1. The Creature
Arwen stood by the window of her room, looking out at the fair land that unfolded before her as Arien arose. Ithilien looked lovely at this time of year, for it was finally spring and now great patches of flowers and grass covered the ground. She took in a deep breath to smell the fragrance of the awakening nature and smiled. Ithilien reminded her of Rivendell in many ways, unlike Gondor. Not that she felt unhappy in her new home, far from that. How could she be unhappy when she was by the side of the man she had loved for so many years, after waiting patiently till he had finally taken up his position as the King of Men? Anyway, Legolas had assured her that the trees his people had planted in Minas Tirith would grow soon enough.
A knock at the door cut off her musings. "Come in!"
The door was opened and a servant girl entered, bowing courteously.
"My lady? Lord Faramir is expecting you at the great hall."
"Tell him I will join him shortly," the queen said, inclining her own head cordially, thus dismissing the girl. As the latter curtsied and went out of the room, Arwen remained by the window for a while longer, still gazing over the horizon; until, putting her mind into it, she placed the royal circlet on her head and walked out, too.
Lord Faramir was sitting thoughtfully in the great hall when Arwen found him. At her appearance, the Prince of Ithilien swiftly arose to bow his head.
"Suilad, rhín nín," he said. "Hodannech mae?" *
Arwen inclined her head in cordial greeting as well and answered with a small smile: "I did, thank you."
The prince smiled also, with a tinge of embarrassment. "Forgive me, my lady. I had forgotten your wish for us to speak in the Common Tongue."
"No harm done, my lord Faramir," the Elven Lady assured him. "I simply believe that, as Queen of Gondor, I should speak the language of its citizens."
The Prince of Ithilien nodded approvingly. Lady Arwen proved fair not only in face but in words as well.
"And you, Lord Faramir? How do you fare this morning?"
"Quite well, I thank you," said the Man.
"And your wife, Lady Éowyn?"
"She is fine as well, though I believe there are times when she misses her home in Rohan."
"I understand the feeling. There are times that I, too, miss my home; but I am certain that, with time, she will start to enjoy living in Emyn Arnen. The place has become beautiful."
"It gladdens my heart that you approve, my lady. The Dwarves had put forth all their skill with the rock to make this fortress the best it could be."
"Indeed. The people who came to settle here from Minas Tirith seem to believe so," noted the queen. Indeed, ever since the fortress in Ithilien was built, an important number of citizens settled in the fair realm as well. That was one of the reasons that the royal couple of Gondor and Arnor decided a visit was necessary: to make sure everything was in working order in the colony. It was true that this was more of a typicality, considering both Arwen and Aragorn had absolute faith in Faramir's ruling skills; on the other hand, it was also a good opportunity to renew the firm bonds of alliance and friendship that connected the former Steward and the King. Hence why it was Arwen that made that visit rather than any other representative.
"It is unfortunate that Lord Elessar did not accompany you as well," noted the Man.
Arwen shook her head solemnly. "I fear Aragorn has to look to the preparations for the oncoming feasts to celebrate the defeat of Sauron. And I should soon be there as well to assist him."
"I understand," said Faramir. "When do you intend to leave?"
"Tomorrow, at the first light Arien casts on the world. And you? When will you and Éowyn honour us with your presence?"
"The day before the festivities begin. I will leave Dûrinas in my stead," answered the prince. "The advisor has proven his worth at replacing me when necessary more than once and it will be good for both Éowyn and me to ride to Minas Tirith. If anything, she will be more than glad to see her brother; whereas I will be happy to see Mithrandír and the Halflings."
"As will they, I am certain," Arwen said, laughing a bit. "I, however, will welcome most the arrival of my own family. It has been almost two years since I have last seen them."
"To one of the Firstborn, this must seem like only a day," observed Faramir.
"Yet the heartache in parting is just as strong to us as it is to the Secondborn," replied the Elven lady rather sadly.
It was then that a servant appeared and bowed his head in greeting.
"Begging your pardon, my lord. Captain Damrod enquires if you will be able to inspect the troops today."
Faramir frowned. "I was under the impression that Captain Beregond would do it."
"I am afraid, my lord, Captain Beregond has already left for his patrol. Captain Damrod said that he set off earlier than usually today."
"Oh, that is right!" exclaimed Faramir, his face lighting up in remembrance. "Then tell Captain Damrod to get his men ready, I will come shortly."
The servant bowed and walked out to see to his errand. As soon as he had vanished from sight, Faramir turned to face Arwen.
"I fear I am needed elsewhere, my lady," he said apologetically.
"Do not fret, my lord Faramir, I am aware of the duties a prince has," said the Elven lady kindly. "Besides, it will be my opportunity to visit the gardens within the fortress."
"It is well. Perhaps you will find Éowyn there as well. That is her usual haunt at about this hour."
"It will be a delight to be at her company," replied Arwen with a slight smile.
"I believe she will think so, too. She has not made many acquaintances just yet," noted the prince. "And now we should part. I hope you will join me and Éowyn afterwards, at dinner?"
"Of course," said the Elven-woman, brightly. "Till then, my lord Faramir," she added, bowing her head courteously.
"Till then, my queen," replied the prince, bowing also; and, with no other word, he walked out.
Arwen never regretted her decision to walk in the gardens, for their beauty was such that she marvelled at it and her heart was glad. She wished now, more than ever, that Aragorn were with her. He would look at the blooming nature that now surrounded her and share her contentment.
There will be other chances, I suppose, she thought. Now all I know is that I wish to return to you, my love. It was a wonder how a single day, a mere blink of an eye for a former immortal being, could trudge on and give the impression that time was at a standstill! She smiled a bit, considering the thought rather ironic.
Suddenly, Arwen's sharp sense of hearing picked up a sound that made her stop in her tracks. Pricking up her ears, she was intrigued to discover it was a woman's voice, reciting some words. Understanding who it could be and feeling her curiosity growing, the Elven lady walked at the direction she heard Éowyn's voice.
The fair woman was indeed in the gardens as her husband said she would. Yet she was pacing nervously up and down and holding a rather thick book, which she read fervently.
"Kingsfoil – also known as athelas in the noble tongue and asëa aranion in the high Elven-tongue: a small plant with white petals that gives out a soothing fragrance when bruised. Used rarely as it is not known to have any beneficial medical properties. Grows amid rocks and colonies of old. Once gathered it should be kept in a dry place…"
Éowyn instantly cut off her reading and sat on the ground, a dejected look in her face.
"If it has no beneficiary properties, what is the purpose of learning about it?" she exclaimed.
"Well, for one thing, it does have medical properties – wondrous ones in fact. But only in the hands of a king."
Éowyn instantly lifted her gaze; then quickly stood up to bow.
"Forgive me, my queen. I did not see you," she said humbly. "Have you been here long?"
"No, be at ease," Arwen assured her, smiling. "I just could not help overhearing your studying of the medicinal herbs."
Éowyn averted her gaze and sighed sadly. "I may be studying it, but I am far from learning anything."
"Why would you wish such a thing, though?" asked Elven-woman curiously. "You are a shieldmaiden, taught in the ways of war."
"Taught in the ways of war, yes; but a shieldmaiden no more," corrected Éowyn, shaking her head. "I promised Faramir I would put aside the sword and become a healer, taking care of every growing thing."
"Has he asked such a thing from you?"
"No," admitted the fair lady. "But I will not have people saying that their lord decided to wed a wild thing from the North either."
Arwen smiled a bit and she stood by Éowyn, noting the fire burning in the mortal woman's eyes. The blonde clearly wanted to prove to the others that she was worthy of her husband's choice.
"Perhaps I could offer my assistance?" asked Undómiel. "My father is a healer and he taught me the art."
Éowyn's face beamed at once. "You would do that for me, my queen?"
"Of course," said Arwen with a smile. "I will even teach you a couple of things that I am certain you will not find in the books," she added mischievously.
Éowyn smiled broadly and bowed, touched by the Elven-woman's offer. "I thank you, my lady."
Evenstar, however, cupped the blonde's chin, prodding her thus to look up at her. "A simple 'Arwen' will suffice. Our husbands are already connected with bonds of friendship; we should try the same thing."
Éowyn's cheeks reddened in a rare blush. "As you wish… Arwen."
"Good," said the Firstborn, pleased. "Then let us be on our way. No, you do not need the book! I always believed that the best way to learn about herbs is to see them on their natural environment. I passed by some roses a little while ago, so I suggest we start from there. By the way," she added, her bright eyes tinkling even more, "did you know that the petals of a rose are edible?"
Smiling at the Elven-woman's eagerness to teach, Éowyn followed Arwen in the gardens, the book tucked under her arm and forgotten. This would prove a most interesting day.
Night started settling swiftly. After finishing with his duties for the day, Faramir now was standing by the courtyard, waiting for Beregond to return from his patrol. The sound of laughter made him turn and he saw Éowyn with Lady Arwen, conversing mirthfully and holding some plants within pieces of cloth.
Éowyn was the first to see Faramir and she greeted him with a loving kiss. Though caught by surprise at first, Faramir answered the kiss with the same love and regretted when he had to break that spell to greet Arwen.
"I trust you enjoyed the walk in the gardens?" he asked.
"Indeed, I have, Lord Faramir," answered Undómiel with a smile.
"We both did," Éowyn jumped into the conversation, smiling even broadly.
"That is good to hear," said Faramir, happy to see his wife in such high spirits.
"I helped her with the study of herb lore," offered Arwen when she noticed Faramir's mild puzzlement. "And she is quite a bright student, I may add."
The Prince of Ithilien bowed at this. "Thank you, my queen. It was quite thoughtful of you." Turning to Éowyn, he caressed her cheek and looked at the herbs she was holding. "I cannot wait to see what have you learned."
"I will show you once we retire to our chambers," said Éowyn with a tinge of pride. At that moment, her eyes drifted at the starry sky above and noticed something wrong. "Has not the patrol returned yet?"
"No," said the prince. "A thing most odd, since Beregond is never late."
"Let us hope they did not come across any danger," said Arwen with concern.
A neigh echoing from outside the walls put all three at ease. The great doors opened, and a group of a dozen horsemen came in, led by Beregond. After they had all dismounted, Beregond walked up to Faramir, Éowyn and Arwen to greet them. Faramir clasped both hands on the captain's shoulders, not able to hide his relief.
"It was high time you arrived!" he said in a slightly reproachful tone.
"I know and I am sorry, my friend; something came up though," replied Beregond solemnly. He leant closer to Faramir. "Hon cennim ad."**
"Man?!" exclaimed the prince softly, astounded. "Mas?"***
"Ú-sí. Trenarathon i narn ned lû thent,"**** answered Beregond.
"All right," agreed Faramir. "Go refresh yourself, you know where I will be."
Beregond nodded his understanding and went up to his rooms.
"Is something amiss?" asked then Arwen, wondering at the men's exchange of Elven words, and also the caution with which they spoke. If their intention was not to be understood by the people around him, it failed in the case of Arwen; yet she still couldn't make neither head nor tail of what they were talking about.
"Hopefully no," answered Faramir. "I think it will be best if we retire to the great hall." And at that Faramir went inside, followed by Arwen and Éowyn. As they were walking, Arwen heard the fair woman murmuring softly.
"I really do not like it when they do that."
"What?" asked the queen.
Éowyn leaned closer. "Faramir and Beregond have been friends from childhood and they made it a habit to speak in the Elven-tongue whenever they want to discuss something without being understood by others. I do not mind them wishing to keep something between them, but it can prove tiresome."
"Well, to appease your curiosity," said Arwen, "Beregond said that they saw somebody, but when Faramir asked where, the Captain answered he will tell him in a short while."
That had Éowyn thinking hard. "I wonder who they were talking about."
"I think we shall find out soon."
The time came sooner than they believed. Both women and Faramir had settled for dinner at the Great Hall, when Beregond came into the room and, after bowing courteously, joined them. Arwen noticed the thoughtfulness in the captain's eyes as he ate in silence and again her curiosity was piqued.
"Well, Beregond?" finally asked Faramir as dinner was coming to its end, "Where did you see our elusive 'friend'?"
"At noon, on our way back to Emyn Arnen. The men and I were resting our bodies from the many hours of riding, when I saw him from afar amid some trees. I thought he was a bear or something of the like before I realised who it could be, but when I tried to take a second, better look, he was gone. I told all the men to search the area, and yet no one caught sight of him again. It was as though he had vanished."
"Please, forgive my interruption," said then Arwen, feeling more confused than ever. "Not all of us know the tale from the beginning."
"Of course, forgive me, my queen. In my eagerness I forgot myself," said Faramir. He nodded to Beregond, and the First Captain understood what it was asked of him.
"He was first seen three months ago," he said. "Nobody can tell if he came to this part of the world recently or if he has been here all his life and only now we chanced to see him for the first time. He is a Man-like creature, darkly clothed and quite shy of anyone travelling close by: all the people who came across him in one time or other – myself including – were able to get but a glimpse of him before he would disappear in the shadows of the forest."
"Why was Minas Tirith not informed of this?" asked Arwen, though what she really meant was: "Why was this kept secret?"
"He is only one, and we know nothing about him for that matter," answered Faramir with a shrug. "I did not want to worry anyone else without gaining any more information about him first. I did not even say a word to the people of Emyn Arnen, not wishing to arouse any unfounded panic."
"He could still prove a danger, however," said then Éowyn. "To me it seems that he avoids being seen by the patrols because he knows he does not stand a chance against a large number of armed people."
"I would have agreed with you, my lady, but for one thing," replied Beregond. "The first to have seen this phantom was a woman, collecting fruit in the forest. She was close enough to see a knife tied at his side with a cloth belt and realise that, had he put his mind into it, he could easily catch her and kill her. Yet all he did when he realised he was being observed was to leave."
"Perhaps he did not know she was alone and did not wish to take any risks?" suggested Arwen.
"Or he was caught by surprise and that unnerved him?" said Éowyn.
"Both theories are quite likely and I considered them myself. But there are a few facts that contradict them," replied the First Captain. "I talked to the woman, and she told me that one of the two things that surprised her was that, though he had his back on her and she didn't make a sound, he seemed to know she was there, because he didn't show any signs of surprise when he finally saw her."
"What was the other thing that surprised her?" asked Arwen, unable to hide her wonder.
"That she never felt threatened by his presence. Nor did the woodsman who saw him last week, nor I."
"Is that enough to prove to us that he is a friend, though?" asked Éowyn thoughtfully.
"No, but it is enough evidence that he is not a foe," noted Faramir, who had in the meantime signalled to the head servant to have the table cleared. "He merely wants to be left in peace, just like any other forest creature."
"And yet what will happen if he feels provoked?" asked Arwen.
The prince shook his head. "I know not, my Queen. That possibility has not become a probability for the present, that much I can say."
"What needs to happen till it becomes a probability?" said Éowyn. "People must be warned that they must be cautious when venturing out of the fortress."
"My love, though I share your fear, I have reasons to believe that, if the Creature had any intentions to kill, he would manage to do so in spite of any cautions taken. We have seen him three times, indeed. But who knows how many times he has seen us, and yet did nothing about it?" argued Faramir. "There is also the problem of what will happen if we do warn the citizens at this time. There will be those who are foolish enough to enter into the forest in order to hunt down the Creature and kill him – all for the single purpose of earning praise from everyone. And if they do kill him, nothing will come out of it, except that I will punish the miscreants for disregarding the warning. On the other hand…" the prince emphasized those words, "what will happen if they do not succeed? Then the Creature will have every right to feel provoked and woe will befall to any unfortunate enough to walk through the woods."
"I understand now what is your worry," admitted Éowyn.
"As do I," seconded Arwen. "Captain Beregond, will you keep an eye on the Creature on your patrols?"
"I will, my Queen," answered the captain, "and all my men will keep track of him the best we can. I cannot make any promises though, for he knows how to slip one's vigilance."
"As long as you try, it will be enough," Arwen assured him.
Beregond bowed low politely; then turned to Faramir, his eyes saying all that he meant to say.
The prince smiled in understanding.
"You can go. I am sure your brother will be waiting for you to catch up on tidings." Indeed, Iorlas was among the people that had escorted Arwen to Emyn Arnen and Faramir didn't fail to notice how glad were the two brothers to meet again.
"Thank you," said the other man with a small smile of his own and, after bidding both women goodnight, he walked out.
Faramir arose from his seat, too.
"I believe we should retire as well," he said. "You have to start early tomorrow on your journey, my queen. Éowyn, will you walk with me to our chambers?"
"If it is all right with you, my love, I will see Lady Arwen to the guest rooms."
"No problem at all," answered Faramir with a smile. Kissing his wife lightly on the cheek, he added: "I will see you later on."
Answering with a kiss of her own, Éowyn took a lantern and beckoned Arwen to follow her, and thus the three went their ways.
"A most strange tale," commented Arwen while the two women still walked. "I do not know what to make of it."
"Indeed," agreed Éowyn. "And I cannot help but feel curious about the Creature. Where did he come from? For how long has he been living in the forests of Ithilien? But, above all else, what worries me is what his intentions might be."
"I am afraid I am not able to answer any of your questions," answered the Elven lady. "Yet I have lived long enough to tell you this: there are many creatures in this world and there are many more destined to enrich it when the time is ripe; and all of them, good or evil, have their purpose in this world and add to the glory of the Valar and Eru, the One."
"I see the wisdom in your words and your advice is fair," noted Éowyn with genuine admiration. "I will keep the words in both my mind and heart."
Arwen only smiled at this, feeling flattered.
Just then, Éowyn stopped.
"We have arrived to your room," she said. "I bid you goodnight, Arwen, till our next meeting." She bowed slightly.
"Goodnight, Éowyn. I truly enjoyed your company today."
"So have I," answered the other woman, smiling back; then walked away.
Arwen entered into the room and, after changing into her night garments, she lay down and pulled the sheets over her. Sighing deeply, she turned and looked out the window at the stars shining on the dark sky. Although she had appeased Éowyn, Arwen couldn't help thinking of what she had learned at the dinner table and feel troubled by it. She had to admit that Faramir was right: there was nothing that could be done about the Creature except try and find more about him; nevertheless, she decided she should speak to Aragorn about this news upon her return. She wanted to hear his opinion on this matter.
With that last thought in her mind, the Elven-lady drifted to the land of dreams, the starlight bathing her and covering her slender form like a second, lighter blanket.
*Suilad, rhín nín. Hodannech mae?: Greetings, my queen. Did you rest well? (Sindarin)
**Hon cennim ad.: We saw him again (Sindarin)
***Man?! Mas?: What? Where? (Sindarin)
****Ú-sí. Trenarathon i narn ned lû thent: Not here. I will tell the tale in a short while (Sindarin)
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.