The White Rose of Gondor: Part Three
The next day, afternoon
Aragorn stretched back on the chair and closed his eyes. It had been a long day, full of meetings and discussions about his kingdom, and he was exhausted, for there had also been much merrymaking during the feast the night before at the House of Faramir, going on late into the night. But he only meant to rest briefly, he could not go to sleep yet, there was still much left to do. He was proud of being King of Gondor, and of course he was the only living heir of Isildur, but sometimes his duties of state wearied him. And, without realising, his eyelids shut further, he slipped into a deep sleep, and his dreams began to take over his thoughts..............
******************** flashback begins ************************
Many years ago, upon the hill of Cerin Amroth, in the now-deserted realm of Lothlorien
Aragorn turned his face toward the setting sun in the West and smiled. For he now held the hand of Arwen Und-ómiel, daughter of Elrond Half-Elven, the woman he had sought after since they had met when he was twenty years of age. And now he also held her heart, and she his. They stood upon the elanor and niphredil-covered hill, barefoot and free. And they had plighted their troth gladly, and for a moment Aragorn was just happy to be silent, holding the hand of his love. For he had given her the ring of Barahir, a token most precious to him, and she now wore it on her finger. But he had yet to bring up one more matter. Presently Arwen turned back to him and spoke. "Dark is the Shadow, and yet my heart rejoices; for you, Estel, shall be among the great whose valour will destroy it", she said softly. When Aragorn looked at her; and saw the hope in her eyes, he almost did not say what he knew he must. But then he lowered his gaze to the ground and answered.
"Alas!", he sighed. "I cannot forsee it, and how it may come to pass his hidden from me. Yet with your hope I will hope. And the Shadow I utterly reject. But neither, lady, is the Twilight for me; for I am mortal, and if you will cleave to me, Evenstar, then the Twilight you must also renounce." Then Arwen turned away, letting go of his hand, and made no sound, but stood, still as a white tree; looking out into the West. Aragorn was silent as well, but he felt worry that he had hurt her with his honesty. But within a moment or two she turned back to him, and a slight smile graced her lips, though on her cheeks shone the pearly beads of her grief.
"I will cleave to you, Dúnadan, and turn from the Twilight", she said in a determined voice, though her face was grave and it could be seen that this choice caused her great pain, for she loved her father dearly. "Yet there lies the land of my people and the long home of all my kin", she added, gesturing out into the West where lay Valinor, the Undying Lands. Aragorn nodded, and placed his strong arms about her, breathing in her sweet fragrance.
"So you have made your choice, Evenstar", he said slowly, wiping away the pale tears that still shone on her cheeks. Arwen nodded.
"I bind myself to you, Estel, and forsake my immortal life". She was calm, yet resolute as she stood there. "As long as my father remains on Middle-earth I shall have the life of the Eldar, but when he leaves, if I choose not to go with him, I will become as a mortal woman, to die upon this earth." Aragorn then turned her face towards his and kissed her for a long time, their embrace held as the final rays of the sun sank to leave a sky full of silver stars. Then at long last Arwen pulled back and took her love's hands once more. "Though I shall have your love, Estel, I must still taste the bitterness of mortality.", she said, the tears welling in her eyes. "When the time comes for your passing, I shall be doomed to linger on, for it is not my lot to die until all that I have gained is lost.........". As she spoke, she drew her hands to her neck and fumbled with something. She held out a fist and unfurled it to reveal her Evenstar pendant, symbol of her immortality.
Aragorn's eyes looked upon the beautiful white jewel in wonder as he took it, but a second later he placed it back in Arwen's hand and clasped her fingers over it. She looked up at him, evidently wrong-footed. "Do you not accept my gift to you?". He shook his head.
"Nay, lady, you cannot give me such a gift!", he said firmly, taking the Evenstar from her hand and fastening it about her neck once more. "Though you have made your choice to bind yourself to me, this belongs to you, fair Elf-maiden, and I would not take it for the world. I cannot say......but perhaps you may change your thoughts, decide that you do not want to die here as a mortal.........". Arwen put a finger to his lips and touched the pendant around her neck.
"I would never change my thoughts, Estel, but as it is your bidding, I will keep this jewel", she said quietly. And so they joined hands and walked down the hill of Cerin Amroth, newly betrothed. And when a few days later it was time for Aragorn to depart, Arwen was not sad. She came to where Aragorn sat upon his horse, and took his hand, a light in her eyes. He stroked her face softly and they kissed passionately, him leaning from the saddle. Arwen cried, yet smiled through her tears as she stood looking up into the face of her beloved.
"Oio naa elealla alasse', Arwen!" he cried joyfully, speaking in the fair Elven-tongue (for full translations of all Elven speech see bottom of page). She held his hand steadily, not wanting to let go.
"Cormamin niuve tenna' ta elea lle au'.", she replied, her fair face stricken with pain. "Vanya sulie, maelamin." Aragorn's face looked sorrowful as he gazed upon her, and he took Arwen's hand and kissed it. Then he straightened up in the saddle and turned back a moment.
"Namárië, tenna' ento lye omenta, amin Undómiel.", he said finally, and with a pull of the reins he was off at a swift trot.
"Namárië, amin Estel, namárië!!!", she called after him when he was barely a few feet away, and he did not look back or answer. Yet he had heard her. And he had loved only her then.
************************ flashback ends ****************************
But then Aragorn's dreams turned back to the incident that he thought of most......at Helm's Deep.......him and Eowyn........
Aragorn woke with a start and, glancing at the dark sky outside, he had slept longer than he had meant to. He quickly got up and brushed himself down, guilty at having wasted time dreaming of Eowyn. There were still tasks he had to complete, he had to verify a new law that the public wanted to be passed, and then he had to............walking past the gardens, Aragorn stopped short. He heard a high, clear voice singing "The Tale of Tinúviel", the song that told of the love of Beren Son of Barahir and Lúthien Tinúviel, the only other partnership between and elf and a mortal, besides he and Arwen. Oddly, it was unlike any voice he had ever heard before, so sorrowful, and yet so joyful. But he was sure he knew only one person who could sing like that..........
".......Again she fled but swift he came.
He called her by her Elvish name;
And there she halted listening.
One moment stood she, and a spell
His voice laid on her: Beren came
And doom fell on Tinúviel............"
"Arwen....", murmured Aragorn as he rounded a corner and looked out over the blossoming gardens, where the fountain lay and the White Tree, the last of its kind. But he saw none other walking there than Eowyn, fair lady of Rohan, the woman that he had made love to at Helm's Deep all those years ago; the woman who made him feel guilty to even think of her; the woman who had so often haunted his dreams of late. And she was indeed singing, and not in her usual stern, calm tone, but in a clear, ringing voice akin to those of the Elves. Her eyes looked glazed, and as she came closer, it became apparent that she was deep in thought. He was concealed behind a pillar, and she did not see him as he stood there, listening. As she came nearer, Aragorn suddenly stepped out from his hiding-place, and not noticing this, Eowyn crashed headlong into him.
She gave a cry of surprise and fell back onto the ground, soiling her raiment with grass-cuttings carelessly left there by the gardeners. And then a pair of strong arms reached out and hauled her gently to her feet. Strangely enough, the touch made her tingle, but she would not know why until she saw who it was. Eowyn looked up to thank whoever had helped her, but words failed her when she saw it was King Elessar. Remembering her manners after a moment, she bowed to him and then straightened up.
"Oh!", she said, surprised. "Greetings, King Elessar."
"Greetings, Lady Eowyn", smiled Aragorn, a twinkle in his eye. "I trust you were deep in thought not to look where you were going in the gardens of my citadel?". At this a flush rose in her cheeks and she did not really know what to say.
"I.....I am sorry, your majesty", she stammered, brushing off the remaining grass that still clung to her white gown. Aragorn waved a hand in impatience.
"It is well with me, my lady", he said. "But please call me Aragorn, for we have long known each other, and I deem that the time for useless formality has passed. And in any case, the fault lies with me alone, for it was I who stepped out blindly in front of you. Yet what interested me was that song that came from your lips, for it is an ancient song and is known to few now that the Elven-folk have departed over the seas. Would you answer if I enquired as to whom taught a fair lady of the Rohirrim such a song?" Eowyn raised her head and looked at him, wondering at the strange question he had asked her.
"I would answer, your maje........Aragorn.....", she said slowly, slightly stumbling over his true name, "......and would tell you that it was taught to me when I was but a youngster and dwelt in the Golden Hall of Meduseld, house of my uncle Theoden, in Edoras." As she mentioned Theoden a shadow of sadness seemed to pass over Eowyn's face, but she continued nevertheless. "My maid would sing it to me every night as I prepared for bed, and to this day I have not forgotten it.", she said fondly, her eyes showing that a fair memory was in her heart at this moment. Aragorn nodded.
"But it is strange that you should be singing it.", he mused. "For it tells the tale of Beren and Lúthien, the elf and the mortal that fell in love many ages ago." Eowyn made an effort to smile at this, but for some reason she felt close to tears.
"Like you and Queen Arwen." Aragorn conceded acknowledgment. In his head he knew he had much still to do, but at this time, it seemed ever more pleasant to be in Eowyn's company.......he turned to her again.
"I........I wonder if you might walk with me a while, Lady Eowyn?", he asked her, hesitating slightly.
"Nothing would give me greater pleasure at this time, Aragorn.", she said, giving him a rare smile. But to her surprise Aragorn frowned.
"Nay, do not flatter me, lady. Do not waste it on me. A simple yes or no will do.", he said firmly. Eowyn flushed crimson, embarrassed, but he then laughed, and kissed her hand. "I jest, to be sure", he added with a grin. "Now come, and we will talk". And so they walked amongst the gardens, and Eowyn told Aragorn of all the tidings that he had not heard of at the previous night's feast.
But what they did not realise is that someone was watching them from an upstairs window. Arwen was there, and she was weeping, for now she saw a light in Aragorn's eyes as he talked with Eowyn that she had never beheld while with him. And it saddened her. For she knew Aragorn loved her, but did he love her enough? She could not tell if he had eyes for Eowyn, or if Eowyn did for him, but she was feeling so isolated. The people of Gondor loved her as their fair Elf-Queen, but she missed her father Elrond terribly. He had sailed to the Undying Lands the previous year. She remembered the moment when she had said goodbye to her father forever, but almost immediately blocked it from her mind, numb with the pain of losing him. And now it felt like she was losing her husband. It hurt all the more because she loved Aragorn so. She knew she had been distant from him for the past few weeks, but it was only because some of the old fears and doubts in her mind were resurfacing..........
In the past, while she had dwelt in Rivendell after Aragorn departed with the Fellowship, she had worried that he would tire of having to wait to gain her hand in marriage, and succumb to temptation from another. Arwen was not sure that he had, but she had been noticing more recently that he tensed if ever Eowyn's name was mentioned. And she suspected perhaps something had happened between the two of them at one time. Certainly not at this moment, but perhaps sometime before the Defeat of Sauron. Yes, perhaps. But she had tired of living amongst men, she missed her kindred, the fair elves that had now all departed Middle-Earth. And she did not think she could bear to die alone in this world when the passing of her Aragorn came, consumed by grief that could not be quelled.
Arwen turned away from the window, her head whirling with all the thoughts in it. She took her silver-grey mantle from a hook and wrapped it about her slim form. Heading out of the house, she walked along until she came to the castle ramparts. The slowly sinking sun glittered as she stood stock still, gazing glassy-eyed out over the seven walls of the citadel of Minas Tirith, her home. The banner with the Seven Stars and the White Tree fluttered in the breeze nearby. But it did not feel like her home. Her soul yearned to be free, not to be stained with the pain of loss. The loss of her love, the loss of her people. These past four years had been but a dreamworld. It was time.
Later, a hall in the house of the King and Queen
There were sudden footsteps in the corridor outside the room. Arwen bit her lip and sighed as she sat in her chair by the window. This was the hardest thing she had ever had to do in all her long years of life, and the most painful. She tensed slightly as the door opened, and, sure enough, it was Aragorn who entered. He looked pensive and was deep in thought as he came. A tired smile graced his face, but quickly faded when he saw her state. She stood and for a moment they faced each other, not saying a word. "Arwen", he said simply.
"Greetings, Estel.", she said with a brief smile, though her eyes were dark and cold with an unknown sadness. Aragorn looked at her quizzically, wondering why she was behaving so strangely. But he still said what he had come to say nonetheless.
"Arwen, I............apologise for...for not being a worthy husband, for my constant pressure on you, but still I would implore you to tell me what is wrong", he said seriously, coming closer. Arwen had tears in her eyes, but she did not let her grief overpower her.
"I would tell you what was wrong, Estel", she said sadly, her gaze straying to the floor. Aragorn took her chin in his hand and turned her face upwards gently to face him once more.
"Tell me, Evenstar, tell me", was all he said.
"Happy have been these four years we have dwelt here together, Estel, and I have cherished our love each day I have spent in your company. I am Queen and I do love my people as I should. But I ache for my true people, their fair Elven-voices, their beauty. And I greatly miss my father......" At this point she broke off, trying to avoid the sorrowful look on her husband's face. "The ocean calls to me, calls to my soul. I have sacrificed so much to be here, and yet I am not content. Leave I must, though it causes me great pain."
Elvish translation (in order)
"Ever is thy sight a joy, Arwen!"
"My heart shall weep till it sees thee again."
"Fair winds, my beloved."
"Farewell, until we next meet, my Evenstar."
"Farewell, my Estel, farewell!".