King's Commission, The
69. Accepting Apprentices
By the third day those of the apprentices who would live with them had begun to arrive at the door. One from the Pelennor was brought by his parents, who insisted on seeing the household and the room in which he would live. That there were both a Man and a woman on the same floor where their son would sleep reassured them that no one would offer further insult to their child.
The large room in which Pippin and Gandalf had once lived had two more beds placed in it between the two alcoves where the current beds lay, and small desks and thin wardrobes had been lined up along the two free walls. One of the remaining rooms had two beds in it, the other three.
Two of those who chose to house with them surprised Ruvemir--Celebgil and his friend Meredin both asked to stay with them, and they were given the room with two beds. The youngest two were given the one with three beds. Finally, with seven of the nine beds spoken for, it appeared all were now settled with their housing.
The first morning all seven sat about the breakfast table with their new Master, his wife, and their housekeeper and her child, Ruvemir relayed to them the rules of the house. They were fairly simple, and indicated basically each was to behave responsibly toward his own things and those of others, that abuse in any form would not be tolerated, and all would work to the keeping of order within the house and on its grounds. Once assured all understood the rules, he explained that he would allow two each night he went to work on Lord Frodo's stone to accompany him. "On Starsdays we will also work primarily on other skills. I will have some who will serve as models come on such days so you can begin to understand how to do likenesses from life; I will show you how to ask the questions to teach you the shape of faces of those you do not see; we will explore other materials, discuss the histories of the two realms, meet with other instructors and masters of other fields to speak of how their work and ours are to be used together.
"No one is to lay any tool on the figures of the Pheriannath without my direct permission.
"When you are not working on a specific figure for the workshop, you will work on your own practice pieces in whatever materials we might have on hand. You will do at least two drawings a week in your sketch booklets.
"As we work we will often find ourselves discussing specific topics inspired by what we do. You do not need to take part in such discussions, but you will respect them when they happen.
"Here, I am the Master of this house, Mistress Elise is the Mistress, and both Mistress Liana and Lord Gilfileg will be respected, as will any other individual who enters the house. Are these understood?"
All indicated understanding. "So be it, then."
The instructor found by the Steward to teach projection, record keeping, and so on agreed to come to the workshop three days a week. Mornings he worked with the younger apprentices on figuring and calculation; afternoons he worked with those who demonstrated they had basic skills on the other numerical processes they would need in their field. Ruvemir reviewed tools with each of the apprentices and had each demonstrate how he was accustomed to use them. Most of them handled their tools properly, two had found creative but nonetheless efficient ways to handle some, and two needed to be retrained to use basic mallets and chisels appropriately, and were restricted to practice pieces until they demonstrated mastery of proper technique.
The search of Varondil's home had produced his keys, and they found a locked stone chest in the office of his workshop area that yielded records not open to examination by realm officials of any kind during the former Master Sculptor's tenure as well as his drawings and models for his current commissions. The former were quickly given over to the Lord Prince's investigators for study; the latter were studied by Ruvemir. He was not particularly happy to rely on the works of others as a basis for his own work, but in three cases he had no alternative; in two more the orders were for simple grave markers, which one of the oldest of the apprentices had demonstrated he could do easily; in one a dying merchant was planning for his own tomb. Ruvemir went to see him, and came home with a far different idea of what he wished to do than what Varondil had intended. They soon had the first five of Varondil's current commissions completed and the recipients notified they were done, while Ruvemir described to Celebgil and Gilmirion, the most experienced of the apprentices, what he wished to do with this last piece.
"That's not the way Master Varondil did it," Gilmirion objected.
Ruvemir sighed. "First of all, I am not Varondil, so I am not compelled to do all as he would do. Do you understand that?" The youth nodded reluctantly. "Secondly, what Varondil wished to do is not what the client asked for. Apparently Varondil put off working on this commission as long as he has in order to allow Master Riporion to die so as to deliver the piece to his heirs instead of allowing it to be seen by the client himself. As Master Riporion is the one who has issued the commission, however, it is his wishes that ought to be respected."
He set Varondil's drawing down on the table beside that he had done that day, which Master Riporion had examined and assented to. He also set down the two written descriptions, one that Varondil had taken and the one he had taken that day. Gilmirion examined them moodily, and finally agreed that these were different than what Varondil had planned, but far more in keeping with the design Ruvemir had proposed. He still glared under his brows, although he no longer protested that this wasn't what his old master would have done. Instead he led them to the stores area and together they inspected the blocks there until Ruvemir saw the one that would be best suited.
"This one is more uniform," Gilmirion protested, indicating a larger stone.
"This one already has much of the contours we will need, however. And it will more willingly be worked into the form of Master Riporion.
Gilmirion grunted, but gave in, muttering under his breath as he had a few of the sturdier boys to assist him to bring it out into the outer workshop.
Ruvemir found plans paper and took it to the master's drafting table--a more elegant one than that he'd been allowed to use by the Dwarves, but really too tall for his form. Finally he had an area of the floor cleared and moved it there, worked steadily for some time, referring to the notes he'd taken using his measuring string on Master Riporian. In a day's time they were completed.
It took two weeks of solid work by several of the different youths, each of whom had a slightly different skill specialty, but finally it was ready for the face and hands and feet.
"Master Varondil did not feel bare feet were dignified," protested one of the younger apprentices. Ruvemir sighed and glanced at Celebgil, who was just now pointing out that dignity was not dependent on whether or not the feet were shod. Ruvemir stifled a grin.
"It is Master Riporion's own wish that the feet be shown bare," he explained as he took out his finest chisel and began the marking on the surface of the blank he'd had the boys prepare over the foot area. Soon he began the shaping, going slowly and painstakingly at first, then going more quickly as the feet began to round. He changed to another chisel, one with more of a curved blade, then went to another and then still another, narrow-bladed chisel as he worked the area between the toes.
In three hours' time he had the feet done, and all agreed they looked like those he'd drawn from life. Then he began to work on the hands, and by the end of the day they were almost finished.
Meredin was impressed. "I've never seen any stone hands look more like real ones than these," he commented. "You can tell they are of an aged Man, yet they are beautiful."
Gorondir, a slightly chubby youth with careless red curls falling away from a high forehead, agreed. "They are aged, but experienced. They remind me of my grandsire's." He smiled down into Ruvemir's face. The mannikin smiled back.
The next day he finished the hands, and then did the face, again working delicately and changing chisels frequently. Finally the face was complete, and all could see the gentleness and nobility of the elderly visage, the slight smile just barely reflected in the stone lips. He did the last, gentle rendering of the Man's hair, and then he was done. He looked at Gilmirion. "Will you do the honor of smoothing it?" he asked. The youth looked at him suspiciously, but nodded agreement. Ruvemir sighed, and returned to Sam's stone.
This was the most frustrating part of working in such a setting doing so many things at once, having to constantly turn from one thing, one concern, one project, one apprentice, to another and then another. He wished he could simply focus on the Pherian at the moment--he felt the stone calling to him--had done so since the afternoon he had clung to it for comfort. Yet he managed only to get in a half hour here and a quarter mark there. He looked at the plans posted on the wall, the little he had done so far. He and Master Faragil had brought out between them the flare of the cloak, the over-large pack on Sam's back, the shape of the head, the feet spread to balance the slightly bent torso, the general shape of the sword between his hands, the elbows akimbo. He was looking up under his brows, as if guarding his Master from the great spider--or he would be, if Ruvemir could only get some time in which to focus on the details. He chose a tool and a mallet, and began some careful carving over the hands area.
The arrival of the couple a quarter mark later was a great frustration. He was beginning to fall into the proper rhythm with the cutting, and suddenly he was drawn out of it all to deal with new clients--and new clients they were, new clients who were absolutely bereft.
He listened to their story at first impatient, then gradually realizing the depth of their grief. Their little daughter had died of a wasting sickness, a gentle, loving child, a beautiful girl. They wished a small statue done of her. Would he come look at her before they took her to the family tomb south of the city?
He went, taking Celebgil and Gorondir with him. Her body was with the embalmers, had been properly prepared. He could tell the youths were upset to find themselves faced with death, and to such a one and in such a guise; but he knew they must realize this, too, was part of their business. But watching him, their faces calmed. Celebgil was remembering the concentration on Ruvemir's face as he'd done the picture of the dead Rhunim in Lebennin. Gorondir was amazed at the compassion reflected in the small sculptor's eyes, the patience he now showed as he listened to the parents speak of her, of her likes, her dislikes, her joys, the stories she had liked best. He began sketching, catching the face of a girl whose expression was calm, yet with just a hint of mischief to the eyes that had learned to see beyond pain, as young as she was. They spoke of her cat, and he had them describe it, how it would wind around her feet. He asked to see her favorite dress, and they took him to their home, showed it, showed the cat, her favorite chair....
He left them with the promise to come to them in less than three days with sketches to show of possible compositions, asked the size of the figure they wished.
As he reentered the workshop, one of the three smaller blocks ordered for practice pieces caught his eye, and he looked at it critically. This stone, he knew, wanted to show the child.
Celebgil caught the direction of his gaze. "That one, then?"
Ruvemir nodded. He looked longingly at Sam's stone, then back at the small stone that spoke to him of a little girl. Together he, Celebgil, and Gorondir brought it out, set it where the light would fall on it best through the day. He sat down and did three sketches, one after another, got more plans paper and set it ready, then went to check over the work the apprentices had done that day. Orin came in and saw how work had been started and left off on Sam's piece, obviously abruptly, and sighed; then looked at the effigy whose smoothing was almost completed and smiled.
An older youth was sent off to the house of Master Riporian to tell him that the figure was complete, and just as they opened the shop the following morning the aged merchant arrived, accompanied and assisted by his son and the son's wife. All looked at the figure, and straightened. Riporian himself was beaming, as well as his wizened features would allow. "Yes," he murmured, gently stroking the hands with one finger. "Yes, thank you." The son was weeping gently, and the woman was comforting both. "Yes, Ada Riporian," she said softly, "it is done now. When you are ready...." They smiled in thanks as they led the old Man out.
Later in the day the son returned. "His mind is more at rest, now, knowing he'll be remembered as he is. I wish to thank you for relieving him of this anxiety. He is very happy."
Ruvemir went to the house of the girl's parents, and they looked at the first picture he showed them, the one the block spoke to him of, and affirmed it. "Yes, that is what we wish to see," the mother agreed. He nodded, went back, quickly did the plans, and began marking the stone, then set Celebgil to rough cutting it. He actually was able to work on Sam's stone for three hours that day, was able to get the waistcoat's details shown, the right arm's musculature brought out.
Whatever they had thought of him at first, the apprentices were now realizing that with their new master they truly were in the presence of a master. Not even Gilmirion doubted this now. They did not fully appreciate what he was doing with the stone of the Pherian, but there was no question Master Ruvemir was in communion with the figure.
That evening he'd hoped to go down to the Dwarves' warehouse, but was so tired when he arrived home he found all he wished to do was sit. The bell rang, and Liana admitted Orin. She'd not met a Dwarf personally before, and she appeared somewhat in awe of him as he smiled briefly up at her and came into the day room to find Ruvemir leaning back against his wife's shoulder on the lower sofa, she combing his hair with her fingers.
"Welcome, Orin," Elise said smiling. "This one is being drained by the work."
"I have seen him work and work hard, Mistress Elise, but haven't seen him this tired before. What is it, Ruvemir, that drains you so?"
Ruvemir sighed and stretched. "More than the work, it is the different calls upon me all at the same time that drain me, I suspect. I have little time to focus on one thing before three others must be attended to." The apprentices in the room looked over at him consideringly.
"Tomorrow is the High Day--I will take you in the morning and see you fed, then get you down to the warehouse somehow so that you can be with the Lord Frodo's stone. Even if you do not work it, I suspect it will soothe you."
"Ah, you will get me down there, get me soothed, and then I must come up again all the way to the sixth level? Now, that will be most restful--I will be so exhausted from the climb back up that I will want only to fall into bed and remain there for several days."
The Dwarf thought on this. "Then, perhaps not. We will have to find a place nearby for you to work it. Is there a suitable place in the workshop?"
"With so many apprentices, there is not. There is barely room for the Lord Samwise's figure."
Gorondir looked up from a game of draughts he had been playing with Meredin. "Have you thought about the small workshop?"
"What small workshop?" Ruvemir asked. "I knew of no other workshop save the large one where we meet already."
"The next building over has a small workshop in it. When Master Varondil first began to work in the city, that was where he did his work. Then as he began doing more orders he needed more space, and he purchased the building where the larger workshop is. The year of the war, after it was over, he would have some of the effigies worked there, for there were so many that needed to be done."
"I can imagine," Ruvemir commented. "Do you know which key opens the lock to it?"
"It was brass, and its wards were intricate."
Ruvemir got up and fetched the ring of keys, and together they looked for the proper key. Finally Gorondir chose two keys. "It is one of those," he said. "But I am not certain which it is."
"It would be easy enough to try both."
"Then we will go down in the morning and try both," Orin said. "Is it the building to the left or the right?"
Gorondir thought, then answered, "The one on the left, with the golden ball on the top of the facing."
"Good enough," his master replied. "I hope only no more secrets of an ill nature are hidden within it. We have had more than enough of those for a time. Orin, would you like an ale?"
The Dwarf smiled in answer, but before any could rise to get him one there was another ring at the bell.
As he was already standing, Ruvemir went this time, and found that outside stood Lord Hardorn. "My Lord, you have returned! Welcome, welcome indeed! Did you find your target, then?"
"Yes, we found him and more besides. Is Gilfileg here?"
Elise answered from behind her husband, "He walked down to the fifth level a time ago with Eregiel to purchase some wine at the Silver Sword. They ought to be back again at any time. Won't you come in?"
"I fear I need to borrow your husband and my cousin--both of them, I suppose, if Eregiel returns with him--for a time. We have matters we need to discuss with Lord Ifram. When Gilfileg returns, will you please ask him to come over to the Rhunish Embassy? And Master Orin, would you be willing to stand as a witness to a document?"
Ruvemir and the Dwarf followed the Ranger across the lane to the gate of the embassy where they were admitted with a salute from the guard on duty. Ifram and Shefti were sitting in the day room with a youth--a very sullen youth. His surcoat and the shirt under it were both of fine materials, as were his trousers; but were all dirty and heavily creased as if they had been worn for several days. His hair was tangled, his eyes suspicious; and as he watched Hardorn enter he appeared to become anxious. Both the Rhunim appeared a bit bemused, and Ben'harin, who stood over the young Man as if guarding him, was plainly reflecting displeasure as he looked on him.
Once all were seated, Lord Hardorn sighed before he began his explanation. "We found the one who ordered the attacks on the two of you, Lord Ifram, Lord Shefti. He was indeed Landrion of Umbar, and I fear I cannot give you the promised time with him, for another had a prior claim on him and did not spare him once we were through with him. This was his son, Armanthol. We did not leave Umbar directly, Strider and I, but fetched him first, and then Strider entrusted him to me, that in his anger Marcipor not take him and slay him out of hand."
"Who is this Marcipor?" asked Ifram grimly.
"The Lord of Umbar, who had just listened to Landrion suggest that once we were done slaying your brother Shefti for him, we should then target Lord Marcipor himself. I fear he did not find himself amused by the suggestion."
Ifram's eyes widened. "And how did he hear such a thing?"
"Strider and I rose out of the grass of his own estate and took him from it, cloaked and hooded, as witness to what was being suggested by Landrion, who also suggested we target the Lord King Elessar for him."
That in the youth's presence Hardorn was referring to the King as Strider had impressed itself on Ruvemir--the King did not yet wish the young Man to realize the proper identity of the other who had taken him from his land. "What was--Strider's response to the suggestion the two of you slay the King of Gondor, then?" he asked.
"He asked how Landrion believed such a thing could be done within the city. He was smiling a bit as he asked this, by the way, I think trying to once again foresee any manner in which such an enterprise could be accomplished. He and I have, of course, considered such a scenario many times in the past in order to guard against such."
At that the door opened to admit Gilfileg, followed by Eregiel. They entered the day room and joined the group, quickly being advised of what had been discussed so far.
Ifram thought a moment. "Then this Landrion was convinced I was indeed dead, then?"
"Yes, my Lord. The ruse was successful. And Strider took back to the war in Rhun the drawings done of those who took part in the assault on the farm to show the Shkatha. I do not doubt the three Rhunim will be identified." He stretched somewhat. "I was given charge over this one. It was not Strider's desire that Armanthol, apparently innocent of his sire's designs, should also fall victim to Lord Marcipor's fury, so we found him and took him from his father's estates and brought him away with us. He has been given a choice--either remain there to receive Lord Marcipor's overflowing anger once his father was no more, or accept an apprenticeship here."
Ruvemir, realizing where this appeared to be leading, sighed and straightened in protest. "I would not willingly accept a reluctant apprentice, and already have more than I ever thought to in my lifetime."
Again the door opened, and this time the Lord Prince Steward and the Lady Queen entered, carrying her daughter with her. All stood to greet them as they came forward into the room, Armanthol looking on the Lady Arwen with frank amaze.
"Welcome, my Lady," Ifram said, and Shefti brought forward an armchair for her to sit on. Ben'harin, on a sign from the ambassador, went to the door to call the servitors now working in the embassy to bring refreshments.
Prince Faramir carried a document with him, which he now looked at with some respect before he proffered it to the sculptor. "It appears your number of apprentices is being increased by one more," he commented. "The document is unique, I must say."
"The King had it prepared already, then?"
Hardorn laughed. "Strider prepared it himself. He is, after all, trained in the laws of both lands under the King's rule."
Faramir handed it to Ruvemir, who unfolded it and read through its provisos. He looked up. "Well, the language of it is certainly that of the indentures I am accustomed to read; but some of the articles it contains are certainly unique, as you have stated my Lord. I am to instruct him thoroughly in the nature of the Lord Frodo Baggins?"
"He has his reasons, Master Ruvemir."
"I know he must have them, but I do not understand."
Faramir laughed. "If you knew half the orders left to me whenever I must take over my offices as Steward, you would realize the King's will is often apparently inscrutable but always sound--or so I have found it to be in the five years of my service under him."
For the first time the youth spoke. "You are the Steward?"
"Yes, I am Faramir son of Denethor, Prince of Ithilien and Steward of Gondor. And this is our Lady Queen Arwen Undómiel, and the Princess Melian."
"Then you can end this farce."
Faramir raised an elegant eyebrow. "I have seen no sign of farce, young sir."
The young Man bristled. "I am son of the Lord Landrion of Umbar...."
"Who is a Lord no longer, having been stripped of his title before he was killed," interrupted Hardorn. "You have not inherited your father's honors, his own having been lost to him and his due to his many intrigues. Whether you have honor yourself remains to be seen. It is the King's hope that you may bear honor not seen in your father, however, which is why you have been given to the tutelage of Master Ruvemir here. He has been researching the nature of honor, true honor."
"He is not even a true Man...."
Orin bristled and turned red behind his dark beard, stood and glared at the youth. "You know not what you say, and would do best to keep a civil tongue in your head."
The Queen's laughter cut through the anger. "Not a true Man? There you are wrong, as Master Ruvemir's wife will be quick to point out. She has found him to be more than Man enough for her, and my beloved husband has found him to be truer than many born to lordship. Master Ruvemir is a Man, young Armanthol. His body may be stunted, but certainly not his nature, his intelligence, his sense of responsibility, his sense of compassion toward others. And although he is an artist and artisan, he is much given to honor, and has shown himself worthy of it as well.
"My husband wishes you to study under him for a time. Do you agree to do so? If not, we will arrange your return to your own land."
"But Marcipor would kill me if I returned!"
"So it is likely. Which is it to be, then?"
Faramir smiled. "The preliminary indenture is for two years, with a provision for review at the end of that term."
"I do not truly have a choice, then."
Arwen sighed. "You have a choice--life and learning, or return to the probable enmity of Lord Marcipor."
"He cannot be certain my father wished him dead."
"He heard your father openly discuss his wish to have him assassinated. He is certain."
"My father was not that kind of Man!"
Hardorn shook his head. "Your father was precisely that kind of Man, Armanthol. He was a political animal of the worst sort, and he nurtured the most base natures in those with whom he dealt. If you do not wish to end up as he did, you must study another way.
"You are correct--your choice is limited at this point. If you wish it to be broadened, sign the indenture, and in two years you will probably have more choices open to you."
Ruvemir set the articles of indenture upon the table, and Shefti fetched quill and ink. The youth glared at those around him, but finally took the quill, dipped it, and signed. The rest signed as witnesses, even the surprised Ben'harin. Sighing, Ruvemir signed the paper binding this youth to himself.
Hardorn looked at the older of his two kinsmen who sat there. "He is to be with you when he is not with his master, Gilfileg."
The Ranger straightened. "With me? Why?"
Hardorn smiled with satisfaction. "Whom better to study honor under when our Lord King is not present? You are second to him in closeness to the line of Kings, after all."
Eregiel laughed. "Third, now that Melian is born."
Gilfileg glared at both. "I swear I will avenge myself on Estel for this."
Arwen smiled. "Oh, I suspect he already anticipates your intent, and will be on guard for it." After a moment of shared gazes, Gilfileg smiled as well.
The servitors brought in wine and fruit, and all shared a toast to the new indenture, only the object of that indenture and its holder sharing misgivings over it.
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.