The south garden of the Citadel though, being quite close to the High Court, was kept private for the royal family, and Arwen took great joy in maintaining it. Due to the work of the King's skilled architects it was fairly elevated, and provided a modest lookout of the Anduin.
Kneeling beside a patch of earth, Arwen gently took a small bundle wrapped in damp cloth from a basket next to her.
They may yet take hold. It is still early in the season.
She had found the three white orchids while walking about Mount Mindolluin. In Gondor they were a rarity, and Arwen paid special attention to collecting as many as she could. The pale blossoms had a delicate beauty but were quite hardy, and could last for almost a month if the weather was favourable.
Carefully handling the first bundle, Arwen removed the muslin wrapping and placed the plant into a small hollow in the damp earth. With luck it would settle into its new home.
She planted the remaining two, and began to tend to the rest of the flowerbed.
Just nearby sat Lúthea, reading, absentmindedly twirling a lock of smooth hair between her fingers. She had chosen to kneel on the ground, using a small stone bench as a table upon which a book was spread open.
Arwen heard her daughter's soft voice call out.
"What is ‘a-the-las'?" She spoke the last word carefully, not sure of its pronunciation.
Arwen paused, looking up with interest. There was so much history to athelas, she could not begin to describe it all.
"What book have you got now?"
Lúthea lifted the cover briefly to look at the underside.
"Plant and Animal Life of Eriador."
"Ah. Athelas is a healing plant. It is also known in the north as ‘kingsfoil'."
Lúthea flipped a few pages, and stopped when she found what she was looking for. "Kingsfoil is a low-lying plant with small, green leaves. Small white flowers through late summer and autumn," she read aloud. "It says it is hard to find, because it is often considered a weed." She frowned slightly. "But it says nothing here about healing properties."
Somehow, this did not surprise Arwen.
"Perhaps the author did not know of them. You should ask your father to tell you more about it. He knows much about that plant."
The princess came over to her mother, book still in hand.
"But why do so many things have more than one name?'
Arwen looked up from where she knelt, expecting to see her daughter's brow creased in confusion. Eldarion had often complained of how much he had to memorise when he began learning. But to her surprise, Lúthea's expression was still light – she had asked out of plain curiosity, not frustration. Arwen gave the simplest answer she could.
"Well, it is because the different peoples of the world call things in nature by different names, in their own languages. When different cultures come together, they borrow words from each other. Some of those words last longer than others."
Lúthea seemed to accept this, and thought a moment.
"I would choose to keep ‘kingsfoil', because it is easier to pronounce."
"That is… a practical way of choosing."
Arwen wondered how long certain words would linger. Would there come a time, many years from now, when everything would have only one name? It was inevitable, she supposed.
She shook those thoughts away. "What does it say in your book about orchids?"
Kneeling down beside Arwen, Lúthea turned a few pages on her lap.
"Plant bearing flowers in fantastic shapes and brilliant colours, usually having one petal larger than the others." She looked to her mother after she had read the short passage. "There is a small drawing, here."
Arwen looked, and nodded to the flowerbed.
"Well, in a few weeks we may see for ourselves, if this works."
Lúthea smiled and turned back to quietly read another page or two. After a few moments she rose, and stepped slowly back to her bench, eyes still on her book. Eventually she left the volume on the bench and surveyed the work her mother was doing.
"Shall I help you?"
Arwen stood and brushed soil from her hands as she considered this offer.
"Will you collect some lavender for me?"
Lúthea cheerfully took up the now-empty basket beside her mother, as Arwen pulled a small pair of scissors from a pocket of her dress.
"You remember where to make the cuts on the stem?" she said as she handed them over.
And with the flash of a smile, she was off.
As the Queen was finishing up her work, one of her handmaids came briefly to deliver a letter that had arrived.
Arwen accepted the message, and was about to put it in her pocket to read later, when she was suddenly confronted with the familiar seal on the parchment. Her breath caught slightly in her throat. She sat down daze-like on the stone bench, staring at the crest made in the green wax.
We did not expect a message for weeks. What if their plans have changed?
Curiosity got the better of her anxiety, and she broke the letter's seal to read its contents. In a moment though, her fears vanished, and her expression brightened. She had worried for nothing.
Lúthea returned with her small basket filled with purple flowers, and then noticed the paper in her mother's hands.
"Is there news?" Her voice was light.
Arwen looked up and smiled, as she folded the letter to put it in a pocket of her skirts.
"Only to say we will have visitors earlier than expected."
"Oh. That will be nice." Her eyebrows lifted slightly, blissfully unaware of who the visitors would be. She presented her collection. "How are these, then?"
Arwen gave the basket an appraising smile. Her daughter had chosen well, not surprisingly.
"They will do nicely." She plucked a few blossoms and gently crushed them between her hands, with a wink. "We do not need to display them all, though – I think a few we may save for ourselves?"
Lúthea nodded eagerly. She lifted her hair back a little and turned her head to let her mother rub the crushed petals behind her ear. The Queen next did the same for herself, and they were both soon surrounded by a pleasant fragrance.
"I'll ask Adina for help to arrange them in the sitting room, if she is not too busy with Elenna. See you at dinner?"
The princess dipped her face toward the basket to take a deep breath of the lavender, and happily left to her task, remembering to take her book with her before she went.
Not more than a few minutes later, Arwen had cleaned up and set out to inform her husband of the letter's contents.
Having just returned from business in the city, the King walked into the Citadel, followed closely by attendants, who were doing their best to answer his questions. Now that the spring season was underway, trade activity was picking up, and he made sure to keep abreast of the latest reports.
He was so caught up in listening as he walked, that he did not notice his wife approaching, until she was almost directly before him. Aragorn smiled warmly and took her hand. A fresh floral scent greeted him as she came near.
The two attendants, who had accompanied their highness this far, bowed and discreetly made their exit down the corridor.
"This arrived just now. From Lórien."
She had perhaps walked a little too quickly; her heart beat faster than usual.
Aragorn's eyes widened almost imperceptibly, as he took the parchment, and scanned its contents.
"Elladan and Elrohir are coming early?"
Arwen squeezed his hand excitedly. "They should be here next week, if this is correct."
He had not expected the Lords of Imladris for another month. In truth he had so many other things on his agenda to think about, he had almost completely forgotten about their impending visit.
He put his arm around Arwen's shoulders, as they walked in the direction of the court.
"Eldarion will not have returned yet," he said after a quiet moment.
"But he will, soon enough. Better late than never?"
Aragorn's mind began to turn. He was glad to have something else to plan for, besides official business.
"We must get ready, then."
Arwen circled an arm around her husband's waist.
"The week will pass too slowly." She looked up at him, biting her lip in a smile. "I cannot wait."
Sitting next to his wife, the King tried to remain still, and rested his hands flat on the arms of the high seat – he had never been used to calling it a throne. But even then his fingertips could not rest, as he unconsciously rubbed against the indentations in the grain of the wood. His collar seemed to chafe at his neck. The silver circlet he wore felt strangely heavy on his brow.
The Queen was making the same attempt at tranquillity, but he saw her fingers fidgeting in her lap.
With a sidelong glance, she caught his eye, gave a half smile.
"I keep telling myself this is not new, that they have been here before."
He turned the palm of his hand up and she brought her hand to meet it on the armrest. With entwined fingers they were both finally calm, for a moment.
"That does not make it less exciting, for much has changed since their last visit. The children have all grown so."
After he responded his thoughtful eyes looked briefly to their two older daughters, who sat near, quietly enthusiastic, but not quite knowing what to expect.
"To say nothing, I suppose, of the work you and Eldarion have done in renewing Gondor's eastern border?"
He turned back to her, smiling. "Of course, that too."
Before long the doors to the hall opened, allowing entrance to the party that had just arrived.
As the two tall, dark-haired Elf-lords entered and approached the white-marbled dais, the King and Queen rose together and stood. There was a hush among the small gathering of courtiers who observed. Their deeds in the great war and in the northern kingdom were as well known as their connection to the Queen.
"You are welcome in Minas Tirith, Lords of Imladris," said Aragorn, stepping forward.
Formal introductions, though, were soon dispensed with in favour of more familiar greetings.
Elladan extended a hand first, his smile broad. "It is good to see you again, muindor-aran."
Elrohir meanwhile happily greeted Arwen, embracing her warmly.
"I am glad to see you here early, for it has already been too long since your last visit," said the Queen, over her brother's shoulder.
"Little more than a decade, mell muinthel. But still we could see no reason to delay another month."
Aragorn extended his arm toward Mírra and Lúthea, who stood by shyly. Lúthea took her father's hand, and went immediately to his side, demurely looking towards her uncles with a slight smile. Mírra came forward with a little more eagerness, and gave a well-practised curtsy.
"You know Mírra and Lúthea," Arwen began, taking Mírra's side, "but they are much changed from how you remember them."
Elladan and Elrohir bowed, in turn.
"My goodness," said Elrohir, extending a hand to his older niece, "can this young lady be the same girl who could not keep her skirts clean from running around outside, when I last saw her?"
Mírra blushed furiously, but answered happily.
Lúthea remained next to her father, her stature still quite small compared with the tall family around her. She gave a curtsy as well, but was still too shy to speak.
"What of my nephew?" inquired Elladan.
"Eldarion is still with the White Company's campaign," answered Aragorn, "We expect to see him in a few weeks."
"You have not yet seen your youngest niece however," added Arwen. "When Elenna wakes you must meet her."
Elrohir shook his head.
"This family seems to grow bigger each time we visit."
"Come, you must want to get settled. At dinner we will hear all your news."
News was shared at dinner, excited conversation between hosts and guests. Mírra and Lúthea had hung on their uncles' every word – Elrohir in
particular had been in fine form. But it was the King and the two Elf-lords who had kept the raucous chatter going on into the small hours.
Upon returning to their chambers, Aragorn had let the door close a little
louder than anticipated.
"Shh, you will surely disturb the castle." Although she scolded him, a light smile played on her lips.
"Ah, at this hour, they will be asleep already."
"Precisely my point."
She took his hand to go into their bed chamber. It had been a good evening, with enough merry conversation to keep them occupied for hours yet. But it was now very late, they had to admit.
"I believe I have had too much wine," said Aragorn as he let his wife lead him slowly forward.
"I think all three of you did. Your heads will be aching tomorrow."
Coming to the bed, he sat down heavily.
"And so you should take your rest now, while you still can," Arwen finished, kissing his cheek.
Releasing his hand, she stepped away, just into the outer chamber to her
dressing table, to remove her few pieces of jewelry. It had been a good evening. It made Arwen glad, to see the three of them so caught up with each other, like brothers again.
She heard a deep, quiet laugh come from the inner chamber.
"What is it now?"
"I cannot believe the stories Elrohir was dragging out," replied Aragorn, having laid himself back on the bed. He had raised a hand to rub his forehead, laughing softly, despite himself. "That time I nearly hit him with the arrow, when I was first learning."
"I thought he said it grazed his ear?"
Aragorn let out a dismissive noise. "He makes it sound worse than it was, like I aimed for him on purpose. I think it was rather he who was in the way."
Arwen finally returned, undressed and wearing her robe, and crawled across the bed to kneel over him.
He raised an eyebrow. "Now, you are sympathetic? I did not see you come to my defence before."
"That is because it was simply too much fun to watch the three of you laughing."
She brushed hair off his face, feeling him lightly take hold of her waist, and gave him a simple kiss on the lips. His eyes grew calm as he looked up at her.
"Sleep now, for you will surely be tired in the morning."
Once again he cocked an eyebrow, and raised his hands to her waist, over the thinly-woven fabric of her robe.
"There is no need to fuss, for I am not tired yet, bain hiril."
She could not help grinning back. "Oh, indeed, hîr-nin?"
Aragorn pulled her close, and wrapping his arms about her, rolled her over on her back.
"Indeed," he replied, bringing his lips to hers in a firm kiss.
She smiled against the roughness of his beard, with the familiar, comfortable weight of his body over her. Perhaps their night together was not ending just yet.
There was much to catch up on from the last decade or so, but for the most part the reunited family was content to let days pass easily, acquainting Elladan and Elrohir once again with the capital of the southern realm.
On one afternoon, still in the early days of their visit, Elladan remained behind with his sister and two younger nieces, sitting in the garden. Aragorn had gone with Mírra, who was most eager to show Elrohir the stables.
"You have done marvellous work here, Arwen," said Elladan, surveying the lush flowerbeds and greenery around them. "It feels as though I never left Imladris."
His sister beamed notably at the compliment.
He moved to sit down next to Arwen, who held Elenna on her lap. Lúthea sat to the side, quietly absorbed in embroidery, while her mother and uncle talked.
"She favours Aragorn," he remarked on his youngest niece, who was observing him with curiosity.
Arwen nodded, smiling.
"They are quite close. Elenna is so cheerful, she could turn the heart of anyone, I think."
As if to prove her mother's words, Elenna gave a smile and a small wave to her uncle. She was warming up to him. Elladan could not help smiling in return. He extended a hand to meet one of hers.
"Mae govannen, tim-gwenn."
Elenna's smiled widened into a gap-toothed grin. Her light eyes sparkled.
"I certainly have much to catch up on, for Lúthea was just this one's age the last time I was here. How she has grown," Elladan remarked, with a nod to his other niece, who remained calmly focused on the needle and fabric in her hands.
He paused a moment, contemplating something that he was surprised not to have thought of before.
"Lúthea reminds me of adar, you know."
Arwen looked back at him, sudden pride in her voice.
"You see it too?"
The older elf nodded slowly.
"Yes… I cannot quite pin down the exact detail, but it is there. There is something about the way she concentrates, that seems just as how father was, when he would sit at his desk…" He turned to Arwen, a little sheepish. "I am sorry. I seem to be waxing philosophical these days."
"What is so wrong with that? Tell me what is on your mind."
Elladan shook his head slightly, thinking, and then rested his cheek against his palm as he continued.
"I was just remembering when Elrohir and I were young, and just beginning our studies. Father was always so diligent about showing us his library, taking such care with our lessons. I think he was a little disappointed that we did not have the same devotion for it that he did. But by the time you arrived, perhaps he decided it was best not push you into it."
Elladan looked over at his sister, expecting a reply. She was smiling faintly as she watched Lúthea, but there was a melancholy look behind her eyes.
She blinked as if waking herself out of a daze, and straightened as she turned her eyes back to her brother.
"Oh… I was just following my memory too, back to when I was small."
Elenna began to grow restless, so Arwen allowed her to slide her still-chubby legs down to the ground. She spied her sister close by. Lúthea looked up from her stitching and saw Elenna looking in her direction. She set the fabric down on the bench beside her and held her arms out. Elenna crawled over happily.
"When I used to sit in father's study," the Queen continued reflectively, "I think I found the books all quite fascinating because they were beautiful, and there were so many of them. But when I was that young I did not understand why he spent so much time with them. Now, it makes me glad to see Lúthea take such an interest."
"It is not all accidental, surely," Elladan teased his sister, giving her a nudge.
Despite herself, Arwen blushed.
"I have told her many tales, certainly, but it is Aragorn that introduced her to the library. To tell the truth, I am sorry I did not think of it myself, she likes it so much."
Brother and sister shared a smile.
Seeing Elenna, at the age she was now, Elladan was reminded of another meeting… Had it really been so long ago? It was over a century now, and things had been so different then. And that small boy was now grown into a King…
The two elves were drawn out of their reflection by an excited call from Lúthea. Looking over, they saw her kneeling next to Elenna, who was standing, all on her own. Lúthea held out one arm hesitantly, half-expecting the little girl to fall back down.
"She's doing it!" Lúthea smiled.
But she did not fall, only stood with hand still at her mouth, while the other gave a wave.
Arwen drew in an excited breath and immediately crouched to extend her hands to her smallest daughter.
"Come on then, what are you waiting for now?"
Elenna seemed to take note of the few feet between her and her mother. Cautiously, she took one step. Evidently it was sound enough to propel her forward, for in four more small steps she reached Arwen's waiting arms.
"The first time, then?" Elladan inquired, as Arwen gave the little girl a congratulatory hug.
"The first time on her own," the Queen replied. "And you kept us in suspense long enough, didn't you?"
Elenna's only answer was another gap-toothed smile.
Arwen turned back to her brother.
"You will stay the season, then?"
The Elf-lord nodded. "I can see there is much visiting to be done, no doubt about that."
naneth = mother
muindor-aran = brother-king
mell muinthel = dear sister
bain hiril = beautiful lady
hîr-nin = my lord
mae govannen, tim-gwenn = well met, little star girl
adar = father
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.