“I don’t quite understand why Strider wants Ted and me at this council of his.” Barliman Butterbur said to his son over an early breakfast.
“To represent Bree.” Beomann explained patiently. “We’re part of the realm now, that means we get a say in its affairs.”
Barliman and Ted Tunnelly exchanged dubious looks. Bree didn’t want outsiders meddling in her affairs, so it stood to reason those outsiders wouldn’t appreciate Bree meddling in theirs.
The council was held in a large circular room on the second floor of Elendil’s tower. A huge, round table carved of deep blue stone and inlaid with a mosaic map of the Northlands stood at its center with dozens of chairs ranged around it.
There were a good number of Rangers present, Barliman recognized Gil and Aranel, Belegon and their Aunt Lady Ellian, as well as Beomann‘s friend Dan. And the Easterner Borgil was there too with some of his folk, including young Connegund. And Men of the simple country kind as well like that Osbert Attmeade from the Angle, and Will Greenroot from South of the Road. And a mort of Hobbits: the Thain and young Mr. Pippin, Master Saradoc and Mr. Merry, and Samwise Gamgee, as well as strangers from the River Villages and the south country. And some Dwarves and Elves including the King of the Lake. And some of the Southland folk the King had brought with him.
They all milled around for a bit; the Rangers looking grim as usual, the Easterners pleased and excited, and the other country folk as nervous as Barliman felt. The Dwarves stood in separate clumps, not talking to anybody. But the Elves chatted easily among themselves and with the Rangers like it was a party. And the Southlanders stared at everybody as if they’d never seen their like before.
Finally, right as a bell somewhere tolled three times, Strider came in with the Queen and people began finding seats at the table. “Here, Dad,” Beomann materialized at his shoulder, “you and Ted sit here.”
Barliman found himself placed next to a strange Ranger, a few seats down from Gil, with Lady Aranel on Ted’s other side and the Easterner Borgil beyond her. Then more Rangers and Osbert Attmeade, still more Rangers, Belegon, Will Greenroot and a Hobbit dressed in the same rough clothes, yet more Rangers, then a Man and Hobbit from the River Villages by the looks of them. The Shire Hobbits sat nearest the King and the Elves and the Dwarves were all on the other side of the table, to the left of the Queen.
A lot of people were left standing; the Southlanders behind the King, Beomann and Dan behind Gil, Connegund and the other Easterners behind Borgil, and even more Rangers behind the seated ones.
When everybody was settled in their place Strider began to talk: “In Days of Old the Kings were advised by a Great Council made up of all the peoples under his rule so, following their example, I have summoned you all to advise me on how best to rebuild the North.”
Barliman just hoped the King wasn’t counting to hard on Bree for advice. Building kingdoms was a bit out of his league - and old Ted’s too.
“Long years ago King Arveleg swore to restore the Kingdom of Rhudaur. Now, at last, that promise can be kept. Borgil son of Borondir, I am minded to name my nephew Turamarth son of Ingloron, Heir of Urin and Prince of Endorien King of Rhudaur. If he is acceptable to your people.”
Borgil blinked, plainly startled. “Young Daeron?” then recovered himself. “Your choice is acceptable to us, Dunadan, he is of the Line of Isildur on his mother’s side. But he is too young to reign.”
“That is so.” Strider agreed. “You, my Lord of the Marches, must serve as his regent and protector of the realm until King Turamarth is of age, which will be no easy task. I give the land and people of Angmar to Rhudaur as a free province under the High King‘s law.”
there was a stirring around the table and Borgil frowned.
“That will come hard, Dunadan. I’d rather serve them as they served our folk back in Argeleb’s time.”
Strider smiled at him. “You are a far better Man than that, Borgil. There was a time when all Men served the Shadow. My fathers and yours came back to their right allegiance. The Hill Men will do so too - in time.”
Borgil smiled wryly. “Now I see why you give us Urin’s heir for our King.” then he sobered. “They will betray your trust, Dunadan.”
“No doubt some will.” the King agreed calmly. “But others will not. It is a risk we must take.” he turned his head slightly. “Captain Ingold.” one of the Southern officers, encased in steel under a silver edged black cloak, stepped forward. “Lord Borgil, I am placing the Captain and his company under your command. I trust you have no objections?”
The Easterner looked amused. “With the Northern tribes and the Orcs of Mount Gram and Gundobar on my hands I am ready to welcome any help that is offered.”
“You’ll have ours as well, Borgil.” the black haired Dwarf Lord Curumaith told him and smiled grimly. “We’ll not leave Durin’s birthplace in the hands of Orcs.”
“Or leave it to Men to retake it.” said the redheaded Dwarf next to him.
“Thank you, Lord Phazgan,” said the King, “but we will need your help in clearing Moria, I would ask you to leave Gundobar to the Broadbelts.”
The Dwarf thought about it for a moment then nodded. “Very well. We might as well finish what we started.”
“Will Greenroot and Swithun Delver.” Man and Hobbit started a little as the King turned to them. “I would give the scepter of Cardolan to my kinsman Belegon son of Belecthor of the House of the Great Bow, Prince of Carnarthon, if that is acceptable to you.”
It took Mr. Greenroot a moment to unravel this. “You mean Longbow?” the King nodded, eyes glinting amusement and the Man gave a sigh of relief. “Well why didn’t you say so? Yes, he’ll suit us fine.”
“Belegon,” the King continued, “I am giving the Enedwaith to Cardolan.” Longbow didn’t seem at all pleased at having his territory doubled. “We cannot have the Gwathuirim raiding the South Road and interfering with the rebuilding of Cardol and Tharbad. They have been in a chastened mood since the disastrous end of their alliance with Saruman there will never be a better time to conciliate them.”
“Or to try to.” said Belegon dryly. “Even Elendil failed with the Gwathuirim, but I will try”
Strider called another one of those outlandish King-folk names. “Captain Belegorn.” and a second Southland soldier stepped forward. “Belegon, I am sure you will find good use for the Captain and his company.”
“Indeed I will.” Longbow agreed and smiled at the Man, who blinked almost as if dazzled..
Amazing the change a smile made, Butterbur reflected, Rangers looked like entirely different Men when they did it. Pity they didn’t do it more often.
“The land of Hollin was Elven land of old and its lordship devolves by right upon Elladan and Elrohir, sons of Elrond Half-Elven.” the King continued. “Elladan will be warden of the land north of Hollin Ridge subject to the scepter of Rhudaur. And Elrohir lord of Hollin south of the ridge under the scepter of Cardolan.”
“The Gwathuirim *and* Moria!” Belegon exclaimed. “Thank you very much, Aragorn.”
“You will have my help with Moria.” said Elrohir.
“And ours as well.” put in Phazgan.
“And King Eomer’s aid with the Gwathuirim.” said Strider, then continued; “I would like to see Hollin re-peopled. Osbert,” the Man from the Angle looked up. “your folk are in the best position to do so, North Hollin is just across the Loudwater.”
Attmeade looked interested. “Is it good farmland?”
“I have no idea.” Strider admitted and looked at the Queen’s two brothers who shrugged helplessly.
“The land near the river is fertile enough.” said an Elf farther down the table. “but it grows less so as you get closer to the mountains. Pasture rather than farmland I would say.”
Osbert raised his eyebrows. “Now how would you be knowing that, Gilfanon?”
“I spent time in Hollin when I was young and my kin dwelt there.” the Elf replied. “And I remember there were gardens along the river and hunting parks in the highlands.”
Osbert grinned. “Handy having friends thousand of years old isn’t it?”
“Sometimes.” said the King, several of the other Rangers including Gil, and the Dwarf Curumaith in rough chorus. And a grin flashed its way round the table briefly lighting up the usually grim Ranger faces.
“I have brought with me stone masons, carpenters and other craftsmen from Gondor to begin the work of rebuilding the ancient cities of Fornost and Cardol,” Strider continued, “and to raise a tower and fortress of guard upon Amon Sul as in the Old Days. Lord Curumaith and Lord Phazgan have promised to send us wrights to help with the work, as have the Elves of Amon Geleidh and Imladris.”
“Don’t worry,” Curumaith assured his fellow Dwarf in an all to audible whisper, “Deep Elves aren’t like Wood Elves, you’ll get along fine.”
Another grin, in fact a near chuckle, circled the table.
“I trust so,” said the King straight faced. “But if not we Men are accustomed to keeping the peace between our Elder Kin. Barliman Butterbur,” the innkeeper jumped, “I hear from Gilvagor that you have undertaken to keep the builders supplied with food and other necessities. Thank you.”
“Er, you’re welcome.” he managed to stammer. “It‘s no trouble, all in the way of business - and Bree can always use a bit more custom.”
Strider nodded politely then, to Barliman’s relief, turned his eyes to a silver haired Ranger sitting just beyond the Shire Hobbits. “The Lindons are now part of Arthedain, Grandfather, those parts of South Lindon inhabited by Men will be appended to the Principality of Dor-en-Dunhirion.”
The old Ranger - Strider’s grandfather? how old did that make him? - nodded acceptance, and the King continued: “North Lindon will be a new lordship under the wardenship of Ciryandil son of Aerindur.” and the Ranger next to Barliman bowed his head.
The King paused to take breath and Beomann, standing behind his father, muttered “Here it comes.” Here what came?
“Gilvagor,” Strider said, “you are still next in blood after my daughter and my chief lieutenant and deputy. To you I give the scepter of Arthedain and the viceregency of the Northlands.” the Ranger next to Barliman stiffened and down the table Borgil frowned darkly at the King. “Annuminas will be the High King’s seat here in the North but Gondor must be, for now, my first home.”
“What!” Borgil surged to his feet red with outrage. “Arnor is the High Kingdom and always has been!” Osbert Attmeade looked pretty upset too, but the Rangers didn’t move a muscle or say a word.
“I have a responsibility to my people in the South no less than to you in the North.” The King replied, a steely edge to his voice. “Sauron is fallen but Gondor is still threatened by the kingdoms of Harad and Rhun. I accepted the crown of Gondor would you have me break faith with her?“
Borgil wavered a little under that grimly piercing gaze, but not much. “Elendil appointed deputies to rule in Gondor.”
“So would I had I any kinsman who knew and was known in the South as were Isildur and Anarion.” Strider answered. “But my kin are known only in the North therefore I must trust the North to them and take up the rule of Gondor myself.” he softened his tone. “I do not mean to make the Kingdoms of Arnor subject to Gondor, nor Gondor to the North either. Both realms will be governed by their own laws and their own councils as in the Days of Old and I will be High King equally over both. When Gondor is secure the Queen and I will be able to spend more time here at Annuminas but for now the Southland needs my presence.”
“Borgil,” the Man, stymied but not mollified, looked at Gil who continued gently: “I don’t like it any better than you do, but Aragorn is right. This is how it must be, at least for now.”
Borgil sat down, face still thunderous, and the Easterners behind him looked no happier. The Rangers on the other hand looked exactly as they always did - so why did Barliman feel twitchy, like there was a storm coming?
Hirgon found himself appointed to the service of the new King of Arthedain which promised to be uncomfortable duty as he was in no doubt at all about the mood of his Northern Kinsmen. Hirgon was Dunedain himself with the usual high temper - and the usual strict training in controlling it - so it wasn’t at all hard for him to gauge the degree of anger the Northerners were keeping tightly leashed. However the laws of hospitality held and the Arnorim were as formally and distantly polite as ever to their Southern kin. The Gondorim’s discomfort was chiefly due to guilt. The enormity of King Elessar abandoning his own loyal Northerners for the Kingdom that had denied him and his for so many long centuries had never occurred to any of them - until now.
In fact, Hirgon thought bitterly, not one of them had spared any thought at all for the North or the Dunedain who lived there - as usual. They had simply assumed Elessar would make Gondor his home and chief concern. By now he had heard and seen enough to realize the Northern Dunedain’s troubles were at least as bad as their own. Did Gondor really have a greater need for the King than the Lost Realm?
Elessar apparently thought that they did. The Arnorim respectfully disagreed - and made their feelings known in no uncertain terms. The Southerners were shocked, even offended, by the freedom and familiarity with which the Northerners treated the King but a little envious too, for all that they had firmly repulsed Elessar’s attempts to establish a similar relationship with them.
Perhaps, Hirgon thought bleakly, they dared not let the King come down off his pedestal. For if they ever allowed themselves see him as a Man rather than a legend come to life, they would have to face their own guilt for the hard and bitter years he’d passed in hiding, hunted by the Dark Lord, with the burden of Kingship but none of the power.
Gondor wasn’t ready for that. Even when she’d acclaimed Elessar King she had admitted to no fault. She wanted to pretend the thousand year denial of the throne to the true King had never happened, and Elessar was magnanimous enough to let her. But Hirgon knew such self deception couldn‘t last. Gondor had always prided herself upon her honor. Sooner or later her own conscience would force her to face the past - and pay for it.
Aragorn stationed himself in the King’s Square before the Palace, as the custom was, to hear the petitions and protests of his people - and there were plenty of the latter! He sent a group of complainants away, unconvinced but thoughtful, and turned to find Gilvagor at his shoulder.
“Feeling a bit beleaguered?” his foster son asked, a glint of slightly malicious amusement in his eye.
“Not at all.” Aragorn answered dryly. “It makes a refreshing change. When my Southern subjects are offended with me I have to guess why, they’d never dream of telling me.”
Gilvagor arched a brow. “That must be uncomfortable.”
“Very.” Aragorn agreed grimly. “Not to mention maddening at times.” he shrugged wearily. “Either the Anarioni enjoyed playing guessing games - or they didn’t care what their people thought.”
“Of course we have rather let standards slide these last centuries.” Gilvagor pointed out mildly. “Perhaps our people have not always been so forward.”
“Oh yes they have, or so my wife says. The Men of the North always spoke their minds to their lords, back to Elendil himself.”
Gilvagor laughed. “Perhaps it is the Runedain influence.”
“Perhaps,” Aragorn agreed. “If so I hope they influence my Gondorim as 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.