23. A Study of a Hand
A Study of a Hand
Ruvemir read more temperately that night, and woke early in the morning. Ririon was awake before him, and he found the boy in the study, feeling the chest in which Frodo's mail, sword, and circlet of honor lay, now with Sam's as well. He turned as he heard his guardian's step. "I was looking at the work the King's Friend's father did, Ruvemir. It is very pleasant to feel, and its color is warm."
Ruvemir nodded. He examined it as he'd not had the chance to do the night before. "It has a figure of a Hobbit leading a pony atop it."
Ririon felt it, identified head, curly hair, round face, chest, flaring cloak, legs, bare feet, a pipe held in the right hand. He also noted a tree and the form of the pony. Then he felt a small symbol and asked what it was. Ruvemir looked and realized this, like the dragonfly symbol Merry had pointed out on Frodo's work, was a signature symbol.
"It looks like a circle, halved and the right half cut into two again. I believe it is a stylized DB for "Drogo Baggins," he commented. "Lord Frodo did similarly, making a dragonfly figure which was truly a stylized FB."
"I felt something similar on the box for my tools, Ruvemir. Do you think that perhaps it, too, was made by the Lord Frodo's father?"
"Shall we go look?" Ruvemir suggested. They returned to the guest room where Ririon was quartered and Ruvemir quickly lit a candle, then brought it near the small table where Ririon had placed his box. Ririon quickly located the symbol he'd said was similar to that on the chest in the study, and it was, indeed, the same.
"I wonder if, then, he might have done my walking stick as well," Ririon suggested, and he retrieved it from the corner near the door where he'd stood it. Together they examined it, until Ririon suddenly said, "Here, Ruvemir--here is something that doesn't feel like the dragon--but it's not the halved and quartered circle this time. It feels more like a signpost."
Ruvemir took the stick and looked where the boy had indicated, and stopped. After a moment, he said, his voice quiet, "No, it is not the symbol of the Lord Frodo's father this time. It is a dragonfly."
Ririon smiled. "You mean," he said, "that the Lord Frodo carved this?"
The sculptor nodded slowly. "Yes, it appears he did, at least once, try his hand at carving. It is not a superb carving, and it is low relief and not as fine as the work his father did on the chest, nor as good as your serpent. But he did try his hand at carving, and did a creditable job."
Ririon fingered the symbol. "Then I have something to remember him by--two things, to remember him and his father by. It is wonderful, Ruvemir." He thought for a moment. "I wonder what he'd think if he knew a Man would carry the walking stick and use it to find his way better, and that the same Man had his father's box."
"I think as he'd be pleased indeed," said Sam from behind them in the open doorway. Ruvemir was totally startled, but Ririon laughed.
"Come and see, Lord Samwise," he said. "We've found his symbol here on the staff."
Sam was shown the dragonfly, and looked at it for some time. "I'd often seen the dragonfly in Frodo's pictures, but had no idea it was really his initials," he said. "Just thought as he liked dragonflies."
"Merry showed it to me and explained it," Ruvemir said.
Sam shook his head. "If that don't beat all," he said. "I keep learning about him, same as you are doing."
They then looked at the box, and Ririon pointed out the circle and looked at how it was really Drogo Baggins's initials. "And the same symbol is on the box in the study. I wanted to see what kind of decorations Master Drogo carved, and found it there, too."
Sam looked at Ruvemir. "Do you do a signature symbol?"
Ruvemir nodded. "I carve a mountain peak on all my pieces to mark it as mine, and my father does a dragon."
"How about you, Master Ririon?"
"I don't know how to write, but I usually put a star on my pieces."
"That's a good symbol to use," the gardener said. He ran his finger over the carving of the dragonfly on the boy's walking stick. "I saw a star in Mordor, when it were looking mighty dark for us. Gave me hope, it did. Knew that even Sauron couldn't undo all the beauty of the world, for all his trying, for much of it was beyond his reach. And my Master carries the Starglass as the Lady Galadriel had give him as a gift, a light in dark places, she said. It has Eärendil's light caught in it. It, too, give us hope in the Enemy's land. And he was given a star gem by the Lady Arwen herself, to help ease the pain and fears when they got bad."
"The Thain said he fingered it that night when they came for dinner," Ririon said.
"He did?" Sam asked.
"Yes, when you went to the kitchen. He said that he suddenly looked as if he were in pain and was rubbing at his shoulder, then he held the star gem and the attack passed."
Sam looked to Ruvemir for confirmation, and the sculptor nodded. "It's just good he didn't linger for the anniversary," Sam said. "He'd most like not of survived it again." He looked at the walking stick again and then gave it to Ririon to put away. "But a bit of him lingers here, I guess, as long as we member him." He smiled. "Now you got me interested, and I suspect I'll be goin' through every stick of furniture there is to see what his dad made."
"At least I know that the artistry in his own family is like to that of my own," Ruvemir commented.
After breakfast Sam went down the hill to the small woods at the bottom to cut evergreen boughs for decorations for the smial, accompanied by Ririon, Ruvemir, and Folco, finding Sam's brother Hal already there. All brought baskets to carry the boughs in. Ruvemir could see now the signs of lost trees, some of them obviously old and memorable. At last they found a holly tree that was growing well, and there Sam addressed the tree gently, then indicated which branches it would be acceptable to cut. They took only a few boughs here, a few there, moving from tree to tree, but finally had enough to return to Bag End. Ririon helped the two Hobbits to place the branches over doorways and windows, while Rosie set out countless red and white candles throughout the hole. Sweet smells filled the smial, and all were growing more excited as Yule approached.
Again in the evening Sam read from the Red Book, and all listened with interest, and then all retreated to work on their gifts for one another.
The following day Ruvemir and Ririon went into Hobbiton with Folco, doing some shopping of their own. Folco introduced them to several shopkeepers as well as Daisy's husband, who looked at Ririon and his clothing, and discussed what kinds of garments were needed and took measurements.
"I'll do my best to suit you, sir," he said to Ririon, "although our styles are far different from your own. As you are growing rapidly, I will put longer hems into the pants and cuffs so they can be let out more easily, for the waist is usually the last to develop." He looked at the longer pants, which were intended to reach the top of Ririon's boots. "It will be odd to make them so long, but I see how they better fit your legs. But I have no idea where you will find shoes for him, here in the Shire."
"We may need to wait until we go out again to Bree," Ruvemir said. "I suppose he can make do that long."
When they'd returned to Bag End, Ruvemir finally approached Sam with a request that had been growing in his mind for the past two days. He was surprised that the Hobbit agreed as readily as he did, and that night Sam opened the chest again, and posed for Ruvemir, wearing his pack and his cloak from Lorien, and holding Sting at the ready. Elanor was held in Folco's arms behind the artist so she could look over his shoulder at his now almost-full sketch booklet as he did his best to catch what Sam had looked like as he walked the wilds of the world in the days of the quest.
When at last Ruvemir was content with what he'd done, he then made the second request. Sam shook his head. "I simply couldn't fit in it," he said. "My shoulders have been wider than his since I was a teen, and my chest far broader." He looked at Folco and shook his head. "And he's too broad, too." Then he looked at Ririon, and he paused. "Now, he's a bit tall, but his chest and shoulders are still narrow enough, I think...."
And Ririon found himself donning the mithril shirt and kneeling, one hand outstretched, the other clasping a book, while his guardian used his lines to bring to life another's.
Rose watched the drawing with wonder. "I never," she said, at one point. "How you can look at one and draw another is more than I can imagine. But that's Master Frodo, I swear, it's Master Frodo."
Sam, who'd been determinedly reading across the room, finally could stand it no longer, and rose to take his own look. And he had to agree that the picture on the page was his Master--all except the hands. He looked at his own hands, at the boy's, the cousin's, the artist's, and realized there was nothing for it.
Ruvemir realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the picture the moment Sam started looking at hands. He'd been afraid it would come back to this at the end, the matter of hands. But as they had halted the process in Brandy Hall, so they did here. No one had yet described Frodo's hands to him. But before he could ask Sam to do so, that worthy soul straightened, turned, and left the study. Troubled, Ruvemir looked after him.
Behind him, Elanor said, "Why is Sam-Dad sad again, Mummy?"
Rosie sighed. "I don't know this time, dearling, but it's going to happen when it's about your Uncle Frodo. He misses his Master very much."
"I wish he didn't go away."
"So do we all, love. But if he hadn't gone, he'd of died. Either way, he'd still be gone, and your Sam-Dad would still be sad."
Folco shook his head. "I don't know what triggered it this time. He had that proud look on his face as he was looking at the picture, and then it folded right up."
"It's the hands," the artist said sadly. "Hands are as distinctive as faces, and no one has as yet described Lord Frodo's hands to me. What I drew were mostly drawn from Ririon, and apparently they are nothing like those of your cousin."
Ririon added, "Ruvemir did ask at Brandy Hall, but they wouldn't tell him--just talked about how he didn't use them telling stories after he lost his finger."
The Hobbit thought about that for a few moments, then said, "Oh, I see." He examined his own hands for several moments. "I remember them mostly from before, of course. His fingers were longer than mine, and more slender."
"Was the ring finger longer or shorter than the index finger?" asked Ruvemir.
Folco thought over that for several moments. "I'm not sure I remember or even paid any attention to that." He looked at his own fingers. "Mine are longer, I see. Are they different on different people?" At the sculptor's nod, he said, "How odd."
"When he held his hand palm up, would he have his fingers together or separated?"
Again Folco examined his own hand, trying to remember that of Frodo Baggins. Finally he looked up. "Together."
Ruvemir looked to Rosie for confirmation, and she nodded. "His ring finger was longer," she said. "And there was a diamond-shaped scar on the back of the middle finger of his left hand, here," she added, pointing to her own hand. "The vein here," again she pointed to the back of her own hand, "was raised a bit. He bit his nails--I couldn't shame him into stopping, and apparently neither could old Mr. Bilbo. He had a callous here," she indicated the inside of his middle finger on his right hand.
Ruvemir nodded, smiling. "Writer's callous," he commented. "That fits." He'd turned to a new page, one of the last in this booklet, and was drawing multiple views as she spoke.
They went on for another quarter hour or so, and finally Rosie could remember no further details. Ruvemir thanked her, then indicated he would go back to his room and do his exercises and take a nap.
"Want me to help?" Ririon asked.
"Gladly, son," Ruvemir responded, and saw a dazzling smile light up the boy's features. Just then there was a knock at the front door, and Rosie went off to answer it. A moment later she returned with a wide smile on her face.
"Ririon, the lads of the Row want to know if you'd like to play snow forts with them."
The boy was surprised. Ruvemir laughed. "I think Miriel can help me with the exercises, if I need it," he said. "You go on out and join the other lads." He clapped his hand on Ririon's shoulder, and watched as the boy headed off to the entrance hall to retrieve his cloak and hat. "Oh," Ruvemir called after him, "Miriel put your gloves in the inner pocket of your cloak. Wear them, and your hood!" As he heard the boy's assurances from down the passage, his smile widened. "He's being accepted, at least," he commented. "That is heartening."
After doing his exercises, Ruvemir lit a candle and lay down to read more from the Red Book. He'd not read long when he heard a tap at the open door to his room, and looked up to see Sam standing there.
"Would you mind, Master Ruvemir, coming into our room for a bit?" he asked.
Carefully slipping the ribbon marker into place, Ruvemir closed the book, set it gently on the chest by the bed, and rose, walking barefoot to follow the gardener down the passage to the next room. Sitting on the bed was a chest with a tray on top, the tray full of paper--writing paper, Ruvemir noted, of a soft golden hue with green threads running through it. He vaguely remembered seeing the box sitting on the desk when he'd entered the room a few nights previously to speak with Mistress Rosie. Sam indicated he should draw the desk chair close to the bed, and after closing the door to the room, he sat down next to the chest, took out the golden disk which was attached to the chain he wore across his chest, slipped the chain loose from a loop inside one pocket, and took the pendant key and used it to unlock the drawer that filled the chest. Then he paused, and gave his guest a stern look.
"No one else has ever, to my knowledge, looked at what's in here but me and Mr. Frodo," he said. "One day I mean to share it with the King, but I haven't made up my mind exactly when. But until then, I don't want you tellin' others what's in here, if you don't mind."
"I promise, Master Samwise," Ruvemir said, realizing that his host was deadly serious.
Reassured, the Hobbit gave a brief nod and slipped the drawer open. It was full of sheets of paper, most of it the same paper in the tray, but also much of it drawing paper. Sam was searching through the sheets, looking for specific pages, and finally he slipped a few out of the stack, all of these, Ruvemir noted, drawings. He kept them angled toward himself for several moments, examining each of them in turn. He looked troubled for a moment, set them down face down, and went back to the sheets he'd replaced in the drawer, sorted through them again, and finally found what he was looking for near the bottom of the stack. He carefully slipped it out, and added it to the others he'd removed. He looked at them again, and finally set them in his lap. His eye on the top one, he finally began to speak.
"Long ago, just over a year after he brought Mr. Frodo here, old Mr. Bilbo decided Frodo was keepin' things too bottled up, and that that wasn't good for him. He went out one day after they'd argued 'bout this, and came home with this stationery box and the other things you see there," and he pointed at the desktop. Ruvemir looked at the items--a series of items involved in writing--quill box, drying sand, blotting paper, an open box that held three bottles of ink. "This desk used to belong to Mr. Bilbo's mum, who kept her accounts on it. There's a small office off the kitchens--Rosie does her preservin' there. The desk come from that room.
"After he come back with the stationery box and other things, Mr. Bilbo had me help bring the desk to Mr. Frodo's room, and he cleaned it up hisself, cleaned and oiled it. Then he put all the things on it, he did, and he and I went through all the extra bedrooms, lookin' for just the right chair for it. Then he told Mr. Frodo that he was to use the paper and ink to write down what was botherin' him, write it out so as it wouldn't eat his heart out. And he did. After that, whenever he was angry or bothered, Mr. Frodo'd shut hisself in his room and write it out, and put the papers into the drawer and lock it up.
"After Mr. Frodo's things was brought back here from Crickhollow, he put all this on the desk in the study, and he kept on using it. But he had this desk put here for me and Rosie to use. When he left, I couldn't find the stationery box nowhere."
Suddenly he rose and went to the dressing room door, opened it, disappeared inside. Apparently it was much larger than the one for Frodo's room. He emerged with a formal cloak of Gondorian fashion, and he carefully carried it across the room. "The King gifted this to Frodo afore we left Minas Tirith. It's very beautiful." The artist nodded. He'd seen such cloaks in exclusive shops in Gondor. Such were usually purchased and worn by wealthy lords. He reached out and caressed the sleek fabric. "It was too wide across the shoulders for Frodo, so he wore it only a few times. Anyway, we all preferred our Lorien cloaks.
"Afore he left, Frodo apparently brought this in here, and he draped it across the chair, left it for me. Fits me well, it does. Rosie left it there for me to take up, knowing this was a special gift for me. Took me better'n a week to get up the spirit to take it, though. I finally did, and put it on, and then I saw the stationery box was sitting under the desk, hid by the cloak.
"He still wrote things out, how he felt and all, and hid those things in the drawer till they was dealt with. Then he'd usually burn them, although a few he'd save. Once he just tore the writing to pieces. Think that one was about the Sackville-Bagginses, but I'm not sure. Then, while we was in Gondor he begun drawing his nightmares, too."
"Yes, I know. Lasgon told me."
"Bright lad, Lasgon was. Bright, and discrete. Saw things as they are, he did." Ruvemir nodded his agreement. "Anyway, he left the drawer full of drawings and notes--I think to explain--explain why he decided to go away." He paused for quite a while. Finally he said, softly, "You'd never know how angry he could get, for he did his best to hold it in. You could only tell by how long he'd stay holed up in his room, writing. He was angry when he realized he was dying. He was resentful. He was angry at how we honored him when he felt he was less than dung for lettin' that, that thing take him at the end. He was angry at It for robbin' him of the ability to love a lass. He was jealous of me 'cause I could. He was so glad as I could. He was angry because he felt as we was protecting him too much. He was angry for he couldn't father a child hisself." His sad eyes looked up into those of the artist, seeking understanding.
"You saw that picture he did of hisself as when he lived in Brandy Hall, how discontented he was." Ruvemir nodded. "It's one of only three pictures I know he did of hisself. The other ones--the other ones are here." He finally handed the stack of pictures to Ruvemir.
Ruvemir examined the top picture. Well, he had wanted to know what Frodo's hand looked like, and now he did. Frodo had drawn it himself, complete with the maimed knuckle where his ring finger had been bitten off. He gave a prolonged, painful sigh, and read the inscription, looked up at Sam for explanation.
"How far have you got in the Red Book?" asked the gardener.
"You've just met Tom Bombadil," Ruvemir explained.
"You'll find out what that--" with a nod to the inscription "--means soon, then. It's there."
For your hand's fairer without it. He could understand the irony of the statement, the pain it indicated. He'd seen a lot of Frodo Baggins's writing now, and he saw this indicated a great deal of anger and frustration. Finally he slipped it to the bottom of the stack, looked at the next picture, one of the King in formal dress, but not the dress of Gondor.
"That was of the day the quest was given to us. Strider was dressed as he did in Rivendell, where he was seen as Lord Elrond's son. Plus he was the Heir of Isildur and Valandil and Arvedui, after all." The picture was a thing of beauty, and reflected the honor the Lord Frodo felt toward the tall Man.
The next drawing was familiar, but markedly different at the same time. "This doesn't look like the picture of Gollum Lasgon kept," he commented.
Sam looked surprised. "Frodo let him have one of that stinker?" he asked.
"No. He appears to have dropped it as he was feeding his nightmare drawings into the fire, and Lasgon found it on the floor."
He looked at the next drawing--an orc with a whip, and beyond it--beyond it lay Sam. He looked up to catch the gardener's gaze. "Were you beaten by orcs while bound?"
"No, that happened to him, in the orc tower atop the spider's pass. Look close at the orc's face."
He examined it, then looked back to the other picture, then held both together. Finally he let go a long, pained breath. "Manwë guard him," he whispered. He looked up at his companion. "These are the other two self-portraits, then."
Sam nodded. "Yes, this is them. This--" a nod at the Gollum creature "--is what he saw hisself becoming. Maybe the same with the other, or maybe just a nightmare." He straightened. "The next is another portrait of the King."
Ruvemir put the two he'd been examining aside, then looked at the next. Portrait of the King? It was of a pile of bones. But then he saw a familiar sheath, and the brooch of the Elessar stone lying by the grinning skull. He shuddered.
The next page wasn't a drawing--it had Tengwar letters on it, and Ruvemir translated the short note. On the backside were two more notes, both brief. The second one was obviously written later, and when Frodo was quite weak, considering the writing. Again Ruvemir looked at Sam, sharing his grief for the one who'd written these notes.
"Apparently you aren't the only one who contemplated suicide," he said, gently.
"I saw my pack was out, one day, and that it had been opened. I looked inside, and the hithlain rope as I'd took from the boats the Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel had given us was missing. That evening the pack was put away, and the rope was back in it. He'd been out, walking, he said. He didn't eat much for dinner, went to bed early. I set the kingsfoil steeping for him that night. I'm glad it was the hithlain rope. If it had been some as I'd twisted, I'd probably not of found his body for days."
"I don't understand."
"You'll understand when you get to us trying to find our way out of the Emyn Muil."
Ruvemir considered. "No wonder you don't want others to see these." He examined the other's face. "I am honored at the trust you show me."
"You won't betray him, I think."
"Are there many of the nightmare drawings there?"
"No. Most is just drawings--me, old Mr. Bilbo, the Gaffer, Merry, Pippin, his folks, my flowers. Most is what made him happy, content. But he finally had to let us know the pain, too. Couldn't let us think he was special good and nothin' more."
Ruvemir nodded his understanding.
That night Sam again knocked at the door. "I know you haven't finished that one yet, but maybe you should read this one, too," he said. "This time I was writing it out, keeping my heart from bein' et out of me." He held out a much thinner tome bound in green leather.
"You bound this?"
Sam smiled. "Old Bilbo taught us both binding at the same time, he did."
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.