4. See the blazing Yule before us
"Wherever can they be?" Éowyn fretted. The White Lady of Rohan and Ithilien paced anxiously across the floor of Arwen's sitting room, where both ladies stayed with their babies while awaiting the return of their husbands.
"Maybe one of their horses went lame?" Arwen said placidly. She was sitting on the rocking chair by the fire, feeding Eldarion.
"We should never have sent them out together!" Éowyn fretted, as she paced the room. "I should have known better! The mistletoe was not so important that they should risk danger to collect it!"
"Nothing ill will have befallen them. They are grown men and seasoned warriors, more than capable of taking care of themselves," Arwen replied. "I would sense if any ill had befallen them."
"Well, I may not be blessed with far sight, seeing as I am neither of the Eldar nor of Númenor, but my common sense tells me that it does not take five hours to fetch some mistletoe from scarce three miles away. They could have walked there and back long ago in that time."
"I am certain we have no need to worry," Arwen assured her friend. "Please stop pacing. You and Aragorn will most surely wear out the carpet between you! He paces like that too when he is restless."
"Ada, da, da," gurgled Eldarion contentedly, as his mother wiped his milky face and rose from the rocking chair to settle him into his cradle.
"Yes, you shall see ada soon, my big boy," Arwen cooed, "Who saw the pretty decorations with Auntie Éowyn and Estelien this afternoon?"
Éowyn stopped pacing for a moment and smiled at the memory of her little daughter and Eldarion, reaching for the ribbons with chubby fingers, their baby faces alight with pleasure.
"I wish Faramir had been there to see our daughter grabbing the ribbons," Éowyn lamented, resuming her agitated pacing across the room.
"I should change my gown," said Arwen, "If they are late, we will have to greet the guests. Stop pacing, please, Éowyn, you are making Eldarion's cradle shake!"
Éowyn sighed, but this time obeyed. She took her daughter from her cradle and settled with her in the rocking chair that Arwen had recently vacated. She was just unfastening her gown in preparation for suckling her, when a tap came on the door.
"May we enter?" Aragorn's voice enquired.
"Come in, we were expecting you!" called Arwen.
The door opened and a bedraggled King and Steward entered, clutching armfuls of mistletoe.
"Where have you been?" scolded Éowyn, "The banquet will begin soon!"
"Dame Gudrun kept to her word and made us wait until moonrise," Aragorn explained.
Éowyn snorted, "You are the King and the Steward, you should not be commanded by some old woman! And why ever have you brought all that in here?"
"It is the mistletoe you said you wanted," Faramir protested.
"Not in here, in the Merethrond, you foolish men! The servants are there waiting for it," scolded Éowyn.
Looking rather crestfallen, Faramir make to leave again.
"It is lovely mistletoe, thank you for bringing it to show us," Arwen said soothingly. She smiled at Faramir and kissed her husband, reaching to enfold him in a loving embrace.
"You had better not touch me," Aragorn said rather sheepishly, "I have dirt everywhere, it seems."
"Little wonder, as you are covered in cat hair!" Éowyn observed, "And you are both covered in leaves and twigs. I told you to fetch some mistletoe, not a fur or a forest!"
"We had better go and wash," said Faramir.
"You most certainly should bathe, before you are either coming to the feast or sharing my bed tonight!" Éowyn said sternly.
"Never mind, nothing is wrong that hot water will not cure," Arwen said briskly, "I have already told the servants to heat some water. Off with you both now, or you will be late, but be sure to give Lalaith the mistletoe first and tell her to send someone to brush the carpet in here."
"I shall ask her to save it after the festivities," said Aragorn, "I am sure the Houses of Healing could put it to good use."
"Have you no sense of romance?" Éowyn groaned as the men made their escape, dropping leaves and berries behind them in their wake.
"Women!" King and Steward muttered under their breath simultaneously, "What must it take to please them!"
"Éowyn did not even offer me a kiss after we carried all that mistletoe," Faramir lamented glumly.
"And Arwen is always fretting about her carpet!" Aragorn added, as they walked morosely down the corridor.
They were so engrossed in their own thoughts that they almost bumped into Elbeth, who was being shepherded in the direction of Arwen's rooms by her nurse.
"Hello!" the little girl said brightly, "You look nice with leaves in your hair, Uncle Faramir. Is that how you are going to go to the party? Can I have leaves in my hair too?"
"You will have to ask your Aunt Éowyn," Faramir said wearily, "We saw a nice cat, this afternoon, Elbeth, you would have liked it."
Elbeth pouted. "Why do grown ups have all the fun?" she asked, "Aunt Éowyn made me try dresses on all afternoon. Why can't we go to parties wearing our usual clothes?"
"I only wish we could," Aragorn replied. "Maybe next year, you could come and see the cat with us," he added to placate her.
"Well, you're the King, so why don't you make a law that everyone must wear ordinary clothes to feasts and festivals?"
"I could, but the Queen would not like it," Aragorn explained. "Now you had better go and prepare. Uncle Faramir and I need to have a bath."
"Aunt Éowyn made me have one too," Elbeth said sympathetically, "It was before I had to try the dresses on."
"Did you find a pretty one?" Faramir enquired.
The little girl frowned, her grey eyes flashing. "No, they were horrible, with heavy brocade and sleeves that nearly dragged on the ground! I said, I'd rather stay in my room and have bread and jam for supper than wear them. Aunt Arwen said then she would see what she could find. I expect she will find something even worse, with silly gold threads and beads all over it.
Aragorn repressed a smile, suddenly remembering a conversation with his wife a few weeks ago. "Maybe your Aunt Arwen will surprise you," he said enigmatically, "I do not think she is partial to elaborate fashions any more than you are!"
"Come Lady Elbeth, you need to change into your party frock!" The nurse bowed and led her charge away. Elbeth's expression was more grim that that of a criminal on the way to execution.
An hour later, the King and Queen, accompanied by the Prince and Princess of Ithilien and the Lady Elbeth, were ready to greet their guests.
The beautifully decorated Merethrond sparkled with the light from hundreds of extra candles in honour of the occasion, a fitting setting for the splendour of the lords and ladies gathered within it.
The Queen looked exquisite in a simple gown of crimson velvet trimmed with silver. On her head, the Evenstar wore a coronet of mithril set with diamonds. Her long black hair hung loose and was braided with hundreds of tiny diamonds, which glittered like frost with the sun shining upon it.
Éowyn had chosen a gown of forest green silk velvet embroidered in gold to match her hair. She wore a gold circlet on her head, adorned with emeralds. Aragorn and Faramir were dressed in near identical outfits comprised of black velvet tunics and breeches, embroidered in silver and gold. Aragorn's dark head was crowned with the Elendilmir, while Faramir's freshly washed and combed raven hair was bound by the mithril circlet, set with a moonstone, appropriate for the Prince of Ithilien.
Elbeth, standing between her Aunt and the Queen, no longer looked miserable. Instead, she was happily preening herself and feeling very grand in her new gown, a surprise present from the Queen. The frock was cut as Arwen's own raiment, with silver trim visible only on the garment's sleeves and hem. The crimson velvet set off the little girl's black hair and bright grey eyes to perfection; while the full skirt twirled when she moved and caused the silver embroidery to glitter in the candlelight.
Aragorn formally welcomed the guests and explained that this celebration was a traditional Yuletide festival, such as was held in the northern part of his kingdom. First the Yule log would be brought in, then there would be half an hour of dancing followed by the banquet, after which more dancing would round off the evening. He had decided to have some dances before they ate to give Arwen and Éowyn a chance to take part before they needed to return to their children.
A healer and a soldier had been given the honour of bringing in the Yule Log, a massive branch of oak, which was carefully dusted with flour and laid before the blazing fire. Asking Éowyn, if she would assist them in this custom of her people, Aragorn and Arwen moved forward to perform the traditional duties for the master and mistress of the hall.
A servant brought a tray, on which were three basins, containing salt, oil and mulled wine.
Aragorn asked Éowyn to hand him the salt, which he solemnly sprinkled on the log and intoned "May the land be cleansed of evil!"
Arwen then took the oil and poured it, saying as she did so, "May the land be at peace!"
Finally, Aragorn took the bowl of wine from Éowyn and said, "May the land be fruitful!"
The soldier and the healer carefully placed the log on the fire.
The harpist took up his instrument and played quietly while Aragorn intoned;
"Let this Yule log burn so bright;
To chase away the power of night!
Before the embers die away
May the sun return to stay
May the Valar bless this day!"
They stood for a moment in silence until the flames leapt up and enveloped the log. The assembled guests clapped, while the children present, cheered aloud.
The musicians then struck up a merry tune and Aragorn approached his Queen, "May I have the first dance, vanimelda?" he asked?
"Gladly, my beloved!" she replied.
He took her hand. Soon they were gracefully dancing, their steps in perfect harmony. Faramir and Éowyn joined them, and then two by two, the other guests took their places, until the Great Hall was filled with dancing couples, swirling across the floor like colourful blossoms in the breeze.
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.