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The Acceptable Sacrifice
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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15
15: First Audience

15

The doors to the Citadel were opened to them, and now Aragorn let go the hands of his friends, for here he as King must lead the way. He paced up the stairs quietly and led them in through the great doors, through the vestibule, and finally through the Hall of Kings to the Throne beneath its great canopy which had been carved as a representation of the crown he wore. Here again he paused, then determinedly he ascended those stairs until he reached the platform at the top. Carefully he lifted his sword’s hangers from his belt, turned and stood, Anduril in hand, watching as those who had walked in his train filled the room. When at last the room was filled and each found a place, he looked down, surveying them with a marked detachment.

All were quiet, and as the moments passed, the quiet became more intense, waiting and watchful, awaiting his indication of what he would make of his new role.

Finally he spoke. “I was born Aragorn, the Valorous King, son of Arathorn and Gilraen. I was raised Estel, Hope, hidden from the dangers which stalked me throughout the world, most sent to seek after me by Sauron, the great Enemy of us all. I have borne many names and titles in my lifetime, and I now take to myself the name foretold for me should I come to this day, Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar, Elfstone Renewer Farstrider. So is the new Age of this world begun, with a new dynasty upon what is now the combined throne for Gondor and Arnor once more.” So saying, the King took his seat upon the throne of Gondor for the first time in a thousand years, laying his great sword across his knees.

“Know this--Annúminas will be renewed, and there, too, will be the Citadel of the King. It will take many more years before it is completed and I can sit there as here; but it will be done, and after that my presence shall be shared between the two realms.

“Let my Stewards come before me.”

Faramir and Halladan came forward to stand on the first deep step before the dais, looking up at him.

“I hereby confirm you formally as the Stewards of the Realm, Halladan son of Halbaleg and brother of Halbarad and Hardorn over the lands entrusted me in the North, Faramir son of Denethor of the House of Húrin and brother to Boromir over the lands this day placed under my protection here in the South.”

Both went down upon one knee, setting their swords before them, placing their hands upon the hilts, and together they recited the vows binding them to their office. When they stood anew, the King looked down on both. “A new chair will sit on the opposite side of that step, one of grey to match the one of ebon, so that when both my Stewards are with me, each shall sit equally before the people.” He looked down at those who stood before him. “Let the Seneschal come forward.”

A tall Man stepped forward out of the crowd. “Your name?”

“Balstador son of Beremir, my Lord King Elessar.”

“How long have you served in this role within the Citadel?”

“For nineteen years, my Lord King.”

The King turned to Faramir. “This Man has served faithfully?”

The Steward of Gondor smiled. “Faithfully and well, my Lord.”

The King looked at the Seneschal. “Balstador son of Beremir, do you wish to remain in the service of the Citadel of Gondor under my rule? I will warn you--I will have many things done differently while this is my home.”

Emboldened, the Seneschal answered, “I believe I could bear with such changes, my Lord King, if you can bear with my temper.”

The King smiled. “Then, with each of us forewarned, I would gladly accept you as Seneschal of my house. Will you introduce the Housekeeper for the Citadel?”

Balstador turned to a page waiting by him, and sent him off. Within a few moments a woman entered from the entranceway, a tall, somewhat plump woman with a worried face, and was allowed through to the Seneschal’s side. Balstador spoke quietly to her and then led her forward. “My Lord King Elessar, Mistress Gilmoreth daughter of Pergennion, Housekeeper of the Citadel.”

She gave a deep curtsey. “My Lord Stew--King.” She turned a deep red.

The King’s face was grave enough, but his eyes shone with stifled amusement. “Mistress Gilmoreth, I am the Lord King Elessar, confirmed in the rights and duties of my ancestors this day and newly come to the Citadel. It is my intention to know those who serve in this household and who serve under the rule of Housekeeper and Seneschal. Do you wish to remain in the service as Housekeeper here within the Citadel?”

The woman’s face lost its flush. “My Lord King, you offer me the choice?”

“Indeed I do, Mistress. I will have none serving in my household unwilling.”

“If you please, my Lord, my family has served the household of the Steward through sixteen generations. It has ever been to the Steward I have answered, and--and I love the Lord Steward Faramir deeply, as if he were my own son. If it please you, I would prefer to follow him and to continue to serve him, whether he is Steward or but a Lord in your court.”

The King smiled as again he looked at Faramir. “My Lord Steward, you have heard the desire of this woman, faithful as she is to your house?”

“I have, my Lord Elessar, and I would gladly grant her request for when I have my own household.”

“So be it.” The King returned his awareness to the woman. “Mistress Gilmoreth, will you agree to continue to serve as Housekeeper of the Citadel until the day Lord Faramir chooses to set up housekeeping in a home of his own choosing, and until we can find one to take your place, and will you help see to her training in the keeping of this house?”

“Gladly, my Lord King.”

The King turned to Faramir. “My Lord Steward, we will discuss such a future home in the next few days; but until all is in readiness for you to remove to such a place, will you agree to remain here within the Citadel in the Steward’s Quarters, as has been done for so many generations? And know this--these quarters are confirmed yours and those of the heirs of your body when you are within the city and particularly when you serve as active Steward when I must be absent from the city from this day forward as has been true to this day.”

Faramir bowed deeply. “It will be with gladness I accept this, my Lord King.”

The King smiled at Seneschal and Housekeeper. “I will ask that tomorrow at the third hour all who serve under you be gathered in this hall that I might meet them and address them. And I ask that a full description of each servitor be given into the hands of Lord Hardorn here, who is now Captain of my personal Guard. He is a Lord of Arnor and is my own kinsman, and for the moment shall stand second to me in matters of the ordering of the house, until such time comes, and the Valar speed the day, when I take a Queen. I will tell you this--you will not find me a distant lord, but one who intends to know all who serve within this place, from the greatest of you to the boy who turns the spits and the least servant within the laundries. Is this understood and seen as acceptable to you both?”

The Housekeeper asked, somewhat diffidently, “Then you are not married, my Lord King?”

“Not as yet, Mistress Gilmoreth.”

“Forgive me the curiosity, my Lord.”

“It is forgiven, particularly as this pertains directly to your service to me until such time as you leave to follow the Lord Faramir.”

“That you have openly indicated you will know those who serve you is noted, my Lord, and is acceptable in my eyes.”

Balstador bowed. “I concur, my Lord King.”

“If the two of you will remain for a moment, I have a question to ask of my friends.” Aragorn looked down at where Sam and Frodo stood near the foot of the dais. “Frodo, I would ask if you, Sam, Merry and Pippin would wish to stay here within the Citadel, or if you would wish to stay in one of the guest houses of the city down in the Sixth Circle?”

Frodo and Sam looked to one another, then toward Gandalf. Frodo then looked up at his King and asked, “If we might have a moment, Aragorn?”

“Gladly. Sir Peregrin, you are released for the moment from your duty to discuss this with your kinsman. My Lord King Éomer--may Sir Meriadoc have the same courtesy?”

“Gladly, my brother. Merry----” The young King of Rohan smiled as he made a gesture to his Holdwine, who bowed deeply before moving to his cousin’s side.

Seneschal and Housekeeper looked completely bemused as they saw the Pherian they knew as Peregrin leave the side of the Captain of the Guards of the Citadel to approach the two small figures who stood near the foot of the dais, then the one who accompanied the King of Rohan followed suit. The Wizard joined them, then at a gesture the tall, blond Elven lord and the russet-headed Dwarf joined them, and together they discussed the matter for some time while the rest of the court possessed itself with patience and curiosity. At last the group straightened, and the Pherian with the long, dark curls looked up at the tall figure seated so far above them.

“If you do not mind, my Lord King,” he said quietly, “we would prefer to stay in one of the guesthouses, and the one in which Gandalf and Pippin stayed before would be acceptable, if they don’t mind that we Hobbits would prefer to sleep on the lower floor. To remain here would be uncomfortable, I fear, for this is not a house proper to our kind, and the necessary ceremony attendant on your position and us as guests here would drive us to distraction.”

Legolas added, “And the rest of the Fellowship, for the time, would prefer the same, my Lord Elessar. All of us would prefer a level of privacy not available to us here, I fear.”

“So it shall be, then.”

Faramir turned. “You had inquired whether that house might be opened fully for the use of these if such should be desired, and it is with pleasure that I assure you it is so readied. Although the bedrooms are on the upper floor.”

The King asked, “What rooms are there on the lower floor?”

“There is a large dayroom, and a private parlor on each side, through one of which is a study, as well as large kitchen and dining room. Below are a cellar with pantries and cool room and wine storage. And there is a bathing room on each floor with privy off of it.”

“Then, we shall have beds placed in the study and the two parlors for the use of Lords Frodo and Samwise, and for Sirs Meriadoc and Peregrin. Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf--you would have no problem sleeping on the upper floor, would you?”

Legolas bowed. “None, Aragorn.”

The King smiled. “That is good. Then, Master Balstador, if you will find a page for me to assign to the service of these, and if you will find one to serve as housekeeper for them, Mistress Gilmoreth? Have them report to me in the lesser audience chamber in two hours’ time.”

“Gladly, my Lord King,” said the Seneschal, and he and the Housekeeper gave their reverences and withdrew while a page entered with a large, comfortable chair and set it on the dais opposite that of the Steward, and Halladan at a gesture from his Lord King took his seat before the company as Faramir did the same.

The King next asked the captains of the Guard of the Citadel, of the Guard for the White Tree, and of the City Guard to come before him, asked their names, had them verified as dependable and honorable by Steward and the Prince of Dol Amroth, and swore them and Hardorn formally to his service as King, asking them to assemble their folk on the coming day at different times so that he could review them and receive their renewed oaths to the nation. Then the Lords of the realm who were present were called forward in order by Master Galador, who was obviously unhappy with how his new Lord had flaunted protocol so far, and each was introduced, his titles and affiliations presented and verified by the Steward, and each made his obeisance and swore his fealty. It took some time to get through this, and at last the King rose again and came down the steps to the throne to stand on the first step between his two Stewards.

“I now name before you those of my friends and companions. The Lord Mithrandir, also known as Gandalf the White, now Head of the White Council, whom I have known much of my life and who is my dearest of counselors. Legolas Greenleaf, Prince of Eryn Lasgolen, son of King Thranduil. Gimli son of Gloin, kinsman to Dain Ironfoot and Thorin Stronghelm, Kings of Erebor in Rhovanion. Sir Peregrin Took, heir to the Thain of the Shire and a member of the Guard to the Citadel and my personal Guard. Sir Meriadoc Brandybuck, who aided the Lady Éowyn of Rohan to destroy the lord of the Nazgul, heir to the Master of Buckland in the Shire and Esquire to Éomer King of Rohan and a Holdwine of the Mark. Lord Samwise Gamgee of the Shire, and Lord Frodo Baggins of the Shire, the Ringbearers. The Lords Elladan and Elrohir, the sons of Lord Elrond of Imladris, who have been as brothers to me all of my life. The Lady Éowyn, the White Lady of Rohan, Shieldmaiden of her people. The Lord Éomer, King of Rohan, who is now as a brother to me. And Lord Hardorn son of Halbaleg and brother to Halabarad and the Northern Steward Halladan, chief to my personal Guard and second to me in the keeping of this house. These are my close friends and companions to whom not only I but all the free peoples of Middle Earth owe all, and along with my Stewards and Prince Imrahil and his family shall receive all honor from the people of the realm and shall have full access to me at any time of the day or night--is this understood?”

At the acclamation of those who filled the room, the King gave an inclination of his head. “So be it then. My Lord Faramir, if you will release the audience?”

“Gladly, my Lord King.” Faramir turned to the room. “So ends the first official audience of our Lord King Aragorn Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar. Long live the King.”

“Long live the King!” responded those in the room, and as the guards at the doors opened them most filed out.

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