Frodo ate well enough for the first few minutes, but then found himself unable to eat much more and pushed the tray from him in frustration. He watched with envy as Sam finished his applesauce. “I wonder if my ability to eat will ever improve,” he said darkly.
Sam felt somewhat guilty, but finished what had been brought to him. “It might not, Master. But don’t worry--Strider’ll see to it as you get enough to eat, even if it must be in small servings.”
“Can you get the milk down you?”
“I’ll try.” Frodo picked up the glass and sipped dutifully at it. Setting it down with a quarter of its contents gone, he commented, “Hopefully it will be easier in the new house. I can’t imagine living here--the size of the place is intimidating.”
Sam looked about him and shrugged. “Master Pippin must be feeling right at home, growin’ up as he did in the Great Smial.”
“Actually, he grew up mostly on the farm outside Tuckburrow. It was only in the winters he lived in the Great Smial until his father was made Thain when Cousin Ferumbras died.”
“Thinkin’ of home, Mr. Frodo, I worry about them and as how they’ll be welcomed once we get back there. Thain Paladin must be fit to be tied, his son gone off with Mr. Merry and you and me and with no warnin’ to speak of.”
“I know, Sam. Uncle Pal and Aunt Lanti will most likely blame me for it all.”
“Well, you can tell ’em as it was all my fault if you wish.”
“When it was really Merry’s? No, I’ll take the blame. I’m the oldest and ought to have insisted they stay behind.” He picked up the glass again and sipped from it thoughtfully, then nibbled at a bit of bread and butter.
“Neither of ’em would of done so, and you know it, Frodo Baggins. What’s more, the world out here needed ’em as much as you did. It would of been far worse for all had they stayed back in the Shire. Captain Faramir, for example--he’d most like be dead if’n Mr. Pippin’d not of been here to tell that Beregond as how the Steward had gone mad and was lookin’ to burn hisself and his son both alive; and it took both the Lady Éowyn and Mr. Merry to kill that Nazgul, it did.”
Frodo shivered and he set down the bread. “I know that, but I’d still rather they’d remained home. Oh, Sam, I know we should go soon; but I find myself reluctant to leave Aragorn’s side.”
“You could always stay, Master. It’s not as if there was much of the family of Baggins there no more, after all. And I’d stay aside you.”
“You’ll do no such a thing, Samwise Gamgee. Rosie would come to Minas Tirith herself to peel my hide off my bones, and both young Tom and Jolly would come to avenge their sister’s grief on you.”
Sam gave a slight laugh. “Yes, they’d do that, right enough.” He watched as unconsciously Frodo again took the glass and sipped at it, nodding slightly in approval. “Anyways, as long as we’re here you just do as you’ve done so far.”
Frodo nodded absently as he drank some more.
Gandalf and Lord Halladan’s arrival heartened both, and soon they were accompanying the two of them back to the King’s quarters. Halladan and those of the Grey Company had been given quarters in an almost abandoned barracks in the Sixth Circle which was being refurbished now, although Halladan indicated that Lord Faramir had offered to give him rooms in the Steward’s wing if he desired.
Frodo agreed to rest again for a time, and Samwise went through the clothing which Aragorn had ordered made for them while they were recovering to choose what they should wear at the Coronation Feast to come. Sam chose to wear a flame-colored shirt under the surcoat he’d worn earlier, and he prepared a shirt of silver-blue for Frodo to wear under the blue one with the star. Merry and Pippin were to take full part in the feast, and he helped Merry choose outfits for the both of them, warm burgundies and browns for Merry and cheerful greens for Pippin. Sam was glad that Aragorn's words about no new clothes for the young Hobbit hadn't turned out to be strictly true after all.
Their own things would be taken down to the new house just before the feast, and they’d see it first afterwards. Sam just hoped his Master would hold up properly throughout it.
Finally, with Iorvas’s help the three of them were dressed and their hair brushed, and Iorvas went into the King’s own chambers to help him prepare as Sam saw to Frodo. Frodo hadn’t slept, but had rested, thinking, in the coolness of the room. He smiled solemnly as Sam entered, then rose to allow Sam to help him with the shirt and surcoat once more.
“I never dreamt that at my time of life I should need dressing like a bairn, Sam. I don’t believe I shall ever recover completely.”
“You were awful bad hurt, Mr. Frodo. You can’t expect that it will all go away.”
“No, I suppose not.” He accepted the brushing that Sam offered him, then drank a small amount of water and set his glass back down again. “Shall we see how Aragorn is accepting his coddling?”
Aragorn was dressed in a robe of black velvet, embroidered with a white tree and with seven stars between its boughs. His face was still as he reached down to adjust the sleeves. Hardorn and Iorvas between them were straightening away the discarded clothing he’d worn earlier, and Aragorn turned to look at these two who’d just entered his room. His expression softened. “The two of you look marvelous. But you will need your circlets, you know.”
“Aragorn!” Frodo said in protest, to which his friend laughed as he reached for a brush to use on his own hair.
“If I must wear the Star of Elendil, you can bear wearing your circlets of honor.”
Sam gave a deep sigh. “Only for you would I do this, you know.”
Soon they were preceding Aragorn out of his own chambers and into the receiving room at the end of the hallway where Gandalf stood with Sam’s and Frodo’s circlets in hand. “There you are,” he said. “Well, come here then and let me place these. Then we must go off to the feast hall before Master Galador suffers from a fit of apoplexy.”
Aragorn sighed. “No, not apoplexy, not that one. I’d put him down for a brainstorm, myself.” Gandalf gave a chuckle as he settled Sam’s circlet in his dark golden curls.
Elrohir and Elladan entered wearing long robes of grey and gold, each wearing his own circlet, rather simple fillets of silver set with berils. Behind them walked Legolas and Gimli, each looking much as they’d done that morning. The faces of the four shone with satisfaction as they looked at Aragorn and the two Hobbit with him.
“Very fine indeed,” grunted Gimli. “No question as to the identity of the King, I must say.”
Hardorn came out of the King’s chambers carrying the Elessar brooch, which Aragorn carefully pinned to the neck of his robe. “No mantle?” Hardorn asked.
“No, not tonight. It’s already warm, and I’d be stifling were I to wear a mantle over this.”
Merry and Pippin came out of the second room prepared for the Hobbits’ use and joined the group, pausing to smile in pleasure at the looks of the rest. Merry looked up at Aragorn, and said, “Very nice indeed, my Lord King.”
“I must say that your own father would be pleased at the figure the Master’s heir is cutting this night, were he to see you.”
“Yes, he would, and then he’d pull out a switch and begin to use it on me for leaving them all in confusion for this long.”
Together they walked in procession back to the main hall, where they were joined by Éomer’s party led by Master Balstador. Aragorn smiled at the sight of Éomer and Éowyn and those of their household knights who would sit behind them. “It is an honor to be seen in the company of your people this night, my brother,” he said, his face alight with pleasure. “Apparently those of your folk who went back to Rohan to carry your dispatches chose well from your own garb.”
Éomer was examining him in return. “You can forget how I look, my friend. Never could I appear so magnificent.”
They went through the Citadel first and out past White Tree and fountain, across the Court of Gathering to the keel of the great outthrust of rock which split the city. There Aragorn went forward alone to stand in sight of the whole of Minas Tirith as the sun set in glory, the new King before he went in to attend his own Coronation Feast. All could hear the calls of joy from below as songs were raised in all the ways of the city in gladness that the King had indeed come again to Gondor.
Halladan and Faramir stood near the Hall of Merethrond on their return, both smiling at the magnificence they saw approaching. “A worthy robe indeed, my Lord,” Faramir commented. “I must meet the embroiderer and see to having some new robes made for myself for the future--although I don’t know that any will again match your appearance.” He examined the circlet Aragorn wore. “The Elendilmir. How long it has been since it was worn here.”
Aragorn’s smile grew more solemn. “This is the first time this has been worn here. The stone for this circlet was made here in Ennor by the smiths of Imladris for our adar, who gifted it to Valandil in place of that lost with Isildur. I hope that one day the original may be found again, however--both my mother and I have had visions of it found anew.”
As they turned to come to the private entrance where the King’s party was to enter from, Faramir said quietly, “From the Roll of Arnor I gather that your Lady Mother was yet relatively young when she died.”
“Yes. She never truly appeared to recover from the loss of my father so soon after my own birth, and truly regretted I was but the one child born to her. She loved me very much and remained with me for the time I lived in Imladris, then returned to our own people to finish her life. She told me that with me she had given the whole of her hope unto the descendants of Númenor, but had kept none for herself. I think she feared what would happen if Sauron should have won, and would not live long enough to see that should it occur. I grieve that your own mother died so young.”
“At least, as is true for you, she lived long enough for me to have known her and to have rejoiced in her love.”
“She must be joyful to see what you have become.”
“I would rather have her here, you know--her, my father, and my brother.”
Aragorn looked down briefly, then back into the younger Man’s eyes. “I, too, would wish that. However, that not being possible, we shall rejoice in what has been given us.”
Together they turned to the curtained entrance, and servants within carefully pulled the drapes back and behind the waiting half-rings set to hold them, and watched as the lesser lords and ladies were led within.