The Tale of Arwen and Aragorn Part II|
Daughters! They are, of course, a joy, a delight for the proud heart of a father, an ornament to his household and so on and so forth, but they come with one dreadful complication: When they get married, or rather, in the weeks, months, possibly years before they get married, their poor fathers have to live with the girls' mothers. Is there any mother in the history of Middle-earth who hasn't made a fuss about her daughter's wedding? If so, the books don't record it. Fuss there always was, fuss there always will be, and just imagine by what factor this fuss is amplified if the daughter isn't just any old girl [inset your own pun here, esteemed reader, because I couldn't think of a good one] but a princess of Gondor marrying the Seraph of Kűz. Imagine how the situation is even further aggravated if the mother in question has several centuries of experience in fashion and etiquette under her silver-tinkling belt. And then imagine, for a few seconds only, that you were the father, Aragorn Envinyatar.
Wanna run away? Well, so does he.
However, when running away is not an option, one has to knuckle under and do the best one can, King of Gondor or not. And Aragorn had tried to do his best since breakfast time when Arwen had briefly stuck her head through the door and given him a meaningful look. It was nearly noon now. The love birds were sitting on a bench in the lower gardens. Aragorn could see them from his study window. Even from a distance it was plain that his eldest daughter was inordinately nubile and he had no objection in principle to her getting married. He would have preferred it though if she had married no further away than, say, Rohan, but there was no arguing with it – it was a love match. Now, Řahaműjil was a good lad, he had to give him that, but still. Řahaműjil, Seraph of Kűz indeed. Why stop there? Why not call yourself Patritetrarch of Ȅlăng˙ŵř? What was wrong with a plain old-fashioned king or prince? What was wrong with names without diacritics? What, in short, was wrong with Elfwine? Nothing was flipping wrong with Elfwine! The problem was that he and Arneryn had grown up almost as cousins (as far as you can grow up together if you live three hundred miles apart) and that she looked upon him as family. Aragorn sighed. He really should have curtailed those long summer visits. Never mind, it was too late. In Arneryn's eyes, Elfwine would forever look homespun. He hadn't stood a chance against the oriental charms and exotic orthography of Řahaműjil.
The flipping Seraph of flipping Kűz. Huh! Twenty years ago, nobody had known such a country even existed. And now...Aragorn clenched his first when he remembered the confidential talk with Řahaműjil's father during which the Archseraph (yupp, Archseraph) had condescendingly declined a dowry for Arneryn, hinting that what the coffers of the King of Gondor held would barely suffice to endow a fishmonger's daughter in Kűz. It was amazing how rich a country could get on spices and strange glow-in-the-dark minerals. Ah, for those bygone days of the Enemy, when the East held nothing but simple-minded, axe-wielding Easterlings. You knew where you stood with an axe-wielding Easterling. But what in Middle-earth can you do about a man who perfumes his moustache with patchouli oil and could buy your whole kingdom out of his petty cash? Let his son marry your daughter, that's what you had to do, even if it meant that she would move to a place two months' travel away, and that stupid palantir still not working properly...
With such uplifting thoughts running through his mind, Aragorn could not entirely avoid a certain disgruntled expression spreading over his face.
“Don't look so glum, my love,” trilled Arwen as she came through the door with a bundle in her arms. “I have sorted it all out.”
“Have you?” He raised his eyebrows and wondered how she had managed to make the girl see sense and appreciate the solid virtues of Elfwine at last.
“Oh, yes. Look here.” She sank down on the carved bench by the window and opened her bundle. “This watered silk is exactly the right shade to match both the tablecloths and the porcelain, and if we have any left over it could be used in the centrepieces as well.”
“Of what are you talking, Vanimelda?” he asked, foolishly.
“Of the fabric, Silly, for the wedding favours! Have you forgotten? The pink satin I bought first was too garish – we can recycle that later for doilies in the guest rooms, it will be fine on the mahogany – and the tulle looked vulgar no matter what I did with it – I suppose we'll have to pass that on to the housemaids who might like it for bonnet linings – but I sent for Elugol again this morning and explained the whole case to him a-gain, and lo and behold, he finally did understand that I want mauve and not lilac. So that's one thing less to worry about. Have you made any progress with the speech?”
Aragorn glanced down at the parchment in front of him. In his haphazard hand, he'd written:
two months' travel
daughter not a fishwife
fix palantir already
nothing wrong with Elfwine
“I've made some notes,” he said.
A week later Arwen took over his desk. His randomly collated but neatly squared up stacks of documents disappeared under an enormous sheet filled with the most mystifying diagrams.
“See this,” she said and pointed to a corner of the sheet. “This is simply not going to work.”
Aragorn, who had been called “Silly” at least a dozen times in the past week, nodded gravely and refrained from silly questions. “I see,” he said. What he saw was a lot of rectangles.
“How can you see it, Silly, you don't even know about it yet!” said Arwen. “I was working on the assumption that Angannel and Aedhol had reconciled last Mettarë, but Lothíriel told me just now that Aedhol still holds a grudge against Angannel's sister due to what happened at the funeral, and therefore it would be impossible to have them opposite each other. It means that I have to move the entire Belfalas branch to a different table.”
It dawned on Aragorn that what he was looking at was a seating plan.
“Now, can you tell me how I am going to do this? I cannot have them at the top table, because I absolutely cannot displace the ambassadors, and they will take offence if they are too far towards the bottom, but all the middle tables are so nicely sorted that I don't want to tear them apart again. What shall I do?”
She looked at him with those beautiful eyes that used to hold poetry and memories of ancient times and the promise of infinite joy but were now full of dressmaker's bills and bickering relatives.
“I don't know,” he said. “Buy a round table?”
“Řahaműjil has explained to me that the marriage will not be recognised in Kűz unless he and Arneryn walk seven times around a well. Now, I am not criticising you in any way, nor dear Gimli, and I do find the water pipes very convenient indeed, but it does mean that the nearest well is in the Fifth Circle and it will be such a lot of hassle to get the whole wedding party down there and back again. A little more foresight in your modernisation schemes would have been too much to ask for, I suppose?”
“No, not a stag hunt. More a companionable evening of general carousing with the groom and his male friends. … What? ... I don't know what deer have to do with it. It is the custom in Kűz and I think we have to respect that. You could always claim that you are allergic to beer. Anyway, it's worse for us ladies, apparently we have to pretend to be chickens.”
“May I remind you that the delegation from Greenwood is arriving to-night? I cannot possibly put them into the east wing, the carpet is all worn on the staircase. I don't know what you were thinking. I didn't even know you had a pipe collection, let alone that it took up five bedrooms. Now you move them into the attics immediately or I'll have them thrown in the trash.”
“It is an absolute disaster. Every rose within twenty miles twenty miles ruined; what the hailstones didn't get has been broken off by the wind. Apparently there are some near the south wall of the Pelennor that survived, but I've seen them last week; they're the wrong size. Oh, I absolutely despair! Where am I going to get flowers with only two days to go? Are you listening to me, my love?”
“No, you can not just nip out after the meal! Now, don't let me hear any such silly questions tomorrow.”
“Chin up! Hold still just now. There, that's it. Who shaved you this morning? Really, Aragorn, you need to get a new man, this just won't do. ... What? ... No, you can't wear that, you might stand next to Mithiriel of Lebennin at some point and I know from reliable sources that she is going to wear Eau de Anduin.”
“I'm coming! Why do you always have to rush me?”
“Oh, here comes the Archseraph. At least try to make a good impression, will you?”
“Smile, for goodness sake! It's your daughter's wedding!”
“The Variag ambassador is watching. Quick, make a toast to him, too, or he'll say you favour Harad!”
“Well done with the speech. See, I told you, I would be better to shorten it. Only the drunk and the elderly fell asleep.”
“Who cares what she weighs! She is the groom's mother and you will dance with her.”
“You did say 'henpecked'! You said it just there under your breath. Don't deny it! Faramir, did he just say he was henpecked?”
It was nearly dawn when Aragorn's head finally hit the silk-embroidered pillow. Ah, to rest!
“Well, my dear, that was certainly a great success,” chirped Arwen beside him.
He opened one eye. She smiled, looking fresh as a daisy. “It was worth all the effort, don't you agree?”
“Yes, I do,” he murmured.
“You do not say that just to please me, do you?”
“No, I don't.”
“You do love a good wedding as much as I do then?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I may decide to believe you,” she said and kissed his brow. “Good night.”
“Good night, Vanimelda.” He rolled over. Sweet sleep was welling up around him.
“Oh, one more thing,” came Arwen's cheery voice again. “Did you notice how young Bors of Dale looked at our darling Lindis? I must say, she did look particularly lovely in that gold brocade. If I am not mistaken, we will have another wedding next year. That would be lovely, don't you think? Aragorn?”
But Aragorn had no strength left even to groan.