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Import Duty  by DADGAD

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’.

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