Aragorn rose silently from the bed so as not to disturb his sleeping wife. He stood for a moment looking down at her in the pale light of dawn, which streamed through the window.
Her beauty always made him catch his breath. Now with her cheeks were slightly flushed with sleep, framed by her flowing dark hair, black against her white nightgown and the pillow, Arwen looked fairer than ever. He was a privileged man indeed to have her to wife. Sometimes, he could hardly believe his good fortune that he was free to awaken every day beside her.
He crept into the adjacent dressing room, almost stubbing his bare toe on the washstand as he did so. Faramir’s home in Ithilien was still relatively unfamiliar to him; as was the freedom it offered to escape briefly from his royal duties.
Quickly, he splashed water on his hands and face then changed out of his night attire, donning his oldest riding clothes. He paused to kiss his wife lightly on the cheek. Arwen stirred slightly, smiling in her sleep. Aragorn tiptoed softly from the room.
The kitchen was already a hive of activity. A young maidservant brought a mug of ale and a plate of bread and cheese at his request, looking only slightly surprised when he elected to sit and eat it at the kitchen table.
A few minutes later Éowyn appeared, accompanied by a bleary- eyed Faramir. The servants seemed accustomed to seeing their lady at this hour, less so their lord. Aragorn rose to embrace his friends.
“I often ride at dawn, unlike my sleepy husband,” said Éowyn, taking a bite of crusty bread, still warm from the oven. “I breakfast here in the kitchen as I did in Meduseld. It is the warmest place to be at dawn.”
“It promises to be another hot day,” said Aragorn. ”I am glad we are riding before the sun is too high in the sky.”
”A pity the Queen does not wish to join us,” Faramir lamented. ”She has told me she loves the countryside.”
“My beloved Undómiel prefers the evening,” said the King. ”She will just about be ready to eat breakfast when we return. I hope to ride with her under the stars one night while we are here.”
“It will be evening today ere we set out if we do not hurry,” said Éowyn, tapping her foot impatiently, having already finished her makeshift breakfast.
The three friends made their way to the stables, where dismissing the grooms, they saddled their own mounts.
They rode across the lush countryside, east into the sunrise. Like a blood red ruby, the sun crept above the horizon painting the sky in glorious hues of pink and mauve. The dew sparkled on the grass and the air felt fresh and sweet.
The breeze blew Aragorn’s hair behind him as he rode. He laughed out loud for sheer joy. On a morning such as this, the ranger in him could leave the King's cares behind and take pleasure in the bright clear dawn, if only for a little while. It was enough.
A/N This is an extended version of a story written for the prompt “Morning” on the AA Discussion list.