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In Aragorn's Safekeeping
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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31
Family

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.

Italics are used to indicate conversations in elvish and individual elvish words are translated at the end of the chapter.


~~~

From his chair to the left of Elessar, but well back from the table of councilors, Thomas listened as Lord Nestor droned on about the need to increase taxes to repair the damage to Minas Tirith. He wasn’t sure if Nestor was right or not, though he didn’t really think so, but he did know that Nestor could easily have made his point in two minutes instead of dragging it out for the ten minutes he had been speaking for so far. Thomas shifted uncomfortably in his chair drawing the attention of Halbarad who gave him a half smile which he returned before staring down at the parchment he was supposed to be taking notes on. Elessar listened with an impassive expression, his eyes moving to Faramir as the steward interrupted Nestor’s monologue.

“The people of Gondor cannot afford to pay additional taxes at this time, Lord Nestor. I predict that the coming winter will find many of our people, especially those in some of the outlying areas, struggling just to survive. The city of Minas Tirith will have to deal with our own problems and allow those towns and villages scattered across our land to do the same. Though,” he added thoughtfully, “I think that we need to help those towns and villages if we are able to, my Lord King.”

“How do you suggest we deal with our problems, my Lord Prince Steward?” Elessar finally spoke up, looking at Faramir with a question in his eyes.

“We put some of the city guardsmen to work on repairing walls and buildings and other things that need to be repaired,” Faramir replied promptly. “We need those men in uniform and available should war come upon us unlooked for, but they also need to be kept busy. Also, I suggest that Lord Húrin look at the food we have in storage for the soldiers and see how long it will last at regular rations and then we need to proceed from there. I realize it is just two days past mid-summer, my lord, yet we need to think ahead to winter…” A quiet knock on the door interrupted the steward and he paused. Elessar scowled in annoyance, gesturing for Thomas to handle the interruption and motioning for Faramir to continue.

Thomas slipped out of the council chamber and was surprised to see Aragorn’s secretary in the hallway looking unusually flustered. He supposed it was because he had just interrupted the council meeting which was rarely done.

“Forgive me, Lord Thomas, but one of the Rangers has arrived and says he has an urgent message for King Elessar and that it must be delivered immediately.”

“Where is it?”

“He says he must give it to the king personally.”

Thomas frowned in concern, wondering what could be so important that the Ranger didn’t even trust Aragorn’s secretary. Well, perhaps the man would trust him. “Where is this Ranger? Maybe he’ll give it to me.”

“He’s in the office, my lord,” the secretary started down the hall and turned into Aragorn’s office.

Thomas started in surprise because the man standing there was not one of Aragorn’s Dúnedain Rangers as he had assumed, but one of the Ithilien Rangers and he was covered with sweat and dust and had obviously traveled far and in a great hurry. The secretary introduced him. “Lord Thomas, this is Tathor. Captain Mablung sent him with the message.” Tathor bowed and Thomas inclined his head in acknowledgement.

“I know Captain Mablung,” Thomas acknowledged. “You have a message for the king?” Tathor nodded. “I’ll see that he gets it.” He held out his hand, waiting for the young Ranger to give him the message he was holding.

“I was told to give it directly to the king, my lord,” Tathor said, shaking his head.

“He’s in a council meeting and I doubt it will be finished for several more hours,” Thomas replied, eyeing him closely and seeing a flicker of desperation cross the Ranger’s face.

“This is important, my lord. Isn’t there some way I can speak with him sooner?”

“Can you at least tell me what the message is about before I interrupt him?”

Tathor hesitated and then said, “Orcs, my lord.”

Thomas gave him a grim look and then nodded as he made up his mind. “Follow me, Tathor.” He walked quickly back down the hallway and motioned for the Ranger to wait while he quietly entered the room and crossed to Elessar. He stood silently beside him until he was acknowledged. The room had fallen silent when Elessar looked up at Thomas questioningly and he leaned down and spoke quietly for the king’s ears only. “There is a Ranger from Ithilien outside with a message from Captain Mablung and he will only give it to you. All he will tell me is that it’s about orcs, but I thought you should get it immediately or I can have him wait in your office.” Thomas suddenly hoped he had made the right decision by interrupting the meeting.

Elessar stood abruptly. “Excuse me, my lords, but something has come up that requires my immediate attention. Prince Faramir, Prince Imrahil, Lord Halbarad, I need you to come with me.” He turned to the door and Thomas sighed quietly in relief. Elessar glanced at him sharply, but said nothing as he left the chamber. “You have a message for me,” Elessar demanded of the young Ranger standing in the hallway.

“Yes, my Lord King,” Tathor replied, handing him the sealed parchment.

“Come.” Elessar carefully broke open the seal as he strode to his office, scanning the message on the way. He handed it to Faramir to read who then passed it on to Imrahil and then Halbarad. Leaning on his desk the King fixed his eyes on the Ranger, “Do you know what this message says…,” he paused, realizing he did not know the man’s name.

“Tathor, my Lord King, and yes, Captain Mablung had me read it before I left.”

“Do you have anything to add?”

Tathor shook his head, “No, my lord.”

“All right, go and eat and get some rest before I send you back to Ithilien. Thomas, have one of the pages take him down to the guard barracks and send another page for the Captain of the City Guard.” Thomas nodded and led Tathor from the office. Aragorn looked at the three men that remained. “Where would a hundred and fifty orcs have come from?”

“You know there are many places up in those mountains to hide and if Mablung says there are that many orcs denned up there, then I trust him, my lord,” Faramir said.

“I trust him too, Faramir. I just wonder how they have hidden there for so long,” Aragorn replied, glancing at Thomas as he slipped back into the office. He shook his head. “I suppose it does not matter how, we just need to get rid of them.”

“How many men are at Henneth Annûn now?” Halbarad asked. Aragorn looked questioningly at Faramir.

“One hundred fifty Rangers are stationed there, but not all of them are there at any given time. They patrol all the way down to the Cross-roads and north to the Morannon. I doubt if Mablung could spare more than,” Faramir paused briefly, “eighty men to chase down this nest of orcs and still leave his other areas protected.”

“That is not enough, not if we want to ensure we kill all of the orcs and to spare as many of our men as possible,” Imrahil said.

Aragorn nodded, “Are the men stationed at Cair Andros your Rangers, Faramir?”

“No, mostly city guardsmen, though I am sure that there are a few Rangers.”

“What about your White Company men? Are those mostly Rangers?”

Faramir smiled. “Yes, my lord. For some reason, many of them are indeed former Rangers that transferred into the White Company.”

“Are they here with you in the city or are they out at Emyn Arnen where your new house is being built?”

“I would hardly call that mansion my nephew is building a simple house,” Imrahil said with a faint smile.

Faramir looked at Imrahil for a moment. “I am merely trying to keep up with the standard set by the other Prince of Gondor.” Aragorn cleared his throat and the two princes turned their attention back to him and the King raised his eyebrow in question. “Most of the White Company is at Emyn Arnen. The builders need to be protected and since Beregond cannot be in the city, it seemed best to have him oversee things there for me for a short time. There are eighty-five men there and fifteen men here in Minas Tirith.”

“Would one hundred sixty-five men be enough to handle the orcs?” Aragorn looked around at his three advisors.

“That should be sufficient,” Imrahil said quietly, glancing sidelong at Faramir.

“Faramir, will you allow your White Company to join with Mablung and fight under his command?” Aragorn asked.

“What? Of course, my men are always at your command,” Faramir said, looking at his king in surprise.

“Thank you, but they are your men and I do not intend to usurp your authority over them, just as I would never do so with Imrahil’s Swan Knights.” Faramir nodded as Aragorn continued, “Then if you would, write a message to Beregond and explain what is happening and where he needs to lead his men to meet up with Mablung.”

“What about these builders of Faramir’s? How will you protect them?” Halbarad asked.

“I will send city guardsmen to Emyn Arnen, that is something they can do, but I believe that Mablung needs Rangers to go in after orcs in those mountains. I will notify the Captain of the City Guard to prepare his men so that they may depart as soon as possible.”

“You need to let Mablung know you are sending help,” Faramir reminded him.

“Tathor will ride out with a message in a few hours. Is there anything else we should do?” No one spoke. “Good, come and see me if you think of something else. Thomas, please stay for a moment.” The three men left quietly and Aragorn watched them leave before turning his eyes on Thomas. “You were concerned that you made a mistake about informing me of the message.”

“Yes, I got nervous just as I was speaking with you. I suddenly thought maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do and I wondered if the message was really that important, even though I know that Captain Mablung is your top Ranger in Ithilien.”

“He is, and I assume that that is why you made the decision that you did.” Thomas nodded. “Then do not second guess yourself, Thomas. Even if it turned out that the message was not as important as it appeared, you still made the right decision.” Aragorn straightened up from the desk and walked behind it to sit in his chair. “You made your decision based on the information you had, which is all you can ever do. And,” he said dryly, “a council meeting, as important and exciting as they are, can almost always be interrupted. Though, do not tell my secretary that,” he added with a smile.

Thomas grinned and left Aragorn’s office to return to his own work.

--------

Rebecca’s book was lying in her lap, but she wasn’t reading it. Instead she stared blankly out over the low wall of the sitting room balcony lost in thought. The past week had been so different than the life she had become accustomed to. Aragorn’s marriage, all of the elves living in the house, and having Erestor as a tutor all contributed to making her feel slightly unsettled. All of Aragorn’s family was in the garden and while Rebecca knew they would probably welcome her, she felt she didn’t really belong there and that they would enjoy their time together as a family. Absently flipping the pages of the book, she thought about going to see if Merry or Pippin were home. Maybe they could go down to the lower circles and shop or go to an inn or maybe she could just visit with them.

“Rebecca?” A quiet voice startled her from her thoughts and she looked up and behind her to see Arwen standing in the doorway and she smiled at the elf. “Am I disturbing you?”

“Oh, no, I’m not really doing anything, just sort of thinking about things and reading a little bit,” she replied, holding up her book.

“May I join you?”

“Sure,” Rebecca indicated the numerous chairs scattered around the balcony, “of course you can.”

“What are you reading?” Arwen asked as she gracefully settled into a chair near Rebecca.

“Erestor gave me this book about the fall of Gondolin. But he told me not to let Lord Glorfindel see it.” Rebecca frowned down at the book and then looked at Arwen to see her eyes were sparkling with amusement and she was quite obviously trying not to laugh. “Why shouldn’t I show it to him?”

“Has Estel never told you the story of Glorfindel?” Rebecca slowly shook her head. “Then I need to tell you his story.” Arwen paused briefly and then asked, “How much have you read in the book?”

“I know that Gondolin was a hidden city built in the First Age, Gandalf mentioned it a long time ago as we walked through Fangorn Forest. But I learned today that it was ruled by an elf named Turgon and no one went in or out of the city. That’s about all I know. Oh, it sounds like it was a beautiful place.”

“I have also heard that. Glorfindel lived there and he was the Lord of his house, the House of the Golden Flower. He often has small golden flowers stitched on the hems of his tunics for that reason. Glorfindel served King Turgon and his family faithfully for hundreds of years. Turgon had a daughter, Idril, who married a man named Tuor.” Rebecca looked at her in surprise and Arwen smiled gently. “Yes, marriages between men and elves have happened before, Rebecca. They are just very rare. Idril and Tuor had a son named Eärendil. He is my father’s father. When Eärendil was a young elfling the city was attacked by forces of Morgoth and was ultimately destroyed. But during the battle, Glorfindel saved Idril, Tuor, and young Eärendil by battling a balrog…” Rebecca drew in a sharp breath and looked at Arwen in horror and disbelief. Arwen nodded. “Yes, a balrog. While Idril, Tuor, and their son and many others escaped the city, Glorfindel died, though he did manage to slay the balrog as well.”

Rebecca stared at Arwen. “But Lord Glorfindel isn’t dead, he’s downstairs in the garden right now.”

“Yes, he is, but he died that day in Gondolin and went to the Halls of Waiting in Valinor and after a time he was released and re-housed in a new body.” Rebecca rapidly blinked her eyes several times as she took in this information. Arwen leaned over and took her hand. “No one has told you that elves may receive a new body if they die?” Rebecca shook her head. “It does happen, though those elves usually stay in Valinor. Glorfindel is the only elf that has ever returned here.”

“Why? Why did he come back?” Rebecca was still trying to grasp the fact that Glorfindel had once been dead and was now alive again.

“As I said, he had faithfully served his king, Turgon, and my father is one of his descendants. He came back early in the Second Age to serve and protect my father and his family. Glorfindel does not talk about his reasons, and my brothers and I have rarely spoken about it with our adar, that is really all that we know.” Arwen smiled. “He is just a part of our family.”

Rebecca nodded and looked down at the book in her hands. “That’s why Erestor told me not to let Lord Glorfindel see this,” she murmured. “It must be hard to read about your own death.” She glanced up at Arwen and bit her lip nervously. “Can I ask you a question? It’s not about Lord Glorfindel,” she added hastily.

“You may,” Arwen looked at her expectantly.

“Do you feel any different? I mean, now that you won’t be going to,” she took a deep breath, “Valinor.”

Arwen gazed at her thoughtfully for a moment before staring out over the wall into the distance. Rebecca was just about to apologize for asking such a question when Arwen turned back to her. “Estel has told me of your curiosity,” she began quietly, “and I see it extends to many things.” She paused again, her expression unreadable. “I cannot really describe how I feel, Rebecca. I do feel somewhat different, yet I do not know if it is because I am no longer immortal or because I am married.” Arwen suddenly smiled.

Rebecca returned her smile before turning serious. “I’m sorry for asking you that, Arwen. It probably wasn’t a… an appropriate question to ask you. Aragorn is right, I’m curious about lots of things, but I probably shouldn’t just ask all the questions that come to me.”

“It was a question that would not have been appropriate to ask some people, but I do not mind answering it. It was not something I had considered. I will always try and answer your questions, Rebecca,” Arwen gave her a gentle smile, “but I will also tell you if I feel a question is inappropriate.”

“All right, that seems fair,” Rebecca nodded, relieved that she hadn’t offended Arwen.

“If you do not have anymore questions,” Rebecca quickly shook her head, “would you like to go with me down to the lower circles? I need some things for my sitting room.”

Rebecca hesitated briefly, looking at Arwen carefully before she replied, “That sounds like fun.”

“Good, I am sure that you will know the best places to find what I need,” Arwen said as she stood gracefully. Standing and preparing to follow Arwen from the balcony, Rebecca was surprised when the elf turned and looked down at her. “And, Rebecca, I hope you will join us in the garden some afternoon. You are most welcome to do so.”

“I thought that you might like having time to spend with your family, Arwen,” Rebecca looked at the floor for a moment before meeting the elf’s eyes, “and I didn’t want to interfere with that.”

“Interfere?” Arwen sounded genuinely surprised at Rebecca’s comment. “I do want to be with my family and you are part of it,” she said quietly. She paused briefly, glancing out into the distance again before meeting Rebecca’s eyes once more. “I will admit that the time I spend with my adar is precious to me, Rebecca, and yet I also desire to know more about you and to spend time with you. But both can be done when we are together, if I desire time with my adar privately, then I will seek him out separately.” Arwen slowly walked into the sitting room before she continued, “I know that the rest of my family would also welcome you, Rebecca and, in any case, this is your home,” she gave Rebecca a small smile, “and if you desire to spend time in your own garden, then you should do so.”

“I do enjoy the garden,” Rebecca admitted, “though mostly I’ve been there in the evenings with Thomas,” she said, her cheeks turning slightly pink.

Arwen laughed softly. “I will admit that I have also enjoyed some evenings in the garden with Estel.”

Rebecca shrugged, “We don’t have to take our guards out there,” she said with a grin, “so it’s the best place to go.” They walked down the stairs, out the door and headed across the courtyard, now being trailed by their guards.

Glancing behind her, Arwen nodded. “I understand. Estel says I will become accustomed to them, but it is difficult for me right now.”

“It takes time, Arwen,” Rebecca murmured. “It took me a couple of months before I was really used to having Maldathor or Gílorn around. You’ll get used to it, you will,” she said reaching over and patting Arwen’s arm.

“Thank you, Rebecca.” Arwen glanced down at Rebecca’s hand and then over at her. “I know that I will, yet just knowing that you can understand how I feel about the guards and living in this city is a comfort to me.”

Rebecca stared at her in disbelief, “You are three thousand years old, how can I be any kind of comfort to you?” she asked as they entered the tunnel and started down the ramp to the sixth circle.

“I am not quite three thousand,” Arwen said with a small smile, “and why do you think age has anything to do with being a comfort to someone? You know I have never lived in a city of men before and I am not suggesting that I am in any way fearful, but life is very different for me here and knowing someone, particularly a woman, that has been in the same situation before and can understand what I am feeling is… comforting to me.”

Smiling at the people they passed as they descended into the lower levels of the city, both were quiet for a time. Finally, Rebecca said quietly, “Well, then I’m glad I’ve been here for awhile.” She smiled shyly up at the elf before changing the subject. “Now, what did you want to buy for your sitting room? This level has most of the best shops.” With an amused sparkle in her eye, Arwen explained what she needed and Rebecca led the way to the first shop.

------

Leaving the Tower to return to the royal apartments after a particularly grueling day, Aragorn paused and took a slight detour when he saw Merry and Pippin leaning against the wall of the Citadel. Both were dressed in their full uniforms and were smoking their pipes as they looked out over the Pelennor. The hobbits glanced up and smiled as he approached. “Captain Peregrin, Sir Meriadoc,” he said with a slight bow and a faint smile as he looked down at them. “You were both on duty today?”

“I stood guard over King Théoden’s body in the Hallows,” Merry responded quietly with a look of sorrow darkening his face briefly. Aragorn patted his shoulder comfortingly.

“And I stood guard on the ramp for a few hours and then did some sparring with some of the new recruits,” Pippin said with a grin. “That was fun as they don’t take a hobbit very seriously – at least at first.”

“I am sure they will not make that mistake again,” Aragorn said with an answering grin. “Do either of you have more pipeweed?” he asked, pulling his pipe out from where he had it tucked in his belt. “I fear I used all I had with me today.”

Pippin pulled a pouch from a pocket in his uniform tunic and handed it to Aragorn while Merry looked at the king closely. “You had a rough day,” he observed.

Aragorn shrugged slightly as he filled the bowl of his pipe. “It was,” he admitted. “I was called to the Houses of Healing this morning to help with a severely injured boy that had fallen. He broke several bones, but it was the concussion that had the Warden so concerned and why he asked for my help.” At the hobbits’ inquiring looks, Aragorn continued quietly, “He will be well, he responded to my call and the use of athelas soothed and strengthened him. I will go and see him again tomorrow. Then I received a report from Ithilien about some orcs that had been sighted several days ago. Captain Mablung and his Rangers found and killed them, but we lost seven good men and several more were severely injured,” he gave the hobbits a small, sad smile. “But what tires me the most is dealing with some of my councilors. Most of them are good, just men and serve Gondor well, but there are a few lords that feel they must fight against every new policy Faramir or I deem important and it becomes wearisome. I would not mind their disagreement, if I felt they were doing so because they had the best interests of the people at heart, yet I do not believe that to be so. I believe they do it simply because they wish they were in control of the Kingdom of Gondor.”

He slowly closed the pouch of pipeweed, running his fingers absently over the leather as he thought aloud. “I must find a way to reach them, for their arguments only waste time,” he looked into the distance for a moment before focusing back on the hobbits with a very grim look. “They do not yet seem to realize that it does little good to argue with a king.” Aragorn started to hand the pouch back to Pippin and then looked at it closely. “This is a nice pouch, Pippin,” he commented.

“Thanks, Rebecca gave it to me,” he replied with a smile. “For some reason she decided to honor Shire customs, at least for us hobbits on her birthday.”

Aragorn straightened up from where he had been leaning against the wall and he stared down at Pippin with shock. “Birthday? What do you mean her birthday?” he demanded.

Pippin just looked at Aragorn for a moment and then glanced at Merry who looked just as confused as he did. Finally he slowly replied, “Rebecca’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago, Strider. You didn’t know?” Aragorn shook his head, wondering why he had not been told.

“I wondered why you weren’t at the party,” Merry said, “but I figured you had some sort of celebration for them separately.”

“There was a party?” Aragorn asked quietly, “and what do you mean by ‘them’?”

“Well, it was more like just a lunch that we had,” Merry said quickly, his eye’s not meeting Aragorn’s. “And, Thomas’s birthday was a week or so before Rebecca’s.”

“Why would they not tell me?” Aragorn asked as if to himself, but looking at the two hobbits in confusion. He was surprised at how hurt he felt at not being included in something that had been important enough to them to have some type of celebration with the rest of the Fellowship. He also knew that Thomas had turned eighteen then and was, in the eyes of his people, now considered a man and he would have liked to have been a part of that celebration with him.

“I don’t know why they didn’t tell you, Strider,” Pippin said, looking at him with concern, “but it was all around the time when you found the White Tree and Arwen came and you were very busy.”

Aragorn frowned down at Pippin. “How long does it take to tell someone it is your birthday?”

“You’ll have to ask them, Aragorn,” Merry suggested quietly. “There have been lots of changes in their lives lately.”

Aragorn looked at him for a moment and then nodded once, “I will ask them this evening, Merry.” He glanced up at the sun. “In fact, I need to go now so that I can change before supper.” Looking down at his pipe, which he had not smoked, Aragorn gave Pippin an apologetic smile. “I am sorry to have wasted your pipeweed, Pippin.”

“It’s all right, my Lord King Elessar,” Pippin replied, standing at attention and giving him a cheeky grin. With a small smile, and a quiet good night to the hobbits, Aragorn turned and headed to the House, lost in thought.

--------

“What did they do?” Arwen asked Aragorn as they slowly walked down the hallway to the library where Rebecca and Thomas were waiting.

Seeing the question and concern in her eyes, Aragorn sighed softly. “It is not something they did, it is something they did not tell me about that has upset me, Arwen.”

“You are hurt,”
she said with surprise after studying him for a moment.

“Yes, I am,” he admitted somewhat reluctantly.

“They would never hurt you on purpose, Estel. Be sure that you hear what they have to say.”

“I know they would not and of course I will listen to them.”
Arwen did not look convinced, but said nothing further as they entered the library where Rebecca and Thomas were waiting. The two of them were sitting on a couch and they eyed Aragorn warily as he walked into the room, concerned by the tone of his voice when he had asked them to meet him in the library.

“What’s the matter, Aragorn?” Rebecca quickly asked. “Did we do something wrong?”

Shaking his head, Aragorn sat opposite them with Arwen perched on the wide arm of his chair. “No, you did not do anything wrong exactly, Rebecca, but I learned something today that surprised me.” Aragorn sighed softly as he studied them for a moment and as he noticed their growing unease, he finally spoke. “I was speaking with Merry and Pippin today and they told me that you both recently had birthdays.” Rebecca and Thomas blanched as Aragorn continued. “I was surprised because I had no idea that such had occurred and,” he paused briefly, “hurt when I learned that you also had parties at which I was not present to share in your joy.” He gave them an inquiring look and waited for them to explain, taking Arwen’s hand which she had laid on his arm.

“We meant to tell you, Adar,” Rebecca explained. “The day of Thomas’s birthday you weren’t at breakfast so we couldn’t invite you to the lunch.”

“It was the day you found the White Tree and you were gone all day and when you got back with it, everyone was rushing around and so excited,” Thomas said, “and then we-I just sort of forgot it was even my birthday.”

“And, Rebecca’s birthday?”

“It was the day before Arwen came,” Rebecca said, glancing at the elf who smiled. “You were rather… preoccupied that day and since you hadn’t been at Thomas’s we-we didn’t ask you,” her voice dropped to a whisper.

“I see,” Aragorn said mildly, though his voice fooled no one in the room.

“Gandalf wasn’t there either,” Thomas added and Aragorn nodded.

“I sort of thought maybe birthdays weren’t celebrated here except by hobbits because I’ve never heard anyone mention them except for Merry and Pippin. I don’t know your birthday, Aragorn,” Rebecca pointed out.

“I am eighty-eight years old, Rebecca, and I rarely celebrate it anymore,” Aragorn said with exasperation, “and we are not talking about my birthday, but yours and Thomas’s. Birthdays are something you celebrate and I would have liked to have been a part of both of your special days.” He ran his hand through his hair and sighed. “I do understand that on the day of Thomas’s birthday I was gone, however if you had told me about it ahead of time, I would have been there. Gandalf and I only made plans that morning to go up Mount Mindolluin, and the White Tree would have been there the next day. And I would have liked to have had the distraction of your birthday the day before my beloved arrived.” Aragorn tightened his grip on Arwen’s hand as he glanced up at her. “But more than that, I would have liked being there to celebrate with you. I am somewhat hurt that you did not think I would want to be there, after all we have been through together I thought you knew me better than that,” he finished quietly. It was silent in the library for quite some time and then Thomas spoke.

“I’m sorry, Aragorn,” he said, looking him squarely in the eye. “Of course, I know you better than that and I’m not sure now why we didn’t tell you except to say it seemed to make sense at the time. It’s not a very good reason, though and it sounds foolish right now, and I really am sorry.”

Aragorn smiled faintly and nodded in acknowledgment of his words and looked at Rebecca who would not meet his eyes and he sighed softly, glancing up at Arwen who nodded towards her. He shook his head slightly, “Perhaps you should go to her to this time, meleth-nín.”

“It is not my comfort she needs, Estel,”
Arwen said softly.

Rebecca suddenly giggled and the others looked at her with surprise. She looked quickly between Arwen and Aragorn and finally fixed her eyes on Aragorn and swallowed hard as she spoke softly. “You aren’t going to be able to keep speaking Sindarin in front of me if you don’t want me to understand something because I understand a lot more than I can speak. I understood most of what you just said.” Rebecca glanced away for a moment before meeting Aragorn’s eyes again. “I never meant to hurt you, Adar. You know I wouldn’t do it on purpose either and I’m sorry. It even seemed strange at the time not to have you there,” she admitted, lowering her gaze to the floor.

“It’s actually one of the reasons we got that calendar,” Thomas said, “so we could figure out our birthdays.”

“And other holidays,” Rebecca added, looking up at Aragorn again.

Aragorn smiled faintly at Rebecca as he asked, “Are there many holidays where you are from?”

“Quite a few, but we’re not going to celebrate all of them because they really wouldn’t fit here and they weren’t that important to us anyway,” she replied.

“Have I missed any of them or are any coming up soon?” Aragorn asked with a faint twinkle in his eye.

“There was one,” Thomas said quietly, “but it’s not really a celebration.” He reached over and took Rebecca’s hand. “And we didn’t tell anyone about it, though we probably should have,” he said, glancing at Rebecca who nodded. “We call it Memorial Day and it’s a day to remember those who died fighting for your country.”

“Usually people take flowers to where they are buried,” Rebecca added, “but we couldn’t do that…”

“We couldn’t do that on earth either,” Thomas reminded her.

“Why?” Arwen asked in a gentle voice.

“Our fathers were killed in battles thousands of miles from our homes across oceans and they were buried near the places where they died,” Thomas answered quietly.

Arwen looked at them with compassion in her unfathomable grey eyes. “My heart grieves for both of you.”

“Thank you,” Rebecca said and Thomas nodded in acknowledgement. “But instead,” Rebecca continued, “on that day, we planted flowers in the gardens at the Houses of Healing in honor of our fathers… and Boromir.”

Aragorn gave the two of them a thoughtful look. “I am sorry that I was not there for you on that day either and I would have been had I known.” Rebecca and Thomas nodded. “That is a moving holiday, if holiday is even the right word. I may borrow that custom for Gondor and Arnor. When is it held?”

“May 30,” Thomas said, pausing for a moment to figure out the right name in his head, “so that’s Lótessë 30. Though I don’t think it matters when you would do it here.”

“I suppose not. Will you let me know when you have other special days approaching,” Aragorn asked gently, “so that Arwen and I may celebrate with you?”

“Yes, Adar and the next one isn’t until late fall,” Rebecca replied.

“Did you exchange gifts on your birthdays?” Arwen asked curiously.

“Thomas gave me this bracelet to match the necklace that he gave me in Lothlórien,” Rebecca said, holding up her wrist to show the silver bracelet with small red stones around it. Arwen went and sat next to her and examined it more closely.

“It is very beautiful, Rebecca.”

“He also gave me a book of poetry.”

Aragorn gave Thomas an inquiring look and Thomas shrugged and explained, “She seems to enjoy reading them even if I don’t.”

“You may find you enjoy having her read them to you,” Aragorn said with a small smile. “What did Rebecca give you?”

“Some new kinds of paints and brushes, and I really like them” Thomas grinned, “and she also gave me a painting for my room – it’s a picture of a lake that reminds us of a place where we’re from. She also made me a deck of cards.” Aragorn and Arwen stared at him blankly and so Thomas tried to explain. “It’s a game and it has fifty-two pieces of stiff parchment about this size,” he held out his hands to show them, “and they have different numbers and shapes on them…” he finally gave up trying to explain. “I’ll show it to you and teach you how to play sometime. You might like it,” he grinned at Aragorn who nodded uncertainly. “There are even games that four people can play,” Thomas added, glancing at Arwen who smiled.

“Since I did not know about your birthdays until this evening, we do not have any gifts for you,” Aragorn said. “It may take us some time to think of something appropriate for each of you, especially you, Thomas, since I believe you turned eighteen and are now considered a man among your people, are you not?” Thomas nodded.

“You don’t have to get me anything,” Rebecca said, staring at the floor. “You’ve done so much for me already.”

“Look at me, sell-nín,” Aragorn said gently, knowing that her words were not because of how much he had done for her, but because she was still upset at how she had hurt him. He waited patiently until she looked up and he smiled. “This is behind us now, Rebecca and I forgive you. And Thomas,’ he said glancing at the young man. “Yes, it hurt, but it does not change how I feel about you or Thomas. These things happen at times in all families. Do you think I never hurt my adar or naneth when I was growing up?” Rebecca shook her head and Arwen suddenly laughed lightly.

“I am sure we could ask my brothers to tell us stories of your youth, Estel and I know they would be willing to give Rebecca and Thomas examples of some of your misdeeds.” She smiled at the slight frown that crossed Aragorn’s face.

“Arwen,” he growled before a small smile crossed his lips and he turned back to Rebecca and Thomas to see them smiling. “I can see there will be times when it will be difficult to have married someone who has the same brothers and Adar,” he commented.

“It is rather… unusual,” Thomas pointed out.

“Hmmm, yes,” Aragorn agreed, “though I seldom see it that way.” He shrugged. “Back to you and Rebecca, however,” he said with a look at Arwen who gave him a serene smile and he shook his head slightly and turned his gaze back to Thomas and Rebecca. “Arwen and I will be getting both of you birthday gifts, as soon as we decide on something. Actually, Rebecca, I do have a gift for you, although it is not a birthday gift. It is something that I promised to give you when we were in Cormallen. Halbarad reminded me about it a few days ago as I had completely forgotten.”

“A horse!” Rebecca exclaimed, her eyes shining. “You got me my horse!”

“Yes,” Aragorn said, laughing at her excitement and he was quickly joined by Thomas and Arwen. “Halbarad has said he will teach you to care for it…”

“He promised to do that when we were rushing across southern Gondor.”

“Umm, yes,” Aragorn said quietly, exchanging a look with Thomas as they remembered those days that had led up to the battle on the Pelennor and almost losing Rebecca. “Halbarad will speak with you tomorrow about arranging a time for the two of you to meet to work with the horse.”

“What’s it like? How big is it? What’s its name?”

“It’s a mare and whatever its name was, you may change it to whatever you like,” Aragorn said with a grin.

“Perhaps we should go and see this horse of Rebecca’s,” Arwen suggested. “Unless you have things you must do this evening, Estel.” Rebecca looked at him eagerly.

“No, not really,” he replied slowly, giving Arwen a look that indicated he wanted to spend time with her, but she just smiled and nodded at Rebecca. “All right,” Aragorn said, slowly getting to his feet and leading the others out of the library and down the hall. Glancing at the guards who were on duty and would be accompanying them, he realized that Rebecca’s comment back in Cormallen was correct – it would be like a parade. Faramir had decided that Arwen also needed two guards and so there would be six guards trailing the four of them. Aragorn decided that he needed to talk with his steward about making some type of adjustment when all four of them were together, there really was no need for this many guards. Crossing the courtyard, they met Elladan, Elrohir, and Halbarad returning from the lower levels of the city.

“Adar got my horse for me!” Rebecca said as soon as they drew near.

“I know, lady,” Halbarad said with a small smile.

“Are you going to look at it now?” Elrohir asked, glancing at Aragorn who nodded. “I would like to see this horse of yours, Rebecca,” he said, joining them and walking alongside Thomas. Halbarad turned to walk with Rebecca and, after a moment, Elladan joined them as well.

Trailing after the others, Aragorn glanced sidelong at Arwen, “I am sure none would miss us now, meleth-nín,” he whispered in a low voice, conscious of their brothers just ahead.

“We will have time later, Estel,” Arwen replied with amusement in her voice. “The evening is young.”

“Elves always think there is plenty of time,”
he responded darkly, though he smiled slightly as he looked at her and caressed her hand lying on his arm. Watching Rebecca talking animatedly with Halbarad about the horse and his cousin responding slowly and carefully to whatever questions she was asking him, Aragorn knew the two of them would have an interesting time together as Halbarad taught her how to care for the animal.

As they approached the stables on the sixth circle, Arwen looked at Aragorn and asked, “Do you have any ideas on what to get Rebecca or Thomas as gifts?”

Aragorn shook his head. “No, none. There is nothing they need and as for what they would like,” he narrowed his eyes in thought, “we will have to think on this together, meleth-nín. I will need your help.”

“Of course I will help, yet you know them well and I am sure that you will think of something. You just need time,”
she added after a moment and Aragorn nodded.

Rebecca stopped at the door of the stables, turning back to Aragorn “Which one is she, Adar?”

“It is the black mare in the stall next to Baldor.”

Nodding, Rebecca forced herself to walk slowly into the stables, being mindful that in her excitement she not spook the horses. Several grooms approached to see what they needed, but Halbarad and Aragorn dismissed them with polite words. Halfway down the row of stalls Rebecca saw her horse and she smiled in delight. The horse had its head poked out of the stall door and it whickered softly as they approached. Rebecca let the horse smell her hand as she quietly talked to it and began petting it and scratching its ears. Peering into the stall she could see the mare had a shimmering black coat with white stockings that went about halfway up each leg. It was smaller than Baldor, which was currently being greeted by Thomas, and Rebecca knew that she should be able to saddle and care for it comfortably. She turned to Aragorn, “It’s a beautiful horse, thank you, Adar.” Rebecca quickly embraced him before moving back to the stall.

“Halbarad and I thought so and she has a gentle temperament,” Aragorn said as he reached over and patted the horse.

“What will you name her?” Arwen asked.

Rebecca shrugged. “I don’t know, there are some obvious ones that come to mind, but I want to think about it a little bit.”

Thomas moved over to look at the mare, leaning against the wall between the two stalls and trying to ignore Baldor’s nudges on his back and snuffling in his hair. “It’s a really nice looking horse, Rebecca,” he commented quietly, finally reaching behind him and pushing Baldor’s head away. A moment later the horse was back and with a sigh Thomas moved away from the wall and out of reach.

“Your horse likes you,” Elrohir said, his eyes glinting with amusement.

Thomas gave Baldor a fond smile. “He does now, but it’s taken a lot of work.”

Watching Thomas with Baldor gave Aragorn an idea and he glanced around for Thomas’s tack and he spotted it nearby. Of course it was Rohirric in design and it was well worn and had obviously been used for years. A new saddle would be a perfect birthday gift for Thomas and perhaps for Rebecca as well. He and Halbarad had planned on her using one of the spare saddles from the stables, but she would probably enjoy new tack to go along with the horse. He decided to speak with Arwen about it, though he wanted to find something more personal for Thomas as well, in light of it being his eighteenth birthday.

“Adar,” Rebecca looked up at him with a pleading expression, “Can we… and I mean all of us, go out for a ride sometime soon? I know you’re busy, but even kings deserve a day or an afternoon off sometime.”

Aragorn grinned. “Perhaps I might be persuaded to do just that, Rebecca. I find the thought of escaping the city for a time a very pleasant idea. Thomas, you know my schedule as well as anyone, am I busy?”

Thomas laughed. “We are tomorrow and the next day, my Lord King Elessar, but after that I don’t think the schedule is too full yet.”

Arwen leaned against Aragorn and he wrapped his arm around her as she gazed down at Rebecca. “Who did you mean by all of us?” Those of us here in the stables,” her glance took in Elladan, Elrohir, and Halbarad. “Or were you thinking of others as well?”

“Everybody here of course, the rest of the Fellowship, and any of your family, and Haldir if he can, but he may have to guard Lady Galadriel or Lord Celeborn,“ Rebecca replied with a thoughtful expression.

“You really did mean all of us,” Aragorn said with amusement.

Rebecca sighed. “Yes, I did, Aragorn. Especially the hobbits, I think. I don’t see them near enough anymore and I know they’re leaving soon.” She absently patted the mare when it nudged her. “Thomas and I need to spend more time with them in the evenings,” she added, glancing at Thomas who nodded in agreement.

“I should as well,” Aragorn said softly. “Time does indeed grow short and between them and my adar… my heart is torn.” He drew Arwen closer and kissed her briefly, yet tenderly at the quick look of sorrow that crossed her face.

“Legolas has said that he will return, as will Gimli to repair the gate,” Thomas said, “but will we ever see Gandalf or the hobbits again?”

“Perhaps. The Shire is part of my kingdom, Thomas, and I… we will travel to Arnor someday.” Aragorn did not respond to the question about Gandalf, knowing that he would be leaving Middle-earth soon and hoping the wizard would speak to Rebecca and Thomas before he left.

“I would like to come with you, Rebecca,” Elladan said quietly. “It will be good to enjoy the lands outside these walls for a time.” Rebecca smiled up at the tall elf while Elrohir and Halbarad indicated they also intended to join them.

“Good,” Aragorn said. “Thomas and I will speak with Faramir tomorrow about which day would be best for me to be absent from the city and I will let you know, Rebecca. Now, Arwen and I did have some plans for this evening so we will take our leave.” Ignoring the small smiles of the men and elves, Aragorn led Arwen toward the door of the stables. Pausing right before he exited he called back, “Oh, and Thomas? Celeborn and Glorfindel would like you to join us in the morning when we practice our swordplay.”

Thomas bit back a groan, “All right, I’ll be there Aragorn,” he replied with a distinct lack of enthusiasm.

“Perhaps I will join you as well,” Elrohir said as he clasped Thomas on the back.

“Yes, I need to spar with more elves,” Thomas said, glaring briefly at the elf, who only smiled in return.

“If you want to improve your skill, then it is best to practice and learn from those who are better and can teach you well, Thomas,” Elladan said in a quiet, yet somewhat stern voice.

“I know that, Lord Elladan, and while I would not mind sparring with you or Lord Elrohir, I do find Lord Celeborn and Lord Glorfindel somewhat… intimidating and so it’s sort of hard to learn anything at all.”

“You are intimidated by them?” Elladan asked with a touch of surprise in his voice.

Thomas shrugged, “Not to talk to anymore, but I think I will be when I spar with them. Though,” he paused briefly, “I guess I haven’t actually done it, so maybe once I’m there in the morning it won’t be as hard as the first time I sparred with Lord Celeborn.”

“You sparred with him in Lothlórien?” Elrohir asked.

“Yes, right after he gave me this sword,” Thomas touched the one belted to his waist. “It was an… interesting experience. Especially when he tried to set me at ease when he told me that in all the long years of his life he had only killed a handful of elves while he was sparring with them,” he grimaced slightly at the memory.

Elladan and Elrohir both laughed quite freely, causing Halbarad and Rebecca to look over from where they were discussing her new horse. Finally, Elrohir said, “I am sure that he was indeed trying to set you at ease, though I am also sure that that comment did nothing to soothe you in any way.” Thomas shook his head.

“You’ll do fine, Thomas,” Halbarad said as he and Rebecca joined them. “You work hard with your sword.”

“Do you practice with your sword, Rebecca?” Elladan asked.

“No, just my archery, I’ve kept my sword because I got it in Lothlórien, but I really don’t have time to practice and I really like archery better anyway. I’m good at it,” she gave him a broad smile and he nodded once.

Glancing around at the others, Thomas started moving towards the door and the others followed. “As I now have to be up early and face several very skilled swordsmen…elves,” he shook his head, “I think I am ready to return.” He gave Rebecca a questioning look and she nodded in agreement and they left the stables and headed back up to the Citadel.

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Slowly walking onto the practice yard, Thomas was surprised to discover that he was the first one there and he glanced up at the sun to check the time. The low murmur of voices signaled the approach of others and he moved to the far side of the yard. After donning the thick leather protective jerkin that he wore when sparring, Thomas drew his sword and began to warm up. He watched with narrowed eyes as Aragorn, Celeborn, and Glorfindel entered the yard and then suppressed a sigh as, true to their words of the night before, Elladan and Elrohir followed close behind them. He actually liked Glorfindel quite a bit, the elf had a sense of humor that he enjoyed and was more approachable than some of the other elves. Rebecca had told him how the elf had been reborn and while it seemed unbelievable, Thomas had finally accepted it as no more unbelievable than the fact that he was in Middle-earth himself. “Good morning, Aragorn,” he said as the man approached.

Aragorn nodded and drew Andúril to begin warming up. “Where should we go on our ride, Thomas?” he asked with a small smile.

Thomas threw him a startled look. “Our ride? Oh, the one Rebecca was talking about last night?” Aragorn nodded. Thomas thought for a moment as he swung his arms to stretch the muscles. “Maybe up toward Lossarnach if there are any streams or lakes in that area. It’s nice to have water to eat by, assuming we’re going to have a picnic or something.”

“Sounds reasonable,” Aragorn commented as he continued his stretching.

“You’re not very subtle about trying to put me at ease, Aragorn,” Thomas said with a smile and Aragorn grinned.

“Did it work?”

“I’ll be fine. Who am I sparring with?”

“I would like to spar with you, Young Thomas,” Celeborn said as he suddenly appeared in front of them.

“I would be honored, my lord,” Thomas said with a slight bow before following the long striding elf-lord to the middle of the yard. This time there was no attempt to put Thomas as ease, just a moment to make sure each was ready and with a slight inclination of the head on both parts they began sparring. Thomas pushed everything else from his mind and concentrated solely on Celeborn as he circled him warily. While he knew that he could not hope to beat the elf-lord, Thomas was determined to make the spar last as long as possible and to see if he could at least put Celeborn on the defensive a time or two. Celeborn attacked first and Thomas deftly blocked the blows and as the elf pulled back slightly, Thomas followed him, causing Celeborn to have to parry Thomas’s blows in return. Thomas grinned inwardly. But Celeborn quickly attacked again and Thomas found himself backpedaling, though for the moment he was still blocking the elf-lord’s strikes. Yet he couldn’t find any openings to press his own attack.

Thomas was finally able to stop retreating, though he wasn’t sure if it was because Celeborn let him or if the series of parries he had used had slowed the elf-lord. Part of Thomas doubted that Celeborn would make it easier for him, but another part of him wasn’t so sure. Suddenly, and Thomas wasn’t quite sure how it happened, his sword was flipped from his hand and it flew through the air, landing on the white stones of the courtyard and went skittering away from him. He watched it for a moment and then looked up at Celeborn who was gazing at him with an expression he couldn’t read. Thomas bowed as the elf-lord approached and began speaking quietly.

“You did very well, Thomas. You have indeed improved from when we last sparred.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

Celeborn laid a hand on his shoulder. “Though you have worked hard, much of your improvement comes from experience.”

Thomas nodded and let out a soft sigh. “Yes, I did get a lot of that, my lord, and I have the scars to prove it.”

The elf-lord gently touched the mostly faded scar on the side of Thomas’s cheek. “You are most fortunate to still be with us.”

“I am, Lord Celeborn,” Thomas replied quietly as his gaze met the elf’s eyes, “and while this is the worst scar that I have, it was certainly not the worst battle. I do thank the… Valar that I’m still alive, and most especially that Rebecca is.” Celeborn nodded and led the way to Thomas’s sword, picking it up and examining it closely before handing it to the young man who sheathed it.

“I have rarely given a sword to a mortal, Thomas. Very few men ever enter Lothlórien and in the years before I dwelt there, I had little contact with them. I am pleased that this sword served you so well and that you proved worthy of it.”

“Thank you again, my lord.” Thomas smiled. “I don’t think that orc scimitar would have done me much good.”

Celeborn shook his head and they started to walk to the edge of the yard where the others were standing. “Have you become proficient with your archery?” he inquired.

Thomas studied his feet as he replied, “No, Lord Celeborn, I haven’t. Legolas keeps trying to teach me, but I have little time to practice.”

“Perhaps Haldir may be able to help you, I hear he is an excellent teacher.”

Glancing up at the elf-lord, Thomas caught the glimmer of amusement in Celeborn’s blue eyes and he smiled. “Yes he is, my lord. Rebecca is certainly a wonderful archer.” Nodding and giving Thomas a small smile, Celeborn walked over to join Elladan and Elrohir, leaving Thomas standing near Aragorn.

“You did well, Thomas,” Aragorn said, patting him on the shoulder. “You were able to stay with him longer than I thought you would,” he admitted.

Thomas grinned. “It was what, five minutes at the most? But, yes, I know I did better, I could tell. I did make him go on the defensive one time at least.”

“Estel, I am waiting for you,” Glorfindel called from the middle of the yard and with a grin at Thomas, Aragorn turned and walked away, drawing his sword as he approached the golden-haired elf.

Thomas sat on a bench near the wall, drawing one leg up, wrapping his arms around it and, with his chin resting on his knee, he watched in fascination as Glorfindel and Aragorn sparred. He had been told that Glorfindel was the greatest elven warrior in Middle-earth and he knew that Aragorn was the greatest human warrior and to watch them took his breath away. They were both so incredibly quick that it was hard to see what was happening and several times Thomas wanted to close his eyes because he was sure that one of them was going to die. The sound of clanging metal filled the morning air as the swords came together again and again and then slid apart as each of them probed for openings. Breaking apart, they circled each other, their eyes never leaving the other’s sword. Thomas wondered how many times they had fought over the years. He knew it probably had to be hundreds of times and he would have thought that they should have known each other’s moves by now, but evidently not as this spar had been going on for more than fifteen minutes now and neither seemed even close to winning. The biggest thing that Thomas noticed was that Glorfindel had an advantage because of his height. The elf was three or four inches taller than Aragorn and so his reach was longer, though Thomas supposed that Aragorn was used to it. The two competitors closed on each other once more as Aragorn attacked and again there was a flurry of thrusts, jabs and blocks and then suddenly Glorfindel snaked his sword past Aragorn’s blade and tapped him an the side of his leg with the flat edge of his sword. The two of them fell back and Aragorn shook his head in mock dismay before grinning at Glorfindel who embraced him before they walked back towards Thomas as Elladan and Elrohir replaced them in the center of the yard.

“Are you going to spar with me this morning, Thomas?” Glorfindel asked, his eyes sparkling as he looked down at him.

“Oh, I think I’ve done enough sparring this morning, Lord Glorfindel,” Thomas said. “Perhaps another day would be better.” He glanced at Aragorn who had joined him on the bench and was leaning back, watching the twins intently.

“Tomorrow then,” Glorfindel said firmly and Thomas nodded in acceptance. As Glorfindel walked over to Celeborn, Thomas shook his head and let out a small sigh and Aragorn reached over and patted his shoulder without even looking at him.

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“Did you name her yet?” Halbarad asked Rebecca as they walked into the stables.

“Yes, Merilvor.”

“Black rose, it fits her,” he nodded. “Now, lady, I’ll show you how, but you’re doing the work.” Halbarad showed Rebecca the tack room where the brushes, tack, and other things she might need were stored. The grooms and stable boys looked on in dismay as Halbarad showed Rebecca how to put a halter on Merilvor and then to brush and clean the horse. He insisted that she learn how to do it, she would not always be in Minas Tirith and have someone else around to care for her horse. Once Merilvor was brushed off, Halbarad showed her how to slip on the bridle and to adjust the bit and straps. The last thing was the saddle.

“First the blanket,” Halbarad directed quietly. Rebecca laid the blanket gently on Merilvor and smoothed it out carefully. Halbarad reached over and pulled it back towards the tail a few inches, “Don’t lay it too far up on the withers.” Rebecca nodded and turned towards the saddle and picked it up, preparing to set it on the horse. “Stop,” he ordered, “look at the stirrups and the girth strap.” She looked down at them and then back up at Halbarad with confusion. “If you do that way, the stirrups and the strap will get caught under the saddle.” He squatted down and showed her how to take the offside stirrup and the straps and loop them over the pommel. “Now do it.” Rebecca picked the saddle up once again and with just a small grunt and leaning up on her toes, set the saddle on Merilvor. The horse shifted slightly away as she did so, but then settled right down when she patted it.

“Now, I tighten the girth strap, right?”

“Yes, but be careful not to startle her when you take it and the stirrup off the pommel.”

Nodding, Rebecca ducked under Merilvor’s neck and gently let down the stirrup and straps before returning to the other side of the horse. She reached under the horse’s belly and grabbed the girth strap and then carefully followed Halbarad’s instructions to tighten it. When she was finished she looked up at him and smiled, “Is there anything else I need to do?”

Halbarad pulled gently, yet firmly on the saddle to make sure it was secure and then shook his head, “No, she’s ready to go.”

“Do you have time for a ride this morning, Halbarad?” Rebecca asked nervously, but with a hopeful expression.

“Aragorn told me I could be late,” he replied with a small smile as he went to saddle his horse while, behind him, Rebecca grinned.

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It was a rather large company that rode out of Minas Tirith not long after dawn for Rebecca’s Ride, as Aragorn had teasingly dubbed the day. Ponies had been obtained for the hobbits, and they, along with Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Elrond, and Glorfindel had all been rather eager to escape the city for a day. Celeborn and Galadriel had declined the invitation, though Galadriel had then suggested that Haldir and his brothers might enjoy such a day and the three elves had joined them. Erestor had also turned Rebecca down, mumbling something about searching the city archives for a decent map of the Second Age of Middle-earth.

Aragorn had refused to take any of their normal citadel guards with them, telling Faramir that with eight elves, a dwarf, and Halbarad, he and his family were well protected. Though, he did promise that everyone, including Arwen, Elrond, and Rebecca, would bear weapons. He had been privately amused by Faramir’s quiet arguments with him regarding the matter; it was quite evident that his steward had gotten over his initial uneasiness with him, which relieved Aragorn immensely. But Faramir had insisted on sending some of the Rangers from his White Company up the day before to scout out the area and they had detected no signs of orcs. Aragorn knew this would probably be one of the last times all of them would be able to be together and he did not want others around to intrude on their privacy. Not when he felt sure they were fully capable of defending themselves.

No one was in any particular hurry, the morning was cool, but the cloudless sky promised a hot afternoon and the woods and streams of Lossarnach sounded much more pleasant than a day spent within the sun-baked stone walls of Minas Tirith. Food for both lunch and supper was packed neatly in saddlebags as the area where they would be spending the day was at least a three hour ride from the city.

Riding between Elrond and Arwen at the head of the column, Aragorn absently patted Roheryn as they passed through the Rammas Echor and headed up into the hills. The small hamlets here by the river were starting to be rebuilt and he looked carefully at the progress being made and nodded in satisfaction at what he saw. Small gardens had been planted around many of the small houses and there were some chickens, pigs, and goats at several homes.

“Much was destroyed,” Elrond commented as they rode past.

“We will rebuild, but it will take time. We are helping the people as much as we can, Adar, yet there is so much need and our resources are few right now. Prince Imrahil is helping as his lands were little touched by war throughout the years. I am most grateful for him and his support of me since I have been here.”

Elrond nodded. “You are surrounded by good people, ion-nín, they will be much needed in the years ahead.” His eyes became dark and distant for a moment before looking back at Aragorn and then beyond him to Arwen. “Faramir seems wise beyond what I would expect for someone of his age. Of course you have Halbarad, and Legolas tells me that he intends to move to Ithilien. I do not know Imrahil well, yet he sounds like someone you can lean on for advice and support. You will need people like that, Estel. When Imladris was being built, I relied heavily on Glorfindel and Erestor, I could not have built that without them. I was not married then, so I did not have Celebrían to aid me and you are blessed with Arwen, do not overlook her wisdom,” Elrond added softly.

“I will never overlook Arwen, Adar,” Aragorn replied, leaning over, taking her hand and squeezing it gently.

“He does not and I would not let him, Adar. We talk of many things that are on his heart or mine, some of which concern things that are happening in the Kingdom. No, Estel does not overlook me,” Arwen said as she looked over at Elrond.

“I would be foolish not to ask for her advice and opinions. Arwen gives me a different perspective, helps me see things that I might not have considered.” Aragorn glanced at her from the corner of his eye and then added with a small smile, “She has a few more years of experience than I do.”

Arwen laughed lightly and when Aragorn saw the glimmer of amusement in Elrond’s eyes, he joined her.

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Rebecca looked ahead at the sound of Aragorn and Arwen’s laughter and she smiled before turning her attention back to the hobbits. Merry and Pippin laughed and she saw Frodo smile and shake his head slightly as Sam finished his story. “All right, Rebecca it’s your turn,” Sam said, “you need to tell us something about your home.”

“All right.” Rebecca paused for a moment, trying to think of something that would be easy for her to share and for them to understand and yet still be interesting. She thought briefly of airplanes, movies, and things like vacuums and washing machines, before settling on grocery stores. Knowing how hobbits liked to eat, Rebecca thought they might enjoy hearing about stores filled with food – if she could explain it correctly. “All right,” she said again, “I’ve thought of something that we have called grocery stores. Food of all different kind is sold in these stores.” The four hobbits looked at her with interest as she continued. “I know there are shops here for selling food, but these stores are really big. Some are almost as big as Merethrond.” All four of the hobbit’s eyes widened. Scratching Merilvor’s ears, she explained how the food was set up in rows and on shelves and how there were cans or containers of all different kinds of things: soups, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, juice, and many other things.

“There is soup already made? And why would you want to buy things in these cans?” Sam asked, wrinkling his nose.

“Well, it’s easier for some people and it lasts a long time – for years. You can buy fresh things there too. Oh, there are frozen things to buy too, like ice cream,” Rebecca said with a look of longing.

“What’s ice cream?” Frodo asked, looking up at her curiously.

Rebecca thought hard about how to explain it. “First of all, it’s very cold and frozen like snow, but it doesn’t feel or taste anything like snow. It’s very smooth and creamy like… “ she tried desperately to think of something they had eaten that had a similar texture. “Oh, well, this isn’t a perfect example, but that porridge type food we ate in Lothlórien a few times. It’s not quite like that, but it’s similar in the way it feels in your mouth, except it’s cold,” Rebecca shrugged, “it’s the closest thing I can think of. It’s made out of cream and sugar and other things. But ice cream comes in different flavors too and that’s one of the best things. Chocolate is my favorite, but strawberry is good too.” Seeing the hobbit’s confused faces she tried to explain further. “I know you don’t have chocolate here, but you would love it,” she sighed. “It’s very sweet and I can’t explain it, but we eat it in lots of different ways – in cakes, cookies, as a candy, we even make a drink from it. But you do have strawberries here and we add strawberries to ice cream so it doesn’t taste like cold cream and sugar, it tastes like strawberries.” The more she explained, the more interested the hobbits appeared.

“I wonder if we could make it here,” Pippin said. “We have cream and sugar.”

“And strawberries,” Merry added with a grin.

“I’m sure there are other things in it too, but I don’t know what they are. Maybe Thomas knows,” Rebecca said, glancing behind her to where Thomas was riding with Legolas and Gimli.

“We’ll ask him when we get to this place we’re going,” Sam said as he also looked back. “I want to try making it, if we can.”

“How much farther is it?” Pippin asked for the third time, shifting uncomfortably on his pony.

“Pippin!” the other hobbits scolded, but he just grinned unrepentantly.

-----------

“When will you be back?” Thomas asked, shifting his gaze between Gimli and Legolas who were riding alongside him on Arod.

“I am not sure, but I believe it will be at least eight or nine months,” Legolas replied slowly.

“For me as well,” Gimli nodded. “It’ll take that long to get word to my friends about rebuilding the gates. I have a lot of things I must get done and planned before I can return.”

“If you can, will you try and be here by Lótessë?”

“Why? Is something special going on that month?” Legolas asked with a small smile, while Gimli just laughed.

Thomas shook his head and smiled as he replied, “We have a custom where I’m from that the groom has someone called a ‘best man’ stand up with him at the wedding. It’s usually a brother or a very close friend and while I know neither of you are men,” he grinned, “I’d like you to both stand up with me at my wedding… if you are here.”

“I would be honored, Thomas,” Legolas said, “and I will try and return by that time.”

“Aye, lad, I will as well.”

“Thank you, it’d mean a lot to me and to Rebecca.”

--------

They reached the small meadow where a stream cascaded down in a small waterfall a couple of hours before noon. Faramir had actually chosen the place for them, having been to the area several times in the past. The meadow was surrounded by ancient cedar trees that towered above them, while the clearing itself was littered with bright, colorful wildflowers. The stream was not large, but it chuckled merrily as it wound its way through the meadow on its way down to the Anduin River. The waterfall was only five or six feet high where it poured over large rocks at the upper end of the meadow as the land began rising steadily in that direction. Smiles and looks of appreciation graced the faces of the company as they rode into the clearing.

“Well, Rebecca, do you like this?” Aragorn asked as he dropped back to ride alongside her, sweeping his arm out to indicate the whole meadow. “Is this what you had in mind for your ride?” he smiled as he looked over at her.

She looked around, her eyes narrowed. “The waterfall is a little small, Adar. But I suppose it will have to do,” she sighed dramatically and then smiled as Aragorn chuckled. “No, it truly is a beautiful place. I haven’t seen such beauty since Lothlórien.”

Aragorn nodded and they dismounted and led their horses to an area where the others were already stripping off saddles and tethering the horses for the day. He watched with approval as Rebecca started to care for Merilvor and was amused, but unsurprised when Halbarad appeared to make sure she was doing it correctly. Turning to look for Arwen, he discovered that she was tethering her horse right behind him. “Do you need any help, my lady?” he asked in a gently teasing voice.

“No, my lord, do you?” she asked in the same tone and with an eyebrow raised in question.

“I am already finished,” he replied with a smile, picking up his saddlebags and walking around the back of her horse, patting it gently as he passed. “I will carry your saddlebag for you, meleth-nín.” He scooped hers up and tossed it over his shoulder and waited for her to finish. Aragorn took her hand when she drew near and brought it to his lips, kissing it gently before they began walking towards the waterfall where others were already spreading blankets out under the trees.

The rest of the morning was spent exploring the area, as small groups wandered through the forest and up the stream until everyone met back and ate lunch together. Bread, cheese, fruit, and skins of wine and fruit juice were set out and they talked and laughed their way through their meal. People wandered off again when they finished, but Aragorn, Arwen, and Halbarad were content to stay right there. Aragorn sat leaning back against a tree with his long legs stretched out in front of him crossed at the ankles. Arwen settled in next to him and he wrapped a strong arm around her waist and she laid her head against his shoulder as the two of them spoke quietly with Halbarad who was lying on his side nearby with his head propped up on one hand.

“How do you like living in Minas Tirith?” Arwen asked Halbarad.

“It’s all right, there are just so many people. I need to do this at times,” Halbarad replied as he glanced around the meadow.

“I think we all do,” Aragorn said quietly as he looked around at the others. Thomas was trying to talk the hobbits into crossing the stream, Rebecca had her bow out and was discussing archery with Haldir and Legolas, and the rest of their companions had disappeared back into the woods. He took in a deep breath and looked back at his cousin, “You know I will not hold you here in the South. If you want to return to the North, then you are free to do so,” he paused and gave Halbarad a small smile, “though you would have to come back occasionally.”

Halbarad gave a small snort. “If I wanted to go back North, then I would have taken the job of Steward. I’m staying here, cousin. I might visit there, but my home is here now.” Aragorn grinned and nodded.

Arwen gave Halbarad a close look and then, with a faint twinkle of amusement in her eyes, she asked, “Do you intend to get married, Halbarad?” He just stared at her, the skin under his beard turning slightly pink as Aragorn started chuckling.

“You have been spending too much time with Rebecca, meleth-nín,” Aragorn said in a voice filled with laughter as he lightly kissed the top of her head. Arwen just smiled at him and looked back at Halbarad who was now sitting up and looking out across the stream into the woods beyond.

Finally, in a somewhat choked voice, Halbarad answered Arwen’s question. “I hope to someday, Lady Arwen. If you’ll excuse me,” he said getting to his feet and walking quickly away.

Aragorn watched, amazed, as he left and then looked back at Arwen. “I have never seen my cousin so… so frightened before. Do you know something or were you just asking?”

“I saw him speaking with a young lady at the wedding feast. I did not think anything of it at the time, but I have seen her on several other occasions since then and he has spoken with her each time. Did he not have anyone up North that was special to him?”

“There was a girl a long time ago,” Aragorn began quietly, “and he was very much in love with her. He talked about her all the time. The other rangers and I teased him of course, but he just ignored us and kept talking.” Aragorn’s eyes took on a faraway look. “One day, after we had been out patrolling for six or seven months, we were returning back to the Angle and we stopped at the village where her family lived.” Aragorn paused for a long time and Arwen took his hand and began caressing it and finally with a weary sigh he continued.

“I know we couldn’t protect all of our people, Arwen, but this one was particularly difficult for me. The village had been attacked by orcs and several people had died, including this girl. Halbarad changed so much after that. I noticed he became much quieter, except when he was around me, and he started pushing me to get married as soon as possible.” Aragorn focused his eyes on Arwen for a moment and gave her a sad smile. “That is why he was the first person that knew of my love for you and later of our betrothal. It will be good if he can find someone to love and to marry.” Arwen murmured her agreement with eyes full of sorrow as the two of them fell silent.

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

Thomas stared down at Pippin and Sam with narrowed eyes. “I know you are incredibly brave hobbits, you can’t tell me, that after all you’ve done, you are afraid to cross this stream?”

Pippin wouldn’t meet his eyes, but Sam stared right back up at Thomas with his arms folded across his chest as he defiantly replied, “I’m not afraid, Thomas, but I don’t know how to swim and I’m not going to drown crossing some river just to explore woods that are probably just the same as the woods on this side.”

“It’s not a river, it’s a stream and you won’t drown in a stream, Sam! Merry and Frodo are going,” Thomas motioned to the two hobbits who were standing closer to the edge of the stream and were watching the three of them with expressions of amusement clearly written on their faces. “I’ll stay right by your side and I’ll protect you.”

“No,” Sam was adamant and Thomas turned to Pippin.

“Will you come, Pip? I’m sure we’ll have fun,” Thomas asked in a somewhat pleading voice. Pippin finally looked up at him and then at Frodo and Merry.

“How deep is it?” Pippin asked hesitantly.

“I’m not sure, but I’ll cross first and make sure it’s not too deep,” Thomas said quickly.

“All right,” Pippin nodded reluctantly and slowly followed Thomas down to the edge of the stream where the young man quickly took off his boots and rolled up his leggings before stepping into the water. He slowly moved out into the stream, skirting around the larger rocks resting on the stream bottom that he could see through the crystal clear water. About halfway over, he stopped and looked back to see that Merry and Frodo were closely following him.

“See, Pip, it’s not too deep, it’s not even up to my knees yet.” As he turned to walk on, his foot slipped and he suddenly found himself desperately trying to regain his balance, his arms spread out to each side in a futile effort to keep from falling. As he fell, he somehow latched onto Merry and pulled him down as well. Thomas ended up sitting on his bottom on the rounded rocks of the stream in water that was now up to his chest, cursing softly under his breath as he was thoroughly soaked from head to toe. Merry ended up right next to him, though he quickly stood and was shaking the water from his hair. The hobbit glared down at him.

“What’d you grab me for?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.” Thomas gave Merry a sheepish grin as he slowly pushed himself to his feet. The sound of laughter made them turn around to see that Frodo, Pippin, and Sam were all laughing loudly at their expense and further away the others that were still in the meadow were laughing at them as well. Thomas looked down at Merry. “Well, I guess we at least provided some amusement for the others.” He pulled on his soaking wet tunic and glanced up at the sun, “I’m going to have to let this dry out in the sun,” he said with a sigh, “or it will be a miserable trip home. What about you?”

“I’d better do the same,” he replied with a frown, turning back to the shore they had started from. As they neared Frodo, who was still standing in knee deep water, he looked them up and down.

“The water doesn’t appear to be too deep if you stay on your feet,” he commented with a sly smile.

Merry glanced up at Thomas who nodded slightly. The two of them grabbed Frodo, being very gentle and careful, knowing he was still not totally recovered, and they dunked his face in the stream. Thomas was especially careful not to allow his shirt to get wet, knowing it would not be good for Frodo’s health to walk around all day with damp clothes. Frodo came up sputtering and Merry made sure Frodo had his balance before he and Thomas backed away from the hobbit. He glared fiercely at Thomas and Merry, yet Thomas could also see a spark of laughter in his eyes even as he glared at them.

“What’d you do that for?” Frodo asked them in a tone of voice that was supposed to sound angry.

“Umm, well,” Thomas glanced at Merry who shrugged and so Thomas continued in a teasing tone, “I saw you had missed a spot when you were washing up after lunch and Merry and I were just helping you to get clean.”

Frodo looked at him for a moment and then burst out laughing, laughing as Thomas had never heard him before and Thomas grinned as he looked at Merry, who smiled back. Looking on the bank of the stream, he saw Pippin and Sam watching the three of them with surprise. As the laughter slowed, Thomas put his arm around Frodo’s shoulder. “Come on, Frodo, I need to get dried off.”

Frodo shook his head. “I better help you, lad,” he said and, still chuckling, the hobbit led Thomas from the water.

-----------

It was with a great deal of reluctance that the company packed up their things and saddled their horses for their return trip to Minas Tirith. The ride back down out of the foothills was much quieter, though still enjoyed by all who had gone on Rebecca’s Ride. They rode back across the Pelennor and into Minas Tirith several hours before the late setting sun, just as Aragorn had promised Faramir. He did not want to unduly worry his steward or have him send out Rangers or guardsmen to look for them if they were even a little late. As they were stabling the horses, the stable master approached Aragorn.

“My Lord King,” he said with a bow, “the saddles you ordered arrived this afternoon.” At Aragorn’s motion the man led him to the small tack room and showed his king the two saddles that Aragorn had ordered for Thomas and Rebecca. “I’m sorry that they weren’t ready in time for you this morning, my lord.”

“I only ordered them three days ago,” Aragorn replied mildly and somewhat absently as he ran his hands over the fine light brown leather, pausing to look closely at the hand tooled insignia of the royal house of Gondor – the White Tree, with a crown and seven stars above it - that was embossed on both sides of each saddle. After inspecting the bridles, Aragorn stepped out of the room and asked Arwen, Rebecca, and Thomas to join him as the stable master left to oversee the stabling of their horses. Arwen glanced at the saddles and gave Aragorn a pleased smile as the three of them walked into the room. Aragorn smiled at Rebecca and Thomas.

“Arwen and I felt that both of you might appreciate having new tack for your horses as a birthday gift. Thomas, that saddle you have is extremely old and the design is Rohirric, you need one that is of Gondorian make and style. And, Rebecca I had just assumed that you would use one of the spare saddles from here in the stables, but you need your own. So, these are for you.” Aragorn indicated the two saddles and they moved eagerly forward to look at them. As Aragorn had done, they both ran their hands over the saddles. While Rebecca moved on to looking at the bridle and was showing it to Arwen, Thomas fingered the insignia thoughtfully for a long moment, glancing at Aragorn who returned his look steadily. Dropping his gaze, Thomas picked up the bridle and examined it closely before turning back to Aragorn.

“Thank you… Adar,” Thomas said in a low and very hesitant voice, his eyes moving from the floor to the wall behind Aragorn before finally meeting Aragorn’s.

“You are welcome, ion-nín, ” he replied softly, reaching out and lightly clasping Thomas’s shoulder for a moment. “And, as I told you earlier, I want to give you something to specifically mark your eighteenth birthday. It is being made for you, but it is taking longer than I expected.” Thomas just nodded as Rebecca joined them, looking between the two of them, aware that something had happened, but finally she turned to Aragorn with a wide smile.

“Thank you so much, Adar. It’s a beautiful saddle and it’ll look wonderful on Merilvor.” Rebecca embraced him and he returned it with a smile that matched her own.

“You are most welcome, I am pleased that you like it, Rebecca.” Aragorn held out his hand to Arwen and after ushering Rebecca and Thomas out of the room he pulled her into a quick embrace and kissed her firmly before starting to lead her out the door, but Arwen held him back and gave him a questioning look.

“It is not that I mind the kiss, beloved, but you seem pleased about something that has nothing to do with me.”

Aragorn gave her a sheepish grin as he responded, “Did you hear what Thomas called me?” Arwen nodded and he continued, his eyes narrowing in thought. “He needed to do that, Arwen, for his sake, not for mine. I know he sees me as his Adar and he has for months, but he struggled with calling me that because he felt like it would be betraying his own father, who he remembers very well, unlike Rebecca. It means he has accepted his life here, his place here and I am pleased for him.”

“It is a good thing, Estel,”
Arwen said softly, running her hands through Aragorn’s hair, “and, hopefully, will settle the restlessness that I sometimes sense in him. However, beloved, do not start things with me unless you intend to finish them,” she said as she kissed him lightly, finally allowing him to lead her out the door.

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

Rebecca hurried to the library where she was to study with Erestor. She wasn’t late yet, but sometimes the elf would give her a disapproving look if it was even close to the time the lesson was to begin and since Thomas wasn’t coming, she knew she would feel the full force of his displeasure. Erestor was the most interesting teacher she had ever had. Rebecca was fascinated by the things she was learning about the First and Second Ages and even Thomas had been captivated by his teaching. But then, they had never before had a teacher that had lived through and had first hand knowledge of events that had happened thousands of years in the past.

“Where is Thomas?” Erestor demanded as Rebecca walked into the library.

“Aragorn needed him for something,” Rebecca replied as she sat down at the table next to him. “And he asked me to give you his sincere apologies, but it really was important.”

After staring at her for a moment, Erestor nodded abruptly and turned to the loose pile of parchments he had spread out on the table. “I will speak with Estel later,” he sniffed. “I have been searching through the city archives since your ride a few days ago and yesterday I finally found what I was seeking – a decent map that shows what the land looked like in the Second Age.” He laid a large, slightly rumpled parchment in front of Rebecca and she just stared at it, ignoring the words he was saying as he continued to speak. Reaching her hand out, she slowly traced part of the map with a trembling finger and then moved it to another section and did the same thing. A gentle hand covered hers and a soft voice asked, “What is the matter, Lady Rebecca?”

Rebecca turned troubled, confused eyes to Erestor, looked back at the map and then back at the elf. “T-this is…” she swallowed hard and then continued, her voice trembling. “Erestor, this is Africa,” she pointed to one part of the map and then to another part, “and this is part of South America. And this,” she pointed to the area where Gondor would one day be located, “would be part of Europe. Though, they look a little different,” she mumbled as she looked at Erestor with confusion.

“Lady Rebecca, what does that mean?” Erestor asked, not letting go of her hand, but squeezing it gently.

“I recognize these, this is earth. My earth, mine and Thomas’s.” Rebecca rubbed her temple in confusion. “Erestor, how can this be earth? There is no record of Gondor or Rohan… or elves,” she added softly.

“I know not. If this is your world, your past, then something happened that caused the history of this time to be lost.” Erestor gave her a sad smile. “It may have been something truly horrific or simply neglect. Searching through the city archives here does not give me a lot of confidence that records will be kept for long into the future. Men do not seem to be as passionate about their past as elves. But then elves live for so long and have the time to keep such records.”

“I need to see Thomas,” Rebecca said, standing abruptly.

“I will go with you,” Erestor said gently, picking up the map and leading her quickly from the room, out of the House and over to the Tower and into Aragorn’s office.

“Is Thomas meeting with Aragorn?” Rebecca asked the secretary, totally forgetting about the proper protocol in her confusion and distress.

“Yes, Lady Rebecca, Lord Thomas is meeting with King Elessar, Prince Faramir, and Mithrandir and they are not to be disturbed,” the man replied in a firm voice.

Erestor gave him a scathing look and the man dropped his gaze immediately. “I have known your King since he was two years old and he will not refuse me entrance,” he said in a stern voice, striding to the door and opening it without knocking.

“I said we were not…” Aragorn’s stern voice trailed off as he saw Erestor walk into the room followed closely by Rebecca. “Erestor, why are…” he stopped again in confusion as Rebecca walked straight over to Thomas and as the young man stood, she threw her arms around him and clung to Thomas as if he were her only means of support. Thomas wrapped his arms around her and looked from Rebecca to Erestor with the same confused expression that Aragorn wore.

“Forgive me for interrupting you, Estel,” Erestor said quietly, “but Lady Rebecca needed to see Thomas and I believe she also needs to see you and,” the elf gave Gandalf a thoughtful look, “quite possibly Mithrandir as well.”

Aragorn, Thomas, and Faramir all looked at Gandalf and he gave a small shrug as he replied, “Let us find out why the young lady is here.”

“Rebecca,” Thomas said softly, stroking her back gently, “what’s the matter?”

Pulling back away from Thomas, Rebecca gave him a shaky half smile. “Thank you,” she whispered before turning to Erestor and holding out her hand for the map. She was starting to place it on Aragorn’s desk when she looked up and met his eyes, “I’m sorry, Adar.” He gave her a half smile and motioned for her to continue. “Erestor brought this map today for our lesson, Thomas.” She spread it out carefully and after a moment Rebecca heard his sharp intake of breath and she looked up at him at the same time as she grabbed his hand.

“But how…?” Thomas asked, confused, and Rebecca shrugged and shook her head and he pulled her into his arms again.

“What is it?” Aragorn asked sharply. “What significance is this map of the Second Age to you two?”

“Lady Rebecca told me that these places,” Erestor pointed on the map, “are known to her as places on earth. She believes that they are, in fact, in the past of their own world.”

“They are,” Gandalf spoke up in a soft and gentle voice. “It seems as if the time has now come for a discussion on the subject.”

~~~

Author’s Note: If you have not seen some of the maps that show all of Arda and not just Gondor, Rohan, the Shire, etc. you may not have seen the ones that clearly show the continents of Africa and the edges of South America, etc. Karen Wynn Fonnstad’s Book, The Atlas of Middle Earth is a great resource. Up until this point, Rebecca and Thomas had not seen a map that showed all of Arda and so were unaware of the other continents.

Translations:

Adar – Father
Ion-nín – my son
Meleth-nín – my love
Mellon–nín – my friend
Sell-nín – my daughter


Lótessë - May


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