11. Chapter 11
Theo turned from gazing out over the Pelennor Field at the sound of the Queen’s voice. Arwen approached, her movement so graceful that she almost seemed to float. Theo felt a thrill in his stomach. In their few days in Gondor, he and Eomer and Fari had all developed something of an infatuation with the Queen.
“My Lady,” he said, nodding.
She stood next to him, leaning on the low wall at the embrasure that opened at the tip of Minas Tirith's highest level. “It is lovely up here, when the stars come out. You feel you can reach up and touch them. It is very peaceful.” She paused for a moment and the only sound was the wind. “But I suspect you will not be finding much peace yet?” She turned her gaze on him and Theo had the momentary feeling that she could see right into his heart.
“My Lady?” he asked, wincing at the squeak in his voice. He sighed. “Can you read my mind?”
She smiled at him. “No, Theo. That was my grandmother’s gift. But I do not need it to see that you are still deeply hurt, though you try your best to hide it.” She laid her hand on his. “Ivy has told me all that has happened with Rose Gamgee.”
Theo turned away. He didn’t really want to talk about Rose. He was trying very hard to forget her.
“Theoden.” She squeezed his hand. “I would like to tell you a story. A love story.”
“Beren and Lúthien, I suppose?” he asked, a bit surly, gazing out at the horizon where the stars were just making their appearance. “The standard by which all other love stories are compared?” He knew he was being rude, but he was tired of everyone wanting to 'help' him. Rose was gone. There was nothing he could do about it.
Arwen didn’t seem to notice his bitterness. “No, Theo. This one is similar, but a little more...” she paused for a moment, smiling, “...relevant.”
Theo shrugged. He wasn’t in the mood for a story, but she was the Queen. If she wanted to tell him a story, he wasn’t going to argue.
“There is an Elven lady and a Man, but in this story, the man listens to those who tell him it is wrong for a mortal to love an elf. He is told that the only way to save her is to leave her. But no one considered what the lady wanted, what she was willing to sacrifice to be with her love. Because the elf lady believed that an eternity without this Man would be worse than death. But she was also torn between the Man she loved and making her father happy.”
Theo sighed. “This is your story.”
“Indeed it is, Theo.”
“But it all worked out for you. You married Aragorn. Rose... She’s got someone else now.”
“It was not so easy for us,” Arwen said. “We both nearly made the wrong choice. He left me, believing I would take the Ship to the Undying Land. And I almost did. I did not turn back until I was nearly to the Shire.”
Theo furrowed his brow. He’d never heard this before. “What made you turn back?”
“The future,” she said softly. “A vision of our future, and what I would lose if I took the easy path.”
“She’s afraid,” he said, suddenly needing to tell Arwen everything, “of what people think. She listens to what everyone says, that it’s not right that we’re together. She said she loves me, but she thinks she’s not good enough to marry the Master’s heir. She thinks that leaving me is best for us both.” He was surprised to feel tears rolling down his cheeks.
Arwen reached out and wiped the tears away, smiling gently at him. “She takes the easy path. You have to convince her to turn back.”
“How? Just about everyone is telling her she’s doing the right thing.”
“Do you truly love her, Theo, with all your heart?”
“Yes! I’d do anything for her. I’d fight a Balrog! I’d go to the ends of the Earth for her!”
Arwen smiled. “I hope you will not have to go so far.” She took his hand. “Come with me.”
She led him back to the King’s House. They entered by a side door. Down the hall, Theo could hear his family and friends gathered together. He’d had to escape, because he’d been tired of acting happy.
Arwen led him to the parlor where they’d first met the King. “Wait here,” she said, and she left through another door. Theo looked around the room. It was furnished relatively simply for a King. The furniture wouldn’t have looked out of place in Brandy Hall.
Arwen returned and in her hand she carried a small wooden box that easily fit in Theo’s palm. "Open it," she said.
Inside was a beautiful silver chain. Theo lifted it out and his fingers felt large and clumsy around the tiny links. A small pendant hung on the chain, a wire knotwork that reminded him of Rohan--but simpler than the knots that were a common decoration for the Rohirrim. The necklace was light as a feather and shimmered brightly even in the dim candlelight.
“It’s mithril, isn’t it?” he asked in awe. He’d been allowed to touch Bilbo Baggins’ mithril chain mail once, on a trip to the museum at Michel Delving with the Gamgees. The metal shirt had felt like the softest linen beneath his fingers.
Arwen nodded. “The pendant is a symbol of undying love. No beginning and no ending.” Theo looked closer at the pendant and saw that there wasn’t any visible seam to the loop. “It is a courting gift given by an elf to his beloved.” Arwen smiled, a bit sadly. “This one had belonged to my mother, given to her by my father.”
“Oh.” Theo knew that Arwen’s mother had left Middle-Earth long ago, because of some great hurt that had been done to her. He held the necklace out to her.
“No, Theo,” she said. “I want you to give it to Rose.”
“But, my Lady...” he stammered, shocked. “It’s your mother’s and... I’m just... Shouldn’t you give it to your son to give to a girl?”
“Something tells me that I should give it to you,” she said. She knelt to look in his eyes. “I see the love for her in your eyes, Theo. She will see it, too.”
A commotion in the hall alerted them that the gathering was breaking up. Theo put the necklace back in the box and slipped it into his pocket. “Thank you, my Lady,” he said, a new resolve growing within him. She smiled and turned to greet her guests.
"You seem to be in a better mood lately," Eomer said.
Theo shrugged and put down the glass flower he was examining. They were out exploring the city today, and he was looking for gifts for his Bolger cousins. Clara and Chloe had pestered him relentlessly about bringing them back something from his trip south. He was sure they did it just to try to distract him from his problems and cheer him up, but he'd buy them something anyway. "I suppose I am," he said to Eomer. He picked up a bird shaped out of blue glass. Chloe would like that.
"Any particular reason?" Eomer asked.
Theo shook his head and dug some coins out of his coat pocket to pay the boy tending the glassblower's stall. "Just in a better mood, I suppose." He collected the cloth-wrapped bird, then continued on his way through the market. Eomer trotted to catch up with him.
He hadn't told Eomer or Fari--or anyone--about Queen Arwen's gift. He didn't want anyone to know about the necklace, not until after he'd given it to Rose. That way, if she refused... Well, then he wouldn't have to deal with their pity.
The pendant had restored his hope, even if it was only the slimmest of hope. And that slim hope had lifted some of the darkness from his mood. Every night he pulled out the little box to look at the necklace, thinking about the day he’d be able to give it to Rose. He no longer pushed himself to try to forget her--as if he ever could have! Instead, he would rub the delicate chain between his fingers and think about how he would give it to her, what he would say to her.
Theo looked in the direction of Eomer's nod, to where Fari was approaching, his hands full of sticks of roasted meat and vegetables. "Three for each of us!" Fari said, and passed over the food to his cousins.
Theo decided that though the Big Folk didn't eat much, what they did eat was outstanding. They'd passed the stall earlier, where a man from Umbar was selling food from his homeland. The spices were unlike anything Theo had smelled before and it had made his mouth water. Fari had offered to run back to the stall to get their lunch.
They found a place to sit, a bench in front of a shop selling cloth, and watched the Gondorians pass by on their daily business. The sheer number of people packed into the city made Theo long for some open spaces. How could they live here, piled in on top of each other, hardly ever touching the earth--real earth, not the small gardens tucked occasionally tucked between the buildings? He was looking forward to going to Ithilien in a few weeks, where they'd remain at the Steward's home for the rest of their stay in Gondor. And now he was looking forward to going home to the Shire to see Rose.
"You're in a better mood, Theo." Fari said. "Are you done moping about Rose?" Eomer smacked his cousin on the ear and Fari made a face at him.
Theo chuckled. No matter what, at least Eomer and Fari would always be predictable--Eomer to watch out for him, Fari to say things without thinking. "Come on," he said, tugging on Fari's sleeve. "I need to find a present for Clara." He smiled. And perhaps he'd find something for Rose as well.
Theo wasn't at all surprised when Ari decided to go back to Rohan with Beorfrith at the end of the month. The boy had horses on the brain. He got on all right with his Gondorian cousins, but he missed his cousin Éomund in Rohan. The boys had become best friends in their short time together.
"Dad tried talking to him a few times," Fari had told Theo and Eomer, "but Ari's stubborn." Fari shook his head. "Ivy's a mess over it. She doesn't want him to go."
But Pippin finally, reluctantly, gave permission for Ari to go back to Rohan. Willow berated Ari afterwards, for 'making Mum cry', and Ari apologized to his mother. Ivy just hugged him and told him she understood, but she would miss him.
Theo was glad Ivy let Ari go, or else he was going to have to have a few words with her. Ivy had made a similar decision years before, to come to Gondor for three years, and his mother had cried for days after Ivy left.
They said their farewells to Ari and Beorfrith on the last day of October. Ari rode next to his cousin on a pony borrowed from the King’s stables, barely giving a wave before following Beorfrith out to Minas Tirith's winding road. Ivy sniffled and turned her face into Pippin's collar, and the rest of the family was somber, but Theo couldn’t help but be happy for his nephew.
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