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In the Court of the High King  by Dreamflower

Chapter 18

Dago followed behind this Man who now held his life in his hands. They left the Throne Room from a small and nearly unnoticed side door. His new Master seemed to be of middle years; his hair was dark, and cropped shorter than most of the Men Dago had so far seen, and a few threads of silver could be spied at his temples. He wore a very neat and small mustache and beard. It appeared to encircle his mouth, but left his cheeks bare. He was walking briskly, until he noticed that Dago was having to run to keep up.

He stopped. "Excuse me, Mr. Bracegirdle. There is no need for me to be in such a rush right now." Master Maevor waited until Dago caught up, and then continued at a slower pace.

"Thank you," Dago said, a trifle curtly. Still unhappy with this situation, he knew it could have been much worse, so it would behoove him to at least try to be polite to this Man. He'd be serving under him for years, unless he could find a way out that wouldn't get him caught immediately. He recalled how easily that Elf had found him and Clovis; it still stung. And depending on what the Man had him to do, he might want to just stay where he was until his time was up. He glanced down at the tattoo on his hand. After all, it wasn't like he could go back to the Shire.

"This is the East wing; many of us who work here dwell in this part of the Citadel, especially those of us who have no immediate family. I have arranged a place for you in my chambers. Turn right--" He pointed to a corridor that intersected with the one they were in. "--my chambers are behind the second door to the left." He opened a door and gestured within.

The hobbit saw a spacious room. A window was directly across from the door; wide and long, the sill was low enough that he'd be able to look out--already an improvement over that cell he'd been occupying, and a great improvement over the dungeon of Meduseld. On the wall to the right of the door was a small fireplace, and placed near it were two armchairs, a footstool and a low table. Next to the fireplace was a small set of bookshelves, and a few books filled it. The wall to the left was much closer to the door, and there were two other doors in it. A large section in the far corner by the second door had been curtained off. The heavy white curtains hung from floor to ceiling.

Master Maevor pointed. "That first door is the door to my own sleeping room. The second is the door to the water closet. I am quite fortunate, for not all the chambers in this wing have their own water closet. The area behind the curtains is for you.

Dago walked over curiously and pulled back one of the curtains. He saw there were ties on it, so that he could leave it open if he wished. The section was quite spacious for a hobbit, though like the cell he'd been in, he suspected a Man would find it small. There was a bed that was almost hobbit sized. He walked over and examined it carefully, and realised that it must have been a child's bed, and that even so it appeared the legs had been cut down. A small chair (which he also suspected had been made for a child), a trunk that stood at the foot of the bed, and a low table bearing a ewer and washbowl completed the furnishings. He also noticed that three hooks had been placed in the wall, perhaps for hanging clothing, and next to the bed was a low shelf on which stood a candle in a candlestick.

While it was nothing like what he would have considered acceptable lodgings in the Shire, it was a great improvement over his more recent accommodations, and he considered that he would be comfortable enough. On the bed was a grey cloth bag. He went over to open it, and found his small clothes and nightshirt and dressing gown, his brushes and his pipe--but there was no sign of his Shire clothing. Instead was another outfit of the drab grey, identical to what he wore now.  Clearly the clothing marked him as a prisoner, just as the tattoo on his hand marked him an exile.

"I am rarely here except to sleep, though I will sometimes spend a rainy afternoon by the fire reading if I am not working. Meals are taken downstairs in the dining room set apart for the Citadel staff, though I occasionally brew some tea in a kettle on the hearth, or make some toast at the hearthfire. There is a common bathing room down the corridor. It has four bathtubs, but they are curtained off from one another. I will show it to you on the way to the dining room for luncheon, which is at noon. The kitchens and dining rooms are downstairs. The king has told me that you need to eat more frequently than Men. The cooks have agreed that you may come to the kitchen midway between breakfast and luncheon and again midway between luncheon and supper, and they will provide you with something extra to eat at those times."

Dago nodded, rather grateful, though that only came to five meals rather than a proper six. But it was still better than the journey here, when he ate only when the Men did. "Thank you," he said.

"You are perhaps wondering why the King assigned you to me," the Man said.

"I am. You do not look as though you have need of a servant with such a small place."

"No, I do not. I generally tidy up after myself, and any real cleaning that needs doing is done by servants who work in this wing. Do you recall what the King said my position is?"

"He said you were Chief Clerk for the Citadel?"

"That is correct. I keep the accounts of all the income and expenses involved in running the Citadel. I answer to Master Ondahil the chamberlain, and to the King himself."


"I have three clerks who work under me--or rather I had three. The youngest has joined the Guard, and will be working in the Quartermaster's office. The King indicated that you had been in business in the Shire, and know how to keep track of numbers."

"I do!" If there was one thing Dago knew, it was how to keep books, and account for profits and losses.

"Very well, I will show you where we work. Follow me closely, as it may take you a while to learn your way there."

They left Master Maevor's quarters and went back to the main corridor. Dago followed him to another intersecting hallway, and this time they turned right. They passed several doors, turned right again, went up a flight of stairs, and this time turned left. Then there was another left turn, and at the end of that passage was a door. Master Maevor opened the door and gestured for Dago to precede him.

There were wide windows on three sides, set high in the wall. They let in plenty of light, but even the Men could not have seen out from them. Below the windows were set three clerks' desks and one low table.  In the center of the room was one large and imposing desk. All the desks were covered with ledgers and papers, and there were quills and inkpots at each one. Only the low table was bare; set beneath it was a footstool. Dago knew at once that this would be where he was expected to work.

Two of the tall clerks' desks were occupied, and the Men were facing the wall, and so had not seen Master Maevor and Dago enter the room.

Master Maevor cleared his throat, and both Men turned with a start.

"Cambedil, Faron, this is Dago Bracegirdle. By the King's justice he has been set to work among us; he is far from his homeland. I expect him to be treated as you would any other clerk."

Both Men stood and gazed down at him.

Dago flushed as he endured the frankly curious gaze of the two Men. Cambedil was the older of the two, of middle years; he had a receding hairline and a very short beard of faded brown. The younger man was clean-shaven and had shoulder length dark hair; they were clad in the livery worn by those who worked in the Citadel. Both of them were giving him an appraising look, and Dago was all too conscious of his attire, marking him as a felon.

Master Maevor gestured to the wall behind them, the same wall as the door. Shelves lined the wall, filled with baskets of papers, and more ledgers. Master Maevor walked over and picked up a basket and a ledger, and took them over to the low table. "I believe we will put you on the kitchen accounts for now."          

Dago nodded. He looked up at the windows, and something occurred to him. "Master Maevor, are we in a tower?"

"Yes—a turret, actually."

Dago's mouth went dry. "A turret?"

"This juts out from the rest of the tower; the windows on three sides give us plenty of light to do our work."

The hobbit looked at the solid stone floor beneath his feet. That meant there was nothing below that floor but…air. He swallowed. It could be worse. He remembered the dungeon in Rohan.

This was his new life; he might as well get used to it.


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