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Hey! I'm back, with a new username :)
I am going to be busy working with TheOneRing.net and Warner Bros at their huge LOTR EE BluRay release party in LA all day Monday (which is when I usually update), so I thought I would post now before the weekend hit. I hope you all enjoy. Reviews are lovely :D
Chapter 4: Hope Renewed
June 26, morning
Faramir woke at dawn with what could only be described as complete contentment, though he knew not why. Though the reason was unknown to him, the young man knew that today was going to be a day filled with joy and wonder. He glanced out the window at the rising sun; yes, even Anor seemed brighter this day.
The steward quickly dressed himself and, rather than quietly work or read until his breakfast came, found himself walking out the door. His home, along with the apartments of many other lords from other parts of Gondor, was to the left of the White Tower and faced Merethrond, the Great Hall of Feasts. East of the White Tower, about one hundred yards beyond his dwelling, was the Court of the Fountain. To his surprise, he found that there was a great crowd surrounding the White Tree. The scene seized his curiosity and Faramir found himself striding towards the court.
As he came closer he suddenly realized something: the White Tree, while dead for a long time, still towered over the heads of even the tallest Men. Now he could no longer see its tallest branches above the people around the fountain. Breaking into a run, he quickly reached the crowd and easily made his way through the bystanders. When he came to see what kept the people's eyes still on the fountain, the steward found himself speechless.
A young sapling but three feet high was planted in the place where the dead tree used to stand. Its bark was a light grey that shone white in the early light, and already it bore dark green leaves with silver tracings and white flowers that seemed to glisten with an inner light. Beside the tree stood his liege-lord, and never before had he seen the king so filled with peace.
'Bless the Valar,' Faramir thought, 'today has begun brighter than I ever dared to dream.'
Elessar shared a look with Mithrandir and then, as if noticing them for the first time, gazed upon the crowd that had gathered. His eyes landed upon Faramir and he smiled. He made his way over to him, nodding appreciatively as the people made way for him. "My Lord Steward," he greeted when he approached. "Is this not a hope most unlooked for?"
"Indeed so, my Lord King," replied Faramir, sparing the sapling one last glance before turning his attention to his lord. "Where did you find this sapling of Nimloth's line?"
"An ancient place," he replied vaguely. "I shall tell you more later, but there are other things that we must discuss."
"Of course, my lord."
Aragorn smiled, nodded in parting to Mithrandir and his guards, and then led his steward around the White Tower and to his own house. He greeted the guards at the entrance warmly as they opened the front doors for the two lords, and they quickly made their way up the stairs and to Aragorn's private quarters.
"Did you just arrive to the City?" Faramir asked as he took in the king's state of dress.
"Indeed so," replied Aragorn as he sat down. "We did not stop for the night, for I was eager to see the young tree planted."
"Do you need some time to rest?" the young man asked with some concern.
The Dúnadan shook his head. "I have been without rest for great lengths of time many times before, and I have not yet been on the throne long enough to have forgotten them," he said with a smile. "I do wish to freshen up, however, as soon as someone comes up to see if there will be one or two dining today."
"We but entered a moment ago," Faramir pointed out. "Do you believe someone will be here so soon?"
Just as he spoke, a knock rung throughout the living room and after a moment the door opened to reveal a middle-aged woman. "Good morning, my lords."
"Good morning, and immaculate timing as always, madam," greeted Aragorn.
The servant smiled broadly before continuing, "Will both of you be breaking your fast here, my lords?"
"I have yet to eat," Faramir confirmed to Aragorn's inquisitive look.
"Both of us, and we will be eating in here today," he told the woman. She nodded, curtsied, and closed the door.
"They are very efficient," said the steward.
"Very flexible, too," Aragorn added. "Mithor usually runs over my week's schedule with the head cook, but I have found that they will adapt to my constantly changing plans quickly. Granted, I am not sure if they will ever become used to my unexpected visits to the kitchen," he said with a chuckle.
"I suppose it is unusual," the other man said, "though perhaps none of them have worked in the steward's kitchen; whenever we were home, Boromir and I made our own runs for food rather often. My brother used it as an excuse to get away from the desk." He chuckled and a slight smile came to his lips as he remembered him.
Aragorn smiled. "Boromir was always a man of action." Faramir did not reply, and the king let the silence sit for a moment before continuing. "As it is, I wish to freshen up before our food arrives. I apologize for leaving you thus, but I do have something that may keep you entertained while I am away." He stood and pulled a small book from his bookshelf. "Legolas found this in a shop on the fourth level and was beside himself with laughter when he gave it to me. It is supposed to be a book about Elves, but you will find that the writer knew little to nothing about them. His favorite story was about the Elves that live in the Northern Wastes and make children's toys, while Gimli was partial to the one about the Elves that killed young woman and drank their blood in the dark of night."
"Drank their blood?" Faramir asked with a short laugh as he took the book. The king just shrugged and went into his bedchambers to wash up.
Twenty minutes later, Aragorn entered the living room and found his steward reading the book, ill-contained amusement in his eyes. He looked up from the passage he was reading and chuckled. "Legolas was right. This is terribly amusing."
"I am afraid I haven't had a chance to read it yet," the older man admitted, "yet it is good to hear your recommendation."
"I am not sure if I would call it a recommendation," he confessed. "It is completely ludicrous— worse than some of the tales about Elves that come from our northern neighbor."
"Hopefully those tales will become rare in Rohan now that Elves have traveled through their country recently," said Aragorn. He sat down once more and looked straight into the younger man's eyes. Faramir immediately noticed the bright, almost youthful light that shone in their grey depths. He put the book aside and focused upon his liege. Finally, Aragorn began, "For many days I have been waiting for some sort of sign that my own dreams would come to fulfillment. The finding of this sapling in the snows of Mindolluin I believe— I am certain— is the sign that I have been waiting for. The White Tree flowers once more, and so shall my own line. Faramir, my friend, very soon my lady will be here, and I shall be married."
Faramir's face split into a wide grin. "That is wonderful news, Aragorn. When shall the wedding be?"
"I cannot be sure, but my heart tells me that Midsummer would be a good date."
The steward nodded thoughtfully and smiled. "I started the plans for a wedding when you first told me of your betrothed, though I did not tell your chamberlain. Am I to assume that I may share my plans with him now?"
The king laughed heartily. "Yes, you may tell Faithoron of your plans."
They were interrupted momentarily by the arrival of their morning meal: eggs, various types of meats and cheeses, a platter of fruit, different types of rolls, and a selection of beverages to choose from. The two ceased conversation to eat for a few minutes.
"You have yet to ask her name," Aragorn pointed out.
"You were unwilling to give the information last time, sire," he answered with a raised brow. "Do I have the honor of knowing her identity?"
"As you have already spent the time planning the ceremony, and I know you will not divulge the information to anyone else, I thought it fair that you did," he said, a lingering smile on his face.
"I am honored by your trust," he replied graciously.
"You have earned it," said Aragorn, his amusement falling aside for a moment. His serious disposition quickly disappeared, however, when Faramir said nothing. The two stared at one another, stormy-grey eyes upon steel-grey ones, the latter swiftly becoming more amused as the stoic expression of the former continued. While the steward was well accustomed to the battle of wills, he was not sure where the older man was going with this one. He obviously expected something of him, but Faramir still waited for the revelation on his part.
Finally, he let his curiosity overtake his instincts and said, "Well?"
"Well, what?" Aragorn asked. The amusement was still clearly there.
"You have yet to reveal her name," he said.
Aragorn laughed heartily. "You have yet to ask for it!"
Faramir stared at him blankly for a split moment before joining him. "You are enjoying this game far too much!" he laughed. Never before had he seen this man so content; even with the Periain he was not so mischievous. "Very well then, who is she?"
The king's amusement faded as his eyes stared at something only he could see. "The fairest creature to bless this world," he murmured. "And not only fair is she, but willful, intelligent, and great of heart. It was her beauty that first caught my eye; it was her that caught my heart." He smiled gently. "She is Arwen, Arwen Undómiel, daughter of Elrond of Imladris."
Out of all women to name, this was the least expected. "An Elf," he said softly. "And Lord Elrond's child. I have read his name in history; I did not realize he had a daughter."
"She is not just an Elf, but a peredhel of Eärendil's line," said Aragorn. "Just like her father, she too has a choice between immortality and the Gift of Men. She has chosen the latter," he ended softly.
Faramir let the silence sit as he saw his king venture far on a path that only he saw. When Aragorn came to the present again, the steward said quietly, "Her coming shall remain secret."
"I know." He smiled softly upon the younger man. "And you need not keep it a secret for long; on Midsummer the world shall discover the love between Aragorn the Elfstone and Arwen the Evenstar."
June 29, evening
"I will be leaving in a few days," announced Balandor suddenly over supper.
Bregon lifted his head up, surprise evident on his features. "Leaving? To where?"
"My estate in Lossarnach."
The older man looked at him expectantly. When he did not continue right away, Bregon demanded, "And what of myself?"
"That," he answered with a small smile, "depends on what you think of my plans."
"Plans?" he repeated.
The smaller man's smile only grew before he suddenly stood. He went to both doors in the room and, to the other's surprise, locked them before taking his chair and bringing it closer to Bregon. His bright green eyes bore straight into the older man's skull with what could only be described as excited anticipation, an emotion he had never seen Balandor wear before.
"It was fate that brought us together, Bregon," he began, "and with that fate we can change the future of this country."
Balandor smiled. "Gondor will no longer be ruled by my corrupt colleagues and their newfound king. No, rather it will be ruled by a true, hardworking citizen of Minas Tirith: you."
Bregon was glad he had nothing in his mouth, for he would have surely spit it out in his amazement. "You are not proposing—"
"I am. Elessar will continue to rule, but it will not be the Elessar that sits on the throne now."
He shook his head in disbelief. "I cannot pretend to be him! I know nothing concerning the art of warfare, nor horseback riding, and my writing is— that is why you have had me learning how to write in Sindarin and Westron fluently, isn't it?"
"I am glad to see your surprise has not left you completely devoid of wit," the lord stated with a wry smile. "That is so, and at my estate you would learn how to use a horse and how to spar, and there will be no questions, for none there know of your resemblance to the King."
"And that explains why you asked me to grow a beard; Elessar has been clean-shaven these last weeks. You wanted me to be less noticeable," Bregon muttered to himself. He blinked and shook his head once more, running his hand through his dark hair nervously. "That is all well and good that I will not be recognized at your estate, but even then, it is not as if I can go into the Citadel and simply ask him to leave. He is always guarded, and he is a trained warrior himself. I am no dotard; I could not beat him in a fair fight."
"There will be no need to fight him, fair or not," Balandor reassured him. "I do not yet know when the switch will be made, but as the months pass he will become lax and less careful, believing that he has no enemies— at least within the City. A time will come, and when it does, you will be ready." Bregon still looked unsure about the proposal, so the young lord tried another tactic. "Do you want to be the only one to possess your face?"
"Do you not hate him for taking away your identity?"
"Then do him more harm and take his. You will be in a better position as Elessar than when you were just Bregon, and you can do so much more good as king rather than when you were a cobbler."
He nodded silently as the man spoke, a small smile forming on his features as he thought about the possibilities. Balandor echoed that smile. "As I said, I will not be leaving for a few days, so you have some time to think about it."
"No," Bregon shook his head. "No, I've decided now, and I will go with you on this. When the time is right, I will take the throne."
Balandor's smile widened. "I am glad we have come to an agreement. This country will be better off in your hands."
1 Lithe, late afternoon
After his finding of the sapling of the White Tree, Aragorn had sent watchman to the northern part of the ruined wall of Rammas Echor to wait for the company that he was sure would come, though he had not told the guards their exact purpose in detail. Indeed, Faramir was the only Gondorian who knew of what was to come; even his chamberlain had yet to discover who the bride was, though it was not through lack of effort that he came to no information. Faithoron had toed the line of propriety to try and discover who the mysterious lady at the Midsummer wedding would be from both the steward and the king. Aragorn, if he were to be quite honest with himself, found the sight of the usually uptight, meticulous man so agitated and unsure of the situation rather amusing.
The days passed by unbearably slowly as he waited for news from Rammas Echor. When news finally came, it was not a guardsman from the wall that came to him but rather messengers from Amon Dîn, the closest of the beacon-hills to Minas Tirith. They had come yesterday evening with information about a great host.
"From whence do they come?" he had asked, not daring to presume anything until his suppositions were confirmed.
"The North, along the Great West Road, my lord," said the captain of the group. "It is a mighty procession filled with fair folk. If I had to guess, I would say they are Elves. They were headed to the wall and should likely be in the City on the morrow."
The king had not even bothered to hide his pleasure. To the messengers' credit, they did not stare as Elessar grinned. "Thank you for the information. You will be shown to your quarters, and I recommend you stay for a couple days; if your suspicions are correct, tomorrow will be worth your journey."
He had not slept well that night, so great was his anticipation of the morrow. He was glad that he had made sure there were no appointments or council meetings for the days surrounding Midsummer, for Aragorn could hardly concentrate on the documents that lay on his desk, never mind the ramblings of his peers.
It was sometime in the afternoon when Aragorn abandoned his desk for the outside world. He eventually found himself leaning against the outer wall gazing to the North. He knew not how long he stood there in his own thoughts, watching and waiting, but it was not too soon when he saw the procession make its way past the ruined Rammas Echor and onto the Pelennor Fields, where even now people were reconstructing their homesteads destroyed in the War. The king fought the urge to saddle Roheryn and gallop out onto the Pelennor to meet them himself; he could not do that in his position.
Not until the people were used to his oddities, at the least.
He smiled at the thought and turned away from the wall, knowing that if he watched the Elves much longer he just might forget himself in order to see Arwen sooner. Instead, he sent down a procession to meet them and had Galdir lead them. Watching his confusion was nearly as enjoyable as observing his chamberlain's frustrations over the past few days.
"Lead a procession?" the captain asked, surprise evident in his voice. "If you wish, my lord. May I enquire as to whom we are meeting?"
"A large company of Elves," he replied. "Be quick, though, for once they arrive, the wedding will commence soon after." Aragorn only smiled as the other man's brow furrowed in confusion.
Once they were gone, Aragorn spoke quickly with Faramir and Faithoron, and between them they had not let any details over the wedding slip. They had the foresight to set aside a large number of tables for the guests of the bride, as well as guestrooms upon the sixth and seventh levels made ready. Food in great amounts was already being prepared, and extra cooks were hired for the days of celebration. Elessar had informed his steward early that he wished as many of his citizens as possible to be a part of the festivities and so the man, with the help of Húrin and Imrahil, had looked through the last census and all recent records of births and deaths and came up with lists of people to invite to Merethrond to feast. It would make the wedding over two weeks long, though no one seemed to mind; after all the country had been through, there was a need to celebrate, and they finally had the resources to be heedless of the amount consumed for a couple weeks.
Messengers were sent out to inform those who were invited to the first night of feasting about the festivities and Aragorn made to his rooms to change. Outside of the door he found Meluion waiting for him.
"I saw the procession of Elves coming to the City," he said in greeting. "I knew it would be soon, seeing as you have been as giddy as a boy these last few days."
"Can you blame me?" he retorted, opening the door to his private rooms and stepping aside to let his kinsman in. "Where is Halvagor?"
"Galdir took him as well as Tandor and Lachamdir to meet the procession. I cannot imagine why he usually selects Halvagor over me."
"I haven't the foggiest," the younger man remarked sardonically. "What of Dolmagor? I have not seen him recently."
"You know him; he's just as forthcoming as young Halvagor. I haven't seen him today, but I spent more time looking for you as is."
"Now that you have found me," said Aragorn, opening the doors to his bedroom, "perhaps you could be so kind as to assist me into my outfit. I'd rather not summon the valet; the boy is still rather intimidated by me."
"It would be my honor," he replied and, to the king's surprise, not in jest.
Aragorn opened his wardrobe where his outfit hung, clean and ready for this moment. It was the same attire he wore when he was crowned, or at least in part. He wore a suit of mail when he came to Minas Tirith, but he did not want to be remembered just as a warrior when he first greeted the Elves. Over the black chain mail he wore a long tunic of silver and white similar to the one he wore when he encountered Arwen in Lórien. He took the same white mantle he wore for the crowning and pinned the Elfstone upon it. Upon his belt hung Andúril, as was customary whenever he ventured into the City, for the people expected to see it. Once Meluion was finished adjusting his cloak, he looked his kinsman up and down.
"Well?" asked Aragorn expectantly.
"Just one more thing," he said, indicating to a large case sitting upon his dresser.
"Of course." Aragorn went to the container and opened it, revealing the White Crown. He took it out and set it upon his head, and the other Dúnadan looked at him appreciatively.
"You wear your mantle of leadership well, my Lord King," he said with a short bow.
The king smiled upon him. "It would be easier if my ceremonial clothing were just as simple as when I was merely your chieftain."
"You will learn soon, young one, that life is never simple," said Meluion with a smile.
"I am hardly young," the other complained good-naturedly. "I already sport a few grey strands."
"Not as many as I do," he rebutted, "and even when you do, I won't forget you toddling about when you were a babe."
"What every ruler needs to keep his humility is a relative who remembers his youth," he said with a smile. "I pray you do not mention those years to my bride."
"I need not to," he rebutted. "I am sure her brothers have done so for me." Aragorn only groaned good-naturedly in reply. "Now come, my lord, your lady is waiting for you." The king smiled and, taking one last glance at his appearance to make sure he did not look as nervous as he felt, followed his kinsman out of his bedroom.
At the entrance of the seventh gate Aragorn and Meluion found Dolmagor waiting for them. The middle-aged man stood starkly apart from others around him not only because of his livery; a long, ugly scar went across his forehead and through part of his left eyebrow, just narrowly missing his eye before it ended at the top of his cheek. He remained stoic as the two Dúnedain approached him.
"Captain Galdir requested that I wait for Your Highness," said the guard in explanation for his presence.
"He would," the king remarked. "Come, we will ride down to the Great Gate and meet the procession."
"The horses are already ready, my lord," said Dolmagor. The two kinsmen followed the guard as he led them to the stables right outside the gate on the sixth level.
"Of course they would be ready," muttered Meluion to Aragorn. "He's just as meticulous as your chamberlain."
"Is that meant to be an insult?" the king asked with a glint in his eye.
"It is whatever you interpret it to be, my lord," the other retorted lightly just as they reached the stables. True to Dolmagor's word, all three of their horses were ready in their stalls, Roheryn especially standing out with an elaborate saddle and sleek, smooth hair.
"You look just as magnificent as the day I received you, my dear friend," Aragorn murmured to his steed, rubbing him on his forehead. He nickered softly in response and the man smiled at Roheryn before mounting him.
The three men, mounted on their steeds, rode out of the stables and the horses kept a steady light trot as they made their way down the City and to the Gate to meet with the procession of Elves. Already people were making their way down to see the great host, but when they saw their king, dressed as finely as he was, coming down as well, even those who were not already interested in the procession began to descend upon the Gate, for it surely had to be people of importance for the king to meet them adorned as he was.
It was well that they were mounted, for not even the king could part the crowds that flooded the streets near the Great Gate if he were on foot. In the end both the City Guards and the horses managed to clear a path for Aragorn and his Guard, and within a few moments they rode beyond the Gate. A few paces from the Gate of the City the three halted and waited.
These last few moments before the elven host finally came felt like days to Aragorn. He was no stranger to long waiting and the need for patience, and yet it seemed that these last minutes were just as long as the span of years that spread between his betrothal and his kingship. He took to quietly observing the scene around him. Facing him across the clear road were his friends and acquaintances, old and new. Éomer was not there, having gone to Rohan soon after his coronation, but Erkenbrand his marshal and other representatives from the Riddermark who had stayed behind were all at the gate, alongside representatives and lords of Gondor that had come down to watch.
The Fellowship was all together right next to the Rohirrim, the hobbits and Gandalf in front and Legolas and Gimli behind them. Frodo said something quietly to the wizard and then caught the king's eye. Aragorn allowed a brief smile to touch his features as the Ring-bearer gazed upon him, and then glanced away to see Faramir, who stood right by Gandalf, watching him. The steward subtly nodded in his direction before turning to respond to Imrahil concerning something he could not hear over the crowd's loud murmurs. Húrin and Mithor were quietly, but animatedly discussing something with one another right behind them; Húrin was perhaps interrogating his friend for any information he had. Beyond the entrance into Minas Tirith he could see that the City Guards had finally managed to push the crowds back and clear a large area in the courtyard for any who came before they ascended into the City.
He continued to look through the yawning gate where he could see the people of Minas Tirith. A sea of dark hair and happy faces, people old and young were gathered to see one of the greatest moments of his life. A few people avoided the crowd and hung out of the several high windows that surrounded the area. Some young children were sitting on the shoulders of their fathers and brothers, and others had made their way to the front of the crowd, sitting on the edge of the road and peering between the legs of the tall guards. He caught the eye of one such boy and smiled gently at him. Just as the boy turned excitedly to his companions, a trumpet was sounded and Aragorn turned his attention back to the gate. The procession had arrived.
The stars were twinkling in the sky with a rising waxing moon and the last golden light of Anor was fading in the West when the first of the procession entered Minas Tirith. Elladan and Elrohir came first, the former carrying a banner of silver representing Rivendell. Elrohir caught Aragorn's gaze and what could have been a nod of acknowledgment came his way, but they passed too swiftly for him to tell. After them came Glorfindel, Erestor, and a great portion of the household of Rivendell but for two very significant people. He immediately quelled the doubt that seized him when Galadriel and Celeborn rode in with their people and he did not see them. He knew they were there; he knew it with all his heart.
His short flash of doubt was indeed proved unfounded, for at the end of the procession, riding just before the guards he sent out to meet the host, rode Elrond and Arwen. Arwen.
He knew he was staring, but he did not care. She was Elbereth herself come down to Middle-earth, with a jewel that shone like a star upon her brow and her hair flowing behind it like the night sky. She turned to him, and the light within her eyes engulfed him, leading him far away from Minas Tirith, from Middle-earth. It was only when she turned away to dismount that he came back to the present.
The king dismounted with the procession and made his way to Arwen and her father, careful to keep his eyes upon the Elf-lord lest he forget himself. His foster brothers, as well as the lord and lady of Lórien, had come to join them.
"My lords and ladies," he began, loud enough for those surrounding them to hear, "I bid you welcome to Minas Tirith. May your time in the City be one of happiness and peace."
"We thank thee, King Elessar of the Reunited Kingdom, for welcoming us so graciously," said Elrond. He paused briefly. "As heir of Arvedui of the Northern Kingdom, and as is thy birthright, I surrender to thee the Sceptre of Annúminas." Aragorn took the sceptre with a slight bow. "And," he continued softly, his face carefully neutral, "as was promised, I give my daughter to thee. Forever will the Eldar and the Edain be united." He took Arwen's hand and laid it in Aragorn's empty hand.
The man finally allowed his gaze to move from him and to the fair lady whose hand was intertwined with his. His eyes fell upon hers and he held his ground. 'I will keep my composure. I will keep my composure.' And then she smiled; it was that small, coy smile that he knew held a whole different meaning.
Oh, to Mordor with propriety.
The King of the Reunited Kingdom captured her in an embrace, and she eagerly met his lips, bringing her hand around the back of his neck to be closer to him. The rest of the world disappeared as they met, her sweet taste mingled with his, his eyes closed but the rest of his senses alive.
They noticed not the mixed reactions of the crowd, nor the look of open surprise upon Captain Galdir's face. Next to him, Meluion was grinning. "He never was terribly fond of formality."
By the time they finished, any mutters of shock or distaste had been blocked out by the approving shouts and applause of the crowd, some of the people openly grinning. Aragorn and Arwen noticed them not, and it was only the impatient noise from her palfrey that reminded him he had other guests that were surely weary from the long journey. Reluctantly he let go of her and turned to the host. Most of the other Elves remained carefully expressionless, but Elladan was openly grinning at them.
"Come, let us make our way into the City, and you shall be shown to your quarters," said Aragorn.
Remounting their steeds, the king and his bride, along with the bride's family and the King's Guard, made their way to the front of the procession. Elladan and Elrohir took their place on either side of the couple. Elrond, Galadriel, and Celeborn fell behind them, and surrounding the group were the men of the Royal Guard, Captain Galdir at the rear so to could keep a close eye on his king— and the family of the bride.
The bride. He heard rumor that there was a bride from the North, but never in his wildest dreams did he imagine it was an Elf. And what an Elf she was! Never before had he thought such beauty existed in Middle-earth. And her blonde companion garbed in white was just as fair.
"Careful, Captain, your eyes look ready to pop out."
Galdir schooled his expression and glanced coolly to his right at Meluion. Before he could speak, the man on his left, Tandor, spoke in his defense.
"Not all of us are used to seeing such people, you know. I didn't believe Elves really existed until you all came."
"Oh, you'll grow right used to them. I am sure a couple will stay with Lady Arwen for a few years, at least, and many more will visit."
"Is that the lady's name, then?" Tandor asked. "She looks young, about as old as your son, Captain."
"With the Elves, looks can be deceiving," Meluion warned with a bright, dancing glint in his eye. "I know something of her heritage, being friends with her brothers, and while I haven't seen them before today, I know that those two fair-haired Elves right there, the Lord and Lady of Lórien, are the Lady's grandparents."
Galdir held his surprise in check, but Tandor's eyes bulged. "You jest!"
"I promise you, I jest not." His look grew contemplative. "And I know a thing or two about elven senses, and they hear and see far better than any Man, including the Dúnedain. Indeed," and here, his smile grew wide, "if I know their hearing abilities as well as I believe I do, I wouldn't be surprised if they heard every last word of our conversation, despite the loud noises of the crowd." Indeed, even as he said this, Elrohir turned his head to glance at him, winking quickly before turning his head again.
Tandor opened his mouth, and then shut it when he realized his words would be overheard. Both of his companions settled instead for glaring coolly at him, though it had no effect on him; Meluion simply laughed.
The wide streets were littered with flowers and petals thrown by the people, and the citizens of Minas Tirith cried with joy and stared in awe at the procession of Elves. Often their eyes went to the Elf-maiden riding at the side of the king, her left hand intertwined with his right. Despite the fact that the sun was now set and the sky all but dark, she was easy to see, for she seemed to glow like a star.
Oil lamps were lit all throughout the City, and the sixth level was bathed in light when the procession started to break off to go to available housing on that level. The company alighted and the horses were led away to the stables. Aragorn saw Faithoron nearby, one of the few citizens of Minas Tirith who seemed completely unfazed by the Elves and merely ready to see business done; he was not surprised by his chamberlain's seeming indifference to their presence.
Arwen took his hand, and his thoughts immediately went back to her. Indeed, if he was still not holding the Sceptre of Annúminas in his other hand, both of his hands would be on hers.
"My lord," said Faramir, bringing Aragorn out of his thoughts. 'Where did he come from?' "When would you have the wedding commence?"
He opened his mouth to say 'now', but then shut it and glanced at his guests. They were perhaps weary from the road, and maybe wanted some time to rest. He hoped that time was not too long.
"As soon as possible, my lord," said Arwen to Faramir. "How much time would be needed to prepare?"
"Not much at all, my lady," he answered. "Most of the preparations were done before your arrival, and in a couple of hours all can be made ready."
She nodded thoughtfully. "Let us have it tonight at midnight, when the stars are at their brightest in the sky." Aragorn held back a grin; it seemed she wanted to be married as quickly as he did.
Elrond frowned a little, but Galadriel smiled. "The midnight of Midsummer for the union of Elessar and Undómiel seems most suitable." Aragorn glanced at her for a brief moment, hoping she caught his look of gratitude. The Lady of Lórien had supported him ever since he first met her nearly two score years ago, and it was partially because of her that his union with Arwen was a reality. A slight touch in the back of his mind told him that she saw his appreciation.
The Lord of Imladris relented. "Very well. Midnight it is," he said to Faramir.
The steward glanced at the king, who slightly nodded. "Very well, then. I will speak with Faithoron and see that all is made ready. My lords, my ladies." He bowed and departed.
The Elves that were to be housed on the sixth level were already in their apartments, and the remaining Elves were led to apartments still open in the Citadel. Arwen and her family were temporarily led to an empty building near the Court of the Fountain; they would move into the King's House after the wedding.
He did not wish to be parted from Arwen so soon, despite the fact that he knew he would see her in but a few hours. Still, he could only think of her as he made his way to his rooms. What could he do for the next few hours?
Aragorn glanced at his bookshelf before quickly disregarding the thought. He could never concentrate on a book. There was, of course, the pile of papers in his study— no, what was he thinking? If could not concentrate on a book, then how could he see to the work that awaited him?
Realizing he had not eaten in hours and would not eat until after the wedding, he grabbed an apple from the bowl on the small dining table in the outer room of his chambers and ate it, though he did not really taste it. After finishing it, he found himself still restless and looked around him for some way to spend his time.
He glanced at the door that led to the washroom, and then looked down at himself. He could always have another bath, he supposed. 'It might help me relax, at the least,' he thought wryly.
After he bathed, he realized that it had not helped at all. Indeed, after the tension in his muscles faded, the tensions in his mind merely increased as he realized the impact of what was happening in but a few hours. Nearly seventy years of longing and labor he endured, and now Arwen was finally to be his wife. But first they had to put on a show for everyone else, considering his position. He frowned; what wedding vows were they to use, the vows used in Gondor or the vows of the Elves? His frown deepened; he was sure he discussed this with Faramir at some point, but he could not remember the decision they agreed upon. Indeed, if he was to be honest with himself, he could not remember any details very well at the moment.
He stared at his reflection in the mirror. Well, at least he did not look as nervous as he felt.
Aragorn nearly jumped when a knock came through the door. Frowning, he made sure he was composed before opening it. "Elladan. What are you doing here?"
"A couple of reasons," said the Elf as he stepped through the entryway. Aragorn led him to a seat and they both sat down across from one another. "Firstly, I come upon an errand from my sister. She thought it best you carried this, as you are expected to give it back to her in the ceremony." He gave to Aragorn a slender band made of mithril that bore a single green stone upon it; it was the same type of stone that made part of both the Elessar and the Ring of Barahir.
"Her betrothal ring," Aragorn muttered. "My thanks, brother." As was custom in elven betrothals, rings were exchanged between the betrothed, rings that were meant to be given back on their wedding day. The day they plighted their troth, Aragorn gave to her the Ring of Barahir, and she gave to him the slender band of mithril that had once belonged to Elrond's mother, Elwing. He feared to keep it on his person as the days grew darker, and so Arwen kept it for him, and he only wore it on a chain around his neck when he was in Rivendell.
"The second reason I came," continued Elladan, "was to keep you company. You look as tense as a bowstring, Estel."
"I am getting married," he replied dryly. "Is my nervousness so obvious?"
"You forget, brother, that I have known you since the day you were born," the other retorted. "You can hide little from me."
"That is true." He sighed and stood. "Yes, I am nervous. I wish we could simply skip the ceremony and be married privately. Perhaps then I would not be as nervous." He began to pace about the area.
"I have attended such weddings of both Elves and Men in the past, and I assure you that a calm bridegroom is merely a man that can hide his emotions very well. There is no such thing," the other reassured. "You, however, are doing a horrible job of hiding your feelings. And do stop pacing, you will create a hole in your floor and bring your chamberlain and the storm he carries in here."
"I presume you've already met him," said Aragorn, his lips twitching.
"More than once, unfortunately," Elladan muttered. "There is a man who spends his life as a taut bowstring!"
"Faithoron does his job well," Aragorn said in his defense, though he was unable to hide his amusement over the peredhel's frustration.
Elladan only shook his head, but anything he was about to say was interrupted by a knock on his door. Opening it, Aragorn found two of his kinsmen behind it.
"Halvagor, Meluion, please come in," he said, ushering the two in.
"We came to give support to a kinsman about to embark on the greatest adventure you have thus had: marriage," said Meluion. Seeing Elladan, he added, "But it seems that someone came up with the idea before us."
"You, at the least, have married before, Meluion, so perhaps are better suited for the task!" said Elladan with a smile. The older Ranger nodded and smiled softly, his face unnaturally sober as he remembered his long-dead wife. He quickly came over his melancholy.
"Oh, no, not even a married man can prepare one who has never married for it," he said.
"But your support is nonetheless appreciated," said Aragorn. He turned to Halvagor. "Where is Halborn?"
"My brother is with Lord Faramir, going over any last-minute details before the ceremony," he said. He suddenly smiled, a rare sight in itself. "Both of them, along with Lord Húrin, are also trying to calm down Faithoron, for some Elves have been adding their own touches after speaking with Lord Faramir."
"Yes," added Meluion. "Faithoron is not very appreciative of their assistance, despite the Steward's blessing."
Aragorn laughed aloud. "He would not be! He considers himself the sole ruler of such matters, and I do not believe he has yet forgiven me for having Faramir draw up most of the wedding plans."
"Speaking of the wedding," said Elladan, glancing at the clock on the mantle above the fireplace, "the hour is growing late. You are expected to be there earlier than the bride."
"Yes. The wedding is following the traditions of Gondor in that aspect, my lord," said Halvagor. "Lord Faramir mentioned discussing this with you."
"Yes, yes, of course." He vaguely recalled that conversation, now that he thought about it. The other three in the room, even the usually reserved Halvagor, stared at him, expressions mixing from slight concern to amusement. He ignored them. "Come, let us go." He swung his white cloak over his shoulders and pinned the Elfstone in place before placing the White Crown on his head once more. Meluion glanced at his outfit curiously.
"You will not wear the chain mail?"
"Nor Andúril," he said. "This is my wedding, not my coronation, and any expecting to see a warrior this night will simply have to be disappointed."
Meluion nodded in acceptance and, after casually adjusting his younger kinsman's cloak for a moment, glanced at Elladan. "Will your sister like it?"
"At this point in time, she'll be content with him in any shape or form," said Elladan. "It was only fear of Adar's wrath that kept her from saying 'now', I believe." The thought that she was as eager as he to have this over and done with calmed Aragorn's nerves a little.
"With due respect, my lords, but time is passing," said Halvagor.
The king took one last glance in the mirror. Taking a deep breath, he turned away and passed through the door, his brother and kinsmen close behind him.
Aragorn was rather sure it was close to midnight, though even then he was not sure of himself, for it seemed every skill he ever once possessed had disappeared the moment he found his designated place for the exchange of vows. They were to be married in front of the small, but blooming White Tree with Gandalf overseeing them. Gathered around them would be family of both the bride and groom, with close friends, high-ranking lords, and emissaries sitting in the few rows of benches in front of them. Beyond those seated would be minor lords, merchants, and all others Faramir and Faithoron found necessary to invite to represent Gondor, standing alongside most of the peoples of Rivendell and Lórien, who were unaccustomed to sitting during such ceremonies.
Already with him were Halborn, representing his closest kinsman present as his cousin's eldest son, and Meluion, both old enough and close enough to represent his father, as the one who had raised him during his childhood was to lead the bride. Beside him stood Gandalf, and across from him were Arwen's grandparents and brothers. Celeborn nodded cordially to him and Galadriel smiled softly. Her smile was nearly identical to Arwen's, and that observation only made time seem to pass even slower. Where was she? He began to distract himself by scanning over the crowd, counting all the people he knew.
He was somewhere around two dozen when a sudden hush came over the crowd near the entrance of the house where Arwen was preparing herself. A bend in the pathway prevented him from seeing the cause of the silence, but even a fool would have realized that only one person could cause such awe. The bride— his bride— approached.
He did not have to wait long for her. Soon enough, led by her father, she appeared. His Arwen.
She looked even more glorious than before. The jewel still shone on her brow, but now her hair was strung with small gems that shone like the stars in the night sky. A bright white stone gleamed on her neck, and she wore a simple, but elegant gown of beige, the outfit only seeming to cause her glow to brighten.
Her eyes were only on him, and as before, he felt engulfed in her gaze. Nothing else existed in the world except the two of them and all the bright stars of Elbereth to witness their union.
She came to the dais, and Elrond released her and stood by Celeborn, his gaze unreadable. The bride and groom only had eyes for each other, and they immediately grasped each other's hands once she was in place. Gandalf cleared his throat.
"My lords, my ladies, we are here gathered today to witness the union of Aragorn Elessar, son of Arathorn, and Arwen Undómiel, daughter of Elrond. Dost thou, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, in the name of the All-Father Eru Ilúvatar, vow to cherish Arwen, daughter of Elrond, in good times and bad, in joy and sorrow, unto the ending of the World?"
"I, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, take thee, Arwen, daughter of Elrond, to be my wife, to cherish in good times and bad, in joy and sorrow, unto the ending of the World. I pledge to thee, Arwen, to be thy constant companion, thy light in the dark, and thine one true love under the guidance of Eru Ilúvatar."
"And dost thou, Arwen, daughter of Elrond, in the name of the All-Father Eru Ilúvatar, vow to cherish Aragorn, son of Arathorn, in good times and bad, in joy and sorrow, unto the ending of the World?"
Arwen raised her right hand to rest it upon the Elfstone, the gift Galadriel bestowed to Aragorn when he last passed through Lórien. "I, Arwen, daughter of Elrond, take thee, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, to be my husband, to cherish in good times and bad, in joy and sorrow, unto the ending of the World. I pledge to thee, Aragorn, to be thy constant companion, thy light in the dark, and thine one true love under the guidance of Eru Ilúvatar."
Gandalf nodded in satisfaction. "Now you both exchange the rings that you bestowed upon the other at the beginning of the betrothal." Aragorn took the slender mithril band and placed it upon Arwen's left index finger. His bride then took the Ring of Barahir and placed it on his left index finger. The wizard smiled, and held their hands together. "Now your lives are forever bound by one path. May Eru watch over that path, and bless it with beauty and happiness through all the years." He released his hold upon the newly wedded couple, and as one Aragorn and Arwen came together and embraced, their love for one another passionate and true.
When they parted, Arwen raised her hand to his cheek, her eyes as bright as the stars above her. "Estel nín," she muttered.
He raised his hand to the side of her head, his hand relishing the softness of her midnight tresses. "Undómiel nín," he replied. He spared a glance behind her to Elrond. The emotionless expression had fallen and the Elf-lord was smiling gently at them. He caught Aragorn's eye and bowed his head slightly. He had come to acceptance, and held no anger against him. It relieved him to see it thus.
Together they walked down the isle, acknowledging the applause and cheers with smiles and laughter. Their guests followed them to Merethrond, where they feasted and exchanged stories. Afterwards, the tables were moved away for dancing, and the first dance of the night was Arwen with her father. Both the groom and the bride danced with many of their guests, as well as each other, but long before the night was over, the couple quietly retired to the King's House. Family and friends sent knowing glances to them as they departed, knowing that their marriage would be sealed before the dawn.
*I had already half of this chapter written when I realized that Arwen came a day earlier than the wedding. I interpreted the "day of Midsummer" as the whole 24 hours rather than daytime and figured they could be married at the stroke of midnight XD
*Valar/Eru- In case you haven't read the Silmarillion, the Valar are something like demigods, or angelic creatures with a good amount of power. They're the folks that live in 'the West' that the Elves sail to. They helped shape the world, Arda (Middle-earth is one of the continents on Arda). Eru is the God-like figure in Tolkien's mythos; he created the Ainur (Valar and Maiar), and Elves and Men (Hobbits are an off-shoot of Men and Dwarves, well, their creation is another story found in the Silmarillion).
*The whole wedding scene is loosely based off what Tolkien wrote about elvish weddings in History of Middle-earth. I don't own the actual book that has that content, though, so hopefully the internet has not failed me. I was inspired with the wedding vows from several traditional vows of various religions and cultures.
*After rereading the beginning of Many Partings and comparing it to the timeline in Appendix B, the wedding is basically celebrated for a good two weeks, if not a little bit longer. I was trying to figure out how the people could celebrate for so long, and that ended up with the conclusion that basically every registered citizen in Minas Tirith and Pelennor fields, along with many people within a few days of the City, feasted at the Citadel at least once. Why not, eh?
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