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In Aragorn's Safekeeping
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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29
Arwen

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 my Beta Reader – J.

Author Notes: Calendars are discussed in this chapter and I know that calendars used in the Shire and in Gondor are different, but for simplicity’s sake I assumed they were the same. I also used the Quenya names for the months instead of Sindarin because in my research it seemed that Tolkien used either and I liked those names better. Italics are used to indicate conversations in elvish and individual elvish words are translated at the end of the chapter.


~~~

Aragorn sat on the low wall of the balcony that opened off of the sitting room. It was dawn and he had been there for several hours, his gaze fixed firmly to the northwest as he pondered two completely separate matters. Foremost on his heart was Arwen and the second was the northern half of his kingdom, Arnor. Thoughts of Arwen had awoken him and Aragorn had come to the balcony seeking fresh air so as not to disturb Elladan, whose chambers he still shared. He knew without question that Elrond would bring Arwen, it was only a matter of time until they arrived. But each day that passed without her by his side or in his arms seemed a waste of the precious days that Eru had gifted to them.

With a weary sigh, Aragorn deliberately turned his thoughts away from Arwen to curb his rising frustration and he considered instead what he should do with his northern kingdom. Though Arnor was not heavily populated, there were the Bree-lands, the Shire, his people in the Angle, and then scattered towns and villages across the land. Rebuilding a northern capitol would take time and yet the people there deserved a place they could go and seek help and justice without having to travel to Minas Tirith. His heart was in Arnor and he intended to spend time there, yet he knew it would be years before he could leave Gondor and travel north to his homeland.

Appointing a Steward for Arnor seemed to be the wisest solution, yet Aragorn was not sure who he would trust with that task. Halbarad was the most obvious choice as he had been his senior commander for years and he knew the lands and people, but he did not know if Halbarad would be willing to leave his side. Aragorn also wanted his advice and his support on the council. While Halbarad knew little of Gondor’s needs or its politics, Aragorn knew he would learn quickly and that an outsider’s perspective was often welcome.

In truth, Aragorn wanted Halbarad here simply for friendships sake. Soon those he knew and loved best would be returning to their homes; Elladan, Elrohir, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, Éomer, and the four hobbits. Some would return in time, but there was a chance he might never see some of the others again. Thomas would remain, and though the relationship he had with him was quite different than what he shared with the others, it was still something he treasured. Though Aragorn knew he would always harbor a hint of fear that Thomas and Rebecca might one day disappear.

Though Aragorn was weary of having to make such personal sacrifices, he knew that he would do so once again if Halbarad were truly the best man for the Stewardship of Arnor. Just as he knew that Halbarad would take the position if he asked him to, duty and honor had been too much a part of their lives to change now. Aragorn thought about his other Rangers, wondering if any of them might make a suitable Steward. He needed Captain Caladithil to maintain command of the Rangers whether Halbarad stayed here or became Steward. Alvist was a possibility; Aragorn narrowed his eyes in thought as he considered the seasoned Ranger. He was quiet, but well respected by the men and he had more than the average Rangers’ schooling. Perhaps Alvist would do well as the Steward of his northern kingdom. Aragorn brightened at the thought, though he knew he needed to take the time to make sure it truly was the right decision for Arnor and would fulfill the needs of his people.

Movement at the edge of his vision made him turn his head and Aragorn smiled as Elladan joined him. “Forgive me, Muindor nín, if I disturbed your rest this morning.”

“You did not,”
Elladan replied, his hands resting lightly on the wall, his piercing gaze studying his brother for a moment and then looking to the northwest. “She is on her way, Estel.”

Aragorn gave him a long look. “How do you know, Elladan? Have you received some word that I have not?”

“Do you think Arwen would sit back and wait? You are not the only one who has been betrothed for forty years.”
A very faint glimmer of amusement lit the depths of his grey eyes.

Aragorn suddenly grinned. “No, I imagine she was ready to leave immediately after they received word of Sauron’s downfall. I am sure that Adar has had a difficult time restraining her from rushing ahead, she can be as headstrong as you or Elrohir at times.”

“And you are not?”

“Me? I may be a little… stubborn at times,”
Aragorn admitted, “however, you three have thousands of years of experience and I doubt I will ever reach the level you three have attained.” He laughed lightly as Elladan shook his head, though amusement once again lit his eyes.

“Elrohir and I have decided to go to Lothlórien and meet Adar and Arwen and ride back here with them.”

“You do not want to wait here?”
Aragorn asked, giving his brother a puzzled look.

Elladan stared down at the courtyard below them for a moment and when he turned back to Aragorn, his eyes were full of sorrow. “Our hearts bid us do this, Muindor nín. To enjoy time with Arwen before she marries and to be with Adar and our grandparents for the journey here, we have seldom had a chance to travel together.”

“I understand. It will be good for all of you.”
Aragorn swallowed the lump in his throat and turned his gaze back to the horizon. He truly did know, it would be good for his family to be together one last time, but it just brought all of their shared pain to the surface. That it was inevitable did not make it any easier to bear. He looked up as Elladan’s hand gently touched his cheek.

“Do not let sorrow overwhelm the great joy that is coming into your life, Estel. Each of us will cope with our own pain, you cannot bear that burden for us,” he said quietly, his eyes now unreadable.

“In my head I know that, but my heart refuses to accept it. My hope is that once I see Arwen, all thoughts of you will be driven from my mind.” Aragorn gave his brother a half-hearted smile before abruptly changing the subject. He knew that this discussion had no real ending point, just as he knew that Elladan was right in what he had just said. “When will you leave?”

“In the morning; we will ride to Edoras with Éomer and the Rohirrim and then we will ride on to Lothlórien from there.”


Aragorn nodded and then glanced down into the courtyard as Rebecca walked into view carrying her bow, one of her guards trailing behind. He leaned forward on the wall, resting his arms on it as he observed her. She went to the small training area set aside for the use of those who lived in the King’s House, a place where he and Thomas had sparred several times already. Stopping some forty yards from the archery targets, Rebecca spoke to her guard and then strung her bow. Aragorn watch with a slight frown as she rubbed her upper left arm before she pulled an arrow from her quiver and nocked it.

“I am surprised she still desires to do this,” Elladan commented.

“She started again a few days ago. I think she truly enjoys it and it gives her some freedom.” Aragorn paused, his browed furrowed as he watched Rebecca’s first arrow strike the target in the lower left side. “I believe she also feels a need to be able to protect herself. She mentioned wanting to start training with her sword again.”

Elladan glanced at Aragorn and then down at Rebecca. “She feels vulnerable,” he murmured, his eyes full of compassion. “Will you allow her to use her sword again?”

“Yes, though I am hoping this will satisfy her because I do not have the time to train her and I do not yet know the armsmasters well enough to entrust her to them.”

“Halbarad?”

“Perhaps.”
Aragorn nodded, his concern mounting as Rebecca rubbed her arm again as she went to collect her arrows, which were scattered all over the target.

“And, Thomas, how does he fare?”

Aragorn ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “I am concerned about him, Elladan. Rebecca has shared her fears with me, but Thomas says nothing. Yet, I sense a level of frustration within him, he is used to caring for his family and now there is nothing for which he is responsible. After breakfast I am going to speak with them about some of those things, but I am not sure what he would truly enjoy doing.” Aragorn shrugged. “I am not sure he knows either. As my ward his choices are, in some ways, limited. He loves horses, yet he cannot work in the stables.” Aragorn shook his head. “For now he must apply himself to learning of our land and our history and perhaps he will discover something he enjoys.”

“He was helpful to you in Cormallen, could he assist you in the same way here?”


Aragorn nodded. “I had thought of that, though I have pages that do many of the things he did for me there, but he might enjoy doing other things and learning how the kingdom runs. He may someday be a councilor or an ambassador for me.” He glanced down at Rebecca again and watched her shoot, an arrow actually striking close to the center. “Well shot, Rebecca,” he called down to her.

Rebecca looked up and grinned. “Thanks, it only took thirty arrows to get it right, it’s a good thing Haldir isn’t here to see me. I was wondering if you were going to talk to me or just watch me make a fool of myself.”

Aragorn smiled and shook his head, not really surprised she had seen or heard them, though they had been speaking quietly. “You are not making a fool of yourself,” he chided gently. “You were severely injured and it takes time to regain your aim and strength. In fact, I notice your arm is still causing you pain.”

“Occasionally,” she admitted, rubbing her arm lightly.

“Why have you not mentioned it?”

“I never think about it until I’m doing something like this.” She shrugged.

“Come inside and I will look at it,” Elladan commanded sternly.

“Yes, Lord Elladan.” Rebecca turned to retrieve her arrows and Aragorn could see her mumbling under her breath and he grinned at his brother.

“Thank you, I will let you feel her displeasure this time.”

“I am sure it is only bruised and that if I sing over it and she ceases to use if for a day or two it will be fine,”
Elladan replied. “She obviously did not follow your instructions,” he said with disapproval clearly evident in his voice.

“I am sure she will heed yours,” Aragorn said, smiling. Elladan followed him into the building without another word.

----------

Closing the door quietly, Thomas followed Aragorn and Rebecca into the library, joining Rebecca on the couch opposite the chair where Aragorn was sitting. He absentmindedly picked up Rebecca’s hand and began caressing it as Aragorn began speaking.

“Faramir has found a tutor for you and you will begin your studies the day after tomorrow.” Thomas watched Rebecca’s face light up and couldn’t help a small smile of his own which he saw matched the one on Aragorn’s face as they glanced at each other. “His name is Dolgaran and he has taught many students over the years, he is in his mid forties, I believe. Faramir has known him for years and believes we can trust him enough to tell him the truth about you.”

Thomas looked at Aragorn in surprise, “You will tell an… an outsider the truth?”

Aragorn smiled slightly at Thomas’s choice of words. “We really have no choice, there is no way to explain your lack of knowledge of Middle-earth. I will meet with him to satisfy myself that he is, in fact, trustworthy and then we will inform him.”

“What will he be teaching us?” Rebecca asked.

“Mostly the history of Middle-earth, especially that of Gondor and Arnor and I want you both to learn to speak Sindarin.”

Rebecca grinned again and Thomas paled. “Speak elvish? Why?”

“It is a language that is spoken by many of the people in Gondor, Thomas, as well as all of my kin. All of the nobles speak it; it is something you need to know.” Aragorn paused and added with a very faint smile. “It is a very romantic language, Thomas.”

Aragorn turned to Rebecca. “What did you plan to do before you came here?”

“I wanted to be a writer though we had no money to send me to school.”

“And is that still your desire or do you wish to do something else, perhaps continue studying to become a healer?”

Rebecca furrowed her brow in thought. “Can I do both? I’d like to learn more about healing and I’m sure this Dolgaran can help me with writing.”

Aragorn nodded. “Then you will both study with Dolgaran from the third to the sixth hour and I will make arrangements for you to spend some time in the Houses of Healing a few afternoons a week. I want you to have some freedom to enjoy yourself as well.” He smiled and turned his gaze to Thomas who returned his regard steadily. “And did you have plans beyond working on a horse ranch? I know you were forced to do that by circumstance, but I do not truly know if your heart has other desires or interests.”

Thomas shrugged. “I-I probably would have been drafted when I turned eighteen. Everyone has to serve our country by being a soldier for two years,” he explained at Aragorn’s confused expression. “I guess I just did my time here serving your country… our country.” Thomas shook his head. “Anyway, I sort of hoped I’d learn some sort of skill that I could use to make a living after I left the service.” He looked away from Aragorn with a slight frown.

“You did not answer my question,” Aragorn reminded him softly. “I asked what you would desire to do, not what you would have to do to make a living.”

Thomas got to his feet and wandered to the window, leaning against the frame and staring into the garden. “I’ve never thought about it much, Aragorn. I left school so young to provide for my family and all I’ve thought about since then is making money, whether I liked the job or not really didn’t matter.”

Aragorn and Rebecca both spoke at the same time and Aragorn gestured for her to continue. “Thomas, what about when you were little? What did you want to do when you grew up?”

Looking at her with a hint of amusement in his eyes, Thomas replied slowly, “The usual things, a policeman, a fireman… a pilot. None of which I can do here.”

“And those kinds of jobs are?” Aragorn asked, giving him a questioning look.

“A policeman helps makes sure the laws are obeyed and they protect people, firemen put out fires, and pilots,” Thomas gave him a smile. “Well, pilots fly airplanes through the sky from one city to another.”

Aragorn stared at him for a moment and then glanced at Rebecca who nodded. “I shall take your word for it. The only job here that is similar would be… perhaps a Citadel Guardsman and I do not believe you would enjoy that.”

Thomas shook his head. “Aragorn, I don’t think I could have done any of those jobs on earth either, maybe the fireman and that was a childhood dream and those often change. I truly am not sure what I’d like to do here. I’m sorry,” he said, clearly frustrated.

“Do not be, Thomas,” Aragorn said dismissively. “Middle-earth is so different and the skills needed here are different. Would you like to be a soldier? A Ranger?”

“No, I’ll keep up whatever skills I have in case you need me in the future, but I don’t want to do that full time, Aragorn.”

“I had thought to have you assist me and learn about running the kingdom, but I did not know if that would interest you as you seem to enjoy being outdoors.”

Thomas’s eyes lit up. “No, I think I’d like that, Aragorn. I liked helping you before and-and it made me feel useful.”

Smiling, Aragorn knew that that was the key, Thomas needed to feel useful and he also wanted to spend more time around him, though he would never admit it, not even to himself. “Good, then I will arrange that. Would you also like to try painting or pottery as we had talked about?” Thomas hesitated and Aragorn continued, “Perhaps just one day a week,” he suggested.

“I-I think painting might be fun,” Thomas finally said quietly.

“Would you like to try that?” Aragorn asked Rebecca. She looked at Thomas for a moment and then shook her head, no. “Now, that we have those things settled, I have a council meeting to attend. Do you two have plans for the day?”

“We’re going to see if we can find Gandalf,” Rebecca replied, “and ask him some questions about this calendar that Thomas bought the other day. See if we can match it up with the one from earth.”

Aragorn stopped with his hand on the latch and looked at the calendar. “Is yours much different?” he asked curiously.

“No,” Thomas replied, “same number of days in the year, but each of our months can have a different number of days and the months have different names. We just want to see if we can figure out how long we’ve been here and some other things.”

“I am sure it will prove an interesting challenge, even for a wizard,” Aragorn commented as he led them down the hall and out the door to the courtyard. He left them to go into the Tower while Rebecca and Thomas continued to the ramp to head down to the sixth circle.

Pippin answered the door when Thomas knocked on it as they arrived at the guest house where the rest of the Fellowship was staying. “Rebecca! Thomas!” he cried, breaking into a grin. “You’re just in time for second breakfast,” he said as he ushered them into the sitting room.

Rebecca groaned, “No thanks, Pip, I just ate an hour ago.” Thomas just shook his head.

Gandalf, Gimli, and Legolas looked up and smiled in greeting. “You two are out early,” Gandalf commented as Rebecca sat down beside him on the couch. Thomas sat on a stool near Gimli.

“You’ve been hiding, Gandalf and we haven’t seen much of you.” Rebecca smiled at the wizard. “We knew we’d need to be here early before you snuck away.” Gandalf returned her smile and the others chuckled.

“Where are Frodo, Merry, and Sam?” Thomas asked.

“Merry’s in the kitchen,” Pippin replied, his cheerful face turning sober. “And Sam’s with Frodo, he had a bad night. I’m going to help Merry.” He quickly left the room and Rebecca and Thomas exchanged concerned glances.

“Does Frodo have nightmares?” Thomas asked.

“Yes, quite frequently,” Legolas replied softly.

“Pippin and Sam have them sometimes, but theirs are not so severe,” Gandalf added.

“But not Merry?” Thomas asked.

“Merry and I talked about our dreams in the Houses of Healing and it seemed to help,” Rebecca said quietly. “I seldom have them anymore.” She stared at the floor for a moment and then glanced at Thomas who was looking at her with concern. “I’m all right, Thomas. Haven’t you had nightmares about all this?”

Thomas shook his head, “No, not so far anyway. I’ve had nightmares before though, and I know how hard it is.” Thomas looked at Gandalf and asked, “Will Frodo’s stop?”

“I know not,” Gandalf’s eyes took on a distant look, “His pain and suffering are so great… Ah, Pippin and Merry have decided to join us.”

Merry glanced around the room suspiciously, but he said nothing as he sat on the floor near Rebecca. “Hello, Rebecca.”

“Good morning, Merry.” She looked at all the food on his plate. “Did you eat just as much at breakfast earlier?” she asked with amusement.

“”More,” he replied with a grin. “Why are you here this morning? Not that I’m not glad to see you,” he added hastily.

“Thomas bought a calendar and it’s different than the one from earth and we wanted to see if we could figure out when we arrived and sort of make it match up with ours.”

“Why?” Gimli asked from the corner where he had been quietly sitting. “I mean, why is it important to you? You live here now and the old calendar shouldn’t matter anymore.”

“I suppose it’s not really important,” Thomas said slowly, “but we… at least I wanted to try and figure out when our birthdays would be on this calendar.”

Gimli nodded, but Merry and Pippin eagerly spoke up. “You have to know when your birthdays are,” Pippin said.

“Are they anytime soon?” Merry asked, glancing up at Rebecca.

“Yes, I think within a couple of months, but I’m not sure because it’s been a little hard to keep track of the days and weeks we’ve been here.” She smiled at the hobbits.

“Besides your own birthdays, there may be other special days you want to remember, or holidays to celebrate,” Legolas spoke up. “I think this is a good idea. You should not forget your past,” he said giving Gimli a meaningful glance.

“I didn’t think of those things,” the dwarf admitted. “Forgive me, Lady Rebecca, Thomas.” They both nodded and looked at Gandalf who had been listening, but had not said a word.

“Will you help us, Gandalf?” Thomas asked, “I wrote out a calendar from earth so I’m hoping it won’t be too difficult.”

“Yes, of course.” Gandalf shook himself as though from a daze and sat up on the couch. “Hand me the calendars.” He took both of them and spread them out on the table in front of him while the others gathered around.

“It looks like our calendar,” Pippin said, pointing to the twelve months on the one Thomas had made.

“It doesn’t have Mettarë or Yestarë, or any of the other holidays,” Merry pointed out.

“The months have different numbers of days as well,” Legolas observed. “Thirty, thirty-one, and this one only has twenty-eight.” He glanced at Thomas and Rebecca. “It is a strange way to keep track of a year.”

“No stranger than having these five days in between months,” Rebecca retorted.

“Peace,” Gandalf said mildly, still looking at the calendars. “This will all depend on when you arrived, they are, as Pippin noted, indeed very similar.”

“It was January 1, 1954,” Thomas pointed to the first day of the year.

Gandalf gave him a knowing look. “It was the first day of our year as well, Narvinyë 1.”

“Then they are the same!” Pippin and Rebecca said at the same time, giving each other a grin.

“It is interesting that they left their world on the same day of the year as they arrived here,” Legolas commented, narrowing his eyes as he looked at Gandalf, who did not reply to his unspoken question, but instead said,

“There is still the difference in the number of days per month to consider, though it will be close to the same.”

“What is today?” Thomas asked.

“Lótessë 7,” Gimli replied, pointing to the fifth month.

“How many days is that on your calendar?” Thomas mumbled to himself as he started to add them up.

“One hundred twenty-eight,” Legolas swiftly answered.

“I always knew you were good to have around,” Thomas commented without looking at the elf, while the others laughed. Thomas finally looked up and grinned, “What day would that be on our calendar?” Legolas pointed to May 8th with a small smile.

“It’s one day off,” Rebecca said with disappointment.

“It could have been worse,” Merry said, craning his head around and looking up at her. “One day isn’t too bad.” Rebecca nodded, but Thomas could see she was still disappointed.

“When’s your birthday, Rebecca? I forgot,” he confessed.

“June 29.”

Thomas looked back at the calendars and then grinned at Legolas. “You lose one more day and so Rebecca your birthday would be here,” Legolas pointed at one of the days between the months, Loëndë.

“Mid-summer is a good day for a birthday, Rebecca,” Pippin said. “There’s usually lots of food and in the Shire we have a faire.”

“What are you talking about?” Frodo’s tired voice came from the doorway and they all looked up to see him and Sam standing there.

“Calendars and birthdays,” Merry replied, sliding over on the floor so Frodo could sit next to Rebecca on the couch while Sam pulled up a stool.

“Hello, Frodo, Sam,” Rebecca said, looking at the two hobbits carefully. Frodo still looked fragile and thin. It was hard not to take him in her arms and hug him or comfort him in some way. She had to remind herself that he was fifty years old, even if he looked much younger, except for his eyes. If you looked in his eyes, you could see he was fifty if not older – there was too much pain in the depths of his eyes for a much younger person. Sam just looked tired and worried, but at least he was starting to fill out now that he was eating regularly.

“Is this a calendar from your home?” Frodo asked, perking up slightly.

“Yes, and we’re trying to see how it matches with yours,” Thomas replied. “It’s pretty close. We’re figuring out birthdays right now.” Frodo nodded and peered closely at the calendar.

“Thomas, I think I’d rather keep my birthday on the same month and day. I don’t care if it’s not exactly the same time as where we’re from.”

“Me, too,” Thomas agreed. “So Nárië 21 for me and Nárië 29 for you.” He sat back with a sigh and a look of satisfaction. Though looking at the days he started to rethink his plan to ask Rebecca to marry him on her birthday, it was a long way off.

“What about other holidays,” Gimli reminded them.

“Oh, we’ll just keep them on the same month and day and it will be close enough,” Rebecca shrugged.

Thomas started to crumple up the calendar he had made when Frodo asked, “May I keep that, Thomas? I’d like to see it, I didn’t get to look at it very closely.”

“Sure,” Thomas handed it to the hobbit and Frodo leaned back on the couch and started looking at it while Thomas carefully rolled up the other calendar.

“Do you two have plans for the day?” Legolas asked.

“I don’t, just the farewell feast tonight for Éomer and Éowyn,” Rebecca replied and Thomas nodded in agreement.

“Stay with us then, some of us are going to go down to the lower circles later and eat lunch in an inn and visit some of the shops. You are welcome to accompany us,” Legolas invited.

Thomas and Rebecca eagerly accepted and the Fellowship, all except for one person, spent the day together laughing and talking.

---------

Aragorn watched the tutor, Dolgaran, leave his office and then focused his attention on Faramir who was watching him with a hint of apprehension in his eyes. “I believe we can trust him, Faramir, however I am glad that he is not teaching me,” he smiled.

“Dolgaran is a wonderful teacher,” Faramir protested. “Though, I have never seen him so nervous, my lord.” He gave Aragorn a pointed look and the king laughed lightly.

“He did seem rather nervous. Well, I trust your judgment, I just hope that he can keep Thomas interested.”

“He will,” Faramir replied shortly.

Aragorn nodded and turned to other matters, picking up some parchment on his desk. “Did you read this proposed treaty agreement sent from Umbar?”

Faramir nodded with a slight scowl.

“And this one from Harad?” Aragorn held up more parchment and again Faramir nodded.

“Do they realize they lost the war?”

Faramir kept quiet, evidently recognizing it was a rhetorical question.

“Perhaps we need to discuss this in person,” Aragorn said thoughtfully.

“You are not planning on going to Harad or Umbar?” Faramir asked in horror.

“Of course not, not without an army at my back anyway,” he sighed. “And I have no intention of doing that anytime soon. I was thinking to invite their leaders to visit us here. I think perhaps that might be better than meeting just with these emissaries they have sent.”

“Will they come, do you think?”

“I know not. But when we send our invitation we will remind them just who won the war and I think that will encourage them.” Aragorn gave his Steward a very grim smile.

Faramir nodded. “I will see that these letters of invitation are prepared for your approval today.”

“Thank you.” Aragorn paused briefly. “I noticed as we rode back in this morning that some of the homes have been rebuilt on the Pelennor. Have many of the crops been sown?”

“Some, my lord, mostly out near the Rammas Echor where the damage was not as severe. But many of the hamlets and homes are being rebuilt here and there.” Faramir smiled. “It is good to see.”

Aragorn nodded. “I imagine it will take several years for the soil to recover,” he commented shaking his head before changing the subject. “And how do you fare, my Lord Prince Steward now that your fair maiden has departed?” a note of gentle teasing entered his voice.

Faramir blushed slightly and lowered his gaze. “I miss her already just knowing she is not in the city. It will be a long time until I see her,” he sighed.

“Éowyn is returning with Éomer as part of the escort for Théoden’s body is she not?”

“Yes, but that is almost three months from now!”

“Ah, yes, three months is a long time,” Aragorn said, leaning forward and resting his chin in his hand as he gazed at his Steward with a faint smile. Faramir looked back at him suspiciously. “Faramir,” Aragorn announced, “I have a task for you. Perhaps not directly for you, but something I would like you to oversee.”

“Yes, my lord.” Faramir waited, looking at Aragorn with expectation that slowly turned to concern as the king remained silent with a distant look in his eyes.

Finally, Aragorn said, “I am expecting my kinfolk from the North to visit me close to midsummer. I would like a feast prepared for them, even more elaborate than that which was done for the coronation.” Faramir nodded and Aragorn gave him a bitter-sweet smile. “You have wanted to see elves, Faramir and you will meet legends when they arrive.”

“Who is coming?”

“Lord Elrond, Lord Celeborn, Lady Galadriel, and Lord Glorfindel are the ones you have probably heard of. There will be others that are incredibly wise and gifted as well.”

Faramir got to his feet and began pacing back and forth and Aragorn watched him with amusement. “Glorfindel? Did he not die in Gondolin over six thousand years ago?” Faramir asked slowly.

Aragorn nodded. “Yes, he did. He died killing a balrog that was attacking the city. His death saved Lord Elrond’s father’s life,” Aragorn smiled, “who was one of my ancestors as well.”

Faramir sat back down and fixed Aragorn with a piercing stare and then lowered his gaze. “I have read the tales of such things, Aragorn…” He looked up, dismayed, but Aragorn waved his hand dismissively and indicated he should continue. “I did not believe that elves truly were reborn.”

“They are.” Aragorn sat back in his chair and stretched out his long legs. “Glorfindel has said that he met many elves in Valinor who had been reborn. But he is the only one who has returned here.”

“Why did he come back?”

“To protect and serve my Adar and his family, at least as far as I know. Glorfindel does not speak of it and if others know differently they have not told me.” Aragorn smiled. “He is both kind and fierce and a wonderful teacher of many things, but especially of swordplay, though he was very strict, and who would cross him?”

“Who, indeed?” Faramir said quietly. “And the Lord and Lady of Lothlórien and Lord Elrond are coming as well,” his said, his eyes sparkling. “I will not know whom to speak with first.” He laughed lightly. “Though, I will probably be too nervous to speak with them.”

Aragorn smiled. “They are people, Faramir. Ancient and full of wisdom and power, yes, but people nonetheless.”

“I will try and remember that. I will speak with the Master of Protocol about a celebration for them and he can arrange much of it before they arrive.”

“Good, please do not tell him what it is for, just that it is an important celebration. I would like to wait until closer to the actual feast for people to know about this, some people still fear elves.”

Faramir nodded and got to his feet with a sigh. “Unfortunately that is true, my lord. Was there anything else you needed?”

“No, not right now, I will send for you if I have need.”

-------

The sun reflecting off of the white stones of The Citadel was hot and the glare was blinding as Rebecca made her way to the ramp that led to the lower circles of Minas Tirith. It seemed very hot for late May… or whatever name they called it here. She needed to memorize the months, but with learning Gondorian history and how to speak Sindarin she had not taken the time to do so. Maybe the weather here was just going to be hotter than Minnesota, but what she really wished for right now were sunglasses and a shorter dress than the full-length light green gown Lothrín had picked out for her this morning. At least it was short sleeved. Rebecca paused briefly inside the tunnel to let her eyes adjust to the darkness and to enjoy the relative coolness before she hurried on. It was late afternoon and she had several shops to visit before returning for supper. Rebecca noticed that Maldathor was shadowing her very closely today and she didn’t know if it was because she was alone or because the streets seemed particularly crowded and noisy. Finally finding the street and then the shop she was looking for, Rebecca walked in with a relieved sigh and greeted the shopkeeper with a smile.

“May I help you, my lady?”

“I am looking for a painting a friend of mine was telling me about,” she replied, looking around at the paintings on the walls. Rebecca spotted the one Thomas had told her about immediately and slowly walked toward it. It was a beautiful painting of a forest and you could tell by the shadows it was near sunset. The thing that stood out for Rebecca was that in the background was a large rock with an overhang. It was not a prominent part of the painting and many people might overlook it, but it immediately took Rebecca, just as it had Thomas, back to a wet, soggy night not long after they had met the Fellowship. Thomas was right, it was the perfect gift for Aragorn. They wanted to thank Aragorn for all he had done for them and they had been looking for something special to give him. This particular place had been memorable in many ways for both Rebecca and Thomas. Rebecca turned to the shopkeeper. “I would like to buy that painting, please.”

“Yes, my lady.” The man bowed slightly and carefully lifted the picture down. “Where and to whom should we deliver it?”

Rebecca frowned, she had thought to carry it, but it was too large and it was a long way back to the House. “It needs to go to up to the Citadel to the King’s House. I am Lady Rebecca.”

The shopkeeper looked startled and bowed again. “Yes, my lady.” As Rebecca showed her small signet ring that authorized payment, he nervously asked, “Are you the Lord King’s ward?”

“Yes.” She smiled as she waited for the man to write out the bill and to pour on the wax for her to press her ring into. “Will it be delivered this evening?”

“Yes, I will send it right away.”

“Thank you.” Rebecca nodded and left. She went to several more shops before deciding to head back to the Citadel. As she passed the gate into the fifth circle, she realized how thirsty she was and wondered if it were proper for her to stop and get a drink when she was alone. She had a feeling it wasn’t, but since she had never been told she couldn’t, Rebecca decided to stop at the inn where she had eaten lunch with the Fellowship several weeks previously. Opening the door, she looked around nervously for a table.

“Lady Rebecca,” Maldathor whispered, “may I suggest the table there.” He indicated one near the wall that was also close to the door.

Nodding, Rebecca sat at the table he suggested and Maldathor stood protectively behind her which made her even more self-conscious, especially as she realized there were no other unaccompanied women there. But she ordered a cup of cold fruit juice anyway, determined to drink it quickly and be on her way. It was days like this that she missed having a friend to do things with and she looked forward to having Éowyn return, though she didn’t know if they would ever truly become close friends. Still, she at least knew who she was and that was something that she would treasure. She had met several young ladies of the nobility, but most of them had been more interested in Aragorn than in her. They had evidently seen him as a potential husband and had spent time asking Rebecca questions about him, most of which she had avoided answering which didn’t please them. While they had not been openly hostile to her, the young ladies she had met had not been kind either and Rebecca had seen no reason to develop friendships with any of them. She did like Lothíriel, Prince Imrahil’s daughter, who had a wonderful sense of humor and Rebecca thought they might become friends in time, especially if Rebecca were allowed to tell her the truth about herself. Since Imrahil knew, Rebecca hoped that Lothíriel would be told as well.

Taking a sip of the juice, Rebecca turned her thoughts to Thomas and how little time they actually got to spend together… at least alone. Their afternoons were spent in their individual pursuits, Thomas with Aragorn and Rebecca in the Houses of Healing, which she loved though it was far different than working with Lord Thalion. Maybe she should ask Thomas to join her for archery practice in the mornings now that she was getting better, even if he didn’t shoot at least they would be together. She sighed and fiddled with her half empty cup.

“Lady Rebecca, we must leave,” Maldathor’s voice broke into her musings and she gave him a startled look.

“What?”

“Now, Lady Rebecca,” his voice was stern and urgent and Rebecca was suddenly aware of raised voices at a table full of men at the far corner of the room. Standing, she stared at the men and Maldathor took her elbow, gently, but firmly and ushered her quickly out the door just as the men began yelling and punches were thrown. Other patrons of the inn rushed out behind them and Maldathor signaled to guards at the fifth level gate who came running and he pointed to the inn as he and Rebecca continued briskly away. At a safe distance he stopped, releasing her arm as he asked, “Are you all right, Lady Rebecca? I hope I didn’t hurt you.”

“I’m fine, Maldathor. Thanks for getting me out of there,” Rebecca replied and he inclined his head. “I thought that was a nice place,” she added as they continued their walk up the hill. The guardsman made no comment as he continued to hover protectively by her. She suddenly glanced at the sun and saw how late it was and she quickened her pace.

Arriving at the King’s House, Rebecca rushed into her chambers and dropped off her basket and hurried back out and across the hall to the dining room. Aragorn, Halbarad, and Thomas looked up as she burst into the room. “I’m sorry I’m late,” she exclaimed breathlessly as she sat down next to Thomas.

Aragorn frowned. “Why are you late? I was about to send someone out to search for you.”

Rebecca looked down as the first course of soup was placed in front of her. “I was shopping and it was hot so I stopped and had a drink and I lost track of the time. It won’t happen again, Adar.”

Biting back a smile at Rebecca calling him Adar when she still only used it occasionally, Aragorn gave her a stern look. “I am sure it will not.”

Quickly changing the subject, Rebecca asked, “Where are the hobbits? I know Gandalf, Gimli, and Legolas weren’t going to be here tonight, but I thought they were coming.”

“Sam wanted a real Shire meal tonight,” Thomas replied, “and so they decided to eat supper by themselves.”

“Rebecca,” Aragorn turned back to the original subject, “did you go to an inn by yourself?”

Nodding, Rebecca concentrated on her supper and then said quietly, “Well, Maldathor was with me of course.” Finally she looked up and met Aragorn’s eyes and shifted uncomfortably in her chair under his steady regard. “It’s wrong for me to go alone, right?”

Aragorn picked up his cup and swirled his wine around for a moment as he gazed at Rebecca. “It is not usual for a woman to be in an inn alone and I suspect you knew that.”

“Yes.” Rebecca gave Thomas a grateful smile as he squeezed her hand under the table.

Seeing the exchange, Aragorn smiled faintly. “As I imagine this is something that is common in your world and you do have a guard with you, I suppose you would be safe enough.”

“Yes, yes, very safe,” Rebecca mumbled, looking down again.

Aragorn sighed and put his fork down, ignoring Halbarad’s muffled laughter. “Rebecca, I believe there is more to this story then you are telling us.”

“Oh, well, nothing really happened, Aragorn, but some men were… arguing and Maldathor made me leave right away.” Rebecca kept her eyes on her chicken as she cut herself a new piece.

Halbarad made another noise that sounded suspiciously like laughter and Rebecca glared at him before she looked at Aragorn to see him watching her with amusement and she relaxed. “I am glad that Maldathor was there to protect you,” he said mildly before turning his attention back to his meal.

Breathing a quiet sigh of relief that Aragorn hadn’t forbidden her to go into inns alone, Rebecca leaned over to Thomas and quickly whispered, “The package is in my room.” Thomas nodded.

As the meal finished and Aragorn and Halbarad started to leave, Thomas spoke up. “Aragorn, if you’re not too busy, would you come to the Library for a minute when you’re done?”

Aragorn nodded absently as he finished his discussion with Halbarad about the possibility of appointing Alvist the Steward of Arnor. He was halfway to his room before he remembered that Thomas and Rebecca wanted to see him and he turned around. He walked into the Library, but instead found them sitting on a bench out in the garden talking quietly. “You wanted to speak with me?” he asked quietly, breathing in the scent of the various flowers as he sat on a large rock in front of them.

Rebecca nudged Thomas and after giving her a reluctant look he said, “We have a gift for you.”

“A gift?” Aragorn asked in surprise, looking back and forth between the two of them questioningly. “Why?”

Thomas looked away briefly and then met Aragorn’s eyes. “We know there is no way possible to ever repay you for what you have done for us. Not that you want us to,” he added. “But, umm you’ve done more than you had to when you didn’t even know us, and…” Thomas swallowed hard and looked away from Aragorn and looked helplessly at Rebecca.

She smiled at Thomas and then at Aragorn. “We just wanted to thank you in this really small way for caring for us and being as a father to us in such a horrible situation. Thomas found this,” Rebecca indicated a large package wrapped carefully in cloth, “and we thought it was appropriate. A king really doesn’t need anything, but still…,” she shrugged.

Aragorn gazed at them for a moment with a gentle smile and then turned to open the package. He examined the painting closely, even setting it down and backing up to see it from a distance. Sensing the rising nervousness of Rebecca and Thomas, he finally turned to them. “It is a wonderful painting and I thank you,” he paused briefly, eyeing them closely. “It reminds me of that place we stayed soon after we met.” Aragorn smiled at their pleased expressions.

“That’s what we both thought, Aragorn,” Thomas said, “and that’s why we got it for you.”

“It was sort of an important place,” Rebecca added. “Thomas started learning to use a sword there and you started calling me just Rebecca.” She smiled in remembrance.

Aragorn laughed. “It was very, very wet and cold and you were both miserable as I recall.” Rebecca and Thomas joined in his laughter.

“And I was in pain,” Rebecca admitted.

“I was scared,” Thomas added.

“You were both scared,” Aragorn pointed out with another small laugh, “and Rebecca was embarrassed as well. Sometimes the passage of time helps you remember the good things and diminishes the bad,” Aragorn said as he rose to his feet. “Thank you for this, I will treasure it and while a king does not need anything, a father always appreciates gifts given from the heart.” He kissed Rebecca on the brow and embraced her before embracing Thomas. “I do not have any pressing duties this evening, would you like to go and visit the hobbits?” Thomas and Rebecca nodded and they left the garden.

--------

“Is Lord Faramir available to see me?” Thomas asked the Steward’s secretary as he entered the large outer office in the Tower.

“Come in, Lord Thomas,” Faramir called through the open doorway that led into his private office.

“Good afternoon,” Thomas said as he closed the door behind him.

Faramir nodded in acknowledgment, gesturing Thomas towards a chair. “What does the King require?”

“Oh, I’m not here for him,” Thomas said quickly. “I had something personal to talk to you about, so if you don’t have time now, I can come back later.”

“I have time.” Faramir studied Thomas for a moment before adding, “Though I am somewhat surprised you would come to me to discuss something of a personal nature.”

Thomas paused before answering. While he saw and worked with Faramir almost everyday, it was true that he had kept a certain amount of distance between them. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Faramir, it was just that his resemblance to Boromir was hard for him at times and even though he knew that he wasn’t being fair to the steward, he couldn’t help himself. “I need your advice and it’s not something I want to discuss with Aragorn… at least not yet.”

“Ah, then this must be about Lady Rebecca.” Faramir smiled. “It must be difficult to have the same guardian,” he commented.

“At times it is,” Thomas agreed with a small laugh. “I wanted to ask about betrothal customs. Éomer mentioned silver and gold rings, but he didn’t know any other Gondorian customs and I know nothing about wedding ceremonies here.”

Faramir leaned back in his chair with a thoughtful expression. “I imagine that things are done much differently in your world. Éomer was correct about having silver and gold rings and the exchange of silver rings is all that is required for the betrothal. That and the consent of her father or guardian.”

“That’s similar, though usually only a woman gets a ring then.”

“The wedding ceremony is quite simple.” Faramir went on to explain the details while Thomas listened closely and asked a few questions.

“Well, some of this is the same, but a few things are different,” Thomas shrugged and then gave Faramir a sly smile. “As long as we’re married at the end of it, I suppose it doesn’t matter.”

Faramir laughed. “No, it will not. Are you going to ask her soon?”

“As soon as I can, I was going to wait until her birthday, but it’s over a month away and we have to wait a year already.” Faramir gave him an understanding smile. “All I need to do now is to speak with Aragorn, but I know he’ll approve. Thank you for your help.” He stood to leave.

“Please stay a moment.” Thomas sat back down and looked at the steward questioningly while Faramir stared down at his hands for a moment before meeting Thomas’s eyes once again. Finally, he spoke softly, “When I first met you in the Houses of Healing, I mentioned that I would like to hear of your journey with Boromir because you were obviously close to him.” His gaze sharpened as he studied Thomas. “Learning of how you met and where you are from has only heightened my interest, yet I have hesitated to speak with you because I sense you are uneasy around me.” Thomas dropped his gaze to the floor for a moment before raising his eyes once again and he saw that Faramir was looking at him with understanding in his grey eyes. “I assume that it is because I greatly resemble my brother, though I suppose I might have offended you in some way.”

“You have never offended me, my Lord Prince Steward!” Thomas hastened to reassure him. He sighed and looked directly at Faramir. “I’m sorry, my lord, but you do remind me so much of Boromir and it’s still hard for me to be reminded of him at times.” He gave Faramir a half smile. “You do some things the same way and you even sound like him at times. Though I’m learning you’re very different in a lot of ways too.” He shrugged.

“Why were you two so close?”

Thomas shrugged again, not really sure how to answer. “I don’t know for sure. We had a couple of tough times at the beginning when I was very upset with him, but it turned out he was right.” Faramir smiled. “We talked quite a bit as we walked and he taught me and Rebecca a lot about life here. Boromir was like a big brother I guess and I needed that as I missed my own brother. I don’t know, Lord Faramir…”

“Please, call me Faramir.”

Thomas nodded. “I will if you call me Thomas. In Lothlórien we spent hours together, either sparring or just talking. Sometimes just the two of us and sometimes with Aragorn or the hobbits, there weren’t a lot of other things to do.” Thomas paused and looked at Faramir uncertainly. “I don’t know if that answers your questions, Faramir.”

“Yes, for now,” Faramir said softly, “except for one that I have not asked anyone except Lady Rebecca and she was not there and if you do not want to answer it, I will understand. How did Boromir die? I know from speaking with Frodo in Ithilien that he… he probably attempted to take the Ring from him, but I do not know what happened after that.”

Thomas stared at him in dismay. “You haven’t asked Aragorn?”

“No, there has never been an appropriate time to ask him.” He looked at Thomas with an unreadable expression.

Staring at the floor, Thomas took a deep breath and began speaking quietly. “He died trying to save Merry and Pippin, Faramir. Aragorn and I were fighting orcs quite a ways away and when we heard his horn we ran to him, but we were too late.” He took another deep breath. “He had too many arrows in him, though he was still alive when we got there.” Thomas looked up at Faramir’s sharp indrawn breath to see tears in his eyes. “I’m sorry, but there was nothing we could do for him and he died a few minutes later.”

“I am sure you could not have done anything or Aragorn would have succeeded. He is a gifted healer. Did Boromir say anything?” he asked.

Thomas nodded and furrowed his brow in thought. “He-he told me he was sorry that he had to break his promise to me and Rebecca and to ask you to show us around Minas Tirith. And he asked Aragorn to protect his land and people and he called him his king. That’s all I remember,” he said quietly.

Faramir closed his eyes and sighed deeply. “Thank you, I know it was not easy for you to do this, but it sets my mind at ease knowing of my brother’s last moments and knowing that he died protecting the hobbits.” Thomas nodded. “It also sounds like I owe you and Rebecca a tour of the city.” A very faint glimmer of amusement lit the depths of his eyes and Thomas smiled weakly.

“Oh, I think we can skip that part now, Faramir. I’m glad that telling you was helpful,” he paused briefly, “perhaps it will be helpful for me as well.”

Faramir nodded and was about to speak when a knock on the door interrupted him. “Come in,” he called. His secretary opened the door,

“The king is here to see you, my lord.”

“Send him right in.” Faramir gave Thomas an apologetic look, but he just shrugged in return.

Aragorn strode in and stopped in surprise upon seeing Thomas sitting there. “Am I interrupting something? I can come back later or you can come see me when you are finished, Faramir.”

Faramir looked at Thomas who shook his head. “I believe we are finished, my Lord King. What do you require of me?” Thomas got to his feet without another word and bowed slightly to Faramir and smiled briefly at Aragorn before leaving.

Aragorn watched him go and turned back to Faramir with a puzzled expression. “Is he all right?”

“Yes, my lord, he is just fine,” he said firmly, staring unflinchingly at his king. “Now, how can I serve you?” After a long pause, Aragorn turned to the parchments he had brought with him, dismissing the matter of Thomas from his mind.

-------

Strolling back up to The Citadel with Thomas, Aragorn smiled and nodded at his people that they passed. He was not able to be out amongst them as often as he wished, so to go with Thomas to pick out the betrothal rings had given Aragorn a good excuse to do so.

“Thank you for coming with me, it was helpful to have you there,” Thomas said.

Aragorn laid his arm across Thomas’s shoulders. “I was glad to be there for you, though truthfully it was not something I ever thought I would be doing until I was much older and actually married.” He grinned and Thomas laughed. “When will you ask her?”

Thomas frowned. “Soon, tomorrow, the next day,” he replied, shrugging. “I just don’t know where to do it. It’s not very romantic to take her to an inn with guards surrounding us.” He glanced sidelong at Aragorn, who smiled, yet did not otherwise respond. “Which is what they do where I come from. Do you think the kitchen staff would make a special meal for us?”

Aragorn stopped abruptly and turned to face Thomas, heedless of the curious looks they drew. “You should know by now that you have only to ask and it will be done for you.”

“I know, I know, I just forget sometimes,” Thomas said as they walked on. “We haven’t been here that long,” he pointed out. “Anyway, if they made a special supper, I thought maybe we could eat it in the Library or the garden so we could at least be alone. It’s not exactly what I’d like since we use those places so often that they aren’t very special, but it will work.”

“There is the balcony off of the sitting room.”

Thomas brightened. “It would be perfect. We never use it, so it would be different enough and it has a nice view. And being upstairs I can arrange things without her knowing about it. Well, maybe I can,” he added hopefully. “Doesn’t she work at the Houses of Healing tomorrow?”

“I believe so,” Aragorn replied after a moments thought.

“Then can I have tomorrow afternoon off to arrange things so I can propose to her tomorrow night?”

Aragorn glanced at Thomas with amusement in his eyes. “Anxious to start your betrothal year?”

“Yes.”

Laughing quietly as they approached the King’s House, Aragorn said, “Take tomorrow off, but I will need you the next few days after that all day long as we have those emissaries from Umbar and Harad arriving next week and I have several things for you to do. Tell Dolgaran tomorrow where and why you will be gone.”

“Yes, my Lord King.” Thomas grinned and Aragorn shook his head in mock dismay as they entered the House.

------

Thomas rushed around the balcony rearranging the flowers and candles one last time. Aragorn had been right, the kitchen servants had been more than happy to make a special supper for him and Rebecca and serve it to them here on the balcony. Mistress Nimrie had also been helpful in arranging for the table and chairs to be set up out here as well as the torches that were placed along the wall to be lit later. Thomas had picked the flowers himself, finding ones that he knew Rebecca liked. Finally satisfied that the table was perfect and that he needed to change before he ‘picked up’ Rebecca, he hurried off to his room. Opening the door, he found his manservant, Rosruin, standing on his balcony brushing off one of his tunics. The servant returned inside and bowed. “My lord, do you require a bath to be prepared for you this evening?”

“No, I’m just going to wash up and change my clothes,” Thomas replied as he headed into the bedchamber.

“Shall I select something for you, Lord Thomas?”

Reminding himself once again that Rosruin was only doing his job, Thomas bit back the retort he wanted to make and instead said, “Could you find that dark blue tunic I wore… oh, one day last week. It has stars embroidered on the left side of the chest. I’d like to wear that with one of those lighter blue, almost silver colored shirts and dark blue leggings. Please find those for me.” Thomas nodded in dismissal and headed into the bathing room. When he returned some time later, he found all of the items he requested lying on the bed and he smiled at Rosruin. “Thanks.” The servant bowed slightly and knowing that Thomas did not want his help in dressing, left the room. Quickly donning his clean clothes and checking his appearance in the small polished metal that passed for a mirror here, Thomas left the room after carefully tucking the two silver rings into a pocket of his tunic. To his surprise, Aragorn was waiting for him in the hallway and he looked Thomas over with approval.

“Rebecca may actually accept your proposal,” he commented in a teasing voice. Thomas nodded absently, not really listening as he tugged on the sleeve of his tunic. “Then again she may refuse to marry you and marry Hinluin instead,” Aragorn continued in the same tone.

“What? What did you say?” Thomas looked up in alarm.

“Nothing important.” Aragorn grinned, leaning back against the wall with his arms crossed. He suddenly turned serious. “I just came by to tell you to relax and enjoy your evening. It will become a treasured memory for both of you.” Aragorn’s voice dropped, “I know the time I became betrothed is, though of course that may be because the wait for the marriage itself has been so long,” he admitted wryly.

“Ours will be long enough,” Thomas replied, shifting nervously on his feet, impatient to leave.

Aragorn smiled. “I think you better go, Thomas, you do not want to keep Rebecca waiting.”

Nodding, Thomas hurried off down the stairs to Rebecca’s chambers. Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door and waited. Lothrín opened it and smiled at him. “Good evening, Lord Thomas,” she said.

“Good evening, Mistress Lothrín, is Lady Rebecca ready for supper? I came to escort her this evening.”

Lothrín looked at him closely and then smiled again. “She is almost ready, my lord. Would you like to wait in the sitting room?” Thomas nodded and walked in. He immediately moved to the window and stared blankly out into the garden, his mind racing with how to propose to Rebecca. It should be so simple, he thought with dismay. They loved each other, she knew it was only a matter of time until he asked her, so why was it suddenly so hard? Thomas almost groaned out loud.

“Thomas?”

Turning, Thomas felt his words catch in his throat as he gazed at Rebecca. There were times she looked so young and vulnerable and it brought out his protective nature. Then there were times like this when Rebecca looked so stunningly beautiful that it almost took his breath away and he knew that she was every bit a woman, no matter how young in years. Swallowing hard and clearing his throat, Thomas finally responded, “I came to take you to supper this evening,” he said, moving to her, his eyes never leaving hers.

Rebecca laughed softly. “But it’s just across the hall, Thomas.”

“I have something different planned,” he explained, taking her hand in his and caressing it gently. “You look beautiful,” Thomas added, looking her up and down, taking a closer look at the soft blue dress she wore that flowed gently down her body. Rebecca’s hair was fixed slightly different he noticed and it suddenly occurred to him that perhaps she had been told ahead of time about his plans and while it annoyed him, he was also pleased with the results.

“Thank you. What do you mean that you have something different planned? I thought we were having guests tonight.”

“Come along.” He smiled mysteriously and led her from the room and up the stairs.

“Where are we going?” Rebecca asked, looking around in confusion.

“You’ll see,” Thomas replied, leading her through the sitting room and out onto the balcony. Rebecca gasped in surprise when she saw the table and how it was decorated and she turned to Thomas, suddenly looking shy.

“You did this for me?” Thomas nodded and looked behind her to the servants who were bringing out drinks and a basket of warm bread before quickly disappearing. Thomas helped Rebecca into her chair and then sat next to her so that they could both see out over the wall surrounding the balcony.

“I tried to think of something from earth for the cooks to make, but I couldn’t think of anything that they could make here. A hamburger and french fries sounds wonderful, even for a special supper.” Thomas grinned and Rebecca laughingly agreed. They ate their meal slowly, talking about what each of them were learning in the afternoons when they went their separate ways, they talked about various members of the Fellowship and they laughed together over silly things as they lingered over dessert. The torches had been lit, all of the dishes had been cleared away and Thomas knew the servants would not be returning. He decided it was time. He knew she knew why they were there and he just had to ask her, but he was still nervous. He decided that killing orcs was easier than asking Rebecca to marry him. Thomas took her hand in his and gave her a searching look and she smiled. “I’m sure you know why I did all this, Rebecca.”

“I thought you just wanted to have a nice supper with me,” she said with a look of confusion on her face, though Thomas could swear he saw amusement in her eyes.

“Well, yes, of course, but it was for more than that.” He paused, waiting for her to fill in the blank, but Rebecca was not going to let him off the hook that easily and she just looked at him expectantly, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. “I wanted to ask you to marry me,” Thomas said with exasperation in his voice.

Rebecca finally smiled. “Is that the question?” she teased lightly, “or are you telling me that you intended to ask me that?”

“Rebecca,” Thomas growled, though a smile was starting to spread across his face. “Will you marry me?”

“Yes, Thomas, I will,” she replied softly, her eyes glistening in the flickering torchlight.

“Good,” he said sighing, deeply relieved that the hard part was over. He stood, pulling Rebecca up with him and dug into his pocket for the betrothal rings. “Here are the rings I picked out for us. We wear these for a year and then we exchange them for gold ones on our wedding day.” Rebecca nodded as Thomas carefully slid the intricately etched silver band onto her right index finger. “I love you,” he whispered as he kissed her tenderly.

“I love you too, Thomas Morgan,” Rebecca said as she placed Thomas’s ring on his finger before kissing him. Thomas took her hand and led her to the edge of the balcony where he drew her into his arms simply embracing her for a moment, cherishing the thought that in a year Rebecca would be his wife. Rebecca startled him slightly by wrapping her arms around his neck, drawing his head down and beginning to kiss him gently. He smiled at her eagerness and she whispered, “What?” but he simply shook his head and responded to her kisses. Neither of them knew, nor cared very much how long they stood on the balcony wrapped in each other’s arms; sometimes kissing gently and tenderly, sometimes more deeply and passionately, and sometimes just holding each other and staring quietly into the night. It was Rebecca who spoke first, “Where will we live?”

“Here, I suppose,” Thomas said, looking down at her. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Faramir was born and raised right here so I think it’s just expected that we stay. Don’t you want to live here?”

“Well, Arwen will be here soon and when she and Aragorn have children, won’t we just be in the way?” Rebecca looked up at Thomas shyly. “Do you want to have children, Thomas?”

He smiled. “Yes, I hope we have a few.” He looked at her questioningly and she nodded. “Rebecca, are you nervous about Arwen?”

“Yes,” she whispered. “What if she doesn’t like us and doesn’t want us around? What will we do?”

“Rebecca,” he chided softly, “you know Aragorn better than that. For one thing he wouldn’t love someone like that.” She nodded. “And he wouldn’t let anyone do that to us.”

“I know, and I keep telling myself that, but it doesn’t seem to help very much,” she sighed. “Maybe telling you will help.”

“Hopefully,” he said, nodding. “I know you can’t talk to Aragorn about Arwen, but Legolas knows her, maybe you can speak with him. It might help put your mind at ease about her.”

“He’s also known her a lot longer than Aragorn anyway so he can tell me even more than Adar could.” She smiled and then tried to cover a yawn, but Thomas saw it and glanced up at the sliver of moon.

“It’s late,” he murmured reluctantly, “and we should go in.” He took her hand and led her back inside, down the stairs and stopped outside her door. Running his hand gently over her face one last time, he kissed her long and tenderly before stepping back and giving her a slight bow. “Good night, my Lady Rebecca.”

“Good night, Thomas,” she replied with a soft smile before opening her door and slipping inside. Closing the door quietly behind her, she leaned back against it with a grin. As tired as she felt, Rebecca also knew she was too excited to sleep right away and she wished more than ever that she had a friend she could call and share the news with or her mom she thought with a sudden lump in her throat. She hadn’t thought about her mom in a long time and suddenly she realized that she was going to get married and her mom wouldn’t be there and wouldn’t even know about it. And if she and Thomas had children they wouldn’t have grandparents either. Shaking her head to stop these thoughts from overwhelming what had been a wonderful and beautiful evening, Rebecca suddenly knew what she needed to do. Opening the door again she walked quickly down the hallway to Aragorn’s room and knocked on the door. As she waited, it suddenly occurred to her that it might be later than she thought and that he might be asleep. Her fears were confirmed when a rumpled, sleepy looking Aragorn opened the door, pulling on a shirt and rubbing sleep from his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Adar,” she apologized. “I didn’t know it was so late, I can talk to you tomorrow.”

Aragorn peered at her closely and beckoned her inside. “It is all right, Rebecca, come in.”

Rebecca stopped just inside the room and smiled at Aragorn. “I was just too excited to sleep and- and I didn’t have anyone to tell and even though I knew you probably already knew,” Aragorn nodded with a faint smile, “I still needed to tell someone, but I’m sorry I awoke you,” she apologized again.

“I am glad you did,” Aragorn said kindly, reaching out and taking her right hand and looking at the ring on it. “Indeed if I had thought about it, I would have stayed up, even if it is rather late.” He smiled as she blushed. “This suits you well, Rebecca, and I wish you and Thomas much joy.” He embraced her gently.

“Thank you, Adar.” She turned to leave.

“Rebecca,” Aragorn called softly, “what is the real reason you came? Not that I doubt you wanted to share your news, but something is bothering you as well.”

Rebecca turned and stared at him for a long moment. “You spent too much time around elves, Aragorn,” she sighed and then looked at the floor with a frown. “When I got back to my room,” she said slowly, “and I wanted to tell someone…” tears started silently flowing down her cheeks and Aragorn moved closer though he did not touch her. “I realized that my mom would never know and wouldn’t be here when I got married.” She looked up at Aragorn then and saw his eyes filled with compassion as she continued. “And if we have children they won’t have grandparents…” Rebecca angrily wiped the tears away. “I know it sounds foolish when this should be such a happy day and it is, but…” her voice trailed off. Aragorn took her in his arms then and she wept long and hard while he held her comfortingly until her tears stopped flowing.

“There are really no words of comfort I can give you in this, sell nín. You know that I will be here for you and your children, though I know it is not the same. Yet it is all I can offer you,” Aragorn said quietly as he took her chin and tilted her face up so he could see her eyes again. He felt her relax slightly in his arms and she sighed deeply.

“No, it’s not quite the same, Adar,” she agreed, “but it will be… enough and I’m very thankful to have you in my life.” Rebecca paused and Aragorn saw a glimmer of pain deep in her eyes before she continued softly, “I think I should go to bed now, I’m very tired.”

Aragorn gave her a searching look and then nodded. “I am sure you are, it has been a long day for you.” He smiled down at her. “Do not forget the joy in it,” he said, holding up her right hand with the silver ring on it and she gave him a faint smile. “Come, I will walk you back to your room.” He led Rebecca down the hallway, embracing her once again before leaving her to return to his own chambers. Running his fingers through his hair, Aragorn blew out a frustrated sigh, not sure if he had said the right things to her, or if there was really anything he could have done differently. Once again, he wished that Arwen were here. He knew that she would have known the proper things to say to bring some comfort to Rebecca. Most of the time, Aragorn had known how to deal with whatever situations had arisen with either Rebecca or Thomas, but for some reason, he was not sure that he had this time. With another sigh – this time of longing – Aragorn went back to bed.

--------

Blocking out the sounds of those who were behind him – his family, friends, and the people of the city – Aragorn stood some distance in front of the opening leading into Minas Tirith, his gaze fixed firmly on the approaching party of elves. Somewhere amongst them rode his beloved and his eyes darted from one figure to the next as they drew near. Skipping over the blonde and silver-haired elves his gaze suddenly rested on Arwen and he drew in a sharp breath, releasing it slowly as his tense muscles relaxed. Though Aragorn did not take his eyes off of Arwen, part of his mind registered the fact that she rode alongside Elrond and their brothers. Arwen’s eyes finally met his and Aragorn saw all the love and longing he felt for her reflected back to him. With great reluctance he tore his gaze away from her and turned his attention back to Celeborn and Galadriel who were leading the company. Celeborn slipped gracefully from his horse and turned to Galadriel, who took his arm and the two elves slowly walked towards Aragorn who appeared to be waiting patiently, though those who knew him well could sense his underlying restlessness. However, the smile he gave his grandparents was genuine, Aragorn was truly glad to see them.

“Mae govannen, Daernaneth, Daeradar,” Aragorn said, bowing deeply. “Welcome to Minas Tirith, my home.” It suddenly occurred to him that he had never been with his grandparents outside of one of the elven havens and he hesitated to embrace them, unsure if they would deem it appropriate in front of a city of men.

Gentle laughter filled his mind. ‘I care not for what men think Estel.’ Galadriel glided gracefully up to Aragorn, her hand gently cupping one cheek as she kissed the other. “You have done well, Estel and that which you have long desired draws near.”

“Yes, I saw her briefly, Daernaneth.”
Aragorn smiled faintly before turning to Celeborn. His grandfather embraced him tightly, then pulled back and held him at arms length, studying Aragorn so intently that even he was hard pressed to meet the elf-lord’s eyes.

“It is good to see you Estel. When last I saw you,” Celeborn’s eyes darkened slightly as he looked down at Aragorn, “I feared greatly for you and your companions.” His eyes swept over the members of the Fellowship standing back near the opening. “To see you now, in peace and safety and invested as the king of your people brings me joy.” Celeborn’s eyes lightened then in the late afternoon sun. “However, I believe there is someone you desire to see more than me or my wife.” A flicker of amusement lit the depths of his eyes. “Elrond is certainly waiting to speak with you. He has spoken of little else for many miles.”

Aragorn smiled at Celeborn. “I am anxious to speak with him, however I believe I shall speak with my betrothed first. If you will excuse me.” He bowed deeply and moved past them. Aragorn saw that the rest of the elves had dismounted and were gathering together nearby, speaking quietly to one another. All except for Arwen, who stood slightly apart from the others, her gaze fixed on him as he drew near. Taking in the long, flowing red dress that only enhanced her beauty in a single glance, Aragorn’s eyes sparkled with joy as Arwen’s face lit up in a brilliant smile. Neither of them spoke at first as two sets of grey eyes looked each other over carefully. Aragorn took in every detail of Arwen’s exquisite beauty, her long black hair, her glowing – almost translucent – skin, the perfectly shaped eyes, nose, and lips, which he realized he could be enjoying not just looking at. Taking her soft, smooth hand and caressing it gently, he whispered, “Arwen, meleth-nín,” as he pulled her closer.

Arwen wrapped her arms around Aragorn’s waist as he cupped her cheek with one hand and kissed her tenderly, yet deeply. She did not release him when he pulled back slightly, instead Arwen kissed him several more times before finally stepping back, her eyes sparkling as she whispered, “It has been far too long, Estel to stop after a single kiss.”

Aragorn raised an eyebrow as he gazed at her, “Do not tempt me, meleth-nín, there are far too many people watching and I fear I would do something we would both regret for years.” He raised her hand and gave it a lingering kiss, his darkened eyes never leaving hers.

“Then I shall wait, beloved,” Arwen said, disappointment obvious in her low, slightly musical voice.

“Tomorrow we will be married,” Aragorn gave her a smoldering look, “however I believe we will have some free time this evening.”

The sound of a throat being cleared caught their attention and with a final squeeze of Arwen’s hand, Aragorn turned to find Elrond standing nearby. Searching his adar’s eyes, he found only love and warmth there as he moved to greet him with a slight inclination of his head. “Mae govannen, Adar. It is good to see you, welcome to my home.” A faint smile tugged at the corners of Aragorn’s lips as he glanced up at the towering white city alongside them. Elrond pulled him tightly into an embrace before he replied.

“Long were the days while you were gone on this journey, ion-nín. To see you well and whole brings me joy. I have brought with me the two things I promised you long ago. One of which you seem to have already taken possession of,” Elrond said dryly as he glanced at Arwen who gave him a serene smile. Aragorn said nothing though his eyes twinkled with amusement and he looked at his brothers who had silently joined them. “The other is the scepter of Annúminas to signify your kingship of Arnor and that belongs with the Elendilmir you are wearing.” Elrond indicated the circlet Aragorn had on his head as Elrohir handed him the long, narrow, intricately carved black wooden box that contained the mithril scepter.

“Hannon le, Adar,” Aragorn said as he received the box, bowing deeply. Turning around, he beckoned for Halbarad to join him and, when he did so, he handed the box to the Ranger and then carefully opened it, taking out the scepter and running his hands lightly over the smooth surface of the handle and up to the head with its star symbols made from jewels that shimmered in the sun. Aragorn had only seen the scepter once before, on the day he learned of his heritage seventy years before and the beauty of it had overwhelmed him even then. Seeing it again now threatened to do the same, especially with the knowledge that he had fulfilled all that had been required of him. Aragorn turned his eyes to Arwen and saw a look of understanding fill her eyes for she knew what the scepter meant to him. Taking a deep breath, he put it carefully back in the box. “Will you take care of this for me, Cousin?” he asked Halbarad quietly.

“Yes, my Lord King,” he replied, bowing. Halbarad then looked at the elves surrounding him and greeted them quietly, “Mae govannen, Lady Arwen, Lord Elrond, Lord Elladan, Lord Elrohir.” He also bowed to Celeborn and Galadriel as Aragorn introduced them. The elves replied in kind except for Arwen who gently embraced him, much to Halbarad’s embarrassment and Aragorn’s hidden amusement.

A hand suddenly fell on Aragorn’s shoulder and he looked up into the bright blue eyes of Glorfindel. “Young Estel, I weary of this waiting to greet you. King or not, I assume that you have not forgotten those who helped raise and train you and if you have, then I believe that I shall have to remind you on the training ground in the very near future.”

Looking up at Glorfindel, Aragorn was again reminded that while he was very tall for a man, he was still shorter than most elves, especially Glorfindel who was the tallest elf he had ever met. He gave the elf an amused look before he replied, “No, Glorfindel, you well know I have not forgotten you and that my body still bears the scars from your training. However, I would like to spar with you while you are here. There are none here that come close to your skill and I would enjoy the challenge.”

Glorfindel’s eyes sparkled merrily and he reached out and clasped Aragorn’s arm before pulling him into an embrace. “I accept the challenge, Estel.”

Nodding, Aragorn left Glorfindel and greeted Erestor and the other members of Rivendell that had accompanied Arwen and Elrond before he was finally able to return to Arwen’s side. Taking her hand he lightly kissed it, before he laid it on his arm and covered it with his other hand, caressing it gently. “I have some special people for you to meet. I know that Elladan and Elrohir have mentioned Rebecca and Thomas to you,” Aragorn said as he led Arwen and Elrond towards his two wards.

“Yes, and Daernaneth and Daeradar also spoke of them,” Arwen replied. She glanced ahead and then back at Aragorn. “From what our brothers have told me they are dear to you and I have been looking forward to meeting them.” Aragorn smiled.

Elrond looked at Aragorn with a thoughtful expression. “Their story intrigues me and I plan to spend time speaking with them about their world and with Mithrandir as well.”

“I do not think that Mithrandir will tell you much, Adar, though I believe he knows much more than he says. I have asked him questions, but he has been less than forthcoming.”
A look of frustration crossed Aragorn’s face briefly, but he quickly added, “We shall discuss that another day, today is a day of joy.” He glanced at Arwen. “They are very nervous about meeting you, especially Rebecca.”

Arwen’s light grey eyes took on a thoughtful look much like her father’s. “It is only natural, Estel, you have been the one they look to in all things since they have been here. They do not know me and I will change things just by my very presence in your life… in their lives. Hopefully, it will be a change for the better,” she smiled and Aragorn nodded sharply, tightening his grip on her hand, “but change is always difficult and I imagine it would be even more so for ones such as these.”

Looking ahead, Aragorn caught the gaze of Rebecca and Thomas; they stood in front of the rest of the Fellowship and near Faramir and Prince Imrahil and his family, with their hands clasped tightly together. Rebecca’s free hand nervously twisted one of the ties on the long yellow gown she wore, while Thomas rocked lightly on the balls of his feet. As Aragorn gave them an encouraging smile, Thomas stilled his motion and Rebecca began trying to smooth out the tie that she had twisted almost beyond repair. Aragorn bit back a laugh as he saw Thomas’s eyes widen when the young man looked at Arwen and then quickly looked back at Aragorn with awe in his eyes. Rebecca however took a deep breath and kept her eyes on the two elves alongside him. “Lady Arwen, Lord Elrond, these are my wards… Rebecca and Thomas,” Aragorn said.

“A star shines upon the hour of our meeting, Lady Arwen, Lord Elrond,” Rebecca and Thomas each said carefully, but almost perfectly in elvish one after the other with deep bows.

“It does indeed,” Arwen said graciously and with a small smile, looking from Rebecca to Thomas. “I have heard many wonderful things about you both and I look forward to getting to know you for myself.”

Rebecca watched Arwen closely, marveling at her beauty and her grace; she could see glimpses of Galadriel in her face as well as close resemblance to her brothers. Glancing at Aragorn, Rebecca saw that joy filled his eyes as he gazed at his betrothed. Elrond looked very similar to the twins, though she supposed it was actually the other way around. He seemed to be studying her and Thomas with his kind grey eyes as closely as she was studying Arwen and while it should have made her nervous, it had the opposite effect. Knowing that Elrond was as curious about her and Thomas as she was about him and Arwen, helped Rebecca to relax as it made the whole situation seem more normal somehow.

“We’re glad you’re finally here, Lady Arwen,” Rebecca said. “Adar has been speaking of you constantly for many days.” She fidgeted, suddenly uncertain if Arwen would approve of her calling him Adar or if it was an appropriate remark at all, she glanced at Aragorn and he smiled at her before returning his gaze to Arwen.

Arwen laughed a light, musical laugh. “Then I am glad that I have arrived if only to put a stop to that.”

Elrond smiled faintly down at Rebecca. “It seems that we have been in similar situations then, as Arwen has spoken of little else besides Estel for the last several days.” Rebecca returned his smile, seeing Elrohir clearly in Elrond’s expression.

“Did-did you have a nice trip?” Thomas asked politely, glancing between Arwen and Elrond.

“Yes, it has been many years since I have traveled so far from Imladris and to do so again in a time of peace and with some of my children,” Elrond replied, glancing at Aragorn, “made for a pleasant journey.” Thomas nodded and tried desperately to think of something else to say.

“Though it seemed rather slow,” Arwen added. “Elrohir tells me that you have some training as a healer, Rebecca.”

“Yes, when I was in Lothlórien, Lord Thalion started teaching me,” Rebecca looked at Elrond who nodded in acknowledgement, “and now I spend time here in the Houses of Healing.”

“I heard of your own injuries, and you seem to have recovered well,” Elrond remarked, looking her up and down. “No lingering pain or soreness?”

“No, my lord,” Rebecca shook her head, “My arm was sore for awhile, but Lord Elladan spoke with me,” Aragorn chuckled and Rebecca glared briefly at him before remembering who was there and dropping her gaze, “and then I followed his directions very closely.”

“I believe she feared his displeasure if it was not fully healed upon his return,” Aragorn said with a small smile.

Rebecca did not respond, though she would have under different circumstances, but the presence of Arwen kept her quiet. She was unaware that Galadriel and Celeborn had joined them until she heard Galadriel’s voice in her head. ‘Be at peace, child, my granddaughter will add much to your life, if you will allow it. She will not and cannot take him from you.’ Sighing softly and blinking her eyes, Rebecca looked up and nodded at Galadriel as she replied, “I know that, Lady Galadriel, but I forget sometimes.”

Thomas wondered what Galadriel had said to Rebecca and hoped he would remember to ask her later, but for now he turned his attention to the tall, regal elves. “Mae govannen, Lady Galadriel, Lord Celeborn,” Thomas said, bowing deeply. “I’m glad to see you,” he added, looking briefly at both of them before shifting his gaze slightly past Celeborn, unnerved by the elf-lord’s eyes once again.

“I am pleased to see you again, young Thomas,” Celeborn said gravely, looking him up and down. “You have grown and, from what I hear, the sword I gave you was put to good use.” His eyes darkened.

“Yes, my lord,” Thomas replied quietly, “it was well used and I thank you again for it.”

Celeborn inclined his head in acknowledgement. “How do you fare, Lady Rebecca?” Celeborn asked in a gentler voice.

Rebecca looked up at the elf-lord. “I’m doing quite well here, my lord,” she replied, squeezing Thomas hand tightly. “Did Haldir and Brethil come with you?” she asked, looking from Celeborn to Lady Galadriel.

It was Galadriel who answered, “Haldir did come as he is the captain of our guard; however Brethil is not part of our party, Lady Rebecca. She did ask me to give you her greetings as did Lord Thalion.” Rebecca nodded and tried to hide her disappointment, though she was glad that at least she’d be able to see Haldir again.

“Who is Brethil?” Arwen asked.

“She’s an elleth that helped me during my stay in Lothlórien. I’d been surrounded by men… males for weeks and so we became friends while I was there. Actually that hasn’t changed at all, I’m still surrounded by males,” Rebecca said, giving Arwen a tentative smile. “So it will be nice to have another female around.”

Arwen smiled. “It will be good for both of us, I think. And as I have never lived in a city of men,” she glanced up at the walls looming above them, “you, as well as Aragorn and Thomas, will have to help me adjust.”

“We will do so,” Aragorn promised quietly, caressing her hand, while Rebecca and Thomas nodded and exchanged glances, having never considered how difficult it might be for Arwen to live in Minas Tirith. Aragorn turned and beckoned to someone before looking back at Thomas and Rebecca. “I have one more person for you to meet and then I would like you to escort the rest of the party up to the Citadel with Halbarad while I introduce my kin to Faramir and the others and we will follow along shortly. Master Belegion knows where they are to stay. This is Lord Glorfindel, whom I have spoken of on several occasions. Lord Glorfindel, these are my wards, Rebecca and Thomas.”

Thomas stared up at the very tall, golden haired elf-lord with wide eyes for a moment before he bowed deeply. “Mae govannen, Lord Glorfindel,” he said, unable to keep the awe from his voice. Rebecca quickly followed Thomas’s example, not quite believing that there could be an elf taller than Celeborn and with eyes bluer than Legolas’s. And there was more of a visible glow about him than with most elves.

Mae govannen, Rebecca and Thomas, children of Estel’s heart,” Glorfindel said as he placed a gentle hand on each of their shoulders as he examined them closely. For some reason it was not as hard to withstand his gaze as it was Celeborn’s or Galadriel’s. There was definitely the same sense of ancient wisdom and power there, but it was as if he was able to shutter it in some way. Glorfindel nodded, as if satisfied at what he saw in them. “I see now why Estel has made you his wards and it was well done.” Not knowing how to respond to such a statement or if he was even expecting a response, Rebecca and Thomas kept quiet. “Did Estel teach you swordplay, Thomas?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Good, then you will have to join us some morning while I am here.”

“Yes, my lord, I’d enjoy watching the two of you.” Thomas tried to make himself sound more interested than he felt. He did not relish the thought of having to spar with another elf-lord.

“I will join you as well,” Celeborn spoke up and Thomas groaned inwardly. “I would like to see how you have improved, young Thomas.”

“Oh, I’ve improved, my lord,” he said quietly. “Though, I don’t know if it’ll make any difference if I spar with you. But I’ve been through too many battles not to have improved.”

“You have improved tremendously, Thomas,” Aragorn said, “and it will make a difference. Though I do not think either you or I will ever be able to prevail against Lord Glorfindel or Lord Celeborn. Not that I am going to stop trying,” he added with a smile.

Rebecca only half listened as they talked about swords and sparring, instead she was observing Arwen and Elrond from the corner of her eye. Arwen was leaning lightly against Aragorn, though it was hard to see unless you were close, and her eyes were shining with what Rebecca assumed was either love or joy, or maybe both, she didn’t know Arwen well enough to be sure. All she could tell was that Arwen loved Aragorn deeply and she suddenly knew that things were going to work out, even if they were difficult for awhile. That Arwen loved Aragorn too much to hurt the ones he thought of as a son and daughter. Looking at Elrond though almost took her breath away for just a moment. Rebecca must have seen him at just the right time, because she caught a glimpse of great pain in his eyes as he looked at Arwen and Aragorn. And then it was gone and he suddenly turned his head and looked right at Rebecca and she quickly turned her gaze back to Glorfindel and Celeborn.

“I really need to introduce all of you to the rest of the people who have been patiently waiting,” Aragorn finally said, glancing around at the elves. “Thomas and Rebecca, Halbarad is waiting for you just outside the gates and we will join you later.” Taking their leave, they bowed to the elves before walking off, relieved that the initial meeting was over and both of them discovering that they liked Arwen very much.

~~~

Elvish Translations:

Adar – Father
Hannon le – I thank thee
Mae govannen – Well met
Meleth-nín – my love
Muindor nín – my brother
Sell nín – my daughter


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