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Aragorn was waiting in the study he used when he wished to speak with individuals in a setting less formal than an audience in the throne room, but not as informal or intimate as his small office. It was a larger room, with an impressive desk (upon which there was little to be seen, as he did not actually use it for work) and massive chairs with intricate carving on the legs and back. Wide windows were flanked by tall shelves, upon which a few selected books and objects rested. It was not a room to be comfortable in, but it served its purpose.
He had set the day aside to deal with the matter on which he would be ruling on the morrow. The hobbits were going to be busy all day preparing for guests, and it was a day on which no formal court had been scheduled. This gave him a day in which he could examine everything and be certain that the judgment he planned to hand down on Clodio Banks and Dago Bracegirdle would be the best one he could contrive. All would depend on the two Men he would interview today. While he trusted the judgment of Ondahil, and even more that of both Faramir and his father before him, he would not be satisfied without coming to his own conlusions about these Men.
Maevor son of Maldir stood nervously before the door to the room to which he had been summoned. All he had been told by the seneschal Ondahil was that the King wished to consult with him on a matter of importance. His position as keeper of the accounts for the Citadel was a responsible one, and he was certain that he had done nothing wrong. Nevertheless, he could not seem to help the feeling of cold dread at the thought of actually speaking with the King, well, not in a conversation with only the two of them present, anyway.
He had, of course, been introduced to the King shortly after the coronation, as had all the Citadel's staff; and he had been present at meetings in which it was others who did the talking. He had never seen any signs of tyranny in the new King, who was decidedly amiable in comparison with the stiff and unapproachable Lord Denethor when he had been Steward--still, a King is a King, and he was made more nervous by the fact that he had no idea of what that King wanted with him.
Well, he was not alone at the door, at least. Master Ondahil placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder very briefly, and then turned to speak to the Guardsman who stood by the door. "This is Master Maevor, whom the King has summoned at this hour." Both Men bowed, but were not required to kneel, as this was not a formal audience.
"Thank you, Master Ondahil." The King gave a nod of dismissal, and the seneschal left; when he heard the door close behind him, Maevor could not help a sinking feeling.
The King was standing behind a huge desk. He wore, not the crown, but the Elendimir, and no mantle of state. He was clothed in black trews and a deep grey doublet, embroidered with silver stars. He sat down in the massive chair behind it, and waved a hand at the equally massive on across from him. "Please be seated, Master Maevor. Our conversation will be a lengthy one, but you are not here to be reprimanded. Rather I wish to learn if you are suitable for a task that I would set before you, and to find out if it is a task you care to take on."
Maevor drew breath to say "Whatever the King wishes..." but he had not the chance. The King stilled him with a gesture.
"Do not be too quick to agree, Master Maevor. Wait until you understand what it is that I will ask of you. But before I do, I will lay before you what I already know of you from Master Ondahil, as well as others who have noted your performance of your duties.
I am told that your father was a Guardsman, and was slain in battle with the Enemy when you were but a youth. Because you were your mother's only son, you put aside your own wishes to follow your father, and instead apprenticed yourself as clerk to a banker of convenience, Master Mallior. You learned well the art of clerking, and soon gained your own Mastery, though you remained in Master Mallior's employ as you had not the wealth to become a banker yourself. You supported your mother until she died in your thirtieth year. After that, you lived on your own. You also joined the City Militia, and acquitted yourself well, not only learning to use the weapons that help defend the city, but also becoming the quartermaster for your unit. You came to the attention of the Captain General, Lord Boromir, when you were able to assist him in finding supplies that he needed. He in turn recommended you to his father when the Citadel was in need of someone to keep the accounts after the man who previously held the post proved less than trustworthy, diverting funds into his own pocket. Lord Denethor interviewed you himself and deemed you honest--putting you under the authority of Master Ondahil. During the War, in addition to your regular duties, you acquitted yourself well in helping defend the City walls. Have I missed anything important, or stated any fact incorrectly?"
Maevor blinked. "N-no, Sire. Everything you have stated is true." He was amazed at how the King seemed to have all this information ready to lay before him, without even looking at any notes or records.
"Are you aware of the embassy of hobbits that have recently come to Gondor?"
For an instant, Maevor was surprised at what seemed an abrupt change of subject. But he managed to answer: "Yes, Sire. It has been the talk of the City. And I was present on the day you received them in Court."
"Did you know that two other hobbits also travelled here with them? Two who were banished from their own land, and came here as prisoners?"
Now Maevor was shocked; he shook his head. "What crime could such have committed that would earn them banishment?"
Maevor listened with distress as King Elessar explained to him what the four small heroes of the War had found upon returning to their homeland, and the discovery that they had been betrayed by their own. "The Ringbearer's own cousin, architect in the Shire of all that followed, was murdered by Grima Wormtongue, and the closest accessory to his crime, Ted Sandyman, was slain by the Men that Saruman had brought into the Shire. However, there were others who willingly helped betray the people of the Shire. Motivated by greed and pride, they helped to finance Lotho's takeover."
"The two of whom you spoke?"
The King nodded, and explained what had happened while his representatives were in the Shire, and how two culprits had been detained for their punishment in Rohan and two sent on to Gondor. "The Rohirrim were granted the right to punish them since it was one of their own who was injured--this was a technicality granted by my ambassador Captain Targon, since our penalties in Gondor would be too harsh for hobbits. I am granted more leeway with these two older hobbits, since their offenses were not violent." He went on to explain the punishment that the King of Rohan had meted out to the younger prisoners, and Maevor began to understand what the King might wish of him. And if he was right—what a responsibility it would be.
Amdir son of Amrod waited nervously at Master Ondahil's side. Whatever did the King want with him? The only time that he had spoken with the King was that unfortunate accident, when he had locked the Ringbearer and the Ernil i Pheriannath in the Archives.* Oh, dear, oh, dear! Whatever could he have done wrong now? In spite of Master Ondahil's reassurances that he was in no trouble, he could not help but recall how sharp the King had been with him on that occasion. Of course he had deserved it; he should never have forgotten they were present, should have checked to be sure they were gone before he locked up, but it had been so long since any had even come to the Archives…
His train of thought was interrupted as the door opened, and someone came out.
"Good afternoon, Master Ondahil, Master Amdir," the Man said with a polite nod. His face was familiar, but Amdir could not recall his name. Fortunately Master Ondahil remembered for both of them.
"Good afternoon, Master Maevor."
Then Maevor went on his way, and Master Ondahil was leading him into the King's room.
The King was standing behind a large and impressive desk. Both Men bowed to him. He greeted them cordially, and then Master Ondahil was dismissed.
"Master Amdir, I am most pleased to speak with you under better circumstances than the last time. Please be seated," and he sat himself in the huge chair behind him, while gesturing at the one in front of the desk.
"You are no doubt wondering why I have summoned you."
"Y-yes, My Lord," Amdir stuttered.
"Be at ease; you are in no sort of trouble this time. In fact, I have a task for you, if you should choose to take it on…"
Aragorn watched as the elderly Archivist left the room. The old fellow looked much more confident than he had upon entering. He was kind and amiable; he lived away from the Citadel in his own house, kept for him by his widowed daughter. He was quite pleased with his choices, and now could go to judgment tomorrow knowing that the sentence he passed would not only be fair, but workable.
*A reference to my story "The Archives Incident" .
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