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Or Perchance, When the Last Little Star  by Larner

New Duties

            The journey to the White City had been made in stages.  First she’d accompanied her parents home to Pinnath Gelin to hurriedly pack those possessions she would wish to have with her in her new position.  The Steward and his party had lingered three days more in Dol Amroth, and had sailed from there to Pelargir where they were guests of the port city’s officials for another four days.  There Lynessë had joined them, taking ship with them for the final journey up the Anduin to Minas Tirith.  As the escort sent by her uncle to see her safely to Pelargir stood by to farewell the ship she’d felt a pang of anxiety, leaving her parents’ protection as she was to live independently of them for the first time in her life. 

            There was little time aboard ship, however, in which to become maudlin, for she was now receiving instruction from the Lord Steward’s minister of protocol, his body servant, and from Lord Húrin, who proved to had little time to do more than give her instruction on court etiquette and some of the duties she would be expected to perform while in the Citadel’s employ.  But she found she enjoyed watching him sit in discussion over reports with the Steward and hearing him sing in the evening as all took the air together briefly before returning to the warmth of their cabins for the night. 

            He rode beside her as they crossed the Pelennor toward the White City, but there was at first little inclination by any to talk, for it was quite a chill day, with their breath coming out in bursts of white mist as they rode, and their horses’ hooves striking as loudly against the grassy verge as against the metaled road.  Lynessë found herself grateful for the warm woolen scarf her mother had pressed on her on her departure from Pinnath Gelin, a gift she’d not thought she might need.

            “It is a far more pleasant ride in springtime, when the orchards of the Pelennor are in bloom and the flowers are springing up around the villages and farms,” Húrin finally commented.  “Are you warm enough?”

            “Oh, but I am most comfortable,” Lynessë assured him.  “I did not remember all the homes that were here on the Pelennor.  As for the city....”  She turned her eyes to the White City built on the spur of the mountain.  “I’d forgotten how great a place it is.  It seems so overwhelming, looking up at it!  How it shines!  And to think that when I dwelt here as a child I thought nothing of it!”

            He shrugged.  “But what else had you known?”

            She nodded thoughtfully.  “That is true.  You realize, I never looked back--not that I remember, at least, as we left it.  Perhaps that is why it seems so surprisingly large now.”

            He smiled, but turned at a hail from his Lord Uncle, dropping back from Lynessë’s side.  One of the Guardsmen took up duty as her escort, but she had to admit to herself she felt disappointed to lose Húrin’s company.

 *******

            Balstador, first assistant to the Seneschal, showed Lynessë the choice in suites made available to her as the new Chatelaine to the Citadel.  One was the first suite to the left just inside the Stewards Wing on the upper level, one was on the lower level of the Servants’ Wing, and one was on the upper level of the Citadel over the Council Chamber.  In each case the suite boasted a comfortable sitting room and bedroom, while there was a rather small bathing room attached to that in the Servant’s Wing and a larger, more attractive one for the suite in the Steward’s wing; and in each case a large closet where a maid might be comfortably housed.  In the case of the suite over the Council Chamber she would be required to share a bathing chamber and privy with the Housekeeper, but attached to it was another room that she could use as her office; and she found that the views from the windows looking eastward across the Court of Gathering toward the Pelennor and southward toward the valley of the Anduin more than made up for the inconvenience of having to share with the Housekeeper. 

            When she indicated she would prefer these rooms Master Balstador appeared pleased.  “I suspect that having to go daily past guards to enter the Steward’s Wing would prove trying after a time.  Each time new Guardsmen are assigned to the Steward’s Wing those who serve there find they must too oft prove their identities all over again.”

            He looked about them as he led the way to the shared bathing room and privy to show her their amenities.  “These are much nicer than those in the other suites,” he explained.  “Of old, it is said, these were the rooms shared by the King’s heir and his bride once they married, before taking the Winged Crown in his own turn.  A few of the Steward’s heirs have taken these rooms for their own, but most have chosen to use the rooms on the upper floor of the Steward’s wing instead.”

            The Housekeeper appeared both awed and delighted to find the new Chatelaine taking the rooms by her own.  She was yet young, perhaps in her mid-thirties.  “My lady!” she exclaimed as she executed a deep curtsey.  “I am Gilmoreth daughter of Pergennion, Housekeeper for the Citadel.  I will, of course, remove my own soaps and possessions from the bathing chamber so as to leave it solely for your use....”

            “And why should you do that?” asked Lynessë.  “I can see no reason for you to trudge halfway across the Citadel to bathe or cleanse yourself simply because you and I must otherwise share a privy and bathing chamber!  You will usually be ready to use it, I would guess, when evening falls, while I shall need it rather in the afternoon, ere I must meet with the Citadel’s guests or with the Lord Steward.  I shall have a servant, and she shall also have need of it, I fear, and will make her own ablutions in the morning hours ere I need her for serious work.  Can this not be a satisfactory schedule for the three of us, do you think?”

            Mistress Gilmoreth colored somewhat.  “What you say is true, my lady,” she said slowly.  “But for mere servants to share the chamber with one of the nobility is not usually thought seemly!”

            “And who is to know or care, particularly as I am of the minor nobility at best?” Lynessë asked.  “I, too, am now employed by the Citadel, as much a servant to our Lord Denethor as yourself.  It may be true that you and the Seneschal shall both report to me, but that is of little import.  I will not infringe on your responsibility to deal with the lesser servants; and it shall give us both more chance to consult with one another on the needs of the servants and the guests of the Citadel should we have occasion to meet at times other than those we set formally.

            “Now,” she continued, “I am uncertain what I must do to find furnishings for my rooms.  I see that they are almost totally bare!”

            Mistress Gilmoreth smiled.  “Well, that is part of my function--to bring you to the storehouses where furniture is kept against the day it might again be required.  Come.”

            Over the centuries since the Stewards had inherited the rule of Gondor the furnishings within the Citadel had been changed apparently many times, depending on the tastes of whoever was Steward and his Lady.  Several storage halls had been built behind and slightly to the south of the Citadel itself to hold much of the furnishings that had been removed from the place, and one of these also housed the workshop area for the carpenters who kept much of the woodwork within the great edifice intact and who performed repairs on those pieces of furniture preferred by its inhabitants.  Accompanied by three footmen summoned by Mistress Gilmoreth, Lynessë was led to these storerooms and allowed to choose bedsteads, wall cupboards, chests, kists, tables and chairs and cushioned benches.  From another hall she was allowed to choose bedding, hangings, and curtains according to her tastes, then such chinaware as she preferred for her own private meals and entertainment.  Finally she was taken into a great room where there were paintings, vases and works of craft from which she might take what she desired to decorate her rooms. 

            She stopped to admire a great statue of a maiden who appeared to be dancing (“That is supposed to be a depiction of the Lady Lúthien Tinúviel as she was seen by Lord Beren,” Gilmoreth explained; “It stood once in the rooms of Lord Boromir when he was younger”), then noted that beyond the statue were cases filled with books.

            “Oh!” Lynessë breathed, and taking the lamp from Mistress Gilmoreth’s hand she went on to do some exploration.  After a few moments she stopped.  “May I look to take a few of these into my own rooms?” she asked.

            “Of course, Mistress,” the Housekeeper admitted.  “It is asked only that you keep in mind these belong to the Citadel and should return here should you look to move into your own home in time.  Of course, I suppose many of these started as the personal belongings of some of those who once dwelt in the Citadel itself, and having been abandoned when their first owners died or went forth and did not return fell into the possession of the Stewards and thus came to this storehouse.”

            It was a solemn thought, but it did not stop Lynessë from going through the shelves as thoroughly as time allowed.  She paused at one point, asking Mistress Gilmoreth, “And may I return in the future?”

            “But of course, Mistress,” the Housekeeper assured her.  “You have but to ask, and I will gladly accompany you here.”

            In the end she chose ten books--two of them books of pictures, one of Gondor and one of lands she did not recognize; one of poetry from Rohan (“I must suppose this remains from the days that Lord Thengel dwelt here in Gondor, when he visited here in the Citadel many years past, before he returned to Edoras to take up the kingship of his own land,” Mistress Gilmoreth murmured quietly when Lynessë showed her her find); one a book of stories for children entitled Tales of Elves and Dwarves (“Do you suppose that such creatures still linger in Middle Earth, perhaps in the empty lands of the North?”); one a book in Sindarin entitled On the Building of the Citadel of Minas Anor that appeared quite ancient; two books of poems common to Gondor that had been written in Westron; and then two books with meticulously crafted leather covers in brown calfskin, the older one apparently an epic poem of some sort written in a particularly elegant hand, and a much newer one with rather larger writing, its letters clear but rather spidery, as if the scribe had been elderly.  Inside the covers were inscriptions in archaic Sindarin that she promised herself she should puzzle out in time.  Lynessë had studied Sindarin, of course; but most, it seemed, both spoke and wrote in Westron in these days.  Part of what had drawn her to these was a silver stamp embossed into the leather on each, down in the lower right corner of the front cover, of a sailing ship that appeared to carry a star.

            “I must suppose this is enough for now,” she said regretfully.

            “We can return at a later date.  But you will now require shelves on which to place these, and those others you might find in time,” Mistress Gilmoreth said.  She found what she declared was the perfect bookcase, and the footmen added it to the items already set aside to be brought back to her rooms.

            By nightfall most of what Lynessë had chosen was in place and set in order; early next morning one of the seamstresses for the court arrived with samples of materials for the promised costumes to be provided as part of her recompense for the services she would render for the realm.

            “It seems odd,” she confided to the woman, “to think of my time here as being in service to the realm.  Oh, but I do like this golden silk!”

            The woman held it up beneath her face, and shook her head.  “Nay, my lady--by itself it makes you appear sallow.  But with this as a counter to it--for the bodice itself, think you?”  She held up another bolt of a bright coral, and then held the two together.

            Now it was Lynessë who was shaking her head.  “Oh, no!” she said in horror.  “Not those two together!  But the gold perhaps as an overskirt to this?” and she indicated a tawny fabric that would look well with her coloring.

            Two maids arrived as the seamstress took measurements with her knotted string and made notes as to the embroidery Lynessë had asked for along the lower hem of the skirt and about the waist for one of the planned dresses.  “Mistress Gilmoreth indicated that we should help you to hang draperies and the wall hangings you have chosen?” offered one of the young women as she curtseyed.

            “But of course!  Let me finish with these, and we will see them all properly mounted,” Lynessë said. And once she had seen the seamstress out, she and the maids soon had the fabrics placed and the furniture adjusted to her tastes.

            “I have not seen a lady’s maid in your chambers,” suggested one of the two women, lingering after her companion.

            “I must confess I have not been able to choose one as yet,” Lynessë admitted.  “My mother was loth to part with Tersiel, who served both of us in our home.  Were you offering yourself?” she asked, eyeing the young woman, who flushed slightly.

            “Oh, no, not myself, my lady, but my younger sister.  She is newly come to the service of the Citadel and so far has served in the guest quarters.  However, she finds it confusing there, for each lady who visits the Citadel has her own ways of ordering her rooms and her own tastes as to how her hair must be dressed, and I fear Cireth finds it overwhelming at the moment.  I fear that her uncertainty must bring upon her a bad report in the end, and I would hate to see her reduced to more general cleaning.  She is one who sneezes a good deal at dust, you see.”

            “Is she of a genial nature?”

            The young woman gave a slight shrug.  “We find her so, my lady, but then I suppose that is to be expected of her own family.  But she is very clever in the dressing of hair, and is excellent in the care of fabrics.  Our mother has seen to it she is well trained in this--our family, you see, has served in the Citadel for six generations, and is honored to do so.  But where I love being free to work wherever they might use me in cleaning and serving, my sister is not as I am, being more shy than I, and not being comfortable among many people.”

            Lynessë considered the proposal.  “She is younger than you are?”

            “Yes, my lady--she is but fifteen summers now, and only now does our mother feel she is ready to take her place in service to the Citadel.  Oh, it is not as if she were not familiar with the place and the duties we all serve--we were often called upon as children to help in the decking of the place for festivals and the preparations of the feast hall of Merethrond for banquets and celebrations, you understand; and oft we have been allowed to assist our mother and grandsire in their duties.”

            “It might prove well,” Lynessë said slowly, “accepting such a one to my service, as she would not have learned habits from others I would not wish to see practiced in my own presence.  Is she honest in her opinions of how one looks?”

            “Oh, yes, my lady.  And I fear that would lead her to more of a bad report from those guests of the place who wish only to hear flattery.”

            That decided her.  “Then have her come to me, say an hour after the noon meal, and I will speak with her and see if she will suit.  You say she tends to sneeze when there is much dust?”

            “Unfortunately, although she does not do so when a room is kept reasonably clean to begin with.”

            Lynessë felt rather better at that, and dismissed the young woman with her thanks, noting the hopefulness of her attitude as she left.  Knowing how uncertain she herself felt, she could too easily imagine the anxieties of this one’s younger sister.  She hoped the girl had a modest disposition and was suitable to the position.  She went then to the closet to examine the narrow bed she’d chosen for her intended maid.  A mattress had been laid upon it, and it appeared soft enough.  Linens and a warm coverlet lay folded over it, as well as two well-stuffed pillows.  And on the wall beyond the bed she’d seen hung one of the hangings she’d not found room for elsewhere, a tapestry of three women seated over their embroidery.

            There was a small window to the narrow chamber, one low enough to allow even a small girl a view over the southern reaches of the outer courts.  A windowbox could be placed there, she thought, and smiled at the idea of it blooming once spring and summer had come again.  She drew the draperies over it to keep out what cold seeped in through its glazing.

            A bell rang, marking the half hour--she’d best ready herself for the noon meal in the dining hall, where she’d was to serve as hostess.  In moments she was even more hopeful that the girl Cireth would suit as she found herself searching for where one of the two maids had set a sash and an embroidered kerchief she’d brought for her hair.  Before she was quite ready there was a knock at the door--a page had been sent to show her the way to the dining hall.  She forced a smile and nodded as if she weren’t flustered, and followed him decorously out the door and down the stairs.

            Afterwards, she returned to her rooms glad she’d not made a total disaster of it.  Here the Standing Silence was practiced before every meal, but it was rarely observed in her own home.  Almost she’d made the terrible blunder of taking up her fork before the signal was given by one of Lord Denethor’s courtiers for all to rise and face west.  She tried to watch those seated about the table to see if all appeared content with what was served them, but noted twice when a particular gentleman had rather forcefully beckoned to a server to indicate something was awry.  She watched a fork removed and replaced, and a glass of juice borne away to be poured out as unsuitable.

            She had made a point of intercepting the man before he could leave the chamber to ask about the incidents.  “There were spots on my fork--it was not polished properly,” he said, “and a fly was allowed to fall into the glass.  I could not be asked to drink after that!”

            “I see, my lord,” she said with an abbreviated curtsey.  “I will check into the incidents and try to make certain that such things are not allowed again.  I am rather surprised that there was a fly brave enough to fly about at this season of the year, however.  I suspect that if one fell into your glass it was because it is so cold out its wings ceased to flutter.”

            He did not smile at her sally, however, and she found herself suddenly worried as to what report he might make to Lord Denethor regarding her!

            She’d not been long seated in her place before the fire in her sitting room (which, she noted, had been built up while she’d been absent) before a knock came at her chamber door heralding the girl Cireth.  Cireth was most inappropriately named, as she came barely to Lynessë’s shoulder, and was delicately built.  Indeed, she looked very much a child, her face still rounded and her future curves yet undetermined.  Her eyes were respectfully downcast as she answered Lynessë’s directive to enter and gave her curtsey.

            “Mistress,” she said in an uncertain voice.  “My sister Anneth has told me you might wish to accept me as your own maid.”

            “Yes, I am looking for a lady’s maid.  Your sister has said you are trained in the care of fabrics.”

            “Oh, yes, Mistress.”

            “What would you do for the gown I wear now?”

            The girl examined the gown with a critical eye.  “When you removed it I should hang it over a boiling pot of water that the steam might release the wrinkles.  I should then hang it upon a wooden form or gently fold it in clean muslin and sprinkle lavender blossoms or blossoms of wood violets within the folds to discourage moths.”

            “And if there were to be a stain upon it?”

            The child answered.  “It would depend, Mistress, on the cause of the stain.  Some should be treated immediately with cold water while it is best that others be allowed to dry that they be brushed away.  Would the stain be due to dirt from the gardens, a spill of tallow from a lamp, or a red sauce at dinner?”

            Lynessë found she liked the girl’s bright eyes, which were more green than grey.  Her hair was a very dark brown in color and worn in a single braid down her back, with bronze pins decorated with tiny butterflies holding back the wisps that would break free on each side of her earnest face.  The grey garb of the Citadel did not suit this child, she decided.  “If you were to serve as my personal maid, might I then see you dressed otherwise?” she asked.

            Cireth blushed slightly.  “Lady’s maids are usually dressed as suits the lady they serve, Mistress.  They do not have to dress the same way as those who serve in the guest wings or throughout the rest of the Citadel.  They are asked to wear an apron over their dress to indicate they are servants, though.”

            “And can you sew?”

            “Of course, Mistress.”

            “And you are fifteen summers?”

            “I know I look younger, Mistress, but I am fifteen.”

            “Would you like to be a lady’s maid?”

            Again the girl colored.  “Yes.  The other girls look down upon me for I look so young.  My mother says it is because the Dúnedain blood we bear is very strong, and so we tend to grow perhaps more slowly than do most maidens.  Anneth was little more than my height when she began working for the Citadel five years past, but now she is quite as tall as most of the others her age.”

            “Do any tease you?”

            Cireth nodded, her expression growing disapproving.  “Yes.  They left a doll on my bed in the dormitory last week, as if I were a small child.”

            “You sleep here in the Citadel?”

            “Yes--it is the custom for those who are only beginning to serve to sleep here at least six nights a week.  I do, and spend one night a week with my parents in our home in the Sixth Circle.  For those who come from a great distance, they sleep in the dormitories every night, while those who are adults who are married or who have inherited their family homes within the City usually come up to the Citadel from their homes to work each day.”

            “Ah, so that is the way of it, then?  Would you like to see where you would sleep most nights if you become my lady’s maid?”

            Cireth appeared pleased with the bed intended for her should she accept the position, and asked if she might bring some of her own possessions and have a shelf on which to keep them should Mistress Lynessë indeed choose her as her servant.  Then she pulled aside the draperies and peered out the window.  “Oh--I can see so far!” she said.  “At home I see only the wall up to the Level of the Citadel, for our house is on the inner side of the way.  My brother’s room looks out to the south, so he can see the river in the distance.  Our house is not far from the Houses of Healing, you understand.”

            She particularly seemed to appreciate the tapestry of the three women that hung beyond her bed.  “I have wished such a tapestry for my own walls,” she said in a soft tone as she ran her finger over the work.  “To have one here--that is pleasant!” 

            She appeared very pleased by the small area in which a brazier for cooking and cupboards for storage of some foodstuffs were to be found.  “I can keep here what you would wish for herbal drinks for when your head bothers you, or such things as you would wish to enjoy when you keep to your rooms, say on the days when your courses begin.  My sister suffers greatly on those days, and will not come to work if she can help it.”  She opened the heavy doors to one cupboard built into the very wall of the building, and smiled with delight.  “A cold cupboard--see, it is of stone, and the water for the bathing room runs behind it and helps to keep the inside cool.  You could keep milk and cheeses and some meats here longer than you might think.  And drinks!  In the summer what drinks you keep within it will be cool and refreshing even on the hottest of days!”

            Lynessë had given no thought to how it was that water came to be available on the upper levels of the Citadel, but it proved that Cireth was well aware of how that came to be.  She pointed up the slopes of Mount Mindolluin.  “There is a great lake not far below the level where the snows lie in the spring and autumn, fed by what melts from the top of the mountain.  Only those like my father who are employed in keeping the water flowing freely throughout the White City may visit it--it is said that long ago the Enemy sent orcs with vials of poisons that cause dangerous illnesses to the lake that fed Osgilliath, and that many became ill throughout the city, back when the Dome of Stars still stood and there were Kings in Gondor and before they ruled from here in Minas Tirith.  So the ways to the lakes are guarded that no evil ones do such a thing again.

            “There are both open and closed aqueducts that bring water from the lake down into the city.  There is a line of buildings reaching from the mountain all the way to the Citadel itself, and a carefully wrought line of pipes they support that feeds to the roof levels of the Citadel, then drop down to the bathing rooms of the areas where there is habitation, to the kitchens and the pantries and the laundries and such.  So it is there is always fresh, cool water available.  It takes little enough effort to fill the boilers, see the fires below them lit, and so have enough for warm baths almost whenever one wishes such a thing.  And by building such cupboards as these those who designed the Citadel have made it easier for people to keep their own private stores of food for those times when they wish to remain in their own quarters.”

            Having lived in a home where water for bathing had to be carried to one’s room by a succession of maids and footmen and poured into a great copper bath set before the fire, Lynessë found herself amazed at how she could look forward to bathing without having to draw the Citadel’s servants away from their other duties.  Yet she learned that most homes and buildings throughout the City had water flowing easily into them, as well as there being great sewers taking the refuse of the city out of it first to a great cleansing pond north and east of the Pelennor, and then to the river itself.  “My father and those who work with him are charged with seeing to it that the aqueducts and sewers maintain their flows unstopped,” Cireth explained as she demonstrated within the bathing room itself how it was the water flowed into a great porcelain sink deep enough to allow her to fill the pitchers and rinse the chamber pots kept within the bedrooms, as well as how the water closet functioned.

            “I do believe,” Lynessë told her, “that I shall enjoy living here within the Citadel.”

            Mistress Gilmoreth returned to her own quarters as the demonstrations within the bathing chamber area were finishing.  On learning that Lynessë was considering taking Cireth as her lady’s maid she appeared relieved.  “That is for the good, I believe.  The poor child is treated poorly by some of the older girls, and the very same chits have been arguing since yesterday as to which should be allowed to present themselves to you as candidates for the position.  There are two most self-absorbed maidens who are particularly convinced you should find each of them eminently suitable who have been rehearsing their complaints each against the other as well as the others within the servants’ wing.  This will put paid to their airs, and remove Cireth from the torments of putting up with them.  Cireth’s mother is an overseer within the laundries, seeing to those who press garments and linens and keep such things in repair.  She is a dear woman, and she and I have been friends for many years.  Most of the older maids do not realize this, and only see that as Cireth is yet small for her age she appears ripe for devilment.  I am very pleased to have the chance to advance her before them, really, and so teach them lessons in humility.”

            Having the Housekeeper’s blessing on her choice, Lynessë suggested that the girl spend the night at home gathering such possessions as she should prefer to bring with her, and arrive the next morning well after the dawn meal to set her things in order.  That would allow her to take up her new duties after the noon meal.  The Housekeeper confirmed the order and sent the girl scampering off to the dormitories to remove her possessions there back to her parents’ home, suggesting she have a particular page assist her.  “The other maidens will think you have chosen to return home, and will not be aware of your preferment until it has been confirmed.  In that way you shall be free of retaliation from the two worst of the bunch.”

            As Lynessë was seeing the girl out of her quarters, Cireth suddenly stopped at the sight of the shelf of books.  “Oh--and you like to read?” she asked, turning hopefully toward her new mistress.

            “Indeed.  And you enjoy reading as well?”

            “Oh, yes.  I often spend time in the summers inside the archives where I read and assist the archivists.  It is very cool there, you see.”

            “So much the better, then,” Lynessë said, smiling.  “We can discuss with one another what we have read.  And if I myself am not reading one of my books, you are free to do so.”

            She was rewarded by a brilliant smile from the girl, who hurried off to remove herself from the dormitories, forgetting herself sufficiently to skip as she went.

 *******

            The evening meal went more smoothly than had the noon meal, and afterwards she met in the Housekeeper’s office near the kitchens with Mistress Gilmoreth and the Seneschal to discuss what had occurred within the Citadel during the day.

            “There was one rather critical man who dined in the common hall at the noon meal,” she began tentatively, “who sent back a fork he said was not properly polished, and a glass in which he said a fly was found.”

            The Seneschal made a face.  “Young man from Anórien, wearing a tunic of blue and green stripes?  Hair of light brown and a small, pointed beard?”

            “Yes.  It sounds as if you are well aware of him.”

            “Indeed.  Fendril of Destrier.  A member of the Guild of Lawyers in Anórien.  He was sent here by Lord Benargil of Anwar to carry correspondence.  He has proven an uncomfortable individual who seems impelled to find fault.”

            Mistress Gilmoreth, who had been growing visibly disturbed ever since Lynessë mentioned the fly, added, “And he keeps insisting that he finds flies within the Citadel and makes mention of the smells from the midden, when there is no midden or any garderobes within the confines of the city, as all goes into the sewers rather than into aught such as a midden.  And what self-respecting fly would be found abroad at such a season as this?  None hatch at this time of year, as cold as it is!  The man appears to live solely to imagine ugly things!”

            “I see,” Lynessë said, slowly.  “I do remember saying such to him--that if any fly should have found its way into his goblet it must be due to the severe cold stopping its wings.  He did not appear to have found that comment humorous.”

            The Seneschal, on the other hand, was giving her an appreciative smile.  “Well done, my lady.  But I doubt not you are right--it is questionable that Master Fendril has any humor within his makeup.  We allow his complaints but do not take them further than to humor him and do all we can to speed his departure back to his own place.”

            So saying, the three turned their attention to other matters regarding the running of the household, and Lynessë set herself to learning what she could of her new situation.

 *******

            The following morning after breakfast, as Lynessë was meeting with the cooks regarding the menus for the next week, a page entered the Housekeeper’s parlor where the meeting was taking place to summon her out.  “One of our guests, Master Fendril of Anórien who is here on behalf of Lord Benargil of Anwar, has a complaint to lodge, my lady,” he explained apologetically.  “I have taken him to the lesser audience chamber, for he has taken offense before when brought to a mere office.”

            “I see,” she said, rising.  “I apologize for this,” she explained to the chief cook and baker.  “However, it appears my duties require me to soothe such guests as this.”

            “It was Master Fendril?” asked the cook who specialized in preparing soups.  “He has three times sent back soups he swore were burnt since he came, but no one else has been able to find any hints this is true.”

            “And he insisted he’d found a weevil in the breakfast pastry he received but yesterday,” added the head baker.  “The pastries were rich in poppy seeds, and no others could see aught but such things in the pastry he returned.”

            The others shared glances that indicated there were yet more tales to share if she were to ask, and she gave one last glance around before rising and nodding her head to the company.  “So, it continues, then.  Well, I must say that I can but approve what you have already planned for the week, although if you could include some jellies and thin broths for those who might catch the colds that are beginning to make their way through the Citadel it would perhaps be appropriate.  And have we a goodly store of the orange fruits, lemons, and such things?  My mother and aunt both swear such fruits help to stave off the illness.”

            The head Cook nodded.  “So swore my mother as well.  We shall see to it there are such things included in at least one meal a day, then, my Lady.  And with your permission....”

            She gave her agreement before turning to follow the page.

            As she entered the lesser audience chamber, she found the man in question standing with his hands clenched behind his back, examining a vase that stood upon a tall side table.  “Master Fendril?  I understand you wished to lodge a complaint?”

            The lawyer turned toward her, and she noted his expression was disturbed.  “You are Lord Denethor’s Chatelaine?”

            “Yes, sir.  I am Lynessë of Pinnath Gelin, a niece of Lord Elstror.  I admit to being newly come to this office....”

            “You are far, far too young for such preferment,” Fendril interrupted.

            “Lord Denethor approached me personally to ask me to take this position,” Lynessë answered him, feeling herself grow stiff and her voice tight.

            “He himself----”

            “Yes, Lord Denethor himself invited me to dine with him in Dol Amroth that he might judge whether or not he felt I could deal with such responsibility.”

            His eyes searched hers for a moment, although she had the feeling he wasn’t actually seeing her at all.  “Well, that is as it might be.  You are yet young....”

            “As, Master Fendril, you also appear to be.”

            He stopped at that, and appeared to be plumbing the meaning there.  “It is only that I did not wish to bring before the eyes of one as innocent as you must be such horrors as I have found.”

            “Horrors?  You have found horrors here within the Citadel of Minas Tirith?”  She didn’t know whether to be shocked or merely to laugh.

            “Well, of course.  This vase....”  He waved his hand vaguely, apparently meaning to indicate the vase he’d been looking at on her arrival.

            She came close to look at it herself.  “Yes?  And what is there to disturb you about it?  It is the work of Dol Amroth potters, I would say, and shows a fairly typical view of the quays of Eldelhond.  It is very nicely executed, actually.”

            “But there is a swan upon it.”

            She examined it again.  “Not a proper swan, but a swan ship.  That is, after all, the emblem of Dol Amroth, recalling the days when Eldelhond was the home of the remaining Elven haven within the realm of Gondor.”

            “So much the worse, it being a swan ship.”

            She felt amazed.  “And what is horrible about a depiction of a swan ship?”

            He looked about as if to make certain none would overhear a shocking revelation, then leaned forward to whisper into her ear, “It is a death omen.  Did you not know?”

            She pulled back, not liking the feel of his breath in her ear.  “What?  And since when----”

            He looked into her eyes earnestly, his expression intent and, she thought, more than a bit fanatical.  “It is true.  The swan has ever been a symbol of the Sea, you know, and the Sea itself is a symbol of death!”

            “The swan is associated with Lord Ulmo even as the Eagle is associated with Lord Manwë...” she began.

            “Those who die are said to have fled to the west,” he again interrupted.  “Over the Sea!” he added, as if that explained everything. 

            “But, when one goes to Dol Amroth the Sea is all about one, as the city is build upon a peninsula,” she pointed out.  “They are a people that live surrounded by the Sea.  They are sailors and fishermen....”
            “And are so suspect!” he insisted, as if he had proved a point.  “This place has too much that reflects the desires of such outlandish folk!  The whole city is filled with images of the Sea and swans and stars and swords!  I cannot find a single statue of the Kings or Stewards that does not include a sword or at least a knife!”

            “But those who founded Gondor came from the Isle of Númenor, and it is not for naught they have ever been called the Sea Kings, Lords Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anárion.  And of course all who have ruled Gondor have borne swords and weapons, as all have been sworn to protect our lands and peoples!”

            He threw up his hands, apparently despairing of convincing her of the evils surrounding her.  “You do not understand!”

            “Master Fendril, I understand that you insist that the smell of the midden offends you.”  She felt it time to interrupt him for a change.

            “What?  Oh, yes--the middens.  I am told they have never been cleaned.”

            “Never been cleaned?”

            “Yes, so the Housekeeper has told me.”

            “Yes, I believe her to be correct.”

            He again searched her eyes, this time actually appearing to be seeing her.  “This does not disturb you?”

            “Why should it disturb me, as there are no middens here, Master Fendril?”

            He appeared to fail to comprehend what she said.  “What?” he finally asked.

            “There are no middens within the Citadel, Master Fendril.  There are none, from what I know, anywhere within the White City, in fact.  We do not need such things, as the city is served instead by sewers that carry the waste far out beyond the Pelennor before cleansing it away.”

            “But where do the servants empty the chamberpots?”

            “Into the water closets, sir, to feed into the sewers!”

            “But there must be a midden!”

            “I assure you there is none.”

            “But I have smelled it!”

            “When?”

            “When I have opened my window.”

            She thought to the cold, grey day she’d seen outside her own window that morning as she dressed.  “And why have you opened your windows in weather such as this?” she asked.  “It is far too cold to have one’s window open, you know.  It is thought by many we shall have snow within a day or two.”

            “I know, Mistress.”

            “Then why have you opened your windows?”

            “To empty my chamberpot!”

            She looked at him, not certain she had heard him aright.  “You have emptied your chamberpot out of your window?”

            “Yes.  I cannot abide the smell of a chamberpot, so empty it ever as soon as I have used it.”

            “You did not think to put the lid upon it?”

            “And what point is there for a lid for a chamberpot?”

            “To contain the smell until it can be emptied and properly cleaned!” she snapped at him.  “And that is the purpose of employing the chambermaids and footmen, Master Fendril, in part to see to it that the chamberpots are regularly cleaned!   All you need do is ring the bell when you awaken....”

            “But I have used it far more often than merely at night,” he hurriedly said, again interrupting her.

            “You use it during the day?”  At his nod, she asked, “But why?  Why not use the water closet?  That is why such facilities are available, after all!”

            “I cannot allow my stream to fall into water--it would taint it!”

            “But it goes into the sewers and is not drunk by any!”

            “But how do you know that?” he asked, suddenly intent again.  “You have told me there are no middens, but I have smelled them, outside the window to my chamber!”

            “I am certain you have--a midden you yourself have constructed by throwing the waste from your chamberpot out of it!” she said, feeling very frustrated at this point.  “And no waters from the sewers are used for drinking anywhere within the City!”  She looked around the chamber until she spotted the bell pull, and went to it, pulling at it vigorously.  “Master Fendril,” she said coldly, turning back to that gentleman, “I grew up partly here in Minas Tirith, but mostly in Pinnath Gelin.  We have no sewer within Pinnath Gelin, but we do have cesspits into which our water closets and other drains empty.  The one place I am aware of that has garderobes, even, is the oldest portion of my uncle’s keep, and there they are no longer used save in the most urgent of situations.

            “That you would think it tenable to throw the contents of your chamberpot out of the window indicates that perhaps the realm’s engineers need to make a prolonged inspection of Anórien and see to educating your people as to how to dispose of waste in a healthful manner, rather than leaving it pooled upon the ground as do simple cattle.”

            There was a knock at the door, and she opened it to admit Master Balstador, first assistant to the Seneschal.  “Ah, sir--it would appear Master Fendril here has not appreciated the proper use of our water closets.  Is there one within the Citadel who is familiar with the water and sewer systems within Minas Tirith who can educate him as to how they function and how it is we have pure water to drink?”

            “Master Vandorn of the Lord’s Engineers has his offices within the Citadel, Mistress Lynessë.  I am certain he can explain much to Master Fendril.”

            “If he will listen,” Lynessë said in low tones between clenched teeth.  More loudly she said, “Then if you will escort Master Fendril to Master Vandorn’s offices and arrange for him to be given a careful description as to how water is brought into the Citadel and waste from the drains and water closets is removed, I will be very grateful.  It appears he imagines to use the water closets will somehow taint the water supply for the city.  And, I am sorry to say, we will require someone with a barrow, high boots, and a shovel to remove the midden from outside Master Fendril’s quarters.”

            “But we have no middens within the Citadel’s grounds,” he objected blankly.

            With a disdainful look at the offending lawyer, Lynessë explained, “Ah, but it appears that as of Master Fendril’s arrival we do.”  She turned again to the visitor.  “Master Fendril, I am sorry, but I have an inspection to carry out of the kitchens’ stores.  It appears that the poppy seeds must all be inspected to detect if any have developed legs.”

            With that she exited the room, her head held high.

 *******

            It was late in the evening, and Lynessë sat in her comfortable chair before her fire reading one of the two books bound with calfskin she had found.  It was written in Westron, she’d realized, but in a variant of the alphabet with which she was unfamiliar.  That and the rather spidery hand in which it was inscribed had made it difficult to decipher at first, but now she was reading it more swiftly, now that she was almost finished with its first section, a story entitled Joco and the Cornfield.  It was a funny, endearing tale, she thought, clearly one written for the enjoyment of children, but with a good deal of embedded wit that intended it to be equally enjoyed by adults.  She decided that she should share it with Cireth as soon as she returned from the Servants’ Hall where she’d gone for the evening.

            “You must allow her to spend time with her fellow servants,” Mistress Gilmoreth had cautioned her earlier in the day.  “To allow a lady’s maid to become aloof from other servants leads to far greater abuses than finding frogs in the ewer or serpents in one’s chamberpot.  Young Cireth has too fine a nature to allow it to be spoiled by taking on airs and being isolated from others.” So Lynessë had encouraged her to spend time elsewhere and told her that she might, during her free hours, invite one or two of her especial friends, with Lynessë’s approval, to come to these chambers to read and sew and talk.

            It was restfully quiet at the moment.  She had but one more paragraph to read when she heard the knock at her door.

            “Who?” she wondered as she closed the book about a finger and went to answer her own question.

            It proved, of all people, to be the Lord Steward Denethor himself.  She felt stupid to stand there, her feet bare, an old but favorite shawl about her shoulders, her hair loosed from its braided coronet worn earlier in the day, gaping at the man, but how was she to have foreseen such a visitor?

            “My Lord?  I mean, won’t you come in?”

            He entered, and she was certain she detected a slight smile of amusement on his face.  “I thank you, Mistress Lynessë.  But you would answer your door yourself?  I had been told that already you had chosen a girl to serve as your maid.”

            “I have, but there was little for her to do this evening, so I sent her off to the Hall for the evening’s entertainment.”

            He raised an eyebrow--he seemed very good at that!--and gave her an approving nod.  “That is good.  I have seen too many body servants within these halls who have had no companions or skills in cooperation with others.  I commend you for your good sense.”

            She could feel herself color.  “Please, to come in.  May I offer you anything?  I fear all that I have on hand is some juice of oranges to offer, but....”

            “I need nothing.”  He took her chair, and she took a place on the nearby settle.  He was looking about himself, giving small nods of apparent approval.  “You show good taste for one as young as you are.  Ah, it is nice to see that someone else likes that tapestry--it was one of my older sister’s favorites.”  He looked at the book in her hand, and held out his own.  Reluctantly she surrendered it, sighing as she saw him close it, losing her place.  He examined the cover, then glanced at the similar, older volume in the bookshelf.  “I see.  You find yourself drawn to the books from the north.”

            “These are from Anórien?” she asked.

            He gave a shrug, and there was no hint of amusement  now.  “No, further north than that.”

            “But I had not heard that the people of Rohan or Dunland read widely.”

            “Nor do they, not outside the court of Théoden in Edoras, and even there the King is nowhere as avid a reader as was his father Thengel, who spent so much time here in Gondor.  As for Dunland--I doubt one man in a hundred knows enough letters to write his name.  No, this is from much further north than Dunland.  This particular book was given my son Faramir by Mithrandir some years ago, when he was still a child.  The Wizard felt that it would amuse the boy.  He said its author was a friend in a small land that was given to farming and little else.  His friend had sent it to the one Mithrandir often described as his patron in the northlands, who had it bound.”  He rose and looked at the nine volumes left on the shelf, allowing his other hand to rest on the older book whose cover was like the one he held.

            “And Mithrandir gave you that one?” she asked.

            “Mithrandir?  Oh, no--that belonged to one of the mercenaries who served Gondor under my father.  He spent some months here in the Citadel, there before Boromir was born, and I often saw it in his hand.  The Lay of Leithien.  I do not know quite why he needed to carry the volume with him, for I swear he knew it by heart.”  So saying, he settled the book in his hand beside it on the shelf, then returned to her chair.  “So, my Chatelaine, it appears that you have had your first experience with one of our more awkward guests.”

            “I am sorry, my Lord Denethor, to have offended Master Fendril further, but it was truly too bad, trying to deal with him, I mean.  To have been throwing the contents of his chamberpot out of the window, and to be convinced he must not use the water closet?”

            “You dealt with him very well, and far better than he deserved, I suspect.  Certainly Master Vandorn gave him a most thorough description of the proper ways to see to it that human filth does not spread disease and promote the growth of flies and vermin.  And as the gardeners do not usually work at this season in the flower beds outside of the habitation wings of the Citadel, his--private midden would have gone undetected for at least another month, at which time there would have been a profusion of nasty creatures hatching from what he had left there.  I came to commend you for finding out precisely what his concerns are.”

            “He is a turmoil of superstitions, my Lord,” she said.  “He sees death signs everywhere.”

            “You have indeed caught the heart of Master Fendril,” he agreed.  “He admitted at last that the reason he would not use the water closets is because he has become convinced that doing so into moving water will somehow weaken his manhood.”

            She looked at him, aghast, and then, without volition, began to laugh.  “He thought it would somehow unman him?  He is that great a fool?”

            “Apparently.”

            “He is so afraid of flies he would see the midden cleansed daily, even as he himself creates it where there was none and no need for one; and he mistakes poppy seeds for weevils!”

            “Oh, is that why the cooks and bakers shudder at his name?”

            “Yes, my Lord.”

            He smiled again.  “I came to tell you that he will be leaving tomorrow afternoon.  I have convinced him that I need him no longer to interpret the correspondence he brought me from Lord Benargil, and that it would be needful from this time to correspond through the regular message service.  I am certain he entertained the fantasy that I would be fascinated by his brilliance and make him my personal Counsel in matters of law.  That I failed to do so he sees as a lack in my ability to discern rather than due to any lack in his own character.”

            “And those in the Guild of Lawyers within Anórien take him seriously?”

            “Lord Benargil appears to do so.”

            “The more fool he!”

            “Perhaps.  But do be careful, Mistress Lynessë, with whom you share such sentiments.  Not all are as tolerant of what is seen as lack of respect as am I.”  So saying, he rose.  “I thank you for your receiving of me.  I was surprised you had chosen these rooms rather than those in the Steward’s wing, but I can appreciate why.  You have done well, and I do believe you will continue to do so.  But if it should happen, the Powers protect us, that Master Fendril should be sent again by his lord, I do ask that you be gentle with him.  Those with his fevered imagination see evil and signs of danger on all sides, and often need careful handling.  If you will see to it that he has someone sent to aid him in his preparations to leave early, as soon after the dawn meal as possible?”  He rose, gave her a carefully measured bow, and saw himself to the door.

            She watched after for some time, leaning against the jamb and wondering how much of what he’d said was a warning to be cautious.

 





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