Disclaimer: The characters and places of the Lord of the Rings are the creation of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Written for the Teitho Alphabet Challenge
Aragorn woke up with a bad headache. By the time he had dressed and bathed, he was feeling even worse. Could the day be off to a worse start, he wondered? Drinking Dorwinion with the Hobbits the night before had not been a good idea. Especially not accepting Merry's drinking challenge. Foolishness indeed to imagine that Merry would decide that a couple of glasses were quite enough! Gandalf had always warned him never to underestimate a Hobbit! How Aragorn wished he had heeded the Wizard's advice!
Instead, he was left with a truly splitting headache, which felt as if a Dwarf were striking a hammer inside his skull. Just as he thought his head would explode, Aragorn remembered that only a few hours remained until his bride's arrival. Kings were not meant to get drunk, especially not when awaiting their brides! Lamenting his plight would do him little good, however.
Many headache remedies existed that Master Elrond had told him about, most of them tasting extremely unpleasant. Nothing could be worse than this pounding headache, though.
Opening the window, Aragorn leaned out and took deep breaths of fresh air. Perhaps it was good for his lungs, but it did nothing for his headache.
"Quiet!" he yelled at a lad who was whistling cheerfully as he walked past.
Reason dictated that only swallowing some herbal concoction might help. "Salix" or willow bark was the most potent remedy he knew, but it was also the worst tasting, being as bitter as gall.
Taking a supply from the healer's pack he still kept with him, Aragorn called for the maid to bring hot water and brewed himself a tea. Until the remedy had time to work, Aragorn could only wait.
Walking out into the gardens, he espied Gandalf with Xerxes, the Easterlings' envoy.
Xerxes bowed and smiled cheerfully.
"You are far too cheerful for this hour of the morning on my wedding eve," Aragorn said grumpily, letting slip what had been a closely guarded secret known only to a few.
Zirak-Zigil..." the wizard intoned, then inhaled his pipe and blew out a very recognisable smoky image of a mountain.
"Actually, far easier to manage as a ring of smoke than as a battleground," Gandalf said. "Believe me my friend, I will never forget that long climb up the Endless Stair and the last fight in my tattered robes of grey."
"Doubtless, a memorable battle, but did you have such a headache as I am plagued with this morning?" asked Aragorn.
"Easily far worse, my dear boy," said Gandalf.
Faramir appeared, dressed in finery but looking as purposeful as a Ranger Captain surveying his troops before a battle
"Good that you are here, my lord," he exclaimed. "Hours only remain until before your bride arrives and there is much left to do. I think you should begin your preparations, sire"
"Just leave me in peace!" groaned Aragorn.
"Kings have their duties to perform, and one of those is to look is to look their best for their future queens," said Gandalf. "Legolas can braid your hair then Faramir will help you dress for the ceremony of greeting; so let us return to your chambers."
Maybe an hour later, inside the King's antechamber, Aragorn sat scowling while Legolas tugged and twisted his hair in every way imaginable.
"No more!" Aragorn cried.
"Only one more braid to plait," said Legolas. "Please stay still a little longer. Queen Arwen will be delighted with your Elvish appearance."
"Rest your hands, Legolas. Such treatment makes my headache worse. Though, I am to wed the fairest Elf in Middle-earth, my hair, and the rest of my parts, are still those of a Man."
"Ungrateful Man!" Legolas protested, but his twinkling eyes belied his words.
Various garments of linen, wool and silk were brought in on the arms of a nervous tailor and his servant.
"Why so many?" Aragorn grumbled, as his head seemed to swell with dull pain.
Xerxes appeared again, rather to Aragorn's surprise and produced a brightly wrapped parcel, which he presented to Aragorn.
"You must wear this gift, Great King," said the envoy proudly, bowing low and presenting a multi -coloured, undeniably beautiful, but also undeniably garish, cloak.
"Zounds, that is certainly a masterpiece of warp and woof!" Gimli, who had until now been watching the proceedings in silence, proclaimed.
"A gift it is from my Emperor," Xerxes explained. "Best wedding-cloak in the land for noble lord West-King bridegroom."
"Could it make my eyes hurt any worse?" Aragorn mumbled in Quenya.
"Don't refuse the cloak, though you could put off its use for another kingly bridegroom if you could find one," Gandalf replied in the same ancient tongue.
"Excellent," the current kingly bridegroom agreed. "Fair and nobly given, Lord Xerxes," he told the Easterling in Westron."Gladly would I wear the Emperor's gift, but the honour of my house and that of my fair bride demands that I save it for our firstborn son when he is born and then comes to the estate of marriage. His house will be even greater than mine, son that he will be to Arwen Evenstar, grand-daughter of Eärendil the Star-Bearer and heiress of Luthien Tinúviel."
"I am of your honour most satisfied," Xerxes answered and bowed again. "Joyful will my Emperor be that his gift has so high a place with you, Lord Great King Elfstone", the envoy continued.
King he might be, Aragorn reflected as Xerxes left the chamber with another bow; but he could be in serious trouble if Arwen did not approve of a son of theirs wearing the Easterling gift one day.
"Lovely but troublesome thing," Aragorn said. "Meanwhile, I want to go outside and clear my head."
"No, my lord!" Faramir objected.
"Only a moment," said Aragorn.
"Perhaps it might be better if we all left you to dress in peace," said Faramir. "Quiet is the best remedy for a headache."
Realising he must collect himself and be ready before his bride arrived, Aragorn swiftly changed into the festive garments, grimacing as he did so.
Soon Arwen would be here. The very thought made his spirits lift. Useless to preoccupy himself with a mere headache when all his dreams were about to be realised. Vows exchanged on the morrow would make Arwen his wife until the ending of the world. Wife and wedding, Aragorn thought with a sudden piercing dart of terror, and a renewed pounding in his brow. Xerxes had the essence of it; for I am not just any man marrying his beloved, but a king! Young and fairest in all the world she is, but also a lady of the highest lineage in Middle-earth. Zeal in the planning of this day and the next, from the comfits to be served after the feast to the richness of these robes and the choosing of my attendants, was not misplaced. Arwen should be wed with the pomp and panoply of a queen of Númenor.
But with all that pomp, came the price of dealing with Arwen's high ancestry. Celeborn had looked down his elven-pale nose at Aragorn from the first day he had entered Lórien. Daeradar to Arwen he was Celeborn, kin to Thingol and Nimloth as well as Galadriel's husband; and he had never let a mere Lord of the Dúnedain forget it. Elrond would surely gaze upon Aragorn with that particularly heart-breaking mixture of love and sorrow that would make him feel like a misbehaving child once more.
Forcing his pounding heart to slow, Aragorn walked forth from the Citadel where the Hobbits were waiting to join the procession.
Gimli chuckled as young girls leaned out from their windows and threw flowers that landed on Aragorn's head and under his striding feet.
"Happy is the bridegroom the sun shines upon," Frodo said, his face still pale despite his wistful smile.
"I am pleased enough that the sun shines at all," Aragorn answered, not mentioning that Arien's appearance was making him somewhat over-warm beneath his various linens and silks and that heavy crown. "Just yesterday, it rained from morning through the night."
"Kings may not command the weather, but the sun may choose to shine on the King's welcoming of the Evenstar," said Gandalf.
"Love is in the air today and you'll wed the Lady Arwen tomorrow in fine style," Sam chimed in.
"Maybe," answered Aragorn, who felt his stomach roil again and his head tighten. Never had he thought that the crown would feel so heavy and warm on his brow! Oh, just to be able to take it off as a Ranger could doff his hood!
"Press on, my friend," said Legolas with a laugh; "Queens wait not on laggard kings."
"Rather would I be a little late than fall headlong in my haste," said Aragorn. Tetchy he might be, but when was the last time that his elven friend had prepared for a king's wedding? Until he took Arwen in his arms as his wife, he could not feel at ease. Verily not until he held her, after all this time, all the tribulations that held them apart...Wave to the people, Aragorn reminded himself as a little girl darted forward and presented him with a scrubby bunch of dandelions. Xanthic rather than their usual bold yellow colour, a part of Aragorn's mind noted as he smiled down at the child.
"Yow!" Merry exclaimed as a strange, agonizing sound filled the air; causing Pippin and the other Citadel guards to grasp their swords.
"Zither string has snapped; be at ease, my lord and friends," Faramir said quickly.
Aragorn whirled around, nearly knocking Sam down and colliding with Gandalf in a whirl of entangled silver and white robes. But just as Faramir had already seen, an embarrassed minstrel was withdrawing from amongst the accompanying musicians to re-string his instrument.
"Calmly now," Faramir addressed the assembled guards and bards. "Do you need to stop a moment, my lord?" he asked Aragorn with cheerful voice and kind eyes. "Even a king should pause to smell the fresh air during his wedding celebrations, and take some refreshment as well."
Faramir's concern soothed Aragorn's disordered nerves, if only slightly. Grateful for his Steward's perception, he squared his shoulders and lifted his crowned head. Heavy though his burdens felt, Aragorn would at least manage to walk to meet his bride with the kingly valour for which he was named!
"I am well, my friend," Aragorn answered, as they passed through the gate that divided the Third Circle from the Second.
"Join me then, in a song," Faramir suggested. "Know you the tune of "Beren's Wedding March?"
Loud trumpet blasts answered Faramir's request and the old paean of Beren's long climb to the hill where he wed his Nightingale erupted from the throats of twenty minstrels, then the crowd, then the guards, and finally Faramir and Aragorn himself.
Moving briskly, they came at last to the last gate. Now was the time! Once they had all passed out from the wall, Aragorn looked forth upon the Pelennor.
Prince Imrahil rode up at the head of half his company of Swan Knights. Smartly turned out in the blue and silver of Dol Amroth, he smiled merrily at his King. "The bridal party approaches, my lord!"
Under the cooler sun of the late afternoon, Aragorn watched, heart pounding, as a cloud of dust heralded the coming of many horses. Viewing first the proud steeds of Dol Amroth bearing an honour guard of Swan Knights, he craned his neck to see more. Where was his Lady, his Love?
Xylophones rattled and flutes trilled out a Sindarin wedding greeting that was old, according to Glorfindel, before Imladris was built. Years seemed to pass in the moments between Aragorn's hearing the bold music and the sight of the Elven bards bearing the ancient instruments. Zithers, and pipes and trumpets of Gondor answered the Elves' music. And the Elves of Imladris and Lothlórien rode slowly toward the opened gate, Elladan and Elrohir in the fore guard.
Beams of sunlight poured down to gild the Elven-steeds and their fair riders. Celeborn and Galadriel smiled down upon a pleasantly surprised Aragorn. Dismounting, they beckoned to their kin. Elrond swung easily down from his grey stallion, his face showing naught but joy as he looked upon his foster-son.
Fairer than the stars, fairer than any sight Aragorn had ever seen, was Arwen, clad in a gown of green and silver, her eyes outshining the gems that adorned her hair. Gracefully, she alighted from her palfrey's back into her father's hands and came forth to Aragorn. His aches and anxieties subsided and his heart swelled with longing. I am here, he called to her in thought, come now to me.
Joy filled Aragorn as he took Arwen's hand in his and he felt the gentle, real caress of her fingers around his own. King I am in full, now that my Queen is here beside me!
And Aragorn the King Elessar wedded Arwen Undómiel in the City of the Kings upon the day of Midsummer, and the tale of their long waiting and labours was come to fulfilment. - The Return of the King – Tolkien.
Author's Note from Raksha: Frodo's line "Happy is the bridegroom the sun shines upon" is paraphrased (and slightly changed) from a line in the novel "Hornblower and the Hotspur."
Author's Note from Linda; I consider this story AU as in the book, the Hobbits seem to be unaware of Aragorn's impending marriage until Arwen actually arrives. This is a standalone story and not part of my usual interconnected series. I think only a select view knew of Arwen's impending arrival. I also think it highly unlikely Aragorn would over indulge the night before his bride arrived (unless of course nerves got the better of him.) This story was written for the "Teitho" Alphabet challenge, which I found almost impossible. The bulk of the story was skilfully written by Raksha.
I thought it would be seasonal to publish it now around the time of the wedding.
Arwen's arrival as imagined within my sub universe is described in "Somewhat Grim to look upon" from Pippin's point of view and the wedding from Aragorn's point of view in "I Do".