1. Chapter One
“The ceremony will begin at midday, Sire, but I feel that, given the complexity of the proceedings, it would be as well to have a rehearsal in the morning.”
Aragorn sighed in exasperation. “A rehearsal? Is that really necessary?”
Lanhelm glanced down at the sheaf of papers in his hand. “There are certain protocols that have to be observed, Sire. We would not want to make a mistake, would we? Not in front of all the guests.”
“It’s only a birthday celebration, Lanhelm.” Aragorn bent to pick up the saddlebags and his cloak. “Surely we do not have to go through all the formalities for a child’s first birthday.” He began to walk towards the door. Lanhelm followed in his wake, struggling to keep up with the King’s long stride.
“But this is not just any child. The whole of the Reunified Kingdom wishes to celebrate Prince Eldarion’s birthday, my lord and the ceremonies must be strictly observed if—”
“I will talk to you about it later,” said Aragorn. He could see his friends standing in the doorway and he was determined not to keep them waiting any longer.
“But Sire, we have to arrange the seating plan for the banquet and you have yet to authorise—”
“But what about the musicians and the dancers and…?” Aragorn allowed the seemingly endless litany to wash over him as he walked across the hallway. Lanhelm had kept him busy since breakfast with the minutiae of government and he was running out of patience.
“I will be back this afternoon, Lanhelm, and we can discuss it all then.” If he could just get out of the door, surely the dratted man wouldn’t follow him out to the stables. “Goodbye!”
In a last desperate attempt, Lanhelm held out a long piece of parchment towards the King. “Sire, you must read this before you leave. It could be vital if you talk to the Ambassador from Harad and—”
As he walked, Aragorn half-turned and snatched the paper out of the man’s hand. “Thank you, Lanhelm. Since it is so important, I will take it with me.” The door was so close now. Just a few more strides…
“But it is confidential, my lord! I cannot allow the document out of the palace.”
“Goodbye!” Aragorn was almost jogging now.
The King swept out of the door. Lanhelm took a step out into the open, blinking in the sunlight. “Perhaps if your bodyguards were with you…” He started to walk after the tall figure.
He was brought up short by hands gripping his shoulders from behind.
“But we are!”
He turned and looked down to find himself staring into intensely dark eyes in a bearded face that, whilst smiling cheerfully at that moment, had the potential, Lanhelm felt, to turn angry.
“We promise to take good care of him and return him in one piece.” He had to look up to meet the second speaker’s eyes – disconcertingly bright eyes that seemed to see straight through him.
“Oh! My lords, I really think…” began Lanhelm but he found himself steered back through the door.
“Two pieces at the very most. Now off you go!” With a gentle shove, Lanhelm was propelled back indoors and the door pulled shut firmly in his face. He could hear voices, tenor and bass, receding on the other side.
“At last! I thought he’d never get away!”
“And I was told as a youngster, punctuality is the politeness of princes.”
“Who told you that?”
“Someone who had never met you, obviously!”
“Me? Since when did I ever keep you waiting?
The voices passed out of Lanhelm’s hearing. Oh well, he thought to himself. If those two are with him, he can’t come to any harm. Can he?
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.