Aragorn, King Elessar, was pacing nervously in the antechamber that lie just outside the grand hall. Today, he would wed the woman he loved, and she would be the new Queen of Gondor. More than anything, he wished this to be over already, but it would surely disappoint his soon-to-be bride, her family, and most his people. They rejoiced at his coming into the city to be their King, and when the proclamation was made of his coming wedding, the White City was practically giddy with joy. There was a small chuckle to break the silence of the room, and Aragorn turned to face his Steward.
"Are you laughing at me, Faramir?" he asked a little more sharply than he intended.
"Oh, indeed not, sire," Faramir responded, trying desperately to hide his smile and choke back the laughter. The effort was futile, and soon Aragorn was laughing as well.
"I don't know why I'm so nervous, Faramir. I've known Meril for forty years now. It isn't as if I'm marrying someone I met just yesterday."
"No, sire, but you're to be married in front of the populace. Those that haven't been able to find a seat in the hall are standing in every available space, and those that aren't in the hall itself are outside of it, hoping to catch of glimpse of their King and Queen."
"You are right, Faramir," the king sighed. Then he smiled and clapped a hand on his Steward's shoulder. "I'm glad you'll be standing up with me."
"I'm honored you asked me, sire," Faramir said as he put his hand on Aragorn's shoulder.
The two men stood there for a moment, then the king began to pace again. With a steady gaze, Faramir watched Aragorn, then thought of something that might take his liege's mind of his nervousness.
"May I ask you about something, my lord?"
"When did you meet Meril? When did you know she was the woman you wanted to marry?"
Aragorn stopped pacing and looked at his Steward. The younger man had a gentle smile on his face, along with curiosity in his eyes. Knowing exactly what his intentions were, Aragorn returned the smile and obliged him.
I met Meril when I first came to the City as Thorongil. She was running, not looking where she was going, and she ran right into me. I caught her arms and steadied her so she wouldn't fall. I think it was the color of her hair that I fully noticed first. I can only describe it as the color of cinnamon, highlighted with golden red strands. When she turned her face up to look at me, her eyes were the color of dark honey.
"Excuse me, my lord. I didn't see you there," she said a little out of breath. Her voice was a little deeper than I'd have expected.
"It's perfectly alright, my lady."
Meril regained her balance, but I kept a hold of her arms. Her skin was soft and smooth, and her complexion was slightly tan. I had never seen anyone as beautiful in my life, and I was determined to find out more about her, but whatever it was she was running from kept her from remaining with me. She tanked me and I released her, only to watch her run away, her hair flowing behind her. I didn't see her again for another two weeks.
I was attending a meeting of the generals, advising your grandfather on an important military maneuver for the defense of the City. A knock on the door sounded, and Meril and her father entered. Lord Hirgon was one of the noble houses in Gondor, and he was one of the highest ranking generals in the army. Why he was late in coming to the meeting I know not, nor why he brought Meril with him. There was a twinkle of mischief in her eyes, though.
"My lady," I said as I bowed. She curtsied very gracefully, her eyes never leaving mine. "What brings you here?"
"I had nothing better to do this day, my lord," she replied, but there was more to the answer than she was telling me. I smiled for a moment and turned back to the meeting, but it seemed that they could do without me. Lord Ecthelion excused me and I was able to talk to Meril. I offered her my arm and we went from the room.
We walked to the Court of the Fountain where the White Tree once stood proud and in bloom. It pained me to see it was, seemingly broken and withered. Meril must have seen my face and suggested we walk further along onto the precipice that joined Minas Tirith to Mount Mindolluin. A row of benches lined the wall and we sat on one that was close to the end, near the Seat.
"I'm sorry I ran into you like I did," she said after a few moments of silence.
"I'm not," I told her seriously. Her face acquired a rosy color that was very becoming. "But I do want to know something."
"What would that be, my lord?"
"Why were you running as if the very devil was chasing you? When you ran from me, there was no one following you."
She laughed softly and smiled at me. "I wasn't running from anyone, sir. I did it on purpose."
"On purpose? Why?"
"Well, I've been wanting to meet you after seeing you at Court with the Steward, and having someone introduce us formally seemed so, I don't know, ordinary."
This time, I laughed. Meril seemed so surprised by my reaction, but she began to laugh as well and our friendship began at that moment.
We spent more and more time together in the following weeks. I finally learned her name, of course, and I met her family. She was the third of five daughters, and her family was also of Numenorean decent. It was certainly a comfort to know that Meril would be a part of my life for a long time, and at that time Faramir, having her in my life was important. You see, I had fallen in love with her, even in so short a time as the few weeks we had spent together.
Months later, and the time came when I had to leave Minas Tirith. Earlier in the day, I had gone to Lord Hirgon to tell him of my leaving the City, but that I wished to marry his daughter upon my return. Naturally, he hesitated, but after many reassurances that I had every intention to return for Meril and be wed, he agreed and gave me his blessing. I had Meril meet me at the Great Gate, and we went to a place where we could be alone. It wasn't the most romantic of places, but it was where I asked her if she would consent to be my wife.
"Oh, Thorongil, yes! Yes, I will be your wife!" She cried out.
I placed a plain gold band set with a single diamond on her finger. But now, I had to tell her I was leaving. It was hard enough having to leave her behind. As I told her, she listened and a single tear fell down her face. She nodded once and a small sob escaped her lips. I took her face gently in my hands and kissed the tear away, then I kissed her deeply and passionately. Then I pulled away to look at her again.
"You must know one more thing, Meril, but you must never speak of this to anyone. Not even your family." When she nodded, I continued. "My name is not Thorongil, as you have come to call me. My name is Aragorn, son of Arathorn."
I would have told her more, but she placed a finger gently on my lips.
"I do not care what your real name is. Be it Thorongil or Aragorn. I love you, with all my heart, and I always will. Know that my heart goes with you, wherever you go, and I shall be waiting for your safe and swift return."
When she said that, Faramir, there was such a look of passion in her eyes. The promise it held, and I knew that that was worth fighting for. She represented the hope I had for Gondor, the faith and trust she had in me. I had to return. At that moment I realized, that with her at my side, I could become the King again. I left her at the gates, my heart full of desire to wed her at that very moment. But there were things I had to do and to arrange.
My love for her only grew over the years, knowing she was waiting for me. To know that my life would be fulfilled upon my return. To know that my heart and soul lay within the gates of the White City. Meril had become my life's breath, and I would do everything to get back to her. After the war, and after Sauron was finally defeated, I couldn't wait to get back to the City. And when I finally did, I looked everywhere for her among the crowd, but she wasn't there.
Meril was waiting for me on the steps of the Citadel, dressed in a pale yellow gown made of the finest silks and satins, and cut in the latest fashion. A ring of white Asphodel blossoms encircled her cinnamon hair. Standing alone and smiling, she looked more beautiful to me than anything else in the world. I couldn't help but run to her, gather her in my arms, and kiss her in front of those that still remained with me from the long walk up.
After the kiss, I lifted her in my arms and spun her around, listening to her laughter. It was a sound I had longed to hear all the years I spent away from her. You'll remember, Faramir, how I excused us and left the lot of you standing there. I carried my beloved Meril to the home we would be sharing from then on.
As the royal proclamations were made, and the populace informed of our wedding, I told her of all my adventures, and she told me about her life in the City while I was away. It took us a few days and nights, but we managed. Then came the pre-wedding traditions so favored by City society, that we could barely find the time to spend together, even though we tried. She was officially introduced to the populace as my intended bride, and we walked among them, waving and smiling. It was a little tedious after the first hour, but with Meril by my side, we survived it.
Finally, the wedding date was set, and the scribes went wild with the printing of invitations to the nobility and visiting royalty, and then with the printing of the public invitations for the populace at large. Meril and I would become husband and wife on Mid-Summer's Day.
Aragorn's voice trailed away as he heard the bells begin to ring. It was the signal for the beginning of the wedding, and Aragorn hesitated for just a moment.
"I thought you'd be out of the room with the sounding of the first bell, sire," Faramir joked a bit.
"I'm going soon, Faramir, but I have one minor grievance to give voice to. I would not have it hanging over my head during or after the ceremony."
"What is it, sire? I would certainly hear you out, but may I remind you that the bells will stop ringing shortly?"
Aragorn sighed and then gave Faramir a sly look. "Is it absolutely necessary for us to sign all of the paper work after the ceremony?" Faramir laughed and tapped his King on the shoulder with the roll of parchment in his hand.
"What better time is there, sire? Once you both have signed the papers and made the sticklers for tradition happy, you and Meril will be able to celebrate your union in peace and quiet. I've got it all taken care of, sire. You need not worry."
Aragorn laid a hand on his Steward's shoulder in silent gratitude, and Faramir returned the gesture. Then the doors were opened and, with the last tones from the bells echoing through the hall, the King walked toward the woman who would become his wife and Queen.