Elessar sat quietly at his table, looking across its vast array of food and drink to his beautiful wife, who sat silently at the opposite end. Eldarion fiddled with the food on his plate and tried to create a tower of some sort with his vegetables, unsuccessfully, of course.
“Eldarion,” Arwen sighed wearily, her face as pale as the snow that fell in thick sheets outside the citadel, “please eat your dinner.”
He did not move, clearly avoiding the stuff at all costs. She threw him a keen, piercing glare that tacitly ordered him to finish his supper.
He, having now become a young adult and an independent, rebellious one at that retorted, “I am not hungry.”
This had been the routine now for nearly a year. The hall was quiet, except for the bustle of the servants who fluttered in and out, never minding to talk to the royal family unless there was a need to. The snow fell gently outside the window, covering the entire kingdom in a blanket of ice, a blank, colorless world void of feelings other than the ones the freezing temperatures brought. Eldarion and Arwen found some reason to argue, and the king was deathly quiet, the dark circles under his blue eyes telling story after story of a thousand sleepless nights, of tossing and turning, of an endless worry that ate away at him slowly and painfully.
“Eat it.” Ordered Aragorn, his voice gruff but not unkind.
Eldarion reluctantly turned to his plate and began to pick away at the food, pushing it around, drawing little pictures in the gravy.
A servant, tall with short brown hair and a beak-like nose, entered the dining hall and silently crept up behind the king.
His voice was soft, a respectful murmur, as he said to him, “Sire, there is man requesting your audience.”
Aragorn grunted in reply, “I am eating. Is it of such great importance?”
“Indeed it is, Elessar.” The man answered, nodding. “He is the captain of the regiment you sent after your daughter.”
Aragorn’s face went terribly white, and he set down his silverware on his plate with a loud clang.
“Bring him in, please. Quickly!” His eyes were sparkling, pleading, and they seemed to quiver with the reflection of the dancing candlelight on their watery surface.
The man bowed obediently and left the hall. Aragorn turned his head back towards his family, incredulous.
Within seconds the soldier entered the lofty hall, snow lightly sprinkling his dark hair and the tops of his shoulders.
Aragorn stood as the captain bowed low with respect.
“My lord.” Said the man, his raven hair shadowing his hardened, unshaven face.
“Where is she?” Aragorn asked without another word from the soldier. His heart raced and his hands were nearly drenched in clammy, cold sweat.
“I regret to inform you, my king,” before he could finish, Aragorn felt like his heart dropped to the bottom of his stomach.
She didn’t make it.
The air stopped in his throat, and he could barely breathe, but the man finally finished, “that your daughter chose not to return with us.”
Arwen leapt involuntarily from her chair, her eyes lit like a blue fire so intense that both men were forced to turn their gazes away. Eldarion sat perfectly still at the table, looking up at the standing adults with fear and apprehension.
With the queen’s abrupt movement, the captain quickly added, “She has decided rather to travel with Legolas, Gimli, and Elboron to the lands of Harad.”
The king and queen’s faces were stone-still, a million different emotions flashing across their fair features.
The soldier looked frightened, afraid for himself, and he continued, “Legolas and Gimli ordered us back to the Citadel. She is alive and well, Elessar, though she says that she is not yet willing to return.”
Aragorn stared at the man and said quietly, “You speak the truth? Ai, I trust you, Caladon.” He sighed, and seated himself once again at the grand table, exhausted.
My children make me weaker than the most potent of poisons.
“She wishes to give you a token, my king.” Caladon said hesitantly.
Before Aragorn could respond, Arwen flew to the other side of the grand table with her arms straight by her sides, her gown flowing elegantly behind her swift movements.
Her lips were pursed and her eyes were intense as she stood, her feet planted firmly apart, and said, “Please give it to me, Caladon.”
The man flinched at the urgency of her words, but then eagerly reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring, silver and shining. It sparkled like Eärendil in night sky by the light of the surrounding candles, and in it were colors unnumbered, warm and bright. Gimli had given it to her when she was young, for the ring itself was made of mithril and the stone of some gem found far away in the gloom of the glittering caves. She never took it off.
“Morelen,” breathed the king, standing once again from his chair to look at the token in the soldier’s hand.
“She gives this to you as a sign that she lives, my lady.”
The king and queen stared at the jewel for what seemed like an eternity, turning it over in their hands, inspecting it from every angle.
“Thank you, Mellon nîn.” Murmured Arwen gratefully, finally turning her head to look at him.
“You may go.”
The soldier bowed earnestly and left the royal family to their thoughts and dinner.
“This does not mean she will come back after she has been to Harad.” Aragorn warned both himself and his wife.
“I know. Do you think she sent this because she no longer wishes to be a part of us, or because she wanted us to know she was alive?”
Aragorn’s eyes welled with tears as he replied honestly, “I am guessing that it was both, love.”
“No!” Eldarion stood suddenly, defiant, his chair screeching as he pushed it back with his legs. Aragorn and Arwen’s heads instantly turned to him.
“Morelen will come back; I would bet my life on it!” His voice rang through the hall, reverberating off of the stone walls and giving him a sort of eerie, commanding power that blended his Elven side with that of the ancient Númenoreans.
“Oh, ion nîn, please -” Pleaded Arwen, her tears twinkling like drops of morning dew as they clung to her long, dark lashes.
“And anyone who has not the faith to believe so is blind.” He stared them in the face, disgusted, and stalked out of the room, slamming the doors behind him.
They looked at each other, their expressions stricken, their pain and sorrow more evident now than it had ever been.
Arwen made a despairing, choking sound, as though she had finally let the sorrow free, her tears coming fast down her gentle face, her shoulders shaking gently with the pain. She almost let her knees fall to the ground, but she was caught in Aragorn’s strong grip.
He too wept, though his pain was silent. He held her to him and she wept bitterly into his warm velvet tunic, her eyes tightly closed, her dammed tears flooding freely now.
He stroked her hair and whispered softly into her pointed ear, “It will be alright, meleth nîn. It will be alright.”
Onen I-estel edain. U-chebain estel anim. (I give hope to men. I have kept no hope for myself.)
Aragorn felt Arwen’s thoughts gently brush his own and he smiled. These were the words of his mother, Gilraen, and now it was a comfort to hear his wife murmur them.
Hope is such a hard thing to kill, he noted with wonder…
*ion-nin is Sindarin for, “my son”*