It was the thickest letter Arwen had ever received, almost the size of the book that came with it. The young page who presented it to her giggled as she joked that he needed a bigger charger.
She smiled as she opened the cover of the book, which was bound in soft red leather, and read the frontispiece, then thumbed through the pages. Eldarion, who had been playing quite contentedly with his blocks before the package arrived, had to come and inspect. Disappointed that the book did not appear to have any pictures in it, he turned his attention to the letter. His mother gently took it from him, although not before he managed to lick the seal, which looked to him like candy.
She was halfway through the third page before her son began squirming on her lap, so she set him down and tried to read in silence, but then he decided he wanted back up again, so she finally called for Mikala to come and fetch him. The girl came and took his hand, gently coaxing him to come with her to the garden. She was barely eighteen and looked even younger, so that she appeared more an older sister than a nursemaid to the little Prince, but she did have a way with him. She took a bit of string from the pocket of her apron and asked him if he wanted to help her try to catch the bunny they saw in the garden yesterday, and he hopped along at her side as she ushered him out of the parlor. The Queen smiled to watch them go, then turned back to the letter, her hands shaking just a little.
Dear Strider and Lady Arwen,
I hope you don’t mind terribly if I ask a favor of you. I send you this book that my master and Mr. Bilbo wrote in hopes that you could have it copied. I don’t have time myself, what with my duties as mayor, not to mention husband and father of two children and one that’s on the way. And I wouldn’t know who to ask here. But being as you had what you call scribes to set down our tale, and meaning no disrespect but they didn’t even come close to getting the whole story, I thought maybe you could see it done. So here it is and I think the rest of the world should have it also. I’m sure it’s most important that everybody knows what really happened, because if they don’t, I fear they’ll end up telling a stretched version to their young uns, if you take my meaning, and that wouldn’t be a good thing. And I know now that my master would not want that—a stretched version of our story, I mean. After you read the rest of what I’m about to tell you, you’ll see why. That is, if you believe what I’m about to tell you in the first place, and don’t think I’ve gone round the bend….
She had finished the long letter and had begun re-reading it when someone came up behind her and covered her eyes with his hands. Supposing it to be Aragorn, she laid down the letter in her lap and put her hands over his wrists and caressed them.
“You will never believe this,” she said, as the hands took hers, “but Mother is with child. And Frodo is married.”
And when she heard two identical gasps, she looked up and saw both her brothers—Elladan being the one who stood behind her, Elrohir coming up close behind his twin. It was only at a distance that she could not tell them apart.
“Do you know,” Arwen said after she had finished reading the letter aloud, “I think I believe him. And I knew Mother was with child before I read it. Often I go out into the garden in the twilight and stand by the fountain and gaze at the Evening Star, and after a while…I can feel her. It’s as if our hearts are speaking to each other. And one night I came away with a feeling of great joy, although it was well into the evening when I realized why. And he very accurately described Nana in both character and appearance, don’t you think, even though he has never seen her. How could he have known?”
“He was in Imladris for a long time,” Elrohir pointed out from where he was sprawled gracefully on the floor, thoughtfully fiddling with one of Eldarion’s blocks. “Perhaps he heard someone talking of her, and saw a painting. There are several”
“He spoke of Dûndeloth also,” Arwen said. “Where could he ever have heard of Dûndeloth?”
“Why, everyone knows who Dûndeloth is,” Elladan snorted. He sat next to his sister on the settee, nibbling from a bowl of candied cherries. “He’s only the most famous poet in the civilized world, that’s all.”
“Perhaps, but he speaks of Rûdharanion also,” Arwen said. “Here’s what he says:
I didn’t know who neither of them were. Now this Dûndeloth, I think I might of seen the name on one or two of Mr. Bilbo’s books, but I didn’t look inside of them. The other one I never heard of, and so I went to the library at Hobbiton and asked Miss Minnie Bulge, that’s the librarian, if she’d ever heard of him and did she have aught of his books. Turns out she knew both Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo, which was no surprise, and from the way she talked of him I’d say she was kind of sweet on Mr. Bilbo once, although she’s considerable younger than him, more Miss Lobelia’s age. Her name suits her to a T, not that I’ve any room to talk or nothing, but she’s real nice and smart too. Anyway, she had a couple of his books, and I peeked into one of them. It weren’t my kind of poetry by a long road, and I think some of it was a bit stretched, if you take my meaning. But he’s the one who made a play of our story. What I wouldn’t give to see that! But trust Mr. Frodo to make sure he wrote it like it really happened.
“What I wouldn’t give either,” she said. “If he’s making all this up, he certainly has an amazing imagination. I did not get that impression about him when he was here among us.”
“Did he say that Frodo was married?” Elladan chuckled. “Well well, the little devil. Who says size matters, after all? Or did our grandmother stow a few barrels of Ent-draught on board that ship? Leave it to her!”
“Maybe a pretty hobbitess stowed herself away,” Elrohir said grinning. “Perhaps she followed hard behind, disguised herself as an elfling and sneaked on board. You never know what these little folk are apt to get up to, what?”
“Wrong on both counts,” Arwen laughed. “The lucky maiden is…and you are not going to believe this…a sea-creature.”
“What?” the twins said simultaneously, and she laughed again.
“Strange,” Elrohir said after a short silence, “for a moment there, I thought you said the lucky maiden was a sea-creature.”
“What a coincidence,” Elladan said snapping his fingers. “I thought she said the lucky maiden was a sea-creature also.”
“So he married a fish?” Elrohir said scratching his head. “I must admit I’ve having a hard time picturing that. You, brother?”
“Perhaps it’s a squid,” Elladan said tossing him a cherry. “Which is almost as difficult to picture, although at least, there’s the advantage of its being able to embrace. But just imagine the offspring!”
“More like a dolphin,” Arwen laughed as she picked up the letter again. “Here is what our chronicler says:
At first I didn’t know whether to believe him or not. It’s not like my master to make up stories, at least, not of that sort, and I was worried that maybe he was just making it all up so I’d think he was happy and all. But the way he talked of her, she seemed so real, and he was so happy, I could sense it. She has golden hair and blue eyes, and is smaller than him, and very fair, and had magical powers but had to give them up to wed him. Think of that now! And when he told all about the wedding, the air was just that full of joy, as though the sun had come down to pay a visit. And that Tom Bombadill fellow we met, well, he married a water-lady, didn't he, and there’s even a ballad about it, so why not Mr. Frodo? Even if his lady was from the sea instead of the river. He said the Lord of the Waters chose her as his bride and she saved his life. As stretched as it sounds, I believe him. All the more so because just before Mr. Bilbo died he said I would come to the Island and then I would see for myself. Mr. Frodo would hardly be lying if he thought I was coming someday and would see her, would he now?
“Not only that, he’s met our grandmother. Our other grandmother--Elwing. He lived in the same house with her for a while. And yes, it’s true about her taking the form of a bird. Frodo saw her do it. I thought perhaps it was just a legend, but he saw her, according to Sam.”
“Saw whom?” Legolas said from the doorway. She started, then laughed. Legolas came in and stood over the back of the settee, clapped Elladan on the shoulder, and peered down at the letter. Arwen explained, laughing at the expression on his face.
“If this Galendur he mentioned is the same one I’m thinking of,” he said, “then I know him—very slightly. Young fellow he was, city-bred, a bit of a show-off, but very handy with a sword. Didn’t seem the sort Frodo would be likely to take up with, I should think.”
“Yes, the very one,” Arwen said. “Well, if there were ever any doubt in my mind as to the veracity of Sam’s story, that would dispel it, certainly.”
“And so Frodo married a sea-lady,” Legolas mused, leaning his elbow on Elladan’s shoulder and furrowing his brow trying to take it all in.
“And he has adopted a little elf-lass,” Arwen said. “And is a counselor and inspector at the Orphan’s Home. And he called a young lad back from the dead. And directed a play. And he has been made a prince. Which does not surprise me at all. I have always thought there was something princely about him. And he is a poet on top of it all, and a very good one. Look at this.”
She handed a page to Legolas. It was a copy of “The Sea-bell.”
“Frodo wrote this? I didn’t know he wrote poetry at all,” he said, then began to read through it. “This is wonderful…if a bit on the grim side.”
“Sam says he wrote it before departing,” Arwen explained. “I should imagine his poetry has taken a more joyous turn lately.”
“It sounds to me,” Elrohir said, “as though the Elf-side of him has completely taken him over.”
“The Blessed Realm obviously agrees with him,” Elladan said.
“I should say it does,” Arwen said softly. “And with Nana as well. And I know Ada is happy now.”
“What says the Evenstar tonight?” Aragorn asked as he sat on the edge of the bed and wrested off his boots. Arwen turned from the window and smiled.
“I think it will be a little sister,” she said. “And she will have hair as golden and rich and wondrous as her grandmother’s, and they will call her Lúthien for her ancestress.”
He came over to her and put his arms around her waist and they kissed before the starry window. Then he laid a hand on her belly.
“And what of this one?” he grinned.
“I do not know,” she laughed. “Is that not strange? And it will be older than its aunt.”
He laughed also. Then he put on his dressing-gown and they went out to sit on the balcony and look at the stars for a while. She took one of his bare feet in her lap and massaged it. He closed his eyes blissfully.
“And Frodo is married,” he said after a few moments without opening his eyes. “Who would have supposed it? And Sam is very happy about it, I know. I’m glad he is at peace also. And Gandalf is betrothed now? Now that's the hardest of all to imagine.”
Arwen was silent, looking up at the brightest of the stars, which hung over the Tower west of them, then at her husband with a little sigh. He opened his eyes then.
“I know,” he said gently. “I wish I could see them all too.”
And later as they turned and went back into the bedroom, arms about each other’s waists, neither of them saw the Tower take on a glimmer at the very top, which slowly brightened until it was as if several of the stars had taken refuge inside and begun to pulsate with an uncontainable if bittersweet joy.