2. Chapter One: Celebration
When the news had come, Arwen had scarcely believed it.
Her suspicions, had abound for the past few weeks, especially when her courses had not come as regularly expected. Since then, she had held her breath in anticipation of the possibility; at the same time driving poor Aragorn to distraction because he could not fathom what was at the heart of her suddenly moody temperament. She had not wished to tell him of her suspicions because if he were to know, he would most likely be in a worse state than she. What was it with men of courage and strength, who could ride forth and slay a thousand Orcs and Uruk Hai with nary a flinch but went into complete and utter ruins of nuisance when confronted with the possibility of becoming a father?
Arwen suspected that not even the Valar could answer that question and chose not to torment her King with the possibility that he might have an heir before she knew for certain, herself. Thus she left her beloved Estel to his devices which were many of late. As King of the newly unified lands of Arnor and Gondor, he had yet to consolidate his power amongst the scattered ruins of Sauron's war. Those who thought that being a King was all pomp and splendor would recoil in horror if they knew what arduous work it could truly be. More was the time when Arwen would step into the King’s court and see the glimmer in his eyes that she knew was his longing for simpler days, when he was still Strider – Ranger to the lands of Eridor.
Yet he was a good man, this one she loved beyond reason or thought. He would carry the burden because his people needed him, because he had made a promise to a friend long ago, to never let the White City falter and because he alone had the courage to do what must be done, even at the cost to his own happiness. And Arwen would be at his side forever, to carry that burden with him, to fill his life, so overburdened with heavy responsibilities, with the simple pleasures such as the news she could now tell him with complete certainty to be the truth.
There are things that a woman knows without the aid of any physician or healer to tell her otherwise. Although Arwen had been hesitant to believe what she knew in her heart, for fear of being disappointed, inwardly she could not deny that she was certain that she carried his child within her. The waiting, however, for proof to be provided that this hope was more than just her intuition was maddening. She stormed about the palace, curt in her words though not unkind, as she endured a secret torment that Aragorn could not fathom but chose wisely not to provoke by asking questions.
Fortunately, there was no longer any doubt. The royal physician had confirmed it and as she placed her hand on her still flat belly, she could feel instinctively that the child slumbering within the womb was all too real. She drifted, if it was possible for a flesh and blood mortal to drift, through the halls of the palace. She warmed the hearts of everyone who came across her and caught the radiant smile on her face. As she made her way to her King, she chuckled inwardly thinking to herself. How grateful they must be for her good mood, considering her temperament of late. She resolved herself to make it up to those who had borne the brunt of her temperament. After all, being a queen did not excuse bad behavior in any shape or form.
Her father had taught her that.
Thinking of Elrond made Arwen's smile widen because he would be so thrilled to hear of this. Despite his sometimes dignified manner and his exceptional keeping with all things proper, Arwen knew her father would like nothing better than to be the dotting grandfather who was allowed to spoil his grandson shameless. He had claimed, on numerous occasions, that to be the right of all grandfathers. She would send word to him after she left Aragorn and perhaps to Galadriel as well, for her grandmother would want to hear the news almost as much as her father -- although Galadriel had her own ways of learning things without being told.
Arwen found Aragorn within the conference room, where he had spent much of his days lately, attempting to portion out men to the lands that were still being plagued by remnants of Sauron’s army. The Uruk Hai, without masters, were even more dangerous for their violence had no purpose now and they seemed to lay waste to anyone unfortunate enough to be in their path of destruction. As she entered, Arwen found that her king was already in counsel with Faramir, Lord of Ithilien and Legolas, the Prince of Mirkwood. They were pouring over the maps that showed which lands were under threat. The three men immediately raised their eyes to her as she entered the room. Arwen hid her smile at the anxious expression that crossed Aragorn's face. She well knew that he was wondering what he had done now, that she should seek him out while he was engaged in such an important discussion.
"Your highness," Faramir bowed his head politely.
"Faramir," she smiled with equal regard and turned her eyes towards the Prince of Mirkwood as she continued her advance into the room.
There was no such formality required between Arwen and Legolas who were childhood friends. The Prince merely smiled warmly at her as she neared her husband.
"Lady," he remarked softly.
Arwen rolled her eyes at that childhood greeting, wondering how it was that Legolas whom she had learnt to climb trees with and had provided with his first kiss at the ripe age of seven, could still call her that? She had forgotten the number of times she had requested he call her by her name and narrowed her eyes at him in slight annoyance, especially at his amusement in seeing her vexed by his continued use of that title.
"Arwen, is something wrong?" Aragorn asked gingerly for his wife was easier to provoke these days than a cave troll with an elf on his back.
"Nothing my love," Arwen smiled at him and disarmed his anxiety a little. "I would just like a moment alone if my lords do not mind?" She glanced at the two men in the room.
"Of course," Faramir said graciously and glanced at Aragorn for the king’s leave to depart.
"I will send for you when we are done," Aragorn replied, wondering what was important enough for Arwen to interrupt him while he was in conference.
The two lords nodded in understanding and quickly departed, leaving the royal couple to their own for a time.
"If this is about where I left my boots again, I swear that affairs of state occupied my mind and I forgot…" Aragorn started to say before Arwen silenced him with her finger against his lip.
"No my love," she beamed at him happily, "I come here on an entirely new matter, however, now that you have made mention of it, is it so hard to put them away?"
"You are teasing me," he gave her a look, a brow cocked over one eye in playful accusation.
"Yes," she laughed. "I am."
Sliding his arm around her waist, he pulled her to him and kissed her gently on the lips, glad to see that she was in a better mood then she had been of late. He wondered what it was that bothered her so much but was glad that it seemed to be a thing of the past. When they parted, he stared for a time into her blue eyes and felt himself falling in love with her all over again. She had that effect on him and he knew that the man he was today owed no small debt to her. If he was great, it was because loving her had made him so.
"And what can the King do for you today?" He asked.
"I came to apologize for how I have been these past few weeks," Arwen said first and foremost. "I have been very temperamental."
"Why?" He asked grateful that at last she was talking to him about this. They had always shared everything and the reason for her foul mood had prodded at his worst fears. "I was starting to fear that you might have regretted giving up your life in Imladris for me."
Arwen’s jaw dropped slightly at the suggestion.
"Fool," she frowned and swatted him gently on the side of the head for even entertaining such a suggestion. "You men can be so frightfully wrong at times."
"I warn you lady," he joked. "Striking the King is a grave offense."
"I will take my chances," she retorted. "I will tell you this once more for if I have to do it again, I will call down all the powers at my disposal to show you my displeasure, I love you and always will. Being here with you is all I will ever want and I regret nothing."
Aragorn shrugged. She had proven her love for him on more occasions than he could count. And he had faith in her. But, he supposed, the deep love he felt for her in turn, would always manifest itself in that slight doubt that she would always be there; that he would never lose her, "All right, I am wrong in this, but you were terribly difficult."
"I have reason," she said dryly, disappointed that the romantic scene she had envisioned about this moment had not come to be. But then, what in marriage was always as expected? "I had cause to suspect something which could not be confirmed until today and I fear the waiting was a little more than my nerves could endure."
"Suspect what?" The Ranger in him immediately jumped to the fore. "Did something happen? Are you alright?"
"I am fine," she stilled him again her finger. "I am with child."
There was an instant where she thought the news was not what he wished to hear. But then her fears were dispelled, for within his eyes, a great light flickered into being and soon encompassed his entire face with a brilliant and happy grin.
"A child!" He exclaimed with the eagerness of a boy given a wondrous gift. "Are you sure?"
"Yes," she nodded with relief as well as joy at his reaction to her news. "I had suspected for a few weeks, that is why I was seemed so out of sorts. I am sorry that I vexed you so but I wanted to be certain before I told you."
"And you are now?" He stared at her and then at her stomach where his child, no, their child grew under the skin.
"Yes, Nicos confirmed it for me today." She replied laughing. "We are going to have a baby in the spring."
"Oh Undómiel!" He swept her up in his arm, twirling her around in an uncharacteristic show of exhilaration. "I love you and I love my son."
"Your son?" She looked at him with raised brow. "Are you so sure its going to be a boy? It could be a girl."
"If it is a girl," Aragorn replied quickly, "I wish only that she have your eyes. I do not care if we have a boy or a girl, Undómiel. I will love you both. You have already made me happier than I ever thought possible but now, knowing that we have created new life together, there are no words to describe how my heart beats at this moment."
"Oh Estel," she whispered, her eyes glisten with tears from the heartfelt emotion in his voice and the sheer happiness in his face. She rested her head against his chest and took comfort from the sound of his heart beating so close to her ear as she held him in her embrace. "We are going to have a baby! Keeping this to myself has been so hard, I've wanted to shout it out from the roof tops ever since I suspected I might be with child. I am so happy I no longer have to keep this from you!"
"I wish you had told me," he said with a sigh. "You should not have to keep such a thing to yourself. It’s no wonder you were so disagreeable."
"I did not want to plant false hopes, my love," she explained. "You have so much to worry your mind already, I did not wish to see you disappointed if I was wrong."
"Nothing that you do could ever disappoint me Undómiel," Aragorn stared into her eyes and wanted her to see that it was the truth. Still, he could not deny that he was delighted that they were going to have a child and he truly meant it when he said that he cared not if it were a boy or a girl, for he would love either equally. "However, now that we know for sure, I feel as you do. I want everyone to know!"
"Everyone?" She gave him a look wondering what devilry was he conjuring in his mind.
"Yes," he grinned. "I think it is time that the King and Queen of Gondor hold court with their friends again. What say we have a little party and we can make the announcement to the whole city?"
Arwen thought of her father and Galadriel again, not to mention the little halflings, and knew that she would dearly love to see them all and to have them share in hers and Aragorn 's happiness. "I think that would be most acceptable my Lord," she embraced him again.
"Well run along and arrange it," he replied mischievously.
"This was your idea!" She cried out with mock anger. "How is it that the duty falls to me?"
"Well I am the king, I have affairs of state to manage….." he muttered feebly
"Really?" Arwen looked at him skeptically, her hands on her hips as she pulled away from him, her mind whirling already with the plans for the upcoming celebration. "I will do your bidding this once my king," she teased. "But only because it suits me."
"Why thank you my queen," he returned with a hint of sarcasm as she sauntered towards the door and felt his soul sigh in gratitude that such beauty was his to love and that she loved him back. When he had first laid eyes upon her, he never thought such a magnificent vision of beauty could be as equally beautiful in her heart as well as her appearance. He was only too happy to learn otherwise.
"Undómiel," he called as he saw her about to leave the room.
"Yes Estel?" She cast those magnificent eyes back at him with a quizzical expression.
"I love you," he said softly.
Her face broke into a radiant smile and she left with her melodic voice lilting in his ears, her words warming him in the wake of her departure.
"Lith eithel nîn meleth"
As well my love.
Once it had been a treacherous thing to leave the Shire for parts unknown but with the end of Sauron and the installation of the new king, roads were built and travelers journeying from place to place were assured of their safety from Orcs and other similar misfortunes. Thus news of the celebration reached Hobbiton in far more speed that would have been possible in the days of old when a rider from Gondor, drew strange and curious looks from the folk as he rode through the Shire. However, such visitors were no longer as unexpected as they once were and most who saw the rider knew that his destination was undoubtedly Bag End where Frodo Baggins was in residence following his return to the Shire from his adventures beyond.
Although Frodo had not fully recovered his injuries at the hands of the Nazghul he was well enough to receive the rider with adequate hospitality and furnish the man from Gondor with a warm meal before seeing him off once more. Upon his departure, Frodo sought out Samwise Gangee, his dearest friend in the world who was out tending the gardens of Bag End with usual care. On this occasion, Sam was busy attempting to salvage a rose bush that had seemed to have come down with some malaise, which left its leaves, yellowed and brittle. Sam had made it his mission to ensure the plant’s survival although Frodo believed this may be a battle already lost but then Sam could not be faulted for his stubbornness because it was the quality that made him some a loyal friend and ally.
"Sam," Frodo called out on approach and saw Sam lifting his head out of the bush to regard his employer and friend.
"Were you needing something Mr. Frodo?" Sam stood up, dusting the dirt from his hands as he went to meet Frodo part way across the garden.
"Sam," Frodo stared at him. "How long have we known each other?"
"Forever Mr. Frodo," Sam stared at him as if he were daft for asking such an obvious question.
"Then why can’t you just call me Frodo?" The master of Bag End asked with exasperation.
"It wouldn’t be proper that’s why," Sam said resolutely with a slight tautness to his lower lip, which indicated to Frodo that he would remain unmovable on this subject. "Now did you want me for something, or can I go back to trying to save this dying plant that’s too far gone save for my thick headedness?"
"I give up," Frodo threw his hands up in resignation.
"I would," Sam grinned mischievously before noting the envelope in his hand whose seal had been broken. The envelope was very fine and did not appear stationery that was common to the Shire for Shire folk were very sensible with parchment that was devoid of gilded gold as this one was. "What’s that?"
"This," Frodo returned to the subject at hand and explained, "is an invitation from Strider to visit Minas Tirith. It appears that he is having a party and wants the Fellowship to attend as well as Rosie if she is able."
Sam had spoken so many times about his adventures abroad that he knew Rosie would be thrilled to visit Minas Tirith and meet the King and Queen of Gondor. Besides, he thought that the travel might be good for Frodo. Despite their part in the War of the Ring, Frodo had not recovered as he should and occasionally he had strange turns. Both Sam and Rosie worried about him but neither spoke openly to anyone about his behavior for the Shire folk had little to entertain them and would spread the talk across Hobbiton if given the morsel of scandal to devour.
"I think we should go," Sam said purposefully. "It would be good to see Strider and them lot again."
"Yes it would," Frodo had to agree and felt it strange how they still called the King of Gondor and Arnor, not to mention the Chieftain of the Dúnedain, by the name of Strider. To them, he would always be that Ranger who had saved them for almost certain doom from the Ring Wraiths at the Prancing Pony. "The invitation is also for Pippin and Merry so it will be like old times, except Rosie shall come with us."
"And this time there will be no Nazghul chasing us," Sam pointed out.
"Thank goodness," Frodo replied. "I wonder what the celebration is about?" He mused.
"We’ll find out when we get to Minas Tirith Mr. Frodo. It don’t really matter much since we’re going to see our friends."
"You’re right as always Sam," Frodo smiled and decided that Sam was right. It did not matter the why. It was just good to see old friends again. "Well I suppose we better get packing and you better tell Rosie."
Gimli’s invitation did not have far too travel for at the moment, the dwarf was presently in Minas Tirith aiding with the construction of the city’s new gates to replace the ones that had been damaged during the War of the Ring. The new gates were to be constructed of mithrial and would no doubt keep the White City protected from any invaders. Since the end of the War, the feisty dwarf had found himself spending a good deal of time in Erebor where he was now known as the Lord of the Glittering Caves. Being called a Lord was still something he was unaccustomed to and was glad that when he was here in Minas Tirith, he was called Gimli instead of that exalted title.
In fact the only person who seemed to call him that here was Legolas much to Gimli’s chagrin and the dwarf was certain that the only reason the Elven prince referred to him in that way was in order to cause him upset. Legolas had acquired something of a mischievous wit, which in itself was a mystery because Gimli was of the opinion that Elves were all too somber for his liking and knew nothing about ribald, jovial humor. While Legolas did not practice the latter in great doses, he did enjoy poking fun at his comrades, particularly when they were taking themselves all too seriously.
Gimli was of the opinion that perhaps the elf needed a woman in his life.
Not that Gimli had any difficulty in that arena. The fortunes of his life and the War of the Ring had made him a most eligible bachelor and while he had yet to choose a wife, he knew that he was an attractive prospect for any female dwarf. This in itself was fortunate because dwarf women were far less in number than dwarf men and were extremely choosy in bestowing their affections. He knew that he had caught the eye of one of the women that had journeyed from the north to Erebor. While she had yet to make her feelings known to him, Gimli sensed that perhaps she would the next time he returned to the Glittering Caves.
"Lord Gimli!" The dwarf was snapped out of his thoughts by the voice of Legolas calling.
He looked up to see the handsome elf striding forward, wondering and wondered if Legolas had come to enlist his aid in hunting the Orcs that had been troubling much of the lands around Mordor following the end of Sauron. He would not have minded a little swordplay for he had become accustomed to the business of adventure since becoming one of the Fellowship. Of course, that was a terrible indulgence for any dwarf whose sole concern should be the craftsmanship of his trade but sometimes even a dwarf needed distraction.
"Must you persist in using that infernal title?" Gimli glared at him.
"Yes Lord of the Glittering Caves," Legolas said with a completely straight face. "I bring you tidings from the King."
Gimli snorted in annoyance and turned back to his plans. "You may tell his Royal Highness that the gates will be built when they are ready and not one second less and certainly not longer. If he persists in hounding me, I shall return home and he can finish it himself!"
"I will tell him that if you like," Legolas said sarcastically, " however he did not send me here to request an update regarding the progress of the gates. I offered to come here in place of one of his riders."
"Oh?" Gimli stared at him. "And what would he want of me if not to know how his gates fare?"
"To invite you to a celebration," the elf pointed out. "It appears that there is an important announcement forthcoming. The Queen has summoned her father and her grandmother to attend. The King has sent riders to Hobbiton and to Isengard to summon the rest of the fellowship."
"Ah," Gimli absorbed the news and stroked his beard in consideration of what the announcement could be. "You have any idea what this news might be?"
"Not really," Legolas confessed. "I know that Arwen required an audience alone with Aragorn while we were in discussion about the deployment of men to deal with the Orcs."
"Well that’s it then," Gimli replied with a note of triumph in his voice. "It’ll be a baby then."
"A baby!" Legolas exclaimed; wondering how the dwarf could come to such a conclusion. "What makes you say that?"
"Let us examine the evidence, a celebration involving the queen’s kin and the gathering of the fellowship, the closest thing the King would have to the same, not to mention that we are speaking about the most serious man we have ever met, choosing to celebrate some grand news? What else could it be?" He gave Legolas a look of amusement, wondering how a three thousand year old elf could be so naïve at times.
"Well I suppose he did seem rather cheery after the fact," Legolas mused. "Grinning ear to ear as a matter of fact. It was rather unnerving."
Gimli rolled his eyes once again and muttered, "Legolas, you are in sore need of female company."
"It is beginning," Gandalf the White, sometimes known as Mithandir of the Maiar, spoke to Galadriel as they sat by the lake Lórellin in Caras Galadhon discussing matters they had hoped would come to the fore later rather than sooner.
"Yes," Galadriel nodded sadly, having seen the portents of doom in her fabled Mirror. Much of what she had seen had shaken her even though she did not speak out loud of her fears. "I had hoped it would not be this soon but alas, it appears that it is time for Arwen to embark upon her own quest."
"This is no quest," Gandalf pointed out quickly. "This is evil of the foulest kind."
"She has chosen to live a mortal life," Galadriel sighed with a heavy heart because the Evenstar was a favorite to her as she was to her father Elrond. "She must suffer the burden that comes with that choice. Even if that requires her to face a most terrible form of treachery."
"It’s nothing new," Gandalf puffed upon his pipe and found no comfort in the refinement of the weed burning within it. "The Enemy has resorted to such evil before. Because of him, Turin fell on his sword and Nienor took her life."
"What the Enemy plans to do now far outweighs the tricks he used to confuse Turin and his sister Nienor, Mithandir," Galadriel retorted grimly. Even the exquisite perfection of her ethereal features could not hide the worry in her eyes as she thought of what the Evenstar would have to face in the coming days. "If he is allowed to succeed, we will have a greater threat to contend with then even Sauron."
"I know," Gandalf nodded. "I wish this did not have to be Arwen’s burden alone. She should share it with Aragorn."
"I wish the same too," Galadriel confessed. "For he loves her more than heaven and earth combined and would allow nothing to harm her or his unborn but he is just a man and a man has fallen to the Enemy’s trickery before. The Evenstar is an elf with powers of her own, she may be able to guard against the Enemy and not be led astray by his machinations. If we were to allow her husband to know the danger, he would be determined to protect her by going himself and that is something we cannot allow."
"Perhaps we do not have the right to make that choice for them," Gandalf reminded, feeling guilty at keeping secrets from Aragorn. When he learnt the truth, not even a former Maiar like himself was willing to face the fury of his outrage at being kept in the dark, especially when the danger was to his wife and child.
"I feel as you do Mithandir," Galadriel reached for his hand to make him see that this was difficult for her too. She had no wish to use either Aragorn or Arwen carelessly but what the Enemy was purporting to do could not be allowed to succeed under any circumstances. "I love them both dearly and my heart aches in fear at the danger that the Evenstar will face but it must be done this way. If she were to fail in the undertaking, we would face a danger far worse than any we could possibly imagine. This would be worse than Sauron acquiring the One Ring Mithandir, this would be the resurrection of powers no army of men, dwarves or elves could hope to combat and those who might have the ability to stand against it retreated from this realm in this First Age."
Gandalf took a deep breath, hoping it would steady him and knew that it would not. "So is she to go alone in this peril? When we dealt with Sauron and the One Ring, Frodo had the benefit of the Fellowship? Is Arwen not allowed to have such support."
"The Evenstar will find her own way," Galadriel replied. "There are allies for her in the strangest of places and she will find them. Aragorn shall not be completely forgotten in this but it must be his queen that paves the way for him to act."
She paused a moment and then added, "the time draws near Mithandir for our departure to the Western Sea. You feel its pull as I do."
"Yes," Gandalf nodded, knowing what it was that she spoke. "I feel it."
"We must vanquish these ancient evils before we leave," she explained although her words were nothing that he did not know already. "When we sail to the Western Shores, this world will fall to the race of Men and they do not have the power to deal with such evil. The dwarves and the hobbits will fade into myth but men will remain and as hardy as they are, their race is not blessed with a long memory. Those who come after Aragorn and the Evenstar will not remember us and if they do, we will be nothing more to them then legends. If the Enemy and others like him are allowed to remain after we are gone, they will exist in a world that will have no idea how to combat them and I for one do not relish that thought that the ages that come after us will exist in shadow."
Gandalf was in complete agreement with her on this point and yet in agreeing with her, he could not help feeling as if he were abandoning Arwen to a questionable fate. It was necessary that the Evenstar carry out this quest but he could not say for certain whether or not she was strong enough to prevail.
"I guess then it is time to visit Minas Tirith," Gandalf said after a long pause. "It appears that we have a celebration to attend."
When the announcement was made at the opening of the celebration, that the Queen was with child, a rise of jubilation moved through the respective kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor like the swell of a wave coming into shore. The city of Minas Tirith had been transformed into a magical vision of lights and color for the occasion. People from all walks of life, whether or not they were lordly folk or mere commoners, turned out in their finest to enjoy the displays of jugglers, fire breathers and entertainers on the street. The city was filled with joy and everyone no one could help but enjoy the festivities on this momentous occasion. Ale and food flowed freely creating the kind of revelry not seen since the days of Isildur.
Visitors came from all corners of Middle Earth, be they men, elves or dwarves. For the inhabitants of Minas Tirith, they were also able to see for the first time, folk that they had only heard of in legend. To some, places like Rivendell and Lothlorien were a storyteller’s fanciful imaginings and not to be taken seriously as real. Thus when Lord Elrond and the Lady of the Wood made their arrival through the streets of the White City, no one was able to resist watching the procession of visitors making their way to the palace. While most were accustomed to the presence of elves, even the most jaded were feeling as if they were seeing a dream given form when Galadriel rode by in her robes of white. Their eyes remained fixed on her as if she was one of the Valar and their mouths were agape with wondrous fascination. The lady herself bore an ethereal smile as she traveled past, viewing their fascination with gentle bemusement.
The festivities continued into the night and the setting of the sun only brought forth more enchantment to the already marvelous day. As always, Gandalf the White provided spectacular amusements with his breathtaking display of fireworks, though not with the assistance of either Merry or Pippin who were warned well away from his wagon. The duo who learnt their lesson the last time, did not relish washing dishes for the whole city if they were caught indulging in mischief at the expense of the wizard's fireworks. Gasps and cries of excitement swept through the crowds as each explosion of color and fire superseded the last in the magnificent spectacle. Giant dragons trailed sparkles of glittering embers as they flew over head in the night air, followed by horses thundering across the sky and butterflies streaking past like clusters of falling stars.
The merriment was no less within the palace of the King. Old kinships were renewed with much vigor and friends, reunited, regaled each other with tales of their homeland and their adventures since parting.. Merry and Pippin found themselves relating the tale of Saruman’s mischief in the Shire to Legolas, Faramir and Eowyn while Gimli explained to Sam the tremendous undertaking that was the construction of the gates at Minas Tirith. Gandalf and Frodo sat together, discussing how the Hobbit fared now that he was home in his beloved Shire again. Gandalf had little opportunity to visit the Shire since the end of the War; his focus mostly centered on the rebuilding of the White Council in Isengard, creating a new order of wizards who would remain when he and the elves departed for the Undying Lands. The wizard regretted this, of course, because the Shire had always been one of his favorite places and Frodo one of his dearest friends.
"You have not married, Frodo," Gandalf pointed out as they took a walk along the long palace balconies. Beyond the edge, they could see the celebration in the city below them, with a myriad of lights twinkling as children with sparklers lit the streets with their play. "I thought that when you returned to the Shire you would get in the business of settling down like your friend Sam."
A small smile crossed Frodo’s features and when he raised his eyes to meet Gandalf’s the wizard noted the sadness in them. Sometimes Gandalf wondered if the quest had not ruined the idealistic, naïve hobbit he had once known and left this stranger behind that was so distant from all of them, even when he was in the same room.
"I think we both know that I will never do that," Frodo replied. "I have seen things Gandalf that have changed me forever and while I am grateful to be alive, I think that my life will never be quite what is expected of a respectable hobbit."
"You are still young, Frodo," Gandalf reminded, but his eyes said differently.
"But I feel terribly old, Gandalf," Frodo whispered, the blue moonlight showing the wizard that it was true. His spirit seemed worn somehow, aged beyond its years. Gandalf had known the One Ring had the power to sap the life of its bearer but seeing it with his own eyes was rather disarming.
"Perhaps what you need is a little adventure," Gandalf teased, knowing it was no answer but perhaps something the hobbit should give serious thought about. Frodo appeared as if he had seen the worst of life and was now done with it all together.
"Adventure?" Frodo stared at Gandalf in disbelief unable to imagine how the wizard could think that after what he had endured during the quest of the One Ring. "I think that is the last thing I need."
"I think that it is exactly what you need," Gandalf wagged a finger at him. "You need to remember what it was that made you survive the quest, the desire to return to the Shire when you feared you would not see it again."
"But I did return to the Shire and now that I have been there for some time, I do feel something of an emptiness." Frodo confessed and it did not surprise him that he would make such a revelation to Gandalf because had he told Sam, his friend would worry needlessly over his welfare. Sam was so happy to be residing with Frodo and Rosie in Bag End, that Frodo did not want him troubled for any reason.
"Things are happening Frodo," Gandalf gave himself leave to discuss some of the matters that had been troubling himself and Galadriel of late. "There are many evils other than Sauron that exist in our world and while they are not as terrible as the dark lord of Mordor, they warrant watching. In the coming days, the King of Gondor may require the aid of the Fellowship once more."
Frodo’s eyes widened. "There is nothing that Strider could ask of me that I might refuse Gandalf," he said earnestly. "If not for Strider, I would not have survived my first encounter with a Nazghul, let alone lived long enough to destroy the One Ring. What dangers do you speak of?"
"I cannot discuss it here," Gandalf replied much to Frodo’s chagrin for if there was one thing he could call a pet dislike about his old friend, it was Gandalf’s desire to talk in riddles. "It is not for you to hear until the time comes for the King to reveal it. However, it would be good if you remained in Gondor for a few days. If you must, instruct Sam to send Rosie home first but both of you should remain."
A shudder of fear moved through Frodo at the implications of Gandalf's words but he knew he would do as instructed. In the morning. For tonight was too was too joyous an occasion to spoil with thoughts of evils and dangers lurking in the dark. He would do so because the King, because Strider needed his help and Frodo owed him too much to refuse any request for aid.
"You can count on me Gandalf," Frodo said with more courage than he felt but knew he would find it within himself when it was needed.
"So tell me Arwen," Eowyn, Lady of Ithilien asked as the two walked the gardens of the palace, away from the noise of the revelry. "How does it feel to have Isildur’s newest heir growing inside you?"
Since her marriage to Prince Faramir Eowyn had spent much time in Minas Tirinth. This was largely due to the time her husband needed to spend in the realm to confer with the King regarding the threat of the Orcs. Eowyn had become a trusted friend to the terribly homesick Arwen during these first months. As two friends, they could not have been more different. While Arwen had skin that Aragorn had often described to be as smooth as cream and hair like waves of jet, the sun touched Eowyn's skin and she had freckles across her nose. Her hair was like the gold of a sandy shore and her disposition just as breezy. They both shared a liking for the absurd and as Aragorn and Faromir had often remarked (beyond the hearing of their wives for they were wise men and valued their lives), they shared the same indomitable will that was capable of bending mithril when the mood took them.
Homesickness was something that Eowyn herself could appreciate for she too felt much alone when she had left her homeland of Rohan to take her place at Faramir’s side. In their loneliness and longing for their former realms, the two ladies had bonded in close friendship and now Eowyn would often journey with Faramir whenever he visited the White City in order to visit with Arwen. This had pleased the Prince to no end for he often claimed that the worse thing about leaving his home was leaving his wife and so this arrangement suited all greatly.
"You have an odd way of putting things, Eowyn." Arwen retorted with a smile, aware that Eowyn was teasing her. The Lady of Ithilien had a strange sort of wit, not unlike that possessed by Legolas in some way and Arwen knew that much of the reason why Eowyn was so dear to her was for that very reason. "However, to answer your question, I feel well. I am told that this will change as my child grows but I suppose it is the same for all women."
"Faramir is looking at me with strange eyes," Eowyn frowned. "I think your situation has inspired his own feelings for fatherhood, not that we have failed for the lack of trying." She laughed shortly and was joined by Arwen who knew perfectly well what she meant by that.
"I think a child will only form when it is ready and there is nothing wrong with enjoying each other before a third party arrives. Elessar and I have been waiting for each other forever and it feels as if we have loved for even longer then that, so it feels right that a child should come now," Arwen replied. She smiled wistfully remembering the searing night of passion that she and her love shared the day he learnt about the baby. "You and Faramir have been together but a few years, you should not worry about children just yet and let it happen when it does. If I were you, I’d enjoy the time when it is just the two of you for once the children come, the whole world changes for both. I know it has for Elessar and I."
"That's true," Eowyn agreed. "I think it is the male imperative to have a son that makes Faramir's eyes glow so," she chuckled. "Although for my part, I see no reason why a daughter could not do as well as any son."
"Says she who fought at the Battle of Pelennor," Arwen pointed out with a raised brow. "You astound me Eowyn by your courage. I do not know if I would have had the strength to do what you did."
"Nonsense," Eowyn dismissed such talk immediately. "You have faced the Nine on your own and brought the Ring Bearer to Rivendell when his capture would have meant the end of all, I would not be so quick to discount your courage in times of difficulty."
"So I suppose this means that if we have daughters, they too will be headstrong, determined and more than capable of defending themselves?" Arwen asked.
"I prefer the word self sufficient as opposed to headstrong," Eowyn smiled, her face lighting up whenever she did.
"Self sufficient, I do believe I like the sound of that," Arwen nodded with agreement before the two women exchanged glances and burst out laughing at themselves.
Suddenly, a beam of moonlight slipped past the clouds and struck the pond in the center of the garden. The reflection of its cool waters shimmered across the grass and the shrubs and into this breathtaking beauty appeared Galadriel, her white robes cascading behind her. She paused at the edge and looked across the pool and cast her gaze upon Arwen and Eowyn, her expression somber as she beckoned them forth. Even though Galadriel did not speak, Arwen and Eowyn could hear the words that the Lady words.
Come Evenstar, it is time to begin.
This, Arwen heard Galadriel say inside her mind.
Alternately, Eowyn heard Galadriel address her in the same manner although what was said to her was wholly different from what Arwen had heard.
Lady of Rohan, you must join us. She will have need of your friendship.
Neither spoke as they approached Galadriel and yet there was trepidation in both their hearts for they could feel the weight of something terrible approaching. There was a sense of ominous foreboding in both of them as they found themselves standing next to Galadriel. The Lady did not utter a word but she held in her hand a golden urn and waited until they were still and waiting for her to begin before she finally uttered a word.
"Evenstar," Galadriel said softly, her voice like a gossamer wind in Arwen’s ears. "There is something you must see, something I have a come a long way to show you."
"What is it dear Grandmother?" Arwen asked more than a little afraid. She knew what was contained in Galadriel’s urn but she feared to speak it.
"I think you know," Galadriel replied and poured the contents of the urn into the pond. The water trickled forth lightly, creating ripples on the unbroken surface that sent rings across its expanse upon contact.
"I don't know," Eowyn blurted out, feeling the same fear and reacting in the only manner in which she knew against such anxiety. "Tell me."
"All in good time," Galadriel said smoothly, accustomed to such impatience from the race of men.
Arwen swallowed thickly, looking to Eowyn and then Galadriel in anxiousness over what she would see. The Mirror showed many things; the past, the present and the future that had not taken place. It was a window into infinite possibilities and yet as Galadriel asked her to look, she felt uncommonly afraid, more than was usual for her. She was not a woman who cowered in fear at the first sign of danger. She had faced evil before and prevailed. But this thing that Galadriel would have her do frightened her in a way she could not explain and yet, she knew she could not refuse to do this.
Delaying no more, for it would only allow her fear more power over her mind, Arwen neared the edge and cast her eyes into the pool, to see what it was Galadriel needed her to witness.
At first, she saw nothing except water becoming stilled after its earlier turbulence, the ripples fading away into a smooth reflective surface. She could almost see the stars twinkling from the sky above and in the darkness of that, she drew comfort. Suddenly, one of those twinkles of light began to expand from a white pinprick of light to a raging inferno that turned the pool amber with flame. Arwen's breathe caught and she wanted to recoil but the images forming before her were was like a trap that had captured her mind and she could not resist them.
She saw her son.
She knew it could be no one else because he had the look of his father, her beloved Elessar, excepting perhaps that his hair was darker and his chin more set. He wore the armor of a King about to ride into battle and though she did not know him, she loved him immediately for he was beautiful in the way she could only dream. She watched him riding into the night, his banner held high with his armies behind him. But there was something strange about the soldiers, they did not appear as they should. For a brief instant of time, Arwen tried hard to discern what about them was so strange and suddenly, a flash of fire appeared in the vision, illuminating one of their faces and she understood why they had made her suspicious.
They were Uruk Hai!
Her son was the leader of an army of Uruk Hai! How was this abomination possible? There was little time to question this for the image changed again and this time, it was not of a handsome king leading his troops into battle, it was the image of a madman waging war against a torn and ruined city, she knew with certainty was Rivendell. Its tall spires were ablaze, like candles burning in the night. She could not hear the screams but she could feel them and the river that ran through her beloved childhood home was thick with blood.
And in the center of all this destruction was her son!
She knew without understanding how it was possible that he was bringing war to all his neighbors, not merely with the remaining elves with whom he shared his bloodline but also upon men, dwarves and any creature that might not submit to his will. Her child, the one slumbering even now in her womb as she watched this nightmare unfold was a monster! Hers and Estel's child would be an evil more terrifying than even Sauron! The horror of it was beyond her imagination. She could not believe that the Valar would allow an act of love between two parents to culminate in the birth of such a creature!
"WHAT IS THIS OBSCENITY?" Arwen shouted, stepping back from the pool, horrified beyond her ability to think.
"Arwen!" Eowyn immediately came to her friend's side as Arwen sank to her knees shaking in disgust and horror at what she had witnessed.
"What has she seen?" The Lady of Rohan demanded vehemently of Galadriel as she lowered herself to the ground to help her friend.
"She has seen what could be," Galadriel spoke, her expression showing pain at having Arwen see the terrible future before her and all of Middle Earth.
"What could be?" Arwen cried out, looking up at her grandmother with tears running down her face. "You turn this happy day into a nightmare and speak in riddles? My son cannot be this creature that I have seen! I will not believe it!"
Galadriel lowered herself to the grass next to Arwen, taking her granddaughter’s hand in hers as she spoke gently, trying to explain that there was a reason for what the Mirror had revealed to her. "You must believe it Evenstar. You must believe because it will come to pass unless you prevent it."
"I?" Arwen stammered, her mind reeling still from the images. "I do not understand!"
"There is an evil afoot, an ancient one that we have ignored too long for we had preoccupied ourselves with the threat of Sauron and his One Ring," Galadriel explained. "For many years, the Enemy has been watching and waiting and with the conception of your child, he has now brought his dark plans to bear."
"What Enemy?" Eowyn asked, furious that there could still be an evil that might bring forth darkness across Middle Earth after their hard won battles against Sauron. Had there not been enough brave men dying to prevent such a thing? Had not enough brave men died to prevent such a thing? How many more need die; how much more was needed before they could be truly free of it? "What is this new evil?"
"It is not new," Galadriel continued and turned her attention back to Arwen. "My sweet Evenstar, trust me when I say to you that all is not lost. What you have seen is indeed your son in the flesh but his soul was vanquished before he was born and replaced with another."
"Replaced?" Arwen exclaimed in shock. "Who then has possession of his life?"
"Melkor." Galadriel’s voice was barely a whisper.
Eowyn did not recognize the name immediately but Arwen certainly did. "That’s impossible!" She almost screamed in response. "He died, he died in the First Age! He was vanquished!"
"Melkor or Morgoth as he was known in the latter days was one of the Valar," Galadriel replied. "He was made by Ilúvatar himself and is almost equal to Manwe. He may have been bound to Arda when he chose to come here but like the Valar, he does not die. He may be disembodied but his spirit exists. The Enemy has decided that if he cannot serve Sauron then he will serve Melkor, who created him. Melkor cannot be resurrected without a vassal and so the Enemy has chosen your child for that purpose."
"No!" Arwen's cry was almost on the verge of hysteria. "I will not allow this! There must be a way to stop this abomination!"
"There is," Galadriel nodded. "The Enemy cannot perform the ritual that will resurrect Melkor until your babe is strong enough to accept such a spirit. It is too young and fragile inside you to make such an attempt so he will not try. You must stop him before that happens, Evenstar and only you can do this because as much as he hates us all, he cannot allow harm to be done to you. You are the mother of his future master and while he may kill all others around you, you are beyond him Evenstar."
"Elessar cannot know then," Evenstar met her grandmother’s eyes. "If he learns of this danger he will insist on fighting it and the Enemy will destroy him."
Galadriel had not told her that but Arwen was perceptive enough to guess that much.
"Yes," her grandmother answered somberly. "This is your quest, Evenstar, the fate of your child is in your hands alone."
"No," Eowyn stated, not understanding all of it but knowing with certainty that her friend was not going to go on this terrible mission alone. "I will go with you Arwen. I will pledge the sword of the Lady of Rohan and Ithilien in the service of my friend and my Queen."
Arwen closed her eyes, feeling tears of anguish rising up within her. She wanted to scream and shout at the unfairness of all this but she could not waste time with such displays. Inside her body, her son needed her to be strong for him, stronger than she had ever been in her whole life. She could not falter now, when so much as was at stake. She would accept Eowyn’s help because she was not foolish enough to think that she could do this without her friend at her side.
"Tell me then Grandmother," Arwen said finally. "Tell me what I have to do."
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.