15. The Age of the Dominion of Men
Canohando stood over her, appalled at her appearance and trying to think of something he could do.
"Close the curtains," she said. She shut her eyes, crossing her hands across her breast as if ready for her own funeral cortege, and after a moment he obeyed, drawing the damask curtains, hiding her from view. He fell back to walk with Gimli and Legolas. There was no music as they made their way back up the winding street to the Silent Door.
In the morning Arwen robed herself in black velvet and covered her face with a sheer black veil that hung almost to her knees. She walked with Eldarion in slow procession to the Hall of Kings, preceded by musicians and followed by her brothers, her daughters and their husbands and children, and the highest officials of the Kingdom. A Company of Guards came before and behind.
No one had told Canohando where his place was on this day, and he took his position unbidden among the Guardsmen. The men made space for him without complaint, but when they stood to attention at each side of the doorway Canohando continued down the Hall alone, behind the Royal Family and their entourage. He stood to the right of the dais with the Princes of the Kingdom, and if there were many who looked askance at his presence among them, he did not notice. All his attention was given to his Lady.
The Throne Room was packed, courtiers in rich garments of silk and velvet crowded together with ordinary people of the city, tradesmen and soldiers, housewives and laborers, anyone and everyone who could push their way into the building. Outside the Courtyard of the White Tree was a seething mass of people as well, but there was little sound of voices. The citizens of Gondor waited, in hope and in trepidation, to be greeted by the new King.
Eldarion stood at the top of the stairs, letting his gaze wander from face to face, lingering on one or another that especially struck him. An old woman near the front; the tall men standing protectively on either side of her looked like brothers: they must have used their elbows to good effect to bring their elderly mother to a place where she could see clearly. A mischievous-looking lad balancing on the plinth of one of the columns, a quiver and bow strapped to his back. A pair of lovers, their arms around each other, but their eyes looking up to him hopefully: It is up to me to keep Gondor strong, so that child grows up to be a good man, so those lovers raise a happy family in peace, he thought. The crown felt very heavy on his brow, and he wondered if his father's head had sometimes ached from the weight.
"I give you good morrow," he said at last. "King Elessar my father sleeps with his forebears in Rath Dinen, and he has left his place to me, to rule and to protect this realm of Gondor. The princes and officials of the Kingdom have sworn fealty already, and now I call on all of you, the men and women of Minas Tirith, to pledge your faith to me, as I pledge mine to you. As a father will I be to you, and you shall be my children."
He had hardly finished speaking when the cheers began, and jubilation filled the room and the courtyard outside as people shouted and stamped their feet, throwing their hats in the air, laughing and clapping their hands, till the roar of sound echoed from the walls. At last the Chancellor of the Kingdom stepped forward, resplendent in robes of midnight blue with a golden chain around his neck, and raised his hands for silence.
"Here stands Eldarion, the son of Elessar, confirmed and crowned by his father, of the line of Isildur and Elendil, true King of Gondor. If anyone contests his right, let him speak now and show just cause."
There was silence so deep, it seemed that no one so much as drew breath.
"Kneel then, in sign of your allegiance to King Eldarion!" the Chancellor said in a loud voice, and with a great rustling of garments and scraping of shoes against the floor, every person in the Hall went to his knees. As they saw what was happening within, the people on the steps outside knelt also, and those in the courtyard, and Eldarion looked out over a sea of bowed heads.
"You are my people," he said, his voice rough with emotion. "While I live I will rule you with justice, and lead you with wisdom, and judge you with mercy, as the Valar give me grace so to do. You may rise."
He sat down in his throne, but Arwen beside him remained standing as the people got to their feet. There was a blast of trumpets announcing the beginning of the new reign, but when the sound died away Arwen lifted her arms and spread them wide.
"Now come the years of the Dominion of Men," she cried. "The time of the First-born is over, and my people pass away. Use well the time, you favored of Iluvatar, until Arda is unmade!"
She turned and kissed her son on the forehead, and then she descended from the dais and passed down the long aisle to the door. But the people who thronged the Hall of Kings bent the knee once more as she went by, and behind her glided her Shadow, in his uniform of black and silver.
Later in the day Arwen called her brothers to her. They sat sipping wine and pressing her to eat something, but Canohando leaned in the doorway, trimming his fingernails with his knife, sharpening them into pointed claws.
"I will leave in a week's time," Arwen said. "Are your men ready?"
"They are ready, Lady," Canohando said without hesitation, but Elladan leaned forward to take his sister's hand.
"Will you not wait until after the New Year, Arwen? It is less than a month, not too much time to see Eldarion steady on his throne, and yourself a little recovered from your grief."
Her eyes were very dark behind her veil; even here in her Bower she had not put it off. "Think you I shall recover from this sorrow? There is one cure only for my grief, and that I shall find in Lorien. No, I will not stay for the New Year; Estel should have stood beside me on the platform, and I will not stand there without him. Eldarion is King now, and he will receive his people's homage. A week from this day, Brother, at early morn."
Her brothers went out soon after, to meet with the new King, and the Queen regarded Canohando with regret. "I wish you could have seen Minas Tirith at the New Year,” she said. “We had planned a very special celebration for this year, the one hundred-twentieth anniversary of the New Kingdom. I never thought the King would not be here to share in it."
The orc came to sit at her feet, trying to see past the filmy veil into her eyes. "He would be with you if he could, Lady. It was not his desire to leave you."
She looked away. "I know. Send someone to find Legolas for me, and Gimli." She smiled faintly. "Where they find one, the other will be, I think. I do not know how long they will remain in the City, and I would have speech with them both."
They came promptly, but while Gimli went at once to bend over the Queen’s hand, Legolas took Canohando aside. "You should be with your soldiers, Commander, getting them ready to march. You cannot linger here in the Queen's Bower if you are to leave in a week's time."
Canohando stared at him in surprise - how did the Elf know - and Legolas smiled sadly.
"I know my Undomiel,” he said. “She will delay a week, not to appear as if she is fleeing the City, but they will not be able to hold her here longer than that. Leave her to our protection during the day, Orc, though I do not know what danger you fear in the heart of the Citadel. But it may comfort her to have old friends about her, and I would spend what time I may with the Evenstar of my people, before she fade away. Aragorn said you watch by her door by night?"
“Always,” Canohando said, and the Elf nodded.
"Good. I do not think there is danger but if there were, it would be more likely to strike by darkness. In daytime trust her to us, while you order your Company. It is no light matter for an Orc to command a troop of Men. You must not neglect them; the Queen's safety on the road may depend on their willingness to obey you."
It was that argument that convinced Canohando. He spoke to Arwen and she sent him off at once: "Of course, Legolas is right. Not for nothing is he Prince of Mirkwood and honored for his generalship! Go, Canohando, and make ready to march."
When he got to the practice field, he was glad he had come. The place was crowded; soldiers from all over the City had gathered there, whether they were on duty or not, as if they sought each other’s comfort in the wake of the King’s passing. They were sitting idle, throwing dice, some of them, or standing around talking in low voices. Quite a few had bought beer from vendors outside the entrance and were drinking steadily, although it was still early. Canohando stopped in the gateway to take in the scene and did not like it at all; his fear of drunkenness came sharply back to him.
He went into the post and confronted the soldier at the desk there. “I want the Queen’s Company for drill; send word for me, youngling. Where will I find the captain on duty this morning?”
The young soldier looked surprised. “He’s in the planning room with his subalterns, sharing a bottle of something, I shouldn’t wonder. You want me to call out your company now? The King died last night, Commander - I don’t think your men are expecting a drill this day!”
Canohando perched on the edge of the desk, folding his arms and staring down at the young man from beneath lowered brows. “If you wanted to attack a great city, what better opportunity than the day after the King’s death? This is no time for the defenders of Gondor to get drunk; it is a time for watchfulness. Now call my men: they will have drill today, whether they expect it or not.”
But when the Company was assembled, not in the best of tempers at having their holiday cut short, Canohando treated them to a drill the likes of which they had never experienced. While he was waiting for them, he had gathered a motley group of men from among those hanging around the field, promising them some entertainment. They were bored, many of them were already tipsy, and they were ripe for mischief. The Queen’s Company had no more than lined up on the practice field, when their Commander leaped among them with a shout.
“You are under attack!” he bellowed. “The Orcs are upon you!” And Canohando led his ragtag band of “orcs” in a mock skirmish that shocked the Company out of their sullen mood and forced them to fight as nearly a real battle as was possible with blunted practice weapons; indeed, they might have been routed from the field if their Commander had not switched allegiance halfway through and come over to their side against the “orcs”. When it was over they sat around exhausted on the ground, and Canohando walked among them saying a quiet word to this man or that, letting his hand rest for a moment on their shoulders.
“That was not bad,” he said at last for all to hear. “But you cannot wait for me to tell you what to do - what would become of you if I fell? And keep your eyes open, for you do not know when an enemy may rise from the very stones!”
He turned suddenly and fell upon the soldier nearest him, pinning the man's arms as he whipped out his knife. But before he could raise it to the man's throat, the fellow had twisted out his grip and drawn his own knife; he had his feet under him, crouched ready to defend himself.
Canohando laughed, sliding his weapon back into its sheath. “Good!” he exclaimed. “You will live to see your grandsons and teach them to fight Orcs in their turn, till there is no more need for such warfare.” He looked round at the Company, manifestly pleased with them, and many of the men grinned back at him, warmed by the praise of their barbaric Commander.
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.