It was the morning before the prince’s departure for the north, and the Queen was looking in on her son as he pored over some papers in the study. Her youngest daughter was on her arm.
“Of course, naneth, it has all been checked many times over,” Eldarion stood and smiled as he saw his mother peering in from the doorway. “And Imladris’ cupboards are certainly not bare.”
Arwen set down Elenna and entered the room with her usual soft step. The little girl tottered forward to her brother's desk, her light eyes bright. She held her cloth toy, in the shape of a horse, securely in one hand.
“I know, but I cannot help it. I have fussed over you for twenty years, I shall not stop now.”
“Then I suppose I shall have to let you.” He looked down at Elenna, who had wandered up to the side of the desk. “Luckily there is still you to fuss over as well, tim-gwenn.”
Elenna giggled as Eldarion tickled her cheek, but recovered well enough to begin playing again, letting her little horse gallop along the edge of the desk. She began a circuit of the large table, with faint sound effects to match.
Eldarion shook his head with amusement, and tapped the papers in his hands on the desk’s surface, tidying the pile. Arwen watched as he set them back in their leather folder, grouping them together with another one.
“You will not be needing this correspondence then?”
“No, I was only giving it one last read over. Primarily letters from Annúminas, but I have most of the information I need.”
“Your time will be divided between there and Imladris, I gather?”
Eldarion nodded. “From what I understand, when the borders of the Shire were extended, it caused Annúminas to be more isolated from the rest of Eriador. We need to secure better travel routes across the northern provinces.”
“On his last visit, Elrohir said they had been hosting less Dúnedain than in the past,” Arwen reflected. She leaned back against the edge of the desk, extending a hand to Elenna, who chattered happily to her equine friend. “And it seems that the northern capital is becoming stronger, even though Ithilien has needed the most attention recently.”
“You are right about that. I cannot wait to see it all.” Eldarion’s face was bright and calm.
The Queen looked quizzically at her son. For the past few years he had been so dedicated to proving himself with the White Company, and now all that energy was being directed to an entirely different task. She knew he would only be embarrassed to have it pointed out to him, so she held her tongue.
“What is it, naneth, you are looking at me strangely,” said the prince with a sidelong glance to his mother.
Arwen chuckled. “It is… just that usually you are so contemplative before departing on long journeys. It is a pleasant change to see you cheerful about it this time.”
“Ah, well, I suppose I must admit to that.” Eldarion sat back against the desk next to the Queen, folding his arms. “I think I was so intent on living up to father’s experiences that I forgot about my own. I must simply accept that it is not the same country that he knew.”
Neither the same that I knew, thought Arwen. “Has your father told you about Eriador? About the places he knew well?”
“Certainly about Bree,” Eldarion grinned, “But of course that will not have much bearing on the political dealings of the Edain or Elves, to be sure.” Arwen suppressed a laugh as she listened. “Adar did have much to say about the Misty Mountains, and also the North Downs, near Fornost. But I think he is never as interested in speaking of those places as he is of Rivendell.”
“Yes?” Arwen’s eyes sparkled just slightly as she waited for her son to continue.
“Indeed. He described the valley, and the roar of the falls. He said that because the place was so welcoming, his return from travelling was always that much better than the journey ever could have been.”
“And so departures were always that much more difficult, as well,” Arwen murmured.
Eldarion regarded her curiously, half-wondering if she would continue. He began to think it was not only his father’s departures that she was referring to.
When Arwen turned her eyes back to her son, she was subtly struck with a memory of her brothers preparing to leave their home, as they did often when she had been younger. She placed a hand to the side of Eldarion’s face, almost in a gesture of appraisal. Not only his father’s son, but the son of all his forefathers.
Eldarion saw his mother’s eyes growing damp, although her smile persisted.
“You are not unhappy, to have me go?”
Arwen withdrew her hand, to lay it on Eldarion’s arm. Her light touch reassured him. “Of course not, mell ion-nîn,” she spoke softly.
Elenna appeared at her brother’s side, tapping at his knee with her cloth toy; apparently the horse had found a new landscape to ride across. Eldarion promptly lifted her up, which pleased her greatly.
“When you do reach Imladris,” Arwen began again, feeling cheered by her daughter’s playful gestures, “Do not let Elrohir keep you in the study and library too much. The valley is too beautiful to be ignored.”
“Of course I shall see as much as I can. You must have favourite spots to recommend, surely?”
The Queen was silent for a brief moment as she pondered his question. “There is one path,” she began gently, “That leads from the northern entrance to the house, up the slope of a hill. On that hill there are holly berries in the winter, but at this time of year the trees are very fragrant. After a short walk the path opens to over look the valley.” Arwen moved her reflective expression to meet Eldarion’s eyes. “The view of the river, the house, and the valley from that location is quite lovely.”
The prince matched his mother’s faint smile. “I shall not forget to find it then.”
Still caught in reflection, Arwen moved a hand out to Elenna’s head, smoothing over the waves of her brown hair. The girl reached out for her mother in turn, and happily changed places to sit in Arwen’s arms.
When her brothers had visited last, they had asked the Queen when she would pay her next visit to Imladris. When you are grown older, Arwen thought, looking down at her daughter. That was my answer. It was an easy excuse to make, but she wondered if it was truly anything more than that, an excuse.
For now, it was enough to focus on the events at hand, to encourage her son’s own exploration. It was the most confident she had seen him since beginning with the White Company a few years ago.
“Well,” she said, her expression lifting, “Be sure to give Imladris my warmest regards, no matter what you do there.”
The prince smiled, his dark grey eyes calm.
“Of that you can be sure, naneth.”
Just a few weeks after the prince’s departure, a few days before Midsummer beckoned, a different group was preparing to make an arrival in the White City.
Doran, Adair, and Doreth had been surprised and pleased to find a royal escort waiting for them and their children at Calembel. While they had never before embarked on such an expedition as a family, the weather had been kind to them. For the second half of the journey, the two boys had been quietly impressed by and curious of the royal guards that accompanied them.
Late in the morning of their last day of travel, the group made their final river crossing at Erui, and soon after their destination became visible.
Seeing the travellers’ reacting upon first viewing the White City, the lead guard halted to allow them a moment of pause.
“That time when I saw you riding with the King himself,” Doreth told her brother, her voice filled with awe, “it was certainly an unexpected sight. But this sight here is of an entirely different kind.”
Before them stretched the final expanse of the White Mountains, and at the end was Minas Tirith, its gleaming towers set high in the base of Mount Mindolluin. The palace was highest of all the seven tiers, wrapping around the mountain with lookouts, courtyards and parapets.
“The city is as big as the mountain,” said Nolan from his seat with his father, sounding as awed as his aunt.
“It does seem that way,” agreed Adair. “Much bigger than our corner of the world, certainly.”
“Then it is well indeed,” added Doran amiably, “That we are not strangers to its entire population.”
“True enough,” Doreth agreed softly.
Sensing the group had taken enough time, the lead guard made ready to move again. “It should only be an hour more until we reach the city, and then his highness may receive your arrival. Come,” he said with a formal but polite nod, “Please follow me.”
For Doran, from the moment they passed through the city’s enormous mithril gates, all pretence of familiarity seemed to vanish. With its impressive setting in the mountain, and so many inhabitants, Minas Tirith was far more expansive than Edoras. The day’s high sunshine gleamed from the city’s white walls and the silver helms of the royal guards that stood outside every entrance of the Citadel.
After leaving the horses outside the Citadel, the family was escorted to the palace, through many sets of gates and up several grand staircases. Doran could feel his son’s small hand gripping his, as Nolan watched with curiously amazed eyes everything that they passed by.
They had naturally worn their finest clothes, and Doreth had even newly dyed dresses for herself and Ailsa, but it still seemed too basic for an audience with the King and Queen, and the princess royal.
When the King did greet them, however, Doran found him to be as direct as he had been at their meeting near the Morthond river, over a month ago.
“Welcome to Minas Tirith,” said Aragorn as he rose from the marble dais where he was seated.
Standing next to his seat was a tall woman who could only be the Queen; an elf-lady with dark hair and a gentle expression. She closely resembled her oldest daughter, who stood with her.
The men and boys bowed, and Doreth and Ailsa curtsied as Aragorn came near to greet them. Doran shook his hand warmly.
“It is most kind of you to receive us, your majesty.”
“Please, it is but little repayment for the help you have already given my family.” He turned next to shake Adair’s hand, nodding also to Doreth next to him. “I trust your journey was well?”
“Very well, your highness. The escort was very welcome.”
“I am glad to hear it.” Arwen and Mírra had approached as well, to make the acquaintance of the newcomers. Aragorn extended a hand to Arwen.
“Please meet my Lady Arwen.”
The Queen extended a hand to Doreth first.
“I am very pleased to make your acquaintance at last, after hearing so much of you from my daughter.”
“Oh, it was nothing, your highness.” The blond woman blushed furiously.
“And Mírra you know well, of course,” Aragorn finished.
The princess had already stepped forward to greet her friends, and immediately took Doreth into a warm embrace, a gesture that made both the King and Queen smile. The children seemed much more at ease as well.
“I am so glad to see you all again,” Mírra said as she then curtsied to give Adair her hand.
“And you, my lady,” said Doreth’s husband with a friendly nod.
As she came at last to Doran, the princess felt strangely shy, and kept her eyes down as she let him take her hand.
“My lady,” he said as he brought his lips briefly to the princess’s hand, “It is good to see you looking so well.”
Mírra recognised the low, gentle tone of voice that she had known since the day Doran had found her. Hearing it was enough to draw her glance upward, to meet his warm eyes. She felt her cheeks grow slightly flushed.
“Thank you for coming.”
After all introductions were made, the Queen announced two attendants to lead the guests to their quarters.
“You must be in need of refreshment from your journey,” Arwen spoke warmly. “Your chambers have been made ready. Please, take as much time as you need before dinner.”
“We are most grateful, your highness,” said Doran, giving a slight bow at the neck.
Nolan was still standing next to his father, having moved from awe to quiet eagerness of the new place he found himself in. Just before following to find their chambers, the boy looked back to Mírra.
“Will we sit with you at dinner tonight?”
The princess gave a broad smile. “Of course.” She caught Doran’s eye once more, slightly less hesitantly. “It would be my pleasure.”
The tall, fair-haired man gave a nod in response, and although it was no different to any other he had given to any of the others in greeting, there was something in it that caused her smile to become much warmer.
“They seem to be quite fine people,” said Arwen.
At her mother’s remark Mírra found herself even more aware of every gesture she had just made, wondering if anything was out of place.
“They are, truly.” Turning to her father, Mírra could think of nothing else to do than put her arms around his neck. “Thank you so much for inviting them, ada.”
Aragorn chuckled. “You are quite welcome, mír-nîn.”
“Is this going to be a dinner where I don’t know anyone?” Lúthea asked her older sister as they walked to the hall.
“No, you know me and mother and father of course.”
The younger princess frowned a little.
“That isn’t what I mean.” Lúthea was happy to meet Mírra’s friends, but on such occasions she often sat quietly, thinking about what she could be reading, or something she could be stitching instead of sitting and listening to other people’s important conversations. “I shall be too young to talk to the older people, and too old to talk with the children,” she sighed.
“Oh, you need not worry too much about it.” Mírra linked an arm through her sister’s. “Doreth is quite friendly, and she is a weaver too.”
“And she spins wool as well, since Adair keeps the sheep.”
Mírra could see Lúthea beginning to cheer, even though she kept silent.
Dinner itself proved to be a merry affair, with the guests being alternately enthralled and excited by their new surroundings and royal hosts.
There was no shortage of conversation, as the men and women both found similar interests. The Queen stayed quiet for much of the evening, but listened attentively as Mírra and Doreth recounted yet again how the princess came to stay with them.
Sitting across the table from him, Mírra could not help subtly observing Doran over the course of the evening.
He was seated next to her father, and she caught stray fragments of conversation about the horses Doran kept, about their property near the Morthond river. Nolan sat on his other side, a good five years younger than Lúthea, watched the conversation eagerly, peeking out from blond hair that matched his father’s. His fair blue eyes he must have had from his mother, Mírra guessed, but she knew little of Doran’s late wife.
Doran calmly kept one hand at his wine goblet as he talked. There were creases around his eyes whenever he smiled. He laughed rarely, but Mírra liked the way his cheeks reddened when he did. It was hard to believe her time in his company summed to a matter of hours, and still there were so many things about him that she liked.
Her mother’s voice brought Mírra out of her thoughts. “There will be much to keep you occupied this week, I am sure,” said the Queen to the guests, “The upcoming feast and dancing, least of all.”
Across the table Aragorn caught her wink. “Would you like to view some of the city tomorrow? Or perhaps some of the countryside?”
“Mírra knows the mountainside quite well,” Lúthea added.
The oldest princess felt a happy twinge of nervousness in her stomach, hoping her friends would enjoy their time in the new place. “I could show you some of the mountain, if you like. We could ride out, and then go walking.”
“Explore the mountainside?” Doreth sounded quietly eager.
“That would be quite enjoyable, I think,” responded Doran.
“Then we shall venture it,” said Mírra with delight.
“That seemed to go well,” mused Aragorn as he walked back with Arwen, to their chambers.
“It did,” she agreed.
“And you were worried about how things would be, without Eldarion here this summer.”
Arwen caught his pursed smile with a sidelong glance. “I never said I was worried.”
“I know you didn’t.” In return he squeezed her hand, ever so slightly.
They reached the chamber after a few moments in comfortable silence. Aragorn let the door close lightly behind them, and leaned back against it as he looked into Arwen’s face.
“What are you thinking?” she asked softly.
“I am thinking… that it is good to see Mírra so pleased in the company of her guests. And,” he continued, his voice becoming quieter, “how happy I am, to soon be celebrating another year with you.”
He always could make her smile with such simple declarations, Arwen could not help it. She put her hands to his cheeks, reminding herself once again of the shape of his face, smoothing one thumb over the line of his upper lip.
Feeling Aragorn’s arms moving to encircle her, she leaned against him and pressed her cheek against his shoulder, and the heavy velvet of his robe.
“And you?” he asked her in turn.
Arwen answered as best she could, shutting her eyes. “The same.”
They remained standing together at the door, and she could hear his heart beating steadily in his chest. She was content, always content to simply be with him, to let him hold her and envelop her body with his.
Arwen felt him raise one hand to smooth a long braid behind her shoulder, and cup her cheek as she had done. As he bowed his head, she had only to lift her chin for him to pull their lips together for a kiss.
“Take me to bed, meleth-nîn?” Arwen whispered as they separated.
Aragorn’s voice was just as hushed. “’Twould be my pleasure, mellwain.”
The next day, the princess was as good as her word and, leaving the children in the good care of palace attendants, she took Doreth, Doran and Adair to view the mountain. The day was fine as the four made their way up gently sloping paths, past small streams and green foliage. At this time of Midsummer, the trees were at their peak of lushness.
There was a lookout that Mírra intended to reach before they turned back for the day, but it was well past noon before they began to approach the spot.
“It is just up the path this way,” the princess explained to Doran, who walked beside her, “The trees open and there is an old tower. From there we can view the river Anduin.”
Doreth and Adair joined them at a little slower pace, and the other lady seemed fatigued after the morning’s small climb.
“So it please you, Mírra,” she said, a little out of breath, “may I view it after a rest?”
“Of course, it is not my intention to wear you out so early in your visit. I shall sit with Doreth then, if you two would like to go ahead.” She indicated Adair and Doran.
“Certain?” Doran asked.
“Do not worry,” his sister teased, “We shall sit and make ready for lunch until you return.”
“Very well, then.”
The two women stopped at a grassy patch that was strewn with clover, and waited for the men to return. Retrieving a blanket from one of the packs, they spread it out on the ground, and Mírra happily stretched back on the soft blanket feeling the sun warm her face.
“What a lovely afternoon it is.”
“Mmm, indeed,” replied the princess.
When she looked up, she saw Doreth had plucked a few blossoms of the clover, and was twining them together.
“Oh, my sister enjoys making those chains.”
“And my daughter Ailsa also. I shall take this back to her, perhaps,” said Doreth fondly, “She sits for hours in the field playing. And then, Nola did always enjoy flowers as well. You know, I can sometimes imagine them sitting together making crowns for their hair.”
“Doran’s late wife.” Something touching bashfulness crossed Doreth’s face. “I apologise, my lady, of course you do not know of her.”
“No, but I did not think it polite to ask, either.” Mírra sat up, but there was a pause before the other woman replied.
“My brother rarely speaks of her. But then,” she added almost conspiratorially, “he is not a talkative person at the best of times.”
The princess stretched her lips in a smile. “So I have deemed.” She tucked up her legs in front of her, and folded her arms over her knees. “What was she like, if you do not mind me asking?”
Doreth set the blossoms she had been fiddling with down in her lap. “Well, Nolan does favour her, with his fair face and eyes – it is part of the reason he is named for her. He is cheerful, just like she was.”
“Were they married for very long?”
Doreth shook her head. “It was a few years before Nolan came along, but… Nola grew ill and passed away quite soon after his birth.” The young woman’s expression grew more serious. “She was not very strong, in body I mean. It was too hard on her, having the baby, and it took her strength from her I think.”
Mírra could not tell what to say in response, but her companion could see a look of concern on the princess’ face.
“Aye, it is a sad thing that it happened,” said Doreth with a tone of reassurance, “but we all move on, in the end. My brother was much grieved for her loss, but still he had Nolan. For the first few years Nolan stayed much with me… I do not think Doran knew just what to do, left with a child when his wife had just passed. And it was not long after that, that Adair and I had Connor. I think it helped, in a way.”
“Your two families are very close,” Mírra observed with a smile.
“Ah, we are all one big family. I do not think I would have it otherwise.”
The princess gave a chuckle. Doreth spoke so calmly of her family, and Doran’s past, that it put Mírra more at ease with the subject.
“There we are,” said Doreth, sounding satisfied. She held up her finished ring of clover blossoms, tilting her head to look at Mírra. “A royal lady deserves a royal garland, I should say.”
“Do not be silly, you should wear your work yourself,” Mírra laughed nervously.
But her friend persisted and set the ring of flowers on Mírra’s dark hair.
“Oh, but a crown does suit a princess after all, my lady.”
Seeing Mírra’s faint blush, Doreth could not help giggling. Soon the two women were both dissolved in friendly laughter.
They were interrupted by quick whistle from the edge of the clearing. Looking toward the source of the sound, they saw the two men returning from the lookout.
“What fair maidens have we come upon?”
Mírra turned to see Doran smiling at the two of them. Her hand nervously went to the flowers on her head as she tried to keep the blush on her cheeks from spreading further. She composed herself and knelt properly upright, becoming aware of how girlish she must have seemed at that moment.
“Hungry ones!” Doreth called out, “For we have been waiting all this time for you.”
“A proper view needs the proper time to appreciate it,” Adair told his wife in mock-admonishment.
“The Anduin is quite magnificent, my lady,” Doran said with a glance to the princess.
“I am pleased you think so,” Mírra responded, one side of her mouth curling shyly upwards, “This is one of my favourite places to come to, away from the city.”
“But it does not seem like you were idle in our absence, my lady,” Adair said brightly, indicating the princess’s floral decoration.
“No, this is Doreth’s handiwork,” said Mírra, lifting the crown from her head. “And so she should wear it, I think.”
“Oh, if you insist.” A smile crossed the lady’s face as she accepted the gift.
Adair turned to his brother-in-law. “Well then, we must serve these fine ladies their lunch, should we not?”
“An excellent notion.”
The two men reached for the packs they had brought, and the four companions settled comfortably to their afternoon meal, in the comfort of the summer day.
As they finished, the sunshine was still just as warm, adding to the group’s thirst. Mírra bade her companions to sit and relax, as she took up one of their water flasks and sought out a nearby stream. There were several streams running down the side of the mountain, but in the heat of summer many of the smaller ones had dried, leaving the wider streams to prevail.
Mírra bent at the water’s edge to fill the flask. As she secured it, a few small stones in the shallower water caught her eye. It would only take a moment… she thought, as a sparkling grin crossing her face.
She set the flask down and straightened, stones in hand, and with a careful flick of the wrist, sent one skipping across the surface.
The stream was wide, but shallow. After a collecting one or two more large pebbles, Mírra found a secure rock upon which to step to the middle of the water, and set the pebbles flying one at a time.
“You have a talent for that, I see.”
Turning with some surprise, Mírra saw Doran standing at the side, waving one hand in a friendly manner.
“I think it is more an amusement than a talent, my lord,” the princess demured. She turned, and began to step back across the large stones, to the water’s edge. “I am sorry to have left you.”
“Do not worry, my lady. The others have gone to view the river, I came only to let you know.”
As Mírra stepped nearer, Doran approached and extended a hand to help her cross. She hesitated only a moment at the unexpected offering. He held his arm out so naturally, that it was only natural to take it.
Doran felt her palm press into his hand, and she stepped toward him. There it was again, that feeling of lightness in his stomach that he felt when she smiled at him, there now as he felt the gentle grip of her hand in his.
There was a fragment of clover still caught in her dark hair. It was all he could do to resist reaching out to brush it away.
“You seem to have a knack for finding me near water,” she said with a trace of nervous laughter, looking up at him.
Doran chuckled lightly. “Then perhaps for safety you should avoid it, except in my company.”
“So be it then, my lord.”
While responding he was momentarily captivated as he met her eyes, with sparkled with her merriment. The irises were the darkest grey, and yet at the centre there was a kind of light, that seemed to shine from behind the black pupils. Why had he not noticed it before, such a peculiar and wonderful brightness?
He must have paused, for within a moment the princess was looking at him quizzically.
“Is something wrong?” Mírra looked down at herself, brushing her hands over her skirts at imagined dust, then smoothing over her hair. Doran watched the piece of clover fall away, as she neatened her appearance, becoming more like the Lady of Minas Tirith he knew she was.
“It is nothing, my lady,” he said calmly, “Shall we join the others, or wait for them here?”
Mírra pursed her lips, eyes twinkling. Perhaps they did not need to go just yet.
The remaining couple was returning from the lookout point, when Doreth saw something to make them halt in their step.
“No, wait, let us tarry.”
Doreth laid a hand on Adair’s arm, drawing him back from the open path. Just ahead, they could see Mírra and Doran seated next to each other on a large stone near the stream, talking comfortably.
“What do you think?” Adair asked his wife. Almost unconsciously their voices had become hushed.
“I am not sure yet.” The blond woman pensively bit her lip, but there was a sparkle of mischief in her brown eyes.
“They seem to be growing closer.”
“Indeed. If there is something between them,” she whispered, “then I will do nothing to deter it. For this is the most content I have seen my brother in many years.”
Adair nodded in agreement, as they both looked once more toward the seated couple. They briefly heard mild laughter from the princess.
“Do you know,” said the dark-haired shepherd, “I do not think you caught quite enough of the river view. I believe we should go back and have another look.”
His wife grinned back at him. “I think we shall.”
She decorously offered him her hand, and they stepped quietly back on the path, leaving the couple behind them none the wiser.
tim-gwenn = little star girl [tim = little star or spark]
mell ion-nîn = my dear son
meleth-nîn = my love
mellwain = dearest
In S.R. 1452 (Fourth Age 31, I think) the Shire was extended to include the Far Downs as far as the Tower Hills. I imagine this would have affected Annúminas; since Men and Elves were not allowed to enter the Shire (due to the decree by King Elessar at the same time), in order to travel south from Annúminas one would have to first go far east, toward Fornost, or far west, toward Lindon.
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.