12. May Day
The atmosphere in the City was cheerful and bright as Faramir rode down to the Pelennor. Garlands of flowers had been hung out of windows, spanning the streets, and there were people chattering brightly outside shops and inns. They called greetings to Faramir as he passed, and Faramir thought he could not remember a time when Minas Tirith was so lively.
On the Pelennor, tents had been erected. The army had returned from Cormallen that day, and had set up camp outside the City. It was the eve of May, and in the morning the King would be crowned.
Faramir dismounted and gave the reins of his horse to a nearby Dúnadan, who bowed silently. Straightening his tunic, the Steward's son glanced up at the sable banner fluttering in the breeze, and entered the King's tent.
Aragorn was alone, thoughtfully polishing Andúril, but as Faramir came in he laid the sword down and stood up.
Faramir dropped to his knees. "My liege."
Aragorn held out his hand, and the younger man took it and kissed it. "Stand up, Faramir," Aragorn said. "How are you feeling?"
"Much better, my liege," Faramir said. "I did not thank you for saving me."
"I am glad I was able to," Aragorn said. He drew a chair up. "Sit."
"My lord Steward sends his excuses," Faramir said, sitting down. "He is busy in the City, and he thought I would be more suited to the task for which I came."
"Meaning, he would rather not see me," Aragorn returned.
Faramir smiled wryly, and then dug in a pouch and drew out some papers. "The loremasters have been working through the archives, and have found the traditional words for the coronation." He passed them to Aragorn. "I did wonder whether the lords Elladan and Elrohir might know them already, but I thought it prudent to find them in any case."
"If you asked them, my brothers might say they knew the words," Aragorn said, glancing over the parchments, "but I would guess they have forgotten some of the ceremony."
"And I hope you received the garments sent down from the City," Faramir went on.
"I did, thank you. You have not been idle while we have been celebrating at Cormallen."
"I am not particularly good at being idle," Faramir confessed lightly. "Unless you give me a book, in which case I am lost to the world."
Aragorn laughed, and laid the parchments aside. "Then I must introduce you to Lord Elrond at some point. You would get along extremely well, I think. As for now - do you have to hurry back to the City, or can you spare a few moments to greet some friends?"
"I am in no particular hurry," Faramir said, rising and following Aragorn out of the tent. They crossed the grass to a circle lit by a campfire. There was a group of people of assorted sizes sitting around the fire, laughing at something, and an appetising smell rose into the evening air.
"Sam's cooking," Aragorn commented, as they stepped into the light. There was a chorus of greetings, and Faramir hung back a little until the Ranger beckoned him forwards. "I've brought a guest - I hope there's enough food, Sam?"
"Very likely, Mr Strider," Sam said, and looked up. "Why, it's Captain Faramir!"
"Master Samwise!" Faramir said, recognising the sturdy hobbit with delight and bending to greet him. "And Frodo - I am very pleased to see you again."
Frodo, who had stood up to bow, looked down at the ground and said nothing. A wave of concern crossed Faramir's brow, but passed as he was drawn to sit down by Merry and Pippin. Aragorn introduced Legolas and Gimli, and explained that the Fellowship were congregating for old times' sake before the events of the morrow.
"In that case, I do not wish to intrude," Faramir said.
"You do not intrude," Aragorn returned gently. "Now, sample some of Sam's excellent stew - hobbit cooking is something not to be sniffed at."
"This isn't real hobbit cooking," Merry said, through a mouthful.
"Real hobbit cooking," added Pippin, tearing some bread off a loaf, "involves long tables, and many courses, and some pretty hobbit lasses to help serve it all up."
"Like, say, Diamond of Long Cleeve," Merry said, with a pointed look at his cousin. Pippin grinned.
"Just like Diamond."
Faramir listened to their banter, and ate his stew, and wondered whether Boromir had fitted into this strange group. At length he excused himself, and Aragorn got up to accompany him back to his horse.
"Take Denethor my greetings," he said, as Faramir mounted.
"I will, my lord. Until the morning."
Aragorn nodded, and raised a hand as Faramir rode off.
The Citadel was quiet and silent as he came through it after leaving his horse in the capable hands of a stable boy. Denethor was not in his rooms, and Faramir went past the great hall on the off chance that his father would be there. Pushing open the doors, he glanced inside, and paused.
At the end of the great chamber, seated in the Steward's chair, was a figure bent over something in his lap. There were no guards, and no servants. Faramir recognised the broken object in Denethor's hands, and silently turned, leaving his father alone with his grief.
* * *
Morning dawned, clear and bright and shadowless. Looking up at the Tower of Ecthelion, men saw the silver banner of the Stewards flying high in the breeze; but the City was garlanded with flowers and people put on their best clothes, mended and pressed. For the King was to be crowned.
Aragorn woke in his tent with an unfamiliar feeling of nerves. He lay on his cot, staring up at the tent roof, before swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and standing up.
He found someone had slipped into the tent and left a bowl of water, so he washed thoroughly and tried to smooth down hair too used to the ravages of the Wild, before turning to the new clothes he had been sent.
There was a shirt of good linen and good make, though not so fine as that produced by the Elves; and breeches to match. Aragorn was slipping the long, heavy coat of black mail over the shirt when Elladan and Elrohir entered the tent.
"We came to help," Elrohir said, pulling the bottom of the mail coat down.
"Thank you." Aragorn accepted the silver sword belt that came with the mail and fastened it around his waist, automatically tucking the loose end around the belt so it would not come loose.
"Did you sleep well?" Elladan passed his twin the edge of the heavy white cloak and together they put it around Aragorn's shoulders.
"Liar," Elrohir said.
They watched as Aragorn reverentially lifted the Elessar from where it lay wrapped in a piece of cloth in his pack, and used the brooch to clasp the mantle. The final touch was a delicate circlet of silver with a star-shaped gem in the centre, but Elrohir said, "wait!" and pulled a comb from a pouch.
"I did try," Aragorn protested, as his foster-brother pulled the comb through his dark hair.
"We're just being fussy. Family pride." Elladan settled the circlet on Aragorn's head. "There."
They gazed at their brother for a moment in silence.
"Little Estel," Elrohir said, eventually.
"I wish Ada, and Arwen, were here," Elladan said softly.
"So do I." Aragorn reached out, and clasped their shoulders briefly. "Thank you. You were the best of brothers, and the best teacher I could have hoped for."
"And you were a good pupil, for a mortal," Elladan returned, breaking the moment of seriousness.
Aragorn smiled, and picking up Andúril attached the scabbard to his belt. "Is everyone else ready?"
"I think so," Elrohir said.
They held the tent flaps open, and Aragorn came out into the sunshine. Close by he found a group waiting, all dressed in their finest. They knelt, as he arrived, and straightened again.
"My liege," Imrahil of Dol Amroth said, "all is prepared, and the City awaits you."
"Then," said Aragorn, "we must go." He glanced around at his friends - Éomer, clad in newly polished armour, a golden circlet on his golden hair; Gandalf, smiling and radiant; the Fellowship, the hobbits looking excited and nervous; the Dúnedain silent in grey.
As a group, they walked out to where the Armies of the West awaited, and a cheer went up as the soldiers saw them appear. Now the host moved, towards the City where the people were gathered before the Gate.
Denethor stood by the wooden barrier that had been set up in front of the shattered Gate of his city. Dressed in his finest mail, a shining white surcoat, and a white cloak over all, he clutched the rod of his Stewardship in gauntleted hands and watched the host approach. Behind him stood Faramir, Húrin of the Keys, and some of the highest-ranking Guards, in uniform, and silent as their lord.
At a short distance from the barrier, the army halted, and from the front of the host came the Dúnedain in grey. They seemed taller than mortal Men, but tallest of all was Aragorn, walking slowly in front of them. He was accompanied by Prince Imrahil, and Éomer of Rohan, and Gandalf glimmering in white, and the hobbits. Denethor took a deep breath and nodded.
From the rampart above the Gate, a single trumpet rang out, and all fell silent. Denethor, the twenty-sixth Steward of Gondor, stepped out and met Aragorn in the space ringed by the people of Minas Tirith and those who had fought for her freedom.
For a moment, the two men met each other's gaze, and then Denethor dropped to one knee and said: "The last Steward of Gondor begs leave to surrender his office."
Aragorn took the offered rod, and smiled. "Nay, my lord Denethor, that office is not ended. It shall be thine and thy heirs' as long as my own line shall last. Do now thy office!"
Denethor stood, and turned to face the people of the City. His voice rang out and echoed off the ancient walls. "Men of Gondor!" he said. "Hear now the Steward of this Realm! Behold! one has come to claim the kingship again at last. Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dúnedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, Thorongil of the City Guard; victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur's son, Elendil's son of Númenor. Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?"
There was a roar of approval from the assembled host, and Denethor held up his hand for silence.
"The loremasters tell that it was the custom of old that the king should receive the crown from his father ere he died; or if that might not be, that he should go alone and take it from the hands of his father in the tomb where he was laid. But since things must now be done otherwise, using the authority of the Steward, I have brought hither from Rath Dínen the crown of Earnur the last king, whose days passed in the time of our longfathers of old."
Faramir and three other men walked forward bearing the casket of lebethron, and Denethor opened it and lifted out the crown. Restored to full beauty, it was like a light on that bright day. He turned to Aragorn and held it out, and Aragorn took it and held it up so that all could see.
"Et Earello Endorenna utúlien. Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn' Ambar-metta!" he said, and then, to Denethor's surprise, he handed the crown back. "By the labour and valour of many I have come into my inheritance," Aragorn said. "In token of this I would have the Ringbearer bring the crown to me, and let Mithrandir set it upon my head, if he will; for he has been the mover of all that has been accomplished, and this is his victory."
Silently, Frodo came to Denethor, and the Steward bent to give the crown to the hobbit. Frodo turned and carried it to Gandalf, who came to Aragorn and crowned him.
Watching, Denethor sighed.
Now Aragorn, Elessar of Gondor, stood, and it seemed to the Steward and to all watching that he was revealed for the first time. Denethor remembered all the other man's guises - Rider of Rohan, Guardsman, a Ranger in a tattered cloak - but now he knew he saw the real Aragorn. A King, and one worthy of the title. His white mantle shone in the sunlight, and reflected the brilliance of the Elessar at his throat and the stones on the crown on his head; and he looked at Denethor and smiled.
Denethor smiled back, and then raised his hands and cried: "Behold the King!"
The people of the City, and the Armies of the West, cheered, and trumpets were blown and music was made. The barrier was pushed aside, and followed by his subjects, Elessar entered the City.
Caught up in the tide of people, Faramir came close to Denethor and the Steward saw the joy in his son's eyes. "I am glad, father," he said simply.
Denethor nodded. "As am I, Faramir. As am I."
Faramir laughed aloud for sheer pleasure, and then took his father's hand and pulled him to catch up with Aragorn and the rest of the captains ahead of them. Denethor let himself be tugged along, and as they went he realised that the cheers of the people were not only for the King, but also for the Steward. Gondor was safe, Gondor was at peace, and the hard work of centuries had at last come to fruition.
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.