The Sword in the Tree
Disclaimer - These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain
With grateful thanks to Raksha
Aragorn shifted uneasily in his chair, and sighed so heavily that he dislodged several documents from the pile in front of him. Faramir, who was sitting opposite, picked up the parchments, and gave his King a sympathetic glance, before turning his attention back to his own stack of official documents. Working together made the tasks easier and the time pass more pleasantly, but the two former Rangers still found it hard to be confined indoors on such a sunny autumn day. "Why must there be twenty different laws on grain tariffs?" Aragorn groaned, stretching out his long legs and trying to get more comfortable.
"The amount of laws concerning grain date back to Mardil's time when there was a poor harvest and rationing was being considered," Faramir explained placidly. "You could always simplify them."
" I will," the King replied grimly. "I shall…" A knock on the door interrupted him. "Enter!" he called.
A somewhat out of breath young lieutenant, Menedil, entered the room, clutching a sealed parchment. "I beg pardon for disturbing you, my lords," he said." I have here an urgent message from the King of Rohan, which has just been delivered by one of his Riders."
Aragorn smiled at the lad as he took the message from him. The young soldier gave a quick bow before saluting and taking his leave.
"I hope all is well with my cousin." Faramir looked on anxiously as Aragorn opened the seal. "I do wish her father could be with her, as he planned, while she prepares to give birth."
" It was most unfortunate he tripped over that wooden horse and broke his ankle at Eldarion's official first birthday celebration," Aragorn remarked. "Never did I imagine seeing your dignified Uncle sprawled across the nursery floor!"
"Poor Uncle, to think he rode through the Ring War unscathed, only to fall victim to a toy pony!" said Faramir. "I hope the accident will not leave him lamed. And he is justly famed as a fine horseman!"
"It was a clean break, which I set myself, so within a few weeks it should be completely healed," Aragorn reassured his friend. "Imrahil just needs to rest it." He turned his attention to the letter and read silently for a few moments.
"Is everything well?" Faramir interrupted, no longer able contain his concern.
Aragorn finally stopped reading and placed the letter on the table. "All seems to be going as it should, or so the midwives tell Éomer. However, he wishes me to be there for the birth of his heir, saying he would be greatly pleased to have his friend and brother at his side, together with Éowyn. I have no idea why he has requested my presence. I know little of childbirth and Lothiriel has the support of a Gondorian midwife, as well as Alis, who was her maid from before her marriage. Remember, Éomer took her to join Lothiriel, when he returned home last spring? She is hardly alone, while Éomer is surrounded by his friends and advisers."
"I expect Éomer recalls how you saved Elestelle's life when she was born," Faramir said thoughtfully. "Every man needs a friend and brother at his side when his wife is giving birth, be they king or peasant. I fear Éowyn cannot travel. Has Éomer forgotten that Elestelle is not yet fully weaned? She is much troubled by her teething too and needs her mother."
Just then, Arwen entered the room, accompanied by Eldarion who was just learning to walk. The toddler clung to his mother's gown for support as well as holding tightly to her hand.
"Ada!" Eldarion gurgled happily.
Aragorn hastened to scoop his son up in his arms when the child made a dive for a stack of papers on the floor.
"Watch out for the ink!" Faramir cautioned. "You should keep your study more tidy while your son is into everything!"
"As your daughter will be very soon!" Aragorn retorted.
Faramir simply looked smug; for he was far more inclined to neatness than his lord and certain, he would never leave papers on the floor.
"It will not be long before she can reach your desk." It was Aragorn's turn now to look smug.
"I heard there was news from Rohan and wondered how Éomer and Lothiriel fared," Arwen said, interrupting the two men, whom she knew could exchange banter for hours if left undisturbed. "Also to remind you, Estel, that you promised to eat the midday meal with me and Eldarion. I came myself, as unlike a servant, you cannot fob me off with excuses!"
" I need some papers in my study, if you would excuse me, Aragorn, my lady?" Faramir said, tactfully leaving the royal couple alone.
"I will see you after luncheon, mellon nîn," Aragorn replied, smiling at his ever-considerate Steward.
"What news of Éomer?" the Queen asked, as soon as Faramir closed the door.
"He and Lothiriel are well, however Éomer wants me to be there to support him when his heir is born," Aragorn told her. He invited Éowyn too, but Faramir says Elestelle cannot be left."
"And so you should, Estel. Éomer supported you when you had need of a friend," said Arwen, hastily putting Aragorn's quill out of Eldarion's reach. "Why do you look so gloomy? You would enjoy visiting Rohan."
" I would very much like to see Éomer," Aragorn admitted, "I hate to leave you again so soon, though, vanimelda,"
"We will spend all winter together when I know full well you will complain that the walls feel like a prison to you, my wild Ranger!" said Arwen. "As Éomer's friend, and King of Gondor and Arnor it is your duty to go, Estel. Also, it will do you good, you have been so much better of late, and I would ensure that your cure is complete! Take Faramir with you in Éowyn's place, he is after all, cousin to Lothiriel. He will bear you company on the journey. The land is at peace and Imrahil and I will keep watch over it until you return. The Prince's ankle may be broken but there is nothing wrong with his wits!"
"I should cherish Faramir's company," Aragorn said rather wistfully, "But what of Lothiriel's brothers? Should not one of them go in Faramir's stead?"
Arwen gave the closest approximation of a snort that a daughter of Elrond would permit. "I think not; Elphir is needed to govern in his father's stead;Amrothos' wife is herself expecting a child any day, while Erchirion has only to be in the same room as Lothiriel and they quarrel. Lothiriel and Faramir are far more kindred in spirit. She needs those around her she finds soothing so near to her delivery."
Aragorn shook his head in bewilderment, giving Eldarion an opportunity to snatch at his hair. "No, ion nîn!" he said firmly. "Ada's hair is not a plaything! How do you know all this, Arwen? I thought Amrothos' child was not due yet for months and that Lothiriel liked Erchirion?"
"It as well men do not bear children, or you would forget when it was time to give birth!" Arwen teased. "Believe me; women notice the tensions within a family. Erchirion loves his sister, but he treats her like a child, though there are but four years between them, which annoys her greatly. Lothiriel will prefer to see Faramir by far! Éowyn and Elestelle can stay with me while Faramir is away. You should be back in good time for Elestelle's birthday celebrations."
Aragorn handed Eldarion back to his wife, disentangling another handful of hair from the toddler's fingers as he did so." I am truly blessed to have a wife like you!" he said kissing her tenderly. "If we take only a small contingent with us, the journey to Rohan should take but a few days. There is no need to make a state visit."
"That is a wise plan," said Arwen, taking his arm with her free hand. "Now let us eat."
"How would you like to pay a visit to Éomer and Lothiriel?" Aragorn asked his Steward once they were back in his office following the midday meal. "Arwen thinks you would more suitably represent Lothiriel's family than Erchirion, the only one of her brothers free to travel at present. Apart from that, I would value your company, mellon nîn. The Queen can rule here in my stead with Imrahil."
"I should love to come." Faramir beamed. "I only wish Éowyn could accompany us, but I do understand that our daughter cannot be left."
"We will manage a longer visit of state in the future," said Aragorn. "When we travel slowly with wagons, our ladies and children can come with us." He grinned. "It seems we are getting another chance to escape the City, sooner than we thought!"
"You must take Guards this time, though," Faramir cautioned. "It is too dangerous for you to go to Rohan without proper Dunlendings still prey on unwary travellers."
"I am hardly a helpless maiden accompanied by a mere boy unversed in arms!" Aragorn grumbled. "We are two of the most hardened warriors alive!"
"I will not risk having you captured or injured again," Faramir said firmly. "We are taking at least twenty men each. I will have some of my White Company captained by Beregond, while you should bring a hand-picked selection of the Tower Guard."
"Very well, mother hen!" Aragorn conceded reluctantly, albeit touched by his Steward's protectiveness. "You had better pack, for we leave tomorrow at first light. Remember we are travelling light."
"I wish Éomer had told me sooner that he wished me to visit him," Aragorn fretted. He sat in the nursery, dandling Eldarion on his knee.
Arwen watched father and son happily from her seat by the window. "He is as most men," the Queen said sagely, though with a hint of mischief in her eyes.
"What do you mean?" Aragorn swooped to catch his son who had slid from his grasp and almost collided with a cupboard. The little boy toddled round swiftly, albeit unsteadily.
"Men enjoy getting their wives with child; boast they are to become fathers as a swelling belly proves their virility, but when the time of delivery draws near, it strikes them all of a sudden that childbirth is a perilous thing!"
"My love, I never thought of your pregnancy in so churlish a way!" Aragorn protested.
"I said most men, "Arwen replied. " You are my Estel! I decided not to tell you when I chose to conceive a child for fear you would be too worried about my safety."
"I feared for you from the first moment you told me, even though I badly wanted to be a father," Aragorn admitted. "Still, I hope you will tell me if you would like Eldarion to have a brother or sister. I should like to know when we were creating new life to partake in the awe of it!"
"I will, if you promise not to fret about me," answered Arwen, coming to join her husband and son on the couch.
"How could I not worry about you, beloved?" said Aragorn. "You endure all the pain and hardship while I enjoy all the pleasure!"
"It was worth it all from the moment I saw you, my precious child," Arwen replied, ruffling Eldarion's dark hair as he wriggled in his father's arms. "As soon as he is fully weaned, I want a sister or brother for him. A love such as ours should be fruitful! I am so happy that Éomer and Lothiriel will soon know the joy of children for themselves, though no babe on earth could be as beautiful as ours! I foresee a fine son for them."
" I think the child will be a girl," said Aragorn.
"I am certain he will be a boy," Arwen replied. "You have already proved to Éomer you can father a fine son, so there is no need to be engaged in a competition with him!"
Aragorn had the grace to look slightly sheepish. He allowed Eldarion down on the rug, where the little boybegan to play with the horse that had led to Imrahil's mishap. "I was thinking of Faramir," he said. "It might distress him if he were the only one without a son."
"Men!" Arwen exclaimed in mock despair. "Faramir adores Elestelle, as you well know. It is Éowyn who yearns for a boy, Faramir is well content with his daughter."
"I should like a daughter too," mused Aragorn. "A beautiful little girl, just like her mother!"
"I want her to look like her father!" Arwen playfully contradicted. She went to a cupboard at the far side of the room and started pulling out armfuls of baby clothes.
"What are you doing?" her husband enquired.
"Looking out some clothes for the new baby," Arwen replied. "We have far too many. You can take some of these gowns for him."
"I thought you had already embroidered a shawl for her", Aragorn teased.
"I have but you can never have too many gowns," She thrust a pile of baby clothes into his arms. "I told the nurse to sort out all those that we never used together with two dozen new napkins." Arwen added them to the pile of clothing already in Aragorn's arms, with the result he was unable to see over the top of the mountain of baby clothes.
"There is no need, vanimelda!" Aragorn protested, diving to stop his son being smothered in a heap of falling napkins. "They have baby clothes aplenty in Rohan. Then Éomer's loyal subjects will want to bring gifts for his heir."
"I thought you spent years in Rohan. Have you forgotten?" Arwen queried.
"That they consider it unlucky to give gifts to an unborn child lest anything should go wrong, or even for the parents to hoard more than a few basic items," Arwen told him a trifle smugly.
"I had forgotten; but remember, I was a soldier not a nursemaid!" Aragorn defended himself.
"You are forgiven. I will call for a servant to pack them before you drop anything else!" the Queen replied.
"We mean to travel light," Aragorn groaned. Alas, his protests were doomed to be in vain!
A/n. I wrote this story a few years ago ,but it languished in unfinished draft form on my computer until discussing "Die Walküre" with a friend the other night decided me to look at it again and begin posting it. Parts are inspired by "The Volsung Saga and Die Walküre." It is written in the style of my earlier pieces and events take place shortly after "A Time to Reap". It will enhance enjoyment of this story if you have read "Web of Treason" and "A Time to Reap", but I hope it can be enjoyed on its own. Do feel free to ask questions if puzzled by anything.