Foresight was a mixed blessing, Aragorn mused. He glanced again at Halbarad. His kinsman stood leaning against the rail also lost in thought. They would reach land within a few minutes and there would be no further time for speech.
"You should return home," he said. "I still have need of you."
"If it is my fate to die, I cannot change it," Halbarad replied placidly. "Most likely I would fall from my horse or something on the way home and perish in a most ignominious fashion. At least this way, I shall die with honour in your service. Our foresight could be mistaken, though. Maybe I will die in my bed of old age."
"I do not want to lose you." Aragorn's voice was thick with emotion. "We have been through so much together."
"I would have liked to see you wearing the Silver Crown," Halbarad mused. "And be present at your wedding to the Evenstar. Then watch you reign justly and wisely for a hundred or so glorious years surrounded by your children."
"Is that foresight or wishful thinking?" Aragorn asked.
"Foresight that I know to be true." Halbarad's eyes were shining at this vision. "I have seen you best the Dark Lord in the palantír and summon the Army of the Dead. I was blessed to witness such marvels. But the best is yet to come for you, my friend."
"If you fall, victory will be tinged with sadness," said Aragorn. "My soul will be torn asunder to lose the brother of my heart."
"Your sorrow will be eased when you wed to your lady," said Halbarad. "Do not grieve, but remember the good times we shared. The days when food was sufficient and we feasted, the nights we slept under the stars and dreamed that our people's glory would be rekindled by the return of the King. I ask only that you see my family are cared for. I fear for my wife and children and their little ones."
"You have my word," said Aragorn gravely.
"You will find new friends," Halbarad said. Again the light of foresight was in his eyes. "You will meet one who will love you like I loved you, as friend, lord and kinsman. And you will grow to love him as if he were your own son."
"I wish I shared your faith. No other friend could replace you. Please, I beg of you, stay here on the ship and be safe!"
"I promised your lady I would carry her banner into battle and fight at your side. If you are to wed the Lady Arwen, you cannot treat her wishes so lightly. You made your vow to her and I have made mine. One keeps one's word to so peerless a lady!"
"Land ahoy!" Elrohir's call made them both start.
"Every man must one day accept the Gift and leave the circles of the world behind," said Halbarad. "What better way to do so than fighting at your side? It is not that we will be parted forever. The One will restore all things."
"Cast anchor!" cried Elladan.
The ship shuddered to a halt. Aragorn drew his kinsman into a fierce embrace. He did not want to let go. Halbarad was the first to pull away.
"Go, your hour is come," he said gruffly. "We must each ride to our destinies."