AN: here's another chapter, Iloveorlando, and I hope you enjoy it. You get to see a lot of things in this one: Donovan's interest in politics, Michael's family life, Cothiel's relationship with her father, Aragorn's feeling of protection for his daughter...hopefully you enjoy it. Anyone else reading this, I ask that you please review!
Read, enjoy, and review!
HONOR AND GLORY
PARENTS CAN BE ANNOYING
Prince Donovan Cerridwen, Lord of the Durvagorian Army, listened as the men seated around the table went over dry subjects such as taxes throughout Gondor, how the crops were doing, where random skirmishes with orc raiders were taking place, things like that. He shifted slightly, but remained leaning against the same column he had leaned against during Gondor's darkest hour during the War of the Ring. Smiling softly at the memory, he relaxed more as he waited for the dry subjects to be over with. He would rather be with his wife in Ithilien, but he had been called to Minas Tirith because of the attack that had taken place a month and a half ago. Ambassadors had been sent to the elven leaders still remaining in Arda, and had returned yesterday. He sighed as he wondered how Elenloth was doing…he knew she was safe, as their home was practically located in the middle of the Durvagorian Army HQ and the soldiers were on alert, but he knew that she worried about him. His hand went to his chest, running over where his scar from the Witchking was. He would give anything to not be in pain, even for one day, but he knew that the sharp ache would be present with him until the day he died.
"-and there is the matter of the Elite Guard soldier, Sergeant Michael Âmul," Aragorn said from the head of the table. Donovan perked up at the mention of Michael, for he had been the one to put him in his current position, despite his young age. His father had been an exceptional soldier, and it looked like his son was following suit. "I'd like to have him rewarded, but your reports on him state that he does not desire to be promoted, Donovan."
He nodded. "That's correct. He works best with the squad he's with, and I wouldn't be surprised if he stays a sergeant for a long time. He's happy there, Aragorn."
Aragorn frowned thoughtfully as he steepled his fingers. "What would you suggest?"
Donovan rocked on his feet, lips pursed with thought. Reaching a decision, he looked up. "Make him a knight. I can support that by giving him some medals." When the other nobles in the court started protesting, he held up a hand, and they quieted down almost immediately. He glanced around the faces, noting the ones that didn't look angry…Boromir and Faramir, Halbarad Dúnadan, Prince Imrahil…all those who fought with him during the War of the Ring. All of the politicians who had not gone to war were the ones who had protested. "Does not saving the life of a daughter of King Elessar count as an act of nobility?" he asked quietly, but projecting his voice so that all heard him. "He protected her body with his, not caring if he would live or die. I'd say that that is the actions of a knight, and I think he should thusly be rewarded."
Aragorn nodded. "It shall be done, then. Make note of it. Now, what news do we have from our elven cousins?" he asked, looking towards his diplomats and their elven counterparts.
The elf from Lothlorien spoke first. "My lord, I have news from my Lady Galadriel that she is shocked at this blatant display of animosity from one of the firstborn, and that she wants it to be known that she supports Prince Donovan Cerridwen just as much now as she did from the moment of their first meeting. She pledges our support in trying to find out who is behind this atrocity so that the strain put between the two races can be resolved." Donovan smirked at the words. Diplomats. Wordy bunch, every single one of them. He wasn't worried about the assassin coming from Lothlorien, not even from the beginning. Lady Galadriel wouldn't have stood for it.
The Eryn Lasgalen elf stood next, a haughty expression on his face. "King Thranduil wants this to be known: he acknowledges Cerridwen as an ally of Eryn Lasgalen, and while he does not agree to his heritage, he does not find it a reason to slay someone," he sniffed disdainfully, and Donovan's eyes flicked to Legolas as the elf prince shifted uncomfortably. No doubt he wasn't entirely happy with the message his father had sent back. Donovan didn't care, but he didn't rule out Eryn Lasgalen as the source of the assassin. Certainly not an assassin being funded by Thranduil, but he didn't have complete control over all his elves. Some might have the authority and the initiative to send someone to try and remove the 'vampire scourge' from Middle Earth.
Finally the elf from Ithilien stood, and Donovan acknowledged her with a nod. That particular elven settlement was not far from his home, and he had even visited it several times, even if just to understand his wife's culture better. "My Lord Donovan, my Lord Elessar, you are both familiar with the elves of my home, and our leader frequently visits your fair city while he is not travelling with his companion, Gimli, son of Gloin. Indeed, you both acknowledge him as a friend, so you know that he would never in his lifetime dare order an attack to be brought upon either of you or your families. However…" she started, suddenly visibly uncomfortable, and she looked to Legolas, who gave a grave nod. "However, investigation has revealed that some elves openly detest anyone of vampire descent, but it is unknown if they would be willing to attack the citadel in such an obvious manner. Know that we are looking into the matter thoroughly." Bowing her head in shame, she whispered an apology before taking her seat. Donovan frowned, and looked to Legolas for confirmation, and he silently snarled as the elf prince gave another short nod.
"This is grave news indeed, but we mustn't let it control our lives," Aragorn said, but it was easy to see that he was deeply troubled by the news. Shaking his head, he looked over the counsel. "We have the anniversary of the Battle of Minas Tirith approaching, and we need to arrange for the memorial ceremony. Arthros, you volunteered to be in charge of the…"
Donovan ignored the rest of the meeting, his mind racing, analyzing the data he had learned. What did it mean to have a single elf try and assassinate him and his family, and then find out that the most likely source of the attack was the lands that were ruled by one of his few friends? It was troubling, to say the least…
Michael stared at the missive, shocked. Him? A knight?! His sister cackled delightfully. "Congratulations, sir knight!" she laughed, and he blushed furiously. Leave it to his oldest sister to make him feel like a little child again.
"Come on, sister, that isn't fair!" he protested, and looked to his parents for help. He should have known better than to go to them for quarter.
His mother was smiling as tears swam in her eyes. When he had first arrived for the visit to his parents' house, she had burst into tears at the sight of him still limping a little and his arm still bandaged from the arterial wound. While the sleeves of his dress uniform had hidden the wound from the princess, his sleeveless tunic that he wore for the visit did not offer the same protection. He was glad that he hadn't come earlier when he still had many bandages still healing. He was also glad that he would be healed by the end of the week. After nearly two months of healing, he was finally able to start exercising, and his squad had been reassembled and were scheduled to return to their duties before the end of a fortnight.
Now, however, he had decided to visit his family, and had been pleased to find Hanariel there. She was visiting from her home in Ithilien with her husband and children, though they had opted to explore the city until a later hour. At least…he had been pleased until the message came and gave him the news that was both good and bad at the same time.
"So," his father smiled. "You're noble now. Welcome to the club," he laughed, and Michael could only groan. His father was minor nobility because of his days as a Captain, even though he didn't exercise any of the authority behind his name. To tell the truth, Michael hadn't been all that interested in being considered gentry, which is why he was glad that his father's title wasn't hereditary. Now, though…
"Was my deed truly so spectacular that I be rewarded like this?" he asked quietly. He knew all of his siblings were good soldiers or workers of their trade, so why did he deserve this special honor? He had only done what duty had demanded of him. What of his squad? They had been there at the fight, but had they received a knighting? He doubted it.
Hanariel reached up and gave him a big hug. "Come on, little brother, be happy! Honestly, I'm surprised you weren't promoted to match this."
He snorted. "Thank Eru!" He would have happily turned down a promotion. He was comfortable at the rank of sergeant, and did not desire to have the responsibilities of a captain thrust upon his shoulders. He grasped the table, his muscles bunching under his strength.
"Oh, but I'm so proud of you, my little boy!" his mother crooned, and he blushed heavily, glad that Cothiel wasn't there at that moment. How embarrassing.
"Mom!" he whined. "I'm twenty-three, not a little boy anymore!"
She positively beamed at him, and he groaned as he buried his head in his hands. "You'll always be my baby boy, Michael."
"Ugh!" he groaned, thumping his head against the table repeatedly. "Just 'cause I'm your youngest child…" he complained. "Why, sweet Elbereth, do you torment me thus?"
His family laughed heartily, and his father clapped him on the back with a firm hand. "Don't worry son, it isn't as bad as you seem to fear. Really, the worst part is the knighting itself…"
Interest piqued, Michael raised an eyebrow. "Pray tell, why is that?" Members of the Black Guard were privy to all the different functions of the state, including knighting ceremonies and celebratory feasts, but he had always worked at night, when no such happenings were going on. Nor did he care enough to ask his brethren what went on during those gatherings.
"Well, there is the fasting…you can't eat for three days, and you can only wear clothes of white linen to show your purity." At that statement, Hanariel snorted, and Michael glared at her, his ears turning red, though if it was from anger or embarrassment was anyone's guess. Ignoring his step-daughter, David continued. "On the day of the ceremony itself, you will have to present the king with a speech, and then you will swear fealty to him and his family. Then the knighting itself will take place, and then there are usually games, parties, and a feast, all welcoming you to knighthood."
Feeling suspicious at the way his father had rushed over the actual knighting, he frowned at him. "What happens when King Elessar knights me?"
When David paused, Hana sighed explosively. "Oh, for Elbereth's sake!" she groaned as she stood up. Stomping over to the fireplace, she picked up a poker. When she turned towards him with her mouth set in a grim line, Michael swallowed heavily as a cold sweat broke out over his face.
"What are you planning to do with that?" he asked nervously as she lifted the iron rod threateningly. Suddenly realizing that he shouldn't just be sitting still, he jumped out of his seat and took off, his much shorter sister hot on his heels, cursing at him and ordering him to stay still. "Mom, help!" he shouted as he skid around the kitchen table.
"Hanariel Âmul," Adra scolded loudly, hands on her hips. "Is it really necessary to chase your little brother around the table?"
"Yes!" she hissed as she swung and missed.
Michael yelped as the poker barely managed to catch his backside. "You have got to be kidding me! MOM!"
"Hold still, you big baby!"
"ENOUGH!" David roared, and Michael froze at the tone of his voice. Hana didn't and ran into him, bouncing off his sturdier form and landing on the floor with an indignant 'oof!'. "You children are acting like fools!" he growled as he snatched the poker from Hana's startled grasp. "Fer fuck's sake, boy, King Elessar is simply going to take his sword and bring it down once on each shoulder," he snarled as he demonstrated just that. "Only he will be doing it with a great deal more force. The point is for it to be the very last blows you will receive unanswered. Lord! Couldn't you have just explained the process, Hana?"
"No," she grinned as she stood and dusted off her backside. "My way was a great deal more fun. I forgot just how fast Michael had gotten, though…" she frowned.
"Or maybe you're just getting slow, old woman!" Michael shot back, and had to run again, only this time cackling loudly as a thoroughly pissed Hanariel chased after him. He would have to begin fasting in a week, so why not have fun at the moment?
Cothiel wasn't paying much attention to her brother and father as she sat demurely on the bench on the royal gardens, working on her embroidery. She did not care much for the affairs of men except for those of the more intellectual nature, like the playing of chess or other such strategy games more normally reserved for men. As a result, she did not spend that much time listening in on her father's and brother's conversations, just as she doubted that Eldarion listened to his sisters' conversations with their mother. There was simply no need for it.
However…when her ears picked up the words 'knighting' and 'Durvagorian' she looked up, slightly startled. Noticing her attention, her father motioned to her. Setting aside her project, she hurried over to him, accepting his warm hug with a smile. "Yes, ada?" she asked, wondering why she was called over.
"I just wanted to bring to your attention that the young man who saved your life is going to be rewarded, as you had requested. Lord Donovan suggested that he be knighted, and I had no qualms as to agreeing with this particular method. As I understand it, he will also be given a medal, but I do believe that the knighting is the greater privilege. Do you agree?"
Wordlessly, she nodded, her thoughts racing. This would make Michael minor nobility…he would be able to show a romantic interest in her without fear of banishment. The only question was would her father allow them to be together? She was his second youngest daughter to date, and had two her elder. Politically speaking, it would be a good match, at least in her opinion. Rohan was already bound to Gondor through the union of Lothíriel of Dol Amroth and King Éomer, so there was no need for a princess to be sent to those lands. There was talk of one of her sisters heading far north, to Esgaroth, but as of yet that was mere rumor. The elves were leaving, and they mostly married amongst their own kind, her mother being the exception to that rule.
Truly, the only people that she and her sisters could marry for political reasons were the noblemen from Gondor itself, and that was more for formalities than for any alliances. Her father's rule was steadfast and fair. The Durvagorians, though, they were still loyal mostly to Lord Donovan rather than her father or Gondor. Maybe having one of their own married into the royal family would make them more loyal to the Royal Family. It was true a fair number of them had married Gondorian or Rohirric women, but none of them were of noble blood. She also knew that any Durvagorian Captain was considered Gondorian nobility, but she realized even from a young age that the no-nonsense Durvagorians cared little for such titles and the responsibilities that they carried. They would do whatever their first Lord commanded, even though the first Durvagorians were retired, save for the few who were in commanding positions.
"Daughter? You are thinking rather hard about something," her father said, and she detected a hint of amusement in his tone. "Would you care to share your thoughts, or are they secret for now?"
Grateful for the chance to not reveal what she was thinking, she smiled lovingly. "I would like to keep my thoughts my own, ada, but mayhap later I will reveal them to you, when the time is right." She did not think that he would appreciate the fact that she was already thinking of another man romantically, even if she was twenty winters old. She knew of other women four winters younger than her who were already mothers, but it seemed her father wanted his children to wait. It wasn't as if they didn't have a plethora of time…they had both Sindarin and Numenorian blood in their veins. Lost once more in her thoughts, she missed the knowing twinkle in her father's eyes. It seemed the King of Gondor was more knowledgeable of the workings of his daughter's heart than she thought…
Aragorn watched as the young man of Durvagorian and Gondorian descent approached, his pallor lighter than he expected. It was true that he worked the 'graveyard shift' as one of the Black Guard, but this went beyond that. As he rose from his throne, he looked at the man who saved his daughter with kindly eyes. He held out his hand for Arwen, and she took it graciously, rising out of her seat with elven grace.
As they stepped down from their dais, he quickly appraised the crowd. Not too many, mostly various members of the military, both Gondorian and Durvagorian. There was also his council, and Donovan with his family. Truthfully, he was surprised this many showed up. What more surprised him was the fact that Cothiel had opted to attend the ceremony. He knew that she wasn't one for this type of gathering, and her presence only served to help confirm his suspicions. Leaning over to Arwen, he began to whisper in Sindarin, knowing that his daughter did not fully grasp the language yet, and his words would be hard to hear over the murmur of the crowd from her seat at the Royal Dais. "I think that this young lad has captured the heart of our daughter."
Her eyebrows rose in surprise. "Indeed? What do you think of him?"
His lips pursed as they began to walk towards the kneeling Durvagorian. "He is the son of David Âmul, who spent many years ensuring the safety of our family from all harm. He is also the one who threw himself into harm's way to protect Cothiel. He is, at the very least, honorable and a good man."
"And his feelings towards our daughter?"
"Just watch," he responded in Westron, and sure enough, it was easy to see that the young man's eyes frequently fell upon Cothiel, and that they softened considerably every time that they did. Coming within easy talking distance, the king spoke in an amiable tone. "Greetings, Sergeant Michael Âmul of Minas Tirith." At his words, the young sergeant's eyes focused on him, and he was almost shocked at how sharp the brown orbs were. It seemed as though they absorbed all that they saw, almost like a wolf or a falcon. It was disconcerting, to say the least. Momentarily at a loss for words, Aragorn could only meet Âmul's gaze. Just who is this young man? he found himself silently asking.
"Greetings, my liege lord," the soldier responded, bowing his head low. Raising his head, he began to speak loudly enough for the small crowd to hear his words. "I was called here today so that I would be rewarded for my rescue of the Princess Cothiel," at the mention of his daughter's name, Aragorn could barely perceive the warmth the words held, but it was there, nonetheless, "but I do not feel as though I deserve such a rich honor. I am Durvagorian, and a sergeant of the Elite Guard!" he said with a sudden fierce pride in his voice. "I am a warrior, and I was just doing my duty both to my Lord Donovan Cerridwen and to the royal family. I do not want this honor."
Aragorn would have been offended, but Donovan had talked to him beforehand, telling him that Âmul would most likely not be pleased by the honor he was being given, that it wasn't the Durvagorian way. Unfortunately, most of his council hadn't received the same words of wisdom, and a faint ripple of consternation rolled over the crowd. Before anyone could voice their thoughts on the soldier's impudence, Donovan spoke up. "It would surprise you, young Âmul, that I was the one who suggested that you be knighted. As a knight you will be able to serve your mother's people and your father's blood all the better."
Michael Âmul nodded, but Aragorn noticed that his gaze wasn't fixed upon his Lord, it was focused behind him and to his left. Turning around to peer at what had caught the man's attention, Aragorn wasn't surprised to spot his daughter blushing slightly. "Cothiel," he called out, and she jumped slightly before looking to him, her blush deepening. "As the one who Sergeant Âmul rescued, I think it is only fair that you share your thoughts in this matter."
You could almost see the thoughts racing behind her eyes, and silence reined in the citadel for nearly a full minute before she stood, a faint tremble the only thing betraying her nervousness. She walked down the steps slowly and with grace. Upon reaching Âmul's kneeling form, she reached behind her head and untied a bright blue ribbon that had been affixed around her intricate braids. "Sergeant Âmul, I would be honored if you would bear the burden of being my knight protector." At her words, shocked silence ruled for an eternity before fierce whispers broke out. Even Aragorn didn't know whether he wanted to cry or to laugh…or rage. "As long as my father agrees, of course," Cothiel added on as she turned to face him, eyes pleading.
For a moment, he was very close to denying her request. Even as he was opening his mouth to speak a solemn and tight-voiced 'nay' Arwen lay her hand on his shoulder, and he turned to her, surprised to see the laughter in her eyes. She nodded ever so slightly, and he fought the urge to sigh. "Very well, daughter, if Sergeant Âmul agrees, it shall be done," he almost groaned, wondering if the young man knew what he was getting himself into.
All eyes fixed upon the young man, and his eyes grew distant before he finally nodded. "My Liege," he said, bowing to him. "My Lord," he bowed to Donovan. "My Lady," he finished, bowing for his daughter. "It is my wish to let you know that I had only desired to avoid this reward because I felt unworthy of it. However, it will be my honor and glory to accept knighthood in your name, King Elessar."
Trying to smile but knowing it looked more like a grimace, Aragorn nodded. He nearly stomped down those last three steps, drawing Andúril from its sheath in one swift movement. Almost smiling at the slight flare of fear that could be seen in Âmul's eyes, he raised the ancient blade high above his head. "So I knight thee, Michael Âmul of Minas Tirith! You shall be known forthwith as Sir Michael Âmul Durvagor!" He brought the flat of the sword down on the young man's right shoulder with a bit more force than he would have normally used. He needed to see if his daughter's choice was a wise one. However, Âmul gave no reaction to the heavy blow other than clenching his teeth together and his nostrils flaring slightly. No noise escaped him, and he was not moved. Raising his sword again, Aragorn looked down upon the man dressed in white, wondering exactly how long he had before he would be calling him 'son'. "The Valar bless you on your exploits, Sir Michael Âmul Durvagor!" he shouted before repeating the same blow on his left shoulder. The new knight's muscles bunched and corded, but he still did not move nor make a sound. "Those are the last blows you will ever take unanswered, sir knight. Arise, and greet your new responsibilities." As he sheathed Andúril, Sir Michael stood, slightly shaky on his feet, and Aragorn saw that he had grown even paler. He needed refreshment. "Let the feast and games begin!"
Out of nowhere Adra Âmul appeared, crying happily as she nearly dragged her son towards the tables that had been nearly buried under food. The games that would commence after the feast were of the more rowdy kind, and the competitors preferred to have full stomachs before they boasted their skills on the field. A smaller table was produced and brought over to the thrones, and the Royal Family present made their way over to the banquet. As Cothiel passed by him, he gently lay a hand on her shoulder. "Daughter, we will have to talk about your decision. It is no small thing you asked of your knight," he said, tone nearly accusing.
She had the good grace to look slightly sorry and embarrassed. She shrugged uncomfortably. "Something told me that it was the right thing to do, father. I can only hope that it wasn't a mistake."
"I hope so, too, loved one," he said as he looked over to the knight lightly roughhousing with his fellow soldiers, a tankard of ale in one hand and a turkey leg in the other. "I truly hope so…"