2. Discoveries and Discussion
Aragorn had not often been seen in the children's wing in recent years, now that they were grown older. So when Adina looked to the door of the children's sitting room and saw the King standing before her, she was more than a little surprised.
"Your highness… it is a pleasure to see you here," she flustered, as she stood from the table where she and Lúthea were sitting.
"I hope I am not interrupting," said Aragorn as he approached.
Lúthea hopped off her chair and went to him, clutching a piece of cloth encased in a wooden hoop.
"We're stitching," she explained, holding out her work to him, "I've just learned how to do the flowers."
Aragorn took the cloth from her and ran his hand over the coloured threads. Lúthea had done a small chain of flowers linked with a green vine. It was simple, but as with anything she applied herself to, neatly and carefully done.
"It looks lovely."
He returned it to his daughter's hands. She smiled down at the cloth, pleased with his appraisal.
"I was wondering – if Adina does not mind, that is," Aragorn continued with a nod to young woman who stood near, "what you would think about spending the day with me again today?"
Lúthea looked up at him with her usual calm expression.
"Will we do more writing?"
"No… I was thinking of something else," he replied, folding his hands in front of him. "Your mother tells me how much you enjoy listening to stories. Is that right?"
She stood up taller and nodded intently.
"Well, I thought we might go somewhere where we could discover many stories, ones you have not heard before."
Lúthea's interest was certainly piqued.
"Shall we try it?" her father asked.
"I would like that," she replied, her dark eyes shining.
Aragorn turned to his daughter's companion.
"Is that well with you, Adina?"
What could she say? As she gave a short curtsy to the King, she could not help smiling.
"That is very well, your highness. I will be here, should you wish to send for me."
"Excellent," he said brightly. "Shall we go, my dear?"
He extended a palm. She handed her stitching to Adina, and then returned to her father, taking his hand.
They left the sitting room and began to make their way through the corridors of the palace. Lúthea, small for her age, came to just above Aragorn's elbow as she walked beside him. Her shining dark hair, loose except for two small braids at the sides, hung down her back.
As she looked around, she soon realised she was coming to a section of the palace that was unfamiliar to her.
"Where are we going?" she asked curiously.
"To the library."
The same morning, Arwen sat by the widow of her chamber, calmly waiting, thinking. The heel of her left foot rose and fell with a slow cadence as her chair rocked back and forth.
She had a book open on her lap, but was only half concentrating on it. As she stroked a hand lazily across her belly, she could sense a gradual, growing tightness, which was a sign of things to come. There had been moments in the early hours of the morning when she had thought that labour had begun, but had been disappointed.
And so she was pleased to have a distraction from the morning's expectation when her oldest daughter entered. Mírra came over to the window and greeted her mother.
"It still isn't time?"
"No, and I am quite impatient." Arwen smiled and briefly rolled her eyes in a gesture of exasperation that was only half in jest.
Mírra touched her round middle, intensely curious. "Will it take very long?"
"I cannot tell," Arwen shrugged slightly, "Each of you were different, but I was the longest with your brother. The women here like to joke that it was because he was a boy, not because he was my first."
"I had thought you would be outside this morning," Arwen said inquisitively.
"No. Eldarion is practising his swordplay. I didn't feel like going out." Mírra stepped over to the window as she answered.
"That is not like you. Especially on such a fine day as today." It seemed that Lúthea was not the only one who was feeling disconcerted.
Mírra put her slim hands on the window ledge, looking out at the landscape surrounding Minas Tirith.
"But I know all of it," Mírra said wistfully, "Every ride is just another part of the same countryside." She turned towards her mother, half-leaning against the large chair. "I wish I could see more, go farther."
"You will, certainly. But you have only turned fifteen a few months ago." When Arwen was fifteen she would never have dreamed of venturing beyond Rivendell, even to the Bruinen. She found she was constantly shifting her perspective of things to match her children's. "There will be time for you to travel, darling. Be patient."
Her daughter nodded, quietly fidgeting. Arwen decided to move to a simpler topic of conversation.
"You've done nothing with your hair today?"
Mírra brushed aside her mother's fingers that were stretching to her long, loose hair.
"What ever I do, it never stays neat. This way is just easier."
"Shall I try something with it?" Arwen offered.
Mírra accepted. She knelt down with her back to the chair, and let her mother run her hands through her hair.
Arwen sat up and leaned forward as best she could. As she shifted her position, she felt a tug across her belly – not quite painful, but still noticeable. She paused briefly, but it passed as soon as it had begun. She did not dwell on it, and instead turned to the weaving of hair at her fingertips.
It had been months since Arwen had done this. Making the small braids felt familiar, almost soothing. She began to work a few small ones at Mírra's hairline, twining each new one together with the last.
"Why so quiet, all of a sudden?" Arwen asked her daughter.
Mírra did not respond immediately.
"I'm not… very good at these things," she eventually told the floor. "I can never make my hair look right. I don't know the right clothes to wear."
"I know you've never been terribly interested in those things."
She pulled the braids at each side together at the back of Mírra's head, forming a thin queue.
"But now they matter, and I wish they didn't. Father is always saying I should dress properly, that I'm not a child."
"Which is true. Soon you will be introduced into the court, and unfortunately you cannot do that if you are still pulling hay out of your hair," Arwen answered pragmatically. She tucked in the last few pieces of hair, and smoothed her hand over the finished braids.
"I know." Mírra sighed deeply, and scratched distractedly at a loose thread on her skirt. "I still wish I didn't have to worry about it. The women at court are so beautiful. So poised."
"That is because they are well practised. You can learn, too."
"I do not think I will ever look the part, like they do."
Mírra turned and cast slightly discouraged eyes up at her mother. Arwen tucked a bit of hair behind her daughter's ear.
"They look the part because they have help with their appearance, as you will. But your hair, your dresses, those things are only that – your appearance. They do not change who you are. Neither do they shape the woman you will become," Arwen continued. "You will still be beautiful even if your dress is not perfect, even if your hair is not neatly braided."
Mírra smiled lightly. Arwen continued to stroke her fingers over her daughter's dark hair.
"Who you are is beautiful. Do not doubt that."
Mírra smiled and blushed, shyly turning her eyes down again. She reached up and gingerly patted the handiwork that was completed in her hair.
"Thank you, naneth." she told her, even though it was not needed.
Arwen smiled back. She opened her mouth to reply, but once again was caught by surprise as she felt another tug over her stomach, stronger than the last. She put her hand to her stomach, realising with a sudden certainty that labour was becoming real.
Mírra saw her mother's response. "Is it starting?" she asked, her eyes widening in excitement.
"I think it may be."
"Shall I send for the midwife?" Mírra was at her feet in an instant.
"No, not just yet," Arwen reassured her, "Stay with me a while. I am enjoying your company."
She smiled in return. "I would like to stay with you too."
Arwen held her hands out to call her daughter to her again.
"I have been sitting all morning. Come, will you help me to walk about for a while?"
Mírra did so, her expression bright but slightly nervous. She gave her mother her elbow as they began to take a turn about the room.
Aragorn opened the large oak door, and led his daughter into the foyer at the centre of the library. The floor was a sandy marble; lanterns, that were carefully placed on the walls and hung from the ceiling, lit the room. This area was well looked after by attendants, who nodded respectfully as the King entered.
Aragorn took Lúthea to the centre of the great room, and they stood surrounded on all sides by shelf after shelf of books. There were books of all different sizes and bindings. Some of the bookcases stretched all the way up the side of the walls, and required ladders to reach the higher shelves. This central chamber where they stood was bordered by smaller rooms, which had their own specific collections.
Lúthea's dark grey eyes widened as took in what she saw before her, craning her neck to look up at the tall bookcases. If the simple reading materials she had seen yesterday in her father's study had seemed like a new world to her, then this was an uncharted universe.
Aragorn looked down at his daughter, impressed by her quiet wonder.
"This is the library. It has been here for the life of Minas Tirith, and it contains the collected writings of many scribes and scholars. There are maps and drawings, journals and record books, and most importantly, histories of our country and all peoples of Middle-Earth."
Aragorn saw his daughter's eyes glazing over, obviously overwhelmed.
"I think those are what you will be most interested in. We are here to find stories, are we not?"
Lúthea nodded, coming out of her daze somewhat.
"But ada, how will we know where to start? There are so many."
"They are arranged in a certain way. Come, let us see what we can find."
"You seem slow today, Eldarion. Is that blade too heavy for you?"
The prince, sword in hand, faced his adversary who was grinning cheekily before him. Brennan was a close advisor of the King and, in recent years, erstwhile companion and mentor to the prince and princess royal. With his reddish brown hair, brown eyes, and moderate stature, he was unremarkable in appearance, but he was as trustworthy as any man of Gondor.
"Not at all," Eldarion replied. "If there is any deficiency with my performance, perhaps the fault is with my opponent, not my weapon."
"Aha. Think you so, young master?"
Brennan cocked an eyebrow at his young charge. Eldarion's fighting abilities had certainly improved with his physical maturity, but he had not abandoned boyish jests.
"Well then, I would not have you hold back on my account," Brennan countered. "Let me see what you have to offer me today."
Over recent months the prince had grown noticeably stronger, his body now bearing an even closer resemblance to the lean, broad-shouldered frame of his father. He shook dark hair off his face, and steadied himself before the older man.
They brought their swords up, momentarily stilled, before Eldarion stepped forward.
There were repeated clangs of steel on steel as the two men moved around the hall. The measured pacing of the training pattern was tempered occasionally by impulsive moves from Brennan, as he tested Eldarion's capabilities. The prince proved able, most of the time.
"You're dropping your right shoulder again," Brennan cautioned.
"And I'm still advancing on you," Eldarion countered.
"That does not matter. Your offence is weakened by your stance, no matter how well you deflect my sword."
Brennan matched Eldarion's blows for a few moments more, but soon enough found an opportunity to prove his point. After the tip of Eldarion's blade came down on his sword lightly once more, in one motion Brennan raised his sword against Eldarion's, and turned against the prince's left side. Eldarion's balance faltered, and with a shove to his shoulder, Brennan knocked him to the ground.
Eldarion caught his breath, sheepishly.
"Alright, I see what you mean."
"You did well with the White Company this spring, but you cannot make such mistakes on the field. Did you see your weakness?"
Eldarion nodded. "I was off balance. I will correct it."
Brennan nodded in acceptance, and extended a hand to help his pupil to his feet.
"This is still better than sitting in front of a table, memorising maps." Eldarion said as he found his feet again.
The two men found their starting places again. Eldarion rolled his shoulders, adjusting his stance to begin another bout. Mentally he was adding his mistake to a list of tactics never to repeat.
"Mother, would you not like to rest?"
Mírra could not help feeling concerned, for Arwen was by now showing more advanced signs of labour. After moving about for the last hour or so at the most tedious of paces, they had stopped altogether. The Queen was leaning against the wall, rubbing the underside of her belly to relieve the discomfort. Around the room Mírra saw subtle signs of commotion that had not been present before. The midwife, Corinna, had arrived and with her assistants was preparing the rest of the room.
Arwen breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly, trying to relax. She smiled faintly at her daughter.
"I am well. I do not mean to worry you. This must seem strange, but walking is actually comfortable right now."
She gave Mírra's hand a small squeeze, trying to be reassuring. Almost immediately though, she released it as she felt her belly tighten once more. She leaned forward into the wall and pressed her forehead against her hands, taking as deep a breath as she could. The familiar but nonetheless powerful sensation of pressure was becoming stronger with each more prolonged contraction. She had to admit she felt the labour progressing rapidly.
"Mother, is there nothing you need, nothing I can do?" Mírra doubted if she was the right companion for Arwen at this time. "Shall I send for father?"
Arwen paused. The King had been unavoidably away from Minas Tirith during the births of his daughters. And Eldarion's arrival had been so overwhelming that they had been cautious, neither knowing what to expect.
"I am not sure," she said shakily as she found her voice again. "His presence was never an option before."
She was still thinking on the matter when Corrina came over. The midwife was old but not aged, with only a few streaks of grey yet in her brown hair. Her expression showed kindness and capability.
"By the looks of it, we will have a new prince or princess before the sun sets. How are you faring, my Lady?"
In answer Arwen gave a low, fragile moan.
"Until a few moments ago, my answer would have been, ‘very well'." She swallowed and regained a modicum of composure. "Now, though, I wonder if I should heed my daughter's advice and take some rest."
Arwen allowed her companions to assist her to the bed, and she lay down slowly on her side against the pillows, continuing to rub her taut belly.
Corrina saw Mírra's concern for Arwen. "My dear, would you be so good as to fetch some clean towels for me? And perhaps another pillow for your mother?"
Mírra smiled, somewhat relieved to have a task.
While she was gone, Corrina took advantage of the opportunity, and made a quick examination.
"You're making quick progress. It should be only a few hours more, I would imagine."
"So soon? But I have not been in great pain, not until just now."
"This is your fourth, your highness. It would not be unusual for things to progress more smoothly than your earlier births. Your body has likely been preparing for hours already."
The Queen nodded in agreement. "I think this is going to be fast."
Despite her discomfort, Arwen was becoming excited by the prospect of finally greeting her child. And with a sudden thrill she knew who could be with her.
It was only his voice that she caught at first. Then his hand was there, holding hers, and she grasped it for relief.
"Meleth-nîn," she nearly whispered, opening her eyes to look into his.
"At first I thought something was wrong, when you sent for me…"
She shook her head, even as the concentration in her face betrayed the effort of what was taking place.
"I wanted you with me. It felt right."
Just then Arwen sat up slightly. She dipped her head and winced silently as the pain intensified. While it faded she began to breathe hard, nearly panting.
Aragorn swallowed. "Mellwain, I'm not sure what I should do."
She turned to him and smiled as she answered. "You can support me by sitting by me, simply being with me."
He sighed inwardly and felt a small measure of anxiety vanish.
"Where is Mírra?" she asked, after exhaling a slow breath.
"Gone to find Lúthea. I think she was a little nervous."
Arwen nodded, allowing herself to relax against him momentarily. But the moment was short, for she soon closed her eyes once again and knitted her brow as another contraction came on fast. She leaned into Aragorn and pressed her forehead into his shoulder, and released an intense moan that could no longer be stifled.
Aragorn put his free hand to her back and began to rub. He could feel the muscles of her body tight underneath his fingers. The tension at last seemed to give way under the applied pressure, but not entirely.
Arwen caught her breath, feeling the support of her husband beside her. She felt his hand steady in hers.
"I am glad you're here."
"So am I."
Looking for a way to pass the remaining hours of waiting, Mírra joined her sister in the library. With Aragorn's help, Lúthea had already found several books of interest, and was settled in a small corner of her own. At the King's request, the library attendants passed by from time to time, and observed the younger princess with gentle curiosity.
Lúthea sat on a bench at a large table in one of the side reading rooms. The toes of her slippers dangled a few inches from the floor as she quietly turned the pages of the large book in front of her. The parchment was filled with text and many drawings, colourfully detailed.
"What have you found here?" Mírra came and took a place next to her sister. In some small way the table resembled her father's study, with all sorts of books laying open.
"Father showed me how to find stories." She frowned a little at her words. "No, that's not right. They're called history books. There are whole shelves full of them."
Mírra could not help but smile at how engrossed Lúthea was with it all. She nodded to the book in front of them. "What's in this one, then?"
"It's about a place called The Shire." She turned back a few pages, and with both hands lifted up the cover to show her sister the large illustrations. "There's a map of it, here."
Mírra recognised some of what she saw. "Father knew this place well, didn't he? He used to tell us about it when we were very small."
"The halflings – no, the hobbits. They live there." Lúthea's dark eyes sparkled. "But they don't live anywhere else, only in The Shire. And no one else may go there, no one of our size, I mean." Lifting her arm, she pointed a slender finger in the direction of the bookshelves nearest their table. "That section, there. That's where the histories of the hobbits are."
"This place is far north, on the other side of Middle-Earth," Mírra said, studying the map. "I wonder if I will ever be able to travel so far." The last part she spoke quietly, half murmuring to herself.
Lúthea touched her arm, and met her eyes earnestly. "But you don't need to go there. You can read about it."
Mírra smiled again. Her sister was so different from her in some ways. But she was content to share in her enthusiasm for the tales of other lands.
"Alright then. What does it say about this place…" she let a fingertip land somewhere on the map. "…Tuckborough."
"I haven't read that far yet." Lúthea began to turn pages again. "But we can find out."
The two girls turned their similar dark eyes to the book. They passed the next few hours together, reading and talking quietly.
It was much later, after day had turned to evening, when the King and Queen sat together comfortably on the bed. Arwen held their new daughter as they quietly took in the newness of it all.
"To think it has been more than seventeen years, since we sat here with Eldarion."
"I cannot quite believe it myself," Arwen replied softly. She touched her fingertips to the child's cheeks, then stroked over the small curled fingers.
Aragorn shook his head slightly as he went back in memory. They had been so overjoyed then, to at last become parents after two decades of waiting. This fourth time, they took each new moment as it came, simply for what it was.
Arwen saw how captivated her husband was. Gently she nudged him, and passed the child into her father's arms. She laid herself against the pillows next to Aragorn, resting a hand comfortably at his elbow, feeling fatigue take over.
Aragorn held the baby carefully but surely, cradling one hand underneath the small brown-haired head. He found himself once again entranced by the tiny features, by what the two of them had brought into being.
The newborn awoke and blinked slowly, adjusting to her surroundings.
It was only then that Aragorn noticed her eyes. Their three older children, however different they might have been in other respects, all had dark eyes like their mother. But as he looked into his new daughter's face he was greeted with a pair of light grey eyes, like his own. They gleamed brightly up at him.
"Like little stars," Arwen observed.
She could see a curious expression – of happiness, recognition – cross his face. His eyes were locked with his new daughter's.
"She has hold of you now," said Arwen sleepily.
Aragorn turned away from his daughter, long enough to smile back at his wife.
"So it would seem."
ada = father (dad, daddy)
meleth-nîn = my love
mellwain = dearest
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.