The city was filled to overflowing with many visitors from other lands, including from lands of the Far South, emissaries from the Dunlendings and places of which few had ever heard.
On the first of Lótessë, we were all up early, and all hurried through our chores and to dress in new clothing. Lord Gimli had already left for his place as one of those who had fought in the Hosts of the West, but Dalfinor, subdued in a new tunic, Ull, Nahemion, and the other men would accompany Lady Silwen, Rhylla and the other maids, and myself; Gilannis was with her family. Samno and Ull helped settle Wilmet and Rill in the small wheeled and padded chairs Dalf had made; they preferred to stay at the House until afterwards, and the rest of us went down to the open area immediately outside the city walls, the space where the Great Gates had been now filled by a simple barrier. It was a brightly garbed multitude, laden with many garlands of flowers; lately it seemed as if all the gardens of the city were blooming enough for two springs instead of one!The crowd was rimmed by the black and silver of the Citadel Guard and the brighter uniforms of the Hosts of the West. Above the walls on every level, the plain white banner of the Stewards was raised. I supposed that some were sad to think that it would never be raised again—but would it? Would Aragorn have it upraised when he was in Arnor, and appoint a Steward to rule in his stead in Gondor until he returned—for he was to be King of both, not merely one, and surely he would need (and having been raised as a child and youth in the North, would he not at times desire) to journey there on occasion? I had never before thought of this aspect of his reign; had anyone else? It would have been nice to discuss this with Dalfinor, but this was neither the time nor place, and I had felt constrained in speaking with him for some time. Lord Gimli had said little to me directly, but I sensed that he had reservations about our friendship, for which I could not blame him.
Suddenly trumpets sounded, and in the following silence, Faramir and Lord Húrin, and other lords of the West, including Éowyn and Erragol with other lords of the Mark in Rohan’s green, came forth with four Citadel guards in their winged helmets bearing a lebethron casket.
And Aragorn came forward, wearing black and silver mail under a white mantle fastened with a great green gem, his head bare except for a silver fllet set with a white gem like a star, Andúril girt at his side. With him came a tall blond man in Rohan’s green whom I knew must be Éomer King, and Prince Imrahil in a blue mantle, Gandalf in his snowy robes, and the four Halflings, with the Dunedain of the North in their grey cloaks, and the twin Peredhil sons of Lord Elrond. Merry wore his green livery, and Pippin his black and silver; Lords Iorhael and Panhael wore mantles suitable for the highest nobles, and circlets on their brows. I was certain that these must be gifts from Aragorn, for left to themselves, they seemed to prefer the simpler garments of their own folk, sleeveless garments they called waistcoats under short coats instead of robes or tunics, and breeches.
Faramir and Lord Húrin came forward into the space between the two groups, followed by the casket-bearers. Faramir knelt, holding up the White Rod of the Stewards, announcing for all to hear, “The last Steward of Gondor begs leave to surrender his office.”
I knew that Éowyn must be holding her breath, and I know that I was, even as I wondered if Mithrandir had somehow worked magic to amplify their voices!
To my relief, Aragorn gave it back to him, saying, “That office is not ended, and it shall be thine and thy heirs’ as long as my line shall last. Do now thy office!”
Newly confirmed, our Steward rose and proclaimed Aragorn’s titles, asking if it was our will that he be king and enter into and dwell in our city.
Everyone shouted our assent.
Faramir explained that the old custom (of a thousand years before!)had been that the crown was handed from father, living or deceased, to son, but that using his authority as Steward, he had himself brought forth from the Street of the Dead (and what courage that must have taken, after his ordeal there at the hands of his own father!), the ancient crown last worn by Eänur, shaped like the Citadel Guards’ helms, only white and loftier, with pearl and silver wings, with seven glittering gems and in the center, one flame-like jewel.
Aragorn held it high so that we could see, and quoted in Adûnaic the words of Elendil: “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.” But he did not set it upon his head! I heard indrawn breaths around me; suddenly the people were afraid he would somehow refuse, as he handed it back to Faramir.
“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.”
Lord Iorhael took it from Faramir, and Gandalf from him as Aragorn knelt. Gandalf set it upon his head, saying, “Now come the days of the King, and may they be blessed while the thrones of the Valar endure!”
Aragorn rose, in a great silence as we all gazed at him in wonder. All of us could see his power, for he seemed both in his prime and yet old in wisdom; I thought of the healing in his hands and the strength in his will, and he glowed before us.
Suddenly I was aware that Dalfinor was clasping my hand warmly, and we were both smiling and happy. I blinked back tears of joy.
Farmair cried, “Behold the King!”
Trumpets were blown, King Elessar (as he wishes to be known in his reign) went to the barrier, which was thrust back by Lord Húrin (Dalf sighed with relief, for he had feared its swivel mechanism would stick, as it had balked in their trials of it, and we both laughed). With music and singing, the King made his way up through the flower-bedecked streets to the Citadel and entered into what would be his home. I knew when that moment was (by then we were on the Sixth Circle, looking upward), for we saw his banner, the Tree and Stars, unfurled on the wind from the top of Ecthalion’s Tower for the first time. This truly marked the union of the two realms, for while in ancient times, the banner of Gondor was the White Tree, that of Arnor had been the Seven Stars; he combined the two, as both lands were now combined into one realm under one ruler.
Dalfinor went up to the Citadel, to join Gimli, but Lady Silwen and I went with the rest of our household to the House of Ornamir, now the House of the Hammer and Axe. We wanted to be certain that all was in readiness for its new masters, that all was refurbished as well as could be. As the afternoon waned, Rhylla helped me, and Lily helped Lady Silwen, into our other fine new formal gowns, that we would look fittingly for the feast that evening.
“I am not sure I should go,” I said to Silwen as she came into my room.
“Lord Dalf would be real disappointed ‘f you didn’t,” Rhylla commented as she finished my hair. It felt strange to have it piled on my head instead of in a long plait down my back, or a tail, or a braided coil at my nape.
“I don’t want to embarrass him—or Lord Gimli,” I said hastily.
“You won’t embarrass anyone,” Silwen said firmly.”That amber is a good color for you. Besides, as long as I have been rusticating, I urgently need some support in my first foray back into Court society! I’m depending on you, Little One! Now come, or we shall be late.”
When we reached the hall, Samno said with a grin, “I let in two callers,” opened the door of the parlor, and out came Erragol and Dalfinor, who had been spending his nights at the guesthouse with Lord Gimli!
Erragol took Silwen’s hand, kissed it with a bow, and said, “We are here to escort you. I have rómensir waiting outside.”
Dalf smiled at me, took my hand, and said, “You look very fine, my lady.”
I was abruptly conscious that my only adornment was my mother’s slender golden chain with a pendant emerald about my neck as I stuttered my thanks. He looked even finer, in a deep blue tunic, a golden fillet on his russet hair, and gold beads binding the braids of his hair and beard. He handed me into my sedan chair as Erragol handed Silwen into hers, the Doorwardens lifted them with the usual slight lurch, and carried us forward—I was glad that we only had to go one level up!
They put us down just within the limits of the Citadel, and we walked through the Court of the White Tree; it seemed so sad to see the bare branches of that sere old trunk, when everything else was blooming. Still, we paused to reverence it before going to the great feast-hall, and finding our places.
I shall never forget that night, with the wonderful foods, laughter, and dancing. It soon became clear, to Lady Silwen’s amusement, that the King was not the most accomplished dancer we had ever seen—in fact, Lord Iorhael far outstripped him, dancing a Halfling dance called the Husbandman to Captain Merry’s piping. I could well believe it when Pippin told me later that Lord Frodo had been accounted the finest dancer in the Shire.
And I danced too....
Others have spoken, aye, and written, of that day and night. For me, what I recall most vividly was Silma. In the morning, wearing her new blue gown, her small hand clasped in mine as Aragorn became King Elessar, but even more that evening, Silma in amber silk, smiling shyly and warmly at me in the hall. It was all I could do not to take her in my arms and kiss her then and there!
I could see that she had set aside her tension, and we laughed and talked all through the feast. Afterwards, when the tables were cleared for dancing, I could see that she was slightly tense, but was uncertain why.
Erragol swept Lady Silwen away into one dance, insisting that she show him the steps. She was graceful, and he matched her, both tall and elegant; it was a pleasure to watch them.
The Elves were most graceful, of course, and we saw many different dances, almost as many as were peoples represented. Gimli and I did one of the stamping axe-dances, to a single drum, flourishing and tossing our axes so that they flashed through the air. As the evening went on, more and more danced, whether they knew the steps or not. Even Gimli was inveigled into dancing with the wife of Lord Halladan, the Dúnadan who had been named to us as the King’s Steward in Arnor.
I stood up and offered my hand to Silma. “My lady, will you dance with me?” I asked.
“Do you think it...appropriate?” she asked uncertainly.
“Look at my Ambassador,” I said, and indeed, Gimli was watching us. She glanced at him, and he nodded, gesturing towards the dancers. “Should I not know how, for diplomacy’s sake?” I pleaded.
She yielded, and we joined the dancers. I shall not soon forget her hands in mine, or the feel of her slender waist as I swung her in some of the figures. She was light as thistledown, laughing with delight, her eyes dreaming.
A magical, memorable evening....
According to ICE's book on Minas Tirith, one way they kept all that white stone gleaming was to strictly limit the amount of horse traffic in the streets. Most people walked, but they had both a kind of sedan chair, the rómensir , rentable with bearers from the Porters and Doorwardens, and a kind of sling by which smaller goods could be transported. Sedan chairs were in fact in use in much of the world from antiquity, and in Britain and the larger American cites like Boston and Philadelphia, well into the 18th Century.