Aramir blinked lazily, then frowned. Something was wrong. The sun was coming in the wrong window of the house. It was supposed to be shining in Kellian’s face, not his. He sat up in slight confusion and raised his hand to shade his eyes from the blinding light. Then he remembered.
He was an Itir!
With that recollection came also the remembrance of his dream, causing him to shudder in uncomfort and embarrassment. He quickly glanced around him, but there was no sign of the woman who had haunted his dream during the night. Aramir shook his head. What an odd feeling. The whole dream had been odd, he noted, thinking of Kellian’s calm, staring eyes. Hurriedly he inspected his arm but saw no sign of the cut that had been present in his dream.
Satisfied that his dream had been nothing more, he climbed out of his bed and walked to the doors leading to the balcony. He pushed them open and stepped onto the balcony with a smile. The soft breeze felt wonderful and did a fine job of fully waking him. He leaned up against the rail and glanced down. His room opened to an impressive view of the garden on the east side of the palace, filled with brightly coloured flowers, forest green bushes and shrubs, and tall trees that provided shade in the heat of the day. Aramir made a mental note to himself to go and inspect the gardens when he had a chance.
He didn’t expect to have a chance any time soon, however. His stomach was still filled with flutters, remaining now to remind him that, although he had passed one test, he still had to be accepted by the other Itir as one of them. And that might take some time.
The click of the doorknob caused him to turn slowly around and face Kellian.
The Elf grinned at him. “Good morning, fellow Itir Aramir!” he said with a grand bow. “Did you sleep well?”
Aramir laughed. “Good morning to you as well, Master Elf.” He paused, then, almost as an afterthought, added, “I slept fairly well. I had the oddest dream though. You were in it.”
“Really?” Kellian asked, crossing the room and joining Aramir on the balcony. “What was I doing?”
“I don’t remember,” Aramir lied. There was no way he was going to tell Kellian what he had been doing in the dream. “I just remember that you were very calm.”
“Ugh.” Kellian made a disgusted face. “That’s not a dream, it’s a nightmare!”
Aramir doubled over with laughter. “Yes, I thought the same thing.”
A soft rap on the door and the chuckle that drifted from the doorway to the balcony told Aramir and Kellian that Lee had arrived.
“My, you two are awake early,” the captain of the Itir said with only mild surprise. “Now what could be bringing on your unexpected promptness?”
“Unexpected?” Kellian asked in horror. “We are always prompt, sir.”
Lee snorted. “Of course you are,” he conceded with a wink. “Now, if you two would like to follow me, we shall fit you for Itir uniforms. But you have to stay calm,” he added, shooting a teasing grin at Kellian.
The Elf sighed dejectedly. “You ask too much of me.” He shook his head as though going through a trauma, then dashed after Aramir and Lee, who had left him behind in the bedroom.
Aramir and Kellian followed Lee back down the hallway about an hour later, talking eagerly about their new uniforms, which they now wore with great pride. The fittings had taken less than half of the time, with the other half being consumed by the adjusting of their clothing. According to Lee, they would be given one uniform that was worn only for counsel and other important events- one that needed to be kept clean, he had said pointedly. They were also provided with everyday Itir clothing, which was the same as the formal uniform but did not need to be kept spotless.
Now they each wore their first finished outfit- the seamstresses would finish the others and leave them in their rooms. The uniform consisted of a tunic belted at the waist and clearly marked with the white Itir insignia, boots that covered their pants to just below the knee, arm guards into which had been intricately burned the Tree of Gondor, and two sashes- one which served as a belt that was more for show than for purpose, and the other which ran across the left shoulder and down to the waist. Aramir had immediately set to teasing Kellian about his golden blonde hair, which contrasted so sharply to the rest of his completely black outfit.
“At least I have colour,” the Elf retorted, surveying Aramir’s black hair and equally black eyes.
A chuckle from their left caused the group to pause in its proceedings. “Yes, Aramir does seem to blend in, doesn’t he?” Pilindar emerged from the shadows, a smile upon his face. Aramir and Kellian grinned. “And how are the two newest Itir?” Pilindar continued.
“Nervous,” the two responded in unison.
“Nervous?” Pilindar and Lee chuckled. “You’ve already survived the worst part,” Pilindar confided. “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. And since I didn’t get a chance to say it yesterday: congratulations, both of you.”
Aramir and Kellian blushed and thanked the archery master. Pilindar brushed off their thanks, then waved and turned back to whatever he had been doing prior to their passing by.
They continued down the hallway, the two young men constantly glancing about, trying to get a feel for their new home. Lee was more than happy to explain anything they had questions about, describing where certain passages lead and what certain rooms were used for.
By the time the complete tour was over, Aramir was fairly confident that he would be able to find everything after a few days, and feeling much less nervous. They spent the rest of the day with Lee, learning the day to day schedule of an Itir and what was expected of them as the elite group’s two newest members. According to Lee, about eight of the Itir were officially on duty per day; the other four were free to do as they chose, and most spent their time either training with each other or simply being on informal duty. ‘Duty’ involved a variety of things that ranged anywhere from accompanying the king and queen to simple scouting of the palace and grounds, making certain everything was as it should be. At night, two of the Itir were on watch in the palace, patrolling the halls and corridors. The assignments rotated, so generally an Itir was on night duty once a week and day at least four times, if Aramir understood correctly. The more he heard Lee speak, the more excited he became, and the more he felt like a true Itir.
Aramir and Kellian waited nervously in the corridor outside of the Great Hall, dressed in full, formal Itir uniform. They shifted anxiously from foot to foot, neither speaking nor glancing at Lee, who stood nearby, a knowing smile upon his face. King Arodan was certainly slow, Aramir thought, and then felt bad for it.
As if to prove his thought wrong, the door opened and Shai stuck her head out, smiling brightly. “Ready?” she asked in an almost eager tone.
Aramir and Kellian nodded, equally eager. They had been ready forever, but now it was finally happening. In only a few minutes, they would be true, official, no-doubt-about-it Itir. They followed Shai into the Hall, down the long isle in the middle of the room. As they walked, the two young men glanced about in awe. Huge paintings decorated the ceiling, depicting figures of long ago- Isildur, Aragorn, and Faramir were three that Aramir recognized immediately. Giant windows let bright sunlight into the room, giving it a friendly, welcoming look and feel. At the end of the isle was a black marble dais with three small steps, polished to such as sheen that Aramir could easily see his reflection in it upon ascending the stairs. Set upon this dais was another, smaller, but no less black and polished dais. Upon this smaller one sat three thrones- one for the king, one for the queen, and one for the oldest child and heir to the throne of Gondor. The two former were occupied, but the latter was not, as there was no heir to the throne. King Arodan smiled warmly at Aramir and Kellian as they stood nervously before him, eyes filled with awe and respect. An equally warm and friendly expression rested upon the face of Queen Ilren, who sat with two broadswords across her lap, hands resting upon them easily. Aramir’s eyes trailed to the swords, instinctively knowing that one of those was to be his. His own Itir sword. His heart leapt in joy, and he wised that Sicil and his mother could be here.
“Please kneel,” Arodan requested softly, to which the young Itir complied hastily. Arodan turned his eyes to Aramir. “Aramir Nárëgond of Gondor,” he said softly, then turned to Kellian, “and Kellian Cúelen of Rivendell. You have come here before me for the completion of your initiation into the Itir, into a life of service to Gondor and its royal family. You have proven your worthiness of this honour through the tests administered by Captain Merin and the current Itir of Gondor. I now ask them…” and here he shifted his gaze to Lee and Shai, who stood behind Aramir and Kellian. “Lee Merin and Shai Rûn of the Itir of Gondor: do you proclaim them worthy of this honour?”
“We do,” Shai and Lee responded gravely.
“And do you proclaim them capable of carrying out the tasks of an Itir?”
They gave the same answer, and he went on. “And, to the best of your knowledge, are they loyal to Gondor and to its people?”
Arodan nodded, satisfied, and returned his gaze to Aramir. “I now ask you to state your intentions to those present, Aramir Nárëgond,” he intoned. “Do you swear to serve Gondor, its royal family, and its people for as long as you may live?”
Aramir swallowed nervously, struck by awe. “I do,” he answered, almost embarrassed.
“Do you swear to serve the good of Middle-earth, and never its evil?”
“And do you swear to remain loyal to this good, and to do all that is within your power to protect it?”
“I do,” he answered, excitement and anxiety growing with every word that Arodan spoke.
The King then turned to Kellian and asked him the same questions, to which the Elf answered “I do” as well.
Satisfied, he turned to Ilren and smiled softly. The queen smiled back and gently handed him a small cloth from her lap, on which sat two small rings. They matched the insignia of the Itir- a seven pointed star, but the arrow formed the band of the ring, point and feathers meeting the star on opposite sides. Arodan took one of the rings and turned to Aramir.
“Your hand,” he requested.
The young man offered him his hand excitedly and watched as Arodan slid it onto his finger. The King then turned to Ilren and accepted the sword that she held out to him. He drew it slowly out of its sheath and turned to Aramir again, placing the blade upon the young man’s shoulder.
“Then, by the right of my throne and the power granted me by my people, I name you Itir Aramir Nárëgond of Gondor. Rise and take up your sword.”
Aramir rose shakily to his feet and waited while Arodan sheathed the weapon, then accepted it from him with trembling hands. As Lee has instructed him beforehand, he took the sword- his own Itir sword- and attached it to his belt, letting it hang at his side. Then he turned back to Arodan and Ilren and bowed respectfully.
Arodan smiled and turned to Kellian. He requested the Elf’s hand and slid the ring onto his finger, then took the other sword from Ilren and placed it upon Kellian’s shoulder. “By the right of my throne and the power granted me by my people, I name you Itir Kellian Cúelen of Gondor. Rise and take up your sword.”
Kellian rose and accepted the sword from Arodan, hooking it to his belt as Aramir had. He bowed deferentially to the king and queen, the stepped back and waited.
Arodan regarded them seriously for several moments, saying nothing, only watching them. Suddenly, his face broke into a wide smile. “Well,” he asked, “aren’t you going to celebrate?”
Kellian and Aramir grinned and turned to each other. “Kell!” Aramir cried, throwing his arms around the Elf and leaping up and down in ecstasy. “We’re Itir!”