24. Yule Coming In
Yule Coming In
He was not up all night reading Sam's own story, but Ruvemir did finish it in one sitting, and the next morning he returned it to the study, where he found Sam was entertaining Mayor Whitfoot.
"Master Ruvemir!" the plump Hobbit greeted him. "A fine Yule to you! I understand you are making excellent progress with your project now?"
"A fine Yule to you as well, sir," the sculptor returned. "Yes, I am now confident I will be able to do a fitting memorial to those who came from the Shire. And we are very grateful for the welcome and courtesy we have been shown. If more people were like the Shirefolk, there would be far fewer woes in the world."
"Not sure about that," Sam commented around his pipestem. "More like it would be just a different sort of woes rather than fewer. Us mortals just seem to be fit for bothering ourselves and one another, seems to me."
"Perhaps you are right, Master Samwise. However, I believe our woes would be more easily and practically handled if we were more like to the Shirefolk."
Sam smiled and shrugged. "You finished that all?" he asked.
"Yes, and I thank you." Ruvemir realized his voice had become quieter and very respectful, and he hoped this wouldn't trigger another bout of self-deprecation on the part of his host; but Sam just nodded with that mixture of solemnity and dignity he was coming to admire. "And I compliment the author, whom I find to be very insightful." Ah, just a hint of a pleased smile. He decided to go no further.
"What book is that, Sam?" asked the Mayor.
"A book I lent to Master Ruvemir to aid him in his research," Sam replied. He looked a moment at the sculptor as if making up his mind, then asked, "You said you was given an education in history so as to help you portray historical events?"
"Yes. As a sculptor I am often required to touch on historical and occasionally legendary subjects in my commissions, so it was seen as imperative that I know sufficient of the matters to do a creditable job and that I not misrepresent those I am picturing."
"How is education handled in Gondor?"
He thought. "There are open schools in most communities where all may send their children to at least learn to read, write, do practical figuring, and learn the basic history and laws of our land. Then the guild charters for the professions and trades require certain education must be given to those who apprentice in each profession to best prepare us for the work we will do. As a sculptor I had to have a knowledge of the history of our people and those peoples with whom we interact on a regular basis. I have had to learn sufficient of metallurgy as well as casting to understand how metals are obtained from ores, how they are purified, mixed and heated to cast, and the proportions best suited for making bronze or pot metals. I must be able to recognize clays and the kinds of stones we work in nature and know how they are extracted or quarried and handled safely; how the crystal structure lies so as to split or avoid splitting the stones I use; how our sculpting waxes are obtained and worked and disposed of properly; how to construct kilns and obtain and mix pigments. I have had to learn sufficient of engineering to recognize what kinds of foundations will support the work I will produce. I have had to learn to project the weights of different kinds of sculptures as well as projecting costs for obtaining proper materials and so on. I have had to learn how to keep records for tax purposes. All of this on top of the structure of the bodies of the Men and creatures I sculpt and how to use the tools of my profession.
"Had Ririon continued to serve in the kitchens of inns, within three years he would have been required by law to be formally apprenticed, and given instruction in reading, writing, and figuring, and then given a thorough education in the science of food. I am told the studies are very demanding."
"What is demanding about knowing how to cook?" asked the Mayor.
"Those who cook for the public must know very much to best protect the public health. They must learn to recognize signs of taint in vegetables, fruits, meats and meat animals, broths, oils, and so on; how to control vermin as well knowing the taints they carry; proper storage and disposal of foodstuffs so as to not endanger the public or the water supplies. They must know the common diseases and parasites likely to be present in animals and how to keep such from endangering the health and lives of those consuming the meats drawn from them. They must know about the strictures for cleanliness in storage, preparing, cooking, serving, and disposal of foods and the vessels they touch in all stages. At least five years of education and apprenticeship are required before a person may apply to become a public cook in his own right within the guild. And those who are not part of the guild are not allowed to serve food to the public within the cities of Gondor--there is too much chance for causing widespread illness."
"Then," said Sam, "education is seen as important within Gondor?"
"Yes, and I am told within Arnor as well. The Lord King has told me all his kin are trained to speak, read and write Westron as well as either Adunaic or Sindarin, usually both; all must know the history of their own people and their relationship to the Elves and Dwarves. Those who guard the borders of the Breelands and the Shire and other such settlements must also know the histories of these peoples, he said, that they respect their customs and ways. He told me that the histories of his people tell of the courage and sacrifice shown by the Shirefolk in the final battle between the armies of King Arvedui and the Witch-king of Angmar, both those who went to support the King and those within the Shire who afterward aided the refugees from Arthedain to reach safety."
Ruvemir noted that Sam had a small smile, as if he had already been aware of all this, while the face of the Mayor showed sheer amazement. Will Whitfoot looked at Sam, who quickly assumed a look of innocent bewilderment. "Then it appears," Sam said, "that our schools are definitely in keeping with the practices of the realm--may even be a bit behind those of Arnor."
"Who'd have thought that reading, writing, and figuring would be seen as so important?" the Mayor commented.
"And history and languages as well?" asked Sam, mostly, Ruvemir thought, to convince the Mayor of their importance. "We are part of the realm again, after all."
The round Hobbit shook himself. "Then it does look as if there will need to be contributions from the Shire in general to the schools," he said. "Never let it be said that Hobbits were less capable of learning than Men." He again shook his head. "Who'd have thought?" he repeated. "Well, then, with that settled I must be off."
Sam rose politely and saw his guest to the door, and returned to find Ruvemir waiting for him in the hallway. "He and some others have been fighting the idea that all of us within the Shire owe it to our bairns to make sure as they get a good chance to learn. I don't know as how long the ban on Big Folk entering the Shire will hold once Strider's gone. Oh, he'll be with us probably at least the next hundred years, but once he's out of the way we'd do well to be able to take on anybody; and we won't be able to do that less'n we can at least match them for thinking."
Ruvemir's respect for the sagacity of his host rose even higher.
"Anyways, are you hungry? You missed first breakfast, but I have second breakfast about ready to go on. It'll be light, but I could give you some extra if you wish."
It had snowed again overnight, and Ririon joined Sam and Folco in shoveling out the lane and walkways into the holes on the Row while once again Ruvemir split wood for the stove and fireplaces. After completing about the same amount as he'd done the last time, he went back to his room where he was working on a gift for Rosie. He then wrote a letter to Elise, and prepared it for the quick post; and followed that with another half hour of reading from the Red Book.
Miriel was in the kitchen when he came out, demonstrating how to prepare battercakes filled with preserves to Rosie, who sat holding her daughter on her lap.
As the next day was Yule, there was a good deal of preparation of food being finished, and Ruvemir and Ririon found themselves pressed into service to take some baskets to the homes on the Row, and then found the recipients of Bag End's largess had their own baskets to return back up the lane.
As they made their way back up the Hill with their burdens, Ruvemir saw many of the menfolk of the Hill area bringing faggots of wood down to the field below it where they were preparing for the night's bonfire. It was the first time Ruvemir had given his full attention to the field, and he found his eyes drawn to the tree that grew toward the center of it. He paused at the sight of it in the early dusk of the winter day. It still bore golden leaves, and in the gathering shadows its trunk shone silver. Its shape was beautiful--as beautiful as the White Tree of Gondor, but markedly different.
"What are you looking at?" Ririon asked.
"The tree in the field," Ruvemir responded.
"The Mallorn tree? It is beautiful, isn't it?"
"When did you examine it?"
"When we were playing snowforts one of the lads took me to see it. It has a different thrum to it than the White Tree, but it is fully as alive."
"Yes. The White Tree has--has a thrum to it when you touch its bark. You can feel it is alive. You can feel this is alive, too, but it feels different. They call the field there the Party Field. It was where they held the great party where old Bilbo Baggins disappeared, when Lord Frodo came of age. There was a great oak tree, but it was cut down by Sharkey's Big Men. Lord Samwise received a silver nut as a gift while the Travelers were on the quest, and he planted it beside the trunk of the dead tree. It has grown into a Mallorn tree, which is an Elven tree from the Undying Lands and Lothlorien. So the lads have been told by Lord Samwise."
The sun was setting rapidly, yet even as the day went dark, the silver radiance of the tree's bark could still be seen. Ruvemir remembered the letter Sam had written to his King, and the comment about the Mallorn being so beautiful it could make one weep, and he realized it was no exaggeration.
After a hurried supper, the smial's fires were all put out before all bundled up warmly to go down to the field for the lighting of the bonfire. All were singing and laughing, and many, Ruvemir noted, carried baskets of food and drink. More families were coming from Hobbiton proper, many bringing additional faggots of wood to add to the pile. A wagon arrived, several casks of what was probably ale and cider on it, and soon the menfolk began to gather around it.
Rosie had insisted she would not suffer for going to see the bonfire, and after making sure she was well wrapped in a thick cloak Sam had taken her arm and conducted her down the Hill with great ceremony. Folco carried Frodo-Lad, and Ruvemir and Ririon were each holding one of Elanor's hands, which appeared to delight her.
Each home had brought its Troubles List, and all were waiting with eagerness for the fire to be lit. As the firedrill was worked by teams of Hobbits, the womenfolk and children sang songs that appeared to be ancient. Many of the words appeared to be nonsensical, but Ruvemir sensed they probably reflected the ancient language of those who'd founded the Shire, and wondered what they'd once meant.
It took almost half an hour for the fire to finally catch, and then Hobbits about the pile were grabbing up torches to light from the bonfire to carry home to relight the hearths of each hole or house. As the torchbearers hurried off, those who remained sang them on their way as a chosen individual from each home set the Troubles List on the bonfire to scour away the ills of the past year. Rosie lay that of Bag End on the fire, and Ruvemir saw that it was short. The one line he managed to read off of it before it caught fire was Grief at Missing Him. Apparently Sam and Rosie felt this to be the greatest ill facing them, and otherwise felt blest. Well, Ruvemir thought as he watched Rosie's shining face, if any family deserved the blessing of a year short on ills, it was the one belonging to Samwise Gamgee.
On the morning of Second Yule Ruvemir was roused as small hands pulled at his blankets. "It's Yule, Master Ruvemir," Elanor announced clearly. "Wake up for Yule!"
Soon he was in the dining room as all gathered about the table for the first meal of the New Year. Elanor was impatient as only a small child on Yule could be, and the sculptor noted the amusement in her father's face as he teased her that he couldn't eat fast for he had a toothache, and it might take him all day to finish his first breakfast.
"Sam-Dad," she finally said, frustrated, "I don't believe you at all. Now, you eat or you won't get your presents." And when her father laughed and caught her up to kiss her she pushed him away, then relented and kissed him back.
Soon sleighbells could be heard as guests began to arrive. A tent and temporary fencing had been reared in the field below as a shelter for the ponies, and a bale of hay and water had been brought out to it by Hal Gamgee soon after first breakfast. Once the ponies were freed from their harnesses and settled in the makeshift paddock, folk began dispersing to various holes or climbing the lane to Bag End.
Rosie's family was much like her, Ruvemir saw, perhaps a bit more slender than the average Hobbit, he thought, and all obviously observant and intelligent. Sam's sister Marigold proved to be far more delicately featured than her brother, and she had a bright smile and, he learned, a quick wit. Daisy and her husband were dragging a sled filled with gifts and two children behind them from Number Three, and Hal carried up a great basket from which steam wafted in one hand while supporting his father's elbow with the other. Marigold's husband Young Tom Cotton conducted up the Widow Rumble, who proved to be a smiling lady full of comments on how beautiful it was this year with the unexpected lingering of the snow.
Elanor and Frodo-Lad and their cousins were passed from hand to hand as all examined and kissed them and exclaimed over them and their growth over the past year; and all the elder Hobbits were enjoying prolonging the wait of the children for the important business of the day--presents!
Miriel had crafted a doll for Elanor, sculpting the face with her stitches, and dressing it in an exquisitely detailed dress. Elanor appeared to be in awe of it, and gently caressed it with a finger, her eyes shining. "It is beautiful," she said in a whisper. Miriel smiled. "What's her name, Mistress Miriel?"
"You may name her whatever you please."
"Can I name her after the Queen?"
"I'm sure she would be honored, Elanor, to know you named your doll after her."
"Her name is Evenstar," Elanor said as she gently cradled her gift.
Rosie felt her package for several moments before she opened it. "It is heavy, but still soft." Finally she pulled off the wrappings to reveal one of Miriel's most beautiful shawls, inside which she found a small carving of her daughter's face. Her eyes shone with joy. "Oh, but they are so very beautiful. Thank you so very, very much." Her brother Tom examined the small figure, and his face shone with pride.
Ririon had carved a chain of three wooden circles out of fruitwood for Frodo-Lad, which the boy accepted and shook delightedly, then put one into his mouth and chewed on it.
Sam accepted the box given him by Ririon with a smile. He opened it to reveal first a vest made for him by Miriel, and under that, the small figure of Strider. He looked up with surprise. "You're giving me the figure of the King?"
"I'd thought of giving it to Sir Pippin, but I think it will mean more to you. You've seen the same Light in both of them. And you know he's grieving just as you are."
Sam took the figure out of the box and held it tenderly. "Between the two of them, they saved Middle Earth."
Ruvemir shook his head. "From what I've heard, every member of the Fellowship was needed to fully defeat the Enemy. And you and the Lord Frodo between you completed the quest." Sam sighed, and nodded, and ran his finger over the figure's cheek, smiling gently.
There was a large package for Ruvemir, and he opened it with curiosity. In it was the blue mantle that the Lord Faramir had gifted to Frodo. Sam smiled as Ruvemir lifted it out of the wrapping. "He'd be very glad, I think, to see it go to someone as could wear it and would honor it, considering who had gifted it to him." And for Ririon, there was the surcoat that matched the mantle. "You can wear the surcoat for a time yet, young Master Ririon, and again, he'd be glad to know the boy he saved from striking has become such a likely lad. Now you have a couple things to member him by." Both sculptor and ward were totally overwhelmed.
Ruvemir was very interested to see what gift Folco Boffin would make to his sister. Over the past few days he and Miriel had spent a fair amount of time together, talking of their childhoods, their memories of their parents, how they had come to their professions, what they wished to do with their futures, their thoughts on children.... Yesterday afternoon Folco had ridden to his home and back, and he and Rosie had gone together into the small office off the kitchen for a short time, and then Rosie had taken a bundle off to her room.
Miriel colored as Folco approached her, the bundle, now tied in red ribbon, in his hands. Suddenly he appeared shy as he held it out to her. "It's not exactly new, I'm afraid, but I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen the first time I saw it, and I thought of it when I saw you. Sam's mother made it for our Aunt Dora Baggins--Frodo's and mine, that is. When Auntie died it came to my mother, and now I'd like for you to have it."
Miriel accepted the bundle and carefully began teasing the knots in the ribbons until at last it was ready to fall open. Inside was a magnificent knit shawl done in fine wools, exceedingly soft and beautifully colored. Miriel smiled. "Oh, it is wonderful! Master Sam, did your mother really make this? What a superb needlewoman she must have been! I never learned how to craft yarn into garments, although I have sewn all my life. But with such a work as this, your mother would have been considered a master in yarn-craft. Oh, Folco, it is a beautiful garment, and that you should have thought of me--" She impulsively threw her arms around him and gave him a kiss, which he surprised himself by responding to. When Miriel started to pull away with a look of wonder on her face, he flushed, then paled.
"That tears it," Folco Boffin said thickly. "Miriel daughter of Mardil of Lebennin, I love you. Would you consider accepting my hand in marriage?"
Miriel went quite still and pale, looking deeply into his eyes, hers searching his face. Then suddenly she was smiling, and blushing with happiness she whispered, "I'd never thought to find love in my life--and to find it with such as you...." She took a deep breath. "Accept you, Folco? I would be most honored to have you as my husband!" Their second kiss was as sudden as the first, but full of joy. And as they pulled apart to smile into one another's eyes, all the company was applauding.
After the Yule feast Ruvemir watched Folco and Miriel disappear into the study. They would have much to speak of, much to consider. She would have to tell him the truth of her heritage as a daughter of Men, and they would have to consider where they would live, who would be giving up the life known to now in order to cleave to the other. At least with himself and Elise they shared the same culture. But, he thought, either he or Elise--or both--would need to give way with the two of them as well--either they would remain in Minas Anor and settle there, or she would go into Lebennin and learn to live on the farm, or they would need to pick a new place in which to settle so that both were starting over, and not just one. He realized that the two of them, also, had some serious discussions that needed to be worked through once he returned.
After the children were sent off to the parlor to play watched by their Uncle Nick, the family and guests stretched as they sat around the table and drank their tea, wine, ale, or cider. Master Cotton drank from his mug and looked at the sculptor with interest.
"Did you meet our Sam down there in Gondor?"
"No, for he went through Ithilien and then to the capital, and I was further south and west in Lebennin at the time, on our family farm."
Master Cotton's eyebrows rose with interest. "What kind of crops do you raise?"
"We raise cattle for beef, and the hay and grain to keep them through the winter. Save for our kitchen garden, we do not raise other foodstuffs."
The farmer nodded his understanding. "So, you didn't fight in the war."
"No. We did send extra meat for the needs of our troupes, however."
"What is this monument that the King wishes constructed?"
"The Lord King Elessar wishes that the people of Gondor and the realm remember the courage and dedication of the four Hobbits who left your land to assist in the victory over Sauron. He has commissioned me to create a grouping of four statues, one of each of the Travelers, as a memorial."
"You any good?"
Sam answered, "Yes, sir, he is good." Rosie lifted from beside her plate the small plaque of her daughter's face and passed it to her father, who took it and examined it closely.
Ririon asked, "Shall I fetch your sketch booklets, Ruvemir?"
"Yes, and thank you, son," Ruvemir responded. "They lie on the bed on the side nearest the door, near the pillows." The boy rose and left the room in the direction of the bedrooms.
"You did this of Elanor?"
"Yes, and the figure of the King cloaked and hooded as a Ranger of the North that we gave to Master Samwise."
"That was of the King, Sam?"
Sam turned to the sideboard where he'd set the small statue before sitting down to the meal, and passed it to the farmer. "Yes, sir, as we first saw him in at the Prancing Pony in Bree. He came to talk to Master Ruvemir in his Ranger outfit, and this is how he looks in it."
The farmer examined both figures more closely, and finally set them down on the table side by side. "Can't speak to the likeness to the King, but that is clearly Elanor. How will you do a figure of Mr. Baggins, seeing as he's left Middle Earth, if what Sam tells us is true?"
The sculptor shrugged. "This is a part of my artistic gift--to be able to ask the questions which teach me the shape of those who are no longer here or who are now disfigured so as to depict them as they were. Also, the King sent me the pictures done of Lord Frodo in Minas Tirith, which taught me some of the shape of his face. What I have learned here has taught me to imagine him in most of his moods."
Ririon returned with the booklets, and with thanks Ruvemir accepted them, opened to the picture of Frodo laughing which had been the first to begin capturing Frodo's nature, and showed that to Rosie's father, then the most recent ones from the new sketch booklet. Farmer Cotton examined them carefully, then passed them to others around him so all could examine them. Ruvemir took back the first one, and found the picture of the King seated by his bed in the Houses of Healing. "This is a picture of the King as he appeared when I first realized he was, indeed, the King, and that he had served Gondor in the past as a captain of its armies."
The farmer examined this one equally closely, and finally looked into the face of the sculptor. "Will you do a sculpture of him, too, one day?"
Ruvemir smiled. "I suspect I will do many now; but I've already done one of him, of him as he was when he served Gondor before--as well as that one of him in his northern Ranger garb." He held out his hands for the booklet, and turned back to the picture of the Lord Captain Thorongil and showed that. "This is as he appeared when he was a captain in Gondor's armies." He took back the other booklet and turned to the page of the King on his throne. "And this is as he appears when he sits in judgment." He finally found one of Aragorn seated with Arwen by his side that he'd done a few days earlier. "And this is the Lord King and his Queen, the Lady Arwen Undómiel. Although the Lord Frodo did a better picture of the two of them together. Lord Frodo was a better artist with drawing sticks than I am."
The farmer looked inquiringly at Sam. "I didn't realize he drew pictures, Sam."
Sam smiled. "Oh, he was always doing them when we was younger, and he gave me many he'd done of the flowers of Bag End, and of the Gaffer here," nodding his head at his father, "and of me. Even Rosie. He was a bonny enough artist, he was."
"That picture of the shells as hangs in the study he did, Tom-Dad," Rosie said.
Her father looked a bit surprised, then smiled. "Guess as I'd not even questioned as to where that came from," he commented. He then looked at the sculptor and meaningfully at the sketch of the King. "So, now you've met him personal." At Ruvemir's nod, he continued, "How is he as a king? Is he worthy?"
Sam and Ruvemir nodded at the same time. Ruvemir smiled. "Worthy as king? Oh, I should say so indeed. Before I realized he was the King, I was told he could not meet with me on my arrival at Minas Anor for he was busy laboring in the Houses of Healing among the children of the city who had taken ill with the pox--Ririon here being among them. I still thought at the time he was one of the King's own kin from the north, and both he and Gimli son of Gloin, the Dwarf who traveled with them to Gondor and has become his friend, described him as one who seeks to serve Gondor and Arnor however he can."
Sam was still nodding. "Yes, that's Strider."
The farmer looked at his daughter's husband. "If he's a healer, any way he could of healed your Master, Sam?"
Sam shook his head, his eyes sad. "No, sir. Lord Elrond said even he couldn't heal him. He said he could of kept him alive, but that was all. No use being alive if it's barely that, you know. Both of them said as only the Valar could give him healing."
"But those as goes to the Undying Lands can't come back."
Sam nodded once more, very solemnly. "Yes, that's true."
"Could you of gone with him, Sam?"
Sam looked at him soberly, and shrugged. "If you think as I'd leave Rosie, you're mistaken."
"Never said that, Sam. Never thought as you would."
Sam just looked at the farmer and didn't answer further. Finally Farmer Cotton gave a crooked smile, and gently clasped Sam's shoulder. "You're a good husband to my lass, Sam Gamgee."
Sam ducked his head slightly and responded, "Thank you, sir. I love her.
Ruvemir decided it was time to change the focus of attention. "Lord Frodo stayed with your family, I understand, for several months."
The farmer and his children and wife all nodded agreement.
"Was he as you remember before?"
Farmer Cotton shrugged. "He was quieter than he used to be, not that he was ever a wild one or nothing like that. Was thinner, too, and his face pale, even when he'd been out on one of his walks. Tired easily. Would go out each day as he felt good enough to care for his pony what he named for the King, and would walk about some, often to Bywater or Overhill. Wouldn't go to Hobbiton, though, less'n it were necessary. Too hard, I think, to look on how the Row was dug up and the garden at Bag End was destroyed. When he had to go to Michel Delving he'd ride his pony, usually. Tried to walk to Brandy Hall one time, but had to stop and rest on the way. Farmer Maggot said as he found him leaning on a tree, looking pale and sick-like, and had one of his lads get the pony cart to take him to his home. They made him to rest, but soon he was joking with them and changing the subject when they tried to find out if he was truly ill. Master Saradoc of the Hall came looking for him with an extra pony when he didn't show up on time, he did, and took him on to the Hall. But Mr. Baggins never tried to walk far after that.
"He'd always try to hide when he was feeling bad, although I think as Sam could usually tell. The one time, however, as I found him huddled in his bed in his room, his eyes blank, his face white as chalk--no, it was maybe more bluish, even--that gave me a turn. Was holding onto that gem as he wore on the chain about his neck like anything, looked toward me but wasn't seeing me at all, he wasn't. Downright eerie. Then he saw me, and he did his best to convince me he was just fine. Told Rosie about it, and she put those leaves of Sam's into his bath, and it seemed to help."
Ruvemir looked at Sam inquiringly. "Athelas?" he asked, and the gardener nodded.
"Was the one thing as seemed to help him, along with the gem the Lady Arwen gave him. Together, they helped him a good bit. Gandalf seemed to think the kingsfoil worked especial well for me, for some reason. Said that it worked best for those of the children of Elros, of the line of the Kings. But when I used it, I always said an invocation to the Valar as I'd learned as a child with it. Gandalf said that, too, was good for me to know and use."
"He was always a pale one," the Widow Rumble said. "Mistress Doncella, who was midwife in the village when he was born, said he took quite a time to take his first breath. She was afraid they'd lose him. Of course, he came almost a month before his time, and such infants often are weak and sickly, and often have difficulties with breathing or their hearts--if they survive at all, of course.
"I'd care for him from time to time when he was a babe. Was small, but not particularly fretful, although I'd have to have him sleeping upright, almost, to help him breathe better at times. Would smile up a storm, though, once he heard his mum or da or Uncle Bilbo coming. Loved the three of them deeply, he did, even when he was just a wee tike.
"When they came back to visit at Bag End he was such a quick little thing. Full of questions and curiosity. 'When was the world made? Who named the stars? Why do folk get bigger the older they grow? Does a child in another land see the same stars as me?' Things like that he'd ask from day to night. Can't say when he began to read, but by the time he was three he was looking at books and would tell me the letters and would sound the words out. And didn't his Uncle Bilbo just dote on him! If he hadn't been the spitting image of his da, only slender, I'd almost have believed the gossip that said Bilbo was his real father. But having seen Missus Primula and Mr. Drogo together, I'd never accept she ever played her husband false. Certainly no one could say that the children she lost in Buckland were Mr. Bilbo's."
"What was he like when he came back to Bag End as Mr. Bilbo's ward?"
"Shy at first, but quick to learn. Came to dote on our Samwise here, and him just a little lad of what? Ten? He looked apologetic at first, as though he were always on the verge of saying he was sorry for something as he probably hadn't of done anyways, but that passed. Soon he was smiling, standing up straighter, obviously very happy, starting to fill out. Became eager. Always was eager to please, he was, even when he was tiny; but now if he got just a hint that you wanted for something he'd go out of his way to fetch it for you if he could. When Mr. Rumble was ill at the end, he'd send down food every day, would sit with him, even, and read to him. Found out Mr. Rumble loved strawberries, and sent to Buckland to have some sent over from their glass house there. Of course, that was years later, but he was the same from shortly after he came to live at Bag End.
"He and Mr. Bilbo were both much given to walking trips, they were, and would go off tramping all over the Shire. Good thing as they didn't keep pets, as it would have made it necessary to keep someone on hand to care for them, and then they'd most likely have taken them off with them if they could--they were always asking Sam to go along when they went off, not that his folks would spare him that often. Must have hurt his soul not to be able to go about on his walking trips any more after he came back. But it was all he could do some days to make it to the bottom of the lane to talk with the children and then back, there at the end particularly. One day when I went out to the woods to pick brambleberries, I found him there, obviously angry and weeping. I think he'd been berating the sky for how weak he'd become. I'd heard someone shouting, and he didn't hear me coming. When I came on him and he realized he wasn't alone, he looked right shamed. Turned and left. I picked my berries and headed home, and found he'd made it as far as the bench on the lane, and he was sitting there, all white, trying to catch his breath. I brought him back to my place and made him lie down on the sofa for a bit, brought him some dandelion wine to drink, and he calmed as he held on to that jewel of his. Apologized for yelling in the wood. Said he'd come down to get some berries himself, then found every time he leaned down to pick them he could barely breathe, and his chest was aching. Didn't get enough to bake a pie for Rosie and Sam, which was what he'd intended. Said it was embarrassing not to be able to do any more. Said he didn't know how much longer he could go on. I checked the pulse in his neck--it was erratic. First I truly realized how hard he was working to look as normal as he did. First I realized he was dying, I think. When he was rested he left, thanking me so deeply for my courtesy. I went back out to the woods and got more berries, and sent little Cyclamen up the hill with a pie I baked the following day. He answered the door himself, and was so very grateful. Was always grateful for the help given him."
Sam smiled. "He was so amazed as folks would do for him, he was. Always had done so much for others--was a shock to his system to have to be on the receiving side for a change. But I am so grateful to every soul as give to him at the end."
"Sam, do you think he's still alive, there with the Elves where he is now?"
"I'm not sure, but I do think I'd of felt it had he died on the way. He was right weak, he was, right weak as we rode to the Havens, and Lord Elrond was keeping the draughts going into him each time we stopped to rest. But he did rest and rest well along the way, and was warded about on all sides."
"Hope they're showing him beauty, beauty all about him."
"Pity he never married," Mrs. Cotton commented as Folco and Miriel rejoined the rest. "Always loved children, he did. Would always tell stories to the children, even when he was yet a lad hisself. Member seeing him at the Free Fair at Michel Delving--always had a group of children about him, telling them his tales, even when he lived in Brandy Hall. And when the dancing would begin, there he'd be, in the midst of it, dancing and glad. Was a bonny dancer always, and every girl about eager to be his partner. And at the Party when Mr. Bilbo left--if he didn't dance with about every lass present--everyone save Pearl Took. Bet she was sorry as she let him slip through her fingers. Why she ever listened to that foul Lobelia Sackville-Baggins I'll never understand."
Mrs. Rumble smiled. "I was thinking he'd finally settle on your cousin Narcissa, Mr. Folco. I know almost every lass in the Shire had her eye on him one time or another, but Miss Narcissa was truly smitten with him, I know. All he had to do was look halfway in her direction and she'd flush so prettily. And at the final party he was finally beginning to notice. Then after his uncle left, he simply didn't look at lasses any more. No one could understand that."
Ruvemir again found himself resenting the Ring and its influence, and catching Sam's eye realized that his resentment was a pale copy of that the gardener felt.
Singing and dancing filled much of the rest of the day, and Marigold Cotton taught young Ririon some of the simpler dances. Folco invited Miriel to dance with him, and Ruvemir was pleased to see her face shining with simple pleasure. However, he himself felt restless, and at last he slipped out and down the lane to the bench where the lane turned and sat there, looking out at the Mallorn tree in the Party Field glowing silver in the dusk. He was somehow not surprised when a young Hobbit lass joined him on the bench, sitting beside him and also looking out at the tree.
"Cyclamen?" he asked.
"Yes," she responded. "Yes, I'm Cyclamen. Are you Master Rumevir?"
"Ruvemir," he corrected. "Yes, I am."
They sat quietly for a time before she said, "I miss him still. I only vaguely member him from before, when he was well and lived up there," pointing up the Hill toward Bag End. "I was only a tiny one when he left the first time. But my older brother told me he would tell stories even then, exciting ones, mostly in Hobbiton on market days. Sometimes he would go up to the garden at Bag End and spy on Cousin Frodo and Master Samwise--watch them work in the garden or Cousin Frodo reading to Master Samwise, or maybe they'd just be talking a lot about Elves and dragons. Pando wanted so to see Elves and dragons himself."
"Master Samwise has seen some Elves, but no dragons that I know of. Although maybe the Enemy's fell beasts were close to being dragons."
"Cousin Bilbo saw a dragon," Cyclamen said.
"Yes, Smaug in the Dwarf caverns under the Lonely Mountain. I've had two Dwarves tell me of that, and I've read his story as well."
"Oh, you've seen Dwarves?"
"Yes, although the first I ever saw I saw only last summer in Minas Anor, the capital of Gondor. Many are there helping in the reconstruction of the city."
"Cousin Frodo always called it Minas Tirith."
"It was called that for many, many years; but at last the original name has been restored--the Tower of the Setting Sun."
She nodded. "Minas Tirith means Tower of Guarding."
"What was it on guard against?"
"The Enemy and his folk from Mordor."
"And now they are gone."
"Yes, because of your Cousin Frodo and Master Samwise."
She twisted to look up at him. "They wouldn't talk about it much. How did they defeat Sauron?"
"Have you heard the story of how your cousin Bilbo Baggins met the creature Gollum in the Misty Mountains and found a magic ring which made him invisible when he wore it?"
"Yes, everyone has heard that, I think."
Ruvemir sighed. "When he decided to go on another adventure, Bilbo left the Ring to Frodo, at Mithrandir's insistence."
She interrupted, "Who's Mithrandir, and why is he called the Grey Pilgrim?"
Ruvemir laughed and began to explain....
Finally she stretched. He'd taken her under his cloak as they talked and the story unfolded to the best of his knowledge. Now he was feeling a bit stiff as he sat there. She was holding his right hand, rubbing her fingers against his.
"So that's how he lost his finger," she said softly.
"I'd always wondered. How were he and Master Samwise rescued?"
"The great Eagles of the North came at the last to fight in the battle before the Black Gate, until the Ring went into the fire and the Nazgul were drawn off and lost their shapes. Mithrandir asked them, and they carried him as swiftly as the wind to the remains of the Mountain where they found Lord Frodo and Lord Samwise where they'd managed to crawl afterward, and the Eagles lifted their bodies up and carried them away to safety. The Lord Aragorn Elessar himself cared for them while they were recovering. Both were in healing sleep for weeks, they were so close to death. The King remembers it with grief, as if it were yesterday."
"Then you have indeed seen the King?"
"Oh, yes. He is a great Man, he is, the Lord Aragorn Elessar."
"So Cousin Frodo used to say, and so Master Samwise says."
"They are right."
After a time of quiet, she finally said, "He was growing weaker, Cousin Frodo."
"Yes, so I'm told."
"Would he have died?"
"Had he stayed, yes, he'd have died, and probably soon, Lord Samwise says."
"We have our home back because of them, Cousin Frodo and Master Samwise and Master Peregrin and Master Meriadoc."
"So I'm told."
"Master Peregrin brought archers from Tookland, and Master Meriadoc thought up the strategy, and they fought the Big Men in Bywater, and won. And Cousin Frodo helped all the wounded, Men and Hobbits, and saw their wounds bound. Master Samwise says that was important, too."
"It certainly shows that he, as a Hobbit, was a far better person than they were, as Men." She nodded her agreement.
Finally she said, softly, "I member being forced to move out of our hole into that brick shack they called a house, and how drafty it was. And I member my dad going to help Master Samwise dig the new hole for us, and how good it felt to go back home again. Then at last the fixing of Bag End was finished and Cousin Frodo came back, too. And after Master Samwise married Miss Rose they moved into Bag End to care for him."
"I've been told."
"He was better at first, but he kept getting weaker." She eyed the glowing silver of the Mallorn. "That's an Elven tree. The Lady Galadriel herself gave Master Samwise the nut it grew from. And Cousin Frodo's gone to where they grow naturally, the Mallorn trees."
"I hope the Elves are helping him have a joyous Yule, too."
"I hope so, too, Cyclamen. Now you and I'd best go back inside, I think." He rose and accompanied her home, where her mother was just opening to door to call out for her, and then went back up the lane to Bag End. Rosie was opening the door for him there, and smiling on him as she held out a cup of mulled cider for him.
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.