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Tree and Stone
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It was almost noon when I crossed the Noble Saltire (1), one of the biggest squares on the Sixth Circle, if not in the entire city, dominated on one side by the Conclave building. I wondered, as I made my way over the red and white pavement, where the Conclave had been housed during its construction, and marveled again at the vision of its architects. The Citadel is the seat of government of our realm (well, of Gondor; I understand that King Elessar means to restore Annúminas on Lake Evendim to be again the capitol of Arnor), and this building is the seat of the City’s governance. Because the Conclave governs (now under the King), and the word means “key”, hence the ceremonial key carried by the members, and the building itself is shaped like a huge keyhole, if one can imagine a keyhole in white and reddish alabaster, with enormous columns. I went up the three broad steps under the portico, stepping carefully over the topmost, gold-edged one, to the massive double doors. I suppose they needed all that to make it look imposing instead of whimsical. Facing the two massive entrance doors flanking a pillar incised with the names of ancient Prince-Presidents (before the Steward assumed dual administrative responsibility for both city and realm, and the Warden of Keys functions as a mayor would in a smaller city), I glanced at the golden suns emblazoned to each side, and the six Guardsmen sentries standing beneath.

They saluted me, and the nearest one opened one of the doors for me. “The day’s greeting, Lady Cormallen,” he said respectfully. “We are at your service.”

I paused. “Do I know you?”

“Nay, but we know you. You nursed our commander after the siege, and your work for our wounded is appreciated by all three Companies,” he answered.

“And the army, and the militia,” added the one nearest him in an undertone.

“It is little enough,” I said, embarrassed.

“We wish you joy on your marriage.”

“Thank you.”

“May we do aught to serve you?’

“My thanks, but no. I merely need to go to an office.”

“May I ask which one?”

“The Office of Deeds and Funerals,” I replied, thinking it must be a part of his duty—new since I had last been there, but this was a new Age (2), after all.

I crossed the impressive entrance hall under the rotunda, and climbed the stairs to the second level, although I detoured to a couple of other offices first, to greet and briefly chat with some of the clerks.(3) Eventually I made my way, feeling remarkably silly to be wearing full Court dress in the latest mode at that hour in that place, complete with emeralds borrowed from Silwen. I suspected that Clomaddion Son of Clasmallion wouldn’t know this year’s styles from even the year before last’s, but deemed it better to not risk his not knowing and look as impressive as I could.

Rhylla met me, out of breath from hurrying, also dressed in her best. “Sorry to be late, m’lady,” she gasped, handing me a note. I skimmed it, smiled, and tucked it into my belt-pouch.

“Excellent! Catch your breath, and we’ll go in,” I said. A moment later, she opened the door for me, and I swept into the Office of Deeds and Funerals’ outer room, filled with three or four citizens; as many clerks waiting upon them, and three more clerks; a number of desks, all designed to be stood at; a bench expressly designed for lack of comfort; a fireplace half-choked with old ashes; and filthy windows half-obscured with shelves bulging with old scrolls, ledgers and boxes. Slightly lifting my skirts so they would not drag on the dirty, battered floor, I raised my chin and said loudly in an imperious tone, “Find Tuor Son of Tirdan, if you please.” I rapped Orcsbane, in its sheath, on the floor for emphasis.

“Yes, my lady,” said Rhylla with a bob, and turned to the nearest clerk. Into the sudden silence, she said, “The day’s greetin’ t’ you, master. Could you may’ap tell me where we might find Tuor Son of Tirdan?”

The youth goggled at us, but an older man, mouth twitching, jerked his thumb at a door which I realized was slightly ajar.

I moved to it, and heard from within Clomaddion’s nasal voice saying viciously, “You orcbait incompetent, why did you not tell her she owes us a hundred mithrils in deed-fees?”

“Because it isn’t true!” said Tuor defiantly. “She doesn’t, as most of those who come to us don’t owe the exorbitant fees we gouge from them, taking advantage of their ignorance and grief!”

This time I did hear the sound of a hand meeting flesh, and on the instant, pushed open the door and strode through it. Behind me, I knew that Rhylla would take care that it was fully open.

This office was much more luxuriously appointed, with costly rugs from Khand, a handsome desk and deeply padded chair, two elegant inlaid chairs, tall carved cupboards and shelves, and a large, well-tended fireplace with a roaring fire against any chill. Thick velvet drapes covered the windows, and handsome Dwarven lamps glowed on the desk, wall-sconces, and tall stands. In one quick glance, I noted a jeweled, alabaster desk-set and a tray filled with the remains of one of Eldacar’s finest breakfasts; the aroma of hot spiced kahf rose from a beautiful enameled pot, mingled with the scents of bacon, sausage and new bread.

In front of the desk stood Clomaddion in a handsome if outdated brocade robe, an ostentatious gold chain crusted with sapphires around his fat neck, and Tuor, just beginning to pick himself up from the carpet. One cheek bore the imprint of a hand, a bleeding gash on his cheekbone from one of the Director's gaudy rings.

“If you get one drop on my carpet, you will lick it up and I will charge you ten silvers!” said the Director, deliberately stepping on Tuor’s hand; I clearly heard the sound of bones breaking. Tuor's other hand was against his side, where he had no doubt been kicked.

“Stop that at once, you odious man!” I commanded.

He wheeled. “Who the Void are you?” he demanded. “Get out of here!”

“Rhylla,” I said, with a gesture.

She fetched his opulent chair from behind the desk, and after she dusted the seat with a kerchief, I sat down in it, contriving to look down my nose.

“How dare you!” he shouted, starting towards me.

Tuor got to his feet, white-faced, and tried to interpose himself between us; Clomaddion pushed him roughly aside. I drew Orcsbane and raised it until the tip hovered around his throat.

Fortunately for him, he stopped short. “Put that down!”

“Who is this unpleasant…creature?” I asked.

“Clomaddion Son of Clasmallion, Director of the Office of Deeds and Funerals,” Tuor said hoarsely.

“Amazing. This Clodding is in a position of trust?”

His red face turned an interesting shade of purple; I hoped he would not have an apoplexy.

“Erm—yes, my lady, he is.”

“My opinion of Lord Denethor lessens by the moment,” I remarked. “The day’s greeting, Master Tuor.”

“And to you, my lady, Mistress Rhylla,” he said with a slight bow, catching his breath as he did so.

“Please do not do that again; I think you may have at least one cracked or broken rib,” I said.

“You dare invite your lightskirt to the workplace?” Clomaddion sputtered.

“Allow me, Master Tuor,” said Rhylla hastily. “This’s Lady Lindisilma Kuranya Cormallen, Loremistress an’ Healer, Orcslayer an’ wielder o’ the enchanted blade Orcsbane, Peredel cousin t’ the King’s brothers, an’ soon to be wife an’ consort o’ Second Ambassador Prince Dalfinor Khazad-baran Son o’ King Thorin Stonehelm o’ the Lonely Mountain.” She rolled out the phrases with relish.

“And the wealthiest woman in Gondor and Arnor,” Tuor added softly.

“And Master Tuor’s client,” I added. To his credit, Tuor only blinked.

“His client?” Clomaddion echoed. “He can’t have any clients!”

“I have my attorney’s certificate,” Tuor reminded him.

“That isn’t worth anything! You can’t be his client!”

I held out my hand to Rhylla, who produced a large velvet bag from her pouch and handed it to me. I tossed it to Tuor, who, thank the Valar, was able to catch it. It made a satisfyingly solid clinking sound as he did so. Clomaddion’s eyes narrowed with avarice.

“Your retainer, as I promised,” I said. “So this is where you have toiled these many years, under first the Goldtrader and this Dirtclod slug of a minion—”

“I am Clomaddion Son of Clasmallion!” he shouted, “and I will not be scorned by some doxy—”

I stood up. With a quick movement, I slit the sash wound around his middle, and his trews puddled around his ankles. Orcsbane’s tip rested under his third chin, and he froze.

“I am weary of being called names by this ignorant lard-tub,” I said coldly. “You insulted me last night, while you harangued your colleague unjustly in the public street, and you have not yet apologized. You were fortunate that Master Tuor restrained my betrothed Prince Dalfinor from killing you on the spot, and I do not know if he will restrain himself the next time he sees you; after all, you also insulted him. He dislikes bigots, as does the King.

“You are in a different climate now, you see. The days of the Goldtrader and his policies are over.”

He sneered. “You have no control over me! I am the Director now, and if your pet tries to unseat me, he’ll go to prison! No one would take the word of a lowly inkspot like him!”

“We would,” said another voice from the doorway. “Or are you saying We are no one?”

Resplendent in Winged Crown and mantle, the King strolled in, followed by the Steward wearing his circlet and white cloak, as Clomaddion paled.

“Having read Master Tuor's full report, We believe it and him,” said King Elessar, and Faramir nodded.

“I do as well. The day's greeting, my lady,” he said with a bow to me.

I inclined my head. “Sire, my lord Steward.”

The King bowed to me. “Lady Cormallen. Is this man annoying you?”

“I am witness to his assault upon Master Tuor,” I said, “as is Mistress Rhylla. Not only did he attempt to humiliate him publicly last night, but he verbally and physically assaulted him just now.”

“I but corrected him for neglecting his work!” Clomaddion sputtered.

I raised a brow. “Neglect? He traveled with the expedition you sent, my lord Steward, and did his utmost to protect not only me, but young Master Caic, soon to be Prince Dalfinor's apprentice. He came because he was sent by this...person, who said he would have to pay all expenses, and yet would have his wages docked. I gather that he frequently augments his own stipend by such chicanery, and makes his clerks forego such amenities as heat in inclement weather, and having to work early and late, including no opportunities to eat.”

“Lazy louts, the lot of them,” he grumbled. “Underlings don't need to be coddled!”

“We also ‘eard ‘im scold Master Tuor for not a-levelin’ illegal fines an’ fees upon my lady,” Rhylla added indignantly.

“One hundred mithrils,” I said.

“That is most illegal!” Faramir frowned.

“It is not the first time,” I told them. “He did the same thing in a lesser amount—five hundred silvers. as directed by the Goldtrader-, and separately tried to intimidate me into paying more than that sum when my first spouse died, even though I had no monies of his.”

“I have heard enough,” the King declared. “Guards!”

Two of the Citadel Guards entered, saluting. “Sire?”

“Arrest this man, and take him to the Citadel cells, to be put on trial for illegal activities and abuse of his office. You are stripped of your position pending the trial,” Faramir ordered.

“But I'm the Director!” he cried.

“You were the Director. Take him away,” said Elessar with a gesture.

The guards stepped forward, and presently, gagged to stop his screaming invective, Clomaddion was dragged out, hands shackled.

I moved immediately to Tuor, who was wavering on his feet, and pressed him into the chair. He tried to return the purse to me. “My lady--”

“Rhylla will hold it for you,” I said. “How badly are you hurt?”

“'Tis naught--”

“Nonsense!” said Aragorn, coming to my side.

“At the least, you have one cracked or broken rib, that gash and bruise on your face, and a broken hand,” I said crisply. “My lord, he needs a Healer!”

“Well, we two should suffice,” he said cheerfully. “Sit still, Master Tuor; this examination may be unpleasant, but 'twill soon be over.” A few minutes later he nodded. “Quite accurately diagnosed, Lady Silma. I shall have him conveyed to the Houses of Healing, and will wait upon him there this afternoon.” Scribbling a note on a piece of Clomaddion's embossed—embossed!– parchment, he handed it to the bemused attorney and went to the doorway to confer quietly with one of the staring clerks.

“I am very sorry that you have suffered for doing your duty; you are a brave and honest man,” Faramir told the obviously overwhelmed clerk. “Would you be able, do you think, to step into his shoes when you have somewhat recovered?”

“Oh, no, you don't, my lord Steward!” I said quickly. “Master Tuor, I am in hopes that you will consider becoming my personal man of business and attorney. You would of course receive compensation of eighty crowns a month.”

“A month?” he repeated.

“Forgive me, I am inexperienced in hiring staff of your stature,” I said. “I meant no disrespect. One hundred a month.”

“My lady, I would work for you for nothing,” he blurted, and I was touched to see that his eyes were filled with tears.

I laid a hand on his shoulder. “That would hardly be right,” I objected, “but we can discuss your stipend later, along with your duties. Now let these good guards help you down to a palanquin, and go to the Houses. I will be along later.”

“I'll go with ‘im, m’lady, if ‘at suits,” Rhylla spoke up.

“Thank you, Rhylla,” I said.

She smiled at him. “Well, after all, ‘e'll want t’ keep an eye on the one wot ‘as ‘is purse, won't ‘e?”

“This can't be real,” he said numbly.

“I think you will find it is, master,” Faramir smiled. “Our loss is Lady Silma's gain. Will you testify at Clomaddion's trial?”

“I will, my lord Steward.”

“And will you advise me, when you are better, as to where we should look for a fitting successor as Director?”

“I will share my opinion, my lord, but there are others more knowledgeable than I.”

“I doubt that. Who here should supervise temporarily?” he asked.


“Is Beldarmir here?” Faramir called, and a tall man with a receding hairline detached himself from the others, coming forward to bow nervously.

“My lords? I am Beldarmir son of Wendar of Pelargir,” he said.

“Master Tuor thinks you can ably manage this Office until after Clomaddion's trial,” Faramir said. “Can you?”

“Tuor would be better, my lord, although I do have a week’s seniority over him.”

“Honestly put,” Aragorn commented. “We are in need of honest men.”

Faramir asked, “Beldarmir Son of Wendar, would you be willing to take up the responsibilities of Director of the Office of Deeds and Funerals until this matter of Clomaddion’s trial is resolved?”

“I—yes, my lord, I would be. I am,” stammered the man.

“Very well.” Faramir grabbed a piece of vellum, dipped a quill—with a gold nib!– into the silver inkwell, and scribbled a note, appending his stamp-seal to it under his signature and handing it to him, then made a note on his tablets. “I, Faramir, Prince of Ithilien and Steward of Gondor, on behalf of King Elessar, do hereby confirm Beldarmir Son of Wendar as interim Director of the Office of Deeds and Funerals, to administer fairly and honestly the responsibilities of that department, to accept and disburse the monies of that office, and to employ and fairly treat his subordinates, and deliver a truthful accounting of those monies and affairs to me on a monthly basis.” He signed four copies (one made by Beldarmir and the others by three more clerks) with a flourish, dripped black wax—the stick was flecked with silver, of all things!– and pressed his seal ring into them. Presenting one copy to Beldarmir, he rolled up the others and tucked them under his arm. “I suggest you consult as needed with Lord Húrin and Master Tuor, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. We will have an efficient, fair government for our people, and many of us have much to learn.” His deprecating smile, including himself in that, instantly won the new Director’s heart, I could see.

“And what will you do first, Director Beldarmir?” Aragorn asked.

“Have two of the men take Tuor to the Houses of Healing,” he said promptly. “And go through the desk and ledgers.”

“Good! But wait until someone arrives to investigate further; I shall send someone down. In the meantime, you might want to devise a plan for conducting business and review for yourself and your clerks exactly what the laws are affecting this Office,” Faramir said.

“Yes, my lord.”

“If I might make two suggestions?” I said diffidently.

“By all means, my lady!”

I took out a few coins. “Send someone to Eldacar’s Breakfast House, or wherever you prefer, and have them bring something for everyone to drink and nibble on while you have a staff meeting. Mayhap some of them will have ideas of how to better conduct affairs here,” I said.

“Excellent idea!” said Aragorn. “But put your money away, Lady Cormallen. We will bear the expense today.”

“What is your other suggestion, my lady?” Beldamir asked.

“Clean this place up! Faugh, the dirt in these rooms is enough to choke a mule!” I showed them the dust edging my skirt-hems. “Is there no provision for cleaners in this building?”

The clerks looked at each other. For some reason, Faramir flushed.

One older man, with a fringe of grey hair, said, “Your pardon, lady, my lords, but Master Clomaddion didn’t like to let anyone in, ‘cos of confidential matters.”

“Afraid they’d find evidence of his peculations, more like,” Aragorn commented. “Is there a broom handy?”

Beldarmir looked scandalized. “We’ll find it, Your Majesty!” he said hastily. “It will be taken care of today!”

“There’s a broom closet down the hall by the first turning, although it might be poorly equipped,” I told them. As jaws dropped in shock, I added, “At one time the Goldtrader had me clean his office. As I recall, the broom was ancient, and the bucket leaked.”

Faramir drew out his purse and handed several coins to the stunned new Director. “Purchase any supplies you need, and make sure to let Lord Húrin know the state of that closet. These offices must be cleaned as well as cleansed,” he added with a frown.

“This is a time of many changes,” Aragorn observed. “And for many, a chance to begin anew.”

There were nods, thoughtful looks, and a moment later, we took our leave. Out in the corridor, Faramir said in a strained tone, “I had no idea how things were in there—”

“And when have you had time to find out?” Aragorn asked reasonably. “You are as new to this as I, my lord Steward. Can you imagine how embarrassed Húrin will be?”

“No doubt he had no idea that whomever he had delegated some tasks had not performed or seen to having them performed,” I said. “Being in the midst of a war tends to change priorities!”

“That is very gracious of you, Lady Silma,” Faramir said stiffly and I sighed before I dipped them a curtsey.

“If you gentlemen will excuse me, I have other business to conduct.”

They bowed in unison, and with a further exchange of civilities, we parted.


1. All descriptions of the layout of Minas Tirith and its buildings, squares, etc., is based upon the ICE series of modules, in this case Cities of Middle-earth: Minas Tirith (1988: 2nd ed.).
2. According to the Tolkien Gateway website, Age:
“The Third Age was held to have ended when the Three Rings passed away in September, T.A. 3021. In the records of Gondor Fo.A. 1 began on 25 March 3021, that is, 6 months before the end of the previous Age. This also means a difference of 1420 years with the Shire Reckoning.” Since this chapter of mine takes place in the spring of TA 3019, then Silma is basing her assertion on a knowledge of lore and perhaps some Foreseeing of her own.
3. Thanks to Silma’s brother having had a civil appointment, her position years before as a lord’s widow, and her varied work experiences, she knows a wide assortment of people in many places in the city.
4. I must thank Larner; in her excellent novel about the detection and prosecution of a crime in Anórien,
Murder Most Foul, she gives a glimpse which no one else has to my knowledge, of the workings of government bureaucracy—record-keeping! The more sophisticated (and ancient) a government, the more it would develop rules about tracking events and appointments. So, in case you were wondering why the clerks made so many copies of Faramir’s note, here is why:
A. the original, to be kept by Beldermir, as proof of his appointment
B. a copy to be kept on file in the office
C. another copy to be kept on file in Faramir’s office up at the Citadel
D. one to be filed at the Office of Appointments, a sub-division of the Herald’s Office. A scribe there would do two more copies, to be sent respectively to the Guild of Attorneys and the Guild of Scribes.
E. a copy to be kept at the Guild of Accountants. Most of the senior clerks would need to be so certified; in Gondor, that would be through the guilds.


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