7. Gifts and Partings
Lúthea admired the necklace her sister had just received as a birthday gift from her uncles. It was very like a bracelet she herself had been given when she had turned twelve in the early days of their visit. The chain and setting were of finest silver, and set in the centre was a crystal of amethyst.
Elladan had helped to fasten the chain around Mírra's neck, and she fingered the stone as she grew accustomed to the weight of it.
“I hardly ever consider jewelry,” Mírra said after a moment, her expression brightening, “but I do think I like this piece.”
The violet crystal was only the size of coin, but many of the crystal faces had been polished smooth without overly rounding the edges, retaining a certain quality of imperfection in its natural beauty.
“I am pleased to hear it then,” smiled Elladan.
“And now we match, you see,” Lúthea displayed her bracelet, in which a series of much tinier, more well-shaped lavender stones were linked in the same silver setting.
“So we do. Do you think will impress all the young men now?” she teased.
The younger girl blushed but could not help giggling.
Mírra returned her sister’s smile, and turned and stepped to where her mother and father were sitting with Elenna, to show off her new trinket. Arwen reached out a hand in appraisal.
Lúthea’s attention soon turned to a wooden box on the table.
“May we play?” She asked hopefully.
Elladan bemusedly turned his grey eyes to his niece.
She nodded, biting back a grin.
“Alright then, but with only two of us you will surely best me immediately.”
They began to tip out the white tiles on to the table, to turn over the blank sides.
All were aware that there were only a few weeks lingering of the Elf-lords’ visit, though no one spoke of it.
“Perhaps Elrohir can play too?”
“I think he is quite occupied with something else at the moment,” said Elladan wryly, with a glance to the other side of the room.
Elrohir and Eldarion sat facing each other, both bent intently over a chessboard between them.
“Ada shall play then,” Lúthea decided, crossing to the sofa. She had to plead with Aragorn for only a few moments, before the King left Elenna with Arwen and Mírra, and came over to join his daughter at the table.
“Alright then,” he said lightly, rubbing his hands together, “you shall have to remind me of the rules.”
“That can be done, I’m sure,” returned Elladan, “but I do not think that will help our odds against our opponent here.”
Lúthea tried not to look satisfied. “You must choose ten pieces with which to start,” she explained.
As they began the game, Elladan gave a nod to his brother and nephew. “Perhaps next time we meet, I shall teach you chess?”
Aragorn observed his daughter consider this offer.
“Maybe. But for now I should like something that is not so perplexing.”
The King winked. “A wise decision, sell nîn.”
The prince and his uncle indeed had a serious air about them, as they continued their own game. Eldarion leaned his chin on his hand as he considered what piece he would move next. Elrohir watched calmly, with arms folded.
Eldarion stretched out his other hand over one piece, let it hover there for a moment.
“Be certain that is the best move, before you make it,” said Elrohir.
“I have not touched any piece yet,” countered Eldarion, raising an eyebrow.
He withdrew his hand and thought in silence for a little while more, before finally deciding to move a pawn forward. It was then his turn to sit back with folded arms, while he waited for his uncle to complete his next move.
“Have you given any thought to my offer?” said Elrohir, eyes still on the game board.
“I have, yes,” replied Eldarion, with a short nod. “I must admit I would like to see Arnor, and the work at Annúminas. The patrols you describe sound intriguing.”
“But not intriguing enough, by the sound of things?”
Eldarion leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees.
“I don’t know. I keep thinking there is more I need to see in the South, before I can devote time in the North. Adar has told me much though, of the years when he rode with you and Elladan.”
The Elf-lord nodded. “Even now, orcs still prove to be a challenge in the mountains, but the times are not as desperate as they once were, fortunately.”
Elrohir sat up again, ignoring the game for the moment.
“The work in South Ithilien is going well, then?”
“This spring was very successful, I think. We regained substantial control of this side of the Ephel Duath, and the White Company’s reach now extends firmly all the way to the Poros.”
“That is advantageous indeed.”
“We would like it to extend farther of course, but it is best to keep hold of the territory over the winter, make sure it is secure before trying to challenge for more.”
“A sound decision, I think.” Elrohir observed his nephew with something touching appraisal. “I must say I am pleased to hear the news of that province, from you. We have constant news from Osgiliath and Emyn Arnen, but mostly touching on the restoration work. I often wonder what the reports are missing, when they do not come directly from those who are in the middle of the action.”
“Then I shall write and tell you as much as I can.”
“I would look forward to that,” replied Elrohir with a smile. “Do you think you will be spending much time there next spring as well?”
Eldarion pondered this. “I am not sure yet. Father has been in much correspondence with Rohan the last few months. I think a journey there next year will be inevitable for him.”
“For you also, then?”
“Well,” continued Elrohir, “That will certainly provide more opportunity for you to explore the South.”
“You are right on that account.” The prince paused. “It is not that Arnor is not intriguing. I have given it much thought.”
“You need not trouble yourself over it,” replied Elrohir, “it will still be there in another year, or two, or ten, what ever decision you come to.”
The Elf-lord turned his attention back to the chessboard, and within a moment had completed his move.
“And now it is your turn,” he said with a nod to the prince.
“So it is.”
“It still seems as though you just arrived,” said Arwen as she embraced her older brother, just inside the city gates.
“And here I was worried we would overstay our welcome,” replied Elladan.
“You know that is not possible.”
“Your visit has been most welcome indeed,” added Aragorn, bidding his own farewell to Elrohir, then to Elladan.
All too soon, it seemed, the warmth of summer had made way for the burning colours of autumn. But by all accounts the Elf-lords’ visit had been a success.
“Your journey will again take you through Lorien?” asked the King.
“We may winter there, if it suits our grandfather,” replied Elladan.
“You will tell him that Arwen and I send our regards?”
“Of course, he will be pleased to hear our tales of this summer, no doubt.”
Arwen took her turn to say goodbye to her other brother.
“One summer or another, we must host you.”
It was not the first time Elrohir had mentioned this, but Arwen did not want to debate with him now.
“When Elenna has grown older, perhaps.”
Elrohir gave a brief nod. “I understand.”
They embraced tightly, as Elrohir spoke over her shoulder.
“Promise you will not stay away for too long? Imladris is lonely without you.”
As they separated, Arwen turned to see Lúthea arrive with Eldarion, to say their own goodbyes.
Elladan bent to give Lúthea a tight hug, making her giggle.
“We will soon send you many books to keep you busy for months on end,” said the Elf-lord with a slight twinkle in his eye.
“I will like that very much.”
Elladan caught his sister’s eye just then, saw her nod in approval.
Elrohir shook Eldarion’s hand, and they appeared to be in deep conversation for a few moments.
“But where are my other nieces?” inquired Elladan.
As if on cue, Mírra soon met up with them, holding Elenna on her arm.
“Not a moment too soon,” said Elrohir.
“I am sorry,” said the oldest princess, “but the walk through the palace is quite slow, when one of us keeps getting distracted.” She tilted her head pointedly to her littlest sister.
Mírra let Elenna down, and she scurried over to her uncles, only to be swept up by Elladan.
“We could not leave without bidding you farewell, of course,” he said with a grin, which was returned brightly by Elenna.
Mírra stepped over to kiss her uncles goodbye.
“Be sure to keep your skirts clean, young lady,” said Elrohir, only half-serious.
“Of course I will not,” laughed Mírra.
After a few final words from everyone, and hearty handshakes all around, the horses were brought around, and Elladan and Elrohir assembled with their party.
“Navaer, my lords,” said Aragorn.
“Until next time,” said Elrohir, adding only a brief glance to his sister.
Arwen smiled, and waved as they turned their horses around, and rode through the city gates. The late morning sun was high over the city as the party rode out.
Although the children soon drifted back to the palace, having seen their uncles depart, Arwen remained outside the gate. Aragorn stayed with her, as she stretched her eyes to see them ride out of sight.
He laid a hand on her back, and she found she was grateful for his touch.
“It is only until next time, undomiel.”
“I know.” She turned her gaze to him, tried to keep the melancholy she felt from showing too much. “But after such a summer, the autumn and winter will seem bare indeed.”
They turned, and Aragorn took Arwen’s hand as they slowly made their way back from the city’s edge.
Though Arwen was quiet as they walked, he felt her squeeze his hand tightly.
“Mírra, I am getting cold, may we go back to the palace now?”
Lúthea, pulling her cloak tightly around her and clutching a bundle close under her arm, caught up with her sister at one of the market stalls. The older princess had stopped to look at some silver jewelry, but although she closely examined a few pieces, nothing tempted her.
As Lúthea came up next to her, they turned together and walked out into the open air of the city. The younger princess still came only to her sister’s shoulder.
“But it was you who wanted to come to the market in the first place.”
“I know, but now I want to get this home, and nicely wrapped,” said the younger girl anxiously.
“You could have sent someone to get it, if you did not want to come out in the snow yourself.”
“Yes, but then I would not have been able to make sure myself that it was just right.” She took her parcel in both hands. “Do you think Eldarion will like this gift?
For her brother’s upcoming birthday, Lúthea had selected a set of pens and inks.
“It is not the gift itself that matters, he will be happy that you thought about it so much.”
Lúthea looked down again at the parcel in her hands.
“All the same, I hope he likes it. Thank you for taking me to the market.”
“You’re welcome.” It was not as if Mírra needed an excuse to go out.
They continued to make their way through the streets, snow under their feet. Minas Tirith was much quieter in the winter, the market less crowded. They passed only a few other shoppers on their way.
Large, fluffy white flakes of snow drifted down to the girls’ sable cloaks, down to augment what had already collected on the ground.
Just as they came near to the Citadel, Mírra stopped and turned her face upward, to try and catch a snowflake in her mouth. As she tilted her head back, the hood of her cloak fell down to her shoulders, exposing loose, dark hair.
Lúthea turned back as she saw her sister had paused.
“What are you doing? More are landing in your hair than on your tongue.”
Mírra righted herself. “So? This is the best part about winter.”
“If only we could have the snow, without the cold.”
“I rather think the snow makes the cold better.”
“Even though our noses are red, and we will be sniffling if we stay out for much longer?”
“Yes, even so.”
“I do not understand you sometimes.”
Lúthea shook her head. “Come on, let us get back.”
“Just a few more.”
Mírra took a few steps forward, but turned her face up again, to catch a few more snowflakes.
Lúthea, waiting patiently, noticed one of the Citadel guards observing the two of them. She thought she had been mistaken, but as he turned his face away to resume his formal posture, she saw him blush slightly. He was quite young, perhaps a year or two younger than her brother.
“Alright.” Mírra pulled her hood back up and brushed snow off her cloak as she joined her sister again.
As they entered the Citadel, Lúthea glanced back briefly towards the young guard.
“What?” Mírra, curious, looked at her sister, then to the Citadel entrance and back again. “What is it?”
“I saw that guard looking at you, though he should not be,” Lúthea smiled, “I saw his cheeks turn pink as he looked away.”
“You are exaggerating… why would any man look at me?”
Lúthea shrugged, then a sudden grin crossed her face.
“Maybe he likes winter also.”
Mírra poked her sister, feeling somewhere between appalled and flattered.
“Come on, you.”
She took Lúthea’s free hand and led them quickly back toward the palace. Before long both of them were giggling as they ran.
“Show me the section on Calembel again?”
A few weeks later, Mírra and Eldarion sat in the study, poring over maps.
“I’m not sure why it matters, father will surely want take the West Road when we go to Edoras.”
Eldarion flipped a few pages.
“It’s just near the intersection of Ringló and Ciril. The watch tower is set on the hill, facing south, but in sight of both river crossings.”
Mírra leaned over the page to better take in the details in the illustration.
“But there is a road there, it goes right through Calembel and up toward Erech. Could we not just as well go that way?”
“I think so, but it would mean first following the Anduin far south out of Minas Tirith, before we could join with the south road. It would extend our journey by at least four days.”
“The West Road is more direct, then.”
As they continued to pore over the pages, they were soon joined in the study by their father, whose entrance was followed by a delivery of letters.
The King greeted his two oldest children, and sat down to look at the newest pieces of correspondence.
Eldarion’s gaze drifted across the room. He could not help noticing his father frowning at the paper in front of him.
“Is there bad news?” he called out.
Aragorn looked up, as Eldarion left Mírra to join him at his desk.
“No, nothing bad. But the communication with Éomer is becoming more pressing. I begin to think that it will only hold things up, to wait until spring to meet with him.”
“You’re not reconsidering?” Mírra, listening intently, crossed the room to join the two men. She had been looking forward to seeing Edoras for months now.
Aragorn tried to answer as simply as he could. “Not reconsidering, but I would not have you travel while the weather is so unfriendly.”
“But I went with you to Ithilien last year, while it was still winter.”
“I know it, mír nîn, but crossing the Anduin to see Emyn Arnen and crossing country to go to Rohan are different matters entirely.”
Eldarion thought of a solution.
“If you do need to go to Rohan now, would it not be possible for Mírra and I to follow in a month or two, when the weather warms?”
Aragorn scratched his beard as he looked up at his son and daughter – grown now, but still able to unite for their own interests as they had done as children.
“That is certainly an option.”
Mírra brightened. “I would not mind it at all.”
“Alright, I will consider it,” said Aragorn, having a hard time keeping his face straight. “Now be off with you, or I can see I will get nothing done.”
“Anything you say, adar,” said Eldarion smoothly.
Mírra took up the atlas before they left the study.
“Do you think he will permit us to have our own excursion?” she said conspiratorially after they were well out of earshot.
“If I can lead my own patrols in Ithilien, I see no reason why I cannot escort you to Edoras,” Eldarion replied, out of the corner of his mouth.
Mírra could not help smiling. “This may turn out to be more fun than I thought.”
That night, even after all was set in order, the letters sent and the arrangements made, while Aragorn lay in bed he still could not let his mind release from the plans that had been made over the last few days. It always seemed to be like this, before he left on long journeys.
Arwen’s voice brought him away from his thoughts.
“You are wondering if you have forgotten something?”
She stood from where she had bent near the fireplace to add one last piece of wood to the fire. The warmth it passed about the room was almost enough to make them forget winter’s remaining cold.
He let out a sigh, rubbed one hand over tired eyes.
“I do not know what I am wondering about. I know everything has been well planned, I should stop thinking on it.”
Arwen came over to the bed, having already undressed to only her robe. She stepped on her knees across the covers, before laying herself comfortably against him. He could discern the familiar scent of lavender as she came close.
“It is what Eldarion and Mírra will do without your supervision, perhaps?”
Aragorn pondered this question for a moment. He brought down the hand that had been resting behind his head, to finger the sleeve of her robe.
“They will be up to mischief in my absence, I am sure.” He was only half teasing, knowing full well how pleased their two older children were to be planning an expedition of their own. “But I wonder if they are disappointed that I asked them to wait.”
“They will be happy to see Edoras, even if they will not go with you yet.”
Arwen crossed her arms on his chest, chin resting on one hand, while the other began to stroke lazily across the skin exposed by his open night-shirt. With the tip of an index finger she traced a small scar just near his shoulder. It had come from a knife-blade, years ago, he told her once.
For a quiet moment their eyes met, depths of smoke and slate.
Aragorn reached both hands out to the sides of her face, touching silken dark hair. He felt how calm she had become.
“You would rather I did not go,” he said after a time.
“I have not said that,” she replied, blinking heavily.
He tilted his head slightly, unbelieving.
“I suppose it is only that, in the last year, things have been so good here, so settled. I have grown so accustomed to having you here.”
“You could come as well, join me with Eldarion and Mírra?” Though he offered, he knew what her answer to this would be.
“Ah, but I fear Lúthea and Elenna would not forgive us if we both left them for three months,” she smiled leisurely, “And I would miss them terribly, I cannot deny it.”
“More so than me?”
“Hmm…” she pondered jokingly, fingers still teasing across his skin, “it is debatable.”
Dark eyes looked back at him as his fingers drifted down to push hair behind her ears. Letting his fingertips linger there for a brief moment, he traced the delicately pointed tips – the features he hated to see hidden.
“And now you’ve become serious on me,” said Aragorn quietly.
She slid her hand underneath his open shirt, across his rib cage. Beneath her touch, she felt his heartbeat begin to quicken ever so slightly.
“Not so very serious.”
Regarding her for a moment more, he took her face in his hands and guided her lips forward to meet hers. As he released her, she let her tongue slide over each of his lips in turn, feeling the soft moist skin outlined by the contrast of his rough whiskers.
After a languid pause, Arwen made to put out the candle on the table beside the bed, but was stopped by a quick motion from Aragorn.
“Do not put it out yet, meleth-nîn.”
Arwen turned back to him with a little curiosity. She thought she caught a glimmer in his eye, but it could have been the candlelight.
“No, for I want to see you.” He smiled invitingly.
“I think it will be warmer for me under here,” she whispered, turning up the edge of the coverlet, “…for both of us.”
As he drew back the covers, Arwen crept underneath to nestle close to him, his body warm next to hers.
“Mm, how right you are,” he replied as he wrapped her in both the blankets and his own arms.
ada = dad/daddy (adar = father)
sell nîn = my daughter
navaer = farewell
mír nîn = my jewel
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.