Disclaimer:All rights to the plot and characters of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy belong exclusively to the estate of J.R.R.Tolkien. No commerce is being exchanged in this endeavor, nor is a profit being made. This story is written strictly for entertainment purposes.
Summary: A quiet stroll through the garden proves that little is within our control, even when it is. A vignette featuring Arwen and Legolas, in answer to the 4/03 April Showers Tower of Ecthelion challenge. Post-ROTK, about 10-12 years after the War, and before "The Hunting Trip".
A Walk in the Rain
The king sat on one end of the dais, alternately ladling spoonfuls of thick-though-growing-thin bisque into his mouth followed by broken pieces of dampened, yet still warm, sweetened butter bread. This took place between gusts of wind and the occasional misting from the drizzle, and at one point heavy droplets began to fall down onto him. He scowled at his wife as one drop in particular managed to thoughtfully land in his water goblet over and over again. The continual ping pinging across the table was a clear reminder to her that this meal was a near disaster and the weather was entirely to blame. The weather, and Arwen, though that was only his to know, and though she shared in this knowledge of their source of discomfort, the Gondorian Queen was in no mood to hack lightly at her soul for the social disgrace caused. The food was getting drenched as were the guests, and Aragorn's vexation was clear to see, but she could have cared less. Truthfully, she wanted to laugh at the pettiness of his concern.
The lady sat at the other end of the host table, beginning the course of stuffed squab, which glistened with water droplets as it was placed before her. Deftly she mopped up the small puddle of rainwater that had gathered in the bowl in the short transport between serving tray to seat, while forgiving the wait staff for delivering the food at a particularly bad moment of weather. Pretending absolutely nothing was wrong with such fare, she delicately broke off a small morsel and proceeded to eat. Despite the drowned appearance, the food was actually quite good. Her only real regret was that the wine was getting watered.
The minister to her left was speaking, and she nodded with feigned interest, though if asked, she could not have repeated a word he was saying, so dull did she find him. In fact the entire affair at hand was one to be counted as tedious, and just one more, in her mind, of a boring string of meetings and negotiations being hosted by the lords of Gondor for minutely small gains. This one was with the province of Al-Dôr Lútha, or some such place, and they were negotiating the prices of grain. Or silk. Or pickling spices. Arwen had long stopped taking notice. To her, all the meetings were the same.
At least,she thought, the weather has kept the occasion interesting. Then chuckling to herself she thought, I sincerely doubt they will ever forget this meal! which was most likely true, for it certainly was unique. But given the smoldering expression on Aragorn's face, it was probably a meal he would have rather they had forgotten. She pushed aside her chagrin, trying to ignore his accusing glances.
He had warned her. All morning long he had pleaded with her to change the plans, muttering again and again that he suspected rain that day. Yet Arwen would not hear it. "How many times must we take a stuffy meal in a stuffy place with a group of stuffy people, when we are availed a lovely day? Nay, the luncheon will remain outdoors, rain or sun."
Of course, Aragorn had argued the point. "It is only sparse weeks since the New Year turned," he had said. "The weather is hardly conducive to a picnic. This meal would be better met indoors," to which Arwen answered by simply walking away and leaving the king to fret over that which he could not control.
To a degree he was right, but Arwen had remained adamant in her decision. And it was Arwen's to decide, the household domain being hers to rule. In her mind, the weather was ideal for an outdoor banquet. The temperature was rapidly gaining warmth with the season, and each day it nearly always reached something of a comfortable climate, even if slightly chilly. The grounds were growing green with rebounding life, which made for a lovely backdrop to any event. With blooming trees, fledgling blades of grass, and cheery flowers, she could think of no better time in the year when a luncheon of this sort could be had. That it might rain was an obscene insignificance in the whole of their plans. Were it summer solstice or the harvest season it might rain then as well. Arwen could not control the weather and she had told Aragorn as much in her resolute non-answer.
However, she could tell as she caught fleeting sight of him now, pushing away a wilted looking pastry that had been shaped like a swan once, that he wished to speak with her. Now. She sighed as she excused herself from her companions, and scooted her chair back into a puddle. He too rose, nodding to the buffet table which had been laid out with an array of soggy finger sandwiches. She followed his direction, her feet making light squelching noises as she walked to the table. His sound was one of heavier squishes, and as he approached, she glanced into his stern gray eyes.
"This is worse than anything I could have imagined," he said without any prelude of greeting. He is angry, she decided, but she stood her place, not allowing his ire to rankle her as her mood was already great enough.
"It is not so poor an event. We ate under a canopy and stayed dry through it all. Certainly, the food is tasty. And the company is good. For the most I would call this gathering a success," she returned defensively.
"Success?" he snarled through gritted teeth that were meant to be the façade of a happy king. "Look at them? They are practically jubilant over this misfortune, as if somehow a bad meal now entitles them to a better turn on their side of the negotiations."
"Does it," she replied, a raised brow noting the query within the statement.
"Of course not, but try to tell them their station has not changed. They think they are one above us now because we have slipped in our social graces."
"Oh, posh," Arwen said, dismissing his dishonor. "How petty! And you would let them get away with that?"
"I would not normally, but they do have a point. This meal was poorly executed," Aragorn admonished.
"This meal was perfectly executed. What is remiss is your grace. That you would allow these visitors the upper hand purely because of some rain is foolery. Take control of the situation, King Elessar! They feel smug for the situation because they think that they are above it and that they would never serve a meal thusly. Then act in turn as if this were exactly the meal you had intended for them. Put on a front as if they deserve little better, that they are beneath dining in a dry, comfortable place. That cocky swagger of theirs will end quickly and negotiations may return as you had intended them. Show your might. Control the circumstances!"
The bloom of a smile spread broadly across his face, as if he had not thought of that prior, and he nodded. "It may work!" he exclaimed softly. Then he pushed the smile back and righted his shoulders as if he were preparing himself to go into battle, his facing growing sober. "Very well, I shall try it." He next turned, leaving her alone as more delegates rose from the table to gather about him. It was time for the negotiations to begin and the party began to filter back to the main house, running to keep their appearance dry and kept
"Will you be joining us, Lady?" a voice asked from beside her and she winced inwardly, already knowing who she faced. It was the particularly boring minister from earlier who had come to call.
"Nay," she said, smiling prettily as she realized he wished to act as her escort. She could think of few things worse. "Nay, thank you Minister, but I think I shall stay here for a time and enjoy the rain. I find it very . . . soothing."
"I believe you are the only one," the minister said sadly, shaking his head, as if in disbelief that she would choose to stay in a soggy tent, as well as for the decline of his escort. Thankfully, he offered no argument and he left her to the company of the rain, which seemed a patient companion to her mood.
"He is wrong," came a voice to her back. She smiled. It was Legolas who spoke. "You are not the only one who chooses a merry drizzle over a stodgy meeting. I can imagine few things quite so dull."
She glanced back to smile at the Mirkwood prince. He was looking rather regal as an Ithilien lord on this day. She had noted his appearance before, seated between herself and Faramir when the meal had started, though she had not had time to greet him earlier, it mattered not, for familiarity between them was beyond need of formal acknowledgement. In her heart she felt of him as she might feel for one of her brothers. Legolas was the closest of Estel's friends and a long-time companion to them both. There were few secret between the three and she did not feel compelled to deny his intrusion. She was fairly certain he had overheard the conversation between she and Aragorn, and he indeed had heard the brief refusal to take the arm of the minister. It seemed he was fairly versed on what there was to know of this day and so she merely said, "I do not think they realize the rain to be a renewing thing." She turned away then, gazing onto the soft drizzle that was bringing the gardens to life.
"They fear ruin to their clothing," Legolas asserted mildly with a snort as he nodded to the last of the delegates scurrying with a rush into the building.
"And their hair," Arwen added with a choked laugh as she saw the same person raise hands to protect their combed tresses.
Then together they looked upon one another, he in his fine attire, and she in her elegant gown and coif and they both smiled. Formally he offered his arm and she took it. The unspoken message was passed between them. They should venture for a walk in the rain. Because they cared not for the rain. Because they could care less for their appearance. Because they were Elves and communing with nature was of more import than negotiating the price of dill weed. Speaking in unison they uttered the scoffing word, both surprised that the other was thinking the same thing. "Mortals," they said together.
They laughed companionably, and Arwen felt, for the first time that day, a comforting ease. Perhaps it was that her duties had ended when the assembly had convened to the conference halls. Or perhaps it was the knowledge that the error of seating and serving in this weather could be amended easily enough. Or perhaps it was that her husband was appeased with the solution she had offered and had thus relinquished his vexation. But no matter the cause, for the time she felt tremendous relief walking arm-in-arm with Legolas, heedless of the weather.
"We may laugh, but the truth is you are no less mortal than they," Legolas murmured, picking up on the wavering thought from a moment past.
Arwen scowled as misty drops sprayed upon her face and they stepped onto a quiet path lined with budding plants. It was not to the weather to which she offered her mild annoyance however. "I am hardly considered mortal of that kind," she grumbled.
"You mean the kind that fusses over hair and fashion? Mayhap not, but you share a commonality with them that cannot be denied," Legolas countered while taking slow, deliberate steps of a leisurely nature, enjoying the scenery.
She groaned inwardly. "Do you speak of the occasion to which I will die? You need not remind me. Of this future event, I am already aware," she said with a dark voice that bid him not to talk more on the subject.
"Still you maintain your beauty and youthful guise. It appears not to diminish or be affected by the change of your circumstances. Do any of your other traits appear effected then?" Legolas asked with innocent curiosity. He hardly seemed to notice her regret for the topic.
Yet his tender question felt more as a reminder to her of her limitations and failings. She was affronted by the inquiry, as if he were peering too deeply into her soul. Her guilt and sorrow bloomed into words she could barely contain. "I know not how to answer you" she returned in a scolding voice. "Who am I to say I am anything less or more than what I was before I bound my heart to Estel? If you must ask, I would say there has been little transformation, if any! I am the same Elf I was as before my troth was pledged."
"And I would say there has been a great change in you."
Arwen frowned, feeling impatience for this line of commentary. He was so much like a brother to her then, and her prior joy at his arrival melted into irritation almost instantly. "Then why bother asking if you would already know?"
"I do not know. I only speculate, thus attempting to query you," Legolas responded noncommittally, as if willing her ire with his confounding evenness.
They passed into a grove of blossoming trees. Had the rain not dampened it, the aroma might have been a lovely thing to behold. Still, the sight was alluring, though Arwen felt disappointment tug at her, as if something were missing. "You are mistaken then," she asserted, pushing away the nag of circumspect for what was to come. "I am as I ever was. The only difference now is that I will diminish, as does he. And that does not happen at the moment." She tried to match his tone, blatant and unemotional, but the words sounded pained on her tongue.
"Yet it will happen. Soon. By Elven standards."
She sighed deeply, hoping her reticence might be enough to give Legolas clue that she no longer wished to think on this topic.
But Legolas persisted. "Time must take a new shape to you now," he mused. "It must be difficult for an Elf who has lived so many centuries. Tell me I am wrong if you think otherwise."
She let the words fall about her, growing ever sadder as the conversation lingered, though she could not place her reasons as to why she felt to cry. It was as if a part of her were mourning something lost, and the sky were offering its tears for the passing. She began to feel the dampness to her skin as the moistened cloth pressed to it. " It is the one thing to which I am keenly aware," she said.
"And it disturbs you," he added.
Suddenly, tears spilled from her eyes of their own volition though she refused to look at him and acknowledge his role in creating them. They mingled with the rain as it lightly sprayed her face, and she could not understand her sorrow except to answer him. "It is an inevitability I cannot control. I am forced to accept it when little else has there ever been that I must accept. As one of the Firstborn I have never thought much on time and what it meant. It was always a limitless resource, like rain from the clouds. Never did I fear its end, for never did I think it would come. But now . . ."
"Now you see its value," he finished for her, brushing away a tear. Her eyes remained downcast. "Now that it is before you, you realize it is precious, not to be wasted."
She could not help but look up to see compassion in his eyes. She confessed, "Most especially on petty events such as luncheons for minister of Al-Awartha Le."
Legolas laughed, and the sound of it lightened her heart. "What is it then that you would put your guarded time toward?"
She shrugged despondently. "I know not. I suppose just to be companion to him. I feel as if everything else is without purpose."
"Together you rule," he reminded her, optimism lightening his voice.
"And together we shall be a footnote in the chronicles of history with little more than pride over keen negotiations with Ú-Artha Talath to show for it. What point is mortality if this is all to which it leads?"
"Children might follow," he offered. "They are the one element of mortality that shows unbroken continuation. They are, I think, the everlasting qualities of Man that Ilúvatar had intended."
She broke away, her heart forlorn as her fingers grazed the tiniest of blossoms of the nearest cascading plant. "I would want such a thing," she said in a teary voice. "I would wish to raise a child."
"Estel does not want this?" Legolas inquired, doubt marking his words as he filled the gap left unsaid.
"Valar, nay! There is nothing more that would fill his heart with joy! It is not him, for we try. Yet . . ."
"There are distractions," Legolas completed the thought.
"Aye," she lowered her head, shame marring her beauty.
"Mayhap you think too much on it," he consoled, coming from behind and draping an arm about her shoulder. She leaned back into his lean body, closing her eyes. It felt easy to be with him, and she realized she had shared none of these feelings with anyone, not even her husband. A great weight was lifted in the brotherly gesture of his embrace as the rain continued to fall upon them.
"The Lady Éowyn had confided to me once that she had had difficulty conceiving their first child," Legolas whispered. "It was not until she was mired down with a mild illness that she actually found her body willing to relax to her wishes. Her tell is that the Lady Ioreth gave her a special elixir to heal her throat, and that it was this medicine that availed her body to the conception of children."
Arwen turned to face him, a timid smile gracing her face and calling an end to her tears. "I had heard the same tale," she said, confiding shyly.
"Alas that Elves do not catch mortal illnesses," Legolas reminded with something of a coy smile.
"Not unless they fade into the mortal traits that bind their hearts," she said, smiling to confirm his thoughts.
"It would mean giving up control of those things for which there is no control," he softly said in sobering notes.
"Such as death." She bowed her eyes.
"It is something from which you may not flee. You know you must now face it. Once you had a choice. Now that choice is gone. Can you accept this loss? For it will come, and soon, if you remain within Elven thinking," he said.
"I do not know if I have the courage," she admitted with teary eyes.
"You had strength enough to abandon everything you knew to take a mortal love. You forsook the route that is the inevitable among our kind and you followed your heart. You knew what you sacrificed. These are not small feats. Surely they are evidence of a very strong will."
"Perhaps. I know I must face this along with whatever else time and fate will give. Be that death . . . or life, Valar willing. I will . . . I will try."
Legolas nodded, as if he had known all along her fears. "Yet children are not a given. You must come to know this too. You cannot continue to test your will against nature, for it is stronger than you. Relinquish fate to what it will be. You will not be fully mortal until it guides you. You must have faith, Arwen. The Valar will make their desires of you known. They know the place they have planned for you in history."
She nodded, shaken by his word, but sure also that he was right. He was telling her that which she already knew, but now she fully understood. "I will give my heart to this as well," she affirmed.
"Good. Then the lesson is learned. And we can be assured garden parties in the rain shall be accidents from this day forward, and not some slippery scheme to manipulate your mortal shroud?"
She pretended shock, batting her eyes in false sincerity. "How could I have known the elements would have played against us this day?"
Legolas laughed aloud then. "Imladris may have been protected by a ring of power, but I would venture the Lord Elrond did not ban the rain entirely. After centuries of looking to the sky as is our wont, I thought surely all Elves could read the telltale signs of weather."
She daintily smirked. "I have no control over nature."
"As you should not. But that does not mean you cannot read it to your benefit. For instance . . ." he pointed up directing her eyes to the sky.
"Oh, Valar!" she cried confirming that indeed she could read the clouds. Immediately she turned to Legolas, laughing out her call, "Run!" And they did. Back to the shelter of the tent they fled, sprinting through lakes of large puddles and doused in cool wind. And though they were fleet of foot, they could not avoid being deluged in a downpour of magnificent proportion. They were washed in a tumult of rain. By the time they had found themselves beneath the semi-shelter of the canopy, they were drenched through and through, bathed thoroughly of their prior smugness.
"My dress!" she cried.
"And your hair," he chuckled, his laughter rolling warmly over her.
"I am a mess," she confirmed. "I suppose I should change into attire of a drier consistency."
"Not for my sake, I would hope. I think you are a vision, even when sodden, Lady," he replied.
"If not for you then, for the sake of my comfort," she said, then scrutinized him once more. "Do you think it is wrong that I use what I may to turn the direction of life toward my goals?"
"I think that is something mortals must do. For you now, being is not merely enough. What you have is limited. You must make what you can of it," Legolas advised.
She nodded solemnly before turning her thoughts elsewhere and realizing the full extent of his drenched appearance. Her face softened and she thought to address it. "Perhaps you should —"
But she did not complete her sentence, for it was interrupted, though not by words. A sensation came to her that she could not recall ever having felt before. It was a tickle of sorts, riding up along the back of her throat and around the ridges of her nostrils. It was sudden, an urge striking, as if to both gasp for air and hail a yawn simultaneously, only stronger, faster. All at once it happened. She sneezed!
Complete astonishment shook her, and at her side, Legolas echoed the look of puzzlement that appeared on her face. "What was that?" he exclaimed.
She did it again, only this time there was no doubt as to what it was. "I sneezed," she said, answering him, and then repeated herself, the idea dawning on her mind and joy lifting her face. "I sneezed!" She threw her arms about him, happiness filling her breast. "Oh, Legolas, it worked! Are you not pleased? I have an illness!" she shouted exuberantly.
Legolas' laughter spilled over with hers, and their merriment filled the garden with its musical sound. Yet after a few moments of jubilation, Legolas turned her about to face the manor saying, "I think then you should retire to your chambers and tend to your illness. We do not want to see it become something worse than it is. To bed I send you."
She smiled brightly, nodding her head, compliant, like an obedient child, though she stopped and faced him after a few steps forward. "But it is all for naught unless —"
"I shall go inform the king that you have taken to your sickbed and are in immediate need of his ministrations," Legolas announced.
"Make sure to tell him—" she began, but he hushed her, turning her back on her march to the household.
"I will also tell him that a special brew is needed of Lady Ioreth's concoction. A throat remedy. I assure you I will make him understand of what I speak. I will also tell him it must be applied liberally and with frequency."
She enthusiastically nodded, now satisfied. Her smile graced him with her leave as she turned back to the house. She glanced back, watching him as he turned then and walked across the lawn to the main hall. Despite his bedraggled appearance, he held his carriage high, and he looked ever the lordly character, even if he was soaked to the skin. She snorted at their shared laughter over mortal superficiality, though she knew Legolas would soon be tending to his own meticulous appearance. He was the fastidious one, after all, and she could not help thinking he likely desired nothing more at the moment than dry clothes and groomed hair, even if his words belied it. "Immortals," she muttered as a smirk pressed her lips.
She, on the other hand, was feeling rather unkempt as another sneeze gushed out, and she began to notice a tickle was stirring in the back of her throat. In addressing it, she cleared her throat, only to find that it worsened when she did and soon festered into a cough. She laughed at that, nearly skipping the rest of the way with her joy. How unqueenly, she thought, but decided not to care. Some mortal traits she would not embrace. Her cheer was something she could not control, nor would she try.
It was only when she reached the door to the residence that it occurred to her that the rain had stopped. She turned back, scanning the vista of the garden and the tent, a light breeze billowing the canopy as she watched it and all the lands beyond, going ever onward and on and on into infinity. She looked to the heavens, a silent prayer of thanks slipping from her lips then, with one of hope following it, and it was as if the sky mirrored her very mood. The clouds broke as the world fell to glory, and she noted, with their parting, came the sun.
Al-Dôr Lútha— NoPlaceInteresting
Al-Awartha Le— ICareNot
Ú-Artha Talath— UnexaltedLand