King's Commission, The
37. Interlude with Letters
Interlude with Letters
The tools were stowed, the chests locked, the figures draped, when a Guard from the Citadel approached, explaining he was assigned to protect the site for the night. Satisfied all would be well for the present, they set out on their way. Celebgil walked beside the cart to the Fifth Circle, pointing out his father's shop and kiln before leaving them. Ririon also walked, Joy at his side, his hand on the cart as it made its slow way through the crowded streets. Pando sat in the cart, tired after a day's work alongside Orin and Dorlin, who'd taken it in turn to instruct him. The Dwarves had taken their own leave an hour earlier, but had indicated they might visit the warehouse later.
Elise had the boiler lit when they arrived, and after three hurried baths the party walked gratefully to the common room for the evening meal. Miriel had finished stitching the bodice of the Queen's dress together, and had taken the final panel of the skirt with her to the Houses of Healing, where she'd finished the embroidery as she sat by the girl Lorieth.
"They have the room all clean and whitewashed, and tell me it will be done so again once she is released, for they fear infection and know that only cleanliness of the greatest kind will keep it away. All must breathe through masks, at the King's insistence. All must wash their hands in fresh water before touching the burns, and use a clean towel to dry. It is a great deal of bother, but they say that since the King has started this procedure with major burns there are fewer infections. Even the window and door are covered with clean fine cloth that is changed daily.
"The girl has been sent into a healing sleep. The right side of her face and body are fair and heal quickly, but her left cheek, the upper arm, and much of her side are badly burned, and all are kept covered with leaves of athelas and fine, clean cloth which has been soaked in cold water in which athelas has been steeped. They bring snow down from the mountain in which to cool the bowls of water in which the athelas has been steeped. When the King comes, he changes the dressings, blesses and steeps more athelas, then puts the basins into larger basins of the snow and ice to cool it. Then he moves his hands above the burns and sings over them, a song of healing, an invocation to the Valar to bless, protect, and strengthen her. And I will swear that the burns appear to heal as he sings and moves his hands above them. I was made to wear a mask like the others, but was encouraged to speak to her and to sing, for they say such seems to strengthen those who are so ill."
"How is the babe, then?" Ruvemir asked.
"He had minor burns, but they are healing very quickly. He was sitting up today, for he had just begun doing so before the fire. He is very alert, and they tell me he is more comfortable and content today than before. When the burns are better, they will take the babe to his sister to help her feel that she has not lost all."
"I finished the last panel of the skirt, although I had to hide it beneath my cloak when I heard that the Queen was approaching. Even she wore a mask when she entered, and she also held her hands over the burns and sang the healing invocation over the child. The girl was definitely more comfortable when she was done singing.
"They believe the King will allow her to waken starting tomorrow, if she will."
Ruvemir smiled. He looked at Folco and wondered if he had as yet realized that he would soon have more fosterlings to care for.
After the meal Ririon and Pando went with Benril to the innkeeper's quarters to talk and play games for a time, and Ruvemir indicated he would walk down to the Dwarves' warehouse to begin work on the Ringbearer's figure. Miriel said she would work in her brother's room to be there when the lads returned, and Folco asked if he might come down to watch Ruvemir's work. "I've not actually watched you at work as yet, and would like to see what you do," he explained.
Ruvemir took his second work smock and some of the rolls of paper and his lesser drawings, and they went upon their way. The key left by Gimli the previous night quickly unlocked the door, and they entered in and found a single lantern had been left burning low within. Together they approached the area where the blocks from Casistir had been stored. Ruvemir found that the Dwarves had placed around the blocks a portable screen, with several blocks of waste stone set in a rough oval around Lord Frodo's own block; on each of which had been set a lantern ready for lighting. A low drafting table had also been set there for his use, which pleased and surprised him. He quickly laid the rolls and drawings upon its lip, and he found that both graphite and pens and ink had been placed there for his use. He pulled on the smock and took from its pocket his measuring string, then began planning out how he would do the figure he'd envisioned.
Folco was soon pressed into service jotting down measurements, then standing still and doing a bit of posing as Ruvemir did one last quick sketch of his final figure, with measurements of his limbs to use as references; and at last Ruvemir stretched out one of the rolls of paper and began transferring the final plan for the figure.
Folco sat and watched with great interest as first one and then another side of the planned statue was inscribed on the rolls of paper, and as each view was completed Ruvemir pinned it to the inside of the screen. Finally all were done, after somewhat more than three hours of work.
"Does it usually go this fast?" Folco asked.
"No, but most of the figures I do are so much larger than I that I must adjust and readjust the diagram paper repeatedly, which tends to lead to errors which must be repaired once the diagrams are pinned up. It's a pleasure to not have that to deal with."
They heard the door open, and Gimli, Orin, and Dorlin came around the screen to see what had been done. "Good, then," Gimli said with satisfaction as he saw that the drafting table had indeed been used. "Would you like to complete the drawings for Sam here, too?"
"Maybe when I come back after the visit to Elise's family. But tomorrow I will begin with the actual rough cutting, I think."
"Aragorn is very pleased with the work accomplished so far at the site, by the way. And what is it you have done that makes him speak of adding you to his force of gatherers of information?"
Ruvemir laughed. "Pippin told me that he often goes out to meet with Captain Beregond outside the gates when the Lord Steward is within the city, and I asked him the other day if he'd been there when he brought the burned child into the city to the Houses of Healing. Now he speaks of making me one who provides him with intelligence."
Gimli looked at him sideways and smiled. "Maybe he's right. Certainly your ability to ask proper questions can give you an advantage in gathering intelligence, and your profession gives you good reason to travel from one place to another."
The sculptor shook his head. "I have no plans to become a spy," he said.
Together they gently covered Frodo's block and put out the circle of lanterns, then left the building, Ruvemir carefully locking the door after and fastening the key to a chain he had fastened inside his smock for such things.
Pando and Ririon were both asleep when he returned, so he helped himself to the one seedcake they'd thoughtfully left for him from the day's offerings, then after changing to his night robe he sat down to read the rest of his letters.
Dear Master Ruvemir,
I hope by this time you have reached Minas Tirith once more and are comfortably back in your rooms in the Inn of the King's Head. All goes well here, and I have noted that Merry's nightmares have become more manageable since your visit. He and Pippin still spar together when one visits the other, and he goes through his forms daily for an hour early in the morning. I'd not thought of it before I married him, what it meant to marry one who has had training as a swordsman. He and Pippin, however, have determined that if there are any more encroachments by lawless outdwellers they will be ready to repel them.
Three days ago they rode out of the gates to check reports on an encampment of wanderers on the road to Bree. They appear to have sent them packing. Merry did not speak of what they did or said, but he did carefully clean and sharpen his sword before he put it away, I noticed; and his shield was not rehung but sits by the door. I have the feeling he is on guard for a possible invasion of brigands. Those on watch at the Brandywine Bridge say that they have seen several ridings of the Dúnedain rangers passing by, and the last of the King's messengers have been escorted by swordsmen or bowmen--or both. Merry went out the gate to talk to one of the patrols today, and appeared pleased when he returned. If the shield goes back on the wall, then I will breathe more freely.
I suppose you and your Elise are preparing for your marriage, and hope that all is going well for the two of you. We read your letter from Tharbad with interest, and I am delighted to know you will return to the northern lands when you have finished with the King's Commission. Merry and Pippin hope to bring Diamond and myself south next summer to visit Minas Tirith--except they keep correcting themselves as it is Minas Anor again now, they tell me. I am at one and the same time eager to make such a trip and anxious about it. But by then you ought to be in the northlands, if your work is finished on the monument. I would hope to visit with you while we are in the capital.
Anyway, we send you our love from the Shire, and pray you and your Elise will be happy with your marriage.
With affectionate memories,
Estella Bolger Brandybuck
The next letter was from the Master of Brandy Hall.
Dear Master Ruvemir,
I am told that you have already received two more commissions to do memorials to the War of the Ring, one to the entire Fellowship, and one to the leaving of Frodo with the Elves. I'd not heard the entire story before the day in the library when you were sketching Merry and Pippin. What I do know is that I am grateful to the Powers for allowing that grace to my young cousin.
I keep calling him young, although he was what ought to have been a staid fifty when he left the Shire with the Ring. Yet, in our hearts he will always be young, young and still the beautiful soul he was.
Merry is having fewer problems with his nightmares since you left, and Paladin tells me that the same is true of Pippin, as if the talks we had somehow allowed them to let go some of the terrors. Estella tells me Merry still has them, but that he wakes up, smiles and kisses her, then goes back to sleep again instead of prowling their rooms for hours on end.
And Sam--he is so much more lighthearted than he's been since their return. I asked Rosie what had changed for him, and she just smiled mysteriously and said somehow you'd given him back some of his hope. Don't know what you said to him, but I am grateful. He's a fine Hobbit, one of the finest, I've found. Always did like him and the effect he had on Frodo, and now I practically hang on his every word. A very wise individual, and I am so glad my son and my nephew both are such close friends with him.
We wish you joy in your coming marriage, and hope you find the pleasure, companionship, and support Esmeralda has given me and Estella gives to Merry.
I hope you will consider visiting again on your return to the northern lands--you are welcome in Buckland, at least. Even the Thain won't try to tell me who is to be denied entry here.
Again, I wish you joy and thank you for your friendship.
With greatest respect,
Master of Brandy Hall and Buckland
Dear Master Rumevir,
I hope I did that right, but suspect I have it wrong again. At least you know I mean you, or I hope you do.
How are you? How is my brother Pando? Is he doing well in his learning? I hope so, very much. I never thought to, but I miss him terrible bad. But the letter we had from him when you were in Tharbad showed he was well pleased with the journey so far, and that he felt he was learning very much from you.
Does Ririon really have a dog now, and one who helps him find his way when his vision is more troubled by the sun? I am so glad.
Master Samwise has me reading the Lay of Lúthien now, and I find I do love it in Sindarin. Did they truly sing that at the wedding of our Lord King and Lady Arwen?
Please let Pando know I miss him, and that his cat does well while I take care of her. And let him know I want a letter from him.
And I hope you can return again one day. The mallorn tree is very beautiful now. I look at it and think of the White Tree in Gondor so far away, and hope one day to see it, too, the other tree from the Undying Lands where Cousin Frodo has gone.
The next letter was addressed in an uneven hand, but somehow it still struck him as charming.
MasTEr ScuLptEr RuvEMir
The KiNg's HEad
DEar MasTEr RuvEMir,
I hopE as I havE spELT your NaME corrEcT, for I havE aLways rEad MorE ThaN I'vE wriTTEN. I Know as your wEddiNg is coMiNg sooN, aNd pray ThaT iT wiLL bE a day of grEaT joy for you aNd your ELisE. SaM TELLs mE ThaT you havE bEEN givEN Two MorE coMMissioNs Now, boTh of TheM hErE iN ThE NorTh LaNds. IT is My grEaT hopE as whEN you coME NorTh iNTo Eriador agaiN ThaT your ELisE wiLL bE abLE To coME wiTh you, aNd ThaT you and ELisE wiLL bE aLLowEd to visiT hErE iN ThE ShirE as you did This wiNTEr pasT.
ALL havE bEEN bETTEr siNcE your visiT ThaN ThEy was bEforE. I caNNoT bEgiN To TELL you jusT how Much hEaLiNg you MaNagEd To briNg To us aLL. SaM siNgs agaiN as he hasN'T siNcE MasTEr Frodo LEfT us, aNd hE whisTLEs agaiN as MasTEr Frodo TaughT hiM to do, aLso. His NighTs whEN ThE sorrows fiLL his hEarT arE far fEwEr, aNd Now hE is MorE abLE to sMiLE Through his TEars. I ThiNK as whEN the VaLar givE you ThE gifT of asKiNg ThE QuEsTioNs which TEach you ThE iMagE of ThosE as arE goNE, ThEy addEd To ThaT an odd sorT of gifT of hEaLiNg, a hEaLiNg of ThE hEarT. I aM so vEry gLad as you caME To us as you did.
How arE Mr. FoLco and Missus MiriEL doiNg? WiLL ThEy sTay wiTh your dad oN your faMiLy farM as had bEEN plaNNEd? WiLL your dad bE abLE To coME To ThE ciTy for ThE wEddiNg?
ELaNorELLE MissEs you soMEThiNg TErribLe, aNd asKs afTEr you daiLy. Do wriTE To hEr if you caN--iT would MEaN so Much To hEr, To KNow as you ThiNK of hEr whEN you arE so far away.
GivE My LovE to aLL, aNd EspEciaLLy youNg PaNdo. You KNow, I EvEN Miss ThE way as hE usEd To spy Through ThE hEdgE oN us aLL. HE NEvEr MEaNT No harM, I Know. ANd givE My besT wishes aNd LovE To your ELisE. I cErTaiNLy hopE as shE rEalizes jusT how forTuNaTE shE is, gETTiNg you as hEr husbaNd.
Frodo-Lad is sTarTiNg To TalK Now. His firsT word was LovE. For MosT iT's Da or Ma or Pa or Ba, buT for hiM iT was LovE. His da wEpT for joy, hE did. IT's so woNdErfuL to sEE hiM wEEpiNg for joy raThEr ThaN for griEf for a chaNgE.
ANd TELL MasTEr RirioN ThaT sEvEral of ThE Lads asK afTEr hiM. HE LEfT good ThoughTs Toward MEN iN ThE MiNds of the Lads of HobbiToN ThaT wiLL, I ThiNK, do MorE Toward uNdoiNg ThE harM LEfT by ThE TiMEs of TroubLE ThaN your KiNg's Law forbiddiNg MEN To ENTEr ThE Shire, MEaNiNg No disrEspecT To ThE KiNg, fiNE MaN as hE is.
WE LooK forward To hEariNg froM you sooN regardiNg the progrEss oN ThE MoNuMENT aNd whEN you wiLL bE coMiNg NorTh agaiN. If noThiNg ELsE, SaM aNd Mr. MErry aNd Mr. PippiN aLL pLaN To ridE ouT To whErEvEr you arE To worK so as To sEE you, aNd I thiNK as I'LL coME wiTh ThEM, as Much as I haTE ThE ThoughT of LEaviNg ThE ShirE--you havE bEcoMe ThaT dEar To us aLL.
WiTh Much LovE aLways,
This letter touched his heart, and he folded it up and slipped it into his smock, determined to share it both with the King and with Elise.
The next letter was forwarded from Budgeford, he noted. A fine, scholarly hand had written this note.
My dear Master Ruvemir,
I understand that you and I will be marrying at almost the same time, so I have written to wish you and your Elise much happiness and joy. I also understand from Merry, Pippin, Sam, the Thain, the Master, the Mayor, and Rosie that you have already received additional commissions to do monuments for the entire Fellowship and for the sailing of the Elves with Frodo and Bilbo, and that those monuments will be done here in the northlands, for the Kingdom of Arnor and for the Vale of Rivendell. The last time Merry determined to leave the Shire I refused to follow. This time I will go with him, hopefully bringing with me my bride so that she can meet you and hopefully come to appreciate you as the rest of us have.
I find I am full of both anticipation and anxiety as the day of our marriage approaches. I only hope that I don't become such a mass of anxiety I faint at my own wedding. Budgie laughs and tells me this is no different from the fears of every bridegroom. I hope you are not suffering in this way as I am, at the same time I imagine you are, which is an odd sort of comfort, to think I am not alone.
I see Pippin frequently, and note that he is less prone to attacks of deep solemnity, which is both pleasant and alarming, as a solemn Pippin is less likely to be planning practical jokes on his kin, although I suspect Merry is likely to be his target more than I am. His wedding to Diamond is to be held in Michel Delving during the Free Fair, and most of the Shire is looking forward to taking part in the festivities.
I had the oddest dream, that Frodo and you were sitting together on a bench, watching Sam and Rosie, and smiling together. I hope this is a good portent.
Again, best wishes to you and your Elise, and give my respects to the King.
Yours with fond memories,
PS--Budgie, Viola, and Drogo also send their love. FB
After reading these, Ruvemir carefully folded up most of them and placed them in the drawer of his desk, then after a time pulled out a rarely used packet of writing paper and his ink bottle, and composed his own letters.
To all within the Shire, I send you greetings from Minas Anor.
We had more adventures returning to Gondor than we did going north, although we faced fewer flooding rivers. As was said before, Lord Halladan, Steward of Arnor, met with me in Bree and asked me to accept the commission to do a monument to all nine of the Fellowship and Bill, and then we were met by the Lords Elladan and Elrohir, Glorfindel and Celeborn not far south of Bree with the request I do a monument to the Riding of the Elves with the Lord Frodo and Master Bilbo to the Havens. I hope to have the assistance of a friend and colleague in completing that project, as he is an expert at portraying riders on horseback while I have never been particularly good at animal subjects. It should be an interesting enterprise.
Elise does intend to come north with me, and I have plans to approach a friend in Lossarnach who builds coaches to come up with a special coach in which we may travel and even live with some degree of comfort. The idea of living out of tents does not appeal to me any more, I fear. I will speak to him on our journey south.
Folco and Miriel are doing well. Miriel finished the last of the embroidery for the Queen's dress today, the bodice has been completed, and there is only the skirt to be attached. She is very pleased with how it has come out, and I believe both the Lord King and the Lady Queen will be pleased with the two gifts, both in the giving and the receiving. Folco has ordered clothing more in keeping with the styles of Gondor, and he hopes to receive the first outfit next week so that he can wear it at the wedding, which is to be held here at The King's Head. Master Beneldil is most pleased to allow the wedding to be held here, and is giving a feast for us as his gift to Elise and myself. The King has agreed to officiate, and the Queen hopes to bring their child, who should be born next week, to the ceremony. I saw her briefly yesterday, and she looked very well.
We stopped at Orthanc on the way south and were able to meet with Treebeard and Quickbeam and one other Ent whose name was not told to us, and they send their greetings to you in return for those you sent through us. Treebeard saw the model for the memorial, and appeared quite pleased with it. We were escorted then to Edoras, where we stayed as guests with the King and Queen at Meduseld. I am most impressed with the intelligence and clarity of thought shown by Éomer King. I have known Queen Lothiriel for about eight years, for I first met her that long ago when commissioned to do my first depiction of Prince Adrahil for the Merchants' Hall in Lossirin. Both appear quite happy.
Not all the news is good--there is trouble and the likelihood of war to the east of what was Mordor; and along with farmers seeking land to cultivate some brigands are moving into Eriador along the Old South Road, and Lord Halladan has sent troupes of Rangers to patrol that area. I have seen Strider the Ranger once more, and have seen him in action, even. He is, I sense, a most dangerous individual to cross. I can say no more than that now.
Master Gimli has brought blocks of stone for my use from Casistir which he has donated to the memorial, and I've begun the shaping, with the assistance of Master Dorlin and another Dwarf named Orin son of Bofur who is also a sculptor from Erebor, Pando, Ririon, and another apprentice loaned to my aid by a master sculptor here in the city. I am most pleased by the work done by young Celebgil, who is the same age as is Pando but, of course, much taller. Captain Pippin's figure will be the first finished, I think, and we've begun the rough cutting on that for Sir Merry. Master Samwise's stone is now shrouded to protect it until we are able to begin shaping it, while that for the Lord Frodo rests in a warehouse in the first circle for the time.
Our Lord King has a new patient to deal with in the Houses of Healing--a fire on the Pelennor left a girl badly burned. Miriel sat by her bed today and spoke to her and sang to her while she finished the Queen's dress, although the girl lies in healing sleep. She is recovering far more quickly than any had expected, even the Lord King Aragorn Elessar. He and the Lady Arwen both have attended on her. The girl and her infant brother were left orphaned by the fire, and I suspect that my sweet sister is going to talk Folco into fostering them. She cannot bear to see a child or animal in need of love. Our home was always full of beasts she cared for when we were younger, and now that she is married I suspect it will be filled with children as well.
We will leave for the Southlands after the wedding and should be gone for about four weeks. I dare not go longer. Celebgil goes with us to learn from my father and Mistress Andúrien some of their ways and skills. He will be pleased, I think, to learn from Mistress Andúrien, for his first attempts at forming figures were with clay.
The Lord King looks well, although the news of the situation to the east does not reassure him. He is most pleased with the plans for the memorial, but has offered to become difficult if it will bring Master Samwise to the city to see him. He misses all of you, I sense.
I've not yet had time to begin to be full of anxiety for the marriage, as I am simply too busy. But I promise Master Fredegar that I will try to do so at least the day of the wedding, which will be on the second High Day from today. I am to meet Elise's mother, grandmother, and sister on her free day, two days from now. A house has been offered to our use in the Sixth Circle for when we return, and I am told it is the same house in which you four lived with Mithrandir, Master Gimli, and Prince Legolas during your stay in the city. It will ease my hip, which began yesterday to ache again as I had to climb up from the second to the seventh level. Elise has indicated she does not wish to live primarily within the city once this commission is completed. Indeed, she wishes to travel and see Arnor as well as Gondor, and speaks of the sons and daughters we will have as being well educated and well traveled even as children.
I hope to see many of you on our return to Arnor. How long that shall be I do not know as yet, however.
I send this first to Master Saradoc and ask it be passed on, from each to the next, until all have had the chance to read it. I will write next time, I think, from my home in Lebennin.
May the Valar watch over all, and the One guide you.
My love to all,
Ruvemir son of Mardil
He then drew out another sheet and prepared to write his second missive.
To Master Sancho Proudfoot and Mistress Angelica Baggins Proudfoot
From Ruvemir son of Mardil of Lebennin, Master Sculptor
Greetings from Minas Anor.
I am told by Pando he has written you since our arrival, and I wish to send my report to accompany his. We arrived in the capital a week past, and he has settled in well. He proudly tells me when he sees a detail that coincides with the stories of the city that he has heard from the Lord Frodo and the Lord Samwise, and does not appear overawed as I was when I first entered through its gates. He and my ward Ririon have become fast friends, and he has now been introduced to the son of the innkeeper here at the Inn of the King's Head, who has known Ririon most of his life. The three often spend their free hours together, and so far I've not seen anything in the way of mischief from any of the three.
On our journey to Gondor we were threatened at one point, and your son assisted our guard and his cousin Folco in protecting us all. His ability to throw a stone with such startling accuracy (from the point of view of a mannikin who is unable to accurately throw a stone for a distance of more than perhaps ten of my own paces) assisted in protecting us all. He was able to control his fear, and has been praised by our Lord King himself, who also told him that his cousin would be most pleased with him. He fair beamed with delight when this was told to him.
He has done several figures on our journey, although most have been returned to the block of clay when completed. I will be forwarding to you, however, three pieces that are remarkably fine once they have been fired. A potter in the First Circle of the city has taken them and was to have committed them to the kiln yesterday. Two others will be saved and presented to Mistress Andúrien to demonstrate his skill and talent. It is her practice to keep such pieces and others done at intervals during the period of indenture to show the progress of the skill of her apprentices and students. I think, knowing her skills, she will be most impressed to see them.
In the past three days Pando has been learning the skills of rough cutting stone, helping to prepare the blocks provided for the memorial for their final shaping. He has been a fast learner and takes instruction well, and is proud of his accomplishments. I am also proud to have had him as a pupil, and will miss him when we carry him at last to the home of Mistress Andúrien, who is yet far better able to free his greatest talent for shaping than I am.
I have taken few apprentices of my own--as one who prefers to travel between commissions, it is harder to find apprentices who are willing to go so far from their homes or whose parents wish them to travel broadly. But of the apprentices alongside whom I've worked, I've seen few with the willingness to learn and do of your son. You have every right to be proud of him.
Let Cyclamen know we are both doing well, and that I wish I could see the mallorn tree with her and Master Samwise. And thank her from Pando for caring for his cat.
And so I remain your faithful servant.
With great respect,
Ruvemir son of Mardil
Finally he took out one last sheet, and smiling he wrote,
I hope you are well and happy, and that your father and mother hold you on their laps with joy in the evenings.
I think of you every time I remove my shoes, and am so very glad I got to meet you. I am sending you this drawing of the White City as we saw it from the ridge as we returned. Know that I love you and hope to see you again one day.
Elise sends her love, also, and hopes one day to meet you.
He cut the promised drawing out of his sketch booklet carefully and folded it gently, then after preparing the three letters for posting on the morrow, he finally laid himself down for bed.
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.