Eldarion's second winter was especially harsh. The royal garden was tucked under a thick cover of snow, and the few birds which didn't migrate had a hard time finding food.
One morning, Eldarion's nanny put on a bench a plate with lard and seed cake, and tepid water. She retreated and the birds slowly came. In her arms, huddled in a warm coat, the toddler watched with interest two robins try the cake and take away the seeds, leaving the lard.
"Picky eaters," laughed the nanny. "Don't you know what's good for you?"
Little did she know her charge's parents would ask themselves this question a lot of time during the following decade.
"Aragorn," said Eowyn entering the King's private library where he was studying Radagast's journals, "we need to speak about what you said to your son about us."
Aragorn and Arwen had sent Eldarion to Faramir's for a few weeks during the summer, as the King's work load wasn't getting any lighter – especially as his work load included pleading for Arwen, who was close to term, to rest. It had been judged better for everybody, including his tutors, that the 7 year old went to the country, with his pony and cousins.
From his letters, the little boy had loved his séjour, running all day long with the dogs, swimming in the river, playing with the baby lambs and kids and riding Faramir's old horse. Aragorn and Arwen had already visited a few times, the longest visit for the birth of little Boromir, but for Eldarion a lot of it was still new. Including some rural aspects.
The first morning, Eowyn had presented a choice to the little boy.
"Would you like cow milk, goat milk or ewe milk? We also have mare milk, if you want to try."
The future king had looked at her with wide eyes.
"I would like fresh milk..."
"We certainly never presented you like... yokels," said Aragorn trying to curb his laughter. "He was probably amazed by the possibilities."
Eowyn could convey with a simple stare all the fierceness she had shown facing the Witch-king. It was effective against her husband, her sons and most of her court, but not against the King.
"Anyhow, I'm sorry if he hurt your sensibility."
Eowyn had a smile that bordered just so to a smirk.
"Oh, don't worry. The head cook took him to a complete tour of the farm. He was fascinated. Especially by the hens. A farm hand may have told him they could be kept everywhere and always gave the most excellent eggs."
Aragorn blanched. Eldarion loved eggs.
"You did not."
"We did not. But he did. The rooster looked for it everywhere and called for 24 hours straight. Have you ever heard a rooster that lost its voice?"
(Eladrion had, and his imitation was hilarious.)
(Diplomacy was a study long to master.)
Arwen had barely begun to learn the high dances when she already had strong opinions about her future and, as decades passed, about how everyone should be allowed to chose their own destiny. It had taken some time, but knowing so Aragorn wasn't surprised when, barely pregnant, his Queen told him their children would be allowed to make choices.
They had always wanted several children, as Aragorn remembered fondly the relation he had with his brothers growing up, and how he would have loved to be himself an older brother – Boromir had been a too short passage in their lives. When, three years and half after Eldarion, Arwen began to show signs of being with child again, they were overjoyed and happily welcomed Arnélis – a noble flower. Three years later, sweet princess Moeranel came to them. At last, when Eldarion was getting in the awkward age (as even princes weren't exempt of that) the royal couple gave him the responsibility of a goddaughter, his little sister, who had inherited her grandmother's fair hair and as such received the name of Limîr.
Eldarion had a knack for politics and ruling, and in a lesser measure Arnélis did too, with a passion for History. Moeranel, however, was entranced from a young age by anything about biology and medicine. Her brother might show the signs of future healing hands, but she was determined to help the sick and injured as well. And if her father thought she was too young to read the anatomy scrolls in the library, that was his problem. She had always loved to read, and Armasta had gotten used to see her perched in the comfy chairs near a lamp, a heavy tome on her knees.
Still, she was only 8, and her control on life was limited. At the dining table, she liked a lot of things and disliked some others. Her parents and governess were adamant she tasted everything. Worse, they were firm believers in the custom that meals were to be presented in an order, and not all dishes together like in Shire (they had gone there nearly three years ago for an official visit, and she had gotten her own pony). So far, she had found no way to escape slimy fish, sprouts soup or duck liver and go directly to almond crisps or cherry pudding. But she had read and now felt prepared.
Tonight was family dinner, and she knew they were having apple soufflé but before that, they had to get through pumpkin and cabbage soup.
After eating all of her garlic croutons and forcing down two spoonfuls, she turned to her father and began her pitch.
"Ada, I'm not hungry anymore."
Before he could answer "are you sure ?" or her mother worry "you barely ate" or Sarniwa propose going to bed, she continued, "but I still have room for dessert."
Ordinarily that never worked, but tonight she planned to amaze her father with her knowledge (and imagination, to be honest).
"I have several stomachs. The one for soup is full, but the one for desserts is empty."
It was a mighty success, in that everybody turned to look at her, even little Limîr in her high chair.
Aragorn needed a moment to compose himself.
"What do you have for liquids ?"
She only needed a second of thinking.
"A jug." She quickly added, "it's made of skin, not of glass."
Eldarion nodded, impressed. Her father smiled.
"How about you eat half of this, and tomorrow we'll talk about what you found in the library."
Count that as a victory.
Little Limîr had been born a picky eater. Later, Arwen would joke she could feel the baby in her womb shudder with distaste at some foods her mother would eat. For now, the toddler could eat by herself not too messily and with the experience of her older siblings her parents had instructed said siblings to pay attention to their own plates and not to their sister's. Less of a public meant less of a scene.
When Eldarion had graduated to a high chair, they had begun the tradition, at least once a week, however the political or societal situation, of a family dinner. It was a private affair, with only the parents, children and nanny. The adults (and, as soon as they were able to, the children) treasured these moments. They ate not in the big and solemn dining room, but in a room of the family suite.
This evening, however, one of the participants wasn't in a happy mood. Aragorn had noticed the sad frown on his youngest's usually radiant face, and noted she had only eaten half of her meal, leaving the buttered summer beans untouched. He discreetly signaled his wife, who turned to the curly head at her left.
"You're not eating, sweetie, what is it ?"
The tone was so mournful, so desolate, everybody couldn't help but laugh. The sad frown turned to a burning glare, and they had to console and explain to the little girl they weren't making fun of her. Arnélis convinced her baby sister the beans were the same nice green as her doll's robe, and she ate most of it before it was cold.
The cooks must have heard of the green problem, for the following days were a demonstration of how many colors vegetables could take: purple tomatoes, pink beans, yellow zucchinis, squash salad and multicolored corn.
Whether the little girl understood the plan or not, presentation did a lot and she accepted to taste nearly every color including, with a little time, green.