A brilliant plan|
“Nana! Nana! Look what I did!” Eldarion ran up to her, grabbing her silken skirt with all the excitement of any two-year old and held up a drawing. It was little more than a squiggle of colourful lines, some fainter, others drawn more forcefully as the child still learned to grasp the pens more easily.
Arwen took the proffered paper gently. “Very nice,” she praised, squinting her eyes to make out whatever her son had tried to draw this time.
He beamed at the words then dashed off to one toy or the other that he had strewn over the floor, so full of energy and excitement. Arwen would have smiled if she weren’t so dreadfully tired. Outside the light of Arnor was waning as the sun slowly but surely disappeared behind the horizon.
And still her children seemed to have unlimited supplies of energy to run around, explore and –
“No!” Arwen shouted at her young daughter. With hasty steps despite her weariness she raced across the room and picked the toddler up from the floor. The girl had once more found something to stick into her curious mouth - she had a habit of doing that.
Danger averted, Arwen sighed, her bothers should have arrived by now and her husband, always working, was doubtlessly still stuck in the meeting with his advisors, trying to find a way to stem the incursion of bandits into Lamedon. Of all the days for her wet nurse to be brought low by an illness. The stately woman who usually helped her keep an eye on her children had been stuck at her home for a week already, leaving Arwen alone with her wonderful, energetic children. She loved them dearly, but occasionally their energy reserves seemed to far outclass her own.
Her train of thought was interrupted by a knock and a messenger opened the door to the royal quarters, when she called to enter.
“My queen”, he began, “the lords of Rivendell have arrived. They are on their way up, will you receive them in here?”
“Yes, please, Hallas.” She turned back to look what Eldarion was doing, her daughter still held firmly before her. With a note of alarm she noticed he had been reaching for his father’s old pipe and she hurried over to move it to a higher shelf he couldn’t reach.
Arwen sighed again. She probably looked a mess. What would her brothers say? Probably tease her, Arwen guessed, right before gladly helping to distract Eldarion - with stories that were bound to be inappropriate for one so young. Right now, though, she would take any help she could get in managing her offspring.
A few moments later the doors opened again to admit her brothers. They were clearly still dressed in the clothes they had used on the road and the dust and dirt of travel clung to them.
She did not hesitate to embrace them both in a fierce hug. It had been too long since she had seen her brothers. Though to an immortal life but few years had passed, for her it felt much longer, almost as if with her final decision to choose a mortal life she had changed her own perspective of time as well.
This was the first time that the twins saw her daughter and Elladan wasted no time in picking the little girl from her arms, cooing at his niece.
With the older twin distracted it was Elrohir who spoke. “It is good to see you, sister. How have you been? How is Aragorn?”
She looked up from the endearing picture of Elladan tickling her daughter’s stomach and gave him a smile. From the slight frown on Elrohir’s face she guessed he had noticed the tired lines beneath her eyes but she was fast to reassure him.
“We are doing well, all of us,” she said. Briefly, she thought about the drought in Belfalas, the bandits that bothered the good people of Lamedon and the plans to rebuild the cities of old in Arnor, but then she ignored them all. Yes, those things kept her husband busy these days but they were outweighed plentiful by the love the citizens of all of Gondor had shown their king and queen, and by the joy the birth of their daughter had brought them.
And in any case, her brothers would care little for how Gondor or Arnor were faring, their purpose in this visit had been to see their sister and her family once more. Impulsively she reached out and hugged Elrohir again. “Oh, but it is good to see you, brothers.”
A crashing sound behind her made her spin around, only to find Eldarion standing in the middle of a field of shards that had very recently been the large fruit bowl on the night stand. The apples strewn loosely over the ground, some still moving, confirmed that.
Arwen fought the urge to sigh once more, but Elrohir waved her off with a smile. He strode forward and safely removed Eldarion from the shards before he could step on them, then gave the boy a hug.
“Eldarion,” he exclaimed with mock surprise, “you have grown heavy as well as tall.”
The prince giggled in excitement. “Uncle!” he exclaimed, not having noticed the arrival of the twins earlier. He had been too busy trying to steal an apple from the night stand.
“We waited ever so long for your arrival. What happened?”
Elrohir looked at him conspiratorially, as if the story behind their delay was a grand mystery and said: “I am not sure we can tell you, Eldarion.” He sighed, appearing torn. “It is a tale of great adventure and many dangers. You might be too young to hear it.”
As he had expected the young boy puffed out his cheeks at that statement, Valar, but he was so similar to what Estel had been like at that age.
“I am not small anymore!”
Before Elrohir could respond to placate the child and offer to tell him the story after all, the doors opened again.
“My queen?” Hallas stood in the doorway looking anxious.
“It is the king, my queen,” the messenger continued. “He asks if you could join him. Urgently.”
Arwen drew her eyebrows together, what was it that Aragorn would need help with? She turned to her brothers, one still holding her daughter while the other was leading her son over to the wide bench in the corner of the room. They waved her off, telling her to go see what Aragorn wanted.
With a grateful smile she turned around and followed Hallas out of the doors and into the hallway, promising not to take too long. The messenger, to Arwen’s surprise, quickly turned down a side passage quickly rather than continuing towards the council chambers, where she had expected Aragorn to be. Hallas, who had seemed rather nervous at the door, relaxed visibly now that she was with him and dutifully led her down another corridor until they stopped in front of one of the smaller guest rooms. He gestured for her to go in, then hurriedly left to go back to his post in the entrance hall.
Intrigued, and a bit surprised, Arwen knocked. Then, feeling rather foolish for knocking on one of her own palace’s doors opened it instead and strode right in. What she saw was not what she had expected.
There, in the middle of the room, stood Aragorn, in front of a table decked with what appeared to be a late dinner. No hint of an emergency, nor even an outraged councillor who would need placating, just food. There was duck’s breast and fresh bread, pitchers with freshly pressed juices and a bottle of the deep red wine of Dorwinion. She also spotted honey cakes, a favourite of Aragorn’s from childhood days, and hardly ever absent from a meal if the king was given any say in the matter. Arwen remembered a picnic on the hills of Lothlorien that they had once shared, and how forcefully he had lamented the Galadhrim’s inability to bake the sweet treat.
Aragorn’s smile interrupted her thoughts and he reached a hand out toward her, beckoning her closer.
She hesitated. “Elladan and Elrohir have arrived.”
“I know.” He smiled slyly. “Hallas told me.”
She eyed him dubiously before she broke out in a similar smile. He had clearly planned this, using her brothers as unsuspecting nurse maids for their children while he abducted his wife for a romantic dinner. A brilliant plan.
She took his arm and joined him at the table.