Fall had passed quickly,
all too quickly for Aragorn, now Elessar Telecontar. The Fields of Pellenor still bore the evidence of
the fierce battle that raged before Minas Tirith, despite Gondor’s best efforts to clear it of carrion. He awoke the
morning of Winter Solstice, finding Arwen wrapped about him. With a smile, he kissed her and gently disentangled himself.
Too many years he had lived as a Ranger, often solitary and in the wilderness. It would take time to adjust to all of this…
the pomp, the crowds, the city… marriage. For over seventy years he had longed for Elrond’s daughter, believing
he would never attain what his foster father wished him to that he might claim the Evenstar. Yet here he stood, gazing down
at the Elven beauty who had claimed his heart as a young man.
Carefully, he drew the covers over her, and then pulled on the heavy night robe. The room seemed close,
though the fire had burned to a few glowing embers. He paused to stir it to life and add another log before he left. Elrond
and the others had not yet departed, assuring him that they would be there for him, should he need their counsel. Legolas
had returned to Mirkwood, though the Prince continued to correspond regularly. Although the Age of the Eldar had passed, those
few who remained still held ties to Men. The flames flickered and Aragorn found himself drawn into memories.
Memories of winters past in Imladris, Elrond’s sons and he laughing together around the Yule
fire, Glorfindel telling jokes, Erestor looking on disapprovingly. How innocent he had been then. Not knowing his bloodline,
believing himself one of them. And yet… And yet he was a part of the peredhil family,
for upon his twentieth birthday, Lord Elrond had disclosed to him his ancestry and all that it entailed. It had terrified
him and he had fled into the forest, only to come upon a sight that would haunt him for years. Arwen had returned home that
morning. He found her beside one of the tiny falls, gathering flowers and gazing into the transparent pooled water beneath
it. Behind them, the Bruinen rumbled, ever a counterpoint to life in Imladris.
Her clear blue gaze rose to met his and with that, Aragorn knew his heart had been lost. Though he
had gazed upon lovely maidens around his home, none had the power to take his breath and turn his knees to mush. She rose
and came toward him, concern written on her face.
“Are you well?” she asked softly.
“Aye, though I may never again be the same,” he had replied without thinking.
She smiled. “And why might that be?”
"I have gazed upon the most beautiful of all of Arda's treasures," he vowed.
With a laugh, she shook her head. “You have listened to too many of my father’s
tales then. I am no reembodiment of my ancestor, only Arwen, sometimes called Undómiel. And you are?”
His heart, which had soared with her laughter, plummeted to the depths. “I have been
called Estel, but now… I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, the last of the descendents of the Númenorian kings.” His
voice had grown very soft and somewhat bitter. “And I will soon depart this place I have known as home, for I find I
am no longer who I believed myself.”
The concern returned to her face and
with a gentle touch of his face, Arwen caused Aragorn to tremble. “Why must you leave? Surely, you are young and untried.
Will you not remain a little longer?”
Without thought, Aragorn leaned into the kind touch, closing his eyes. “I will seek
out the Dúnedain of the North, learn their ways. Perhaps then I will be worthy.”
“Worthy? Of what?”
you, my lady, he thought. “Of the tasks Father believes me incapable of at this time,” he said instead.
Estel! Do not think Father judges you so harshly. Has he not raised you as his own? I have been long gone in Lorien, the land
of my mother’s parents, but even there, I have heard of you. My brothers speak highly of you,” she protested.
stepped away, fearing her power over him. “Then perhaps ‘tis best that I do not prove you or them wrong. If what
Father… Lord Elrond… says is true, I will have a longer life span then most Men, yet I am still mortal. I will
most likely return to Imladris occasionally, but… I must leave now.”
that, he whirled and hurried back to the house, his thoughts in turmoil. Hard enough to deal with what the one he believed
his father had told him, but then to have such a reaction to the lady who would have been his sister… It made his head
spin. He had quickly packed, and gathering supplies and a map, had departed Imladris.
Many years had passed, though he kept in contact with his foster family. He made himself
of service to Rohan and King Thengol, Gondor and Steward Ecthelion II, and then roamed the wilderness, from the Grey Havens
to Misty Mountains, meeting Mithrandir, the Istari Wizard in his travel. Yet, no matter how far he went, his thoughts, his
heart, his mind ever returned to its lodestone… Arwen Undómiel, the Evenstar of her people.
Aragorn shook himself, pushing away the oft times painful recollections of hardships and failures. Rising, he gazed toward
the bed, grateful his wife still slept. With the quiet he had learned in his years as a Ranger, he padded to the door, opened
it and exited the room. He inhaled deeply, as if he had been holding his breath, then moved toward the staircase that would
take him to the ramparts.
A magical scene awaited
him. Snow dusted the entirety of Minas Tirith and the plains below. The white tree bloomed, its blossoms mirroring the flakes
that briefly touched its branches. He strode past it and its guards, who saluted him. Pulling his hood up, he moved to the
end of the ramp, looking down and toward Osgiliath. The carpet of snow covered the still bleak battlefield and in the predawn,
all appeared as if painted with a softer brush. Aragorn smiled and leaned on the stone battlement.
The crunch of footsteps
made him straighten and turn, but the smile did not leave, only grew greater. Another felt the call to find time alone beneath
the open sky.
met, Faramir. I see you too needed breathing space,” he said with a soft laugh.
man joined him with a nod and returning smile. “Aye, though I love my wife and am grateful for the position you have
given me, at times I miss the life of a Ranger of Ithilien.”
chuckled. “Indeed. Imagine how I must feel? For seventy years and more I wandered the Northern reaches,
indeed much of Arda, doing what I could to keep the Dark at bay. To be confined like this… Well, let us just say ‘twas
something I resisted a very long time.”
his king an assessing look. “Yet you have done so much, even in this short span of time. Does the crown still weigh
turned back to the open field. “Aye, it does, and ever will it, my friend. I will not live forever and when I pass on,
I will take with me much of the beauty of this world.” He gave a crooked smile. “No, not myself, if you think
I am so vain, but that of Arwen. She gave up her immortality to be with me and never will I forget it. Yet I know I will grow
weary of this mantle, no matter the Elven blood that still runs in my veins. ‘Tis too diluted for me to live much beyond
two hundred years.”
sat on the wall, facing Aragorn, his look intent. “Then we must make certain that we make the most of those years, Your
here I am only Aragorn. Before the others we may have to use formal titles, but when we are alone, I would rather be Aragorn
and you, Faramir,” the king protested.
Faramir grinned. “Then Aragorn you shall be in such times. But as I said, we must make the most of what time we have.
Unlike the Eldar, we do not have eternity to contemplate things, to tinker with them. We must act and live life to the fullest.”
A dreamy expression filled his eyes. “And I intend to have as many children as Éowyn will allow me. In truth, she has
all that I could ever wish for in a companion, a wife, a friend.”
lightly punched the younger man’s shoulder. “Besotted! Aiya, but I believe you two truly were
meant for each other. Strong-willed she may be, but of a good and true heart. If my heart had not been claimed by Arwen, who
knows what would have happened between Éowyn and me? Still, I am more than glad that you two found each other.”
Faramir shivered. “Aragorn, I am hardly dressed for such weather. The snow has gathered upon us as we speak. Might we
take this inside and sit beside a fire?”
Aragorn laughed and nodded toward the palace. “Aye, ‘tis a wise suggestion you make, Steward.” With that,
he clapped Faramir on the shoulder and together the Men entered their home.
That evening festivities made the entire of Minas Tirith glow. Music and laughter rang through the streets and floated out
across the plains. The group of travelers who neared looked up, smiles upon their faces.
“I do believe the King has brought joy to the land,” Celeborn noted.
and nodded. “Indeed, for who better than the Elfstone to ring in the new year?”
Elrond grumbled. “Well, the night will be over unless we make haste. I, for one, would see my daughter this even and
bring her the gifts we have wrought for them.”
The Lord and Lady of Lorien laughed together at which even Elrond’s glum face lightened. With that, the party kicked
up their horses and entered the city at a gallop. Celebrating couples moved about the streets, making way for the visitors.
When at last they reached the palace, guards took their horses and others showed them into the palace. Arwen looked up and
with a joyful cry, ran to greet them.
“Ada! Grandmother, grandfather!” she nearly wept, then felt two pairs of eyes upon her. “Elladan,
Elrohir! Ai, I thought you were off somewhere. So glad am I to see you. Come in!” she urged, hugging
each of them. She took them further into the room and to Aragorn’s side. He bowed to the Elven Lords, despite his position,
for he felt the weight of their experience and wisdom.
“My Lords and my Lady, welcome to Minas Tirith,” he told them, one arm going about Arwen’s waist.
“We come to wish you Yuletide blessings, Elessar Telecontar. To you and your people,” Elrond said, his voice pitched
so that others could hear. Then he moved closer. “And to give you things which may stand you in good stead.” With
a nod to the twins, a large package appeared. “Perhaps you may wish to open this in private, though it holds nothing
but the best of wishes from all of us.”
Arwen’s eyes shone with glee. “Ada, you know how I am with presents.”
Elrond and Aragorn shared a long-suffering glance, then Aragorn shrugged. “If it gives you joy, meleth,
then open it.”
Carefully, Arwen untied the string, then pulled back the cloth coverings. Inside, a beautifully handcrafted cradle, carved
with leaves and flowers lay. Lining it, quilts and a tiny pillow, all embroidered with mallyrn leaves and
Tears threatened to fall, but not from sorrow. She hugged Elrond, then Celeborn and Galadriel, and then her brothers. “I
know not when we will use it, but when our children arrive, we will be honored to lay them here.”
A great cheer went up around the hall, amidst winks and laughter. The obvious love between the King and his Queen could bring
nothing but happiness and good fortune for the years to come. And thus, the first Yule of the Fourth Age came in, brought
through the joining of Man and Elf and the Return of the King to Middle-earth.
The End... or The Beginning