Arwen ducked in and out of the trees, watching the fifteen travelers make their way to Rivendell. Thirteen were Dwarves, each with a long beard and a colored hood. One was a smaller creature, his hairy feet bare, looking utterly weary, but cheered up by the songs of the Elves. But the fifteenth member of the party Arwen knew on sight – Mithrandir, the Grey Pilgrim, whom some called Gandalf. Arwen slipped behind an oak, still singing, but hoping wildly that Gandalf would not recognize her. She was supposed to be visiting her grandmother in Lothlorien, not racing through the trees and singing with the other Elves of Rivendell.
The song ended, and Arwen quickly took the shortcut path that she and her brother Elrohir had discovered years ago. It was a much quicker way to Rivendell than the path that the Dwarves and Gandalf were taking. Arwen sat down against a tree, catching her breath and wondering why Gandalf and thirteen Dwarves would have come to Rivendell.
A footstep crunched on the leaves nearby. Arwen leaped to her feet and whirled around to see Elrohir coming toward her, chagrin that he’d made a sound and alerted her to his presence on his face. Happiness at seeing her favorite brother and nervousness that she’d been seen warred on Arwen’s face, making Elrohir laugh. “I’m not going to turn you in to Father,” he assured her, grinning. He sat down by the tree and patted the ground. Easily settling into their old companionship from when they were younger and planning mischief, Arwen sat too.
“Galadriel helped me sneak away,” Arwen confided, knowing that Elrohir would want to know all the details of how she had come back. “I told her that I was homesick, and she and I planned how I could get back to Rivendell. It was a little hard crossing the mountains, but I managed it.” Arwen’s eyes sparkled. “It was fun! My first adventure!”
Elrohir laughed. “So the Evenstar has descended from the sky to do the work of one of us mere Elves?”
Arwen swatted her brother. “Stop that! You know I hate when people call me Evenstar. My name is Arwen!” She paused for a moment, then added, “At least you’re not calling me `Lady Undomiel,’ like my attendant in Lothlorien. I hate that even more than just Evenstar.”
“Very well, Lady Undo -” Arwen clapped her hand over Elrohir’s mouth, effectively stopping the rest of the unwanted epithet. Elrohir retaliated by tickling her under the ribs, where she was most ticklish. Arwen yelped and kicked his shins. “Ow!” Elrohir complained, letting her go.
Then he got down to business. “Arwen, you aren’t planning just to appear at dinner tonight, are you?”
“Of course not!” she exclaimed indignantly. “I’m not that big of a fool!”
“Well, in that case you’ll need help hiding.” Elrohir grinned. “If Your Ladyship would allow me to assist her…”
Arwen grinned back. “Of course I will,” she assured him.
“And will you allow me to help as well?”
Arwen started at the third voice. She had not heard it in a long time, but she knew it just the same. She spun around, hoping he would not tell her father she was here. “Gandalf!” she gasped. “Please, you can’t tell Father, it has to be a secret -“
The wizard held up his hand, a smile twinkling in his eyes. “Peace, Arwen!” he exclaimed. “I will keep your secret.” Arwen breathed a sigh of relief. “I would like to be a part of the secret for as long as I am here.”
“Why are you here?” asked Arwen and Elrohir at the same time. They grinned a little embarrassedly, then looked at Gandalf expectantly.
Gandalf laughed. “For all that you are both on the brink of adulthood, you act like little children!” From some, that would have been a rebuke – from Gandalf, it was a gentle tease. “I am here because I am helping Thorin Oakenshield in his quest.”
“And what is that?” pressed Arwen.
“He seeks to get the dragon Smaug out of the Lonely Mountain, and to reclaim his family’s treasure.” Both Arwen and Elrohir were silent in shock. “Those with him are his kin and his friends. And their burglar,” he added, smiling amusedly.
“Burglar?” asked Elrohir. “Who -“
“Oh,” Arwen said slowly. “He’s the small person! The one with hairy feet!”
“Yes,” Gandalf confirmed. “He is a hobbit, and his name is Bilbo Baggins. But enough of this. How do you plan to keep yourself concealed here?”
“She can stay in my room,” Elrohir offered. “Elladan won’t mind.”
“Perhaps she should simply return to her own room,” Gandalf suggested. “Since all assume you are not here, Arwen, your room would be the last place they would look.”
“But when they clean it -“
“Then you can probably slip into Elrohir’s room,” Gandalf interrupted. He gave them both a mock-stern glance. “I’m sure you’ve figured out many ways to get from one room to another.”
“Well, yes,” Arwen admitted. Elrohir was grinning, with absolutely no shame.
“Then that’s settled!” Gandalf announced. “I should be going back to the others. I won’t breathe a word of this to Elrond, I promise!” And he left, easily slipping through the trees to join his party again.
It was a few days later that Elrohir hurried to Arwen’s room and whispered that no one was in the garden. Excited at the possibility of being alone in her favorite place in Rivendell, Arwen hurried to the garden and ran up the little path to her own plot. She was relieved to see that someone had been tending it while she was in Lothlorien, and that they had not planted any different flowers in her plot. As long as I’m here, she thought, I might as well work on it, too. She began to clear away the little weeds from the plot.
Suddenly her ears pricked up. Someone was coming towards her plot. She quickly ducked behind a tree and waited for the person to come. Arwen breathed a sigh of relief when Gandalf turned the corner and sat down on the ground. He looked weary and worn. She came out from behind the tree and asked, “What’s wrong?”
Gandalf started, then saw her and smiled, shaking his head. “Heavy business,” he answered, pulling his hat off and setting it beside his staff on the ground.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Arwen asked, kneeling next to the wizard. On all his previous visits to Rivendell, he had been cheerful, with a smile and a wink always ready for her and her brothers. It was strange to her to see him so pensive and tired.
Gandalf shook his head again. “I think not,” he said. “I have just learned something I did not dare to hope – or believe.” He glanced at her, saw the curious sparkle in her eyes, and laughed. “You want to hear, don’t you?”
Arwen blushed, embarrassed. “Well…yes, I do,” she admitted.
“Very well.” Gandalf reached over and took her hand. “But promise me, Arwen, that you will not speak of what I tell you, not even to Elrohir or Elladan, unless I give you permission to tell them.”
Arwen’s eyes widened. This must be an important secret. “I promise.”
“Good.” Gandalf closed his eyes, then opened them and fixed Arwen with a steady gaze. “You know, of course, that your mother was not Lady Galadriel’s only daughter.”
“Yes,” Arwen answered. “She had a younger sister named Galadwen, who was banished when she tried to steal Father away from Mother and twist his mind to evil.”
Gandalf’s eyebrows lifted, and he smothered a laugh at the matter-of-fact way Arwen spoke the dark secret of her aunt. “Yes,” he confirmed, “that is true. No one knew where she ended up when your grandparents banished her from Lorien. However…” He sighed heavily. “One of my Istari brethren has told me that the Necromancer is stirring in Dol Guldur.” He did not tell her who he believed the Necromancer to be; he couldn’t do that to her innocence. “And with him, so he tells me, is an Elf-woman, full of bitterness, pride, and anger – and that Elf’s daughter.”
Arwen stared in astonishment. “So…so my aunt is in Mordor?” She shuddered as the name passed her lips. “And she bore…I have a cousin?”
“A cousin, moreover,” Gandalf added, “who is being reared to be -” He broke off abruptly. He had forgotten that he was not speaking to Elrond, who could take the knowledge and find some way to get out of the danger, but to his young daughter. “Never mind,” Gandalf said quickly. “It’s not important.”
“It must be, or you wouldn’t have started to tell me!” Arwen argued. “I am not a child, Mithrandir. I can be told secrets and trusted to keep them.”
Gandalf looked at Arwen in surprise. It was true, he reminded himself. He had grown so used to thinking of Elrond’s daughter as a young child that he had forgotten that she was older now. “My apologies,” he said. “Then I will tell you.” He took a deep breath and said it. “I believe that the Necromancer is Sauron, gathering his strength back. And your cousin, Arwen, is being raised by her mother to be his consort if he regains his power.”
Arwen said nothing for a long time. She looked down at the weeds in her hands, at the ground, anywhere but at Gandalf. To reassure her, the wizard added, “But I do not think she is evil, Arwen.”
“How could she be anything else, raised in Mordor to be His consort?” she asked quietly.
“I think that she does not want to share the power Sauron wants for himself,” Gandalf told her. “She is, after all, Lady Galadriel’s granddaughter, and probably has the Lady’s spirit. But that is why I am weary, Arwen.
“When I first learned of the existence of this girl, I was horrified. But now that I think that she would choose, if she could, not to be in Mordor, I think that my mission is clear. I am going to try to go there, Arwen, and bring her back.”
Arwen swallowed. I did ask to be told, she reminded herself, trying to take in all the knowledge that she had just heard. From having no relatives on her mother’s side except her grandparents, she suddenly had an evil aunt and a cousin who might or might not be perfectly willing to be the consort of the Dark Lord! She shook her head, not realizing that Gandalf had done the same thing before he told her about her cousin. She heard the wizard get up and leave, for which she was grateful. She needed time alone to think about this.