21. Waters of Life
By the waters of Life we sat together,
Hand in hand, in the golden days
Of the beautiful early summer weather,
When skies were purple and breath was praise – Thomas Noel 1799-1861
With grateful thanks to Raksha for her help
A gift for Julia
This is where I found the stream, my lady, just up here," Faramir explained.
Aragorn smiled at the Steward and took his wife's hand, helping her up the steep slope. He had long desired to show her the hidden lake, Faramir's discovery of which had restored both King and Steward in body and soul.
Today was the anniversary of the King and Queen's marriage and together with their Steward; they were taking a rare break from their duties and exploring the slopes of Mount Mindolluin. Arwen had finally decided that now Eldarion was fully weaned, he was old enough to be left for a full day in the care of his nurse.
Arwen gazed upon the stream in delight. Its clear waters sparkled like diamonds in the June sunlight. "It reminds me of fair Nimrodel!" she said. Kneeling beside it, she cupped her hands and drank deeply." Never before have I tasted water so sweet outside of the Elven realms!" she exclaimed in delight. "It would further gladden my heart to see the lake from whence this stream flows."
"I will lead you up the mountain to it, beloved," said Aragorn, smiling at his wife's obvious delight.
"I will await you here," Faramir announced.
"You are welcome to join us, mellon nîn," said Aragorn. "We do not plan to go swimming, so you need not worry about respecting the Queen's privacy."
Although Arwen could swim, she did not especially enjoy it, unlike the two men. The King was secretly relieved. He feared disrobing here to go swimming in the lake with his beautiful wife might arouse feelings, which would be far better suited for their bedchamber than for this hallowed place.
"I would rather stay here and admire the view," said Faramir. "I am not especially partial to climbing mountains."
Aragorn smiled at him gratefully, acknowledging his tact. He had wanted Faramir to come with them, feeling it was only fitting that the Steward should show Arwen the stream he had discovered. Yet he yearned to be alone with his wife when he showed her this special place.
"We will return soon, farewell for a while." Patting his friend on the shoulder, Aragorn took his leave of the Steward and offered his wife his arm to escort her up the mountainside.
Arwen's Elven grace made her surer of foot than her husband. Soon it was she who guided and aided him as they toiled up the steepest part of the path.
Aragorn became slightly apprehensive as they rounded the final bend. Was the lake truly as beautiful as he recalled? Sometimes, it seemed almost like a dream, the short time he had spent there with Faramir and experienced the nearness and the blessings of the One.
"Let me go first now." He tightly gripped Arwen's hand. Together they emerged onto the plateau.
His fears were groundless. If anything, the mountain lake was even fairer than when he had first beheld it. The clear blue sky reflected in the peaceful waters, while an air of wondrous tranquillity pervaded the atmosphere. The scent of fair blossoms perfumed the air while graceful butterflies danced amidst the flowers. Even the birds sang more sweetly here. Graceful swans glided across the lake's surface while the breeze rippled the flowers and grasses that grew along the verdant shores.
"Estel!" Arwen's beautiful eyes sparkled with sheer joy. "This place is wondrous fair! See, here is the niphedil you told me of!" She knelt on the grass and tenderly caressed the fair white blossoms. For a moment her eyes filled with tears at the memories of the parents who had taught her to love these blooms and the grandmother in whose now deserted realm they grew so freely.
"Arwen!" Aragorn knelt beside her and tenderly stroked her hair. "I did not realize that such sights would make you homesick. Maybe I should not have brought you here. Forgive me!"
"There is no need, Estel. Home is where you are at my side," she assured him fervently. "And how can this not be my home since the flowers that bloomed for my foremother rise up to greet me! I will not swim, but I would taste the water." Thus saying, she pulled off her shoes and stockings and waded into the shallows, lifting the hem of her gown free of the water. She laughed joyfully as the waves rippled over her bare feet.
Aragorn hastily shed his own footwear and rolled up his breeches to his knees. He joined her. Hand in hand, they encircled the lake. The birdsong grew ever more rapturous.
"The birds offer me sweet music!" she exclaimed, "I must dance!"
Aragorn sat on the bank and watched her, enthralled. Her graceful form seemed almost to float above the grass. Her beauty and charm had not dimmed since that long ago day when he had first glimpsed her amongst the birches at Rivendell. In his eyes, marriage and motherhood had enhanced her loveliness even more.
Her voice soared in an ancient lay, more rapturous than the nightingale.
No longer content merely to watch, Aragorn joined her, though he felt clumsy by comparison. Her soft cheek caressed his and memories flooded back of the time they had spent together in Lothlórien. Her song was filled with an ecstasy he had not heard since those long vanished days of bliss when they had trodden barefoot on Cerin Amroth.
Wearied at last, they sank together on the bank and Aragorn took her tenderly in his arms and kissed her. "Vanimelda, how I love you!" he exclaimed.
"I love you more with each day that passes, Estel!" she told him, returning his kiss. How she delighted to feel his strong arms around her!
They knew not for how long they tarried there, savouring each other's nearness and exchanging tender kisses.
Suddenly, the breeze ceased and the birds fell silent. It were as if all nature held her breath in eager anticipation.
Arwen grasped her husband's hand tightly, sensing they were no longer alone, but in the highest Presence of all. The One was there, and they were a part of something so immense that no words could ever describe it. They were blessed by that Presence, telling them they were, and ever would be, the Children of Eru, granted an especial grace throughout eternity.
Arwen sensed yet another blessing; new life was stirring within her.
King and Queen rose to their feet and reverently bowed their heads.
Hand in hand they descended the mountainside to rejoin Faramir, the light still shining in their eyes.
A/N This is a sequel to "A Time to Reap", especially chapters 9 and 10 set about four years after the conclusion of the story.
It has been published on other sites for some time, but somehow I forgot to post it here.