With grateful thanks to Raksha for plot assistance and Deandra for editing.
The characters belong to Tolkien and his heirs. This story was written for pleasure not profit.
A/n The bathing song is quoted directly from “The Lord of the Rings.” It is slightly altered.
This story was written for the Teitho “Waiting” Challenge where it was placed second.
“Ada, come help me make a daisy chain!”
“Of course, dear one.”
Aragorn watched his Steward settle himself on the grass beside his small daughter and carefully begin to link the daises together. Beside him, Éowyn sat on a blanket playing with little Elboron. Aragorn felt a sudden pang of envy towards his Steward. Faramir already had two fair children while he had only one. Eldarion was six already and, although Aragorn and Arwen had hoped for a large family, there was no sign of a brother or sister for their son. The King looked away as little Elestelle started to adorn her father's dark hair with daisies. He loved Eldarion more than life itself, but oh to have a little girl to cherish, as fair and loving as her mother!
Aragorn berated himself sternly. It ill became him to envy his Steward and he was fortunate beyond measure to have Eldarion. He had sometimes despaired that he would ever know the joys of marriage and fatherhood. Then, as there had been so few unions between Man and Elf, he had wondered too if it might be difficult for he and Arwen to have children. It was just that he yearned for another babe to hold in his arms.
Elestelle scampered over to him. “Can you make daisy chains, Uncle Aragorn?”
Aragorn smiled at her. “I used to long ago, but I believe I have forgotten how.”
“Never mind,” said Elestelle, “I will show you.” Placing her small hand in his, she led him to where her father was sitting festooned in daisies.
Hand in hand, Aragorn and Arwen approached the clearing. The woodland floor was carpeted with pink campions and daisies, illuminated by shafts of sunlight shining through the trees. A thrush sang sweetly in the treetops. The air was scented with pine carried in the fresh breeze that blew from the mountains.
Aragorn, though, was blind to the beauty around him. He was preoccupied with concern about his wife. Arwen had not been at all herself recently. She ate little, was always tired and every small thing upset her. She was veiling her thoughts from her husband of late and brushed aside all enquiries as to what ailed her. Aragorn's heart was filled with dread. Did Arwen regret the choice she had made to forsake her kindred and immortal life to marry him? What if she were seized with sea longing? What if his beloved wife was doomed to pine and fade? He has asked Faramir and Éowyn if they might spend a few days in the countryside at their home, in the hope that it would raise Arwen's spirits. However, she remained preoccupied and withdrawn.
Arwen gripped his hand more tightly and smiled at him. “Estel, I have something I must tell you.”
Aragon's heart lurched. “What ails you, vanimelda?”
Arwen's smile grew wider. “Why nothing, beloved, I have never felt better. I am with child.”
“You are certain?” Aragorn felt foolish even as the words left his lips.
“I am. I waited to tell you until I was sure. I did not want you to be disappointed if my suspicions were wrong.”
“Beloved!” Aragorn drew her to him in a close embrace. His joy was beyond words. Arwen was neither ill nor unhappy. They were going to have another child. Eldarion would have a brother or sister. Unlike his father, he would not grow up without a playmate.
Overhead, a lark burst into an ecstatic song. Aragorn could no longer contain the joy within him. He burst into song. Arwen joined in the melody. Aragorn wondered if even the Valar had felt such joy when Arda was sung into being.
“It is time, my love.”
Aragorn awoke with a start. “You mean?”
“The baby is coming. I have sent my maid to fetch Éowyn and Dames Ioreth and Ivorwen from the Houses of Healing.”
“So soon? Alas that your brothers have not arrived yet. And Legolas is still in Ithilien. Shall I send a message?”
Arwen shook her head. “I would rather they arrive when the babe is in my arms. What use does it serve for them waiting outside my chamber and fretting?” She bit her lip as a contraction seized her. “Now help me to the birthing chamber, beloved.”
“I do not like to leave you, vanimelda.”
“I am in good hands, Estel.”
“These are women's matters, a man would only get in the way,” Éowyn said sternly. “Why not ask Faramir to go riding with you?”
“I want to be nearby for the birth in case I am needed.”
“You will be,” said Éowyn. “The contractions are not close together yet. It will be several hours at least before the baby is born.”
Arwen smiled at him reassuringly. “Éowyn 's words are wise. It is better that you should go riding than wear a hole in the carpet pacing all day.”
“Your bath is ready, my lady!” called a maid.
“I will see you later, my love,” said Arwen. She kissed her husband tenderly on the brow then turned and went into the birthing chamber, Éowyn firmly closed the door.
Aragorn stared at the closed door for a few moments then went in search of his Steward.
“How can women be so calm at such a time?” the King mused.
“I know not,” said Faramir. “Maybe Yavanna sends her blessings to soothe our ladies.”
“Éowyn suggested that we should go riding, but I do not know if I should leave the Citadel,” said Aragorn.
“A ride would help pass the time,” said Faramir.
Aragorn thought for a few moments then shook his head. “No,” he said. “I may know very little about childbirth, but should aught go wrong, Valar forbid, I might be able to call my lady or our child back. I cannot leave at this time. We could be delayed if we went riding; our horses could cast shoes or stumble.”
Faramir listened to Aragorn's words in mild astonishment for the King was usually the last person to fret over the risk of mishaps. He said nothing, though, remembering how anxious he had been over Éowyn's well- being when their children were born. He gathered his thoughts and tried to think of something that would distract his friend. “Would you like a game of chess to pass the time?” he asked.
Aragorn nodded. “Very well. Maybe it will calm my nerves. I still think of all that went awry when Eldarion was born and you were injured.”
“I have no intention of getting injured today,” said Faramir. “Put your mind at rest, second babies are often easier and you have abolished all the unpleasant old customs surrounding royal births.”
“Elboron’s birth was not easy,” Aragorn said glumly. “Surely, you have not forgotten how ill Éowyn was?”
“Of course not, but Dame Ioreth swears that most second births are easier, or so she tells everyone, Éowyn informs me. The good lady was delivering babies before I was born so she must know.”
Aragorn opened his mouth to say something else .but before he could speak, Faramir said firmly, “I have the chess board set up ready in my rooms.” Aragorn raised his eyebrows questioningly as they walked down the hall.
“I am teaching Elestelle to play,” the Steward explained. “She has seen us playing and wanted to learn.”
“She is very young. I could not imagine Eldarion wanting to sit still to play a game.”
Faramir laughed as he opened the door to his chambers. “It is different with girls. Elestelle will sit for hours playing with her dolls. Now shall we begin? Do you wish to take black or white?”
“I will take white as I played with black last time.” Aragorn sat down at the chess board and moved the first piece.
Faramir studied the board thoughtfully then made his own move. Aragorn made another move, as did his opponent. A triumphant smile appeared on the Steward's lips. “Checkmate!” he cried. “That was too easy.”
Aragorn shook his head ruefully. I fear I was not concentrating,” he said. “Maybe chess was not such a good idea after all.”
“Perhaps a glass of wine might settle you,” Faramir suggested. “I understand waiting is difficult at these times. Fatherhood is not easy.”
“It must be harder by far for our ladies,” said Aragorn. “Gladly would I bear the pain for Arwen.”
“As would I for Éowyn,” said Faramir. “I have heard that it is worse pain than a wound taken in battle.”
Aragorn shuddered. “Maybe a glass of wine would be a good idea.”
“I will call a servant to bring some.”
“We could visit the wine cellar. It would help pass the time,” Aragorn suggested.
“I should like to see what new wines you have acquired recently.”
A somewhat baffled looking servant lit the torches in the wine cellar then left the King and Steward to explore its treasures.
“I had no idea this Dorwinion was here,” said Aragorn peering into a dusty corner. “It is a rare vintage. It must have belonged to your father.”
“I had no idea he was interested in wine,” said Faramir.
“He was as a young man,” said Aragorn. “He took an interest in almost everything.”
Faramir took one of the bottles from the shelf and sneezed as a cloud of dust enveloped him. “This dates from the year of Boromir's birth. My father must have laid down the wine for Boromir's wedding. Alas, that day never dawned.” He wiped his sleeve across his eyes. “Ah this dust is making my eyes run.”
“Well I recall the day when Boromir was born,” said Aragorn. “Your grandsire was so certain that your mother would have a boy. Ecthelion invited me to dine with him that day. One day when I am less distracted, I must tell you the story.”
“I should like that,” said Faramir. “Shall I bring the Dorwinion?”
Aragorn shook his head. “No, it is very potent. I do not want to be drunk when my lady gives birth.”
“You are the most abstemious man I know.”
Aragorn laughed. “I had to be in my youth, lest I disclose my true name after too much wine. Now everyone knows who I am, but it ill becomes a king to over indulge. I must set a good example to my people.”
Faramir held up another bottle. “This label says Rosehip wine. I have never tasted it.”
Aragorn glanced along the shelf. “I wager you have not tasted plum, hawthorn or elderberry wine either. Nor sloe.”
“I have not tasted any of those.”
“Today you shall. I will ask the servants to bring the bottles to your room. We will pass the time with a wine tasting.”
“Where do these wines come from? Éowyn has not mentioned them if they come from Rohan.”
“They come from the Shire. Pippin sent them as a Yule gift. I always get interesting gifts from our Hobbit friends. Sam sent me a half dozen handkerchiefs stitched by Rosie's fair hands while Merry sent a chest of tea.”
“Merry sent to tea to Éowyn too, but Sam always sends me seeds and cuttings while Pippin sends jams and other delicacies. He has never given me wine. You are honoured, my friend.”
“Maybe Pippin thinks the northern wines are an acquired taste unsuitable for your palate,” said Aragorn.
Back in Faramir’s chambers, Aragorn noticed the evidence of Éowyn's recent return from Ithilien. Vases of fresh flowers tastefully adorned the living room, something Faramir tended not to bother with when his lady was absent. Aragorn took off his heavy outer outer tunic as he settled into a comfortable chair. He then poured out two glasses of elderberry wine. “To Arwen and the safe delivery of our child!” he said, raising his glass.
“To your lady and her babe!” The glasses clinked and Faramir took a sip.
“A fine fruity vintage,” Aragorn pronounced.
“It is an interesting taste,” said the Steward.
“You like it not? Try the sloe wine instead. I have not tasted this wine before either. ” Aragorn filled their glasses with a rich ruby red liquid.
“I have heard of that one, Pippin told me it was a favourite wine of Gentlehobbits. He gave it another name, one that I cannot recall.
“It matters not; we only need to know that it is wine made from sloes. Drink up!”
Aragorn awoke with a start. His head was pounding and his eyelids felt heavy. He forced them open. The room seemed to be swimming. When his eyes focussed they beheld Arwen's lady- in -waiting, Lady Idril. Faramir stood beside her. A troubled expression was on the Steward's face.
“My lord,” said Lady Idril. “The Queen's contractions are closer together now. Lady Éowyn and the other midwives believe the birth will be soon.”
“Thank you, Lady Idril.” Despite Aragorn's best efforts, the words came out slurred.
“You may leave now, my lady,” said Faramir, hustling the baffled lady- in- waiting from the room. “Rest assured that the King will attend the Queen as soon as the babe is born.”
Faramir firmly shut the door. “A cold bath should soon sober you up, my friend,” he told Aragorn. “Valar be praised for the plumbing system that Gimli's friends installed. I shall have the bath ready for you in a few moments.”
“My head aches,” Aragorn mumbled when Faramir reappeared from the bathing chamber. “Can't be drunk, only had two glasses!”
“I just remembered what Pippin called the drink. It isn't called sloe wine, but sloe gin! It must be very potent.”
“Why didn't you rouse me?” Aragorn seemed shocked into more coherent speech.
“I thought it would serve you better to sleep than wait on tenterhooks for news. I did not know you were drunk.”
“Whatever will Arwen think of me?” Aragorn groaned and buried his head in his hands. “Drunk while she is in labour!”
“Let us hope she does not need to find out. Come now, your bath is ready.”
“Sing hey! for the bath at close of day
that washes the weary mud away!
A loon is he that will not sing:
O! Water Cold is a noble thing!”
Aragorn's voice drifted from the bathing chamber accompanied by loud splashes
“I am bringing some more towels,” called Faramir, entering the room. He stood in the doorway aghast at the sight before him. “Why in Middle- earth are you taking a bath with your clothes on?” He sighed. “Never mind, at least you left your tunic on the chair. I will find you something dry to wear. Valar be praised that we are much of a size.”
A little while later, Aragorn now clad in dry clothes, left the bathing chamber. Sodden towels and garments littered the floor.,”
“Do you feel more like yourself?” asked Faramir. “I will make you a cup of Merry's tea.”
“My head pounds like Gimli forged his axe upon it, but my wits are returning,” said Aragorn. “There are some herbs in my pack you can add to the tea, a remedy of Master Elrond's.”
Faramir called for a maid to bring hot water then mixed up some tea.
“It is strange indeed,” said Aragorn as he sipped the hot drink. “All day I have waited impatiently and now I desire more time to collect myself and be free of this headache before my child is born.”
“It is as well your lady cannot hear you speak thus,” Faramir admonished. “After seven hours in labour, she will be eager for the pains to end.”
“I know, may Yavanna forgive me! Tell me, Faramir, how is it that your head is so clear? You drank as much as I did.”
Faramir looked rather sheepish. He gestured towards the vase now filled with wilting flowers. “I thought the sloe gin tasted vile, but I did not wish to appear rude about your northern drinks. Every time you turned your head towards the direction of the birthing chamber, which was often, I poured some of my drink in the vase. Éowyn will be ill pleased at what has become of her blooms.”
Just then there was a knock on the door and a beaming Lady Idril entered. “My lord, the Queen wishes to see you.”
“Is my lady well? Is it a boy or a girl?”
Lady Idril's eyes twinkled. “The Queen is well, but she wishes me to reveal no more.”
His headache forgotten, Aragorn raced along the corridors to his wife's chamber. He found her lying in bed, looking tired but happy. In her arms, she held a shawl wrapped bundle. The King approached the bed and tenderly kissed his wife's forehead. She pulled aside the shawl to reveal a perfect tiny face with a rosebud mouth and a shock of dark hair.
“We have a daughter, my love,” said Arwen. “Is she not beautiful?”
Aragorn was so overwhelmed he could hardly breathe, let alone speak. He had a daughter, a little girl to protect and love and watch grow up as fair as her mother. A little girl who would sing like a nightingale, and dance like a butterfly. A child whose laughter would be sweet music to his ears. Tears pricked his eyes as he tenderly took the babe in his arms. This was a joy worth the waiting.