"Is it far from here?" asked Arwen.
Éowyn shook her head. "We are almost there. I promise you it is well worth the climb even on such a hot day as this."
"On days such as these, I miss the shady trees of Rivendell and Lothlórien," Arwen said somewhat wistfully. "Sometimes I wish I could still have dwelt amidst their beauty after my marriage to Estel. Try as I might, I find it hard to love the stone walls of the City. Wherever Estel is, though, is home for me. He tries so hard to make me happy with the gardens he has created for me and by bringing me out into the countryside whenever he can. It is kind of you and Faramir to often invite me to Ithilien."
"I am always glad of your company," said Éowyn. "I have little liking for cities of stone either and am thankful I can spend most of my time here in Ithilien with my children, my horses, and my herbs and manage my own domain there. I can enjoy my occasional visits to Minas Tirith to see the wider world, all the better as I know I have my haven here."
Arwen nodded. "I suspect I would now find the Elven heavens too quiet for my taste, beautiful though they are. I was accustomed to presiding over a large household at Rivendell, much as I do in Minas Tirith."
"You are well suited as Aragorn's Queen," said Éowyn. She laughed ruefully. "How foolish I was when I wanted to marry him. I would have exchanged one cage for another! Faramir and I are far better suited."
"I am glad I have no rival for my husband's affections!" said Arwen a trifle tartly.
"You would have nothing to fear even if I still loved your husband other than as a friend," said Éowyn. "Aragorn has never had eyes for any than you and never will." She turned around and gripped Arwen's hand. "You will see the Forbidden Pool just around the next bend. When Faramir first showed it to me, he told me to look out for the great tree at the foot of the cliff and turn left there. Come!"
The two ladies rounded the bend. They were immediately enveloped by a refreshing breeze, which blew cool air across their faces and ruffled their hair. Arwen gasped at the sheer loveliness of the scene in front of her. The sunbeams danced on the water making the river appear as a silver- flecked ribbon. The waterfall tumbled towards its rocky bed in a silver cascade, the droplets glittering like stars as they caught the sunbeams. The water swirled and foamed in the pool at the foot of the waterfall, before flowing through a narrow gap into a calm and level stretch of water beyond .
Éowyn ran towards the water in delight stretching out her face towards the cool droplets.
"This place is wondrous fair!" exclaimed Arwen. "It reminds me of Rivendell." She knelt beside the water to drink. Éowyn did likewise.
"The water is sweet and refreshing," said Arwen after she had drank her fill.
"Faramir and his Rangers guarded it well and kept it unspoiled," Éowyn replied. "Now shall we refresh our weary feet and paddle in the pool? It is quite shallow."
"That sounds delightful, but…." Arwen looked around her anxiously.
"We are quite safe here," said Éowyn. "There are guards on all the secret ways into this place and the most of the garrison are in a meeting with our husbands. We will be quite unobserved." She seated herself on a rock and pulled off her shoes.
"I wonder if we will ever be at peace sufficiently that this lovely spot need not be garrisoned," Arwen mused, pulling off her own shoes.
"I believe it will be so in your lifetime, if not in mine," said Éowyn. "The Kha Khan is secure on his throne after triumphing over the rebel factions, while the Orcs grow less with every year that passes so Faramir tells me. What are you doing?" she exclaimed as Arwen unlaced her gown and pulled it over her head.
"You assured me it was quite private here and I will paddle more comfortably in my shift," said Arwen. "This blue gown is a favourite and I would rather not damage it."
"You are wise, my friend," said Éowyn. "We can splash around in the water far more freely if we are not weighed down by heavy garments. We are decent enough. Why should only men enjoy splashing around in the water?"
"Why indeed?" Arwen carefully folded her gown on the bank and clambered down the bank.
Éowyn swiftly unlaced her own heavy gown and stepped down into the water. She sighed blissfully at its coolness.
Soon the Queen and Princess of Ithilien were splashing happily in the shallows uncaring that they were soon drenched to the skin.
"I used to love splashing around in the river when I was a young girl," said Éowyn.
"So did I," said Arwen.
"You did?" Éowyn sounded surprised.
"I was young once," said the Queen. "And today I will be young again." She playfully splashed Éowyn.
The two laughed, their mirth ringing like silver bells over the roar of the waterfall.