is it that I feel old and weary?

In my life, I have enough bloodshed and hate to last me a lifetime. Do men always take pleasure in slaying innocent lives, or taking advantage of those unfortunate to cross their paths?

How can it be said the race of Men is honourable?

I see no honor.

Except, perhaps in a few. Not all men are corrupted. Some fight against evil every day, even winning.

I should like to think that I am one of them, for I still have to face the greatest obstacle in my life.

It is to be a king, a King of Gondor.

I have faced many orcs, slain countless enemies, braved many perils, and yet I quail at this single impediment. To be King.

A long time ago I thought it difficult to be a Ranger. I now find that easier than to be a king someday.

I now understand what Elladan meant by it requires a lifetime of learning and adapting. A Ranger is always learning new things, meeting different people, always watchful, and ever the protector.

What I once thought a simple job was not. Countless nights are spent in the wilderness, on my own. The winter months painfully pass. I am viewed as a rogue, a scoundrel, and many other things. Very few are the times when I hear words of gratitude.

The life of a Ranger is a lonely one. But I would not give it up. Although I receive no distinction or award for my efforts, the thought that I have helped one in need, or saved the life of one, it is enough.

Yet all of this does not compare to the burden I bear. The burden of kingship.

Despite my age, I still do not feel ready.

How can one Dúnedain, leading a people whose names have been forgotten by the world, sit upon the throne of a kingdom who may not even want a king? The thought of planning, strategizing, and rebuilding a kingdom is staggering.

Bravery I learned from Halbarad. He has told me countless times that the best sort of bravery is standing while all others may be sitting.

Strength came from Elrond—Ada. He has not told me, but I have seen it in his life. I admire how he had the strength to go on, even when things did not go his way.

Wisdom I may never fully have, but Gandalf is there to guide me.

Patience Legolas taught me, and many other things. The Silvan folk, queer as they may be in the eyes of some, have shown me great things.

Humility I struggle with every day. It does not come easily, and the day when I master this will never come. Like being a Ranger, it takes a lifetime to learn.

Self-sacrifice is something I have faced many a time, and if I must give my life to save the lives of many, I will do it.

My family and friends have faith in me. They continuously tell me that the qualities of a Ranger are enough. I pray that they are right.

Part III

October 3, Year 3021 of the Third Age

I am amazed to find myself at the place I am now in. Never did I expect that I would actually fulfill the old prophecies, and become King of the Reunited Kingdoms of Gondor and Anor. I have changed little save in appearance.

Despite my new title, I am still a Ranger at heart.

It has been very long since I last wrote in this old book, and it is one the last blank page that I pen my last entry.

For although my old life is over, a new one begins.

I am not perfect, despite what men may claim. I am as mortal as they were, fallible and prone to mistakes. I cannot solve every problem, nor does my knowledge exceed anyone's.

But I do know that I have succeeded.

And the only reason for this is that I learnt long ago lessons that have shown me bravery, strength, wisdom, patience, humility, and self-sacrifice.

Here ends the journal of Aragorn, Son of Arathorn, also known as Estel Elrondion, Strider, Thorongil, and Elessar Telcontar.

--

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost
;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

- The Fellowship of the Ring

--


The translations for the Elvish in this story:

Elrondion – "Son of Elrond"

Ada – endearing form of "Adar"

Eldar – the race of Elves

Edain – Men

Ellith – Female elves

Istaiathon – I will learn

Maenhir – "skilled lord"


(1) This is my own creation. Tolkien never said anything of the sort about this.

(2) Said by C.S. Lewis.