Many Guises and Many Names
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The Commander of Gondor: 3. His Squire
"Quillion. What an interesting name! Did your father name you?" Thorongil asked the very young, nodding, dark-haired boy before him. The child's large eyes were staring up in awe and he got the impression the boy might be mute. That misconception would be rectified quickly. "Why would you like to be my squire?" The boy reminded him of a very young hound pup one of the troopers had: incredibly pleased just to be there, sharing space with them.
"Oh, sir! I want to be a soldier very badly. My father was a soldier, but he died." The boy blinked the tears from his grey eyes quickly and went on. "I could take care of your horse…" Thorongil had a picture in his mind of the youngster trying to hold the half-wild Meara stallion, Dagor. He had nearly trampled Fallon when he had gone to collect him from the barracks stable. "I can polish your armor…," the boy thought hard, "I can clean up and make tea." From his desk, Fallon tried to hide his smile.
"That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard! You are such a baby!" sneered the taller, blonde boy standing next to Quillion. He already wore the livery of the White Tree. The older boy stood at parade rest, his left arm crossed behind his back, exhibiting his training as a cadet and officer's squire. "Commanders don't drink tea," he instructed disparagingly. Thorongil silenced him with a look that caused a hot flush to seep up from under his collar, and the commander turned back to Quillion who still stood bravely, trying not to let the older boy's comments sting.
"Making tea is a very important skill for my squire," Thorongil said gently to the young boy. He looked over both of them carefully and dismissed them to wait outside on the benches. Thorongil turned to Fallon, who was lounging at his desk, listening to the interviews. "I've never had a squire before; I've never needed one and now I have two vying for the job." Fallon grinned.
"Remember, the idea is a squire should actually be able to lift your sword. This boy Lucan has been well trained to do the job. Politically, you should select him since Denethor sends him with his recommendation."
"But the boy has a nasty streak and there's something untrustworthy in him," Thorongil stated, "albeit he is old enough to do the work required." Fallon shrugged noncommittally. "I agree the other is too young but…" Thorongil let his thought trail off, watching his captain carefully for a reaction.
Fallon sighed, knowing he should not share what he was about to with Thorongil. He had known his commander for less than two months now, but realized quickly that the man's keen perception was second only to his kind heart.
"The young boy Quillion is but six years old. His father was killed two years ago at Osgiliath. An orcish arrow pierced his heart as he was standing before me, giving report. He was a fine man and a fine lieutenant-- my lieutenant. Later, I went myself with the news to his wife." Fallon's eyes darkened as he remembered that day. "She is of the impoverished branch of a good family. She took the news stoically, inquired after my health, and fainted in my arms as she escorted me out. These two years have been difficult for her and the last thing she wants is for her son to be a soldier at six. But, the boy is trying to be his father; he will do it either by attaching himself to someone like you or running away to be a horseboy or cook's helper."
Thorongil nodded. Something about the dark haired boy with the adoration in his eyes tugged at Thorongil's heart. At his age, he could have such a son. He thought of Arwen; it had been a long time since he'd last seen her. The two of them should have a fine boy like this one and a daughter or two, proud and wise like their mother.
"Commander?" Fallon was looking at him strangely and Thorongil realized it wasn't the first time he'd called his name. "Have you made a choice?" Fallon asked, already knowing the answer.
"The child has a brave heart and needs a friend," said Thorongil, already giving reasons for his unvoiced decision. "We can protect him if he is my squire."
"My new commander wants to start an orphanage?" Fallon challenged.
"He's got potential----" Thorongil countered.
"In about fifteen years!" Fallon snorted and threw up his hands. "I'll order him some livery and maybe a horse,---a small horse." Fallon went out, sent Lucan back up the hill with a message of the Commander's thanks and regret, and resting his hand on Quillion's head, guided him back into the office.
"Alright, Quillion," Thorongil said, standing by his desk. "You are my new squire, if your mother approves. I hope you are as good a guard of me and mine as your name suggests." The boy, overjoyed, ran to his new master and flung his arms around Thorongil's waist, burying his face in the commander's coat. Thorongil looked helplessly at the laughing Fallon, who finally gained control and in a commanding voice said:
"Squire! That is not how to thank your commander. Bow nicely, say your piece, and come with me. We need to get you a uniform."
The little boy jumped to attention, did a passable bow and murmured, "Oh, thank you, my lord!" Taking Fallon's hand, he danced out the door.
Thorongil sat down at his desk, shaking his head. 'Fallon's right,' he said to himself. 'Why ever did I pick such a small one? I'm insane.'
Later that afternoon, a stern and handsome guard commander was seen by the neighborhood gossips opening the iron gate and knocking at the door of the small, neat townhouse where Quillion and his mother lived. A tall woman, grey-eyed, her chestnut hair coiled and hid beneath a dark scarf, opened the door. She was younger than she seemed, Thorongil noted, and had probably once been considered very beautiful, but her gown was patched and the bleakness in her face made her seem much older. Thorongil was immediately reminded of his mother: the same pain, the same life abruptly ended, showed in her face.
Thorongil introduced himself and she invited him in, through the house to her garden in the rear. The late spring flowers were in bloom, and it was a pleasant, peaceful spot. Bees hummed in the hollyhock and delphiniums. A small fountain burbled in the corner, and Thorongil spied a red-tail lizard basking in the sun on the ledge. Her servant woman brought refreshments and as she poured the tea, she suddenly seemed to remember he was a guard officer and a man and asked if he would like something stronger.
"No, madam, tea is quite fine. My junior officer laughs at me for drinking it though." He smiled at her and she felt more at ease with this grim officer than she wanted to since she knew he had come to take her son.
"That would be Captain Fallon?" she asked. "He has been quite kind to me since---since that day. He's made sure there's always food and firewood enough. He's quite a gentle lord."
"Fallon?" Thorongil had already heard Fallon described by several women but "gentle lord" was the last epithet any would have thought of for his second.
"Yes," she assured him, "he and my husband were friends. Without his assistance, I'm sure we would have lost our home." Thorongil was beginning to think Quillion's arrival in his office had been no accident.
"Lady, your son wishes an appointment as my squire."
She had prepared a delicate and lady-like speech for this moment but realized the commander was a very direct man.
"Commander Thorongil, I do not want my son to be a soldier, though he dreams of following his father's career. He is too young to be a squire and I question why you would want him as one. Young boys in the military are often misused and abused." She held his unwavering grey eyes with a frank accusation and got the answer that she sought. Quillion's mother seemed to relax. "I see that would not be his fate with you. I want my son to be educated. I want him to be able to read and write the Common Speech and Sindarin: his father was of noble blood. Although we have no wealth, I would prefer he be apprenticed to a healer or learn cleric skills when he is old enough. I want better for him than to be gutted by an orc in Osgiliath." Thorongil saw the pain under her harsh speech. He thought again of another widow who a half-century before, had asked the same from an Elven lord.
"Lady, I promise you those things for your son. And I swear to keep him out of harm's way until he is old enough to decide if this is really the career he wants. But it is your choice." Thorongil paused, and then continued. "I think though, if you say nay, he will trail around the garrisons until he finds one that will give him a position." He looked at her directly. "Trust him to me; I'll keep him safe."
The widow and the commander talked politely for a while longer about mundane things. He took his leave and not much later, Quillion came in, dressed in his new livery jacket. He told his mother shyly fearful she would cry that he had an appointment as a squire to Commander Thorongil. She smiled a little sadly at her son's excitement but told him that the commander had been by and she had given her permission. The boy threw his arms around his mother's neck and promised he would always be good and brave and careful.
The next morning, just after dawn, Quillion trotted into the commander's office, wearing his new jacket. The commander, who was an early riser, was already at his desk. The little boy stood at attention and saluted. His commander very formally returned the salute.
"Now, Quillion, you and I must have a talk, so come here." Thorongil lifted him by the waist and sat him on the corner of the desk. "These are your first orders, Squire, so listen to them carefully." The boy sat with huge eyes, taking it all in. "First, your job is to care for my possessions, so you will have a small room in my quarters and will see to brushing my uniforms and tidying up." The boy nodded. "You must visit your mother every day. You must learn to be mannerly and courteous, for it is the mark of an officer and a lord. You must learn the High Tongue, for I cannot have an ignorant squire. You must ask if you have questions about anything at all." The boy looked overwhelmed but kept nodding. "And, Quillion, you must obey me in all things, always. Do you think you can do this?"
"Yes, sir! Oh, yes, sir!" Quillion chattered happily, kicking his heels against the desk's side.
"Oh, and you must obey Captain Fallon, unless you think it may be something I wouldn't want you to do." Quillion nodded sagely as if already aware that Captain Fallon could have many orders the commander might not want him to do. Thorongil lifted him down from the desk. "Go fetch my tea now from the mess. Cook will know what you need." Thorongil grinned as the boy pattered out the door off on his first mission. "Such a small one," he mused to himself.
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