Patience is a Kingly Virtue
A thirty-nine year engagement filled with trials and tribulations, the wait was not always easy for Aragorn and Arwen.
The Year 2980
(The year of their bethrothal)
The center market place of Annúminas¹ bustled with its afternoon rush. The tall Numenoreans moved about the ancient city ruins quietly, as always cautiously, never speaking of their heritage even in the company of their own kin. It was an atmosphere that Halbarad hoped the next generation would not be forced to endure. He himself stood quietly in the shadows, watching his people and kinsmen move effortlessly about their tasks.
Though he watched them all with keen eyes his thoughts did not follow. It was not four months ago to the day that Aragorn had returned from Imladris bearing a heavy burden on his shoulders.
Though their chieftain tried his best to hide his thoughts and worries, all had felt the change. They saw it within his dark eyes when his gaze fell to the east with a solemn and sad light. These actions had unsettled the Dúnedain, for Aragorn's visits to Imladris had always seemed to refresh the Dúnadan.
At first they had assumed that his journeys in the southern kingdom had brought this despair. Yet his reports had spoken only of hope and praise for his southern kinsmen. Then it was assumed that some misfortune had fallen on the last homely house. Yet, if such a misfortune had befallen Rivendell Aragorn would have spoken of it as his duty would demand.
Halbarad had then considered a family brawl to be the cause. Perhaps Aragorn had simply had a falling out with one of the twins, Lady Gilrean, or even the man Aragorn adored most, his foster father. Before such thoughts could be denied or confirmed, a new fact was abruptly presented to the ranger. Aragorn no longer wore the ring of Barahir upon his index finger.
Only Halbarad had taken note of the missing ring, only Halbarad had asked his chieftain of his troubles. Aragorn had not denied his thoughts, yet neither had he spoken them, begging that such questions be put aside for now. This had only brought about more worries for his kinsman, leaving Halbarad to stand deep within pensive thoughts as he questioned every action taken by his Dúnadan and friend in the last four months.
The sound of light hooves suddenly echoed around a bend and Halbarad turned expecting one of the afternoon patrols to ride around the corner. What he expected and what he received were blessedly different.
Halbarad smiled, stepping away the shadows he quickly strolled over to the riders. "Welcome Lord Elrohir, Lord Elladan." Halbarad declared throwing his arms wide in greeting. The third rider Halbarad did not know, for this rider was heavily cloaked, the hood pulled down low so that the face was obscured. "It has been many years since you wandered amongst the hidden line; tell me, how goes your hunt and what brings you forth to our city?"
"We seek our little brother." Elladan answered swinging down from the saddle in time with his twin. "Would you send a lad to fetch the Dúnadan as we have ridden hard to bring to him a great gift?" Elladan questioned as Elrohir walked over to the third horse, gently lifting down the rider.
Halbarad turned catching hold of the nearest child, "Fetch your chieftain, lad. Tell him his kin have come for a visit." The young lad nodded willingly, darting off towards the chieftain's house with an eager grin. Stepping closer the ranger eagerly clasped Elladan's shoulder as Elrohir led the cloaked rider forward. "I am glad to see you; Aragorn has not been the same since his return from Imladris. Perhaps you know the cause and may remedy it."
A sad smile crossed Elladan's face but it was Elrohir who spoke. "Indeed we know the cause, have just learned what must be troubling our little brother, and we do bring forth a remedy against our father's will." Elrohir turned his glances from Halbarad towards his twin then to the third stranger. "Father is blinded by his own fears and can not accept the choice that has been made."
"We do not doubt the wisdom and love behind this choice." Elladan added confidently.
The crowd that had gathered about the group parted suddenly and Halbarad turned to watch his chieftain stride across the market and through the crowd. Aragorn's bearing spoke of the nobility in his blood and the greatness that awaited him, even the happy grin that converged on his tired face was kingly and handsome.
"Welcome, brothers!" Aragorn called as he quickened his pace to their side. Eagerly he encompassed each of the twins in a great hug, the brotherhood between the three showing strongly. Pulling back Aragorn turned his glances to the third stranger and fell silent for a moment, as though the breath had been knocked from his lungs. "I know this presence I sense and that it must be from a dream. For she that I should always know, whether hidden by cloak or mask, dwells within the glades of Lothlórien, not here before me."
"You are mistaken, lord. She does not walk in the dreams of all Dúnedain; only in those of her Dúnadan. I do believe the good Lord Halbarad will attest to this fact; this is not a dream." The voice that rose form beneath the cloak was rich and sweet, much like a melody, and spoke with centuries of knowledge and wisdom. Yet it was not the knowledge which made this voice the sweeter to the Dúnadan's ear, but the joy and love that shone through with each word.
"My ears deceive me also."
"Nay, they do not, little brother." Elrohir answered with a happy smile. "We have brought a gift for you, a gift to cure any ailment which should ever come your way."
"Father would not permit it." Aragorn whispered still in awe.
"It is not his choice, brother." Elladan answered confidently. "It is her choice and to leave these shores would be to doom her to a worse fate, for the undying lands would bring death through grief."
The gloved hands reached up, gently pulling back the hood and stealing the lord's breath, stepping forward Arwen gently laid her hand in his. The Dúnedain that had gathered gazed in awe at the beautiful Elven lady as Halbarad took note of the ring of Barahir that adorned her gloved hand. "Upon the hills of Cerin Amroth I spoke truthful. I will cleave to you Dúnadan, for I would have no other."
"Welcome, Arwen Undómiel, Evenstar of her people, to Annúminas, hidden city of the Dúnedain." Aragorn declared quietly.
The chieftain's house was but a forth of the old king's palace. Much like most of the city the palace lay in disrepair, items long ago pillaged by bandits who had raided the dying city. Few portraits remained and several of the windows had been removed, allowing the dead leaves to sweep into the old halls. It was no longer a place befitting a king, but turned into a headquarters to fight that which had destroyed the old kingdom. The first floor was used for supplies, council meetings, or other such tasks. The second floor remained private chambers used for Aragorn and other single high ranking officers of the Dúnedain.
As it was Aragorn had not spent very much effort in the restoration of these gilded halls for the times were dark and much of his efforts went into the protection of his people and not his own comforts. Several of his kinswomen had however taken his dwellings into their own. They saw to it that quite a few of the rooms were made decent enough for their chieftain and prepared for the day that he would take a bride, perhaps in hopes that this would encourage the act, for he had shown no regard in taking a wife, preferring to walk among the wilds alone.
Now they, his elder kinswomen, watched with eager anticipation as he led the bright jewel of Elrond's house through the halls. Though they did not take note of the ring of Barahir upon her gloved finger, they did note the way his eyes fell only to her form, the way his hand encompassed hers so lightly as though it were caressing, not holding. They marveled at the way their chieftain pointed out every artifact with a gentle touch upon her shoulder, guiding her slowly forward.
They also eagerly took note of the way she walked, her head always angled towards him. They way that when they came to narrowed paths obscured by equipment she clung to him, rather then separating, her smaller form pressing against him so that they could both pass. They were not disappointed with their distant relation, Arwen Undómiel. They saw in her a queen befitting of their people, a woman with the wisdom and knowledge to aid their Dúnadan in his darkest days. A lady that, if his eyes spoke truly, he would willingly take as wife, continuing on the line of Isildur's heirs.
Halbarad, Elladan and Elrohir did not remain within the only restored sitting room long. Rather they departed once the lady was properly situated, leaving Aragorn to light the fire as the sun began its descent, knowing that the plighted couple would desire several words alone.
Aragorn knelt before the fire, his gaze turning to fall upon Arwen as she leaned back into the chair. She smiled nervously, he thought, watching as she slowly began to remove her gloves.
"It is too big." Arwen finally declared breaking the silence of the room. She held up the ring of Barahir for a moment before slipping it about a chain that hung around her neck. "I was going to have the blacksmiths fit it to my finger once in Imladris." She bowed her head at mention of her father's land, the long waves of rich raven hair falling about her face.
With trembling hands she undid the clasp of her cloak, letting the heavy folds fall from her shoulders, revealing the soft gray mantle beneath as she gently folded her hands together in her lap. "What did he say when you told him of our love?"
Aragorn frowned, sensing the distress that troubled his bright lady. "That you should not be a bride to any man less then the King of both Gondor and Arnor." Aragorn turned his head from the fire, his gaze falling back to the lady. "That is all he spoke and I did not dwell long in Imladris." Standing he turned his eyes away from her, his worn hand gripping the mantle ledge.
Arwen nodded as she unfolded her trembling hands, quietly smoothing out imaginary wrinkles is the soft gray material. "That is what I expected, but hoped would not occur." She whispered her voice choked with emotion.
Aragorn turned back around, crossing the room in three strides he dropped down to his knees before her, taking her long pale hands into his own he gently kissed them. "Why have you come to me now?"
Lady Undómiel looked up, her bright eyes sparkling with unshed tears. "Since your departure I have felt nothing but pain in my heart and no matter how I fight at it with the joy of your memory it aches all the more." The tear slipped quietly down the cheek and his hand rose up to quickly wipe it away. "Grandmother told me what my father's judgment might entail, that we should not be wed before you had claimed your birthright. Though I know in my heart that you should succeed in this path I also know that it will be no easy task and that our wait should now span many more years."
Arwen turned her head away from him, long raven locks falling forward to hide her face. "I wish only to hold and cherish you now; I do not want to wait for my father's approval. I wish to give myself to you in body and soul, to join with you in marriage, never parting from you side. I know I am selfish to wish this, that I should have the patience to wait for your success. But is it not also true that love can be a very selfish emotion and my love for you runs deep through my veins."
Aragorn frowned, wondering how he should comfort her, what words, if any, could sooth away her hurt. "My love," he whispered watching her hidden profile, fearing that with every moment she fell deeper into the depression her father's command had created. "I do not know what words to speak, or how to comfort you. But let me say this; the wait can not last long. For now that I have this decree I shall put all my efforts into this task."
A small sob slipped past her lips and she pulled her hands from his, quickly covering her face to further obscure it from his view. Aragorn let his hands fall to her lap, his fingers feeling empty and useless without hers to entwine with. "I fear my words had done little to aid you. Forgive me, love." He pleaded worry knotting over his face, his stomach twisting in pain at the sight of her grief.
Arwen's quiet sobs filled the room for only moments before she seemed to regain her composure, her hands falling away from her face to gentle grasp the ring of Barahir in her hand. She kept her eyes turned away from him, the veil of hair still obscuring his view. "Patience is a Kingly virtue." She whispered in a weak voice. "I fear the queen you may have chosen seems to be lacking in this merit, though with all her years upon middle earth even the simplest of creatures would have better learned this virtue."
A sad smile tugged at the corners of Aragorn's lips. Quietly he lifted his hands from her lap and pulled her fidgeting hands away from the ring, gently setting them down. "If patience is a kingly virtue then I am no king, for when it comes to you, my love, I would rather cast aside all patience and marry you on the spot." His free hand swept away the curtain of raven locks, falling to her chin he gently guided her head around, gazing up into her misty eyes.
"And if I were no gentleman," He whispered huskily, eyes sparkling with mirth as he brought one of her hands forward and gently kissed her upturned palm. "I would not wait for our nuptials to show the depth of my love." Arwen's pale face suddenly flushed a bright pink as she quickly diverted her eyes from him, a small smile tugging at the corners of her lips.
"Alas, I am doomed to remain a gentleman." He added, dropping his head to her lap, his fingers once again entwining with hers. "Therefore I fear I must grow into a King and find the value of patience, we must do this together, my love." Arwen nodded quietly, finding a small measure of comfort in his words. "Will you stay for the week?" Aragorn asked lifting his head and turning his glances back to her face.
"I am in no hurry to return and would gladly remain for as long as the Dúnedain might welcome me."
Aragorn laughed brightly, kissing their interwoven hands. "Then I fear you will be forced to remain for eternity. My people are very a kin to me and should love you just as much as I do, lady Undómiel." Leaning forward Aragorn gently kissed away the tear stains. "Come now, my fairest lady, and let the Dúnedain give their future Queen a proper welcome."
Note: It was a toss up between Annúminas and Fornost for the capital of the Dúnedain. Fornost served as the last seat of the kings so it seemed likely that the Dúnedain would have operated from there. But there are hints in The History of Middle-earth that Aragorn may have re-founded the city of Annúminas and made it his capital of Arnor. In this case I speculated that in his early years, when first taking title as Chieftain, he would have sought to restore hope to his people and establish his name. Moving his people to an ancient city hidden within the Emyn Uial hills would have given them added protection, restored the hope of returning their people to former glory and provided a greater strategic position in which to make his name as Chieftain. If anybody knows more about this I'm all ears.