49. The Marriage
"Aren't you going to be a beautiful bride!"
Firiel forced a smile as the lady-in-waiting fussed over her. She couldn't remember the woman's name for the life of her.
"I hear Arvedui's very handsome," the woman continued. She was pretty, prettier than Firiel. The princess wished the lady-in-waiting could marry Arvedui.
"It's an honor to marry so high," Firiel said. She had arrived in Fornost only last night and already the wedding preparations were being made. The marriage was going to be as soon as possible. Rumor was Araphant wanted it tonight.
"Oh, but you're a princess," the woman clucked. "Of course you're going to marry high. There, do you like your hair?"
Firiel checked a mirror. "It's very nice," she said. It was. Far too nice for the rest of her. "Father was expecting to marry me to a noble. He's got enough sons and he doesn't need a daughter."
"Oh, but you're beautiful," the woman said.
And now she's lying, Firiel thought. Just to suck up to me. She glanced out the window down into the courtyard. Servants were bustling around like ants, but there were two who were watching Firiel's window while trying to appear like they weren't. They weren't terribly good at it. Actually, Firiel remembered seeing them before, on the journey. She didn't know – or particularly care – what they were up to, but it was curious. She made a note of it.
"You will make the young prince such a beautiful wife!" the woman exclaimed as she looked at Firiel.
"You're far prettier than I," Firiel said. "Your husband is lucky to have you."
"What? Oh, I'm not married."
"But your ring…"
The woman glanced at an amethyst ring on her finger. "Oh, that. It's nothing." Her eyes went to the courtyard, to the two figures, Firiel swore.
There was a knock on the door and King Araphant walked in. Rumor went that he had been superstitious and rather gullible in his early years, but by the time he was made king he had turned to steel in mind and mood.
"The marriage will take place in an hour," he said. "Make sure you are ready."
An hour! Only an hour!
"Very well," Firiel said. "I will be ready."
"Good." Araphant left.
"A man of few words," the woman said. "Do you like that hairstyle?"
"Let's try another one."
"I hate this weather."
Earnil nodded politely.
"I despise this peasant who thinks he's king! Oh, so the blood of Isildur runs in his veins! Along with the blood of some scullery maids and plenty of heathen wildmen as well, no doubt!"
Earnil continued to nod.
"Filthy castle. Horrible draft. Kept me up all night."
"I'm sorry to hear that, sir."
Pelendur sniffed. "Indeed. Well, at least we're rid of that silly girl. Do you know the scandal it caused when she went riding? She'll be among her own wild kind now. Although I can't wish a marriage to one of These kinds on anyone. Imagine! Children! She'll probably die from the trauma!"
The steward of Gondor was no easy traveling companion and Earnil had made a point of avoiding him whenever possible. Regrettably, whoever had organized the marriage had placed them next to each other. So now Earnil had to sit, teeth gritted, counting the seconds under his breath, while this buffoon complained.
"I'm quite glad Ondoher decided you should lead this procession," Pelendur continued. "The blood of true kings is in you, isn't it? Telumehtar, wasn't it?"
"A good king. Very valiant soldier. Captured Umbar, didn't he?"
Pelendur nodded. "A good king," he repeated. "Ah, and here comes the bride. Only ten minutes late!"
"She looks beautiful," Earnil said as Firiel walked into the courtyard, dressed in a glorious red-orange dress.
"It doesn't go well with her complexion," Pelendur said. "It makes her look ill. What idiot picked that? I'll have them fired."
Arvedui was already waiting at the altar for his wife. He kept shifting from foot to foot and looked extremely nervous. He was a handsome young man with dark hair and eyes, and a much darker complexion than normal for the Dunedain. This had led to some speculation on Pelendur's part.
"His mother," the steward said, shaking his head. "Was she Dunedain?"
"I believe so, sir," Earnil whispered as Araphant said some words about unity.
"She must've had an affair with one of the wildmen. Disgusting creatures. If he came to Gondor, that boy would be stoned to death."
He probably would be, considering Gondor's current xenophobia. "Yes, sir."
"Vile. I cannot imagine why I agreed to this alliance," Pelendur said. His face soured even more. "But the king made it. With Prince Ondoher's own daughter." He shook his head. "Poor thing. I pity her more all the time. Although she does look ill. She better not faint."
Arvedui and Firiel joined hands. Earnil noticed both hands were shaking. Arvedui was smiling so tightly his teeth were probably cracking, and Firiel looked just plain miserable.
"Unity between our realms," Araphant said later at the reception.
"Yes, indeed," Pelendur said. He was always charming among guests. "May I, on behalf of Gondor, express my joy at this union?"
Araphant smiled. "Of course. This seals the bond between our great kingdoms. May they prosper forever. And if one falls, may the other not be far behind."
Pelendur's face grew grim. "Wildmen prophecies," he muttered, but he still drank to the oath.
If one falls… Earnil thought. His eyes strayed to Arvedui. Last king. Last king of what? Last king of Arthedain, first king of Arnor in a thousand years? Or last king of Arthedain, last heir of Isildur?
A chilling thought occurred to him. Last king of Arthedain, first king of Arnor and Gondor? No. That could never happen. Pelendur wouldn't let it.
"They make such a beautiful couple!" Ancalime exclaimed as Yanta and Metima watched.
"Who invited her?" Yanta grumbled.
"I think she just showed up," Metima said.
"I suppose we'll have to take her back when we return to Carn Dum."
Yanta heaved a sigh. "Nothing's turning out right on this damn trip," she muttered. "My people are ghosts, my homeland's cursed, Ancalime's here, and Gondor and Arthedain are united by marriage."
"You wouldn't say that if you heard what the steward was saying," Metima said, nodding in Pelendur's direction.
"What was he saying?"
"Expressing his utter and complete disgust in barbarian Arthedain and how much he hated it and everyone in it."
"Oh. That's good. Is he the current steward?"
"Yes, and he's reasonably young so he'll probably stay steward for a considerable amount of time."
Yanta grinned. "How considerable is considerable?"
"Good. We'll have to move fast though. For us."
Metima matched the grin. "Yes," she said. "For us."
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.