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The Acceptable Sacrifice
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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51
51: The King's Wedding

51: The King's Wedding

The procession back up the ways of the City was even more solemnly joyful than that which had come down it. Again Frodo and Sam rode before the King, and Aragorn now walked with his new-come bride at his right hand. Bouquets of flowers he’d ordered prepared for the women of the party, and now all carried theirs with gladness.

The citizens of the city watched with awe as they first saw the face of she who would be Queen as of tomorrow, her eyes full of stars, her hair soft as the gentlest of night breezes, her skin as lovely as the light of the full moon. A lady from among the Elves was to become the Queen of Gondor and Arnor? A look at the face of the King, however, was enough to assure all that the Lord Elessar did indeed love this woman; and a look at hers whenever she turned to look at him showed she loved him in return.

They came forward to bring flowers and sprays of greenery, pressing them on any who would take them. And many there were who watched the procession, thinking of the tales told of those who in the past had united the peoples of Men and Elves.

The choir and musicians went before all, now playing and singing the Lay of Lúthien, and many wondered to hear that lay--until they saw who walked by the King, saw the shining faces of Lord and Lady, soon to be joined before all to the joy of Mankind and the everlasting loss of the Elven peoples.

Elrohir walked alongside Frodo’s pony, and noting Frodo turning about to examine again the joy shining from Aragorn’s face and beyond it the mixed expression on the face of Lord Elrond, he’d murmured quietly, “It is a sacrifice for us, to lose our sister to mortality; and our adar may never fully recover from the grief of it. But it is a sacrifice she set in motion years past and which we now offer in joy and thanksgiving, for through it will the race of Man be renewed, and the Kingship strengthened. Peace has been at last secured from the dangers offered by Morgoth and Sauron and their like. The time has come for us to give over the lordship of Middle Earth to the stewardship of Men, and the Valar know that Aragorn is fully worthy. I only wish that all were like unto him. At least we know that while she remains with him our sister will know full joy and bliss.”

“She takes on herself mortality?”

“She did so four decades past, binding herself to him that he might have hope for the future beyond the darkness of Mordor.”

Frodo nodded, understanding the hope Aragorn had borne for so long. He turned back to the way through the city, thinking. Here was a third who now moved him to enchantment with womankind as he’d not known since before he’d come of age. Here was one he, too, could have loved. But her love was already bestowed before he’d been orphaned, from what he could tell. And seeing the joy in Aragorn’s face all hint of envy left him, filling him with joy for the one he loved as a brother--a much taller brother than he’d ever imagined for himself when young.

But in the wake of that joy was a growing awareness that the emptiness he’d always hoped when younger to fill with wife and children would now never be fulfilled, and a single tear escaped to roll down his cheek, a tear of which he remained unaware, though Elrohir and Sam both saw it.

The feast was both solemn and filled with joy. Aragorn stood at his place as all others came in, Frodo and Sam among the first to be admitted to stand to offer honor to those who came after. And when the Lady Arwen Undomiel was shown to her place at Aragorn’s right hand all cheered. Frodo knew now his proposed gift was properly chosen, and he smiled to see the easing in Aragorn’s eyes whenever he caught the attention of the woman he loved.

The feast was cut short in deference to the journey the bride’s party had made to come here and the ceremonies to be offered on the morrow. Only two hours after its beginning the feast ended, and all retired to prepare for the next day’s solemnities.

“Frodo, will you and Sam and Merry and Pippin and Gimli agree to remain with me in the Citadel tonight? And Frodo, will you and Sam agree to stand by me tomorrow?”

“You’d have Hobbits of the Shire in your wedding party, Aragorn?”

“Who else? And would this wedding have ever come to be if not for what you, Sam, and Sméagol achieved?”

Frodo felt strangely moved by the mention of Gollum, the recognition that even that wretched creature had played an instrumental part in the destruction of the Ring. He bowed his head. “Since you ask it, how could I think to refuse, tall brother?”

Aragorn smiled deeply, and knelt to embrace the Hobbit.

The Lady Lothiriel, daughter to Prince Imrahil, attended on the Lady Arwen, as well as Lady Avrieth, the wife of Aragorn’s more distant cousin Berevrion, and Lord Halladan’s wife, the Lady Mirieth. Galadriel and several others of the Elven ladies also went with her as she went to her provided room in the upstairs portion of the Royal Wing where she would spend one last night in company with her father, brothers, and grandparents before tomorrow taking her place fully as Aragorn’s bride.

Elrond and his sons accompanied Aragorn and the groom’s party to the Royal Apartments to discuss the ceremony to take place the next day. “You wish it to reflect the ceremonies of the Northern Dúnedain, Estel?” he asked.

“Yes, Adar, for such is nearly identical to that of Gondor.”

“How much have you prepared for this so far?”

Faramir and Galador were surprised to learn that Aragorn, Halladan, Elrohir and Elladan together had worked out the marriage contract, which had some clauses to it which were strange to Galador’s eyes. The twins had taken it with them to review with their sister during the return to Minas Tirith, and she’d proposed a few changes which Aragorn now reviewed, smiled over, and indicated were fully acceptable.

Elrond shook his head. “You Men and your desires to see all down in ink so it can be reviewed at length.”

The King sighed. “I would prefer to have an Elven marriage; but as I am now, as you indicated I must be, King of both Gondor and Arnor, I must meet the legalities of my peoples that my own marriage be recognized by those I now rule. Certainly, however, this is one thing which Arwen and I have discussed at length, during the times we have been able to be together.” He stretched, then went to the desk before the wall of shelves, bringing back a box that lay there. He opened it and produced a cord woven of many colors, the marriage rings which had been worn by his parents and which had been given to him after his mother’s death, a candle in a glass holder to serve as the symbol of the presence of the Valar and the One at the marriage. “Arwen and I have discussed how weddings are performed here, and she and I agreed long ago that we would use these rings as our marriage tokens.”

He looked up and smiled. “Mistress Gilmoreth will weave the wedding wreaths for us in the morning, and the bower is already being set up in the Court of the White Tree. Many from within the city will come up to the Court of Gathering to watch the joining. Halladan, Hardorn, Elrohir, Elladan, Frodo, Sam, and Faramir will attend on me. The Lady Galadriel, Lothiriel, Avrieth, Mirieth, Lady Indiriel of Dol Amroth, Bethelrien of Lorien and Celebfiniel of Imladris will attend on Arwen. And Gandalf shall stand witness for all,” he added, smiling into the Wizard’s eyes.

“I am glad to be here for your joy, Aragorn,” Gandalf responded, his own smile lighting the room.

“I’m a bit surprised he hasn’t asked you to join them,” Elrond commented.

“No, let you do a bit more business here in Middle Earth,” the Istari said. “I am nearly free of the need to help spark others to action, and for that I am glad.”

“I would still prefer that you remain here to counsel us all,” the King said quietly, but Gandalf was shaking his head, for the arguments had all been said.

At last Elrond, the twins, and Mithrandir withdrew, at which time Galador also left to return to his own chambers. Aragorn looked around the table at his companions, at the four Hobbits, Legolas, Gimli, Faramir, Hardorn and Halladan, Prince Imrahil, and Elphir, and sighed. “So much is now finished,” he said softly. “And tomorrow I will be wed and know my hope is fulfilled at last. And yet we’ve not had the chance to spend time together alone, Arwen and I. I thank you all for agreeing to remain when I would tell you nothing of what I prepared for, and for bearing with my moods over the last few weeks. It adds to my joy to have all of you here.”

All shared a glass of wine together, and then scattered to their quarters to rest in preparation for the next day.

*******


Frodo woke during the night, and pulling a night robe about him slipped out of the room he shared with Sam to walk out in the gardens for a time. He soon found he was not the only one. On a bench sat Aragorn and Arwen, who apparently had also slipped out to share time together before the morrow. Frodo was preparing to return back to his room when Arwen lifted her eyes to his and beckoned him to join them.

“Welcome, Frodo,” she said softly. “We’ve had so little time to speak, even when you were in Imladris.”

“I know, Lady,” he said.

“It means a great deal to both of us that you have agreed to be one of those who attend on Estel in the morning. He loves you so deeply. He will be grieved when you must leave here.”

“I know, and I will grieve to go from his presence. But we must go home sometime. They need us in the Shire.”

“I know, Frodo.” She looked down at his hands, clasped together before him. She reached out and took his right one, held it gently. “What it cost you should not have been borne by any mortal,” she sighed. She looked into his eyes, reached her other hand to caress his cheek. “Oh, Frodo, how much we all owe to you.”

He looked back into her starlit eyes. “Tonight, my Lady Arwen, I find it was well worth it, to see you and Aragorn happy.”

She drew him to her and embraced him, then let him go. “I must return, or Adar and our brothers will come to drag me away to my rest.” She rose, as did her beloved. “Go now, Estel, and sleep. It will not do to have the bridegroom fall asleep at the marriage feast.”

He laughed, but it was somewhat breathy. He reached forward and kissed her. “Until the coming day, beloved,” he said gently. He watched with longing plain in his face as she returned within to the steps to the upper story, then he set his hand on Frodo’s shoulder. “Walk with me, small brother?”

They walked out and through the outer gate, finally going around to the Court of the Tree. The Guards smiled to see King and Hobbit come there and settle in the grass about the slender bole. Together both touched it, and Frodo looked up, smiling. “Sam swears it is at least a foot taller. I think it’s grown more than that, myself.” He looked to catch Aragorn’s eyes. “It responds to you.”

“And to you, Frodo. I can feel a special pleasure in it when you come near it.”

“Really?”

“Pay attention.” For a time they were quiet, both simply feeling the pulse of life to the Tree. Finally Aragorn pulled his own hand away, and Frodo could feel a part of that pulse relax, but realized that there was still a feeling of warmth in the palm of his hand. “There,” Aragorn sighed. “It claims you, too, and Sam.”

“I don’t know why. I’ve no part in the royalty of Gondor.”

The Man shrugged. “Perhaps, small brother.”

At last they rose and walked back to the gardens, and there they found Sam waiting for them. He was yawning. “Was wonderin’ where the two of you had got off to,” he said. “The Tree happy to see the both of you?”

Aragorn laughed. “Yes, it was. Now let’s see our brother here into his bed and back to sleep.”

Frodo dreamt of White Trees and water that night, and singing on a distant shore.

*******


Mistress Loren and Lasgon brought up the requested outfits early in the morning, and shortly after a light breakfast eaten at the table in Aragorn’s rooms Frodo and Sam found themselves dressing in the clothing which they’d worn at the Coronation. When Gandalf opened the box carrying their circlets of honor Frodo had contented himself with a sigh.

Faramir came in carrying what appeared to be a cloak over his arm. “Ah, Master Frodo,” he said. “I am glad you are dressed as you are. Here, a gift for you.” He held out the garment, and it proved to be a formal mantle of much the same color as the surcoat Frodo wore. He gently settled it over the Pherian’s shoulders, then stepped back, obviously satisfied. “Well, had the people of Minas Tirith seen you first, Frodo Baggins of the Shire, it would have been you who would have borne the title Ernil i Pheriannath, you know.”

Sam was looking at his master with a twisted expression on his face. “That’s so, Frodo. As regal as Strider hisself you look.” Frodo realized the gardener was holding back tears of pride.

“And you are as regal as he is as well, Samwise Gamgee,” he said. “Shall we go see if Aragorn has melted into a puddle of quaking jelly as yet?”

Accompanied by Steward and Wizard they approached Aragorn’s door. Pippin stood on duty at it, smiled. “He’s just arrived back from the practice grounds,” he confided, and opened it to let them enter. Hardorn and Halladan were both seeing to the King’s final preparation. He wore the black robe with the embroidered representation of the White Tree on its breast he’d worn to his coronation feast, and he was standing quite still, similarly to the way he’d stood in the tent while Hardorn had armed him before he walked to accept the Winged Crown.

Seeing Frodo, his solemnity lightened. He looked back and forth between Frodo and Sam, and smiled in admiration. “The two of you look so wonderful,” he commented. “I feel so somber, wearing black to my own wedding, for all that this is so appropriate to my office.”

Faramir, who wore white and silver, smiled. “At least you look alive in that. When I must wear black, I tend to look as if I were a corpse.” He examined the embroidery once more. “I have yet to meet your embroiderer,” he commented. “Whoever it is has a superb hand with a needle.”

The King’s face lightened more. “I shall formally introduce you later today, if you would like.”

“Then she is here in Minas Tirith?”

“Yes, here indeed in the capitol.”

“Will you wear the Star of Elendil again today?”

Aragorn shrugged as Halladan moved to fasten the white mantle about him with the Elessar brooch. “As a bridegroom, I intend to wear today the wreath of one rather than the Star.” He moved to take the brooch from his cousin. “You have come close to jabbing me with the pin twice now--I will do it myself to save myself an injury.”

Halladan laughed. “You had indeed best do it, for today I swear I am all thumbs. I am more nervous for your wedding, I deem, than I was at my own.”

“That is saying a good deal,” Aragorn said, settling the brooch against his breast. “It was a wonder you didn’t try to sheathe your sword in your boot that day.”

Hardorn looked to the ceiling. “He brought me some of the Bride’s Ale and poured it in my lap, if I remember correctly.”

“I did not. It wasn’t the Bride’s Ale--it was a goblet of Turmandor’s blackberry wine.”

Aragorn shook his head, closing his eyes. “Ah, yes, I do remember. It ruined that surcoat Gilmorien had made for you for the Midwinter feast, Hardorn. She was quite angry about all that work wasted, if I remember correctly.”

There was a knock at the door, which opened immediately to admit Belveramir. “Mistress Gilmoreth has sent the wreath, my Lord,” he said, holding out a fine circlet of green leaves. Faramir took it from him, and with a bow he approached the bridegroom. He and Halladan shared a look, and the two Stewards between them lifted it to place it on Aragorn’s brow. Aragorn stood now quite still, his eyes closed, breathing deeply.

“If you faint, Lord Cousin,” Hardorn admonished him, “I swear I shall pick you up and dump your form in the Fountain of the Tree.”

A shaky smile lit Aragorn’s face. “You would at that, I think.” His eyes opened. “It is almost more than I can believe, that the day has indeed come at last. I have waited almost seventy years since the day when my heart first understood what it desired, and forty since she told me first she would bind herself to me.” He looked down at Frodo. “Ah, small brother, if only you, also, knew this joy. I would move the heavens and Middle Earth itself to see you happy.”

Frodo was unaware that behind him Gandalf looked down on him with compassion and great tenderness, although Aragorn and Sam saw it.

The door opened again, and Elladan and Elrohir, dressed in robes of greys and golds, entered, then stopped to look into the eyes of the bridegroom. “Well, muindor nín,” Elladan sighed, “if you don’t make a properly nervous bridegroom. Are you ready, do you think, to go out?”

“Almost.” He sighed. “It is so long since I was at a wedding--that of Halladan’s and Mirieth’s last, I think. I only hope I do not make a mess of it all.”

“You will do well enough, young brother. And you apparently did it right for them, for look at how happy the two of them have been.”

Frodo looked up with surprise. “You joined them?” he asked.

Aragorn looked down. “Of course. I was chieftain of our people, after all. It is part of the joyful duties of the lords of the lands, to perform marriages.” Aragorn looked at Frodo, suddenly saw a moment when it was Frodo who was performing a wedding, and when it was Sam and a woman from among the Periannath who stood as the wedding couple, saw the solemn pride in Frodo’s face, the intense joy in Sam’s face, the wonder in the eyes of the woman, the tenderness with which they held hands. One other thing he saw--that Frodo was fading. His own expression, he realized, reflected the grief that filled him, and he felt the tears fill his eyes. He looked away quickly. “Please,” he said quietly. “I need but a moment alone with Mithrandir to settle me. Please await me near the doors to the garden.”

Frodo caught that Aragorn had foreseen something that had, for the moment, wiped away all thoughts of nervousness, something that grieved him. He stepped to the Man’s side, reached up to take his friend’s hand. “It will be well, tall brother,” he said.

“I know, Frodo. But I need a moment with Gandalf. Go. I will come soon.”

When the door closed behind all else, the King looked at the Maia. “What did you see?” Gandalf asked.

“Frodo performing the marriage of Sam and whom I must believe is Rosie Cotton,” the Man replied. “And Frodo was dying, Gandalf--very slowly dying. His heart was laboring from his joy. He was thinner. He was becoming so fragile a heavy breath of wind might break him.” He took a deep, shuddering breath. “Must I lose him so soon?”

Gandalf’s face reflected his own pain for Frodo. “Already he has come back from the Gates of Death once, Aragorn. He is granted a respite, a time to see all he loves heal and begin to find peace and happiness, a time to reassure himself that all will be well once more with his land and people, a time to taste what would have been his had the Ring not come to him.” The grief he himself felt was plain in his eyes, as well as the acceptance. “He is mortal, Elessar. You have given him heart and hope to remain for a time. But too long did only the lembas sustain him, there in the darkest days.”

“I was shocked to see them granted to us as we left Lothlorien. Lembas for us, when all but Legolas were mortal?”

“You all needed them. But for Sam and Frodo--particularly for Frodo--they were in the end all that kept them able to focus on their task, all that kept his strength so that he did not die in the few moments of rest granted to him.”

“And he longs now for Aman, though he does not know it. He has always been Elf-like; now his spirit is drawn overwhelmingly to the Undying Lands.”

“And beyond there, Aragorn.”

Aragorn was weeping openly. Gandalf sighed, went past him through his chamber to the King’s bathing room, found a smaller towel there, dampened it and brought it out with him to present it to the Man. Aragorn buried his face in it.

Gandalf embraced him, and through the Istari’s embrace Aragorn felt a peace enfold him from beyond here. His tears dried. He knew that Frodo was guarded all about with a Love beyond that which he himself felt for him, and he was grateful. He clung to Gandalf, was aware of the core of Light which more properly reflected the Maia’s true nature. He straightened and wiped his face, examined Gandalf. “And this is part of why you, too, must go, that you might once again return to what you truly are.”

One last time Gandalf assured him, “My tasks in the Mortal Lands are all but done, child.”

Slowly Aragorn nodded. “Will you be able to stay by him, for the time he has left?”

“No, not the full time. He must go with the others back to the Shire, and they must do what is needful there themselves. I have done all I can to prepare them. But if I go with them, the victory will not be theirs as is right and proper; instead the folk of the Shire would honor me, as is not right and proper. But I believe I will be allowed to be by him at the end for his soothing.”

Gandalf straightened. “So many mortals have I now seen grow to greatness and then leave, returning where I have bound myself not to go while Arda remains, Arathorn’s son. At least when I see you again, I will know you go to your full bliss.”

Aragorn slowly nodded.

“And, speaking of bliss, my son, a part of it awaits you now.”

Aragorn straightened, wiped his face again. Gandalf straightened the wreath of the bridegroom that encircled his brow, and laid his hand on the Man’s head in blessing. The bridegroom smiled at him tremulously, reached out as at last the Wizard pulled his hand away, captured it and kissed it, then pressed the towel into it. “Thank you, my friend.”

So saying, he at last turned to the door. Gandalf went before him and pushed it open, and the royal bridegroom went out to join those who attended him of the wedding party. They went not through the gardens, though, for that was the way the bride would come; he nodded down the hallway toward the way to the Hall of Kings, through which he would come to the Court of the White Tree.

The statues of Elendil, Isildur, and Anárion watched in pride as their descendant paced passed them, surrounded by his attendants, passing to his marriage. Briefly did his eyes meet the stone eyes of the statue of Denethor. Ah, brother, it ought to have been you who walked with me this day, he thought. But you raised two worthy sons. I will continue to see this one brought to his full promise for you. He turned his eyes back to the way he must go, saw the Guards bow, saw those who waited here bow also and turn to go before him, saw the last of the Hall and the length of the vestibule, saw the doors opened to allow them exit into sunlight, and then at last he saw the bower before the White Tree where he was to come.

The seven of his attendants encircled him, brought him to stand before his Adar, who today would gift him with a joy beyond price. Beyond that circle all of sorrow was held away from him; and then he saw his Adar’s eyes and the branches of the White Tree, grown taller yet, he realized, in the night, reaching above the head of the Peredhel, the newer circles of white flowers shining gloriously in the light of day. The wedding song began, sung by a choir. Then there was movement, and he saw the second circle approaching, at its center the shining face of his bride, crowned with blossoms, dressed in softest green embroidered with white. His eyes went beyond hers, for a moment, to the eyes of the Lady Galadriel, examining him with amusement, compassion, warning that he must not disappoint her beloved granddaughter, love. No grief did he see there as he did in the eyes of their Adar before him.

The circle came closer, and his own circle opened as Elladan and Elrohir stepped back to join with those from the bride’s circle, those nearest also pulling back to form a single boundary of purest caring for the both of them as he who had been Estel stepped to claim the hand of the bride who came to him in the fullness of her beauty and delight.

The song finished, and Elrond raised his eyes to look at the throng that crowded the Court of Gathering, those of nobility from many lands and peoples who stood to each side, those from the Citadel itself who had come behind. “Behold!” he proclaimed. “This day have two come before us all, desiring to be joined together as husband and wife, here in the witness of all gathered, before the attention of Men, Elves, Dwarves, Periannath, Wizards, and the faces of the Maiar, the Valar, and the face of Iluvatar Himself. If there is anyone who knows reason why Aragorn son of Arathorn and Gilraen should not this day take Arwen Undomiel daughter of Elrond and Celebrían to wife, let that one speak now or forever remain silent.”

Such was the threat in the voice of Elrond none perhaps would have dared to speak should such an objection been found. After gazing about himself and even turning about in a full circle, Elrond at last turned his attention to bride and groom, daughter and son.

“Then let us see them at last joined.” He turned to the Man. “You who were born Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of Arnor, and Gilraen daughter of Halbard, you who were known in childhood as Estel, the hope for the free peoples of Middle Earth, who was known in Rohan and Gondor as Thorongil, the Eagle of the Star, who was known as StarEagle in Rhun and Falcon of Stars in Harad, the Dúnedan, the Man of the West, now the King Aragorn Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar, Elfstone, healer and renewer, the far-strider, child of the lineage of Elros Tar-Minyatar of Númenor and descendant among Men from the Peredhil, descendant of Beren and Tuor, Lúthien and Idril, of Eärendil and Elwing, you who served as captain in many armies in several lands, who led the Grey Company through the Paths of the Dead, you who wield at need the Sword Reforged from the Shards of Narsil; you who are descended from Elendil, Isildur, and Anárion, the King now of Gondor and Arnor and High King of the West, Elvellon--Elf Friend; Dwarf Friend as well; acknowledged by the Ents and the great Eagles; beloved by Periannath. You who have been as my own son, and who have the Hands of the Healer, do you take this one as your wife in delight and joy and fullness of purpose, delighting in her, sharing your life and body and future with her from this day forth, shielding her as you can with your love, teaching her how to live in the moment as must be true of all who are mortal from now until the life you know must be offered back as is right with your kind? Will you teach her to live with mortality and to face death with peace and faith?”

“Adar, I take her as my wife in joy and delight, and will do all you ask of me in humility and with thanksgiving that she is at last come to my side.”

“Arwen Undomiel, Evenstar of our people, daughter of myself and my beloved Celebrían, sister to Elladan and Elrohir, granddaughter of Celeborn and Galadriel of Lothlorien, granddaughter of Eärendil and Elwing, descendant particularly of Lúthien Tinúviel whom you so strongly resemble, mistress for long years of Imladris and beloved daughter of the Golden Wood, you who have chosen to leave us to strengthen the race of Mankind--do you take this one in joy and delight and fullness of purpose, sharing your life and body and future with him from this day forth, bringing his children to life, lightening his burdens, learning from him until the day he must offer back the gift of his life to accept the gift of his death, following him in trust and faith and peace?”

“Long have I desired this, Adar. Yes, I so take him.”

Elrond looked on her with joy and grief mingled, and a pride past bearing. “So let it be, then.” He raised his head to the circle of those who stood round about, watching this marriage. “Let all bear witness that, in joy and delight at their choosing, these two this day take one another full willingly, before Men, Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves, Istari, and all the children of Iluvatar, before the faces of the Maiar, Valar, and the Creator himself. Let us all rejoice to see them joined.”

Arwen gave the flowers she bore in her hands to Lothiriel of Dol Amroth to hold, and held out her hand to take that of Aragorn. Elrond took their hands, shifted the grasp of each so each held the wrist of the other, and he took from over his left arm the colored cord which had draped it, bound it about their joined wrists. “Be bound now in love as you are with this cord,” he said, then turned them about so all could see. “See them now bound together, body and spirit, before all, until they must be parted by the Gift of Iluvatar; and then may they find one another once more that in mutual joy they may offer thanks for what they have known together. Do all see and agree this has been done?”

Together, all who stood to see called out, “Yea!”

The two of them turned at last to him again, and he unbound the cord. “So let it be done. Let you exchange your marriage tokens.”

Faramir held out the smaller of the rings Aragorn had the previous night taken from the box from his desk. Aragorn took it and placed it on her hand. “Arwen, I take you as my wife, to hold you as my dearest treasure all the days of my life, as I have so desired for all the days of my adult life to this day. And I pledge myself to you and you alone from this day forward.”

Arwen took from her grandmother the second ring and slipped in onto his finger. “Aragorn, I take you as my husband, the keeper of my heart, the teacher of my spirit from this day forward, the father of the children I will bear of my body for the memory of that which leaves Middle Earth and the hope for the future of what remains. And I pledge myself to you and you alone from this day forward.”

Elrond took a deep breath. He blest them quietly, then lifted his voice to all others. “Behold Aragorn and Arwen, Elessar and Undomiel, Elfstone and Evenstar, the new husband and new wife. And let none seek ever to sunder these joined by Iluvatar Himself.”

At a nod, the new husband reached out eagerly to take into his arms his new wife, and she reached out as hungrily, and they kissed before all of the company, their joy as a bright Light shining before all, the White Tree shining more brightly still as it reflected that joy back and throughout the entire level of the Citadel, and the bells of the city rang with joy, for their King had taken his Queen, and the whole of Middle Earth was strengthened that day.

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