13. Explanations and a Letter
"Norbury is their name for Fornost." Aragorn told him. "Sudbury is Cardol and the Castle is the tower and fortress of Amon Sul."
"And who is this Lady who holds it?" Boromir asked. 'The Princess' or 'Her Ladyship at the Castle' had come up frequently.
"My cousin Aranel keeps the Tower for her son the King of Rhudaur. Protecting the East-West Road is her chief duty."
"That was something else I did not understand," Boromir admitted, "who are these other kings?"
"The rulers of the three sub-kingdoms here in the North." Aragorn smiled a little at his friend's evident bewilderment and continued. "As Elendil discovered it is impossible to rule directly over lands so far apart. Because of the continued threat from Harad and Rhun it was necesssary for me to make Gondor my chief seat, which was not very pleasing to my people here."
"*That* I can understand." Boromir said with an emphasis that amused his King.
Aragorn went on. "I decided to restore the three kingdoms of Old and gave their scepters to my closest kinsmen. The eldest of these, Gilvagor, is King of Arthedain and my vice-regent in the North. Aranel's son, Turamarth, is King of Rhudaur. And another cousin, Belegon, is King of Cardolan. Those were his Rangers we met on the Downs."
"That makes things a little clearer." Boromir looked curiously at his King. "Are these kinsmen of yours anything like you?"
"That you may judge for youself in a few days." ****
Queen Arwen finished reading the letter her husband had sent, a frown creasing her normally smooth white brow. These were very strange tidings indeed, and alarming. There was much for her to do but first -
A small, golden haired figure in a sky blue gown embroidered with nosgays of white and yellow flowers detached herself from the bevy of female attendants sewing and gossiping at the far end of the long room and approached the Queen.
"Yes, my Lady?"
"Find your mother, please, and ask her to come to me if she will."
Elanor Gamgee turned to obey, hesitated, turned back. "Please, ma'am, is Dad - I mean nothing's happened -"
"The Mayor is safe and sound," Arwen assured her quickly, "and back in the Shire by now. I thought Mistress Gamgee might wish to join him there. Not that she is not welcome to remain with us if she prefers."
Elanor dimpled. "She won't."
And sure enough Rose didn't. "If there's trouble my place is with Sam." she said decidedly after Arwen had explained the situation to her in words carefully chosen to convey the seriousness of the threat without unecessarily frightening the Hobbit woman.
"My husband does not anticipate any immediate danger but I'm afraid you will have to have an escort, just in case." the Queen told her. Inspiration struck. "Perhaps some of our Shire Archers? They would be useful to the Mayor and much easier for your people to house than an escort of Men." *1 "That would be better, thank you." Rose tried not to look too relieved. It wasn't that she disliked Men, taken one or two at a time they were quite as pleasant as Hobbits, but in larger numbers they were a bit intimidating, being so big. Happily Elanor didn't seem to think so. She was clearly right at home among all these grand people, which was more than Rose Gamgee nee Cotton, one time barmaid at the Green Dragon could say. "How soon can I leave?" *** The escort arrived late that afternoon, "Just at teatime wouldn't you know it!" Pippin grumbled to Boromir as they watched it ride up the cobbled street to the Inn.
The good folk of Bree paused to watch as well. The cavalcade was definitely worthy of a second glance; a score of tall knights mounted on pale grey horses, their winged helms gleaming sliver in the sunlight, white cloaks fluttering, bearing white shields emblazoned with seven silver stars above a black sword. But the Breelanders, long familiar with such sights, soon moved on about their business.
The leader of the escort named himself as Amrod son of Arothir and was clearly well acquainted with both Aragorn and Butterbur. As Pippin had anticipated the King decided to leave at once even though there were only a few more hours of daylight left, too few to reach Northworthy the first village on the road to Fornost.
Boromir privately agreed a company of twenty armed knights should be enough to make camping safe, and the Hobbits were mollified when Aragorn agreed to delay their departure until *after* tea.
They were even more pleased to discover the Lady Aranel had thought to include a pair of ponies for them as well as horses for the Men.
"Trust her to think of that." Merry beamed. "I'm getting too old to dangle behind Big Folk on their big horses."
"Now if we could just convince you Rangers to take a civilized number of meal breaks!" Pippin added humorously.
"Not much chance of that, I'm afraid." Merry said with a sideong look at Aragorn.
"None at all." smiled the King. ***** 1. Five companies of Hobbit archers, (Hobbits are very fine bowmen) one from each of the four Farthings and Buckland have formed part of the King's Honor Guard when he's in the North ever since Aragorn's first visit in the year 2 of the Fourth Age.
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