A World of Men - Chapter I: A Celebration
The blacksmith's shop was filled by men, women, and children that had nothing to do with weapons or tools of any kind such as could be found on the dust-clear shelves.
Besides, none of those so much as looked as the displayed items.
All their attention was on the front street, as was the attention of every single inhabitant of Minas Tirith today.
Even so, there was in fact nothing to see there but the paved street itself, and now and then a liveried soldier coming from the Gates up to the top of the city.
Yet everyone was intent, and there was a strange silence only disturbed now and then by a child crying or playing. But their parents payed attention not to let them loose, so even them were quiet enough to fit with the atmosphere.
The blacksmith himself, a tall man with short brown hairs and a skin redened by the fire of the forge, kept close to his belongings, seemingly seeing everybody as a potential thief.
He gave a start when a hand touched him gently on the shoulder, and sighed with relief when he saw his wife, a smile on her lips.
''They won't bother you today, Vasil. Why don't you relax and see the show?''
He shook his head.
''I don't trust them. Any of them could try to...''
She put a finger on his mouth, cutting him in mid-word.
''Not today. Today, all they want is being worth the price paid for this long-lasting peace. And enjoy themselves.''
''And so do I, and so you should do! Come on, Vasil, have fun!''
He smiled, and kissed her gently.
''I will. I promise. As soon as the Procession is gone, and those guys with it.''
She shook her head, then laughed again.
''Then I'll see you in an hour!''
She turned and started toward the door, disappearing into the crowd.
Sighing, Vasil started looking again.
He didn't like to see his shop so full, he who usually saw no more than five or six customers a day, to sharpen a knife or to repair a horseshoe.
He wasn't that suspicious, but he hadn't had the time to hide the valuable things before the crowd began to enter, and now was too late: if he took the time to hide one, the others would have vanished when he returned.
Of that he was certain.
About thirty minuts later, the first part of the Procession arrived in front of the shop, and for a short while Vasil stopped looking at his belongings.
The show deserved the cheers that came with it.
First came jugglers and musicians in bright colorful dresses, singers whose voice rang clear and fair over the continuous mumbling of the crowd, and some men and women none really knew what they were up to do, though they were cheered as well as the rest.
After that came a mounted party of Guards of the Citadel clothed in the fashion of the Third Age.
Then came those who would later be on the stage for the play telling the story of Aragorn the Ranger and the War Against the Shadow.
There was of course a man dressed like a Dunadan, who tried to appear as noble as the famous king of old was, but he was not alone.
Right behind him were the Gondorians, whose apparition drew many clapping: Denethor the Strong, Faramir the Noble, Boromir the Brave.
There were also those who played the friends of Gondor, those who had helped as much as they could in the war, as Theoden of Rohan or Mithrandir, or Legolas and Gimli, and many others whose name didn't matter but who were also there to see the fall of Mordor.
Last of the actors came a man all dressed in black, with a red eye painted on his dress: the man who would play Sauron, the Dark Lord.
A chill ran on Vasil's body, for every citizen of Minas Tirith remembered the bite of the Dark Lord.
When the last actor disappeared, another group of Guards, in the modern fashion, passed the street, followed by a great golden coach, pulled by strong horses.
Inside the coach were sitting King Atanatar IV and his wife, Sara Redhairs.
When the King was gone, there was none left in the street but disordered followers, and the crowd's attention stopped to focus.
Immediatly, Vasil resumed looking after his precious tools, and froze.
A dagger was missing!
He looked around with rage, and spotted a man dressed all in black, with a hood hiding his face, walking quickly with the crowd up the city streets.
Vasil stopped a moment, trying to think about what to do. He couldn't leave like that, or others would steal, but he couldn't let him go either.
Finally, he pushed and shouted everyone out of his shop, and closed it in a hurry - and receiving disdainful frowns from the passerby - before beginning his pursuit, without much hope.
There were so many people walking and talking around the Temple of Remembrance, awaiting the king's speech, that Vasil had no hope left to see the robber.
But he kept looking anyway, until he almost fell on his wife.
She smiled at him, resuming the conversation they had had forty minuts ago.
''Ah, there you are at last! You finally let your shop!''
He sighed, and couldn't hide his frown.
''Someone stole the dagger I made for this merchant from the North.''
She seemed surprised, but quickly asked casually:
''Any chance to recognize the stealer?''
He shook his head.
''Not the stealer, but the dagger well. It's marked with the merchant's stamp.''
''A fox with the Sun behind. On the hilt.''
''It won't be easy to find it, especially now. We'll have to wait for the feast to calm down, then we can try to ask the Guards.''
Reluctantly, he agreed.
They both stopped talking when the King appeared on the dais that had been set for him.
In fact, everyone stopped talking, for the King began to talk.
''People of Gondor, citizens of Minas Tirith, inhabitant of the Reunited Kingdom of Men, be pleased!
Be pleased, for today is the day of Remembrance. Today, we forget the present, and we think about the past.
A thousand years ago, King Elessar passed away, leaving his son Eldarion on the throne of men.
Now, this throne is still in the hands of the free men, heirs of Númenor, and strong with the will of those who fought against the darknesses and the fear of the Great Enemy.
Never shall we forget what the world owns us, and never shall the world forget what we once did for them.
We saved the world, and now we rule the world!''
As the king's speech went on, the cheers of the crowd began to lessen along with its attention, for the main message was finished and, after a few minuts, nothing was left but self-glorification of the King himself.
However, Vasil's attention was still on the King, and while listening with some distraction he thought about this mysterious thief, and how he could put him in front of the king's justice.
This is probably why he first thought his imagination was playing some trick to him when he saw the thief himself behind the dais, getting closer to the king.
When the thief got really close to Atanatar, he shook his head and gave his wife a slight push on the arm.
''Can you see this man in black, behind the King?'', he muttered.
She seemed to focus on the dais before answering.
''Yes, I can. Your thief?''
He nodded, and she suddenly seemed deep in thought.
Then, as if struck in horror, she hissed.
''You said he stole a dagger?''
His mouth fell open when he understood what she was thinking.
Immediatly, he turned toward the thief, who was now almost within arm reach of the king, as if he was just leaning intently to listen to whatever Atanatar was saying.
With all the strenght he could master, Vasil shouted in desperation.
''Behind the King! Behind the King! Guards! Murderer! Thief! Help the King! For Eru's sake, save the King!''
The king didn't seem to notice, but many eyes now noticed the man, and the shout was repeated and heard by the guards.
A few of them started toward the king, but the thief lifted the dagger and struck two time at the king before leaving at a run, unpursued.
Vasil and his wife were frozen in horror.