King Comes Home, The
16. Family Council
Aragorn turned first to Gilvagor. “How much did Beomann have to do with the Cardolanrim’s petition?”
His young cousin smiled wryly. “Quite a lot. He’s spent much of his time over the last year or so pointing out the advantages of a Kingdom to Men and Hobbits worried about the new settlers.”
“He’s right though,” Belegon put in mildly, “the new people from the South are more likely to respect the formal authority of a King then the wishes of hardscrabble villagers. And they can’t be expected to understand about clan territories and resting fields and the like.”
Aragorn nodded. “A thought that had occurred to me as well. We can and should welcome our Southern kin to settle here in the North, but on our terms.” he smiled at Belegon. “I’m sure I don’t need to tell you who I intend to name as King of Cardolan.”
“No indeed.” Belegon said resignedly. “I know the land and the people and I am of the Royal House. I am the obvious choice.”
“It’s just a name.” Gilvagor offered consolingly. “It will be no different from being Captain of the South.”
“It will be very different.” Aragorn corrected firmly. He expected trouble on this point. His people and his kin were reluctant to abandon their accustomed ways, nor did they see any good reason for doing so. That would have to change. “Why do you think I am rebuilding Cardol? I intend Belegon to live there, once it is fit for habitation, and to keep a King’s state.”
“Yes I see,” said Region, “if we are to convince the Southerners we are kingdom and not a rabble we must look like a kingdom.”
“Exactly.” Aragorn agreed with a smile for his foster sister. “Besides the Rhudaurim expect their City to be rebuilt and a King to be installed there as in the Old Days, it would be unjust not to do as much for the Cardolanrim.”
“And you will make your court at Fornost as of Old?” Gilvagor asked.
Now they came to it. “No.” Aragorn said quietly. “You will.”
“You intend to make Annuminas the High King’s seat again?” Aunt Ellian frowned. “I am not sure that is wise Aragorn. The arguments that led Amlaith to abandon Elendil’s City for all but ceremonial usage still hold good. It is too remote, you will be isolated from the rest of the Kingdom, especially the Marches.”
“I agree.” her nephew replied. “Annuminas will remain a City of ceremony and the meeting place of the Kings of the North. And it will be my residence when I am in Arnor, but I mean to make Gondor my chief seat.” There, it was out.
For a moment all simply stared at him, not believing their ears, then Nienor cried; “You can’t do that, Aragorn, Arnor has always been the High Kingdom!”
“We have not fought the Shadow this thousand years to end up subject to the South!” Gilvagor said fiercely, a dangerous light smoldering in his eye.
“I do not mean to make Arnor subject to Gondor,” Aragorn snapped back, stung, “or Gondor to Arnor for that matter. Each Kingdom will have its own council and its own law just as in Elendil’s day. Gilvagor, you will be King of Arthedain and my viceroy here in the North-”
“Do not think to bribe me with a throne!” Gilvagor blazed.
Aragorn’s own temper stirred. “I expect you to obey your Chief, Captain!”
“Boys!” Aunt Ellian said sharply.
Her two nephews glared at each other a moment more, then took careful breaths and with visible effort let go of their anger.
“It is not a bribe, Gilya, I need you to stand as my deputy, as you always have.” Aragorn said quietly.
“I am sorry, Father,” Gilvagor answered as softly, “I shouldn’t have said that, I know better.” his voice broke, sounding now grieved rather than angry; “But why?”
“Yes,” said Aunt Ellian, “why, Aragorn? you must have good reasons for this decision of yours, share them with us.”
“Gondor needs me more than the North.” he answered.
“That’s not true.” said Gilvagor. “The South has done very well without a King for a thousand years.”
“She has not.” Aragorn answered emphatically. “She has done very ill indeed. She is sick to the heart, devastated by her long wars, and surrounded by foes. I cannot abandon her.”
“But you can abandon us.” Gilvagor said bitterly.
“Not abandon.” Arwen said quickly, before Aragorn’s temper could surge again. “We mean to spend time here in the North. Not much at first perhaps, but more later once affairs in Gondor are settled. But for now her state is precarious and requires Aragorn’s chief attention. Sauron is fallen but Gondor still has powerful enemies in Rhun and Harad.”
“We are not exactly lacking in powerful enemies ourselves.” Gilvagor pointed out grimly. “Evil didn’t die with Sauron. There are other powers and freed from his domination they will grow stronger.”
“But we have powers of our own with which to meet them.” Aragorn answered. “And we need not now work in secret.”
“This is the Age of Men,” Arwen argued softly. “now we are the stronger. But in the South it is our fellow Men who threaten us, not fading powers from the Elder Days.”
“Fading perhaps, but not quite gone, not yet.” said Gilvagor. “It may be you are right, Aragorn, but I cannot say I like this decision of yours. And our people will like it even less.”
“I know it well.” Aragorn agreed wryly. “And I expect to hear about it in no uncertain terms.”
That got a general smile. The peoples of the North were nothing if not plainspoken, nor did they hesitate to speak their minds even to the highest.
“And what of my mother?” Aunt Ellian asked. “What does she think of this policy of yours, Aragorn?”
“She was not pleased.” he answered steadily. “But now that she has seen Gondor she understands the necessity.”
“Very well,” said Gilvagor, resigned but not reconciled, “if I am to be King of Arthedain then who will you give to the Rhudaurim for their King?”
“The next in blood, according to Rhudaurian law,” Aragorn smiled. “your sister’s son.”
“Daeron?” Aranel said, startled. “But he is just a child. Surely Ereinion or Ellenion would be the better choice.”
“No.” said Beruthiel’s elder son firmly. “The Princes of the Angle have always been subject to the Lords of the Marches, it would not do to overturn that.”
“The Lords of the Marches have been masters in their own house for years uncounted.” Aragorn agreed. “Borgil is sincere in his request for the restoration of their ancient Kingdom but it would come hard to him to obey rather than rule at his age. And that makes a child King ideal. By the time Daeron is of age Borgil will be old and ready to give over affairs to younger hands. And Borogund, his son, having had no expectation of rule will feel no deprivation.”
“That is well thought of.” Aunt Ellian nodded. “Borgil will no doubt appreciate the arrangement - all the more if he guesses the reason for it.”
“I hope so.” said Aragorn. And then went on to tell them the rest of his plans.
Beomann Butterbur knew the moment he opened the door that something was seriously wrong. Gilvagor swept past him into the apartment wearing the frozen expression that meant he was holding in one of those rare, but frightening flares of royal wrath. He seated himself at the desk, pulled parchment and inkwell to him, dipped his pen and began to write in swift, slashing strokes.
Beomann poured a cup of wine and put it on the desk near his hand. “You know, Gil,” he managed to say quite casually, “it would be a lot more comfortable if you’d just shout and throw things when you’re angry like regular folk.
Gilvagor’s eyes came up, and after a heart stopping moment the chill stare relaxed into a rueful smile. “No doubt. Unfortunately my upbringing won’t allow it.”
“What did the King do?” his squire asked, nerves unclenching. Fronting an angry Isildurion never gets easy, no matter how often one does it.
“I like the quickness of your conclusions.“ Gilvagor said almost lightly, picking up the cup. “Why should Aragorn be the cause of my bad temper?”
“Because you were fine when you left for the big family council.” Beomann replied. “Now you’re not. So what’s Strider done?”
His master hesitated a moment, then shrugged. “You’ll hear about it at the council tomorrow, there’s no reason not to tell you now. The King, in his wisdom, has decided to make his seat in the South.”
Beomann blinked, then frowned. “He can’t do that.”
“He can, and means to, and may even be right to do so.” Gilvagor answered with an edge to his voice, “but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!”
His squire shook his head. “He can’t do it.” he repeated. “It’s not right.”
Gilvagor sighed, anger beginning to ebb. “He has his reasons.”
“I don’t care. We‘ve got first claim on him, he‘ll have to change his mind.” Beomann’s own temper was rising even as his master‘s fell. “If you’ll excuse me, sir, I’d like to take the chance to tell him so.”
Gilvagor looked at him startled, then laughed. “A true battle of giants! But I fear Aragorn is even more stubborn than you, my squire. Nevertheless you may try if you like.”
Aragorn heard the knock at the bedchamber door and the brisk country voice asking to “See the King’s Grace if he‘s awake.” and put down the papers he’d been reading. “Beomann?” at his nod the esquire blocking the door stepped aside and the Breelander came in, the light of battle in his eye. *Gilya’s told him.*
“I’d like a word with you, sir, if you please.”
“Of course.” Aragorn rose from his chair to greet his guest.
Beomann glanced around. As the King had not yet submitted himself to the lengthy and elaborate ceremony of preparing for bed the chamber was rather full of esquires and gentlemen attendants waiting to do their duty.
“In private.” the Breelander said firmly, took his King by the arm and steered him into a window embrasure at the far end of the room.
Aragorn wished briefly but earnestly that he could see the looks on the faces of his Gondorian attendants then gave his entire attention to Beomann.
“You can’t do it, Strider.” the Breelander told him, and Aragorn noticed he’d learned the Ranger trick of pitching his voice to reach no farther than the ears it was meant for. “I don’t care what the situation is down South. Gil’s been doing your job on top of his own for nigh on five years now, it’s enough and too much. You’ve got a duty to us and it’s past time you got back to it!”
*I thought that was it.* It didn’t really matter to Beomann where Aragorn chose to keep his court, it was the burden he was putting upon his younger kinsman that the Breelander objected too, like the loyal squire he was.
“They tell me you’ve spent a lot of time in Cardolan,” he answered, “you must have heard enough from the new settlers to have a pretty good idea how bad things are in the South.”
Beomann bit his lip. “It’s not exactly feasting and dancing up here either.” he pointed out.
“I know that too. And I know that I have asked more of Gilvagor than I should,” Aragorn smiled bleakly, “and have done since he was younger than you. Circumstances gave me no choice.
“The Kingdoms in Exile are too far apart to be ruled directly by one Man, as Elendil learned long ago.” he continued quietly. “If I had a kinsman who knew and was known in Gondor I could make him my vice-regent in the South and take up my own seat in Fornost or Annuminas. But my kin know and are known only in the North and so I must entrust Arnor to them and wear the crown of Gondor myself.
“But I don’t mean to ride away tomorrow, Beomann. I will stay a year, or two, or as long as is necessary to put the realm in order and see my young kinsmen firm seated on their thrones. Will that content you?”
Beomann let out a breath. “I suppose it’ll have to.” He looked unhappy. “It sounds like plain common sense when you put it like that. But it doesn’t seem fair for the South to get you after throwing the Kings out in the first place.”
“That was long ago, and they have more than paid for it.” Aragorn answered.
The Breelander sighed again. “That‘s true too, from all I hear tell.”
Aragorn showed his visitor, still disatisfied but resigned, out himself. He closed the door gently behind Beomann, then turned to gauge the reaction of his Gondorim. The iron discipline of their strict etiquette held - but barely. It didn’t take any great perception to detect the shock, incredulity and indignation seething behind those proper masks.
The King carefully hid his own amusement. “I am ready to retire now.” he said as blandly as if nothing unusual had happened. Which indeed it had not, by the standards of the North.
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