The dream came again on a night almost three months into his training. As it always did, it startled him out of his sleep, only to find that it was almost morning anyway. He did not particularly want to experience the second half of his dream, so instead he rose and stretched lazily. He glanced out the window and noted that the sun was just peaking the horizon, sending rays of light shooting high into the sky. His black eyes closed contentedly as he stared out the window, letting the sunlight warm his face. To think that he had been here three months already… After several minutes of standing at the window, Aramir turned away and seized a tunic from the end of his bed. He pulled it over his head and methodically began to strap on his weapons- a procedure which, over the course of those three months, had become automatic. He pulled on his boots, checked himself over, and collapsed back into his bed. One would be surprised how comfortable one could get, even wearing a sword and several dozen daggers. He did not know how long he lay sprawled out on the bed, but eventually Kellian sat up, yawned, and promptly began to laugh.
“What?” Aramir asked without bothering to look at the Elf.
“You,” Kellian declared as he rose silently. “You do that all the time, and yet seeing you lying in bed in with your sword and daggers never ceases to amuse me.”
Aramir rolled his eyes and sat up as Kellian finished dressing. “I’m so glad I can provide you with amusement so early in the morning,” he retorted with a grin. He checked himself over one last time, making sure everything was in place. His bow was staying in his room today, for what reason he did not know other than that Lee had come to class yesterday and told everyone that they would only need their swords and daggers today. Satisfied that he was set, he and Kellian made their way to the ring.
It was immediately apparent upon entering the ring that something was amiss. The students gathered in the middle of the ring, talking in low but excited tones. Aramir and Kellian hurriedly made their way over to the cluster of students and elbowed their way towards the centre.
“What is going on?” Aramir asked Fia curiously.
The woman absently brushed her hair away from her eyes and gave Aramir an excited glance. “Well, I don’t know if it is true or not, but it is rumoured that Gwynadar has gone.”
“Gwynadar?” Aramir asked, clearly shocked. Gwynadar was one of the Itir, or had been, if the rumour was correct. He was a fairly young man, about Shai’s age, who came to class every now and then to observe and give tips to the students, and while he was quiet and reserved, his advice was always greatly appreciated. “Gone where?” Aramir demanded.
Fia shrugged. “I don’t know. That’s just the rumour. No one has heard anything else.”
Kellian opened his mouth to begin a question, but a sudden hush passed over the collective group, and the Elf shut his mouth, looking disappointed.
The cause of the hush appeared, taking the form of Lee, who was dressed in perfectly spotless full Itir uniform. The captain’s deep brown eyes were filled with slight sadness, but also with a glint of amusement. Apparently, whatever had happened was not too terrible. Lee held up his hands and any remaining sound died away.
“I am sure that by now you have all heard the rumours regarding Gwynadar’s departure. I am sad to inform you that they are, in fact, true, although anything you may have heard about the circumstances of his leaving are most likely untrue. Beyond saying that it is for family reasons, I am permitted to say nothing about this matter, but I will say that he did not suddenly die-” here, Lee smiled wryly, “-and he was not kidnapped by Orcs. He will not, however, be back.”
Lee paused and let a murmur of speculation run through the students, then held his hands up again. “Class will continue today, but I have something a bit different planned for a few of you.” A second hush fell over the ring. “King Arodan is having council today with the Council of Minas Tirith, and I have received special permission to bring four of you along to observe. Now, if you are not selected to come today, you will have another opportunity later. I have chosen Lukar, Vrain, Aramir, and Kellian to coming along today. The rest of you will be working on your longbows with Pilindar. I’m sorry to deprive you of your assistant instructors,” Lee added to Pilindar with a smile. The other Itir grinned but said nothing, and Lee continued. “Very good. If you four will come with me, the rest of you may go with Pilindar.”
The four young men hurriedly made their way over to where Lee was waiting for them, eager looks painted on their faces.
Lee smiled, looking almost regretful, then beckoned for them to follow him towards the palace. “You may have realized, but Gwynadar’s departure opens a second space in the Itir.” He paused, glancing at each of them, then continued with amusement. “I’ll say it right now, Aramir and Kellian. Don’t make me sorry I put you two together. This is a serious matter, and part of your training as a potential Itir. The same goes for you two,” he added to Lukar and Vrain. “You are all to be serious and silent. You will each be standing with one of the Itir, observing during the council. There is to be no talking, laughing, or making faces at each other.” He winked at Aramir. “Do you all understand?”
They all nodded seriously, falling into silence at the stern tone in Lee’s voice. They walked on for a moment, and then the captain laughed. “You can talk now, for Ulmo’s sake. You are rather frightening when you’re silent.”
Kellian laughed wickedly, as though scaring Lee had been his intent all along. The four young men began a hushed conversation, still not wanting to be too loud. Lee led them into the palace, and Aramir realized as he walked through the huge doors that this was the first time he had ever been inside. From the looks upon his companion’s faces, they were thinking the same thing. Lee, however, knew exactly where he was going and strode down the halls at a quick pace. The four trainees often found themselves trotting to catch up after they stopped to stare at something in wonder.
“This is my room,” Lee announced when they stopped. He opened the door and ushered them in, and Aramir looked around in awe. The room was by no means big, but neither was it small. Two glass doors opened onto a small balcony overlooking the city, and sunlight streamed in through them. A small, one-person bed was placed in one corner, and an array of weapons littered the floor and walls. Lee crossed the room to a small dresser and opened one of the drawers. He rifled through its contents, then tossed something to Aramir.
“Put this on,” he instructed, continuing to search.
Aramir held it up and realized that it was an Itir tunic, complete with the insignia. “Uh, Lee?” he began, but the captain cut him off.
“I know, I know,” he said with a chuckle as he tossed Lukar another tunic. “Just put it on.”
Aramir complied quickly, pulling off his shirt and donning the tunic eagerly. He tied his belt around his waist and went to stare at himself in the small mirror in Lee’s room. His eyes lit up as he saw himself, dressed as an Itir, and he was suddenly glad he had decided to wear his black pants and boots today. He really did look like an Itir. The only thing missing was-
“Here.” Lee threw a sash at him. “That needs to go opposite of mine- from your right shoulder down to your left side, covering the insignia. It will mark you as a trainee.”
Aramir nodded, understanding, and pulled the sash over his head and tied it around his waist, out of the way of his sword. He glanced at himself again and grinned. “I feel like an Itir,” he declared.
Lee chuckled and adjusted his own sash before surveying the four young men. All were dressed much the same as Aramir-completely in black, with black sashes across their chests. He nodded in satisfaction. “You all look fine. Now, when we get to the council, you will each be standing with an Itir, observing in silence.” He put extra stress on ‘silence’ and smiled. “Any questions you may have, please hold them until the council is over. Do not speak unless you are addressed.” He smiled at the rather taken-aback looks on the trainees’ faces. “Don’t look so worried. You’ll all be fine, and as long as you behave, you won’t be in any trouble. Follow me.” He turned and led them out of his room and back the way they had come. As they walked, they were met by a second Itir, one Aramir had seen several times, but had not yet met. He was slightly older than Lee, with golden brown hair that was held back, as was Lee’s, with a black piece of fabric tied around his head. He smiled at Lee, then at the trainees.
“Ah,” he said in a friendly tone. “And here are Aramir, Kellian, Lukar, and Vrain.” His eyes fell upon each of them as he said their names, and then he extended a hand to Aramir. “I don’t believe we have been formally introduced. I am Harith.”
Aramir took his hand and shook it with a respectful smile and greeting.
Lee held up his hands, a smile still resting on his fair face, and the soft chatter of the group died away. They made their way to a set of doors, open to reveal a large, spacious room in which sat a large table. It was well lit and cheerful looking, surprising Aramir. He wondered where the other two Itir were, and, as if on cue, Shai and Nerin rounded a corner and stopped next to the rest of the group.
“Alright,” Lee began after greeting his other two Itir. “I would like Vrain to stand with Nerin, Kellian with Harith, Lukar with Shai, and Aramir with me. Kellian, Aramir, you heard me the first time, and if I see you making faces at each other, fear the wrath of the master pillow fighter.”
It was all the two friends could do to keep from bursting into hysterical laughter, and as it was, they had to bury their faces into their hands to muffle the sound.
Lee waited for the laughter to die away, then finished. “The council is set to begin in about ten minutes. We will already be inside, waiting. Technically, the Itir are not to even be seen. We do nothing to call attention to ourselves while in council.”
“Ah, good morning, Captain Lee,” a deep friendly voice cut off Lee’s next words.
Aramir spun around and nearly gasped at who he saw standing not three feet from him. King Arodan smiled brightly at Lee as the captain bowed. He was fairly tall, with grey eyes that sparkled in the morning light as they darted around, taking in the sight of the Itir trainees. He brushed a strand of his deep brown hair behind his slightly pointed ear. His age would have been difficult to guess even if he was not half-Elf, and Aramir had no idea where he would have placed the king.
“Good morning to you as well, Milord. My Lady,” Lee added, bowing to Queen Ilren, who stood next to her husband, smiling as well. She was astonishingly beautiful, even though she had little Elven blood. Her long, dark hair fell down her back and framed her small, exquisite face. Emerald green eyes flickered about, glancing at Aramir and his companions in a friendly manner.
“And these must be the Itirnessa, Lee?” Arodan asked, turning to Aramir, who was closest.
Lee nodded. “Yes.” He introduced each of them to the king, and they each bowed in turn.
When the introductions were finished, Arodan and Ilren walked gracefully into the council room, followed by the Itir and trainees. The king and queen stood at the table, and the Itir spread out to the four corners of the room. Aramir hastily followed Lee to one of the corners and stood next to the Captain. He felt rather special that Lee had asked him to stand with him. Even in just three months and infrequent meetings, Aramir felt close to the captain of the Itir, although perhaps he was just dreaming. Nevertheless, Lee did seem to like him, and Aramir looked to the captain as someone he wanted to be just like.
The light in the corner was lacking, and Aramir decided that it was to hide the shadowy figures that occupied it. Lee stood silently, hands looped behind his back. He stood tall and proud, but not so rigid that it seemed an impossible stance to maintain for hours. Aramir stood next to him, glancing around curiously. His eyes drifted to the corner where he had seen Kellian and Harith head, and realized that it was difficult to see the Elf and Itir in the dim light of their corner. I couldn’t make a face at him- he wouldn’t see it, Aramir thought with amused disappointment.
“Any questions before it starts?” Lee asked quietly.
Aramir jumped slightly and turned to face the captain. “None that I can think of,” he answered after a moment.
Lee nodded as several men filed into the room. Aramir’s eyes followed them with interest, and a quick glance from Lee told him to remain silent from now on. He gave a barely perceptible nod, then turned his attention back to the ensuing council.
Despite his great interest, Aramir could not have told anyone what the topics of discussion were at the council. He stood motionless at Lee’s side, eyes darting around excitedly. He made eye contact with Kellian several times and found it increasingly hard not to make a face at him. The Elf seemed to be having the same trouble. The king, queen, and council discussed matters of Gondor, for all Aramir knew, and he supposed that it was probably a good thing that he wasn’t paying attention- according to Lee, he was sworn to secrecy anyway.
When the council was finished, the group trotted back to Lee’s room and gave him back his clothes, with great disappointment after seeing how nice they all looked as Itir.
“You all did a wonderful job. I’m greatly impressed that you-” he looked at Kellian and then Aramir “-were able to be silent and motionless for so long.”
“It was torture,” Kellian moaned, flopping over on Lee’s small bed. “I thought I was going to die of calm.”
“Die of calm?” Aramir laughed. “Only you could die of calm.”
“Yes, you would just pass out,” Kellian shot back, sending the group into another bout of laughter.
Lee rolled his eyes and chuckled. “Alright, enough calm!” he announced with a smirk. “Back to class!”
Chapter 7: https://www.theonering.com/docs/12217.html
Chapter 8: https://www.theonering.com/docs/12255.html
Chapter 9: https://www.theonering.com/docs/12309.html
Chapter 10: https://www.theonering.com/docs/12463.html