28. Eternally Bound
Frodo slowly managed to crack his weak eyes open and his eyes were met by the unexpected bright light of the sun outside. He couldn't remember last time he'd seen such a bright, warming sight before, but knew it must have been back in Shire.
Something was most definitely different. When he'd fallen unconscious, he had been on a large rock by the fires of Mount Doom, alone with Sam and awaiting the inevitable end. Now, as he soon came to realize, Frodo rested in a soft bed in a chamber he was sure he'd never seen before. As he sat up he saw a face he hadn't expected to ever see again; Gandalf. Frodo's heart rejoiced at seeing his old friend who had fallen back in Moria. He was dressed all in white now and did not look quite the same, yet a warm smile spread across his face.
To clarify if this was dream or reality, Frodo hopefully asked, "Gandalf?"
The old wizard nodded once as his eyes twinkled in a familiar way and the young hobbit did something he had not done for a long time; he let out a heartfelt laughter.
At that moment, the door swung open and Merry and Pippin ran in and jumped onto his bed to regale him with their adventures. They were soon followed by the rest of the fellowship who all seemed filled with life and peace after the end of their journey. Frodo felt overcome with joy for he had been certain he would never see his friends again. The hobbit felt a heavy weight fade from inside his chest at the knowledge and understanding what all of this meant. He, a small, insignificant hobbit, had completed what had been asked of him. The Ring was destroyed and all would be safe and fine once more as the world was rebuilt in a peaceful Age.
Frodo's eyes found Sam's, his constant companion, and they shared a smile. Yes, all was finally well.
A few days later, when the city had been regained some of its former glory and serenity, there was a joyous occasion within the walls of Minas Tirith.
All of the citizens had gathered at the top of their home, in the grand courtyard, to witness the coronation of their King whom they knew would lead them into a new era of friendships and peace. So much had been fought and lost and many tears spilled during the war, but on this day there was only hope in the people's mind.
On the steps to the palace stood Gandalf and Aragorn kneeled on the stairs before him. He wore a armor adorned with the white tree of Gondor and Andúril hung from his hips as he carried his head high and gazed up at the wizard. Aragorn glanced to the elf maiden by the wizard's side and she beamed down at him with nothing but pride in her sparkling eyes.
Frodo stepped forward and handed the royal crown to Gandalf before the hobbit stepped back to stand beside Arwen and Boromir, the latter who were the robes of a Steward. The wizard held the crown up for the crowd to see.
"Now come the days of the King," Gandalf spoke with a strong voice as he placed the crown atop the man's head. "May they be blessed."
The crown rested atop Aragorn's head as he closed his eyes and exhaled. He knew the responsibilities that now rested on his shoulders and though there were trialing days ahead, he had already vowed to protect his people and lead them forward. On strong legs, King Aragorn II, son of Arathorn, arose and turned to face his loyal subjects.
Aragorn turned to his side and smiled up at Arwen. He held out a hand towards her and with a flowing curtsy, the elf maiden stepped forward and accepted his hand. The elf wore her long hair out with only a few white flowers to adorn her long locks that fell around her graceful frame. She was dressed in a pale blue dress that both enhanced her elven beauty as well as the Gondorian fashion.
As the royal couple faced the crowd together, the people in the courtyard cheered and Arwen gave the king's hand a gentle squeeze. Aragorn took a step forward and Arwen remained behind as the man held his first speech as regent of Gondor.
Arwen watched her beloved in fascination, for the role of king truly suited him. She had always known he would do good, but now she believed he would do even greater still in the years to come.
The couple were not yet wedded and would not be for another fortnight, until Elladan and Elrohir returned from Rivendell where they had ridden a few days before to bring lord Elrond. When at last her father was by her side, Arwen would wed Aragorn and become his wife and queen.
After Aragorn finished his speech to the applauds of his people, he once more held out his hand for Arwen and together they walked down the stairs to meet the people and those who had helped them reach this moment.
That same evening there was great celebration throughout the city as the whole town came together and was abuzz with laughter and songs for their new king and the destruction of the evils of Middle Earth.
In one of the grand, decorated halls of the palace many noblemen, soldiers and the fellowship had gathered. The spirits were high as several cheers were made for the king and Merry and Pippin once more entertained with their songs of Hobbiton.
Arwen stood in the entrance of the grand room and smoothed a wrinkle in her wine red dress as she beheld Legolas and Gimli, who were drinking amiably next to each other. Their bond of friendship moved her and she knew the two had already made plans to travel the world together side by side.
A familiar tuft of hair came into her line of view and Arwen called out to her small friend, "Sam!"
The hobbit turned in her direction and made his way over to her. He bowed briefly and looked highly uncomfortable in the stiff fabrics of the new clothes he had been given, before he straightened and smiled up at her.
"Milady, you look radiant like the stars this evening."
"Thank you, dear friend," Arwen smiled. She had talked to him several times since he'd arrived in Minas Tirith, and yet she felt there was still much to catch up on. "How are you faring, Samwise?"
"Me?" Sam asked and seemed surprised she should ask. "I am... fine. Truly, I am. I can admit that it feels somewhat strange, being back now. Not having to worry or be afraid of the darkness every day. Not to have our mission to fulfill. The Ring is gone and all is well."
"It is," the elf maiden nodded. "You have heard it from many mouths already, Sam, and you'll hear it from many more, but... I am proud of you and Frodo for what you did. Your heroism went far beyond what people expected... and yet none of us ever doubted you. And as for you in particular, I am beyond amazed over how you managed to hold true to your words to the very end."
The hobbit frowned and it was plain he had not understood her. "Milady?"
"Do you remember our conversation before we all were parted at Amon Hen?"
Sam nodded. "Indeed, I do remember."
"Then you also remember the promise you made when you were most distressed?" Arwen asked and the frown disappeared on Sam's face to be replaced by a look of understanding. "You promised never to let Frodo go alone and you truly did not. You followed him to the end, Sam, and you did everything you could for him."
"Thank you, milady," Sam said as a faint blush crept up his cheeks. He shifted awkwardly in his place as his gaze fell to the ground. "But I fear your words are entirely misdirected. It is Frodo who deserves your kind words. He was the Ring bearer."
"He was," Arwen agreed and tilted her her to the side. "But he did not do this alone. You are both as heroic, Sam. Though I know not all the details and am aware I never will, I know this to be true. I am sure that had it not been for you, Frodo would not have been able to complete his task."
"Thank you, Arwen," Sam bowed his head and was genuinely touched. "May I in return say that whileAragorn is certain to take care of his people, it is you who will take care of him. I am most happy for the two of you. I know you will be a gentle queen and help guide your future husband for many, long years yet. The happiness of the world is yours, at last."
Arwen felt her own smile widen on her face. "Tell me, Samwise, what do you intend to do now when the war is over?"
The hobbit shrugged. "I'll go back home, I suppose. With my friends. I want to sow some of the seeds Lady Galadriel gave me and watch the plants grow as my life returns to normal."
Sam opened his mouth to continue when a big hand was placed on his shoulder and Gandalf stepped up next to him. The wizard smiled down at the hobbit with a twinkle in his eyes before he turned his attention to the elf maiden.
"I am sorry to interrupt," the white wizard began. "I fear your aid is needed, Undómiel. It appears the King has yet to make an appearance to his own feast."
"And you wish for me to find him?" Arwen smiled as the wizard nodded. "Then I will be right back."
The elf maiden curtsied low and then left the wizard and hobbit to their own amiable conversation. As Arwen let her keen eyes search the corridors for her intended, she allowed her mind to revel in the moment. Sam's words had inspired her hope and love to grow even further. It was only a matter of weeks now, after all their waiting, until she would wed the love of her life.
She gazed about at the white, stone walls and beautiful archways up ahead. Minas Tirith. This was to be her new home, this city of Man, and here she would make a life and future for herself and coming generations. That thought brought another smile to her face.
Arwen turned a corner and climbed a staircase onto a small plateau. She stopped on it and gazed up the second staircase before her. At the top of it stood Aragorn himself and gazed out through a window. A small smile played in his eyes also and the elf figured he, too, was thinking of their future.
The King was dressed in royal, blue robes that made him stand tall and proud, filled with virtue and confidence. Atop his brow rested the crown of his forefathers and it seemed to gleam with their forlorn wisdom.
"Is something the matter, my lord?" Arwen asked.
"Nay," Aragorn said but did not turn his gaze from the view outside. "Nothing is wrong. Please, join me."
Arwen did not wait to be asked twice as she raised the hem of her skirt and moved up the steps to join his side.
She smiled up at him as he placed an arm around her waist and pulled her close to his shape. He returned the smile and something akin to wonder flashed through his pale eyes. Arwen raised one of her arms and traced his cheek tenderly as he closed his eyes in serenity. Her fingers traced a few wrinkles by his eyes and mouth that had not been there long, and she knew exactly what had created them. The crown atop his head made him look both royal and full of strength and it was a far cry from the ranger he had been.
She lifted her slender hand and touched the crown as she gently whispered, "My king." She felt, rather than saw, Aragorn's smile and she continued, "You do know how proud I am of you, do you not?"
"Yes I do," Aragorn responded as gently. "I am aware."
"Good," the elf said and kissed his lips briefly. "What are you doing up here, Estel? Why are you not with your people?"
"I am contemplating," the man offered with a shrug. "Contemplating us and our future life. You. My luck at having you still beside me. I lost you back there if even for a second, and you would have been lost forever if Frodo had not destroyed the Ring."
"If the Ring had not been destroyed, we would all have been lost," the elegant maiden pointed out.
"Arwen…" Aragorn breathed and tilted his head sideways. It appeared he was about to say something, but then thought better of it. As he spoke next, Arwen was sure he had changed topic. "I have something for you."
"Oh?" Arwen asked and her silver eyes sparkled in the pale moon light by the window. "For me? What for?"
"Think of it as a wedding gift," Aragorn said cryptically and took a step back to hold her hands in his calloused ones. Arwen was reminded of that day in Rivendell when he had tried to give back the Evenstar pendant, but knew he would not now. Much had changed since then, much fear had been overcome. Besides, the pendant could not be returned for Aragorn had told her it had broken while she was still in Sauron's shadow.
Because of this knowledge Arwen was surprised to see him lift a glittering, silver chain from his pocket and place it into her palms. The silver chain consisted of small niphredil-flowers and the center piece was the White Tree of Gondor. In the very heart of the Tree shone a white, elven stone.
"I am sorry your necklace broke," Aragorn said. "But it will never be forgotten. The stone in the center is a piece from the Evenstar pendant. I could not let it go to waste."
"It is beautiful. Thank you, Aragorn," Arwen smiled and the man helped her put on the necklace around her long neck.
"It shines almost as bright as its bearer. What say you, dear... Shall we join our most honored guests downstairs?" Aragorn asked and his wife-to-be nodded. The king offered her his arm and she took it. Together they walked down the stairs, down the beautiful corridors and entered the grand hall side by side.
The first one to greet them was Boromir who bowed and smiled widely at his king. Aragorn had convinced the nobleman to assume the title of Steward and work as his right hand, an honor Boromir had gladly accepted when it had been offered at the right time. Still, the man had asked if the honor of the title could be shared between brothers and so both Faramir and Boromir carried the title of their forefathers.
The two men greeted each other with a brotherly embrace and Boromir then kissed Arwen's cheek and pressed her hand in his before he walked over to join Faramir, Éomer and Éowyn in a drinking game. On a table nearby, Merry and Pippin were dancing away tirelessly and sang a new tune about the fall or Mordor with many verses that had the crowd roaring with laughter.
"Ah! King Aragorn," a voice suddenly spoke at that moment and both Arwen and Aragorn turned as Gandalf walked up to them with an amused smirk, "You join us at last."
"Where is Sam?" Arwen asked as she noticed the hobbit's absence.
"I believe he and Frodo are having a quiet drink outside to try and figure out where to go from here. They have been through much on their journey and now they must find their way back to an ordinary life. It will not be easy, and I fear Frodo might not be able to adjust. Sam, I am sure, will return to normal in no time," Gandalf responded and then turned back to the man. "Now, my king, much has happened in your absence down here. You will find many new, interesting guests have arrived."
"Is that so?" Aragorn asked and frowned at the wizard's comment.
"Ada!" Arwen cried by his side in that moment as a figure walked up to join Gandalf's side. Without waiting any further, the elf maiden stepped forward and threw her arms around his neck and held her father close.
"Arwen, "Elrond exhaled in relief and hugged her just as tight.
Aragorn greeted Elladan and Elrohir, who walked over to congratulate their brother, as Arwen stepped back from her father's loving embrace.
"We were not expecting you for at least another week," she said.
Elrond smiled and cupped his daughter's cheek. "You thought I could wait that long? I rode to meet your brothers. I could not wait to see you, either of you. Oh, dear Arwen, I am so happy to see you are alive."
"As am I, Ada," the elf maiden smiled back.
Elrond then turned to Aragorn and embraced him with warmth. The man smiled into his foster father's shoulder before stepping back.
"Aragorn, you have made this elven father proud," Elrond spoke. "I could not have asked for a better son to marry my daughter. The hour is late tonight, but tomorrow is midsummer and the two of you shall be wed with my blessing at last. The wait will not be long, though I am sure it will feel like a lifetime to you."
Ten years later...
Arwen leaned against one of the pillars and remained in the shadows as she gazed out at her husband on the balcony. Aragorn was walking to and fro while gently rocking the small bundle in his arms that was making small noises of excitement every other second. As he walked, the king spoke of the great adventures of Frodo and the fellowship and now and again turned to the rising sun on the horizon to gaze northwards.
"Our son is not yet one year old," Arwen said at last as she stepped onto the balcony. "He won't understand your story for awhile yet."
Aragorn turned around in surprise but his face soon shone once more with the warm smile. The wrinkles around his eyes were more noticeable on his skin now than but years ago and both his hair and beard were heavily streaked with grey. Despite this he looked no elder than the day of his coronation. "Did we wake you?"
The queen leaned against the balustrade beside her husband and gazed down at the small boy wrapped in a blanket in his father's arms. "You merely think your father is amusing whenever he uses different voices to impersonate the others of the fellowship, do you not?"
"You underestimate Eldarion, my love," Aragorn said and his voice danced with laughter.
"I think perhaps I underestimated your influence on our son," Arwen offered with a wink. "For I did not think you would creep from our bed in the middle of the night to bring him out here so that you could share a story of days past. I thought even less that Eldarion would adore how abruptly his father awoke him, but he seems beyond content to spend private time with you."
The king chuckled and kissed his wife's cheek. "I believe that is rather our son's influence on me and not the other way around. Nonetheless, I understand what you mean. Our son needs his rest and look, his energy is waning even as the sun rises. There's no need to yawn, Eldarion, I'll take you back to bed."
The young child let out a bubbly laughter as Aragorn swung him around in the air and walked inside.
Arwen laughed at the men in her life, before she turned to watch the sunrise before her. A gentle breeze cooled her in the morning and she felt the chill creep along her bare arms. Only a few minutes later, she felt the warmth of a pair of arms wrap around her body and she leaned back into Aragorn's chest with a content sigh.
"I can't believe my fortune," the queen murmured.
"You?" Aragorn asked and his voice had a hint of irony in it. "You married an exiled ranger while I married the daughter of a high-born lord. Certainly, my choice must have been better than yours."
"No," Arwen shook her head and turned around in her husband's arms. Slowly, she snaked her own around his neck and leaned her forehead against his. "You've brought me true and honest love, given me a son and made me a queen."
Aragorn pretended to ponder her words before admitting, "When you put it like that... Then we are even, after all."
With a wordless smile, Arwen reached out a hand and traced her husband's face with gentle fingers. "Much time has passed since we set foot on our path that started with the Fellowship and even longer still than our first meeting... I have spent many days thinking about it. Your path from ranger to king, Sauron's grip on my mind, Frodo's burned as the ring bearer and, of course, the friendships we made for life."
For a couple of minutes, the couple remained silent as they watched the light stretch towards the skies above. The white stones below them soon shone beneath the warm rays as the first birds came awake around them. Far down below, the king and queen could hear some citizens, too, awaken with the sun and set off for their early duties, such as bread making or the milking of the cows. The guards of the citadel shared a good laughter while a dog barked far down below.
At last, Aragorn lowered his head from the view and gazed at his wife as he admitted, "Sometimes, at least in retrospect, I can admit that there were times I truly did not believe we would ever live to see this day. It might sound terrible to confess, but I cannot lie about the truth to you. I had days of strong doubt about whether the one day I could barely wait for would come to pass or not, for I knew how much depended on just a few steps."
Arwen frowned. "What day do you refer to?"
"Our wedding day, of course, mellamin," Aragorn smiled and she kissed his cheek.
Arwen nodded and leaned back against his chest as she gazed out at the hopeful sun. "And yet, when I look back at our path and at what brought us here, I find it is clear things could not have happened any other way. You and I were always meant to be together in this bliss."
"How can you be so certain, my love?"
"Because, my lord, we are eternally bound."
Thank you for reading!