18. By Word of the King
They were unsuccessful in their search. Sidaizon followed Vedezir all through the palace, from the great entrance hall to a number of narrow, winding corridors that looked as if they led to private residences. They walked down the road to the barracks of the King's Hands, where the palace guard practised their drills, and up to the cave of the the hot springs, where Vedezir informed Sidaizon he was not allowed to enter by virtue of the fact that he had not been born into the nobility. No matter where they looked, Ingwion could not be found.
Disheartened, Sidaizon returned to his bedroom to wait for the midnight council. A little stone of anxiety and dread started to form in his gut. Only a few hours remained: the sun had already started to set below the peaks of the western mountains. Vedezir left him alone to wash and dress and make himself as presentable as he could manage, but returned two hours later bearing a large, blue bottle.
"Here," said Vedezir, handing the bottle to Sidaizon. "This will help with the nerves."
"What is it?" Sidaizon asked.
Carefully, Sidaizon removed the stopper in the top of the bottle and sniffed the contents. A sour-sweet, tangy smell hit his nose, like a mixture of overripe fruit and medical ointment.
"I'm told it's very bearable once one develops a taste for it," said Vedezir. "However, I've never been able to manage enough to do so."
Sidaizon sniffed the bottle again, and tentatively raised the bottle to his lips. At a first taste, it was difficult to tell whether this new drink was good or bad. Mostly, it was just strong.
"Bearable?" asked Vedezir.
"I don't know yet," said Sidaizon. He ran his tongue over his teeth. The aftertaste was worse than the wine itself.
"Good enough. Here's what you do. Pour yourself one glass. Sip it slowly. Keep sipping until you begin to feel pleasantly warm and uplifted. Once you reach that point, drink only sparingly every few minutes: just enough to keep the feeling of warmth. If you accidentally take too much and start to become dizzy, wait and drink nothing until the dizziness has subsided. The right dosage will calm your nerves, enhance your confidence, and let you speak more easily in front of the Oraistari. Too much will make you silly, reckless, sleepy, or even ill. Be careful."
"Right," Sidaizon said with a nod. He took up a glass from a tray the servants had left for dinner and poured himself a small measure. The wine was clear and palest yellow, hardly more substantial than water. "How much is too much?"
"Well, that varies from person to person," Vedezir answered. "I've seen some of the Hands down an entire bottle to no effect, and yet I have no head for the stuff and am rolling on the floor laughing like an idiot, and shortly thereafter vomiting all over myself, with only one glass."
"Oh," said Sidaizon. He looked warily at the wine. It seemed harmless enough, though, he reminded himself, so did many poisonous plants.
"Start with one glass," Vedezir said, clapping him on the shoulder. "If you need more, drink more, but I'd advise against more than three. And, erm, leave the bottle somewhere out of sight when you're finished. Strictly speaking, neither of us is allowed to have it." With a grin, he turned to go. "I'll see you at midnight."
"You won't stay to help me drink this?"
"No, I need all my wits about me tonight, so I think rolling on the floor laughing and vomiting would be a really terrible thing for me to do right now. You'll have to have all the fun on your own."
He disappeared out into the corridor, shutting the door as he left. The room seemed suddenly very quiet. Sighing, Sidaizon held the bottle up to the firelight; through the dark blue glass, he could see that it was nearly full, holding at least six moderate servings of wine. Gently, he shook the bottle, and the wine splashed up the sides. No sense in delaying, he thought to himself. He sat down in a chair near the sluggishly dying fire, set the bottle on a small table at his side, and lifted his glass. He hesitated only a moment to inhale the sharp smell of it before taking a sip.
The wine tingled in his mouth and down his throat, leaving warmth in its wake. He took another sip, holding this one in his mouth, trying to decide whether or not he liked the taste. It was both sour and sweet, cold and hot, reminding him of vaguely of something rotten, though the sensation was not as off-putting as it should have been. It was strange, but not wholly unpleasant. Slowly, he finished one glass, and poured himself a second. He did not yet feel warmed through or uplifted.
The night dragged on. Outside, owls called to one another in the distance, but no sound came from the corridor. Sidaizon poured himself another glass of wine. The taste was slowly improving with each sip he took. It was sweeter now, and the rotten undertones had all but disappeared. Still, he could feel none of the effects Vedezir had described. His nerves still sang with tension, the knot of dread in his stomach was as large as ever, and his mind remained fixed obsessively on the impending council. He knew what they would ask. They would demand to know why he had allowed the Yaranénon family within the Lavazat's courtyard walls, and why he had lied about doing so. The trouble was, he had no idea what he could say. He had broken the law. He had done what he thought right, but his version of right and wrong did not necessarily align with that of the Oraistari.
He poured another glass. How long would they make him wait? It had to be nearly midnight. He finished the wine in one large mouthful. It was doing nothing at all, save for some mild tingling in his neck. Perhaps he needed to drink faster. He muttered a curse at Vedezir as he poured again, and was shocked to see that the bottle was suddenly empty, dribbling out its last dregs.
The knock that came at the door as he put aside the empty bottle nearly caused him to jump out of his chair. The door opened, and a King's Hand poked his head into the room.
"It's nearly time. Please make yourself ready to meet the King. I will be waiting out here to escort you."
"Of course," said Sidaizon as the Hand shut the door. He set his glass down on the table and smoothed his hands over his robes, checking to make sure he had not spilled on himself. The white linen showed a few wrinkles, but was otherwise in order. He was as presentable as he would ever be. He held his breath as he gripped the arms of the chairs, and forced himself to stand.
The effects of the wine hit him full force like a hammer blow to the forehead the moment he rose to his feet. The floor seemed to lurch and sway; he grabbed the back of the chair to steady himself. The room spun. He closed his eyes against the dizzying movement, but that only made things worse; without sight, he could not balance, and he stumbled sideways before falling to one knee. His entire body wobbled as he tipped slowly forward, coming to rest like an animal crawling on all fours.
Something about that thought struck him as very funny: an Almatar in white robes crawling like an animal, or even an animal in Almatar's robes in the King's palace. Perhaps a sheep. He pictured a sheep in his clothing going to council with the Oraistari, and started laughing so hard that tears came to his eyes and he choked on his own breath. He could put his robes on a sheep and send it to council, where the Oraistari would be hard pressed to notice the difference, given that they paid so little attention to anything other than their own hairstyles. Eäzinya, though, might be upset if a sheep came home in his place.
He forced himself to stifle his laughter as he pulled his way up to lean on the back of the chair, though he could not fully tame the grin that kept stretching his mouth. The empty wine bottle sat on the little side table, looking almost black in the dim firelight. He needed to hide it. Vedezir had told him so. He grabbed it clumsily in one hand, nearly knocking both it and the glass over as he did, and stowed it beneath the chair. It still gleamed blue-black, looking nothing like a hidden bottle and everything like a bottle that somebody had accidentally put beneath a chair. Sidaizon snorted at his own foolishness and bent down onto his hands and knees once more, pulling up the edge of the bedroom rug and shoving the bottle back as far as he could reach underneath it. The shape of the bottle made a large lump, but the rug was quite patterned, so it was possible that nobody would notice.
Satisfied with his handiwork, he shuffled his way to the door with all his concentration on the art of not falling over. The Hand waited on the other side, looking bored.
"You are ready?" the Hand asked.
Sidaizon smiled brightly. "Yes."
"You're in good spirits."
"Yes, I am! Thank you very much." He smiled again. The Hand only shrugged and turned to lead the way down the corridor.
The King's dining hall where the Oraistari held their council was not far. It seemed to Sidaizon that he had scarcely left his bedroom when suddenly he stood before gilded double doors flanked on either side by palace guards holding those strange, decorative golden pikes. One of the double doors had been pulled open. The Hand stepped inside, stopping just over the threshold to block the way so that Sidaizon could not follow, and bowed low.
"Almatar Sidaizon Mótazyo of Oichimyaiva," he announced.
"Bid him enter," someone replied.
Sidaizon followed the order as the Hand moved aside, stepping into the grand dining hall of the King. Light assailed him from all sides; he lifted his hand to shield his eyes from its blinding brilliance. Hundreds upon hundreds of candles hung suspended from the ceiling in vast golden frames like some latticework sun. Their flickering light reflected off the walls of white tile, amplifying every little flame. The very room glowed. In its centre was a long, white table, and down either side of the table stood the Oraistari in their robes of gold. Sidaizon glanced quickly over their faces, searching for any he recognised, though his vision was somehow fuzzy. There was Vedezir halfway down the left side, easy to pick out due to the fact that his hair was less than a third of the size of everyone else's. Sidaizon smiled at him. Vedezir's eyebrows rose in a strange expression, and he did not smile in return. Sidaizon expected nothing less; of course Vedezir would not be able to openly support him at this council.
Next but one to Vedezir stood the gaunt-faced Provost of the Academy, with the Rector, looking tired and grey, on his right. Directly across from the Rector stood the one who had come to the Lavazat, whom Vedezir had named Oraistar Tayóron. The man at Tayóron's right looked similar to one of the three who had come to investigate the ghost, though with his massively curled wig in place it was impossible to say for certain. There were some men Sidaizon recognised as those who taught at the Academy, and some he knew by sight but whose names he could not recall. Near the head of the table were those highest and greatest in power: the Six that Vedezir had mentioned. Among the Six sat the Oraistar of Valmar, who ruled the great Lavazat at the city's centre and whom Sidaizon saw frequently. Next to him was Ingwírion, looking smug. And at the table's head was the only seated man. Ingwë, High King of all the Elves, looked small and frail in his throne of gold. Sidaizon lowered his head respectfully, though in his private thoughts he wondered at how strange it was that they should all obey such an insubstantial person. Ingwë looked as if a strong gust of wind might blow him away. And yet he served the Lord of the Winds. Sidaizon bit his lips together to keep from laughing at the absurdity of it.
"Be seated," said Ingwë. His voice was as slight and airy as his body, echoing down the table in little more than a whisper. But the Oraistari heeded his order at once, sitting and scraping chair legs across the tiles in an ear-grating cacophony. Sidaizon looked for a chair; there was none to be had.
"Kneel, Almatar," a stronger and colder voice commanded.
Sidaizon kept his head bowed but glanced up through is eyelashes. It was Ingwírion who addressed him.
"There where stand you table's end. Kneel."
Shakily and with a care not to fall, Sidaizon sank to his knees. He bit his lips as hard as he could bear, desperate not to laugh or even smile at how silly it must have looked to hold a council at which there were too few chairs. Despite his best efforts to contain his laughter, his shoulders shook.
"Fear not, Almatar," someone near his end of the table said kindly. "Only tell us the truth, and be all well resolved."
"I am not afraid," he answered.
Several voices at the table hissed. "Thinks he speak us not having been requested?" asked one.
"Be silent," said Ingwírion. He did not specify who should be silent, but the Oraistari ceased their hissing. "Almatar Sidaizon Mótazyo," he continued. "You are summoned purposing answer several accusations, believe committed you treasons most grave. These are, first: deliberately you granted leave several heretics enter the courtyard the Lavazat keep you, and permitted them light a heretic fire!"
Ingwírion slapped his fist down on the table for emphasis, the council of Oraistari hissed and muttered vicious words to each other, and Sidaizon stared at them all, utterly lost. He had found it difficult enough to decipher Ingwion's bizarre court-speech the night before, and Ingwírion was no better. Had he been asked a question? The Oraistari all stared in his direction, most of them looking cruelly expectant. "Ah," he said.
They did not hiss and reprimand him for speaking out of turn again. They wanted an answer. So Ingwírion had asked him something, though what it was could be anyone's guess. Ingwírion had mentioned heretics and the courtyard, but those two things alone did not form a question.
Vedezir leaned forward and spoke slowly to clarify. "Allowed you Yaranénor access the Lavazat Oichimyaiva courtyard?"
"Oh," said Sidaizon. "Yes. I did."
"Why?" asked the Provost.
This was the question he had been contemplating all evening, ever since Vedezir told him why he had been summoned. He remembered having thought it through in great detail, agonising over what his answer would be and how he would defend himself. Now the question no longer seemed the least bit troubling. The answer was obvious. "Well, it was a compromise," he answered easily.
"A compromise?" said someone from the right side of the table.
"Yes. You see, because the woman died Valadávan, there was no question but that her body should be buried." Many of the Oraistari nodded in agreement at this. "However, in fairness to her parents, who were denied the comfort of seeing their daughter's ashes thrown to the stars, I suggested a compromise. The dress she died in was full of her blood. I would have had to burn it anyhow, unclean as it was. So I let her parents build a small fire on her grave, where they burned the dress and then collected those ashes to throw to the stars.
Five Oraistari jumped up at this, shouting furious objections, while others still seated looked equally enraged and offended. But some, at least eight, Sidaizon was pleased to see, regarded him with curious, calculating expressions.
"And they were peaceful?" asked one of the calm Oraistari.
"Yes. The woman's family had come to the Lavazat with the intention to burn it and cause a riot. After their little fire on the grave, they all left in peace. No-one was harmed and nothing was damaged."
"And why lied you Oraistar Tayóron your actions?" someone else demanded.
"Because it had already been done, and there was no changing it," said Sidaizon. "I did not wish to trouble Oraistar Tayóron with what was in the past."
"Lies!" cried Tayóron, leaping up from his chair. "You spoke lies your superior!"
Most of the others shouted in agreement at this. They banged their hands on the table and voiced their support for Tayóron, and Sidaizon had to shout to make himself heard over their noise.
"Yes, I lied, because I thought it was best!"
Shocked, the Oraistari fell immediately silent, staring at him.
"Yes, I lied!" Sidaizon repeated. He, too, had jumped to his feet, and stood dizzily clinging to the edge of the table while a stream of wine-slick words flowed from his tongue. Calm and clear, they sounded like someone else's speech. They passed from his heart to his mouth without thought. "I lied to an Oraistar, because it was the right thing to do! Oraistar Tayóron came to my Lavazat with a warning against something that had already happened. He had no idea how things were in the city: the tension and the danger. He came down from Taniquetil knowing nothing about the violence, with a head full of high ideals that just do not work when lives are threatened and people are afraid for their safety and their families. I'm sure you mean well, Oraistari, but you have no idea how the common people live, and how your well intended laws affect us. I try to uphold them. By Manwë, I try! But sometimes it is impossible. Sometimes we have to think for ourselves. So I lied. I'm not proud of it, but I am satisfied that I did the right thing."
"And are you satisfied you know best?" asked a voice at Sidaizon's back.
Glancing over his shoulder, he saw what had caused the Oraistari to fall silent and stare. His outburst and admission to lying had been nothing more than coincidental. There framed by the double doors was Ingwion, standing tall in his immaculate white and gold uniform. All eyes followed him as he stepped casually into the hall, walking in a wide curve around the table to his seat at the King's right hand.
Ingwë was the only one who smiled. "Prince Ingwion," he said in his soft voice. "Son."
"Father." Taking Ingwë's hand, Ingwion kissed the three gold rings.
"What mean you this?" Ingwírion asked sharply. "Here meets council the Oraistari!"
"Here meets council decides the fate our law," Ingwion corrected. "Be you the law, then conduct you this alone. I represent, however, the Hands, being they enforcers the city entire. I believe this concerns me." Settling back into his chair, he turned his clear gaze to Sidaizon. "I pray you continue, Almatar. Tell me: are you satisfied you know best? More your betters the Oraistari?"
All of the Oraistari looked to Sidaizon, with the exception of Ingwírion, who continued to glare furiously at his brother. Sidaizon kept his eyes on Ingwion. The Prince wore the slightest hint of a smile, conspiratorial and reassuring.
Sidaizon opened his mouth, and took a wild chance on fate. "Yes," he said.
A rumble of outrage rose from the table, and more Oraistari leapt up from their chairs to shake their fists at this treasonous answer. Ingwion grinned. "And how know you better, Almatar?"
"I don't presume to know everything better," Sidaizon explained. "I would not dare challenge the Oraistari on laws or prayers or the word of Manwë, as they are far wiser than I. But when it comes to the way common people live, and the hardships common people face, I would say that, yes, I know better than they, because that is the life I live. Their struggles are my own, and so I understand well what guidance they need when they come to me for advice. The poor of the city care little for the laws of Taniquetil," he continued, at which the Oraistar of Valmar on Ingwírion's left stood up to contradict him loudly.
"More lies! You mock this council your sedition!"
"No, it is true," Sidaizon insisted. "You, Oraistar, see the poor come to pray in your silver Lavazat, but you see them rarely, and never speak with them one to one. The Laws of Taniquetil, of faith and morality, were written for the higher classes: the nobles and the wealthy landowners, the people who are able to live their lives by ideals and have no worry of how they will pay rent on a small house they can barely afford, or whether or not they will be able to buy shoes this winter. If you tell a poor farmer he must pray four times a day, do you think he will do it, when he needs to wash the dirt from his body before praying because Manwë will not listen unless he is perfect and clean? No, of course not. He'll stay out in his field trying to harvest his crops before they rot in the rain, and then come to me to ask if I think he will be damned for working to feed his family. And then I will tell him no. As long as he is an honest and hard-working man who holds Manwë in his heart and prays when he can, be that once a day or once a week, then that is good enough."
"Blasphemy!" spat another of the Oraistari.
"No, it is common sense," said Sidaizon. "And compromise. If you tell that farmer how Manwë will cast him aside if he fails at his four daily prayers, it will be he who casts Manwë aside first in frustration. And he will become bitter and lawless. Isn't it better to compromise and have him do the best he can rather than insist on the impossible?"
"No," said the Oraistar.
"Yes," said Ingwë.
At once, the entire table was silenced. The Oraistar who had spoken bowed his head, shrinking back into his chair, but Ingwë seemed not to notice him.
"Almatar Sidaizon, please continue," Ingwë said. "You speak well minded fairly."
Sidaizon nodded, though he found that his hands were now shaking. He was as dizzy as ever, and he had lost the flow of words that a moment ago had come so easily. "Thank you... thank you, your Highness. I... yes. Compromise. With the common people. We must... we must allow the laws to be flexible to accommodate those who would otherwise be excluded. As I compromised with the Yaranénor. Had I not let them into the courtyard to have their fire, they would have tried to burn the Lavazat and kill me. Then they may have gone on down the road to start a riot and burn homes and attack innocent people. Instead, they left peacefully. Isn't peace better than destruction and violence, even if laws must be set aside?"
Ingwë nodded. "Yes. This I believe. I desire peace the city wide. Peace and goodness obeying the law, but first peace."
Leaning forward, Vedezir spoke to address Ingwion. "My Prince, how many riots rage this week?"
"No riots," Ingwion answered.
"So there is peace?"
"Yes. The city is peaceful, only usual thieves and drunkards marring its perfection."
Ingwë nodded again. "It joys me hear so."
"Indeed," Ingwion agreed. "There has been no violence several days lasting. The actions our Almatar well diverted crisis, perhaps."
"Unlawfully," Ingwírion interjected. "Peace or not, the means employed lie excluded the law's barriers! Might were my Oraistari consulted..."
If Ingwírion spoke quickly when addressing the council, his words were twice as rapid when arguing with his brother. Ingwion's reply, too, flowed at great speed; these two had years of practice in baiting one another. Their voices rose higher and louder, cutting across and interrupting as if each knew exactly what the other was about to say. Sidaizon was able to follow none of it. The hail of angry words stormed down the table, making no more sense than meaningless sounds shouted at random.
The Oraistari stat patiently at the table, looking at their hands and waiting for the argument to end. Sidaizon tried to catch Vedezir's eye in hope of being able to discern whether or not this was the way councils normally proceeded, but had no luck. Vedezir, like the others, stared at his hands and pretended nothing was awry. Only Ingwë seemed to be listening to the fight. He looked from one son to the other, following the path of the shouting with an appraising frown on his face.
"Interference!" Ingwírion shouted. He must have concluded his argument; he turned his shoulder to Ingwion and glared at the assembly, searching his Oraistari for signs of support. A few looked up from their hands to nod and murmur to themselves.
"And what say you this, Almatar Sidaizon?" Ingwion asked. "Agree you your Oraistar?"
"I..." Sidaizon blinked and swallowed, as if it might help clear the fuzziness in his head and provide some miraculous answer to the question he did not understand, and looked out of the corner of his eye toward Vedezir. Vedezir still stared at his hands and offered no hint or help. "I don't know," he finished.
"Have you nothing for saying me?"
"No admonishments in support my brother?"
"Then I may beg you tell, Almatar Sidaizon, how came you deciding join the Academy? For it seems me you have too much sense being this group a part."
It had been nothing more than a joke, a barb thrown out to sting Ingwírion, who bared his teeth in an ugly sneer. But Ingwë leaned forward in his chair with a sudden light in his eyes. "Yes! This you must tell, Almatar; it enjoys me hearing stories the folk deciding attend our mountain Academy. Why chose you so?"
Sidaizon paused only a moment before answering. Speaking the truth had done him well enough so far; he had no cause to hold back now. "Spite," he said. "And revenge."
Ingwion threw his head back and laughed out loud. "Spite and revenge!" he said. "Please tell me!"
"It is a tale you may find strange, my Lords," Sidaizon continued. "When I was forty-two years old, a law was passed barring any woman from being the master of her own household. For her own good, it was said. So that foul characters would not take advantage of a woman on her own."
"I remember," Ingwion said. "I wrote the law. It is law still."
"And an inconvenient law, because at that time I lived with my mother. My father, a Noldorin soldier, had long ago left to follow Fëanáro into the east. My mother and I lived alone and she was master of her own house. But under this new law, she required some male protector: a husband or father or son. And even though she had a son, I was only forty-two, and not old enough to be considered her legal caretaker. So she was forced to sell her house, and we had to go live with my grandfather."
"Ensuring her own protection," said Ingwion.
Sidaizon dared not argue. "Yes, I agree with that now. I raged against it at the time, but in the end it was this law that set me on my path. I hated my grandfather, you see, and he hated me. In his eyes I had ruined my mother's life by simply existing. Had I not been born, he could have pretended her marriage to the Noldorin soldier never existed, and she would have stayed in his house in the guise of a respectable old maid. Instead, all the neighbourhood knew what she had done, and the family was shamed. So he hated me. He treated me like an unwanted beggar. After less than a year, I could take no more, and I ran away from home."
"To the Academy?" asked the Provost.
"No," Sidaizon answered, shaking his head and staring firmly at Ingwion. "To the King's Hands. That was my first choice."
"What!" Ingwion shouted.
"What better way to be revenged on my grandfather than become a soldier with the power to make his life very miserable? But no, they wouldn't take me."
"Absurd!" said Ingwion. "What terrible reason gave they you? Were I there..."
"I was only forty-three. Their rules are absolute: one must be fifty years old to enlist. The man who turned me away looked sorry to do so. He encouraged me to return the day I turned fifty, and assured me I would be accepted then."
"That is true," Ingwion allowed. "But could you not wait seven years only?"
"No," Sidaizon said. "I could not spend another seven days in my grandfather's house, let alone seven years.
"And so you went to the Academy," offered the Provost.
Again, Sidaizon shook his head. "Not yet. After being refused by the King's Hands, I didn't know what else to do. And so I went to the bath house at the centre of the city and stood at the gate for a long time, trying to find the courage to go inside and take up the life my grandfather always told me I deserved. I stood there until nightfall, when a kind man asked me what I was doing. An Almatar. I told him my plan, shameful as it was. He asked me to reconsider before I threw myself away, and took me home where his wife gave me good food and a place to sleep for the night. The next day, he suggested that there might be a better path I could take." He paused to smile at the Provost. "And then I went to the Academy. I stayed there for sixty years. It was harder than I ever would have imagined, but every time I thought of leaving I remembered how much I hated my grandfather, and how terrible it would be to go back to the city and face him as a failure. I stayed to spite him: to show him that I could make something worthwhile of myself. When I finished my studies I was awarded a position as an assistant scribe in one of the larger Lavazati, where I made hardly any money, but it was enough to rent a small room. I took my mother with me. We've been free of him ever since. I suppose I should thank him, really; if it weren't for his contempt, I would have never fought so hard to better myself and prove him wrong."
For a long, drawn-out moment, no-one at the table spoke. Sidaizon looked plainly back at the faces that regarded him. The Provost and Rector seemed to be whispering to each other. Ingwírion still scowled, while Ingwion's expression was unreadable. Ingwë alone showed sadness and even disappointment in his eyes.
"You went only escaping your family?" he asked. "Not believing truth and goodness?"
"Not when I first went," Sidaizon admitted. "No. But I learned. I came to believe that fate sent me there. I have no doubt that I was meant to go to the Academy, and meant to be a better person, and meant to become an Almatar so that I can repay the kindness I was shown that day outside the bath house. I believe that if my life could be turned right, so can anyone's, and I will help to do so in any way I can."
The answer was good enough for Ingwë, who slowly nodded and leaned back in his throne. Ingwírion took this as his cue to stand. "Very sweet," he said, in a voice that was sour as vinegar. "We all believe you now a righteous man, Almatar Sidaizon. But how address we the lies? Treasonous lies, agrees the council. Your touching story changes nothing the present. So how best we punish you this digression? This treason?"
"Be it best you punished him not at all," said Ingwion. "His actions brought the city peace."
"Actions flouting the law!"
"As I enforce the law, those I may forgive him."
"These are laws the Oraistari only!" Ingwírion all but shouted. "Disobedience thus you may not forgive, King's Hand! It is my rule! Stay you silent!"
"Stay you both silent."
All muttering and grumbling at the table ceased at those words. It was Ingwë who spoke, his voice full of quiet power, and Ingwë who slowly pushed himself up out of his vast throne to stand at the head of the table. The hall rang with the scraping of chair legs on the tile floor as all the Oraistari rushed to leap up as well.
"This is a matter the Oraistari and the King's Hands both," Ingwë said. "And I fear it is impossible have my sons come resolving this matter. Therefore, I shall make the decision my own."
There were little gasps from a handful of the Oraistari at that: some wore uncontained expressions of shock, while others showed nothing more than faint lines of tension in their faces. Even Vedezir frowned with uncertainty, keeping his eyes on the King. Either he was an accomplished actor, or he was just as surprised as the others at the quietly masterful way in which their council had been overruled.
"You have decided us, Father?" The question came from Ingwírion, though it sounded more like a thinly disguised statement of frustration at his sudden loss of power.
"I have," said Ingwë. He stood looking out at them all, small against the overbearing backdrop of his golden throne but no less commanding for his delicate stature. When he raised his hand he drew the attention of everyone in the hall like a magnet. "Almatar Sidaizon."
Sidaizon, for the first time, felt his stomach knot and his heart squeeze itself despite the giddy, dizzy glow of the wine. "Your Highness," he murmured. Bowing his head, he sank to his knees before the King.
"Now is my word, and you are bound its law; never may I be gainsaid. Here I announce your fate. Listen well."
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.