“What do you mean he would not confirm me?” demanded Lord Canelmir of his son.
“The Lord King has made it clear he will not blindly confirm those who have served as lords of the realm merely because they have known such office in their past, Adar,” Ivormil repeated. “Yes, many lords he has confirmed, but they have fought the Enemy--sent troops to the defense of the capital or fought by him on the wharves of Pelargir, sailed up the river with him, and followed him out onto the Pelennor. He has the record of service to the realm of each lord as he presents himself read to him, and has requested at least five others so far of similar rank to yourself to come before him with the records of their administration of the lands under their authority that they may prove they are indeed loyal to the realm and offer proper leadership to their folk.”
“And did you speak with him directly?”
Ivormil winced. “Twice--once privately on the day I arrived when he returned to the Citadel; and once the next day, in formal audience.”
“And he has confirmed only those who personally went out to fight the enemy?”
“I was told he has confirmed two who did not go out to fight or send their sons out to fight, but these sent sizable forces either to protect the river or to Minas Tirith, and their reasons for not going forth themselves were compelling. In one case the lord and his family were all ill with heavy fever, and in the other the lord was elderly and infirm, and his heir is his grandson, who has seen but eleven summers. The fact we sent but six Men to the river was noted unfavorably.”
“I see.” Canelmir fingered his elegantly groomed beard. “And he is indeed from the remnant of the northern kingdom?”
“Yes, Adar,” Ivormil answered formally. “He is attended by many of his own kindred, all of whom wear the Star of the North at their shoulder; and he came with Pheriannath, Dwarves, and Elves. I am told he wears the Elendilmir as often as he does the Wingèd Crown; he has raised the Standard of Elendil over the city, he wears the Elessar stone at his throat, and wields the Sword Reforged. Plus they say he commanded the Army of the Dead. None appears in any question as to who he is or his right to claim Crown and throne as Isildur’s heir. And I am told he is the greatest warrior ever seen.”
“Then he has little education in the ways of Gondor....”
“I would not take that on blind faith, my father. He does have our Lord Prince Steward Faramir and Prince Imrahil and Lord Húrin all three at his side, as well as Master Galador as his Minister of Protocol. I was told that Galador may have been a commoner and clerk, but none save Lord Faramir knows the intricacies of the nobility of Gondor better than he.”
That gave Canelmir pause. Full well did he know the expertise of Galador son of Garenthor, toward whom he felt great distaste on principle. During his last visit to Minas Tirith a feast had been held, and he had been seated most unfavorably. When he sought to complain, however, he’d been referred to Master Galador, whose reasons for placing him as had been done were impeccable, as definitely the birth and connections of those whose seats he’d most coveted did indeed place them above him at table. He’d come away from the interview most disgruntled, and wondering if he ought to have sought to make a gift of some sort to Master Galador--a consideration he dismissed when he learned the last individual to try such an act had ended up being consigned to the foot of the table for the next three feasts. Nay, in spite of being a commoner Galador had his pride and was respected for his knowledge of the realm by all, including, apparently, this new King.
“And he came with folk of different races?”
“Tell me of these Pheriannath.”
“I am uncertain of what I can say. As the old stories tell, they are of small stature, somewhat better than half the height of a tall Man. As they do not produce beards, at first they can be taken for children, until one sees their faces and eyes and realizes these are anything but. Lord Iorhael is quite solemn and quiet; Lord Perhael at first seems quite common, but has to him a marked dignity and watchfulness. Both are highly esteemed by our Lord King and all others within the Citadel; and by their own request they are addressed not as ‘Lord’ but as ‘Master’.”
“I see. And Lord Iorhael is a noble amongst their folk?”
Ivormil shrugged in response. Canelmir thought he detected a reluctance to answer more fully in his son.
“And you met both Lord Iorhael and Lord Perhael personally?”
“Yes--I was presented to each as those of highest rank within the Citadel at the time, the King and most of the ranking nobles within the city having ridden out to do a survey of the Rammas Echor.”
Something in his face indicated to his father that perhaps these interviews hadn’t gone particularly well.
“And folk of other races came with the King?”
“Yes, when he came out of the ships of our enemies, I was told that at his side were three Elves and a Dwarf, and behind him a company of his own folk from Arnor. And Mithrandir was already within the city, for he had come earlier to bring warning of the treachery of Curunír against the Rohirrim, or so I was told; and with him when he came was the one they call the Ernil i Pheriannath. I am told this one acquitted himself well within the city and later fought before the Black Gate amongst those who went from among the Men of the City. He wears the black and silver of the Guard of the Citadel and is among those who guard the person of the King himself. And I saw him with the other Guardsmen working with his sword--he is a competent swordsman.”
“Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Men of Arnor, and Mithrandir.” Canelmir spoke that last name with some distaste--he held no love for the Grey Wizard. “And all are at the King’s side.”
“Yes--and now there are more Dwarves and Elves within the city, for they came with word of victory against the forces of the Enemy from their strongholds within Rhovanion, and to show him honor. It appears they have known him for some years and rejoice he reunites the north and south kingdoms.”
Canelmir thought on this for some moments. At last he asked, “When must I appear before the King?”
“He told me within a month of the day on which I was presented before him in formal audience. I was made to know you must bring with you the records of your stewardship of Bidwell, and all financial records as well as records of justice offered in the Lord’s name.” He paused for a moment before adding slowly, “And one thing more--he has stated that all who would serve the kingdom must know the meanings of nobility, honor, humility, and service. And as the exemplar of those qualities he holds forth the person of Lord Iorhael.”
The lord of Bidwell felt his eyebrows rise. “He would have us follow the example of a Halfling?”
Something in the way that his son spoke those last two words caught Canelmir’s attention. He searched the face of his son. He was seeing a gravity to Ivormil’s expression the youth had never shown before. Suddenly he realized ... “You honor this one?”
“Yes, my lord father--I honor Lord Iorhael, or as he prefers to be addressed, Master Frodo. He continued to bear with me and be polite to me when he had every reason--and right--to tell me to go hang. And had he not done what he did, we would not be free today.”
The finality with which the boy said that was palpable. Canelmir realized that he’d lost first place in his son’s loyalties, and he felt a flare of anger within himself against this unknown Pherian.
He called for Narthord, his cousin, primary clerk and accountant, and one confidant within the city, to come to his side, and disappeared with him into the offices in which the records of the business of the city and his keep were kept. Certain books of records were taken down, and a new volume was produced into which financial accounts were copied--with some marked amendments. There was not time to have new clothing made, so he set his chamberlain to gathering his best garments for a hasty journey to the capital. His personal guard was set to repairing their gear, polishing their mail and weapons, and preparing their horses. Within seven days they set out from Bidwell for Minas Tirith to present themselves for the inspection of their new King, Narthord continuing to write as he rode inside the coach with his lord cousin, seeking to make the records--presentable.
Neither paid much attention to Ivormil, who was feeling far happier at the prospect of this rapid return to the Citadel of Minas Tirith than were they. In his own mind he was finding the memories of the haunting expression in the eyes of the Ringbearer was alternating with the smile given him by a particular maiden and the nobility shown in the features of their new King. Canelmir had no idea that in the mind of his son he now ranked fourth; and had he realized one of those now above him in Ivormil’s esteem was a chambermaid he would not have understood.