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The Spirit of Gondor
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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3
A cat may look at a king

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been nor will be made from this story

“A cat may look at a king,” said Alice. “I’ve read that in some book, but I don’t remember where.” - Lewis Carroll (1832–1898), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


~~~

A few hours later, a still indignant Elbeth, having escaped her nanny, was approaching the King’s study. Her Aunt Éowyn was still refusing to believe that she had seen a ghost. Even worse, she had decreed that Elbeth was to have extra Quenya lessons until she stopped telling lies. While her nanny was fussing over the dress she was to wear later, Elbeth remembered Uncle Legolas telling her a story about how he and Uncle Gimli had followed Strider through a tunnel in a mountain to summon an army of ghosts to fight in the Great War. Uncle Gimli had added that the fearsome spectres were obedient to Strider’s wishes.

As soon as the nanny went into the bathing chamber to prepare Elbeth’s bath, the little girl decided to go and see if Strider could do something to make Aunt Éowyn believe she had seen a ghost.

Surely, as he was the King, he could help her, as Kings could do anything!

The guard at the head of the corridor looked at her doubtfully when she demanded to see the King and hastened after her when she approached Aragorn’s door.

“King Elessar is very busy, Lady Elbeth,” he said. ”He does not have time to grant audiences to little girls.”

The study door opened and Aragorn appeared. “Come in, Elbeth,” he said, smiling at her kindly. “I am never too busy to see my friends.” He shut the door and settled himself on the couch. ”Come and sit beside me and tell me what is wrong. I can see that you have been crying.”

“It is so unfair, Strider!” Elbeth burst out. ”I have seen Sarah, the ghost of the White Lady that Uncle Faramir told me about. Aunt Éowyn won’t believe me and says I am making up stories and have to be punished until I stop telling lies, but I’m telling the truth. I am!”

“What did Sarah look like?” Aragorn asked, thinking that maybe the child had mistaken one of the maids for a ghost while Faramir’s story was still fresh in her mind.

“She was very tall and clad in white all over. She glided across the Aunt Éowyn’s bedchamber and disappeared into Uncle Faramir’s dressing room. Aunt Éowyn and Aunt Arwen were looking at dresses and did not see her.”

“What does Uncle Faramir say?” Aragorn enquired, puzzled by Elbeth’s story. He knew, although she was stubborn and strong willed, she was a very truthful child, much like Faramir in character.

“They won’t let me see him as he is busy getting ready for the procession,” Elbeth explained. “I heard that you know all about ghosts and they do what you say. Please could you order Sarah to appear and show Aunt Éowyn that I’m not making up stories?”

“I fear that it was only the spirits of the oath breakers who betrayed my forefather, Isildur, that I had mastery over,” Aragorn explained.

“But you are King! I thought everyone, including ghosts, had to do what you said?” Elbeth looked crestfallen.

“Even a King has limits to his powers,” Aragorn told her gently. ”However, I will see what I can do.”

“Thank you, Strider, Aunt Éowyn says I have to have extra Quenya lessons for being naughty. I hate Quenya, it is so hard to learn!”

“It is indeed, though I have heard you are becoming quite fluent in it,” Aragorn said solemnly. “I found the verbs almost impossible to master!”

“You had to learn it too?” Elbeth asked surprised.” But you are the King!”

“I was not King then, just an ordinary boy who preferred playing to boring lessons,” Aragorn confided. ”I will tell you one day about my schooldays. Now, I have to prepare for the festival. I expect Aunt Éowyn will be waiting for you to join her for the procession too. I promise I will see what I can do about Sarah.”

Thank you, Strider!” Pausing only to bestow a parting kiss on the man she regarded as another favourite uncle, Elbeth hurried back to her own quarters, bumping into her nanny on the way there and receiving a scolding for wandering off.

Aragorn sat lost in thought for a few moments after Elbeth left him. He was certain that the Citadel was not haunted. For a start, he was sure that Arwen would have sensed it, if it were so, and most likely both Faramir and himself too. Indeed, he had spoken Elvish blessings to banish unquiet spirits in every room here, when he first moved in, lest Denethor’s spirit should linger to disturb the living.

Since Elbeth’s belief in the White Lady seemed to have started with being told a story by Faramir; maybe talking to his Steward would throw some light on the matter? He despatched a servant to find him, telling the man to send Faramir to him.

The Steward appeared just as Aragorn was finishing dressing in his ceremonial garb. The King hated having anyone help him dress and was struggling to lace his ornate tunic.

Faramir looked rather flustered, having spent most of the day trying to catch up, after being delayed so long in his bathing chamber.

“Is something wrong, Aragorn?” Faramir enquired anxiously, not having expected to speak to the King until the ceremony.

“All is well, mellon nîn. It is just that Elbeth came to me with a most curious story.” The tunic fastened, Aragorn took the Star of Elendil from its casket while he started to relate the details of Elbeth’s visit.

“Yes, I did tell her the story, but I never thought she would take it so seriously,” Faramir said. “You need to brush your hair down before putting the jewel on,” he cautioned the King, whose unruly locks were refusing to be tamed.

Obediently, Aragorn took up his hairbrush.

“Let me fasten that,” Faramir offered, seeing that the jewel was hanging at an awkward angle and threatening to obscure his lord’s vision.

“Please do, how I hate the pomp that goes with ceremonial occasions,” Aragorn sighed. “Of course, we should remember the dead and I am honoured to lead the tributes, but why I have to wear all this to do so, I have no idea!”

“The people need jewels to show your greatness. They do not know you as well as I do,” Faramir replied. “They were starved of spectacle for so long, we cannot begrudge it them now.”

“I suppose not,” Aragorn conceded, drawing on his ceremonial cloak before finishing narrating what Elbeth had to say. ”She told me she saw the White Lady of Gondor in your lady’s bedchamber this morning,” he concluded. ”Elbeth insists she did see a ghost and your lady is angry with her for what she perceives as telling lies.”

Faramir, who had been handing Aragorn his gloves, dropped them at this revelation. ”Oh no,” he exclaimed in distress. ”Poor Elbeth! She must have seen me trying to make my way undetected to my dressing room. I did not wish the Queen and her ladies to see me improperly clad. I am so sorry! I will go and tell Éowyn the truth at once and apologise to Elbeth.”

Aragorn placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.”I have a better idea, mellon nîn,” he said.” Listen to what I have to say first."

TBC

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