The King’s Ears
I am called the “King’s Ears”. If ever I had a name of my own, it was far in my past. I did not start out to be the one always in the background or hidden in alcoves or behind walls. I was as any other child of the city until my parents died in the last great illness to sweep over the island. My talents were unrecognized, save by a few shopkeepers who had become my friends and my sometime protectors.
I had kept in the shadows for several years, but then I inserted myself into an argument; making a poor decision that would affect my life from that point onward. A local noble had been berating a merchant in the marketplace for the supposed inaccuracy of an order. I had been in the area when he had placed that order, and the merchant was one of my benefactors. On occasion he would throw me a piece of fruit or, if custom was slow, would talk to me about his wares. The noble was in the wrong, and I knew it.
“No,” I said firmly. “You are wrong. I clearly heard you say ‘I will order four ells of the dark green with the close cut, and two ells of the gray with silver threads as a border. I will be back in two six-days. Have it ready for me and I will pay you three gold pieces.’ and you threw a silver onto the table as assurance.”
He reached out and grabbed me by the ear. “How is it you ‘know’ what I said on that day, guttersnipe?”
I knew how to grovel, so I did so as best I could. “I never forget what I hear, your Lordship, the gods bless you and yours.” I was wiggling and trying to escape his painful grip on my ear, but I was spectacularly unsuccessful.
“Never? You never forget anything that you hear?” he asked, skeptically.
“My Lord,” the merchant interrupted in a mild and slightly condescending tone. “Azrabêth, as we name her here in the marketplace, is well known by all of the merchants and what she says is true. If she hears a bargain, a conversation, or a contract, and it is brought up to her even years after it happened, she can recall it exactly from memory.”
“Hmmmmm. There might be some use for you after all. You will come with me,” and the noble turned around and handed me to one of his guards. “See that she is cleaned up and presented to me this afternoon at five bells.”
So my life changed. Whether it was for the better or the worse, who can say? I can only say that I spoke up that day and my life was forever altered.
The noble saw a use for me. He had me trained in the ways of the high and mighty of the land. I was dressed in fine clothing, trained to blend into the background or hide in specific locations, and listened to many of his meetings, conversations, and negotiations. I was tested many times, but my memory, which has always been both my greatest gift and my greatest curse, never failed me. Finally, when he felt I was ready, he presented me to Ar-Pharazôn as a gift from his house and my life changed again.
My uses at court, it seemed, were similar to what they had been previously, but much more hung on the accuracy of my memory. Instead of just affecting the running of a great estate, it was the running of the entire nation that rested at my owner’s feet. After my worth had been proven, I traveled with the King as he visited other areas of the island on trade missions, explored his vassal’s lands, and even went East over the sea to conquer.
* * * * *
I fear that this trip of conquest will be my last voyage. I grow old in the service of this king, and I am uneasy to the depths of my bones when I listen to the King and his captive. I wish I could warn my Lord of the underlying evil that I feel when I am in the presence of Sauron, but he refuses to hear anything from me save that which I have been told to remember. I live as his ear and his memory, and though I hear more, I cannot speak it.
So I board the ship with Sauron chained in the hold. After several days, Meneltarma shines ahead of us in the dawning light. That sight, that usually brings such joy to my heart, is now eclipsed by the fear that we are bringing home doom imprisoned below the decks.
I must go, my King beckons…