9. A Family Formed
A Family Formed
The next day Ruvemir walked down to the gates to look at the progress done, guided by Gimli and his father Gloin, who'd done much of the forgework involved. The figures on the gates, he learned, were taken from detailed, full-sized drawings from the city archives of the original figures, with a figure of Anárion on the left leaf and Isildur on the right, each flanked by wife and oldest son. The figure of Elendil that had crowned the gate had been damaged but not destroyed, and as much as possible the Dwarves had incorporated the damaged material in the new design, covering the reconstruction with mithril foil. The gates were of steel sheathed in mithril, paneled to allow for the placement of the figures, which were held on with steel rods. The axis for each leaf was carefully wrought, and the counterbalance was so skillfully designed into the outer margins of the leaves few would be able to detect how it was that a single hand would be able to push them open or closed as needed. A younger Dwarf named Dorlin son of Dwalin was introduced to the sculptor, and Ruvemir learned this was the one who had done most of the reconstruction and sculpting for the figures. He showed Ruvemir the copies made of the original drawings, showed him what had been salvaged from the original gates, which was little enough. It was good to use the vocabulary of his own calling with another who understood it and was equally devoted to it, he found, and to have another appreciate his compliments on his skill.
On the second day of the week Ruvemir and Miriel dressed carefully, and taking his sketch booklets in hand Ruvemir led the way out to wait for the cart being sent to take them up to the citadel. Many of the household, who'd learned that their guest was to sculpt the memorial for the Pheriannath who'd done so much against the Enemy in the war, came out to wish them well and bask in the glow of reflected glory. And when, before he left, the mannikin sculptor gave the order a pallet be provided for a third guest in their quarters, all wondered at what it could mean, but none questioned the rightness of it, for it had turned out the King's own companions had visited him regarding the commission he was to officially receive this day. The King's favor clearly rested here, all agreed, and Evren told the others that she'd seen his depiction of the Ernil i Pheriannath himself and that it was a wonderful likeness, while Elise simply smiled and held her peace.
The first look at the Citadel was impressive, and the second one more so. He quickly saw how the sculptors of the city had come to their extraordinarily formal style--when it was reflected in the gates and the ancient doors of the Citadel and almost all of the monumental work he'd passed, what else could be expected? Well, his monument would be impressive as well, but it would be more lifelike, he vowed, and truly show the viewer the faces and hearts of its subjects, to the best of his ability.
They were allowed into the throne room with honor, and were shown to places at the front of the crowd drawn for the public audience. The King in rich black velvet and a white mantle sat upon his high throne holding the scepter of Annúminas and wearing the Winged Crown, and his Queen stood beside him, her left hand on his shoulder. Seated in the plain black chair at the foot of the steps sat Prince Faramir himself, his rod of office across his lap, beside him the Lady Éowyn, her right hand on his shoulder. When Faramir stood to announce the start of the audience all bowed low with a respect that, Ruvemir knew, had been earned by those before him.
The matter of the commission came early enough, and Ruvemir and his sister were called forward in their turn. Before the assembly Ruvemir's Mastership in his profession was proclaimed, and the evidence of it as reflected in the marvelous sculpting of the Captain Thorongil for the new Hall of Casistir told forth by the King himself. That the King had known Thorongil enough to know his visage was news to most of those present, and Ruvemir noted the King did not feel called upon to let it be known that he himself had been that worthy officer, and held his peace; and he noted in a quick glance at his sister that she was suppressing her smile with some difficulty. The agreed upon fee was made part of the public record, along with the news this came from the King's own monies, as his own gift to the City. Then came the news that Master Ruvemir was to be sent north into Eriador in Arnor to meet directly with the remaining Pheriannath so that his work would be more in keeping with their actual seeming, and all present appeared pleased.
Then the Lord Faramir called for Ririon son of the woman Damsen to be brought forth, and the Healer Ioreth and the young healer Ruvemir himself had liked so came forth with the boy. He was neatly and soberly dressed, and carried something in his hand, all noted. All wondered what this was about, and noted the two mannikins had not yet been dismissed. Now the King turned his attention to the boy, and asked him to explain his situation to the assembly.
"I am without father or mother, my Lord," the boy said simply. "My father was slain before my birth in Osgiliath, for he was one of those who served the troupes stationed there. Orcs slew him, I am told. My mother took service at the Dragon's Claw, and since her death they have kept me there and given me service to do in return, and have been mostly caring of me. But when the pox laid its blisters on my eyes my sight was damaged, and now I cannot see how I can do that work any more." And Ruvemir heard the sighs of sympathy for the youth.
"I am told you developed another skill as you grew. Will you tell me about it?"
"I loved to carve, sir. Whenever I had time to myself I would carve figures of animals and birds, or simply shapes, or babies. But now I do not see how I can do that, either. But I brought you a gift, my Lord, if you will receive it."
All watched as the King rose and came down the steps to the foot of the dais, and called the boy forward. "I am the tall figure in black with a white mantle. Can you see that?"
Ririon nodded, and slowly stepped forward until he stood before the King, and held out his hand. The King accepted the offering and murmured his thanks, then examined it with critical care, a smile gracing his face. He then held it out for his Steward to examine, who took it graciously and had a surprised smile on his face as he turned it in his hands. He passed it to his wife, who smiled openly with delight.
"How beautiful!" she said, audible to all, before she passed it back and it was returned to the King, who smiled to receive it.
The Lord Elessar raised his head to speak to the assembly. "What I hold in my hand is a carving in wood done by this boy, a figure of a carp. It is marvelously detailed, each scale complete." He looked back to the boy. "I do not know if you realize just how much of a gift you bear, Ririon, but it is such I would like to see it developed more fully. Master Ruvemir here is himself a Master Sculptor, as you heard earlier." The boy nodded. "And there is more: his father, Mardil of Lebennin, is a Master Woodcarver of much note in the Southlands. It is our wish that you, if the idea pleases you, should be apprenticed to him, and learn to fulfill your gift."
The boy looked stunned while the rest of the assembly whispered to one another. The King raised his hand, and all grew quiet. He addressed Ruvemir. "Do you agree that the boy's damaged vision should not offer an impairment to the development of his gift?"
Ruvemir answered proudly, "I agree, my Lord King. His ability to use what sight he has will aid him, to be certain; but in the end his sense of touch, properly trained, can aid his artistry."
"Then will you accept this child in trust, and will you agree to treat him with the honor and respect you would give a child of your own body, and aid your father to teach him to develop his gift for the glory of our land and in thanksgiving to the Valar for his being?"
"My sister and I will do so with honor, my Lord King." And he bowed, and Miriel curtsied deeply.
The King then went down onto one knee, and addressed the boy directly. "Ririon, you have had little chance to come to know these, except for the meetings you had when you were in the Houses of Healing. Will you accept them as your guardians and teachers, and honor them for the teaching they give you, and serve them as a child should serve those who care for it and nurture it?"
The boy lifted his head. "They really want me?" he asked.
The King answered gently, "Yes, Ririon, they truly want you."
Standing straighter, the boy replied, "Then I will gladly go to them."
Smiling the King rose, and taking the boy he brought them to the two others who stood there, and gave the boy's hand into Ruvemir's. "Then rejoice, for a place worthy of your gift and needs has been found," he said. And he held forth the figure he'd received, and both Miriel and Ruvemir saw how beautiful it was and nodded with pleasure.
The King then mounted his throne and gave the figure into the hands of his wife, whose smile of appreciation could be clearly seen by all. He then ordered that a formal writ of apprenticeship be made out binding the child to the teaching of Ruvemir son of Mardil of Lebennin and to Mardil of Lebennin, both Masters in their crafts, with the proviso that when the boy was fifteen he could, if he chose, leave and find a different apprenticeship if he preferred. Also, officials were to go to the Dragon's Claw to obtain the boy's personal possessions and all such figures as he'd not gifted to others to provide for him. An allowance of seven gold pieces was to be provided to allow the boy to be dressed appropriately for his new station and for his apprenticeship fees. And it was done.
The three stepped back thankfully into the obscurity of the assembly as the King made his next announcement.
"I am sending out to the guilds throughout the city and the country for artisans of the realm to come to the city of Minas Anor to work alongside the Elves and Dwarves who have gifted us with so much in the reconstruction of the capital. It has been brought to my attention that when all is done for one by others, often the gifts, no matter how worthily received and freely given, are often little appreciated. And so our own people, that they realize how much of the work done so far has been offered through the deep friendships forged between the Men of Gondor, the Elves of the Woodland Realm, and the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain during our mutual fight against the Enemy of all free peoples, need to work alongside them, and learn of them such skills as they are willing to share while it is still possible."
Ruvemir noted the murmuring he heard was almost universally indicative of approval for the King's wisdom, and nodded his agreement. And noting Gimli and Legolas standing nearby with many of their own folk, he saw they smiled and nodded as well.
After all was over at last, Ruvemir, Miriel, and Ririon were drawn out of the crowd by a servant of the King and led to a private chamber where chairs appropriate to their stature had been set ready for them. Soon after the Lord Faramir entered accompanied by his Lady, and then several among the Dwarves and Elves who'd attended to audience, two of the Guild Masters of the city, and finally the King and Queen. Arwen sank gratefully and gracefully onto a couch, and received a drink poured for her by her husband, and all at the King's gesture sat as the King again sat with his wife's head lying against his shoulder. Among the Dwarves who attended now upon the Lord Elessar and his wife was Dorlin son of Dwalin, and now the King was speaking directly to him about what he would do now that he'd finished the figures for the gates.
"I plan to go back to my own lands soon, King Elessar, for the winter at least. I will stay in the Iron Hills with my mother's people for a time."
"Would you be willing to take these with you on your journey, at least as far as Bree?" the King asked, indicating Ruvemir, Miriel, and Ririon. "I will provide a small carriage, funds for lodging where appropriate, tents and supplies for those days when you are in places in the Wild where there is not appropriate lodging, and five ponies, two of which will be my gift to you in appreciation for your assistance."
The Dwarf smiled. "For the sake of Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, both of whom I honor deeply in their own right, I would do this as my own gift, Lord. But I will not spurn the gifts of funds for lodging and the supplies, nor the gift of one pony. But I have no need of two such beasts, nor place to house a second." And all nodded. And it was settled that they would start for the North as soon as the gates were raised.
The guild masters looked at the drawings Ruvemir had done so far, and spoke of possible groupings for the Pheriannath; and the figure of the singing bird done by Ruvemir's father was brought out and compared to the figure of the small fish, and all agreed the boy had a gift which should not be ignored. After eating some cakes and wine with the King and his other guests, the guild masters took their leave, and finally freed of the need to be formal, the King doffed his crown and set it and his scepter into the hands of the Lord Hardorn for appropriate disposal, and asked the rest to relax and enjoy being guests in the house of himself and his wife.
Several hours later, after the King took Ruvemir into an inner chamber and helped him with his exercises and evaluated his gait before returning to the party, a page entered to say that the cart for the guests had arrived, and with reluctance Aragorn and Arwen bade Ruvemir, Miriel, and Ririon goodbye. The boy, still dazed somewhat at his change in fortunes, went with them out of the Citadel and to the waiting cart, and they started back down to the second circle. Benril and his sister were together in the front court when the cart arrived, and were amazed when they saw Ririon with the inn's guests. When he learned the new status for his friend, Benril's cheer brought out his father to check out the situation.
The next few weeks were a blur of preparation. Ruvemir sent a message to Lasgon to let him know he was ready to return his pictures, and that evening the page arrived and gladly accepted them back, and congratulated Ririon on his new situation. Ririon was fitted for new clothing and boots and a new cloak, and he was delighted when he was asked to accompany the King's officials to retrieve his possessions from the Dragon's Claw. An hour later he returned quite happy and showed them with delight the gifts made him by those who'd known him at the other inn, including a set of cooking utensils from Evamir Cook and a sack of coin the innkeeper said had been the remains of his mother's earnings and his own earnings, which had been kept against the day he would be ready to make his own way in the world. And when the Dwarf Gimli came with a gift of wood carving tools sent by Dorlin son of Dwalin for the boy, he was quite overwhelmed. Never had he had so much that was his alone.
A surprise for Ruvemir was when a shoemaker arrived at the door and explained he had been commissioned to provide both Ruvemir and Miriel with shoes that might ease their gait. He had them stand and measured their hips from the ground with and without shoes, and then did examinations and tracings of their feet. After asking them for preferences in materials and colors, even providing samples of the leathers he had available, he nodded and said he would be back in three days time with something to try.
When he returned it was with samples of a type of design he said should aid them to walk with better comfort. The resulting shoes with the higher sole and heel on one seemed awkward at first, but Ruvemir noted that it was less a pull on his left hip now that both were on the same level. The shoemaker then took castings of their feet and left again, promising to have the finished shoes to them by the end of the month at the latest, although he returned with them within a week, pleased to provide them with three sets of footwear each, all with the lifted heel and sole on one side, and all made specifically for their own feet. Miriel seemed overwhelmed with the effect of the new footwear, and although she disliked the way they looked so different from normal wear, she had to admit that once she got used to them she ought to be able to walk more comfortably. And she had to admit the shoemaker had done his best to accommodate her own tastes.
A few days before they were to leave the Lady Éowyn came to the inn to speak with Miriel, and took her out into the city for the day. Left to the company of one another, Ruvemir and Ririon went down to see the Dwarves, who showed them the finished leaves and indicated they would be set into place on the morrow, indicating the special jacks used to lift the arch sufficiently to allow the gates to be lifted. Ririon was thrilled to be allowed to handle everything and to see how all were set into place, and looked at the special levers and tools on hand to use in the lifting of the gates with awe. When Gloin showed him his forge, now almost ready to be packed to be taken up into the city where it had been gifted to a swordsmith to the realm, he was delighted, examining all with eagerness, working the bellows and trying to heft the hammers. Ruvemir tried their heft as well, and came away from the experience with a new appreciation for the strength given to the Dwarves.
As they were turning to head back up to the second level, one of the Dwarves who were working on the walls came forward with a gift for Ruvemir--several small blocks of soapstone. "I understand from Dorlin," he said, "that you will be traveling north with him to the Shire, the land of the Hobbits. As you will be riding for several weeks, I thought you might appreciate something to practice your skills on--perhaps work on a model of your final project with. Or, if the young man is to learn to appreciate stone, perhaps you can start him with this."
Ruvemir was overwhelmed by the gift, and thanked him profusely. Gimli offered to carry the load back to their lodgings for them, and so they walked back up through the first circle together to the second gate. As they walked Ruvemir asked the name of the one who'd given the gift and what his interests were, and they spoke of the Shire and what its inhabitants were like.
"Not much interest in what goes on outside its borders," Gimli grunted, "except for an odd few such as Bilbo or Frodo Baggins. Although that will change--once young Pippin becomes Thain that will definitely change. Restless sort, Pippin, full of energy. But then, of course, he's a Took through and through. Once he's Thain and Merry's the Master of Brandy Hall I suspect there will be a great deal of commerce between the Shire and the rest of the world. Already more notes going abroad in a month than there were from Bag End to Rivendell and Erebor in several years, I suspect. With the King's messengers traveling freely now from Anfalas to Annúminas and from the Grey Havens to Erebor and Dale, it would not in the least surprise me to learn that one day a Hobbit will make it to Far Harad." He shook his head. "And, if it does come to that, I'll wager it will be a Took!
"There is now a growing interest in reading and education, sparked by Frodo Baggins. Now, there was the time when being a Baggins meant being totally predictable--until Bilbo Baggins's father married one of the Old Took's daughters, Belladonna. Tooks have always been flighty, for Hobbits. Old Gerontius had married a Brandybuck, who are known to be steadier than the Tooks in many ways, but just as prone to choosing odd ways of doing things--for Hobbits. More thought to what they do, but...."
Ruvemir was becoming totally confused. "Wait," he said. "Who is Gerontius?"
Gimli laughed. "Goes to show how Hobbits rub off on you. Travel with them for much of a year, and you even start to understand their family ties.
"Hobbits are very interested in their family relationships--very big on family trees and such. They can tell you the names of their family members through at least five generations and to the stage of fourth cousins.
"The families have family names. The Tooks have held the title of Thain since before the death of Aragorn's ancestor, King Arvedui. The Thain by tradition is the King's officer before the folk of the Shire, although until Aragorn came along his family had stopped styling themselves Kings and called themselves just the chieftains of the Northern Dúnedain. Gerontius Took, Pippin's great-grandfather, who is usually referred to as the Old Took--lived to be a hundred thirty years old, which is venerable even for a Hobbit, who typically live to be around a hundred years in age. The family home for the Tooks is a huge complex of diggings referred to as the Great Smial. Must be several hundred Tooks and close relations that live in the Great Smial. Oh, you know they prefer to live in homes excavated into hillsides, didn't you?"
Ruvemir nodded as Ririon said, "No, I didn't."
Gimli said, "Well, they do. And, from what I'm told by my father, such homes are very, very comfortable and airy. The other big family in the Shire is the Brandybuck family, and they, too, have a large smial in which a large part of their folk dwell, almost like a rabbit warren, called Brandy Hall, on the eastern borders of the Shire in what's called Buckland.
"Most Hobbits live in smaller smials or low houses. Like farming and eating, mostly. Bag End, I'm told, is the finest Smial in the area where the Baggins family settled, and was dug out by Bilbo's father when he married. Bilbo inherited the Baggins family name from his father, but was half Took. And his young cousin Frodo was also part Took and part Brandybuck, but inherited the Baggins name from his father. Merry Brandybuck's mother is a Took. And Pippin is a Took, but his mother was a Banks. So, you have the three cousins who came out of the Shire, all of them great grandsons of the Old Took--four, if you consider Bilbo as well, who was simple grandson to the Old Took.
"Hobbits develop more slowly than Men. Where a Man becomes an adult somewhere usually between fifteen and twenty, Hobbits don't come of age till they turn thirty-three. Pippin's only about thirty-one or two now, so you can see he was quite young, by Shire standards, when they all set out. And very much a Took, too. Impetuous, a bit thoughtless, full of pranks and impulsiveness. Merry is about eight years older than Pippin, and Frodo fourteen years older than Merry.
"Bilbo seemed to be a typical, totally predictable adult Hobbit until he met Gandalf, at which time he found himself headed off with my father and twelve other dwarves to the Lonely Mountain to try to steal the Arkenstone from the dragon."
Ruvemir stopped, and Ririon, who'd had his hand on his guardian's shoulder as they walked, stopped himself just short of knocking him over. Gimli turned around in surprise. "Anything wrong?"
Ruvemir shook his head. "Putting some family history together, is all. You see, it is said my father's mother's family came out of the north, from the 'Devastation of the Dragon.' My grandmother, when she cared for me when I was a young child, used to tell me the family stories, and sing me a song about the King under the Mountain and the rivers running with gold. Father always carves a tiny dragon on his pieces to mark them as his work."
Gimli laughed. "Then your people came from Dale, which could indicate why you are gifted with artistry. Both you and your sister are mannikins--is your father as well?"
"No, although one of his uncles was, but he died very young. Are there stories of such as I in Dale?"
The Dwarf shrugged. "Not that I heard tell, but artistry is common there among both Dwarves and Men. Perhaps it comes of the two being so close together for so long ere Smaug came. He attacked the city of Dale first, but it is easier to flee a Dragon when you can see him coming. Much of the population of the city of Dale survived, although they lost all they'd had. They went among the Lake Men and helped them build Laketown on piers over the waters of the lake. And after he'd taken Dale Smaug turned his attention to Erebor under the Mountain, and assaulted its gates. Only those who were abroad that day or those few near the secret exit survived. Our women and children did not survive the assault. My father was the only one in his family who survived.
"But the song of the river running with gold when the King under the Mountain came again is definitely one my father heard when he came to Laketown with Thorin Oakenshield and Bilbo Baggins." He nodded at a nearby inn. "Shall we try the food and ale?" With all agreeing they went in.
Once they were seated with their food and drink, Ririon asked, "Then there are really such things as dragons in the world?"
Gimli gave a deep shrug. "I can't say about now, but there was definitely at least one when I was young, Smaug, sitting on our people's treasure under the Lonely Mountain. I was too young to go with my father and Thorin Oakenshield when Gandalf led them to Bilbo to serve as their burglar, but came not long after. The stink of the Dragon was still thick in the halls of our fathers, and there was much to set right. And the Dragon's bones can still be seen where he fell when killed by Bard the Bowman, lying in the depths of the lake. None dare to dive for the treasure which fell from his belly as it rotted away, for fear doing so will waken Smaug's ghost." His voice was sad. "So many died so needlessly, and when Thorin caught the Dragon Sickness, it almost set him and his companions against the Men of Laketown and the Elves of Mirkwood. My father's dislike of Elves took long to overcome, and only now has he made his peace with the sons of Thranduil."
The boy asked, "What is the Dragon Sickness?"
"Greed, my lad. Greed. Ward against it, for it is worse then most diseases of the body." They sat in silence for a time and ate their meal, and when the talk resumed, Gimli again spoke of the Shire and its folk.
"They are small folk, smaller even than us Dwarves, given to peace. They usually do not treat well with strangers. Only after his adventure with my father and Thorin Oakenshield did Bilbo let the Tookish side of him run rampant, and he began walking out on purpose in search of the Dwarves that travel the West Road that runs through the Shire near the northern borders, and of the Elves that often stay in their sylvan halls in the Woody End. I saw him first on such a journey, before Frodo came to live with him. He greeted us courteously and in accordance with our ways and customs. When I learned he was the esteemed Burglar Bilbo Baggins I felt much honored. And always he sought simply to learn more about us, about our ways, the tales of our histories. His experience woke his curiosity, but always it was expressed gently and with respect. His own folk thought he was quite mad, for they might trade with us and accept our coin in their inns, but they do not seek to learn more than but the most obvious news from us.
"I did not meet with him when he walked abroad with Frodo, for I did not leave Erebor for many years, until the emissaries of Mordor came in search of news of Bilbo and the Ring he found beneath the Misty Mountains. My father chose to go to Rivendell to warn Bilbo the Enemy was in search of him, and to learn why, and I went as part of his bodyguard. I met there the son of the Elf my father still thought of with hatred, and somehow we became friends along the way as we went with Frodo and Aragorn on the quest to destroy the Ring. There in Rivendell I first saw Frodo Baggins, Legolas Greenleaf, and Aragorn son of Arathorn. And all I came to esteem greatly."
"You did not speak a great deal when you and the King first told me of Frodo, leaving most to him. What do you remember most of him?"
"His capacity for compassion, I think. Bilbo was very alive, full of great vigor and a boundless curiosity about the rest of the world. Frodo was much quieter, but his eyes spoke of kindliness and a care for the needs of others. His kin and Sam obviously worshipped him, and sought to guard him close, to keep up his spirits and to keep him grounded; and his care for them was always equally strongly expressed. Sometimes they seemed to cluster around him like ducklings about their mother, as if for protection; and then they'd be like wolves protecting their young. Quite extraordinary. And we all felt the same toward him. He appeared quite vulnerable, and yet had a core of strength and determination I'd never seen before. As we traveled down the River in the boats given us in Lorien he was quiet much of the way. He knew then he must go on alone, that the closeness of the Ring to us would serve to wear away our integrity, would corrupt us; but he was afraid to do so. Sam recognized the battle in his Master's heart, and watched over him with wariness, aware that when Frodo made up his mind he would leave suddenly. And so it was only he went with Frodo when the time came, when Boromir's attempt to convince Frodo to give him the Ring to use against the Enemy caused him to make up his mind at last. The rest of us were all taken by surprise when Sam told us what he knew was in his Master's heart, and we each set out in a different direction to seek him, for although we were surprised we yet saw that he spoke truly. Only Sam reasoned it out and set out in the proper direction, determined his Master would not go totally alone. And both he and Frodo agreed that this was good, that Frodo would have not survived long had he indeed gone by himself. But the reason for his leaving was to protect us. Always he sought to protect."
"Then that," said Ririon, "was the reason he came into the innyard the day I was in trouble with Evamir, who was yelling at me for all to hear. I'd wondered."
"Were you carving that day, Ririon?" Ruvemir asked.
"No. I was angry at Evamir Cook for he wouldn't let me go out to watch the Rohirrim ride by, so I did not watch the pot of soup I was set to stir, and it burnt at the bottom. And I did it on purpose. The Pherian would not allow him to strike me, though. He came suddenly and took all by surprise, put me behind him. His face was very white, as if he were a lamp of alabaster with the flame showing through it. There is one such in the Dragon's Claw, in the passageway, which is lit at night to offer a gentle light for those who walk it in the dark. His face reminded me of that lamp. He stood up before Evamir and demanded he stop the smiting and the yelling, that this only taught fear and not respect.
"Then when Evamir had stopped in confusion and had apologized--he never apologized, all were shocked to hear him do this to the Pherian--then the Pherian turned to me. He could look into my face, for he was little taller than I. He asked what I'd done, and when I told him, he asked me why I did it, and I told him that, too. Then he reproved me, and it was worse for me than being struck by Evamir, knowing I'd disappointed him. And he told me to go in and clean the pot, to scour it completely, and then to stand ready when the cook came in to do whatever he told me and to do it right. And I went. I was shamed mightily, but knew I deserved it. And I knew that if I did as he told me I would earn his love, and I wanted that."
Ruvemir saw that Gimli was nodding. "He'd look at us, at Legolas and me when we would start arguing, and we felt the same way. And we did argue at first, for each of us had been raised to distrust the other's race, and the treatment my father received at his father's hands did nothing to restore understanding. And when after Moria and Gandalf's fall we began to stand by one another, he smiled on us, and I knew this Dwarf, at least, would do anything to earn that smile." The Dwarf's face grew saddened. "And now I'll not see it again." He closed his eyes. "Middle Earth is the poorer for his leaving."
After the meal they went on to the booksellers, and there Ruvemir purchased a large sketch booklet and wide charcoal drawing stick for Ririon's use, and a couple more smaller ones for his own use and perhaps for Miriel's as she began developing more designs. He also purchased three travel desks, and special bottles of ink designed to stay sealed if tipped, and a supply of quills, steel pens, and drying sand. Once he had his designs completed, he knew, he would need to transfer them to his larger sheets of paper in ink so he could begin executing them. One last time he took a look through the books, and found a strange book in which someone had taken the alphabet and made it raised on the page as a means of teaching it to children--and suddenly he smiled and added it to his purchases. Perhaps it would be possible to teach Ririon, whom he'd learned did not know how to read or write, how to do so in spite of his visual loss.
The shop beside the booksellers had been empty, but now he found it was open, and housed a pottery. The three of them went in to look at the merchandise, and found the potter working at a table on constructing a large bowl out of coils of clay, samples of his work, both glazed and unglazed, all about the room on shelves. Ruvemir described what was being done to Ririon, who asked for permission to touch it, and the potter agreed, cautioning him not to press hard or squeeze it for fear of damaging the thickness of the bowl. Ririon examined the work in progress, and appeared delighted, and with the encouragement of the potter took some of the clay and worked it, too, into a thin roll and coiled it to make a tube. Ruvemir, encouraged by the boy's enthusiasm, then arranged to buy a block of clay from the potter, and to have it delivered to the King's Head that evening. After wiping his hands carefully Ririon bade goodbye to the potter and they headed home.
The Dwarf had remained silently watching through much of this, and was nodding as they set off again. "The boy will have plenty of materials to explore with, I see," he finally said as they went through the gate to the second circle. Ruvemir nodded in agreement. They'd almost reached the inn when Gimli stopped, and watched Ruvemir and Ririon for a few more steps until they realized he was not alongside them any more. At that Ruvemir stopped and looked back questioningly. The Dwarf was looking at him critically, then smiled up into his eyes. "I just realized," he commented, "that your gait is different, and I was trying to see how that was. You do not lurch your hips as much, but I'm not sure how it has been accomplished."
Ruvemir smiled, and lifted his cloak to display the new shoes, and the Dwarf smiled. "Another of the gifts from the King," he explained. "It certainly is easier on my hips, although it isn't completely effective."
"Clever," commented the Dwarf, pursing his lips in approval. "Very clever indeed!"
He accompanied them to their room and placed the load of stone in a corner, commenting, "Good thing you are going by carriage--too much to carry on your backs, or even on a pack pony." He accepted some of the seed cakes that stood on the table, declined a mug of tea, and then took his leave and wished them a good journey. With many thanks, they accompanied him back to the entranceway and watched as he headed back down to the gates to prepare for the placement of the gates the following day.
Miriel arrived soon after, her face flushed with the exercise and with excitement. She had received a new commission--indeed, two of them. The Lord Elessar had determined he wished to gift his Lady Wife with a new gown once the babe was born, and had sent the Lady Éowyn to go with her to choose the fabric, the colors, and discuss the designs. He'd sent his own drawing of the type of work he wanted, which was pleasing enough but not totally in proportion to his wife's build. And, to help in making certain the gown would fit, he'd sent a gown she could not wear during her pregnancy from her wardrobe.
Then the Lady Éowyn had been enlisted by the Lady Arwen to help her in preparing a gift for her husband, a new tunic to be embroidered with the White Tree, but with the Tree as it grew and not as it was usually depicted in formal, stylistic manner. So they'd gone up to the Citadel to look at and draw the Tree, and it had taken her a time to decide on which view she most favored. Then they'd gone down to the first level to the weavers' guilds and looked at both local and imported cloths, and had finally chosen fabrics they both favored for the recipients. The Lady Éowyn had felt highly amused to be enlisted to serve the same function for both parties, and the two women had laughed together over the situation. But Miriel now had work to do of her own, and fabrics and materials she needed to figure out how to pack and protect for the journey. She accepted the new sketch booklet with thanks, and added it to the goods she was now working on packing for the trip north.
The following day would see much of the populace of the city going down to watch the raising of the new Gates. Ruvemir had his own plans for the day, and set them in motion when Elise came to light the lamps. He was there alone, for he'd sent Ririon and Miriel to the common room for the evening meal before him, telling them he had one more thing to do.
"Tomorrow is the day you are free to be with your family, is it not?" he asked.
"Yes," she responded, although he noted her face was not as cheerful as usual.
"I was wondering if you'd like to accompany me down to see the new Gates raised," he continued. "And then, if you'd like, you and I could get a meal...."
He was pleased with the effect, for her eyes lightened. "You would?" she asked, a bit breathless. "Oh, yes, I would be most pleased to do so."
"There isn't much time before we leave," he continued, slowly, "and--and I will miss you and your company very much--very much indeed. It will be hard to be gone from you for however long it takes--"
But his further comments were cut off when she threw herself upon him, embracing him and weeping tears of joy--tears he found himself kissing away. And he knew that when he next saw his father, it would be as a married man.
That night he took out the three cord animals and showed them to Miriel, offering her the choice between the horse and the cat, and she chose the horse. "And the cat?" she asked.
"Oh, it will have a home," he replied airily.
She examined him closely. "So, Brother, you and Elise...."
"Yes." His voice held such a tone of satisfaction and joy she laughed.
"Well, it is about time, you know."
And the next day, after watching the new gates raised, he and Elise found themselves exploring a jeweler's goods before they went to eat, and she returned home with a delicate chain hung with amethysts and a finely woven shawl and a figure of a cat made from coiled cords to remember him by while he was in the Northlands.
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.