King's Commission, The
42. Looking to the Future
Looking to the Future
The quiet lasted for some moments, and again the King turned the attention of all back to the work of Ruvemir and his apprentices. He asked Ririon, then Pando, and finally Celebgil to describe the instruction they received from Ruvemir and the Dwarves, and asked to see the practice pieces each had done and describe what they were doing with them. Masters Dorion and Faragil were both approving of Ririon's patterns and Celebgil's face, and even of the experiments with different types of strokes that Pando had been doing, to his surprise. When he showed them the practice piece he'd been doing in clay, which he explained was of the face of his sister, however, all the artisans were in agreement with Ruvemir that indeed he needed primary training here, for he did indeed show a gift. That Ruvemir encouraged them to work with other materials and provided them for use during the times they were not employed in working the stones for the figures was universally approved.
During part of the time the other artisans and the Elves were looking at the work of the three apprentices the King pulled Ruvemir aside.
"I thank you for not telling others freely that I was Thorongil, and I do not believe the master artisans who accompanied me realize yet the meaning of the exchange I just had with Master Faragil. I do wish you and your guests to attend the formal dinner tomorrow, and if you will wear one of the costumes decorated by your sister it will make an excellent impression, particularly on those from Harad. It will be good to have one I consider a friend at hand."
"Then the Lord Faramir has left the city?"
"Yes, he has returned to Emyn Arnen to gather and direct the movement of those of his forces he must send with mine, and to secure his own princedom before returning to take up the Stewardship while I am on campaign. He will return in two days, only just in time, I fear, to see the birth of our daughter, which he must witness as Steward of the Realm. Lord Halladan will also arrive about the same time, as will Éomer King and Elphir of Dol Amroth. Gimli and Legolas will be off on other business from this afternoon. Is there someone responsible you can leave in charge of Pando and Ririon? Eregiel and I saw them slipping from the King's Head last night, apparently intent on spying on you. I would not see them in mischief, for I know all too well what young Hobbits are capable of doing, even when attended." He smiled.
"Yes, I suppose I do, for certainly Pippin and Merry told tales on themselves and each other and what they did during the time they were with you." He thought for a moment. "Perhaps I can have Celebgil watch over them. I will speak with his parents when I go back down through the city."
"He lives with his parents?"
"Yes. He has told me that he lodged at first with others of the apprentices of Master Varondil, but that he felt too homesick and received permission to spend nights with his own family as they were so close to hand. However, I think there is another matter there which I would investigate before I speak further of it, that I cause none discomfort with idle speculation."
The King nodded.
Ruvemir continued in a soft voice, "The business as you came out--is your eastern guest causing difficulties?"
The King again gave his face a thorough examination before he answered finally, "Yes. He was demanding to see the Ranger Strider, and then when told the Ranger Strider had other calls on his time he demanded to see the King, whose face he has not yet seen."
"You have men who speak his tongue?"
"Two others beside myself."
"Actually, he understands the Common Tongue well enough, but pretends not to do so in order to gather information. Those who attend on him and who work near the place where he is kept are commanded to speak Sindarin or Adunaic at all times, when they must speak at all. I am glad that during the time we were in Edoras Éomer never spoke my name nor denoted my rank before him. 'My Lord' was sufficiently vague as to leave him with question as to my relationship to the King."
Ruvemir found himself in sympathy with the Easterling still held in captivity.
The King continued, "The game will end in formal audience once the Lord Steward returns to the city. Before his own people he will no longer be able to dissemble." Ruvemir remembered the description Captain Peregrin had believed the King's expression must have merited when discussing the embassy with those of Umbar, "Most grim." Most grim indeed were his eyes as the Lord Elessar contemplated his coming confrontation with the prisoner.
Their speech had been in Sindarin and very quiet, and Ruvemir was aware that they were both under scrutiny from the Elves. The King noted his glance at the sons of Elrond and their companions, and shook his head softly. "They already know what is happening and will keep their own counsel well enough." He then smiled. "And I wish to thank you once again for allowing me to attend the starting of the work on Frodo's figure. I am finding myself missing him very strongly. The word that his own see his Light to the West was comforting. I would like one day to see this Ferdibrand Took."
"Of those I met there, I believe he was closest to the nature of Frodo himself."
The King's face now held a gentle smile. "Then I will try to make certain he is particularly invited to the Bridge when I go north at last. I grow restive at times here in the south, and wish to see my own lands again."
With a gesture they returned to the others. The King spoke to Elise about the coming wedding, and then to each of those who were of Ruvemir's party individually, and finally indicated to his own guests that he needed now to return to the Citadel.
"I am expected in less than an hour's time in the Houses of Healing, Masters, so if you will follow me we will finish our business so I can ready myself for my other duties to the people of the Realm.
"Master Ruvemir, I will send the cart for you two hours before sunset tomorrow. Master Faragil, it has been an honor to greet you once more. I look forward to your attendance tomorrow night at the dinner. Master Mardil, my lady Elise, Mistress Miriel, Master Folco, Celebgil, Pando, Ririon, Joy." The dog nuzzled against him to have her ears scratched, and with a bow he took his leave, the three artisans and the guard following close behind.
Lord Elfhelm lingered for a moment to share courtesies. "You have done a good job of achieving their seemings. And word from my King is that he is well pleased with the design for the memorial and the seeming of Merry."
"Sir Merry bade me bear his greetings to you, if I saw you. He remembers you with full honor."
"Honor from those who deserve honor themselves is to be treasured. I bid you a good day, Master." And with a bow, the emissary of Rohan followed the King of Gondor back to the Citadel.
There were others waiting awkwardly to look at the figures underway, Dorieth watching with fascination the King as he returned to the Citadel. Ruvemir introduced his father, former master, sister, and others to Elise's grandmother, mother, and sister. He again explained the work in progress, showed the diagrams, allowed them to touch the two figures that had been worked. They quickly indicated their pleasure at seeing the work Elise's promised bridegroom was engaged in, and stepped back. Ruvemir now had the chance himself to look at the work done by his apprentices on their own practice pieces, and took the time to have them evaluate their own work, give some instruction, and finally signed they should secure their work and the site. Master Faragil and his father assisted in the covering of the figures, and Ruvemir checked to see the panels over the diagrams were closed and fastened, his chests were properly locked, and that Celebgil had also secured his own tools. Taking a moment to speak with the guard watching the site, whom Ruvemir had noted had been watching the actions of those examining the figures closely, the small sculptor finally indicated he was ready to leave. He paused as he walked away and looked back briefly, then led the way to the ramp back to the Sixth Circle.
Mistress Loren stood waiting on the step of the house, and as she admitted them thanked them for their patience with her as she sought to meet the many demands on her time this day. She gave copies of the keys into the hands of Ruvemir and Elise, and led the way into the day room. "We have used the quarters only twice since the leaving of the Pheriannath, so little is disturbed, except for the fact the beds have been returned to the chambers above, and the legs restored. However, the King indicated he wished the preparation of the legs of the furniture not be permanent, for he had hoped that perhaps one day the Lord Frodo might consent to come to the city to dwell here, though he knew this was not particularly in the nature of the Pherian."
"I fear I would disturb the order of the house once more, then," Ruvemir said, smiling. "The Pheriannath by nature avoid sleeping in upper chambers; but for me the avoidance is due to the state of my legs and hip, which do not tolerate climbing well. I would ask that a bed comfortable for my bride and me be brought back down the stairs and placed in the library, which I understand was the room favored by the Lord Frodo and is most apt to the purpose. And if the desk and chair there may be amended and perhaps a lower couch placed in the parlors and the day rooms as well as furniture apt to folk of normal stature, and a foot stool and somewhat higher chair prepared for my use at table, I do not believe we need to do extensive changes to the rest of the furnishings."
"That may be done easily enough. The Lord King had constructed chairs for the Pheriannath to use when dining in the feast hall or with those in the Citadel that would probably be apt for your use and for any others you may host here, Master. I understand these are your sister and her husband, and your apprentices. Will any of you reside in the house?"
Folco, after exchanging a look with Miriel, bowed and said, "No, we will not. Pando goes to Belfalas to study sculpting of clay, and my wife and I and Ririon return to Lebennin with her father. But we may come from time to time for visits, and I think I can bear sleeping upstairs if that is where the sleeping chambers usually are." He saw the questioning look given him by Ruvemir, and smiled. "I can bear such for limited periods of time, and steps do not of their own bother me as they do you."
They were shown the house then, and Ruvemir was glad to see the bathing room was on the lower floor and had a decent boiler, and proper pipes to preclude having to fill and drain it manually. It was explained there was a reservoir higher on the slopes of the mountain that was fed by the melting snow from the cap of the mountain, and that there were also wells, and pump houses for drier summers to bring water from the river.
"The King has given us word, however, that when there are restrictions on the use of water in times of dryness, those of the Citadel and the guest houses on this level are affected with all others. He will not deprive the folk of the city for the frivolous pleasures of those who guest in the city, and he himself follows his own laws. He is a far different sort of Lord than Gondor has known for many lives of Men, and all respect him for the fact he asks nothing of others he will not ask of himself." Ruvemir saw the growing respect in the eyes of his father, while he noted simply a nod of approval as if this was what he'd expected to hear all along by Folco.
The library was a larger room than he'd expected, although it would be somewhat crowded with bed, wardrobe, and clothes presses. Elise, however, saw it as more than comfortable, and she examined the rest of the house that would be hers with open curiosity and growing satisfaction. Ruvemir accompanied them upstairs to examine the rooms there, and found them satisfactory, but by the time they returned downstairs his hip was beginning to ache. He remained then in the parlor, seated on a couch while his bride-to-be and her family examined the cellars and Master Faragil indicated he would walk along the street and examine the decorations on the houses. After Mistress Loren left them on their own to return to her own duties, Elise's family went through the rest of the house once more accompanied by Miriel, Pando, Ririon, and Joy. Folco sighed and sat himself in a somewhat lower chair, took out his pipe and filled it, then brought out his tinderbox and lit it expertly. Mardil stood out on the lower balcony, looking out on the Pelennor, then returned to look at his son where he sat, rubbing his hip.
"Shall I ease it for you, my son?"
"I'd be grateful, Adar, although I should also do the exercises taught me by the King, as they also appear to ease the pain."
He lay sideways, and his father came near and began massaging the aching joint with practiced fingers. "It is long since I've done this," Mardil commented.
"You have not forgotten the ways of it. Thank you, Father." At last Ruvemir signed it was enough, and he quickly ran through the exercises under the eyes of his parent, then sat back up again. "I will have to have you teach that to Elise, then, and have Miriel show how to assist in the exercises." He sat quiet for some moments, then looked up. "I cannot believe it, Father. Last year at this time I was in the Crossed Keys in Casistir, and now I am to be married and dwell here for a time. And I have been on a long journey and met such as my new brother here, and come to esteem them so dearly. Things have changed so markedly for me."
He laughed. "I sent word to Fredegar Bolger, Folco, that I was not yet full of anxiety for my marriage as he says of himself, but right now I think I feel such coming upon me."
Folco leaned back and blew a ring of smoke toward the open doors to the balcony. "You saw me the night before we wed, certain I would forget all and that I would fail to please my bride. You will do well enough, I think." He took another puff on his pipe, and commented, "I am so glad Fredegar will marry after all, unlike Frodo. Certainly the Widow Rumble was right that Narcissa was deeply smitten by him. I wonder if she will ever marry now, with the grief that he is gone. Most of the rest of us felt wonder and even relief along with our mourning when the word came he was indeed gone and where; but Narcissa was flat torn." He sighed. "She is a gentle one, Narcissa, gentle and quiet. And she, too, wanted to have many children--and by Frodo, if at all possible. It is too bad you didn't get to meet her, for I think it would have helped her recover."
Ruvemir sighed. "I could not meet all. Why did she not come to the wedding? Was she not invited?"
"She's not attended a wedding since he sailed."
Miriel came back to the room and sat by her brother, rubbing her own hip. Ruvemir laughed as he gave up his place to her, and her father eased her as he'd done his son. It was to this that Elise's family returned, and Ruvemir saw another look of approval from Mistress Idril.
Finally Elise went through the rooms once more to make certain all was closed and fastened, and Ruvemir realized she felt toward this place the pride he felt toward his worksite on the level above. She carefully locked the door after they left, and placed the key on the ring she carried in her wrist satchel. Smiling into the eyes of her bridegroom, she said, "I can barely believe that this is to be ours, Beloved. Even if it is to be only for a time, I have seen what will be my first home as a married woman, and I am pleased." She leaned down to kiss him, and both appeared surprised by the ardor they shared. She straightened slowly, then smiled a deeper smile. "I am so looking forward to next week, when we are man and wife at last."
He smiled gently as he returned, "And the same is true for me as well, my Love."
Dorieth tittered and received a scathing look from her sister and glances of reproof from mother and grandmother; and although she desisted she still did not look repentant.
They walked now to the Houses of Healing, where they were admitted and shown the way to the doorway to the room where the girl who'd been burned lay. As they approached the curtain of gauze that protected the doorway, the King, a mask over mouth and nose, looked up to acknowledge them, then back to the girl.
"Here now is Mistress Miriel, who has sat by you in previous days," he said gently. Ruvemir saw the girl was young, not more than six years at most. In the King's lap sat an infant, its lower face also swathed in gauze. He could see the scars left by the fire on the girl's face, and saw that the left side was almost all involved, from brow to lower cheek. Fortunately her eye did not appear to have been hurt, and her mouth was not deformed, but she would bear that scar, he knew, for the rest of her life.
She looked with curiosity at the doorway, and then looked back to the King's eyes. His own eyes smiled back, and then he turned to address them through the gauze. "Lorieth has only awakened an hour since, and is still not certain what to think of things. The pain is diminishing, and with the added assistance of my brothers she is healing very nicely indeed. Now she is seeing her little brother for a time, and soon she will rest again. She says her face hurts her, but not as badly as it might."
Miriel's face showed a level of pride and relief, and Folco, Ruvemir noted, was looking at his wife with a level of indulgence which told the sculptor that he understood her nature and her desire and was willing to give her that for which she wished. Ruvemir gave a glance over his shoulder at his father's face, and saw his expression was mixed, awareness, acceptance, and a level of amaze at his daughter's capacity for caring. He'd been long aware, after all, of her compassion to those creatures that were injured, and that her compassion would one day reach to children as well was only to be expected, he supposed. He noted his son's examination and gave a smile. "What else can I do?" he asked. "I fear your room may be occupied when you return for visits, though."
Ruvemir and his father laughed, and Mistress Idril and her daughter exchanged looks indicating added approval of the family into which their daughter was prepared to wed.
They walked down to the Fifth Circle, and Ruvemir explained he needed to meet with Celebgil's parents and suggested the rest of the party stop for luncheon and he would join them as soon as he was done. Leaving them at a decent-looking establishment and entrusting his sister with his sketch booklet, he set out for Hirdon's pottery.
Hirdon Potter was placing items in his kiln when he heard the bell on his shop door ring. He sighed, for he had many items to insert into the oven, and he wished to get them placed and the fire well lit before mid-afternoon. He made sure the tray of bowls to be fired was in no danger of falling, and went out into the shop to see what was needed. He found himself facing a very small individual with carefully groomed beard and hair, finely dressed in a magnificently embroidered surcoat and shirt, leaning on a cane of lebethron.
"Master Potter Hirdon? I am Master Sculptor Ruvemir of Lebennin."
Hirdon was amazed, for the one thing neither his son's master nor Celebgil himself had told him that the boy's temporary master was a mannikin. Finding himself staring, he flushed. "I am sorry--enter and be welcome. I was filling the kiln. Would you care if I continue while we speak?"
He led the way into the courtyard behind the shop and indicated a bench where his guest could sit while he worked. He made fine porcelains, his clay coming from a rich deposit found in the family's estate in Lossarnach; and today he was firing part of a set of serving dishes commissioned by a wealthy lady whose husband served as Master of the Merchants' Guild for the city. He returned to his careful placement of items within the kiln, and noted the artisan visiting him was watching with open approval of his deft movements and obvious care.
"I did not mean to be rude out in the shop, but my son had not--had not described you, sir, other than that he believes he has learned much under your instruction."
"I am honored, sir, and would tell you I am very pleased with his work and his willingness to learn. He shows all the signs of doing well so far as I can tell through my experience with him to date. I had thought to introduce myself so that you would know with whom he will be traveling when we must go south in the next month. My father is Master Carver Mardil of Lebennin, and we will be visiting his workshop where your son will receive several days' instruction and experience in the shaping of wood. My ward Ririon will be staying there to continue his own apprenticeship under my father's instruction. We will then go down to Belfalas where we will be delivering another youth entrusted to my temporary instruction to Mistress Andúrien, for he shows great promise in sculpting wax and clay."
"Has she agreed to accept an apprentice, then? I'd once thought to send Celebgil there, but his mother could not bear the idea of him being so far away from us for so long."
"I wrote to her from Eriador, and her reply was waiting me on our return to Minas Anor, telling us that she is willing to consider accepting Pando, particularly as he has come so very far already on my recommendation. I do not believe she will be disappointed in his promise and willingness to learn."
"Celebgil tells us that the work on the memorial for the Pheriannath goes more rapidly than you had expected."
"Yes, and it is in part due to his own skill and industry. He has been a great help, and both accepts instruction well and is able to work independently for when I must see to the instruction of Ririon and Pando or am interrupted to speak with those come to see the work in progress or must be elsewhere for a time. And I have not found one so apt to work in concert in doing the closer shaping since I was accepted to the Guild."
"This is heartening, for the reports we have received from Master Varondil have been less detailed and with little in the way of praise since shortly after he began his indenture."
The bell on the shop door sounded, and they heard first the sound of the door closing again, and then the voices of two individuals approaching the second door out into this enclosed court. A young man and a youth about two years younger than Celebgil came out, carrying slung between them a large wooden crate closed with four great wax seals.
"The clay did indeed arrive today, Adar. Shall we uncrate it now, or leave it till tomorrow?" asked the elder.
"I think we can wait till tomorrow. Maderil, I want you to finish loading the kiln. Elpheron, you have half a tray of bowls to be cleaned and smoothed for the Lord Elfhelm's order. I have six tureens to finish decorating for the order for the Citadel that I've not had the chance to work on yet today, and we must redo the pouring for the set of platters for the Merchants' Hall. Maderil, you added twice as much water as I directed. It had best not happen again. Master Ruvemir, we will move to the workshop, then."
"Oh, are you the Master Ruvemir?" asked the boy. "Celebgil says you are very good with a chisel."
Ruvemir smiled as he slipped off the stool. "I feel the same toward him."
"This way, Master Ruvemir," the father said, leading the way through the doorway of an adjacent inner building into a large, decently lit workshop. The young man followed after with the crate of clay, which he set near a large, covered stone storage basin, and went to a table to the right where a tray half filled with drying bowls lay near a shelf set with molds. Hirdon went to the left to another table on which stood a variety of items of bisqueware, prominent among them a set of six magnificent tureens each large enough for an infant of six months to lie in. He hooked a stool to the table and sat down, carefully unstoppered a labeled pot of glaze and chose a fine brush from a ceramic crock, wet it in a small crock of water, then shook off the excess, and after checking the consistency of the glaze to see it was right, began to paint a design onto one of the tureens, following the lines of the embossed pattern from the mold. Seeing a second high stool nearby, Ruvemir drew it near and climbed carefully onto it, careful not to jar the table. Finally on a level, more or less, with the potter, he began.
"I've not taken a personal apprentice before, being one who has preferred traveling between commissions and preferring to take such as please me and not tie myself to one patron's whims." The potter nodded and continued to work. "I've used the services of other masters' apprentices before, particularly for rough cutting, as such is far more laborious for me than it is for most, but Celebgil is the first I've seen apt to assist in closer shaping alongside me. Also, the practice piece he's chosen to do in his quiet times is finely done indeed, and has been praised by he who was my own master, who has come to the city for my wedding next week." Hirdon paused and looked with some surprise at the undersized artisan who sat by him. Ruvemir laughed. "Yes, even we mannikins can, with fortune, find love and caring, Master Hirdon, as I have done at last." He smiled. "Part of the reason for the journey is to serve as our wedding journey, although we will be accompanied, Elise and I, by the youths entrusted now to my tutelage. I have never learned to drive a team, and the coach provided for us is too high for me to manage in any case. When Celebgil offered to drive the team for us in return for the chance to experience the teaching in other materials those we visit will offer, we accepted and the King approved, as it spares him again finding one to accompany us."
Hirdon nodded. "He learned to drive a team in Lossarnach, driving the wagon my brother uses to transport the clay from the deposits to the sheds where he checks it for impurities and cleans it. Tell me, what masters will you be visiting, and how long will you stay with each?"
After a quarter of an hour's discussion, the father finally nodded. "He will have a good exposure to other materials and varied teaching. I believe this will do well enough, then."
"He will have his own room in each inn, once Ririon and Pando are settled with my father and Mistress Andúrien. Is he responsible enough, do you think, to accept such well without needing supervision?"
"Certainly. I was a bit surprised he wished to return home for his sleeping, once he was apprenticed and could move into their lodgings with his fellows, for ever he expressed the idea we watched him too close; but he allowed perhaps we give more freedom than masters after all."
"Then were these lodgings in the house or part of the workshop premises for Master Varondil?"
"No, they are actually down in the Fourth Circle, in the Street of Bakers. It appears, however, that Master Varondil does seek to keep a closer eye on his apprentices than most, and that, as I'm certain you appreciate from your own days as such, can seem onerous to those on the verge of manhood."
"Oh, indeed," agreed Ruvemir, at the same time his mind was finding such a further indication there was something awry with the situation surrounding the apprentices of Master Sculptor Varondil. More than ever he found himself wanting to see Celebgil's indenture transferred to himself. However, doing so without a true understanding of the situation between master and apprentices could be difficult to accomplish and fraught with problems, as those who feel others pry too closely can cause great difficulties, he knew. He was, after all, an outsider here; and even with the King's patronage he could still make powerful enemies within the guild if he acted in an impolitic manner.
A woman entered the workshop from the street, followed by a young boy who must be Celebgil's younger brother, who walked clutching a book to his breast. Then the workshop door opened and closed once more, and a boy with quite dark skin entered, laden with packages of various sorts and passed on through an inner door, shepherding forward the younger boy. The woman smiled at Elpheron, who smiled back, although he didn't pause in his work; and then she came to stand near the potter. "We found the earths you need for the brown glaze, Hirdon," she said, as he paused to look up at her. "Gabon and I will need to find it amongst the purchases, and then I will have him bring it to you."
"Thank you, Beloved," Hirdon said, plainly smiling up into her face. "This is Master Sculptor Ruvemir, who has come to introduce himself and to describe the journey south which Celebgil will take."
"Master Ruvemir? It is an honor, I am sure."
Ruvemir remembered his other request. "One other thing--tomorrow even I am requested to attend a dinner honoring those embassies that have come to attend the birth of our Lord and Lady's first child, along with my father and former Master, my sister and her husband. May I ask your son to stay with my ward and other apprentice, who only last even were into mischief?"
"Yes, I believe that would be acceptable," Celebgil's mother said. "He has always been a responsible boy."
"I thank you," said Ruvemir. "I must return to them now, for the cart will soon be here to take us back to the Second Circle. It has been an honor, Sir, Mistress." He slipped from the stool and bowed, and was shown the way out by the potter's wife.
"It is an honor to have our son working on such a commission, and for the King himself."
"Yes, and so it is for myself as well."
"And he tells me you are to marry?"
"Yes, next week Highday, an hour after noon. Will you and your family do us the honor of attending the handfasting?"
"We would be well pleased. Where is it to take place?"
"At the Inn of the King's Head in the Second Circle."
With her agreement, he gave her a final bow and turned at last to return to his family.
He was able to eat a quick meal himself before the carter appeared, and seeing the sculptor's party sitting at an outdoor table for the inn where they'd taken their meal, he came to explain he'd had to leave his cart and ponies in a nearby alley for the moment, as word had come the embassies from Rhun and Harad had entered the lower city and would reach this level quite soon.
"And until they have passed on, we shall not be able to move. So, do not hurry your meal. As they must pass this way, you will undoubtedly get a good view of them, as well. I will go to wait with the cart and my ponies, so as to keep them calm and reassured."
Ruvemir thanked him for his courtesy, and asked his sister for his sketch booklet, which he hoped to have ready when the ridings came by. Accepting a second goblet of wine, he waited for his first glimpse of these former foes of his homeland, now come to honor the birth of the first of the Lord King's heirs.
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