49. Conversations with the King
Conversations with the King
Ruvemir of Lebennin spent the next two days shaping the stones there on the edge of the Court of Gathering, and the evenings in the warehouse shaping the stone for Frodo Baggins. The second evening before the wedding he was joined again by the King, again dressed in the silver surcoat over creamy shirt and dark trousers.
"I greet you, my Lord Aragorn," said the sculptor.
"It is my honor to be allowed to watch you."
"Would you like to do some removals, my Lord?"
"I would not know what to do."
"Come, I can show you." Ruvemir smiled as the King approached quietly. Ruvemir demonstrated the way of using chisel and mallet, and in a few moments' time Aragorn was taking his first swing of the mallet, and felt the chisel tip bite deeply and truly. Ruvemir had him shift the chisel, and he did several more strikes.
Finally he straightened and handed the tools back to the artist. "I thank you, Ruvemir, for trusting me with the work you do."
The mannikin smiled. "You would do well as a sculptor, I think, if you have an eye for shapes, at least. You were sufficiently forceful and gentle at the same time to bring the best out of the stone."
"In two more days you will be wed," the King began, taking a seat this time not on the floor but on a stool. "I wanted to ask where you will spend your wedding night? Mistress Loren hopes very much you will honor the house given to your usage for that purpose, seems to think it will bring you and your bride good fortune and happiness to the house itself. Or, if you desire it, we have a room within the Citadel itself where you and your bride could spend the night. Prince Faramir also has offered a small hunting lodge his family has owned for many generations."
Ruvemir nodded. "Master Beneldil has offered one of his suites prepared for newlyweds, as has Master Fergion at the Dragon's Claw opposite. It seems we have quite a choice. But I am glad you have brought the word from Mistress Loren, for that, I think, would bring Elise the greatest pleasure, to spend the first night alone in the house which will be her first home as Mistress."
"You are certain Elise will favor this?"
Ruvemir smiled up into the King's grey eyes. "Believe me, my Lord, she will favor this indeed. You did not see her eyes as we looked at the house. She will be very happy."
The King looked over the shape becoming obvious as the sculptor continued to work on the block before him. He could see now the basic shape of head and torso, the outstretched right arm, the Elven cloak pulled back over the shoulder, the reach forward of the left foot and leg. "It is sad that these will have to wait for a month before final shaping," he said with a sigh.
Ruvemir looked at the emerging figure critically. "You will find," he finally said, "that stone is remarkably patient. This figure has waited for some time for one to come along and find it within the marble that holds it; it will be pleased to wait some more." He looked up. "How does the royal daughter?"
Aragorn laughed. "How does any child less than a week old? She wakes and sleeps, eats and soils herself, looks about cross-eyed as she tries to focus to see better, cries at times, and turns her head any time she hears her mother or myself approaching her, although she appears to love Gimli and his beard past telling. Perhaps it is the glint of his golden beads; or perhaps it is his laughter as he looks down upon her. I have not seen his eyes quite so gentle since he received his gift from the Lady Galadriel--except perhaps when Pippin and later Frodo woke and recognized him in Cormallen."
The King again sang the song of shaping, and again the work went well while he sang. Finally the song finished, and shortly after Ruvemir finished for the evening and laid down his tools, took a soft brush and swept away the grit that now lay on the figure. He looked around and found that once again the King had found broom and pan and was sweeping up the stone shards and rubble. Then he found a slightly larger fragment that he stopped and looked at for several moments before handing it to Ruvemir.
"I can't say why, but I feel this needs to go to Pando. Perhaps it is my family gift of foresight at work again, or perhaps just a passing fancy. But I feel this needs to go with him to Belfalas."
Ruvemir remembered talk about Aragorn's gift of foresight back in Brandy Hall when all were examining the pendant gifted to Pippin that he in turn gave to Diamond as a promise gift. "Then I will see to it that Pando takes it with him, my Lord."
There was quiet for a time. Finally, as Ruvemir finished draping the stone and the King poured the last pan of chips into the crate, the mannikin asked, "Are the prisoners on their way?"
"They are indeed. Word has come back that Moritum is ready for them. He summoned the chieftains of several clans together and asked what is to be done to any who offered violence to the ambassador to Gondor, and they all agreed that the law of their people must be carried out, that death by impalement is the prescribed punishment. He asked each clan in turn if this was what they felt was right, and all agreed. He then spoke to the representative of the Bedui, the cousin to Solamonti, who agreed again that this was the proper fate for those who so betrayed their people and Shkatha. He then asked all how they would feel if one of their own clan was found to have been involved in the conspiracy, and again all agreed no matter which clans they came from the penalty was due. He only hopes that when they see who were involved they will still agree, although he believes several are aware of who the offenders are, yet agreed they must pay the price."
Ruvemir shivered. "It would be a horrid manner in which to die."
He realized the King reflected his own shuddering. "I agree." After a minute he added, "I have stood by some who died of wounds similar to that, including, of course, Boromir. In each case the individual was glad to have the chance to accept what was coming, the chance to say goodbye. However, in their cases they went after battle, honorably. I cannot imagine what it would be to go to such deliberately and in shame and defiance."
Ruvemir thought for several minutes. "Pippin remembered worrying what you would decide for Beregond, that you might realize that the penalty of death was required. He said he did not beg you to spare him, for fear it would make you feel guilty if you decided he must pay with his life."
Aragorn nodded his head. "I thought long and hard. I knew he did not deserve to die, that he did what he did not out of hatred but out of love for Faramir, for his beloved Captain under whom he'd served and who'd already risked so much, braving death for his men and this land repeatedly. I'd rather kill no one, order no one killed. But this case is different. The desire for personal power bequeathed to Arda through the offices of Melkor still permeates so many of our brethren, Ruvemir; and these were willing to kill so many innocents so as to gain their ends. And so I had them pronounce their own guilt and the penalty they must face, and sent them to their own to see it done. It does not make me any less guilty for their deaths, yet it also helps me accept the responsibility, that they themselves realized that they deserved this according to their own laws. Had it been my own people who had to see it through, though, I'd have insisted on a quick, clean death. I will not make any suffer if I can help it."
Ruvemir began extinguishing some of the lanterns as the King did the rest. Finally, when they'd met at the last two lanterns, the King looked into the eyes of the artist facing him. "I often felt guilty over saving Frodo's life, once I realized I could not undo what had been done to him, that he would suffer from the shoulder wound for the rest of his life as long as he remained in Middle Earth, that I could not draw out all of the poison from the spider bite, that he was often unable to retain his food, that the nightmares tormented him. The word from Gandalf that on the anniversary of his wounding he was felled by the memories on the way back to the Shire, there at the Bruinen and again at Weathertop, tormented me. How could one such as he be expected to bear such, Ruvemir? I wanted only to give him the chance to know simple joy again...." He shut his eyes and turned his head away, then looked at the screen. "And now I've had to send others to their deaths, with all knowing exactly what will become of them. At least they will not live with their agony as long as Frodo had to suffer." He blew out the lantern. Ruvemir followed suit, and together they walked past the screen, past the dim light left in the outer room, out to the doorway.
The King donned his stained cloak as they left the warehouse, and Ruvemir locked the doorway behind them as Eregiel joined them quietly. They walked back to the King's Head without speech. They went to the common room this time, and each had a goblet of wine. Slowly the King's mood lightened as he watched the folk around him, and he pointed out a couple near the doorway who were obviously coming to realize they loved one another. Beneath the hood Ruvemir could see the King start to smile in pleasure. Finally he said softly, "The young Man was among those who marched to the Black Gate. He was grievously wounded, and I drew him back from the Gates of Death. He hated me at the time for his pain was great, but he recovered. Now I see he is knowing joy, a joy he'd not thought he'd know when we were in the Fields of Cormallen and I was draining the wound of infection." He looked to Ruvemir's eyes. "And I know the other of whom I spoke has forgiven me as well, and if his joy has been somewhat muted, it still is a pleasure for him to know. It was the right thing to do, after all."
Ruvemir smiled at his King's relief.
The next morning Ruvemir made his last trip up to the level of the Citadel from the King's Head, and they worked intensely. He finally brought out Pippin's facial features, the wide eyes, the straight nose with the unexpected tilt at the end, the slightly large incisors, the pride of the Guard of the Citadel, the curling locks about his face. He carefully denoted the right arm and hand holding Troll's Bane at the ready, left hand supporting the flat of the blade. And he gently inscribed the etching on the blade set there over a thousand years previous by an unknown Dúnedain swordsmith. The face would need smoothing, but it was recognizable, definitely that of Captain Peregrin Took; the hand holding the sword was that of the Hobbit as well. And then he heard an intake of breath, and looked up into Gimli's face.
"Yes, that's Pippin," the Dwarf said, smiling. "I'll never forget my first glimpse of him, then finally learning the foolish thing wasn't even of age yet. And when I saw his foot, under that mountain of a troll--" He shook his head. "I worried about them all endlessly. We could do nothing for Frodo and Sam on their journey, but we tried to help Pippin and Merry. Tell me again--when is the fool of a Took going to marry?"
"Midsummer, at the Free Fair in Michel Delving."
"I'll have to see if I can't somehow just be there for it--at least send him a decent marriage gift."
The King and Queen joined them, the Queen carrying a small bundle in her arms. "My Lady Queen," Ruvemir remonstrated, "ought you to be abroad like this?"
"Why ever not?" the Queen asked. "I promise you I will do nothing to injure myself. But I can't stay inside on a day such as today, and I wanted to bring Melian to see the progress on the statues."
Pando, Ririon, and Celebgil came forward to see, and soon each enjoyed the delight of holding the small princess, gently stroking her soft face, feeling her grip about their fingers. Joy strained against her leash to come to her also, and at last the King carried his daughter over by her, held the child down so the young dog could smell her and examine her. With a whine the dog whuffled at the infant's face, then looked up at Aragorn and kissed his hand, thumping her tail against the ground. Melian looked almost startled, then gave a small smile. The King laughed, and brought her away again.
He looked long into the features of the statue, and smiled. "Yes, Pippin, there you are at last." He looked at the sculptor and commented, "I begin to see what you mean about the stone being patient." The Dwarf took the baby as King and Queen examined the work done on all the figures, and Melian did indeed reach up toward him, tangled her tiny fists in his beard, looked up at him with delight.
Together they sat at the table drinking ale or juice, the King again cradling his daughter against his chest. "We exchanged birthing gifts the other day, by the way. And I must say we were both laughing with delight ere we were done. They complement one another well. Do tell your sister how pleased we both are."
"Gladly, my Lord, my Lady. She and the Lady Éowyn will both be fully glad to hear you are pleased with them."
"Yes, well pleased indeed," the Queen said gently. "We intend to wear them for a family celebration soon." She smiled at him meaningfully. "And I can't wait to see you wearing your own wedding shirt. It is indeed a thing of beauty."
"The robe you wore the night of the feast was marvelous, my Lord King. Who did the work on that?"
"I did," Arwen said. "But my own work is of a quite different kind than that done by your sister."
"You'd best be careful, or Miriel will have you admitted to the Guild of Tailors and Seamstresses as a Master Embroiderer before you realize what has happened. She will probably end up Guild Mistress herself one day, in between caring for children."
"Which brings us to one of the other reasons we came out. She and Folco have asked if they might take Lorieth and her brother, and we wished to assure ourselves you were willing to bring them to Lebennin with you."
"I've already found a sort of day enclosure for the infant. But is the girl ready for release yet?"
"If it hadn't been for the healing given by Elladan and Elrohir I would not have said so; but I am certain she is now ready. She has healed very quickly and is experiencing very little pain or discomfort. Yesterday she was laughing aloud at her brother and looked up with delight when she heard Miriel approaching her room. Yes, I think she will be ready to go with you. Certainly from what your father has told me he is already planning for how to adapt your old room at home for the two of them."
Ruvemir looked at where Ririon sat on the ground by him working on his log, crafting a lantern shape, it appeared. "I will feel lost, I fear, once these two are settled for their formal apprenticeships with Mistress Andúrien and my father. Both have come to be dear to me, particularly my son here," and he reached out to put his hand on Ririon's head.
The youth smiled at him. "It won't be all that long, Ruvemir. At least I can tell people I have two fathers, one who died in Osgiliath and one who is a great sculptor. I have reason to be proud of both." He stretched. "And I have a wonderful grandfather as well. I am well pleased, and I think my mother must also be well pleased, knowing I am happy and learning so much." He thought for a moment. "And you will have Celebgil for to keep you company and to assist in the shaping."
The King coughed. "The other matter of which I spoke the other day--I have approached the one of whom I spoke, and he is interested in accompanying you, if you will allow his brother to accompany you as well. They will share a room, I understand. Both will ride their horses rather than ride in the coach. But they are interested in learning more about Gondor and seeing much of it with one who knows it."
"Are you speaking of Ifram and Shefti of Rhun?"
"Yes. What do you think, Celebgil--do you think they would be pleasant company on your journey?"
Ruvemir was astonished. "But why the ambassador from Rhun?"
The King looked at him. "He has already been targeted for death by those who would rather take Rhun back to a situation in which a few are in control of all and all are kept busy fighting for the profit of those few. Once our troupes join his brother's there will be no chance for any more violent revolts until the campaign is over. Should we win, that will cement Moritum's position as Shkatha, particularly once our forces return behind our own borders, for we shall have been proven honorable allies. Should we lose, the question of government for Rhun is moot--and ours here, too, will be questionable, although Gondor and Arnor will be returning again to at least a familiar pattern of Stewardship until Melian comes of age--at least, if I die in the campaign.
"It will give Ifram and Shefti of Rhun a chance to see first hand that our way of government is good throughout the realm and not just within the capital. It will teach them that in keeping faith with our people those of us who serve as leaders strengthen all, and hopefully we shall serve as a model for the advising of their brother in terms of leadership. And it will take both brothers out of Minas Anor and make them harder to find and target until it is too late for those who have survived the conspiracy to bring any more assassins against them. I will have a few following your group, out of sight from you, never obviously connected with you, who will serve as a screen for you, watching for those who would sneak up on you and target the brothers."
Ririon asked, "Then will Eregiel travel with us again?"
Ruvemir shook his head. "Eregiel is already known to be cousin to the King. It would fool no one, and would also leave me with no reason to continue to take Celebgil, as it would appear the King has decided to send an escort anyway. That, my Lord, could make things difficult with Celebgil's current official Master. He agreed to the accompaniment because otherwise you would have to find another escort. However, should these outlanders suddenly decide to attach themselves to the company, asking at the last moment to go with us to see some of Gondor, it would be less questionable in his mind."
"You are concerned about Master Varondil, then, Ruvemir?" asked Gimli.
The sculptor answered carefully, "As things stand, Celebgil must in time return to the arrangement originally contracted between his parents and Master Varondil. A master who believes he was lied to can become vindictive, and I would not have that situation come back to haunt Celebgil at this point."
It was plain to Ruvemir that other hints that the situation between Celebgil and Master Varondil was questionable were coalescing in the King's mind, although he said nothing of what Ruvemir knew he must now be considering. The King gave one of his more feral smiles. "I see, and agree with your estimation. Also, if I were to send one known to be a warrior with you, it would alert all this is not as innocent a situation as we wish it to look. And then, Ifram is himself a warrior trained, so he should be able to take care of himself if an attack is made plain. However, at Melian's birth there was no chance for him to arm himself, for he carried no weapon to the Citadel out of deference to the occasion."
His smile became more teasing. "On the way, however, I know you will have two with you whose skill with flung stones will serve you well, in case of need." Pando flushed and Ririon laughed. Even Celebgil smiled. "I ought to have made more use of a Hobbit's natural weaponry along our own journey, I know. After all, I did see Sam use a flung apple to excellent effect there in Bree. If I'd planned to use this skill from the first, it would have perhaps served us to our advantage, except then perhaps we would not have tried teaching swordcraft to Merry and Pippin, who both used the teaching well. Nor would a flung stone have stood either in good stead against the foes whom they fought in the end."
"Nor, I suppose, would Frodo's ability to throw a felling punch have aided him in the end against troll or spider," Ruvemir considered.
"I still wish I'd have known of the skill when I first met him," Aragorn said with a sigh. "Although with no child or beast to protect perhaps he would never have been brought to the point of using it." He shook his head. "Guiding the honorable is always a mixed blessing. Sometimes a bit of roguery is helpful in promoting good self-defense." He looked at Pippin's statue and smiled. "Now, if there was ever a mild rogue...." He and Gimli both smiled broadly.
The Queen laughed, then asked, "When do you leave?"
"On Sunday. We will spend the night of the Highday in the house in the Sixth Circle, Elise and I, will spend Starsday packing the coach and bring it up to the sixth level, then will leave early the morning of Sunday, picking up the rest of our retinue on the way--Folco, Miriel, the children, my father and Master Faragil, and the apprentices. We will pick you up before your parents' pottery at the first hour, Celebgil. Can you be ready?"
The King considered. "I will suggest to the Rhunim that they meet you outside the great Gate with their horses and a pack animal, then. They can leave after you and not appear to be part of your party until you join together at the outer stable." He nodded. "It will work. I will tell you this--I will set three to follow you, and if you see them you will recognize them as having been sent by me." He looked at Pando, Ririon, and Celebgil. "I do expect, however, you speak of this to no one--not to friends, brothers, or parents. Do you understand? That means even Benril, Ririon."
"I understand, Lord Elessar."
"Good, then. And, Pando, you will keep a stone ready to hand?" His smile was infectious. The Hobbit lad nodded, grinning broadly.
"Very well," the Lord Elessar said, "we shall see you again tomorrow at the King's Head. A good night of anxiety to you, Master Ruvemir, although I assure you all will go well."
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.