“And what thoughts are you pondering, Estel?” asked his wife.
He turned his head to look at her and smiled. “And what makes you think that I had a single thought in my head?” he asked.
“The expression on your face.”
He felt his face grow more solemn. “I was thinking of all that has come to be in the twenty-five years since the war ended and Elendil’s realm was remade. So much is gone—and so many. Your father gone west with Gildor and your grandmother, dear Bilbo and Frodo the Beloved; Halbarad awaiting me—and impatiently, if I know him—in the Halls of Waiting along with so many of the Dúnedain of Eriador I knew and loved; Théoden dying still faithful upon the Pelennor, and Denethor not realizing until the end how he had been cozened by Sauron the Liar….”
He took a breath, looking at the child lying asleep in her lap. Across the room Melian was reading to Eldarion, reading from the book that long ago Bilbo had prepared as a gift to him, one of those seventeen tales of the Shire he’d loved as a child. The figures of Elendil’s men, gifted to himself so long ago, lay abandoned about their son’s feet, although the King himself was clutched warmly in Eldarion’s hand. These had been brought south by his Elven brothers when they came to spend the Turning of the Year with their sister’s mortal family in Minas Tirith. On the table near them lay a platter of honeycakes such as Meliangiloreth had made for him when he was a child, and Shire seedcakes made from Bilbo’s own recipe, which Pippin had shamelessly shared with so many within the White City. Eldarion’s practice sword stood against the wall, a sign he was too swiftly leaving his childhood behind him, as mortal children tend to do; and a nosegay of winter blossoms stood in a vase, a gift from the son of Húrin and his wife Lynessë to the King and Queen’s elder daughter, another sign of the fleeting nature of mortal childhood.
Life went on, with comings and goings, births and deaths, dawns and sunsets. And here he sat, looking about at the signs of the richness gifted him in his life in these latter years, and he had to smile. “At least we know that Adar is reunited with the other half of his soul, even as we rejoice in one another, my beloved, and that Frodo now dances again beneath the Sun; and one day we will be reunited with all we have ever loved.”
“Yea, at the Remaking, or so we must imagine,” she answered, although he could see the small uncertainty that hid in her glance.
“Ah, but you will see,” he murmured, drawing her to him and holding her close, settling her into the familiar comfort of his embrace. “Remember—time itself is but an illusion, and one day we will be beyond it, and glad for that!”
“Ah, but Ada did well to name you Hope,” she whispered into his ear as her fears eased away, secure in his arms.
And the peace of Mettarë filled them as they listened to Melian read,