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27
Resting in Cormallen

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the recognizable characters; I am only borrowing them for fun for a little while. They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien.

Many thanks to J and Marsha for beta reading this chapter for me!

Words in italics are elvish and individual words are translated at the end of the chapter.


~~~

Gentle laughter drew Rebecca and Thomas apart and they stood for a moment with their foreheads touching before turning to look at Legolas and Gimli. Rebecca leaned against Thomas with her head on his chest and let out a contented sigh as he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer. Smiling at the elf and the dwarf, Rebecca began looking around the tent curiously, freezing when her gaze landed on Pippin and Merry. With a small cry, she pushed away from Thomas and rushed to where Pippin was lying on a cot, dropping to her knees next to the hobbit. Merry had Pippin’s unbroken hand in his and was whispering softly to his sleeping cousin. Rebecca looked at Thomas as he knelt down between her and Merry. He picked up her hand and squeezed it gently while placing his other hand on Merry’s shoulder.

“I know he looks bad,” Thomas said quietly, “but he’s doing so much better than, what, a week ago?” He glanced up at Legolas.

“Less than a week, five days,” Legolas said softly. “He was awake this morning asking for you Merry.”

“What happened to him?” Merry asked in a trembling voice.

Legolas crouched down next to the hobbit. “He saved several men when he killed a troll chieftain,” he explained. “Gimli and I looked for him for hours and Gimli finally spotted him buried under the troll. His sword was still in the troll’s heart and several of the men told us of his valor.” Legolas reached out and gently touched Pippin’s leg and a soft smile crossed his lips.

“What injuries does he have?” Rebecca asked, looking at the bandages with a healer’s eye.

“His shoulder was dislocated, his wrist is broken, he has four broken ribs, a wound on his head, and he swallowed some of the troll’s blood so his breathing has been hard for him at times. Though it’s improved a lot,” Thomas explained. “Aragorn says he’s healing well, it just takes time and there are so many wounded and so few healers that Elladan and Elrohir haven’t been able to tend to him like they did for you.”

“He’ll be up running around and annoying us in no time,” Gimli said gruffly.

His words caused Rebecca to smile in spite of her worry and she glanced at Thomas and Legolas to see the same amusement in their eyes.

“Where are Frodo and Sam?” Merry suddenly asked. “Why aren’t they in here with Pippin?” his voice rose in his fear and worry and Pippin stirred on his cot.

“Shh, Merry,” Legolas soothed softly, “they are in their own tent nearby. I will take you there.” He stood to lead them and then paused and looked gravely down at Merry and Rebecca. “I will warn you that Frodo and Sam have not awoken since Gandalf brought them from Mordor. Aragorn has kept them asleep this entire time and their condition appears even worse than Pippin’s, yet Aragorn is certain they will recover in time.”

Merry and Rebecca exchanged worried glances and then nodded, following Legolas out of the tent. As they left the tent, Thomas took her hand and Rebecca smiled up at him and sighed softly. “It’s so good to see you, Thomas. I’ve been so lonely for you.”

Thomas nodded. “I’ve missed you too, but I’m so glad you weren’t here.” His eyes took on a distant, haunted look. “This was truly horrible,” he said with a shudder. Pulling her to a stop, he gazed after Legolas and Merry and then looked around to see if anyone was in sight. His gaze fixed on a citadel guardsman who was standing some ten yards behind them and Thomas looked at him curiously. “May I help you?” he called.

“No, my lord,” he replied with a bow.

Rebecca sighed. “That’s Gílorn, one of my guards.”

“Your guard? You have a guard?” Thomas glanced from Rebecca to the guard and then focused puzzled blue eyes back on Rebecca.

“Yes, Faramir decided I needed a guard. There are actually two of them and they take turns.”

Thomas smiled. “Aragorn has guards too, and I think he hates it,” he confided quietly, mindful of the guard. “But he only lets his Rangers be his personal guards. These Citadel Guards,” he motioned at Gílorn, “guard the tents and the encampment area.” He laughed quietly at Rebecca’s expression.

Rebecca snorted. “Well, if he has guards and I have to have them, who else do you think is going to have them?” she asked with a smug expression.

Thomas blanched. “He wouldn’t do that to me, would he?”

“Faramir has guards too, so I don’t see why you wouldn’t have them. It’s all very strange,” she muttered, shaking her head and pulling on his hand. “I want to see Frodo and Sam.”

They slipped quietly into the tent and Rebecca saw that Frodo and Sam were sleeping on cots that were pushed closely together in the rather small tent. Merry was kneeling between the cots, clutching Frodo’s hand, his head on Frodo’s arm, and Rebecca could hear him quietly weeping. Her heart clenched in pain as she saw the hobbits’ still, pale faces with the numerous cuts and scrapes and Sam’s bandaged head.

Leaving Thomas, she moved to Sam’s bed and sat on the edge of the cot, taking his hand in hers and rubbing it gently. “Oh, Sam,” she whispered, looking at his thin body and knowing the suffering he must have endured to bring him to that state. Rebecca blinked back tears and turned her gaze to Frodo. She could barely see him over Merry’s back and so she turned to scan the rest of the tent. “Gandalf!” she exclaimed quietly, smiling at the wizard who was sitting on a small stool in the back of the tent, a smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eyes.

“Well met, young lady. You appear to be much better than the last time I saw you.”

“I am,” she replied, rising and moving to greet him. Gandalf stood and patted her shoulder gently and Rebecca smiled inwardly at his reserve. She took both of his hands and squeezed them anyway, which she could see both surprised and amused Gandalf. “You look,” Rebecca paused and studied Gandalf for a moment, “more relaxed, I think, than I’ve ever seen you.”

Gandalf laughed softly and was joined by Legolas. “Not that you have known me very long, young lady, but yes, I suppose I am. The enemy who has threatened Middle-earth for two ages has been defeated at last and the ones I so worried about,” he indicated Frodo and Sam, “have been returned to us. So yes, I have every reason to be at ease for a time.” He laughed lightly and shook his head.

Rebecca laughed along with him for a moment and then glanced back at the hobbits and saw that Merry hadn’t moved. “I think he’s going to be there for awhile. Maybe I should go see Aragorn and come back later.”

“He will be very glad to see you, though he has been busy,” Gandalf cautioned her. Nodding, Rebecca followed Thomas from the tent.

----------

“Marshal Elfhelm’s message said that all of the enemy forces in Anórien have been destroyed. He left a small force there, but pulled the rest of our men back to Minas Tirith,” Éomer informed Aragorn and Imrahil.

“Good.” Aragorn nodded, leaning on the parchment and map covered table in the tent they were using as a headquarters in the center of his encampment. “I was concerned that the enemy’s forces were larger than we had heard and that your men might have been overwhelmed. Prince Imrahil, how have our patrols done in seeking out the last remnants of the orcs and men of Sauron’s?” Aragorn rubbed his eyes.

“It goes well, my lord. We have four groups still out, led by Mablung, Damrod, Rilost, and Beraid.”

“Rilost and Beraid? They seem young,” Aragorn commented. “Though, I am sure we will have many young men leading our forces in the next few years.”

Imrahil nodded. “We lost many of Lord Faramir’s Rangers and as young as those two are, Mablung said that they would normally have been promoted to lieutenant soon.”

Aragorn shook his head and then paused, tilting his head as he heard the sound of voices he recognized outside the tent. He smiled slightly and glanced at Éomer, but said nothing. The tent flap opened and a sentry stuck his head in. “My Lord King, Lord Thomas is here and would like to see you.”

“Send them both in,” Aragorn said, ignoring Éomer’s and Imrahil’s puzzled looks.

Thomas strolled into the tent with a wide smile, leading Rebecca by the hand. “I brought someone to see you, Aragorn.”

“Rebecca.” Aragorn stood to his feet with a smile, and moved towards her. He wrapped his strong arms around her and embraced her gently but firmly; somewhat surprised by the way she was clinging to him. He gave Thomas a puzzled look, when he realized she was quietly crying, but Thomas shrugged. Aragorn pulled away and looked down at her with concern, tilting her chin up so he could see her eyes. “Why are you crying?” he asked softly.

“These are tears because I’m happy, Aragorn,” she said, smiling as she wiped them away with the back of her hand.

“Oh.” He pressed a kiss to her brow, giving Thomas an amused look which was returned.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again and… Éomer!” she exclaimed, spotting him and another man, whom she had never met, standing on the far side of the table. “It’s good to see you again.”

“Lady Rebecca,” Éomer said with a smile, moving around the table to greet her. He took Rebecca’s hand and kissed it gently as his brown eyes examined hers. “You look well, my lady.”

“Thank you, I feel well. I have a letter for you from Éowyn, but it’s in my pack. Maldathor and Lothrín went to find a spot to put up my tent, so I’m not sure where it is right now.”

“Who are Maldathor and Lothrín?” Aragorn asked with a slight frown.

“Lothrín’s an aide from the Houses of Healing who’s been helping me since you left and she came as my escort.” Aragorn nodded in approval. “Maldathor is one of my guards,” Rebecca said with annoyance.

“Faramir assigned you a guard?”

“Two of them; Gílorn is waiting outside. Faramir said you made him responsible for my safety and even though I told him I would be safe enough here with you, he gave me guards anyway.”

Aragorn’s lips twitched with amusement as he listened to Rebecca. “I am glad Faramir did this, Rebecca, because I intended to do so when we returned to Minas Tirith.” He raised his hand to stop her protests. “It comes with being part of my household,” he said gently. “Thomas will have a guard as well.”

Rebecca laughed and looked at Thomas. “I told you that you would have to have one.”

Thomas shrugged and sighed. “I’ll get used to it.”

Prince Imrahil cleared his throat and said with a small smile, “My Lord King, forgive me for interrupting, but may I be introduced to your ward? At least, I assume the young lady is your ward.”

Aragorn smiled. “Yes, she is and forgive me, Prince Imrahil; I had forgotten that you two had not met. Lady Rebecca, this is Prince Imrahil, Lord of Dol Amroth.”

Rebecca looked him over curiously and noticed he was studying her just as intently. “You are Boromir and Faramir’s uncle aren’t you?” Imrahil nodded once. “Boromir mentioned you several times, my lord.”

“Boromir was a good man,” Imrahil replied, “and much loved by my family.”

“I’m sure he was, he was always very kind to me.”

Looking from Éomer to Imrahil, Aragorn asked, “Is there anything else pressing that we need to discuss this evening? I would like to meet these guards of Rebecca’s and see that she is housed properly. We can meet later if we need to.”

Imrahil shook his head. “No, my lord, we can meet again in the morning. I would like to visit Erchirion, he is recovering well,” he sighed, “yet it will take time before he is able to be out of bed.”

Aragorn nodded and looked at Éomer who shrugged. “I have nothing, Aragorn. Perhaps I can come back later and get my letter?” he asked, his face unreadable and his gaze moved from Rebecca to Aragorn.

“Of course,” Rebecca said with a smile, while Aragorn nodded once and stared hard at the horse-lord before leaving the tent.

“I was not sure the Warden would release you, Rebecca,” Aragorn commented as they left the tent. “How do you fare?”

“I’m doing well, though my arm aches from time to time,” she said, glancing down at her splinted left arm. “My back and everything feel fine. The Warden was a little hesitant to let me come, but Merry and I convinced him.”

Aragorn stopped and looked down at her with an expression of concern on his face. “Is Merry with Frodo and Sam?” Rebecca nodded. “I am concerned that your arm still aches, you may be moving it around too much. Not that that would surprise me,” he said dryly. “I will look at it later. Is this one of your guards, Rebecca?” he asked, indicating a citadel guardsman standing a short distance from the tent.

“Yes.”

Aragorn looked at him with narrowed eyes, but did not like the fact he could not see his eyes very well. “Remove your helm,” he ordered quietly. He studied the man closely for a minute, taking in his sorrow filled eyes and was pleased when the man returned his intense gaze steadily, which many men could not. Aragorn nodded, satisfied with what he read in this guardsman’s eyes. “What is your name?”

“Gílorn, my Lord King,” he bowed deeply.

“Have you done this before?”

“Yes, several times, my lord, though mostly for visitors to Minas Tirith.”

“I expect you to protect Lady Rebecca well; she is most dear to me.”

“Of course, my lord, it’s a great honor to serve you in this way.”

Aragorn nodded in dismissal and the guard stepped back as Aragorn, Rebecca, and Thomas walked on. Rebecca glanced back to see two of Aragorn’s Rangers were also following them and she laughed quietly.

“Aragorn, when you get Thomas a guard, it will look like a parade is going by whenever we walk somewhere.” Aragorn snorted with amusement, but Thomas just grimaced. Her tent had been set up across the clearing next to the large tent where Thomas and the others slept and Aragorn could hear low voices within it as they approached. He was pleased at the size of the tent that Faramir had found for Rebecca, though he was somewhat surprised considering the pressing need that they had for shelter for the wounded. He would have to ask Faramir about it when he saw him. Following Rebecca into the tent he saw a pleasant faced middle aged woman in the dress of a healer’s aide and a young man in the uniform of the Citadel Guard setting up a cot on the far side of the tent. Aragorn watched with hidden amusement as their eyes widened as they looked from Rebecca to him.

“Lady Rebecca.” The woman curtseyed, though her eyes stayed fixed on Aragorn and the guardsman just stood silently, glancing from Rebecca to Aragorn and then finally to Thomas.

“Mistress Lothrín, Maldathor, I want you to meet King,” she paused and glanced up at Aragorn, “am I supposed to introduce you as Aragorn or Elessar? I’ve never actually done this before.”

Aragorn laughed loudly and put his hand on her shoulder. “I have not done it either,” he confessed in a whisper as he smiled down at her. “No, you better introduce me as Elessar, though you will still call me Aragorn.”

“I’ll try this again. Mistress Lothrín, Maldathor, I want you to meet King Elessar and this is Thomas.”

“My Lord King Elessar, Lord Thomas” they both said, Lothrín curtseying again and Maldathor bowing deeply.

“Maldathor,” Aragorn motioned for the guardsman to join him and he studied him as he approached. He was much younger than Gílorn and that worried him a bit, though he knew Faramir would have picked men that were well suited to protect Rebecca. Gazing at him intently, Aragorn watched as Maldathor cheeks began to flush under his scrutiny, but the guardsman did not look away. “Have you done this before?” he asked.

Maldathor shook his head, “No, my Lord King.”

Aragorn frowned slightly. “Do you know why the Steward selected you for this duty?”

“He said it was because my captain informed him that I was the best,” Maldathor cleared his throat, “the best at observing things around me and that I was quick with my sword, my Lord King,” he replied staring at the ground.

“Hmm, then you should do well.” Aragorn smiled at Maldathor as the man lifted his head. “Take good care of Lady Rebecca, Maldathor.”

“Yes, my lord,” he said, bowing.

Aragorn turned to Lothrín with a gentle smile. “Mistress Lothrín, I thank you for the care that you have given Lady Rebecca and for coming here to… look after her.” He glanced down at Rebecca to see the slight frown on her face and he smiled inwardly.

“You’re most welcome, my lord, it’s been an honor to serve both her and you.” Lothrín smiled at her long awaited king and looked at him closely.

Smiling faintly at her scrutiny of him, Aragorn asked, “Have you been in the Houses of Healing long?”

“No, just since my husband died some years ago in Osgiliath.”

“I am sorry,” he said with a look full of compassion. “Have you any family? No one to care for you?” he asked gently.

Lothrín smiled. “Oh, I have a wonderful daughter and two grandsons and…and a son-in-law that is here. At least I hope he is,” she said, her smile fading. “But I serve in the Houses because I want to do my part to help against the darkness.”

“In what company does your son-in-law serve? I shall send Lord Thomas to inquire after him.”

“That’d be wonderful. His name is Celeblas and he’s in the third company.”

Aragorn glanced at Thomas and the young man slipped from the tent. “Please sit, Mistress Lothrín,” he said indicating the cot. “It will be some time before he returns.” As she started to protest, he suppressed a sigh and sat on the other cot and she quickly followed suit. Aragorn studied Lothrín for a moment and then turned to Rebecca and Maldathor. “Rebecca, Maldathor, please wait outside the tent while I speak with Mistress Lothrín.” Maldathor bowed and left immediately, but Rebecca hesitated briefly before slowly following the guardsman out of the tent. Aragorn turned back to Lothrín to find her watching him with a slight bit of apprehension in her eyes, but mostly curiosity.

“What does my Lord King need?” she asked quietly.

Smiling, Aragorn asked in a low voice, “I wondered if you might be willing to leave the Houses of Healing and be Lady Rebecca’s maid.”

“Me?” Lothrín looked truly startled. “But I know nothing about how to do that and I’m not nobly born, my lord.”

“I know which is why you would be perfect for her in many ways. You could learn what was needed to be a maid.” Aragorn paused, looking at her shrewdly. “Did you know how to be a healer’s aide when you went to the Houses of Healing?” Lothrín shook her head. “I thought not. I do not know what Lady Rebecca has told you about her family, Mistress…”

“Next to nothing, my lord,” Lothrín interrupted and then paled. “Forgive me, my Lord King,” she whispered.

“It matters not,” Aragorn said gently. “Lady Rebecca’s family died some time ago and she became my ward. Lord Thomas’s family died as well. But, her family, being in the north, was not of the nobility and I fear it may take her some time to adjust to the royal court. You have a kind heart and I sense that she likes you and is comfortable with you. I believe that it would help her to have someone around her that she is already familiar with.” Aragorn watched Lothrín for a moment before he continued more slowly. “Even if you would agree to do this for only a few months, I would be most grateful, Mistress Lothrín. You do not have to give me your answer today; we will be in Ithilien for some time yet.”

Lothrín nodded and gazed at Aragorn for a time before smiling. “I will do this, my lord. But I would ask that if Celeblas is lost to my daughter and me that I be allowed to stay in my home with her and my grandsons. I would come early and stay late, but my daughter will need help. Otherwise, I will, of course, live in the King’s House as is expected of a lady’s maid.”

Aragorn nodded gravely. “Thank you, Mistress Lothrín. We will work out housing arrangements that will best serve your needs.”

“Halbarad!” Rebecca’s excited voice rang out from outside the tent.

“I believe my cousin has arrived,” Aragorn said dryly. “We will speak more of this later, but you may speak of it with Lady Rebecca if you wish.” Lothrín nodded and Aragorn arose and stepped outside. Walking to join Halbarad and Rebecca, he was relieved to see that most of the guilt seemed to have faded from Halbarad’s eyes as he stood talking quietly with her. He arrived in time to hear Rebecca ask, “Do you know what happed to Hasufel? Thomas told me he has Baldor and that Aragorn has Roheryn. Did someone else need to use Hasufel?”

“I know not, lady.” Halbarad turned to Aragorn with an eyebrow raised in question.

“I am not sure, but I believe that one of the Rohirrim took him, Rebecca,” Aragorn said softly. “I am sorry, but we were so short of horses.”

“That’s all right, I sort of thought that’s what happened.” Rebecca looked down at the ground for a moment and then gazed up at Aragorn with a small smile. “Of course you know what this means, don’t you?”

Aragorn had a very good idea where this was going, but shook his head anyway.

“You owe me a horse,” she said simply, her eyes sparkling mischievously.

“Hmmm, owe you a horse,” he said slowly, his eyes narrowing in thought. “I am sure that in times of war, the King is allowed to confiscate personal property if it is needed. What do you think, Cousin?” Aragorn asked, glancing at Halbarad with a faint smile.

“I believe that the lady is right as you were not actually the King at that time,” Halbarad replied impassively.

“I told you, Aragorn.” Rebecca grinned. “You owe me a horse, but this time I want one that is the right size for me, so that Halbarad can teach me how to saddle it and take care of it like he promised.” Halbarad suddenly coughed and looked at her in disbelief before smiling slightly.

“I believe we have both been taken advantage of, Cousin,” Aragorn said with a smile spreading across his face. “All right, Rebecca. It may take me some time, but after we return to Minas Tirith, I will find a horse for you.”

“I’m not in any hurry, I can’t ride right now, anyway. I’d just like to have a horse again someday. I think it might actually be fun to ride one without having to ride, oh say, seventy or eighty miles in a day.”

Halbarad chuckled and Aragorn just shook his head. “I see your sense of humor has returned.” She shrugged and then glanced beyond Aragorn and he turned to see Thomas returning, followed by a man, dressed in the uniform of the city guard, who had a bandaged leg and was limping. Assuming him to be Lothrín’s son-in-law, Celeblas, he looked to see Lothrín running across the grass towards the guardsman.

“Celeblas!” she cried as they embraced each other. Aragorn smiled at their reunion and turned back to Halbarad and Rebecca. “I am going to go see Merry and check on Frodo and Sam. Rebecca will you come or would you like to stay with Thomas and meet us later for supper?” Aragorn glanced at Thomas over Rebecca’s head to see the eager expression on the young man’s face.

“Oh, I think I’ll stay with Thomas,” she said with a smile. “I’ve been with Merry quite a bit in the last few weeks.”

“Then I will see you in a couple of hours.”

Thomas took Rebecca’s hand as he watched Aragorn and the others leave until he was left with just Rebecca and her guard, Gílorn, standing in the little clearing in front of the tents. He sighed and then looked down at her. “Let’s go down to the river, I can show you around camp tomorrow. I’d rather just sit and talk tonight.”

“Me too, I’m not that anxious to see the camp.”

Thomas didn’t say much as he led Rebecca through the tents of the citadel guardsmen that surrounded the King’s camp, though he was suddenly aware of the coarse jesting of the men as they passed and he cringed. He saw Rebecca’s face flush and Thomas tried to think of another way he could bring her on their return and decided it would probably be better to go through the area where the wounded were being tended. “I’m sorry, Rebecca,” he whispered and she just shook her head and shrugged. Thomas saw, from the corner of his eye, that Gílorn had moved up protectively and he was grateful for his presence. Not that he was afraid of these men, but he realized it probably would be unwise for Rebecca to be unescorted in the camp and he knew that he wouldn’t always be able to be with her. As they moved past the tents and into the clearing that sloped down to the river, Gílorn dropped back. Thomas led Rebecca to a large beech tree, taking off his cloak and spreading it out for them to sit on.

“What happened, Thomas?” Rebecca asked quietly, reaching out and gently touching the still vivid purple and black bruises on his neck.

“An orc grabbed me,” he said, staring out at the river as he took her hand and pressed it to his lips. Rebecca waited patiently for him to go on and finally he continued in a low, hollow voice, still staring at the river. “My feet slipped on the hill we were on and I slid right into his hand and he choked me.” He closed his eyes and shuddered. Rebecca leaned against him, rubbing his hand gently. “I-I couldn’t pry his hands off of me and eventually I blacked out.” Thomas finally looked down at Rebecca and put his arm around her. “I guess he thought I was dead because he didn’t stab me and later I woke up. But…” Thomas bit his lip and returned his gaze to the river for a moment and then sighed deeply. “The feel of its hands around my neck and knowing I was going to die…” his voice trailed off and he shook his head. “Later I found Hinhael lying there and he was still alive…” Rebecca drew in a sharp breath and closed her eyes. “Yes,” Thomas said quietly, “he died when I was with him and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. No one could have.”

“How’s Hinluin doing?”

Thomas shrugged. “He hasn’t talked to me since I told him.”

“He will, he just needs time, you remember how that is.”

He nodded shortly. “Yes,” he whispered, “I do. He doesn’t have any family left, not any immediate family anyway. Maybe uncles and aunts and people like that I guess.” Thomas shook his head and changed the subject. “How about you? How do you feel and what have you been doing?”

“I feel fine, better now that I’m here and can see you and Aragorn and know that Pippin and everyone will be all right. Once I could get up, all I’ve been doing is sitting or walking in the gardens. Mostly talking with Merry, but sometimes with Éowyn or Faramir.” She frowned slightly as she realized she needed to talk with Aragorn and Gandalf about what she had told Faramir. But she pushed it to the back of her mind to deal with later. “I got to read some books too,” Rebecca said, smiling. “Faramir got some for me and they were interesting.”

Thomas smiled and kissed the top of her head as he pulled her closer. He glanced around for Gílorn, but the guard was standing well behind them and seemed to be watching the river. “You must have enjoyed that,” he commented. “Do you like Faramir?”

Rebecca nodded. “I do, he’s very different from Boromir in many ways, like he enjoys books and talking about elves and things like that. But sometimes Faramir really reminds me of him, he has certain looks or gestures that are just like Boromir. And Faramir is very kind and understanding. But then sometimes he can be very intense and almost intimidating in a way that I never saw Boromir act. At least in a way that Boromir never acted towards me, maybe he was different with you.”

“What did he do to you?” Thomas asked sharply, pulling back and looking at her closely.

“Oh, it was nothing,” she said, shaking her head and shrugging.

“Rebecca,” Thomas growled.

She giggled. “You’ve been taking lessons from Aragorn.”

Thomas grimaced. “What happened? Why won’t you tell me?”

“I’d just rather wait and tell you with Aragorn and Gandalf, all right? I don’t want to have to tell the story more than one time, and really it’s all right, Thomas.”

“All right, but I won’t forget this and you need to tell us soon,” he said as he drew her back into his arms.

“Tonight, if we have time,” she promised. “Faramir took me and Merry to see the Citadel yesterday and I got to see where we’ll live. Well, at least some parts of it. I didn’t go into the King’s House because I wanted to wait and do that with Aragorn and-and you if you were still alive.” She smiled up at him, “I didn’t know then if you were. But there is a huge place called Merethrond for feasts and this tower where Aragorn’s throne is. It’s going to be interesting living there, Thomas.”

“It’s interesting enough just living here and being called, ‘lord’. I’m starting to get used to it, but it still makes me want to look around to see who they’re talking to.

“I guess I have it easier in that sense because I’ve been called lady since I’ve been here.”

“Aragorn said we might have to have a chaperone.”

“A chaperone?” Rebecca exclaimed, looking at him in horror. “Why?”

“Because of who he is,” he said, shrugging. “Honestly, I’m surprised we don’t have one with us right now.”

“Maybe he forgot.”

Thomas snorted. “Do you think he would forget something like that? No, I think it’s more likely that he thinks having a guard with us is enough… at least out here. I don’t know what will happen in the city.”

“We have to talk him out of it,” Rebecca said desperately. “I’ve read books and… oh, never mind, we’ll never be able to talk him out of anything like that.”

“No, but hopefully he’ll trust us and decide that having a guard will be enough.” Thomas rubbed his forehead. “It’ll be all right, Rebecca, whatever happens, we’ll be together and there’s peace now and it will work out.”

Rebecca nodded. “It’ll be nice to have a place to stay,” she murmured.

“Um hum,” he said, leaning down and kissing her tenderly and then more urgently, both his arms wrapping around her and one hand moving up into her hair, running it through his fingers. She returned his kisses with equal fervor, her hand going to his cheek to draw him closer. “Thomas,” she finally whispered, breathless, “Gílorn is here.”

“I know,” he said, continuing to kiss her before reluctantly pulling away, “and,” he sighed, “if we don’t want a chaperone, then we can’t break Aragorn’s trust in us.”

Glancing at Gílorn, Rebecca saw that his back was slightly turned away from them and she smiled softly before looking back at Thomas. “You’re getting a beard,” she commented, touching his cheek again.

“I know,” he said ruefully, rubbing the stubble along his jaw. “And they don’t have razors here, you have to use a knife and I haven’t wanted to do that yet.”

Rebecca laughed and leaned back against him, “Everyone else has them except for elves and hobbits so just let it grow.”

“You wouldn’t mind?”

She shrugged and glanced up at the setting sun. “Do we need to go back?”

“Probably,” he said standing and helping her to her feet. “I’m going to go back a different way, it’s a little longer.”

“That’s all right.”

They walked back hand in hand, Thomas pointing out various things as they passed through the healer’s tents. Rebecca suddenly smiled as she spotted one of Aragorn’s brothers. She looked at him closely and when he smiled she knew who it was. “Mae Govannen, Lord Elrohir.”

Mae Govannen, indeed, Lady Rebecca,” he said walking towards her, his grey eyes studying her intently. “It is good to see you once again. How do you fare?” he asked.

“I feel fine,” she said with a smile. “Thank you for taking care of me, Lord Elrohir. I know I wouldn’t have survived without it.”

“You are most welcome, though truly it is something that I am honor bound to do for all who are injured.”

“That may be true, but you have my thanks anyway.”

Elrohir nodded graciously. “Are you returning to camp now?”

“Yes, Aragorn was planning on us eating supper with him,” Thomas said.

“I shall join you,” he said, walking along with them back to the King’s camp where they joined Aragorn, Gandalf, Halbarad, and Gimli around the small fire and they ate their supper, talking quietly. Elladan joined them towards the end of the meal and greeted Rebecca with a smile and soft words of welcome. Gimli left to watch over Pippin and Legolas came and ate his meal as Aragorn, Gandalf, and Halbarad pulled out their pipes, much to the elves’ dismay.

As the night deepened, Thomas turned to Rebecca and spoke quietly, “Will you tell us now about what happened with Faramir?”

Rebecca shook her head. “No,” she whispered vehemently. “I only want to tell Aragorn and Gandalf, because I-I think they’ll be mad at me and…” she stopped at Thomas’s look of concern.

“Then let’s do it now, so you can stop worrying about it,” he whispered.

Aragorn cleared his throat. “It is not polite to whisper,” he said with amusement in his voice. Rebecca and Thomas looked at him with guilty expressions and he frowned slightly.

“Aragorn, can Rebecca and I talk to you and Gandalf privately?” Thomas asked, ignoring Rebecca as she pulled on his sleeve.

Exchanging a quick, puzzled glance with Gandalf, Aragorn slowly nodded. “Of course, we will use my tent.” Taking a burning stick from the fire, Aragorn led the others into his tent and after lighting the lamps, gestured for them to sit around his table. Thomas and Gandalf did so, but Rebecca stood there, nervously playing with the strings on her tunic. Aragorn gave Thomas a questioning look, but he shook his head and gestured to Rebecca. “Rebecca,” Aragorn said softly, “what is wrong? Did something happen?”

Rebecca nodded, biting her lip and then she finally sat down in a chair and glanced at Gandalf before fixing her gaze on Aragorn. “When, um, I was in Minas Tirith, I sort of told, um Faramir that…”

“You told Faramir that you were not from here,” Gandalf stated, interrupting her.

Looking at Gandalf, she nodded and then dropped her gaze to the ground, ignoring Thomas’s sharp, indrawn breath. “I didn’t mean for it to happen, Gandalf. Well, I guess that’s not totally true, I did decide to tell him after… after he started asking me questions about things that I couldn’t really answer.” Rebecca looked up at Gandalf, her eyes pleading for understanding and was shocked to find a smile on his lips. Looking at Aragorn she saw that he was smiling faintly as well.

“Did he believe you, Rebecca?” Aragorn asked

“Not at first,” she admitted, turning to Thomas. “That’s when he got so intense and intimidating, Thomas.”

“What did he do?” Aragorn asked sharply.

“Nothing really, but he has eyes that can see right through you at times.”

“Why did he believe you?” Gandalf asked.

“Merry. He told him how you found me and Thomas and what we were like and finally Faramir decided that if you two and his brother believed it was true, then it must be true. He’s really… wise, I think, Aragorn. He had started asking me these questions about why I was with you and yet I hadn’t been there when Boromir was killed and why I had been trained in Lothlórien and then you had left me there and then Gandalf brought me with him. It was just little things either I or Merry had said over several days that didn’t make sense to him. When I told him I wasn’t supposed to talk about it, he was willing to let it drop, but-but I decided to tell him anyway.” Rebecca shrugged and looked steadily at Aragorn. “I’m sorry if it was wrong, but I felt like I could trust him.”

Aragorn met her gaze for a moment before he spoke, “It was your decision to make, Rebecca. You were the only one there and there was no one there to guide you, unless maybe you asked Merry?” Rebecca nodded. “And he thought you should tell him?” She nodded again. “If we had not returned you would have had to tell him anyway. I intended to tell Faramir about you and Thomas when we returned and so no harm has been done. It really does not surprise me that he would suspect something was different about you.”

“Faramir quite easily reads the hearts of people,” Gandalf interjected.

Nodding, Aragorn continued, “Anyone who spends very much time with you or Thomas will probably see things that are different about you.” Rebecca and Thomas exchanged appalled looks. “Be at peace. Here in the southern part of my kingdom, most will assume it is because you are from the northern part of Middle-earth.” Aragorn glanced at Thomas. “You know that Imrahil has suspected something is very different about you since he first met you and he studied you very intently today, Rebecca.”

“Why?” Thomas asked with a puzzled frown. “I don’t look any different than anyone else.”

“I imagine it is Imrahil’s elvish blood, small though it is, that allows him to sense something different about you,” Gandalf answered for Aragorn, who nodded in agreement.

“So I will talk to him before we return to Minas Tirith and set his mind at ease,” Aragorn said, “and I also intend to talk to Éomer. I will let him decide whether or not to tell Éowyn.”

“I want her to know,” Rebecca said eagerly. “There are things I would like to tell her and I can’t.”

“Have you become friends, then?” Aragorn asked.

“Well, I wouldn’t say close friends or anything, but she’s the only young woman I know and we have a lot in common and we did spend quite a bit of time together.”

“Hmmm,” Aragorn said. “Well, I will still let Éomer make that decision.” He was not sure how much time he wanted Rebecca to spend with Éowyn knowing the feelings that she had for him. Yet he also knew that Rebecca needed a friend that was close to her age and that Éowyn would not be staying in Minas Tirith for very long in any case. “I will let everyone know that Faramir knows the truth about both of you and also that I intend to speak with Éomer and Imrahil.”

“Do you want us to be with you, Aragorn?” Thomas asked.

Aragorn shook his head, “No, I think I will speak with them first, and then if they have questions, they may seek you out. Now, come and return to the fire.” They rose and returned to the fire, where they sat late into the night sharing stories and just enjoying one another’s company.

------------

“Éomer!” Aragorn’s voice broke the stillness of the early morning air and caused the young King of Rohan to turn and smile at his friend. Two busy days had gone by and this was the first time Aragorn had had a chance to speak with him about Rebecca and Thomas. “May I speak with you, or do you have pressing duties this morning?” Aragorn asked with a smile of his own.

“No, I have time, I was just going to walk for awhile along the river, and I needed to speak with you as well.”

The two kings reached the river and headed upstream, guards trailing well behind them and for some time they spoke of inconsequential things. Finally, Aragorn asked, “What did you want to speak with me about?”

“There are two things, actually. I’d like to make Merry a Knight of the Riddermark and wondered if you thought that would be an appropriate thing to do. I’m not aware of their customs and did not want to offend him in any way.”

Aragorn paused and stared thoughtfully out across the river. “That is well thought of, Éomer, and he would be honored, though they have no such things in the Shire.”

“It was Éowyn’s idea actually, for what he meant to Théoden King and then, of course, for his valor on the Pelennor.”

Nodding absently, Aragorn thought about Pippin and Thomas. “Would you mind waiting a few days until Pippin is moving around more easily? I believe I will make him a Knight of Gondor.” He decided to speak with Gandalf about Thomas before making a decision about him.

Éomer nodded. “As long as we do it before the celebration you are planning for the Ring-bearer and Sam, it’ll be fine. I want it to be special for Merry.”

“There are no more deserving individuals in all of Middle-earth than those four hobbits and yet most men will overlook them because of their size,” Aragorn said with a small shake of his head. “The things they have done can never be repaid.”

“No, but we’ll give them what honor we can and be content.”

Aragorn nodded and they fell quiet for a moment before he asked, “What else did you need to speak with me about?”

Éomer took a deep breath and stared out across the river. “I wanted to speak with you about Rebecca.”

“I thought as much,” Aragorn commented, sitting down on a rock on the bank above the river. Éomer slowly sat down close by and Aragorn waited patiently for him to continue.

“I realized that I could never marry Rebecca. I mean,” Éomer hastened to explain at Aragorn’s raised eyebrow, “even if she returned my love, I couldn’t. I’m the King of Rohan now and I’ll have to marry someone of an appropriate station,” he snorted, dropping his head for a moment. “Rebecca isn’t of noble birth, and even as your ward she wouldn’t be acceptable to my councilors or my people.”

“I know,” Aragorn said softly.

Éomer continued staring out at the water. “Forgive me if I’ve offended you, Aragorn. I would never do that to you intentionally… or to Thomas, either,” he said, frowning.

“I have not been offended, Éomer. Our heart loves where it will and we cannot control it. I well know that.” Aragorn smiled briefly.

“Do you have… are you married?” Éomer asked, looking at Aragorn curiously. “I never thought to ask you.”

“We have not spent a great deal of time together talking about things other than war,” Aragorn pointed out dryly. “No, I am not married.” He held up his hand to forestall any further questions. “I want to tell you more about Rebecca and Thomas; it is why I sought you out this morning. You have known since Isengard that there is something different about the two of them.”

“Yes, and I’ve often wondered why Rebecca has traveled with you.”

Aragorn paused to collect his thoughts. “Éomer, I know not how to tell you this in a way that will make it easy for you to believe, but I ask that you listen and trust that what I am telling you is the truth.”

Éomer stared hard at Aragorn. “Of course I trust you, my brother,” he responded, a puzzled expression on his face.

“Good. Thomas and Rebecca have only been my wards for about three months.” Éomer’s eyes widened in surprise. “I know, it seems much longer to me as well, but we have been through many difficult things together and that tends to draw people close. They truly have no one else, only the members of the Fellowship and a few others know their true story.” Éomer nodded, his eyes both curious and confused. “About a week after we left Rivendell, we found Thomas and Rebecca lying unconscious in a clearing.”

Éomer drew in a sharp breath, “How did they get there? Were they badly injured?”

Aragorn gave his friend a wry smile. “We still do not know how they got there, and yes, they were quite injured. They had the oddest injuries, Thomas’s were all down the right side of his body – scrapes and cuts that needed stitches and Rebecca was injured on her left side, including a broken wrist. It was quite strange,” he remarked, shaking his head in remembrance.

“What do you mean you don’t know how they got there?” Éomer asked sharply, his face a mask of confusion. “Surely when they awoke they told you?”

Slowly shaking his head, Aragorn continued in a low voice. “They did not know either. I have not explained everything yet, but they were wearing clothes that none of us had ever seen before and the shortest hair we had ever seen on a man or a woman.”

“Aragorn, what exactly are you telling me?” Éomer asked, his expression becoming guarded.

Running his fingers through his long, dark hair, Aragorn met Éomer’s gaze steadily for a long moment. “Éomer, Rebecca and Thomas are not from Middle-earth. There are from someplace called earth. Neither they, nor Gandalf, nor any of us know how they got here nor why they came.” Aragorn watched Éomer’s eyes cycle from confusion to disbelief to something else that he could not read.

Jumping to his feet, the horse-lord began pacing back and forth in front of the rocks the two of them had been sitting on, while Aragorn just watched him, waiting for the barrage of questions he knew Éomer would have. But the first question he asked surprised Aragorn.

“Then the two of them could just disappear as suddenly as they appeared?” Éomer was watching Aragorn intently.

“It is possible, yes.”

“Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?” he asked, a glimmer of hurt in his eyes.

“Gandalf and I chose not to tell others until we deemed it safe to do so. We were not warmly welcomed in Edoras, and since then,” Aragorn smiled faintly, “we have all been rather busy. There has not been a pressing need for you to know this.” He saw Éomer visibly relax.

“No, no, I suppose that’s true,” he responded dully, returning to the rock and sitting on it heavily as Aragorn watched him curiously, surprised at his seemingly easy acceptance of what he had just told him. “Another world,” Éomer said quietly. “How can there be such things, Aragorn?”

“I know not, yet it is true. You have only to speak with Rebecca and Thomas and ask them of this place they are from and listen to their stories to know it is the truth. The things they have seen and done, the… the way they travel from place to place and…” Aragorn shook his head. “The things they have told us about none in the Fellowship can understand.”

“They must have been terrified to just end up here without knowing anyone.”

“They were.”

Éomer shook his head, “No wonder they are so close,” he commented. “Are their parents truly dead then?”

“Yes, at least we know their fathers are. There was a war in their world when they were quite young and both of their fathers died. While we do not know for sure how they arrived here, there was some kind of an accident on a ‘bus’ they were riding on with their mothers and Thomas’s younger brother. If the explosion was somehow responsible for bringing them here, it seems likely that their mothers have died. But we may never know.”

Éomer shook his head. “And so you made them your wards.”

Aragorn nodded. “They have no one else, Éomer, and while at first I took them into my keeping out of a sense of duty, now it is because I truly care for the both of them.”

“I know,” Éomer smiled. “May I speak of this with them?”

“Yes, they knew I was going to tell you and I will also speak with Imrahil later today. I give you leave to tell your sister if you think it wise. I know that Rebecca would like Éowyn to know the truth about her as she has no woman to speak to of certain things, but do as you will.”

Éomer nodded. “I need to go and meet with some of my Marshals.” He paused for a moment. “I pray the Valar will not suddenly rip them away from you… from us. I would miss them, both of them.”

“Me, too,” Aragorn agreed fervently, clasping Éomer’s shoulder briefly before they headed back to camp.

-----------

Thomas glanced up from the list he was making for Aragorn to see Hinluin standing in front of his table and his eyes widened in surprise. “Hello, Hinluin. Did Aragorn send you to get something from me?” he asked his voice carefully neutral.

Hinluin shook his head, looking down at the table. “No, no, he didn’t.” He took a deep breath. “I just wanted to speak with you. Can I sit down?” he lifted his gaze to meet Thomas’s eyes, who nodded and gestured to the stool on the side of the table. Perching on the edge of the stool, Hinluin rested his elbows on the table and crossed his arms in front of him as he looked at Thomas. “I… I wanted to ask you about Hinhael,” he said, his voice rough and low.

“What do you want to know?” Thomas asked quietly, not sure how to respond to his friend’s pain.

Hinluin swallowed hard. “Well,” he paused for a long moment, “you were there and… how did he die, Thomas?”

Thomas shook his head desperately. “Hinluin, you don’t want to know that. What difference does it make?” He knew Hinluin would understand the horrible pain Hinhael had endured if he told him of the terrible wound he had suffered – it had not been a quick death.

“I just want to know… it’s important to me,” he pleaded.

Closing his eyes and shaking his head, Thomas relented. He opened his eyes and grabbed Hinluin’s hand. “He was sliced open deeply across his stomach, Hinluin. There was nothing anyone could have done for him… not even Aragorn or his brothers could have saved him.” Hinluin squeezed Thomas’s hand tightly and lowered his head and Thomas felt hot tears strike his hand. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered.

After several moments and long shuddering breaths, Hinluin looked up at Thomas. “Thank you for being with him,” he took his other hand and scrubbed at his face. “It helps to know he wasn’t alone.”

Thomas nodded and shrugged slightly. “I tried to bring him… his body back, but there were these men and they wouldn’t let me do it. They were the ones that said I should take the brooch and his ring.”

“Both will mean a lot to his wife.” Hinluin breathed deeply and sat up, wiping away the last of his tears from his sorrow filled eyes. “I don’t know what I’ll do now.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I only have an aunt and an uncle and a few cousins left up north and my sister-in-law of course, but she’ll probably go back to her family since they didn’t have any children. Maybe I’ll stay in the south here with Aragorn, but it’s so different here and I don’t know if I could live in a city.”

“I hope you decide to stay, I’d like having you around.”

Hinluin nodded. “I have a lot of time to decide, but it helps knowing you would be here as well. I need to go and find my Lord King to see if he does have any errands for me.” Hinluin stood and looked intently down at Thomas. “Thank you again, my words cannot express my appreciation, Lord Thomas,” he bowed, turned and strode rapidly away, while Thomas just stared after him with an expression of shock on his face.

---------

“Careful, Pip,” Rebecca cautioned the hobbit as he prepared to climb up on a large rock near the river. “I don’t think you’re quite ready for that yet.”

“I’m just going to sit on it, not jump off of it,” he retorted, clearly annoyed.

“Aragorn just let you leave the tent this morning, I doubt he wants you climbing around on things, your ribs and your wrist are still healing,” she replied.

“Merry, tell her I’m fine,” he pleaded.

Merry shook his head as he replied with a smile, “She’s the healer, not me.”

“I’m not getting involved,” Thomas said with a small laugh when the hobbit looked at him. Legolas and Gimli both shook their heads as well.

Pippin frowned and then let out a small laugh. “All right, all right,” he said moving away from the rock. “I’m just tired of being fussed over.”

Gimli snorted. “If you hurt yourself by being foolish Peregrin Took, none of us will be fussing over you.” The others laughed while Pippin turned slightly pink and they walked on before settling down under some trees.

“How much longer is Aragorn going to keep Frodo and Sam asleep, Legolas?” Pippin asked with a worried frown as he sat leaning against Merry.

“I am not certain, but when he was with them this morning he thought it would only be another day or two.”

“It’ll be so good to talk to them,” Merry said quietly. “But I don’t really know how much to ask or… if they will want to talk about what happened to them.”

Legolas gave Merry a gentle smile. “Be yourself, Merry,” he advised softly. Legolas glanced around at the others. “With the celebration Aragorn has planned everyone will be honoring Frodo and Sam highly and, while we also honor them, they will need us to just be ourselves and to treat them as we normally would.”

“Does anyone know how long we are staying here?” Rebecca asked as Thomas pulled her closer to him. “I mean now that Frodo and Sam are almost well.”

“A few more weeks at least,” Thomas replied. “Even if they are awake, it doesn’t mean they are well and there are lots of other wounded men.”

“Good, I like it here.”

“You don’t want to live in that big fancy place?” Merry teased.

Rebecca laughed. “I suppose it’ll be all right Merry, just strange and different.”

“It’s not as nice and comfortable as a hobbit hole,” Pippin said with a grin, which Rebecca returned.

“Or even a dwarven cave,” Gimli said and the others exchanged glances at the note of longing in his voice.

“I have fond memories of Lothlórien,” Thomas said, kissing Rebecca tenderly.

“My memories of Lothlórien are more mixed,” Rebecca said with a small grimace, “but living amongst the trees would be nice.” She glanced at Legolas who smiled.

“While many of my people live in trees and cottages in the forest, my family and many others live in a large underground palace built into a hillside. It is very beautiful and you rarely realize you are underground because of the lighting. Any of you,” Legolas looked around, his gaze resting longest on Gimli, “are welcome to visit my home.”

“I would like to see it,” Rebecca said. “I’d like to see all of your homes, but I don’t know if or how I ever could.”

“Thomas will bring you,” Pippin said with a grin. “Won’t you, Thomas?”

“If-if I can,” he answered slowly, gazing down at Rebecca who was studying her feet and absently playing with the cord on her sling. She looked up at Thomas and then glanced behind him to where Maldathor was standing and she sighed.

“We don’t really know what we’ll be doing, Pippin. I mean,” Rebecca frowned as she looked at the hobbit, “what do I do during the day? Do I get a job? Does Thomas?” She held up her hand to stop their comments so she could finish her thoughts. “I know… we know,” she leaned closer to Thomas, “we’re Aragorn’s wards, but we can’t just sit around all day either.”

“Have you asked Aragorn about your concerns?” Legolas asked looking between Rebecca and Thomas with suddenly intense blue eyes. They both shook their heads.

“Why not?” Gimli growled.

“He’s so busy,” Thomas pointed out, “and I only see him when he has something for me to do.”

“Except for the day I arrived, I’ve only talked to him a few times and most of those were at supper and it never seems right then,” Rebecca said.

“We can wait until we return to Minas Tirith,” Thomas said with a small shrug.

“Do you think Aragorn will be less busy then?” Merry asked. “He’ll probably be even busier.”

Rebecca and Thomas looked at each other. “He did warn us a long time ago,” Rebecca commented in a low voice as Thomas nodded.

“Warned you? Warned you of what?” Gimli asked.

Rebecca sighed. “That his kingly responsibilities would pull him away at times, but it didn’t mean he didn’t care.”

”It was good that he spoke to you,” Legolas said. “You must trust that Aragorn does have things in mind for you when you return to Minas Tirith, he will not have forgotten your needs. You are both too important to him.” He smiled gently. “I am not aware of any plans he may have, but both of you need to learn about the history of Middle-earth and perhaps he will arrange tutors for you.”

Rebecca smiled and Thomas grimaced slightly as he muttered, “I don’t want to go back to school.”

“As I said, I do not know Aragorn’s plans, it was just a thought.”

“I am not making anymore plans,” Aragorn announced as he slipped noiselessly through the trees and sat down next to Legolas with a smile. “Not tonight at least.”

“We were just talking about you,” Pippin said with a grin.

“So I heard,” he said, glancing around, his gaze lingering on Rebecca and Thomas who moved slightly apart under his scrutiny and he suppressed a grin. “I did not mean to interrupt your conversation,” he said leaning back against the tree and closing his eyes, “though since you were talking about me, maybe it was best that I did.” Everyone laughed.

“Are you finished… working for the day?” Rebecca asked.

Hearing the cautiously hopeful note in her voice, Aragorn opened one eye and gave her an appraising look before closing it again and answering her quietly. “A king’s work is never done, Rebecca. There is always something I could be doing, but I knew you were all together here and I simply chose to spend the rest of my day with my family and friends.” He opened his eyes and smiled at her and she grinned back.

-------

A hint of movement from Frodo brought Aragorn to his side and he crouched down on the ground next to the hobbit’s cot. He had called both hobbits back to a level where natural sleep had taken over and now it was just a matter of time until they awoke. Frodo continued to stir and then his eyes fluttered open, looking at the roof of the tent before his gaze slowly moved around and finally landed on Aragorn. “Aragorn,” he breathed.

“Hello, Frodo,” he said softly with a gentle smile.

Frodo gave him a puzzled frown. “B-but how? We… the mountain… Sam!” he exclaimed, struggling to sit up. “Where’s Sam?”

Aragorn gently, yet firmly held him down. “Shh, he’s right here Frodo, look.” He gestured to the cot next to him and Frodo relaxed back with a sigh.

“But how did we get here, Aragorn? Wherever this is.”

“This is Ithilien, and Gandalf rescued you off the mountain with the help of the giant eagles.” Aragorn watched Frodo’s eyes widen in shock, it was one of the reasons he had asked Gandalf to wait outside, he wanted to tell Frodo he was alive before he saw the wizard.

“He-he died, Aragorn.”

Aragorn nodded. “The Valar sent him back.”

“Is he here?”

“Yes, as are Merry and Pippin.” He smiled at the look of relief that filled Frodo’s eyes.

“And the others?”

Aragorn paused. “Legolas, Gimli, Thomas, and Rebecca are here. I will explain why she is here at some other time,” he said at Frodo’s look of confusion. “However, Boromir died at Amon Hen, Frodo.”

“No,” he whispered, closing his eyes.

Aragorn took Frodo’s hand. “Yes, he fought bravely defending Merry and Pippin,” he said, his voice laced with sorrow.

Frodo looked up at him with a sad little smile. “I-I wanted to talk with him about…” his voice trailed off.

Gazing at him thoughtfully for a moment, Aragorn’s eyes strayed to Frodo’s right hand. “I wish you could have. Now,” he said briskly, “there are some people anxious to see you and you have been abed long enough.” He helped Frodo sit up.

“How long has it been?”

“Almost two weeks.”

Frodo stared at Aragorn and then looked down at his body, quickly making a fist of his right hand. “I’ve been asleep for two weeks?”

“You needed it,” Aragorn said firmly, his hand on Frodo’s shoulder. “Truly I did not think either of you would survive.”

“Neither did I,” Frodo muttered.

“Yet you did.” Aragorn grinned and after a moment Frodo laughed. “I will get Gandalf. Merry and Pippin have other duties right now, as do I, so I will leave you in his capable hands.”

“What about Sam? Why isn’t he awake?”

“He is just sleeping and will awake soon.” Aragorn knelt down and embraced him firmly. “It is good to see you again and without the heavy burden you carried for so long.”

Frodo leaned against him for a moment. “It’s good to be back,” he whispered. “I never thought to see you again.”

Aragorn released him and stood. “I will see you later this afternoon.” Opening the tent flap, he gestured to the impatiently pacing Gandalf, who glared at him as he entered the tent. He watched with a smile as Frodo ran to Gandalf before he dropped the tent flap and returned to his own tent.

-------------

Thomas looked down at the new clothes lying on the cot and then glanced at Aragorn with a wry smile. “Because I’m your ward, right?” he asked as he fingered the black leggings, black tunic and silver shirt. The tunic had the tree of Gondor with the crown and the seven stars above it embroidered on it in silver. A new black hauberk, long black boots, and a black mantle completed the outfit.

“Yes.” Aragorn grinned from across the tent where a similar outfit waited for him, though his shirt and mantle were white and he would also wear the Star of Elendil on his brow. “I sent for them knowing how much you like new clothes and you haven’t had any since Lothlórien.”

“You gave me this shirt not too long ago,” Thomas reminded him, pulling off the one Aragorn had given him after the fight with the wargs. Aragorn laughed. “What did you get for Rebecca to wear?”

“I was not sure there would be time to have anything made for her, but Faramir had thought ahead. He had already arranged for dresses to be made for her before she left Minas Tirith and one was sent out here.” Aragorn shook his head slightly, wondering how Faramir had even thought about having that done for Rebecca.

“I hope it’s not black,” Thomas muttered, looking down at himself.

“You do not like black?” Aragorn grinned as he belted on his sword.

“Not for everything, don’t they wear other colors here?”

“Yes,” Aragorn said, chuckling, “but for formal occasions black is the preferred color for men of royalty. You’ll have to get used to it. I do not believe Rebecca’s dress is black, however. Are you ready?” Thomas nodded and Aragorn led the way outside where they found Halbarad, Legolas, and Gimli waiting for them. “Where are Merry and Pippin?”

“Éomer sent for Merry,” Legolas replied. “He will be serving him this afternoon.”

Aragorn nodded. “As Pippin will serve me. Did he go ahead to the pavilion?”

“I believe so, my lord,” Halbarad said.

Aragorn looked at him with narrowed eyes for a moment, but then gave him a faint smile. He realized that while Halbarad had changed and was willing to call him by his first name in front of some people, he would never do so when Aragorn was wearing the Star of Elendil or other things that proclaimed his Kingship.

“I’ll get Rebecca,” Thomas offered, walking towards her tent, pulling absently on the new mantle he wore. It was much longer than his cloak and it felt strange as he walked. Glancing at Gílorn, who nodded, Thomas stopped outside Rebecca’s tent. “Rebecca,” he called, “are you ready?”

“I’ll be right out.”

Thomas stepped back a few paces and glanced back to see that Elladan and Elrohir had joined Aragorn, while his remaining Rangers stood off to one side. He supposed they were some kind of an honor guard since this was the first sort of official celebration of Aragorn’s… Elessar’s reign. Thomas decided he really needed to find out why he was changing his name; he had never thought to ask. He turned back as the tent flap opened and Rebecca stepped out. Thomas just stared, letting his eyes roam over her. She had looked pretty in an elven dress in Lothlórien, but this dress was made specifically for her and she looked absolutely stunning. In Lothlórien he was just beginning to realize that he loved her and now their love was mutual and much deeper. He knew that he was going to have to speak with Aragorn soon after they reached Minas Tirith about marrying her.

“You look handsome, Thomas,” Rebecca’s voice broke into his thoughts and while he could hear a hint of amusement in her tone, her cheeks were becoming pink under his silent scrutiny.

“Thanks,” he replied after clearing his throat. Stepping forward, Thomas took her hand and whispered, so Gílorn wouldn’t overhear, “You look stunning, Rebecca. You’re always beautiful of course.” He smiled, lightly stroking her cheek with the back of his fingers. “But I never get to see you like this.”

“I think you’ll see me dressed this way a lot more often,” Rebecca said with a quiet laugh. “But, thank you. It is beautiful,” she commented glancing down at her elegantly embroidered maroon dress. “The tailor did…”

Thomas lifted her chin and kissed her. “You’re beautiful, not the dress,” he growled, pulling her close to him and kissing her again.

“Rebecca, Thomas,” Aragorn called, “we need to leave.”

With a slight grimace, Thomas turned and led Rebecca back to the others where he met Aragorn’s raised eyebrow and inquiring gaze steadily. Aragorn glanced at Rebecca before saying, “You two stay with Legolas and Gimli during the ceremony.” They nodded and he turned to lead them to the pavilions that were located downriver on the far side of the large encampment. Aragorn glanced back. “Come and walk with me, Lady Rebecca,” he invited with a sparkle in his eye as he looked at Thomas. Thomas stared back at him with dismay before dropping his gaze while muffled laughter was heard from those around him.

“You’re not being very nice,” Rebecca murmured as she joined Aragorn.

Aragorn chuckled. “I thought you would enjoy walking with the King of Gondor and Arnor.”

“I’ve walked with the King over half of Middle-earth.”

Smiling, Aragorn took her hand and laid it on his arm. “This is how a woman walks with a man here, Rebecca. You and Thomas will need to do this during these types of occasions. Truly, though I just wanted to tell you how beautiful you look.”

“Thank you, and you actually look like a king today. I like the star crown.”

“It’s the Elendilmir, the Star of Elendil. You remember my ancestor, Isildur?” Rebecca nodded. “His father, Elendil, was the first king of Arnor and this was his crown. The kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor were divided thousands of years ago, but my lineage allows me to reunite them. There is also a scepter that goes with this crown that I will receive later.” Aragorn thought briefly of Elrond who would bring it to him and longingly of Arwen, but he pushed those thoughts aside.

Rebecca smiled and shook her head. “I have so much to learn.”

“You will have time now to do so. Now, I think I should relinquish you back to Thomas before he does something rash.” Aragorn’s lips twitched as he glanced back at the young man. “Join us, Thomas,” he called.

“Yes, my lord king?”

Suppressing a grin, Aragorn ignored Thomas’s obvious irritation as he spoke, “I was telling Rebecca that in Middle-earth women and men walk like this.” He indicated Rebecca’s hand on his arm. Thomas nodded and looked up at Aragorn questioningly. “If you want to escort her, come around here and take her arm, Thomas,” he said patiently. Chuckles came from behind them and Rebecca smiled as Thomas took Aragorn’s place. Aragorn put his hand on Thomas’s shoulder and whispered in his ear, “Do you need a chaperone today?” Thomas quickly looked up at him and saw both amusement and steel in Aragorn’s eyes and he shook his head with a small sigh. “I thought not,” Aragorn murmured as Rebecca glanced between them with a puzzled frown. Patting Thomas’s shoulder bracingly, he moved ahead of them. “I must leave you now; I will join you at the feast later.”

Without saying a word to each other, Rebecca and Thomas slowed their steps and fell back behind Legolas and Gimli as Aragorn’s long strides pulled him further ahead. Rebecca was amazed when she saw the white pavilions that had been set up at one end of a large open field. Above them, gaily colored banners were waving in the breeze. Thousands of men were filling the field, the Rohirrim in their green and gold, Swan Knights in their blue and white, Citadel Guards in their black and silver, members of the City Guard in their black and white and then hundreds of Gondorians in various colors. A path had been left open down the field leading toward the pavilions and where thrones had been set and before Aragorn started down it, his Rangers joined him as an escort. The soldiers started cheering and chanting his name and Rebecca shivered as she watched and listened to the men. She glanced up at Thomas to see that he too was awestruck by the sound and the joy in the men.

“Come, Lady Rebecca, Thomas,” Legolas urged them on.

Rebecca kept her eyes straight ahead of her and her hand tightly clasped Thomas’s arm as they followed Legolas and Gimli down the path. She hoped she wouldn’t trip and fall in her long dress with all of the people looking at her. She sighed with relief when they reached the open area near the thrones and could stand off to the side and watch. The thrones were set on a three step dais and the one in the middle was slightly larger than the other two. Behind it flew the black banner that Rebecca knew was Aragorn’s, behind one of the other chairs was the green and white banner with a horse that indicated Rohan, and behind the third throne was a blue and white banner with a swan ship for Dol Amroth. Éomer and Prince Imrahil sat tall and proud on their thrones. Rebecca almost didn’t recognize Aragorn as she stood to the side and looked at him. He was not the man that she had just laughed with and who had told her about the history of the crown he was wearing. This… Elessar looked stern and remote and kingly and while she knew Aragorn was of course the king, it was strange to see him like this - on his throne and wearing his crown and looking like this and she shivered involuntarily again.

The blast of trumpets and horns sounded and cheers filled the air again and Rebecca looked at Thomas with a smile. “Here they come,” she whispered. The men cheered on and on and Rebecca could only understand some of the words now and then as so many languages were being used and it was so loud. She and Thomas joined in as the hobbits neared, but mostly they just grinned and couldn’t wait to see their friends up and on their feet again. Rebecca knew she would have a hard time not running out and greeting them.

After what seemed like an eternity, Gandalf led Frodo and Sam into the area in front of the thrones and Rebecca could see them with their eyes, especially Sam’s, shining with joy and delight. Tears started trickling from the corners of her eyes as Sam ran to Aragorn and he stepped down off his throne and embraced the hobbit. Turning to Frodo, Aragorn also embraced him before leading them to his throne and setting them on it before bowing low before them. He set silver circlets of honor on their brows before a minstrel came out and sang a moving song about Frodo and Sam and their mighty deeds. As he finished the song, the men cheered again before it was time for the feast to begin and the men began to wander off to the pavilions to eat.

Thomas and Rebecca followed Legolas into the pavilion set aside for the Fellowship members and for all of the high ranking officers in the Army of the West. Frodo and Sam were talking with Aragorn, Gandalf, Éomer, and Imrahil as they approached the head table and Rebecca smiled as first Sam and then Frodo looked up and caught the first glimpse of Legolas and then saw her, Gimli, and Thomas behind the elf. Grins broke out on both of the hobbit’s faces as they hurried to meet each other. All of them spoke at once as they greeted each other and they laughed as none could possibly hear what anyone was saying.

“I am sorry to break up this happy reunion,” Gandalf interrupted them with a fond smile, “but it is time to eat.”

“No need to apologize, Gandalf, I’m starving,” Sam said with a huge grin.

“You and Frodo come with me.” Gandalf led them to the head table and after a moment the others followed along.

One of the servants approached them and directed them to their seats. “Lady Rebecca your seat is next to Éomer King and Lord Thomas yours is next to hers. Prince Legolas you are seated on the other side of the table next to Lord Samwise and Lord Gimli you are seated next to him at the end of the table.” The four of them looked at the servant for a moment and then nodded before the man hurriedly moved away.

“Well,” Thomas said slowly as they walked on, “they seem to have this all planned out.”

Legolas laughed. “They always do, Thomas, they always do.”

Rebecca smiled at Éomer as she sat down. “Hello, Éomer,” she said quietly as she looked around at all of the men filing into the pavilion and sitting down at the tables down in front of theirs. She smiled at Elladan and Elrohir as they sat down across from her and Thomas.

Large platters of chicken, roast beef, fresh bread, roasted potatoes, and something else that looked like it might be a vegetable, but Rebecca wasn’t sure, were being set on the tables by the servants. When all the tables had been served, Aragorn stood and faced West and everyone immediately followed him. With a puzzled glance at Thomas, Rebecca did the same and they stood silently for a minute or so before everyone sat and started filling their plates and conversation started up again.

“Lord Elrohir, what was that for?” Thomas asked, glancing between the two elves.

“The men of Gondor call it the Standing Silence and they do it before each meal. They face West towards Númenor and beyond to Valinor and beyond that to honor he who created us.”

“Oh.” Thomas nodded absently and continued filling his plate with food.

“Did you not eat lunch, Thomas?” Éomer asked, giving Thomas a smile as he looked at him.

“I did, but it wasn’t anything like this,” he said, smiling. “I haven’t seen food like this since…” his voice trailed off and he looked down at his plate.

Éomer reached behind Rebecca and slapped his back. “Eat up then, boy,” he said with a grin which Thomas returned half-heartedly before starting to eat. Éomer looked down at Rebecca and asked her in a low voice, “Does this remind you of your home as well?”

She shook her head as she softly replied, “No, not with my family, but he lived on a horse ranch and I imagine they ate things like this more often.” Éomer nodded and gave Thomas a thoughtful glance before turning to answer a question from Aragorn. Rebecca turned to Thomas. “Are you all right?”

“Yes,” he gave her a genuine smile as he replied, “I am. It just sort of caught me off guard for a moment. What you told Éomer was right.” He smiled faintly as she blushed. “We did eat this way on the ranch and I could just sort of see myself there.” He shrugged.

“You worked on a horse ranch, Thomas?” Elladan asked.

“Since I was fourteen; I left my home and went to work there.”

“Left your home?” Elrohir looked startled. “But you had a mother and a brother, did you not?”

“Yes, but we needed the money, and it was the only job I could get. I saw my family when I could, Lord Elrohir,” he said, a note of irritation creeping into his voice. “I didn’t want to leave them, but I had no choice.”

“Forgive me, Thomas, I was not judging you. I am just so surprised that someone of your age would have to do that. Had you no family to help you?”

“No, there was no one. Neither of my parents had siblings and my grandparents died young, I barely remember them. My mother worked hard, but it wasn’t enough.” Thomas sighed and rubbed his forehead in frustration. “Can we talk about something else, this is supposed to be a celebration,” he said with a wan smile.

“Of course, Thomas, and again, forgive me.” Thomas nodded and the conversation moved on to other things, though he was left thinking about his family and home.

-------

It was late before the feasting and celebration ended. The members of the Fellowship walked slowly back to Aragorn’s encampment, enjoying the cool spring evening. Thomas and Rebecca lagged behind the others and, because it was dark and seeing no one else around except for Maldathor, Thomas risked holding her hand. Though, he kept a wary eye on Aragorn who was leading the group. Gimli built up the fire in the center of the clearing and they sat around it talking quietly. Merry, Pippin, and Sam did most of the talking. Frodo mostly listened, though he did ask Rebecca a few questions about Faramir. Finally, as the hour grew late Aragorn sent Frodo, Sam, and a protesting Pippin to bed. Gandalf led Frodo and Sam away and Merry took Pippin back to where they were sleeping in the large tent.

As Aragorn watched Merry and Pippin walk away in their sharp new uniforms as Knights of Rohan and Gondor, respectively, he wondered once again why Gandalf had not let him knight Thomas as well. The cryptic comments the wizard had made at the time seemed to indicate he knew more about Thomas and Rebecca then he was willing to share. But though Aragorn pressed him hard, Gandalf refused to answer his questions, saying only that he would have his answers at the proper time. He had left the wizard feeling frustrated and deeply concerned and he still had no answers to his questions. His thoughts were drawn back to the present as Rebecca yawned and struggled to her feet, Thomas standing quickly beside her.

“I’m going to bed, good night,” she said with a smile as she turned towards her tent, Thomas moving with her.

“Thomas, would you stay a moment?” Aragorn asked quietly. “Legolas and Gimli will escort Rebecca.” He glanced at the elf and dwarf who nodded and got to their feet.

“Of course, Aragorn,” Thomas replied slowly moving back to the fire and sitting a short distance away from him.

Aragorn watched as Rebecca went into her tent and Legolas and Gimli disappeared into the darkness beyond. Watching Thomas from the corner of his eye he could tell by his very stillness and the set of his jaw how nervous the young man was.

“Are you mad at me, Aragorn?” Thomas asked, still staring into the fire.

Aragorn just looked at him until Thomas raised his gaze from the fire and met his eyes. “Why would I be angry with you?” he asked gently.

Thomas shrugged and after a moment he replied, “You wanted to talk to me and I thought maybe after this afternoon with me and Rebecca and…” his voice trailed off and he shrugged again.

“Do I only speak with you when I am angry, Thomas?” Aragorn asked with surprise in his voice. “If so, then we need to speak more often.” He smiled slightly before turning serious once again. “But, truly I am not angry with you. I did want to speak with you about this afternoon, but not because I am angry.” He frowned slightly at the look of dismay that crossed Thomas’s face.

“Are you going to make us have a chaperone?”

Aragorn shook his head. “No, I am not.” He smiled at the look of relief that crossed Thomas’s face. “If I was going to do so, I would have asked Mistress Lothrín to do that before now. The guard that accompanies Rebecca is enough of a chaperone for you now and later you will have your own guard. I think that is enough of a burden for the two of you.” Aragorn smiled again and Thomas nodded. “However, I would ask that you refrain from kissing her in quite so public a place as you did today. If it were just the Fellowship or those who knew where you were from, I would not mind, but in front of my Rangers and others it is just not appropriate and… ,” Aragorn shrugged.

“I’m sorry, Aragorn. I just couldn’t help myself and…”

Aragorn chuckled. “I am sure you could not, but you will have to learn.”

“I want to marry her you know.”

“I know.” Aragorn looked at Thomas for a long moment as he collected his thoughts. “I do not know how it is done in your world, but there is always a time between the betrothal and the wedding of at least of year, sometimes longer.” Sometimes much, much longer he thought darkly.

“A year?” Thomas cried with dismay.

“Yes.”

“And-and will you make us wait that long since we aren’t from here?” Thomas asked looking at him hopefully.

“Yes.” Aragorn nodded firmly, his piercing grey eyes glittering in the firelight. “Thomas, how old is Rebecca?”

“Sixteen, almost seventeen,” he answered slowly.

“And in your world would a girl that age be getting married?”

“Sometimes, but not usually,” he conceded. “But don’t they get married at that age here?”

“In some places they do, yes. Thomas, you two have known each other for a very short amount of time and I would have you use that time to get to know each other better, to settle into life here in Middle-earth. To see what life is like here without war.”

“But a year is such a long time, Aragorn,” he protested.

Aragorn gave him a considering look and then sighed. “I am going to share something with you that very few people know and I ask that you tell no one, not even Rebecca.”

“I won’t,” Thomas promised.

“A year may seem like a long time to you, but Thomas, I have been betrothed for almost forty years.” Aragorn smiled as Thomas’s eyes widened in shock and his mouth opened and closed several times.

“B-but why? Why didn’t you marry? Who is she?”

“Her name is Arwen.” Aragorn stared into the darkness for a moment as longing filled him. “And, she is the most beautiful elf-maiden in all of Middle-earth.”

“An elf? But aren’t they immortal?”

Aragorn nodded and stared intently at Thomas before answering him in a low voice, “She is half-elven, Thomas and is choosing to give up her gift of mortality because of her love for me.”

Thomas just stared at him again and then he finally whispered, “How could anyone do that, Aragorn?”

Running his fingers through his hair, Aragorn sighed deeply. “I have no other answer for you, except to say that she loves me and has chosen this. Though the sorrow I feel for the great pain this is causing our Adar and Elladan and Elrohir is indescribable.” He continued at Thomas’s look of confusion. “I know this will seem strange to you, but Arwen is Elladan and Elrohir’s sister.”

“But doesn’t that make her your sister, too?” he asked slowly.

“If I had grown up in a human household I would have been, but not in an elven household. She was in Lothlórien the whole time I was in Rivendell. In fact, my Adar, Elladan, and Elrohir, never even mentioned Arwen the whole time I was growing up.” Aragorn shook his head. “So I never met her until I was a grown man of twenty and I loved her from the first time I saw her, not knowing who she was. That is almost seventy years ago now, Thomas. So I do not think a year is too long for you to wait to get married,” he added dryly.

Thomas nodded absently. “So they will never see her again?” Aragorn closed his eyes in pain and shook his head. “Why… why do they not hate you?” he whispered. “I know they don’t, but you are taking their sister from them and…” his voice trailed off as he looked at Aragorn.

“My Adar and my brothers love me, Thomas. They have loved me since the day I entered their lives as a two-year old. I truly am a son of Elrond’s and he has always loved and treated me as such, just as he loves my brothers and Arwen.” Aragorn studied Thomas for a moment. “As much sorrow as this is causing them, they know that it is Arwen’s choice to make. Elrond knows that he cannot force his daughter against her will and it would be wrong for him to try and persuade her otherwise. But that does not mean that it has been easy for any of us.”

Thomas just shook his head. “When will you marry and why did you wait so long?”

“We waited for that was the one thing that Elrond did ask of me, that I not marry Arwen until I became king; he would not have her marry someone less than the King of Gondor and Arnor. I think part of his reason was to encourage me to work at becoming king, it was not something I ever wanted to do.”

“I’ve noticed that you don’t seem to enjoy it much,” Thomas commented then he suddenly grinned. “So, then you will be getting married soon?”

“Hopefully,” Aragorn returned his grin, “sometime this summer. Seventy years is a long time to wait.”

“Seventy years, I always forget how old you are.”

Aragorn cuffed him lightly on the head, “I am not that old for one of the Dúnedain and you should show more respect for your king.”

“Yes, my lord.” Thomas grinned and bowed slightly.

Stretching, Aragorn stood to his feet. “Are you all right with having to wait a year?”

“It’ll be hard, Aragorn, but suddenly a year doesn’t seem so long.” He smiled and fought off a yawn.

“It seems it is time for young ones to be in bed,” Aragorn teased as he clasped Thomas’s shoulder and steered him towards their tent.

Thomas laughed and then asked, “How much longer will we be here?”

“A couple of weeks, maybe more. Enjoy your time here; Minas Tirith will be much different for all of us. Now go to bed.” Aragorn gave Thomas a gentle shove towards the tent.

“Good night, Aragorn.”

“Good night.”

~~~

Elvish Translations:

Adar - Father
Mae Govannen – Well Met


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