Hello everyone! This is my first post to Fanfiction so I hope you all enjoy it! This is not all that original a work. It is mainly a tribute to my love of the Lord of the Rings saga. I was trying to think of a good way to use my writing skills to do this, and I always had my own idea of what was going through Aragorn's mind thought by thought on the day of his coronation as King of Gondor and usher of the age of men. This is basically my love letter and tribute of respect for the amazing books and films as well. I have combined elements from both here so I hope that is not confusing. For example I used the encounter between Aragorn and Arwen on the bridge in Rivendell on the eve of the Fellowship's departure which is not in the novels but is a very powerful scene in The Two Towers film. I tried to capture as much power as I could and make this a fitting summary of the triumph that is climax to the saga is. I paid special attention to the love between Aragorn and Arwen and hope that it does it justice. I have poured a lot of myself into this...and also a lot of love for this great work of fiction. So, I hope you all like it and PLEASE feel free to post any comments and reviews! Positive, negative, praises, corrections...whatever! Thank you for reading this small contribution to the vast wealth of fiction that is the realm of Middle-Earth!
CORONATION: The End and Beginning of Things
His hair fell about his face draping his brow and touching his cheeks. His face and neck itched a bit from the fresh shave that he had just had. His eyes shut, and his mind drifted to times past and times to come and most certainly to times a few moments away. His eyes darted back and forth behind closed lids as each memory flashed and replayed and as each vision of the times that were yet to be hinted in his mind. He knew that when he opened his eyes and stood he would see a sight that would appear as though a dream, and he wanted to be ready to meet it with all the confidence and leadership the title he was about to receive required of him. For him to be able to do that he needed to take this pause. This is why, despite his long, white-haired friend's chiding, he had insisted on this gesture...a moment to bow and reflect just inside the great doorway that separated the white throne room from the steps that led out to the promenade where stood the Great White Tree. His hand brushed across his breast where the emblem of that mighty symbol was emblazoned. He clutched at his chest as though trying to touch his own heart. The ceremonial armor that he wore did not even allow him to feel the muscle of his chest, but still yet he could feel his heart thudding from behind it. The palpitation of his heart was representative of the myriad emotions that coursed through his mind. He felt ecstatic and solemn...honored and humbled...ready yet undeserving. But most of all, he felt the overwhelming sense of weight that this moment carried with it. It was not so much the weight of the moment itself, but it was everything that was required for this moment to be. Never in history had a moment needed to live up so much to what had come before.
So much struggle and travail and birthing pains had come to bring about the reign of man upon Arda. As such this needed to be treated with all the celebration and joy as well as the solemn awe of the birth of a new child into the world. But this child was the child of all...the age of man was its name...and it belonged to all...and certainly not just to men. From Eru's first command to the Ainur to weave the song that would birth the world, events had been building to this moment...when Eru would hand stewardship of His great work to those whom seemed to be the least of creation and yet somehow carried what appeared to be the most kind of His favor. It was like all the expectation of proud parents to a new elfling...all the waiting and preparations...and when the moment of birth came...somehow even the stoic, beautifully, artistic elves were unable to find any way of hiding the feeling of confounded awe at the arrival of new life...of a new beginning from nothingness. This was how he felt now...as though he were the nurse maiden preparing to present this new child to the world...this age of man. And it required all the celebration that was due it ...and also those that had struggled and labored so long to bring it about required their due...from the countless ones who had lost lives to Arda itself that had waited long for itself to pass to new stewards that had been prepared for it. In other words he thought, there is no way to know what to do or expect to say on this day...for this is a day of days. A day of days...the culmination of days. Every day before it had led to this day and every day after it would find foundation in this day.
And so he said a prayer to Eru to give him strength to be the leader he had to be...to give him actions to honor this day as Eru would give him ability...and words to speak to give this day voice as Eru would give him utterance. He thanked Him for all that led to this moment and pleaded for wisdom to never forget what had come before...and for vision to perceive what lie ahead.
He bowed a moment longer. He was unsure how long he had knelt there between the great pillars. Perhaps it had been mere moments. Perhaps it had been far longer. He was most certainly aware, however, of a shifting of weight near him. He did not have elvish senses, but it did not take too much of his natural tracking abilities to feel the quiet impatience of his friend who stood a small distance to his left. His friend's long white staff grinded a bit into the floor as it twisted ever so slightly in its owner's grip suggesting that he was beginning to lean on it somewhat. He knew of course that his friend was possessed of so much power that this change in position was not at all due to any weakness or fatigue but was a completely intentional gesture of a nature that made it quite subtle and yet certainly pronounced.
This broke him from his deep thought for a moment and a thin smile crossed his lips as he realized his time of reflection was finished or had better be if he was not to be chided on his first day as king for making his subjects wait an improper amount of time. He inhaled a deep breath and held it for a moment...focused on where he was and the moment that was now here. He shifted on his knee, and just as he did he could hear his friend beginning to make the initial sounds of clearing his throat. He stood to his feet not a moment too soon as he gazed into his friend's strong, blue eyes. They met his own and spoke to him in that way that only he could. There was a sense of parental correction and child-like amusement in this gaze at the same time. His mouth turned upward and downward in rapid succession as if trying to decide which of these two demeanors he would embrace. Finally, he gave in to the latter as was expected. His mouth stayed turned upward and eventually became a smirk until a chuckle developed and finally became the warm, jovial guffaw that he loved so much. It was so much nicer to see him this way than in the serious moments of but a few months earlier. Gandalf reached a hand up onto his shoulder...clutched the shoulder plate of his armor firmly. "Don't you believe you have prolonged this quite long enough?" he said. "It's only been but a few moments." he responded a wry grin crossing his face. Gandalf made a face that seemed to fake surprise. "Moments? No, no...this has been prolonged for millennia." His voice seemed to drift to some faraway place and time. Then, it regained its warmth. "Please do an old man a favor, and let me place this heavy piece of metal upon your head won't you?"
Aragorn smiled and nodded his head downward in respect, admiration, and love for his longtime friend and counselor. Then he raised it and turned to the light that shone from beyond the doorway. He took a step...then another...and another ...until he was passing underneath the doorway...then the promenade passed beneath his feet...then the great pillars and arches that encapsuled the promenade stood about him...framing him...and the white steps...and the Great White Tree...all came into view. There was no sound...and yet...there was more energy and expectancy in the silent mass of people spread out before him than he had ever felt in all his many days. His heart almost collapsed at the feeling of confidence, hope...and victory...that the people were resonating in the way they stood, the way there were dressed, the way they held their shoulders high and allowed their faces to gleam. But mere days ago they had carried the weight of the world on their shoulders...the visage of defeat and hopelessness.
Now look at them! he wondered. The fact that their shoulders had bourn heavy burdens was still evident. They did not seem light or empty...but they stood as a people who had weathered the worst of storms and because they remembered it they could carry themselves as conquerors of fate and champions of waiting upon hope against hope. This was how they appeared to him now...not as a people who had barely survived and were now relieved and free of care...but as those who knew just how much value they had now because of how close things had come to an end. Aragorn's heart pounded with strong satisfaction at this feeling. He found that he had finished crossing the distance to the beginning of the steps without realizing it. Gandalf arrived at his side and his demeanor had returned to one of ceremonial duty.
Aragorn's eyes scanned the crowd. How he longed to rush down to meet and greet friends and revel in this moment together...those such as his dearest of friends Legolas...the loyal dwarf Gimli and his jovial gusto...fair Eowyn whose strength had given him far more inspiration to continue on in dark times than he had ever had the chance to tell her...the good and noble Faramir...a cousin Aragorn longed to know more...and the four hobbits who had turned the world upon its head...but now was the time for ceremony and the beginning of things. He steadied himself, and words formed within his mind from some unknown place...
He knelt as so many had before him so long ago. He knelt there in front of the Great White Citadel high atop the most magnificent vista in all Arda...as his forbearers had done. But they knelt as kings of a kingdom among many other races...he knelt as a king of kings...for the time of other races upon this Earth would soon be passing. The iron crown came down upon his head gently placed with all the care of lying a newborn to a night's rest and yet placed with all the authority and certainty that was fitting the most strong of royalty. The crown of Gondor was rumored to be amongst the world's heavier semblances of reign, but Aragorn was surprised at how light it felt upon the crest of his head. Indeed, it felt almost as if his whole body felt lighter than the moment before the crown's placement on his head. This thing that he had avoided and ran from for so long now felt so...right. He felt no sense of pride or power in this moment. Rather he felt an overwhelming sense of peace and clarity that things were as they should be. The feeling was quite potent and seemed to even give him new strength as he tensed his legs to prepare to stand. Before he did he heard Gandalf's voice...as strong and as pleased as he had ever heard it in all his days of knowing him.
"Now begin the days of the king." And then….low so that only Aragorn could hear he said, "May they be blessed." , casting an approving look upon him. Aragorn smiled broadly up at his friend.
He rose to his feet, turned, and began to feel the energy of the crowd seize him...hanging onto a breadth's length between wanting to burst into rapturous applause and maintaining silence in the anticipation of this new king speaking something. Aragorn did not want to let the moment pass. He opened his lips though he did not know what was going to come out.
"This day does not belong to one man...but to all. Let us together rebuild this world that we may share in the days of peace." His words finished he reflected upon what had just proceeded from his lips. Indeed, this was the beginning of the reign of man...but it was folly to accredit it to the faulty efforts of men alone. The elves who had given so much to their successors despite so little hope in them being suitable for the task. Their actions of sacrifice spoke far louder in showing their true faith in the creation of humanity than did their words of pessimism. Others...a dwarf, the Ents, an army of redeemed dead...countless others had made the sacrifice for this day with all their blood and honor...and as for four hobbits...this day simply wouldn't be were it not for the largest of courage in the smallest of frames. Every day...every day...from here on was a gift...and what mankind did with that gift would determine whether it were worth it or not. The elves believed it was in the end, and they were rarely ever wrong. They knew Eru's plan for man from the beginning, and they were faithful stewards to see that through to its end. They had done their task...completed their race. Aragorn hoped their faith was well placed.
To the left of the promenade...moving right through the crowd of people a slow and steady applause began. It was careful...cautious...as if it seemed a dream to be applauding this moment and treating it too seriously may cause the dreamer to awaken. But, surely, steadily the applause rose. Roseblossom petals began to be rained down by Gondorian and Rohirrim maidens alike from the White Tower...creating all the affect of a royal wedding...and indeed this was the commencement of something new and blessed. Now from the right Aragorn could hear applause begin to build and move throughout the courtyard filtering back. Even the center line of the coronation assembly, consisting of the most important of individuals and the sternest of royal guard, began to jostle and hint upon the edge of bursting into raucous celebration. Just as the crowd was reaching fever pitch and roseblossoms were coming down as thick and rapidly as an early spring snow Aragorn heard singing...a beautiful song...an elvish song that he had first learned early in his childhood in Rivendell. It was the Oath of Elendil, sang by him when he arrived on Middle-Earth...a beautiful and moving yet haunting ballad. Then he realized that the sound of the voice was his own...and the tune proceeded from his lips. And as he sang it he felt it was the most appropriate thing that could be uttered on a day like today. It gave credence to that which had come before and yet looked ahead to what lie beyond. It was pregnant with hope and promise. Yet, its candor was solemn and hinted at the heartbreaking events that had to occur before celebration of this magnitude could come.
The crowd had all but gone silent as a funeral proceeding. They listened to their king sing this song with awe and wonder, appreciation and gratitude...it came at the moment it was needed...with the people needing to know from their king that everything was as it should be...that it was fine to celebrate...that it was real...it was the calm exhale of breath that came after the passing of a storm that had taken so much but that had been survived with the promise of a new day. Time is a constant anyone will say...but in this moment time slowed...if anyone present were asked they would agree that time literally almost stopped in this moment of moments on this day of days. The song carried over the stones of the great city...through the hearts and minds of the people within its walls...across the great plain of Pelennor to the ruins of Osgiliath which had already begun to be rebuilt...it carried beyond those lands to the entire realm of Gondor...and beyond...it carried hope to the Shire...and surely the elves unable to attend due to the timing of their passing from Greyhavens were able to feel this song and the relief that it proclaimed.
Aragorn's voice ended...the song finished...and the moment had come. The weddings of men were often somber affairs treated with awe and respect...until the moment when the man and woman were pronounced husband and wife...and it was as if then everyone had been holding their breath...and at this point in the wedding came the exhale...and then for the bride and groom the moment they had been waiting their lives for...the first kiss as no longer two ...but one...and all their friends erupting into mutual celebration. That was what this was like...but oh so much more...it was the bridegroom kissing his bride...it was the culmination of a life of dreams and hopes in spite of seemingly hopeless odds. This was the sound of freedom purchased from the jaws of oblivion...this was the sound of the kingdom becoming one. Aragorn smiled larger than he had in all his days...and at this smile came the thunder of a people given over to having paid witness to the greatest moments they could never even have dreamed of. The roar was deafening and full of exhilaration.
Aragorn took this in for a moment and then, Gandalf touching him gently upon the back, he began to walk down the stairs to greet the coronation procession...this which he had looked forward to so much all day...an official time to pay tribute to those who were supposed to be paying tribute to him. Here assembled were those who were not just his friends but those whom he had experienced so much with ...experiences that no other measure of familiarity could hope to match.
There were many faces in this assembly of heroes that he did not know, but he knew all had their place from the men that had fought and bled so hard to the children who would inherit what they had fought and bled for. He moved into the crowd and one by one people clamored about him expressing in the best words they knew how their appreciation of this day and their loyalty to him as their king. He had never been one much for crowds, but he too knew his place in all this. He was to be the first example of leadership for an age when all creation would fall to the care of men...and the example he set would be remembered always. So, he placed himself into the role of king, of a leader. This was far different than leading the charge a few days earlier at the Black Gate. In a very odd way, this aspect of leadership was more difficult for him. He had risen to the challenge on the battlefield, and he would do the same in the realm of pomp and circumstance. He felt somewhat embarrassed by all those kneeling to him and speaking admiration to him.
He was quite relieved when he saw a bit of an island of empty space in the crowd, and as he moved toward the space he found there the dwarf friend who had become so dear to him in such a short time. Gimli looked up at him with that same stare that would make one think that he found himself to be taller than them rather than the reverse being true. Behind his brushy beard his yellowed teeth formed into the jovial grin that Aragorn had seen even in some of the most dire circumstances that they had encountered. Aragorn sized him up and found that the little warrior was more groomed and clean and decorated than he could ever had believed.
"Very impressive." he quipped intentionally looking him up and down. Gimli responded to the sarcasm with his usual response, one of wounded pride. "We dwarves may be fearsome fighters and hard workers, but it is a little known fact that for special occasions we carry ourselves in the finest of manners!" Aragorn raised his brow as if he was about to apologize for calling into question the formal practices of his people. "But perhaps I do look a bit more impressive than even that for this is indeed the most special of occasions." Gimli quickly said. Aragorn smiled at this witty acknowledgement and placed his hand on the dwarf's shoulder. "Perhaps." he said. Gimli reached up his hand and clasped Aragorn's forearm firmly. Aragorn had come to find this gesture as one of Gimli's most sincere of friendship. He had done it at Helm's Deep when Aragorn and he had faced Saruman's hordes. He had done it near the entrance to the Path of the Dead when he and Legolas had agreed that Aragorn should face it alone...and them doing it alone with him. It was a sincere form of respect and admiration that went far deeper than just the respect given to a fellow comrade-in-arms. It was everything coming from the dwarf, and Aragorn smiled all the broader as he held Gimli's gaze...sending as much warmth and appreciation as possible from his blue eyes toward his friend. He held his gaze a moment and let his hand slip off his shoulder as he moved further into the crowd.
He saw a man of great stature far larger than his own nodding in a bow to him...his body was that a of a great horsemaster. He could not quite make out the fellow until he raised his head and met Aragorn with a stern, respectful gaze. Aragorn lowered his smile to reflect the solemnity and sincerity of the bow...for this was a bit of a different relation. This man was to be king of the realm with which they had fought so hard together for the future of man. This was Eomer, heir to the throne of Rohan in his dear uncle's passing. Still he carried the pain on his face of losing Theoden and with it came much weight as the future leader of his people. Aragorn had had far too little time to get to know him, but he was sure he would learn more of him in his dealings with him in the future and he knew that if his love for his kingdom was as great as that for his sister and his countrymen then Rohan would prosper greatly in the years to come. Aragorn returned his bow with one of his own though holding it slightly higher as he had remembered was the custom of old when a king of Gondor met a king of Rohan. In his eyes he tried to convey as much confidence possible to Eomer that he viewed him his equal in all but title. He smiled slightly and moved forward through the crowd.
He greeted a lovely family that had dressed in the finest apparel the aftermath of the Siege of Minas Tirth had left them. Their three children beamed with hope in their eyes and their parents with gratitude and confidence...things that had not been seen for so long in this land. He greeted them one by one and jokingly pretended to duel with the young lad in the family. After feigning a mortal wound at the hands of the little fellow everyone shared a laugh and Aragorn tussled the boy's hair before standing up and moving on.
After greeting another couple they parted and Aragorn beheld a woman of small yet strong stature whose head was crowned with beautiful golden tresses. Eowyn was as lovely as he had ever seen her. She was dressed as a princess of Rohan...a style that carried all the grace and beauty and yet indomitable strength of the people for which she represented. Her deep blue eyes still bore the weight of the loss of her dear, beloved uncle. Aragorn remembered hearing of how bravely he had died since he had been on the opposite end of the battlefield and was not able to bear witness. Theoden had far more weight placed upon him than any king should have to in his day...the loss of his only son, the near loss of his kingdom, seeing his own spirit broken at the hands of an enemy, falling so very close to the edge of surrendering all that which made him free...but in the end he had proven himself a king of kings...a strong and steady leader who, despite carrying fear in his heart for what the future may hold, still led his people with the supreme confidence and assurance that a leader should have.
Indeed in many ways he was a better man than I in that never did I have to face the level of hardships he did before rising to meet such a challenge as we have met. Aragorn thought. He smiled warmly at Eowyn trying to break through the hints of sadness still lingering in her eyes. But as he held her gaze he saw that something else had already seemed to break through. Yes, there was the shadow of sadness but behind that lie something shimmering...like the look of one who had just begun to realize the possibility of love again. Only then did he notice that Faramir stood a fraction of a hair's breadth closer to Eowyn than was the normal formation for a proceeding of this kind. Someone else may not have caught this, but Aragorn's keen eye told him all he needed to know. Well...that plus he had observed them some from afar before the battle of the Black Gate and how he could almost sense and energy between these two royals. He had had far pressing issues to attend as the two of them had to be left behind for the final battle. However, now he realized that during that campaign as they were away Faramir and Eowyn must have realized something in each other that they had not seen before. Aragorn felt an odd combination of feelings come over him at this realization. At first he felt almost...was it jealousy? Yes, it seemed to be. But it was not jealousy held against Faramir for seizing Eowyn's love. It was far more introspective than that. For he himself had known love once...it was the only time he had known love.
A wave of memory began to take over him and a thousand thoughts struck him at once...of days past. Certainly there were many kinds of love...the love of family and the love he shared with Legolas that no other love could replace because of its uniqueness. He had been blessed to experience all of these...but there was a kind of love that was so sacred that it balanced upon a pinpoint. It was the kind of love that was held strong on one side by what seemed to be Eru and the universe entire...and yet on the other side it seemed as though only a bird's feather tapping against it would cause it to collapse. It was a paradox to be sure...but such was the nature of this kind of love...so, so strong as though forged by the fires that had given him Anduril and yet so, so fragile as the lighting of the spring's first dew...love so potent and real that felt as though it must have been a dream...and in the end a dream it was. His thoughts drifted to Arwen...his Arwen. Yet no more was she his. She belonged to her people and her future and he to his. Oh, if fate had not dealt their love so coarse a hand. He remembered the story of Beren and Luthien of old...and how many times he lie awake at night in Rivendell and on the wandering roads as a ranger thinking of how much he understood those immortal words….Doom fell upon her, and she loved him. He was as one slain at once by bliss and grief. These words encapsuled the whole of his time with her in this world.
They had fallen in love amongst lilies in the fields and conversations of their future together though it seemed a dream. They had fallen in love amongst the tall trees of Lothlorien and conversations that led to laughter so that the wind seemed to rustle the trees signaling them to join in the laughter. They had fallen in love amongst the halls of Rivendell and conversations decorated and adorned in words so sweet and heartfelt that the beautiful moonlight tracing those halls seemed to pale in comparison to the warmth between them. Yet...always there was the feeling that lie underneath the surface that this was a dream...and so his love for her had meant the most rapturous of bliss and the most troubling of grief. And how she must have felt that feeling of doom falling upon her in an especially brutal way when her love for him was given back and his love taken from her.
Oh but had never stopped loving her! But it was for that that he had to do what he did! He had to continually remind himself of that especially in days like today and moments like this one seeing new love kindling between Faramir and Eowyn. With the world coming to pieces around them their love felt like on the only real thing left in the world...but in truth the love they shared was the dream and the world around them was the reality. He had to let go. He struggled so long and wept so hard at night amongst the linens of his bed as he considered both the weight that would be lifted by removing the burden of an irredeemable promise from his and her life and also the tremendous weight that would be added to his life by the grief of him surrendering this gift that had been more precious to him than any other he had in his life...from the sword that now rested at his side to the ring of Barahir that circled his finger. He was tossed and turned in his mind like the tumult of a ravaging storm upon the southern seas as he wrestled to summon the strength to do what he felt had to be done. Even the seemingly hopeless charge upon the fields before the Black Gate of Mordor had not required as much courage and strength from him as the last night he has spoken with Arwen.
In the end it took a word of counsel from one of the most influential men in Aragorn's life to give him that which he needed to do what he felt he had must. Elrond, though certainly with some level of bias for his daughter, had given him counsel of wisdom that only he could offer. Aragorn knew that Elrond realized that this counsel would not only be that which Aragorn did not want to hear but would produce a result that would greatly wound his precious daughter. In this realization of a Father's love Aragorn had to give credence to what Elrond spoke...and he had spoken what had to be said. He confirmed to Aragorn the harsh reality of the world around them that would not allow a love like theirs to survive...that even if by some glimmer of hope the evil days would end and peace would again own Middle Earth theirs was a love that was separated by a vastness of difference despite how very much alike they were. She was elfkind and he man...and nothing would ever change that...not all the love in the world could have changed it Aragorn had had to continually remind himself. There were things hoped for and there was how things were. There were plans for a future to be made together and how the future would actually be. There was the dream of two from completely different paths in life coming together to make a new path and then there was those two paths seeming to be forever separated no matter the effort made to draw them together. That was reality, and with despair beginning to overtake him and a new sense of duty welling up within him to lay claim to the future of humanity as was his destiny...he succumbed to it.
And so on the most painful night of his life he met Arwen in the moonlight, in the cool stillness of the night, as he had done so many times before under far happier circumstances. She approached him as beautiful as he had ever seen her and as she came into the moonglow and stood waiting for him on the bridge where they had shared so many fond moments...Aragorn faltered. For a moment he had no desire to carry out his plan. He wanted either to run to her, embrace her as never before, and tell her that he would never forsake her and fight to the end to make their dream of love a reality and bask in the exuberance of love so near death saved from the brink of extinction and becoming all the stronger for it. Or...if he had not the conviction to do that he wished that he could just run away from her back into the darkness...remember her just like that and begin to rethink things all over again.
But no...he remained still...hesitating. He saw the intoxicating smile upon her porcelain features begin to waver as she noticed his hesitation. He knew that if he had hesitated one moment more he would never have carried through with it. So, he stepped upon the bridge and slowly strode into the light of the moon. Her smile faded utterly as she saw what must have been the most forlorn she had ever seen her love. Her smile changed to a look of concern as though to ask him what was so terribly wrong to cast his visage down so much...but then it had quickly flickered to something else. The color of her deep blue eyes almost seemed to fade and Aragorn could almost feel her spirit breaking. A look of hurt and pain was already crossing her features letting him know that her elvish intuition had taken one look at his image and knew everything he was about to say but she had said nothing out of hopes that she was wrong.
Oh, how he had wished to be able to pivot his boot heel and start back in the direction he had come...but here he had had to stay...upon that bridge...where they had shared so much. They had shared laughter there at a playful jest or at Aragorn playing at poking and prodding her more sensitive areas evoking that sort of laugh that only those in love seem to have that communicates both an insistent demand to cease and yet a coy encouragement to continue. They had shared deeply involved conversations there about the politics of royalty and the differences in man's ways and elves' ways and how it always led to Aragorn (despite his love for his Elvish upbringing) on the defense for man's up and coming way in the world against Arwen's biting critiques of it...and how they would always end in making up then and there or parting to ponder what was said and return to the same spot to make up. Sometimes they wondered at the way the world was changing around them and how a dark shadow seemed to be calling from the past to overtake the land again...and they would hold each other tightly and comfort each other as best friends do. Some moments there were beyond words...where her gentle caress of Aragorn's hands or his delicate touch upon her elvish ears communicated far more sufficiently. The few kisses they shared there were worth a thousand of any other lovers' they had both felt. Though they were sure every lover felt that way with them it actually seemed true because when they kissed it was not the mere prattle and loveplay that young humans or elflings shared...but rather their love felt so strong and yet so fragile that every time their lips touched it felt as though it was the first time and last time they would ever meet. The passion went beyond the physical and somehow transcended them as though the universe was stopping to watch this moment shared between them and holding its breath at the beauty of two dear friends so in love and choosing to believe in it despite the truth that seemed to always try to break through at the edge of their conscience even in these moments.
In that moment though Aragorn again wished there were some other way...some other place even to do what he did. It seemed to almost corrupt their place of much meetings for this to be deed to be carried out there. Miraculously, he had summoned all his strength though and had begun to speak with all the clarity, focus, and certainty of cause that one would have practiced a battle sequence over and over in their heads in preparation for a campaign...which is exactly what he had done. He told her the truth that he had fought so hard to convince himself of and spoke it as though he had actually believed it though he was not sure. He told her that their love was a dream and nothing more. He told her that while he loved her it was never to be anything more than what it was. He told her that as he prepared to leave with the Fellowship the following morning she would not see him again, and with all the conviction of a commanding king he almost ordered her to board the boats bound for Valinor...to be with her people and to follow her own path as he would be free to follow his.
Free! The word stung in the back of Aragorn's mind as he reflected. Yes, he had freed himself...and her...to follow what path their realities had chosen for them...but had freedom ever held one a prisoner to their own heart so much?
His thoughts traveled back again. Oh how he had wanted to tell her so much more! He wanted to tell her that this was the best for the both of them. He wanted to tell her that he loved her more than anyone he had loved before and in a way that he could love no other but that this was how things had to be. He wanted to tell her he was ending their dream because if they continued to dream it then when morning came and the dream gave way to reality it would be all the more crushing. He wanted to tell her that despite his strength as a warrior he did not think that his heart could stand and survive to see his love grow even closer to her than he already had only to finally meet the doom that was almost certainly inevitable. He had wanted to share with her the weakness of his heart that it longed so much to love her for the rest of their lives whether as king and queen or wanderers of the wood but that it was for the very fact that he loved her so that he could not let it die such a painful death when the doom that was the way of the world swooped down upon it as a Fell Beast upon its prey. He wanted to open and bear his soul to her...but he knew her ...and he knew if he did that certainly the honesty of their relationship would reveal its light again and their love would find a way to continue on...but it would be to the same doomed end.
Therefore, he could not open to her. All he could do was handle it the way that he knew how to handle things best...the way of a warrior. And so he had dealt with her in that way...putting to rest their love as quickly and as painlessly as possible...in the same way that he would deliver merciful death to an enemy in the field of battle. He said impossible words. "It was a dream, Arwen.", he had managed to say only but for having rehearsed it in his mind so many times. But in truth was that not what it was…their love had been but a dream….a beautiful, timeless dream….but a dream.
He had said what he had needed to say and had but one act to finish. He had begun to reach his hand up to her...but for a moment he had paused. He thought back to the moment on the same spot where they had initiated their most unlikely of courtships. He had always gazed at her neck as a thing of grace and porcelain beauty and though he had often had his attention drawn from her neck to the shimmering necklace that sparkled in the moonlight and rested in the delicate place where her neck met her chest...he had never really thought to ask her its significance. Then, on one night, she took it from around her neck and placed it around Aragorn's. He held it in his hand and thought it odd that she would place so lovely a thing about the hardened neck of a ranger such as he. Then, she said something that would stay with him forever. This is my love...my heart...the light of my life...and now it belongs to you...you and no other. Arwen had said. In that moment Aragorn knew that as queen or as a fellow traveler upon the road this woman would be his for life and he hers for as long as he should live...so then how had it come to this?
He remembered the heaviness of his arm in that moment as he brought it up to her. It felt as though he were swinging a weapon that would deliver the most crushing of blows he had ever cast. He opened his hand with hesitation as though it contained a deadly viper prepared to thrust itself upon her. Oh how he remembered how her expression of hurt had grown even deeper and how it mixed with shock and surprise that he would do this thing. "You should have this." he told her…..for he did not feel it right to carry any longer a symbol of solidarity for what he was freely giving up. She did not respond in kind. Her elven strength took hold of her once again as she regained her composure and she steeled the features of her face into the most cold yet loving expression Aragorn had ever seen. She took both of hers upon his open hand and closed them around it forcing the Evenstar necklace to no longer see the moonlight. She spoke not in the tongue of Sindarin as she often did in their special times together but with the voice of man...signifying her regal yet wholly unconvincing acceptance of what he had just said. "It was a gift." she said. "Keep it."
The words had fallen like a thousand daggers upon Aragorn's heart. He knew there was no profit in arguing it...and so he kept it...he kept it knowing that while he still loved her, her love was something he could never truly possess for he could never truly offer his love to her again. But for someone unknown reason that even he could not fathom...he kept it...and had done so to this day...to this day. This, the day of his coronation, was the first day since Legolas had retrieved it and given it back to him after falling in the battle with the Warg Riders of Saruman that he had not worn it. Legolas had given it to him then as a sign to not surrender his hope...for only Legolas knew Aragorn better than he knew himself...that despite all the stone exterior his heart still longed for what he believed it could not have. Legolas believed more in Aragorn and Arwen than they themselves did sometimes it seemed. Aragorn appreciated so much his friend's candor and confident support even though Aragorn knew it could make no difference. So, he had kept it with him through all...but this day was the day of new beginnings...and Aragorn had taken it off early this morning after rising long before the rest of Minas Tirith had. He had placed it in a box and committed to leave it there...for this was the day to begin anew and he could no longer cling to this as he had if he was to rule properly and be who he had to be. It had pained him greatly to do so...and now...seeing Faramir and Eowyn and the same light of love in their eyes that he had once known...
There was no more time for these memories. He steeled himself and squared his shoulders as he had just now noticed they had fallen into a dejected position. He was king and it was time to embrace it. He expected to never know love like that again or supply a queen to sit at his side but such was Eru's ways at times. It he had committed to let go of this dream...and most surely she had already boarded one of the great ships bound for Valinor. He allowed himself the slightest thought of peace and tranquility at her coming to rest in the realm of her ancestors and kindred where never again there would be pain or suffering.
A gentle voice finally brought him out his reflection. "My Lord Aragorn.", the voice spoke intoned with regal dignity. Aragorn recognized it as Eowyn's voice. How long had he been drifting in the planes of his conscience? He shot glances to the corners of his vision and saw that no one else had seemed unsettled and as he directed himself back to Eowyn he could sense the slightest touch of expectancy in her visage. Despite wandering lost through his memories for what had seemed like an eternity he fortunately seemed to not have been drifting for long...just long enough for Rohan princess to notice slightly his hesitation. He found himself glad to be finally relieved of the painful train of thought which had little place on an occasion like this. He took Eowyn's hand and squeezed it lightly smiling deeply at her and intentionally directing his gaze toward Faramir attempting in his best unspoken manner to convey his sincere gladness at what he had just discerned. She smiled more warmly than he had ever seen and this made his heart glad.
Letting her slowly slip free he placed a firm hand of brotherhood upon Faramir's shoulder and spoke of how he looked very much forward to knowing him better. He saw much of his older brother Boromir in Faramir's face...but with far less weight and burden. He longed to tell this young man of the bravery and strength and honor that his brother showed at the end and to pay tribute to that fine man's memory with his kin.
Turning again he began stepping through the assembly making sure to pay due attention to all who greeted him but allowing himself to cast quick glances about the people...looking for someone in particular...his companion who would understand him on this day as no other could. A kindly, surprisingly elderly, Gondorian soldier whom Aragorn remembered at the Black Gate had fought with the determination of ten men was sharing with him appreciation as Aragorn attempted to deflect the praise back in his direction when he saw what he could not believe he had missed moments earlier...flags and banners of many colors and beautiful designs held high and with such steadiness that only the most sure and perfect of grips could maintain...the perfection of elves! The Elvish procession was adorned in the finest of Elven attire and ceremonial garb...how he had not noticed them until now was a true testament to the jumble of thoughts and emotions within him.
He said some quick parting words to the old soldier and somewhat conscious of how he was making quite a few faithful people wait a while longer to speak with him he practically pushed his way through the crowd a few lengths of space until no one stood between he and the colorful caravan lining the southern side of the of the great courtyard in perfect formation. He respected their formality but embracing his human brashness felt no shame in breaking into their formation greeting familiar faces and still darting his eyes throughout. Those who did not know him well regarded his rush into their midst without so much as a brief bow with some raised eyebrows and ever so slight exhales of fascination. Those who did know him well greeted him with warm faces shining with a glow that only elves could seemed to have...perhaps reflecting their closer proximity in the history of time to the glory of Arda's Creation. Most of them were of dark, midnight colored hair...others with deep brown hair like that of a dark oak's trunk...a small few were of fair hair colored like the harvest season's first crop of barley. Far fewer were of the golden hair of like the first rays of sunrise and last rays of sunlight which his friend possessed.
He finally saw one with such hair and approached him at a brisk pace, but as he placed the hand of friendship upon his shoulder and squeezed intently he found that it was far more delicate than he recalled and realized too late to remove it before the young, particularly tall-statured, elvish girl turned to give him a most quizzical look before her eyes darted up what sat on his brow and back to his with a somewhat embarrassed look...at least as embarrassed as an elf would ever afford themselves to appear. She began to bow and Aragorn matched her delicate bow with one of his own...trying to ease the sudden tension and save her future chiding from her other young elfling friends about her. "Diheno-nin, bein gwen." he apologized in his best self-mocking tone. The girl smiled slightly showing her relief as the few about them noticing the exchange chuckled. Aragorn began to turn when he heard the voice he had longed to hear most this day. "This fair maiden's attire is of a most lovely color and design for such a day as this, but I usually don't fancy myself in a dress." Aragorn didn't even react to the obvious blunder he had made in not even identifying male from female clothing for he was overcome with exultation to be able to finally share the moment of this day with his close companion. He almost spun into a full circle as he wheeled to face Legolas.
Legolas stood quite still...not moving from the spot he held to meet Aragorn in embrace. He thought that odd but found himself not giving it a care. As he approached him he called out quite approvingly "Mellon nin!" and spread his arms to embrace.
Legolas still made no movement, keeping his hands at rest behind the back of his tunic in traditional poise. Not wishing an awkward moment as he had just experienced Aragorn dropped his arms as he approached his elvish friend a bit more slowly matching the curious caution of his gait. He almost seemed as though a statue of some sort, and were it not for the beaming smile upon his face quite unlike any Aragorn had seen before he would most certainly have turned away from his friend mistaking him for a sentry on guard at post. Legolas scanned Aragorn from head to toe with a lightning fast glance as was his custom often when seeing Aragorn after a time of absence.
His eyes lingered on the crown for a moment as he said, "It looks good on you." A slight smirk flickered across his mouth for a moment. Aragorn returned with a lop-sided smile and shook his head, "It doesn't feel quite natural, but thank you." He paused... "And it is so very heavy.", he said faking pain. Legolas laughed and said, "Perhaps someone to help you the carry the weight then?" He nodded in agreement and said, "Yes, that could help." he said thinking perhaps he meant himself to help him carry the burden though he was not entirely sure where this line of conversation was going.
He was beginning to feel a bit awkward which was something he had ever rarely felt with his friend. A moment of silence passed and Aragorn passed an inquiring look as if to say What IS it my friend? Legolas' eyes danced with the light of amusement as though he was aware of some universal secret and was having fun withholding the knowledge. Legolas shifted his eyes to gesture to something behind him. Aragorn looked past his shoulder and saw naught but a group of elves hoisting processional banners and he looked back at his friend inquisitively. Then, the elf's smile grew impossibly broader, and just as Aragorn prepared to give voice to his confusion and insist on being let in on what was so amusing...Legolas stepped aside and withdrew his left arm from behind his back waving it to his side and bowing slightly in his best imitation of someone presenting a gift of tribute to a king. As Legolas moved from out of his view he saw more clearly the group of elves had five in their number….not the traditional four that would form this particular standard. Then, the flag bearer in the center…the odd one out….slowly shifted the banner to their side revealing……
In his nearly nine decades upon Middle-Earth Aragorn had experienced a multitude of instances in which he had been shocked beyond belief. There was the time when he had seen a ravenous wild warg pursuing him alone through the forest during his days as a ranger. He had been weary and ill and his feet were heavy. The warg had almost seized upon him when it had suddenly stopped in its tracks. He had wondered at why the beast relented in his pursuit and suddenly found that he heard music. A melody was traveling the wind from some small cottage in the nearby woods. The warg was actually listening to the pretty old folk tune...as if mesmerized by it. Not feeling the strength to retread his path and kill the beast he had escaped with his life due to a beast being calmed by music. Another time he was walking about a rough mountain pass and stumbled across two very quarrelsome mountain trolls. He had attempted to sneak past them but had already made too much noise. They heard him and had come down upon him with terrific fury. He had not even the time to draw his sword before they had backed him against the edge of a cliff. He had lost his footing and stumbled backwards over the edge...flailing his arms about to meet certain doom when by the most chance of circumstances an Eagle...making her way to her nest which rested right upon the wall of the cliff from which he fallen swooped beneath and caught him. There had been many other instances of great shock and surprise in his life...some that were not so triumphant. There had been the time that he had seen the most powerful man he had ever known meet his match and fall deep into an abyss to what was certainly his death. That was met only by the greater shock and awe of seeing him fit and well several days later glowing brilliant white amongst the Fangorn Forest. None of that compared to the feeling of exhilaration in seeing the armies of Mordor laid waste as Mount Doom and Bârad-dûr collapsed the result of a young hobbit accomplishing the unfathomable. And yet...
Nothing...nothing could prepare Aragorn's long-lived eyes for the sight that Legolas had stepped aside to reveal to him. All those unexpected events stood pale in reflection to what he felt now. His knees wanted to buckle and cease to support his weight yet somehow his legs were locked in place like iron...his heart seemed all at once to stop beating altogether and yet struggle to burst forth from his chest...his lungs struggled both to catch a breath and to let free the air that was inside.
It was her!
His eyes glazed over and at the same time focused out everything around him until he could see only what was in front of him.
It was her!
Any sense of ceremonial behavior left him like a feather swept up by a swift north wind. The world around him ceased to be and there was only...
It was her!
There before him stood the most shocking and beautiful sight his blue-gray eyes had ever seen. His Arwen!
A million thoughts began to rush through his mind all at once so that he nearly felt dizzy. Time seemed to stop as her brilliant blue eyes met his...the only thing seeming to move being her long, dark, flowing hair waving gently in the high breezes atop Minas Tirith. He thought back to how only few moments before there had been no hope of ever seeing her again and how he was consigned to that fact. He thought about how he had given up hope for any future with Arwen already and yet here hope stood with him face to face! All those voices of the world's reality ensuring that two from such different backgrounds and destinies could never be one had laughed at him and mocked him moments ago. Now, they were silent. As much as he had longed for it...as much as he had hoped for it...as much as he had laid under stars on sleepless nights pondering the possibilities of it...he had never truly believed this moment of reunion...this promise of a future again...could be. He had given up on that hope. That hope had not given up on him. She had not given up on him.
By all rights and reason under the sun she should have been bound for the distant shores of Valinor by now. She should have been with her kinsman...those people of her own kind...not here amongst the dawning of the world of men. She should have been moving toward that future of her own...not here, committing herself to sharing in his future. She was to live life eternal...not partake in the mortal coils of men. He had made the decision to embrace his heritage and abandon the life that was his in Rivendell among elves. Why had she not done the same? Why had she not gone the way of her people? It was for all for him. He could see that in her eyes now...now...as clear as the sunlight that now sparkled upon her gown. He did not see hesitation in her gaze. He saw in her eyes all the strength, commitment, devotion, and determination that had caused him to fall in love with her in the first place. The intensity with which she looked upon him now spoke volumes more than all the libraries of Great White City could contain.
With her eyes she spoke to him: I choose this life...a life with you...without respect to any trouble that may have come before or will come again because if and when they do I will not face them alone nor will you for we will face them together. What was mine by right I have laid down that I might be able to lay claim to something new with you. What has come before means everything and nothing. What lies ahead is the great adventure of the unknown. What is now is a second chance for us. The world is not so troubling for us as it once was, and that is a gift to us. All that I am is yours, but you must accept this gift I offer now for the moment is now, and the time is now...and from this moment on now shall always be ours should you say yes.
Had he known her so well that her gaze spoke all this to him? He supposed that he had...and he noticed that, unconsciously, he had taken steps toward her so that there was no longer any distance between them and that now, though months ago he would have believed it a dream, he and she occupied the same space upon this Middle-Earth. The moment continued to linger...but for how much longer...was this reality? He could barely think what it was he should do now to bring it to its conclusion. Tears welled in his eyes at the joy filling every bit of his being…..and her eyes glistened with tears as well…..two best friends seeing each other again after so long….two in love.
She dropped her gaze from his as if seeming uncertain what was in his mind. Oh, but he was certain now what was upon his heart yet he had thousands upon thousands of words to give it form. Despite the legions of thought heaping themselves upon each other he could not utter little more than a child learning to speak.
She began to bow to him in the stance that was traditional for a princess to bow to a king with all formality as if interpreting his silence to be one that meant he had to contemplate her presence further to understand its impact and meaning. This struck him as a cold gauntlet to the jaw and the reality and fragility of the moment bore upon him all at once.
His hand moved faster than his will seemed to summon it. He clasped her chin gently but with sufficient force to bring her face to his...she looked into his eyes expectantly….he looked into hers and desired only one thing in all the world…..and then the world went black and lips fell hard upon lips and again they were one. Nothing, no crown of silver and iron upon his brow nor sword of re-forged steel at his side, felt more right than for his lips and hers to be entwined again. It was realized, physical form given to the feeling between two lovers far too long separated not only in distance and thought but in hope of ever meeting again...it was the culmination of the best of friends awaking to find each other again after a deep, midwinter's sleep. Indeed, it felt like the first time they had ever kissed...but this time...it did not feel like the last time. All their hopes, dreams, plans, and expectant thoughts were resurrected in this intimate touch and given new fire. It told the world of their reunion as though the signal fires that crossed from Gondor to Rohan had extended their chain to cover the whole of Middle Earth...and yet at the same time it would not have mattered to them were they its only inhabitants in that moment.
The world returned to light as Aragorn opened his eyes and happily saw Arwen's eyes opening to stare back at him and now they said to him simply: Hello again. They embraced one another as never before as Aragorn lifted her from her feet and twirled her about. They laughed joyfully and basked in the radiance of each other's glowing smiles. All familiarity returned and he awoke from the dream. For all pretense had gone and while the dream had always seemed to be the thing most sought after...finally reality was friend and not foe. The mask had changed for the dream had become real. Familiarity with her returned to him all at once as though a dream had ended...and in this instance...it was a most delightful awakening. He remembered reading as a child fables of men and women awakening from spells with kisses and laughing at the thought of that literary tool, but now it seemed that perhaps indeed every fable was based in some reality.
He noticed only then that Elrond had been standing directly by her side during this exchange and that he had basically taken all of his best efforts at formality and dignity for the day's proceedings and effectively rendered them rather moot. Elrond carried no look of concern, however. To the best of Aragorn's memory his face had always been one of such somber seriousness and purpose, but now for the first time he could recall there were no lines and creases of worry upon his face but rather the beaming approval of a father upon his daughter's happiness. The two began to exchange the bow of equal rulers but seeing as how pomp and circumstance had been effectively slaughtered for the day they stopped mid-way and embraced each other as dear friends laughing joyfully.
Aragorn's fingers found and intertwined with Arwen's and the two of them turned back into the inner courtyard now to an even more thunderous eruption of celebration than ever! It was not every day after all that loyal subjects could see a favored son anointed king and bear witness to his selection of a queen all at the same time! He and Arwen moved throughout the crowd continuing to greet and talk with countless joyful faces. He was impressed with how naturally Arwen fielded the many questions that came her way from various adulators...yet another quality in her he had yet to learn. How he looked forward now to spending a lifetime learning more about her everyday. As they enjoyed the company of many friends and loved ones together Aragorn made sure to steal a look at Arwen every now and then to ensure that she was indeed still there and not some apparition of his mind. She seemed to sense that he was looking at her as only lovers and best friends seemed to be able to do and would almost instantly return his gaze assuring him that she was indeed still there and had no intention of not being there.
Aragorn felt as he never had in his life. He thought back to the days and nights that he has spent running from his destiny...afraid of what it would mean to embrace...afraid that that would mean giving up all that he loved. Now, he saw that all things had worked together to the good of all. He had chosen finally to embrace his destiny on that day that seemed eons ago in which he had committed himself to the Fellowship of the Ring. He had assumed that choice would mean giving up that which he loved so much, but he had come to terms with that and accepted it as his lot in life not realizing how Eru's grand scheme was sometimes far more circular than one might think...that by choosing to give up and sacrifice he had insured that he would one day receive it again...but under far more glorious circumstances than he himself could ever have designed alone. Such was the way of this wondrous time and place in which he and all around him lived.
As he was finishing a brief though very involved dialogue with one of Gondor's most-skilled of horse wranglers he felt Arwen's hand grip his tightly and intentionally to draw his attention. Aragorn turned and noticed immediately a large gap in the gathering, and as his eyes fell downward to four small figures who for all intents and purposes were the tallest in stature of any present. Looking as though they felt more out of place than a cave trolls at a wedding banquet were Merriadoc Brandywine, Peregrin Took, Samwise Gamgee, and Frodo Baggins...they who, despite their diminuitive size, were the saviors of all Middle-Earth each for his own reason. Those present were well-aware of this fact it was apparent as they gave a proper amount of respectful distance between they and the four hobbits. The crowd quietened a bit as if waiting to see what would happen next.
Aragorn noticed this and as he prepared to address the crowd on the behalf of these to whom they owed everything happening on this day he saw the second thing that surprised him this day and perhaps the most humbling thing he had ever experienced in his life...certainly far more humbling even than receiving the crown of Gondor. These four souls whose determination in the face of unspeakably bleak odds...who had risen far above anything anyone else had been required to...were bowing before him. He had made room within his desire to remain as normal as possible for all the bowing and courtesy and praise that was due this day, but this was far, far too much. Aragorn would have none of this. He let go of Arwen's hand and stepped forward intently. He spoke with as much incredulity as he could find in his voice. "My friends..." he said, his voice carrying as much respect and gentle correction as he could afford, "...you bow to no one."
They looked a bit unsure by what he meant. So, he decided to show them exactly what he meant. Casting a loving look toward each one and allowing an extra moment upon Frodo he relaxed his face to show as much humble appreciation as he knew how.
Gandalf had spoken to him a few days earlier that a king's primary role was as a leader and steward of his people and particularly to lead them by example…..and he had said that surely the first act a king led his people in would be well-remembered for the ages to come. And so, as his first act of leadership as the first king of the age of man, Arwen at his side, he knelt and lowered his head as far as he could and bent the knee of his heart even further...King Elessar led his people in bowing all at once to the finest men he had ever known.