Many Guises and Many Names
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House Divided, A: 8. Denouement
‘Hail Aragorn son of Arathorn!’
My heart had almost stopped in shock upon seeing her, this woman who carried herself like Morwen. She had not her eyes, being grey, and was stronger in build, but the mark was indelible. Her grand-daughter, it must be, though it seemed impossible that so much time had already passed.
Pale fingers had touched mine before pouring some stout Rohirric wine into my cup, and she shivered.
‘Hail Lady of Rohan!’ I replied, which was proper.
Irises the colour of clouds before summer storms bored into me.
You cannot know me, I thought, and was comforted, if that is the proper description for feeling as though one is completely naked under the glaring moon.
And then she had passed down the table.
Denouement, Part II
The clouds were only just tinged with lilac when I went in search of the King.
The King. Over All. He had united Gondor and Arnor, the long-lost Northern land, and even those verdant grounds of the hobbits, which made me think of Meriadoc, and I smiled. Though our oddly intimate days together were now long past, a part of me still missed his scent of foreign manhood, and of determination which wafted up to me as we rode, day after day toward smoky ground.
Aragorn’s title was still slightly grating. Trying to say it made me feel as though I had thrust my face in the Snowbourn and its sandy residue lingered in my mouth. Then I snorted, thinking fondly of what words my contemplative betrothed would have to say of that image. I drank some of the wine in my cup, and continued on into the garden to see if our exalted guest was there.
Éomer had sent me, since I was, after all, the highest-ranking woman in Rohan.
No, I chided myself, that is not true. Arwen the Evenstar, Queen of Gondor, was somehow no longer an immortal, but she still seemed alien, as though her spirit were around her as a tangible thing. Though I had met only a few Elves, they all possessed that radiance. If she was a mortal now, I felt within myself that I could not tell the difference.
Such was the swirling of my thoughts that I almost ran into King Elessar in the untidy garden outside of Meduseld.
‘Dragon’s breath!’ I muttered, then promptly blushed, my improper words beating on my senses even as I uttered them.
‘Aragorn, I mean, King Elessar, your pardon, I beg!’
I quickly raised my eyes to the barely glistening stars and thanked them for their cover, as I knew my face was scarlet, though I tried valiantly to rein in my emotions.
There was a polite chuckle from the corner.
‘Éowyn, your spirit need never be pardoned, especially by me.’
He raised himself from his sequestered, crouching stance, and waved to a stone bench that I was rather sure I had never before sat upon. His familiarity with this ground mostly unvisited by me had put me on edge, as though one of those who claimed to see futures in horse droppings had suddenly stared at me and told me I was to suffer some vague, but dismal, fate.
We both sat on the cold seat, the autumnal air warmed by our presence. I drank another swallow of my wine, then asked him a question before I lost my nerve, yet again.
‘How is it that you seem to know Edoras so well?’
The sun patiently continued its inexorable settling into the earth, spreading pale, fiery shadows on stone and plant alike. Aragorn, after a questioning glance and my nod, took my glass, drained it of its contents, then returned it to me.
‘Do you mind?’ he asked, retrieving a hidden pipe from his elegant overcloak. ‘Arwen cannot stand the smell.’
I shook my head, as I placed the empty chalice on the ground.
He took out a tinder box and lit a match on the sole of his boot. Once the leaves in his pipe began burning, he puffed contentedly a few times before speaking again.
‘I am of the Dúnedain, as you know, and my lifespan is longer than many. After I left Rivendell, when I was still rather young, I came to Rohan and served under your grandfather Thengel.’
At this I turned to stare at him, for I knew that I had been named somewhat for my grandmother Morwen, and yet knew nothing about her.
‘Did you know Morwen, my mother’s mother?’ The words rushed forth, an unregulated torrent, but all diplomatic necessity had left me. This man knew. Only he, of all people, could tell me about her, and, perhaps, my mother.
He did not speak, but a wide smile crossed his face, his teeth comfortably clenched about his pipe. Turning to look at me, he removed his pipe then said gently, ‘Yes, I did.’ The ages seemed to have skipped kindly across his features, like sheep on new spring grass, and I discovered that from within my heart, I did not need to inquire further.
My attentions were recaptured by the emerging constellations. I gazed for a while in peaceful silence, then Aragorn spoke again.
‘Though you will miss the straightforwardness of the ways of Rohan, you alone will be able to nurture such plants and growing things in your new kingdom that will reflect the singularity of purpose of you and Faramir, the Steward’s son.’
All of a sudden his years with the Elves seemed as obvious as the smoke rising from his pipe. No usual man would speak that way. Familiar, and yet as though I had been addressed by Béma himself. Goosebumps flared on my skin.
Just then we heard Faramir’s urgent voice from the edge of the garden, beckoning for the both of us. Aragorn took his pipe out of his mouth and with a slight sigh, tapped the tobacco out on the bench.
‘You have her backbone.’
I scowled for a moment, perplexed. ‘What?’ I asked.
He stood up from the cold stone, and took my hands. For a moment I faced him, my feet firmly rooted, basking in his grey eyes. I knew that I had loved a shadow of him, once; not truly loving him, the mortal man before me, yet I felt bathed in compassion, and was not ashamed. And then I understood.
‘As straight and faithful as the pine tree,’ I began, and he nodded, before releasing my hands, my beloved’s feet making soothing sounds of leather against pebble on the path under his feet.
‘Westu hál, Éowyn Steelsheen,’ Aragorn said quietly.
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