2. Welcoming the Lady
Faramir nodded across the courtyard, toward the cocksure lord in the crimson-and-navy hosen. "Look at the way Alcamir eyes her."
Gilandil, Aragorn's steward from the North, looked over at the man. "He is not the only one I have seen with that look. Why do your people hold Arwen in such low esteem? Arnor will rejoice at her wedding."
"Would that all Gondor felt the same," Imrahil said. "Too many see elves as wights, and would have the king's hand for their own daughters."
"But only one could marry him," Gilandil observed.
Imrahil shook his head sadly. "But she would still be one of us. To many, that still matters."
"But what does it matter, truly?" Gilandil asked. "If they are so petty they would slight her… well, surely Gondor's most important sons can still recognize true worth?"
Faramir looked meaningfully toward the eastern horizon: now free of Orodruin's glow but still marked by imposing stone and harsh memories. "Gondor needs men, and coin to rebuild her land. Too many people would look for that in their king's intended."
"And too few remember their history," Imrahil added. "In Arnor the Rhudaurians and Cardolani broke faith with their king; we had none to forsake, and so our barbarians dwell inside our gates."
"They are not all so unimportant." Húrin's lips twisted into a smirk. "I was Ecthelion's eyes and ears in Dol Amroth some years ago, when a stranger from the north led a raid on Corsair ships – a raid that these 'minor' lords' demands almost kept from happening. They can be strong, in numbers."
He looked directly at Aragorn, his eyes glinting mischievously. "Or do I lie, Thorongil?"
Faramir's jaw dropped. "That captain is you?"
Aragorn scowled. "Yes, I am him. I served your grandfather, and I suffered those fools' insults all too often– I would spare Arwen them if I could."
"Would that we were in Númenor," Faramir mused. "There, we could make her Queen in her own right, and no one would dare question her worth."
"Why can't we?" Imrahil asked.
"Because Gondor has never had a ruling queen," Húrin said. "And when Pelendur refused Firiel's claim—"
"A claim that I rejected," Faramir said. "Does that not mean…"
The men stood silent for a long moment. "It just might," Húrin said at last. "If Aragorn can inherit through Firiel's line, then I see little problem with a co-regent."
Aragorn smiled broadly. "Those fools will not argue the distinction. They won't deny themselves the honour they could finagle from this ceremony – or the wine."
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