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Bread of Life by Linda Hoyland

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Day Eighteen: Wilderland

Today's Challenge:

There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us. 'Tis good to give a stranger a meal, or a night's lodging. 'Tis better to be hospitable to his good meaning and thought, and give courage to a companion. We must be as courteous to a man as we are to a picture, which we are willing to give the advantage of a good light. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The act of kindness or hospitability usually comes from a generous heart. Write a story or poem, or create a piece of art where your character displays this virtue.

Title: Bread of Life

Author: Linda Hoyland

Characters/Pairing: Aragorn, OMCs

Rating: PG

Warnings: none

Book/Source: LOTR book-verse

Disclaimer - These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

Aragorn was holding a public audience when one of the Citadel Guards dragged a bedraggled child before the King, a half eaten loaf still in his hand. The wronged baker followed a few steps behind, his features red with indignation.

"I caught this scoundrel, red handed, I did, sire, stealing from the baker in the third circle," the guard announced.

"What have to say for yourself, boy?" Aragorn's tone was stern.

"I was hungry, sire so I took it. Are you going to lock me in the dungeons?" The boy tried to sound defiant, but he was shaking with fear.

"Where are your parents, child?" Aragorn's tone was gentler. "And what is your name?"

"I am called Iorlas, sire. My father died in the war and my mother is sick with a fever, as is my little sister. We live in the first circle by the ruined smithy."

Aragorn beckoned to a nearby servant and said. "Take this boy to the kitchens and see that he is given a good meal and a bath. I will decide what to with him later. I believe he stole because he was hungry."

The baker glared as the boy was led away. "I must protest, sire. They all say they are hungry orphans if you catch them thieving! They should have their greedy heads chopped off!"

"Do you sell cakes in your shop?" Aragorn enquired.

Yes, I have a fine selection of every kind of cake you could wish for. My iced buns and honey cakes are especially popular with my customers."

"But the boy took only a cheap loaf?"

"Yes, sire, but …"

"The lad tells the truth, Master Baker. What hardened thief would leave fine cakes and take only bread, especially a growing boy, unless it were from want rather than greed. I will see you are paid for your loaf. Now go."

The baker slunk away, still muttering indignantly.

Aragorn gave orders that a healer be despatched to the boy's home then spent the rest of the morning dealing with more pressing matters than the young thief.

Later that day he ordered that Iorlas brought before him again. The boy now looked presentable, but he still shook with fear.

"Are you less hungry now, Iorlas?" Aragorn asked.

"Yes, sire, the cook gave me a wonderful meal!" The boy's eyes brightened at the memory before fear clouded them again. "Are you going to cut my head off now, sire?" the boy asked.

"No child is killed within my realm by my order. I know not who filled your head with such nonsense." Aragorn said gravely. "You must never steal again, though, Iorlas."

"I won't, sire, I promise."

Do you like horses, Iorlas?"

"Yes, sire, I do."

"Then you can earn an honest living as a stable boy. My grooms tell me they have need of an extra one."

"I'd like that, sire, but what of my mother and sister?"

"They are safe in the Houses of Healing. Now go and tell my head groom that you can start work tomorrow. You will be given some new clothes. Then you have leave to visit the Houses of Healing go to tell your mother that all will be well now."

To Aragorn's surprise, the lad burst into tears. "Whatever is the matter now, lad?" he asked. "The healers say with care and good food your mother and sister will soon get better."

"I didn't think the King would be so kind to us poor folk," sobbed the lad. "I thought you only cared about the great folk with jewels and fine houses. Lord Denethor wasn't interested in the poor folk."

"I am not Lord Denethor. I am Envinyatar, Aragorn Elessar. As King, I try to be as a father to all my people," said Aragorn, putting a fatherly arm around the child's thin shoulders. "I care about everyone who lives within my realms and if I can help them, I do. From the greatest to the least, it is our duty to try to help one another."

"That's what my mother says," said Iorlas, wiping his face with his tattered sleeve.

"Thank you sire." The boy rubbed his tears away with his sleeve then to Aragorn's bemusement hugged him, before scampering away, his tears replaced by an enormous grin.

Aragorn smiled as he watched the boy depart. This was what brought him the most joy from holding high office, the power to bring joy into his subjects' lives. He whistled cheerfully to himself as he went to join Arwen for supper.

A/n. This was written a while ago for a prompt, but I thought it suitable to post today. Wishing all my readers a happy and peaceful Christmas in the story take place about a year after Aragorn becomes King.