37. The First Feast
The First Feast
With very grateful thanks to Raksha who thought of this plot and wrote a considerable part of the story.
"Please keep still, ion nîn," sighed Arwen, as she fastened a mithril brooch depicting the White Tree to Eldarion's tunic.
"I just can't wait for the feast, naneth!"
Aragorn, who had entered the room in time to hear his son's words smiled wryly. Eldarion, was now deemed old enough to attend his first State Banquet, a feast being held in honour of his father's birthday. The King had long since given up counting how many banquets he was required to attend. Aragorn considered feasts vastly overrated and vastly preferred a simple meal with his family and close friends, or better still, cooking something he had caught himself over a fire in the wilderness.
"Now, you must be on your best behaviour, Eldarion," fretted Arwen. "Eat slowly, don't play with your food, and only speak if someone speaks to you."
"Yes, naneth, I promise I will be good," said Eldarion. He could still hardly believe that his parents were allowing him to attend the feast. Until now, he had been lucky if his nurse had taken him to where he could see the guests arriving in their colourful finery. He would then have to return to the nursery with his baby sister and hope that his mother or father would bring him a cake or handful of sugared almonds the next day. Now he was a big boy, able to join the grown ups. It was even worth having to wear an embroidered tunic and breeches for the occasion!
"Come!" said Aragorn. "It would not do for us to be late for my own birthday feast!"
The King and Queen together with their young heir made their way to the Merethond.
Eldarion gazed in awe at the beautiful garlands of flowers and ribbons that decorated the vast chamber. Equally magnificent were the fine clothes worn by the guests. The little boy was certain, though, that his mother was the fairest lady present. Arwen wore a gown of silver, with more white stars than Eldarion could count embroidered all over it. Her black hair was crowned with what her son knew was the Queen's circlet of mithril, and her black mantle carried their emblem of Seven Stones and Seven Stars and One White Tree upon it. And his father looked just as magnificent; bearing the circlet called the Elendilmir, and clad in deep black, with a silvery-white mantle clasped by a silver star. When the King turned, Eldarion could see, outlined in black, the white tracery of the Stars and Stones and Tree on his father's mantle. Eldarion felt a thrill of pride! His parents both looked like they had stepped out of his storybook! He was sure that even Lúthien Tinúviel had not been so beautiful as his mother. And no one else had a father who was not only the greatest King in the world, but also the tallest man in all of Gondor!
"You shall sit next to me, Eldarion, as this is your first banquet," said Arwen, taking her seat next to the King at the head of the high table.
Eldarion sat down, taking care not to knock over any of the elaborate flower arrangements, which adorned the table. Rather to his disappointment, he found Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth sitting on his other side. Eldarion did not like the Prince very much; he was so stern and serious that Eldarion was a little frightened of him. Uncle Faramir was a serious person too, but Eldarion knew that the Prince of Ithilien could tell wonderful stories, and even liked to play games sometimes. The only things Eldarion did not like about Uncle Faramir was that he spent far too much time with Eldarion's father talking about dull grown up things they called "affairs of state" or even worse, going on hunting and fishing trips together without Eldarion. Uncle Faramir had a little boy called, Elboron, who was still too small to play properly and a little girl, Elestelle, who thought Eldarion's games too rough to join in and much preferred playing with silly dolls!
The feast began, after the standing silence, with a solemn toast to the King. Eldarion raised his glass as he had been taught. His mother smiled approvingly, as did Uncle Faramir and Aunt Éowyn who sat opposite to him.
The first course was tomato soup. Eldarion spooned his carefully from the bowl to his mouth and succeeded in not spilling any; either over his best velvet tunic or the spotless white tablecloth. Next came the roasted meats, which Eldarion did not especially like, but he managed to eat the small portions he was given and even pass the salt to Prince Imrahil without spilling it. The little boy was pleased when the next course was served; pear custard topped with snowe, a delicious concoction his mother had told him was made from eggs and cream. Eldarion smiled happily when he was given a dish piled high with the creamy delight. The boy picked up his spoon and began to eat. He tried to obey his mother's instructions to eat slowly. He was concentrating so hard that his spoon slipped from his grasp and fell on the floor.
Forgetting what he had been told about asking a servant to bring him a fresh spoon, in the case of such accidents, Eldarion wriggled under the table to retrieve it. His mother was preoccupied in talking to his father and not looking at him.
"Eldarion! Whatever are you doing?" The boy was startled by his mother's loud whisper. He scrambled back on to his chair, in his haste knocking his dish with his elbow. The bowl skidded along the table and overturned, spilling its creamy white contents all over Prince Imrahil's elaborate silver and blue tunic!
"Master Eldarion!" The Prince's tone was like ice. Servants clustered around him, picking up the dish and wiping Imrahil's tunic .The damage, though, was done. The silver swan emblem on Imrahil's chest was now wet and spotted with bits of custard.
"Eldarion!" His mother's voice was full of horrified concern.
"I am sorry, Lord Imrahil. It was an accident," Eldarion stammered.
"I accept your apology," said Prince Imrahil. He did not look as if he accepted Eldarion's expressions of contrition! The Prince looked as if he might start what Eldarion's parents called a Diplomatic Incident. Eldarion did not fully understand such things, but from what his Naneth had said, there could be fussing and shouting and threats of something called Higher Tariffs, maybe even War.
Eldarion flushed scarlet. All eyes were upon him. He was sorely tempted to hide under the table, but knew that would make his parents angrier than ever.
"I'm sorry," Eldarion repeated, his lower lip starting to tremble.
A merry chuckle broke the tense silence that had fallen upon the gathering. "You take me back to my own first great feast in my youth!" smiled Aragorn, his voice full of kindly reassurance. "There was a high Elf-Lord present called Glorfindel, with golden hair like Legolas' or Lady Éowyn's shining locks .He was wearing a white tunic that night, too. I somehow knocked over a dish of beetroots over Glorfindel's golden hair and snowy tunic, turning them both bright purple!"
The assembled company laughed and it was not at Eldarion.
"I recall knocking over a dish of peas, which rolled all over the floor," said Uncle Faramir.
Lord Húrin and his Lady laughed, as did Lord Legolas, and even Prince Imrahil smiled. "I remember; Faramir, you were just four years old," The Prince said. "You laughed and cried out 'No more peas!' It was during a banquet welcoming the envoys from Dale; and even your father smiled. You had decided you did not like peas; and in fact refused to eat them until the cooks added onions."
Soon, almost the entire company were sharing stories of their own mishaps while the next courses were served. By the time they rose at the end of the meal, Eldarion's accident was quite forgotten by all save the young prince. The little boy started to yawn as the servants prepared the hall for the dance to follow the feasting.
"It is time you went to bed, ion nîn," said Arwen, looking fondly at her son. "I will summon your nurse."
"I will take him," said Aragorn. "I will return soon."
Alone with his father, Eldarion again started to apologise. "I'm sorry, ada. I didn't mean to spoil your birthday feast!"
Aragorn laughed. "Quite the contrary!" he smiled. "I will tell you a secret, Eldarion. Tonight was the most entertaining birthday feast I have enjoyed in years thanks to your presence. Older people sometimes only pretend to enjoy these great feasts for they are often very boring! You will grow to manhood, all too quickly, ion nín, so enjoy your youth while you may, even though you still have much to learn. I am very proud of how well you behaved tonight, ion nîn. Feasts are not easy, even for your father!"
Eldarion looked into Aragorn's twinkling grey eyes as he received his goodnight kiss and realised his father was truly not angry at all.
"Happy Birthday, ada," he murmured sleepily as his nanny carried him away to bed.
A/n This was written a while ago for the AA list prompt "Youth".
I am publishing it now in honour of Aragorn's birthday on March 1st.
I have a new work in progress on this site "Catastrophe", which I hope you will check out.
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.