Note: The story can be read without prior seeing the movie ("Born of Hope"), but I believe that those who have seen it will understand better what I describe in the story; Halbarad's words "I claim this field in the name of the King" are from the movie.
Big hug to Cairistiona for beta reading.
Although his grip slowly lost its strength, the standard of Gondor still lay in his hand. Halbarad refused to drop it; the glow of the White Tree and the stars drove away the darkness approaching him from all around and trying to swallow him. Watching the Gondorian emblem on the flag, he smiled. No, he would not see Minas Tirith renewed. He would not see the White Tree blossom. He would not live to see the day of Aragorn's crowning. But that didn't matter to him any more, for he knew it would all come true.
He had always known.
Long ago, that day seemed so far away, almost like a dream. But he felt it would happen. Long ago, they wandered together through the expanses of Arnor; the two rangers watching over the sleep of the innocent and fighting the servants of the Enemy. Chieftain of the Dúnedain and his faithful companion. Sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by the other Dúnedain. Always dedicated to one aim – to defeat evil and restore peace in Middle-earth.
The standard was still in his hand. Watching it, the image in front of his eyes slowly changed; from the darkening mist engulfing him emerged a day long past, so different from today. He held a wooden staff then too, but the flag on its top was much smaller and less impressive than this one. The air wasn't filled with the clash and ring of steel, but with children's laughter, merry voices and fragrance of spring. He walked a few steps in front of his and Aragorn's parents, while the two-year-old boy joyfully ran around him, proudly carrying his first small wooden sword. He ran to the middle of the small glade and turned towards his cousin and parents. A happy, playful boy.
But also, so much more than a boy. A hope.
Halbarad had met his eyes and was lost in the grey depths for an instant. One look – one moment in eternity – was enough. That was the first time he had seen a flash of future – so distant, so short, so elusive, that it was almost no more than a dream. But real, nevertheless. Halbarad doubted not.
A boy. A hope. A king.
He lifted the little one, planted the staff into the ground and looked towards the sky. "I claim this field in the name of the King."
In the name of the King. His heart grew. One day, the boy in his arms would become a king. He knew it.
And he had always been there for Aragorn – for the brother of his heart – ready to protect him with his own life, for in him lay the hope for the whole of Middle-earth. When the scars of war hurt the most, when despair was deepest, in the darkest moments when the gloom choked hope, he reminded Aragorn of that distant day and his vision. And not only reminded, but managed to encourage, by the sheer power of his own belief. For nothing could cause his faith to waver.
Cold and dark were tightening around him more and more strongly; he knew he wouldn't be able to withstand them for much longer. Here, on the Pelennor field in front of Minas Tirith, he would meet his end. Green meadows of the north, his homeland, were left far behind him. He would never see them again... nor Elleniel and Borongil. The pain of that loss cut into his heart so much stronger than the pain piercing his broken body. As he sent the last silent farewell to his wife and son, tears filled his eyes. But he would breathe his last breath in serenity, knowing he had fulfilled his duty, and the dream he had dreamed since his youth would become true: Aragorn would be a King. Peace would come to his North, and his family would forever be safe.
He took a deep breath despite the throbbing in his chest and gathered the last bits of his strength. Holding tightly to the staff that became his only support – the only fulcrum for his wounded body and the only light in the darkness enveloping his spirit – he slowly rose to a sitting position, focusing all his remaining power on this one last deed. He closed his eyes, and the images shimmered in his mind. A smiling two-year-old boy, and a mature wise man who set on this final fight for Middle-earth; they blended one into another, until they finally merged into one single face of light and hope. And as he was pressing the staff with his last strength into a soft soil and the wind was unfurling the magnificent banner, the words came without conscious thought.
"I claim this field in the name of the King."
In the name of the King. His words were barely audible, but echoed in eternity. His heart fluttered. Once more, for one last time, he smiled. Now, finally, he could lay himself to rest.