25. Bedtime Story (Arwen, Eldarion)
Aragorn was pleased that his duties were over in time to allow him to join his wife in a family ritual that he usually missed: putting the child to bed. Every night, after the nursemaids had bathed and dressed the young prince in his nightclothes, the queen would dismiss them and take Eldarion to his bedchamber herself. She would tell him a story and sing softly in her lovely voice. Elven dreams and visions of great beauty would drift across his eyes, until they closed in a sound sleep.
The king strode through the nursery suite, and the startled maids dropped curtseys as he passed; they called out "my lord king," and he greeted them briefly with a smile and a nod. But when he turned into Eldarion's room, he found a somewhat different scene from what he had expected. Barefoot and nightgowned, his four-year-old son was standing in the middle of the room, brandishing a wooden sword and shouting, "You might be a play-acting spy! What do you say to that?" Seeing his father, Eldarion put on a ferocious face and charged. "Strider!" he shouted.
"Arwen," the king said, as he held the small body whacking at him with the wooden sword, "what are you teaching our son?"
Laughing helplessly at her husband's surprised face, Arwen gasped, "The Prancing Pony—I told him the story of the Hobbits and the Ranger, and he just found out that you are Strider. He is being Sam. Such great timing!"
Aragorn closed his hand around the small arm brandishing the wooden sword. The scowl on his son's fair Elven face bore an uncanny resemblance to Sam Gamgee's look of suspicious disapproval. He was about the right height, too. "That's enough, my son. Shall we discuss this, perhaps?" and he knelt down to look at his son face to face.
Eldarion let out a peal of delighted laughter and threw his arms around his father's neck. "Is it really true, papa? You are Strider?"
"Oh, it is really true," Aragorn said. "But you are Strider, too." He picked up the boy and they joined the queen on the bed.
"No, I'm not," the prince said. "I am Eldarion."
"And is Eldarion your only name?"
"I am the son of Elessar," he said proudly.
"And what is the name of our House?" Aragorn asked him.
"Oh!" the prince said. "Telcontar. Is that what you mean?"
"Most certainly. And that is 'Strider.'"
"Strider!" the boy shouted again. Slipping off his father's lap, he began strutting around the room. "Here is Eldarion being Strider."
"Arwen," Aragorn said to his wife, "promise me one thing."
"And what is that, my love?"
"Do not tell him about Gollum."
"Lurking by a stagnant mere, peering in the water as the dark eve fell, I caught him, Gollum. He was covered with green slime. He will never love me, I fear; for he bit me, and I was not gentle."
—Aragorn at the Council of Elrond
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