King's Commission, The
74. Notes from the North
Notes from the North
Soon after the Queen sent for Elise, who came in carrying Melian, and Ruvemir saw that the King's expression soothed at the sight of his daughter as earlier his body had been soothed by the scent of athelas and the ministrations of his brothers. Gilfileg indicated he would remain some time yet speaking with his mother's kin from Dol Amroth, and at that the King also smiled in approval. Together the sculptor, his wife, and the now not-so-reluctant apprentice bade all a good night and went out of the Citadel to head down the ramp to the Sixth Circle and their own beds.
"He is very different from Lord Marcipor," commented Armanthol as they walked. "I do not think Marcipor is all that different from my father, really."
"There is one thing Marcipor has realized, however," returned Ruvemir. "He has learned to rein in his tendency to be cruel and to loose it only on those who, like your father, have earned the fear and hatred of the people of your land. He does not kill wantonly in the pursuit of his own polices and at the expense of the innocent."
"I suppose that is so," Armanthol said moodily. They descended much of the ramp in quiet. Finally he said, "I have not met one who feels with others from afar off before." Ruvemir nodded solemnly. "And part of why he brought me away was to spare himself the realization of my death?"
"Apparently. I know he is a most responsible Man. Now we know part of the reason why."
"The cloak is the one he wore when I met him."
Ruvemir smiled. "It was as Strider the Ranger he first introduced himself to me as well, in Casistir, as I told you before. All of his kindred from the North, it appears, have served in the Rangers of Eriador."
"I pity the one named Varondil, although I cannot say why."
"I pity him also, until I think of the seven who destroyed themselves due to what he did to them, and the anger and fear and shame he has engendered in the others he abused." He noted that the youth with him shuddered.
As they made their way back up the steep ways of the city, Ivarnon of the Bedui asked, "Where does dwell the stunted Man who spoke today before the King?"
Lord Shefti answered, "His name is Ruvemir son of Mardil, and he dwells across from the house of our embassy on the Sixth Level, in the house on the end. Why do you ask?"
"Earlier I saw my wife approach him and call him 'Master'."
Ifram looked him over with interest. "Your wife? How did she come to serve as housekeeper to Master Ruvemir here in Gondor, then?"
Abduleram said, "You cannot call her 'wife' any longer since you cast her out."
"Why did you cast her out?" the ambassador asked.
"She denied me a son, and gave me a deformed daughter instead."
Shefti sniffed. "Our father's second wife wished many children, but has not been able to will herself to conceive any, while Moritum's Garata wished to bear but three, and was unhappy when she found herself with a fourth, and moreso when she found herself pregnant with the fifth. If a woman cannot will herself to bear or not to bear, how can she be believed to will whether the child will be son or daughter, deformed or whole?"
Ivarnon looked at the younger brother of the Shkatha by the lesser wife and shook his head. "It is the woman who carries the babe--she must have some will in the matter as to what what it will be once it comes to be born." Ifram, Shefti, and Moritum exchanged looks. "How did Liana come to be a slave to such a one as this Ruvemir?"
"She is no slave--slavery is unlawful in Gondor. She receives house space and food for herself and her child, and money for her services in the keeping of the house."
"Does she not share his bed?"
"No. His wife would not allow such."
"He is married? Did he need to pay a high bride price to find a woman who would take him?"
"I do not believe they have bride prices in Gondor. No, it appears she sees beyond his seeming and came to care for his nature with little concern about the body. They appear to be well pleased with one another, by the way."
"I do not care for the manner in which he spied on us today."
Abduleram shook his head. "They already knew that Abdurin was conspiring against the Shkatha and the alliance with Gondor. This Ruvemir was set to judge whether or not I was part of Abdurin's treachery." His face hardened. "And to learn he was stealing children and selling them into slavery.... He deserved death. I wonder if he was the one who took Murem and Evalia's son? Both have been mad with grief since the boy was taken."
"The child was taken by a great cat."
Abduleram glared at him. "Do you think my skills in the hunt have left me unable to tell the difference between the marks of the hooves of horses and the tread of a hunting cat? The child was taken by horsemen, not by a beast."
"But Abdurin told us what he saw...."
"And I am to believe my brother's word after today? As for you--where is your brother Martuk?"
Moritum sighed. "Martuk is dead. Be glad, Ivarnon, that the King of Gondor was feeling generous toward you this day. The resemblance between you and your brother is very strong, and he did not miss the fact you sought among the prisoners for someone dear to you. Also he has known the names and clan of those of our people who took part in the assault on the estate of the small one's father since shortly after the assault took place. That all were from the tribe of the Bedui was lost on neither the Lord Elessar nor myself. If I were like to this Lord Marcipor, it would be likely all the men of the Bedui would have been slain by now. Know this--both his agents and mine will be watching you and the families of Bordig and Davit very closely."
Ivarnon felt himself go very pale, then red with shame and resentment. "I have done nothing...."
"Nothing in which you have been found out, at least," the Shkatha amended. "But that does not mean that in your heart you are true to our people, or even to the chieftain of your own tribe. Believe me, you are being watched now by several different ones. If you are found even appearing to be involved in treachery or intrigue it is likely you will wake up to find yourself facing the spear."
Ivarnon felt the fear growing in his heart, forced himself to be angry instead. It was the fault of the stunted one, he thought to himself, the fault of the stunted one. Well, at least I know now where to find him.
Most of the other apprentices were watching for the return of Master Ruvemir and Armanthol. Those who had attended the judgment for Varondil had told those who had not what they'd seen there, and Celebgil had told what had been learned of the causes of the war, the intrigue from Umbar and with one from Rhun, the questioning of those from Rhun, the judgment by their own Shkatha. All wondered what further had happened and hoped their master would tell them.
As he finally entered into the house and sat in his own chair all waited with interest. "What has happened with Gilfileg, then?" asked Gilmirion.
"Lord Gilfileg," corrected Ruvemir automatically. "Lord Gilfileg is now with his mother's kin from Dol Amroth."
"And which are they?" asked Gorondor.
Ruvemir looked at him and smiled. "Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth and the two of his sons who are here now. Their cousin Arien was his mother."
"You mean that he is of both the Northern and the Southern kingdoms?" asked one of the younger boys, much impressed.
"Yes, as well as being the closest to the line of Kings after our Lord Aragorn Elessar himself and his daughter."
All were most impressed indeed, and looked at one another with a level of delight.
As he'd removed his cloak he'd taken out the several letters given him earlier by Liana, and now he examined them and smiled.
"Who are they from?" asked Marvilion.
"They are from the Shire. Ah, here is the one from the Lord Samwise!" He set it aside, desiring the best for last. He recognized the scholarly hand of Fredegar Bolger, and opened that one first. Elise came out of the small parlor which had housed Samwise Gamgee when he lived in this house and which was now her private place where she worked on her own projects, as she had begun taking up embroidery herself, inspired by Miriel and the Queen, and she now leaned down to kiss him and then settled at his feet, her embroidery frame in her hand.
Realizing all intended to know the content of his letters, he made a show of giving a great sigh. "All right," he said, "this is from the Lord Frodo's cousin Fredegar Bolger, who would not come away from the Shire with him when he left before, staying to make it appear the rest were still there in the isolation of the house in Crickhollow in Buckland, near the gate to the Old Forest."
Having heard this, the youths all sat quietly to listen to the letter.
Dear Master Ruvemir and Mistress Elise,
Melilot and I send you greetings from the Shire, where we are doing very well since our marriage in April. I read your description of your marriage with great interest. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin have, of course, described the Lord King Strider to me in detail, and I have read Frodo's descriptions of their experiences with him in the Red Book as he wrote it, so I feel as if I know him myself. I rejoice that he chose to wed the two of you to one another. I only wish Frodo had been here to marry the two of us to one another as he did for Sam and Rosie. No, I'll be honest, I simply wish my dear cousin had been here to see it at all. This was one time we chose to have Saradoc Brandybuck perform the marriage rather than Will Whitfoot--after all, he's family.
I now understand what Budgie means when he says the love of a good wife has strengthened many a weak heart, for I feel more hale than I have since the Travelers left me in Crickhollow. I cannot believe how much happiness Melilot has given me. Estella and Merry are happily saying "We told you so," and Pippin was telling us that our wedding was so impressive no one would even remember to come to his own.
He was exaggerating, of course. Paladin Took and old Orimbard between them gave a wedding party that almost rivaled Bilbo's Party for grandness, although without the fireworks. Pippin almost regretted having fired off Gandalf's last firework when he came of age--almost, but not quite. There's no question the two of them are very happy.
He did pull off two spectacular practical jokes, one on poor, long-suffering Sam, and one on Merry. Shortly after Rosie-lass was born, Sam and Rosie took the children to Bywater to the Cotton's farm to show them the new baby, and they came home to find a miniature house in the garden with a small garden of miniature plants surrounding it, smoke coming out of the chimney pot. Elanor became convinced that miniature folk lived there, and kept trying to peek in through the windows to catch them. Every morning they'd wake up to find smoke coming out of the chimney pot, and Elanor wouldn't allow her father to remove it for fear of disturbing the wee folk whom she believed to dwell in it. Sam finally caught Cyclamen Proudfoot dropping a lit smudge down the little chimney pot one morning, and got the story from her at last. Pippin had built it and placed it in the garden, surrounding it with flowering plants that have small blossoms and don't grow over an inch in height. He'd also devised the smudges and had been able to convince Cyclamen to drop one in each morning, creeping into the garden through one of the places in the hedge where Pando used to lie to spy on the folk of Bag End. However, Elanor is so enchanted with it she still won't allow him to remove it, so he's taken to planting more small flowers about it for her delight.
Merry came into his study one day to find that it had been emptied of its furniture and fitted out as a stall, and now contained a lovely pony mare and colt, which were actually gifts from Pippin. His desk, chairs, and so on were found, of course, in the stables, all properly laid out on his study carpet, and with a steaming mug of tea and a plate of seed cakes.
Both the little house and the ponies are quite delightful, really, and Sam actually likes the little house. Cyclamen and Elanor have taken to making up stories surrounding it and its supposed inhabitants, and have more than half convinced themselves the stories are true. Merry also loves the ponies, but isn't yet certain how Pippin convinced Cousin Saradoc to allow him to bring them through the smial.
Ferdibrand Took sends his best wishes, and said to tell you the light in the West is getting stronger, and that you would understand the message.
I am sorry there is more war for Lord Strider to have to fight, although from what I have been told of him, it appears he is well equipped to deal with such. I only hope it does not last long, and that it does not cost too many lives.
Our best wishes to you and yours, and I hope your anxiety proved no worse than my own.
All were laughing over the house and the pony, and Meredin asked, "Did the Captain Pippin really do this?"
Ruvemir shrugged. "I have only the one report as yet. Shall we see what the others say?" He found the letter with Pippin's scrawl and opened it next.
I am quite pleased, for I have managed to actually catch Merry totally off his guard. I bred two of my mares to Stybba, the white pony King Thëoden gave to Merry, and decided I would give Firiel and her colt to him. I had to do a good deal of convincing, but I got Uncle Saradoc to assist me in transforming Merry's study into a stable, and a stall in the stable into his study, and we took the two ponies there. It was well worth it to see his face as he walked in and found himself treading on straw and face to face with mare and foal.
Sam never got his sunflowers planted this year--I put a small house I constructed in the portion of the garden where he usually plants them, and had Elanor quite convinced that fairies lived there. All of the children in Hobbiton and Bywater make pilgrimages there to peer in through the windows, trying to see them light the fireplace.
Our wedding was not so solemn as yours by the sound of it, although I'd have loved to have our King wed the two of us. I so hope we can convince Diamond, Estella, and Rosie to come with us to Gondor and the capitol next summer. They cannot truly imagine how majestic Minas Tirith is. I can't wait to introduce Diamond to Lord Faramir and Aragorn, and of course Merry wants to show them Éomer King and the Lady Éowyn and Rohan.
So, you now live in the house in which we stayed in Minas Tirith, then? Will you look under the carpet in the room in which we stayed, the one in the northeast corner of the house, and see if you can find a gold shirt stud that Merry lost there? He has done nothing but grumble about having lost it every time he must dress formally. Aragorn had a pair made for him, and he was very proud of them. It has a horse's head etched into it. Perhaps Mistress Loren would have found it, or whoever cares for the guest houses at this time.
I am so sorry our King has had to go to war again, for although there is no question he is the greatest warrior born among Men since the days of Elendil and Isildur, he nevertheless hates it. He would far rather serve in the Houses of Healing than on the battlefield. One needed only see him leaning over someone ill or wounded to know such was true. And I would have been honored to witness the birth of the Princess Melian.
As for your Elise being the most beautiful bride in Middle Earth--maybe on that day, but not on Midsummer's. But the most beautiful bride I ever saw was married to her Estel on Midsummers five years ago there in Minas Tirith.
I've sent a letter to him as well, although he won't receive it till he returns from war. Remember me to Legolas and Gimli if you see them. And if you meet a lad named Lasgon or Mistress Loren, remember me to them as well.
Your faithful servant,
Guard of the Citadel and Heir to the Thain and the Took
Lindorn, one of the younger boys, asked, "Who is Estel?"
Celebgil smiled. "It's one of the King's names."
Ruvemir nodded. "I admit, the Lady Arwen is the most beautiful woman I've seen yet, although the picture I've seen of her grandmother indicates the Lady Galadriel was at least as beautiful, if not moreso." He laughed. "Apparently the King of Rohan and the Lord Gimli the Dwarf got into an argument over this very question, for Gimli has declared the Lady Galadriel the most beautiful woman in the history of Arda."
Meredin urged, "Read another."
Dear Master Ruvemir,
I know I got it right this time! I know I did.
I know Pando is brave. Of course he is--he's already faced the most frightening thing possible and survived--me! Oh, I'm just teasing. I'm so glad as he is doing well.
He has written me once from Mistress Andurien's house, and tells me he loves working with clay. But he hasn't told me of Raineth yet. Bet he is afraid I'll tease him about her.
I've had the greatest fun helping Pippin with his trick on Sam. He built a little house and put it in the garden at Bag End, and had a small smudge lit down the chimney to make smoke. Then every morning I'd slip into the garden and put another smudge down the chimney--until Sam caught me. Now he does it every morning, and Elanor and I make up stories about the wee folk who live there.
One day I hope I can come to see Minas Anor. It must be very beautiful. Please send me a picture of the King and the Lady Evenstar. Sam and Cousin Frodo say she is the most beautiful woman they ever saw, although Cousin Frodo said the same about the Lady Galadriel. I'm not certain how both could be the most beautiful, but Cousin Frodo said you'd have to see them both to understand.
Pippin's and Diamond's wedding was very beautiful, and everyone in the Shire who attended the Free Fair went to it as well. I ate and danced with Landenthal Took. He's a North-Took, and one of Diamond's younger cousins. Now Jolly Cotton teases me about my beau. He should talk--he has three lasses he is seeing--can't make up his mind, my mother says.
Give my love to your lady wife, and tell us when you come back North. I hope you can do more work now on the figures. My Da laughs to think the Big Folk of Gondor want to see figures of Hobbits, although he knows the Travelers did something special. Hope to see you soon.
"Who is she?" asked Mardilion.
"A younger cousin to Lord Frodo--she lives in Number Five Bagshot Row. The old smial that was there was where the Lord Frodo was born, although his family removed to Buckland not long after, and later somewhere in Tuckborough."
"This is a real place, the Shire?" asked Lindorn.
"Oh, yes, it's real."
The letter from Mistress Estella indicated the shield was back up on the wall, and the guard was relaxed somewhat; that by Mistress Rosie that Lord Samwise had become fascinated by the stories that Cyclamen and Elanor were making up about the house in the garden; that by Master Saradoc that he was so proud of the manner in which, during the spring's alarms, his son had simply taken up his arms and arranged for patrols around the borders of the Shire, going to the Southfarthing and the Northfarthing himself to see to it while Pippin and the Tooks saw to the Westfarthing's defense. One Man had been found trying to enter the Shire, and he was handed over to the King's Rangers who patrolled the outside of the borders. Since then things had become better, and the Rangers reported less activity by undesirable sorts anywhere in Eriador, although there were reports from Dale that were disturbing. That of Merry's spoke of the pony and the weddings and the birth of Sam's daughter, and the gladness that Melian had been born well and happy, and was surrounded by the love of her parents.
Finally they came to Sam's letter.
Dear Master Ruvemir,
I am so glad to have received your letter, but so sad to hear as old Strider's had to go off to war and to fight again. He's had to do that almost all of his life, you know. And what a time, just after his daughter's born! Not fair.
There was reports of troubles outside the Shire in the Spring, but all seems better now. Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin went out on patrols of the borders and saw to it that the new Shiriffs know what they're doing. Only heard tell of one Man trying to get into the Shire, but no details.
My garden's beautiful, but I had an unexpected addition as I suspect the others have told you in their letters. It's the dearest little Hobbit house, with a chimney that mysteriously smokes every morning, and Elanorellë dotes on it, she does. She and Cyclamen make up stories of them as lives in it constantly, and I love to hear them told. Lately, she's been having her Uncle Frodo visit in the stories, only now he's small enough to live in the little house, and he creeps into her room to watch over her of a night, then into ours to watch over us. She says that when I wake up he takes the place of the figure you carved for me, and sits so still I think as he's the little statue. It makes me smile, it does. Was a time such a story would make me weep, but now it makes me smile.
So I imagine him sitting on the bench by the door, looking down on the Party Field, with his pipe in his hand as he used to afore we went on our adventure, smiling at the Mallorn Tree, telling tales of Lothlorien, of Nimrodel and Amroth, the Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn. The hole is still there, and it waits to be filled one day; but I know now that day will come, when the time is right.
I suspected Strider'd use that to look in on us, as he knew our bairn was due the same time as his. Bless him and his Lady Wife. The two of them are of them as makes the world to shine. And he thinks my Rosie-lass is beautiful, does he? Seeing his taste in womankind, that's quite a compliment. Yes, we named her for her beautiful mum, we did. I hope that somehow Mr. Frodo finds out as well. Maybe Gandalf will tell him. I hope so. I wonder--does the Lady Galadriel have her mirror there as she had in Lorien? I would like that--maybe she can show him my dear lasses and my Frodo-Lad as is named for him.
Sorry to hear of the troubles, but am so glad you wrote the rest as you did. I know he's eased--has to be eased by now. And what you said of the King and the Valar, I am sure you have the right of it.
Tell your Elise as how glad we are she is part of the family, as you are now, too. And we hope to come see you in a year's time, either here in the North or perhaps there in Minas Tirith--sorry, keep forgetting it's Minas Anor, now. My mind doesn't like changing names, I find. But we will see you, one way or another, if we can. Where are the other two monuments to be done? Will your apprentice come with you? Take care now, and come when you can.
"Is that really from the Lord Samwise?" asked one of the boys.
"What would the King use to look in on them with?"
Ruvemir smiled but shook his head. "Not mine to tell you," he said. "You will have to ask the King."
"Does the Lady Galadriel live still in Lothlorien?" asked Gilmirion.
Ruvemir became more solemn. "No, she has left Middle Earth now and gone back to the Undying Lands. She was standing beside the Lord Frodo on the Grey Ship that took them from the Grey Havens."
"I remember her when she came with the Lord Elrond and the Lady Arwen. I'd always thought they were only stories told, until they came. According to the old tales my grandsire read to me when I was a child, she was born in the Undying Lands before the time of the Trees. Yet she is so very beautiful."
"Yes, so I am told." Ruvemir sighed. "I find myself jealous of those who were here to see them, the Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, the Lord Elrond and the Lord Erestor and so many of the others who came for that wedding."
"The King himself looked almost an Elf the day they were wed. His face was shining with blessedness and joy."
Ruvemir was truly amazed. Gilmirion had been the most taciturn of all those who had served Varondil, yet now he was showing depths of feelings such as the mannikin would have never suspected in Gilmirion's nature.
"I know that when I have seen him look at his wife, you can tell his heart is lifted with delight, even when he is drawn and tired."
"He's made so much better for all, our King Elessar. I am so glad that we can serve him as he serves us."
Man and youth looked into one another's eyes, and found each shared that same vision. Ruvemir nodded. "Yes," he said, finally, "it is good to know that we serve him as he serves us. He teaches us the nature of honor through his example, as do those who were with him and the Lord Frodo on their long journey."
Armanthol shook his head in wonder. "I've never seen anyone like to him before, the King. One moment he is grim and speaking of creeping upon others disguised as a Northern Ranger, and the next he is telling us of his awareness of the joys and sorrows of his lands, and the Light of Kings."
Ruvemir looked back to Aramanthol's eyes. "I know. He's a Man with many talents, many gifts, and is given to responsibility. He has had to learn to be relentless in fighting the enemies of the Free Peoples, but his is the heart of a healer as well."
"And he honors the Lord Frodo?"
"Yes, with all his being."
"What are the other commissions you are to do?"
"The Steward of Arnor tells me the Northern Dúnedain wish a memorial done for all of the Fellowship of the Ring, for the King as the Ranger Strider, for our Lord Captain Boromir, for the great Wizard Mithrandir, for Prince Legolas and Lord Gimli, for the Lord Frodo and Lord Sam and Sir Merry and Captain Pippin, and for Bill the pony who followed them until they came to Moria. I have yet to learn precisely where they wish this done--perhaps in Annúminas, or perhaps near Bree or near Imladris, where the Fellowship was formed.
"The other is for the Elves, and is to show the riding of the Elves who left with the Lord Frodo, and is to be placed near Mithlond, the one true remaining Elven city in the North. Although from what Lord Samwise said in Brandy Hall it may be that there are few there left."
"How does he know?" asked Meredin.
"He rode with the Lord Frodo at the last. He saw the growing weakness in his Master, the realization that he would die if he remained here, the acceptance that he was too badly wounded still to recover. The Lord Samwise rode by his side at the end, received his blessing, bade him goodbye--until they meet again."
"When will that be?"
"I suspect after Mistress Rosie has died, then Sam will go to the Havens himself, take his own Grey Ship across the Straight Path to Elvenhome."
"And they will live ever there?" asked Lindorn.
"No, only until it is their time to give up their lives at last. Then they will go where the Elves cannot come until Arda is no more--if then."
"I don't know I want to go there myself if there is no chance for Elves to come there, too," said Celebgil.
"We do not know the Creator's mind regarding any of us, save that He loves us, His children."
"Well," said Meredin, "as Elves are as much Children of Iluvatar as are Men, then there is a good chance that they will join us there, or we will join them wherever there is to go next."
Armanthol sighed. "A few weeks ago I did not know there were truly Elves in Middle Earth, or Dwarves--much less Hobbits. Now I have seen Elves and Dwarves, and have heard letters from the Pheriannath. What other strange creatures are there in this world?"
Ruvemir laughed. "A year ago I'd met none of them myself. Although the time of Mankind is now upon Middle Earth--Elves are leaving for the Undying Lands, and the Orcs are few now, probably won't remain now that there is no Dark Lord to remember the way of their twisting. I doubt that the Ents will remain where Men can see them easily for many more years--they will most like once more isolate themselves in Fangorn and become once more only a memory. And Dorlin has told me how his people are dwindling as well. How long it will be before there are no others of the Children of Iluvatar and the creatures of the Enemies than Mankind, who can say?"
"I'm glad I won't be here to see that," Celebgil said, quietly. "I hate that the end of the Eldar Days is now."
"I doubt the Elves will linger long beyond the death of our Lord King," Ruvemir said, now sadly. "He is the last King of the Eldar Days, the last to bring all the Children of Iluvatar together. A great light will leave this world when he at last lays him down." He looked to Celebgil's eyes. "Like you, I hope I don't live past him, see perhaps predominantly Men left in this world, the only memory of the diversity of the Children of Iluvatar in the tales from before our times."
The apprentices all nodded their agreement.
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