Ta'Vaalor's Guardian Keep: A Day in the Life of Arnranaer Evor Vaalor
High Porter Arnranaer Evor Vaalor examined the line of pages before him, his eyes glancing over their identical golden tabards, crimson leggings, and crimson shirts. He made yet another mental note to ask for their shoes to be a bit more practical – long, curled toes with tasseled ends were not exactly the best way to ensure swift, silent delivery of messages. He had to admit to himself they looked like the fresh, young nobles-to-be they were. Ranging in age from seven to seventeen, this crop included more than one young female. After brushing a stray piece of lint off the crimson-embroidered wyvern on the end page's tabard, he finally spoke.
"It is time for you to assume your duties within Guardian Keep," High Porter Arnranaer announced. "In preparation, I am here to remind you of your duties and quiz you as to your readiness."
A couple of the younger pages shifted their weight nervously, causing an audible rustle of silk. Sharp looks to the young blond in the middle and the third page from the left, a young girl, encouraged them to return to the straight-ahead stare pages were to maintain at all times.
"The main duty of a page is to run messages between officials throughout the Keep. You must do it swiftly, silently, and, most important of all, accurately."
"We will begin with you," High Porter Arnranaer stated as he stopped in front of a sixteen year old with light brown hair. "Who would you deliver a message to if you were instructed to ask about the menu for tonight's dinner?"
The page, his eyes meeting Arnranaer's, said, "Master of the Kitchen Eroldyna Renuaonna Vaalor, milord. She makes the menu for the King's board and for the servants, both."
Arnranaer nodded once, then moved on to his next target, a much younger youth. To meet the seven-year-old's eyes, the High Porter bent down a bit. "And who reports to the Master of the Kitchen, youngling?"
Squeaking with nervousness, the youth answered," The Pantler, Afor Throvarafel Vaalor, milord! He makes the best bread and honey!" Blushing as he realized his gaffe, the youth went on more seriously, "and the Butler, Gildrim F-fisquelanna Vaalor and the Butcher, Sehean Casath-thvia Vaalor, milord." The blush deepened as he stammered the last two names.
Arnranaer smiled slightly as he nodded to the youth, scion of one of the noblest families of Vaalor. "Correct, but you must practice your pronunciation! This evening, repeat each of those names perfectly five times to me before your supper. It is Gildrim Fisquelanna Vaalor the Butler and Sehean Casathvia Vaalor the Butcher."
The youth nodded his agreement and said, "Thank you, milord High Porter," in a relieved tone. He could not keep his eyes from straying to the willow switch in the corner of the High Porter's office.
Taking a couple of strides down the line, Arnranaer picked his next victim. This time, it was a striking red haired teenage girl with blue eyes. She had had trouble adjusting to court life, he recalled, having come from a family of petty nobles on the edge of Vaalor's holdings. "Tell me the duties of the three who report to the Master of the Kitchen."
Staring straight ahead, the girl answered in a clear voice, "Milord, the Butcher inspects all meats that come into the Keep and prepares them with his staff. The Butler is in charge of the wines, spirits, ales and beers. And the Pantler is in charge of procuring everything else from bread to cheese to napery."
"Very good, Page Veritia," the High Porter said. "Now, one more question: who does the Master of the Kitchen report to?"
After pondering slightly, she replied, "The Lord Chamberlain, milord. Retassal er'Anlan Vaalor."
"You will do, young lady." Backing up slightly, Arnranaer stopped at another page, this one almost stodgy compared to his more lithe brethren. Rumors abounded about his male parentage, as his mother and her household had been assigned to far away lands when he was born, but there was no proof he was not suited for Elven court. Still, there was talk.
"Who else reports to the Lord Chamberlain, Page?"
"The High Maid, milord. Your boss, Zawynyth Amtifel Vaalor." The portly page exhaled slightly in relief.
"Not so fast! Who besides me reports to the High Maid, young man?"
His shoulders sagging, the coarser page replied, " the High Gardener, Lamvara Koehlarnes Vaalor. The High Marshall, Dhoil Evlonkash Vaalor, in his stables, and… ." he paused for half a second, considering, " the Master of Ceremonies, Caslastha Feravainhar Vaalor. Milord."
Nodding curtly, Arnranaer moved on down the line. He stopped, his bushy eyebrows furrowing into one as he bent down to address a tiny girl. It was obvious her tabard had been cut down to fit, as the wyvern brushed its bottom hem. He wondered briefly why they sent such young ones to him to train as pages. She should be enjoying the sunlight, not standing along the corridors of power at the beck and call of every official.
"Young Page Sharletta, who else is of equal rank in the household with the Lord Chamberlain?"
Sharletta smiled slightly, her youthful spirit getting in the way of her professionalism as she piped up, "The Lord Legionaire, my uncle, and The High Lord Stewardess, Tahlthi Zythaira Vaalor, milord!"
Shaking his head, Arnranaer looked down at the tiny page and waited. Her mouth went round and she put her hand to it, making an audible pop as she realized her mistake. "I'm sorry, milord. I forgot. I'm not allowed to tell of my family while a page." She hung her head and he nodded.
'That's right, Page Sharletta. You are all pages here, nothing more and nothing less. While you wear your uniform, you are all equal in rank, no matter who your family is. It is fundamental that all of you understand this."
Turning and pacing behind the pages, correcting their backs when he saw the slightest slouch, the High Porter reminded them, 'The High Stewardess' duties involve everything outside the Keep except the Army. That is the provenance of the Lord Legionaire. And the Lord Chamberlain controls all that goes on inside the walls of the Keep."
Tapping an unsuspecting page on the shoulder, Arnranaer asked, "Who would you be required to go to to retrieve documents, young man?"
The page answered, his eyes closed to better concentrate, "The High Yeoman, Vonya Selaelis Vaalor, milord."
"Good," the High Porter replied, "and if it was over some difficulty with one of the smelly Dwarven delegation? Probably involving baths… ."
Suppressing a smirk, the same page replied, "That would be the High Ambassador, milord. Simam Eilahual Vaalor."
"Again correct." Reaching the far end of the line of pages, he faced the nondescript ten year old at the end. "But what if it was the Dwarven delegation asking about trade, who would you go to then, young lady?"
She answered in a very melodic voice, "In matters of trade, always go to Jatherthar Daeten Vaalor, the Commerce and Trade Minister, milord. He also oversees all the shops in the Fortress." Her answer almost sounded musical, as if she had put the knowledge to some tune only she heard
Strolling down to the last knot of three pages without questions, he stopped and stood silent for half a moment. "Page Elvaryn, tell me who the Lord Chancellor and the Lord of the Exchequer are. Also explain to me their differences in function.
Elvaryn replied, in the cracking voice of a fifteen year old, "The Lord Chancellor is Shanal Elasti Vaalor. He oversees all the paperwork of the kingdom and audits the accounts of the Lord of the Exchequer, Arnhal Kerithoth Vaalor, who is in charge of the treasury."
The High Porter cringed inwardly with each break from high to low pitch and back, but did not let it show to the young man. "Yes, that is correct."
"And now you, Page Wyreni, who is in charge of the security of the Fortress, keeping malcontents locked up where they belong?"
The ten-year-old Wyreni looked up at the High Porter and stated, "The Constable, milord. His name is…" she hesitated slightly, her uncertainty showing on her face, " Corath hel'Saeari Vaalor, milord."
She exhaled slightly as he nodded his approval. "Yes, you did pronounce it correctly, Page Wyreni." Turning to the last of the pages, he said, "And the last official you will be asked about today: who is in charge of spreading the culture of Vaalor to all, both within and without the Fortress?"
Lowering his head, for this was another of unusual, to say the least, parentage, his ears less sharply pointed than the rest of the group's, the boy said in a tone of fear, "The Minister of Culture, milord. Lord Ahari Corwynaen Vaalor."
His tone sharper than before, the High Porter intoned, "Yes, and don't you forget it, King's pet or not!"
Stepping back a couple of paces, Arnranaer addressed the group one last time. "You have all passed this final quiz. You are expected to be at your posts in no less than half an hour and to start your duties. If I hear of a single message misrouted, lost, or slowly delivered, you will be back here in this office."
His voice became softer. "And the visit will not be nearly as pleasant. Understood?"
In chorus, the pages recited, 'Yes, milord!" before filing out the great ironwood door.