9. Before the Coronation
He smiled back. “Forgive me, my Lady, I did not hear.” A soft ripple of friendly laughter circled the table as he continued: “The Heir would receive the crown from the hands of the King as he lay on his deathbed. Or, if the Heir was abroad when the old King died, he would go to the Hallows to take it from his hand there.”
“That will be awkward since Elessar means not to return to Minas Tirith until the day of his crowning.” Eowyn pointed out from her place across the table from Faramir. He was careful not to look at her again, this was not the time to get lost in his beloved’s eyes!
“There is precedent for another taking the crown on the King’s behalf.” said Idril, sitting beside her brother. “The Queen Istarnie I told you of, Arwen, did so.”
“As did Pelendur when, as Steward, he presented the crown to Earnil, the Council’s choice.” said Faramir. Then he blushed, remembering this had been done in deliberate despite of the claim of the Lord Aragorn’s forefather Arvedui. He glanced uneasily not at the Queen but at the Lord Barahir, the King’s cousin and foster brother, sitting beside her as Elessar’s representative.
But the Northerner only smiled faintly. “Aragorn would thank you if you would do the same, Lord Faramir. When your grandfather showed us the crown long ago neither of us much fancied taking it from Earnil’s grasp.”
"Faramir will do so then.” said Undomiel. “What next?”
“Then the King would put on the crown under the Dome of the Stars, or in later times in the Hall of the Kings.” he continued. “And afterward he would sit upon the throne and accept the homage of his subjects.” Faramir turned to Barahir. “Tell me, my Lord, how were these things ordered in the North?”
The Ranger gave another slight smile. “I cannot say, I have made no study of such matters.” he looked at the Queen: “Arwen, you attended most of the enscepterings of the Northern Kings, did you not?.”
“Every one from Arantar’s to Arvedui’s.” she answered. And Faramir blinked, reminded again of his Queen’s age. It was all too easy to forget this seemingly youthful Woman’s memory reached back deep into the Elder Days.
“It was the scepter not the crown that was the symbol of sovereignty in the North.” Undomiel explained. “But otherwise the ceremony was not unlike your own: When the old King chose to lay down the scepter he would proclaim his decision and then he and his Heir would make a great progress around the realm that the people might bid farewell to the one and welcome the other. Then they would return to Annuminas and the old King would give the scepter into the hands of the new before the assembled folk at the doors of Elendil’s Hall. If the King died before laying down the scepter - as happened once or twice - his successor would receive it from the hands of either the Queen or the Prince of Dunhirion as hereditary Steward of the Realm as seemed most fitting.”
“Since Elessar is being made King by the acclaim of the people it would be right for him to put on the crown before them all after the Northern fashion.” said Idril. “Perhaps at the gates when he is welcomed into the City?”
“No.” said Faramir. “Or rather yes, let him be crowned in the sight of all, but break the ceremony into two parts; the acclamation at the gates and then the crowning before the doors of the Hall.”
Queen Undomiel nodded. “Very well. We will do it so, if Aragorn approves.”
“I have no doubt that he will.” said Barahir. “But he is troubled over the question of the army. If he leads it back to the City might it not be seen as a threat?”
“Certainly not!” Faramir, Idril, Edrahil the Chamberlain and Hurin of the Keys cried emphatically together.
“The army is our army, as the King is our King.” Hurin said firmly. “How then can we feel threatened by either? Tell the Dunadan he need not be so careful of us as all that!”
Barahir‘s deep eyes glinted amusement. “I will do so.”
They went on to talk of others things; whether the procession to the Citadel should be mounted or afoot; the decoration of the great avenue; the attendants of the King and Queen, and so forth. Faramir paid the talk but half a mind - and this time not because he was agreeably distracted by his betrothed!
It troubled him that Elessar could still harbor uncertainty as to his welcome. Gondor had followed him to the gates of death - what more proof did he need of her loyalty? Yet for all his hurt, Faramir could not entirely blame the King for his mistrust. The Southern Realm had betrayed Isildur’s Heirs before, as all Men knew.
He looked at the Queen at the head of the table. She at least had no doubts, and in time they would prove themselves to Elessar too.
The people of Gondor poured into the White City to see their new King crowned, some from as far away as the green hills of Pinnath Gelin and the long shores of Anfalas. Harpists came from Dol Amroth in the train of Imrahil’s Princess, and musicians and singers from the vales of Lebennin. And the Men of Lossarnach came with great carts of flowers for garland and wreath.
Arwen was sitting the court of Merethrond amidst heaps of white flowers industriously plucking petals from roses and cherry-blossoms and snowdrops and the rest, assisted by a half score or so serving maids, when Hiril approached her and asked a private word. Arwen granted it readily, making a place for the Woman on the bench beside her.
“It concerns the Lady Idril.” Hiril said. “You have not heard all she did during the siege, my Lady. When the City was breached and it seemed it must fall she resolved not only to take her own life rather than fall into Sauron’s hands but chivied and persuaded almost all the Women of the City to do the same, and to slay their children too.”
Arwen stared at her appalled. “But it did not happen!” she said recovering herself. “She changed her mind.”
“Yes, at the last she held her hand. Lady Luinil says she foresaw the coming of the King. Still it worries me that she should even think of such an act - much less intend it. Such despairing madness is alien to our blood, to the nature of the Anarioni,” Hiril smiled wryly, “though I say it as shouldn’t.”
“And why shouldn’t you? You have the blood whatever the law of Gondor may say!” and that was one law Arwen would see changed if she could. “And I too would never expect such a thing from a daughter of Elendil’s line. It must have been the Lord Denethor’s influence.”
“That is what I think.” Hiril agreed. “His shadow fell upon all his children but perhaps most of all upon the daughter that dwelt with him and kept his house. It passed with him but the memory remains. And she has lost much; father, and love, and her occupation too now that there is a Queen in Gondor. She will not fall into despair again, but she will fade away and die if she is not given reason to live.”
Arwen bit her lip. She had seen enough Isildurieni im similar straits to know Hiril’s fear was well founded. “I shall not always need her help and advice as I do now. We must find her something else to do, my husband and I.”
Among those who came to Minas Tirith to see the King crowned was Morwen of Lossarnach, Queen Steelsheen of Rohan. Rather to Arwen’s relief she preferred her elder daughter’s house in the sixth circle to guest quarters in the Citadel. Eowyn went down to her aunt’s house bearing the formal welcome of the Queen of Gondor to the Queen Dowager of Rohan as well as her own.
Morwen was very old, frail and white haired, but she had the same heart shaped face and wide set eyes as her granddaughter, though hers were the grey of the Dunedain rather than blue like Eowyn‘s. She received her not in the house but in a light lattice-work garden pavilion overgrown with climbing roses, white and pink and pale lavender, the air was heavy with their scent.
“I am glad to see you, Grandmother.” Eowyn said, embracing her.
“And I you, Sweeting, I have been hearing sad tales of you.”
Eowyn blushed. “And all true. But I am better now.”
There was a distinct glint of humor in the old Queen’s eyes as she answered, “I trust you will keep so.” and then looked significantly aside.
Eowyn followed her glance to the group of Women attendants sitting at the other end of the pavilion. A grey haired Woman in a green gown bordered with Rohirric knotwork rose, her eye fixed sternly on Eowyn.
The old nurse and tirewoman swept towards them, her gimlet glare reducing Eowyn, Lady of Rohan, shieldmaiden and Nazgul-bane to a naughty six year old with skinned knees and muddied clothes. “What have you to say for yourself, young lady?”
“Nothing, nothing at all.” Eowyn held out her hands appealingly. “I’ve been a thoughtless, selfish fool and am heartily sorry for it. Please don’t scold, Nanny.”
The stern face softened. “My poor little girl!” she hugged her close and Eowyn let out a little sigh of relief. “Well it wasn’t all your fault. I’ll have a word or two to say to that Lord Aragorn, King or no, trifling with your heart so -”
“He didn’t! Be fair, Auda, he was never more than kind. It was I who tried to make it more than that.”
Welll...maybe so.” the old nurse conceded reluctantly. “But still it is a bitter disappointment to me - just when I thought you were going to be happy again at last! And it would have been a fine match.”
Eowyn smiled mischievously. “But I’ve made a much better one, now.”
“What!” grandmother and nurse exclaimed as one.
“I have pledged myself to the Lord Faramir, Steward of the City.” Eowyn said demurely.
Auda looked blank but Morwen’s brows rose approvingly. “A fine choice, Granddaughter.”
“Thank you.” said Eowyn, and explained to Auda. “He is the Lord Boromir’s brother.”
Her face cleared. “Oh!” everybody had liked Boromir. “And is he much like him?”
“Very to look at. And gentle and kind as was Boromir, but also stern and grim at times. He has suffered much - as have we all.”
“But that is ended now.” Morwen said firmly. “You will see your fosterling happy yet, Auda.”
“I hope so.” she sighed, then turned brisk: “I have brought your jewels, Eowyn, and your best gowns. What were you planning to wear to this coronation, armor?”
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