Crystal - Prologue

Aragorn stood over the cradle. The small miracle that was lying inside made a funny gurgling noise in the back of her throat. Despite the weariness, a small smile tugged at the corners of Aragorn's mouth. Arina was his fourth child. She had been born this morning. Both she and Arwen would survive.

Watching his youngest child, Aragorn finally felt the tiredness of the past two days. For approximately forty-eight hours he had functioned on fear. But it's all over now, he thought to himself They are safe. Less than two days had passed. It had seemed like an eternity. Just yesterday morning Arwen, six-and-a-half months pregnant, had gone out for a walk. It had become a tradition of hers. She would put on a plain cotton dress and a worn cloak, and walk through the streets of Minas Tirith, mingling with its citizens, who did not even begin to guess that she was their Queen. Arwen had been walking on one of the lower levels when it happened. A crazy horse, which already held the death of three people on its head, had rammed into her. It was perhaps only by the grace of the Valar that an old solider had fearlessly stepped in front of the horse and sliced its throat with his sword before the crazy beast had time to trample Arwen to death.

Usually Aragorn would have felt some pity for the poor animal that had gone crazy, under unknown circumstances. But fear and worry had driven out all thought of pity. The palace healers had not let the King see his Queen. She had been brought into the Healer's Wing about half-an hour after the horse had attacked. Shortly after that she went into labor. For about twenty-four hours, Aragorn could do nothing but wait. He had lied to his two oldest children, the ones who were old enough to understand that something bad was going on, and told them that everything would be all right. The Healers had in turn lied to Aragorn, and told him that everything was going to be all right.

But King Ellassar was enough of a healer himself to catch the glint of sadness that showed through in his subject's eyes. None of the Healers though the Queen or her child would live. This morning Aragorn had given up all hope. He was just waiting for someone to come out of the room and tell him that Arwen had died. No matter how much hope he had tried to summon, he could not anticipate a better end. He had felt nothing anymore. His mind had been numb. Only one thought kept flying through his brain. Arwen was not going to live.

And then the faint cry of a newborn babe echoed through the shut doors of the midwife's chamber. Unlike the usual shrill wailing of infants, this cry was weak and quite. But it was something. The child had not been stillborn as many had feared it would be. She had drawn her first breath.
All of Aragorn's hopes and fears had come rushing back. The King had sat by the door, trying to hang on to every sound the child made, knowing that every second it lived was an open defiance to all of his and the Healer's fears.

Twenty minutes after the child was born, Aragorn was finally permitted to see his Arwen. She was unconscious. Her skin was deathly pale and covered with bruises. Her right arm had been broken. But the Midwife had assured him with all honesty that there was not a mark on the Queen that would not mend within two months. However the old woman was not as optimistic about Arina.

Even if Aragorn had the midwife's permission to pick up his youngest child, he probably would not have done so. She was so tiny, and fragile. When Aragorn's first child was born, the king had been shocked at the small size of the child. But Arina was beyond small. Aragorn guessed that the child's largest feature, her head, could not have been any larger that an average apple.

Now many hours later, Arina was still quite, and small, but she was alive. King Ellasar had made sure that his daughter had gotten the attention of the best healers in Minas Tirith. But Aragorn himself felt quite useless. Nowhere in his life did he have to study the health of prematurely born infants. So the life of his daughter was in the hands of someone else. But she was still alive. Now it seemed evident that she would continue living.

Iris, a nurse who had helped look after all of the King's children entered quietly. Aragorn knew from the disapproving glance Iris shot in his direction that he should leave Arina alone, and get some rest for himself. He bent over the cradle and whispered "Good Night" to his daughter; though he didn't kiss her for fear that she would crumble into a million tiny pieces. Nodding goodnight to Iris he left the nursery. At first he meant to check up on his other children and Arwen, but changed his mind after he ran headfirst into a wall. He was far too tired. Somehow Aragorn managed to stumble his way into his apartments and collapse into the bed. The last thought that floated through his brain before sleep claimed him was: everything is going to be all right.


At six the next morning a guard entered the nursery to find it in total ruin. Iris was on the ground dead. The cradle was overturned. There was no infant anywhere.

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