13. Books and Letters
Although neither the King nor the Queen could tell who woke first, it was with the first light of day that Arwen drifted out of sleep, to feel her husband’s arm resting about her waist.
With sleep still blanketing her consciousness she turned to face him, and in response Aragorn encircled his arm a little closer around his wife’s body.
After a time, it was the King that dared speak first.
“Shall we admit that we must awake?”
His voice was lazy, his eyes still unopened.
Arwen buried her face against his bare chest, murmuring, “Never, if it means moving from the comfort of this bed.”
If it had been hard for her to rise the previous morning, it was even more so now that he was here again. She felt his chest rise as he took a deep breath in, comfortably wrapping his arms around her back, which was also still bare.
After lying in silence for a few moments more, Arwen looked up to see him blinking heavy eyelids.
“Mmm, perhaps we must admit it.”
She rested her cheek on her forearm as she watched his face, realising they were indeed both awake now.
“Tell me about the days of your journey,” she asked calmly.
“You truly wish to begin the morning with this?” said Aragorn bemusedly, rubbing one eye.
“Well, we did end the evening with it, before we were, ah, distracted…”
“True enough,” he smiled, “but I thought you would have had an earful last night.”
“Eldarion and Mírra did talk of Rohan, of course. But as to the rest, I think they do not wish to alarm me, somehow.”
Aragorn sat up a little against the headboard, causing Arwen to do the same, pulling the sheet up around herself.
“I take it that my business with Éomer at Edoras is not what you wish to hear more about.” There was a knowing tone in his voice.
Arwen shook her head.
“I know it all worked out for the best, and it was over a month ago now, but… I still wonder how Mírra is, with all of this.”
“I believe it was only later, that she realised how serious things could have been. It may have distracted her somewhat from the remainder of the journey.”
“It was lucky that she found the help she did.”
Aragorn smiled. “That is likely part of the reason for our calmness, in the end, for she had very welcoming hosts for those few days. They were friendly to us all, really.”
“I am so very glad it worked out for the best.”
“I think it did.”
Aragorn ran his fingertips underneath Arwen’s hand, lightly tickling her palm.
“But all this time I have hardly heard of your days here. What of the things Elladan sent?”
“From Imladris’ library, you mean?”
“Of course. I thought you would have had much to tell me about it.”
Arwen remained quiet, smiling somewhat awkwardly and rubbing one arm as if from a chill.
“I will, certainly. Let me first get my robe.”
She quickly slipped out of bed to fetch the garment, slipping the ends of the sash tightly together as she put it on. Inwardly she chided herself, at feeling so wary of this.
When she came back to the bed, Aragorn was sitting up, hands folded in his lap. His expression was intent, fixed on Arwen.
“You were pleased to receive the collection, I thought?”
“Of course I was.” She knelt beside him, over the covers.
Aragorn was aware of the measured tone in her response. If she was avoiding the subject, it did not entirely surprise him, but neither did it comfort him.
“How much of it… is his?”
Arwen bit her lip softly, meeting Aragorn’s eyes.
“There are some log books, journals. Maps as well. But in truth I have looked at very little of it yet.”
He noticed her beginning to rub her arm again.
“Has Lúthea asked questions?”
She shook her head.
“No, and I am… a little unsure of what I would say to her, beyond what the children already know.” She met his eyes again, and spoke abruptly to reassure the flicker of concern she saw in them. “In time, I will, but perhaps not yet.”
Their children did know that Arwen’s parents had passed away. But since Aragorn’s parents were no longer living, from their perspective there was little difference. Their grandparents were simply a part of the past.
“I had thought it might be an opportunity for you to share with them…”
“I know, but not yet.”
Her voice was firm, and it surprised both of them. The intentness in Aragorn’s eyes gave way fully to concern.
“Forgive me, dearest. I will not press you.”
“I am sorry, it is just…” Arwen swallowed, as she began to stumble over her words. “I know they will want to learn, Lúthea especially. But I am not yet sure how much I can… handle just yet. She is free to explore what she wishes, certainly.”
Aragorn regarded his wife for a moment, considering this. It was plain that the subject was difficult for her, and they had been reluctant to broach it in the past. He took her hand again, gently.
“You know you may always speak to me. Of anything, meleth-nîn.”
“I know it.” She nodded again, meeting his eyes with a faint smile. “Ah, perhaps you are right,” she whispered, trying to collect herself, “Perhaps we should have begun the day with something else.”
He became quiet again briefly, but then began to rub his thumb over the back of Arwen’s hand.
“It is not too late to start over.”
She smiled gradually, reflecting her husband’s expression.
“You had something in mind?”
“Hmm, nothing at present. But perhaps if we lie here long enough, we might think of something.”
Slowly Arwen eased herself on to Aragorn’s lap, placing her arms lightly around his neck.
“Perhaps this may help…”
As she pressed her lips over his, Aragorn moved his hands over her back, drawing her towards him. He released her from the kiss, only to begin anew, lips merging delicately, delightfully.
Just last night it had been her who had drawn him out of his pensive state, and now it was the opposite, Arwen realised. It was so easy to forget all else, when she settled into his embrace.
“For my part, I would much rather stay here with you, than think about the meetings that wait for me,” he murmured against her cheek.
“Then shall I sit with you this morning?” she offered.
Aragorn withdrew a little. “Would not Lúthea mind the absence of your company?”
“I think she will understand. But then, it is you who have been absent from my company for the last few weeks, and I am reluctant to let go of you.”
“Ah. Then it seems I am at your mercy, for today.”
She gave a small chuckle, kissing the side of his neck. “As you say, my lord.”
Later in the morning, the sunshine was growing high and warm over the south garden of the palace. Mírra lay back on the grass, eyes closed, utterly relaxed.
She could hear a young child giggling nearby, but continued to feign sleep.
After only a minute, the oldest princess was greeted with a small body landing next to her, hands clutching at her skirts.
“Got you Mírra!” Elenna shrieked, grinning widely.
“So you have, you silly thing,” Mírra said as she sat up, quickly grabbing her little sister into her arms.
The little girl continued to giggle, and soon squirmed free.
“And where do you think you are going now?” Mírra teased again, one hand on her hip. She raised the other, and curled an index finger, beckoning. “Come back here, you.”
“Uh uh!” Elenna fairly bubbled over with laughter, and swiftly turned a few steps away. She stopped, as if to make sure her sister would follow. Sure enough, as soon as Mírra began to take some exaggeratedly slow steps forward, the little girl ran farther, shrieking with delight.
“You cannot run forever!”
Elenna made a circuit of the garden, carried forward by her swift little legs, and eventually found her other sister.
“Help!” she laughed, grabbing Lúthea’s arm.
The second princess had been, up until that point, calmly reading at one of the benches in the garden. She knelt on the grass, a book spread open before her on the bench as if it was a table.
“I do not think I can help you here, Elenna,” Lúthea said with a trace of amusement.
Mírra came up as well, a little breathless.
“I’m sorry we distracted you.”
She sat down next to the bench as well, and pulled her littlest sister into her lap. Elenna seemed to have happily tired out, and sat quietly. Mírra found a stray bit of lavender that had fallen next to the bench, and tucked a blossom behind the little girl’s ear.
“What are you looking at today?” asked the oldest princess.
“It’s one of the new books, an annotated atlas of Arnor,” Lúthea explained, “The illustrations are so unlike the ones here, so many lovely colours and styles of line.”
“I like this section the best,” Lúthea pointed to a page heading. “It has all about the Bruinen valley, and Imladris, where our uncles live.” She turned a few pages eagerly. “The river ends in a large waterfall. It is the biggest river in that part of the country, and very fast flowing…” suddenly Lúthea stopped short, with an awkward glance to her sister, realising what she was talking about. “Oh… I did not mean…”
“It is alright, Lúthea, you may talk about rivers,” Mírra said gently. “I shall not fall apart.”
“I’m sorry. I only was not sure.”
Mírra looked down at Elenna, sitting in her lap. The little girl had plucked another piece of lavender, and placed it into Mírra’s palm, making her smile.
“I cannot help but think about the river, it is true,” she said softly. “But I also think about the people I met there.”
“Doreth seems kind, from what you told us yesterday.”
“She was. Her brother Doran, as well.” Mírra pursed her lips gently, trying not to give away too much. “I should very much like to visit with them again.”
“Perhaps you will. One never can tell.”
Lúthea looked back down at the pages in front of her, resting her cheek on her elbow.
“I’ve been here all morning, and Eldarion has still not come to meet me.” She began to look a little glum.
“He was supposed to?”
“Yes, when I told him last night that I was going to look at this atlas, he said he was curious about it as well. But I guess his sword training took too much time.”
“Well.” Mírra rose, setting Elenna down next to her sister. “Then I shall go and find him.”
“Have you really been here all morning?” Mírra called out to her brother, upon reaching the training hall.
Eldarion saw her, and after nodding to his opponent and setting down his blade, came over to join her.
“Lúthea’s been waiting for you.”
The prince winced a little. “Ah, I forgot.”
“What’s going on?” Mírra asked curiously.
“Let me just say I needed some time to work things out, for myself.” He began to catch his breath as the two sat down. “I had been staring at letters and papers for too long, I think.”
His sister shook her head. “We’ve hardly been home for a day, and you already have concerns.”
Eldarion grinned sheepishly, but his eyes were still alert.
“I have been thinking on it for quite a while, I now realise. But it is time to stop thinking and just go.”
“North,” he said firmly. “I have decided to accept our uncle Elrohir’s offer.”
Mírra looked to him with surprise evident on her face.
“Truly? You are going to Arnor?”
The prince nodded. “I will leave as soon as everything can be made ready, I think.”
“Do naneth and adar know?”
Eldarion shook his head. “I only just knew myself, I think.”
It was only after Mírra did not respond further, that Eldarion wondered how much his decision had taken her aback.
“I’m aware this must seem sudden,” he admitted.
Mírra gave a half-smile, turning up one corner of her mouth. “I had been so used to you going to Ithilien every year. It will be different to have you so far away, is all.”
“I wondered if you might be envious.”
“Oh, well, you need not worry, Eldarion,” Mírra began slowly, “Perhaps I was a little more anxious to travel than I should have been.”
“Mírra… you are still alright, after all that has happened?”
The princess let out a breath in exasperation.
“Why does everyone keep asking that? I am fine, please, stop worrying.” She saw Eldarion nod, but it was his turn to remain quiet in response. Mírra quickly returned to the topic at hand.
“You will be able to see much of the same country that father did when he was your age.”
“Ah you would bring that up wouldn’t you?” Eldarion gave his sister a nudge. “Yes, there will be much to do near Rivendell, I think. I will not be able to return for Midsummer, and the festival, but when I think of what could be accomplished in the meantime, I do not mind that.”
“Midsummer… of course.” Mírra’s expression appeared as though an idea had just come to her.
Eldarion took her silence for disappointment, and continued teasingly. “Will you survive, being the oldest one of us present?”
The princess turned back to her brother, a sparkle in her eyes. “I think I may manage without you.”
With that she bid him farewell for the afternoon, and left the hall with a renewed lightness in her step.
“Where are you going so fast now?” Eldarion called after her.
“To see father,” she replied, turning around as she walked, “about an invitation.”
In the country, far removed from the White City, the sky was just as bright with sunshine.
Doran had spent a busy day in the stables, a change from the last few weeks. Most of the early spring had been taken up with the sheep, and Adair had required more of his assistance than usual. Today was the first time in over a week that Doran had been able to spend the entire day tending to the horses.
It was not an expansive stable, by any means. That one week, when they had given some assistance the royal party, there had barely been enough room to house all the horses that had come with the guests.
There were, however, enough animals for their small community of shepherds and weavers, enough to make the ride to Edoras worthwhile, once every year or two.
He did wonder, from time to time, that the stables had the potential to be much more than they were now. But for the moment Doran’s thoughts were solely occupied with the mud that was caked over the horseshoe at his fingertips.
He was tending to a chestnut brown gelding who was rather unenthusiastic at the attention he was receiving. The animal shook its mane impatiently and released its leg from Doran’s grasp.
The man stood up to his full height and looked disapprovingly at the horse.
“You make this worse on yourself you know. I could have been finished long ago, without your impatience.”
The horse remained unconvinced, and snorted once.
“Suit yourself,” replied Doran, shaking his head.
He bent again, and with more gentleness than one would expect from a man of such large build, tugged at the horse’s foreleg to raise the hoof for continued cleaning.
Doran thought he could hear one of the sheepdogs barking outside, but ignored it as he continued to pick at the horse’s hoof.
Soon enough, the two young boys cheerfully ran into the stables to find him.
“Papa, papa! There is a messenger just come!”
As Nolan and Connor came running into the stables, a black and white sheepdog followed them. The dog wagged its tail happily, encouraged by the boys’ excitement, and barked once as it came near Doran.
The noise was enough to startle Doran, and the tool at his hand slipped and hit the sensitive spot at the centre of the horse’s hoof. The animal whinnied and dropped its leg, planting the hoof heavily on the tip of Doran’s toe, making him let out a loud growl.
“Nolan, take the dog out of here!” he said sharply, feeling his foot begin to throb with pain.
“Sorry, father.” The boy obeyed quickly, seeing Doran’s reaction, and ran back out with his cousin and the errant animal.
Doran glared at the horse once more.
“It seems I will have to concede this one to you, but we are not done yet.”
He set down his tools and exited the stables, grimacing a little. The boys waited just outside, a little expectantly.
“I’m sorry, papa,” Nolan repeated.
“It no matter, Nolan,” Doran sighed. “What is it you had come to tell me?”
The blond boy’s face brightened again. “A messenger has just come, and there is a letter.”
“A letter from the Royal City!” added Connor.
The fair-haired man regarded the two boys a little more closely. They had obviously been working hard to contain their enthusiasm.
“Is that so?” he inquired wryly, “From Minas Tirith?”
“Yes, and you must come to the house and see, so my aunt says,” explained Nolan.
“Then so I will. Give me a moment to finish here, I will follow presently.”
The two boys hurried off across the pasture, back to the main house. Squinting in the bright sun, it took Doran a moment to collect himself as he watched them run off.
He walked slowly over to a nearby water basin in the shade of the side of the stable. His toe still throbbed, but it was fading. After cooling his face with a handful of clear water, Doran leaned back against the wall for a brief moment.
Would it be what he hoped it would be?
After dinner that evening, activity around the main house settled into the normal quiet routine, but the day’s news had certainly had an effect on the family. Doreth was not entirely surprised to see her husband, but she did not expect him to be so solitary on tonight of all nights.
Stepping outside to where Adair sat, pipe in hand, looking out over the small hillside. From where he sat on the grass there was often a pleasant view to be had in the evenings, with the stars and dark sky shrouding the green pasture.
“I thought you would be more excited than this, to receive such an invitation.”
Doreth knelt down on the grass to sit close to her husband. It was a warm night, and she did not even need a shawl.
“To have an invitation from the King, for the Midsummer festival?” He shook his head. “It is certainly unexpected. I suppose I am only a little overwhelmed.”
“Do you not remember,” Doreth began, slipping her arm through her husband’s, “His highness told us we would be welcome in his home?”
“I do remember that.” Adair nodded, pursing his lips momentarily around the end of his pipe. “But what would folk like us have to do there? Would be not be out of place?”
“He does not seem to think so. Her ladyship, the princess, does not seem to think so either, or she would not have written her own message, along with the King’s.”
She watched her husband take another puff on his pipe, still thinking.
“It would mean a week’s ride. What about the children? And who would tend to this place, while we are away?”
He met her glance sidelong, knowing this would do little to persuade his wife. Although it had been an entirely different matter while they had been in the company of the royal party, Doreth was now the most keen.
She shrugged her shoulders a little awkwardly, thinking as well.
“It is still a month away. You and Doran might make arrangements with the shepherds in the meantime. I could do the same for the ladies, and the spinners.”
Adair was half-smiling now, all too well aware of how difficult it would be to dissuade his wife in this matter.
“I suppose there is nothing that the boys would like better, than to see more of the country.”
Doreth’s expression lightened. “Ailsa will be alright, we can help her along.”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Think of it, Adair, the White City…” Doreth said softly, leaning her head on his shoulder.
Adair shook his head again, but this time pulled an arm around his wife’s shoulders to hold her close.
“It is unimaginable.”
Doran had looked at the invitation four times already, just to make sure he had not misread it.
But even as he went to check once more, the writing was still just as it had been, with the King’s seal and signature to match. The princess herself had even added a note of her own.
“I should very much like to see you all again. I hope you will come.” And her name was underneath.
Doran ran his fingers over the page, smiling faintly to himself. He knew it was folly to think this way. But then, how many years had it been, since something had stirred him so? And how could they refuse an invitation such as this?
He set the letter down again on the table in front of him, just as Adair and Doreth entered the house again.
“I hope you do not need convincing, as well,” said his sister with a broad smile as she came over.
“Well, now that surprise has subsided, I do not think so,” Doran replied, his own smile a little fainter.
“I’m so glad.”
Giving a stretch, Doran rose to his feet.
“I should find Nolan to leave, it is growing late.”
“Ah, you need not worry on that, Doran,” his sister reassured him. “He may sleep here at any time, you know that.”
“I do.” He stood briefly in silent reflection, rubbing his bearded chin. “I think I will head back myself, in any case.”
“Nolan will not mind, I’m sure.”
Doran paid his good nights, especially to his son, who had already fallen asleep in the sitting room.
As he started the walk down the hill to his own house, past the stable and the pasture, the moon and stars were enough to light the way.
He should not make too much of things. The invitation was for all of them, not him alone. But it was enough to pleasantly occupy his thoughts, as he walked in the warm night air.
There were some evenings when the walk seemed lonely, to leave a house of such constant activity, and return to another one, that was so much quieter.
But tonight, somehow, it was different.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.