Minas Tirith did not sleep the night before the coronation of the King. Standing in the embrasure at the tip of the stone pier bisecting the City Arwen saw the great avenue winding down the hill like a river of golden lamplight with rivulets and streams uniting it to the side streets and covering the hill in a web of light.
Light of candle and lamp showed at nearly every window and torches were spaced along the tops of the walls. By them she could see many of her new people looking northeast towards the twinkling fires of the King’s encampment at the edge of the Pelannor fields.
Arwen sighed happily. Tomorrow Aragorn would come home, to their new home, and at last they would begin their life together free from fear and shadow! Her father’s grief and anger, his refusal to accept her choice, was a nugget of unhappiness that she refused to acknowledge. She would not let her great day, and Aragorn’s, be spoiled - even by a thought.
Turning she padded softly on bare feet back towards the Hall of the Kings. The Fountain guards, standing their traditional watch around the White Tree, acknowledged her presence, bringing their spears to salute - something they did for no one else.
She paused to lay a hand on Nimloth’s pale bole and feel the life surging within it. This she had done, and not by power alone. Only a spell sung by the mother-to-be of the new line of Kings could have given life back to the dead Tree. If she had ever doubted her Eldarion would be born she did so no longer, and never would again.
The Citadel guards on watch before the great hall saluted her too as she passed between them into its white and black coolness. Lights were burning here as well showing the towering statues of the old Kings, the glittering golden canopy suspended above the white throne of the King, and the Queen’s throne beside it.
Arwen paused again for another look at her new throne. It was of white stone and similar in design to that of the King, which meant it was more massive than she would have liked. But anything lighter would have been incongruous and unlovely in these surroundings. It was carved all over with delicate traceries in which the cornflower of Idril Celebrindal and the niphredil of Luthien Tinuviel were intertwined and had her own device of the evenstar inlaid in stones of adamant on the high back where it would glitter above her head.
She nodded satisfied and went on past the thrones to a door that led to a short gallery running behind the guardsmen’s court and ending in a second door opening onto the small private garden below her apartments. This was lit bright as day by lamps hanging in the arcaded walks that surrounded it and others mounted on four posts around the central fountain. And it was crowded with Women, just as she’d left it some few hours ago.
Her Andreth was there, and Eowyn’s Auda. Eowyn herself and Arwen’s six newly appointed maids of honor; girls from noble Gondorian families including Laebeth and Hurin’s golden haired daughter Aranor. Arwen smiled teasingly at them all. “Still wakeful? I’d better not see you yawning and gaping through the ceremonies!”
“Oh no, my Lady!” the girls assured her in chorus. A few giggled nervously.
Eowyn looked up from her dreamy contemplation of her betrothal ring, a grass green beryl carved with the head of a horse, to point out: “You haven’t wasted your night in sleep either.”
Arwen laughed. “True. And there‘s no point in trying to snatch a little rest now, but two hours short of sunrise. Shall we dress for the day instead?” the Women murmured eager agreement.
Auda coaxed the folds of Eowyn’s long mantle to symmetrical perfection and stood back to admire the effect. She had immediately approved the coronation gown sewn by the City seamstresses from bolts of pale golden brocade, almost the exact color of Eowyn’s hair, found in the Royal Wardrobe. Its hems were all edged with a delicate embroidery of gold thread, seed pearl and tiny gems. Sleeves and mantle were lined with soft golden silk and the kirtle beneath was of the same save for its close fitting sleeves of glittering cloth of gold. Eowyn would have had only her betrothal ring, and the two small clasps that held her mantle in place had Auda not brought her jewel box and with it the delicate floral circlet and matching necklet she’d inherited from her mother Theodwyn.
“You will dazzle them all, and outshine the Queen!” Auda pronounced, glowing with delighted pride.
But Eowyn shook her head with a smile. “No I won’t, you haven’t seen what she is going to wear.”
The long years of waiting had given Arwen plenty of time to sew herself a bridal gown - as well as two banners and the belt and scabbard for Narsil - but when the time finally came she’d been wed without ceremony in a riding costume much the worse for wear. And so the gown meant for her wedding would be worn for her coronation instead.
She had hesitated at first, for kirtle and surcoat had been made after the Northern mode which seemed rather different from the fashion in Gondor. But Andreth and Idril, and the Princess Fanuilos of Dol Amroth had all assured her this would not give offense, and it seemed a pity not to wear them for *something* after all the long years of stitching and dreaming that had gone into their making.
The kirtle was low necked, lower than was the custom here in the South, and its pale green silk was overlaid with lace frosted with crystal and pearl. Wide green velvet sleeves belled out over under-sleeves of gold shot yellow gauze. Carefully Andreth and the two oldest and steadiest maids of honor lowered the soft green velvet surcoat over the jeweled gown and arranged its overlong skirts and short train.
Then Andreth and all the maidens tried hard to persuade their mistress to wear some of the Queens’ jewels from the many boxes piled upon a table in her robing room; a girdle of adamant, opal and beryl that would match well with her gown; golden bracelets to adorn her arms, bare beneath their flowing sleeves; a collar of great, creamy white sea pearls. But Arwen refused them all. She would wear only her evenstar, doubly precious now as Aragorn’s pledge, and the fragile butterfly crown with its looped strands of silver and beryl that her mother had made for her long ago.
“Your *mother* made it?” giddy young Emmeril of Lossarnach asked incredulously.
Arwen smiled, remembering: “As a coming of age gift.” then laughed at the astonished looks on her little maidens’ faces. “My mother had Noldorin blood from her mother and so it is no wonder she was skilled with her hands. Silver-smithing was her favored art, but she was also a great weaver and broideress. My work is not half so fine as hers was.” If only Celebrian could have been with her today! but Arwen would not see her mother again until the Ending of the World - and perhaps neither of her parents would want to see her when that time came at last. She pushed the thought away. No sadness - not today!
“Now, let me have a look at you!” the young girls lined up obediently in front of their mistress. Arwen had dressed them in her own colors of deep blue and green and pale silver. Their gowns followed the pattern of her own; a surcoat over a wide sleeved kirtle, and their hair hung free, braided with silver. “Very good, you are a credit to me.” she told them. They blushed with pleasure and looked prettier than ever. “Now let us go down.”
Idril and her attendants were waiting in the Merethrond court, the four maids of honor in scarlet trimmed with gold, Idril herself in a rich ivory brocade sewn with pearls. Wide bands of gold-work set with crimson stones encircled her hips and the high collar of her gown. Over it she wore a flowing gold edged robe of the same brocade, both it and her hanging sleeves lined with scarlet silk.
Arwen had thought the rich fabric too heavy for Idril’s slight form, and the cut too severe for so young a Woman. Then taste here in Gondor did seem to vere from over-austere to over-ornate with nothing in between. At least she had persuaded Idril to wear a light golden circlet instead of the massive diadem she had first chosen.
Eowyn came down from her rooms, above the Queen’s presence and privy chambers, with Auda carrying her train. The Women were still admiring and exclaiming over each other’s finery when Faramir entered the court followed by two squires in the white livery of the Stewards. He wore a bright steel cuirass chased with the Tree over his robe of state, which seemed odd and incongruous to Arwen but was apparently the custom here in Gondor.
His eyes went straight to Eowyn and fixed there. Passing by the other Women, including his Queen, as if they didn’t exist he took the hands she held out to him. “You outshine the Sun-maiden in her glory.” he told his bride-to-be fervently. “Never again shall I call twilight fair, my allegiance is given now to the golden day!”
Eowyn laughed delightedly, then disengaging a hand reached up and gently turned his face to the Queen.
Faramir blinked, recovered himself and bowed. “You sent for me, my Lady, what service may I do your Grace?”
Arwen’s eyes danced. “You have done it already, my Lord Steward. I was determined not to miss your first sight of your betrothed!”
All the Women laughed and Faramir laughed merrily along with them. “I am besotted.” he admitted. “And I care not who knows it!”
“Which is as well, since half the City saw you pledge each other.” his sister reminded him in amusement.
Queen Morwen, Princess Fanuilos, Laebeth and scores of other ladies and gentlewomen waited for the Queen at the foot of the tunnel stair, sinking to the ground in deep courtesies when she appeared. Arwen spent a little time greeting the high born among them, and the less prominent too, such as Hiril and the healers Baradis and Berethil, who by their services had deserved the notice of the Queen. Finally she mounted Asfaloth, proud in his jeweled harness and trappings of green and silver and took in her hand the white standard of peace with the flowering tree she had wrought at the same time as the black war banner.
It had been decided that the Queen and her chief attendants, Fanuilos, Eowyn, Idril and Laebeth, and the six maids of honor should ride horseback, using sidesaddles so their fine gowns would not be disarrayed. The new Queen smiled remembering Eowyn’s disgust and then her dismay when she realized riding aside was a somewhat different skill than astride. The shieldmaiden of Rohan had been forced to practice alongside the Gondorian maids of honor unaccustomed to riding horseback.
The other ladies followed in their carriages, two by two, Queen Morwen taking pride of place among them, with guardsmen marching before and behind and singers and musicians playing flute and horn, walking between. They wound their way downward between excited crowds to assemble in the great gate square. The Queen’s procession was followed by the Steward’s led by Faramir attended by his cousin Hurin and those Councilors of the Kingdom who had not marched with Elessar to the Black gates, followed by heralds, the captains of the companies defending the City, Lords, gentlemen and burgesses.
Then Arwen and her ladies, and Faramir together with Hurin, the captains, Elfhelm and his knights, rode through the gate arch and out of the City. Behind them a row of guards in black and silver formed a line across the empty space where the great gates of Minas Tirith had once stood and drew their swords.
There was a huge crowd outside the walls, all dressed in festival garb and garlanded with flowers, They cheered the arrival of the Queen and the Steward, then everybody settled down to wait - but not for long.
The Host of the West advanced towards the City in row upon row of armored men, the steel of their cuirasses and spears flashing and glinting in the morning sunlight and at their head rode the new King with Eomer of Rohan and Imrahil of Dol Amroth upon his right hand, and Gandalf the White and an uncomfortable looking Gimli perched alone upon Arod at his left hand. Escorted by his Northern Rangers now clad as the knights they were in silvered mail beneath surcoats of Dunedain grey ensigned with the rising moon of Isildur, their star badges gleaming on the shoulders of their silver edged grey cloaks.
The crowd before the walls did not cheer their King as he passed but stared in awestruck silence. Arwen too felt frozen in place, heart pounding painfully loud in the stillness. Never had he been more beautiful - not even in his shining youth before the cares and sorrows of his life had left their mark.
He had agreed to wear for his coronation the plate armor he had refused for battle. Over crimson tunic and gleaming black mail he wore a cuirass of shining galvorn 1 inlaid with the helm and stars and winged crest of the Kings in gold and over all a mantle of blue-black velvet edged with silver. His hair lay sleek shining on his shoulders and the Star of Elendil gleamed upon his brow. But greater even than his beauty was the majesty, the power revealed in him now that he had cast aside all disguises and accepted his destiny. It was this that had struck his people silent, overawed, perhaps even a little afraid.
“My Lady.” Faramir prompted in a whisper. It had been agreed she would greet the King first.
She swallowed and urged Asfaloth forward. This was ridiculous, she couldn’t possibly be feeling shy of her own husband - could she?
“Another banner?” Aragorn said as they met, a note of amusement in his voice.
“The first was for war, this one is for peace.” she answered huskily. He took it from her hand and she bowed, struggling to regain her composure. She felt his fingers beneath her chin and he tilted her face upward forcing her to meet his eyes; her lover’s eyes warm and familiar. She essayed a timid smile.
Suddenly he urged Brego alongside Asfaloth and pulled her to him, kissing her with all the pent up passion of their long separation, regardless the many thousands of eyes upon them. Awe and shyness vanished in an instant.
“I’ve missed you so much,” she whispered when they broke apart at last, tracing the familiar lineaments of his face with eager fingers, “so much.”
“And I you. A full month we’ve been apart.”
“It seemed an Age!”
He pulled her close again for another kiss, lifting her bodily from her saddle to his own.
“Aragorn!” she gasped. “The ceremony, what will our people think?”
“I don’t think they mind.” he grinned. Only then did she hear the laughter and applause around them - no their people didn’t mind at all.
Laughing herself she abandoned all attempt at dignity and flung her arms around him for another long kiss. Of course eventually - and it seemed all to soon - they had to stop kissing each other and let the ceremony continue. Arwen, turned to face forward, perched uncomfortably half on half off Aragorn’s saddle bow, but happy to have his arm around her.
Faramir fought down his grin and bowed, a hand to his breast, the other holding his white rod. “The last Steward of Gondor begs leave to surrender his office.”
Aragorn accepted the rod from him, then returned it saying: “That office is not ended, and it shall be yours and your heirs’ as long as my line shall last. Do now your office!”
Faramir wheeled his horse around to face the City and the people lining its walls. “Men of Gondor, hear now the Steward of this Realm! Behold! one has come to claim the Kingship at last. He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dunedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hand brings healing -” which, Arwen thought a little wryly, pretty much covered everything. “- the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur’s son, Elendil’s son of Numenor. Shall he be King and enter into the City and dwell there?”
And a thunderous cry of “Yea!” rose as from a single vast throat, the voice of the people of Gondor. Arwen had never doubted that would be their answer yet still she let out a breath: It was done, the King had returned and been accepted.
Note 1: Galvorn is a black metal alloy created by Eol in the First Age.
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.