45. The Coronation
A/N: Extensive quotes of the real thing in the second part of the chapter. Anything that sounds like Tolkien in that part probably is Tolkien.
The next few weeks could have been perfect.
We stayed at Cormallen as spring turned into a warm, golden summer and the light spring-green of Ithilien's forests darkened slightly as the year went by. Now that the shadow of the enemy was gone from its hills and streams, Ithilien was turning again into the idyllic land of green hills and clear streams that it had been once, long ago, as I was told again and again by grizzled old soldiers who had known this "garden of Gondor" even then. The sweet fragrance of lavender and wild thyme floated in the air and when it rained it was only in short, soft showers, light summer rains that left the air balmy and floated silver mists on the Anduin.
The land was healing.
The people were healing.
Gradually, sunny day by sunny day, the wounds of body and soul that had been inflicted by the war and the darkness of Mordor were alleviated. I was finally allowed to shed the bandages at my wrists and ankles. Frodo regained some weight and slowly colour returned to his cheeks. The last soldier was finally released from the tents of the healers.
Days of gold in that field of gold.
Every time I looked into dark eyes, every time I heard a deep, mellow voice, every time I smelled a spicy, male scent, my heart skipped a beat.
It could have been perfect.
Up until the last day at Cormallen, the inappropriate kiss I managed to steal from Éomer the day after the celebration had been the last touch we were allowed to share. I don't know who, if anyone, talked to the hobbits. But after that day, I was never left alone with Éomer. I think the hobbits thought it funny to continually hang around and make a nuisance of themselves. Especially Sam was watching our every step with eyes like a hawk. I already pitied the daughters he was going to have some day!
And if it was not one or all of the hobbits following me around, there was always someone, anyone else present when I was allowed to meet Éomer, first of all Míriël of course. But after a few days I had the feeling that there was really no one left at Cormallen that did not know about the interest Éomer King had developed for the girl of the fellowship, and it seemed to me that every single soldier in the encampment was bent on defending my innocence and ensuring that we did behave ourselves.
In a way it was sweet.
It was also bloody infuriating.
The only time we were nearly alone was when we were riding together. Éomer was teaching me how to ride. Although I had been able to keep in the saddle when I arrived at Cormallen, I quickly realized that I did not really know anything about riding. But in Éomer I found the perfect teacher. Éomer had grown up with horses. And not with just any horses, but the finest horses of Middle-earth. In fact, he had been riding before he could walk. More than that, he was not only a great horse-man and rider; he was also a very patient teacher. Although it would be years yet before I could ever think of any serious jumping or racing, every day that passed I felt more at home in the saddle.
And I loved Mithril.
I loved Mithril even more when I discovered that Mithril and Éomer's Meara, a dappled grey stallion called Hiswa, were much faster than any other horse around save Shadowfax. When my riding skills were up to a real gallop, Éomer and I sometimes managed to barely escape our chaperones. A real gallop on a Meara is almost like flying. It is exhilarating beyond almost anything. It is even more exhilarating when the reward for a successful race is the touch of a strong, but tender hand, a smile that is meant for your eyes only.
I am forever in Gandalf's debt that he did not let himself be inveigled into accompanying our rides. No horse can outrun Shadowfax. That way we got at least some time alone together. Though it is not really possible to kiss or hold hands while on a horse.
Almost every evening there was music and dancing on the Field of Cormallen, and often a great log fire would be lit to gather around and tell tales or sing songs. Sometimes Éomer would sing, too. I thought I would melt whenever I heard his voice raised in song, as dark and clear as a starlit night. Sometimes I knew that he sang just for me.
Those were halcyon days, suspended between the darkness of war and the responsibilities of peace. Those were blessed days, blissful days that we shared in the sunshine of Ithilien's summer with our friends.
Those were the days…
And all too soon they were over.
The day of our departure for Minas Tirith dawned in soft pastel colours. The eastern sky was the pale blue of forget-me-nots and the fiery golden globe of the rising sun trailed a veil of misty clouds of a light rosy shade behind it. The banks of the Anduin were partially obscured by a silvery haze, not mist, only a soft shimmer that was a little thicker than air. Somewhere far above us in the sweet, clear air of morning a bird, probably the Middle-earth equivalent of a lark, was singing its heart out.
I did not have to bother with packing my things. The servants of the Lady and the Prince of Dol Amroth would take care of that. But to allow them to do so had meant to rise before sunrise. I did not mind. After so many months of rising before the sun, I actually liked to get up early and watch the dawn.
Even so early in the morning the camp was already an ant heap. Tents were being pulled down, carriages and ferries were laden. Horses were saddled.
But for once I was alone and I enjoyed that solitariness. I turned away from the camp's mêlée and walked along the banks of the Anduin to the edge of Cormallen, where the small stream of Andros met the Anduin. At the edge of the water grew a great culumalda tree. I sat down under the green and gold leaves of the tree and watched how the rising of the sun coloured the water of the river. That morning the water seemed to turn into liquid gold and silver in the first sunlight of the day. The noises of the camp being struck were muffled by the rushing voice of the river. I realized that I would miss the carefree days we had spent here.
Where would I go from here?
First to Minas Tirith, of course. But then?
Would I be allowed to accompany Éomer to Edoras? Would he ask me to?
The sound of my name called in a low, dark voice made me jump. When I realized that it was Éomer, who had stepped out of the trees behind me, my heart started pounding.
"Lothíriel," he said as he walked slowly towards me. "My lady."
"Éomer," I replied. I did not possess the strength of will to raise an eyebrow at him. But after gathering my courage I managed to add, "My lord."
I thought I would drown in his gaze. Everything about him was dark and deep, fathomless, fascinating.
"May I sit down?" he asked softly. "It is good to escape the uproar at the encampment for a moment."
"Of course," I said, smiling up at him.
He sat down in the grass next to me. He was already dressed for riding, leather trousers, green shirt, and leather tunic. With a pang I realized that the moment of parting was nearly upon us. He smelled of leather and horse and that indefinable spicy scent I had come to recognize from some evenings of dancing as all Éomer, and all male.
My breath caught in my throat.
To be finally alone with him!
To sit finally so close to him!
I could feel the warmth of his body against my left side. Today I did not wear a shirt, but had simply slipped into a sleeveless tunic and belted it tight around my waist. It was a green tunic, embroidered in black that went well with the black leather trousers I wore for riding nowadays.
"I will miss this place," I said finally. "The last days were so soothing and peaceful."
"That is true," Éomer said. "And free. Free of trouble and responsibility."
"Will it be hard to be king?" I asked.
Éomer sighed. His forehead grew tense, and he pressed his lips together. After a long moment's silence he answered. "Yes, it will be very difficult. It is a responsibility I never longed for. I was content to lead a life of relative freedom with my horses and my duties as the third marshal of the Riddermark. I would have been happy with that life. Now, all my life will be spent to serve my people and my country. Now, every life of every man, every woman and every child in the Mark is my responsibility and will be to the day I die."
He looked across the water of the river to the west. "Yes, it will be hard to be king, because I want to, because I need to be a good king. Rohan and my people have suffered much during the last years. It will be a long time until all our wounds are healed. And although the enemy in the east is destroyed, many of his minions escaped. There are many who are only waiting for their chance to get at Gondor or Rohan, now that we are still weak from the war. The corsairs of Umbar, the wild Haradrim, the warriors of Khand. It's a wonder we even had these few days of peace here."
Éomer turned to me. "And under the influence of Saruman and Gríma many things have turned ill in Rohan. It will be a long way until Rohan is what it once was. A kingdom where justice rules and corruption is banned." He gave me a crooked smile. "I am sorry, my lady, if I have bored you. But much is on my mind, and I have to admit that I am eager to return to duties that have been neglected during these days of bliss."
"I am not bored in the least," I replied. "Before I came to Middle-earth I was a law student. I know how difficult it is to achieve justice in any way and how laborious it is to try to get rid of corruption."
"A law student?" Éomer asked, obviously not familiar with the term.
"I studied the ways laws are made, applied and enforced. Where I come from every man and every woman has to learn some trade or lore to make a living. I studied law. If I had stayed, I would have become a judge, a lawyer or a teacher of law," I explained.
"How strange and how interesting," Éomer said. "You have to tell me more about your home and your studies."
I clenched my teeth. I did so not want to talk about jurisprudentia the one time I was alone with him. I think he read my mind because he smiled and said, "But not just now, my lady. This moment of being alone with you is too precious."
"Yes, it is," I whispered.
"And once we are at Minas Tirith, we will have little or no opportunity to be alone," he added, his voice like a velvety caress.
"Oh, no," was all that I could think of to say. Here was a man that could reduce my brain to jelly with one deep look and one husky word.
"And I am sure that all too soon either Sam or the wonderful Lady of Dol Amroth will come storming out of the trees," he continued, his eyes fixed on me, slowly moving closer towards me. There were amber highlights in the depth of his eyes that I had never noticed before. I watched his wide, sensuous lips as he spoke. A fierce desire for him flared up inside of me.
"I am sure they will, my lord," I breathed.
"My lady," he whispered in a hoarse voice.
Then he closed that last distance between us.
Warm, velvety lips touched my lips and slid ever so softly against my mouth. Just lightly his tongue stroked my lips. I opened my lips and the kiss deepened. Tongue met tongue and teasing grew into sweet torture. I think I moaned deep in my throat, a sound as close to a purr as a human being can manage as I felt his strong, tender hand at the back of my neck. With a shared sigh we let ourselves sink back into the grass. Holding me fast at my upper arms, Éomer bent over me and trailed my face with slow kisses. When I thought I could bear it no longer, he finally returned to my mouth, kissing me deeply, in exquisite sweetness. His beard was like smoothest fur against my chin, my cheeks, enticingly soft, and I longed to feel it on my skin lower than my cheeks or throat. Instinctively I moved my body against his, luxuriating in the feeling of a warrior's strength pressed against me.
Suddenly Éomer moaned and drew back from me. "Oh, my lady, my Lady Lothíriel, you are my undoing," he whispered. I shuddered against him. He sat back up and drew me with him, settling me in the crook of his arm, holding me tightly against him. He laid a soft kiss on the top of my head. "For now we have to be content with a stolen kiss now and again, for I would not have us do anything we would both regret."
I was more than willing to do everything we would both regret, but I did not say anything. Instead I leaned into his embrace, savouring his closeness, the heady, spicy scent of his body, and his dark, mellow voice sending shivers down my spine.
"I cannot ask you for anything yet, my lady Lothíriel," he told me. "They call me Éomer King, but I am not yet he. For my uncle is not yet buried, and it is still many weeks until I will be acclaimed as Éomer King. Only then I can come to you in honour and offer you my heart and my kingdom. But I would ask you now if you would accompany me to Edoras, that I might show you the beauty of the Riddermark now that you are healthy and not subdued by wounds, sickness and war."
I looked into his dark eyes and any answer I might have given fled from my mind as he kissed me softly and tenderly, his velvety lips only stroking against my own pulsing lips. When he drew back, I laid my head against his shoulder, gasping for breath, my heart beating like a drum. He caught my right wrist in his hand and softly stroked the pink scar tissue that coiled around the base of my hand.
"I am so glad that I was in time that day," he whispered.
Thanks to the excellent treatment at the hands of the lady Elaine I had not suffered any loss of sensibility. Indeed, the healing flesh was very, very sensitive there. I convulsed against Éomer in a gasping giggle that ended in another languorous kiss.
"Now, please, my lady, I beg you. Tell me, will you come with me to Edoras?" Éomer asked again.
It was only then that my mind and my heart understood everything that Éomer had said. With my heart racing I realized that this was it, this was that moment. Almost unnoticed the moment had crept up on me when I had to decide on the course my life would take from here. Curled up in Éomer's embrace under the golden and green leaves of a culumalda tree I made my choice. Between the Field of Gold and the great river Anduin I made my choice.
I made my choice and I have never regretted it.
"Gladly I will, my lord. My king. Éomer!" I replied, my lips seeking his again.
But he only smiled at me and moved away, releasing me out of his embrace. Then he rose to his feet with a deep sigh and drew me up against him. "I thank you, my lady Lothíriel, with all my heart, with all my soul. But now we should go back to the encampment. We have to ride far today, but at least we will ride together," he murmured, still holding my hands.
"Is that supposed to be a comfort?" I asked and laughed a little, breathless laugh. "There will be hundreds of people around us!"
He grinned at me and tightened his hold on my hands. "I admit that it is a cold comfort that I am offering you. But perhaps this can be a token of warmer things to come," he replied in a low, husky voice. With that he drew my hands to his lips and covered the backs of my hands with hot kisses that tightened things low in my body with an almost painful feeling of desire.
Then he escorted me back to the Lady Míriël in the most proper and casual manner. It was not until much later that I found out that he had asked the Lady Míriël's permission to go and meet me alone at the water's edge that morning.
We shared breakfast with the hobbits, Legolas and Gimli. Afterwards we mounted our horses and left the Field of Cormallen for Minas Tirith.
Although there were indeed hundreds of people around us, it was a most enjoyable ride under the tall trees of Ithilien on that sunny day at the end of April in the year 3019 that passed all too quickly with shared jokes and much laughter.
We reached Minas Tirith in the morning of the first of May.
Although it was still early, the sun was already warm and the sky was the deep, sweet blue of summer. The wall of the Rammas Echor had been rebuilt during our stay at Cormallen, but although the fields of the Pelennor had been cleaned and tilled, nothing grew on them during that first year after the battle.
But when the Host of the West returned to Minas Tirith that day, led by the returning King, it was almost impossible to see the brown earth of the fields. During the weeks we had spent at Cormallen all of the refugees had returned to Minas Tirith, and when it became known in Gondor that the King would return to the city on the first of May, the whole country was on the move to the capital to come and see the coronation of the king. Now the Fields of the Pelennor were filled with people. Children with baskets of flowers in their hands lined the road towards Minas Tirith, throwing sweetly scented blossoms at our feet as we passed them by.
We had dismounted upon entering the Pelennor. Aragorn walked alone at the front of the host. He was dressed in mail, in black and in silver and he wore a white mantle that was fastened at the throat with the green elfstone of his calling. He did not yet wear a crown, but only a thin ribbon of mithril with a single diamond set on his forehead. Even so, it was clear at the very first glance that he was the king. His majesty shone brighter than the brightest jewel any crown could hold. When he entered the Pelennor before everyone else, a cheer went up from the Rammas Echor to the Tower of Ecthelion that did not die down until Aragorn reached the Great Gates.
But just behind Aragorn followed the surviving members of the Fellowship of the Ring.
Gandalf, dressed in shimmering white robes, walked along in easy strides. Next to him came Frodo, a slight reluctance at being in the public view that way discernible in the almost hesitant way he moved forwards. Behind them followed Legolas, who was clad in forest-green, with the great golden bow that had been the present of the Lady Galadriel at his back, and Gimli in shining dwarfish armour, both of them unconcerned by the huge crowd of onlookers, moving as if they were all alone in the wilderness. Then came Pippin and Merry, the first in the uniform of the guards of Minas Tirith, the second in the livery of a squire of Rohan. And behind Pippin and Merry it was Sam and me, trying to walk with our backs straight, our heads held high and no blushing.
We in turn were followed by Éomer and by Prince Imrahil, both of them wearing a white cloak similar to the one that Aragorn and Gandalf wore.
Our escort was the company of the Dúnedain, dressed in silver and grey, and only behind them followed the Host of the West, lines upon lines of warriors in glittering armour, bearing proudly the standards of their home lands.
As we walked towards Minas Tirith, I realized that the city's walls were white again, pure and shining. The soot of the siege had been washed away, and the cracks in the walls had been carefully repaired. As we walked towards Minas Tirith all the bells of the city started ringing, adding their brassy harmonies to the cheers of the crowd. From every tower of the city the white banners of the stewards were unfurled and flowed, gleaming brightly, in the wind.
At the Great Gates the Guards of the city stood in two long lines with three rows each to the sides of the road. They had drawn their swords in salute, building a tunnel of glittering steel through which we had to pass. To the sides of the gates many musicians had been placed and as Aragorn entered this tunnel of swords, they struck up a rousing march. The gates had not yet been repaired, but there was a length of black fabric held in their place by two young squires in the uniforms of the guards.
Before that black cloth stood Faramir the Steward and Húrin of the Keys. But to their sides knelt the other captains of Gondor, Elfhelm the Marshal, Erkenbrand and the other leaders of the Mark. Éowyn was there also, but she did not kneel, though she inclined her head in deep respect.
When Aragorn stepped out of the tunnel of raised swords, the bells were stilled, the music stopped, the crowd calmed down.
Then a single bright clarion sounded.
Faramir and the keeper of keys walked slowly towards Aragorn.
Behind them followed four guards of the citadel in full armour and silver helmets. They bore silver tipped spears on their shoulders and fastened those spears was a chest of black wood inlaid with silver.
Faramir stopped in front of Aragorn and looked at him in silence for a long moment.
Then he knelt down. He looked up at Aragorn with a smile on his still pale face. He held out the white rod of a sceptre that he had carried. In a clear, ringing voice Faramir said, "The last Steward of Gondor begs leave to surrender his office."
Aragorn accepted the sceptre.
But when Faramir had risen to his feet, it was Aragorn who knelt down, and he offered the sceptre back to Faramir and said, "That office is not ended, and it shall be thine and thy heirs' as long as my line shall last. Do now thy office!"
Faramir accepted the sceptre again and called out in a voice that echoed all through the Pelennor, "Men of Gondor, 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, 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?"
As a great shout of "yea" roared up from the Pelennor to the Citadel, I realized somewhat belatedly that the act with the sceptre had been a part of the ceremony from the beginning.
But before I had the time to shake my head at my slow uptake, the ceremony moved on.
The black and silver chest was carried forwards and Faramir opened it. On black velvet I glimpsed the silver circle of a crown. A thrill of excitement swept through me as I realized that I would really, truly witness the crowning of the first King of Gondor in many centuries.
"In the days of old, the future king would receive the crown from the hands of his father ere he died, or, should the dire need arise, take it with his own hands from his father's tomb. As today things have to be done otherwise, it is the Steward that is honoured with the presentation of this sign of office and high majesty. For this is the Crown of Eärnur, the last King of Gondor, in days long past. It has been brought here today from the silence of Rath Dínen to never ending cheer. For behold, the King has returned to us, long live the King!" Faramir took up the crown and held it out to Aragorn.
Aragorn accepted the crown and held it high into the air. The crown was silvery white and was shaped like the wings of a sea bird, similar to the helms of the guards, fashioned to preserve the memory of the Kings come over the Sea. Seven star-like jewels were set about the circle of the crown, and at its front was a single great diamond set in the glimmering metal. As Aragorn held the crown aloft, a sunbeam touched that singular jewel, and its light went up like a great white flame. A sigh swept up from many thousand hearts filled with awe and reverence.
In a deep, melodic voice Aragorn then chanted the ancient promise of Elendil himself when he had come up out of the Sea on the wings of the wind:
"Et Eärello Endorenna utúlien, Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn' Ambar-metta! Out of the Great Sea to Middle-earth I am come. In this place I will abide and my heirs, unto the ending of the world."
Instead of placing the crown on his head, Aragorn then returned it into Faramir's hands.
As he did so, he said in his clear, northern way of speaking: "By the labour and valour of many I have come into my inheritance. 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."
Having said that, Aragorn stayed kneeling.
Hesitatingly, his cheeks on fire, but his eyes bright with joy, Frodo came forwards and Faramir knelt down again and gave the crown to the ringbearer. Behind Frodo Gandalf had walked up to Aragorn and knelt down next to him. Frodo carried the crown to Gandalf, who accepted it, gracefully inclining his head to the hobbit.
Then Gandalf rose and showed the crown to the people gathered all around.
"Now come the days of the King," Gandalf called out. "May they be blessed while the thrones of the Valar endure!"
With that the white wizards gently placed the crown on Aragorn's dark head.
Aragorn rose to his feet and turned around so that all the people that filled up the Pelennor could see him. King he was, and like a King he looked! He was taller than all the other men standing gathered around, and although his face revealed the dignity and wisdom of many years, he shone with the unbroken strength and energy of youth. There was a bright light in his grey eyes, and the great diamond that was now on his forehead shone like a living star.
"Behold the King!" Faramir cried and bowed deeply.
A roar of cheers swept through the Pelennor and up to the Tower of Ecthelion. With a sweeping sound of many trumpets the music started playing again. To the notes of the trumpet Aragorn walked up to the black fabric that was held up where the gates had been, and he drew Andúril and sliced this barrier of cloth neatly apart.
Now Minas Tirith and indeed all of Gondor was his.
As Aragorn entered the city, white roses were thrown down from the walls and towers above the gates, and in that shower of sweet blossoms the King of Gondor finally returned to his people, his country, his city and his throne.
Many songs have been made about the Return of the King to Minas Tirith, but I can say that none of them do justice to this moment of triumph and grandeur and joy. And I know what I am talking about, because I was there on that high day of May in the year 3019 of the third age of the world.
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.