Puppet Strings - Chapter 13

Arahad trudged along behind the rest of the group. He had become quite tired. Not tired physically, his stamina had surprisingly done nothing but improve for the last few day. He was tired mentally and emotionally, he was weary. The others were going to be so relieved to be home, as if all of their problems would be just checked at the front gate. Arahad wondered if he would feel better when they arrived in Minas Tirith as well.

They had left Osgiliath the day before, and thankfully nothing dangerous had happened to them. Arahad knew that they would be in Minas Tirith in a matter of hours, they were very close now. While the others talked freely amongst themselves about how were happy to be almost home. During all the chatter, Arahad hadn't even bothered to shift his hood and look up at the distant city. Occasionally someone would look back, and every time they would see a dark, hooded and cloaked figure shuffling slowly behind them. This time it was Elrohir that turned to see if Arahad was still following them. When he saw that he was still walking along, not watching where he was going, Elrohir called to him.

"Arahad you should raise your eyes a little, you may enjoy the view." At his request, Arahad did look up and was met with Elrohir's calm smile. Then something else drew his attention away from the elf's fair face. No more than a mile or two in front of him stood the majestic white walls of Minas Tirith.

Arahad sighed and his eyes became fixed on what he saw. Gleaming white stone stood strong and tall as the city's outer-most gates. The same white stone climbed up each level. Even from this distance Arahad's exceptional eyesight could make out small houses clustered on each rising level. At the peak of this magnificent structure sat what he had been told was the Tower of Ecthelion.

Never had he seen such a sight, Arahad found it overwhelming. He had seen his share of elven cities, they were all very beautiful. He knew all creations of the elves were beautiful. Arahad was amazed by Minas Tirith not because it looked astounding, but because that it was built by men. Something that seemed to him so wonderful was built, stone by stone, by the hands of men. Built by his own kind.

Arahad had become oblivious to all his surroundings until they finally came to the gates. He kept following the others and staring up at the massive gates until they were opened before them. Just as they passed through them, Arahad became painfully aware that he would once again have to hide his face, he was surrounded by people. His head dropped, his cloak pulled closer, and his face covered by his hood. He quickly closed the gap between the rest of the group and himself as they hastily made their way up to the top of the city. The people were deafening, and everything was so bright. Arahad felt very overwhelmed. There seemed to be ten times the amount of people than there was in Osgiliath.

"There are so many people." Arahad muttered to himself as he continued to follow his companions. Finally they reached the large, ornate doors that opened in to the home of the king. The servants quickly opened the doors for their master Aragorn, and the rest of them swiftly slipped in behind him.

"Home sweet home." Eldarion breathed with a sigh of relief when the doors had shut behind them. They all found themselves standing in a great hall. A few servants scurried around the massive pillars, carrying out their assigned duties.

"I agree!" Elladan chimed in as he smiled at Eldarion. Elrohir dropped his things on the floor as he turned his head and looked at his brother with a curious expression.

"This isn't your home." Elrohir remarked flatly to his brother. Elrohir's comment brought a small laugh from Eldarion as he saw Elladan's reaction to his twin's words.

"Well I tend to think that this is our home when we are away from Imladris, don't you Elrohir?" Elrohir's expression suddenly changed as he contemplated what Elladan had said. After a moment he seemed to come to a realization.

"I suppose so." Then he once again picked up his things and started off in the direction Aragorn had headed a moment earlier. Eldarion and Elladan smiled at each other and then turned to follow him. Arahad strode closely behind them as they traveled through countless rooms and archways. Three servants came up to them all and relieved them of their baggage, which they handed over gladly. After taking each of their things, the servants came to the last in line, Arahad. They regarded him nervously for a few moments, and then they saw that he had been carrying nothing so they left.

Arahad caught up with the other four as they made their way out into the gardens. He halted for a moment, shielding his eyes from the bright sun that shone down on him. After adjusting to the brightness, he tipped back his hood off his head. His focus was suddenly turned when he heard voices speaking and laughing happily. He drew his hand away from his face and continued to walk forward, searching for the source of these voices.

He found them in the center of the garden. Four maidens sat there, welcoming his four companions home. They were all slender and youthful, clothed in beautiful dresses. Three of them had raven hair, while one had hair that shone like gold. Their voices rang like bells, soft and sweet. And their smiles were like the dawn after a hundred years of night. When he had first spied them, Arahad came to a dead stop. His eyes widened slightly and seemed to glaze over. His lungs drew in a short, sharp breath as he whispered to himself.

"So beautiful..." As much as he was amazed at the sight of the city, it in no way compared to the sight of what sat in the palace's gardens. It had been many, many years since he had seen a woman though Arahad thought that if ever such things as angels existed surely these maidens were them. Suddenly confusion swept over him. His heart was pounding within his chest though he felt no pain, only a small aching. After a while he had become certain it was not another one of his `episodes' though he had no explanation for himself as to what it was. His heart continued to pound and his lip began to quiver.

Arahad watched as hugs and kisses were exchanged by all, but no one seemed to notice him standing a little ways off. As he kept staring it soon became apparent that the tallest of the four women was Aragorn's wife and the others were Eldarion's sisters. He observed they all possessed a certain elven grace and they all were surrounded in what seemed to be soft starlight. Arahad's trance ended abruptly when Eldarion ran over to him.

"You need not stand so far off Arahad, come along." Eldarion said as he motioned for Arahad to follow him. Hesitantly he followed Eldarion back over to the group. Arahad noted the looks that were cast in his direction, they were all very nervous. All except the woman nearest to Aragorn, she turned and smiled warmly.

"Hello Arahad and welcome. I am Arwen, Eldarion's mother." Her voice was soft and her tone friendly. She then turned towards her beautiful daughters and gave them a nod, which signaled them to greet their guest as well.

"Welcome." The three young maidens said in unison as they all offered a small curtsy. Then one with raven dark hair, wearing a flowing white dress stepped forward.

"I am Maranwe, Eldarion's older sister." Her voice was calm and cool, much like her manner. She flashed him a smile which made his heart yet again pound within his chest.

"Hello." Arahad whispered back to her. He suddenly felt overwhelmed and he dropped his head, letting his eyes wander on the ground. He then heard another voice, so he brought his head back up to look.

"My name is Gilraen." The second dark-haired daughter said cheerfully. Though she looked very much like Maranwe, she had a much friendlier affect on him. The rose colored gown she wore brought out the delicate blush in her cheeks. Arahad repeated his greeting to the second daughter and then his attention was drawn to the third young woman.

"And I am Laurelin, welcome to our home." The youngest, golden-haired maiden said in a very distinguished tone. Though Arahad could tell she was the youngest, he could also tell she was the most statuesque; she had the air of nobility about her. Arahad bowed his head to each of the them, and then turned back to Aragorn and Arwen.

"We will have a room prepared for you; no doubt you would like to take some rest." Arwen said to him as she resumed her seat on the cushioned bench beside her.

"You are very kind." Arahad replied to the queen. He flinched at the sound of his own words. He was surrounded by such sweet voices and all he could offer them was his raspy, harsh one. Regardless, he was met once again with Arwen's lovely smile.

"Come, I will take you to your room, it is on the way to mine." Elladan offered. Arahad nodded and turned to leave. As the two of them exited the gardens, Arahad turned for one last glance at the beauty he had seen. He watched momentarily as Aragorn plucked a small flower from a nearby bush hand it to his wife. He was then repaid with a smile and a tender kiss. Arahad then turned again and caught up with Elladan. After many corridors and winding stairs they came to what Elladan thought was the chamber prepared for Arahad. He pushed open the doors and they both stepped inside.

It was a beautiful yet simple room. A large bed stood in the center with tables bearing vases of flowers on either side. There was also an ornate chair sitting in the corner next to a large wardrobe. On the east wall there were three large windows looking out over the vast land, even as far as the Anduin. Before Elladan left he suggested that despite his recent distaste for water, Arahad should take the opportunity to bathe. After Elladan shut the door behind him, Arahad continued to study the room around him while he sat on the edge of the bed.

After a long while there came a knock at the door and before Arahad could answer, it opened. There stood Arwen along with one of her handmaidens. She entered the room and shut the door with grace that never ceased to amaze Arahad.

"I hope you like this room." Arwen said to him. She then motioned for her maid to place the bundle she carried on the bed. Arahad was distracted from Arwen's beauty when he looked down at the queen's servant. She came up to his waste, and for a moment he thought it was a little girl, and then he saw unmistakably hairy feet.

"Are you a hobbit?" Hearing his question, the young woman looked up and smiled at him as she laid an armful of clothing on the bed behind him.

"I surely am. I'm Elanor Gamgee." Her voice was like a child's and her face was cheerful and rosy. Her golden ringlets fell all around her round, little face. A small grin spread across Arahad's face. Before he could say anything else, Arwen came forward and placed her hand lightly on young hobbit's shoulder.

"Come Elanor, let us leave Arahad. He may want to change out of those clothes." With that the both of them turned and exited Arahad's bedroom. Before the chamber door was shut Elanor turned and gave him a small wave as she closed the door behind her. Arahad looked down at what they had left for him. As he sifted through the fine cloth he found that they had brought him a change of clothes. Colored dark blue like the night sky, they were simple yet very fine garments. He also saw a pair of fine black boots was left by the bedside as well. Arahad held up a tunic at arm's length, inspecting it. He then glanced down at his own body and then back up at his new clothing.

"They look like they will fit." Arahad said to himself. Then he placed it back on the bed and began peeling off his gloves. When they were off he tossed them on the bed, then he shrugged off the barrowed cloak and Eldarion's coat and draped them on the bed as well. Arahad sighed deeply and scratched his head while he looked around the room.

"Hmmm...now I have to bathe." He said with a worried look on his face.

To be continued...

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