41. The Brightest Star
The Brightest Star – Linda Hoyland
These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
With thanks to Raksha, Virtuella and Deandra.
Summary- Aragorn and Arwen comfort an ailing Eldarion.
A/N Written for the Teitho contest – "Stars", where it was placed second. Revised and dedicated to Harrowcat on the occasion of her birthday.
With some trepidation, Aragorn hastened to the nursery at the summons of Eldarion's nanny. Had his adored son been up to some mischief, or had some ill befallen him?
"Master Eldarion seems to have caught a bad cold, sire", the little boy's nanny informed the King as soon as she beheld him.
"I expect he caught it from Lord Faramir's children when they played together the other day," said Aragorn. "Lady Éowyn said they had been sneezing."
Eldarion sneezed. Then he sneezed again and yet again. "I don't dike 'aving a dold," he said mournfully.
"I fear everyone suffers from them occasionally," said Aragorn. "You will be better in a few days."
"I don't feed dwell," Eldarion sniffed. "By dose is doo snuffy to breef! "
Aragorn frowned and placed a hand on his son's forehead. Eldarion did not protest. That was not a good sign. As he suspected, Eldarion's brow felt hot. The little boy was suffering from a slight fever. "I will put you to bed myself, and then your nanny can sit with you while I mix you some medicine to make you feel better," he said. "You can sleep in naneth's bed tonight."
"My droat durts," Eldarion croaked.
"I promise you will feel better tomorrow," said the King. "Now blow your nose, so you can talk properly."
"I want naneth," the little boy fretted as his father changed him into his night attire.
"She is coming soon," Aragorn reassured him. "She is at an important meeting, but will be home soon."
When Arwen arrived back in the royal apartments an hour or so later, she found her husband stirring some honey into an herbal concoction. "Is someone unwell?" she asked.
"Eldarion has a feverish cold," her husband replied. "I have put him to bed."
Arwen turned pale. "My poor baby is ill!"
"All mortal children catch colds. It will pass in a few days," Aragorn assured her. "It is nothing to worry about. He will just feel sorry for himself for a while."
"I must go to him at once!" cried Arwen.
"Give him this medicine, vanimelda," said Aragorn, handing the glass to her. "There is no cure for a cold, but it should ease his symptoms. I will join you later I need to study the details of the changes to import tariffs on silk to discuss with ambassador Tahir in the morning. Send for me at once if you have need of me."
Eldarion drank his medicine with much grimacing. "I'm hot!" he complained.
Arwen summoned a servant to bring water. She steeped some lavender in it and gently bathed Eldarion's face and neck with the mixture. She then tried to settle him down to sleep but the little boy remained fretful. He cast aside his blankets and continued to complain of being hot. At least he could now speak more clearly, the medicine having had some effect.
Arwen's father had always been a great believer in the healing powers of fresh air, a belief that Arwen had been puzzled to learn that very few of the Gondorian healers shared.
"I will take you outside," she told her son. She unlocked the door leading to the balcony, then took a blanket from the bed and wrapped Eldarion in it and carried him outside. It was a balmy spring night perfumed by the herbs in the garden below. Arwen wrinkled her nose at the pungent scent of wild garlic amongst the sweeter fragrances.
Her son in her arms, she settled herself on a chair and looked upwards at the heavens. She took a deep breath as she drank in the beauty of the stars, which never failed to comfort her. She recalled the long years that she and Estel had been apart. She had often looked at the heavens, knowing that he too was beneath those same stars, carrying her memory in his heart.
Eldarion seemed less fretful out of doors and nuzzled against her. He followed her gaze and looked upwards, his eyes coming to rest upon the brightest star in the heavens. "Why is that star brighter than the others?" he asked his mother. "Is it our special star?"
Arwen smiled at her son. "That is indeed no ordinary star," she said. "It is the Star of Hope, the ship in which your great- grandfather sails to give light and hope to Arda."
Eldarion looked puzzled. "How did he get up there?"
Arwen rocked him gently in her arms. "Long ago before I was born, when many bad things were happening in Middle-earth, Eärendil decided to sail to Valinor and ask the Valar for help. He had a beautiful jewel called a Silmaril, which he wore on his brow to light his way."
"Like ada wears the Star of Elendil?"
"Just like that."
"Is Valinor where my grandfather and grandmother have gone to live?"
"Yes, ion nîn." Arwen was silent for a moment. She blinked away a tear. "Eärendil reached Valinor and accomplished his mission, so the people of Middle-earth were saved. Now he sails across the sky every night, with the fair jewel he wears giving hope to all men as it shines in the darkness. Before your ada and I were wed, we were often apart, but we would look up at the star and think about each other and hope that one day our wish would come true that we would be married and have a little boy just like you!"
"Just like me?" Eldarion sneezed again. "Even when I sneeze?"
"Even when you sneeze, for all little boys get colds sometimes, your ada tells me."
"Does Great -Grandfather get colds?" Eldarion asked.
"No," said Arwen. "There is so one to catch them from in his ship."
"He is lucky." Eldarion sighed, then lapsed into silence until another thought struck him. "Doesn't he get lonely?" he asked.
"Great- Grandmother Elwing is waiting to greet him each morning," Arwen told him.
"Oh." Eldarion sucked his thumb thoughtfully. For once, Arwen did not chide him for the babyish habit.
After a few moments, Arwen realised that her son had finally fallen asleep. She continued gently rocking him in her arms. How fair his face looked in the starlight and so like his father!" She looked up at the stars and wondered if Eärendil could see this latest scion of his house.
A soft footfall behind her caused her to turn her head. Aragorn came to stand beside her. "How is he?" the King asked softly.
"A little better, I think," said Arwen. "He was too hot so I brought him outside where he settled and fell asleep."
Aragorn laid a gentle hand on his son's brow. "The fever has lessened," he said.
"Varda be praised!" Arwen gave a great sigh of relief.
Aragorn placed his arm tenderly around her shoulders. "The stars seem to shine especially brightly tonight," he said.
"Varda gives extra light for the spring planting."
"Once Eldarion is better, we should spend a few days with Faramir and Éowyn in Ithilien," Aragorn suggested. "It would gladden my heart to walk in their gardens beneath the stars with you."
"It would gladden my heart too," said Arwen. "Maybe Éowyn's herb garden would smell sweeter too. Do we have to grow wild garlic?"
Aragorn chuckled softly. "The Dúnedain wise women swear the best way to cure a cold is to walk in the woods where the wild garlic grows! It certainly seems to have helped our son."
Arwen wrinkled her nose again. "Maybe," she conceded. "More likely it was your medicine, though."
"Garlic was one of the ingredients."
The royal couple lapsed into silence as they gazed again at the stars, which twinkled against a midnight blue sky.
"I look at the stars and think just how small I am compared to their vastness," Aragorn mused.
"Some men glow as brightly as any star," said Arwen. "You shine in my heart brighter even than the Star of Eärendil!"
"Thus speaks the Evenstar named for her beauty, which surpasses even the glories of the heavens!"
Arwen laughed, but her eyes shone with tenderness.
"It grows chill," said Aragorn a little while later. "We should take Eldarion indoors. You should get some rest, vanimelda."
"Very well, but leave the curtain open and let the starlight in."
He gently scooped up his son in his arms and carried him indoors. Eldarion did not waken as he was tucked into his mother's bed and his parents climbed in on either side of him.
Soon all three were lost in peaceful dreams as the stars looked down upon them.