PartVII Chapter 1
A moment in the future, as old lore turns to new
The Quest had come to a close.
A mighty gust rose from Middle-earth and beyond. It was seeded with the thoughts and deeds of all the creatures of that time. For time drew upon itself and made old into new. As The Light had promised, so time would give.
In this moment of what was to come, so it became as part of an epilogue of that which had already happened and had been told in old lore, The Lord of the Rings.
And so the One was destroyed.
Triumphant were the men of Gondor and Rohan, and those with whom they stood and cherished a bond of friendship. And of the spoken words of the King as he appeared (in the realm of film), through ‘the hour of wolves and shattered shields’
they stood their ground and fought a savage war against the Dark Lord.
Or so old lore did tell.
For on this day, they saw the end of the Dark Lord; but it was for only that day.
So with victory all, those living and memories of those lost, returned to the realm of page and film.
Yet this was the time of new lore, and after their return, he went to look for her.
On that day when they returned
Vanquishing and brave
Old lore had written of many things
Yet in new lore, they and he had changed.
So in the time of new lore
He went in search of her
And for the love that once existed.
He knew there was another
With whose spirit she had bonded
Since he had left denying her
Would his cause now be of no avail?
All his courage
That as a warrior he knew
He would need to find
To make his case
To test love she once declared
Would what he offered be enough and in time?
Aragorn changed from his battle raiments, and went to find her. He strolled with Gandalf upon the terraces of Minas Tirith. The magnificent White City had been broken asunder by the bitterness of a war which was raged by the Dark Lord’s relentless hate. But the city, even so ruptured was still alluring; it had a soul that was not to be dampened by physical devastation, for its spirit rose, proud, free and triumphant.
They came upon her, speaking to the son of the Denethor. Aragorn had heard of the affection that had grown between these two since their meeting in the Houses of the Healing. If not urged on by Gandalf, he would have left his yearning there, unwilling to test his cause. But Gandalf would have none of this. As they came upon them, Aragorn and Gandalf stood, hesitated beneath the columns, hidden from their view. Aragorn saw how tenderly Faramir leaned towards and spoke to her. He could not hear the actual words they spoke, but he could feel the ardor that left this Steward son’s eyes and mouth. Faramir looked at her, and she smiled, she laughed. A look Aragorn at one time long past had received; for he remembered, how, in the Great Hall of Rohan, she had handed him the goblet.
He was too late; she had given her heart to Faramir.
He did not realise, but he spoke these words as a whisper as he felt them.
‘She gives her affection to Faramir because you previously refused it,’ Gandalf replied to Aragorn’s verbalized thought, ‘that does not mean that her love for you nonetheless does not quell within her.’
‘Yet I fear I am too late,’ Aragorn murmured in despair, ‘my cause is impossible.’
‘It is only impossible for you have yet to speak of it to her Aragorn,’ Gandalf replied with some exasperation, ‘Will the King, who fears no enemy, fears to put his case to a maiden?’
Sensing that Aragorn would retreat, Gandalf grabbed Aragorn’s arm and pulled him towards where Faramir and Éowyn were talking.
The sun flickered with soft golden rays, gently caressing them, and a soulful refrain of flutes and harp honouring the loss of valiant souls wafted from the tiers below. An invigorating mountain breeze swirled along the terrace and rushed its renewed breath of life around Aragorn as he walked towards her.
As they approached, Éowyn’s back was towards them, but Faramir seeing their approach, bowed to his King. Éowyn turned on this, saw Aragorn, and said graciously:
‘My Liege. It is good to see the worry of battle lifted from your brow and the glow of victory upon your face.’
For a few minutes the four spoke of the war and of the future.
Gandalf then requested solemnly:
‘Faramir, I need to discuss an urgent matter with you, may I have your counsel.’
Faramir hesitated, sensing this ploy to remove him from Éowyn, but Gandalf took his arm and reluctantly he left with him.
Éowyn looked after them; Aragorn spoke in a hushed ill-at-ease voice:
‘I have a matter to discuss with you Éowyn.’
‘A matter, my Liege?’
‘You once called me Aragorn.’
‘You were not the King to be then.’
‘Éowyn, I wish to speak to you as Aragorn.’
Éowyn did not respond, and a stirring and uncomfortable silence rose between them.
Aragorn continued, searching for the words:
‘At one time before the battle of Pelennor Field we spoke. I asked what you wanted from me.’
‘And I answered, ‘Surely you know”, and at which time…’
‘I responded in words, severe and hurtful, but the only ones that were the truth then…for..,’ he stopped, for he did not know the words to say, to explain.
Let your heart direct you Aragorn, Gandalf had counselled when Aragorn asked him how he could put his cause, as they went in search of her.
‘They were the truth, for at that time I was bound by a pledge. Yet, through circumstance not of want, this pledge has, has been nullified....’
He looked at her, but she broke the silence that lingered in his search for the right words.
‘Would you say differently now, Aragorn?’
‘I come to say otherwise, if my cause is not impossible. For I hear that..,’ he did not want to say these words but they flew from his heart.
‘Your cause? Is it not true that you love another?’ Éowyn uttered soulfully in response.
‘I loved another. But that love has passed with...’
‘Is it that because that love has left Middle-earth, and you seek mine in its place?’
‘I seek your love not because another has left, but that love is different, gone. Éowyn, I cannot explain it, because I feel that the powers of our world have brought about a change, something so profound, that I have yet to comprehend it... all I know that I can express is that truthfully, the love I bear for you, is unrestrained from something that bound me...’
He felt frustrated by his inability to capture what had happened, he stepped back as if to walk away, but Éowyn took his hand,
‘Like you, I sense a change, a momentous happening and reversal, of which you partly comprehend, as I do, but I see...’
‘Then, will you answer my plea?’
‘I wish you to say....’
‘That I love you. That this love will not cage you Éowyn as you once feared,’ he hesitated, then with courage that surprised him, ‘How can I say or do more to assure you?’
‘There is no more you can say, not now, dear Aragorn, and I would not want to be cruel that they have been said, but you are to be the King, and I have another, in your absence and with your prior words, found a bond. I cannot give you my answer now, for I must have time to think, to feel what you have said, and I need to speak to Faramir.’
‘I wish it was elseways, but will not press you on something you can now not give. But when, Éowyn, when will....’
‘I will give you my answer by the time of the toast to the victorious dead at the celebration tonight,’ and with that she bowed to her King and walked off, not towards where Gandalf had led Faramir, but in the opposite direction
Aragorn, deeply sadden by the exchange, for which he felt he had put his case poorly, walked off to find Gandalf. When he found him, Faramir had taken his leave.
Gandalf looked eagerly at Aragorn, but did not press on what had transpired; Aragorn spoke first:
‘I fear my plea has failed, for she would not give me an answer now. She promised to give it this evening before the toast to the dead.’
‘Ah Aragorn, you wish not to see that this is a positive sign, for verily if your cause was lost she would have told you so without delay. For I gleaned from Faramir, that he had also pronounced his affection, and sought an answer from her regarding their betrothal, which he had hope to be announced this eve. So only on a single count have you been correct. That is, that you needed to make your cause known to her urgently. That has now been done, and in my heart, I sense that she will be yours. But let us not linger on what we can no longer influence. We have much to address before this evening.’
They walked together towards the Council Room; nevertheless, although he stepped with Gandalf, Aragorn’s heart and spirit were not with him.
Through the afternoon, as the rays of the sun descended into a vermillion haze, and a blustery squall surged across the terraces, fierce and frigid, like a last gasp of old life, intruded on Aragorn, as he sat in Council. He heard of news across Middle-earth, of utter devastation, and there were desperate calls for assistance, of alliances with those whom Gondor and Rohan had fought bravely and forged bonds of friendship. He answered wisely and fairly. And for those who did not know of the torment that raged within him, would not have been aware that he did not hear or respond with his heart. Gandalf saw this, and suffered with his friend. Dignitaries came and filled the afternoon. Gandalf sat alongside Aragorn, as did Éomer, now King of Rohan. But at dusk, when the meetings were to cease, to give time to prepare for the celebration, Gandalf received a message. He leaned across to Aragorn:
‘I have been requested to attend another. Aragorn, I seek your leave to go.’
‘Of course, Gandalf, we have finished for this time. I go to my chambers to find a little rest. Perhaps Éowyn will have left me word.’
‘I sense Aragorn that this will not come until this eve,’ and he put his hand on Aragorn’s shoulder to comfort him.
‘Then I will wait until then. When you have finished, meet with me, for I wish us to enter the celebrations with you at my side.’
And so they parted.
It was dark when Gandalf appeared, cloaked in a simple white robe that radiated as if illuminated by an inner-light.
‘How have you managed to find any peace, Aragorn?’ Gandalf said as he entered the chamber, but he could see immediately that Aragorn had no rest. He was fully dressed in his stately raiments, as in his style, with little adornment: a black velour tunic, with a leather breastplate on which the White Tree of Gondor had been embossed with silver thread, and a dark green floor-length mantle. His hair he had set with a braid that pulled his grey-flecked strands from his face.
Gandalf thought how regal he looked, befitting the royal calling he had now answered.
Aragorn paced the room. Gandalf thought:
‘Heroic warrior and leader, I see for you that this will be your most formidable trial.’
Aragorn answered his friend’s thoughts:
‘You see I have no stamina for such matters, however, I am ready to greet the celebrations, whatever the answer might be.’
They strode to the Great Hall. As Aragorn entered, all bowed in respect and admiration, for he truly had become a worthy King; majestic in soul and body.
She was not there. As he walked through the hall, returning the words of congratulations, he looked for her, but she had not arrived. He came upon Faramir, who bowed respectfully, but said nothing to him. Aragorn tried to discern from his eyes, had he won her? But he saw no victory there, then…
Aragorn waited with Gandalf, speaking politely, but it was clear from those nearby, that he was distracted in thought. Then from across the room, he saw her enter. He felt himself catch his breath. For she wore a gown of brilliant blue, her hair of glistening gold she wore with a ribbon-braid, elsewise falling loosely, like cascading sunlight, to her shoulders. She did not look his way. As she entered, others rushed to speak to her, so her passage to him seemed to him to take an age.
Gandalf put his hand on his shoulder, and whispered to him:
‘Hold your ground Elessar, she will come to you.’
Aragorn turned to look at Gandalf, and he smiled:
‘You have not called me that in many an age great friend. You give me comfort, as though it was a foe that I was about to face.’
‘I sense that you would find that an easier task,’ Gandalf replied, and for the first time Aragorn laughed:
‘Yes Gandalf, I would happily rather face a thousand orcs....’
and he laughed heartily, uproariously ...its sound resonating throughout the hall. The citizens of Minas Tirith were pleased that their King had found something to laugh about, with the matters of war and destruction; he seemed always so intense and solemn.
Éowyn looked up from her company, and smiled; she took her leave from her friends and started to walk to him.
As Gandalf and Aragorn were speaking to a delegate from the hinterlands, Éowyn reached them. She handed Aragorn a goblet, just as she had at the celebration of the battle for Rohan. He took it, but he did let not her hands slip from his as he had that day, for now he held them clasped beneath his as he drank.
They said nothing to each other. Fortunately there was plenty to entertain those at the celebrations, for fine wine and food, and musicians of Gondor and Rohan were playing as dancing commenced, so none other than those close to the two, saw this anxious silence.
Gandalf stepped to them:
‘I think the terrace will afford you the privacy you need. I have ensured there is no other there, and that none will interrupt you.’
Aragorn escorted Éowyn to the terrace. He could not take his eyes off her, for in her appearance he had a far-off memory of another so beautiful in another age.
The night was overcast and a chill cut the air; the squall had continued to blow swiftly passed them, as if to recapture something just from reach. But they noticed neither the mist nor the cold. In the meeting of a King and his subject, it would have been proper for Aragorn to speak first, but it was not such a meeting. Aragorn waited for Éowyn to speak. And so, in her courageous and forthright way, which he had come to admire and love, she looked directly at him and spoke in a warm yet resolute manner:
‘You spoke to me sincerely this afternoon, and as one who shares your fear of vulnerability, I know the turmoil that this made for you. So I will speak in the same vein of my feelings, some of which you may not want to hear.’
As she said this, he felt a knife stab at his spirit, for he felt this was her way of leading him to her rejection. But he said nothing, waiting for her whole answer.
‘From the time I saw you ride to Meduseld and gallantly restrain me from running to Théoden’s side as Gandalf withdrew Saruman from him, I knew I loved you. As we walked to Helm’s Deep, I knew of another in your heart; but I had thought that was past. I thought I could give you my love unreservedly, but your words as you departed before the Paths of the Dead, struck that love and hope from me. I sense we have in some other time spoken of this,’ she stopped and looked at him, and he responded:
‘Yes, I sense this is so,’ and in saying this he took her hands in his.
She accepted this touch, and continued:
‘We need say nothing more of these words. But when you offered me your love this afternoon, I felt it was as if I was a second choice. I could not accept this as such. For as you know in the Houses of the Healing, Faramir and I have grown fond of one another,’ she hesitated, she felt she should say something ‘of their love’, but could not: ‘His love comes unconditional; it comes pure and unfettered. That was the choice as I saw it this afternoon Aragorn; his love, for me as his only, or yours, in a shadow of another.’
Aragorn started to answer, but she put her fingers over his lips (just as he felt he had at one time done to her).
‘But I know now of the fate that has befallen you. For I have in my turmoil spoken to another who we both hold dearly. I hope you will forgive me for this, but thought you would understand,’ as she said this she looked towards Gandalf who stood a distance from them at the doorway of the terrace, standing guard on their privacy.
‘I see now how things have had to be, for us to have this chance. So my answer Aragorn, is that from this day I pledge myself to you freely and completely.’
He looked for an instance stunned, for from her words he expected a rejection.
She smiled at his shock:
‘Is this not the answer you wanted?’ she questioned laughing.
‘It is everything I wanted, dearest Éowyn,’ he exclaimed, embracing and kissing her.
Then both felt an inexplicable lure of the sky, as if someone spoke to them from the stars. In his embrace, as though a déjà-vu, they looked through the blackness of the night to an unknown star which glowed upon and blessed their union.
From the destruction of The One til this moment, and then beyond, there is much to be spoken, but this is for a further tale, which stands waiting to be told.