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Bedtime Story

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In his youth they called the boy Estel, but he was Aragorn son of Arathorn, Isildur's Heir. Elrond never forgot it, for the Elves' memories are long.

Aragorn came often to the room in which lay the shards of the Sword that was Broken. He desired to know its history. Like all the children of Men, he adored tales of brave battles and great victories.

One night when Aragorn was ill with one of the trifling sicknesses that assailed Men, he was so restless that even his mother Gilraen despaired of making him sleep. Elrond did not choose to waste the life-giving cordials of the Elves on an illness that would quickly spend itself. Aragorn was one of the bright hopes of the waning world, as Sauron's power grew outside Rivendell. He could not be permitted to know a life without suffering, lest he forget the suffering of others.

So Elrond told Aragorn son of Arathorn the story of his ancestor, Isildur.

"Gil-galad and Elendil forged a mighty host to overcome the evil of Sauron. Elendil struck at Sauron, yet even his great sword could not slay the dark Eye of Mordor. And when Elendil was slain his son Isildur rose up and cut the hand of Sauron. On that hand he wore the One Ring. It was twin to Sauron's own darkness, as evil as he, and his greatest treasure."

Aragorn had eyes as clear a blue as one of the Elvenkind. He raised them to Elrond's face even as he clasped his own wrist, as though he imagined Sauron's pain at losing the hand.

The pain of losing the hand? Or of losing the Ring?

Sauron did not deserve the boy's sympathy.

"Isildur took the Ring," Elrond spoke again. Only those who knew him best, the lost Celebrian or the fair Arwen, would have heard the bitterness in his voice and known it for what it was.

"I told Isildur to throw it into the fires of Mount Doom, from whence it was forged and the only place in Middle-earth it may ever be destroyed," said Elrond. "But the Ring has great power. And Men have always desired power."

"Was there no way to use the Ring for good and not evil?" asked Aragorn.

"None," said Elrond.

Aragorn waited, silent in the face of Elrond's forbidding countenance, but unafraid.

"Isildur fell," Elrond said. "He was weak. He took the Ring for his own and in his pride and arrogance it conquered him. Soon after he was slain."

Aragorn was saddened by this ending to the tale, and his strength sapped by illness. His eyelids drooped.

Elrond wondered if the boy's thoughts returned to the Sword that was Broken. It might be in Aragorn's lifetime that the Sword would be reforged to once more fight its greatest foe.

Elrond would prepare Aragorn for that day.

"Much evil that befell, and that will befall, might have been averted," pronounced Elrond, so sternly that Aragorn shrank back against the pillows, "had Isildur heeded my counsel."