Stories of Arda Home Page
About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search

Import Duty  by DADGAD

The Council Meeting

‘Well, I’m glad that’s over, I’ll damp the winter fires down next time to cool everyone down a bit’ muttered Aragorn as he strode away from the Council Chamber in Minas Tirith. It had been a lengthy and difficult meeting, deciding on a programme of revising the laws and legal system of Gondor. Aragorn had asked for input from the main merchant guilds, and important individuals like the Head of the Houses of Healing, as well as the Lords of the Realm. Everyone had something to say, and many of the Lords had been quite outraged by the idea that they would have to comply with any new laws passed. As well as the existing ones put in place by Denethor and his predecessors. 

‘Are you quite sure it was wise to say that you, the King, would follow all duly constituted laws and regulations as well?’ asked Faramir as they claimed the worn stairs to his office. 

‘At the time I couldn’t think of anything else to stop all the arguments, and you could say it’s my duty to set a good example in these matters.’ Aragorn sighed. ‘I just hope I haven’t caused myself too many future problems. It’s not so much the new laws, it’s the odd regulations left over from the years of the Stewards, that haven’t been reviewed for centuries. Oh well, I’ll just have to hope the current Steward can help me out if things cause us trouble.’ 

A well-practised look, combining endless patience and mild exasperation, crossed the Steward’s face, so quickly that only someone knowing him well would have caught it. ‘Well, we will just have to see’, he said, clapping his King on the shoulder, ‘let’s not worry about things that haven’t happened yet’.

A Few Weeks later

‘Well, we will just have to see’, he said, clapping his King on the shoulder, ‘let’s not worry about things that haven’t happened yet’.

Some weeks passed, and Aragorn’s initial concerns were lost in the business of ruling Minas Tirith and the rest of Gondor. However, one day in early spring, Faramir ushered in Angren, a stocky strong red-bearded man, Head of the Metal Workers Guild, and Thenweg, one of the lawyers involved in the legal review process, a man with dark receding hair, a high forehead and a severe expression.

‘Your Grace’, said Faramir formally, ‘these gentlemen have an issue that requires the King’s Wisdom. Can you spare a little time to advise them? Angren, Thenweg, I have to leave to talk to some of the Dwarves working on the gates, but I’m sure his Grace will be able to help you’. Faramir turned and departed before anyone could catch the slightest flicker at the edges of his lips.

‘Master Angren, Master Thenweg, welcome, and please tell me how I can help you?’

Angren reddened and looked at Thenweg. ‘It’s really how we can help his Grace in a way, don’t you think?

Thenweg looked hesitant, but then took a quick breath and started.

‘Well, Your Grace, you recall that we’ve looking at old laws and statutes as part of the legal reform effort. Master Angren found some old Guild records from the time of Steward Boromir back in about 2480. Apparently, there were a large number of weapons imported or smuggled into Gondor in his time, but many if not all of them were of poor quality and would break in real use. But because they were cheap, the smugglers could undercut the prices of locally made weapon makers and possibly even put them out of business. Some people even said it was a plot of the enemy! Anyway, a statute was passed, and it made specific requirements for anyone importing foreign weapons into Gondor. Most of it was designed to ensure the quality of weapons were maintained, but quite a lot was simply to slow down the whole process of importing them. I have copies of the statute made for us to examine, along with some of the forms that people have to fill out’.

Aragorn looked puzzled. ‘This all seems well and laudable to me, Master Thenweg, but I don’t see why you need my advice when you have apparently been carrying out my orders as I intended’. I don’t believe there has been any large scale importing of weapons into Gondor for many years, so I don’t imagine many weapons would have been affected by this statute’

‘None at all…’ Angren had finally overcome his nervousness at being in the presence of the King, ‘until two years ago, and then just the one’

‘Just the one?’, said Aragorn, ’two years ago? That would have been 3019, during the war. Do you mean the weapons of the Rohirrim? But they returned to Rohan with all their swords and bows, apart from any destroyed in the fighting. And the same with Gimli’s axe, and Legolas’ bow, and the knives of the Hobbits, in fact the only person who brought a weapon into Gondor must have been…Oh. You mean …’

‘Yes, Your Grace, Anduril is the only weapon we know of that has been definitely imported into Gondor for many years. And the thing is, we wouldn’t have mentioned this but you did say at the last Council that you yourself would set an example by following all the statutes that applied to you. I think you said it would be your duty.’

‘You might say your Import Duty’ said Angren rather too heavily, just before Thenweg gave him a look reminiscent of the late Queen Morwen of Rohan, famously unamused by anything resembling a witticism.

‘The issue we have to deal with, Your Grace, is that there are penalties in the statute for unauthorised importation of weapons which include fines, confiscation, and even destruction of the weapon, Thenweg continued, and we have to find a way to avoid those outcomes while still enabling you to keep your word. Your Grace, are you alright?’, he said, catching the King’s face suddenly pale.

Aragorn, King Elessar, Strider, was for one of the few times in his life almost at a loss for words, still taking in Thenweg’s matter of fact pronouncement. ‘Did you say fines, confiscation, and even destruction? Of the greatest heirloom of Numenor, and symbol of Royal Authority in the joint Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor? Are you insane?’

‘No, I do not believe so your Grace, I am merely trying to navigate, between, as Master Angren might say, the hammer of the threat to your sword and the anvil of potential damage to your reputation, and I believe I have a route through these difficulties.’ So saying, he pulled a well-used leather case onto the table, producing from it a thick sheaf of documents. ‘There was a clarification to the 2480 statute, in 2960 under Steward Ecthelion. In this, it said that forms could be submitted retrospectively for occasions where small consignments, or individual weapons, had been imported for personal use, especially by those unaware of the original statute. I suspect this was connected with his policy of inviting volunteers from places outside Gondor to join us as soldiers - some of them might have brought their own weapons with them. Your Grace, you may have heard talk of Thorongil? He was one such.’

’I do believe I know the name,’ said Aragorn impatiently, ‘but this clarification seems to meet our needs exactly. Are you saying we just have to fill out a few forms and the matter can be settled directly?’

‘Yes, and I have them here,’ Thenweg started to select the first of the documents on the table. ‘Now, we have a good number of forms to complete and they have to be completed in the correct, logical order, as together they form a coherent narrative so they can readily be understood by the approving authority’

‘The approving authority? Surely that’s me, I mean the King’, said Aragorn. ‘Not in this case,’ replied Thenweg, ‘remember these laws were written at a time when the highest authority was the Steward.’

‘Oh, that should be fine, Faramir will surely approve it.’ Aragorn relaxed for the first time since this conversation had started. 

‘Well actually, Your Grace, the way the statutes are written, Faramir has to present the documents due form for the Council to approve as a body with a two thirds majority. He can’t just write a simple approval, and given what you said at the last council meeting, I believe it might be politic to do it that way anyway?’, Thenweg half stated, half questioned, in the way practiced and perfected by advisors over the years. 'I happen to have the forms here, so we can look at them together!'

Forms and Complications

'I happen to have the forms here, so we can look at them together'

‘So, the first document is the ‘End-user’ Certificate’ ENC2480/R’, Thenweg continued, ‘and that briefly describes the weapon, the owner, and a few other details. As I understand it, Master Angren, Anduril is essentially a straightforward two-handed sword, of supreme quality perhaps, but no other physical function? It does not glow in the presence of soldiers of the enemy, Orc, or suchlike?’ So, we can fill out Box C on the ENC form’.

‘Of course’, muttered Angren, ‘I never believed that nonsense about glowing swords, I can’t think how you’d get any sensible steel to do that.’

A thought crossed Aragorn’s mind ‘You described Anduril as a two-handed sword, and so I have used it, but I believe my ancestor Elendil may have used Narsil, from which it was remade, single handed, which he could do, on account of his great height.’

‘Thank you, Your Grace, we should put in a comment in Box B that the sword could be used either as a one or two-handed weapon. Now I believe that you yourself are the sole owner and end-user, so we can put that into Box A, and put your signature and seal into the space below it?’

‘Am I to be described as merely an ‘owner’?!  I am the rightful heir of Elendil, and this is Elendil’s sword! It is written that death shall come to any man that draws Elendil’s sword save Elendil’s heir!’ Aragorn was trying not to lose patience, but he had never thought of himself as something quite so prosaic as an ‘end-user’ before.

‘Sorry, Your Grace, could you repeat that? Did you say that death shall come to any man that draws Elendil’s sword save Elendil’s heir? Can you tell me what you mean by that? 

Isn’t it obvious? Death shall come to any man that draws Elendil’s sword save Elendil’s heir! Draw the sword and your death will result. That’s clear, isn’t it?’

‘Well, Your Grace, my question relates to the exact nature of weapon, which we have to accurately describe in these forms. There are at least three possible interpretations of your statement. Firstly, there is the literal case that all men are mortal, and thus any man drawing your sword will eventually die of old age. In which case the sword has no extra power and we just need to complete Box C. But presumably that is not what you are suggesting. I believe that you are saying is that any man, who is not an heir of Elendil, will die an untimely death if they draw Anduril? So is the sword coated with something poisonous to all men, excepting the heir of Elendil? In which case we need to stipulate this in Boxes A and B (section 3.2 dealing with poisoned weapons), possibly adding a codicil at the end of form ENC2480/R.’ 

‘I also note that you specify ‘any man’, so does that mean elves, dwarves, or other races could use the sword and not die in an untimely fashion? Your current wording would not prohibit an Orc from using the sword, or even, unlikely as it may seem, a woman? Or as another possibility, that it should be considered a capital crime if anyone other than an heir of Elendil draws the sword? Are there any exceptions where a non-heir may wield the sword with express permission of the heir, perhaps in an emergency?’

In which case not only do we need to specify that in Box D (permitted usage and exemptions), but we would need to write an entirely new statute, separate from the Import process, as I am not aware of any existing statute of that nature.’ Master Angren, are you familiar with any such law?’

‘Only that one back from 2985 about not interfering with the Stewards’ possessions. And that didn’t say anything about swords, and everyone just thought it was just because the Steward was jealous of Thor - anyway, no need to go into details.’  Angren was suddenly conscious of another disapproving stare, only this time strangely from the King rather than Thenweg.

‘No, Anduril is not poisoned, but it does have elven runes engraved that give it special effectiveness against creatures of the enemy’, commented the King. ‘And I should say that death was the penalty in Numenor for anyone trying to steal or misuse the King’s sword, and that penalty was carried on into the early years of Gondor and Arnor. If there was a statute it may well date from the end of the Second Age, and probably won’t have survived the years. Pardon my impatience, Master Thenweg, I suspect we may have to draw up a new law to cover this and all the possible exemptions you mentioned. Anyway, does that cover everything in the, hmm, ‘end-user’ form?’

‘Well yes, I expect we can add something about the elven runes and defer the death penalty statute for now. Talking of penalties, there is one related stipulation. Since 2985 there has to be a ‘Criminal Records Check’ (form CRC 5732/2985) on the owner of the weapon. Apparently, Lord Denethor was adamant that imported weapons should only be accessible to people of the highest reputation in Gondor. No ‘wanderers, vagrants, or low-born beggars’ would be allowed to import weapons, he insisted, and no-one of Gondor or elsewhere who had broken or disregarded the laws of Gondor in any way.  It’s very detailed, almost as if Lord Denethor had someone in mind when he wrote it.’

‘Well, that shouldn’t be a problem should it,’ laughed Angren ‘His Grace is of the highest birth, and far from being a vagrant wanderer! And he’s hardly been here long enough to have a criminal record, even if he had been a complete reprobate. Which he’s not, of course’ he added hastily.

‘Your Grace, you have never visited Gondor before have you, so there can’t be any criminal records relating to you, can there?’ asked Thenweg

The King looked duly thoughtful ‘I have been to Gondor, many years ago, but the name of Aragorn, or Elessar, will not be found in any Jail or Court records here’ he replied.

‘Thank you, Your Grace, perhaps we can move on to the next requirements? We need a Certificate of Quality provided by an independent weapons testing body, and a Certificate of Origin countersigned and validated by an official representative of the country where it was manufactured. Can you tell me where and when the sword was made?

 Some time later… (The Meeting Continues)

We need... a Certificate of Origin countersigned and validated by an official representative of the country where it was manufactured. Can you tell me where and when the sword was made?

Thenweg’s impeccable composure was starting to fray at the edges a fraction. Surely the King could recognise that ‘wrought by Telchar in the depths of time, in the lost city of Nogrod’ was not a sufficient description for a Certificate of Origin of an imported weapon? And that despite its history and special nature (admittedly it had once cut off a finger of the Dark Lord himself) it still needed an ‘independent weapons testing certificate’ to comply with the law? It almost felt like the King was being deliberately obtuse on these points, but that surely couldn’t be the case? It was Angren that rescued the situation.

‘Excuse me Your Grace, is my understanding correct, the weapon was completely remade in Imladris, having lain shattered in pieces for three thousand years?’ Yes, the King confirmed that was the case. It had been reforged by Elven smiths with some input and advice from the Dwarf Gimli, son of Gloin. ‘So, everything except the hilt, the grip guard and pommel, had been melted, hammered and reforged? ‘Well,’ continued Angren, ‘that sounds like the larger part of the sword was in fact remade in Imladris rather than Nogrod. Master Thenweg, can we not state Imladris as the place of origin on the Import Certificate?

Thenweg paused. ‘Well yes, I suppose we could, but does that help us at all? Imladris is supposedly many leagues to the Far North? Are Elves still there? Can we get documentation about Anduril from all that way? Your Grace, I believe you have brothers there, do you think they could help us? 

‘My foster brothers still live in Imladris, but I do not know when they plan to next come here,’ commented the King, ‘I suppose I could write them a letter outlining the document, we need - what did you call it, a ‘Certificate of Origin’? Master Thenweg, if you could prepare a description of even an example of what we need, to send to them? I have no idea how long it would take to get a response as they are often away from home.’

‘Now what about a Certificate of Quality from a recognised Independent Assessor of Metal-making skills’ said Thenweg thoughtfully. ‘Angren, do you think we can find such an Assessor in Minas Tirith?’  

‘Well, there are plenty of skilled weapon makers in our Guild, but I’m not sure any of them have ever produced a Certificate of Quality before, so I’m not sure how they could be described as ‘recognised’. And as well, would they be truly independent when they are being asked to judge a sword made by what some would consider a foreign manufacturer?’  Angren was certainly doing his best to comply with both the letter and spirit of the regulations, thought the King, with a sigh.

‘A truly Independent Assessor probably implies someone from ‘outwith Gondor’’, continued Angren, ‘but who has craftsmen recognised in the area of sword-making? The swords of the Rohirrim are serviceable, but of no special reputation, those of Dale used to be of high quality before the coming of the Dragon, but I know little of them now, we can hardly ask in Harad or Umbar, and Elven smiths would not be considered independent… 

… wait a minute, what about the Dwarves? They are famous craftsmen in metal and stone, do you think we could get an expert from Erebor?  That would certainly be independent!’ 

‘Hmm’ responded Thenweg, ‘perhaps Master Gimli could help? Is he in Minas Tirith at the moment? That would certainly speed things up’

‘Sadly not, said Aragorn, ‘he left the city after overseeing last summer’s work on the gates here. He may be back in Erebor, but I know he was planning a project in the west of Rohan, in the caves at the Hornburg’. It may take a few letters to track him down. But at least, Master Thenweg, we are agreed that we could ask him about the ‘Certificate of Quality’ and he would be a suitably independent assessor? Is that not everything covered now?’

‘Hmm let me see,’ said Thenweg ‘we have discussed the End-user form, the Criminal Records Check, the unique nature of Anduril, the Certificate of Origin, and the Certificate of Quality, there just seems to be one last form here. Yes, it refers to the transport of the imported device. Typically, goods will be despatched from the manufacturer via some form of transport, either overland or via sea. So, there should be a document, stating how the sword was delivered from the point of manufacture to the owner in Minas Tirith, its value, the point at which ownership was transferred, and a receipt from the transporting organisation.’


Bills of Lading

Hmm let me see,’ said Thenweg ‘we have discussed the End-user form, the Criminal Records Check, the unique nature of Anduril, the Certificate of Origin, and the Certificate of Quality, there just seems to be one last form here. Yes, it refers to the transport of the imported device. Typically, goods will be despatched from the manufacturer via some form of transport, either overland or via sea. So, there should be a document, stating how the sword was delivered from the point of manufacture to the owner in Minas Tirith, its value, the point at which ownership was transferred, and a receipt from the transporting organisation.’

’Transporting organisation?’ the King looked puzzled, ‘but that was …’

‘Yes,’ said Thenweg, becoming suddenly enthusiastic, ‘for example in the event of the imported items being transported by sea, we’d need a receipt from the ship’s Master, I think it’s called a ‘Bill of Lading’, stating that the goods had been received and inspected - that the item was a sword and not anything else, as described on the end-user certificate and the certificate of quality. Also, the Bill of Lading would state the point at which the item changed ownership. For example, ownership might change at the point the sword is taken onto the ship before it starts its journey, which is called ‘Free on Board’ if I recall rightly, or it might only change when the ship arrives at the destination port, which I believe is called ‘ex ship’…

Aragorn, recognising Thenweg’s increasing enthusiasm for the topic, made a hasty intervention. ‘Surely all this is irrelevant to my case, I was carrying Anduril myself the whole time?! We don’t need any of these receipts, bills or whatever?’

Thenweg looked pained at his King, who clearly hadn’t grasped all the implications of what his loyal advisor was saying. ’The trouble with that, Your Grace, is that a person who brings in a weapon claiming it’s for personal use, might actually be seeking to resell or otherwise trade the weapon. If we let people self-certify like that, we’d get all the wine merchants claiming their 10 barrels of Dorwinion were for personal use, and so should not be charged any excise duty. Where would it stop? People refusing to pay road tolls and taxes because they were not travelling for commercial purposes? And Your Grace did say that you wished to comply with all the laws imposed on your subjects?’

‘Are you comparing me with a smuggler?’ Aragorn looked as if he was about to finally lose patience, when Angren intervened. ‘Excuse me your Grace, but all this talk of ships has reminded me. Didn’t you come to Gondor on a ship? That you had taken from the Corsairs? Couldn’t we say that vessel was the transporting organisation?’

Aragorn grasped at the proffered straw. ‘Well, it certainly did deliver both myself and Anduril to Minas Tirith in a timely fashion, but I’m not so sure it’s totally appropriate …’

Thenweg interrupted, eyebrows drawing together as he concentrated in thought. ‘Yes, that might suffice. We would need a letter or certificate from the Captain or Master’s Mate of the vessel, describing the exact timing and contract of the delivery - do you recall who that was, Your Grace? And what was the name of the vessel?’

‘Well as I recall, the name of the ship was something like ‘Umbar’s Revenge’ and the Captain was last seen swimming down the Anduin followed by the Dead of Dunharrow. I didn’t quite get his name or have time to ask for a receipt for his vessel or any cargo, so I’m not sure if the helps us’ said the King. ‘Then a number of volunteers from Lamedon and Pelargir helped us sail up Anduin. I don’t recall any specific sailors, although I suppose some inquiries could be made of Angbor.’ Aragorn frowned. ‘I can arrange for letters to be sent to Angbor tomorrow, and if we get a suitable reply, will that be everything? Have we done our import duty, as you call it Master Angren? Master Thenweg?’ 

'A Thousand Thousands...'

'Have we done our import duty, as you call it Master Angren? Master Thenweg?’ 

‘Well, there is the question of the import duty itself - the actual payment that is. Now what do the regulations say?’ Thenweg shuffled some more papers. ‘Ah yes, here we are. Import Duty on consignments of weapons shall be levied at 10 silver castars per hundred of total value quoted on the import documents, value to be confirmed by independent assessment by a recognised Guild Head. Master Angren, I imagine that you could do that yourself?’ 

‘Certainly’, replied the latter, ‘there has been well established custom and practice in this area dating back many years. Some say as far back as the days of the last King and the early ruling Stewards, Mardil, if I recall rightly. I have a copy of the protocol for us all to inspect. You’ll see that swords can be accorded a ‘base value’ according to quality and nature of workmanship, but that there are also some special provisions relating to items of special antiquity or historical significance. These provisions assign factors which multiply the base value. And there is an appendix in Quenya, which we’ve not bothered to translate, as it seems to just be a few extra clauses relating to the rather rare ‘special provisions’. All very logical and coherent, wouldn’t you agree Master Thenweg?’ 

Angren paused expecting a response, when he noticed his companions looking intently at the Introduction to the Appendix: ‘Implementation of Duty Calculations for items of special/unique interest or value.’ 

‘Your Grace, are you noting clause 15 sub heading (iii) - for purposes of clarification, it should be noted that special provision factors are both cumulative and multiplicative’? Thenweg’s finger traced out the clause. Aragorn’s eyes managed to widen at the same time his brow furrowed (a mannerism copied from many conversations with his adopted father). ‘I do, and look at the list of special provisions underneath. Master Angren, did you know about this?’ 

‘Sorry no, I do not speak or read Quenya, and we never translated the appendix - we never thought it would apply to any real-life situations. Does it affect Anduril?’ Just as he said this, Angren realised that Anduril was almost certainly the one example where ’special provisions’ would certainly be relevant. ‘Oh, I suppose it would do, … somewhat?’

‘Somewhat Indeed,’ said the King. ‘Master Thenweg, please correct me as I go along but this seems to be our calculation:’

Angren listened as the two Quenya speakers picked out points in the appendix.

‘A top-quality sword made recently in Gondor would be valued at the top end of the range of 20 to 80 Castars. Let’s say 75 in this case’

‘Multiplied by 2 as it is a two-handed weapon’ contributed Thenweg.

‘Multiplied by 10 for a sword of either Dwarven or Elvish manufacture’, continued the King.

‘Hmm, multiplied by 10 again if its more than 1000 years old’

‘Yes, and multiplied by another 10, if its pre-third age or Numenorian’

‘See here - 10 times again, if was owned by members of the royal family of Numenor, the Lords of Andunie, or their descendants’

‘And clause 21 - another 10 times if it could be said to be of historical interest or significance such as use in notable wars or battles’

‘I think that covers it, do you have the end result, Thenweg?

‘This is the final total for the ‘Import Duty’ to be paid according to the provisions in the Appendix of Mardil’. Thenweg had written the number on a slate in front of him. 

Angren looked and spluttered. ‘But that …, it’s ridiculous, what are all those noughts, I’ve never seen anything like that number. You must have made a mistake’

‘Well, if he has, I cannot see it,’ said the King. ‘but, what I can say is that there is not the money in the whole of Gondor to pay that amount, and certainly not in the Royal Accounts. My friends, in this instance we seem to have reached an immovable obstacle to my plans of complying fully with the law.’ Aragorn sighed. Life was so much simpler when he just had to protect Hobbits and fight Orcs… 

Thenweg and Angren looked respectively puzzled and bemused – how could it be that a simple reviewing of old statutes could create such a dilemma for their beloved and respected King. The room settled into an uneasy silence, with no-one able or willing to be the first to speak aloud.

The Return of Faramir 

Thenweg and Angren looked respectively puzzled and bemused – how could it be that a simple reviewing of old statutes could create such a dilemma for their beloved and respected King. The room settled into an uneasy silence, with no-one able or willing to be the first to speak aloud.

Just then the sound of light footsteps accompanied by a gentle humming was heard outside – ‘someone at least seems to be in a good mood.’ thought the King, ‘Wait, that’s surely Faramir, why is he so cheerful?’

Sure enough, in came the Steward bearing a sheaf of what looked like new documents and letters in his arms. Aragorn sighed inwardly, surely Faramir wasn’t going to expect him to deal with all that correspondence today on top of the ‘form-filling’ and agonising he’d already been subjected to? Some of this must have shown on his face, as Faramir at least stopped humming happily, and looked serious.

‘Your Grace, Master Angren, Master Thenweg,’ Faramir greeted everyone, just the tiniest flicker around his eyes betraying a hint of what? … gentle amusement? Satisfaction? Yes, that was it, realised Aragorn, Faramir looked pleased about something. The Steward, ignoring Aragorn’s developing frown, continued brightly, ‘Oh that’s good, you seem to be getting on with the formalities, nothing too difficult I hope?’ 

At this, the famously equable King, the man who’d waited nearly 60 years to gain his crown, who’d spent nearly 40 years engaged to his beloved wife to be, nearly lost his patience for the first time in decades. ‘Nothing too difficult? We’ve been poring over obscure forms most of the morning and half the afternoon, I’ve been accused of being a smuggler or worse, Anduril could be confiscated or legally used by an Orc, we have dozens of letters to send all over Middle-Earth, the import duty we will have to pay would take all the money in Gondor, and now I see your arms full of more wretched statutes to go through. This has been the most irritating, annoying, frustrating, day since I became King – just perfectly bothersome, to use Bilbo’s favourite expression!’

Faramir immediately became attentive and serious. ‘Do not worry, these documents are not further labours for us, far from it in fact. They are various letters that have arrived from this week’s most recently arrived horse messengers.’ 

‘First, is a message from your brothers in Imladris, which clearly mentions the remaking of Narsil into Anduril, with sufficient technical detail to satisfy the most enthusiastic metal-smiths’. Angren’s eyes opened wide when he saw pages of diagrams and details of alloy compositions – ‘this letter is indeed a treasure, we could do much with our swordcraft and indeed all of our metal work with this information.’

Faramir continued. ‘And here is a letter from Master Gimli, telling us how he was present at the remaking, ‘checking that those Elves got it right’ and telling us that the end result was indeed the ‘finest sword he has ever seen’. Aragorn couldn’t help smiling, remembering how suspicious Gimli had been, until he learned that Elrond’s smith had been trained by Celebrimbor and could tell many tales of Narvi, the actual dwarf who’d made the Gates of Moria.

‘Master Thenweg, here is a letter that will interest you and the King. It was sent on by Lord Angbor, but the writer is Balazir, current master of the vessel previously known as Umbar’s Revenge, formally titled Vengeance of Lamedon, but apparently known by its crew as The Grateful Dead. It’s now an armed merchantman apparently. Master Balazir was one of the volunteers who navigated you towards Minas Tirith, and passes on his regards to Your Grace. He says that he originally thought you were ‘a bit of a vagabond, until you used your fine words and fine sword to compel the dead to attack the Corsairs’. He gives more details about the ship, the journey, and other aspects about the formalities of trading, which seem quite comprehensive. There is some discussion about whether Anduril was transported on an ex-Ship or Carriage & Freight contract, which you might like to look at in more detail.’ A sideways nod, and a gleam in the eye, showed that Thenweg would not find this a hardship.

‘I also have a note from librarian Deucalion, who has been looking at Criminal Court Archives and Records of Minas Tirith covering the last 60 years. He confirms that no-one with the name of Aragorn has been mentioned in any such documents over that entire period. Interestingly, he wasn’t the first person to do something of this sort. Deucalion did find notes from a search carried out in about 2980, looking for records of lots of names all starting with Ar: Aragil, Arathor, Arongil, Arestel, Ariador, among others. And not just court notes, but across the whole breadth of government records for many years. I can’t imagine who might have done that or, what they were looking for?’ 

Aragorn tried his best to put a completely bemused expression on his face, gently shaking his head. 

Faramir looked up expectantly at the others. ‘So, with the end-user certificate completed today, it seems we have all the written evidence we need to comply with my grandfather’s clarification to the 2480 statute.’

Aragorn looked closely at his Steward. ‘Yes, and you say that all this evidence has appeared in the last week? Tell me, is that by remarkable coincidence, miraculous intervention by the Valar or other powers across the sea, or might there have been just a little prompting on your part, Prince Faramir?’ 

The latter tried to look innocent. ‘Oh, I was sure all those people intended to write to you around this point with as the immediate needs of the war subsided. I may have reminded a few of them’. 

‘And with exactly the right requests for information to settle our current dilemma? Or do all these persons and friends, possess an unusual percipience?’ Even Thenweg seemed grimly amused by Faramir’s well planned machinations.

The only person unaffected by the moment of light relief was Angren. ‘I don’t understand, what are you smiling about? What do the documents matter, when the import duty is worth more than the whole of Gondor, or so you say? I don’t know’ The brief mood was broken. Thenweg went back to his customary demeanour, and Aragorn grimaced. ‘He’s right, Faramir, look at the numbers, they’re just impossible, we just don’t have that much money in all our land’.

'... is called a Million'

The only person unaffected by the moment of light relief was Angren. ‘I don’t understand, what are you smiling about? What do the documents matter, when the import duty is worth more than the whole of Gondor, or so you say? I don’t know’ The brief mood was broken. Thenweg went back to his customary demeanour, and Aragorn grimaced. ‘He’s right, Faramir, look at the numbers, they’re just impossible, we just don’t have that much money in all our land’.

Faramir seemed strangely undismayed as he peered closely over Thenweg’s shoulder. ‘Hmm, All the money in Gondor? Is that the calculation? 15 million castars? And a duty of one and a half million? Oh, I see you’ve using the Mardil codicil. Master Thenweg, my congratulations on your combined abilities in Quenya and mathematics!’ 

This was too much for Angren. ‘My Lord Steward, what are these millions you are talking about? All I see is a page of numbers with lots of noughts behind them. And I don’t know how His Grace knows this exactly, but if that’s truly in castars, that’s an inconceivable amount of money!’

Faramir focused on the bewildered Guild Head. ‘Ah, my pardon Master Angren, in my enthusiasm I’d forgotten that not everyone is familiar with this terminology. A million is the term invented as a short way of saying ‘a thousand thousands’. Using our standard Numenorian number system, that’s 1 followed by six noughts. As far as we know, it was first used by the Scholar Planudes of Umbar, who lived and worked during the reign of Minalcar. Planudes was studying the history of the Great Armament of Numenor, that deposed and captured Sauron at the end of the Second Age. Some writers claim that King Ar-Pharazon had a thousand ships with a thousand men in each ship – so that would be a thousand thousand soldiers. And these soldiers would need a thousand thousand helmets and a thousand thousand swords and would eat a thousand thousand loaves of bread a day. Planudes soon became tired of writing ‘a thousand thousand’ and invented the word ‘million’ as a shorthand. These days we don’t see numbers that size very often, and certainly not in the treasury accounts. When I want to understand how big a million is, I first think of a tiny baby field mouse, the size of my finger nail. And then I think of the enormous mumakil that the Haradrim rode into the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. It would take about a million mice to equal the weight of one of those mumaks.’ 

‘Prince Faramir, you have missed your vocation, perhaps you should have been a school teacher’ Angren was shaking his head, trying to cope with flood of new information just imparted. Faramir beamed, delighted with the chance to increase the arithmetical understanding of a new audience. 

Aragorn quickly interrupted before Faramir could deliver further facets of wisdom. ‘The point does remain, that if our calculations are correct, and you seem to agree with them, there is no way we can pay the import duty on such a valuable item as Anduril. We barely have thousands in the Treasury at the moment, let alone millions. I have very little personal wealth of any kind. What can we possibly do?’

Faramir looked undismayed. ‘Let me ask three questions:

‘Firstly, who does Anduril belong to – you personally or to the Kingdom of Arnor or Gondor?’

Secondly, if it is purely the personal property of the current King, to do with as they please, is that a good idea? Or as you have already discussed, should there be a code that specifies exactly which persons and under which conditions, can and cannot make use of Anduril? 

Finally, do you agree that what you have told me is that the only thing valuable enough to pay the import duty on Anduril is the sword itself?’

‘Ah’ Aragorn slowly understood Faramir’s reasoning. ‘Anduril should be the property of the Crown of the Reunited Kingdom, not the personal property of the King himself’ 

‘Yes, which was the original situation of Narsil when Elendil returned from Numenor. The sons of Elrond have passed on to me a copy of a document from the Library of Rivendell which dates from the Founding of the Kingdom of Arnor in the year 3320 of the Second Age. It establishes the ownership of Narsil, as being an Heirloom of the Crown, and also codifies the situations and circumstances of the use of the sword by the King and others he may designate. Apparently, Master Elrond found the document shortly before he departed West, and asked his sons to send it to you – ‘Estel may find this useful’.’

‘So,’ mused Aragorn ‘we need to produce a document of grant transferring Anduril from my personal possession to the Crown of the Reunited Kingdom of Arnor and Gondor, alongside all the other documentation and certificates of value and quality that are needed to comply with the import regulations of 2960 – is that correct? How long will that take, Faramir – can we have that done in the next month or so?’

At this point, the look of satisfaction that Aragorn had noticed earlier reappeared fleetingly on Faramir’s face. ‘Well, I do happen to have a draft of such a document with me today, and if Your Grace would care to read it now, it could be signed forthwith… by yourself in the presence of two witnesses’ he finished, glancing at Angren and Thenweg. 

With a sigh of relief, Aragorn signed Faramir’s document, duly witnessed by Angren and Thenweg, who then departed, each reflecting on the ups and downs of their ‘interesting’ morning and afternoon with the King.

All's Well that Ends Well (we hope)

With a sigh of relief, Aragorn signed Faramir’s document, duly witnessed by Angren and Thenweg, who then departed, each reflecting on the ups and downs of their ‘interesting’ morning and afternoon with the King.

As they left, Aragorn raised one eyebrow in a credible imitation of his father-in-law, Elrond. ‘Just happened to have a draft… Faramir, quite how long have you known about this whole situation, and been working on all these papers and documents?’ 

‘Do you remember the Council meeting when you agreed to comply with all duly constituted laws and regulations? And then made a comment about hoping there wasn’t anything too terrible in the old laws left behind by the Stewards? I had a sudden feeling of foreboding about what my father might have done, knowing what he said at the end of his life about you, and realising that he must have worked out that you were Thorongil, I thought I should check through all the statutes in the early years of his stewardship. I found his ‘Criminal Records Check’ requirement on imported items, and that led me to Ecthelion’s modification to the 2460 statute, and eventually to Mardil’s duty calculations – also aimed at keeping out ‘vagrants’ from Arnor of course.’

The King smiled in gratitude at his Steward ‘you really did get me and the Kingdom out of trouble on this occasion, and you have my thanks, even if you did let the three of us spend much of the day wondering if the King’s sword might have to melted down or given to an Orc! It’s a lesson to me to not make rash promises when I don’t know what the outcome might be. I just hope there are no more old statutes left to cause us trouble!’

‘Well,’ replied Faramir ‘the one I’m hoping no-one remembers is the law my father passed in the last few years before the war. Remember when I met Frodo, I had to arrest and interrogate him, as I was charged with intercepting and killing any armed parties found travelling in Gondor without the express permission of the Steward. My father was extremely displeased that I had disobeyed the letter of that law, by letting Frodo and Sam go. Technically, you and your companions would have been subject to the same sanctions, by appearing at Pelargir with the Army of the Dead. Although we couldn’t have executed them of course! I sometimes wonder if my father would have tried to have you arrested if he had lived to see your arrival…’

‘I didn’t know about that law when I set out through the Paths of the Dead,’ replied Aragorn, ‘but technically I was breaking it. I might have argued prior permission dating from my time as Thorongil, but it could have become very complicated and could well have delayed our councils and setting out for the Black Gate. 

‘Still, I’m sure no-one will bring that now, will they?’ 

This work has been a long time in the making, and I hope that completing it will unblock some of the other story ideas that have been floating around my head for a good few years now. It was inspired by, and is dedicated to a friend, Lee Conley. Lee writes Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery books (see and along with other multifarious talents, also participates in Mediaeval Combat and Reenactment. 

One day, a few years ago,Lee posted on Facebook about the difficulties he been having (post Brexit) in importing a rather special two-handed combat sword from Germany, and the questions in customs forms he had to fill out - 'was it an offensive weapon?' 'Well, yes, it very much was'.

In my early career, I had worked in import-export trading in the oil products business, and remembered all the forms and regulations rather well, so sympathised with Lee. I recall making a jocular comment along the lines of 'I bet Aragorn didn't have to fill out lots of forms when he 'imported' Anduril to Gondor', and then thinking 'hmm there might be a fanfic there...' What with Covid, lockdown, and other things, its taken quite a while to complete, partly because I kept remembering more and more procedures from my past experience. 

I also took a while investigating the history of the word 'million', wondering when it first came into common parlance - it must have seemed an incomprehensibly large number to people in pre-industrial times. Planudes of Umbar is based on Maximus Planudes, who lived and worked in Constantinople from 1260 to 1305, and was recorded as one of the first people to use the number one million: . In my imagination, Faramir is just the sort of person to enthuse about such interesting snippets of knowledge (a classic 'Resource Investigator'), and so I have him expounding on the topic of millions to Angren. 

The topic of numbers and logistics also comes up in the 'Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry' blog of Mediaeval/Roman historian, and life long fantasy enthusiast, Brett Devereaux. His page of 'Resources for World Builders' includes fascinating and absorbing pages of writing about pre-industrial food and weapons production, and includes detailed multi-section analysis of both the siege of Gondor and the Battle of Helm's Deep: - and basically he thinks Tolkien understood these things pretty well. I commend these pages to all Fan-fiction writers who wish to add even the smallest nod towards 'real life' to their writings. 

Home     Search     Chapter List