Eldarion’s eyes widened in surprise as he was pushed back against the soft pillows, and then firmly held in place by the two giggling females who exchanged what he could only describe as a wicked look before they lifted his undershirt and began tickling their brother’s sensitive skin. The game continued with Eldarion playfully retaliating whenever possible until all three were tired and breathless from laughing.
“Two against one is unfair, Maerrin,” he said to the elder of his sisters who did not cease her attack.
“But you are a warrior, surely two sweet, innocent maids are no match for your skill and strength,” she said coyly. Eldarion raised an eyebrow in disbelief.
“Sweet, perhaps, but more mischievous than innocent,” he teased, earning a slap on the shoulder for his jest and a totally unladylike poke of a tongue as well which he chose to ignore. “Aye, I could easily overpower you if I wished,” he agreed, demonstrating that fact by suddenly turning his attention to his younger sister, gently capturing the small hands in his own. “What are you going to do now, Janiel?” he asked with a wicked grin as she tried vainly tried to squirm out of his grasp.
“I will stop tickling if you let me go. Please Eldarion, I promise,” she begged in between giggles. Eldarion was amazed at how innocent she looked as she spoke, but was not fooled for a moment by the empty promise of a maid of only six summers. Nonetheless he released her hands after a few more moments, glaring at her sternly as if daring her to touch him again. Wisely deciding that her brother had reached the limit of his patience, Janiel changed her battle plans and reached up to hug him tightly around the neck.
“I love you, Eldarion,” she said sweetly. The young man sighed happily and kissed her brow.
“I love you too, my little sisters, both of you” he replied, drawing Maerrin into a brief hug with his other arm. “And if I am not mistaken, our dear Maerrin loves not only us but a certain young archer friend of mine,” he teased causing his sibling to blush furiously.
“Aye, all she ever talks about is Sarien, and he is a boy!” Janiel’s distaste at the mere thought of liking any male other than her brother was obvious as she crinkled her nose in disgust.
“But a very charming one, and I hope he asks me to dance at the banquet for the King of Eryn Lasgalen.,” Maerrin replied dreamily.
Arwen had approached the chamber, wondering at the sounds of merriment that came from within and stood at the door in silence just as her eldest daughter finished speaking. The smile of delight that shone from her fair features as she watched her children’s display of affection for one another disappeared under a cloud. She had been aware for some time that Maerrin was very fond of Sarien, and it was with regret that she realised whilst Aragorn was dealing with Eldarion’s disappointment, she would be called upon to handle the tears of a young maid that would fall when she heard that one she loved would not only be absent from the dance, but also from the city.
“I am sure he will, I think he likes you, too,” Eldarion confided in her with a wink, causing his sister to blush with pleasure at knowing her feelings might be returned.
“And is there no maid you would ask to dance, my son?” Arwen asked with understandable curiosity whilst at the same time announcing her presence with her softly spoken question. The Queen knew that Aragorn was probably wondering why she had not yet sent Eldarion to speak with him, but of late her son had chosen not to confide matters of the heart with her, preferring his father’s advice instead and she decided the delay was warranted.
“Indeed there is,” Eldarion answered mysteriously, laughing merrily as all three ladies stared at him in astonishment while they waited for him to name the maiden.
“Who is she?” Janiel demanded impatiently, speaking for them all.
“Why only the loveliest maid in all of Gondor,” he teased drawing out the suspense. Arwen merely trolled her eyes in amusement as her daughters glared crossly at their brother.
“’Tis you, little one who I would have as my dance partner,” he said with a laugh as he rose from the bed, lifted the surprised Janiel into his arms and gaily twirled her about the chamber.
“Am I really to be allowed to attend the banquet, Mother?” the young one asked when Eldarion finally set her on her feet. It was not the usual custom for one of her tender age to be permitted to do so.
“Well, it would be rather impolite to refuse the prince’s choice of escort for the evening, so aye, you may attend,” Arwen replied exchanging a subtle smile with her son. She had no doubt that had been Eldarion’s intended outcome for he had learned that there were some privileges readily granted to the king’s son.
“So be it,” he said regally, with an exaggerated sweeping bow first to Arwen and then his beloved sisters.
“What do you think I should wear, Eldarion?” Janiel asked suddenly as the realisation that she would need a ball gown suddenly filled her with added excitement.
“Janiel, sweet I will take you to the banquet, but I will not participate further. I fear nothing more than seamstresses and silly female conversation,” he teased, retreating swiftly to the door.
“The please go and speak with your father, he is expecting you,” Arwen told her son. Eldarion raised an eyebrow in query, but received no answer other than an encouraging nod that he understood to mean Aragorn had news of import to discuss.
The King’s private study was but a short distance from his sister’s bedchamber, and in that time Eldarion convinced himself that the news that awaited him was his acceptance as a ranger of Ithilien. So it was with a brilliant smile and a heart racing with excitement that he entered the chamber and greeted his father with a warm embrace.
“There is something we need to discuss, my son,” Aragorn told the youth, indicating he should take a seat. Eldarion was too nervous to sit, choosing to stand at the window instead.
“I know what you would tell me, Sarien and I are to be allowed to train as rangers. Thank you so much, father,” he said before Aragorn had a chance to say his piece. The brilliant glitter of happiness in the steel grey eyes that met his were as shards of glass in Aragorn’s heart and he turned away briefly to regain his composure before speaking the words he knew he must.
“Sarien is to go to Ithilien alone. As my son and heir, you must remain here in Minas Tirith,” he stated, deliberately delivering the news as the King so that Eldarion would know the decision was not to be questioned.
“I am so sorry, my son, I know this is not what you wanted,” Aragorn the father said with much compassion as he reached for Eldarion. His heart broke as his child drew away from his touch, and without a further word stormed from the chamber, his eyes filled with flickering flames of angry fire that rivalled those that once burned in Mordor.