Many Guises and Many Names
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Lords of Gondor: 1. The White City
flawless as the model the Elves had made for them
twenty years ago.
"This is not a good idea." Barahir said quietly
into his brother's ear as their horses jogged side by
side at the head of a column of mounted Rohirrim.
"You should said so before." Aragorn murmured back.
"I did say so before."
"So you did." his foster brother smiled
mischieviously. "Come, Amin, admit it you're as
curious as I."
"True." Barahir conceeded. "But that doesn't make
this escapade any less unwise."
Aragorn turned in the saddle to give his brother a
chiding look. "Obeying the orders of our sworn liege
lord is not an 'escapade'."
Barahir's return look made it very clear he wasn't
buying that for a minute. "This was your idea, not
Thengel's, don't deny it."
Aragorn shrugged, looked ahead. "I'm supposed to
reunite the two Kingdoms." he reminded his brother. "I
want to see what I'm up against."
Barahir sighed. "They'll ask questions."
"Which we need not answer." Aragorn said calmly.
They were met at the gate of the Encircling Wall by
an officer of the Citadel Guard who stared at the brothers
in open astonishment. "Elfwine and Elfstan of the
His incredulity was excusable. The two captains
were both taller and leaner than their men, with the
dark hair and elegant bones of the Dunedain.
Aragorn merely inclined his head in assent leaving
the officer with no choice but to swallow his
curiousity and escort the troop of horsemen across the
belt of walled farmland surrounding the city to the
lodging prepared for them.
This was a long wooden hall with adjacent stables
just outside the city gates, and obviously newly
built. "The Lord Ecthelion knows the Riders prefer not
to be seperated from their steeds, and we have not the
stabling for so many inside the city." the officer
"This will do very well." Aragorn assured him.
"The Steward asks that you wait on him in the Hall
of the Kings as soon as your men are settled." the
"We will do so." Aragorn promised.
It was some two hours before they entered the gates
of Minas Tirith, on foot, and began the long climb up
to the citadel. Aragorn and Barahir were very familiar
with the fashion of the city from the Elven toy their
guardian, Elrond of Rivendell, had had made for them
as children. But now, as they climbed, they saw
differences between the model and the reality.
No trees lined the wide avenues and many of the
side streets and alleys were clogged with later,
jury-built houses of wood and brick crowded between
the older, gracious white stone buidings. Yet even of
these many were ill-kept and some crumbling from
The streets were well peopled, the varying coloring
and builds of the citizens indicating the blood of
Westerness was here well mingled with that of other
Men. The contrast between the brothers' classic
Dunedain features and their Rohirric trappings
garnered them many startled and curious looks as they
passed through the six lower circles to the seventh.
The gates stood open, flanked by guards robed in
black ensigned with the device of the white tree and
seven stars. The livery of the Kings of Old that their
two descendants had, until this moment, seen only in
ancient paintings and statues. And it seemed very
strange to them now to see it worn by living men under
the sun. In fact the sight stopped them in their
tracks and they turned to exchange looks in which
wonder and awe were mingled.
The gatewardens regarded them with no less wonder
but let them pass without comment when Aragorn gave
their Rohirric names. Inside was a green court, hemmed
in by buildings, with a fountain at its center. And
standing over it a dead tree.
Aragorn reached up to touch a withered leaf, and
the brothers exchanged another wordless look. The
White Tree of Minas Anor, seedling of Nimloth the
King's Tree of Numenor, planted by Isildur in memory
of his brother Anarion nearly three thousand years
before. But Isildur's tree was dead, and his heirs
must walk his kingdom disguised and unknown.
A long stone passage led from the court of the Tree
to a pair of tall doors, standing open with the murmur
of Men's voices coming from the dimness within.
The Hall of the Kings was built of black marble on
a monumental scale. Tree thick columns upheld the
distant ceiling, richly decorated with designs in gold
and colored stone, and between the columns stood
crowned statues, twice man sized, of the Kings of
Gondor. The features were conventionalized, more
images of kingship than portraits of individual Men,
yet Barahir could trace likenesses to many of his kin
on those stone faces. And there were two that were the
image of Aragorn, and one that could almost have been
He gave his brother a sizzling look, and recieved a
cool one in return, then cast his eyes upward,
consigning their fates to the protection of the One.
The brothers moved silent and unnoticed down the
long Hall towards the dais. An ornate throne stood on
its highest step beneath a marble canopy carved in the
shape of a crowned warhelm. And a jeweled image of the
white tree decorated the wall behind it. The effect
was rich but heavy, overpowering. Barahir wistfully
remembered the sparkling delicacy of the White Tree of
Annuminas, wrought by Noldorin smiths of mithril and
pearl, one graceful bough shading the simple silver
chair of Elendil - empty and unused these thousand
A plain black chair had been set on the broad
lowest step of the dais. The Man sitting in it held a
white staff and looking at him Barahir was a little
reassured, for both he and the youth standing behind
him also bore a marked likeness to the royal statues
looking stonily down upon the small knot of Men
confering quietly before the Steward's chair.
Startled Barahir whipped around to see a
chamberlain, marked by the black rod of his office,
giving them the by now familiar stare. "May I have
your names and business?"
"Elfwine and Elfstan," Aragorn answered quietly,
"Capains of the Mark, commanding the two Eoreds sent
by King Thengel."
Baffled, but conscious of his duty, the Chamberlain
waved them forward. Announcing their names and titles
with a distinct intonation of disbelief.
The brothers bowed before the Steward of Gondor,
straightened to meet a lucent, interested gaze.
"Elfwine and Elfstan," Ecthelion mused, "those are
Rohirric names. But surely you are not Rohirrim?"
"We have taken service with King Thengel," Aragorn
answered calmly, "but we were not born in the Mark."
"In Gondor then?"
"No, my lord, we are not Men of Gondor."
Not exactly anyway, Barahir amended silently. And
the Steward turned his head to look at him, almost as
if he'd heard the thought. Uh-oh. *Have a care,
Brother, here is one who can hear the unspoken!*
Ecthelion's mouth quirked in a faint smile, so did
Aragorn's, and Barahir found he was smiling too. The
Stewards might be the enemies of Isildur's Heirs, or
at the least rivals, yet he didn't feel at all
threatened by Ecthelion's perception. This Man would
do them no harm, now or ever, of that Barahir was
suddenly quite certain.
"Where is your home then?" the Steward asked.
"My lord," Aragorn said firmly yet courteously,
"that is a question we may not answer."
"Nor may we tell our true names and parentage."
"Indeed." Ecthelion was clearly intrigued. "can you
"Because, my lord," Aragorn answered, "we cannot
tell the truth and do not wish to lie."
The young man behind the Steward's chair glared at
him but Ecthelion seemed delighted by the response.
"Well said! As King Thengel sees fit to accept your
service under such conditions I need not scruple to do
likewise. Be welcome to Minas Tirith, Elfwine and
Elfstan, Captains of the Mark."
Note: Barahir is a foster brother of Aragorn, raised with him by Elrond at Rivendell. He is the younger son of Halbarad, and also of the Line of Isildur being Aragorn's second cousin. 'Amin' is his childhood nickname, as Estel was Aragorn's, it means 'faith'.
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