Oh God, her heart cried out, why do I have these feelings for him? A small bird perched on the railing before her and gave her a quizzical look. She ignored it, seeking instead the familiar arched heavens above. A few fluffy white clouds scattered themselves in the distance. Rohan lies that way, her thoughts tortured her. “Why, God? Your Word says not to be unevenly yoked, so I know there’s not a chance of marrying him unless he admits that he needs You, which isn’t likely, but why do I have to be attracted to him so?”
Two are better than one, for they have a good return for their labor, the verse she’d long since committed to memory echoed tantalizingly through the halls of her mind. * Tears welled in her eyes. “I know that suffering is good for the soul, Father,” she whispered brokenly, “but I don’t think I can handle this.”
“Ervi?” Arwen called out softly as she let herself into her cousin’s chambers. “Are you here?” She scanned the room, stopping in dismay when her eyes lighted on Ervinai’s figure huddled in a chair on the wind-ripped balcony. Her wrinkled nightdress, the unbound, uncombed hair which fluttered in frizzy curls about rigid shoulders, and dried tear streaks descending from red-rimmed eyes all but screamed alarm in Arwen’s mind.
“Ar?” the wide eyes focused frantically on the queen’s. “Oh, I don’t know what I’m going to do!” Without warning the swelling tears slopped over her bottom lids and lashes, filling the dried riverbeds that coursed her cheeks once again. Immediately, she regretted her show of weakness, but that only made her feel worse. Drawing in a shaky breath, she turned her eyes back to the azure sky, vaguely wishing she could join her Maker beyond those glorified heavens and leave all this pain behind.
“I’m worried about her, Aragorn.” the queen’s voice was serious despite her husband’s attempts to brush over the subject lightly. “Something is desperately wrong.”
When he saw that his wife was going to keep at it until he gave a satisfactory answer the king answered, “There’s not much we can do than let the heartache run it’s course, my dear. Tell me, when you first began to love me did you not lose heart whenever I left for my duties?” He chucked his wife’s chin.
She refused to be sidetracked. “I think we need to do something, Aragorn.”
“Your brothers say you would sit for hours on your favorite bench in your mother’s garden, waiting for me, dreaming about me…” Arwen’s expression grew to one of exasperation. “Alright, my dear, I’ll do something.” Her gaze softened. “Remember how eager you always were to welcome me home, Ar?” his voice grew low.
“Oh, stop it, Aragorn.” Arwen whispered, shooting a glance to the rest of the garden with self-conscious eyes. “Someone will see.” She giggled nonetheless, as he grabbed her to himself in the way he was wont to do.
“Let them see.” he growled as she cried out in delight. After plying her lips with his for a moment longer than necessary he broke off. In a sudden burst of tenderness he cupped her cheek with one of his scarred hands, peering into her eyes as a man enraptured. And he was – enraptured with the treasure he held.
“Captain!” the king beckoned. When the man came scurrying to him, armor jingling, Aragorn waved for him to step outside to the terrace behind the throne room with him. “I’ve a special assignment for you – top priority.” The captain’s head nodded. He was eager to do his lord’s will, Aragorn noted wryly, always a good sign. “It concerns the queen very closely, so I expect your absolute best performance.”
“Yes, my lord.” the man bowed low, his blonde hair gleaming in the sunlight. When the king went on the man’s eyes widened undeniably and veiled his surprise with difficulty. “You want me to…?”
“Yes, Lûth.” Aragorn answered with dignity, knowing this was not the sort of thing the man was accustomed to.
“Very well, my lord. It will be done as you say.”
Ervinai threaded her needle, then speared the garment. It was a nightie for Arwen’s baby. A simple nightie maybe, perhaps even a bit sloppy, but a gift she intended to give, nonetheless. She had ravaged the bustling marketplaces of the city in a search for the “perfect” fabric. Then, the old woman selling the piece had wanted a fortune for it, and, on top of it all, refused to bargain! In a huff, Ervinai had stalked off, her face a red cherry. Losing herself in the city’s many levels, she’d finally cooled off enough to chastise herself for not buying it anyways, for the material was perfect. Disgruntled, she’d returned to the palace.
Only to find three yards of the fabric she’d wanted laying across the foot of her bed.
The only logical solution Ervinai could come up with was that the woman had somehow learned of her would-be customer’s status and in an effort to make peace, had had the material delivered to her. But Ervinai very much doubted that the haggard old woman would have parted with the obviously fine piece of fabric without some sort of compensation. No, she contributed to many mouths, no doubt. But then, who could have paid the woman? Certainly not the king or queen, the nightie was a gift, therefore a secret. Could it be that the old woman’s generosity was not the cause after all? Could it be that her heavenly Father was just doting on His daughter? Denied access any other clues, that was the conclusion Ervinai forced herself to embrace.
Her mind, however, rebelled, thinking there must be another reason. Not because she lacked faith that her God could work that way, if He wished, but because she’d learned He often worked through people, His prized creations, to accomplish His will. The very idea of that fabric appearing here on its own was bordering on her lunatic desire for Him to do something dramatic in her life that would change its current destiny.
Ignoring the warming desire he felt to watch her tread the few steps to the palace, Lûth kept his gaze fixed directly ahead. The plain beneath the city stretched on endlessly, eventually fading into the skyline in the distance, but he hardly noticed. His attentions were focused on the maid beneath him. Her gait bespoke of weariness and despair. She didn’t even spare him a glance as she passed through the large doorway. He followed her, at a distance, until she reached her chambers. There he saw her surprise, felt her joy, at finding the cloth.
It’d been a simple matter to procure the cloth. The old woman had been unwilling, of course, when he’d asked for three yards. Doubtless, she thought he couldn’t pay, garbed in the homespun tunic and breeches he wore as disguise, but when he’d produced a bag of coppers she’d readily changed her mind. Then all he’d had to do was make sure it was lain out in Ervinai’s chambers where she’d see it immediately upon entry. And she had.
* Ecclesiastes 4:9
It was lots of fun to write this chapter. Not near as hard as I thought it’d be. Anywhoo, I hope you all enjoyed this chappie! I’m off to write the next one now! Whee!