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The Keys of the Realm
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Tokens of Honors Earned

Tokens of Honors Earned

Two days later Húrin was looking over an inventory for one of the storage houses behind the Citadel when a page knocked at the door. “I beg pardon, my lord,” the youth said tentatively.

The Keeper of the Keys raised his head. “Yes, Sephardion?”

“Lord Faramir sends his apologies, but asks that you come to him now. Apparently two of the--of the Lord Aragorn’s companions have just arrived with a missive. There is need, apparently, to visit one of the treasuries where precious metal is kept.”

“He would wish a diadem fashioned or some such thing brought forth before he has been crowned King?” Húrin frowned, feeling such was rather pushing the process when the King’s own folk had set the coronation for the first of May.

“I cannot say, my lord. However, if you will come?”

He found Faramir within the Hall of Kings, flanked by Fedwion of Lossarnach and one of the officials just arrived from Pelargir with a ship filled with supplies for the encampment in Ithilien, facing the blond Elf and the Dwarf he’d seen fleetingly over the days before the Army of the West left the city for the Black Gates. “...So,” Faramir was saying, “this was requested first by the Great Eagles?”

Lord Fedwion’s expression was bemused, while that of the official from Pelargir was flatly disbelieving. Húrin had to remind himself that those who’d not been within the city when the victory was announced could well be expected to question the idea that eagles might speak as do Men.

“Indeed,” agreed the Elf. “Certainly my people will have no difficulty in ratifying this ennoblement.”

“Nor shall mine,” affirmed the Dwarf. “Not, of course, after knowing the service given us in the retaking of Erebor by Bilbo Baggins that we Dwarves would expect anything less from his kinsman and heir. Once I send word to King Dáin he will ratify it as well, as will Brand of Dale.”

“What is this about?” Húrin asked the Steward.

“The Great Eagles have brought a message to Lord Aragorn, directing that Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee are to be declared Lords of all of the Free Peoples of Middle Earth.”

“On whose authority is this directive given to our King-elect?” Húrin asked.

Faramir smiled as he made a most eloquent shrug. “I will remind you, cousin, of the lessons given us many years ago regarding the messengers of Manwë.”

It took a moment for Húrin to appreciate what that meant, at which time he found himself suffering difficulties swallowing. Fedwion’s eyes had become extraordinarily large, while the official from Pelargir had turned an interesting shade of grey.

Faramir continued, holding out the missive he held in his hand, “It is Lord Aragorn’s desire that we should mark this by presenting each with a circlet of honor as soon after they have awakened from healing sleep as possible, and he has asked his friend Master Gimli to craft these circlets. To this aim he has sent Master Gimli and Prince Legolas with a request that our treasury provide the metal for the circlets. And my lord uncle has directed that the sea diamond that he stores in our treasure vaults be given to Master Gimli to be set in the circlet for Lord Frodo, and he has entreated me to match it with a stone of equal size to be set in the circlet for Lord Samwise.

“He also sends to ask if it would be possible to find a set of mail appropriate for Samwise Gamgee to wear in keeping with his new status.”

Húrin felt the smile of appreciation stretch his face. “Ah, but for this--of course we will open the treasury to them with gladness, and I’ll scour the armories myself with pleasure. After all, even with the victory upon the Pelennor, all still would have gone for naught had these two not remained faithful! Will lands for maintenance be settled upon them as well?”

“I will look into this--there are some lands now left lordless that are apart from the proper bounds of the past lords’ primary holdings that could be offered them--this is information I have been preparing for the King’s consideration in any event. Master Alvric could perhaps advise me as to how to write the tenancy agreements. But if you will take Master Gimli and Prince Legolas to the third vault--I should think that would contain all that they might require; and Master Cuillion of the Guild of Smiths could assist in finding a forge where they might work.”

Húrin turned to summon the page Sephardion, who lingered near the door to the Hall of Kings. “Please summon Master Leonid, and ask him to bring the fourth and seventh ring of keys. Then have a messenger sent to the Third Circle to the House of Silver on the Street of Jewelsmiths to ask Master Cuillion if he could wait upon us within two hours’ time.”

The youth gave his salute and turned swiftly away. Soon Leonid was approaching them, carrying two great rings of keys, pausing at the sight of Elf and Dwarf by his master’s side, going a bit pale and then flushing some. Legolas, on the other hand, was going still with recognition as the Dúnadan approached. “So,” he said once Leonid had reached them, “this is what you were journeying to, then?”

Leonid bowed deeply. “Yea, so it has proven, Prince Legolas. And I again offer you my thanks for the guidance you gave me as I came southward.”

“You need give me no such prolonged obeisance,” Legolas encouraged him. “Your own lord will return soon enough.”

Leonid straightened, then smiled. “And I look forward eagerly to that. He set me here beside Lord Húrin, you see--there, long, long ago. Not, of course, that it should seem that long, perhaps, to you.”

Húrin gave his cousin and the other lords with him a bow. “If you will excuse us, my lords? And perhaps you might wish to be by me in an hour’s time, cousin, at the door to the mail shed?” At Faramir’s nod of dismissal he beckoned Dwarf and Elf, and accompanied by Leonid they went to search out what was needed.

Soon they were approaching a set of guarded doors whose key was on one of the rings Leonid had brought; then down the steps behind it they went until they came to the door to the third vault, which Húrin opened for them. Leonid saw the lamps lit, and they entered, Húrin indicating to their guests one wall where ingots of precious metals were stacked on stone shelves.

A small ingot seemed to sparkle particularly brightly, and suddenly Gimli was smiling behind his beard. “That one is eager to capture our attention,” he grunted, stepping toward it. “It wishes to be used for this purpose.” Then he paused, growing more reverent. “Mithril!” he said softly.

All looked at one another, and at last Húrin nodded. “Bring me the inventory,” he said to Leonid, who fetched a tome to one side, producing a steel pen and traveling inkbottle from his scrip. Once the bottle’s cap had been unscrewed, notations were being made that a particular ingot had been removed on the Lord Steward’s authority to be given to Master Gimli son of Gloin of Erebor, from which to fashion circlets of honor for Lords Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee. Then Húrin chose out two caskets, one carved with the swan ship of Dol Amroth and one with the image of the bare White Tree indicating the Steward’s house, and broke the seals on both, indicating again in the ledger he’d done so. From the casket belonging to Prince Imrahil he took a particular crystal box; and he searched through the second until he found a stone that caused him to smile.

“Yes, that one,” pronounced Prince Legolas decisively.

The crystal box was opened and the stone it contained was compared to the one taken from the Steward’s own store. Gimli was smiling in satisfaction. “These two indeed have a shared purpose and will complement one another well,” he said. “Yes, they will be honored to serve our Sam and Frodo.”

The two boxes were soon resealed and notations made, witnessed by Leonid, Legolas, and Gimli, and then Húrin paused, looking at the casket that was marked with the symbols of his own office. At last he took it up, carefully broke the seal, and searched through it until he found the silken envelope that held a carefully cut small tile of obsidian shot with silvery flakes. He slipped it out its case and held it out to the Dwarf. “I, too, would have a gift wrought, but one for our King-to-be, with this at its heart--a signet, perhaps. But I have no idea what to use as the housing for it.”

The golden-haired Elf gave a wordless exclamation, and drew out of an inner pocket a small pouch. “Here,” he said as he swiftly unknotted the ties and drew it open. “I have carried this so long--I think it will serve.” He shook out the twisted remains of a great ring. “This was my daeradar’s signet, taken from his hand when his body was found upon the Dagorlad. It was given me to remember him by. It is only fitting that again it should hold a signet used by a living King. He would be honored, I think, to know it is again in use, now that the Enemy he fell to see bested has been conquered at last. The Third Age of Middle Earth has come to its end; now that the Fourth Age begins, again this shall grace the hand of a King.”

Gimli took the ruined ring, and examined it carefully, particularly interested in the single stone that had been set into it. “This crystal is not from nature,” he murmured in a soft rumble. “Nay--this is a crafted stone.”

“It is rumored it came from Valinor,” agreed the Elf. “The ring itself was said to be crafted by Celebrimbor while he dwelt in Gondolin, who bestowed it upon Celeborn, who in his turn gave it to my daeradar to mark his wedding to the Lady Galadriel Artanis. When I meet Oropher on his release from the Halls of Mandos, should he not already be returned to our people there, I will rejoice to tell him that I gave it into the keeping of the one Man whom I believe matches his sagacity, hoping it reminds him of the proper use of rule.”

The final notations were made in the ledger, all seals were renewed using the special wax Húrin carried upon his person, and they went out, the Keeper of the Keys seeing all secured behind them. Shortly afterwards he and Leonid approached the building casually designated the mail shed to find Faramir was already there.

“Your father had me come here to find mail appropriate for the use of Guardsman Peregrin,” Húrin commented as he unlocked the outer door and had Leonid pull it open for them. “I hope it did not offend you that I gave to him that armor wrought for you as a child.”

“Indeed not,” Faramir said. “Indeed, I suspect it is worn to far better effect by Guardsman Peregrin than it ever was worn by myself. Not for me, standing on guard for hours at a time. I’ve ever been happier amongst the Rangers.”

They went through the workshop where mail was crafted and repaired, and wound their way to the back half of the place to the storehouse for armor. It was here that they had sought armor fit for the Lord Aragorn’s stature and intended station that last day before the Army of the West had left on its mad errand, finding it in that kept in a particular box marked L*ND*L. None others in the history of Gondor had apparently approached the height of either Man--or at least none other whose armor had been brought back to Gondor. Today, however, they were searching the other end of the room, in the chests and amongst the stands where mail crafted for the sons of Kings and Lord Stewards was kept.

This mail, of course, was for the most part in better repair than that intended for Men grown, as little of it had been ever worn in battle. And it was in a chest marked with Ondoher’s sigil that they found what was needed--a fine shirt of gilded mail, one apparently originally crafted for Prince Artamir as a child. “Yes,” murmured Faramir as he held it up and turned it this way and that. “Indeed, yes--this looks to be the proper fit for Lord Samwise. Prince Artamir must have had a broader chest than is common among our folk. A proper guardian of many realms Samwise Gamgee will appear in this!”

Two days later the Elf and Dwarf returned to the Citadel, and returned the material from the ingot of mithril that was not used in the crafting of the circlets of honor. Faramir and his older cousin inspected the completed circlets with delight. “They are beautiful,” breathed Faramir. “Iorhael. It will look so right on his dark curls--and the blue sea diamond matches the color of his eyes.”

Húrin was examining the second one, and read the graceful inscription. “Panthael. Is that the translation of Lord Samwise’s name into Sindarin--Fully Wise?”

Gimli grunted. “No, not exactly. But I refuse to name him Half-wise, whether that’s what his name translates to or not. Not for Master Sam Gamgee, when he’s proven himself the greater wit when compared to far too many others I’ve known, Elves, Men, Dwarves, and even a Wizard or two.”

The Keeper of the Keys to the realm of Gondor noted the proud look of indulgence the Elf gave his unexpected friend as the Dwarf accepted the two circlets back, carefully stowing each into a dark bag of finest silk velvet. “These will offer the circlets the best show of honor,” Gimli was saying with satisfaction. Once both bags were properly secured he gave them into the hands of the Elf. “Here--you keep hold of these,” he said to Legolas. “Now, to give the other to Lord Húrin. Here, my lord. I hope it meets your vision of what you’d wished.”

He brought forth a small box of carved lebethron. “Master Cuillion had several of these, and suggested this one was perhaps the most fitting for the finished ring.” So saying he gave it into Húrin’s hands, and the Gondorian lord opened it, pleasure filling him as he saw what had been made of the tile of obsidian.

“Oh, yes, Master Gimli--this is even better than what I’d imagined. It will serve him well as his personal seal, do you not agree?”

An intaglio representation of the White Tree with a circle of seven stars about it had been cut into the surface of the obsidian tile. The small, brilliant crystal had been set into the center of the topmost star. A single blossom opened toward the center of the Tree. Gently the Man stroked the surface of the signet, admiring how it had been set into a great gold ring as if held in place with an eagle’s talon, the face of an eagle on each side of the shaft of the ring, appropriate to be worn as the King’s own ring of office. “So different than the Ring that was destroyed--a sign of Hope Restored and Fulfilled,” he said reverently as he handed the box to Faramir.

The youthful Steward’s eyes also shone with pride as he examined the work and returned it to his cousin. “A most proper and kingly gift for our new Lord,” he said, “particularly for the one once thought of as the Eagle of the Star.” He smiled at the Dwarf. “A great craftsman you are, Master Gimli--certainly one of the greatest I’ve ever seen.”

“Well,” Gimli said, trying--and failing--to appear properly humble at the praise, “I must admit that the Elf here suggested the design. The Stars of Arnor and the Tree of Gondor--and the Eagles who have ever come at the true needs of our peoples to see us aided. I think Aragorn will truly appreciate your gift.”

“Such is my hope,” agreed Húrin. “I thank the both of you. Do you return to Cormallen soon?”

“We leave within the hour,” advised the Elf. “We wish to be there to see how young Pippin fares, and then when Frodo and Sam awaken.”

“They were badly hurt?” asked Faramir.

“Indeed--both were covered with a variety of wounds and burns, although Aragorn says what brought them down at the last was the fumes and heat of the Mountain. And they had lost so much weight,” sighed Gimli. “Not that Frodo had that much flesh he could afford to lose to begin with, or at least not considering how he appeared when I saw him first in Rivendell. But to see Sam so thin--it’s an evil that should never have happened at all. He has a good many feasts owed him, I’m thinking.”

“I wish to know--for certain--how it was Frodo lost his finger,” said Legolas, his fair face stern. “Had Sauron remained where we could confront him, he would have much to answer for, considering what was lost, and particularly that finger.”

“Both have required careful nursing,” rumbled the Dwarf, “sips of water and other fluids frequently, careful handling, frequent anointings. It was a wonder to me they survived through the first night, although both are particularly stubborn ones, even for Hobbits.”

“Well, we have the mail as well, and a fine new belt for Lord Samwise’s sword.”

Both Elf and Dwarf indicated the greatest of appreciation for the gilded hauberk. “Yes!” Gimli gloated, holding it up and turning it so as to admire it from all sides. “Yes indeed for our Sam. He and Frodo will make quite the pair of lordlings for the company to honor.”

Húrin asked, “But you need no mail for Lord Frodo?”

The Dwarf looked up at him, obviously amused. “I will tell you this--the corslet Frodo has worn is far finer than anything within your treasuries or armories--of that I can assure you! But you will see when he returns here to the city.”

In moments the gilded hauberk was carefully rolled with a thick cloth of felt and returned to its protective bag, and the Dwarf was negligently laying it across his shoulder as he and Prince Legolas prepared to return to the stable in the Sixth Circle to retrieve their horse for the return journey to the army. With their final salutes offered, they left, and Húrin, Faramir, and Leonid watching after.

“I’m thinking,” the Keeper of the Keys of Gondor sighed, “I would love to be one of those there to first acclaim the two Pheriannath who made the journey as Lords of the West.”

Faramir was slowly nodding his agreement, while Leonid appeared full of anxious energy, peering eastward and northward toward the distant place where the Army of the West camped, allowing their wounded to recover.


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