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Lesser Ring
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Following the King's Schedule

Following the King’s Schedule

Mistress Loren came to call them in an hour’s time. As they reached the end of the hall she knocked at the doorway just inside the doors. A young Man and an elderly woman, both dressed in greys with the White Tree stitched onto the left breast of their garments, came out. “These are Master Bayard and Mistress Lianen, who are assigned to this wing. Today both are here together that you might meet them; there are two sleeping rooms off this day room where one or the other will be during the nighttime hours. Please acquaint your guards and servants with them. In the future your servants may eat with them if you and they choose, although for today they will have their meals delivered to the rooms you have been assigned. If either should take ill and need to be replaced by another, either I or the Seneschal or the Housekeeper will advise you and bring the one to be introduced to you. When Mistress Belleth is ready to return to duty, or if she must be replaced fully, then you will be advised of that as well and you will be properly introduced by myself, the Seneschal, or the Housekeeper. In this way you will be assured that no one seeks to pass himself as a servant to your harm.”

She also introduced them to those guarding the wing, indicating that when they were relieved one of them would bring their replacements to be introduced to Gebankhrabi. “There are only four sets of guards for the inner doors, and another four sets for the garden gate. Within three days’ time you should have been introduced to all sixteen.” She indicated the stone stairs to the upper floor. “They guard also that way, for the protection of those who may be housed there, usually of the King’s household from Rohan on their visits here.”

She led them to the dining room and opened the doors for them. “You are free to sit basically where you wish, although guests usually sit along the near side and those who are youths usually sit at that end. You will find that our Lord King and Lady Queen ordinarily eat either here or in the receiving room in their own chambers. Lord Denethor often chose to eat alone in the throne room after his lady wife’s death, but this is not our Lord King’s way. Their family and special friends tend to eat with them. In this room will generally eat guests to the Citadel, those of the personal guard and attendants for our Lord and Lady who are of high rank and especially of the King’s kindred, often on days when the Council meets whatever lords and ladies are attending, those artisans working on this level attended always by a Guard of the Citadel, and whatever guild masters or mistresses might be attending on our Lord and Lady. Once a week on the Highday at the dawn meal senior staff for the Citadel and guest houses and the Houses of Healing eat here with our Lord and Lady; on those days your dawn meal will be served in your wing, possibly in your chambers.”

A number of the Northern Dúnedain entered then, including the one identified as Lord Gilfileg. Mistress Loren curtseyed to them and bade them welcome. Lord Gilfileg looked at those from Harad. “My Lords and Ladies--I greet you and hope you are finding your stay pleasant so far, although I realize you have been here but such a short time as yet. Has one among your number chosen not to attend the noon meal with you, then?”

It was then that they realized the young priest of Amon was not with them.

Ankhrabi was concerned. “Apparently Sa’Harpelamun has decided to forego the meal. I did not realize he had not joined us in our sitting room.”

The door opened again, and Lord Hardorn entered, his arm about the shoulder of a woman as dark-haired as himself, her body rounded in advanced pregnancy. Those of the King’s household within the room bowed or curtseyed, as did Mistress Loren. The two of them moved to walk around the table. Mistress Loren gave a curtsey as she addressed Prince Ankhrabi. “My Lord, shall I send to summon Master Sa’Harpelamun, then?”

“The priest?” asked Lord Hardorn. “He is not within the Citadel at this time--or was not when we passed him a few minutes ago. He was out at the White Tree, his face pale.”

The King and Queen entered accompanied by several others and the small Princess, Hasturnerini, and the youth Asa. There was a look of distraction on the King’s face, and the Queen’s face reflected some level of concern. They inclined their heads in acknowledgment as the King and Queen took places at the right end of the open square of tables that filled the room. There was nothing to indicate these seats were intended to be taken by Lord and Lady, merely, all realized, the custom of usage within the room differentiated them.

The King forced himself to look on his guests. “Please be seated. We do not stand much on ceremony usually within this room, for far too much surrounds us the rest of our day. I hope that this does not cause you undue discomfort.” He noted the one missing from among their number. “So, he has decided not to accompany you. I’d wondered if he would be aware.”

“Aware of what?” asked Ankhrabi.

The King looked as if he were considering what to say at this time. At last he said quietly, “I’d pretty much lost awareness of--of the young Man Setra’amun; but as we were leaving our quarters to join you here I felt him reaching out. I believe that his time has come at last.”

Ankhrabi looked at the King with surprise. “You believe he could have lived this long?”

“You would be surprised at how people can force themselves to survive privation,” the King said quietly. Peregrin Took, newly come off his duty, looked up to share a glance with his friend, who set his hand on the Hobbit’s shoulder.

An inner door opened, and a number of servers stood there, waiting to begin the service of the meal. One of those who appeared to be of the senior staff led forward a girl who carried a tray of cakes. “My Lord, my Lady,” the Man said respectfully, “I wish to introduce Mistress Mirendeth of Lamedon who has joined our kitchen staff while you were gone.”

The girl curtseyed and the King and Queen inclined their heads in return, examining her. Those who attended on them also were examining her, learning to recognize her, Ankhrabi realized. Perhaps other lords and ladies might ignore their servants, but not the master and mistress of this household. He smiled, recognizing that not only did this express their native courtesy to the least of those who surrounded them, but also helped to protect them from treachery. They would not accept the service of one they did not recognize, would be wary at the approach of a guard they did not know. “Welcome to our staff, Mistress Mirendeth,” said the Queen. “I hope we shall be able to come to know you better in time.”

Again the girl curtseyed with a murmured “Thank you, my Lady Queen,” as she set her tray on the table.

“Did Sa’Harpelamun remain in your rooms?” the King asked his guests.

Ankhrabi answered, “According to Lord Hardorn, he saw him as he came to the Citadel, out by the White Tree, An’Elessar.”

The King appeared to consider this, then gave a nod of acknowledgment. “Yes, that would be a good place for him to be at this time.” He turned to the Man who’d introduced the new server. “Master Belidor, will you have one take a cup of mild wine to the visitor from Harad who stands beneath the White Tree in, say, about a quarter mark’s time? His spirit is likely to be disturbed at the moment, if he is as aware as I suspect he is of his brother’s situation. He is not likely to wish to eat much for the rest of the day, but I do ask that rolls, fruit, and cheese as well as juice be made available in his quarters.” At the server’s agreement the King gave a nod of dismissal, and the serving of the meal continued.

More entered the room, including the party from Rohan; and soon all were finding places at the table. One of those serving busily replaced the eating utensils at the places where the Haradrim sat with Haradri spoons and eating knives, and Ankhrabi found himself thanking the young Man as his own were replaced. At last the King and Queen rose to lead the Standing Silence, after which the meal began. The King did not eat much, and drank mostly juice and water, but he was attentive to his guests and as the meal progressed his mood lightened.

Melian sat beside the Prince of Rohan. Hasturnerini had been quietly encouraged to sit with Asa and the younger daughters of Lord Rustovrid who’d attended the luncheon and the children of Ankhrabi and Nefiramonrani on the far side, and soon the young ones were chattering gaily. Rustovrid’s eldest daughter sat beside Lord Benai, who appeared to feel slightly uncertain of himself as he found himself sitting with the company instead of standing behind the Queen.

The Queen smiled at him. “I will be making a new livery for you to wear when you are on duty, Lord Benai,” she said smiling. “Those from Arnor usually wear either grey or black and silver at their choice. For the Southern Dúnedain I think I will have your uniforms done in midnight blue and silver, with your agreement.” Her smile widened. “For I suspect strongly that there will be coming and going between the Southern Dúnedain and our court as there is with the Northern of our kindred.”

Benai nodded thoughtfully. “That would be acceptable, my Lady Queen,” he said in careful Westron, which he’d been studying closely. “To know that we are not alone is a great gift, and many will wish to come at times to know our Lord and Lady and to acquaint themselves with the ways of our kindred in the Northern Lands.”

Lord Ghants’pa’amon asked, “What is the story behind what was said by the one who left the wreath at the memorial, Lord An’Elessar?”

The King exchanged looks with Éomer King and Prince Imrahil. “As we marched for the Black Gate, there were some, all from Gondor itself, who suddenly found themselves overwhelmed with terror as they realized that this was real, not just parts of stories they’d heard all their lives. Most of those from the Southern reaches of Gondor had never seen orcs, much less trolls or wargs, Easterlings or Haradrim or Nazgul or mumakil. Only those who lived near the River and the sea coasts had seen the fleets of Umbar, even. Safe and quiet they thought they’d lived, hearing the tales from returning soldiers but not quite believing them for themselves.

“Most of our troops protect their own lands, and so many of our soldiers had never seen the walls of Mordor as those who live near the river and here within the city have ever done. Now they were realizing it was all real. On the fields of the Pelennor many who followed me up the river from the Pelargir saw their first glimpse of the enemies of our people, saw the bodies of the first orcs and Uruk-hai, the first trolls and mumakil and so on that any had seen. And in the midst of it all lay the great body of the fell, winged beast the Witch King of Angmar had ridden over the city and the battle, and on which he stooped down on Théoden King of Rohan. The small fenced area where nothing grows that we rode by on our trip here from the quays of the Harlond--that is where it lay, where its master was destroyed by the Lady Éowyn and Merry and where its body was burned. Nothing has grown on that piece of ground in the past ten years.”

Ankhrabi saw the Lady Éowyn shudder, saw her husband put his arm about her shoulder and draw her close as she rubbed her right arm.

The King continued, “As we marched northwards through Ithilien more and more were overborne by their terror as they realized that all of this was real, that it was all true--that Mordor existed as a true place, that the Enemy lay behind the black wall of the Ephel Duath alongside which we marched. I would not force any to go before the Black Gate who were not able to accept it. So, I suggested they go instead to the island of Cair Andros and take that back from the Enemy. Most went there. A few returned to their own homes--a very, very few. The one you saw today was one who feared to go before the Black Gate.”

Ankhrabi sat shocked. “You allowed them to live?”

“They were not traitorous, my Lord Ankhrabi. However, had I forced them to go on, would it have done them or us any good? What does a Man who is overwhelmed with terror do? Either runs away or freezes ordinarily--is it not true? Would you wish to be the one standing beside such a one when the battle began?”

The Lady Nefiramonrani looked at him thoughtfully. “That Man loves you, my Lord King. He has seen your understanding of him. He knows that you gave him the chance to regain his honor, and that you respect that he did so.”

The King nodded. “Yes, this is true. All I can ask of my people is that they do their best; and it is all I can do for them in return. He did his best, and Cair Andros was won back because of him and the others there with him.”

After the meal the King invited Ankhrabi to accompany him to his first meeting with his Council on his return, and then all would meet again to be shown more of the level of the Citadel if they felt they would enjoy it. “There will be a feast of welcome tonight, of course; and I hope you will find it pleasant. Tomorrow I will go early to the Houses of Healing and to the house of Mistress Belleth, then will have the dawn meal with you here before the morning audience. I would like for you to attend so that we can introduce you to those who will attend it. Arwen will meet in the afternoon with many who work to provide aid for those who are in need throughout the two realms, and those from Arnor will be meeting with me regarding the needs of the Northern Realm. We will undoubtedly speak then of what kinds of aid we can send to Camaloa. Two of our smaller ships have been sent to the west coast of the Southern continent to do a survey from the Sea; no one will attempt landfall or personal approach, however, until you are sent back there, Lord Benai, to assure them that this is no elaborate hoax.”

“Thank you,” Benai said, bowing deeply.

Lord Rustovrid took Lord Ghants’pa’amon and his wife and servants back to the embassy, and Lady Ankhsarani chose to go with them. Lady Nefiramonrani agreed to visit with Lady Arwen in the royal apartments while her husband and Gebsohrabi attended the Council meeting with the King.

The King led his Haradri and Rohirric guests through the Hall of the Kings into the entrance, where a door led off into the Council Chamber. The Guard on duty by that door opened it courteously. “You are the first to arrive, my Lord,” he said. “Prince Imrahil is on his way now, as is Lord Forlion of Lossarnach and Eldilion of Lebennin.”

“Thank you,” the King told him. “Lords Berevrion and Gilfileg and Hildigor will be here shortly with Lord Benai and Captain Peregrin. Please have one of the seats for the Periannath set at the table at my right hand for his use.”

“Gladly, Lord Elessar.”

The Seneschal arrived. “Watered wine, mild ale, seed cakes and rolls and butter, pomegranate juice, slices of vegetables and fruits suitable to be eaten with eating knives and fingers. Small plates for each one who comes. Pads of paper, pens, and ink for....”

The Seneschal nodded, then hurried off, returned shortly with the supplies requested; the guard arrived with a chair similar to the high chairs used by small children and infants and set it to the King’s right. Servers arrived after with the plates, cups and foodstuffs as Prince Faramir and his wife arrived and took seats on the far side of the table, King Éomer, Elfhelm, Prince Imrahil and his son Elphir taking more seats on that side. Benai arrived with the Northern Dúnedain and Pippin, and they took seats at the far side of the tables. Other Lords of the realm arrived and took seats on the near side of the room, and Ankhrabi was seated immediately to the King’s left. Last arrived Prince Legolas and Lord Gimli, accompanied by another Elf and Dwarf.

It was a fascinating experience for the Haradri prince, as he watched the suspicions many felt at his attendance gradually worn away as the King led the meeting and the discussions flowed. The news of the attempted revolt in Harad and how it was dealt with helped a good deal to erode the distrust Ankhrabi sensed at first. The fact that the Kings of Gondor and Rohan were both included in the trials impressed all, as did the reports of the justice given. How Lord Ghants’pa’amon’s willingness to improve trade agreements with Dol Amroth had been favorably affected also seemed to relieve a good deal of concern.

One of the lords seemed furious when he learned the King himself had been wounded, belaboring his liege for putting himself in danger for a foreign prince. At that the Lord Elessar allowed his own displeasure to be made obvious. “I am a healer, born and trained. I cannot allow anyone who has been seriously wounded when I can help to remain untreated. And where would our treaty with Harad go if Prince Ankhrabi were to have died and it became known I might have saved him but refused to try?”

That idea gave all pause.

The discussion of the finding of the Southern Dúnedain was even more in depth. Some of the lords from Gondor appeared to be resistant to sending aid to Camaloa, while all from Arnor were intent on offering all assistance possible. At last the King stopped the discussion. “We will discuss this more in depth in the weeks to come of the visit from Harad, my Lords. We do not need to make decisions now, and all need to consider the implications of this discovery.”

Ankhrabi was also impressed by the interplay between King and Steward, as the two of them between them kept the discussion on track at times, or worked to send it elsewhere when it appeared the King’s preferred course of action would be opposed by those attending. An’Éomer was quiet through much of the meeting, and both he and Prince Imrahil at times were obviously amused when between them An’Elessar and Prince Faramir managed the discussion in ways unsuspected by the lesser lords. It was good, Ankhrabi thought, they were obviously so close, for if they were to ever truly oppose one another they could easily tear apart the realm of Gondor. Even when the Steward argued against the King’s findings, it was done purposely to bring others to realize the King was right and his intended actions would serve the nation best.

That Peregrin Took was part of the Council meeting also appeared to disturb some of the lords of Gondor; but considering how respectfully he was treated by King, Steward, and Lord of Dol Amroth as well as by the Northern lords, no one made any overt signs of dismissal toward him; and Ankhrabi himself was impressed by the astuteness of his observations and those suggestions he offered, when he offered them. In the high-seated chair prepared for him he was more difficult to ignore or dismiss as would have happened had he been forced to accept a chair such as the rest used.

At last the meeting was over and the King made a point of thanking each attending for a valid point he had made, and again the Haradri was amazed with the way the King managed to win the Councilors’ loyalty by respecting their intelligence and concerns even when they opposed his own.

When the most were gone Pippin at last slipped from his seat, brushed the crumbs of the seed cakes he’d eaten from his trousers, and said, “That was interesting, Strider. Can we get tea now? And can you believe he criticized you for getting wounded, as if you’d invited it? If you’d been the only fighting Man there, perhaps I’d have agreed--but as you had so many of us about you and you were wearing your mail and were as prepared as could be expected--what did he want? I mean, Hardorn was there guarding the rear, and we had King Éomer and Hildigor, Gimli and all.”

“Not to mention you and Troll’s Bane,” the King said, “and Isumbard and his bow.”

Gimli sighed. “None of you let them anywhere within reach of my axe, you know. I felt quite useless.”

Pippin snorted. “Useless? Who was it sat on the cart with them, running your finger over and over the blade of your axe, letting them know what to expect if they didn’t behave on the way back?”

Prince Imrahil laughed. “Well, I will now take my nephew off to the Haradri embassy to begin the negotiations with Lord Ghants’pa’amon.”

Legolas nodded. “Meanwhile, Aragorn, my brother and I are going out onto the mountainside. We will be back for the feast; until then we need to be away stone houses for a time.”

Gimli sighed and clapped his hand on his fellow’s shoulder. “While Dorlin and I will be off to see what Master Ruvemir has planned.”

The other Dwarf smiled. “It has been quiet in Master Celebgil’s workshop without the presence of Master Ruvemir, you know. I’m looking forward to seeing what the two of them will have planned for the next few weeks.”

The King took leave of these, and led Ankhrabi and Gebsohrabi, Benai and Pippin back through the Citadel to the guest wing where they found the Queen had just returned with Lady Nefiramonrani, Nefirnerini, the twins, Hasturnerini, and Asa. After sharing a cup of juice and some rolls with ham in the center with them in their receiving room, the King asked if they would like to see more of the Citadel. As they left the guest wing he led them through the place. “To do it justice, actually you should be led through it by Faramir, who after all was born here and knows every nook and cranny intimately, I think. He gave me my first full tour three days after the Coronation, and I was amazed. I’d been here many times, of course, when I served as Thorongil under his grandfather; but when he showed me where his father stationed his observers in places I’d thought to be solid walls I was shocked.

“I’d not told him as yet I’d been Thorongil; he showed me the room in which I’d stayed as his grandfather’s guest in the Steward’s quarters, and what his father had told him about what I’d done in the room. My face was burning--I’d not realized I’d been spied upon. It’s not a secret passage and spy holes as are in the palace in Thetos, but a niche in which the one spying must be hiding before the guest arrives. Which made, I’m certain, for a long, uncomfortable night for Lord Denethor as I stayed awake in the chamber doing correspondence and reading for most of it. Had he had a means of reading what I’d written it might have kept his attention engaged, for I’d written to Lord Elrond in Imladris. Gandalf was staying in the city at the time, and I intended to send a letter to my adar via his hand when he left. It was quite mundane, actually, as I remember it; but Denethor at the time was intent on detecting my origins for certain.

“But he’d told Faramir about the hole in my stocking, and how I’d brought out a sewing kit and had darned the hole. Denethor was disgusted I’d do my own mending, while Faramir found it quite admirable and rather touching that the great Lord Captain Thorongil darned his own socks.”

They had entered a room with many statues and paintings all about the walls, and paused inside the doorway. “He apparently fell asleep in the niche, for he didn’t appear at breakfast, which I had in his father’s study with the Lord Steward. When he appeared as we were finishing our juice he looked decidedly rumpled, his eyes puffy with sleep. Ecthelion was rather critical of his son’s appearance, as I remember. I’d carried the letter away with me, so he had no means of reading it. He must have found it a largely wasted night, I must imagine.

“Hardorn was most shocked when he learned I’d not detected I’d been spied on, and we’ve since gone through the Citadel and identified every similar structure. And I assure you no one will use those in the guest wing--I’ll show you where they are when we return.”

He now indicated the room they’d entered. “These, my lords and ladies, are my ancestors and predecessors in the rule of Gondor, and certain others whose impress on the nation was notable at least at the time.”

He appeared to know the story of each individual pictured in the room, and would tell it if asked. Amon’osiri and Ma’osiri and Nefirnerini were soon asking him all kinds of questions, and making comments on the appearance of this one or that one. Hasturnerini and Asa followed after the others, too awed at the moment to say much of anything.

In a dark corner Nefirnerini made a discovery, and at her call her brothers left off their own examination of one of the Ruling Stewards who had a remarkably sour expression to join her. Then she was calling, “An’Elessar, Babari, Mamari, you must come!”

On the wall there hung a portrait of the King wearing brown and green leather armor with the White Tree embossed on it, his eyes watchful, a bow in his hand. She pointed to it. “Why is it in here, An’Elessar, and not elsewhere in the Citadel?”

He sighed. “It is a portrait of the Lord Captain Thorongil. Lord Ecthelion had both Denethor’s and my portraits done at the same time, and had them hung in the Council Chamber behind his seat so as to remind his Council whom he felt were his best councilors of all. Denethor kept it in the room but moved it to the opposite side of the chamber, I understand, where I suppose he must have felt he was keeping an eye on it for mischief. Faramir tells me it remained there until the beginning of the last hostilities from Mordor, at which time he banished it here. I suppose he looked into the Palantir and saw Boromir beside me outside Imladris--he could not have looked into Rivendell at the time, for Lords Elrond and Erestor and Glorfindel kept it heavily shielded. That must have reminded him of his realization as to my actual identity so many years ago.”

Lord Elphir looked on it and shook his head. “How he must have envied you, my Lord Elessar--you had many years of comparative freedom; and might, he must have believed, come and go fairly freely, while he was tied increasingly to the city and the Citadel itself as time passed. You are definitely older now than when that portrait was painted, but do not appear remarkably so, as if it were a mere ten years rather than five times that.” The King shrugged in reply. Gebsohrabi stood looking up at the portrait for a time longer, considering, as the others continued through the room.

They then moved into the main Hall of Memorials, and stopped, amazed. Lord Elphir explained, “Here are gathered objects, portraits, and statues reminiscent of our long history. There are horns and shards of horns; helms and shields and swords and spears of the greatest heroes or reminiscent of the most significant times of the nation. Many are from battles; others from moments of important moments in diplomacy.” He pointed out the armor of Anárion, a document written by Isildur. “That was discovered in the archives by Mithrandir, and describes the taking of the Enemy’s Ring. Our Lord Elessar had it found again and brought here, and carefully preserved and displayed that we might remember ever how it was the Enemy’s weapon was at last discovered.”

The boys were fascinated by the weaponry, Nefirnerini and her mother with the rings, armlets, and chains of office, and the occasional glimpse into daily life they found there. Guild charters for the very first guilds of the city and later the nation were displayed amongst memorials to decisive battles.

Ankhrabi was amazed by a painting of a city, which had beside it a great map and on a table below it a model of the same. An’Elessar stood by him and looked down on it. “That was how the city of Osgiliath was ordered. It was the first capitol of the combined realm; but sitting as it did on the River it was seen by Mordor as the key to the rest of Gondor. It is now being rebuilt, but although some have removed to it and it begins to grow again as a center of trade, the capitol will continue here throughout my lifetime, at least.” He pointed out important buildings and squares, and described how the last of the bridges was destroyed by Lords Boromir and Faramir and their troops before Boromir went north to seek out answers to a riddling dream.

One of the attendants had brought a stool and set it so that Captain Peregrin could stand on it and look more comfortably at the exhibited items. “I look down on it now as it’s being rebuilt, and remember how I first saw it when Gandalf brought me here. It’s amazing to see it being reborn from the ashes and rubble.” He reached forward to gently touch a domed building. “Was this the Dome of the Stars itself?”

Aragorn nodded. “Yes, that was where together Elendil, Isildur, and Valandil met to make decisions of rule.”

They turned away then, and gradually worked their way to the far side of the room, where on the wall hung two crystal cases. Once they were close they saw they held clothing--clothing of the type Master Isumbard wore. The garments were torn and frayed, the colors faded and stained, the embroidery which once had adorned the shirts and vests broken, fastenings lost. Before each stood a small table, both with vases, one filled with white blossoms, the other with flowers of all colors and sprays of scented herbs. About the white blossoms were tokens of birds and stars.

Benai looked up at the cases with awe. “It’s what the Ringbearer wore,” he said.

The King nodded solemnly. “Frodo wore that into Mordor; Sam wore the other.”

Pippin smiled. “Sam is still rather embarrassed about it, although he told the children about it at the Free Fair. Embarrassed for himself, so proud for Frodo. Of course, Frodo would have been appalled.” He reached beneath his tabard to a pocket in his uniform trousers, pulled out something and set it on the table with the stars and birds. “Merry sent this in the letter he mailed from Edoras, Strider--asked if I’d put it here for him.”

“What is it?” asked Nefirnerini.

“A shirt stud--Frodo’s shirt stud. Merry’s parents gave them to Frodo when he was nineteen, and he was wearing them when we left the Shire. He lost it just after he was wounded on Amon Sul, and it was found a few years ago by our cousin Levandoras when we were riding back from a conference. Uncle Saradoc and Aunt Esmeralda kept it after that. When Uncle Sara died Aunt Esme gave it to Merry, and he’s kept it in his own pocket ever since. I think he meant to leave it here when we came for the tenth New Year celebration. Don’t know why he didn’t, really. But apparently by the time he got to Edoras he felt it should be returned or something.”

This was the jewel, Nefiramonrani realized, that had been depicted by the small sculptor on Frodo’s sleeve on the small statue he’d carved in Thetos.

Amon’osiri asked, “What are the stars and birds there for?”

Pippin shrugged. “He loved both stars and birds, Frodo did. He had nesting boxes he’d put up every spring, a platform he kept full of seed all winter where he could look at it from the kitchen window. And the stars....”

The King put his hand again on the Hobbit’s shoulder. He looked at the boy. “A few years back the tale was told of how Frodo loved stars and birds, and a few days later several people came with bird tokens to set here as their own memorials.”

Pippin pointed to individual items. “Sam placed the woven straw bird, and Rosie the shirt studs of the birds against stars; and I think the ceramic bird is one Frodo’s younger cousin Pando Proudfoot sculpted. Ririon did the wooden one, I’m certain.”

“What is that?” Asa asked, pointing at what appeared to be a feather.

The King smiled gently. “It’s a quill pen, in honor of the writing Frodo always did and which I hope so he still does. It’s made from the feather of a sea bird.”

Pippin looked up at him. “Did you place that there, Aragorn?” At the King’s nod he smiled.

Master Isumbard came in then, leading Sa’Harpelamun, and together they made their way across the room to where the party stood before Frodo’s clothing. “I took that wreath they gave you as we were coming through the city and placed it on Merry’s head in the memorial, Pippin,” he said. “Then Sa’Harpelamun had questions which I couldn’t fully answer, as I don’t know enough Haradri yet and he is still rough with his Westron, so I thought to bring him to the King to translate. The guard near the Council Chamber told us you’d planned to come here, so we looked here first.” He noted the shirt stud, and paused. “So, Merry finally decided to let it go, did he? It must have been a wrench.”

“Yes, I’m certain it was. He and Frodo were so very close. Frodo used to call him ‘brother-cousin,’ you know.”

Isumbard sighed. “If I’d known Frodo as I came to know him when he served as Deputy Mayor, I’d have gone with all of you as well, Pippin.”

Sa’Harpelamun looked up at the clothing with interest. “The same,” he said in his poor Westron. “The same as the--the memorial.”

The King nodded solemnly. “Yes, Ruvemir examined these and incorporated them into the memorial. His skill with showing the texture and the fraying is unprecedented, I’m told by the Master of his Guild. Although I believe he allowed his apprentice Celebgil to do a great deal in bringing out the texture of the fabrics. Both of them are highly gifted sculptors.”

“Why are they here?” asked Hasturnerini.

Lord Elphir said solemnly, “That we always remember what it cost them to make the journey to and through Mordor. They were not warriors--they were a scholar and a gardener. They were not tall and strong, but their endurance has never been matched. The Creator Himself saw them through the task and back again; and the Valar have given the Ringbearer the chance to heal at last.”

They looked more about the room and items regarding the final battles were identified; the pommels of the swords which had been used on the Witch King of Angmar by the Lady Éowyn and Meriadoc Brandybuck, the twisted crown which had been worn by the Nazgul, the helm and circlet which had been worn by Théoden King of Rohan, Pippin’s original shield with the signs of it having been crumpled.

The honor felt by those of the Citadel Guards who served in the room and those who offered information to those who came here was obvious. They left feeling both solemn and somewhat uplifted. And as Ankhrabi looked back over his shoulder he seemed to see a gleam of light reflected from the small shirt stud placed on the table by Captain Peregrin Took.


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