Frodo slept for an hour and woke to find Sam asleep in the chair, the book resting still open in his lap. He smiled indulgently at him as he rose, drank some more of the water, and lifting a throw from the back of the low settee provided gently draped it over his friend, then briefly visited the adjoining privy. Finally, having donned the blue surcoat himself, he slipped out to rejoin the others.
Merry smiled, a glass of juice in his hand. “Sam’s drifted off to sleep himself, has he?”
“Of course, dear Sam.” Frodo sat and accepted a glass of juice for himself, then tried an orange fruit that lay on a dish, pulled apparently into segments. He found it sweet and refreshing. He turned to Aragorn, who had paused in his quiet discussion with Prince Imrahil, King Éomer, the Lady Éowyn, and his new Steward. “What is this called, Aragorn, this orange fruit?”
“It is called the orange fruit, Frodo.”
Frodo laughed. “But of course it is! What else? Does it grow here in Gondor?”
“It grows on trees in the Southern fiefdoms, and very prominently in Anfalas and Belfalas. Dol Amroth is one of the primary sources of it for trade. There are some other similar fruits that grow there also.”
Pippin, who’d come off his duty and who was making up for lost meals, asked around a mouthful of bread and cheeses, “How was the bed?”
“Rather softer than I’ve become accustomed to, but quite comfortable.”
“Good. Then I’m thinking of trying one as well. It was a long walk up through the city--I’d forgotten how long, in fact.”
“Well,” Aragorn finally said, the discussions with lords and lady apparently over for the moment, “once Sam has joined us would you like to watch the amending of the Rolls?”
“Gladly,” Frodo replied. He looked much better, and was eating obviously with enjoyment. King and Wizard exchanged looks of relief. Frodo smiled as he looked out the window into the garden which grew outside it as he wrapped a slice of bread about a piece of cheese and ate it slowly yet with relish. “It’s odd how this place can feel both ancient and very new at the same time,” he said.
The door to the room in which Frodo had slept opened, and Sam came out, yawning. He looked at Frodo as he entered the receiving room and smiled. “Slept good, did you, Frodo?”
“Very well, Sam. Come and eat something more if you can.” He looked up at Aragorn. “I don’t need to wear the mithril shirt again, do I?”
“Not today if you don’t wish. Swords and mail are not usually worn in the feast hall of Merethrond.”
“They name their feast halls here?” Sam shook his head.
“It sounds like a good idea to me,” Merry commented.
It took some time for Frodo to finish the bread and cheese and a cup of juice. Then, taking a mug of water with him, he and Sam followed Aragorn and Lord Faramir back to the Hall of Kings, Éomer, Éowyn and their attendants following behind. A long table was being set into place as they entered, and a page was sent to call Lord Húrin, who was to bring with him the Roll of Kings while Faramir carried with him the Roll of Arnor.
They’d been quiet as they returned, and Frodo sensed that Éomer was still reserved in his attitude toward Faramir, but that this was thawing. Faramir was taking refuge in his role as Aragorn’s new Steward, and he uncapped the gold carrier he held with care and carefully slipped the scrolls it contained into his hand, then laid all gently atop the table. On his arrival Húrin handed the second carrier to him, and he did the same. Iorvas appeared with a tray on which sat an inkpot, several pens, drying sand and a penwiper, and held it awaiting his new Lord’s requirements.
“May I please have a stool for the Ringbearer to sit or stand upon while we work on this?” requested the King, reaching down to take Frodo’s water for him. “He is a scholar within his own land and is, I understand, the one who keeps his family’s genealogy; and this will be of interest to him. Perhaps one of the stepped stools used by those who clean the tops of the statues within this room.”
Iorvas tried to hide his surprise at the specificity of the request, and turned to one of the others who stood near the back of the room and gave a gesture of his head, and the Man hurried off to do his new Master’s bidding. The servant returned swiftly with just that item and a clean cloth, and settling the cloth over the top of the step he placed it by the King’s side where Frodo could watch.
“Thank you for your thoughtfulness in bringing the cloth as well,” the King said, smiling at the Man, who was overwhelmed and became the King’s man from that instant. “Sam, would you like the same?”
“No, thanks very much, Lord Strider, but I couldn’t perch up on one of those like a bird. Mr. Frodo--well, he’s more used to such things. I’ll remain down here with my feet planted firmly on the floor.”
Seeing how Sam stood still so close by Éomer, Aragorn answered, “Well enough, then.”
Frodo came forward, looked up at the servant and smiled. “Thank you very much,” he said as he used the steps to reach the top, turned and sat, allowing the Man to push it closer to the tall table. “This can be awkward, Aragorn,” Frodo continued as he adjusted his position on the stool, “trying to make things comfortable for both your height and mine.”
The King smiled. “Between us I think we’ll manage.”
King and Steward each carefully unrolled one of the large Rolls, and as Faramir worked to find the end of the Roll of Gondor Aragorn chose a pen from the tray held by the footman and prepared to work on amending the Roll of Arnor. Carefully dipping the pen into the inkpot he began, writing swiftly but gracefully as he indicated that Aragorn son of Arathorn, on the first of May of the old year 3019, on the thirty-sixth day from the start of the new year in the new King’s Reckoning, had been crowned King of Gondor by acclamation and recognition of his descendancy from Elendil through his elder son Isildur, Valandil, and eventually Arvedui by his wife Fíriel daughter of Ondohir, thirty-second King of Gondor.
“Nothing of having defeated the armies of Mordor?” asked Frodo dryly as he sipped from his mug of water. Aragorn simply smiled at him as he examined the roll to that point. Frodo looked at the inscription, reading it out loud. Then he looked up in question. “You’ve not indicated you are now the King of Arnor as well.”
“No, I haven’t, Frodo. The Kingship of Arnor is conferred by acceptance of the Sceptre of Annúminas, which is as yet still in the keeping of the Lord Elrond. Until he presents that to me I remain but chieftain there.”
“He didn’t send that as well by your brothers?”
“No, Elladan and Elrohir brought to me the Star of Elendil and the King’s standard, but not that as yet.”
“I did not realize you could read and speak Sindarin, Master Baggins,” commented the Lord Steward Faramir as he settled the Roll of the Kings of the South beside the first.
“And Quenya, although I suspect my pronunciation is dreadful,” Frodo said with a shrug. He was looking at prior inscriptions. “That must be Lord Elrond’s hand--certainly it is familiar enough,” he said, indicating where the death of Arathorn was announced, followed by a largely blank area with two small marks and then the indication that Arathorn’s wife Gilraen and his son Aragorn had been taken into Imladris for the safety of both while the child was still in his minority.
Éomer had come close enough to examine the scroll. “What are those two marks for?”
“They are each the sign of a death, but of whose I don’t know. I’m surprised that Adar didn’t note whose deaths they were. My lord uncle’s death is noted here,” and he showed where the name of Halbaleg had been written in the same hand, preceded, as was that of Arathorn and later that of the Lady Gilraen in his own writing, with the same mark. Then in the blank space between his mother’s death and the note of his own accession to the Crown of Gondor he inscribed the same mark, and noted the death of Halbarad of Eriador, Ranger and Steward of Arnor, in the battle of the Pelennor Fields before the walls of Minas Tirith in Gondor; and the appointment of Halladan son of Halbaleg and brother of Halbarad as Steward of Arnor as of the fifteenth day of March, 3019. “And here is the indication I, having come of age, was advised of my lineage and confirmed as Chieftain of the Dúnedain peoples of Arnor and Eriador, and caretaker of the peoples of the Northern lands.”
“You wrote that, then,” Frodo commented.
“Yes, I wrote that. As I said, it is the duty of the Lord of the Realm to keep the notations on the Roll as much as is possible.”
“May I examine it, my Lord Elessar?” asked the Steward as Prince Imrahil and his two older sons entered, accompanied by Halladan and the minstrel Faralion. “Welcome, Uncle, Elphir, Erchirion; Lord Steward Halladan, Master Faralion.” Noting the ink was now dry on the Roll of the North Kingdom, Aragorn carefully exchanged the places for the two Rolls and reached out for the pen again, wiped its point, then prepared to inscribe the Roll of the Kings of Gondor. Faramir continued, “It was interesting to open the Roll during your absence East of the River, my Lord King, and look at all of the hands that have inscribed it. Were the first inscriptions truly made by Elendil himself?”
“So Elrohir and Elladan tell me.” He looked up as, as if conjured by the mention of their names, the two Peredhil entered the Hall with Master Galador. “Welcome; you’ve missed the inscription of the Roll of the North, and now I prepare to do that to the Roll of the South.” He turned back to the blank area presented with a critical eye. “It will need new material spliced into it soon, for I shall undoubtedly use up all that there is here now.”
“But there is no need to put more than your own name into the Roll,” said Galador.
Aragorn arched a brow. “Is there truly, my friend? No, I shall need to put in the list of Kings and Chieftains from the Northlands as the Kings of the Southlands were written into the Roll of Arnor so as to verify the legitimacy of my lineage on both sides.” So saying he dipped the pen into the ink and began to write, one of the Elves peering over his shoulder while Halladan came forward to share the examination of the Roll of Arnor with his counterpart from Gondor.
Galador watched the King with interest. “You do not consult the other scroll, my Lord?”
The King looked over his shoulder at his Elven brother and smiled, then looked back to the Master of Protocol. “With such teachers as these, I was required to memorize the entire list on both sides of my lineage, Master Galador, as well as the list of Stewards. I will not put in all dates of birth and death into the list of Kings of Gondor, however.” Carefully he worked, starting with the names of Isildur, his wife and four sons, then the indication that Elendur and his next two brothers had died at Gladden Fields preceding the death of their father in the River Anduin, and that Valandil, the youngest, had succeeded their father.
As he wrote, Éomer shook his head. “I’d wondered why you don’t just have your minstrels put them into a chant and sing them in order at your kingmakings as we do in Rohan, but I suspect that if you did we would still be sitting at the King’s feast a week later and still not be near the end of it. Is there truly a need to keep such a record, my brother?”
His sister shook her head in embarrassment. Aragorn paused in his writing to laugh. “Remember, my brother, that we have had a full three thousand years to develop very complicated rules to compass us about, and another three thousand before that to start the process since Elros led those who chose to follow him to Númenor out of Middle Earth. I fear our peoples are obsessed with lists such as this; and in a full six thousand years of history we’ve made the study of minutiae into an art form.”
Frodo asked, “Did you have to learn the list of Kings of Númenor also?”
“Yes, I did, as well as the names of those who were fathers to Elendil who did not sit upon the throne there.”
Éomer was impressed. “That is a mighty spate of names to keep in your head.”
“He’s had over forty years to forget them all since last I tested him on them,” Elladan commented. “Shall we watch to see if he’s forgotten any in this paltry list?”
Aragorn gave him an annoyed look. “Some have such poor memories they do well to remember the two generations their family has known in the same amount of time.” Elrohir laughed, and Aragorn turned back to his writing.
Father to son the list continued, Kings and Chieftains, until he came to the names of Aradorn, Arathorn, and finally himself. For the last six chieftains he indicated the names of wives and all children, indicating that there were living three others of the line of Kings, Halladan and Hardorn sons of Halbaleg son of Elendur son of Bedorn son of Garthorn, second son of Arassuil; and Gilfileg son of Gilthor son of Nienoreth, younger daughter to Argonui; and son also of Arien of Dol Amroth. Then, looking again at the scroll Faramir was still perusing, he put in the two marks indicating deaths that Elrond had indicated in the Roll of Arnor. “I will have to question Lord Elrond what those indicate, unless either of you knows?” He looked from one to the other of the two sons of Elrond.
Elladan shrugged gracefully. “I have no idea. Adar and Lord Glorfindel have failed to tell us all of the business of your lineage, young brother.” Elrohir looked from his brother to his foster brother and indicated that it was the same for both of them.
Halladan looked at the two isolated death signs, and shook his head. “Our adar certainly did not tell us of any deaths that ought to have been included in the Roll, Aragorn.”
Frodo watched as carefully Faramir manipulated the rods of the scroll he and Halladan examined, working backward all the way to the first. To realize he looked on the writings of Isildur and Elendil himself was humbling. Then Faramir went back through the scroll again to its end, finally stopping at the indication of one who was son of a woman of Dol Amroth. Here he paused, caught the eye of his new King and indicated the notation. Imrahil had turned, for one of his own knights had entered the hall accompanied by a Guard and approached him and his sons. Aragorn cast a quick glance at the record, then at the family of the Prince of Dol Amroth, and said quietly, “The facts of that will one day be made clear, Lord Faramir, but the time is not now. It would be best to wait until this one of my cousins comes himself to Gondor to meet with his mother’s kindred, for I have not his permission to tell his tale.” He gave a small smile. “You will learn that there have always been a few of the Dúnedain of the North that have served among the forces of Gondor. I was not the first, and am certainly not the last.”
Frodo looked at the Prince of Dol Amroth, and saw that most were more interested in his discussion with his knight than in that between the King and his Stewards at the moment, including Master Galador and the minstrel Faralion. The discussion deepened, and finally Imrahil gave a decisive nod. Faramir finally rolled all the material to the end of the scroll and fastened the ribbon provided about it as his uncle approached the table.
“My Lord King,” the Prince said, “word has come that a craft from Umbar comes up the River and approaches the Harlond. It is flying a flag of truce.”
“This is remarkably quick work for those of Umbar,” commented Aragorn. “Usually they must discuss things for days before anyone will come to a decision for anything, even as trivial as which standard to hang on their ships. However, I have still several matters to discuss before I speak to outsiders.” He asked Iorvas, “Will you please call Master Balstador here, Master Iorvas?”
“Gladly, my Lord,” Iorvas said.
He started away with the tray, but the King stopped him. “I will keep this, for I have other things I must write and perhaps it would be best done now. Once you have sent for Master Balstador, please bring me about ten sheets of paper on which I might write. Thank you.”
With a brief “Yes, my Lord King,” Iorvas gave the tray into Aragorn’s hands and hurried off. The King set the tray upon the table, then turned to the others in the room.
“There is no time to call for the full Council at this moment,” he commented, “and so it appears that we will need to decide how to deal with our visitors hastily. My own thought is that there will be no real time to deal with an embassy properly today. I suggest, therefore, that once we know their numbers, they be brought into the city and to a suitable guest house in the Sixth Circle, and be given a guard of honor sufficient to keep them out of mischief for the time. I then suggest that the leaders be invited to the Coronation feast tonight, and seated on the inside of the curve of the table, opposite the Lord’s seat. Such will give them sufficient importance to allay outright offense, allow us to keep them under surveillance, and yet will not exaggerate their importance as seating them to my right or left would do.”
“That might give offense to some of the lesser lords of the realm,” Galador commented, obviously thinking rapidly and not particularly happy with the situation, “but would indeed serve as you indicate. Shall I see to this, my Lord?”
“If you will.”
“Who will sit by you this night?”
“Lords Frodo and Samwise will sit to my right with Halladan beyond them; the Lord Éomer to my left with his sister beside him, Lord Faramir and Prince Imrahil beyond them. Lord Elphir and Lord Erchirion, if you would agree to sit to the right of Lord Halladan and the Ringbearers? And Elladan, Elrohir, would you agree to flank those from Umbar? It would give them a great deal of pause. And if Legolas and Gimli were to sit also one on each side of them with Gandalf beside one of them, it would give them even more pause. Those of Umbar have always had poor relations with those of other races. They would thus be boxed in, close enough to me to appear to be receiving due attention, yet isolated from those whom they might consider likely to be impressed by their presence or open to intimidation.”
One of the sons of Elrond laughed. “Ah, younger brother, it appears Glorfindel has managed to indeed teach you the value of containing possible threats in an elegant setting.”
Galador agreed with the King’s proposed seating situation for those from Umbar, but found himself yet bemused. That the new Lord of Gondor was taking a decisive role in arranging the seating at his own coronation feast was unprecedented; that he knew how the tables in the feast hall were arranged simply went unnoticed by him. Nor did Prince Imrahil seem to pay attention to this knowledge, although Erchirion was giving his new liege a look of evaluation which the King answered with an enigmatic smile.
The King continued, “Until the feast, we can certainly plead the press of the ceremony and needs of the day as excuses not to actually have to deal with the embassy’s business today. In fact, we can use these excuses for two or three days and allow them to cool their heels and become uncertain as to whether or not we will treat with them in an official manner at all; such should make them more amenable to reason when I finally do agree to allow them an audience. That will also give us more time to gather intelligence of the reasons for their arrival on this day of all days and what they hope to gain by coming so soon to Minas Tirith. It will also allow us to hold a proper meeting of the Council before we meet with them.”
Again all found themselves agreeing.
Aragorn nodded, then looked where Iorvas and Balstador were entering from the back of the Hall. “Now, my Lords, if you will excuse me for some minutes, I have some directions to write to my kitchen staff. Lord Faramir, my Lord Prince, if you will please explain the situation to Master Balstador so that we can have the housing for the Umbarians prepared, I will take care of what needs to be done now.”
So saying he accepted the paper brought by Iorvas and sat down to write. It took him about half of an hour to finish his missive, which he folded and entrusted to Iorvas to take to the head cook, at which time he wiped his pen one last time, stoppered the bottle, and set the tray aside. Another footman had taken the place of Iorvas. “Your name?” the King asked.
“Ithildor son of Borongil, my Lord King.”
“If you will please fetch me some sealing wax, I will seal the ribbons about the Rolls and see them properly returned to their carriers.”
“Yes, my Lord.” Ithildor gave a stiff bow and hurried off, returning quickly with a small salver on which he carried a stick of black sealing wax and a lit candle, setting these on the table.
Aragorn took out of an inner pocket a carved seal and set it on the salver. He then took up the Roll of the Kings of Gondor, opened it enough to ascertain he had the proper roll, rolled and secured it properly with the black ribbon, then applied sufficient wax to accept the seal. Once it was hardened, he examined the two carriers briefly, slid the Roll into its proper one and then handed it to Faramir; then did the same with the second Roll, slid it and the two lesser scrolls into it, and gave it into Halladan’s hands. He looked at both Galador and Lord Húrin. “Are you both assured that these have been properly dealt with?” he asked.
“Yes, my Lord,” Húrin indicated with a profound bow, Galador following suit.
Sam asked, “How do you know as you’ve set each in the right holder, Lord Strider?”
Aragorn smiled. “The caps on each end are marked with their original Lord’s signs, the Roll of Gondor with an image of the Sun in glory and that of Arnor with a crescent moon. Elendil’s roll, Lord Elrond told me, had an eight-pointed star on each end.”
Galador cleared his throat. “The seal you are using, my Lord King...?”
“I have used my personal seal, which is a single A glyph with an inset of an eight-pointed star. I will have a proper signet ring made that will be the ring of my rule once I have received the Sceptre of Annúminas.”
“Then the last time the Roll of the North Kingdom was sealed it was sealed by you?”
“Yes, after I noted the death of my mother.”
“I am surprised she did not live to see you crowned, my Lord.”
The King merely shrugged, his face solemn.
Iorvas entered followed by a second servant, each carrying a tray. “The trays requested for Masters Frodo and Samwise, my Lord.”
“Thank you.” He turned to Sam, who’d moved to the side of the stool on which Frodo still sat, and Frodo. “Would you prefer to eat here or in the lesser audience chamber where we were before?”
The two Hobbits looked at each other, and then at a slight nod from Frodo, Sam said, “I think the other room, then.”
“Can you find your way on your own? I have more business here.”
“We can manage. Can you get down all right, Master?”
Frodo carefully descended from the step-stool and straightened his surcoat. “My Lords, gentlemen,” he said politely, “if you will excuse us....” He and Sam gave courtly bows and led the two servants out of the room.