Puppet Strings - Chapter 14

Gone were the black rags that Arahad had grown accustomed to, now he was donned in fine, Gondorian garments. After the queen and Elanor had given him new clothes, Arahad managed to bathe himself and dress himself, he found it was slightly harder than simply shrugging on a coat. Now he was dressed in a dark blue tunic and pants of the same color. They were of the highest quality yet simple. The fabric was flowing with minimal embroidery on the collar and sleeves. After he had fully dressed Arahad turned to find a mirror leaning against his bedroom wall. At first his reflection startled him, but soon he had stood before it inspecting himself.

It all came swiftly crashing down on him when he felt an all too familiar pain pulsing through his body. His eyes squeezed*** and he dropped to his knees. His chest heaved and his hands covered his ears as he began screaming. It was not quite certain if he was screaming from the pain or if he screamed only to drown out the sound of the voices in his head. The louder his screams became the louder the voices spoke.

"You murdered her! You will murder them all! You are murder, you are death, and you are MINE!"

His fist shot forward and shattered the mirror in front of him into a hundred pieces. The words repeated themselves over and over and then began to fade. The pain faded with them until all there was to be heard was Arahad's ragged breath. He brought the back of his hand up and wiped the tears that had trickled down his cheek. He thought about the words that he had heard. He couldn't get them out of his head. Arahad looked around the room desperately for something to occupy his mind.

Arahad looked down and saw a small table beside the mirror. It had various objections laid out on it. There were small glass bottles filled with who-knows-what, a silver brooch in the shape of a tree among other things. One specific item caught Arahad's eye and he picked it up to study it.

"I know this..." Arahad said as he turned the comb over and over in his hands. What it was called seemed to be just barely out of reach for his mind. He stood there for a few moments studying the comb, hoping to remember what it was for. Then suddenly it came upon him.

"Hair!" Arahad exclaimed to himself. He glanced down at the comb and back at the frightful reflection in shards before him. He knew it was for combing one's hair, though he had never had his hair combed. Arahad remembered the only attention his hair had ever received was when it had been burned off for someone else's amusement. After some inner debate he raised the comb to his head and clumsily dragged it through his tangled, black locks.

After his best attempt at combing his hair still seemed somewhat wild, but it was a vast improvement. All throughout his bathing and dressing he wondered why he was doing any of it. After striving for an answer Arahad settled on that it was a new experience and he might as well try it once. He looked over to the windows and saw that the sun was setting and he wondered what now he should do. He looked back over at the bed where his discarded clothes lay. Arahad was tempted to put the gloves and cloak back on but eventually decided against it. He then walked over the door, opened it, took a deep breath and stepped out.

The bustle of people moving throughout the palace was off-putting to Arahad. He stood just outside his door watching people move by quickly. Most people tried to ignore him but they all gave him strange and frightened looks. He would have turned and ran back into his chamber had a voice not called out to him.

"Arahad!" Eldarion shouted as he jogged casually down the hall to Arahad's door. Servants speedily parted, making way for their prince. Arahad was a little relieved to see a familiar face amongst all the strangers staring at him.

"Bathed and clothed I see. Do you like them?" Eldarion asked smiling as he looked over Arahad. Arahad looked down at himself, then back up at the prince and nodded.

"Yes." He whispered in reply. Then Eldarion motioned to him and they both started to walk down the large corridor towards the stairs. Though Eldarion was not paying attention to them, the looks for the servants never ceased. At one point one of them came dangerously close and Arahad jerked backward, pressing himself closely against the wall. Eventually, and without further incident, they made it down the staircase to the main hall. Eldarion had said that most everyone had returned to the gardens outside and that they were to join them. On the way there, Eldarion spotted Elanor walking and called her over.

"Arahad, did you meet Elanor the hobbit?" Eldarion inquired when Elanor had made her way over and had given the prince her curtsy.

"Yes, she and your mother brought me the clothes." Arahad replied. He looked down at the hobbit and was met with a warm smile.

"Where are you going Elanor?" Eldarion asked the young maid as they resumed their walk. He had noticed that she was walking the same direction as they had been.

"The queen had sent for me, I was told she is in the gardens." She answered politely.

"Then that is where we will go." Eldarion declared as he strode forward.

When they entered the gardens, sure enough there everyone sat. When they approached they were greeted by all. Arwen rose to embrace her son. She hugged him tightly and whispered how glad she was that he had returned.

"I am afraid your father and I were about to take our leave." She declared as she pulled away from her son's embrace. "May I tear you away from your sisters and your guest for a moment my son?"

Eldarion went off with his parents as Arahad milled around by himself. The princesses were some distance off, sitting and playing by a fountain. Elladan and Elrohir sat together under the hanging branches of some flowering tree. Arahad paid little attention to them though, all his thought was once again focused on Eldarion's sisters. He did not know why he was so drawn to them. It was not their beauty alone; it was their poise and grace. Though he had only heard them speak once, he yearned to hear them again. He could hear their faint laughter from where he stood and he craved to hear more. They were all beautiful and kind, though Laurelin seemed different from the other two. Arahad found it intriguing.

Suddenly a thought popped into his head. A vision of Aragorn and Arwen earlier that day came to his mind. He thought a moment about it and then turned around, looking around the garden. He walked over to a particular flowering plant. Its blossoms were pure white with a hint of pink in the center. He liked the look of it. Arahad nodded to himself and tentatively reached his hand towards a flower.

He pulled it back suddenly though. He knew flowers were living things. Arahad looked up and around the garden until he found who he was looking for.

"Elanor!" He called softly as he motioned for her to come to him. "Will you do something for me?"

Elanor hurried over to where he was standing and nodded at his request. "Of course I will."

"Will you pick three...no four flowers from this plant for me?" Arahad asked her, looking down with his hands folded in front of him. Elanor looked at the flowers and back up at him with a confused frown on her face.

"Begging your pardon, but why do you need me to pick flowers for you?" She asked him, trying not to sound rude. She was merely curious of the task he had set on her. Arahad looked down at his feet, trying to think of an explanation to give Elanor. Finally he had one.

"I just do not think it would be wise for me to touch the flowers." After a moment of thought Elanor seemed to accept his explanation and began to pluck four of the blooms off for him. When she had four in her little hand, she looked up at him, wondering what was to come next. Now, if Arahad's strange and marred skin could blush, it would have done so now.

"Now would you please give a flower each to the princesses?" As he spoke he waved his hand over to the fountain where they still laughed and played. Elanor followed his gaze over to the three maidens and smiled. Then she returned her eyes to Arahad.

"And what about the fourth flower?" She asked, still smiling at him? Again if he could blush, he would have at this moment. He showed her a small smile.

"That one is for you." Elanor's rosy cheeks became ten times as rosy, and then she dropped her head to hide her blushing face. She gave him a quick curtsy and ran off to deliver the remaining flowers. He watched as she handed each of them a little white and pink flower and told them what they were for. Instantly three fair, young faces looked up and glanced in Arahad's direction. He saw three lovely smiles being cast his way, which brought his own smile to his lips.

Elladan and Elrohir, still sitting under a nearby tree, had seen the entire exchange. When the flowers had been handed out, they each turned and looked at each other.

"For being asleep for as many years as he has been, he certainly knows women." Elrohir commented to his brother as he casually ran his hand through the grass.

"You are right, he certainly thinks on his feet concerning flowers and maidens. He thought of something that never would have entered my mind." Elladan remarked, nodding his head in agreement with his twin. Elrohir then smirked and leaned back against the tree.

"To think of something you did not? It is not a hard feat, my brother." Elrohir broke into laughter as an annoyed frown came across his brother's face.

To be continued...

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