13. Knights in Arms and a Tale of Leaving
Knights in Arms and a Tale of Leaving
Over tea, which turned out to be another full meal, Ruvemir asked both of the knights if they would be willing to wear their uniforms from Gondor and Rohan for him for a study. They looked to one another questioningly, then in unison turned back to him and indicated assent.
Half an hour later they were all in the library with them posed before the fireplace. Lord Samwise wandered in, saw them, shook his head, and searched the shelves till he found a book he apparently approved of, then sat down to read it. A group of smaller children came in to watch, then older ones, accompanied by Ririon and three dogs. A cat, which had been happily sleeping on a sofa, commented on the invasion of its territory with a hissed invective and stalked deliberately out, turning about to stare disdainfully for a second at one of the dogs who'd made a move toward it before disappearing out the door.
He'd had both knights remove their helmets, which he noted were well kept and polished, and these sat now on a low table near one of the couches. Several of the children were drawn to them, and Ririon went with them. He could hear Ririon carefully explaining to the other children about the helmet from Gondor, explaining the significance of the wings, stars, and tree, and the purpose of the nasal and other features.
"You mean you've seen this kind of helmet before?" asked a girl.
"It's the helmet worn by the Guards of the Citadel in the city of Minas Anor where I was born and raised," Ririon explained. "And what's more, I have seen this very helmet before, with Sir Peregrin wearing it, and more than once. He wore it the day the Rohirrim rode back to their own land out of respect to them and their new king. Sir Meriadoc wore his that day, too, for the same reason. He could have gone with them if he'd wished, but our King Elessar asked that he be allowed to stay in Gondor until the Rohirrim returned to fetch the body of Théoden King for his formal burial according to their customs. Often in the days that came between Sir Meriadoc would stand the honor guard for Théoden King outside the tomb where his body rested, and often Sir Peregrin stood guard before the throne of the King Elessar."
"How do you stand guard?" asked a boy.
"By standing still with sword at the ready, or with spear at the ready if you are a pikeman."
Ruvemir laughed, and called out, "Or, if one is an archer, with bow and arrow at the ready."
They turned to him, and an older boy asked, "Have you seen an archer standing guard?"
"Yes," he said as he worked on catching the shadows on Pippin's face. "In Casistir. The King was accompanied by one of his kinsmen who is an archer, and he had his bow with an arrow nocked loosely the whole time we were speaking."
Pippin looked interested. "Would that have been Lord Hardorn?" he asked. "I didn't get to know him well, but he was a fine bowman. Even Legolas was impressed by his skill, and Legolas could shoot the wings off a fly in the air, if he were so inclined."
Ruvemir agreed that it had been Lord Hardorn, then thought of a question he'd wondered about. "Does the Lord Elessar have brothers?"
Merry and Pippin exchanged glances, and Merry answered, "He was an only child, but had foster brothers."
It was Sam who truly answered the question. "He was raised in Rivendell from his second year, after his dad Arathorn was killed by orcs. He was raised as if Lord Elrond was his father, which is why he called him Adar from time to time. So I'm sure he grew up thinking as the Lords Elladan and Elrohir was his elder brothers, for all that they looked to be the same age as him or younger when we saw them in Rivendell and Minas Tirith. And they were both superb archers, too. You live a few thousand years, and you'd probably get to be real good with a bow."
The older boy snorted. "Folk don't live a few thousand years," he objected.
"You do if you're an Elf, less'n someone kills you first."
"Will Frodo live to be thousands of years old in Elvenhome?" asked the little girl.
"No, he won't. He's not an Elf--he's a Hobbit."
"But if only Elves can go there...."
"It was a special grace, 'cause he was the Ringbearer. The Valar was asked by the Lady Arwen, her Adar, and Gandalf hisself, and they granted that grace. And he deserved it if anyone ever did. No one else could of got as far with that cursed thing as he did."
"How do you know he won't live thousands of years?"
"'Cause I asked Lord Elrond hisself and he told me so. Said mortals can't live beyond their time there any more than here."
Another boy objected, "But old Bilbo Baggins lived beyond his time. My gammer told me so."
Sam fixed him with a stare. Finally he said, "You know how long the Old Took lived?"
"One hundred thirty."
"Well, I saw Mr. Bilbo the day he turned one hundred and thirty one, and I'll tell you, he looked old, old and frail. He wasn't going to be here much longer, and Lord Elrond said as much, also. Said he only held on for two reasons--to go with Mr. Frodo on the ship to Elvenhome, and to make sure he passed up the Old Took. After all, the Old Took was his gaffer."
One of the children looked at Pippin. "Is that true? Was the Old Took old Mr. Bilbo's gaffer?"
Pippin, whose face had remained uncharacteristically solemn while he stood in his uniform, nodded slowly. "Yes, old Gerontius was his granddad, and was great granddad to Frodo, Merry, and me."
"So will you live to be a hundred thirty, too?"
"I hope not!"
"I saw Bilbo that day, too. Well, not that day, but a few after, at the
Havens. I don't want to get that frail."
"But then you'd be dead!"
Pippin looked at the older boy who'd said that, and said, "Believe me, Evro, there are lots of things worse than being dead."
Evro shot back, "Name one."
"Being a Ringwraith, for one. Being slave to Sauron for over an age of the world? No, no thank you. And then, to think no Man can kill you and then find that maybe Men can't but Hobbits and women can? I suspect he was terribly surprised, you know, once he realized he was dead."
Merry shuddered. "Don't talk about it, Pippin. It was horrible enough living it. I don't want to remember it any more than I have to."
Pippin was immediately contrite. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Merry. Please forgive me. Didn't mean to reawaken the pain. Is your arm okay?"
Merry flexed the fingers of his right hand. "Seems to be all right."
Pippin nodded with relief.
"I know one," Sam said unexpectedly. "Hating joy so much you'll do anything to rob others of it. That's a hundred times worse than being dead."
"Like Sharkey and his Big Men?" asked a child of middle years.
"He was just copying his masters, Sauron and Morgoth. But, yes, like them."
"Was Sharkey always bad?"
Sam screwed up his face in thought. "Always? No. He started out pretty good from what old Gandalf told me, in fact. Just got to the point he thought as he could decide for everyone else how they ought to live."
"Mr. Lotho thought he could do that, too."
Sam sighed. "Yes, I know, rest him."
"What really happened to Mr. Lotho?" asked the boy Evro.
"He got murdered on Sharkey's orders."
Several children shivered. Evro continued, "I heard that Worm person ate him."
Sam shook his head sadly. "No, that was just more of Sharkey's lies to stir folks up. No, we found his bones, and he hadn't been et. Wasn't treated with proper respect, but he hadn't been et. We gave the bodies of the Big Men as was killed more respect than Wormtongue gave Lotho's." Merry nodded agreement.
Evro's face darkened. "Well, Lotho didn't deserve respect after what he done, bringing Men in here to boss us around. They killed my big brother just because he stood up to them. No Men better get in my way. I'll show them they can't boss me around!"
Sam had dropped his book, risen, and come to stand over the lad so quickly that Ruvemir was shocked. He easily lifted the boy to his feet by his shirtfront. "You listen here, Evro Brandybuck. We didn't go to the Black Land and back, Mr. Frodo and me, or them--" with a gesture toward Merry and Pippin "--through the destruction of Isengard and the fight of Minas Tirith to hear a lot of Orc talk from the likes of you. You only seen a few Men in your life, and we've seen lots--bad and good. Our King is a Man, and don't you forget that. He's a fine Man, one of those as makes the world shine. And he sent these--" indicating Ririon and Ruvemir "--to make a memorial for Mr. Frodo and us, so's the Men of Gondor don't forget what we done to help rid the world of evil so bad it makes Sharkey and his men look petty, like a lot of little ants stinging you. Yes, it hurts, but it won't kill you unless you let them breed and get hold. And another thing--many of them 'Big Men' wasn't properly Men at all--that Saruman was breeding Men with Orcs in Isengard, and a good few of those as was here was half Orcs at least. And don't go asking how he done it, for I don't know and don't even want to think as how it was done." He gave a shudder of his own. "Most Men are decent and fine, or selfish and petty, same as any Hobbit or Dwarf as you'd ever meet. And no way was Sharkey a Man. Understand?"
Evro nodded, and Sam let go of his shirt, put his hands on his hips and looked around. One of the other children asked, "But who's Saruman?"
"Who was Saruman, you mean. Started out as one sent by the Valar to protect Middle Earth from the likes of Sauron, but fell to evil, and became Sharkey. Tried to make hisself the next Dark Lord." Sam shook his head with disgust. "All of them as tries to make themselves lords of the whole of Middle Earth come to a dark end. You'd think as they'd learn. No plain Hobbit sense. Just goes to show as living more than a lifetime isn't always a good thing, don't you know. Forget what they was intended to be and tries to make themselves boss of all, and then where does that lead them? I'm just glad the Elves as I've met never got that way." He turned and went back to his chair and his book. "At least Gandalf stayed true, him and Radagast. They've stayed true to what they was sent to do, and Gandalf, when his job was done, went back so as to not fall victim to the same fate as Saruman. The King hisself called him the wisest of the Maiar."
All were quiet for a time, and suddenly Pippin began to sing. It was a song in Sindarin, a lament for Turin and Nienor, Ruvemir realized. All listened, enthralled, till he was through. "Where'd you learn that, Pippin?" asked an older girl. "It sounds sad."
"It is sad. I heard it first in Rivendell, but I didn't actually learn it till I was in Minas Tirith. The King and Queen taught it to me one day when I was on guard duty."
"Is it about the great Elves?"
"No, the great Elves wrote it about one of the great Men who lived among them and who fought the forces of Morgoth with them."
Evro muttered, "No one sings songs about Hobbits, though."
Merry looked at the lad and gave a sigh of exasperation. "You are bent on being contrary today, aren't you, Evro? You were at the Free Fair at Michel Delving the first summer after we returned. The Lords Elladan and Elrohir sang to us the song that was written about Hobbits. They sang the Lay of Frodo of the Nine Fingers."
"That was about Frodo?"
"Yes, about Frodo son of Drogo, and Samwise son of Hamfast--with brief comments about Meriadoc son of Saradoc and Peregrin son of Paladin."
"That was about you?"
"Yes, that was about us, but mostly about Frodo and Sam. They went to the brink of despair and death to stop Sauron taking us all, and don't you ever forget it."
Ruvemir finally spoke. "That is why I'm to create the memorial for them."
All pondered this in silence. A movement at the back of the room drew Ruvemir's attention, and he realized the Master of the Hall was there, and had probably heard much of what had been said.
Suddenly Pippin said, "Merry? I'm hungry. Got an apple?"
Merry sighed. "Do you think I've got my pockets stuffed with apples under my mail, Pip?"
"Here," Sam said from his chair, and producing an apple from his pocket he lobbed it at Pippin, who caught it one handed and called his thanks.
Merry shook his head. "Uncanny, Sam is."
The oldest girl walked over to Sam's chair and sat on the floor at his feet.
"Master Samwise, will you tell us a story?"
"What kind of story?"
"Tell us about going to the Havens with Frodo. You've never told us that."
The littlest girl came over and sat herself in the biggest girl's lap. "Were there Elves, too?" Many of the other children followed the two girls, and sat themselves expectantly at the gardener's feet. The Master moved to a far chair and sat, obviously as interested as any of the children.
Sam's eyes were focused on a memory only he could see. He closed the book with his finger inside, marking his place. "Elves? Oh, yes, there was Elves. The Lord Elrond, and the Lady Galadriel, as beautiful as the morning of the world, her golden hair a veil of sunshine and moonshine at the same time. She were in joy, for she was going home, at long last. So long ago she left Aman to come here to Middle Earth, and the leaving had been bitter. Now at last she could go back, see her kin. Only one sadness, that her Lord Husband had not chosen to go with her. His heart is still here, in Middle Earth. Oh, he'll follow in time, but who's to say as when that will be?
"A few days afore Frodo left, he'd had a dinner for Mr. Paladin and Mr. Saradoc and their lady wives, and during it he got weak, and your Master Saradoc helped him to his bed. We could all see as he was very ill, very tired. I didn't sleep much that night, for sadness. I woke early, and was restless, so I walked down the Hill to the woods at the bottom, where we used to go to explore when I was a little lad. I was membering those days when I saw as there were an Elf there, watching me. He was the Lord Erestor of Rivendell, and he had a bundle in his hands, which he gave to me, telling me as the Lord Elrond had sent it.
"I took it back to Bag End and brought it to my Master, who was still lying in his bed, looking pale. It had herbs in it, along with other things, herbs for his strengthening. And I gave them to him, and he was strengthened, enough to do what was necessary to prepare to leave.
"We met the Elves in the Woody End, singing a hymn to the Lady Elbereth. And when I realized at last as where it was they were going, I was sad. He spoke some, but not a lot, for it took almost all he had just to ride. The Lord Erestor watched by them, him and Mr. Bilbo, and the Lord Elrond hisself rode by Mr. Bilbo, who drowsed on his pony's back as he rode. Lord Elrond and Mr. Frodo cared for Mr. Bilbo, making sure as he didn't fall, and the Lord Erestor rode to watch for weakness in Mr. Frodo. The other Elves, the Lord Gildor Inglorion and many of his folk and folk from Rivendell and from Lothlorien, rode around us and sang to comfort and strengthen us. And the Lady herself laid her hand on my head in blessing and comfort, and rode by me.
"When we stopped, the Lord Elrond hisself prepared more herbs to the strengthening of both of them, and then we rode on. And the Elves delighted to give them honor.
"Frodo spoke but little, and he was almost in a trance much of the way. But his heart was eased, and his breathing unlabored, and that was a blessing. And when he saw us, he'd smile in recognition. But always he stayed by Mr. Bilbo, honoring him as the Elves was honoring both."
"They were honoring you, too, Sam," said Merry softly.
Sam shrugged. "Maybe. It was good to ride by the Lady, I know that. And the Lord Elrond comforted me in the times as when we rested, and I think once he gave me a draught of herbs, too. Part of the journey I member only as riding in a haze of golden Light, and a clear Light was shining about my Master. I think as I were seeing him and Mr. Bilbo as they do, seeing the Light of Life as is within them. I could see the Light as shines from the Elves, too. Beautiful Light.
"The last time as we stopped I sat looking at Mr. Frodo. Can't tell you what he were looking at, but I don't think it were anywhere in Middle Earth. His face was very pale, his lips without color. Lord Elrond was preparing the draughts for him and Mr. Bilbo, but when he brought them he gave the one for Mr. Frodo to me to give him. I touched his shoulder and he looked up at me, and I held out the cup, held it to his lips, and he drank, humble and grateful, then looked up at me. Then he smiled, that beautiful smile as was his alone, and he whispered, 'Thank you, Sam--thank you for all. Live Sam--live twice as hard, for us both.' And he reached out to take my hand. The Lord Elrond had come behind me, and his hand was on my shoulder, and he took the cup from me with his other hand. I drew--I drew him up, drew Frodo to his feet, and I could see the strength returning, his color returning--a bit, at least. He mounted Strider, and rode over by Mr. Bilbo again. But this time the Lord Elrond indicated I should ride by Frodo's right hand as Bilbo was on his left, and as we rode I often held his hand, and he'd smile. He was working right hard at being present. And the song of the Elves was of healing. The Lady rode to my right, and often her hand was on my head or my shoulder as we rode."
Sam gave a deep sigh, and Ruvemir realized all eyes were riveted on the gardener as he sat there, his book forgotten in his hands. And Ruvemir realized he had turned the page automatically in his own booklet, and was drawing reflexively, catching Sam, Sam's dignity, Sam's sadness, Sam's pride. Pippin stood at full attention, the soldier of Gondor giving honor; Merry stood with his hands resting on the pommel of his sword, its tip on the granite of the floor paving before him, doing the same for Rohan--for Rohan and the Shire.
"Then we reached the Grey Havens with the remains of the Elvish city about it at sunset. We rode to the quay, and dismounted one last time. The horses as the Elves had brought were led forward, but Strider's and Bill's reins were wrapped about a tree, for Strider was too much a pony for a mortal.
"Gandalf was there already, and Elves was leading Shadowfax aboard. It was said in Rohan the Valar brought the Mearas, the Lords of Horses, to Middle Earth when they came at the end of the First Age to fight against Morgoth, and gave them to those of the Edain, those of Men as joined in the Alliance against the Enemy then, who was the fathers of the Rohirrim. So I guess for Shadowfax it were a going home as much as for Gandalf. Gandalf was standing there in majesty, all in shining white. I could see the Light of Anor about him and knew at last whose service he were sworn to. I could see the Ring of Fire on his hand, made of red gold and set with a great ruby. And Elrond went forward to stand behind him, with the Lady and the other Elvish Lords and Ladies who was leaving on this Ship. And I could see the Ring of Water on Elrond's hand, a pale sapphire set in pale gold. And I could at last see Nenya, the Ring of Air, on the Lady Galadriel's hand, a great stone of adamant set in mithril, shining with the Light of her Being.
"The rest of the Elvish horses was being led aboard when we heard a noise from behind, and it were Merry and Pippin arriving at last. Frodo and I were standing either side of Mr. Bilbo, who was awake now and had been looking on Frodo with care. Frodo was frustrated and relieved at the same time as they hollered out as it were Gandalf who give him away this time. And Mr. Bilbo tightened his grip on my hand and smiled with relief for me. I heard him whisper to me, 'I warned Gandalf he'd try to sneak away again. In wanting to spare others he manages to give more pain without meaning to.' And they came forward, leaving Jewel and Stybba to wait, and hugged the old Hobbit. Then Gandalf came forward to speak to us.
"Frodo and Mr. Bilbo had to go forward on their own, I saw, had to choose at the last. There were no hesitation in Mr. Bilbo, and Lord Elrond reached out his hand to him and led him on board. The Lady Galadriel looked to Frodo and gave her joyous smile, then looked to me. When I shook my head she smiled even bigger and went aboard. Then Gandalf said his goodbyes and moved down to the gangplank, and he waited. Frodo embraced each of us. He didn't speak--past it, I fear. He kissed Merry and Pippin as he hugged them, then held me a long time, and I think he tried to say as how much he loved me, but I felt that more than heard it. And he kissed me in blessing. And then he turned. He were a bit afraid, I think, but he looked in Gandalf's eyes and the fear passed, and he went forward, trusting. He were smiling, like a child taking its dad's hand, as he looked up at him as Gandalf took his hand and led him aboard. They stood by him, the Lady and Gandalf, as he took the Lady's Starglass out of his pocket and held it up so we could see it as long as we could. And he were smiling in relief as he stood there.
"At last we could see no more, and as the dawn neared Círdan the Shipwright came and walked by us as we went to the ponies, and bent to speak to me. Then we started for home, the three of us, taking turns leading Strider."
"What did Círdan say to you?" asked the biggest girl.
"Just never you mind. It was private and nothing to do with now. But I'd trust a ship as he built."
"What became of Strider?"
"Frodo gave her to Rosie, so she has a pony to ride when we travel together about the Shire."
"How come she didn't come with you?"
Sam shook his head. "You are one for questions tonight. She's with child and in no shape to be gallivanting about the Shire on a pony at this moment. And I must be off to home tomorrow to see to her, while Master Ruvemir goes with the Thain and Mr. Pippin to see the Great Smial." And he opened his book again in a manner that made it plain the story was over.
Ruvemir turned back to his study of the two knights, thinking about the three of them and the fourth he'd not seen, and sighed.
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.