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In Aragorn's Safekeeping
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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33
Return to Edoras

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 Readers – J. and Marsha

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


~~~

Dawn had barely lightened the sky when Thomas walked downstairs intending to wake Rebecca and see if she would take a walk with him before the events of the day would overtake them. He was still exhausted from all that had happened the past two days, but he also felt strangely at peace knowing that his life was now settled. Thomas hadn’t realized just how much he had been burdened by a sense that he could one day disappear from Middle-earth as easily and as suddenly as he had appeared. Now that that threat was lifted from him there was a lightness in his spirit that hadn’t been there before. A knowing smile had crossed Gandalf’s lips when he and Rebecca had informed the wizard of their decision the night before and the joy of the members of the Fellowship had both of them blinking back tears. They had all celebrated by spending the evening together sharing food, stories, and song.

Pausing at the bottom of the stairs, Thomas glanced down the hallway and noticed that Rebecca’s guard was not in front of her door and he wondered where she had gone. Deciding that she might have gone to practice her archery, Thomas turned to the guards inside the main doors of the House and asked them if Rebecca had left the building and at their positive reply, he headed outside to see if he could locate her. He doubted she had left the Citadel, and after a very brief search he found her in the second place he looked – on the point of the keel. Pausing some distance behind her, he leaned on the wall and studied her, wondering if Rebecca wanted to be alone and if he should wait until later. After a moment, he shrugged and moved on as quietly as possible, though he knew his boots made some sound on the white flagstones that paved the Citadel and, indeed, Rebecca looked back at him and smiled.

“Good morning, Thomas,” she said as he approached.

“It is a good morning,” he agreed with a grin as he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close to himself, resting his chin lightly on the top of her head. Thomas knew that no one was around this early and that even if there was he was willing to risk it this one time. Hearing Rebecca’s sudden intake of breath, he chuckled and leaned over and gently kissed her cheek before straightening and turning his gaze out to the Pelennor without releasing his hold on her. “Why are you out here so early?”

“I was… just thinking about my mom and back home and things like that.”

“Are you regretting your decision?” Thomas asked softly.

“Oh, no,” she said quickly, “but it’s still difficult, Thomas. Isn’t it for you?” Rebecca tried to turn her head to see him and with reluctance he released her and stepped a short distance away.

“Yes, of course it is.” His blue eyes filled with sorrow as he looked down at her. “But I just wanted to make sure you didn’t want to change your mind.”

“I can’t, remember?” she reminded him. “I’m afraid you’re stuck with me, Thomas Morgan,” she teased.

“And you with me,” he responded with a grin before turning serious. “Do you feel different? I feel different now.” Thomas tried to explain, “It’s like… knowing that I won’t suddenly disappear has changed me or made me more comfortable or something.”

“I hadn’t really noticed, maybe because I’ve been thinking about other things, but I suppose maybe it has.” Rebecca shrugged. “I don’t know that I ever really worried about it before.”

“I didn’t think I did either, but I must have.” He paused when he saw a servant in the livery of the King’s House approaching.

“My lady, my lord,” the man said, bowing. “Our Lord King and Lady Queen request your presence at breakfast.”

“Now?” Thomas asked, glancing up at the sun which had just finally peeked over the Mountains of Shadow indicating it was barely the first hour, a full hour before they usually ate breakfast.

“Yes, my lord, they await you in their sitting room.” The servant bowed again.

“Thank you, we’ll be right there,” Rebecca replied with a smile and the man left. “A private breakfast?” she mused as they started back to the House. “That’s a little unusual.” Thomas nodded his agreement and they walked in silence the rest of the way.

Once inside the House, Thomas looked at Rebecca and noted the leggings and tunic she was wearing, and then glanced down at his own somewhat worn clothing and he wondered if they should change. He had planned to before going to eat in the dining room with everyone, but now he didn’t know if Aragorn and Arwen already had food ready to eat. “Rebecca, should we change our clothes? We’re not really dressed for breakfast,” he whispered.

She looked him over and shrugged. “Let’s ask them, we can always go and change.” Rebecca suddenly grinned. “Did you hear what you just said? We’re worried if we’re dressed up enough to eat breakfast!” Thomas laughed and then knocked on the door to Aragorn and Arwen’s chambers and he was still smiling when Aragorn opened the door and motioned them inside.

“What amuses you two so early in the morning?” he asked as he looked them over with a small smile playing about his lips.

“I’m not sure you’d understand,” Rebecca said, struggling to hold back a giggle and not daring to look at Thomas, who was now grinning and looking at the floor.

Aragorn looked helplessly at Arwen as she joined them and she just shook her head slightly. “You have been outside already this morning?” she asked.

“Yes, I woke up early and wanted to take a walk with Rebecca, but she was already outside and we’ve been talking,” Thomas said, finally having recovered enough to look up.

“Come and sit down,” Aragorn invited, motioning to the table set by the window overlooking the garden, still wondering what had caused them such amusement, but rather glad to see them enjoying themselves. “I know it is rather early for breakfast, but I wanted to speak with you, and with Éomer arriving later today and our departure tomorrow, we will have very little time to do so.”

“I need to pack,” Rebecca suddenly said with a slightly panicked expression. “I knew we were leaving, but I hadn’t even thought about what to take or anything like that.”

“Mistress Lothrín will see to your clothes, Rebecca,” Arwen reassured her with a gentle smile. “Though, if you desire something special, you will need to inform her of that.”

“Oh. Well, I suppose there might be some special clothes I’ll need for feasts and things like that.” She bit her lip to keep from giggling again and she stared down at the table.

“Yes,” Aragorn said slowly, as he glanced between her and Thomas who was smiling at Rebecca. Finally he asked, “What are you two laughing about, Thomas?”

Thomas gave him a sheepish grin before he tried to explain. “I don’t think it will make much sense to you, but as we were coming to your chambers I asked Rebecca whether or not we should change before we ate with you because these clothes aren’t very proper for wearing to a meal here, and it just struck us as funny to be worrying about something like that.” Rebecca’s giggle finally escaped her lips and Thomas grinned at her while Aragorn and Arwen exchanged amused looks.

“You are rather underdressed to be eating with your King and Queen,” Aragorn pointed out with mock severity and Rebecca giggled again while Thomas and Arwen both laughed. Aragorn smiled, knowing that his children needed the release of the tension of the last few days and that laughter was a great healer of hearts. He rose to answer the door and to allow the servants to bring in their breakfast which was quickly put on the table and he dismissed them with quiet words of thanks. After the Standing Silence, they began eating their breakfast of porridge, warm bread, and strawberries and they talked quietly. After a moment, Aragorn noticed there was one small tray that remained covered and he opened it and looked at it with puzzlement.

“What are these?”

“They made them!” Rebecca cried with a smile of delight.

“Cinnamon rolls!” Thomas said with a grin as he grabbed for one.

“Cinnamon rolls?” Aragorn looked at the strange shaped, white covered bread like things sitting on the tray and then at Thomas who was eagerly eating one and then at Rebecca who was smiling as she picked one up and placed it on her plate. “What are these, Rebecca?” he asked, picking one up and smelling it before placing it on his plate. It smelled wonderful even if it looked rather strange. “I assume this is something from your… well, from the future.”

“Yes, they made them in the restaurant… the inn where I worked and I talked with the cook the other day and you have all of the ingredients here and we figured out that he could make them,” she smiled as she took her first bite. “I-I told them we made them in the North,” she hastened to add and he gave her a reassuring smile.

Glancing at Arwen who also had one of the rolls on her plate, he picked up his fork and cut off a small piece of it and put it in his mouth. He was shocked at how sweet it was, but he liked the flavor of the cinnamon with the bread and he slowly swallowed it, aware of the eyes of Rebecca on him and he gave her a small smile. “It is very sweet, but I like the cinnamon with the bread.” Aragorn read the disappointment in his daughter’s eyes and he glanced at Arwen to see that she was having a similar reaction, while Thomas was happily eating another one. “What is this white part on top?” he asked, poking at it with his fork.

“It’s called frosting and it is pretty sweet,” Rebecca admitted. “There isn’t much here in Middle-earth that is sweet which is something we’ve both missed. But if you like the other part, you could scrape the frosting off and just eat that part if you want.”

“Maybe they’d like cinnamon toast better,” Thomas commented as he glanced at Aragorn and Arwen while finishing up his breakfast.

“What is that?” Arwen asked as she carefully scraped the frosting off and resumed eating the roll.

“Pretty much what it sounds like,” Thomas replied, “toast with butter and then you have a mixture of sugar and a little cinnamon and you sprinkle it on the top of it. It’s very good,” he grinned.

“Why have you not asked for any of these things before?” Aragorn asked with a slight frown as he ate the roll, which he quite enjoyed without the frosting. “You know you can ask for anything to be prepared for you.”

“I never really thought of these things until recently,” Rebecca said, “but now I’m going to try and think of other things we might be able to make here.”

“I wish we could make fudge,” Thomas said with a wistful sigh.

Rebecca nodded her agreement. “Me too, I’ll miss it at Christmas.”

“Do we not have the right ingredients for this… fudge?” Arwen asked.

“No, there is no chocolate or marshmallows here,” Rebecca replied and then she grinned at Aragorn. “You wouldn’t like it though, it would be too sweet for you.” She turned back to Thomas, “Do you know how to make ice cream? I was telling the hobbits about it and I was hoping you might know how to make it.”

Narrowing his eyes in thought for a moment, Thomas slowly shook his head. “No, I don’t think I could do it. I saw it made one time, but I was really little and I don’t really remember how they did it.”

Aragorn watched them talking with a fond look in his eyes and he glanced at Arwen to see her gazing back at him with the same look and his smile changed to a grin for a brief moment. He had never seen his children quite so light in spirit before and though he still saw the weariness and signs of grief in their eyes and knew their grief was not fully dealt with – and would not be for quite some time – he realized that their lightness had to do with knowing that they were finally home. That they would not be yanked away again and that they could fully relax; none of them had known the unseen burden they had all been under in that regard. Glancing out the window and seeing time quickly passing, Aragorn abruptly stood and crossed to a cabinet and took out a small wooden box. He rubbed his thumb absently across the grain of the box as he returned to the table and resumed his seat, smiling at Thomas and Rebecca who had ceased talking and were watching him curiously.

“I have a gift for you, ion-nín. The one I had made for you in honor of your eighteenth birthday.” Aragorn slid the box across the table to Thomas and watched as he undid the leather clasp and carefully opened the box. Thomas froze and then looked up at Aragorn with wide and disbelieving eyes.

“But I’m not Dúnedain, Adar.” He took the silver star-shaped brooch out of the box and ran his fingers over it carefully as he looked at the fine etching on it.

“Not by blood, though you certainly have the height,” Aragorn teased before his expression turned serious. “As I told you and Rebecca the other night, you are my children in all but blood and while my brooch will be handed down to the son who will follow me on the throne…”

“Are you sure you will have a son?” Rebecca interrupted.

“Yes, Rebecca, Arwen and I will have a son.” He glanced meaningfully at Arwen with a tender smile. “Remember, I do have a gift of foresight, and, no, I am not telling you how many daughters or other children we will have, because that I have not foreseen. While my gift is always accurate, it does not always appear when I would like it to.”

He turned back to Thomas. “But I did want you to have a brooch as well and so I had this made for you and it is almost identical to mine. The silversmith here in Minas Tirith is unused to making them and so it is slightly different, but I am well pleased with it.” Thomas just nodded, still stunned at the gift and wondering at his right to wear it. “Ion-nín, ” Aragorn said softly and Thomas looked up at him, “if it will help you to accept the rightness of such a gift, know that I spoke with Halbarad, Alvist, and several of the other Rangers and they believed it was a fitting gift for you. Most of our young men receive their stars when they are older, but as they are Dúnedain they mature later and do not join the Rangers until they are older than you are now.”

“Thank you, Adar, it’s a wonderful gift.” Thomas finally smiled his acceptance and thanks and then asked, with a small grin, “Does it come with a grey cloak?”

Aragorn threw back his head and laughed.

-----------

Rebecca and Thomas stood slightly behind and to the left of Aragorn and Arwen near the Court of the Fountain as they waited for Éomer to arrive. Gathered near them were the rest of the members of the Fellowship, as well as Faramir, Prince Imrahil, Halbarad, and many of the elves. She had been disappointed to learn that Éowyn was not part of the group that accompanied Éomer, but knew that she would see her friend in a few weeks, if only for a short time. There was a stirring at the top of the ramp and then Éomer strode briskly into view, his long, dark green cloak edged with gold trim swirling around him as he approached Aragorn and Arwen with a wide smile on his face. “My Lord Aragorn,” he said, his hand stretched out in greeting. Aragorn clasped his forearm before pulling him into a firm embrace which was returned in kind.

“It is good to see you again, Éomer, my brother,” Aragorn said as he stepped back, smiling.

“And you, Aragorn.”

Aragorn held out his hand to Arwen and she took it and gracefully stepped forward to stand alongside him. “Éomer King, this is my wife Arwen, Queen of Gondor and Arnor.”

“Queen Arwen,” Éomer said as he took her hand and kissed it. “I am pleased and honored to meet the wife of one I hold as a brother.”

“Éomer King, I am pleased to meet one that my husband holds in such high esteem and I welcome you to our home, if only for a short time,” Arwen said with a warm smile that Éomer returned before glancing at Aragorn.

“I intend to have a long talk with your husband, Lady Arwen about why he kept quiet about his betrothal to you.”

“Oh, I had my reasons,” Aragorn said dryly and Arwen laughed and those within hearing distance joined her. Éomer grinned at Aragorn and then his gaze landed on Thomas and Rebecca and he walked over to greet them. Thomas and Rebecca bowed and curtseyed politely and Éomer just shook his head for a moment as he smiled at them, though it slowly faded and a look of concern crossed his face.

“I’m glad to see you again, my Lord King,” Thomas said, grinning, knowing that Éomer had seen his and Rebecca’s weariness and grief and trying to divert his attention.

“My Lord King?” Éomer said with a frown. “I believe we have already had a discussion, boy, about what you are allowed to call me.” Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Rebecca laughed and Thomas nodded his agreement.

“Yes, I believe we did,” he said thoughtfully, “although most people call me Lord Thomas now, so perhaps you should as well, Éomer.” Thomas watched Éomer carefully as the people around them chuckled and the King gave him a small smile.

“You have changed,” Éomer commented, “and not just in height. No, I believe we will stay with the original agreement, Thomas.” He grinned, stepping forward and clasping him soundly on the shoulder as he whispered softly, just loud enough for Rebecca to also hear. “And you will tell me later what is wrong.” They nodded as he turned to Rebecca and took her hand, kissing it gently. “Lady Rebecca, you appear to have settled in well here.” He kept ahold of her hand.

“Hello, Éomer and yes, I have,” she smiled.

He held up her hand and examined her ring. “I see someone has finally gotten the courage to ask for your hand in marriage,” he commented with a sly smile and sideways glance at Thomas before he released her hand. “I wish you both much joy,” he said softly.

“Thank you,” they replied with smiles of their own as Éomer moved on to greet the rest of the welcoming party.

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

Thomas and Rebecca had asked for permission to sit with the other members of the Fellowship instead of at the high table during the welcoming feast for Éomer, but Aragorn had refused, though they were free to join them once the meal was completed and dancing had commenced. They had certain responsibilities and sitting with guests at the high table was one of them. After they danced the two dances that Thomas knew they made their way to the large table where Haldir, his brothers, and most of the members of the Fellowship were sitting. It saddened Rebecca to think that soon all of the people at the table would soon be gone from her life and that there was a good chance she might never see some of them again. Thomas pulled a chair out for her and she sat down next to Haldir, while Thomas sat between her and Legolas. The four of them and Gimli talked quietly for a time and then Rebecca happened to glance out at the dance floor. She smiled and pulled on Thomas’s sleeve to get his attention.

“Thomas, look.” She nodded in the direction of the dancers where Éomer was dancing with Lothíriel, Prince Imrahil’s daughter. Thomas turned slightly to see what Rebecca was watching and he smiled.

“He seems to be having a good time,” he commented as he saw the smile on Éomer’s face and he turned back to Rebecca with a grin.

“Perhaps Lothíriel will be the next Queen of Rohan,” Rebecca commented as she continued to watch them.

Thomas laughed. “They just met, Rebecca, give them some time to know each other before you have them married!”

“Women always like to see their male friends married and tied down… even if they’re kings,” Gimli snorted, though his eyes glinted with amusement as he looked at Rebecca.

“Well, someone has to do it,” Rebecca retorted, glancing around the table, noticing that everyone was now listening. “Not one of you is married and all of you are… really old,” she said with a grin. “Thomas is the youngest one here and at least he is betrothed. I think you’re all scared.” The others smiled and laughed.

“Are you sure that none here are married, Lady Rebecca?” Haldir asked with just the faintest glimmer of amusement in his eyes.

Rebecca’s startled look quickly turned sheepish as her gaze moved from Haldir to Rúmil and then to Orophin. She knew that none of the Fellowship members were married, but since Haldir had never mentioned a wife, she had just assumed he was not married. Perhaps she was mistaken and she blushed slightly. “Well, I guess I just assumed that you and Rúmil and Orophin weren’t married since I’ve never heard any of you mention a wife. Are all of you married?”

Haldir gave her a very small smile. “Actually, Lady Rebecca none of us are. However, as we have never discussed this, I did not think you should assume such a thing.” His smile widened slightly and Rebecca groaned while the others laughed.

“Haldir is right, Rebecca,” Legolas said, “many elves, especially the Silvan elves, are very private about such things and, in fact, I would never discuss my family with anyone that I was not close to.” Rebecca nodded and glanced at Haldir out of the corner of her eye and he reassured her quietly.

“We never had the time to discuss our families, Lady Rebecca, or I would have told you that I was not married. Although, I do believe that Rúmil is courting someone,” he commented with a sidelong glance at his brother. Orophin, who spoke more of the common tongue than Rúmil, swiftly translated Haldir’s comment and Rúmil glared briefly at his brother before nodding shyly at Rebecca and dropping his gaze to the table. The conversation moved on then to other things as they enjoyed their last evening together in Minas Tirith.

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

It was a very solemn procession that left Minas Tirith to bear the body of Théoden King back to Edoras to be buried with his forefathers. Besides Aragorn and his family, all of the members of the Fellowship were part of the escort and would then be returning north to their homes. All of the elves and most of Aragorn’s Rangers were also returning home. After much deliberation, Hinluin had decided to stay in the South and would remain one of Aragorn’s personal guards, much to Thomas’s relief. Also accompanying the procession were Prince Faramir, Prince Imrahil and his family, as well as many members of the City Guard, the White Company, and the Swan Knights to protect their respective lords and their families.

A huge crowd of people gathered on the walls and lined the road leading across the Pelennor as the wain bearing the body of Théoden began its journey. All were quiet and respectful, in honor of the Rohirrim who had helped save Minas Tirith. Flowers soon littered the road in tribute to the king who had given his life. Éomer, Marshal Elfhelm, and Marshal Erkenbrand led the procession, and they were closely followed by an honor guard of Riders from the King’s Household that had accompanied Éomer to Minas Tirith. Merry, as Théoden’s esquire, carried the King’s weapons and rode on the wain alongside the golden bier. Aragorn and Arwen rode behind the wain, and strung out behind them in a long train were the rest of the party on horseback. Other wains, carry clothing and supplies, and most of the guards were at the end of the column. Although once they were past the Rammas Echor and on the Great West Road heading towards Edoras, the guards spread out up and down the column to better protect the party. They moved slowly, and a trip that the Rohirrim had made in five days as they rode to the aid of Minas Tirith would now take over two weeks.

-----------

The third evening of their journey found Aragorn, Faramir, and Halbarad sitting and talking quietly around a small fire that was lit more for comfort and light than it was needed for heat on the warm summer evening. Arwen had joined her father, brothers, and grandparents while Rebecca and Thomas were off with the rest of the Fellowship. At first the three men talked mostly of things concerning Gondor and Arnor and then, Aragorn noted with amusement, Faramir began steering the conversation towards more personal things. Why his Steward did not just come out and ask him what he wanted to know puzzled him. Finally, Aragorn asked his own question. “Faramir, is there something you want to ask me? You seem to be hinting at something, but I am not sure what that might be.”

Faramir gave his king a slightly guilty look and then smiled. “Yes, I do have a question, but I was trying to decide if it was too personal. If it is, please tell me.” Aragorn nodded, glancing at Halbarad who shrugged. “I wondered if you would tell me what it was like when you served as Thorongil under my grandfather, Ecthelion.” He paused briefly, staring into the fire, before looking up and meeting Aragorn’s eyes. “I have heard stories of those times from my father and some of the lords who remember you, but I would like to hear what it was like for you.”

Aragorn searched Faramir’s face intently for a long moment and then nodded slowly. “It is a tale that will take some time, Faramir, and parts of it will not be easy for me to tell or for you to hear. For I will tell you the truth as I saw it at the time and while I know there were things I should, perhaps, have done differently, it is the same for your father.” He suddenly smiled. “There are good things to tell of those times as well, for I knew your mother and I saw Boromir when he was quite young.”

“I would hear it all.”

“The only thing I ask is that we wait until our return journey.” Faramir looked at him with a question in his eyes. “I fear it will be a hard time for all of us, saying good bye to those we love and care for, but for Rebecca and Thomas it will be particularly difficult, especially considering what they have just gone through. They know very little of my life and perhaps hearing stories of it will give them something else to think on for a time.”

Faramir nodded and then shot Halbarad a sly grin. “I am sure that Halbarad has a few good stories to tell.”

“One, but it’s about Aragorn and it sounds like we’ll be hearing enough about him.” Halbarad stared into the fire without blinking, while Aragorn let out a small laugh. Faramir stared at the Ranger for a moment and then slowly shook his head before he began laughing as well. Halbarad ignored them.

“Join us, Éomer,” Aragorn invited, seeing the king standing just at the edge of the firelight and, with just a slight hesitation, he walked forward and sat down between Faramir and Halbarad.

“I thought you were talking with my cousin,” Faramir said, glancing at Éomer.

“I was, until Imrahil and Lady Laereth decided that it was time for Lothíriel to get some rest, saying we had a long ride again tomorrow.”

Aragorn cast a quick glance up at Eärendil to check its progress across the night sky and decided it was not too late, even on this summer evening when the sun set late. Faramir however, gave a small laugh. “My aunt and uncle must be concerned about you, Éomer. Lothíriel is an excellent rider and whether she rests early tonight or not will not make any difference for her.”

“I did notice her riding skills,” Éomer acknowledged with a grin and then he shrugged. “It is just as well, we have many days left before we reach Edoras and I did want to speak with you Aragorn about Thomas and Rebecca. I did not have time to speak with them in Minas Tirith about what has happened to cause such… weariness and grief that surrounds them. Or should I wait and speak with them directly?”

After glancing at the nearby guards, Aragorn lowered his voice before he replied. “I do not believe they would mind if I told you what has happened.” He paused to gather his thoughts and then told Éomer all that they had learned in the days before they left Minas Tirith and of the decision they had had to make. The King of Rohan listened quietly, his brown eyes focused intently on Aragorn as he spoke.

When Aragorn was finished, Éomer shook his head. “No wonder they are grieving,” he murmured quietly and Aragorn and Halbarad nodded. “But I am pleased for your sake… for all of our sakes,” he said, giving Aragorn a small smile.

“It would have been… difficult had they left,” he acknowledged with a wry smile. “My hope is that now that they know they are staying, it will allow them to settle even more fully. Especially Thomas, though he had been doing better the last few weeks,” he said glancing at Faramir and Halbarad.

“He had been,” Faramir agreed with a nod. “I noticed it as we worked together. He seemed more content, more at peace with himself than he had been.”

“That was because he was betrothed,” Halbarad commented and the men laughed.

“Speaking of betrothals,” Faramir said, looking at his future brother-in-law. “How is Éowyn? I was disappointed that she did not accompany you.”

“She wanted to come, but there was much to do to prepare for the funeral.” Éomer shrugged. “She appears to be well otherwise, we do not often have time to talk. I have been spending much of my time with my councilors working to restore the damage done by the years of Gríma’s influence and the effects of the war.” He glanced between the three men. “It takes a lot of time, as you well know.” They murmured their agreement.

“I fear, Faramir, that a brother is a very poor source of information if you want to find out how your lady fares. I found it ever so when I spoke to Elladan and Elrohir about Arwen.” Aragorn gave a gentle laugh at the frown that crossed Faramir’s face.

“You are speaking of me, beloved?” Arwen’s low voice spoke from the darkness and she walked up behind Aragorn and lightly laid her hand on his shoulder. He twisted his head up and around and smiled at her as he covered her hand with his own.

“Will you join us?”

“No, I am going to seek my rest now.”

“Then I will join you.” Aragorn gracefully got to his feet and wished the others good night before escorting Arwen to their tent.

-----------

Halfway back in the procession, Rebecca shifted uncomfortably on Merilvor as she rode in the hot sun of late afternoon a short distance behind Thomas and the hobbits. She had come to realize that the time spent in Minas Tirith had made her soft and these past few days spent in the saddle had been somewhat difficult. Smiling inwardly at the thought of this being difficult after the things she had done, she glanced up at the White Mountains towering above her on the left. This part of Gondor, Anórien, was so different than Southern Gondor - what she had actually seen of it as they raced through it, she thought with amusement. But this land seemed wilder and less populated, though they had passed through a few very small farming communities. But it was a pretty area and reminded Rebecca of some of the land she had seen in parts of Montana as her and her mom crossed that state on the bus when they had traveled to Portland. She quickly shook her head, trying to drive that image from her mind. Biting her lip, she focused on the hobbits in front of her, straining to hear what they were talking about, but it was no use.

Traveling to Edoras had been a pleasant distraction, but during the times she was alone Rebecca’s thoughts were almost always drawn back to that trip or to her own time. She did not regret her decision in any way, she knew without a doubt it was the right one. It was the loss of her mom that she was struggling with the most and the grief of that loss would appear at the most unexpected times and over things that surprised her, like now as she looked at the landscape. Aragorn and Arwen had told her it would take time, but she wondered how long that might be. Rebecca blinked back tears as she struggled to bring her emotions under control.

“Your thoughts are far from here, Lady Rebecca,” Legolas’s quiet, compassionate voice sounded next to her and she turned to her right, surprised to see him and Gimli riding alongside her.

Stroking Merilvor’s neck, Rebecca stared at the ground for a moment before she replied in a low voice, “They are, Legolas.” She shrugged. “For some reason the land around here reminded me of something to do with my mom. It’s the strangest thing,” she added, “how the smallest, most unexpected things will remind me of her or that time.”

“Ah, but that is to be expected.” Legolas’s eyes were filled with compassion. “Your grief is very new,” he said in a gentle voice, “and tears and laughter will come and go as the weeks pass. Healing takes time.”

“That’s what Aragorn and Arwen told me,” she said with a small smile, glancing between her two friends. “I know it’ll get better.”

“Do you speak with Thomas about what you are feeling?” Legolas asked.

“Oh sure,” she said, shrugging again and a genuine smile lit her face. “And Aragorn, Arwen, Lord Elladan, Erestor, Lady Galadriel, Lord Celeborn,” she paused and narrowed her eyes in thought. “I think that’s everyone… no, I even spoke very briefly with Halbarad.”

“It would be brief if you spoke with him,” Gimli said gruffly and Rebecca and Legolas laughed, causing Thomas and the hobbits to glance back.

“You know what this reminds me of?” Rebecca asked as she took a drink from her waterskin.

“I have an idea, mellon nín,” Legolas replied with a smile, but he indicated she should continue.

“Well, except for the fact that we are going very, very slowly, there are a lot more people, and we have good food and clothing and things like that, it reminds of the days when Thomas and I first got here.” She grinned at Gimli’s look of disbelief.

“How can you compare the two?” he sputtered.

“I’m out in the wilds with my friends, Gimli,” she replied. “Although, I suppose we weren’t really friends then. You two weren’t even friends then,” she reminded them with a laugh. Gimli began muttering under his breath in what Rebecca supposed were some kind of dwarvish curses, while Legolas gave her an amused look before gazing at Thomas who had slowed Baldor and now rode alongside Rebecca.

“Does this remind you of the days when you first arrived here, Thomas?” Legolas asked.

“This? Do you mean traveling like this? Is that what you’ve been talking about?” He glanced between the three of them and saw Gimli muttering to himself, Rebecca smiling down at her saddle, and Legolas just looking generally amused as he nodded in response to Thomas’s questions. Sensing he needed to be careful for there was obviously something going on between the three of them, Thomas answered slowly and with a slight frown. “No, it doesn’t. I didn’t have a horse, for one thing.” He watched the others for their reactions, suddenly wishing he had stayed with the hobbits. “Does it remind you of that time?”

“No,” Gimli said firmly and with a slight scowl at Rebecca, who laughed.

“”All right, Gimli, it’s not the same, I just said it reminded me of it because we’re all traveling together. But I am right when I say that you and Legolas weren’t friends then, aren’t I, Thomas?” she looked at him and grinned.

Thomas gave her a blank stare wondering why the question had even come up and he finally just shrugged. “They are now and that’s all that matters.” He hurriedly changed the subject. “Legolas, I’ve been meaning to ask you this for awhile. Aragorn once told me that mortals don’t usually go to your home and I was wondering if that was always true and if it applied to everyone.”

Legolas smiled. “I assume you are asking because you would like to visit someday?” His gaze moved from Thomas to Rebecca and they both nodded. “It is unusual, but as I am taking Gimli with me now, I believe that you would also be allowed to visit. However, I do not plan to be there often in the years ahead since I will be moving to Ithilien and, of course, you will always be welcome in my home there.”

“Your home will be further away, Gimli,” Rebecca sighed, “but at least it’s not as far as the Shire.”

“We’ll see them again,” Thomas said reassuringly. “Aragorn will have to travel to Arnor to see to that part of his kingdom and we’ll go with him.” Rebecca nodded and then smiled as the signal was given to set up camp for the night. Leaving Legolas and Gimli behind, the two of them urged their horses forward to where Aragorn and Arwen had dismounted and they greeted them as they swung down from their horses. The four of them spoke quietly for a moment before two Rangers came and took Aragorn and Arwen’s horses away to care for them. The king and queen walked away while Rebecca and Thomas turned to stripping off their tack and grooming their own horses. While others would also have cared for their horses, Thomas enjoyed doing it himself and Halbarad was still insisting that Rebecca do it herself – not that she minded. They were just finishing when Éomer strolled up. Without saying a word to them he began looking Merilvor over, running his hands over the mare’s back, up and down the legs, and across the withers, before ending up at the head and checking the horse’s eyes, ears, and mouth, murmuring quietly in Rohirric the whole time. Rebecca and Thomas stopped working and just stood watching the king as he examined Rebecca’s horse.

“She’s a beautiful horse, Lady Rebecca,” he said with a grin when he had finished.

“Thanks. I’ve only had her for a couple of weeks, Adar and Halbarad got her for me.”

Éomer looked puzzled for a moment and then a look of understanding filled his eyes. “Do you call Aragorn, Adar?” he asked quietly. They both nodded and Éomer looked at Thomas with a touch of surprise in his eyes. Éomer rubbed Merilvor’s nose as he spoke. “He is a good man and I imagine he is a good father to both of you.” They murmured their agreement and he continued. “Aragorn has told me what has happened, what Gandalf told you and I wanted to tell you that I grieve deeply for you in your loss.”

“Thank you, Éomer,” Thomas said, looking into the distance and tapping the horse brush idly against the palm of his hand. “It’s been difficult.” His gaze shifted back to the king. “The only good part is that now I know I won’t just be taken away from here.”

“And for that I am thankful, I would miss both of you.” Éomer smiled and clasped Thomas hard on his shoulder before turning his gaze to Rebecca. She had one hand resting on Merilvor’s neck and she was absently twisting her fingers through the horse’s mane as she gave Éomer a wan smile.

“I’d miss you too, Éomer, and thank you. As Thomas said, it’s been very hard, but if I have to be without my… mom, then this is a good place to be. I do have a wonderful family here, though many of them are leaving,” she frowned, “and that will be hard too,” she finished with a whisper. Thomas stepped over to her and took her in his arms and held her close, rubbing her back soothingly for a brief moment before letting her go and grasping her hand.

“It’ll be hard to see them go,” Éomer acknowledged, “even when you know how they long for their own lands and homes. But I think you’ll find that those who are left in Minas Tirith will be a great source of comfort.”

“Oh, I know that, they have been and will be and I will adjust,” she paused, “again. Distances in Middle-earth are just so difficult to overcome and I wish there was a way to see them more often.”

“We need a phone,” Thomas whispered with a grin. At Éomer’s questioning look, he quickly tried to explain. “It’s a device… a box with, well… string like things in it, and you can talk to people anywhere in the world who have another phone.”

Shaking his head with a look of either disbelief or amazement, Éomer said quietly, “It would be a wonderful thing to have, but you’ll have to be content with writing letters.”

“Éowyn and I have written a couple and that’s been nice.”

“She has also enjoyed them. Now, I believe that supper is being served over at our tents and if you are finished with your horses, I will walk with you.” Rebecca and Thomas quickly stored their brushes in their saddlebags and set their tack out of the way before walking with Éomer to where supper was being served.

“Éomer,” Thomas asked in a low voice, “I-I’m not sure if this is proper to ask or not, but what happened to your parents? I know that Théoden was your uncle and you are not that old. I mean, to have lost both of your parents.”

Éomer smiled faintly and shook his head. “I don’t mind answering you, I’m twenty-eight. My father was killed by orcs when I was twelve and my mother died soon after of a wasting sickness. As she was Théoden’s younger sister, he brought me and Éowyn to Edoras and into his household and was like a father to us. In some ways, it is not unlike you and Lady Rebecca. When my cousin Théodred died, I became the heir to the throne of Rohan.”

“I’m sorry for your losses, Éomer,” Rebecca said, slowly shaking her head. “You’ve lost most of your family, too.”

“Except for Éowyn,” he nodded in agreement. “And, Faramir,” he raised his voice slightly and Rebecca and Thomas looked at him in surprise before noticing that they had reached the area where supper was being served and Faramir was sitting and eating with some of the others. “Faramir will be taking Éowyn to Minas Tirith next summer and I will be all alone at Edoras,” he said, giving Thomas and Rebecca a sly smile.

Faramir stared at Éomer for a moment and then shrugged and returned to his food while Aragorn laughed, “I am sure you will be able to find someone, Éomer, so that you will not be alone for long.” He cast a meaningful look in the direction of Prince Imrahil’s tents and Éomer just grinned before moving off to get his own food. Aragorn looked up at Rebecca and Thomas with a discerning eye. “How do you fare?”

“I’m tired,” Rebecca said as she sank down onto the ground between Arwen and Halbarad. Thomas just nodded somewhat absently before he walked over to get food for Rebecca and himself. Aragorn watched him go with narrowed eyes, deciding that he would find time later to talk to him.

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

Aragorn and Arwen sat quietly by the fire, his strong arms wrapped tightly around her as they watched the burning wood slowly turn ash white and then break and fall into the bed of coals, sending sparks crackling upward into the star-filled sky. Aragorn knew they should be sleeping, the others had left long ago, but the two of them had had little time alone on this trip and they were enjoying themselves. When they reached Edoras he knew they would have few opportunities to be alone as their duties would require them to be involved in the official functions that surrounded the funeral. Pressing a kiss onto Arwen’s temple where it lay against his chest, Aragorn murmured, “We should seek our rest, meleth-nín,” though he made no move to get up.

“We should,” she agreed, turning her head and smiling up at him. “We will be tired tomorrow.”

Aragorn nodded, though his eyes gleamed as he bent down and kissed her lips, tenderly at first and then deeper and more passionately. A slight sound made him aware of the ever present guards who were surrounding the tent area and with a frustrated growl that made Arwen laugh quietly he drew back away from her and stood, helping her to her feet. “Come, meleth-nín.” With a small scowl at one of the city guardsmen, who was steadily looking in the other direction, he led Arwen into their tent.

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

“Good morning, Adar,” Thomas said, glancing up at Aragorn from where he sat alongside a small stream near the encampment, his arms resting loosely on top of his pulled up knees.

“You are paying attention to your surroundings this morning, Thomas,” Aragorn said with a small smile as he sat down beside him.

Thomas grinned and shook his head. “I don’t think you were trying to be quiet and besides,” his voice dropped to a whisper, “the city guardsmen are on duty, not your Rangers and they aren’t very quiet.”

Aragorn smiled and nodded his agreement as he pulled his pipe from his belt pouch and began filling it. Thomas watched him curiously, wondering why Aragorn had come to speak with him, but he just waited and when the pipe had been lit, Aragorn finally spoke again. “Last night you did not answer my question when I asked how you fared. Are you all right, Thomas?”

“I’m doing all right,” he replied slowly and with a slight frown, trying to remember back to the night before. “I was just thinking about other things and wasn’t really paying attention,” he admitted.

Looking him over closely, Aragorn could see the shadows of grief that still darkened his eyes. It had lessened from what it had been, but it was still visible… at least to those who knew Thomas well. “What were you thinking about?” he asked, turning his gaze back to the stream.

“Oh, things Éomer had told me and Rebecca mostly,” he answered, picking up a couple of pebbles and rolling them around in his hand. Aragorn waited patiently for Thomas to continue. “Did you know that Éomer’s father died when he was young?” Aragorn nodded. “It just struck me as strange that his father and your father and Rebecca’s and mine all died when we were young.” Thomas shrugged. “Frodo’s did too,” he added after a moment. “I was wondering why… ” his voice trailed off and he threw the pebbles into the water one by one and dusted off his hands. He shrugged again, glancing over at Aragorn. “That’s what I was thinking about last night when you asked me.”

“Hmmm,” Aragorn studied Thomas intently for a moment. “As Gandalf told you, those types of questions are not easily answered, not even by those considered the wise, and I do not number myself among those, Thomas. The only wisdom I have comes from living a long life as mortals reckon such things. As for why your father died, I know not.” A frown furrowed his brow for a moment. “This is very difficult for me to say, Thomas, but I do know that for me,” he paused and a shadow of remembered pain crossed his face, “I will not speak of my naneth’s grief for it was deep and something I did not fully understand until I became betrothed to Arwen. But for me… for my people, as I look back on my life thus far… my father’s death ultimately led to good things.”

Aragorn looked at Thomas, but he was staring at the ground and he quietly continued. “If my father had lived, I would not have been raised in Rivendell and learned all the things I needed to learn in order to lead my people to where we are now – Sauron defeated and a reunited Kingdom. I would not have had the skills and the courage to travel alone for the many years I did - to Rohan, to Gondor, to Harad, and to other places to learn of my allies and my enemies. My forefathers did not do those things. And,” Aragorn’s voice softened to almost a whisper, “I would not have met and become betrothed to Arwen, whose love and faith in me gave me the strength to go on during the long, dark days when all hope seemed lost.” Thomas looked up at that and Aragorn put a hand on his shoulder. “But, Thomas, unlike you, I have no memories of my father and so it is, perhaps, easier for me to see things in that light.”

“I suppose it’s worked out for you and Middle-earth,” Thomas conceded, “but for me,” he paused and his eyes glimmered with unshed tears, “I don’t see any point to it, the war was so close to being over and he almost survived, it just seems senseless.”

Aragorn sighed deeply, his eyes fixed on Thomas’s. “You will not like what I am going to say, yet I am going to say it anyway. You are young yet, Thomas and perhaps as you age you will discover some purpose that you cannot see now. Or, perhaps, it was simply the time Eru appointed for him to die. I know not.” He paused briefly, absently twisting the long finished pipe in his hands. “Do you know how your father died? I know it happened a long way away from where you lived, but from things you have said of that time, I wondered if anyone ever told you what had happened.”

“Not really, we got a message from the government that told us he had died and then one of his friends wrote my mom a letter and told us a little more. I could always picture it though. In fact,” he glanced at Aragorn, “that dream I kept having in Ithilien was of my father dying. I first started having it right after he died and I had it for a couple of years, but here,” he gave Aragorn a wan smile, “you started replacing my father in the dream and so I was watching you die over and over.” He shuddered and Aragorn gripped his shoulder tightly.

“I am sorry, ion-nín,” he said quietly, feeling suddenly out of his depth and not sure how to bring comfort in a situation where there truly were no answers that would satisfy the questions his son was asking. But Thomas surprised him.

“Aragorn… Adar, I know these are questions that really can’t be answered. Not by you and definitely not by me.” He stared out at the stream, where the sun shining through the trees was beginning to reflect off of the swirling water. “That there are things in life that just happen,” he paused, glancing at Aragorn, “but it doesn’t mean I don’t have questions.” Thomas rubbed his forehead and frowned, “I know that Eru or the Valar or God… I still have to figure that out,” he mumbled.

“Figure what out?”

Thomas shook his head. “I’ll tell you some other time. I know it’s like Gandalf said, that Eru does things for his own reasons and I guess I have to trust in that. But that’s hard to do when it’s your father… your family that’s dead.” He lowered his head and rested his chin on his knees.

Aragorn had wondered when Thomas was going to bring up the rest of his family, but perhaps it was easier to speak of a father who had died long ago, than to speak of a mother and a brother who had died recently. He glanced up as Arwen walked through the trees and when she paused and gave him a questioning look, he hesitated and, after glancing at Thomas, shook his head and she started to slip away.

“Arwen can join us, I care not,” Thomas said, surprising Aragorn that he had even noticed her. “I’ve been here so long I’m starting to talk like you,” Thomas said with a small laugh as Aragorn called out to Arwen.

Aragorn smiled. “It did sound rather strange coming from you, but I am sure that your speech will change somewhat over the years.” He took Arwen’s hand as she sat gracefully on the grass beside him and she murmured a good morning to Thomas who nodded. Turning back to their discussion, Aragorn continued, “It is difficult for you to trust that there is some reason all of this happened and if Gandalf could not answer that, then I certainly cannot. I only know that there is always some purpose that we cannot see.”

“I know, I know, Adar.” Thomas rubbed his head in frustration and then nodded abruptly, signaling an end to his part of the conversation and he looked at Arwen. “Did you come to get us because breakfast is ready?”

“No, I came to find Estel, though I do believe that food is being served.” She smiled softly and her eyes were filled with understanding as she gazed at Thomas. “Be at peace and do not despair of finding the answers you seek, they will come in time. But do not let your seeking overwhelm you and rob you of the joys of life.”

“I wouldn’t…” Thomas started to say and then nodded slowly, “Thank you, Arwen, I’ll try.” He turned to Aragorn, “and thank you, Adar, for listening… for everything.”

Aragorn smiled, “You are welcome, ion-nín. Now, come and eat. We will be leaving soon,” he stood and helped Arwen to her feet and then held his hand down to Thomas. Grabbing his hand, Aragorn pulled Thomas up and embraced him firmly for a moment before they headed back to camp.

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

Several days before the large funeral party arrived in Edoras they stopped early, having come to a spring with a wide, grassy meadow nearby. After horses were cared for and the camp set up, some of the men and elves went to a level area of the meadow to practice their swordplay. Arwen and Rebecca trailed along, Rebecca carrying her bow in hopes that someone would be willing to shoot with her when they were done practicing with their swords. Sitting under a tree along the edge of the clearing they were soon joined by Elrohir, Haldir, and Legolas.

“Are you going to practice, Lady Rebecca?” Haldir inquired.

“If anyone will shoot with me, I will,” she replied not taking her eyes off of the scene in front of her, wincing when Thomas was struck by Faramir’s blade.

“I am going to shoot,” Legolas spoke up and Haldir nodded his agreement.

“I should have brought my bow,” Arwen said.

“You may borrow mine,” Elrohir offered and Arwen nodded.

“You know how to use a bow?” Rebecca asked, turning to her with a surprised look.

Amused smiles crossed the faces of the three males elves while Arwen explained with a gentle smile. “Yes, Rebecca, I do. I learned many thousands of years ago and I also know how to wield a knife such as the one Legolas uses. Even in such a protected place as Imladris it is wise to know how to defend oneself, especially as I traveled often between there and Lothlórien.”

“I’m just surprised that I didn’t know, though Adar did tell me one time that female elves could be trained as warriors.”

“Rebecca, I have lived a very long time and so it is not too surprising that you do not know everything about me yet,” Arwen’s voice was lightly teasing. “We have not known each other very long.”

Blushing, Rebecca nodded. “No, we haven’t. When we return to Minas Tirith, maybe you can come and shoot with me in the morning sometime,” she invited. “Haldir won’t be there anymore and it’s more fun to shoot with someone.”

“Thank you, perhaps I will.”

They turned back to watching the sparring and soon they were joined by Thomas and Faramir as they finished their match. Rebecca had never watched some of those who were sparring and she was awed as she watched Glorfindel and Celeborn dance gracefully around each other as they probed for openings and then came together in a flurry of gold and silver hair, their swords moving so swiftly that she never could tell whose was whose. She didn’t know how long they actually struggled against each other and how they each seemed to know when to stop, but stop they did and evidently both were satisfied with a draw, because Celeborn had a somewhat pleased expression that even she could read, while Glorfindel was openly smiling as they came to join them on the sidelines. Aragorn had just finished defeating Éomer in their match while Halbarad was sparring with Pippin when those that were going to practice their archery gathered their things and Elrohir and Legolas left to set up some wood they were going to use for targets. Faramir decided to join them, saying he wanted to have an opportunity to shoot with the elves and observe their skills. He glanced at Rebecca with a smile.

“They seem to have taught you well.”

She shrugged. “Haldir is a good teacher.”

“You worked hard, Lady Rebecca,” Haldir said quietly as he stood, helping her to her feet and she smiled slightly in acknowledgement of his words.

Stringing her bow, she walked beside Arwen who was doing the same to Elrohir’s bow. She pulled an arrow from her quiver and looked at it carefully. Haldir had given her a new set of elven made arrows to replace the ones she had used during the battles. “How far can you shoot?” she asked Arwen.

“About a hundred twenty yards… when I have been practicing regularly.”

“That’s a long way!”

“I am an elf and my strength is only slightly less than that of a male elf, Rebecca.”

Rebecca just shook her head. They watched as Legolas and Haldir began shooting, with Faramir watching the two elves intently. They really didn’t shoot from much further back than where Arwen had said she would, perhaps another twenty yards. Haldir and Legolas seemed to be teasing each other, but it was in another elvish language and she couldn’t understand what they were saying. She smiled up at Aragorn and Halbarad as they joined them, both of them carrying their bows. Aragorn wrapped his arm around Arwen’s waist and drew her close to his side.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of you shoot before,” Rebecca said, glancing between the two men.

“I’ve used my sword more for fighting and my bow mostly for hunting recently,” Aragorn said after a moments thought, “and I did not do any hunting on our journey. I do practice with it quite frequently, but you have never been there on those mornings.”

“Lady Rebecca, come and shoot,” Legolas called as he finished pulling his arrows from the target. She was finally able to shoot from the same distance that she had prior to her injury and she strode confidently up to a spot about sixty yards from the target. “Are you sure you want to shoot from that far,” Legolas whispered with a smile. “There are a lot of people watching.” He glanced at the group of spectators talking quietly behind her.

She gave him an annoyed glare. “Thanks for reminding me, Legolas. But I’m sure I’ll be fine, I’ve shot in a lot more pressure filled situations than this.” Turning back to the target she nocked her first arrow and raised her bow and was preparing to shoot when someone coughed loudly. She lowered the bow with a frown. While people talking didn’t bother her, this was different. Deciding to ignore whoever it was she lifted her bow again when the same thing happened. With a sigh, Rebecca turned to those watching and her eyes were immediately drawn to Pippin and she saw that his eyes were dancing with amusement. “Pippin, do you have a cold? Do you need me to make you some herbal tea?”

“I’m just fine,” he quickly replied with a grin.

“Well, if you cough anymore, I’ll make you one that is every bit as tasty as the ones Aragorn used to make me and I’m sure that I can find someone around here to make sure that you drink it. No one wants you to become sick,” she said with a smile of her own and those around them laughed and after a moment, Pippin joined them with a slight bow towards Rebecca. She turned back to the target and this time was able to shoot without interruption. All but one arrow landed near the center as she quickly emptied her quiver. Rebecca knew she had hurried that particular shot and she frowned with annoyance as she walked to the target. Returning the arrows to her quiver, she hurried back to where the others were sitting so that she could watch Faramir, Aragorn, and Halbarad shoot. Faramir’s bow was different than either of the other two men’s, it was more like the bows of the Galadhrim – though much simpler in design than an elvish bow. As she watched them shoot, Rebecca decided that while Aragorn and Halbarad were both excellent, Faramir was a better archer than either of them. It surprised her since they were so much older, but she did know that he had used a bow as his primary weapon while serving as a Ranger. She grinned at Thomas as he sat down beside her.

“You shot well,” he commented.

“Thanks. Faramir is very good.” Thomas nodded his agreement, leaning back on his hands and watching intently.

Pippin soon joined them and as Faramir and Halbarad finished they also came and sat with them, leaving Aragorn with Arwen as she prepared to shoot. “You’re very good, Faramir,” Rebecca said as he sat down next to Thomas. “I never saw Boromir with a bow, did he know how?”

Faramir smiled. “Thank you, Lady Rebecca, and yes, my brother did know how to use a bow, but it was never his favorite weapon. However, I always enjoyed the feel of it and it was something I practiced for several hours a day as a boy. As I grew older and knew I would be serving in Ithilien, it became clear that it was a skill I would need and that prompted me to work on it even more intensely.”

“Didn’t you use swords?” Thomas asked with a frown.

Faramir just looked at him and then said dryly, “Oh, on occasion, Thomas.” He shook his head slightly. “While it is true that bows were our main weapon as we usually attacked the enemy from ambush, we would then go to our swords when our arrows were spent.”

Thomas gave him a sheepish grin and they turned to watch Arwen shoot. Watching the graceful way in which Arwen shot, Rebecca noticed that while she shot much like Elladan and Elrohir, there was something about her that reminded Rebecca of Haldir. She leaned over and whispered, “Haldir, did you train Arwen too?”

“No. I am only a few hundred years older than her, but she spent much time in Lothlórien over the centuries and we often practiced together and I may have taught her a few things.” His blue eyes glimmered briefly with amusement for some reason that Rebecca didn’t understand. Turning back to watch Arwen she smiled as Aragorn tried to distract his wife, but the elf was able to block him out and her quiver was soon empty. The king and queen walked hand in hand down to collect her arrows, speaking quietly to one another as the rest of the assembled archers and onlookers stood and headed back to the encampment in search of supper.

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

They reached Edoras on Urimë 7 and the long, solemn procession wound up the hill and through the city gates shortly before noon. People from all over Rohan had gathered for the funeral of Théoden King and the streets were crowded, yet silent as Éomer led the way up the hill to where Éowyn stood waiting on the wide porch of the Golden Hall. As the wain came to a halt at the bottom of the steps leading into the Hall, the rest of those in the company pulled their horses off to the side and dismounted so that those from Rohan could see and honor their fallen King. Their horses were led away by stable hands and the party from Gondor stood quietly as the bier was carefully lifted from the wain by six Riders from the King’s Household. The Riders followed Éomer as they ascended the stairs, followed closely by Merry, who was again carrying Théoden’s weapons. Aragorn and the rest of the company trailed behind Merry.

Inside the Golden Hall, the bier was laid gently on a raised platform halfway between the dais and the huge fire pit in the center of the room. The hall slowly filled with people and Rebecca noticed everyone was wearing a similar style of clothing and she supposed it must be some traditional outfit worn by those in mourning. Even Éowyn, who was standing next to Éomer on the dais, was wearing it and her dress was of a very dark color – either black or a very dark green, Rebecca could not tell from where she was standing. If not for the small gold circlet Éowyn wore, Rebecca might not have recognized her; the difference caused by wearing a dress other than white and the expression of grief on her face, changed her countenance to such a degree that she was surprised by the transformation. But the grief she saw in Éowyn brought her own to the surface and she sighed softly and looked away, hardly listening to Éomer’s words as he praised the deeds of his uncle. A warm hand slipped into hers and she started in surprise, knowing that Thomas was standing several feet away and on her other side. Rebecca looked down and saw Pippin eyeing her with compassion and understanding before he turned his attention back to Éomer and, comforted, she did the same.

“… King served the land of Rohan faithfully and for long years and his great deeds at Helm’s Deep and on the fields of the Pelennor before the city of Minas Tirith will be remembered down through the years in the stories of our people.” Éomer spoke in a strong, clear voice that filled the hall, yet did not overwhelm the listeners. “In three days we will gather at the tenth hour to bury Théoden King in the manner of our people, until that time, let us remember him in the way that each person deems appropriate.” He paused and took Éowyn’s hand, “Whether that be in the company of family and friends, or in solitude; whether it be in laughter or in tears, for both are a part of life.” Éomer stopped and turned his gaze to the floor for a moment and then nodded abruptly and Rebecca wondered what he was thinking. Lifting his head, Éomer looked to Aragorn and beckoned him forward and taking Arwen’s arm, he slowly made his way to the dais. Éomer brought the two of them up to stand next to him and Éowyn to introduce them to his people. “The King and Queen of Gondor and Arnor have graciously come to honor Théoden King. This is the Lord Elessar, Aragorn son of Arathorn and Lady Arwen, I bid you welcome.” He embraced Aragorn and kissed Arwen’s hand to officially welcome them to his land and into his home. Éowyn also greeted both of them quietly and Aragorn kissed her hand while Arwen inclined her head in greeting.

“I thank you, Lord Éomer. Théoden King deserves all the honor that I and my Kingdom can bestow and it is still not enough. Gondor knows that the deeds of Théoden and the Rohirrim helped save the city of Minas Tirith and then helped to distract the dark lord so that the Ringbearer and his companion,” Aragorn looked at Frodo and Sam, “could destroy the Ring. The friendship between our countries goes back centuries and never has it been stronger, my brother.”

Éomer smiled broadly and nodded before asking, “Will you introduce the rest of your party?”

“All of them?” Aragorn asked him in a very quiet aside and when Éomer asked who he wanted to leave out, he gave a small resigned sigh and began calling the rest of the company forward and introducing them. Rebecca and Thomas he introduced as his wards, since officially that is all they would ever be known as, but as he introduced them first out of all the company, most in the room understood the significance of that honor. After the introductions, people began to drift away, eventually leaving Éomer, Éowyn and those that had traveled from Gondor in the Golden Hall, along with the honor guard at the bier and various servants.

“Chambers have been prepared for you here in Meduseld,” Éowyn said to Aragorn and Arwen, “and we have rooms in the barracks for your guards. After you have refreshed yourselves, a light meal will be served here in the hall before the feast this evening.”

As Éowyn continued talking about the chambers and meals, Rebecca watched Faramir out of the corner of her eye and saw he was shifting impatiently on his feet and she bit back a smile. It almost seemed as if Aragorn was deliberately asking questions about minor details just to keep Faramir from greeting Éowyn. When Rebecca saw Aragorn glance sidelong at his steward she knew that he was and she ducked her head, no longer able to hide her grin. Bringing her laughter under control, she looked up again in time to see Faramir finally greeting Éowyn. As they were in a very public setting and were not ‘officially’ betrothed, Faramir could not do more than kiss Éowyn’s hand, but Rebecca thought he lingered over it much longer than would normally be considered appropriate, though she doubted anyone would mind. As they were being led to their chambers by one of the servants, Rebecca glanced up at Aragorn with a smile and then said to him in halting Sindarin, knowing that the Rohirrim did not speak it.

“Adar you can be…” her brow furrowed in thought as she searched for the word ‘mean’ or ‘cruel’ and then she shrugged, “not… nice to your… friends.”

Surprised both by her use of Sindarin and that she had caught him teasing Faramir, Aragorn just looked at her for a moment while Arwen laughed lightly and Thomas wondered why she had made the comment. His eyes twinkling with amusement, he answered her, speaking very rapidly and using words he thought she would not know. “But those were serious questions that I asked, sell-nín, and only Lady Éowyn could answer them for me. I am appalled that you would think I would deliberately keep them from greeting each other after they had been apart for many months.” Aragorn grinned as Rebecca tried to work out what he had said.

Rebecca looked at him with narrowed eyes and sighed in frustration. “You are not… nice to… your sell… either…” she shrugged and switched to common. “Whatever you said, you obviously knew what I was talking about and I still think it was mean.” Although she smiled.

Aragorn laughed and put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close for a moment. “It probably was,” he admitted with a whisper, “but I have so few opportunities to jest with him.” He shrugged slightly.

“You are enjoying this trip, it relaxes you,” Thomas said quietly as they continued down the long, wood paneled hallway, finally stopping near where the servant was waiting at an open doorway and they quietly continued their discussion.

“Except for the reasons for the trip, yes, I have quite enjoyed being out of Minas Tirith,” Aragorn acknowledged. “Traveling with my lady wife,” he smiled, and taking Arwen’s hand he brought it to his lips and kissed it gently, “is something I have truly enjoyed. Being with my family and friends, even during some difficult times,” he gave Thomas a meaningful look, “and being out in the wilderness, even in such a large company is a refreshing change from the city. You know I miss the freedom of my ranger days and while this is not the same, it does allow me some of the same experiences of those times.”

“You will have to find time to do such things, beloved,” Arwen said, giving him a gentle smile.

“I fear that my duty to my people will not often allow me to do such, meleth-nín.”

“Your people will be better served if their king has times when he is able to ease his spirit by spending time doing things he enjoys,” she said softly. “Not for long periods of time perhaps, but for a few days occasionally.”

“I shall bow to your greater wisdom,” Aragorn said, returning her smile before turning to the servant who had been waiting patiently and she was finally able to show them their chambers.

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

After changing into a dress, Rebecca wandered back down to the hall in search of Éowyn whom she had only been able to smile at earlier. She found her sitting on a bench near the bier with her head bowed and she hesitated before sitting down beside her. Éowyn did not appear to notice her and Rebecca watched the servants hurrying around setting out things for the lunch that was to take place shortly. Finally, Éowyn sat up with a small sigh and turned to face her with a wan smile. “Hello, Rebecca, welcome back to Edoras.”

“I’m glad to see you, but I wish it wasn’t for this reason, Éowyn. I’ve missed you.”

Éowyn nodded before glancing around the room and calling out some instructions to one of the servants. “I have missed you as well.” She hesitated and looked at the floor. “It surprised me, because I have not known you that long, yet I think our experiences in battle must… well, none of the women here understand what that is like.” She shrugged. “And you do.”

“Yes,” Rebecca said quietly and with a smile, “and while I have met a couple of nice ladies, like Lothíriel,” she indicated the dark-haired young woman who was speaking with her family across the hall, “most of them think me strange because sometimes I like to wear leggings and tunics and I shoot a bow. But also, you know who I truly am and so I miss talking to you. Although, having Arwen to talk to has helped a lot.”

“What is she like?”

“She is kind and gentle and one of the most… gracious people I’ve ever met.” Rebecca paused, “She is also very wise and compassionate and has helped me with,” she swallowed hard and glanced away briefly, “with some hard things. And she also loves my adar very, very much,” she finished softly with a smile.

“Your Adar? Do you mean Aragorn?” she asked sharply. Rebecca nodded and Éowyn looked at her with narrowed eyes that slowly softened. “That does make sense, Rebecca, he was ever your protector and without a family here, you need a father.” Éowyn looked to the bier where Théoden’s body lay in state. “I know I needed one when my father died… and then my mother,” she sighed. Biting her lip, Rebecca did not say anything about her own mother, the time just wasn’t right. More people were starting to trickle into the hall and she knew it would be better to discuss it at another time. “You have gotten betrothed since last I saw you,” Éowyn said changing the subject.

Rebecca smiled, holding up her hand. “Yes, Thomas asked me a couple of weeks after you left.”

“That long ago? You will be married before I will.”

“Lótessë 18,” Rebecca grinned. “We’ll invite you to the wedding, but I know it’s a long way for you and Éomer to come.”

“I will try and convince him,” Éowyn smiled as she stood, “it would also give me a chance to see Faramir. Now, I have to see to the lunch, but we must find some time to talk later.”

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

Searching throughout and around Meduseld, Rebecca and Thomas finally found the hobbits in the one place they least expected them to be – in the chambers the four hobbits were sharing. They had assumed that the hobbits would be outside enjoying the warmth of the hot summer day and not sitting in a somewhat dark, enclosed room. As Merry opened the door, Thomas looked down at him and smiled. “Do you and everyone else want to go with me and Rebecca down to the market area? The last time we were here we wanted to do that and we thought we’d go down there now and see what they have for sale here.”

Merry opened the door a little wider and invited them into the sitting room where Pippin and Sam were seated on a couch by the unlit fireplace. “I’m not sure,” he replied with a small frown, glancing at the other hobbits.

“Where’s Frodo?” Rebecca asked as she looked around the small room with the doors leading into separate sleeping chambers.

“He’s sleeping,” Sam said, gesturing to a door behind him. “He’s been awfully tired on this trip and with the funeral coming up and all, we thought he should rest.”

“We also have a long trip home and he needs to rest for that,” Merry commented and the other two hobbits nodded their agreement.

“I understand that,” Thomas agreed with a small, sad smile. “Well, do any of you want to go with me and Rebecca or are you all going to sit here and talk?”

“I’ll go,” Pippin said with a smile. “I’ve wanted to see what they have down in the market.”

“You should go with them, Merry,” Sam urged. “I’ll stay and look after Mr. Frodo; he might not even wake up before you get back.”

With a nod, Merry joined them and they left the building, standing at the top of the steps for a moment, blinking in the bright sunshine before they left Meduseld and headed down the hill. They walked toward the market area where they could hear the low murmur of voices. “You said you wanted to come to the market when you were here before, why didn’t you?” Merry asked.

“It was a strange place then and so much happened very quickly,” Thomas replied. “All of the things going on with Gríma and the king, they were making plans to ride out at dawn, it was very hectic.”

“We weren’t even here twenty-four hours and there was no time,” Rebecca added. “We just saw the market on the way up the hill and thought it would be interesting. This was the first city of Men we had been to and everything was so different for us.” She laughed quietly in remembrance. “I’m sure the market closed up right away anyway,” she said shrugging.

Reaching the large market area, they looked around curiously for a moment at the various stands and stalls that lined the square where a busy crowd of people shopped. As they moved to the right side of the square and started examining the various foods and handicrafts for sale, the four of them became aware that a silence had fallen over the area and they looked up to see what had occurred to cause such a thing. To their surprise they found that people all around the square had stopped their shopping and were looking at them with expressions of curiosity. Rebecca suddenly realized that Merry was dressed in his full Knight of the Riddermark uniform and Pippin was wearing his Citadel Guard uniform, without the helmet. She and Thomas were dressed in their normal daily clothing that they would wear at home, but of course it stood out here in Rohan. They were also being trailed by Maldathor and Sírdhim in their full Citadel Guard uniforms – with helmets - and she imagined that was not something the people of Edoras saw very often. She bit her lip to keep herself from laughing and she looked at Thomas to see the same amusement, but also a touch of embarrassment in his eyes.

“Come on,” Pippin said, turning back to the stand of leather goods they had been looking at, “I’m sure they are staring because they’ve never seen such a good looking hobbit before!” he grinned.

Merry snorted and moved on to the next stall where food was being sold and the people slowly resumed their conversations and shopping. Rebecca followed Merry and looked the pastries over carefully before calling back to Thomas, “I think these are the ones we saw when we were here before.”

“It looks the same. Do you want to try them?” Rebecca nodded and at the hobbits hungry looks, Thomas attempted to buy six of the apple-filled pastries, but the man did not speak the common tongue and when Thomas smiled and held out a handful of the Rohirric coins Aragorn had given him, the man just shook his head and pushed the pastries towards him.

“I think he’s giving them to you, Thomas,” Merry said.

“Why would he do that?” Thomas asked quietly even as he realized Merry was right and he took the pastries from the man, giving him a smile and bowing slightly.

“To thank us, to honor us,” Pippin replied just as quietly and with a small shrug as he took the two pastries Thomas handed him. “Everyone here obviously knows who we are, Thomas.”

“I’m sure it didn’t happen to you two,” Merry said as he began eating his pastry, “because you don’t stand out like hobbits do, but in Minas Tirith, that sort of thing happened quite often. This is really good,” he said with a smile as they walked on around the square stopping at different stalls and examining things that interested them. Rebecca paused briefly and looked at some beautiful pottery vases and then stopped at a stall selling fabric of some kind. She didn’t know enough about such things to know what it was made of, she thought it might be wool, though she hadn’t seen any sheep in the fields nearby. But the dark, warm colors caught her eye and as she felt the fabric, she knew it would be wonderful to wear on a cold winter day. Wondering how much fabric it would take to make a dress and if she had enough money with her to pay for it, she smiled at the woman in the stall.

“Do you speak the common tongue?” she asked hesitantly and when the woman looked at her blankly, Rebecca sighed in frustration. Then she looked at the woman and touched the forest green fabric that she wanted and the woman picked up the roll and looked at her questioningly. Rebecca smiled and then pointed at herself and pulled on her dress, trying to indicate she wanted to make a dress from the fabric. The woman looked her up and down with narrowed eyes and Rebecca could almost see her calculating something in her head, then she unrolled the fabric and carefully cut off a long piece. The woman wrapped the fabric for her and named some price that Rebecca didn’t understand so she held out the coins she had, hoping it was enough. Sorting through the coins, the woman picked out four or five and Rebecca started to leave when the woman said something and gave her a small coin that was evidently her change. Smiling her thanks at the woman, Rebecca turned and ran right into Thomas, who caught her gently by her shoulders.

“That was fun to watch,” he commented with a grin, which was echoed by the two hobbits standing alongside him.

Rebecca scowled. “It worked though, didn’t it? I got what I wanted.”

“You did, you did. ” Thomas held up his hands in mock surrender.

“Oh, come on, you two,” Pippin said, grabbing Rebecca’s hand and pulling her along. She gave Thomas a smile and moved off with the hobbit to look at the rest of the market until it was time to return to Meduseld for the evening meal.

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

Rebecca was on the porch on the side of Meduseld sitting on the same bench she had shared with Thomas so many months ago; the night before they had ridden off to the battle at Helm’s Deep and the start of the horrors they had endured for the following month. She shuddered slightly in remembrance and pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them, staring at the plains spread out below her. Sometimes it was hard to believe that it had all really happened, that it wasn’t all some nightmare, but then she would see the faint, but visible scars on her body, and she knew it was very, very real. Rebecca sighed softly, hoping that Thomas would show up soon, as he had promised. The thought of the funeral the following day was also very unsettling and she was not sure how she would react to that. She was afraid that it would bring too many things to the surface and she worried that somehow she would do something that would embarrass herself or Aragorn. A gentle hand laid on her shoulder startled her and she looked up into the concerned faces of Aragorn and Arwen.

“Why do you sit out here all alone, sell-nín?” Aragorn asked as he studied her intently.

“I’m waiting for Thomas, he went with Éomer to look at some horses,” she replied, motioning vaguely in the direction of the royal stables.

“You are troubled,” Arwen said as she slipped onto the bench beside Rebecca while Aragorn moved around in front of the bench and half leaned, half sat upon the low wall surrounding the porch.

Rebecca gave a reluctant nod. “Yes, I’ve been thinking about the funeral tomorrow…” her voice trailed off.

“And?” Aragorn prodded her, having a good idea of what was bothering her.

“I-I don’t want to go, Adar,” she said in a whisper so low that only Arwen heard her and Aragorn looked at his wife who repeated it as she took Rebecca’s hand and began rubbing it gently.

Not at all surprised by her desire to avoid the funeral, yet knowing she had to attend, Aragorn furrowed his brow as he sought for the words that would help Rebecca. He glanced at the edge of the porch as Thomas came into view and the young man paused on the steps, uncertainly, and then continued on at Aragorn’s gesture. Looking at the three of them curiously, Thomas sat down next to Rebecca and squeezed her hand as she grabbed his. “Rebecca,” Aragorn asked softly, “what do you fear will happen at the funeral?”

“I… I’m just tired of crying and-and to be in front of everyone,” she paused and gave him a beseechingly look. “Adar, I didn’t even know him that well and if I cry it won’t even make sense to anyone.”

“That is all that you fear?” Arwen asked, taking a strand of Rebecca’s hair that had fallen out of her braid and tucking it gently behind her ear.

“No,” Rebecca frowned, “but I- I think my other fears are… well, not foolish exactly,” her eyes darted between Arwen and Aragorn. “It’s just something I’d rather not share.”

“You don’t have to,” Thomas said, tightening his grip on her hand as he glanced at Aragorn who nodded once.

Sell-nín, I am sorry that you have to attend the funeral and I do know it will be difficult for you and for Thomas.” Rebecca shut her eyes and sighed. “But I do not believe that others will notice your tears. They will be caught up in their own pain. Anyone that might notice will be those of us from Gondor who know your circumstances and will only feel compassion for you. If any from Rohan take notice they will probably assume that you were closer to Théoden than you were. Rebecca, most will not know what happened during our time at Helm’s Deep or at Isengard.” Rebecca shuddered and Thomas put his arm around her waist and drew her closer to himself. “That is also bothering you,” Aragorn said, giving her a long look, “just being here.”

“A little bit,” she admitted. “I do not have fond memories of my time here in Rohan, Adar and I don’t think this trip is going to add anything pleasant to those memories.”

Aragorn looked at Thomas. “And you? Does it bother you as well?”

“Not being here in Edoras, but it might when we get to Helm’s Deep.” He shrugged.

Nodding, Aragorn ran his hand through his hair, frustrated at his inability to relieve Rebecca’s pain even though he knew there was nothing that anyone could do for her, except to be there for her. It was not something he had considered; the funeral and taking leave of the others had been the only things that he had been concerned about for her and Thomas on this journey. Once again he wished that all of this could have been spread out for the two of them; that they would have had more time to properly grieve the loss of their mothers before they had had to make this journey. Although, perhaps it would be easier if they dealt with it all at one time. It was another of those questions that only Eru could answer. Glancing at Arwen who was watching him with a compassionate expression, he gave her a half-smile before shifting his gaze back to Rebecca. “I am sorry, Rebecca, that I did not think about the memories you would face here.”

Rebecca gave him a somewhat amused look. “And what would you have done? I wouldn’t have stayed in Minas Tirith and I imagine that I’ll have to come back here again someday, so I would have had to face them sometime. You can’t take away my memories, Adar,” she said quietly.

“No, I cannot, but perhaps it would have helped if you had talked with me or Arwen before we arrived. I know not.”

“You will find that the pain those memories bring will ease as time passes,” Arwen said. “I believe that the additional burden of your grief is making it even more difficult for you.”

“Probably,” Rebecca agreed with a small nod. “Which brings us back to the funeral. Do I really have to go?” She gave Aragorn an imploring look, but he nodded.

“Yes, you do, it would offend Éomer and Éowyn if you were not there, Rebecca,” he replied. “Also, because you are my ward, you must attend, I am sorry.”

“I didn’t think about upsetting Éomer and Éowyn,” Rebecca said quietly. “I’d never want to do that.”

“Estel,” Arwen asked, “must they stay by our side tomorrow? Could they stand with Halbarad or some of the members of the Fellowship? It would remove them from being in such a prominent place and yet they would still be among the honored guests.”

Aragorn nodded slowly as Rebecca gave Arwen a grateful look. “For this occasion, I will permit it. I will speak with Éomer and tell him why you are not with us because he, of all people, will notice it.”

“Thank you, Adar,” Rebecca said and she was quickly echoed by Thomas, causing Aragorn to look at him closely. But Thomas just returned Aragorn’s gaze steadily and he was not sure if the young man was thanking him because he was also worried about his grief overwhelming him, or if he was thanking him for Rebecca’s sake. Deciding that it did not matter, Aragorn straightened up from his perch on the wall and stepped closer to the bench, holding out his hand to Rebecca. She took it and he drew her to her feet and embraced her for a moment and then released her and put her hand in Thomas’s with a small smile before turning and taking Arwen’s hand.

“Come, my lady wife, I believe we should finish our walk.” Aragorn wrapped Arwen’s arm through his as they left the porch to seek out a place where they could sit and talk which had been their original intention. They meandered down through the streets of Edoras, followed at a distance by Hinluin and Laegrist, and not finding anyplace to suit them, strolled through the open gates and out onto the rolling grassy plains that stretched out before them. Seeing the sparkling waters of the Snowbourn River nearby, they walked in that direction and settled under a tall ash tree near the banks of the river. Arwen leaned into Aragorn and he wrapped one arm around her while he used his other hand to begin gently running his fingers through her hair. “How do you fare, meleth-nín? ” he whispered, pressing his lips very near to her ear.

Arwen did not answer him for a very long time as she ran her fingers lightly over the back of Aragorn’s hand that was around her waist. “I have known for a very long time that this day would come, Estel, and that the parting would be difficult. And so it is. That my adar and I are parting until the ending of the world, seems… I cannot even describe it, beloved,” she whispered and her eyes were filled with pain and sorrow as she looked at Aragorn.

“I wish that there were some way I could ease your pain, Arwen… I love you.” The words seemed totally inadequate to Aragorn in the face of Arwen’s current pain and what she was giving up for him, and yet it was all he could say. His love was all that he had to give to her and he knew, deep inside himself, that it was enough for her, that their betrothal, which had withstood years of separation and trials, had bound them together in a way that few people could understand.

Intertwining her fingers with his, Arwen said quietly, yet simply, “Yes, and I you. Just holding me is probably the only way for you to ease my pain, Estel. I do not believe that there is anything else that you can do to take away the sorrow and the grief that I feel. And I believe that you have your own sorrow.”

“Yes,”
Aragorn sighed, pulling her even closer, “I will greatly miss Adar and his love for me and I grieve for the loss of his presence in my life.” He gently pushed Arwen’s long, dark hair behind her ear as he continued stroking it lovingly. To his very great surprise, Arwen’s eyes filled with tears and they glimmered brightly in the rays of the evening sun. Aragorn had never before seen his wife with tears in her eyes and he kissed her tenderly on the cheek, causing the tears to overflow and trickle down her cheeks. Humming softly and rocking her gently, Aragorn did as Arwen had asked him to do, he held her long into the night to try and ease her pain and sorrow.

-----------

In the end, Rebecca found the funeral not as difficult as she had feared. Dressed in a gown of a deep, dark crimson, she and Thomas walked with Halbarad, Frodo, Pippin, and Sam as the procession left Meduseld and wound down through Edoras and out the gates to the large mound where Théoden was to be buried. Middle-earth did not have anything remotely resembling churches and so the Rohirric ceremonies were so completely different than any funeral she had attended that it was easy to be almost detached from the proceedings and just watch as the events unfolded before her. While Rebecca was moved to tears several times over the course of the very long ceremony, she never felt the overwhelming grief that she had been so afraid would embarrass her. While she could not understand the words of the laments that were sung, they were filled with such sorrow that tears immediately started running down her cheeks. Watching the bier holding Théoden’s body being carried into the burial mound was also particularly disturbing as it made Rebecca realize that she would never have a grave to visit for either of her parents and again tears ran down her cheeks and she leaned into Thomas.

The most amazing thing to her was when Riders from the King’s Household rode out on matching white horses and circled the burial mound in intricate patterns. Rebecca wondered if there was some significance to the design they were making or if it was just the beauty of the horses and the obvious skill of the horsemen that was somehow to show honor to Théoden. Maybe it was a little of both. It startled her, just as the ceremony appeared to be over, to hear Merry’s voice crying out in grief over the loss of the King. Rebecca hadn’t realized the depth of their relationship and she glanced down at the hobbits standing beside her to find that their faces were also lined with sorrow and she assumed it was more for Merry than it was for the king whom Pippin barely knew and whom Frodo and Sam had never met. Although, she realized it could also be for their own private pain and grief, much as hers was.

With the burial over, the crowd began moving back up into the city for the feast that had been prepared to honor the memory of Théoden. The somber atmosphere which had hung over the people just moments before lifted as they entered the gates of Edoras and people began talking quietly as they ascended the hill to the Golden Hall. “How do you fare?” Halbarad asked, his gaze flicking from Rebecca to Thomas as he walked alongside them.

“I’m all right,” Rebecca replied, somewhat hesitantly. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

“It was an interesting funeral,” Thomas commented quietly and then finally and reluctantly answered Halbarad’s question as the Ranger stared intently at him. “It was hard, but I’ll be all right, Halbarad.”

“I’m sure it was and I know you will be,” Halbarad said reaching around behind Rebecca and clasping Thomas’s shoulder tightly before gently patting Rebecca’s, “as will you, lady.”

As they entered the Golden Hall, servants were directing people to various tables and as their small group neared the tables at the front set aside for the people of Gondor, Éomer beckoned Rebecca and Thomas to him. As they approached the table set on the floor below the throne, Thomas gave Aragorn, who was sitting next to Éomer, a questioning look, but he just shrugged. Éomer gazed at them for a moment before he spoke. “There are seats for you here at this table if you would like to join us. I know that the earlier part of our ceremony was difficult for you, yet I think that you will find that our feast is more of a celebration of Théoden’s life and unlikely to cause you… additional pain. But I will not be offended if you choose to sit at one of the other tables,” he finished quietly.

Glancing at Rebecca, who nodded, Thomas replied in a low voice. “Thank you, Éomer. We’d be honored to sit with you and Lady Éowyn,” he glanced at her as she took her seat.

Éomer flashed them a brilliant smile. “Good, I hoped you would, it is fitting for both of you to be here with us. Come and sit,” he directed them to seats just down from him, alongside Faramir who was sitting next to Éowyn. Before he walked around the table, Thomas glanced one last time at Aragorn and saw the approval in his eyes and he was glad they had made the decision to join them. The rest of the long table was soon filled by Frodo, Sam, Prince Imrahil, Lady Laereth, Lady Galadriel, Lord Celeborn, Lord Elrond, Lord Glorfindel, as well as several of the lords and ladies of the Riddermark, including Marshal Elfhelm and Marshal Erkenbrand. Éomer had somehow even managed to find a place near himself for Lothíriel, who was sitting across from Arwen.

The feast was indeed unlike any other funeral meal either Rebecca or Thomas had ever attended. It was full of laughter and occasional songs that were song in honor of Théoden King. Not the sorrowful songs that had been sung at the burial mound, but songs to honor his deeds and his memory. It also went on for hours with different types of food – meats, breads, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, soups and stews, and desserts - being brought in at regular intervals, and ale and wine flowed freely throughout the evening. As the hour grew late and the feast was obviously drawing to a close, Thomas saw Éowyn walk over to a small table set to the side of the room and he drew Rebecca’s attention to her. They watched as Éowyn picked up an ornate golden cup with images of running horses engraved on the sides and had one of the servants fill it with wine before she carried it to Éomer. A minstrel then sang what sounded like names which, after a moment, Thomas and Rebecca realized was a list of the kings of Rohan. After the name of Théoden was sung, Éomer drained his cup of wine, and then all of the people in the room stood and hailed him as the new King of the Mark and drank in his honor. The way the people responded and cheer made Thomas wonder if this was the actual ceremony that made him the king. It seemed strange when Éomer had been serving as the king for months, but perhaps that was the way things were done in Rohan; he’d have to ask Aragorn about it.

People were preparing to depart when Éomer stood upon the dais and called for their attention. “There is one final thing that I would like to announce before people depart for their own homes.” Éomer brought Éowyn and Faramir up to stand alongside him. “Faramir, Prince of Ithilien and the Steward of Gondor, has asked my sister, the Lady Éowyn, to marry him and I have given my consent and so as of this day they are formally betrothed one to another.” Éomer turned and kissed Éowyn’s brow and embraced Faramir firmly as the people in the hall cheered. Speaking quietly to the newly betrothed couple, Éomer placed their hands together and led them back down from the dais where they accepted congratulations from those at the head table.

After congratulating them, Rebecca and Thomas stepped back and looked around the emptying hall deciding that perhaps it was time for them to return to their rooms as well. It had been a very long and emotional day and they didn’t know when they would even be leaving.

“How do you fare?” Aragorn’s deep and quiet voice spoke from behind them as he laid a gentle hand on each of their shoulders. Neither of them were even the least bit surprised by his presence as they had known he was still around somewhere and would probably seek them out. Turning around they saw him and Arwen looking at them with concern.

“I’m very tired, Adar,” Rebecca said, “but otherwise I’m doing all right I think.”

Thomas nodded his agreement. “I’m all right, it was hard earlier, but I’m all right.”

Studying them both intently for a moment, Aragorn finally gave them a small smile. “Good, I am glad that this is behind us now.”

“How long are we going to stay here?” Thomas asked.

Hesitating for a moment, Aragorn gave Arwen a brief, concerned look before answering. “Only a day or two.” Not understanding either his hesitation or concern, Thomas just nodded. “We should seek our rest now.” Aragorn motioned to the door that led to their chambers and they all moved that way. As they walked down the hallway, Aragorn took ahold of Arwen’s hand, squeezing it gently as he sought to give her some small measure of comfort from the looming separation with her father. Arwen gave him a grateful smile that did not quite reach her eyes as they entered their room.

~~~

Author’s note: I have always found it fascinating how many of Tolkien’s main characters have lost one or both of their parents. Besides the ones mentioned in the conversation between Aragorn and Thomas in this chapter, Boromir and Faramir’s mother died when they were ten and five, respectively. That is a lot of characters in one story to have such a similar fate and it is very unusual to see that in a story. However, knowing that Tolkien lost both of his parents by the age of twelve it makes me wonder what was going through his mind, sub-coconsciously or not, as he wrote those characters. That all of them, except for Boromir and Faramir who obviously did not leave their home, ended up in places where they were well-loved and cared for, is something I have drawn on for this story – along with many other things, of course.

Elvish Translations:

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


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