1. The House of Telcontar
"If you would ride at a decent pace, Mírra, then I would!"
The King and Queen's two oldest children were enjoying a familiar ride around the outskirts of Minas Tirith. Today, as often happened, the prince found his sister was more interested in racing than anything else.
"This is nothing!" Mírra called back over her shoulder, "I thought a future King would be able to match it!"
Even though she teased her brother, she slowed to a trot and waited for him to approach. She had to admit she was breathing hard – it was not easy to maintain such speed. But the feel of the wind on her face was too irresistible.
As she caught her breath, she took a moment to enjoy the brightness of the fall day. The early afternoon sun was still high over the horizon, warming the cloudless sky. There were a scant few patches of green left in the surrounding foliage, the remainder having burst forward into fiery colour.
"I think you go out of your way to choose the fastest horse in the stable," Eldarion said dryly as he appeared at his sister's side.
"Not quite," she replied, just as dryly, "the fastest horses are reserved for father's men."
They now rode at a comfortable pace, enjoying the light conversation.
Both were well into their teenage years, and were happy to stretch the bounds of freedom that went with them. It was good to be able to set their own course for their rides, even if it meant staying within reach of the city.
"Besides, you never seem to vie for the fast horses," she added, "does a little excitement never interest you?"
Eldarion shrugged. He sat easily in the saddle, gripping the reins loosely in his palms.
"I enjoy riding for what it is. It need not always be a race, as you seem to want to make of it."
"You say that because you have travelled," Mírra replied, "I've hardly seen the far side of Mount Mindolluin. And you're only two years older than I am."
"Two and a half," Eldarion responded, straightening his broad shoulders, "And that was only to Ithilien, with father this spring."
Mírra was only slightly assuaged.
"But you have been on other journeys as well. And you know it is only a matter of time before father takes you to Edoras, and takes you into battle, even."
Eldarion simply looked down at the reins. He felt a little awkward about the extra independence that he was allowed because of his title. But then, his sister would never be concerned with the duties that went with the prospect of the throne. She would not have to spend all her afternoons in the study, memorising maps and poring over journals.
"Well, I will go to Ithilien as well, when I reach seventeen years," Mírra continued, "Perhaps even farther."
"That bodes well, for at your speed I'm sure you could make it all the way to Arnor overnight," Eldarion countered.
His sister smirked back at him. She also straightened herself in her saddle.
"Nana enjoys a brisk ride as well, you know. When she is up and around again, perhaps she will join me."
The Queen had been abed for the last week, expecting the birth of her fourth child. Mírra was excited about the prospect of a new sibling, but as usual Eldarion was more pragmatic.
"What do you think, will it be a boy or girl?" Mírra asked.
Eldarion shrugged once again.
"I gave up on the prospect of a brother years ago. And I have two sisters already, so I cannot see how a third would be different," he said simply.
"Can you never state a preference?"
"I try to cultivate diplomacy whenever possible," he grinned.
He then changed the subject. "But to be honest, what I would prefer now is to return for a meal. Are you not hungry?"
"Yes, I suppose you're right," his sister admitted.
There was a sudden twinkle in her dark grey eyes.
"I'll race you back."
Eldarion's shoulders sank in exasperation.
"No Mírra, wait…"
But she was already off on her horse, the long braid of her dark hair bouncing across her back as she gathered speed.
"You always have a head start," he muttered, shaking his head.
When Eldarion returned to the stables, he found that his sister, having naturally arrived first, had already unsaddled her horse and had started to brush its mane. There were of course many stable hands who could manage the horses for them, but they both enjoyed caring for the animals, which was also encouraged by their parents.
"Father will ask you to change, you do realise that," Eldarion told his oldest sister as he dismounted.
Mírra looked down at her riding habit, suede breeches and tunic. It was what she always preferred to ride in, and even though she was now fifteen she saw no reason to give it up.
"Maybe not," she replied, but without conviction.
Eldarion did not press the issue. He put away his riding tack, took up a brush of his own, and started working.
A few minutes later, Mírra was gathering fresh hay for her mount, when an unexpected visitor arrived.
"I thought I would find you two here," said the King, smiling.
Two similar pairs of eyes and two dark haired heads turned his way, looking over the horses.
"Father!" his oldest daughter said brightly as she unloaded her armful of hay, "What are you doing down here?" A sudden thought crossed her mind. "Is it mother?"
"No, no, she is still resting," Aragorn assured her, "Nothing yet. I was meeting with visitors earlier and thought I would see if you two were here. I think when you return to the palace you'll find your afternoon meal is waiting for you."
"Will you be joining us?" asked Eldarion.
"Not today." Why did he seem to be rushing around this past week? Arwen always seemed to find time for everything. "But I will see you for supper."
Aragorn did not leave immediately. He helped Mírra collect more hay, reminded Eldarion how to inspect the hooves for stones.
"Mírra, after you take your meal you should change, please", Aragorn said upon noticing his daughter's appearance. "You know that is not proper attire."
She opened her mouth as if to object, but thought better of it. She shot a thin glare at her brother, who had taken a sudden interest in a knot in his horse's mane.
"But it is so uncomfortable to ride in a dress," she protested weakly, knowing full well this was an argument she would not win. She looked down guiltily at her rumpled tunic, brushing fragments of hay off her arms.
"Mírra, you are not a child anymore," Aragorn admonished gently, "You should dress as befits your station."
"I know – properly." She sighed. Her shoulders sank a little.
"Thank you," her father replied, again gently.
He surveyed the stables for a moment, and the work his two older children had done. He was pleased to see them take care in their activities. And although he was often stricter with Mírra, Aragorn had to admit she had an enthusiasm for the outdoors. He did not want to discourage it.
"Things look well here," the King said contentedly as he left "I will see you for supper as usual. And Eldarion, I'll see you later in my study."
"Of course, father."
"And what will today's lesson be?" Mírra teased, after her father was out of earshot.
Eldarion did not answer right away. "Something dull and of great worth for my future, no doubt."
Mírra smiled hesitantly, not entirely sure if her brother was jesting. The walk back to the palace was quiet, both siblings looking cheerlessly to their afternoon tasks.
When she returned to her chambers, Mírra's handmaid selected a gown for her – dark green, plain – and helped her dress.
It hardly mattered to Mírra what she wore. But her riding clothes were so much simpler. With her breeches and tunic there were no hooks or laces to fuss over, no worrying whether the neckline was high or low enough, no concern over how well the colour matched her eyes. But then, appearances were important for a young woman of the court.
After all the hooks were fastened and the skirts of the dark green fabric were arranged, she paused to take a look at herself in the mirror. Mírra wondered if her appearance would ever pass muster.
Her father had said she was not a child anymore. But not a woman yet either, she sighed, pondering her reflection.
She had grown two more inches since the winter, but the added height did not make her feel elegant, only more awkward. Her breasts had grown fuller, too. She supposed they were of adequate size, but she was still not quite comfortable with them.
She looked with disappointment at her hair. There was hardly any curl in it, always laying flat. And why did it never seem to stay neat? It had been so nicely braided into a queue this morning but, as usual, some strands at the side of her face had slipped out. And was that a bit of hay she saw clinging to her hairline?
Women in the city remarked how she favoured the Queen more than the King, but Mírra could not see how she would ever match her mother's beauty. Looking back at herself from the mirror, she just seemed… plain.
Sitting down heavily in front of her dressing table, she untied her long braid, and loosed the dark locks. She took up a comb and began to work through her hair from root to tip, hoping for once to make it tidy.
Later that afternoon, the King and his son were settled in his study, with many manuscripts on the table in front of them, when there was a knock at the door.
"Enter," Aragorn called.
He was moderately surprised to see his youngest child, Lúthea, being shyly led into the room by her nursemaid, Adina.
"Pardon, your highness," said the blonde young woman, giving a small curtsy, "Miss Lúthea wanted a visit with you."
Aragorn set down his pen, smiling, as his daughter released her maid's hand and ran over to his chair.
Lúthea was ten years old, just entering her last years of childhood. Like Mírra she took after Arwen and had smooth dark hair and pale skin, but her features were more delicate, and she was much more reserved than her older sister. But although she was quite good-natured, Aragorn could not help thinking that Lúthea was not yet ready to give up being the youngest in the family.
"Well now," said Aragorn, "what brings you here, my dear?"
The little girl rested her folded arms on the arm of her father's large chair, leaning on it almost distractedly.
"Is something on your mind?" he added.
"When will the baby be here?" she asked, looking down at her arms.
"Very soon, so your mother tells me. Any day now."
She paused for a moment. Aragorn remained quiet, sensing she had more to say.
"We were working on something together," she continued, looking up at her father, "a shawl. It's not finished yet."
So that was it. Lúthea often spent long afternoons with her mother in front of the looms and spinning machines, working on generally any craft she could get her hands on. But that had all been on hold for the last week, and now she was at loose ends.
"Ah. And Adina can't help you to finish?" Aragorn ventured.
"No, it's for mother and I to do. She was going to show me how to do a border when it was done."
Aragorn began to wonder what he should do next. Lúthea was now frowning and beginning to look unhappy. Her nursemaid stood at the door, waiting patiently. He wondered how many activities they had already been through before arriving at this point.
He unfolded his daughter's small hands and took them in his own.
"Well, somehow I do not think my talents at the loom would be of any use to you."
Lúthea did not smile but she was no longer frowning.
"Would you like to spend the rest of the day with me?"
He had expected her to accept his offer only as a last resort, but to his surprise her face brightened.
"Alright," she said tentatively.
Aragorn nodded to her nursemaid at the door. "Thank you Adina."
"Very good, your highness." The young woman gave a small curtsy and a smile, and slipped out.
"Would you like to sit here?" he asked.
Lúthea nodded. She let her father lift her onto his lap – something she was getting a little big for, but the chair was large.
She put her hands at the edge of the table and quietly looked around, taking in the papers and books. This was a strange new world, her father and brother's work.
Eldarion looked up from his manuscript, a bemused by his little sister's presence.
"I am reading up on the tributaries of the Anduin. Apparently there are many of them," he explained somewhat dryly, with a sidelong glance at his father. "But I don't know if you would be interested in that."
Lúthea looked wary, not sure what to think. Was this what they really did all day? Sit at a table and read?
Aragorn had an inspired thought, and reached for blank paper and a smaller pen.
"I've written many letters this afternoon. Would you like to try one?"
"I've been practising," Lúthea said, turning to look up at her father.
"Well then, I would enjoy seeing what you've learned," Aragorn said.
Gently she took the small quill from his hand, reached out, and very carefully dipped the end of the pen in the inkwell. She tapped the tip several times on the edge of the inkwell before bringing it to the paper.
Slowly, and as neatly as possible, she wrote the first letter of the alphabet, first in upper then in lower case. Looking back up as if for approval, she smiled when her father nodded to her. Having made a start, she carefully dipped her pen once more.
Eldarion chuckled quietly to himself, turning back to his readings. Lúthea bent over her paper, and set herself to her new task as her father observed contentedly.
It was much later that evening when Aragorn slipped away to a certain quiet room in the same wing as the family rooms. Supper was long over, and the children had all made their way to bed.
Softly he closed the door behind him, and stepped lightly over to the bed, where his wife lay comfortably. She lay half on her side with pillows arranged behind her, and another she held at her side to support her body. Her eyes were closed, her breathing calm and deep.
Arwen had withdrawn from palace activities many days ago, when she felt the time drawing near, felt she could grow no larger. She was happy to be so completely relaxed, to be able to focus her thoughts entirely on the child within.
The recent days had been a time of mixed emotions for Arwen, more than the times before her three other children were born. This pregnancy had been unexpected, and she had enjoyed all the experiences it brought. Although her body was becoming ever more uncomfortable, some part of her wished this time would not end yet.
As Aragorn sat down gently beside her, Arwen felt his presence but did not stir. She did not react until he leaned over and placed a kiss beside her ear, and then a broad smile crept across her face.
"I wondered when you would come," she said warmly, her eyes still closed.
Aragorn reached out to where his wife's hand was comfortably resting on her stomach, and put his hand over hers.
"How are things here?"
"Just as they should be."
As Arwen answered she slipped her hand out from underneath his, and exchanged places with it. She pressed his hand lightly against her belly, letting him sense the activity beneath the surface.
These last few days had been mixed for Aragorn as well. Although he was also excited about the upcoming birth, he never tired of moments like this.
They sat together calmly for a few minutes. Then Arwen's eyelids fluttered and she looked up at her husband sitting beside her.
"Tell me about today."
This was a habit of theirs, sharing the events of their days apart. Aragorn collected his thoughts and then began recounting the facts of his day, giving special attention to the activities with their children.
"I think Mírra would be truly happy if she could spend the whole day with the horses, and dress however she saw fit," he sighed, leaning back on the bed next to Arwen.
"Are you not pleased she enjoys the outdoors so well?"
"Of course, it is just… it always seems to be difficult with her, more than with Eldarion and Lúthea."
"She is more energetic," Arwen reasoned. "But she is still finding her way. Give her time."
Aragorn then went on to describe his hours with their second daughter in his study.
"Ah," Arwen said knowingly, "now I understand those."
She nodded to a few folded papers that lay on the bedside table. Aragorn saw where she was gesturing to, and collected the papers. He smiled as he unfolded them and saw the pages filled with Lúthea's careful scroll. Aside from her alphabet she had written a short note for her mother, which she had delivered personally before going to bed.
"We were just in the middle of a project," Arwen sighed, "I had not realised she would be so taken up with it."
"I am not sure how well she enjoyed the day. She prefers your company," said Aragorn as he met his wife's eye.
"That does not mean she does not enjoy yours."
"Maybe so, but I cannot show her crafts as you do. It is plain she is looking for other activities. How shall I entertain her tomorrow?"
Arwen thought for a moment.
"When we work I always share stories with her. I truly think she enjoys it as much as the weaving, or anything else."
"Somehow I doubt that hearing a story from me would be enough to content her," Aragorn said with a raised eyebrow.
"Do not tell me that the King of the West, who was once a Ranger called Strider, does not have any interesting stories to tell," she replied, nudging her husband's arm.
Aragorn simply smiled, tight-lipped, in return, not wanting to admit that his wife was, of course, right. He would give the idea some thought.
For now, he settled in next to her, returning his hand to its previous spot at the side of her belly. Arwen could see him concentrating, thinking carefully, as she had, on the life within.
"You shall have to wait, just as I will, to find out," she whispered to him.
Aragorn again met her eye. "You must have your own suspicions."
She did have her own suspicions about whether they would soon have a new son or daughter, but she did not reveal them. Arwen merely smiled up at him, her eyes sparkling. She gave his hand a squeeze.
"You will not have to wait long."
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.