Puppet Strings - Chapter 15
Through the course of his evening with the royal children, he had learned all about them. The cheerful and lovely Gilraen revealed that she had been named after Aragorn's mother. He also learned that Laurelin's namesake was none other than the Golden Tree of the Valar. Maranwe and Gilraen, like their mother, seemed to have the glow of twilight about them. Laurelin had a different light that surrounded her, a soft, golden radiance. One thing that constantly seemed to amaze him was that they seemed completely at ease with his appearance. He no longer in his rags and he had bathed until he was as clean as he could get, but he still looked like a monster. It didn't seem to bother them. If it did, they never showed the slightest hint.
Soon the hour for them to retire came. They all bid Arahad goodnight and he did the same. Then they all left the gardens, where they had spent their evening, and returned to their respective rooms.
"My room, I have a room." Arahad said to himself, he found it a little funny as he entered his room and shut the door quietly. The only thing he had ever had that remotely came close to a room was his own grave where he lay sleeping for so long. Arahad lay down in his bed and attempted to go to sleep. The bed felt strange, much different than the cold, hard ground he had grown accustomed to. Arahad tossed and turned all night, not because of his bed, but because his mind would not allow him to rest. He kept waiting for something to happen, to feel the all-too-familiar pain surface. It never came though; he lay awake until the morning's light spilled in through the windows.
Three days passed, and each night Arahad still found no rest. His fear kept him wide awake. His fears had realized twice in those three days, resulting in a broken chair and hours hiding in his chambers, refusing to come out. When they had first arrived, Aragorn had sent out riders bearing summons for a few chosen people. He wished to call them to a counsel concerning Arahad. Now the day came when all of those who were called had come and a meeting was to commence.
Arahad dressed and had been escorted to a large chamber he had yet to be in. Tall pillars stood along the long walls and in the center there was a large table with seats surrounding it. He drew closer, focusing on those who sat at the table. Some of the faces he knew. Aragorn sat at the head of the table and Eldarion to his right. To Aragorn's left sat Elladan and beside him was Elrohir. All of the others were unknown to him.
"Gentlemen, this is the man of whom I have spoken." Aragorn addressed his guests as he gestured to Arahad, standing beside him. They all regarded him with stern, unwavering expressions. They made him feel very uncomfortable, just staring at him, which in turn made him angry.
"I would know the names of the men you intend on discussing me with." Arahad sneered quietly. As he spoke he stared back at all of them, making the guests equally uncomfortable.
"This is Faramir, a fellow man of Gondor who now makes his home in Ithilien." Aragorn said as he waved his arm towards the man with the graven look on his face that was seated next to Eldarion.
"Beside him is the King of Rohan, Eomer. Across from him is Legolas, son of King Thranduil of Mirkwood." Aragorn continued, presenting the golden-haired warrior king and the equally blonde prince of elves.
"And the dwarf?" Arahad asked as he stared intently at the small, bearded man who sat next to Legolas. The dwarf did not respond well to the man's comment. He shifted angrily and snorted.
"That is Gimli, son of Gloin. I have fought in battle with all you see before you. There is no one here I would not gladly trust my life with." Aragorn stated, shifting his gaze from Gimli back to Arahad. Arahad remained silent for a moment, observing all of the men that at Aragorn's table.
"I do not believe there is any need for me to remain, now that they all have seen me. I will go and leave you to undoubtedly decide my fate." Arahad said confidently to Aragorn. Before any answer could be made, Arahad turned and proceed out the way he had entered. No one made an attempt to stop him, they merely watched as he strode to the door and exited.
Having not really knowing anywhere else to go, Arahad went to the gardens. He found them to be relaxing for him. Wandering to the far corner, to a large willow tree, he happened upon one of the princesses. Laurelin sat elegantly on a blanket with a cat held in her arms. Food and drink was spread out before her though she did seem she had eaten anything. She sat singing to herself, stroking the grey cat she held.
She had not noticed Arahad's approach. He just stood watching and listening. She was a vision of perfection. She was too perfect to be real. Arahad stayed hidden for a few more minutes until he dug up enough courage to show himself and greet her.
"Hello princess." Arahad murmured. It was just barely loud enough for her to hear but her head rose and greeted him with her fair face.
"Good morning, my lord." She greeted him softly. He hesitantly walked over and stopped just short of her blanket.
"Please do not call me that." He said as he shook his head. She motioned for him to sit with her. He was wary of her invitation but then decided to sit down but was sure to keep a safe distance between them.
"Very well...Arahad." She said as she gave him a sweet smile. When Arahad sat down the cat in Laurelin's arms began to shift nervously, moving ever closer to her and moving away from Arahad. Paying no notice to the creature, Laurelin continued to speak.
"Tell me, how did you come to have the name Arahad? It is the name of one of my father's ancestors."
"Your brother named me shortly after we met."
"What were you called before that?"
"I had no name." Arahad replied, letting his head drop in what looked like shame. He quickly recovered and raised his eyes to meet hers.
"Your name seems to suit you perfectly. You look nothing like your mother or sisters." He stated to her. In response she smiled wistfully at him.
"Yes I know, I am told I look like my great-grandmother Galadriel. She too had the long, golden hair." She stated as she took a sip from her cup. Though she was unaware, Arahad just looked at her with amazement, she was so beautiful. Once again he felt that pounding in his chest and that aching deep inside him. Arahad still did not know what the feeling was or where it came from.
"I always preferred the night over day, but you remind me of the morning and I am beginning to favor it more and more." He kept gazing at Laurelin as he spoke. She blushed at his comment, while still keeping the sense of dignity and etherealness that was always present.
"You are very kind Arahad, thank you." She replied still blushing at his flattery. Her eyes dropped away from his and searched over her surroundings. Laurelin's eyes poured over the nearby flowers, the trees, the blanket she sat on, and the food before her. Suddenly her head snapped back to attention.
"May I offer you something to eat or drink perhaps?" She asked Arahad. She ran her hand lightly over her cup and motioned to the small bowls of food laid out.
"I don't eat my lady, but thank you." He answered, raising his hand in a gesture of refusal. A small smile spread across his face at the kindness of her offer.
"What do you mean? Surely you do not mean that you do not eat at all." She asked with a hint of confusion in her voice and on her face.
"I just don't eat. Elves are immortal but they do need to eat. I am also immortal, but not as they are. I have no need to eat, no need for nourishment." He explained to her patiently the best way he could think of. He knew she found it rather odd. She remained silent for a moment, contemplating his answer.
"You have no need to eat, though you could if you wished to. Could you?" She asked curiously. She sat, looking intently at him, still petting the cat that rested on her lap. Arahad thought a moment about her question; he had never considered it before.
"If I wished to eat, I suppose I could. I never have eaten before though." Suddenly he felt slightly embarrassed to answer her. He had never experienced something as simple as food. He thought that she must think him a fool. She looked over the food in front of her on the blanket, settling on a small bowl of fruit. Her fair, slender hand reached over and gently ran her hands over the pieces of fruit until she grasped a one colored with a rosy-golden glow.
"Here, my favorite fruit, a peach. Try it please." She said leaning over slightly, handing him the fruit. He did not take it. Fear began flicker within him. What if he brushed her hand? What if his own hand trembled so badly he touched her? He could not bear for it to happen. All during his inner debate, she watched him. Soon she realized he was not going to take the peach from her. She gently placed it down on the blanket and rolled it over to him. Arahad watched the fruit roll over to him and then looked back up into Laurelin's eyes.
"Thank you, princess." He whispered to her as he gently picked the peach up in his hand. It felt soft to the touch. It felt like it was covered with fine, little hairs. And the smell was intoxicating.
"What do I do, just bite into it?" Arahad asked sheepishly. He had truly now shown his ignorance concerning food. He was confident however, that he could chew and swallow without much difficulty.
"Yes, just take a bite." She said smiling sweetly at time. To her it was only a sign of innocence that seemed to show itself from time to time. She watched happily as he raised the peach to his lips and took a small bite out of it. When the taste registered with him, his eyes widen a bit and he glanced down at the fruit and back to her. Unconsciously his tongue darted out and ran along his bottom lip, catching the remaining taste that was there.
"It's...Its good." He stuttered as took another bite from the fruit. She laughed as he continued to quickly bite at the peach. After a moment she raised her fingers to her mouth and laughed.
"You have juice on your face Arahad." She said giggling at him. It took a moment top realize what she meant then he embarrassingly wiped his hand across his mouth. Then he gave her a small smile. His smile widened when she continued to flash him her radiant smile and to giggle sweetly. For the first time since he had woken from his ancient sleep, he had smiled fully.
He spent hours with her that day. They ate together and walked around the gardens and the palace. She showed Arahad parts of the palace and gardens he had yet to have seen. He had forgotten that in some room tucked away, a group of men were discussing him, deciding his fate. All of which they had not even bothered to include him in. All of that was lost on him while he spent the rest of the day with the fair and lovely Laurelin.
To be continued...