An’Sohrabi, Farozi of Harad, examined the missive which had just been presented to him by the messenger. It was not a scroll, but apparently was written on sheets of the thinner paper used in Gondor, carefully folded and secured in an envelope of undyed silk, that envelope sealed with dark green wax which had been impressed with Lord Rustovrid’s distinctive seal of sword and gazelle. An’Sohrabi absently dismissed the messenger, broke the seal and carefully lifted out the enclosed sheets and opened them to read. His son and his son’s wife stood nearby where they might hear what was sent by Harad’s Ambassador to Gondor.
The Farozi read silently to himself for a time, then finally gave a nod and looked at the two who stood nearby. “The King An’Elessar has agreed to come to take part in the celebration,” he said. “and with him will come twenty-four others.” Rather dryly he added, “The King hopes that this will not be too large a party for our guest quarters. Also, as his gift to us he sends ahead of the ship carrying his party another carrying twenty head of cattle and twenty crates of fowl.”
His son Anhkrabi straightened with surprise. “That is a generous gift,” he commented.
“What quarters will be needed for slaves and servants?” asked Ankhrabi’s wife.
After rereading the entire missive twice, the Farozi looked into Nefiramonrani’s eyes, his own brows raised. “Apparently, none.”
Nefiramonrani was stunned with the idea. “None? They bring no servants or slaves? Are ours to do all for them--dress their hair, help them dress, apply their kohl and other paints, assist them with their jewelry?”
“A woman comes to keep watch over the four young children who come with their parents, but that is all.” He cleared his throat and began to read aloud.
Gracious Lord Farozi, the Lord King has asked me to advise you that he is honored to accept the invitation to take part in the celebration of your seventieth birthday, and looks forward to seeing you again at that time. As you know, the invitation arrived at the time of the birth of the second child born to the Lord King and Lady Queen of Gondor and Arnor, so there are many notables present in the King’s court at this time to witness the birth and do honor to the King’s family. Several of them have agreed to accompany the Lord An’Elessar and his wife and family, desirous of doing honor to you and to attend on their beloved Lord and Lady.
He asks that I advise you of the race and derivation of each who will come:
From Gondor and Arnor:
Himself, his wife (who is of Elven heritage), their young daughter who is five years old and newborn son.
The Envoy from Arnor, a Man.
Three Men of Arnor and Gondor to serve as Guard of Honor.
A Lady of the Court to attend to the needs of the royal children when their parents must be busy. Lady Avrieth has agreed to care for the other two children who will attend as well as for the King’s children.
The King’s sculptor and his apprentice, both Men of Gondor.
The Lord Faramir, Prince of Ithilien and Steward of Gondor, his wife, and their young son.
Two of the Prince’s guard, both Men of Gondor.
The Lord King An’Éomer, his wife, and their young son.
The envoy from Rohan to the Court of Gondor
A member of the King’s Guard. All Men.
From the Woodland Realm:
The Lord Prince Legolas of Eryn Lasgolen, son to An’Thranduil, King of the Woodland Realm, an Elf, friend and companion to the King An’Elessar.
The Lord Gimli son of Gloin, Lord of the Glittering Caves, a Dwarf, friend and companion to the King An’Elessar.
From the Shire:
Peregrin Took, Heir to the Thain of the Shire, also a Captain of the Guard of the Citadel for Gondor and Arnor, a Hobbit, friend and companion to the King An’Elessar.
Isumbard Took, cousin and daughter’s husband to the Thain of the Shire, a Hobbit, escort for Captain Peregrin Took.
This comprises thirteen Men, three women from among Men, four children from among Men, one Woman from among Elves, a second Elf, a Dwarf, and two Hobbits or Pheriannath. He hopes that this will not put too great a strain on the guest quarters of whatever place you might put at their disposal.
He also sends a gift ahead of the party, for by a separate ship capable of carrying such things he sends twenty head of cattle and twenty crates of live fowl to the increase of your royal herds and flocks.
The King An’Elessar and his wife would prefer to share a room together, as would the King An’Éomer and his wife, as would the Prince Faramir and his wife, as would the Lord Berevrion and his wife the Lady Avrieth, who cares for the Queen’s children.
A single room with two separate beds (preferably low beds) may be prepared for the Pheriannath.
A single room with two separate beds (one of them preferably low) may be prepared for Master Ruvemir and his apprentice.
Rooms adjoining their parents’ rooms should be prepared for the children, who are all quite young.
Each of the rest should be given separate rooms.
Be advised that the two from among the Pheriannath will need to eat at least five meals a day, that being in the nature of Hobbits.
Every member of the party is of great importance in his homeland, and all are well beloved of the King An’Elessar and the Lady Arwen.
There is no need to assign body servants to these, for they are all accustomed to assisting one another when journeying.
There will be no slaves attending on these--slavery is illegal in Gondor, Arnor, Rohan, the Shire, and among Elves and Dwarves.
All prefer to have access to bathing rooms at least once daily.
None will be comfortable with our headrests.
I know of no dietary restrictions for any, although none is likely to enjoy eating the meat of monkeys, goats, or camels.
When they must sit at tables, the two Pheriannath and Master Ruvemir will require thick cushions to sit upon, and probably behind them as well, particularly Master Ruvemir.
None will be likely to accept cones of scented fat during feasts or celebrations--such is not done among any of their peoples.
All are accustomed to cooking for themselves and to preparing meals for others at times. The Pheriannath particularly are likely to offer to assist not only in preparing food but also in cleaning after meals. Such is considered polite behavior among their people. Be advised most of such are excellent cooks, even the greatest among them.
All will carry the type of utensils used by their peoples during meals that they not embarrass themselves by being clumsy with ours.
All of those indicated to be friends and companions to the Lord An’Elessar tend to be familiar in their speech to him, and he to them. This is not an indication of lack of respect, but of the level of friendship and mutual love they share.
The nature of Dwarves tends to make their speech quite blunt at times--they are not prone to be subtle. This is not a sign of disrespect.
All speak Westron; all those of Gondor and Arnor and the Elves speak Sindarin and most speak Adunaic as well. The King, the Queen, Prince Faramir, the Lady Lothiriel, and Prince Legolas all speak Haradri with some fluency. The rest have learned such phrases necessary to give greetings, to offer thanks for services rendered, and to make simple requests. There has not been ample time to aid them to learn a great deal of our language, although the King and Queen intend to aid their practice during the voyage.
All are from cooler climates than our land. Some may find themselves very uncomfortable in the heat of Harad. The King intends to keep watch on their health.
The King and Queen are both skilled in healing and herblore.
The King, Queen, Prince Legolas, Captain Peregrin, Lord Hardorn, Lady Lothiriel, and Captain Damrod are all gifted singers, and several are gifted with instruments of music. Master Isumbard Took is a gifted dancer and skilled in the dances of his people. Master Ruvemir is a truly gifted artist. The Lady Arwen is one of the most talented embroiderers yet born.
All will seek to honor our ways; be aware their own ways also should be respected.
All are accustomed to riding horses or ponies (in the case of the Hobbits and Master Ruvemir as well as the Princess Melian).
Those who serve as guards, both the King An’Elessar and the King An’Éomer, Prince Faramir, the Lord Gimli, Prince Legolas, and the Lady Éowyn will all wish to practice their skill with blades at least three times per ten-day. Master Isumbard and several others will also wish to practice their skills with bow and arrow at least two times per ten-day. They are all likely to welcome the chance to spar with any willing to try their skill against them.
All are highly literate.
Do not underestimate the Pheriannath. Their appearance belies their wisdom and experience, their skills, and their sheer determination. Great ambition is not a common failing of Hobbits; but they are renowned for their demonstrated capacity for responsibility, reliability, and their hardy nature. Be forewarned, however, that they are also remarkably curious and prone to be somewhat unpredictable.
The King, Lord Gimli, two of the Northern Lords, and the two Pheriannath all take part in an activity called the smoking of pipeweed. I cannot describe it so that you will understand--it must be seen to be understood.
Please understand, my Lord Farozi, that these who attend on the King and Queen of Gondor and Arnor and who accompany them to Harad are among the most unique individuals I have ever met. Almost all took part in the fight against Sauron and have survived experiences we can barely appreciate. I have come to bear each a respect that grows deeper by the day, and the respect and love shown them by the people here cannot begin to be measured. We would do well to have each as an ally to our land.
I remain ever your most devoted servant,
Rustovrid, Captain of Harad, Envoy to Gondor
When the reading was finished Nefiramonrani looked at her husband’s father somewhat blankly. How much of what he’d read had penetrated her mind was questionable. “They bring no servants or slaves? And they will assist one another?” She appeared to be in shock. She looked at him, shaking her head. “Do they not have servants at least in their own homes?”
“Yes, they do have servants there,” her husband said, “for Lord Rustovrid has described them to me. The Citadel of Minas Anor is, after all, quite large and no private home. But apparently when they travel they do not feel the need to take their servants with them, and even those who serve as guards of honor tend to be Lords of the realm in many cases, or so Rustovrid has written.”
“And even the one who cares for their children when they must be about other business is the wife of the Envoy from Arnor. That is interesting.” The Farozi considered thoughtfully. “They do indeed appear to be shockingly self-sufficient.” He smiled. “But then, on his last visit to our land he who is now King of Gondor rode alone on his return from near Ephir, visiting the tents of herder clans. And I was assured at the time he did well as a merchant, and would undoubtedly make a very clear profit once the goods he traded for and purchased here were sold in the North.”
“He served as a merchant?” It was unclear how much more Nefiramonrani would be able to accept.
The Farozi laughed. “Ah, yes, he worked as a merchant. Unusual individual, the Lord An’Elessar. He told us that he’d worked as a hired sword, as a breaker and trainer of horses, as a scholar, as a teacher, and as a healer; and I can attest that as a healer he was well skilled indeed, and that I can think of no one likely to best him with sword or knife even then.”
“He must be quite elderly now,” noted Ankhrabi. “Do you think he is indeed the father of his child?”
An’Sohrabi shrugged. “It is said he fought like a demon breaking the siege of Minas Tirith, and later before the Black Gate. Those who returned from those two battles state he was yet dark of hair and looked to be of middle years and full of majesty. He is not a normal Man, though Man he is.”
He read through the letter one more time. “So, it is to be four married couples who prefer to sleep together in one room, at least when sojourning abroad, two pairs of the menfolk who will prefer to have separate low beds in shared rooms, three rooms for children alongside their parents, and the rest each in his own room. You will see to it such are prepared, my daughter? And, what is said about the headrests--that is likely to be true. Such are not used in Northern lands, or so he assured me before.”
Somewhat numbly Nefiramonrani nodded. “I will see it done, my Lord.”
“Good. And we will have a chance to evaluate for ourselves the leadership of the lands of the North, apparently. But what are these Hobbits? I’ve not heard of them before now.”
All looked to one another, none knowing the answer to that.