3. Pebbles, Blocks, and Firelight
The King called out after his oldest daughter, who had strayed from their party.
The small group had stopped just near Osgiliath to the east of the Anduin, on the return from Emyn Arnen. Having let the horses take water, they would soon be ready to begin the remainder of the journey.
Aragorn's feet crunched on the thin layer of snow that remained on the ground. Although it had partially melted in the recent, unusually warm early spring weather, a thin layer of white crystals remained.
He rounded a small cluster of birch trees, and saw his daughter not far off, next to the edge of a large stream that ran west to meet the Great River.
Mírra was crouched next to the water's edge, unaware of her father's approach. The surface ice had melted in the sunshine, and she dipped her fingertips ever so gently into the lazy current. She retrieved a pebble and examined its swirled pattern on the flat palm of her hand.
When Aragorn called out a second time, she turned her head abruptly and noticed him. Mírra stood and pocketed her small stone and stepped over to her father. She was as tall as the Queen now.
"Are we leaving now?"
"Not just yet, I only wondered where you had gone to."
"I'm sorry, I suppose I lost track of where I was."
Aragorn gave a reassuring wave of his hand.
"It is no matter, we have a few moments yet."
He took up a leather water flask that he had carried with him to the stream, and bent down to replenish it.
"It is a shame we had to return so soon," the princess commented, pulling her dark cloak tighter around her.
"Soon?" Aragorn stood and closed the flask. "I had thought a month in Emyn Arnen would be enough time for you?"
"Of course. But now that spring is coming, there would be more to see."
Aragorn had debated taking Mírra with him on this journey. Having gone essentially for business, to share information with the Lord Faramir and his sons, the King unfortunately had not been able to spend the full time with his daughter.
"Did you enjoy your stay there?"
Mírra nodded cheerfully.
"Very much. The Lady Éowyn was very kind to me. I liked her."
"I thought you might."
"Eldarion had hardly told me anything about the royal hills and the Steward's home. I will compare with him when I get back."
The young woman absentmindedly stamped her feet a few times, not really from cold, since the day was warm.
Aragorn had bent down to the stream's edge, noticing a particularly flat, smooth pebble. He turned back to his daughter as he rose again.
"You did not mind then, going at this time of year? The weather is not so fine."
"You mean it because is wet, and cold?" Mírra held out her cloak to display, almost proudly, the thin track of mud that had collected at the hem of the heavy sable fabric. "… and muddy?"
"I see now I was mistaken to think that would hold you back." Aragorn smiled as he turned his small stone between his fingers. "With that attitude, no doubt you will make a fine impression on your next adventure, whatever it is."
Mírra lifted her heels briefly. "I intend to."
Aragorn turned to face the sparkling stream again, held the stone out briefly at his side, and with a smooth snap of his arm, tossed it out to the water. It skipped three times over the surface before sinking.
Mírra's expression brightened suddenly.
"How do you do that?"
"The trick is the right motion of the wrist." He mimed the correct gesture. "Flat stones work best. Why don't you try?"
Mírra immediately bent to look for her own stones, a few feet farther down the edge of the water. She found one that looked right, and held it up to brush it clean from dirt.
When she did toss one out, it sank as soon as it hit the water. She frowned and looked back at her father.
Aragorn demonstrated with yet another pebble, which skipped twice before sinking.
"Quick and straight. It is easier in still water, of course. Try again."
She bit her lip in concentration, practised the gesture a few times before finally letting the stone fly. It skipped once.
Mírra was pleased, and cheered for herself.
Aragorn clapped in response. "Keep going."
They spent the next few minutes by the water, only realising they had lost track of time when an attendant approached, calling out to the missing pair.
"Your highness, the horses are ready." He looked somewhat relieved to have found them.
"Thank you, we will follow presently." He then motioned to his daughter as they turned away from the water. "Come, it seems we have been delinquent long enough."
Mírra was thoughtful as they walked back to join their party, reflecting on part of the earlier conversation.
"What will my next adventure be, father?"
Aragorn shook his head and gave a soft chuckle.
"Time will tell, mír nîn. Let us finish enjoying this one, before we consider that."
It was after midday when Arwen finally made her way to the nursery, which was in the same wing as the King and Queen's rooms. Having become quiet since Lúthea had grown, it was now happily active again with the late arrival of the third princess.
She had been caught up with appearances at court all morning, as she often was in Aragorn's absence. Now, Arwen had expected only to quietly check in on Elenna while she napped, but she was met with a different situation.
The small girl was awake, and playing on the thick carpet with Adina, who rose briefly to give a curtsy to the Queen.
Arwen nodded to the young blond woman, and knelt down next to them. There were toys and blocks all around. Evidently they had spent a busy morning.
Elenna was pleased to see her mother, and waved small hands in the air as she voiced her greeting. Light eyes sparkled.
"Hello to you too, my darling." Arwen could not help smiling, immediately drawing the little girl on to her lap.
The little girl soon wriggled free, however, and reached toward the pile of blocks on the floor. Each one was just the right size for a toddler's grasp. She took one and carefully held it up between chubby fingers, raising it towards her mother as if for approval. She then grinned and set it down, and found another block to repeat the process with, showing it to Adina this time.
Arwen stacked a few blocks together. Elenna noticed this and after a moment of observation, passed the block in her hand to her mother. Arwen then added it to the small tower, eliciting a giggle from the little girl.
"You will be worn out by the end of the day, without your nap."
"She hardly wants to sleep at all in the afternoon, now," explained Adina. "And she often wakes earlier in the morning, too."
"Is that right?" Arwen turned to Elenna. "You only want more time to explore, I think."
"Yes. She wants to do everything but walk, it seems."
"She certainly does not appear to be in any hurry."
An expert crawler, Elenna had yet made only tentative motions toward walking, and always with assistance.
"Should we encourage her, perhaps?" offered Adina, "she seems energetic, still."
"Yes, let's." Arwen extended a hand to stroke her daughter's dark brown hair, which curled just slightly at the ends. "What do you say, darling? Shall we try a few steps?"
Elenna gave a grin as her mother held her sides, propping her up on her feet. She looked to Adina, who had backed up a few feet, and held her hands out to her young charge.
"Come, little friend!" Adina's blue eyes smiled.
Arwen stood behind her daughter and took her small hands, boosting her forward. Elenna gradually and shakily moved forward, a happy expression on her face. When she at last reached her goal, Adina welcomed her, and assisted her back in the other direction. Arwen knelt down on the other side of the carpet, motioning her daughter forward.
"Perhaps she can go a bit farther, this time."
The little girl did well for a few more minutes, but on the fourth try tumbled to the ground on her backside, frustration evident. Arwen drew her to her again and smoothed a hand over her back to settle her. She did not even mind overmuch when Elenna took a collection of her long brands in hand, steadying herself.
She could not help noticing the similarities between Elenna and her father, which became more pronounced as she grew; silvery irises in deep-set eyes, dark brown hair with a slight wave to it. Had they happened today, Aragorn surely would have been disappointed to have missed her first steps.
"Perhaps you only miss your ada, hmm?"
Arwen tipped her forehead to her daughter's, and received a grin in return.
"Well, he will be happy to see you today when he returns."
Late in the afternoon, Arwen hurried down to the stables, just in time to meet up with Aragorn and Mírra upon their return.
Aragorn welcomed her in his arms, letting his cloak fall over her shoulders as they embraced.
"Your journey was well?"
He kissed her briefly. "Sunny the whole last week."
"I did not mean the weather," she said with a smile.
"I have much new information to share with Eldarion, about the southern territory. And I think Mírra enjoyed herself, but it really was a simple journey."
Mírra came up brightly then, having left her horse. Arwen gave her a tight hug.
"The royal hills are wonderful, I am so pleased father brought me."
"I am so glad to hear it."
Mírra seemed to have new excitement, despite the day's long ride.
"I must find Eldarion, and tell him about it."
She kissed her mother once more, and ran off toward the palace, leaving her parents amused.
Arwen slipped her arm around her husband's waist underneath his cloak, as they left the stables with a little more leisure. She gave him an encouraging smile.
"Simple or no, it seems to have made her happy."
It never failed to surprise Aragorn, how much there was to catch up on after being away from the city, no matter how long his journey was. So it was much later than anticipated when he finally returned to his chambers. There had been just enough time to check in on his youngest daughter, now sleeping soundly.
He closed the door gently behind him and paused for a moment in the outer chamber, listening. The fireplace in this room was still active, matching the fire he heard crackling in the bed chamber. But there was no other commotion. Perhaps Arwen had already retired.
He unbuckled the belt of his robe as he stepped slowly forward, and unhurriedly pulled the garment off his shoulders. It had been a longer day than expected, and he would be glad to finally join Arwen in bed. He laid his robe across a large chair and slipped off his low boots, went over to the wide entranceway between the two chambers, and peered in as he began to leisurely unfasten his tunic.
His wife was sitting by the fire, half-leaning back on the small sofa in the bedroom. One hand was fingering one of the many small braids in her hair. Aragorn thought he could discern an extra touch of colour in her cheeks, but could not be sure whether it was from the fire.
Arwen turned her calm gaze to him.
"Finished at last?"
"Thankfully, yes." He smiled easily, finally feeling himself relax.
She smiled and laid her free hand down on the seat next to her.
"Tolo enni, hîr nîn," she said just loud enough for him to hear.
Leaving his tunic open, Aragorn crossed into the other chamber and stood beside her. He stroked a hand over her hair – how he loved her hair – and as Arwen gave a tug on his other hand, sat down comfortably beside her.
Slowly he fingered the small braids as she had done. Her eyes met his briefly, as if giving him permission to continue. He gently loosened the dark locks, and one by one the braids came free under his touch, all except the last.
"Wait," she said gently, protecting the last braid that hung at the side of her face. There was a small glimmer in her eyes as she gave a slight smile. "Leave the last one."
He let it remain, delved his fingers through the roots of her hair, and spread the dark curtain out and behind her shoulders. Arwen's hands went lightly to his cheeks, over his beard, to the back of his neck to draw him nearer.
"Shall I hear about today, then?"
Aragorn's breath tickled her ear as he spoke, and instinctively she clutched his open collar, feeling a pleasant shiver pass over her.
"Today can wait for later," she whispered, her breath on his cheek.
She parted the fabric of his tunic and pushed it over his shoulders. He finished by removing the garment from his arms, but as soon as his hands were free they were again on her body, smoothing over her back.
The fire crackled lightly next to them, as wood began to fade to embers.
Arwen trailed her fingertips over his bare arms, his shoulders, enjoying the way the firelight played across the contours of his muscles. Aragorn's arms were still circled around her body, as his mouth began to explore the side of her neck.
"Presta i helch le, meleth-nîn?" he murmured.
His fingers had found the hooks at the back of her dress, and were slowly beginning to unfasten them one by one. Arwen gave another small shiver.
"…but I certainly will be colder, if you continue."
More hooks were opened, exposing more pale skin and the chemise underneath.
"I must compensate, then," he smiled darkly, coming face to face with her, "by other means."
Then Aragorn's warm lips were on hers, and they opened their mouths to each other, tongues asking, answering. Arwen felt his heart beat faster, her own passion for him rising.
He began to remove her loosened gown, tugging at the neckline, and she pulled away breathlessly.
She stood, and faced him as she slipped the sleeves from her arms, and the dress fell about her ankles. After she had laid it across the arm of the sofa, Aragorn took her hand. She regarded him with a wry smile for a moment.
"Come to bed, mellwain," she said, squeezing his hand.
Although his wife made an essay away from the sofa, Aragorn did not move from where he sat.
"But I am comfortable here."
The calm tone of his voice contradicted the surge of heat that had risen in his body as he looked at his wife, her hair spilling loose over her shoulders, the cotton chemise she wore hugging each curve.
"Are you, now?"
Aragorn's free hand had already gone to the outside of her thigh, dragging lightly over the thin fabric. Arwen gave in and went to sit atop him, her knees straddling his waist.
"Mmm… yes… and getting even more comfortable."
His lips brushed the hollow at the base of her throat, and when goose flesh rose subtly over her skin, it was not from cold. Arwen took his bearded jaw in her hands and kissed him, as she felt his fingers straying underneath the hem of her chemise, over her knees, up her thighs. And where his touch would be next… the thought made her sigh deeply… but instead he brought his hands up to her waist, to press her even nearer to him.
"Ah, I do love it when you tease me."
Arwen felt her belly flutter with ragged breath. Aragorn looked up into her face, his eyes shadowed in the firelight.
At last her fingers worked their way down his bare body, and she sensed a gentle, familiar sigh from him as she began to loosen the waist of his trousers. And soon they were pressed intimately close, as close as man and woman could be, as lips met fervently once again.
Even as the fire began to settle, the heat between them grew.
And when they did finally retire to the bed, it was much later that evening indeed.
mír nîn = my jewel
nana = mom/mommy (naneth = mother)
tolo enni, hîr nîn = Come to me, my lord
presta i helch le, meleth-nîn? = Do you feel cold, my love? (lit. does the cold affect you)
mellwain = dearest
Emyn Arnen translates loosely as "Royal hills", according to the Encyclopedia of Arda.
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.