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I couldn't let him sit there, pretending to be nothing more than a ranger. I recognized him before our eyes met in the memorial chamber. How could I mistake someone I knew so well? I couldn't let him know.

He abandoned Gondor. He left us! He left me. Left my father to grow old and weak from the constant battles. Left me alone to deal with the things I wasn't ready to do.

He was supposed to be there, to lead us, to give me direction. I'm the son of the steward, not the king. I shouldn't have to save our people alone. He was supposed to be there. I shouldn't be the one grasping at any straw to keep up a war that my people are too worn to continue.

I am sick to the very core of me with fear. I fear that it will be too late. I fear that if we ever do destroy that damned ring it will be to the death of all we hold dear.

I watch the halflings struggle to keep their smiles and it hurts deep inside. They are all so innocent. Even Frodo, whose eyes get more full of shadows every day.

Aragorn, my oldest friend, and deepest heartache, is the only one who looks battle-ready. The dwarf is too full of bluster and pride.

And yes, the pretty little Elf, is a wonder with his bow and as light as a cat on his feet, but he seems scarcely old enough to shave. He seems like a child to me, though I know it is not the truth. Our Legolas has a bit of a temper when he lets it show. But his wide, silver eyes seem so young, trusting, innocent.

I look into the mirrored surface of the water and see myself getting older. A man is the sum of his memories, his actions. I tried to provoke "Strider," but he didn't react except to reign in his princeling sidekick.

Yes, I am bitter. There was a time when I was the one always near him. I would have followed him into the bowels of the Earth on a whim. Now, I barely know him.

Except for when he gives me a gently mocking smile, or touches my arm, or meets my eyes in battle, or hands me a plate of food without needing to ask what I want, or laughing at a joke, or telling dirty stories to make poor Samwise blush.

How can I tell him I'd follow him anywhere, when the ring promises that we can save my people, our people from ruin?

Why can't he see that?

He was ready to draw his sword on me today when I held the ring by its chain. That nearly broke my will as nothing else could.

He thinks I may betray the Fellowship.

My heart whispers "never," while my mind screams that he may be right.

Right now, I want to curl up next to him, as if we were children again, and ask him what to do.

My king. My brother. My heart.

I cannot.