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Time of Honor

The Time of Honor

Those who had attended the Lord of Gondor and Arnor to his final rest withdrew to allow him privacy with his wife ere he left them completely, but as far as they were from the King’s bier, several of those could still hear most of what was said, particularly his children, his brothers and the Lord Glorfindel, Legolas, and the Hobbit, Faramir Took. These had, of course, the enhanced hearing of their kinds and could not help hearing the pleas given by the Lady Arwen for him to linger at least a little longer. Much of this interchange was spoken in Sindarin, and a little even in Quenya, but it was all too well understood by those who stood by.

Then came the moment when as the Queen spoke there was a sudden arching of the King’s back, an opening of his mouth with surprise, then its smoothing into a smile as his eyes closed into final sleep. The Star of Elendil on his forehead suddenly flamed with a brilliant light which dazzled all, then dimmed. All went completely still, and time even in that apparently timeless place seemed suspended. Faramir felt he saw a shining form rise from the figure on the bier and hover briefly over them all, looking down with compassion and love at those who waited, reach down to caress with shining fingers the still dark tresses of his wife; and then it looked away, toward the West, and began to be drawn that direction, growing brighter and brighter as it began to move away from them--and then it was gone, hidden by the bulk of Mount Mindoluin. Only briefly did Arwen respond to that Light before focusing her attention back again on the body lying before her; but Faramir could tell Glorfindel saw it clearly and followed its progress, that Legolas saw it and wept and bowed his head, that the Sons of Elrond watched it with only partially comprehending attention, that the children of Aragorn and Arwen saw it, honored it, then turned their attention back to their mother, and that for the others it was only dimly perceived and beyond their comprehension. No, perhaps the Lord Barahir saw it. Perhaps he saw it; but with the attention of his new Lord, his was drawn to the sight of the Queen’s grief.

The tolling of the Bell of the Kings startled all save the Queen, who in the depths of her loss did not appear to hear it at all. All remained still for some time after it had finally stilled, and finally Eldarion came forward to kneel by his mother and embrace her shoulders as the Warden of the Silent Street returned, as others came near with the cruel tools that needed to be used next.

Arwen finally raised her eyes from the beloved face of her Lord, looked with eyes that refused to comprehend at those waiting. The new King spoke gently. “My beloved Lady Mother, we must leave these for a time to do what must be done. When they are finished, you can return.”

She looked at the roll of knives in the hand of the embalmer, and went so much paler that her son held her close to keep her from falling. “They cannot cut him! You must not cut him!”

Eldarion, who had fought alongside his father at times, and who had campaigned among the Rangers of the North, shook his head. “He was the King, and his body must lie in state for ten days. It is the law and the custom, that there may be witnesses of all levels that he is indeed gone from us. He cannot stay as he is.”

She looked imploringly into his eyes. “But he--”

He shook his head. “No, he won’t waken. Not here. He awaits us in the Halls of Waiting, Naneth. This is but the shell he wore when he was with us.”

He turned to the embalmer. “He did not wish to lie as a specimen for the eyes of the curious, and indeed, if his true wishes were followed he would be buried directly in the earth in the custom of Arnor. An effigy and cover were prepared for his tomb. I wish that as little be done to his body as possible, for his sake and for that of my mother.”

The embalmer nodded. “If that is the will of the King.”

“It is the will of both Kings, and that of the Queen as well.”

The Warden then spoke. “What will be buried with him, then, my Liege?”

King Eldarion looked to his sisters, then to the others about him. “A sword will be brought that he bore during his youth. I will bring it to the internment, and will exchange it for Andúril.” All nodded agreement. “I will then take the Sceptre of Annúminas and the Star of Elendil, replacing them with a different circlet and a lesser rod.”

The gruff voice of the Dwarf could be heard saying, “With your leave, my Lord Eldarion, I will craft a circlet for my friend to wear in his rest.”

And Legolas added, “I will aid in this crafting, in the honoring of the memory of our friend.”

Eldarion looked at both with gratefulness for their offer. “So be it, then,” he said. “My father would consider himself in your debt for this last gift from you both. You will have ten days, and the use of any materials within the treasury. But he would wish it to be plain.”

The Dwarf’s nod was so slight that it was barely perceptible, and he put his hand on the forearm of his friend, which embraced his shoulder.

The Warden gave a small cough. “His brooch? His ring?”

Eldarion looked at his own hand where the Ring of Barahir shone in green glory, then looked again at his uncles and sisters. Finally he said, “Let them be buried with him. Once my son is invested formally as my heir when he comes of age, the Ring of Barahir will go to him as it came to me, and from him to our future heirs. But the Elfstone was his and his alone, and with the passing of our mother’s people, it is only right that it remain with the one of our lineage who knew them best. If it is needed, one of our line will come to claim it. Until that day, let it remain with him. And I shall wear my own Ring of Kingship, as will those who follow after us.”

Arwen’s expression was one of shock, as if this mundane talk of what was to be done with the signs of her husband’s Lordship was a sacrilege, but although he held his mother close, Eldarion forcefully ignored her unspoken protests, dealing with the realities of his father’s death.

The Warden nodded. “Then we will make it so, my Lord. Long live the King!” The others bowed deeply as the New King drew his mother away, out of the Silent Street, and back to the Citadel. Two of the Guard of Honor remained in the Rath Dinen, turning away from the bier, their weapons at the ready, while the other four bowed deeply to the late King, saluted him, then turned at a quiet order to honor the new, and to accompany him back out into the living world. Followed by the others who had stood vigil, they left Aragorn to his rest and the attentions of those who care for the body after death.

Three hours later word came that all was in order, and Eldarion allowed his uncles and sisters to accompany his mother back to his father’s bier. He, however, had other business; and an hour before sunset he came forth to the Court of the Tree and showed himself to the folk of the upper city, then walked to the far heel of the outthrust spur of the Mountain that divided the city and stood on its end, and the Heralds of the City, led by the declaration of the Steward of Gondor, called out, “Behold the King.” To the acclamation of his people he stood, an isolated figure dressed in a white mantle and the dark armor of the King, the Winged Crown on his head, the light of the setting Sun sparkling from the Ring of Barahir on his finger as he raised his hand as it did on the jewels of the Crown.

The next day the procession began forming before dawn, as the people of the city of Minas Anor made the pilgrimage up the steep streets of the city to look one last time upon the face of their long-time Lord, bringing tributes of flowers and greenery to lay around the roots of the White Tree as they emerged from the precincts of the Hallows. As the day progressed others arrived from the hamlets on the Pelennor, and from beyond the Rammas Echor, from Anorien and Osgiliath and nearer Ithilien. On the fifth day the King of Rohan arrived with his wife, son, and sister; and later in the day came the Prince of Dol Amroth and other notables from the Southlands. Late on the ninth day others arrived on swift post horses from Eriador and Lake Evendim, along with them, riding before the Steward of Arnor, Frodo Took, Thain of the Shire; and on the saddle of one of his guards the current Frodo Gardner, with his brother Holfast co-Master of Bag End. They joined the procession into and out of the Rath Dinen, and went into the Citadel to learn their places for the final internment on the morrow.

At sunset the body of Aragorn was removed to the Citadel where it would lie during the night as all was set for the final resting of the King. All during the night the procession continued, now going past the bier that stood at the foot of the Throne, and standing among the soldiers of Gondor stood Frodo Took, wearing the mail once worn by his grandfather Peregrin, holding a sword only few had seen before but which was familiar as its image was held in the hand of the statue of Samwise Gamgee, Esquire of the Ringbearer--the Elven blade known as Sting. Troll’s Bane, the sword carried by the Ernil i Pheriannath, lay displayed at the King’s feet. All who walked by noted the white light seemingly reflected by both ancient blades, the one wrought in the Eldar Days by the Elves, the other by those who fought the Witch King of Angmar ere the disintegration of the Northern Kingdom.

And they looked one last time at the face of their King. When he came to the Crown he’d been already long Chieftain of the Dúnedain, had already walked, ridden, and sailed thousands of miles throughout Middle Earth, had fought the enemies of Arnor and Gondor from his coming to manhood, had known Kings, Stewards, Lords, and Captains of many lands; so his face had already been lined with responsibility and nobility. In the years of his Lordship the lines had been deepened, but had been joined with lines of humor and joy as the need for grimness had finally failed. His hair had remained full, as had his short beard, but had gone white in the last few years. But never had there been sign of weakness of body or spirit reflected there, and none could be seen now, as they saw the strength and hope of his youth, the courage and dedication of his early manhood, the wisdom and joy of his rule, the peace of his final years. All looked on him with honor, and many with tears, and as they left the Citadel they left their flowers and greens around the White Tree and the Fountain, where the circle of tribute now stood a foot high and stretched out a score of feet from the Tree’s roots.

But few noted the dark figure of a woman veiled in black who stood near the head of the bier all during the final vigil, failing to recognize the failed brightness of their Queen. Indeed many wondered afterwards why they had not seen her, although she had stood before them the whole time.

Only the next day as they watched the now limited procession bearing the King at last to his final internment did those near enough to see recognize the Queen, and then by the closeness of her children and the attendance offered by her brothers.

The pedestal previously there had been moved, Faramir saw as they paced back to the place where Aragorn had indicated he wished to lie, and in its place lay a sarcophagus of stone, surprisingly simple. On its sides were depicted Star of Elendil and Winged Crown, with the Sceptre of Annúminas between them, over a depiction of Andúril lying horizontally with its pommel toward the west, and beneath a depiction of the Elessar stone brooch. On the west end was a depiction of the Sun in glory, and on the east the White Tree, Crown, Star of Elendil, and Seven Stars between stylized depictions of the Two Trees of the Valar. Nearby stood the repositioned pedestal, waiting for the bier; and on a second pedestal stood the effigy that would lie over the King’s body.

One other change he saw, and noted with shock--on either side of the king’s tomb lay now two other tombs, brought out of the House of the Lords of the City, much smaller tombs--the tombs of his father and that of Meriadoc Brandybuck. He looked up into the face of Barahir the Steward, who looked down and smiled at him. “It was their wish and his, you know, that they might lie as honor guards to him in death. It has been a long time since that wish was stated, but now it is done.”

The tightness in his breast at this news seemed as if it would stop his breath, but Faramir Took realized that if this was to be, it would be to end with gladness. But it appeared as the ceremony continued that he would survive this, too.

Eldarion came forward with the sword his father had borne in his younger days and as the Lord Captain Thorongil, and exchanged it for Andúril, which he gave into the keeping of the Steward. He then accepted from Gimli the circlet he and Legolas had prepared, set with a single green beryl, and exchanged it for the Star of Elendil, then took the lesser rod from Hirgion of the Keys and exchanged it for the Sceptre of Annúminas. He then kissed his father’s brow for the final time, and drew back for his sisters to do the same, and then his uncles, and finally for his mother. Arwen’s paleness and lack of vitality shocked all who saw her, but she gently walked forward to embrace her husband’s form one last time, kissed his mouth gently, laid her hand over his eyes, and finally stepped back. Then Eldarion gave Star and Sceptre to Hirgion, stepped forward one last time and gently lifted the sides of the pall to cover his father, accepted the ends of the ribbons that had been laid under the body and tied them in place, and finally, gently lifted the still form in his arms and carried it to the sarcophagus, laid it softly to rest with the now shrouded head on the pillow placed there by Idril, straightened it, and finally stood at attention, signing to those who stood to place the cover with its effigy in place. The King wept one last time over the remains of his Sire, then turned to those who had witnessed the proceedings.

“Let all know that the King Elessar Telcontar, Aragorn son of Arathorn, once Lord of Gondor and Arnor, has been laid to rest. Let none dishonor his remains while the Thrones of the Valar stand.”

Frodo Took and Frodo Gardner stood forth and sang the hymn to Elbereth, and finally all left the Hallows--all save the Queen and her brothers.


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