Eldarion arrived the next morning. His parents greeted him with warmth and, in Arwen's case, tears trembling on her lashes. He smiled and blotted them away with the end of her scarf, putting them down to a mother's excess of tenderness. Then the King swept him off to spend the day in close conference, the two of them alone, and of what they said to one another, neither ever spoke to anyone else. Something, however, must have been said of Canohando, for when Eldarion encountered him in the dining hall that evening, standing guard behind the Queen's chair, the Prince met the orc's eyes with a slight smile and a nod of his head; evidently the arrangement met with his approval.
That was not the case two days later when Elladan and Elrohir found the orc in Arwen's presence. She was sitting with her ladies by the fountain of the White Tree. One of the ladies was singing and playing on a lute, and some of the others were stitching at their fancywork as their custom was, but Arwen herself sat idle, trailing her hand listlessly in the water. There were no guardsmen to be seen, for in daytime their station was on the other side of the gate, but Canohando was the Queen's Shadow, and he stood a little distance away, leaning casually against the wall, his unmilitary posture masking his watchfulness. He had plaited his hair into a myriad of small braids that hung against his cheeks and forehead, and even in the uniform of the Guard he looked uncouth and wild.
The gate opened suddenly and the sons of Elrond burst into the courtyard, in their eagerness hastening ahead of the servant who came to announce them. Canohando took four swift steps from where he had been lounging, planting himself between Arwen and the twins, his sword unsheathed in his hand. The maiden who had been singing screamed and dropped her lute, and Arwen whirled round to see what had frightened her.
"Elladan!" she cried. "Canohando, stop! They are no danger; they are my brothers!" She flung herself into Elladan's arms, catching Elrohir by the hand and dragging him with her into the embrace, and Canohando slid his sword back into its scabbard and went to lean once more against the wall, untroubled. He had been ready to defend the Queen, but she was not in peril.
“What is this, Arwen?” Elrohir exclaimed, pulling free of her hug. “Are men in short supply in Gondor, that you have some minion of Sauron wearing the black and silver? The fine trappings do not match his loutish bearing, Sister!”
His eyes on the orc were full of loathing, and Elladan added, “How is it that the King permits this, Arwen Undomiel?”
The Queen stood very straight, and in truth she was no more than a hand’s span shorter than they were, tall and lordly though they seemed. “The King does permit, and he has sworn this orc to my service, not Sauron’s! This is Canohando, who met the Ring-bearer in Mordor and turned from the Dark. Frodo gave him the Jewel he wears around his neck, and I have confirmed the gift.” A roguish smile peeked out from her stern visage, like the sun behind storm clouds. “Estel told him he must be my shadow, and I had not heard that shadows were known for military bearing! But he is very faithful, and as you saw, very fast.”
Elladan’s brows drew together; plainly he was not reconciled to his sister’s new guardian. “And if you had not called him off, what then? Can your shadow tell friend from foe?”
“You startled him, Elladan, and he does not know you.” She did not want to tell them the story of the Guardsman killed in the Throne Room, and she wondered uneasily what might have happened, if she had not stopped the orc. She and Canohando were going to have a quiet talk together, before this day ended...
“I think we will have words with Estel about this, Sister,” said Elrohir. “But for now, we will leave you and go wash away the dust of the road.”
She smiled. “I will walk with you. I am glad indeed to welcome you, my brothers.” But they noted a sorrow in her eyes that did not match her smile, and as she stepped between them and took their arms to go into the palace, neither of them was pleased to see Canohando detach himself from the wall and follow behind them.
“I gave him to her for her safety, and I trust more in that orc than in twenty Guardsmen.”
The twins had lost no time in bringing their concern to the King, but he seemed little inclined to listen to them. Neither did he shrink from telling them the full story, and from him they learned of the man killed in the Great Hall, and how Canohando made amends for that death.
“You should rather have hanged him above the city gates,” Elrohir said with anger. “Have we three not fought orcs from West to East, above ground and below, since you were old enough to carry a sword? What of Celebrian, our lady mother -- would she countenance that her daughter is guarded by an orc?”
The King sighed. “Sit down, Elrohir, and cool your heat with a little iced wine. Canohando is not like any orc you have ever met, nor I either. He is Frodo’s orc, bound by friendship and blood-pact to the Ring-bearer. You heard that Radagast the Brown took Frodo back into Mordor, after the War?”
Elrohir accepted a glass of wine and passed one to his brother. “We heard rumors, but I had not credited them. Not that the Bird-tamer would not venture such madness, but that the hobbit would go with him. Did Frodo not die in his own country many years ago?”
Elessar nodded. “He did. But for sixty years before that he roamed the Black Land with Radagast, and the reports I’ve had from Mordor since then say it is no longer desolate. Life has returned there, thanks to the Brown Wizard’s labor, and a few orcs were redeemed, as well. That was Frodo’s doing. See now, my brothers!” He leaned forward, looking into their eyes, intent. “My time draws to a close, and Arwen will have a choice to make, or more than one. If she go to the Havens, it is a long journey, and not every danger has been vanquished in Middle Earth, even now. If she hold to the choice of Luthien, she may yet linger many years, and I would not leave her open to harm. You two will guard her with your lives, I know, but here is Canohando as well, ready to die for his Lady of the Jewel, and a redoubtable warrior. Would you rob her of his service, because Celebrian suffered at the hands of orcs? Canohando was never in the Redhorn Pass!”
They sat silent, and Elladan tossed back his wine in one gulp and stood to refill his glass. At last Elrohir said, “You are saying that the Doom of Men is at hand, Estel, and you are soon to depart? That was the import of your message to Rivendell.”
The King inclined his head. “Eldarion is ready for Kingship, and I depend on you, who are twice over his uncles, to support and advise him. But how if you are doing that, and Arwen choose not to remain in Minas Tirith? She may wish to return to Rivendell, I deem, or even Lothlorien...”
Elladan’s voice was heavy. “Lothlorien fades into the mist, Estel. The mallorns are dying, without Galadriel, and it will be no different from any other land before many more years have passed. And Rivendell itself is more memory than substance, these days. It is the Age of the Dominion of Men, indeed.”
There was a long silence. “Alas that the fall of Sauron should compass the fall of so much that was lovely and good,” the King said at last. “My brothers, you have also a choice to make, and time comes on apace. Will you pass over the Sea? For I perceive that it will not be long now, before the last Ship departs.”
The twins locked eyes across the table, and the King saw that they were not of one mind on this matter, yet neither would suffer the other to choose another fate than himself.
“You have problems of your own, my friends,” he said. “Suffer me to provide a guardian for your sister who has no other thought but to protect her. "
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.