Arin turned to Aramir slowly, as though unsure of whether he should say anything. “That was very impressive,” he said finally. “I can see why Lee holds you in such high regard.”
“It was just a sword fight.” Aramir blushed slightly.
“Just a sword fight!” Kellian cried. He shook his head. “Aramir, that wasn’t just a sword fight. He would have killed you!” The Elf gave Janst such a murderous look that the Captain of the Guard shrank away from him fearfully.
Aramir smiled. “I’ve seen worse,” he lied, rubbing his side absentmindedly as he realized that his wound was throbbing.
Arin shook his head in disbelief.
“Only you,” Kellian retorted. He put one arm around Aramir’s shoulders and gave him a brief hug. “Look, Ar,” he began, sounding embarrassed as he turned to face his friend, “I just want you to know that, whatever happens, I’ll always be your best friend.”
Aramir paused for a moment, his black eyes meeting the Elf’s bright blue ones. “Always,” he repeated the promise.
A sudden knock at the door brought the two back from their brief peacefulness, back to the tense waiting that had filled both Elf and Exile.
“Yurë,” Kellian cursed, “that was fast.” He walked slowly to the door, as if dreading whom he would meet on the other side. Kern’s tan face appeared in the doorway, looking equally tense. He said nothing, only nodded briefly and turned back into the Hall. Kellian positioned himself behind Aramir, who was still untied. Too late now, the Exile thought. Arin led, or rather, dragged Janst, now un-gagged but still tied, back into the Hall. The numerous people murmured quietly as the four repositioned themselves on the dais. Aramir glanced down at the marble, and Kellian couldn’t resist.
“What are you doing Aramir?” he whispered. “Checking your hair? Ulmo knows how vain you Exiles are.”
Aramir had to bite his lip hard to keep himself from bursting into laughter. Even so, he shook with silent laughter as he stood on the dais, trying in vain to look serious. Ronan must have noticed, because he gave Aramir and Kellian a stern glance before clearing his throat. The Hall fell deathly silent.
King Arodan rose slowly, looking more Kingly than Aramir had ever seen him. The Exile lowered his eyes in respect as the King’s eyes met his. “Captain Janst of the Royal Guard of Gondor,” Arodan began, his low voice echoing through the silent hall. “You admitted before this people that you were guilty of the crime for which you were accused, and for your actions you shall be punished. The punishment for treason is death-“
“No,” Aramir interrupted before he could stop himself.
“What did you say?” Arodan asked in disbelief. He did not sound angry, only very surprised.
“Don’t kill him,” Aramir said slowly. “Death is too good for him. Put him in prison, or, or exile him, but don’t…” he trailed off suddenly as he realized what he was doing. “I am sorry, My Lord,” he apologized, bowing. “I’ve no right to question your judgement.” He bit his lip and lowered his head.
“Indeed, you do not,” Arodan said. “Nevertheless, you speak the truth, Exile.” Aramir’s head shot up in surprise, but the King was now turned to face the Council. “The penalty for treason is death,” he repeated. “However, by the mercy of one who has every right to judge this man himself, let the traitor be exiled rather than executed. What says the Council in this matter?”
It only took seconds for the members of the Council to come to a consensus regarding the decision. Ronan rose to his feet. “The King has the Council’s approval in this matter,” he intoned.
Arodan nodded. “Then hear me, people of the city. Janst of the Guard of Gondor is no more. Let none speak to him from this point forward. He shall be taken to the border of the city and cast out, an Exile from Gondor.”
Janst cried out in anger, but his cry was drowned out by the cries of the people of the city. Arodan let the tumult continue for a few moments, then raised his hand. Silence fell surprisingly quickly. He turned to Aramir. Despite his best efforts to stop it, Aramir felt his entire body tense in anticipation.
“Aramir Nárëgond of the Wild,” he said slowly, and it seemed almost to Aramir that the King was playing some joke on him, so slowly was he speaking. “You admitted before these gathered here that you were guilty of breaking your exile. The penalty for this is life in prison, or death, as the case may be.” There was a long pause, and it seemed to Aramir that everyone had stopped breathing. He had, at least. The King took a deep breath. “However, this Council forgives you for this that you have done on the grounds that you have acted honorably and justly in your deeds regarding the Lady Isilmë. There shall be no punishment. Furthermore, by the request of the Lady of Gondor and by the approval of all gathered here, I release you from your exile.”
Arodan said something more, but Aramir stopped listening. His stared at the King in shock, not sure if he had really head Arodan correctly. I release you from your exile. The words repeated themselves over and over in his head. He wasn’t an Exile any longer. He was free to do what he wanted, free to live in Gondor again. To be an Itir again. And maybe he was even free to love Isilmë.
Arodan finished saying whatever it was that he had been saying, and the trial was over. Aramir didn’t hear him say that it was over, but it was quite obvious, because suddenly Kellian swung him around and hugged him so tightly that Aramir could barely breathe. But he didn’t care. He hugged his friend back fiercely, laughing through his tears of joy. He would have gone on laughing and hugging Kellian if Isilmë hadn’t suddenly leapt up from her seat, unable to be Princess-like any longer. She ran down the stairs of the small dais and pulled Kellian away from Aramir. The Elf stared at her in bewilderment as she pushed him away and embraced Aramir herself. Aramir only had a brief moment to laugh before Isilmë was kissing him joyfully. He kissed her right back, sliding his arms around his waist and leaning into her. He became suddenly aware that, down in the Hall, the people had fallen silent as they watched in amazement as their Princess kissed him. He would have laughed, but could not at the moment. The soft, warm feeling of her lips seemed to spread throughout his whole body, sending tingles up and down his spine.
When he finally pulled away from the girl, he did laugh, not at the people but at Kellian, who was staring at him, a look of mock jealously and annoyance upon his Elven face.
“Oh I’m sorry, Kellian,” Isilmë apologized with a grin. “Do you want a kiss too?”
Before Kellian could even think of a response, Isilmë seized him, pulled him forward, and briefly kissed his lips. Kellian flushed bright red with embarrassment, which only made Aramir laugh harder. He stopped suddenly when he felt a hand come to rest upon his shoulder. Spinning around, he came face to face with King Arodan.
“My Lord,” he acknowledged, wiping more tears from his face. “My Lord, I can’t…I mean…I-I…” Aramir could not manage to say anything, so overwhelmed was he by what had just happened. “…Thank you,” he said finally, his voice barely a whisper.
Arodan smiled down upon him, his smile warm and caring. “And thank you, Aramir,” he answered.
Before Aramir could ask what Arodan was thanking him for, Isilmë came up next to her father and held something out to him. As he took it, Aramir’s eyes caught sight of a small leather bag, and he inhaled sharply. Arodan turned the small bag over and the Ring of Barahir fell onto his palm. He handed it to Isilmë, who turned and held the ring out to Aramir. “I would like you to have this, Aramir,” she said.
“No,” Aramir protested, holding up his hands, seemingly in shock. “Not me.”
“If not you, then whom?” Arodan asked softly. “I think it will fit you,” he added, his eyes sparkling.
Aramir continued to resist, knowing what that ring meant. Deep inside of him, he had always know what his love for Isilmë would mean, but he could not believe that this was happening to him. Finally, at the insistence of Kellian, Isilmë, and Arodan, he took the ring and slowly slid it onto his first finger.
Arodan nodded, smiling that odd, proud smile again. “Yes Aramir. It does indeed fit you.”
A fresh set of joyful tears streamed down Aramir’s face as he smiled and then laughed in relief and happiness. “I don’t know what to say,” he whispered, staring down at his now-ringed finger.
“Don’t say anything,” Isilmë murmured, placing her fingers over his lips. Then she leaned forward and kissed him softly.
As Aramir leaned over to kiss her back, he caught sight of Janst, glaring at him in fury. The look was unmistakable-it said that Aramir hadn’t seen the last of the former Captain of the Guard. Deep inside of himself, Aramir knew this was most likely true, but right now, that was the furthest thing from his mind. A familiar feeling swept over him as he kissed Isilmë back- the feeling that he had told Kellian about- that he would never be unhappy again, never have to worry again. And this time, he thought, perhaps it would be that way after all.
If you guys are interested, I will start posting the sequel. Let me know. Thanks for all your great comments!!
Chapter 1: https://www.theonering.com/docs/8940.html
Chapter 2: https://www.theonering.com/docs/8986.html
Chapter 3: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9047.html
Chapter 4: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9079.html
Chapter 5: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9131.html
Chapter 6: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9136.html
Chapter 7: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9198.html
Chapter 8: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9233.html
Chapter 9: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9273.html
Chapter 10: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9304.html
Chapter 11: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9357.html
Chapter 12: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9374.html
Chapter 13: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9424.html
Chapter 14: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9494.html
Chapter 15: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9583.html
Chapter 16: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9623.html