8. Settling Fees
The next morning early he was up and slipped himself out of his high bed, using the steps that had been brought for him, and made his way to the bathing chamber which had been pointed out to him the previous evening. Attendants helped him disrobe and into the high tub. He felt embarrassed, but realizing this was their duty, he relaxed and allowed them to clean his hair and his back. Afterwards they replaced the supportive bandage, then helped him to dress in some of his own clothing which he learned had been fetched the previous evening when one had accompanied Miriel back to the King's Head, and that Miriel herself had chosen them for him. He'd have been able to guess, he thought, looking to see she'd sent her favorite of his shirts, one of soft lavender with geometric designs she'd stitched into the placket and the neck, and the surcoat that was like purple smoke over breeches of a smoky blue. Taking up his cane, he thanked them and headed back to his own room, feeling much better for the wash, he thought, not noting the admiring glances he drew from those he walked by. He passed the boy Benril on his way to the bathing chamber, and nodded at him, then realized the lad's face was familiar. He stopped and turned back to the boy.
"Are you the son of Beneldil, the keeper of the King's Head in the second circle?" he asked.
The child nodded. "And you are a guest there, the mannikin who stays in the Pheriannath room," he answered. "You are better now? My father said you were very ill when he sent you here. Of course, I was very ill when they brought me here, too. But today I get to go home again. Livril will be quite put out, having to share our parents again, and no longer getting to eat all the dried plums."
"Then it appears we will most like go back together. Well, have a good bathe." The boy gave him a wry face--ah, but when had boys ever liked to bathe when directed? Ruvemir thought as he returned to his room.
He was sitting and drawing when a knock at the door preceded the arrival of the King. Aragorn son of Arathorn was looking very relaxed and light of heart as he entered and looked down at the study he'd begun in the new book. "Trying different poses, then?" he asked, and Ruvemir nodded.
"So far they aren't much," he commented. "I can't yet think how to show them as a group. I can see Frodo alone now, and Sam with his flowers, but then I find Merry and Pippin standing on guard, and somehow none fit together."
The King nodded. He looked over Ruvemir's form carefully. "Very nice appearance--a distinct improvement from the one I was roused from my bed to attend, you know." He fingered the white embroidery on the surcoat. "Fine work, this, and that on your shirt. Did the same embroiderer do them?"
Ruvemir nodded with pride. "Yes, the work of my sister Miriel. Our mother was a weaver of tapestries, but Miriel cannot throw the shuttle on any but the narrowest of weavings. So, she chose to take up embroidery instead." The King nodded. "I had thought to follow our father into carving wooden figures, but then I discovered stone and became enamored of it. And so it goes."
"I see," the King replied. "And I now find myself the possessor of one of your father's works--Prince Imrahil sent me a figure of a singing bird he purchased from Mardil of Lebennin at the fair a few weeks ago--it arrived on the same ship as your sister. Obviously artistry is part and parcel of your family's legacy." He took the book and set it aside, then proceeded to listen to Ruvemir's chest, straightening with satisfaction to report it appeared completely clear at last. He then helped his patient onto the bed and had him lie on his side and lift and move his left leg, sometimes watching and sometimes feeling the movement through the folds of cloth. He reported heart to be steady and strong, pulse equally so, temperature normal, eyes clear, gums and nails healthy, and generally all well at last in the body of Ruvemir son of Mardil.
He then helped him down and had him walk up and down the passageway, watching his gait and offering suggestions on how to better use his cane. Then he announced, "Then after I've seen young Benril I will have a cart return both of you to the second circle."
"What of the child Ririon, my Lord?"
"I'm still unsure what will become of him. I will do a cutting soon on his eyes to try to remove some of the scarred tissue, hoping to return some more of his vision. But I cannot give him full sight again. Gimli has suggested that perhaps crystal might be shaped to help focus sight for him, similar to the spying glasses used among the folk of Umbar aboard their ships, or a burning glass, and that is something we will consider, although it will not make all as it should be. After I examine Benril I will begin the work on Ririon. Arwen has agreed to come to assist, for she has the gifts of our ancestry quite strongly and can soothe the fears of many."
"We heard the singing yesterday as the Queen reentered the upper city. You yourself have quite a gift in your voice."
The King smiled at the compliment. "It is very easy for me to sing when I see my beloved Arwen approaching me, I find."
An hour later Benril and he, both wrapped warmly in new cloaks gifted to them by the King, were brought out into the gardens before the Houses of Healing, and led to a waiting low pony cart and assisted into it. The carter turned the pony's head, and with a wave toward those of the healers who crowded the doorway, they set off on the way. They passed the Healer Ioreth on her way to the Houses, and she called out blessings on them that they had recovered so well, and advice to not try to resume full activity too quickly, and they blew her kisses and called out their thanks. They enjoyed the ride back down to the second circle, talking the whole way about what activities they'd enjoyed during the summers when younger, and Ruvemir was amused to see that Benril truly saw himself as worldly wise at the venerable age of twelve. Waiting for them at the gate to the third circle were Miriel and Benril's sister and parents, and these walked alongside the cart as they made their way slowly to the door of the King's Head. Throughout this last stage Benril was talking quite fast to his parents, intent on convincing them to allow Ririon to come stay at the King's Head once he was released from the Houses. Miriel held her brother's hand as they progressed, and smiled at the boy across Ruvemir's lap.
"Ririon is a dear child," she said as they came at last into the gate to the inn. Seeing his look of inquiry she added, "I talked to both boys quite a while yesterday while you were sleeping, you know. He is devastated--he loved to carve and now fears he will no longer be able to do any such work. He gave me a carving he'd done not long before he became ill, and it is quite good. I'll show you when we go inside."
Ruvemir was surprised when the dark-haired Elf came forward to assist him out of the cart. Once he was standing and his cane and the bundle containing robe, sketch booklets, and drawing instruments were handed to him, the Elf bowed deeply. "It is an honor to see you looking so well, Master Sculptor," he said in his clear voice. "Tharen Thranduilion at your service. My brother Legolas tells me you are quite talented, and it is an honor to meet the one who has immortalized the Captain Thorongil in Casistir, a work we are assured is marvelous to behold."
Ruvemir bowed in return, his surprise deepened to learn that a Prince labored here in the garden of an inn in the capital of Gondor. But at that moment another form rose from further up the garden, and came forward to show that not one but two Princes were so employed this day. Legolas smiled and bowed, and commented, "I see you are already familiar with my brother." Seeing the artist's expression he added, "We of the Woodland Realm have vowed to make this a city of life once again. Too many houses were empty; too few trees grew in the courtyards of the city; too few birds sang and brought joy to the hearts of those who live here or visit. It is little enough we do to leave those who will rule the world after our going with the hope of beauty.
"Oh, and I bring word from Gimli, that he hopes you will come down to the work sheds before the city and look on the gates before they are set into place. It is hoped they will be raised in three weeks."
"Thank you both," Ruvemir said in return. With a nod of dismissal, both Elves turned away, speaking together in their own Sylvan tongue as they headed back where Legolas had knelt, already consulting on the state of the plants they'd placed.
The fire was lit in his room, and flowers stood on the table and the stand between the two beds. He removed his new cloak and took it to the wardrobe to hang it there, and found his old one, clean and renewed, hung there already, along with the rest of the clothing he'd worn the day of his ride, which Elise had taken to be cleaned. Even his riding boots were cleaned and dried, and almost as supple as they'd been before.
A tap from Elise, and she entered carrying the tray of seed cakes and tea, accompanied by a tureen and a pair of bowls and spoons as well as the mugs. "Mardi Cook has sent you the other dish recommended by the Ernil i Pheriannath, a dish of mushrooms prepared in a stew." Ruvemir, remembering the words of Strider, laughed and bowed her out.
As he stowed his full sketch booklet away, he checked to see that all was there, and found all except the folder brought him by Lasgon. Had the page returned to retrieve it? He doubted it, for he did not believe that Elise, at least, would allow the removal of any of his own things except for his sketch booklets and drawing case, and then only if they were being taken to him. He tried to remember when he'd last seen the folder--then remembered his hip failing as he'd stood to put it in the desk....
He crouched down gingerly and looked into the recess under the drawers of the desk, and saw it there, one of the pictures, at least, part way slid out of its protective covers. He could not reach it with his hands, and then thought of the cane.
"Whatever are you doing?" asked Miriel as she saw him rising to get his cane, then returning to the desk and crouching down once more.
"Just watch," he said, and in a moment had used the tip of the cane to carefully ease the folder out from under the desk. Checking to see the contents had taken no hurt, he brought it to the table and carefully laid out each picture.
Miriel looked at them with awe. "These are not your work," she said.
He shook his head. "No, they are the work of the Pherian Frodo. They appear to be all of those who traveled with him, and the creature Gollum who apparently started the whole thing by taking the Ring into the Misty Mountains." He gestured as he named each one. "Sir Meriadoc, also known as Merry, cousin to the Pherian Frodo and Knight of Rohan, Swordthain to their King. Captain Peregrin, also known as Pippin, the Ernil i Pheriannath, and cousin to both Sir Meriadoc and the Pherian Frodo. He is a member of the Guard of the Citadel and stands before the King's throne. Master Samwise Gamgee, friend and gardener to the Pherian Frodo, usually thought to be his esquire. Lord Sam is known as the guardian of his beloved friend, and was named by him as his heir. Our Lord King Elessar dressed as a Ranger of Eriador, as apparently he was first seen by the Halflings. In the place where they first met he was called 'Strider.' The Elf Legolas, one of the Princes of the Forest of Green Leaves--he and his brother were out front when we arrived. Gimli son of Gloin, a Dwarf of Erebor. Mithrandir, or Gandalf, as they apparently call him in Arnor. The Lord Boromir son of Denethor, Captain of Gondor and the heir of his father as Steward of Gondor until he died during their journey. The Pherian Frodo's elderly cousin, Bilbo Baggins, who found the Ring in the caverns of the Misty Mountains--I still do not know the entire story. He apparently carried the Ring for some years before Mithrandir convinced him to give it to Frodo, before any were certain what it was. And the creature Gollum, who apparently carried the Ring from where it was lost in the River Anduin where the High King Isildur was killed into the mountains." He set out the other two pictures. "The home of the Pherian Frodo, and our Queen Arwen."
"But none of the Pherian Frodo himself."
She examined them closely. "So, this is the Queen," she commented. "She is very beautiful." He nodded in agreement. "And, was this his home? How odd, to dig a home into a hillside!" Again he nodded. "I can tell the kinds even of the flowers," she continued. "He was a marvelous artist."
He smiled, retrieved his old sketchbook and opened it to the picture of Strider seated on the block of stone and laid it beside the other. She compared the two. "This is embarrassing for you, my brother, for he was plainly the better artist."
Again he nodded, responding, "With charcoal or pencil, at least. I have no indication he ever tried sculpture."
"Also, he was drawing from subjects which he knew himself, while you draw often from the memories of others."
He smiled, and then said, "Wait," and turned to his best study of the Captain Thorongil that he'd used in planning his sculpture of Casistir. "Look at it closely, Miriel. Do you think you have it? All right, now look at this." And he turned to the picture of the King Elessar as he'd sat by his bed in the Houses of Healing.
She looked at it with puzzlement, then looked up at him. "It is the King, is it not?"
He turned back to Captain Thorongil. "I did this from the memories of those who remember Captain Thorongil when he led the assault on Umbar. I'd never seen either Strider nor the King at that time." She looked again, then looked up with shock. He smiled. "He is of almost pure Númenorean blood, it appears. He told me his is ninety-two years old. You are right about my personal gift. But even now I am still not the match for the Pherian Frodo with a subject he knows and cares about."
He went back to the drawer and retrieved the sketches and work of the artists who'd done pictures of Frodo in Minas Anor and laid them out, then turned to his own drawings. "I've tried to portray him, but am still not sure that I fully can picture him. He sounds to have been very quiet, and certain he did not merit the praise he received. His kin cared deeply for him and always sought to protect him, from what I've been told. He also was very much one given to protecting, I've learned. He had terrible nightmares after his ordeal, as did all of the Pheriannath, and when they had their nightmares he would soothe them, and when he had his they would come to his comfort in return. And there are stories told here in Minas Anor of his moving to protect others that are marvelous.
"The King wishes to send me to Eriador, possibly to the land of the Halflings themselves, to continue my research by speaking to his kin and his friends. And he'd like you to accompany me, it appears.
"What do you think, sister mine? Would you like to go on a journey to the north?"
"Now, with winter coming on? And how would we go--by pony or ship?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. No definite plans have been made. But it should prove interesting at the very least, should it not?" And all she could do was nod. With a nod of his own he returned the pictures each to its appropriate folder, carefully stored them away in the drawer, and then began to demonstrate how tea is served in the Shire.
After they'd eaten, Miriel took out some of the embroidery she'd brought with her, and Ruvemir first wrote a letter to their father to tell him of his return to health, that he might be sent north into Arnor as part of his current commission, and that Miriel stayed by him to assist with the continuing recovery of his hip; then began working on a new idea of what kind of grouping to do. Finally they put their work away and headed for the Common Room for the noon meal, and afterwards went for a walk, sending Ruvemir's letter off to Lebennin and exploring the second circle. Miriel was drawn to the window of the shop where he'd purchased the cord animals, and went in to examine some fine ribbands and threads, some of which he purchased for her. They then went through the gate to the booksellers, and spent a happy hour looking through the shelves, until she found a book on embroidery which must have sat on someone's shelf for a very long time before coming here. This Ruvemir purchased for her, and he found himself examining a collection of the tales of the Rohirrim, and bought it for himself, remembering Elfhelm's comment that they'd had stories of the Holbytla and had been amazed to see there were really such in the world. Returning to their rooms in the King's Head, Ruvemir found himself tired, and indicated he was going to rest for a time. She nodded, helped him remove his shoes, then covered him gently and left him to it, indicating she wished to go out and look at the gardens. Setting a half cup of water by his head, she drew the curtains and left the room in quiet, and he smiled to remember the first time he truly slept here while his mind was teasing out the meaning behind the hints he'd received about the identity of his mysterious patron. He remembered asking, "And does the King agree with this project?" and the ironic reply, "It is his will." And laughing softly to himself he finally slept.
He awoke and found it was sunset. Miriel sat with one of the lamps lit, working on her embroidery, humming under her breath as she always did. He found it peaceful and pleasant, having his sister there with him. He sat up and reached for his cup on the stand, and drank the water there, smiling as he watched her concentration. Finally she appeared to have the section finished she was currently working on, then tying off a knot she set the work on the table and stretched, and smiled over at him.
"I didn't think to ask as yet," he said, "but what in the letter the King sent made you decide to come to Minas Anor?"
"May have had something to do with 'Master Sculptor Ruvemir is very seriously ill with the lung fever and close to the point of death, and has been in terrible pain with a dislocated hip,' don't you think?" She rose and approached the bed. "I must say I'd have thought the reports were exaggerated if I'd first seen you today instead of yesterday. Apparently you took your time deciding to recover, but once having made up your mind you made rapid progress." She looked him over critically. "You do look decidedly better, you know. Although you are very thin for you."
Stretching and laughing, he rose, and winced as there was a decided twinge from the hip. He sat back down and looked at it. "I suppose I'd better do the exercises. Last thing I need would be for it to slip out again." He lay down on his side, and together they went through the exercises prescribed by the King and the healers, and when they were through Miriel brought him another cup of water.
"Thanks," he said, and drank it gladly. He rose, tried stretching again, and asked if she was ready for the evening meal. In a few minutes they were headed for the common room, and took a table near one of the windows that looked across the Pelennor. He described the ride out to see where the beast had been burnt and King Théoden's horse had been buried, about the fall when the pony shied as he tried to mount, and the bolting when the lightning seemed to be right above them. She listened, and shook her head as he described being soaked the second time when the rain began again as he walked through the first circle, and how these had led to his illness. She told him about the projects she'd recently finished and the prices they'd brought, and how she was looking for a new project to start, and about the relatively simple embroidery she was doing at the moment. He smiled, realizing that "simple embroidery" for her would be seen as complex by anyone else. They finished their dinner, looked out at the clear night, and talked a while longer, then paid for their meal, and after on a whim purchasing a bottle of wine, headed back to their room.
Elise had lit the lamps for them and stoked the fire, and left clean goblets and a tray of small cakes in case they should require refreshment later--or so her note indicated; and Ruvemir found himself wishing he'd been present when she'd been there. They were both reading when there was a knock at the door, and Ruvemir opened it to find four cloaked shapes standing there. The tallest asked, "Do you have room to hide four refugees from protocol?", and Ruvemir found himself bowing the King and his three companions into the room.
Miriel had risen, and was looking up with surprise when the King removed his hood, as did quickly Elf, Dwarf, and the fourth. The picture done by the Pherian Frodo had prepared them both for the beauty of the Queen, but even it had failed to convey fully the quiet and joy she radiated. Both Ruvemir and Miriel felt quite overwhelmed and sought to do proper reverence and were stopped with gentle laughter.
"No," she said, "this night we are only your guests, and glad of it. It appears the entire Citadel has decided to wind me about with silken gauze to honor the fact I bear the King's child, and I could bear it no longer. And so Estel suggested we come down and negotiate the fees for the commission, which he informs me have yet to be settled." Ruvemir nodded, and looked at the totally inadequate lack of chairs, and both the Queen and King laughed. Legolas removed cushions from the other two chairs about the table and threw them casually to the floor, and quickly he, the King, and Lady Arwen made themselves comfortable, while Gimli lounged in one of the now cushionless frames. Miriel took their cloaks and set them on her bed, and the Lord Elessar set on the table a second bottle of wine to bear company to the one they themselves had purchased earlier. Noting the lack of sufficient drinking vessels, Ruvemir rang the bell, and then stood outside the door waiting for it to be answered.
Elise appeared surprised to find him in the passageway, until he explained, "We have unexpected guests. May I get a pitcher of ale, about six goblets, some fruit appropriate to be eaten with fingers, perhaps some nuts if they are available, and...." He thought for a moment. "A pitcher of cider--my sister drinks very little, and bread and butter. Oh, and when will you be relieved from duty?"
"In an hour's time. Why?"
"I'd enjoy it if you were to join us."
"Beneldil does not wish for us to visit with our guests in their rooms, for it is not seemly...but, your sister will be there, will she not? She could serve as chaperone, I suppose."
Ruvemir laughed. "Chaperone? Oh, believe me, we will be most royally chaperoned!" And laughing, he slipped back into the room.
Shortly later Legolas answered the knock at the door and, smiling, took the tray from Elise, who was surprised to see such a notable personage in a guest's room; and when she finally was released from duty she went up to the upper floor and slipped down the back stair, approaching the room from the opposite direction, then tapped quietly at the door. Ruvemir opened it, and smiling his welcome, admitted her. Quickly she took note of who was there--Ruvemir, his sister, a man and woman reclining on cushions near the fireplace, the Dwarf who was friend to the King, the Elf who was friend to the King--and her eyes suddenly were drawn back to those who reclined by the fireplace. Actually the man was seated on one cushion, and the woman was reclining, her head in his lap, smiling up into his face, and he was quite handsome and obviously much in love with the woman...and he was the King. And she...she was the Queen. Ruvemir took hold of her elbow, and looked with concern up into her face. The Elf rose quickly from where he'd been sitting also on a cushion and came to place his hands on her shoulders, concern and amusement both reflected on his face. Both King and Queen looked at her with concern also, and Ruvemir's sister looked as if she were dying to laugh out loud.
"Elise, are you all right?" Ruvemir was saying, and the Dwarf poured a small amount of wine into a goblet and handed it to the Elf, who pressed it into her hand and suggested she drink it. She did, then allowed herself to be shown to the empty low chair and sat in it, feeling confused and even a bit frightened, though she could not think what she had to be frightened of. And the King, the King himself now bent over her and suggested she put her head down between her knees and breathe slowly and deeply.
When the giddiness passed she felt very foolish, and gently they all withdrew except for Ruvemir, who still was hovering over her anxiously as she straightened. Only when she nodded did he finally step back and sit in the chair next to hers, his hands clasped across his chest, still watching her with worry.
"I'm sorry, Elise--but I couldn't have told you who they were ahead of time--you do understand, don't you?"
She nodded, then as she began to see the humor in the situation she began to laugh helplessly. "Well," she finally got out, "you did warn me we would be royally chaperoned, didn't you?" And she was rewarded by his laughter in return, his and that of the rest of the party.
An odder party probably never took place in a guest's room anywhere within the city. Elise, Miriel, and the Queen drank mostly cider while the King, his friends, and Ruvemir enjoyed the wine and each other's company. No one seemed inclined to get drunk, but laughter was frequently heard, and now and then song--not the raucous songs which were usually heard at such affairs, but ones that moved the hearts of the listeners to joy. The Lady Arwen described her visit in Ithilien in the house of the Steward, and the Lord Elessar told of the shock of seeing himself depicted in stone before the facade of the new Hall in Casistir, and his own enjoyment at slowly revealing his former identity to the Prince of Dol Amroth and the Master, and at approaching Ruvemir in the guise of Strider. Ruvemir found himself in sympathy with his Lord Imrahil, and when he admitted this all laughed.
"I must admit," the King commented, "sometimes it is pleasant to be able to be unknown--if only for a time." He was again on the cushions with his wife, and his hand rested on her belly, both smiling as they felt the stirring of the life within her. "To be forced to be always the Lord Elessar Telcontar and to be always on display and to be expected to be all proper each moment becomes tiresome at times. There are days when I long to be Strider again and to pass little noted through the wild, or to be the more simple Estel of my youth, deferring to Adar." And a brief shadow of sadness fell over the faces of both husband and wife. Finally he smiled into her eyes. "And I tell you, my love--this one will not be a son, but a lovely daughter, a daughter to make the stars sing."
"And will she be Queen after you?" she asked.
He shook her head. "Ah, no, for such will not be her desire. She will marry when she is assured she has found the right man, but she will leave the Crown to her brother, and she will pity his confinement." Both laughed gently.
Ruvemir asked, "Is it good to have the epidemic of pox finally over?"
Aragorn tipped his head back. "Oh, very good indeed. I hope only we will not have a spate of ague, colds, and lung sickness to follow it. So far we've had two, you and one other, a former soldier who took a spear to the chest on the Pelennor and whose lungs have been weak since."
Miriel asked, "And what of the boy Ririon? How does he fare?"
The King sighed. "I think he does well enough, and he will most likely have more useful vision as he recovers from the cleaning I gave of the front of his eyes today. But it can never be as it was before, and it is always possible that now that the tissue has been damaged it may become more unclear in time. Such, I am told, is indeed fairly common for those whose eyes have been compromised. But I know they will not want him back at the Dragon's Claw, and I seek to find a position in which to put him."
"Benril hopes to convince his parents to allow his friend to live with them here at the King's Head," Ruvemir said. "He was trying to convince them as we arrived here earlier in the day."
"The worst he will face," Aragorn commented, "will be the expectations by others that he is and will be helpless. I have seen such before, and suspect that you two," with a glance at Ruvemir and his sister, "have a full appreciation for how it is generally expressed. Yet he is not without skills--he was beginning to learn to cook, and his ability to carve wood was impressive."
"Oh, I know," Miriel said. "He gave me a bird he carved before he grew ill. I'd not yet had the chance to show it to Ruvemir." She rose and went to the chest and opened a drawer, and drew forth a figure that she brought to her brother. He examined it with surprise, for it was very finely done, particularly for a boy of his age.
"Very good indeed," he commented. "He has even caught the separate fibers of the feathers. Perhaps we should see about apprenticing him to our father--he's not taken on a pupil for many years." He passed the figure to Elise, who then rose and carried it to the King. Lord and Lady each examined it, then passed it to Legolas, who nodded in appreciation and handed it to Gimli, who pursed his lips in approval of the workmanship.
"Good carving," the Dwarf acknowledged. "Excellent eye." He slid it back across the table to Miriel, who smiled as she took it and stowed it safely away again in her drawer.
Ruvemir considered. "Does he have any other family, my Lord?"
Aragorn shook his head. "No, none that anyone is aware of. His mother served at the Dragon's Claw in return for room and board and a small salary, and since her death he has served as pot boy there."
"Then," Ruvemir realized, "he was the one the Pherian Frodo interceded for."
King and Queen both became interested. "I'd not heard of such an incident," he commented. "Tell me."
Elise explained about the day when Lord Éomer left, and how Frodo had come to stop the abuse of the boy, found out the truth of the matter, and sent the boy into the kitchen to do things the proper way, then instructed the cook as to how he ought to have handled the situation. Ruvemir noted the looks of recognition exchanged by the King and his companions, and the nod given by the Queen.
"Yes," Aragorn commented. "They went up into the city before I did, for I rode out alongside the Rohirrim to the line of the Rammas Echor. He never told me, nor did the others. But even that is part of his nature." He looked down in memory. "Sam told me once, when we were together on the quest, that his Master could not abide to see those who are helpless abused, and particularly not children or beasts."
The Lady Arwen sat up and looked appraisingly at Miriel and Ruvemir. "Do you think your father would take the boy as an apprentice?"
"No reason why not," said Ruvemir. "One does not need to see to carve. It is easier if you see, but not necessary. I often rely as much on my sense of touch as on my vision, particularly when smoothing."
Miriel was beginning to become excited. "He said that he loved to carve, and that this led to his being considered lazy by the folk of the inn, for he would lose himself in his carving and forget about what he was supposed to be doing.
"We could take him, don't you think, Brother? You could begin to teach him the basics on our journey, and he could be company for both of us. And you certainly don't need to see to cook or clean--I could help him learn some skills there. Remember Taurielen, Ruvemir? She it was who taught me how to cook--certainly our mother never did such."
"Our neighbor when we were young. She and her husband were assaulted once by thieves, and once they'd taken all they had, the thieves struck them both and left them by the road for dead. Taurielen survived, but at the cost of much of her vision. She began to devise different ways to do what she needed to do on her own as her vision deteriorated, and in the end became our cook, for our mother was helpless in a kitchen."
"She was an excellent cook, and taught me to feel the meat and to smell the broth and to listen to the eggs to tell when they were ready. If Ririon has useful vision, he should be able to do quite well, I would think."
The King smiled. "Well, if you would agree to take him on and to bring him to your father for apprenticeship, that would be one more problem facing the realm solved." He stretched. "It is strange, but often such small things take far more thought than what one would think would be more important to the land, such as dealing with the folk of Umbar. Yet I dealt with that situation easily enough."
Legolas laughed. "Easily enough? You had the faces of all the embassy white with terror. And the one who led it--his was whitest of all! I don't think they will look to do Gondor and Arnor any harm in the near future."
The Lady Arwen smiled at Ruvemir. "It is often the small matters which need the most delicate and thoughtful touch. And it does me good to think of the child well placed, and I think he will do well with you, and well by you, given the chance." She leaned against her husband with pleasure. "Ah, my love, it is so good to be back at your side again."
He put his arm about her, smiling. "No more so than to have you here, Beloved." He looked at Ruvemir. "Which brings us back to the purported purpose of our visit--settling your commission. Shall we begin to haggle?"
And all laughed, and then the bargaining began.
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