King's Commission, The
41. Guild Masters, Kings, and the Gift of Iluvatar
Guild Masters, Kings, and the Gift of Iluvatar
An hour later Ruvemir and Elise were headed up the steep streets of Minas Anor to the upper city, riding in the cart with Miriel and Master Faragil, Pando, Ririon, Joy, Mardil, and Folco walking alongside.
"Mistress Loren won't be able to show you the house for an hour," the carter told them over his shoulder, "for embassies from Rhun and Harad are now approaching the city, intent on being here to see the child to be born to the King and Queen; and Mistress Loren is kept busy directing the preparation of quarters for them. Would you like me to take you to the level of the Citadel, then?"
After a few moments' discussion they agreed. "It is long," Master Faragil commented, "since I was here in the capital. It is much the same, and yet at the same time it is more alive, and more beautiful. Do you look to settle here, Ruvemir, once the King's commission is completed?"
"I will have at least two years work to do in Arnor," Ruvemir answered, shaking his head, "and after that, who can say? Besides, my bride here speaks of green places and mountains. I think we will see some such places before we choose where we will settle."
Elise smiled. "I would indeed like to see somewhat, at least, of the outer world."
Mardil asked his son's former master, "When were you here last?"
The older sculptor thought carefully. "It must have been forty-seven years ago. I had been approached about doing a figure of the Lord Captain Thorongil at the request of a young lord intent on currying his favor. I came to do studies of him, but he simply looked at me as if this were the one thing in the world he did not wish done. In the end I had to tell my patron that the subject refused to comply with his wishes, and I returned his retainer. I did manage to do a few sketches, though."
"Do you have them still?" asked Ruvemir. "I'd like to compare them to my own sketches done for the work at Casistir."
"Yes. When we come back to Lebennin I will find them and bring them to your estate. He was an intriguing individual. I remember the discussions of his origins. I suspected he was from among the northern Dúnedain, myself. His Sindarin was excellent, but was accented differently from our usage here; and he seemed to be well versed in the lineages of both Gondor and Arnor. How many do you know here in Gondor who have the least idea of what kings there were in Arnor, much less which of the three northern kingdoms each ruled?"
Mardil and Ruvemir shared a smile, while Miriel and Elise each hid a grin as they glanced sideways at one another.
"I wonder if the King will come out while we are in the Court of Gathering?" Miriel wondered archly.
"It is possible," Ruvemir answered with a meaningful look at his sister. "Although with the arrival of the Great Elves and the pending arrivals of embassies from elsewhere he is likely otherwise engaged at the moment."
"Other than being resistant to being immortalized in stone, how did you find the Lord Captain?" asked Mardil.
"He appeared to be superbly educated. There was a party thrown by Lord Forlong's father that we both attended, and he recited the Lay of Gil-galad in full, and sang part of the Lay of Lúthien in a voice that I remember to this day. Knew many of the hymns to Elbereth, I later learned; and I found he even spoke Quenya fluently. I'd never met anyone who knew any but a few words in that ancient language. Was totally fluent in Rohirric, of course, as he'd ridden among Thengel's Riders for several years.
"He did carry one odd thing often in his belt--a sort of shallow bowl with a stem to it in which he'd burn certain leaves and breathe the smoke of it."
"We call them pipes," Folco explained. "And the leaf we call pipeweed."
"I assure you, Captain Thorongil was no Pherian," Faragil admonished.
"I didn't say he was. But we Hobbits taught the folk of the northern lands to smoke pipeweed, Dwarves and Men both. Apparently, however, Elves never seem to have taken to it, or so Frodo and Sam have told me."
"I was a bit surprised to find Eregiel doesn't smoke pipeweed," Miriel commented. "The one other northern Ranger we've come to know halfway well certainly does." Ruvemir shot her a warning glance, and she attempted to look innocent. He heard a soft giggle from Elise, who was caught up in the joke.
"That was one thing I'd not thought much to ask about," Ruvemir, attempting to change the focus, commented as the cart made its way through the crowd of people on the main way within the Fourth Circle. "Did Lord Frodo still smoke after he returned to the Shire?"
"I don't remember seeing him do so," Folco answered after a few moments' thought.
"He didn't that I ever saw after he returned to Bag End," Pando said from his place beyond Folco. "Sam used to sit where the wind would take the smoke away from him, even. He did before he left the first time, though. Not as much as my da--my real da, that is. He always had a pipe going. Frodo seemed to smoke mostly after dinner, and loved to sit on the bench outside the door when he did. Or on market days on one of the benches on the Common."
"He used to have a beautiful collection of pipes, many of them left by Bilbo when he left the Shire," Folco continued. "They used to sit on the mantel in the study. But after he moved back into Bag End I never saw them any more. I saw only a single pipe after that that wasn't Sam's--a fine one Bilbo gave him when he still lived in Brandy Hall. White stone bowl with a silver rim and black birds enameled into the silver. Dwarf make, I think. It sat on the mantel in his bedroom."
"I don't remember seeing that when we stayed in Bag End," Ruvemir said. "Would he have taken it with him, do you think?"
"Perhaps, for Bilbo's sake," Folco said solemnly. "But more like Sam has it somewhere. Like Sting, you know, that Frodo kept giving him, carefully put away in the chest in the study. Sting always hung over the mantel in the study till Uncle Bilbo left the Shire, when he took it with him. Now Sam's sword is there instead, and Sting is in the chest, with the rest of the Ringbearer things. I suspect Sam has a second chest somewhere, the Frodo chest this time."
Ruvemir thought for a time, then looked at where the Hobbit trudged alongside the cart. "I wonder--have you ever looked into the chest beside Sam's chair in the parlor?"
Folco began to smile. "Now you have me wondering, too. If we ever go back for a visit, I will be certain to check it out. That was Frodo's chair, you know, before he left."
"I'd guessed, from the story the Thain and Mistress Eglantine told."
Elise asked, "What is the land of the Pheriannath like?"
Ruvemir smiled. "It is a green and rolling land, what we could see of it. No mountains, but low hills and slopes into which they dig their homes most of the time."
"The soil is rich and fertile," Folco added. "Each village is surrounded by farmlands, barns and byres. Those houses we build are long and low, not high and narrow as is true here. And we love our inns, truly love them. Our gaffers and gammers will be sitting in the dooryards, the gammers shelling peas and the gaffers smoking their pipes, watching the children running over the hills among the chimney pots while the mums are hanging out the clothes to dry and gossiping over the hedges and the das are following the plows and the teens are raiding the fields and the tweens are stealing kisses. And Sam will be kneeling in the gardens of Bag End, planting the marigolds or weeding the herbaceous border, and Frodo would be sitting at his desk, reading and translating and copying, or sitting in the Common in Hobbiton telling stories to the children...." His face grew sad and he looked away.
The guards at the fifth gate saluted as they went by, and as they passed Master Iorhael's shop he waved at them from the doorway. A squadron of the Guard were on their way down the streets toward their duties in the lower city while a merchant led a pack pony laden with carefully wrapped bundles up to the sixth level to his shop. A group of children played jumping games in chalked squares on the pavement, and a goodwife was singing as she swept the walk from her door to the gate in the low wall, singing a harmony to the bird who called from the ash tree rising in her garden. A boy ran forward to follow the cart for a ways, straining to examine its occupants and attendants, and in a square two old men looked up from their chess game on a low table between them to watch the cart roll by with its mixed retinue, one sipping from a flagon and watching over its rim. Ruvemir looked about and thought that perhaps this wasn't so terribly different from the Shire after all, and saw that the sadness was easing from his sister's husband's face as he, too, saw the life expressed so abundantly all about them. By the time they reached the sixth gate Folco was softly singing a walking song he'd sung often on the long journey south. Mardil listened with interest, and when he finally was done asked if it were a traditional song from the Shire.
"Bilbo wrote the words, although the tune is as old as the Brandywine, I think. He wrote so many of the songs and poems I like best. We used to sing it when we went along on one of Frodo's walking trips, to Tuckborough or Buckland, or maybe out exploring Binbole Forest or the Woody End. Frodo had a much better voice, of course, although Bilbo's was surprisingly mellow for an old fellow his age. I remember him teaching me that song when I was a little one and he and I were walking back from Hobbiton to Overhill."
The carter paused his ponies and pointed down a street toward the outer wall. "The house is down there, the one on the right there at the end of the lane, for when you come back down." Ruvemir thanked him, and they went on.
Faragil looked at the walking stick carried by Ririon. "And where did you come by your staff, young sir? It is most unusual."
"I was given it at a birthday party in the Shire. It was Prisca Brandybuck's birthday, and she thought I'd like it for she knew I was a woodcarver."
"What is the pattern carved into it?"
"It's a dragon. It's carved in low relief. Ruvemir says it's not as fine as my work, and that is isn't as good as the snake around the branch that I carved and gave to Merimac Brandybuck for Yule; but that is creditable." He turned toward Miriel and Ruvemir. "For my birthday, I want to give a Hobbit birthday party, where I give the presents."
"When is your birthday, Ririon?" asked Pando.
"In August. When is yours?"
"In October. October sixth. Sam says that that was when Frodo was stabbed, after he left the Shire."
"Yes," Ruvemir said. "At Amon Sul."
"I hate it that that happened on my birthday."
Ruvemir nodded his agreement.
They reached the ramp up to the level of the Citadel, and Ruvemir braced himself with one hand and took a firmer grip on his cane and sketch booklet with the other. Ririon let go the cart and dug in with the tip of his walking stick and started up.
All within it held on as the cart started up the last slope. The guards at the bottom saluted, then returned to their guard.
At the top the cart moved out a few feet onto the flat and stopped. Mardil assisted first his daughter and then Master Faragil out of the cart, and Ririon held out his hand to Elise and then his guardian. Ruvemir paused to speak to the carter, arranging to meet near the shop of Celebgil's father in the Fifth Circle in four hours time, then turned to the work site.
There was already a party there, examining the work in progress. Ruvemir could see Celebgil there, slight and uncertain among the tall forms in colorful, flowing robes about him, and Ruvemir realized that the sons of Elrond and those who had come with them had come to look upon the fruits of their labors. He went forward as swiftly as he could to greet them properly.
Celebgil was obviously relieved to see the arrival of the mannikin. "Master Ruvemir, these have come to see the work, and I am not certain what to tell them," he explained.
Ruvemir could see the practice piece the youth had been working on lying at the apprentice's feet, the face of a young boy, apparently. He smiled, and reassured him, "I will do what is needed, then. Thank you, Celebgil." He then turned to look up at those now surrounding the figure of Pippin, and bowed low over his cane. "My Lords, welcome to the White City. It is good to see you once again."
"And we rejoice to see you once more, Master Ruvemir son of Mardil," said Glorfindel. "We have heard your journey in return to Gondor was more troubled than that going north."
"Yes, it was. My Lord Haldir here assisted us mightily, and we were very grateful." He bowed again to Celeborn's escort. "You did not find any other interruptions to your own journey?"
Haldir gave a graceful bow in return. "No, the rest of our journey went well enough. I am told that the Lord Steward Halladan has seen to it those who attacked you have received the justice they deserve." Mardil turned to his son with concern, for Ruvemir had not written him of this. The son studiously avoided his father's questioning gaze. "And how long, do you think, before you come north next to fulfill your other commissions?"
Ruvemir shrugged. "However long it takes to complete the work here, and how long that will be I cannot yet say."
Other figures were coming out from the Citadel, the figures of Men this time, at the center of them the tall form of the King himself, who, although surrounded by others still walked as if alone, the dark green mantle he wore this day fluttering in the breeze stirred by his own passage. Attending him were Guild Master Dorion, Lord Elfhelm from Rohan, Lord Hardorn, and two others as well as Eregiel in dark grey and two of Aragorn's personal guard. The King appeared to be listening to Master Dorion as they came, until a call came from around the side of the Citadel.
"My Lord King," called an officer of the Guard of the Citadel, "a moment."
The King half-turned and looked behind him, sighed, turned to his companions and gestured them forward, then turned back to the approaching guard. Ruvemir watched as the King spoke with the Man, then spoke to Lord Hardorn, Eregiel, and one of the two guards, who all bowed and turned to follow the other guard back around the Citadel. The King watched after, straightened as he turned, and accompanied by Elfhelm and his remaining guard followed the path taken by those he'd sent ahead of him to the work site.
Guild Master Dorion's eyes lightened as he saw those who stood behind the mannikin sculptor. "Faragil, as I live and breathe! And what brings you to Minas Anor?"
"Have to attend a wedding. My former apprentice and his lady here are to be married next week."
"Master Ruvemir was one of your apprentices? Does that explain it, then, his skill?"
"His skill, perhaps; but his talent is native. It has been a long time, Dorion. Do you still do work of your own?"
"Now and then. It is good to be able, however, to do what I please and not have to worry about pleasing a patron. And is this your father, Master Ruvemir?"
Ruvemir smiled. "May I present my father, Mardil son of Barthond, Master Carver."
"It is an honor, Master Mardil. I've had the pleasure of receiving one of your pieces as a Midsummer gift from my wife three years past, a full-sized swan carved from ash."
"Ah, then I am pleased to know it has indeed gone to someone who will appreciate the artistry. I worked six months on the figure, and was grieved to see it leave me for it had come to almost be a part of me before I was done."
"How well I know the feeling. And these?"
"My daughter Miriel, Master Embroiderer, and her husband, Folco Boffin of the Shire in Eriador, farmer and copyist; and my daughter-to-be, Elise."
"You are a Pherian, Master Folco Boffin?"
"Yes. We met during the time Miriel traveled north with her brother to learn more of those he depicts here."
"Then you know these?" the Guild Master asked, indicating the diagrams pinned to the open screen.
"Merry, Pippin, and Frodo are all my kin, Master Dorion, and Sam Gamgee is one of the best Hobbits in the entire Shire."
"And young Pando is also, then, related to you?"
"He is one of my younger cousins, yes."
"It is a double honor meeting kin to the Ringbearer and his companions, small Masters." Dorion bowed deeply, followed by the two men with him. He then turned back to Ruvemir, Faragil, and Mardil. "This is Evram son of Isildon of Anfalas, Master of the Lord's Corps of Engineers, and Mardon son of Maravil of the city, Master Mason. We were asked to come meet with Master Ruvemir regarding the base for the memorial. It will not require a great deal of support, as the pieces are relatively small; however our Lord King does wish the pieces to be secure in their setting once completed."
Ruvemir bowed respectfully, holding his cane and sketch booklet before him. "I will be grateful for your cooperation. I have done a model of the envisioned monument, but did not think its presence would be required this day. Can I arrange to meet with you in the near future so we can speak of this more fully?"
"I was going to ask if you would agree to bring it tomorrow evening to the Citadel, Master Ruvemir," said the King, who'd joined them. "I've asked for these and their wives to join us in honoring the embassies we are receiving from Rhun and Harad, whose forerunners have expressed polite interest in the work being done. Certainly it will give the evening a focus other than just how soon our child will be born. I realize that your lady Elise cannot join us, but it would be an honor if your sister, her husband, your father and your former master could attend." He turned to the carver and the tall sculptor. "Master Faragil, it is good to see you here. And how is your daughter Seraphiel?"
"She does well, my Lord King," the Man replied, bowing low. "I am amazed that you are aware of her."
"As I remember, you waxed poetic about her accomplishments when last we met. Of course, then she was studying painting with Mistress Moiren of Lebennin."
"Yes, but that was...." His voice tapered off as he found himself searching the face of the King of Gondor, then paling and flushing as he realized just what he was seeing. The King's face appeared quite innocently attentive, but under it he sensed a quiet amusement. Faragil of Lebennin stood quite still for a moment as he reflected on memories, then he turned to look down at his former apprentice, who was quite obviously playing at confusion, the laughter barely suppressed as he watched his teacher's discomfiture. He looked back, and finally laughed himself. "And do you still sing in Quenya, then, my Lord?"
The King grinned openly, then spoke quietly. "It has been many years, hasn't it? Do you realize now why I sought to avoid your attentions then, Master?"
Faragil answered quietly, "I think I may just understand that, finally. And I am honored you remember me at all."
"You are still one of the great sculptors of the two realms, Master Faragil; and you are one of the few who appreciated my mastery of Quenya."
"Estel," Elladan asked with amusement plain upon his face, "I take it this is one of those who knew Captain Thorongil, then?" Elfhelm of Rohan laughed and shook his head with wonder and amusement, and Elise laughed aloud, if softly. The three artisans who had been in attendance on the King looked confused, for this was obviously a private jest between the King and Master Sculptor Faragil, whose reputation as artist and teacher was well known throughout the realm.
The King simply smiled widely at his foster brother, then turned the focus of all to the figures at the site. "Let us have Master Ruvemir disclose what he and his apprentices have done so far,"
Ruvemir introduced his apprentices to the gathering, and set them to unveiling the other two blocks, Pippin's having already been uncovered by Celebgil at the request of the Elves. He showed them the diagrams of the two figures that were so far represented, and how the shaping so far had progressed on the two blocks that had been worked. "I have one more view of the figure for the third block to do, and then all will be done."
"Were there not four Pheriannath involved in the War of the Ring, Master Ruvemir?" asked Evram of the Corps of Engineers. "The tale you tell stops at three, it seems."
"The fourth block has several surface flaws that could leave it open to damage if it were to be exposed at this time to weather. It rests lower in the city under protection from the elements, Master Evram. I have completed the diagrams for its figure, and I have them hung there for reference as I clear the flawed exterior of the stone away."
"You have begun work on it, then?"
"Yes, last night I began the rough cutting."
"You have made a fair beginning on this one," noted the mason.
"Yes, Master Mardon. Young Celebgil here did most of the rough cutting on this figure, and has worked together with me on some of the closer shaping. Yesterday I began work in earnest on the closer shaping of the face and torso."
Lord Glorfindel gently touched the head. "This is to be the figure of the Perian Peregrin, is it not?"
"Yes, my Lord."
"It is almost his true size."
"Yes, they will be depicted only slightly larger than their true sizes at the time they left their homeland. As Hobbits, as the Pheriannath name themselves--" he explained to the three Men "--they do not see themselves as being particularly heroic no matter what the result of their actions and choices. They are not comfortable with the idea that their likenesses might be magnified much beyond their true size, and indeed have specifically refused to allow themselves to be represented unrealistically. In fact, the Lord Samwise was and remains most adamant on the matter. As the Lord Frodo's heir, his wishes regarding the depiction of his Master were deferred to by Captain Peregrin and Sir Meriadoc, and also supported by the Thain and Mayor of the Shire and Master of Brandy Hall and Buckland, as well as all of the other relatives of Lord Frodo with whom I discussed the project."
Folco nodded definitively. "This is indeed what all of us have agreed."
Glorfindel nodded his approval. "Yes, this is right and proper for dealings with the Periannath. To depict them significantly larger than life would be a betrayal of their nature."
Celeborn indicated his agreement. "Part of what is significant about the Ringbearer being a Perian is that he was not what one easily recognizes as a great one. He did not win through by exercising strength or might or even great wit, but by endurance and perseverance in spite of all, even recognizing he would most likely have to die to accomplish his task; and by relying on the hope of the Lord Samwise to sustain the both of them."
The others seemed surprised, and finally Evram of Anfalas said, "Yet he survived in spite of all. He has his life in front of him still."
Folco Boffin shook his head as he looked up frankly at the engineer. "His life in front of him still, you say? You did not watch him fade over two years, see the recurring pain in both his body and his spirit, see him grieving over the fact he could not know the deepest wish of his heart--to found a family and watch it grow. Yes, he is most like alive--but is life alone as the single mortal in the whole of the Undying Lands what you would wish for yourselves?"
Evram looked startled and thought for a moment, then protested, "But there, surely, he will live until the end of Arda."
"Is simply being alive the same as bliss, do you think?" challenged Folco.
"No," Ruvemir contradicted the Man, "you are wrong, as Ar-Pharazôn was wrong when he, too, thought just entering the Undying Lands would confer physical immortality. He will still die at the end of his time, as he would here in Middle Earth, as was told to the Lord Samwise by the Lord Elrond. Indeed, our ancestors were admonished that our ends would most likely come even more swiftly there because our mortal frames cannot sustain the air of Aman. We cannot begin to understand what is happening to the Lord Frodo in Elvenhome, but he cannot be denied the Gift of Iluvatar. And most likely when the time comes he will experience it as the great kings of Númenor did, realizing the physical fading is come at last, and then relinquishing his life freely and with thanksgiving for the release."
The King said, very gently, "You are one of the few I have met yet who has expressed a true appreciation for what we of the line of Elros Tar-Minyatur experience, Master Ruvemir. I am honored you have so expressed it." He bowed his head in respect, and Ruvemir felt himself flush in response. However, he maintained his focus on his King's face.
"I have had to study the history of the three Ages of Middle Earth, my Lord, and delved deeply into the histories of our ancestors from Oesternesse. And, to be honest with you, I had simply not taken into account until now that what is told of the Kings of Númenor will also be true for you, and probably for your children and at least your grandchildren as well--particularly in light of your wife's inheritance."
The King's smile in return was solemn, and he gave a single, slight nod. "You have expressed the situation perfectly, Ruvemir of Lebennin." He gave a sigh. "It is long and long indeed since one of the line of Kings in either land has managed to survive war, assassination, or betrayal. Certainly I may still die of such. However, if I survive so long, that is how I expect to pass from this life. And I will regret only that I must leave Arwen to follow after me, for as one who has lived for so long as one of the Firstborn, she will fade once I am gone."
Ruvemir felt a great wave shake him of compassion and even pain for what the Queen most likely would face at the end. He had never considered precisely what her ending must be--only that she, now having embraced mortality to cleave to the King, must one day die as do all other mortals. He looked up into the faces of the Queen's brothers, and saw there reflected a level of grief for what their sister would face and perhaps for what they would themselves face in the losing of her, and realized that they still did not fully understand what it would in the end be like.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.