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16
The Making of the Knight

The details of the knighting ceremony are based on extensive Internet research and on the book “Life in a Medieval Castle” by Frances and Joseph Gies. Historically, a novice knight was supposed to wear a golden tunic and a purple cloak – I just tried to tone the flashiness down a little.

Herumor’s oath is a modified version of Pippin’s oath of fealty to Denethor from “The Return of the King”, of course. I assumed that it was a common phrasing for such serene occasions.


~~~

CHAPTER 16 – THE MAKING OF THE KNIGHT

According to ancient custom, Herumor spent the night before his knighting ceremony awake. This was a time of reflection and preparation for a youngling who was about to become a man and a landed lord – or, in his case, the Heir of some rather modest honour.(1)

Usually, it was the father of the knight-to-be who was meant to give the young candidate some last-minute warnings and instructions about how a knight was supposed to live honourably. The long and thorough training of the Swan Knights had freed Lord Orchaldor from his duty, though – he could be certain that his son had been taught everything he would need to know later. Thus they simply sat together in the old lord’s guest chambers and talked. They had a lot to catch up with, after all.

At the first light of dawn, Madenn and Achren had him the bath prepared, as it was the custom for novice knights to go to the ceremony cleansed, in body and soul alike. They sent the serving women away and washed him with their own hands, for they loved him as a brother, and as his closest female kin, ‘Twas their duty – and privilege – to do so.

After bathing, the barber of the Castle was ordered into the guest rooms to shear Herumor’s locks above his shoulder in warrior fashion. This, too, was a time-honoured custom for new knights, and many of them kept the short hair afterwards, as it caused less trouble in a fight. Very few wore their hair long, and even those kept it tied back from their face. One should not give an opponent any advantage.

When the barber left, the young ladies brought forth the ceremonial garment for their cousin. They had woven and sewn it for him with their own hands, having worked on the individual pieces since Yuletide, and the results certainly could be seen.

Firstly, there was a linen undergarment: a fine shirt, the cuffs, hem and high collar of which was beautifully embroidered with the silver dragon of Erellont’s House, and black breeches of the same fine but strong fabric. Above that came a tunic of clot of gold cotton damask, the coat-of-arms of his House embroidered upon its breast in black, silver and white. Then the women brought a cloak of such deep purple that it looked black, unless in direct sunlight, and draped it over his shoulders.

Lastly, they combed his hair, kissed him on the cheek from both sides, and taking him by the hand, led him out of the castle and down to the paved courtyard, where the place of the ceremony had already been prepared.

A low, wide dais had been built in front of the inner gate, and upon it, under a canopy of red woollen curtains, three richly-adorned seats had been placed. The one of the middle for Prince Adrahil, who was to perform the ceremony, the two on his left and right, respectively, for the father of the knight and the Lord of the Castle. They, too, were clad in their most festive garments and were sitting under the canopy like kings in a royal tent on the field. The ladies of the Castle, who were watching from the galleries above, had outdone each other in elegance and beauty, and even the people of the town, as many as they cold be perched upon the walls, wore their best clothes.

The minstrel Priavel of Pelargir and his two attendants had been given a small podest near the dais, where they played merry songs and played their instruments masterfully. Faramir, Morwen and Elphir were allowed to stay close to the musicians, in a comfortable little corner, from where they could see everything, under the watchful eye of the Lady Ivriniel who came down with them, rather than watching the ceremony from one of the galleries. Liahan, however, stood beyond the Prince’s chair.

As no other young man was to be initiated into knighthood together with Herumor, Boromir and Prince Théoden had been chosen to be his attendants. Clad in their finery and in shining armour themselves, they took him from his cousins and led him before the Prince, then stepped back so that they would not be in the line of sight for the onlookers. Adrahil rose from his seat, affectionatedly embracing the young man and kissing him as he would kiss a son.

“Welcome, son of Orchaldor, shining hope of Erellont’s House,” he said, his strong, beautiful voice filling the large courtyard without effort. “You have come before us, in front of all these noble witnesses, to be made a Swan Knight. Are you prepared to swear your oath of fealty to us and to the people of Gondor?”

Rarely did he use the royal pronoun that only he of all the men in Gondor was entitled to use. But making a Swan Knight was an extraordinary event, the rites and words laid down by centuries-old tradition, solemn and elated. This was how it had been done ever since the order of the Swan Knights had been founded.

Herumor lowered himself to his knees, all blood drawn from his face from excitement, his heart hammering in his chest mightily, but he looked up straight into the benevolent eyes of the Old Prince.

“Indeed I have and indeed I am, my Lord,” he replied in a clear, ringing voice that could be heard up to the ladies’ galleries easily.

“So be it,” the old Prince said. “Give me your sword, then, lay your hand upon the hilt and speak the words of the sacred oath every Swan Knight has to swear.”

Herumor drew his sword – the marvellous blade of sea-steel that the Prince had gifted upon him on the previous day – kissed the hilt reverently and laid the priceless weapon along Adrahil’s lap. Then, with his sword-hand resting upon the hilt, he spoke the words of the Oath that all esquires had learned by heart in the very first year of their training.

“Here do I swear fealty and service to Gondor, and to the Prince of Dol Amroth, to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my lord release me, or death take me, or the world end. So say I, Herumor son of Orchaldor of the House of Erellont, Heir of the lordship of Halabor and the adjacent lands.”

“And this do we hear, Adrahil son of Angelimir, Prince of Dol Amroth, and we shall not forget it, nor fail to reward that which is given: fealty with love, valour with honour, oath-breaking with vengeance,” Adrahil quoted the time-honoured answer. He did not even need to think about them; he had performed this ceremony countless times during his rule, and every time, it had been a new joy for him to officially acknowledge the growing of a promising youth into full manhood.

Then he rose, took the hilt in both hands and touched with the tip Herumor’s head and both shoulders, saying, “Be thou a knight of Gondor from this day on. May you ever defend her lands with the faithfulness and bravery that have earned you this title, ‘til your Lord sets you free or the King returns.”

Herumor kissed the hand of the old Prince, and a greet cheer rose from the walls and the galleries, greeting the new knight. Armsmaster Ornendil then handed him the famous white belt of the Swan Knights, and Prince Adrahil girdled him with that symbol of bravery and obligation with his own royal hands.

After that, Lord Orchald’s household knights came forth, bringing the fitting attire, so that their Lord could clad his son according to his new status.

Caenneth, Herumor’s great war-horse was led in, covered with a black caparison, which was embroidered with the small images of rampant silver dragons and white gladden flowers. The horse’s saddle, too, was ornamented with silver dragons, and little silver bells seamed its bridle. Unlike some of the Dol Amroth war stallions, Caenneth was a Rohirric breed, which meant a specific bond with his master, and whomever his master assigned to him, Caenneth would obey, although he had been trained to – and well capable of – riding down Wargs in battle, if necessary. Now a small groom could lead him without endangering himself, despite the loud shouts and cheers that would make any lesser horse bolt.

Herumor then was armed with a corselet of double-woven mail, which no lance or javelin could pierce; ‘twas said to be Dwarven work and was an old heirloom of his family. His father hung a shield with the silver dragon around his neck and placed a helmet upon his head, adorned with the samesome dragon on top and gladden flowers of silver along its hem. And finally, the beautifully crafted sword-belt was swung around his hips again, with the sea-steel blade in the scabbard.

Thus the new knight was armed, the future flower of knighthood, ready to take his rightful place among his peers. The only remaining act to be done was the buffet, and the right to execute it was saved for the father. Traditionally, ‘twas considered as an aid to memory, so that the young knight would not forget his recently sworn oath – not that any of the Swan Knights needed such reminder, but some things just had to be done the old ways.

Lord Orchaldor, being a great defender of time-honoured custom himself, delivered the open-handed whack with a force that had the new knight stagger on his feet, prepared as he might have been. Then he kissed his only son on the brow, both cheeks and on the lips, as it was custom, and said full love and pride.

“Go, fair son. Be a true knight, and courageous in the face of your enemies. Be thou brave and upright, so that the Valar may love thee – and remember that thou springest from a race that must never be false.”

“So shall I, with the Lady’s blessing(2),” replied Herumor with shining eyes.

And truly, who could blame him for being touched, thought Boromir, remembering his own knighting ceremony a few months earlier; a more sombre one but not less serene. He is a knight now, a member of Gondor’s noblest order, seconded only by the Tower Guards of Minas Tirith. ‘Tis a great day for him; perchance the greatest one in the life of a young Gondorian lord.

Herumor now leapt on his horse with marvellous agility, despite his armour, and he rode down to the training ground of Lord Forlong’s Castle Guards, right outside the walls, to prove his skills before the eyes of everyone for the first time. Prince Adrahil and the other nobles followed him on foot to watch his performance. The ladies and the Castle folk on the walls needed not to move; they could see everything from their vantage point just fine.

On the training ground, several quintains – man-shaped figures made of rags and straw, clad in a chain mail and covered with a shield – were set up on wooden posts. Someone brought Herumor a lance; he took his shield in hand, and after a gallop about, attacked the first quintain and knocked it down.

Loud cheers and encouraging calls rose from the crowd again, and he turned his steed around, starting a new attack and finishing it with the same flawless skill. There were about half a dozen such posts, to make the test more difficult and more interesting, but he made no mistake, to the joy and pride of his father and his liege lord.

Naturally, this was just a simple show of skills well-learned, performed against a “foe” that could not defend itself. Yet again, this day, dedicated to the honour of the newly made knight, was only the beginning of the seven-day-tournament that would be spent entirely in war-like games and exercises. ‘Twas allowed for the young knight to show off his hardly won skills a bit, ere he would have to test them on the following days, against older, battle-hardened warriors.

Thus young Lord Herumor – for from that day on he was entitled to be called thusly – rode back to his uncle’s Castle amidst cheers and well-wished from all sides. The Swan Knights who had come as Prince Adrahil’s escort all clasped forearms with him and embraced him, welcoming him in their order. There was a large midday meal in the Great Hall afterwards, where Priavel of Pelargir and his young attendants entertained the guests, and to his amusement, Boromir caught Dahud, the girl singer, seizing up the new knight with a calculating eye.

But Herumor only had ears and eyes for his father and his Lord on that day. And even after midday meal, when the tables were all carried out to turn the Great Hall into a dance floor, he only danced with his cousins, the Lady Aud and little Princess Iris who, according to Rohirric custom, was allowed to take part of the merriment of the adults. This day of all days was more sacred and meaningful for him to even thing of amorous adventures.

Perchance he had his mind on the next days’ challenges already. He had not yet been blooded in battle, and he knew that all the other participants would likely be more experienced in the arts of combat. Watching the young man’s glowing face that still wore the slight bruise from the buffet, Boromir found that Herumor and Liahan showed the same eager anticipation, despite the age difference.

Liahan would make an excellent Swan Knight one day, he thought. And Herumor is not the worst role model to choose.

~~~

End notes:
(1) Honour = also the lands in a nobleman’s possession
(2) He means Elbereth, of course, in Elven fashion. They are Dúnedain, after all.


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