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Import Duty  by DADGAD

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!'

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