1. Galu Firion (Mortal Blessings)
I lay on my side, watching him in the early morning hours. We had been married but five months, and every day I still found him a wonder. I found all of Gondor a wonder. I had known mortals before him; they had lived in Rivendell periodically when I was an elfling and Rangers passed through, bearing news from the rest of Arda. Still, living in a city filled with their life, it was so new, so fascinating, and utterly terrifying all the same.
The first time I spent the night with him, he had fallen asleep next to me as the early morning hours of the next day came, and I wondered at his face. I had seen humans sleep from a distance, naturally, but never had lain next to one as I had lain next to him that wedding night. His eyes were closed; he rolled around, sometimes mumbling to himself. How could this be rest? For all his movement and the fact that he had shielded the world with his eyes…did he dream? I had questioned him endlessly when we both woke late that afternoon. He had assured me he did dream, of my face, every night. I told him I would never get used to his eyes being hidden. He told me oft times in Rivendell, he feared entering my father's room as a child, for he never knew if the elf lord was sleeping or just thinking.
“’twas a strange thing,” he remarked with a smile.
“Living with elves?”
“And still is,” he replied, laughing.
A month into our first year together, he had woken with a chill, coughing as I’d heard dying men cough in the healing chambers of my adar. My concern must have been evident, for Aragorn reached over to me and cupped my cheek.
"I'm fine," he had assured me. “Respite from endless duties is all I need.”
He left his hand resting on my face and pulled by towards him with the other arm. I tucked my head under his chin, my ear against his chest.
“Perhaps a day of rest would be a fine thing for the both of us,” I told him as I listened to his heart, the steady beat of mortality within him.
To my surprise, another strange sound came from his torso, a thin, high-pitched whistle as his lungs expanded with each breath. I drew my ear away and looked up, worried. Such a sound was an ill sign to hear in one that is sick.
"It's nothing," he said.
He rolled over onto his side and gazed into my eyes; his beautiful grey eyes, shiny and bright. His look was not one of health among elves or men.
"Let me rest and I'll be fine," he reassured me. "Call for the chambermaid and have her stoke the fire."
I kissed his cheek and got up to pull on my dressing gown to go find her. In bed, he dissolved into sharp coughs. I winced at the sound.
"And a mug of tea, love," he rasped as the hacks died away.
I sent a letter to dear Faramir to absorb the general duties of the kingdom, if need called for the king’s aide. As for my ailing husband and I, we spent the leisure of the morning hours lying side by side, listening to the larks in the garden as I read aloud from a favorite book of ours, a collection of tales passed on by the elf we mutually called father. When Aragorn finally succumbed to sleep, I spent the good passing of the mid day working on a weaving I had undertaken for our wedding bed. Late in the afternoon, Aragorn woke, miserable and shivering. I instructed him to sit and undress.
"Let me help," I told him. My hands made their way down his chest, unbuttoning and untying his top, and then I snuck my hands to the bottom of his shirt and pulled up, guiding the thin wool over his head. Last was a cotton undergarment and he stood, shirtless in my arms. He shivered a little and I held him tighter, rubbing his back. I pulled off his dirty stockings, rubbing my hands along his calloused feet. Then came his cotton sleep breeches and he sat naked for a moment as I reached for his dressing robe.
"Rest for a little," I instructed him, putting the dressing gown around him and tucking a blanket over his legs. I crept into the adjacent refreshing room and summoned a servant to draw a hot bath. The soothing scent of lavender washed over the room and when I returned to our main chamber, he gathered me in his arms.
"I love you," he said, as he broke away. Clutching his hand, we walked slowly leisurely together into the refreshing room.
Entering the smaller chamber, he removed his robe and his strong muscled body sunk into the basin of warm water. He leaned back against the cool stone, his whole frame relaxing as the steam cleared his congestion. I sat at the side of the basin and ran my hands softly across his shoulders, pausing to caress the scar on one side where he'd taken a nearly fatal wound on the way to Helm's Deep.
"This would have certainly given me a scare, had I been with you,” I told him. “’Tis a pity, all the hurts you brought home to Ada. I am sure he was more than obliged to hand you over to my care.”
Aragorn gave a soft laugh.
"He loves you, Arwen. I am sure he was more horrified at the fact his darling daughter was to tend such a wretched mortal as I was in my younger days.”
He coughed painfully a few times and I moved my hand to his chest, scooping up some water and running it down.
"I would not, as it were, deny myself the pleasure,” I replied with a smile.
I kissed his neck where it rested on the basin's rim. He leaned into me, his eyes slipping closed.
"Not yet," I said, lifting his head. "No sleeping in the wash."
"Why?" he mumbled. "'s warm."
I kissed him again.
"Because. Get out and you can sleep in bed."
He stood up and accepted a cloth, getting warm and dry again before he pulled on a pair of woolen stockings and a tunic. I waited with a blanket and wrapped it around his shoulders, guiding him out to bed.
A fire was again blazing in the hearth and a servant had put fresh sheets on the bed, leaving a cup of tea waiting on the nightstand. I tucked my husband under the blankets and watched as evening fell.
That night, when the castle had settled quiet darkness, I dressed in my nightclothes as he gazed listlessly from beneath his mound of blankets. The nightstand was stocked with herbs from the House of Healing and he had taken a foul smelling brew a few hours earlier that had cleared up some of his cough. I climbed into bed beside him and kissed him goodnight. He lay close against me, curving his body around the contours of my own as I let the elven dream world blur my vision and bid me into sleep.
I woke a few hours later to the sound of coughing. The bed shook with the force, and beside me, Aragorn was sitting up, his head tucked into his knees, trying to muffle the sound with the quilts.
I coaxed him into my arms and he admitted he had not been able to find respite from the coughing. He lay, collapsed against my chest, his head lolling on my shoulder. I ran a hand tenderly through his damp hair and down his cheek, now rough with a few days' beard. I sat up with him all night, talking sweet nothings. He reminded me of a wounded elfling, so helpless. I could not help but shed a few tears as he slipped into uneasy sleep. Would he be like this when it was his time? A simple chill reduced him to this shivering, wheezing mass. Would he go, lying in my arms, life ebbing slowly away? Mortality is, perhaps, more terrifying than all the evils I have faced in my thousands of years.
Ada warned me; that, I cannot deny. Though the chill passed as quickly as it had come, I could not deny the horrible sinking feeling it left in my stomach. I was reminded of the harsh emptiness every day…every time my carriage rolled through the streets of the city, past the House of Healing, past the homes with black cloth in the window that signaled a loss. I reminded myself that his time would not come for many years, though it was barely a day in an elf's reckoning of time.
So there he lies asleep in front of me in these early hours of another day, unconscious of my memories, blind to my hurt. The curtains flutter as a gust of warm dawn air sweeps in, and a lark lands on the sill, singing a happy tune. My husband's lips close for a moment before the tip of his tongue juts between them. They part again and curl open into a yawn. The hand flung up at his side moves unconsciously towards me, and he reaches out, feeling around until he grasps my arm. His eyes gradually open, squinting in the morning sun. I curl my body up next to his side and let him bury his nose into my hair.
"I love you," he says, his voice still thick with sleep.
At that moment, he is stunning. I can feel his lips move into a smile as he pulls me closer, running a hand down my spine. I shiver. I cannot regret for one moment the day I arrived in Gondor, for as frightening as mortal life may be, it is captivating. It makes me realize, perhaps, just how precious he is…laying there, in my arms, his heart beating against mine. Time stops just for a second and our love remains immortal.
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.