6. Further Reflections
A young man at the side of the group rubbed his gloved hands together in the briskness of the cold morning. He made one last check of his saddle, and mounted. Another man, some years older, rode near and gave a brief salute.
“All appears to be ready, my lord. Barring a few last minute adjustments to harnesses, the usual things, we await only your command.”
Eldarion held back a chuckle, only smiled.
“That is something I am not yet used to giving.”
Brennan answered amiably.
“I would think that six weeks with the White Company, patrolling the western side of the Ephel Duath, more than qualifies you, my lord.”
The young Lord of Minas Tirith pulled his sable cloak closer about his shoulders, pushed hair of the same colour off his face.
“Very well, my friend.” He pursed his smile as he straightened his posture in the saddle. “Let the company move out.”
Eldarion spoke easily to his companion as they made their way toward the Osgiliath. Having left so early in the day, they could afford to take a relaxed pace for an hour or two.
“Is it true that Elves inhabit this region? I see few signs of them.”
“So they say,” replied Brennan. “Often Elven ambassadors meet with the King in his city. But the signs of their presence are indeed most evident. How do you think this land comes to be so fair?”
Late spring was certainly an opportune time of year to journey through Gondor’s eastern province. Aside from the dense foliage of the foothills, this countryside had lush greenery that was not to be found in the other regions of the southland.
There could be no doubt though, that of all the lands that had felt the wrath of Darkness during the Third Age, Ithilien, sharing a border with the lands of Shadow, was in the direst need of relief.
“Even two decades ago, when I was first sent on a patrol here, it was not like this,” continued Brennan, “To see it now thriving is a most glad sight.”
“Perhaps when I have seen other provinces, Ithilien’s beauty will seem more pronounced by comparison.” Eldarion could not help sighing a little. “Listen to me – I fear I am sounding like my sister, thinking only of seeing new places.”
“Ah, there is no need for you to feel anxious on that account. I was much the same way, in my younger years.”
“Was Ithilien your first posting in those days, then?”
“Oh no, my earlier expeditions were simply messenger errands through Anórien and Lebennin. Occasionally as far as Eastfold. Did I never tell you of this before?”
The prince shook his head.
“Well, my friends never understood why I was so eager to take up the messenger work, but believe me, there was nothing I would have liked better. My only task was to ride across the country, and to me it felt like exploring. I grew to know the White Mountains quite well during those years.”
Eldarion was reminded of a few certain maps that he had lately taken an interest in.
“You say you sometimes saw Eastfold? Did you never journey to Lamedon at all?”
“A few times… yes, but not nearly so often. By the time I was making journeys of that length, I was reassigned to the site of Minas Ithil. And then to the White City, when a certain boy needed help with his sword work…”
“…and he is most grateful for your tutelage.”
Brennan grinned back.
“Just remember who taught you everything you know, when it is your turn to wear the crown.”
Eldarion raised a hand in declaration.
“That day is still thankfully far off, my friend.”
The two men were silent for a moment, and navigated the horses towards an upcoming river crossing. Osgiliath was now coming in sight to the northwest.
Eldarion, though, was reluctant to let their conversation go so easily.
“But what have you seen of Lamedon, Brennan? Do you know the town of Erech?”
“I was there once… no, twice. Years ago though. I hear that region has also changed over the last few decades.”
The prince remained inquisitive.
“And the land north of there, towards Edoras. What do you know of that?”
Brennan turned directly to his companion, now more than a little intrigued by his questions.
“You are driving at something, my lord. What is it you wish to know?”
Eldarion looked back, lips pursed in thought.
“I am curious about Erech… and the Paths of the Dead.”
Brennan straightened with a deep breath, and responded carefully.
“I would think questions about that are better directed to your father, the King.”
The younger man scratched a dark eyebrow.
“I know… The last time I consulted with him, about this journey, I had been looking at maps of the western provinces. That is when I began to think of it. I cannot tell why, but I could not bring myself to question him.”
“But my lord, you must know that story. Every child in this country knows of those events, of how the War of the Ring was won…”
“…Yes, but still my father rarely speaks of it,” Eldarion interjected. “He tells us of the past, but somehow I wonder if there are some things he does not want to be reminded of.”
Brennan was not sure how to respond to the prince’s comments about the King. Such matters seemed too personal to discuss with an outsider.
“I can tell you what I know about the landscape, and the great stone at Erech, and the tales of those who witnessed Elessar’s journey to the Pelargir, but beyond that…”
“Beyond that, only my father can tell,” Eldarion finished. Brennan gave a silent nod.
They came now to the bridge just east of Osgiliath, and began to cross. It was not yet midday; they would be at Minas Tirith by mid afternoon, with luck.
“We should let the horses take water here, and then press on across Anduin.”
“Agreed, my lord.”
The prince turned to his companion after the company had halted.
“Still, not having seen the place myself, I would enjoy hearing your account of Erech, and the great stone. It must be an impressive sight.”
“That it is.” As they dismounted, Brennan cleared his throat and collected his thoughts. “No one can tell the origin of the stone, but so the story goes, in the days of Isildur…”
“Did you not want to go with Aragorn and Elrohir? I believe Mírra planned to lead them out to the riverside.”
Elladan turned, a little surprised to see his sister had found him.
“No, I suppose I wanted to stay inside today.”
“Me, too,” Arwen smiled. “Lúthea seems to be of like mind, for she was heading to finish some weaving when I left her.”
Elladan folded his arms and leaned back against one wall of the spacious hallway they were in, quite near to the library. The high walls and floor were of the same sand-coloured marble of the archives area. This wide corridor, though, was filled with artwork, portraits of Kings and Queens, of Stewards from years past.
Elladan nodded to the large painting in front of him.
“I am trying to recall if the other portraits I have seen of Valacar are as unflattering.”
Arwen raised an eyebrow at the artist’s conception, painted in rather unattractive tones indeed.
“Oh, the small matter of a Kin-strife, you mean?” She gave a small chuckle. “Perhaps some memories fade more quickly than others.”
Elladan’s hands were clasped comfortably behind his back as they made their way side by side down the corridor, the brother just a little taller than his sister.
“I had thought to refresh my memory of the Southern line, but the portraits are not as complete as I had expected,” he observed, “many seem to be missing from earlier in the third age.”
“Yes, before King Tarondor it is indeed incomplete. The Disasters resulted in great material loss, and so before then we are still missing a great deal.” Arwen sighed a little. “Lúthea is making discoveries to much the same effect in the library, and Aragorn is often lamenting the gaps in the written records.”
She caught her brother’s curious glance, briefly.
“I have found that there is much to remember, Elladan. There is so much history here, that we were little aware of.”
They came to a small foyer where two hallways met, skirted by a few small benches. Elladan motioned to one and they both sat. On the wall opposite them hung an impressive portrait of Ecthelion I.
“You do seem to be familiar with it all,” said the Elf-lord after a quiet moment.
“It is partly to do with the children, you know. This is their homeland, after all.”
“That it is.”
Arwen knitted her brow for a brief moment, considering something.
“What would you say to me waxing philosophical for a few moments?”
Elladan turned to her with interest.
“Alright. What is on your mind?”
“It is just that, since our discussion a few weeks ago though, I find myself thinking about the older days more and more, all the time we used to spend in father’s study…”
Arwen’s voice trailed off slightly, but she paused for only a moment.
“…On some level that time seems so far away, when I look at how much has happened for this part of the world. In fact it is almost an entire Age away, and yet I can recall those moments as if they were yesterday. Of the years in between, there are so many moments that I’m sure have faded completely from my mind, but then there are still others that I will always remember.”
Elladan began to hear confusion in his sister’s voice.
“Time itself seems strange… in the way the days pass. It seems I remember every day, each of them, when before I was never aware of them. I watch the children change, see them grow, and so I cannot help but think it is why my view of the world is altered as well…”
“You mean to say that your perception of time, your life, is now measured by the scale of your children’s lives?” Elladan interjected.
Arwen nodded, meeting his eyes. There she saw recognition, understanding of the thoughts she was trying to make sense of.
“That does not seem unreasonable to me.” Elladan leaned forward, distractedly rubbing his beardless cheek as he continued. “From that perspective, it is fitting that time should feel different to you. But I do not think those variations are for you alone. The world itself seems to be changing.” He shook his head as if in defeat. “At first everything was fine, after…”
He did not need to finish the sentence, as they both knew the event to which he referred.
“Peace returned to the land, the Darkness had disappeared… And Elrohir and I were proud to manage Imladris in father’s place. But it is clear to me now, that the Shadow is not the only thing in this world that fades.”
Their people were gradually departing. There was nothing to be done.
“Have you decided, Elladan?”
He answered carefully, surely.
“No. No, Elrohir and I have not made any choice yet.”
Arwen swallowed hard, and for a moment did not know what to say.
“You… you have spoken little of grandfather since you arrived. He must be confronting much the same feelings.”
Though Elladan’s concerned gaze remained on his sister, she looked down at her knees while she spoke. He sighed disconcertedly.
“He… he seems unsettled. He has spent time in Greenwood, in King Thranduil’s court. We have discussed him coming to stay at Imladris, and I think he may accept the offer soon. I am not sure that Lorien has felt much like home to him, of late. In fact, he was preparing to leave again, when we left him.”
Arwen then looked to him, her eyes thoughtful, but sad.
“That is why you arrived here so early?”
Elladan nodded. They were quiet for a few moments, as elements of their discussion began to sink in. There was one subject that Elladan still wanted to raise, but felt the need for caution.
“There is something I have been considering, for the latest weeks of our visit, and I wonder how you would feel about it, given what we have just been speaking of.”
Arwen could not help feeling a little wary.
“We have been busy of late in father’s library,” Elladan continued, “taking stock of the collection, and such matters. I am wondering, since Luthea seems to be taking an interest in history, should I perhaps send some things here?”
“What kind of materials?”
“I am not completely sure yet, mainly journals, record books. Some literature. Duplicates and later editions that might do well for the collection here.”
She did not ask what the purpose was for removing such items from Imladris. But then, what would happen to it all, if her brothers did eventually depart?
Elladan nodded. “Some of it is, yes.” He was aware of his sister’s restraint, aware of how quiet she had become since broaching the subject of their father. “Does it bother you?”
Arwen stood carefully, trying not to frown too much, trying not to make this into more than it was. She folded her arms as she glanced back at the portrait in front of them, such a majestic image of the beloved Steward. There were few such images of her own kin to be found in the palace.
“The children know some things about our family, but not all,” she said as she turned back to face her brother. “Truth be told, I am not sure how much I should tell them.”
“You do want them to know of our line?”
“Of course, it is just that… I do not know how I would explain it. Sometimes it is hard enough for me to confront those memories on my own, let alone teach them.” Her voice became quiet. “For Aragorn, it is different, but I am still getting used to the fact that books may be the only way for my children to learn of their heritage.”
Elladan knew she spoke honestly, but could sense there were unspoken thoughts beneath the exterior calm. He rose to stand in front of her.
“I do not mean to force this on you, it was only an idea. But if they do want to learn, discover it for themselves perhaps, it would be there for them?”
Arwen turned her eyes back up to him, and he thought she still hesitated, but her expression cleared a little as she responded.
“Yes. You are right.” She smiled faintly. “Whatever books you choose to send, I’m sure they would help Luthea to develop her language skills. Eldarion would perhaps be interested also.” She thought in silence a moment more. “Yes, it is a good idea.”
Elladan relaxed slightly.
“Good. We will look into it when we return in the fall, then.” He took her hand, and squeezed it reassuringly. “But books are not the only way my nieces and nephew can learn. Elrohir and I are here. Daeradar is here. Know that we will remain as long as we are needed.”
“I do know.” She looked at him warmly. “And I am glad for it.” She sighed, as if releasing some tension that had gathered during their talk. “How is it that we have now grown so serious, in these peaceful times?”
“I have no easy answer to that. I suppose we must occupy ourselves with something.”
Elladan gave his sister his arm. But as they began to walk back toward the royal wing of the palace, Arwen remained quiet, in thought.
“I do not want to think of him with sadness, Elladan.”
He covered his sister’s hand with one of his own, not quite sure of what else he could say.
“I know, mell muinthel.”
On the same day, the King and his oldest daughter were giving Elrohir a tour of the terrain near the City. Though the sky was cloudy, it was the driest day they had seen in a week’s time.
The princess royal rode ahead, in sight of them, guiding her grey horse around the occasional tree or rut in the ground. From time to time she dipped into the conversation, but for the most part was content to explore on her own. Aragorn and Elrohir kept a more leisurely pace, chatting lightly.
After a time Mírra turned back to her father, saying her horse needed to stretch his legs.
“I think I shall ride just the river’s edge, and come straight back,” she said, pointing in the direction of the Anduin, which was just in sight.
Aragorn nodded his assent.
“Do watch out near the water though – the ground is still quite muddy from the rain this week.”
“Of course.” She appeared to give a slight roll of her eyes, but smiled. “You two are simply too slow for us today,” she said as she patted her horse’s mane.
Elrohir could only try to suppress a laugh as his niece galloped off.
“It is disappointing the day is not finer,” Aragorn sighed. “We had been having such a warm spring until now.”
“Mírra’s enthusiasm for riding, though, seems undiminished by the weather,” replied Elrohir. They watched her race away comfortably across the grassy terrain, her grey cloak matching the colour of her horse’s coat.
“I think she hopes to catch a glimpse by the river, of Eldarion’s party. He is expected to return this afternoon.”
“Excellent, I look forward to asking him about his travels.”
“You are right about Mírra’s enthusiasm, though, she has always been eager for the outdoors.” said the King in agreement. “She was a welcome guest of the Steward of Gondor and his Lady, earlier in the season,” he added almost as an aside.
A smile crossed Elrohir’s face.
“Yes, she recounted her journey to me, with much excitement.”
“For the past year she has talked of almost nothing but seeing new places. I had thought to have her wait until she turned seventeen, but it seems that the court could not match the prospect of an outdoor adventure, for her.”
“Is that really so hard to believe?” said the Elf-lord, “When you were the age she is now, you could not wait to escape father’s study, when you had the chance to go on patrols with us.”
“I do know what it is to want to see the places in the maps, to want to do more than read about other lands. But even though I know Eldarion would rather be outside than studying, he still undertakes his learning diligently. Lúthea, she always seems to have something to occupy herself with, is happy in any part of the palace.” Aragorn gave another sigh. “But Mírra… it seems no amount of activity in the palace can tempt her away from the stables, from the river, from the mountainside.”
“Perhaps she simply needs more time, she is young yet,” Elrohir reasoned.
“That is just what Arwen keeps telling me.”
“But is it so terrible, for one so young to not know of her path?” The Elf-lord shrugged. “She says she wants only to travel, to ride. So perhaps it may happen that one of those journeys will lead her to the right path. You can only guide her until she finds it.”
Aragorn was silent for a thoughtful moment, before he responded.
“Perhaps it is because our paths were chosen for us, that I wonder so much about this. We had so few choices to make in the courses of our own lives.”
Elrohir’s expression became oddly calm.
“It was a different time. That much is certain.”
“And for that I am glad. I would never want them to face what we faced.”
“We did what we did, so that they would not have to.”
Both riders were now quiet, as a cool wind came about their ears. In the distance, they could see Mírra just beginning to return.
“You are still in good communication with Annúminas?” Aragorn asked at length.
Elrohir nodded, lifted his eyebrows just a little.
“I wondered when you would ask about that.”
“Can you blame me for not wanting to talk business for the entire length of your visit?”
“No, of course not,” grinned the Elf-lord. “Yes, there is steady news, and the city is becoming more stable. It seems that with each year the Northern people grow more comfortable with the idea of having a capital again.”
“To say nothing of the fact that Imladris will not be so overrun with Dúnedain, returning from expeditions?”
“On the contrary, muindor, it means we are constantly wanting for dinner conversation.” His eyes glinted mischievously. “The Edain may not be skilled minstrels, but they tell wild stories.”
The King laughed.
“You seem to recall enough to make up for it.”
As Mírra at last approached, they became quiet again, though something in Aragorn’s countenance seemed to have lifted.
“You are still too slow,” said the princess as she returned, breathless and exuberant. “What have you been talking of so seriously?”
Elrohir spoke first, and took the opportunity to attempt to lighten their discussion.
“Ah, it is only business. Methinks you are working too hard, Estel.”
Aragorn sat up a little straighter, responded in a similar vein.
“One does not rebuild a kingdom overnight, Elrohir. Perhaps it is rather that my kinsmen in Arnor are not busy enough?”
Elrohir gave a silent smirk in reply.
“Why does he call you that, father?” Mírra interjected, recognising a name her uncles had used much over the last few weeks.
Aragorn gave a sidelong glance to his brother-in-law.
“That name is how I was first known to Elladan and Elrohir, before I was told of my heritage.”
“Ah, do not listen to him,” said the Elf-lord with a wink at his niece, “It is because your father has so many names, I can only remember the simplest one.”
“I didn’t think ‘Your Highness’ was so hard to remember?”
Mírra laughed aloud.
“I see it is still muddy by the water, judging by the state of your clothes…” observed Elrohir.
Mírra looked down and saw the splatters of mud across her boots and hem of her dress. Her cheeks became even more pink than they had been after her brief race.
“…or perhaps the little girl I remember from my last visit, who was always getting mud on her skirts, has not changed so very much?”
“But at least my skirts are proper and courtly, now,” she winked back.
daeradar = grandfather
mell muinthel = dear sister
muindor = brother
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.