1. Eldarion's Choosing: A story of the Fourth Age
by Julie Watkins (julifolo at illinois.edu)
Almiel was a Ranger's daughter and she loved the land and she wore her skirts short that they would not hinder her work. And her family said, with war on the horizon, "You should not marry." And she answered, "I will not wait," and took Helangil as her husband and when their daughter Feloren was born Aragorn had not yet won his crown. They rejoiced when that time came and though there were some of the Dunedain who traveled to Gondor Helangil said "Arnor, too, must be awakened," and he and Almiel never left the north though they listened eagerly to any traveler's tale. Feloren married in the early years of the new age to Nalorn who had rode with Aragorn to the rescue of Minas Tirith and to the Black Gate. She bore Nalorn sons and daughters and she and her daughters wore their skirts short and they, with their neighbors, built their homes and barns and worked the land and the kingdom grew. And the King was well pleased on his visits.
And when Feloren's daughter Finriel had grown to womanhood Aragorn and his family returned again for a time to Arnor. The daughters were beautiful as their elvan mother and Eldarion, who was by his years a man, was by his demeanor still a student. The King's lands were broad and varied and he had much to learn. He learned quietly, as an elf learns, with bright and caring curiosity. It was his nature to speak rarely, yet when he did speak his words showed he was keen of eye and careful in his listening. So Finriel put her eyes on him and took him to see the fruits of her labor and it pleased Arwen to see them together.
In the one hundred eighteenth year of the Fourth Age Aragorn called Eldarion home from his regency in Arnor. With him came Finriel and her family and other people of the north that where dear to him. Arwen was glad to see him for it had been long since his last visit. Soon after his return he was alone with her in her garden. She asked about marriage, for his sisters all were wed. She said he would have Finriel wait much too long.
"You mean her daughter," Eldarion answered unthinking, for his thoughts were on his duties that would soon grow much greater.
"'Daughter?'" Arwen repeated, distraught and distressed.
He held her to give comfort, but no comfort could she take from him. For the long years had passed and what she would hold away from her now drew near. She had known of Finriel's marriage, but had forgotten. Oh, mother, he grieved, Father will die soon and you will die with him. Even now your world draws closer, and soon all there will be will be he and you. But with his sadness was also quiet anticipation: What is this love that so binds you that you must follow after? Shall it be the same for me?
"I was older in years," he said gently, "twice and more her age when Finriel looked at me but I was young and shy and looked away. In truth, father had counciled me that I should wait long before taking a wife. When I was of an age to look she had been done waiting and had chosen another. And I saw it was better thus, for she was too old. She was late to begin child bearing and is now done but I knew even then I must wait until this time and still longer before I wed. She has lived the better part of her life now, and I have half or more ahead."
Arwen broke away. "Your words are cold."
He laughed. "Has my caution shocked you mother? Are you disappointed that none of your children have found a fire such as you found? Luthien and Beren, Arwen and Aragorn. Such love stories are only once in an age. I am a king's heir; my duty is always foremost."
Eldarion put aside his regret. "Is it not that most who marry chose to love? When I come to married love it shall be strong and passionate and I think it will be that I will let it grow slowly as it grows deep. Yes, I love Finriel. I love you, I love my sisters, I loved Eowyn, I love all the children. Finriel thought she might love me, but she was wise to see that what she thought was there was not. You well know that if it had been true love naught could have stopped us. I would have burned on her fire and then she on mine, when I grew too quickly into my full power. Berigil is her love; I wished them happiness and visited when I could. Almian, her youngest, is fourteen years now and a joy."
Aragorn was quiet when Eldarion told him of Arwen's narrowing memory, for there was naught that could be done, save to keep her close, much closer now that he could give the joy-turned-burden of the future into the hands of he who would inherit and those who had been the King's advisors now spoke mostly to the Heir.
As the days and weeks passed, the people from the north explored and learned of their new home. Finriel and her daughters wore their skirts long for the work that Eldarion had asked them to accept was on matters of government and diplomacy. They entered into the court as the Heir did, with measured speech and graceful energy.
On a day of a banquet father and son looked down from the terrace to see the children of the court at play. Eldarion nodded at Almian.
"She is a jewel," Aragorn agreed, walking again in memory those fields and forests from which the dark-haired child had lately come. "So young."
"It will be a time, yet. I am glad she is here. It has been as you counciled me those many years before. I will not ask such a sacrifice as you asked of mother; yet it is a burden for me. You could look at an elf princess with hope and little blame. For my life's sake, for our children's sakes, I must needs look at a child, for I would that we could grow old together. Yet she must be old enough to freely chose."
Eldarion took leave of his father and as he walked through the garden Almian stood before him. "You spoke of me to the King," she said boldly. "Do you think I look like Luthien?"
"It is you, child, who has looked at me." His heart sang, even as his mind was troubled, for the time was too soon. So he laughed a king's laugh that was distant and frightening. "Shall I call you Beren?"
"You have fallen in love with me."
He bowed to her deeply. "Fair lady, if you say this, then it must be true."
The girl fled and hardly dared speak to her parents for fear of what he would tell them of her dreaming. But Finriel said no word, not after three days after they went again to court, nor did she ten days after, when she asked, concerned, if Almian had a fever. And she wept into her bed that evening that the Heir had thought so little of her and would not afterwards walk willingly into his sight.
It was the fifth year of Eldarion's reign and the court and kingdom lived in peace and plenty and wistful emptiness. The King sat on his throne with no Queen beside him and there were none old enough to have memories that did not feel their awkward shift that "King" now had to be the Old King or the New. For the welcome of spring a banquet was being held at court, with dancing after. Finriel and her family were there and Eldarion bad his friend Telbeor to ask still shy Almian to dance, for she had come with no escort, and when that dance was ended she turned to see the King before her. She let him take her hand as the next dance began.
A mummer ran through those who watched, soon hushed. It was several turns and several deep breaths before Almian dared speak. "You were looking," she said, taking care not to miss her steps.
"Indeed I was," Eldarion answered with a young man's smile.
"You lied to me," she continued and he gave no answer. She thought on this a time and then stated, "You had a reason."
He smiled now a king's smile, "Dark and devious."
Her feet had stopped for a moment but he pulled her back into the dance. "Almian, will you marry me and be my queen?"
He laughed happily at her quick agreement. They ended the dance with a long and tender kiss, and all his court was joyous for it seemed that all the years that had fell on him with the loss of his parents had now faded.
Eldarion took Almian's hand and led her to where Finriel and Berigil stood watching and asked respectfully if he might court their daughter. It was a brief sadness for Finriel that only now did Eldarion come to her, looking as she had hoped him to look a lifetime before, but Berigil's warm arm across her back was sweet reminder of her happiness. "Now it has been shown to me why I knew our lives would touch," she said to the King, and agreed to his intention.
And Almian kept silent, for she was angry that he had said "court" not "marry" to her parents. When they were alone she questioned him, for she had agreed.
"Child, this is no decision to be made lightly," Eldarion replied, for by his honor he had to do all he could to dissuade her.
"Why did you lie?"
He said sternly, "It was a dangerous matter to so question your King."
Her eyes flashed. "What do you want from me?"
He smiled, friendly, but did not speak. She joined his silence, determined to solve whatever test he would give her. They walked into the garden and were soon speaking of small, unimportant matters. And he said silently, confidant in his choice: Woman, I want you to be wilful and loving. I want you to be strong enough to be yourself. I want not to be a harm to you. I want all the years I might have with you by my side.
Eldarion courted Almian a month and more thereafter, speaking never to the point. It pleased him that though he could see well her impatience she concealed it from all others. So he complimented her noble bearing and asked again for marriage and, as they were away from witnesses, she teased him long before she gave new agreement. They were wed at Midsummer and before the next she had given him his first son. She quickly grew into her office and became, like her lord, beloved of her people.
=== end ===
Author's note: This story had a strange origin. It started out as an Aragorn gapfiller that failed.
How "Aragorn"? Long years ago, I was pondering my dislike of the end of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, I thought I might understand and accept it better if I gap-filled.
I tried to get into Arwen's head. No way, no how.
I tried to get into Aragorn's head. He wouldn't let me.
I moved it back, trying to get into his head a few days or weeks prior. I got vague shadowy stuff.
I moved it back again, and tried to see through Eldarion. I got a bit, but not enough.
I moved it back again, inventing a viewpoint character of a tower guard. That finally worked to the point that I could make an outline and some notes. But I stopped because I was making myself too depressed. As I have an outline, however, I may come back to it.
The small bits of stuff I got from Eldarion turned into the above story.
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.