27. Setting Out
On the first day of February they set off for Bree. Dorlin was to return there within the first week of the month, and they were to set off southwards as soon as possible so as to be there for the birth of the Queen's child in mid-April. They were a party of two mannikins, one Man-child, two Hobbits, and five ponies, two pulling the coach and one behind, a puppy gifted to Ririon for Yule by the children of Brandy Hall, then Folco and his riding and pack ponies, with Ririon and Pando up on the box with Dorlin.
Early that evening they arrived in Bree, and they were warmly welcomed by Nob and Butterbur, who gladly provided them with two rooms for Hobbits and promised to hold one for Dwarves for Dorlin on his arrival. Butterbur looked on the newlyweds with interest. "Now," he said with interest, "this is a happy event. Who'd of thought?" And he had his own wife, who was doing the night's cooking, prepare a special cake for their guests to celebrate the marriage, and all were brought to the Common Room where the wedding was celebrated a second time with a great deal more noise than the first time. Folco and Miriel stood embarrassed in the midst of the crowd, yet smiling and obviously blissfully happy.
Ruvemir was sitting at one of the lower tables designed for Hobbits when a figure cloaked in the grey-green of the northern Rangers sat next to him, a silver star on his left shoulder. "Welcome, Master Ruvemir," said the man as he thrust back his hood. "I'm the Lord Aragorn's cousin Halladan, and am the Steward of the Kingdom of Arnor. We've been keeping watch for your arrival for the past week, although we were warned today would most likely be when you would come."
Ruvemir rose and bowed deeply. "It is an honor, my Lord," he said.
The Man was looking at the wedding couple with a wide smile on his face. "A woman from among Men married to a man from among Hobbits. A first to my knowledge. We will see to what it comes." He looked again at the sculptor. "I am looking forward to seeing your sketches. The Lord King speaks well of your artistic abilities. And tell me of these two additions to your party."
So Ruvemir found himself explaining about the growing love between Folco Boffin and his sister, and the decision of Sancho Proudfoot to send his son to Gondor to have his talent properly trained.
"So," Halladan said at last, "both are kin to the Ringbearer, eh? Perhaps this marks the breakdown of the tendenciesjtoward isolation exhibited by Hobbits."
"Perhaps, although I will tell you probably most of the Shire look on them as more than half mad."
The Man shrugged. "I do doubt, however, that any of your party will be asked to sing or dance upon tables," he commented.
Ruvemir laughed. "I will wager you are correct, my Lord." And he led the Steward of the Northern Kingdom back to the private parlor they'd again been given to show him the model he'd made and his sketch booklets.
Halladan smiled gently at the model, touched it gently with one finger. "Yes," he said, "this is indeed like them all."
"You were there, then?"
"Yes, I rode south with my brothers Halbarad, who was Steward before me, and Hardorn to follow our cousin through the Paths of the Dead. We were at the coronation and the wedding, and saw the four of them several times."
"I've met Lord Hardorn. I'm told he is very good with that bow he carries."
"Yes, for the Lords Elrohir and Elladan of Rivendell both taught him its use."
"So I've also been told. Did you see the Ringbearer when he left the Shire?"
"No, although we had brief warning he was leaving. When the party from Lothlorien and Rivendell rode through Eriador to the Shire we were aware of it, and one of our Rangers met briefly with them and heard word. We'd thought we'd need to send word to Aragorn, but instead he came himself, although too late to bid the Lord Frodo farewell. He was much grieved."
"So I gathered from what he would tell me of it, and what the Travelers have told me as well."
"When you are done with this commission, would you consider doing another for the Kingdom of Arnor?"
"Of what, my Lord?"
"Of the Fellowship of the Ring traveling through Eriador. We would like it as our own memorial."
"Gladly, my Lord. Although when I come north to sculpt it, I will be accompanied most likely by my own bride."
"No, a woman among Men, taller than I but not tall among our kind."
"We will be glad to welcome her, Master Sculptor. Now, show me your sketches."
Ririon was able to get new boots the next day, a set made for a farmer who'd changed his mind before taking delivery, the pair providentially fitting the youth. Dorlin arrived two days later, spent the night, and indicated he was now ready to head south. They loaded the coach and left just ere noon, the party provided with a veritable feast to eat as they rode by the staff from the Prancing Pony. They were accompanied along the road by a grey-clad Ranger, a young man named Eregiel who explained that he was a second cousin to the King, twice removed. Eregiel rode a great horse he named as Rohel and was accompanied by a hound he named Artos, and he carried a sword and bow and quiver as well as a number of knives of various sorts. Dorlin looked on his armament with approval. "I could give you a throwing axe as well, although I have not time now to properly school you in its casting."
"I thank you for the offer," the young Ranger said, "and may take you up on it if we have time to rest and practice. It is always good to learn to use another weapon, I've found."
Not far south of Bree they met a party of Elves, led by two so similar in face, form, and coloring Ruvemir realized he must be looking on the brothers Elladan and Elrohir of Rivendell themselves. Ruvemir alighted from the coach and joined in the mutual bows of respect and honor. These two indicated a pavilion they'd raised and asked if Ruvemir's party would confer with them for a time, and all agreed. With Eregiel joining those Elves serving on watch, the rest of Ruvemir's party entered the pavilion carrying much of the food provided in Bree and offering it for the refreshment of all. Ruvemir had also brought the model, which he guessed rightly the sons of Elrond would wish to see. Ririon behaved with proper respect toward their new hosts, and Pando was so obviously overwhelmed to meet with a party of Elves that he could barely be brought to smile, much less speak. The puppy and Artos lay down together within the doorway of the pavilion, happily chewing on bones given them by Bob from the stable at the Prancing Pony.
With the brothers were Lord Glorfindel of Rivendell and Lord Celeborn of Lothlorien and a number of others who had remained in Middle Earth when the Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel took ship to Tol Eressëa. They all examined the model for the memorial, and agreed that the sculptor had come up with a design which did its subjects credit and would meet the desires of the King. And all gave the model of Frodo himself solemn respect.
"When you have finished the completion of the memorial in Minas Anor, what will you then do?" asked Elrohir.
"I have then been asked to return to Arnor to do a grouping of the entire Fellowship as a second memorial to all."
The Elves nodded, then looked to one another. "Then we will have a third memorial we would wish made, of the riding of the Elves with the Ringbearer and the Ring-finder."
Ruvemir was surprised. "You would wish a mortal sculptor to do such a memorial?" he asked.
Lord Celeborn answered, "You have shown yourself to be both competent and able to show the spirit of your subjects. Yes, we would have this of you."
With a great sigh, the sculptor thought on the subject. "I will most like need the aid of others who are better able than I to sculpt horses, for this has never been one of my great gifts."
"That is acceptable, if you will do the faces of the subjects."
"I will need to meet with those of you who best know those you wish shown, for I know little of those whose images you would have me sculpt except for the pictures I've seen done by the Lord Frodo."
Lord Celeborn stilled. "So, Master Samwise has shown you the work of his Master. I'd not thought he would share it with others."
"You knew of Frodo's work?"
"He did two pictures in Lothlorien during their sojourn there. He gave both to me, one of my Lady Galadriel and one of Samwise himself looking into her Mirror. I gave the latter back to him when we parted on our homeward journey."
"Ah, then that explains how it came back into the possession of Lord Frodo. Neither Lord Samwise nor his cousins understood how it came to be missing before they reached Amon Hen, nor how he recovered it."
"Then I have added to the mysteries of Middle Earth. My Lady will be amused, I think, when I tell her."
"I hope you will not wait long to rejoin her, my Lord. Lord Samwise spoke warmly of your love for one another."
"When the time is right, I myself will take ship; but now my heart remains here, I fear," the Elven Lord said slowly.
Ruvemir bowed deeply. "Forgive me, Lord, for prying where I have no right to do so."
Celeborn merely smiled sadly and made a dismissive gesture.
Elladan was examining Ririon's eyes. "I see Estel did a fair job at clearing away the scars," he commented.
Elrohir gestured his brother aside and made his own examination. Finally he looked up and commented, "He makes a competent healer, for a mortal."
Glorfindel laughed. "High praise indeed from the two of you. Master Ruvemir should remember to carry the report of it to Aragorn."
"Who is Estel?" asked Ririon. "Only the King touched my eyes."
"Our father gave to your Lord King the child's name of Estel," explained Elrohir. "And so we and our sister call him more often than not."
"Oh. It is hard for me to think of him as a child."
Elladan shrugged. "We have watched so many in his line grow from infancy to old age. He is merely the latest, and we will most likely see his children through their lives as well--and his grandchildren." Ruvemir noted the consideration sparked by this exchange in Pando's eyes.
After all had eaten their fill, those continuing on the road south returned to the coach, and having received the blessing of the party of Elves, they started again on their way.
"You said nothing while we were among the Elves," Ruvemir commented to Dorlin when they stopped to camp for the night.
"Neither did I notice Mistress Miriel nor Master Folco saying anything," the Dwarf returned with no sign of distress. "Their wish was to speak with you, and so they did." He smiled. "They treated me with sufficient courtesy for all that, you know. However, things are changed much in Rivendell now that the Lord Elrond has gone beyond the Sundering Seas. How long these will remain no one will be able to say. The days of Elves within Middle Earth are coming to a close, particularly with so few of the great Elves remaining. The greatest still here are the Lords Glorfindel and Celeborn."
Ruvemir nodded solemnly. "Even the Silvan Elves of King Thranduil are not as great, although I believe more of his people linger than remain in the Havens and Rivendell together. As Lord Celeborn appears to have settled now in Rivendell I am not certain any remain in the Golden Woods any more."
"Why are they leaving Middle Earth?" asked Pando.
"The three Rings of Power borne and wielded by the Great Elves were shorn of their powers when the Enemy's Ring was destroyed, and the protections wrought by them over the secret Elven Lands are no more," the Dwarf explained. "Now Lothlorien and Rivendell and the ancient city about the Havens will deteriorate as do the mortal lands, and this is a distressing development to the immortal Elves. Their proper place within Arda was ever the Undying Lands, where there is no death or corruption, and now more and more take the Straight Path to Tol Eressëa."
"You seem well advised about the ways of Elves," commented Folco wryly.
Dorlin laughed. "You must remember, Master Folco, that I have worked closely for the past few years with Lord Gimli son of Gloin, who is that remarkable thing among Dwarves--an Elf-Friend. The folk of Rivendell have ever been courteous to our folk, but few of us have ever felt we had true friends there. For Gimli to not only become friends with an Elf but with the son of King Thranduil of Mirkwood has been an unprecedented occurrence, and is as much a matter of marvel for the folk of the Forest of Green Leaves as it is for the folk of the Iron Hills and the Lonely Mountain."
Eregiel and Ruvemir took the first watch on the small camp, and the tall Ranger showed the mannikin how to blend into shadows and listen for coming dangers. Finally Eregiel woke Folco and sent the sculptor to bed, and hours later woke Pando. As Dorlin and Folco would do the lion's share of the driving of the wagon, he did not wish to keep them up that much of the night. For several days they made good time. Eregiel would sometimes sleep during the day within the coach while the boys sat on the box, and occasionally Folco, Pando, and Ririon would ride behind on the extra ponies. Artos would go between running behind Rohel and riding in the coach with Ririon's puppy, a young bitch so far unnamed. Eregiel would go out early in the morning or in the evening as they were starting or finishing their drive for the day and would come back with game with which they would replenish their supplies and feed the dogs, and Miriel and Ruvemir both were learning to dress such meat. Folco seemed to have no difficulty with such things to begin with, and Pando appeared to be an accomplished camp cook already. When Miriel commented on this, the youth flushed and Folco laughed.
"He is a teen, after all," the Hobbit explained. "When we are teens our appetites are at their highest, and that's the age when we seem to do our most raids on farms and smoke houses and pantries and so on. We all become adept at cooking over open fires at such an age, it seems. That he's not raiding the food chest is testimony to several things--to his realization that we all depend equally on the food we carry, to the fact he's getting larger portions when we do eat, and to the fact the food chest is watched fairly well even at night." If anything, Pando went even redder, and the others smiled, and Ruvemir clapped him on the shoulder.
Ruvemir had begun teaching Ririon how to read while they were staying at Bag End, and now as the coach rumbled down the Greenway the lessons continued, using both the book with raised letters and an amount of clay on a large slab of board obtained from stores at Bag End. It was slow and laborious work creating words on the clay, but Ririon was learning fairly quickly. Pando was learning different techniques with the clay, and seemed content to return what he'd done during the day to the main block at night, although two small figures which were particularly pleasing Ruvemir set to dry so that when they returned to Minas Anor he could have them fired.
Ruvemir, Dorlin and Eregiel now shared one of the two tents; Miriel and Folco shared the other, while Pando and Ririon spent most of their sleeping times within the coach. Had it not been for Eregiel's apparently tireless constitution and hunting skills they would not have made it far, even with the gift of a waybread made them by the sons of Elrond, for Ruvemir was seeing now firsthand how much more food Folco and Pando--especially Pando--needed.
On the fourth day the weather turned wet, and it seemed that the coach rode quite a bit heavier and sank deeper into the roadway than it had on the way north. Eregiel watched its progress with concern from beneath his hood. That night they found a small settlement and stopped there for the night, but although they were given the freedom to sleep in a barn and were able to purchase a few supplies, it offered little to their comfort and they found themselves feeling uncomfortable with their hosts. They all found themselves sleeping with one eye open, the two youths insisted on sleeping in the carriage to keep a watch on things there, which Eregiel approved, and neither dog seemed to rest well at all. Early in the morning they were harnessing the ponies chosen for the first run, and shortly after daybreak they were already on their way. It was not till afternoon they began to feel as if they had left the oppression of the place behind them, although Eregiel remained vigilant even then.
In late afternoon Eregiel, who'd been riding far behind the coach, came riding up swiftly to tell the others they were being followed. Folco, who'd been driving while Dorlin slept inside and Ririon rode on one of the extra ponies, commented he'd been seeing signs that there might be someone flanking the roadway as well, for he'd been seeing flickers of movement within the margins of the forest that here filled the land between the road and the Misty Mountains. Eregiel's face became concerned, and he began scouting for a defensible position, which he felt he'd found a short time later, leading them to the ruins of an ancient settlement where there was a stone byre into which they could drive the coach with a clear view in all directions.
"No roof or beams to catch fire, and sufficient chinks to allow us shots out with no one able to shoot in." He turned to Folco. "You any good with that bow you've brought along?"
"I'm fair," Folco said, "but both Pando and I are good shots with a stone either thrown or slung. A Hobbit talent." Pando produced a catapult he had brought with him and stuffed it into his pocket, and soon both Hobbits were gathering a store of stones for ammunition about themselves while Eregiel and Dorlin examined the byre and decided how each could best make use of their weapons. The puppy was shut into the coach with Miriel, and Artos and Eregiel melted into their surroundings. Even Pando and Folco appeared able to do similarly. This left the three representatives of Mankind remaining in the byre feeling both helpless and exposed.
The ponies were unharnessed now and set between the coach and the wall of the byre. Ruvemir had a mallet in his hand while Ririon felt the point of one of his chisels. Hopefully they would see no combat themselves, but one never knew.
The attack came after an hour's wait, and it came suddenly for all their preparation. Arrows were shot over the wall and fell mostly on the top of the coach, although one managed to strike one of the ponies, who cried out in fear and pain. Eregiel, however, seemed to be able to locate their attackers fairly easily, and was proving an excellent shot with his bow. Soon three of the enemy seemed to be incapacitated. Folco had both his bow and his stones wherever he'd secreted himself, and soon he managed to remove another of those surrounding the byre. When at last the attackers made an assault on the byre, their arrows apparently exhausted, Dorlin and Eregiel both showed their fighting prowess, while the stones used by the Hobbits proved to be efficient and deadly.
Then unexpected assistance came to the defenders, and a new voice was calling out to the attackers to desist. When one of those striking at Dorlin fell with a green-fletched arrow in his shoulder, the others drew back, and at the demand they throw down their weapons they obeyed.
The identity of those Folco had spotted flanking the road was made clear as Elven hunters now came forward. They kept their bows trained on the Men who had attacked the coach, indicating they'd best step back from their weapons. Eregiel came forward followed by Artos, clutching at a shoulder where an arrow protruded, and Dorlin and Folco approached the prisoners, gathering up their weapons. Pando kept his catapult in his hands as he came out, pale but determined. Ririon went around the coach to check on the ponies, and came out leading Folco's pack pony, who had an arrow protruding from its wither, the animal shaking with pain and fear.
The leader of the Elves rode forward. "I am Haldir, once of Lothlorien," he said. "With me are several who have left our land to join our Lord Celeborn in Rivendell. We were camped not far from the settlement from whence you set out this morning, and saw first you leave, then these follow after. We have let you see us that you know you were not alone along the road."
Eregiel bowed deeply. "My kinsman has told me of you, Haldir of Lorien," he said, still clasping his shoulder. "I am Eregiel of the Dúnedain of the North, a kinsman to the Lord Aragorn Elessar of Arnor and Gondor. These are Master Ruvemir son of Mardil of Lebennin in Gondor and his sister Miriel, her husband Folco Boffin of the Shire, Ririon son of Embril and Damsen who is apprenticed to Master Ruvemir, Pando Proudfoot of the Shire who is also apprenticed to Master Ruvemir, and Dorlin son of Dwalin of Erebor. We saw Lord Celeborn five days ago in company with the sons of Lord Elrond and the Lord Glorfindel, some hours south of Bree. They indicated they were going to return to Rivendell."
Haldir looked over the party with interest. "The Periannath we recognize," he said, "and the Dwarf is reminiscent of Gimli son of Gloin who visited Lorien and who has the Lady's favor."
Dorlin bowed deeply. "Gimli is my cousin," he said, "and he spoke well of you and the courtesy you showed him. Dorlin son of Dwalin at your service, Lord Haldir."
Haldir bowed gracefully toward the Dwarf, and then he examined Ruvemir and Miriel. "The son of Men we recognize, and certainly we know your people and your Lord, Eregiel of the Dúnedain. But these we do not recognize. Tell me, Ruvemir son of Mardil, of what kind are you?"
"We are of the race of Men, but are stunted in our growth, my sister and I," Ruvemir explained.
"A daughter of Men you are, Mistress Miriel, and yet you have a husband who is a Perian?"
Miriel drew herself up proudly. "We were sent to the Shire by the Lord Elessar himself," she said, "and we met there, Folco and I."
The Elf raised an elegant eyebrow. "I see. I mean no offense to either of you." Again he bowed gracefully, then said something in his own tongue to those who followed him. "My brother will see to your injury, Master Eregiel. And another of our people will assist in the care for your beast." Others closed on the Men who'd followed and assaulted the party and quickly saw them bound and under guard.
The care for Eregiel took some time, for the barbs of the arrow point were deep in his shoulder and had to be removed carefully if they were not to incapacitate him permanently. The pony's hurt turned out to be slight, and the calming voice of the Elf who cared for it seemed to do more for its comfort than the cleaning and treatment of its wound. Dorlin also had a shallow cut to his upper arm that was quickly treated.
Ten men had followed them from the settlement and had taken part in the attack on the byre, four of whom lay dead. Two of the remaining six were injured, and these, too, were treated by the Elves before all six were brought forward to be questioned.
"Why did you follow these?" Haldir asked. "You gave them hospitality last night and were, we had indications, well recompensed for it."
"We saw they had gold, and our leader, who lies there--" a nod toward the four dead men "--said we could easily acquire the rest."
Haldir looked at the place where the four lay dead and then at those these had attacked. "I think your leader failed to realize how skilled these were at protecting themselves," he said archly. "Any Man who believes a Ranger of the Northern Dúnedain or a Dwarf of Erebor--or a Perian of the Shire--is to be easily defeated is a fool."
"We have no experience with any such," the Man said, determinedly gazing straight in front of him. "We come from among the Dunlendings. We were told there was open land to the north that could be settled and farmed. But we are unused to farming, and Gartman thought to easily take their riches and use them in Tharbad or Bree to obtain supplies."
Haldir looked at them with disgust, then to Eregiel. "As representative of the government of the land of Arnor, it is up to you to decide what is to be done with them."
Eregiel was pale, and his hand still held to his wounded shoulder, bandaged as it now was. For some moments he examined the six who stood bound before them all. "They should be taken north to Bree," he said at last, "and turned over to the Rangers there with a report of what they have done. Lord Halladan, Steward of Arnor, was there when we left the village, and commanded I accompany Master Ruvemir south to the Lord King in Minas Anor. He will not be far north, if he has yet left Bree. He will judge their case."
Haldir nodded. "So be it, then." He spoke to his followers, and six came forward. "These will take them to Bree, while the rest of us go to Rivendell and rejoin our Lord."
Two more Elves entered the camp, slipped from their horses, and made a report to Haldir. He listened closely, asked a question, then finally turned to Eregiel and Ruvemir.
"They have followed two others, boys, who watched the assault and returned to their village. Three others now keep watch on the settlement."
Eregiel and Ruvemir looked to one another. "It is up to you, Master Ruvemir, whether we will return to deal with them or if we should continue on southward to return to Minas Anor."
Ruvemir felt troubled. "That is a heavy burden to lay on a mere sculptor, my Lord," he said. "However, I would not have this settlement trouble others as they have troubled us. Do you not feel they need to know that their menfolk have been properly defeated and go to proper judgment for what they have done?"
Eregiel sighed. "We will go back to them, then, return their dead, and let them know these six go north for judgment. We will rest then for the night, and start south tomorrow, as long as we are all able to travel."
Haldir nodded in agreement. "So be it, then." He turned to his own people, said something, and a few moments later the Dunlendings' horses were brought forward and they were assisted into their saddles and their hands bound to their saddlebows as Dorlin and Folco saw to the harnessing of those ponies which would pull the coach. The bodies of the dead were carefully laid over the saddles of the remaining steeds while Ririon tied the rest of the ponies behind the coach. Haldir examined Eregiel and indicated he should ride in the coach, and after speaking to some of his people said to Ruvemir, "Some of my folk will carry the two young ones and you. We see one of the ponies is saddled for the Perian--" with a nod toward Folco, "--and that should lighten the load sufficiently for those who draw the coach to not be unduly taxed."
"I will lead Rohel, Eregiel," Folco said. "And we've already put my packs over the back of one of the coach ponies, so that will be well. Shall Artos ride with you and the pup and Miriel?"
Eregiel nodded, accepted the assistance of one of the Elves into the coach, and once all were set Dorlin chirruped to the team pulling the coach and they set out back northward till they came again to the small settlement. The remaining folk, mostly women and children and only three men now, watched with shock the return of the previous night's guests, their own men under guard, and the accompanying Elves, eight of whom entered the settlement while the rest circled it.
Having been appointed spokesman by Eregiel and Haldir, Ruvemir spoke from the saddlebow of the Elf who carried him. "I am Master Ruvemir of Gondor. We came to you asking hospitality and paying for it full willing; and your men have rewarded our generosity by following and waylaying us, seeking to steal what little we carry with us. I was sent north by the King himself on an errand he set me, and he would not take well to that errand being interrupted by such as your men.
"Four of those who attacked us lie dead there," he said, pointing to the four horses carrying the corpses. "We return them to you for burial. The other six who assaulted us will be carried north to Bree and entrusted to the Rangers of the Kingdom of Arnor to be brought before Halladan, Steward of Arnor, for judgment in the King's name. The two boys who watched the assault and who returned to you will not be taken from you, but we cannot allow these six to return unjudged. We will stay with you this night, this time with no recompense for your hospitality. Those of you who wish to accompany these six north to plea for them will be allowed to do so. Otherwise, we suggest you look to improve your husbandry of the land. From now on the Rangers of Arnor will keep watch on your settlement to see that you do not similarly treat other passersby. Is this understood?"
The folk of the settlement nodded their agreement, not that there would have been any good in trying to get a different treatment for their men. That the four animals carrying the dead men were not commandeered was a surprise to them, and that other recompense was not demanded was an even greater one.
One of the women came forward. "Gartman was my man, not that he was particularly good to me or my children," she said. "You may sleep in our house this night in recompense for what he did."
Ruvemir examined the house and indicated he wished Eregiel to remain there for the night, and he stayed with him to tend to his wound. The rest indicated they'd rather stay in the stables again. The Elves took the prisoners out into their own camp for the night and disappeared into the surrounding woods, leaving two of their number to assist Ruvemir's party. With Pando and Dorlin taking watch along with the two Elves, they made it plain to the villagers they would not allow any liberties to be taken.
Through the night Ruvemir and his hostess and her older daughter took it in turn to tend Eregiel. The daughter was a comely girl, and she and her mother soon were explaining their situation to their guests. Clothilde was of mixed heritage, having a grandfather who was of the Gondorians of Anorien, a grandmother who was a daughter of a Rider of Rohan, and her other grandparents from among the Dunlendings. Her first husband had been Rohirric and was the father to Fealwyn her daughter and her older son; but he'd fallen in an assault on the horse herds of the Eastfold during a raid from Mordor. Afterwards she'd lost her husband's holding when the Wildmen of the Hills had swept down into their lands and burned their village. She and her children had become refugees who were looked at askance by many of the Rohirrim due to their mixed heritage; finally she decided to try her luck among the Dunlendings, where Gartman had taken note of her and began to court her.
"It is odd how pleasant you can find a man to be, no matter how violent he really is, when he pays attention to you when no others will," she said bitterly. "I have long regretted accepting him as my second husband, and I will never make such a mistake again. It is a bitter thing to say, but I am glad your folk killed him, the beast."
Gartman had, she'd learned, stolen from among his own kind, which had led to his decision to seek to take advantage of the lands now opening to the north. They'd begun carving a farming community out of the wilderness, but Gartman and several of those who'd come with the party had no experience in farming and no patience for the life. That they'd take to thievery from those traveling the Greenway had been a surprise to her at first to her, but she'd come to realize this was simply in keeping with their nature. "Those who stayed in the village are farmers at heart, and will do well enough, I suspect. Two of those you captured and one who died are also decent enough at heart, and I hope the ones judging them will be discerning toward them and give them the chance to redeem themselves. The rest are no better than they should be, and deserve any judgment given them, no matter how harsh.
"The one boy who followed after and brought the report back to us is a decent boy, but the other is Gartman's brother's son, and is no better than my late husband was. He is the short youth with the sour expression who stood by the water stoup."
Eregiel thanked them for the information, and with Ruvemir's help wrote out a report using paper supplied by the sculptor to send by the Elves who had agreed to take the prisoners north. He got from Clothilde the description of the two whom she judged to be worthy of redemption, and got from Fealwyn and her mother a list of known misdeeds committed by the rest. Once the report was done, he finally agreed to sleep, although he was in a great deal of pain that night. Fortunately the wound did not become infected, and by the next day the pain had eased some. Accepting willowbark tea from his hostess, the Ranger indicated he was ready to continue south.
Haldir accompanied them for some way, carrying Ruvemir before him on his own steed. "What did you do in the land of the Periannath, Master Ruvemir? Why has the Lord Aragorn broken his own law in asking a Man, no matter how stunted in his growth, to be admitted to that land?"
He listened to the story of the King's commission with growing wonder, and when they stopped for a meal and to change teams and to check Eregiel's wound he asked to see the model. When Ruvemir produced it, he looked on it with great interest, and gently caressed the head of the model of Frodo Baggins. "Yes," he said softly. "Surprisingly beautiful for a mortal being he was, and worthy of much honor. It is said he is no longer in Middle Earth, though."
"The Valar gave him permission to take ship to Tol Eressëa," Ruvemir said, equally softly. "The Lord Samwise has told me he sailed with the Lord Elrond, the Lady Galadriel, the Lord Gildor Inglorion, and Mithrandir himself."
Haldir smiled in surprise. "He sailed with our Lady Galadriel? We were not told this. This is good news, for she came to honor him greatly. He was willing to cast himself into the Crack of Doom itself for us all, you know. That Iluvatar granted him the mercy of the loss of that which he carried was more than we expected." He looked on the three others. "Yes, so they all appeared. And it appears your sculpture of Master Samwise was made with much love and respect."
Ruvemir nodded. "We remained with his family for some weeks, and I came to esteem him greatly. He is one of great heart indeed, and his grief for the loss of his beloved Master is very deep."
"He now has a family?"
"Yes, he is now married and has two children, and a third due at the same time as the Lady Arwen's first child. His wife is a very dear woman of her people."
"That is good, that he has such a one to stand by him. Great devotion he showed to his Master; the loss of him must tear a great hole in his heart."
"Yes, it does."
"And these two who accompany you from the Shire?"
"Both are kinsmen to Lord Frodo and his cousins Sir Meriadoc and Sir Peregrin."
Haldir smiled and shook his head. "Ah, it appears that the Shire is beginning to share its small greatnesses with the outer world as we of the Firstborn leave it for the Undying Lands. That is a good thing, I think. Did Lord Celeborn see this?"
"Yes, and he approved of it, as did the Lords Elladan and Elrohir and Glorfindel."
"Why did they speak with you?"
Ruvemir explained the second and third commissions he'd been offered, and Haldir laughed, an unexpected sound from such a solemn Elf. "It appears," he said, "that you will be kept busy reproducing the image of Frodo Baggins of the Shire for some time to come."
"I commented while in Casistir that I was desirous to do studies of other races than Men for a time, and it appears that Eru and the Valar have decided to honor that desire, and with a vengeance," Ruvemir returned, smiling.
Eregiel, who'd been listening to this interchange from his place by the cooking fire, laughed. "And all this, I understand, came about because you did a figure of my esteemed kinsman from the days when he served Gondor as the Captain Thorongil."
"Oh, yes, and so it started indeed," Ruvemir laughed.
Haldir shook his head, then caressed the figure of Frodo once more before returning the model to the sculptor. "May it serve its purpose well, this memorial you will produce, Master Ruvemir. In the meantime, I think we will leave you now and head north and east to Rivendell. We will now bid you our goodbyes, for Eregiel appears well enough now to take again to his horse if he so desires."
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.