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88
Four Age, year 13

For RS, whose request reads: "My daughter just turned 13, and wow, is it a new world for me! I was wondering if anybody is up to writing a drabble about Aragorn and his teenage daughter(s)...how he is able to cope with a bundle of raging hormones and an attitude!" .

Happy belated birthday, RS! It's not a drabble—the drabble muse seems to have deserted me, alas. And it doesn't start at age thirteen, but it does end there.


~~~

Fourth Age, year 13.

The first year's all joy—there's love in the making, and joy in the waiting, and a delightful not-knowing—Boy? Girl? Son? Daughter? What matter? Pick a name!—nine long months until she comes and it's Líriel.

The second's a wonder, if wearying—how great the lungs of babes after midnight! But the day she finally says that ambiguous "A-na" and looks at him, he forgets he's tired.

The third year, he knows she's Arwen's daughter—toddling girls shouldn't be able to climb that high, but somehow she found the tabletop while he wasn't looking…

Year four comes and she's a runner—three-four-five steps to his one, but she won't give up. And one day, he finds her standing over wavering, inked in lines on the carpet, where she informs him: "Ada tâd." Tâd. Two. That's a first, and he's in second place—there will be no easy victories with this one!

Five, six, seven—orcs, trolls, fell-beasts, Nazgûl live under beds, 'til he convinces her they can be caught in stories and safely slain there. Later on, he catches her retelling them to friends, though the hero seems to have become a beautiful half-elven princess with a magic lance… And then there are the endless impossible questions: Does Baby hear me in Nana's belly? Why can no one count all the stars? Where is Prince Faramir's brother now and why should Elves never die if Men do? And will there be a ship to take me anywhere, to Elvenhome or beyond the world, or will I be left all alone?

Then comes daughter number two, and the adventure of big sisterhood, which very nearly breaks him. "She doesn't mean any harm," Arwen assures him, and one day, he may even believe it. But not while dashing after Líriel to save Halareth from a too-ambitious reenactment of Akallabêth.

War returns, and she's nine and ten, while he spends summers in Rhûn, in Harad, spends falls and winters bargaining in Mordor and in Dale. Spring skips by, and so does she, Arwen writes him, spelling everything she spots, while Halareth toddles gamely on behind her…

Homecoming's bittersweet, for he makes his younger daughter cry: she doesn't know the bearded stranger. "You scared her!" Líriel, scandalized, accuses, and storms off, leaving him agape. Later, though, she comes to snuggle at his side. And: "It is all right," she tells him. "You didn't mean it." Would that all outrages were so easily settled!

Twelve years old means boys are awful—so he's told over breakfast one day. She treats him to the list of all their crimes—stuck up, loud, grubbing in dirt and petty games, and (worst of all) stupid.

"They play all day at swords but can't find Umbar on a map!" she complains. He thinks of all the time he spent staring at maps as a boy, seeing nothing but adventure in the lands beyond Imladris, and sips his tea to hide his smile.

"Foolish boys, indeed," he agrees. "But give them time: one day they'll learn."

But 'tis not a patient time for growing girls. Everything must be done now. And as explained the first time. Or the second. Whatever seems best at any given moment, which may not be the same from minute to minute. Thirteen years, and she knows best, and doesn't hesitate to grace them with her opinion the second there's an opportune moment. Halareth has daily fits that need soothing reassurance:

"Líri doesn't love me! She doesn't play fair!"

She doesn't play fair: there's no winning any argument with her, for when she's right, she's right against the world, and she's never wrong. There's just a change of heart and mind come afternoon, and want of a smile or a hug or an hour he can't spare 'til nightfall, when there shall be a new argument to have.

It cannot last, of course—one day she'll not be thirteen anymore. "Maybe when she's sixteen," Arwen speculates, and he laughs a little, ruefully.

"And then it will be Halareth's turn," he sighs.

"And the baby's after that," she replies, and smiles at her husband's surprise. "Aye, another coming, love…"

So thirteen will linger a good long while—best he learn to love it. Happily, there's much to love—he's but to look at her as she goes forth from day to day. Head high and eager, off to challenge whatever comes her way—sisters, boys, fathers, mothers, kings, queens, councilors, the world at large.

For the skies are clear to eastward—there's a future in the making, breathing in and with her, and Valar be thanked, she is thirteen years old, and she is not afraid. What's not to love? And there is still next year to come…

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