Master Balstador and a footman waited outside the door. “My Lord, this is Iorvas son of Beneldil. He will serve you in your quarters at this time.”
“Thank you, Master Balstador, Master Iorvas. We are going there now. And I will require that two rooms be prepared on the upper level of the Royal Wing for my Elven brothers. Lord Elladan and Lord Elrohir will advise you as to what kinds of furnishings they will prefer.” One of the Northern Dúnedain stood nearby at attention, and moved to fall in behind the New King. “And where are the rest of the Fellowship?”
“We led them to the receiving room in the Royal Apartments, my Lord Elessar, and have provided them with refreshments.”
“Have the quarters been prepared for the Lord King Éomer’s party on the upper floor of the guest quarters as I requested?”
“Yes, my Lord Elessar. He and his sister and their people are in the receiving room awaiting you now, however.”
Aragorn himself led the way toward the Royal Apartments. Balstador asked, “You know the way, my Lord Elessar?”
The Lord Elessar gave him a sidelong look and a half smile. “You will find, Master Balstador, that I have a good deal of knowledge about the Citadel. Probably not as much as does the Lord Faramir; but more than one might expect.”
Balstador thought he heard a stifled laugh from Master Frodo, but couldn’t be certain.
As they walked Sam commented, “Well, at least you introduced us as ‘Masters’ and not ‘Lords.’ Does that mean we can do without these now?” as he indicated the circlet he still wore.
“I would have them address you in accordance with your own preferences, but I do not regret to tell you that you both remain Lords in both name and fact.” He stopped, and all stopped with him as he turned to face the two Hobbits, kneeling to look into their faces. “Your ennoblement is binding, and I add this--it was not initiated by me, but was suggested by Gwaihir the Windlord as he paused by your beds ere he and his folk returned to their aeries. And it has been ratified by my foster brothers in the name of Imladris and the Golden Wood, by Legolas representing Eryn Lasgalen and his father’s people and the whole of the sylvan Elves, by Gimli for the Dwarves of Erebor, the Iron Hills, and the Misty Mountains, by the folk of Rohan and Gondor and Arnor, and by Merry and Pippin as representatives of the Shire, as well as Gandalf for the Wizards and their masters. Once the Ents have ratified it all of the free peoples of Middle Earth will join in the recognition of your Lordship. It is no empty honor that has been given you.”
“I see.” Sam looked somewhat taken aback by that. Then after Aragorn had risen to again lead the way into the hallway to the living quarters he asked, “You say Merry and Pippin recognized this for the Shire. That doesn’t mean as the whole Shire knows by now, does it?”
“There’s not really been time to allow that, Sam. No, we shall allow Merry and Pippin to let that news be proclaimed in Buckland and Bywater, shall we?”
Frodo laughed at Sam’s groan, and Aragorn rejoiced to hear it.
Master Balstador watched the approach to the Royal Wing with concern, as he hoped all had gone well here. For the past thousand years the only ones to enter this wing were those who saw to the maintenance of the place--housemaids once a month to clean and dust; plasterers twice yearly to look for signs of damage to the walls and see to it; glaziers on those occasions when a broken pane was identified; masons to check the integrity of flooring and pillars one a year; and so on. The Royal Bedstead had been relieved of its mattresses early on; furniture draped or moved to storage very long ago indeed. Most of the paintings which had hung in these quarters had been removed to the Halls of Memorial centuries past. It had remained empty and sterile for so very, very long.
But with the word that the King was returned the hinges had been oiled anew, the doors painted, walls refinished, new curtains of a neutral white hung, metal work polished. What had been told them of the new King’s nature had been little enough; what colors he might prefer, what kinds of furnishings he might find most comfortable, even the type of mattress and coverings he would like for his bed had to be guessed at. Hopefully the King would not mind the comparative starkness so far.
From Ithilien had come the orders for rooms to be made up for the Pheriannath--two rooms with views of the gardens, each with two beds within it, and youth beds would be acceptable as long as the mattresses were deep and comfortable and blankets and coverings thick, warm, and soft. Tables beside the beds were to hold carafes of water and mugs as well as adjustable lamps. Shelves for books should be placed in both rooms, filled with books of poetry in Sindarin as well as Westron, histories of Arda, books of tales, geographies, herbals, books on Rohan, books on music, histories of the city and the realm. Colors should be the greens of spring, warm browns, soft golds, rich wine colors. Soft rugs should be placed by each bed. Stands for armor should be placed for the four of them, and low wardrobes. Desks with chairs for each, and comfortably upholstered chairs before the fireplaces. A low table and chairs in each room apt for at least four. Balstador found that the details for the rooms intended for the Pheriannath contrasted with the lack of guidance on what the King himself should find desirable said much about his nature.
There was no question that the King did hold the Pheriannath deeply in his affections and that his care for their welfare was unfeigned. The news had come that the Ringbearers had been ennobled upon the field of Cormallen before all of the army of the West, and certainly this had been confirmed. Balstador looked at the two small figures, one slender, one solid, both walking solemnly at the King’s side, one with hair as dark as the King’s own but curling about his head, the other with hair of dark gold. Each was dressed in a princely manner; yet they were barefoot; and the difference in the language used by each was fascinating.
They reached the doors to the Royal Wing, and two of the King’s folk now stood at them, bowed deeply as he approached, and between them opened the two leaves to allow his party entrance. “Thank you,” he said, addressing each by name and bowing in return. Never would the Lord Denethor have done such a thing, Balstador realized. Then the King took a deep breath and walked between them, taking possession of quarters left unused for a millennia. Together he and the two Pheriannath walked down the hallway. Hardorn and Pippin stood together before one of the doors, and smiled as the Man drew it open. “Your chambers, my Lord Cousin,” the Dúnedain warrior said with a bow.
The first room was a private sitting room with a fine chandelier overhead, one wall of shelves for books, a table which could be expanded to sit from as few as four to as many as sixteen easily, a wooden couch with thick cushions of red velvet, occasional tables, several other chairs and lesser couches set in a group for conversation at one end. To the right was the door to the King’s room and to the left that into the Queen’s chamber, each of which had its own bathing and dressing room, each chamber with its own doorway to the hallway with no knob on the outside for private passage when necessary.
The Queen’s rooms were done now in soft blues; that for the King in golds and wine colors. He examined it all and nodded. “Other than that I would prefer greens to golds, this is acceptable for the moment,” he said, “although I may decide on some changes over the next few weeks. I will try to not make my redecorating of the rooms to be a labor for you. As for the Queen’s chamber--I will undoubtedly have changes I would have done before that is utilized.”
Sam stood looking at the bathing chamber with awe in his eyes. “I’d not wish to bathe in this tub, Lord Strider. A Hobbit could drown in that, I suspect.”
The King laughed. But he was intent on seeing Frodo resting, and so they came out again and at Balstador’s direction crossed the hallway, and here the doors were opened to those rooms prepared for the four Hobbits. Frodo and Sam looked at the first room with interest. Frodo commented, “It’s yet too grand and big for me, Aragorn. I’d feel quite at a loss to remain here for long.”
The King nodded. “I can appreciate that, Frodo. Would it be too much to rest in now, though?”
“Oh, I can handle resting in it, I think. But let us first go see to the others so that they will see Sam and I are all right.”
Again they left the room and walked down the hallway to a large room at the end of the wing designed for groups of up to about thirty people, and there they found the rest of the Fellowship and Éomer and his party awaiting them.
Gandalf entered behind them. “I am told the house in the Sixth Circle will be ready for us about sunset, so for now we will remain here.” He crossed and took a seat by one of the small tables where refreshments had been placed.
Aragorn turned to the young King of Rohan. “Éomer, have you seen the chambers prepared for you and your folk?”
“Yes, and they are proper to our needs. I’m told that these have ever been made available to my people?”
“Yes, so it has been since Eorl led his horsemen South to the needs of Gondor.”
Gandalf was watching Frodo with some concern. “Well, my friend, come and sit down. Would you like a small goblet of wine before you rest?”
“Yes, Gandalf, I think I could handle that.” Soon he was seated with a small glass of wine and another of water beside him, and accepted some vegetables and crackers, but before long he indicated he wished only to rest, and Merry, now off duty, went with him and Sam to one of the two rooms to see him settled.
Frodo sighed as he sat in a chair and held up his arms so Sam and Merry between them could remove surcoat and mithril, hanging the mithril and sword on the armor stand, setting the mithril circlet on the table by the bed, and helping Frodo on with a nightshirt. “I hope he won’t make me wear the corslet again,” he murmured as he poured himself some water and sipped it. Sam turned back the sheets and blankets, and Frodo slid into the bed with relief. “I’m ready for this, for certain,” he sighed. Soon he was deeply asleep. Sam pulled the green curtains closed, glad some light entered in anyway, rejoicing in the scented breeze from the gardens outside coming through the open casement. Merry slipped out, but Sam, having divested himself of mail, circlet, and sword, chose a book and sat himself in a chair he’d drawn up nearby and set himself to read and watch.