King's Commission, The
46. And to the Queen, a Daughter
And to the Queen, a Daughter
Ruvemir's party returned to the King's Head long after midnight, and quietly they went through the silent passageway till they found their own rooms, whispering their good nights to one another. Ruvemir found Celebgil sleeping seated still in one of the low chairs at the table, a book in his lap, Ririon and Pando both sound asleep in their beds, Joy lifting her head and lifting the corner of her lip in her own equivalent of a smile as her tail thumped softly on the carpet. He reached down to fondle her head, then took the last seedcake and shared it with her before he went into the bathing room to change into his night robe. Knowing Elise had changed the bedding that day, he carefully prodded Celebgil half awake and walked him to his own bed and laid him on it, slipped the youth's shoes off his feet, and covered him with the extra blanket. He then slipped out and walked to his father's room and knocked softly there.
Mardil was surprised to see his son at his door until Ruvemir explained the situation, and he then laughed and invited him into the room, pointed to the unused bed, and indicated he should feel free to sleep there the night.
It had been an interesting evening, Ruvemir thought as he composed himself for sleep. He'd found himself quite liking the ambassador from Rhun, liking him very much indeed. He and the engineer and stone mason had been able to discuss what would be needed in preparing the base for the monument, and he'd even been able to take the Lords Elrohir and Elladan, Glorfindel and Celeborn aside to get some specifics on what they desired in their own commission. He learned they wished the memorial raised at the entrance to Mithlond, the Grey Havens from which the Grey Ships of the Elves sailed. He'd also received their promises to provide him with portraits of those they wished included in the memorial as well as to speak with him at length so he could do proper seemings of those who left on that ship as well as their steeds.
The King had sung one more song toward the end of the evening, this time in concert with his wife and her brothers and the Lord Glorfindel, a delicate weaving of harmony that told of the love between the Lord Amroth of Laurelindórenan and the Lady Nimrodel. Again, all seemed enchanted while the singing lasted, and sighed when it was over. When the evening had ended all had regretted to see the parting come.
Tomorrow, he thought as he yawned and took a final drink of his goblet of water, tomorrow he would be back at the site, and he would do so much....
He woke early and left quietly so as to not disturb his father. As he opened the door to his own room Celebgil suddenly woke and sat up, obviously confused as to where he was, looking down with surprise at the blanket that covered him.
"How are you this morning, Celebgil? You were asleep in the chair and didn't fully awake when I shook you, so I settled you there and went to share my father's room, sleeping in the extra bed there. Did you sleep well?"
The youth flushed and admitted he seemed to be doing well enough. "I'm sorry I slept so strongly."
"It's probably just as well. I didn't like the thought of you walking alone so late at night up through three circles of the city."
Celebgil arose and went into the bathing room, coming out some moments later looking relieved and less tousled. Ruvemir went in with a change of work clothing, coming out also feeling more ready to face the day, and decided it was time to speak to his apprentice about the situation with Master Varondil. He only hoped he could frame his questions properly to get answers that were both honest and not hurtful. "I'm going out to look on the dawn. I'd like you to come with me."
The youth looked reserved, but not fearful. Well enough, Ruvemir thought. Each took his cloak, and the sculptor led the way down the passage to the inn's door. They bowed briefly to the young man on duty, and left the building and walked together around it to the narrow way to the wall. There Ruvemir hitched himself up to stare north and east toward the road to Anorien. "That is the road we took, going first to Rohan and then north through Eriador," he said. "It was a good journey, and although we had difficulties on the way back, I would do it again gladly. I will do it again, even--I must to fulfill the other two commissions."
"What are those lands like?" Celebgil asked, and for perhaps a quarter hour Ruvemir answered him.
The light grew as the Sun raised her head more fully over the Ephel Dúath and shone down on the river. Finally Ruvemir felt the time had come. He turned half toward the youth, and shaped his first question.
"Every time Master Varondil comes near, you seek to mask anger and distaste. When his name is mentioned you become rigid. I see him look at you, and there is anger in his eyes, but it is different in quality from yours, as if you would deny him something he feels is his due, while in you I see that he has apparently asked of you something you feel is not proper to give."
Celebgil's attitude was studiously neutral. Finally, after Ruvemir let the silence between them grow he allowed himself to fill it. "There is nothing to tell. He is not as great an artist as he would have others believe, certainly nowhere near the quality of your artistry, Master Ruvemir. And personally, I don't care for him. That is all I will say."
Ruvemir allowed the silence to continue, although he now slipped off the wall and stood side by side with Celebgil. But this time the youth refused to play the game. At last Ruvemir chose to break the silence himself. "No master has the right to ask of you that which is not seemly, Celebgil. I will tell you this--this standard I have set myself and I will fulfill. I do not know for certain what Master Varondil is capable of doing, but if he is doing aught to you, it is your right to ask redress. The King will not allow his subjects to be forced by one another to do that which causes pain or shame."
"He's done nothing to me."
"Has he sought to lay hands on you?"
There were several moments before the youth finally answered, "When we are in the workshop he tends to stand too close. I don't care for it."
"But nothing more?"
Ruvemir felt frustrated, certain that the boy was not admitting the fullness of what Varondil was doing, but also recognizing the stubborn insistence would continue through all now that it had finally been uttered. Finally he asked, "Is he doing aught to others of the apprentices?"
The youth refused to meet his eyes. "He's doing naught that any object to or fail to agree to."
"Do they fail to object because they really agree, or do they fail to object simply because he is the master?"
Celebgil wouldn't answer.
Ruvemir at last sighed. "If anyone tries to convince you to do something you find repugnant or consider shameful, you can say no, which apparently you have done successfully. But too often such, not having been stopped from hurting some, will simply seek out easier, more pliant victims, whether it is to beat them, to curse them, to take of their goods, or whatever form of abuse the villain favors. Such continue to hurt others until someone finally admits the abuse is happening, at which time alone something can be done. But saying nothing only permits the abuser to hurt others.
"No one has to say things to parents or guardians, but one can speak to any of the Dúnedain, who are, after all, the King's own kindred, or to any of the Guards of the Citadel, or to any Dwarf or Elf, for such have the King's ear if they come forward with a complaint, and the King will set things right. He does not tolerate abuse of his subjects."
The young Man remained silent, his expressionless face fixed on the far-off mountain range to the east. Knowing that there was nothing more to be said, Ruvemir straightened and stretched. "Let us go back inside then, for Elise will be there with the breakfast tray, and if we wait too long Pando and Ririon will have eaten it all, growing youths as they are." At last Celebgil looked at him and he allowed himself a small amused smile. Well, thought Ruvemir, at least he had planted the seed of thought in the youth's head. Now, if he would only let it grow.
Celebgil stopped briefly at his parents' home to let them know he had slept in the inn after his master's late night, promising to come up soon to join the rest of the party at the work site. Ruvemir set Pando to sweeping the site and Ririon to removing the tarps from all three stones while he opened the panels on the screens on which the diagrams were pinned. He took the new pot of paint and set it on the bench, went out to the fountain to get some water in his cup for the paintbrush, and paused by the young White Tree that grew there.
He knew the origin of its kind was the Undying Lands, and that reportedly there was one growing on Tol Eressëa, and that from it had come the seedling gifted to the King and people of Númenor, from which this tree was now descended. He wondered if Frodo Baggins visited that tree, wherever it was on the island. Probably he did, he thought. He approached the tree and gently laid his hand on its bark, and felt the thrum of life in it that Ririon had described when discussing the White Tree here and the mallorn tree in the Shire. He backed from the tree respectfully, bowed to it, then took his cup of water back to the site.
He did measuring and marking, and was ready to take up his mallet when Celebgil arrived, his face stony. Ruvemir looked at the young Man and made a decision. "I wish you to use my sketch booklet there and do a study of the White Tree. I will have occasion to carve its likeness in the future, and desire to have a view of it to refer to." He held out the pencil case he'd received in the Great Smial so that Celebgil could take his choice of drawing sticks, gave him a ball of gum, and sent him off to the center of the level. He knew that Celebgil realized Ruvemir wanted him nowhere near the blocks of stone with mallet and chisel while he was upset, and hoped the youth would calm quickly once he'd had a chance to sit quietly for a time. He also suspected the tree itself would prove soothing.
He saw the King in practice garb walking around the Citadel from the lesser salle where weapons practice was held for those in the service of the Citadel itself, talking to the individual, also in practice garb, who walked with him. As he walked, the King was checking the seat of his sword in its sheath. He saw servants from the Citadel carrying out a rug to shake it out. He saw a messenger hurry up the ramp to the guard at the door of the Citadel and hand the captain there a missive, salute, and turn to head immediately back to his proper post. A quarter hour later the King again emerged from the Citadel, clad formally now, walking swiftly before his guard to the head of the ramp. Celebgil sat on a bench before the tree, no longer sketching furiously, instead sitting quietly, the drawing stick dangling idly from his fingers as he stared at the White Tree. Ruvemir smiled, and got on with his carving.
He was now working over the face of Peregrin Took, and he was going between two of his finer chisels as he worked on shaping the contours of the Pherian's face. He focused on it, and ignored the coming of a group of armed Men up the ramp and their welcome by the King. He ignored the leaving of the King for the Houses of Healing an hour later, and his return from there three quarters of an hour after that. He had switched from face to hands, wrists, and lower arms, carefully skirting the section of the block that would be the blade of Troll's Bane. He continued to work until someone touched his shoulder, and he looked up into the amused gaze of the King.
"You have worked a very long time already, Master Ruvemir. Are you not ready to take a break and drink some juice?"
He looked around, and saw that the sketch booklet now lay on the table, open to an excellent rendition of the White Tree, and Celebgil was working on his practice piece, Ririon was doing rough cutting of the section of log, and Pando was involved in doing an elaborate twist of coils of clay, making of it a basket shape. It was nearing noon, he noted. Finally he looked up into his King's face.
"Yes, I should rest; but I was so involved in shaping the stone I lost all attention to other things."
"So I have noted. It took you a time to get started this morning, but once engaged you focused solely on your task. I sometimes do the same when in sword practice. Well, go and get your drink, and I will see you later in the day if time permits."
By the time Ruvemir had finished his juice the servants of the Citadel had brought their noon meal. He ate distractedly, eager to get back to work on the figure of Captain Peregrin. However, he forced himself to eat and to drink again, and afterward to mark Sir Meriadoc's block, then afterwards to call Celebgil to work alongside himself.
They again worked in concert, working this time toward the lower margins of the figure, while Pando, having been admonished not to go any deeper than the areas marked, did more rough cutting of Sir Meriadoc's figure, assisted by Ririon. Ririon did one remove to every three done by Pando, yet made each of them count, Ruvemir noted. Joy lay in the shade and watched, now and then drinking from the bowl of water provided for her by the staff of the Citadel.
This time he noted the coming of one accompanied by six in the blue and white of Dol Amroth, and realized Prince Elphir had returned, guessing correctly that six of his father's captains had come up disguised as simple bodyguards. He was greeted not by the King but by Prince Faramir. Shortly after arrived a group from Lossarnach, then one from Anorien. Rumors suddenly ran through the courts and then through the city below, he knew, that it had begun, that the Queen had begun to experience birth pangs. There was much coming and going of folk here and there as those who needed to be present hurried to come to the Citadel. Legolas and Gimli arrived, both smiling and cloaked in the grey-green of Lothlorien, walking more leisurely than many others. The ambassadors from Rhun and Harad arrived, followed by Éomer and Lothiriel of Rohan accompanied by a party of eighteen in the grey or green cloaks and silver stars of the service of Arnor alongside the Men of Éomer's Guard of Honor.
It was nearing sunset when Orin finally appeared. "We have been busy, we Dwarves," he said by way of explanation, smiling with a feral satisfaction at the memory of what they'd been doing. Ruvemir did not ask, but suspected they'd been perfecting some plan of the King's for use against those attacking Rhun.
Orin looked on the work accomplished during the day and gave a truer smile. "It was told to us you went into the crafting trance this morning and had to be recalled by the King himself."
Ruvemir laughed. "I certainly did. I suspect I'd still be at it if he hadn't come. As it was, it took me a time to come back to myself."
"At this rate, you will have his face formed before you marry, and I can certainly see the lie of the sword blade now."
Ruvemir stretched, and began gathering his tools, checking the blades, preparing them for replacement in the chest. Orin took three for resharpening, and Celebgil took over the task of securing the site while the sculptor headed for the privy area. He came out stretching, washing his hands in the small fountain that hung on the wall of the building, and looked to the Citadel. He saw a building half behind the Citadel that he realized must be the prison area, and there a number of guards were stationed, all at the alert. He realized that such a time, when the focus of attention was on the doings within and the progress of the Queen's labor, could be a prime time for someone to seek to assist a prisoner to escape, and suddenly he was glad the King had realized this too and had made secure his hold on the Easterling prisoner.
By the time he returned the cart had arrived and the site was ready. Orin smiled and announced he'd be there early the following day, and they departed.
When they arrived again at the site the next morning the babe had not yet been born, and several of those gathered for the child's birth were out walking through the Court of Gathering, or pausing by the work site to contemplate the shrouded stones.
Ruvemir again uncovered Lord Samwise's stone this day. He'd not gone down to the warehouse the previous evening, being full tired, although he'd worked on a smaller figure using a small block of alabaster his father had brought with him from Lebennin. This morning he felt restless, and forced himself to focus on the task at hand. The sky was grey and clouded, and it appeared it might well rain later in the day. A brisk wind blew as he took his paint and brush to mark the lower portions of the stone where he wished to see the rough cutting done. He checked out the progress Pando and Ririon had made the day before on Sir Meriadoc's figure, and found it was almost ready for detailed shaping. Again it was the lower portions of the figure that he marked for rough cutting, and he directed Ririon and Ruvemir to use their smaller chisels that not too much be removed at a time.
Orin arrived not long after, carrying the sharpened chisels, accompanied by Dorlin. While the two Dwarves examined the practice pieces the three apprentices had been working on, Celebgil and Ruvemir discussed the work they would be doing. Ruvemir was pleased to see that whatever had so disturbed the youth the previous day appeared forgotten now. Soon they were working on the back of the figure, bringing out the contours of the cloak from Lorien that was being worn over the uniform of Gondor. Finally assured Celebgil would follow the lines he'd outlined and was indeed competent at carving fabric, Ruvemir moved back to the front of the figure, and focused on the lower arms, hands, and the blade of the sword. He'd been working about half an hour when Ifram of Rhun approached the site, obviously taking a break from the interminable wait for the birth of the first royal child born in the Citadel of Minas Anor in over a thousand years. Ruvemir smiled and nodded at the young Man, brought one section within a measure of the intended level of the right hand, then paused to wipe his face. Seeing he had paused, Pando brought over a tumbler of juice he had already poured and offered it to him. The Dwarves had taken over the supervision of the other two apprentices, Dorlin having watched Pando as he worked on Sam's stone and Orin directing Ririon on Merry's. Dorlin straightened and acknowledged the Rhunish official, and went to pour himself a mug of ale.
Ifram examined the figure over which Ruvemir and Celebgil had been laboring, and smiled. "I'd expected the figures to be taller," he commented.
"No," Ruvemir said, shaking his head, "that would be unacceptable to the subjects. They wish it made plain that they are Hobbits and not Men."
"I watched you for a time yesterday morning. It was remarkable to see, for it was almost as if you and the stone were one."
"The Dwarves call it the crafting trance. I've known it a few times in my career, although not often. There are many times when I will find myself in rhythm with the stone as I shape, when I know exactly where to set the chisel, what angle to strike with the mallet, how deep to cut at each stroke. But the crafting trance is different, for I totally lose myself in the shaping. It can be alarming to rouse to the realization that I have been doing nothing but shaping for hours at a time."
The taller Man nodded as he considered what the experience must be like.
Ruvemir noted movement on the ramp, and looked that way. "Oh, it looks as if a new group of your people are coming to join your company, my Lord."
Ifram looked over his shoulder. "I wonder why they have come from the house of our embassy?" he asked aloud.
"These are not those who accompanied you into the city, sir. I took note of their seeming. These are newcomers."
Ifram gave the artist a startled glance, looked over his shoulder again, then turned, straightening as he did so, and watched as the group approached the work site. As they came close enough for him to recognize features--or to not do so, in this case, he suddenly raised his hand in a signal. The first of the group was reaching inside his cloak as if to bring out a written message; but it was not parchment Ifram and Ruvemir saw emerging, but instead the glint of steel....
"Daro!" commanded a voice, and suddenly hooded grey-cloaked shapes appeared as if from thin air to circle the Easterlings, arrows tipped with leaf-shaped points aimed at the hearts of the strangers. Most paused, taken by complete surprise, but the leader threw himself forward toward Ifram, raising a knife that was not of the curved shape common to Rhunish blades, but straight in keeping with the daggers used in Gondor. Even as he came forward, however, something hit him in the forehead, and a white shard bounced off his skull and hit the ground, shattering on the stone surface of the Court of Gathering as he fell back, stunned. Another raised a dagger, intent on throwing it, only to drop the knife when his wrist was impaled by an arrow. Taken by surprise by this turn of events, the others, at a gesture made by the leader of the archers, dropped their weapons and raised their hands. Ruvemir turned to look at Pando, who stood with a second shard of marble in his hand, ready to throw again if he saw the need, his face white but his jaw set in determination. Haldir of the Galadhrim put back his hood, and having made certain those before him were making no offensive move, he turned to look at the young Hobbit lad.
"Meriadoc of the Shire told me that a cast stone is the usual weapon of the Periannath, but until now I had not appreciated how apt to the use of such your people are, not even after the defense in Eriador," he said with respect.
A group of guards from the Citadel were approaching from the ramp, and the captain examined the captured Men with interest. "The King had said such might well happen, and I bless his foresight. The people of Gondor and Rhun owe a debt of gratitude to the Galadhrim and the Pheriannath, I see. He feared some would try to drive wedges of distrust between our peoples by making an assassination attempt on you, Lord Ambassador. We've followed them up from the Gate, where they gave but one of the signs by which we might know if any Easterlings entering Minas Anor were indeed sent by your brother to your support."
Ifram nodded. "I am also glad he gave me warning of the guard he set around me this day. And I thank you, Captain, Lord Haldir, young Halfling, Master Ruvemir, for what you have done to safeguard me this day. Will you summon the King with news of this?"
"No--the Lord Prince Imrahil will take care of this matter until the King can turn his attention away from his lady wife and child."
The Galadhrim archers continued to hold the Easterlings at arrow point until they'd all been searched and bound, then led off to the prison area behind the Citadel, the still stunned leader being lifted between two of the guards.
Ifram suggested, "Remove their boots, belts, chains, and sashes before you lock them in your strong place, Captain; and check even in their ornaments and sleeves of the garb they wear. We of Rhun tend to secrete our weapons in odd places. It would also do well to isolate each, in case they have taken a vow to kill themselves and each other should they be taken."
The captain nodded, then turned to follow the group back around the Citadel, followed by the Elven archers. The party at the work site looked after, then looked at one another. Orin clapped Pando on the shoulder with such force he almost knocked the still pale lad over. Realizing the young Hobbit was shaking in reaction to what he'd faced once more, he led Pando to the table and had him sit down, then at a nod from Ruvemir poured him a measure of ale and pressed him to drink.
"You did well, lad. You did quite well. That was quick thinking, hearing your master recognize these were strangers and readying yourself as you did. You may well have saved two lives just now, that of the ambassador and of the man you struck as well."
Ruvemir looked with concern into the face of Ifram b'nto Agharan. A thought had been building in his mind. "Those were not the weapons of your people they brought out. Not only did they intend to kill you, but to make it look as if our folk had committed the killing. And had they been successful, I am certain we who work here would have been killed as well. We alone were in a situation, we all thought, to have seen truly what happened, what with the distraction of the Queen's labor. If they struck quickly and quietly enough, by the time others realized we were dead they would have quietly flown and none would be any the wiser. They could not have allowed the chance someone would reveal it was agents of your own land who did the murder."
The young ambassador nodded. "I fear indeed that you are right, Master Sculptor," he said. "More than one life was saved this day by the foresight of your King, the guard given by the Elves, and the accuracy of the throw of the boy there."
"Lad," Pando corrected as he sat on the bench, leaning forward, the emptied mug set behind him on the table. "I am not a boy--such are the children of Men." His voice was low and distracted.
Ifram gave a small shrug. "I meant no offense, young Halfling," he said.
Pando looked up at him. His color was returning. "None taken, sir. Just letting you know." Then he straightened. "Do you know any of them?"
"One appears familiar, but the rest I am certain I'd not seen until this day."
Ruvemir sighed. "Well, I must say that this day has been anything but boring," he commented, and the others all found themselves smiling in spite of their anxiety.
At that moment a page came running out of the Citadel, calling out to each side as he came. Ifram straightened, for his duty took him back into the building now. The page came running to the site, and saluting him gasped out, "The babe--its head has begun to crown, my Lord. It will not be long now."
Ifram turned and headed off at a lope to the door to the Citadel, and the page turned to Ruvemir. "The King sends word he would have you attend as well, Master."
Ruvemir was shocked. He, a commoner and an artisan, observe the birth of the King and Queen's first child as if he were one of those expected to bear witness that such was indeed born, and on this day? But the page was waiting. He sighed, hastily pulled off his smock, and with a look of thanks at Celebgil who supplied a comb from inside his own smock, he smoothed his hair, dropped the comb back into the apprentice's hands, and catching up his cane went as swiftly as possible toward the Citadel itself.
An hour later bells began to ring throughout the entire city; and after the cacophony of delight was finally over, heralds at each of the gates of the city and from the Court of the White Tree announced to the citizens of Minas Anor and the Pelennor that at the fourth hour was born to the King and Queen of Gondor and Arnor a daughter to be known as Melian. Messengers were already hurrying on their way one direction or another to carry word; and the line of beacons between the capitals of Gondor and Rohan as well as the new line along the west side of the Misty Mountains between Minas Anor and Annúminas suddenly took flame, carrying the news west and north, throughout the allied and combined nations of the Men of the West. And just ere sunset the King came forth, dressed in his white mantle clasped with the Elessar stone, holding the tiny princess carefully wrapped against the drizzle that had fallen all afternoon, and walked to the end of the keel of rock to show her to the people of the city. As he stood on the end of the keel, the sun broke through, reflecting in green splendor from brooch and the Ring of Barahir, and the whole of the city cried out their delight that once again a King's child had been born in the Citadel.
Saradoc Brandybuck looked up as the door flew open to the parlor where he was talking with his wife, his wife's brother and his wife, his daughter-in-love, and the Mayor of the Shire, admitting Merry and Pippin at a run. "They're born, sir," Merry gasped out. "The messenger just arrived from Hobbiton--Rosie-Lass was born yesterday a couple hours before noon. And messengers from east of Bree have come to the Bridge--the beacons were lit from Gondor at about the same time; and the manipulation of the smoke says this is a girl, too. Aragorn and Sam both have new daughters!"
Pippin's face was shiny with sweat from his hurried ride from the Bridge and the tear through Brandy Hall, but the smile on his face was full and dazzling. "And I," he said importantly, "am to be one of the King's babe's godfathers!"
The Master of Brandy Hall smiled into the face of the Thain of the Shire and then into that of the Mayor. "Seems to me a bit of celebration is in order," he said. "Break out the wine and ale, and let the whole of Buckland and the Marish know we're going to have the biggest feast we've had in years!
Meanwhile in Bag End, Sam stood before the mantel in the study. He'd brought Frodo's little figure here and placed it beside that of Strider's, and although he felt a bit foolish, he gave a small bow to both and began to speak. "I know as neither of you is here and can't hear me--unless you're peerin' in the seeing stone and can hear somehow, Strider; but anyway, I just wanted to tell you that Rosie and me have a new daughter, and her name's Rosie-Lass, and she's going to be as beautiful as her sister." And then he added silently, I only wish you were both here to see!
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.