Friends Like These...
1. Friends Like These...
"Your pardon, Master Elf, Master Dwarf." The messenger bowed low. "The King of Rohan begs leave to consult with you."
"Of course we are at his service," said Legolas gravely. "Where may we find him?"
"He bids you meet him at his tents. I must go now to fetch also the halflings, and the sons of Elrond." The squire turned toward the Citadel, and the two friends swiftly passed soaring arches and carved pillars as they made their way to the Great Gate, and thence to the field where the Rohirrim were camped. As they walked through the city, they speculated upon what high matter might underlie this summons. At last the banner of the white horse running free flapped before the companions, and the elf and dwarf entered the tent where Éomer sat at leisure. When all were assembled, the King of Rohan stood, a disturbed expression on his face.
"What has been planned?" Éomer demanded.
"Planned, my lord?" asked Merry, uncertainly.
The king clucked disapprovingly. "Do you not know what is to take place on the morrow? Will you not honor this night as should be? We are all friends of the Lord Aragorn here, and we are shirking our duty!" He glowered at those seated before him.
"Truly, Éomer, we would not fail of our love and fealty to the King, who is our beloved companion," Legolas said. "But the customs of men are unknown to us. What must we do for proper ceremony?"
And all leaned close to the King of Rohan to hear his words. Legolas' eyes widened in disbelief as Gimli roared and Merry and Pippin giggled. "You cannot be serious!" Legolas said, as Sam looked scandalized, and Frodo shocked.
"I assure you my friends, this must be done, or it is no proper wedding!" Éomer insisted.
The tent flaps were thrust aside then, and the companions were joined by the brethren Elladan and Elrohir. The fair sons of Elrond, grey-eyed and grey-clad, were tall and comely to look upon. Legolas turned to pair with some relief. "Have you heard aught of Éomer's thoughts for this night? Is it suitable to follow such a practice, so foreign to the North?"
"Oh, indeed," said Elladan. "We have heard of this custom from the Lord Steward, Faramir. He has told us most earnestly of its long heritage in the City." He smirked.
"We would not wish to omit any ceremony due our foster brother," proclaimed Elrohir. "In loving," he grimaced, "repayment of our years together in Rivendell, we must bear him company this night."
Gimli rumbled,"well, we must get on with it then. Where shall we hold this, ah, ceremony?"
Éomer said, "the Lord Faramir has arranged all for us. We need only appear at the appointed place with the guest of honor."
"But how shall we get him there?" asked Pippin, stifling yet more giggles.
It was much discussed, and Frodo initially held himself aloof from the debate. He regretted this when the decision was taken; and tried to protest, but it was too late. All agreed that he was best suited for this task.
Frodo came to the Citadel and gazed about, wondering where to go to fulfil his errand. Spying the door warden, he approached hesitantly. The guard, in the noble silver and black livery of the Citadel, inclined his head slightly against all custom, for this was the Ringbearer, honored even by the King above all others. "Master Perian," he essayed, "do you wish to see the King?"
"Err... ." Frodo caught a flash of white robes in the courtyard through an archway, where fountains played and lush greenery soothed the eyes. "Is that Gandalf?"
"Indeed, that is Mirthrandir. He sought refreshment in the garden."
"Th...thank you. I shall go speak to him." He fled through the archway. The door warden watched his vanishing figure with pity and respect. The noble perian looks most perturbed, he thought, Valar grant success for whatever endeavor brings him here.
Frodo marched up to the reclining wizard and steeled himself. "Gandalf, do you know what is going on?"
"Frodo, I know much that passes, both in Minas Tirith and elsewhere in Middle-earth. Do you care to specify a particular place or situation that concerns you?"
"Éomer wished us to help Strider pass the night before his marriage to the Lady Arwen tomorrow." Frodo added uncertainly, "I don't understand why he needs any help passing the night, but Éomer and Faramir and the twins are most insistent." And very tall, and intimidating, and well armed. He looked up at the wizard, as if inviting advice. Or salvation.
"Hmmph. And just where will this take place?"
"Faramir has arranged a tavern."
"Well, I shall certainly be there." He fixed the hobbit with a piercing gaze. "But I suspect inviting me was not your errand here?"
Frodo squirmed, and said in a hesitant voice, "ah, well no. I am supposed to find a way to bring Strider."
"If you do not find a way, no one will. I will leave you to it." He started to walk out of the chamber, humming to himself, and Frodo felt more desperate than ever. Gandalf turned back and pointed. "He is out on the wall, looking over the city."
Frodo saw Aragorn standing on the embrasure at the east end of the wall. Frodo hesitated, still unsure of the wisdom of this course. He could always tell the others that he had been unable to find the King, but that seemed cowardly somehow, not worthy of the hero lauded on the Field of Cormallen. He chose an indirect approach.
"Aragorn, there is something I would ask of you."
The King knelt to put their faces on a level. "Anything within my Kingdom or power is yours, Frodo. What do you wish?"
"Would you come with me tonight for a bit? Take a walk in the city?"
"Of course, my friend." Aragorn thought of the trials of this seemingly fragile spirit, and knew no request could be refused. And this was such a simple thing. Frodo seemed so relieved by his agreement. "And perhaps it will be a comfort for me as well."
"For you??" Frodo stammered.
"Yes, for me, my young friend. Do not forget, I am to be wed tomorrow. And as varied as my life has been these many years, that is one deed for which I am unpracticed." A smile touched the corners of his mouth. "A little distraction might not be amiss."
Little do you know, Frodo thought, just how much distraction you're going to get.
As they walked that evening, Frodo seemed tense, to Aragorn's eye. Some matter was troubling the hobbit, but it could not be a very grave one. After all, surely he would not face anything grave without Sam by his side? Caught up in these thoughts, Aragorn did not at first notice that they had come to a part of the City most known for its hospitality to soldiers; a place unsuited to the delicate of mind and speech.
"Frodo, are you sure this is where you wish to go?" Aragorn asked. "It is a rather... unpolished tavern. It will not be as those you knew in the Shire." But even as he started to question, Frodo took his hand and looked at him beseechingly, and Aragorn followed him to the tavern that stood before them.
Gondor's King noted the disreputable air of the establishment, not seedy perhaps, but not far above it. It smelled of ale and wine, frequently poured, not yet stale with ungraceful age. Scarred tables told of soldiers' emotions, forcefully released. Aragorn was relieved for Frodo's sake to see no gaudy women about, for his nervous companion should be spared that embarrassment.
He entered, and immediately those inside moved to block the door and cut off escape. Aragorn turned swiftly and looked over the group, composed only of his dear friends. His gaze rested on Eomer's face, and then moved to Gimli, and the Lord Steward. Last of all he regarded the sons of Elrond, his foster brothers whom he had known so well for so many years. He found his hand groping for his sword hilt, and then recalled he had not thought to need a sword this night. He settled for grasping his knife. "What do you do here?" he asked, warily. "Do I smell a conspiracy?"
"Now Estel," chided Elrohir, "we wish all to be done properly for your wedding on the morrow. We wish to bear you company on your last unmarried night. Besides, we need to make sure you are properly prepared for tomorrow eve."
"And were it not for us, who would teach you about such things as you need to know?" asked Elladan.
"I recall the last time you thought to teach me about such things." Aragorn shuddered. "It has been 70 years and I'm still not sure I've recovered." Legolas' eyes went wide at that one."It took me some time and much embarrassment to discover the truth, or lack of it, in that 'lesson'."
"Oh, THAT discussion." Elrohir had the grace to blush, as he had been a largely silent witness to that most interesting bit of misinformation.
Elladan, who perhaps most needed it, did not have the grace to blush. "We never intended for you to take that seriously," he shot back. "I certainly did not expect you to ask Glorfindel to clarify the details!"
"I was ashamed to face him for weeks after," mused Aragorn, "and he certainly never let me forget it."
"Well," Elladan carried on, "that is neither here nor there. After all, as your older brothers, we must make sure you are conversant with what you need to know to be married, and the duties you are expected to perform." Sam spluttered mid-drink, spraying wine festively about.
"Hmmph," said Aragorn "I'm not sure that you are the right instructors, then. I don't see either of you with elflings at home, or a wife on your arm." The twin's eyes narrowed in unison. Faramir wondered greatly that Aragorn, heretofore a general of exceptional genius, had chosen such a flawed strategy. He resolved to watch carefully so he could duck at the appropriate time.
"Does Arwen know what you have planned?" Aragorn asked sternly.
"Of course not. She should not be burdened with that knowledge," said Elladan. "And if you were to wish to do so, we would feel obligated to burden her with other...knowledge, details of her betrothed's early life." The twins displayed evil grins.
"We could schedule a session with Arwen as well, about the physical peculiarities of men as opposed to male elves," Elrohir said helpfully. "After all, she should know what to expect."
"Peculiarities?" Pippin asked, puzzled. "Are elves and men really..." It suddenly occurred to Pippin to await a more opportune time for this inquiry. His decision was greatly facilitated as Merry had clamped a hand painfully about Pippin's wrist, and squeezed, quite hard.
"But surely she is most concerned with the outcome of this. Particularly if it is as I expect you desire." Legolas could hear the hint of desperation creeping into Aragorn's voice. "She is your sister, after all."
Elrohir snickered. "Serves her right for marrying you. We warned her, but she never did listen to us. All those stories about baths and the dresses of the elf-maids, you'd suppose they would cause her to think twice." Sam looked at Aragorn with amazement; Pippin seemed admiring.
Faramir sidled closer to Éomer. "Uhmm baths- did he not take them, or did he spy on the elf-maids while they took theirs?"
"Probably both," whispered Éomer, grinning.
And all the time they spoke, servants were setting out a table laden with food, and even more laden with drink.
"I do not suppose I could change your mind?" Aragorn edged toward the door, and noted that Faramir, Éomer and the twins all bore swords, and that Gimli fingered his axe. "Legolas, my friend, surely you want no part of this?"
"I grieve to distress you, Aragorn. But I do not wish to be lacking in my duty to a friend. All have assured me this is necessary to show you proper respect, and that you would protest nonetheless." He looked at Aragorn, innocently. Gimli snorted.
Éomer was already filling goblets, the largest of which he handed to Aragorn. As Gondor's King reflexively took the generous portion, the tavern door opened to reveal a white robed figure.
"Gandalf!" said Aragorn, his voice betraying the tiniest bit of relief, "Is my presence needed elsewhere? Perhaps a host of orcs has appeared to attack the city?"
"No indeed, Aragorn. I intend to help you celebrate." Aragorn slumped into a seat. He knew when he was overmatched.
"What if I simply won't drink?" he asked.
Éomer looked scandalized. "A king who fears he can't hold his liquor?! My Lord Steward, what would the men of Gondor say to such a thing?"
Faramir shook his head sadly. "It would probably cause a mutiny." Then he brightened. "Of course there are other tests of manliness we could employ. I know three very fine courtesans who would be delighted to test your skills. Simultaneously. And discuss the results and their opinions on the matter, with all and sundry. I'm sure the people would be much interested in their King's abilities," he speculated. "Probably the herald of Gondor and the King's messengers would help us proclaim all throughout the land."
Several expressions flitted across Aragorn's face: horror and resignation the most notable. "Alas! For the first time in my life, I am defeated before I begin." The sternness left his face, and there was a slight twinkle in his eyes. He bowed slightly to Faramir. "I fear I will only be able to accept the first challenge." His eyes moved from one brother to the other. "I hope one or both of you soon decides to wed. I would be most interested to help prepare her, and you, for the festivities."
It became a contest then, to see who could offer more toasts, and induce Aragorn to empty his goblet the faster. Éomer, to no one's surprise but his own, rapidly became unable to match toasts with the others and sat in the corner, giggling. Faramir did not even make the attempt, citing his recent illness as the excuse, and watched, fascinated. The younger hobbits had sniffled about the unfairness of the size difference, and demanded smaller cups, which they emptied frequently. Gandalf stayed aloof after the first goblet of wine, and simply observed, making dryly cutting remarks. But the difficulty of outdrinking dwarf and elf was legend. And Elladan and Elrohir simply smiled, and took turns toasting their sister, a toast Aragorn could not refuse. When he appeared to flag in his goblet-lifting, Faramir would mention his accommodating lady-friends.
The party progressed nicely, and the guest of honor was properly relaxed, Frodo noted, as was fitting. The lateness of the hour went unremarked. He is certainly being distracted...
"Are you sure, sister, that you wish to marry this human?" Elladan asked, straight-faced, when Arwen marched into the tavern a few hours later. She regarded the inebriated man before her, who was even now making efforts to sit up and return her gaze. "What have you done to my poor betrothed? Father would be ashamed of you!"
"Come, Arwen, at least we only tested his head for drink. Men have other customs as well for this night, but those we omitted out of our love for you," Elrohir leered.
"Of course," Elladan added, "if you wanted to be sure he really knew what to expect, we could arrange that education in the next few hours. Faramir knows some ladies..."
She looked witheringly at them, then helped Aragorn to stand. "Come, beloved, it is time." But those among the company still coherent noticed that she was hard pressed to sound affectionate. He swayed, leaning on her, and staggered out. Of discretion she had left her escort outside, and now he came forward to support the man's other side. He suppressed a smile.
"Don't you dare laugh. You knew about this! Why didn't you tell me sooner?" she asked as they tried to steer 80 kilos of intoxicated Ranger.
"I could not betray the confidence of your brothers." He answered, virtuously.
"Nonsense. You are an ancient mischief maker."
"It did seem fitting revenge for when your father left him with me at age eight," he admitted. "Erestor and I still bear inner scars from that month."
"You wouldn't tell Ada about this!" she said with disbelief, and not a little pleading.
Glorfindel's lips quivered. "Your father is of the wise," he said portentously. "Sooner or later... he will find out." Arwen flinched. "But in honor of your wedding, I'll not tell him until after tomorrow." His smile could have lit a room, if it had only survived Arwen's glare.
She was silent as they continued to navigate with difficulty. As they approached the seventh circle she finally broke. "He will feel terrible tomorrow. Will you help him, Glorfindel? Please?" Deep fringed eyelids batted at the golden elf.
He sighed. "Oh, very well. I suppose I have been sufficiently amused. And I do owe your brothers a bit of revenge also for a trick they played on Estel that was somewhat disconcerting for me, as well. When we get him back to the Citadel, I'll see what I can do."
* * * * * * * *
The day was fair and bright, and it seemed all Minas Tirith stood beneath the embrasure to see their King wed. He stood on the wall, an imposing figure, his wingéd helm majestic upon his dark locks. His bride, fairest of all in Middle-earth stood beside him, sweet scented and shimmering.
Frodo watched with satisfaction. Aragorn caught his eye, and a tiny smile played over his lips, a brief wink, and then he turned to face Elrond, and listen gravely as the proper words were spoken.
About them stood all who loved them most; companions, friends, and beloved family. Arwen's kin stood among those who dwelt in Rivendell, and were very fair to look upon. The brethren, Elladan and Elrohir, seemed to have a slight puzzled air to those of discerning eye.
As the ceremony ended, Glorfindel murmured quietly behind them, "your foster brother seems composed and in good spirits today, contrary to your predictions."
"Mmmmph, I don't understand it," said Elrohir.
"Perhaps it is but temporary," added Elladan.
"It is evident he is most coherent, and likely to remain so. I have it on good authority he is not planning on more than a ceremonial glass of wine." Glorfindel smiled his beautiful smile, and held out a hand. The twins muttered, but each eventually produced gold coins from about his person, and handed them to the golden-haired elf.
It was not 20 minutes later that Glorfindel greeted the newly wed couple, and all three seemed to be inordinately mirthful. Elladan watched them, and a startled expression erupted on his face. "You don't suppose Glorfindel..."
"No," Elrohir said firmly, "he wouldn't use his power that way..." They turned to regard each other. "Would he?"
A/N: Still working on this, trying to make it funnier, and improve the ending and the beginning. Does this succeed? Is Frodo 'lighter' now? Is Aragorn believable? As always, all comments welcome.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.