Miriel: Princess of Rohan - 20. A LONG-AWAITED WEDDING


A LONG-AWAITED WEDDING

Three weeks passed. Spring gave way to summer, and the land flourished under the rule of King Aragorn. Legolas came to visit Miriel every day, but their roles were reversed; for now Miriel was the one who was cold and distant. She was never unkind, but she closed her heart to Legolas and locked away its secrets. Miriel spoke little, but she continued pleading with Legolas. She tried urgently to convince him that sailing into the West was the right thing to do. But Legolas would not hear of it.

He brought Miriel small gifts, and when he could not come himself, he sent messengers with loving notes written in Legolas's beautiful Elvish script. The words he used on those tiny sheets of parchment brought tears to Miriel's eyes, and she had to sit down before reading them. Once Legolas picked a bouquet of white flowers from the wood and sent them to her, and at the sight of the snowy blooms the memory of the Elf's tender kiss came rushing back to Miriel. Her cheeks flooded pink, but Miriel graciously accepted the flowers from the young page and said nothing.

Miriel paced dismally in her tower and wept often when she was alone. She knew it was only a matter of time before her iron resolve gave way.

In the meantime, the common folk were blissfully unaware of the painful drama taking place within their own walls. They were caught up in other affairs. The White City prepared for a second joyous celebration, for Mid-Year's Day was nearly upon them and the King Aragorn and Lady Arwen would be married in a week. Once more Minas Tirith abounded with ribbons and banners and flowers. King Aragorn and the Lady Arwen were glowing with joy. They also had perfect love between them, and it pierced Miriel's heart when she saw them together so that she had to look away.

Mid-Year's Day arrived at last. The city waited anxiously for nightfall and a great feast was prepared. Miriel watched from her wall, but she did not join the early festivities. She wanted to be alone as long as possible, but she knew she was expected to attend the wedding as a Princess of Rohan and could not refuse.

That evening Miriel dressed in a white gown and set a circlet of gold on her brows. Legolas arrived to escort her down. He was arrayed once more in fine satins, and a silver band wound about his forehead.

"You look like a queen tonight, more than ever, Lady Miriel," said Legolas. "You are beautiful." He stooped and kissed her cheek.

"Thank you," returned Miriel, looking into his blue eyes. "You seem like a prince. You always seem like a prince, Legolas. Why is that?"

"Because I am," Legolas answered seriously.

Miriel blinked and gave a nervous laugh.

"You're kidding, right?"

"No," Legolas replied, raising his eyebrows in mild surprise. "I assumed you knew, or that someone would have told you by now. My father is Thranduil, King of the Elves of Northern Mirkwood."

"Oh," said Miriel, and she fell silent.

Legolas smiled and offered her his arm. "Shall we?"

Miriel nodded and took his elbow. As Legolas led her down from the tower toward the Citadel, Miriel marveled once more at how right it felt to be standing at his side. Immediately she bit her lip and clamped down on her emotions, but it was too late. Her cheeks were flushed and rosy by the time they arrived together in the courtyard.

The wedding lasted a short time, but its impact far outweighed its duration. In a way, Miriel mused, it did not seem right that a ceremony binding two hearts to one another until the ending of the world should be so brief.

King Aragorn and Arwen Undomiel were silhouetted against a dark sky with all the stars flowering behind them. The light of love shone brightly in their eyes as they pledged their vows to one another. It seemed as if they stood together on the brink of eternity with all of heaven before them, and the hosts of angels watching in awe. A hush fell over the crowd. It was magic taking place before their very eyes.

Miriel was overwhelmed with emotion, and she unknowingly laid her head on Legolas's shoulder. Legolas placed his hand over Miriel's, which rested gently on his arm, and Miriel did not pull away.

Afterwards there was a great feast. When it was over, there were countless toasts and well-wishes to the King and Queen, and songs and tales from all over Middle-earth told by seemingly endless hosts of bards and minstrels, and the hour grew very late.

At last Miriel was too exhausted and full of food and Rivendell's miruvor to take any more entertainment. She excused herself to retire in her tower, and Legolas stood up immediately and joined her. They left the pavilion arm in arm, and the sight that met them on the streets of Minas Tirith made Miriel stop and stare.

Singing filled the air, and there was dancing in the streets that were lit with so many torches it seemed as bright as midday. As Miriel stood looking everywhere at once in her wonder, Legolas suddenly took her by the waist and swept her into the middle of it and swung her among the dancers. Miriel was caught by surprise.

"Legolas, wait-" she began.

"No buts!" Legolas shouted above the noise, twirling her. "Come on!"

Miriel felt a wild laugh bubbling up inside, and she could not contain it. It suddenly burst out of her.

"Come on!" insisted Legolas.

Miriel's heart warned her against it, but Miriel hesitated only a moment before she threw herself into the middle of the revelry. She yielded willingly to Legolas's gentle pull and danced up the street with the Elf. His hand gently guided her waist and her hand rested in his, and his merry blue eyes entranced her; he was communicating something without words in Elven-fashion that Miriel could not rightly read through her mind, but which her emotions and her heart understood perfectly. Her dress swirled around her, and the other dancers blended into a shapeless whirl of color as they were surrounded by the music of the King's minstrels and lost themselves in it. Miriel's hair came loose from her crown and flew about her face like curly strands of shadow and gold in the firelight. Together Legolas and Miriel rushed up the streets until they were laughing and breathless.

They reached the tower and went up the stone steps to Miriel's wall, where it was quiet. But the sound of continuing merriment drifted up from below, and the golden light of dozens of torches brightened the skies. Miriel and Legolas stood together with the wind blowing softly in their faces, watching contentedly. Legolas took Miriel's hand and broke the silence.

"When will you relent and become my queen, Lady Miriel?" he asked gently.

At once Miriel paled and sighed, and pain rushed into her eyes and stole away their brilliance.

"We have had this same discussion a dozen times a day for weeks," Miriel replied wearily. "Always my answer has been the same. I would be your queen in a heartbeat, Legolas, where the situation a little different."

"What do you mean by that?"

"You are an Elf. I am a mortal." Miriel shrugged. "It's that simple."

"That does not matter!" insisted Legolas.

"We cannot help being who we are," Miriel answered.

Legolas pointed downward at the city below, at the pavilion where the King and new Queen were sitting and enjoying the wedding feast.

"Look at the Lady Arwen," said Legolas. "She has made the same decision I would make, and she is happy. King Aragorn granted it full willing, even knowing well the consequences. Miriel, why will you not give in? Do you not truly love me?"

"It is because I love you that I do not consent to this," replied Miriel. "You will be very unhappy here in Middle-earth after I am gone."

"Don't you think I should be the one to make that decision?" asked Legolas with an edge in his voice.

"You are destined to sail away to Valinor."

"My destiny is here with you!" Legolas declared.

"Do you think this is easy for me?" cried Miriel hotly, frowning in her turn. "To have true love at my side and refuse it? To have to shut my eyes and heart to it, when it is offered to me freely? I die a thousand deaths every day, and I have drowned my pillow in sorrow each night! It is a miracle that I yet live! Please, I beg you to speak no more of it!"

Miriel turned sharply away from him, and they stood silently on the wall. The music below stopped suddenly and there was a rush of applause. Then the minstrels began to play a slower tune, and the melancholy notes drifted to the Elf and the Princess on the silvery breeze.

"I will go back to Edoras soon," announced Miriel quietly.

Legolas looked at her, surprised at the change in her demeanor. "When?"

"I think Eomer and Eowyn wish to depart in a week's time," she replied with a soft sigh. "I will go with them. We will bury King Theoden, and there is still much work to be done in the rebuilding of Rohan. They... they need me," she added feebly.

The air around them grew tense. Miriel found it hard to breathe. She quickly stole a glance at Legolas and saw that his expression was troubled and sad. Legolas did not meet her gaze and continued staring deep into the celebrating crowds below, and she too looked away. Then he spoke, but his voice was toneless.

"And you won't be coming back." It was a statement rather than a question.

Miriel's quavering breath could be heard in the stillness. "No."

Legolas drew himself up tall, and at once Miriel sensed him grow distant, as if he had erected a steel barrier between them.

"I see," he said through clenched jaws. "So you have chosen."

There was quiet, and then suddenly Legolas pounded his fist on the stone wall. Miriel gasped and stepped back in fear. But there was no fury in the Elf's action, only heartwrenching sorrow. Miriel's heart broke and she reached for him.

"Legolas, I- I'm sorry," faltered Miriel, but Legolas turned his back on her.

"Well, good night," muttered the Elf over his shoulder, and he walked away.

*********
If you're in a great hurry to know what happens next, you don't have to wait. The entire 30-chapter ebook entitled Miriel: Princess of Rohan can be downloaded at www(dot)talesofmiddleearth(dot)com.
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Chapter Sixteen: THE CORONATION
http://www.theonering.com/docs/19527.html
Chapter Seventeen: DOOM OF THE ELVES
http://www.theonering.com/docs/19535.html
Chapter Eighteen: DIFFICULT DECISIONS
http://www.theonering.com/docs/19552.html
Chapter Nineteen: ROLANDE'S CHOICE
http://www.theonering.com/docs/19596.html
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