25. After Yule
That night Ruvemir read a great deal more of the Red Book, getting to the breaking of the Fellowship at Amon Hen. The next day after he and Ririon went to pick up the boy's new clothes, he read through the final confrontation with Saruman, and the day after to Frodo and Sam's encounter with Shelob, and Sam's desperation. Sam nodded his acknowledgment of what Ruvemir had read. "The next bit's mostly about Aragorn," he said. "But there isn't a lot left to read now. Want to get out of here for a bit?"
So they headed into Bywater to the Green Dragon, where Ruvemir found himself enjoying himself immensely. Finally a Hobbit who seemed familiar approached their table with a mug of beer in his hand.
"You're the sculptor Master Ruvemir?" he asked.
"Yes, I am."
"I'm Sancho Proudfoot." Suddenly Ruvemir recognized the likeness to both Cyclamen and to Frodo himself. "May I join you?" At the sculptor's nod, he sat down. "It's about my son Pando—he's taken it into his head as he wishes to become a sculptor, and I was wonderin' if you'd find out if'n he has any talent that way." Then he flushed. "Actually, he ain't exactly my son—he's my nephew, really. His dad was my older brother Pulgo. When Geli 'n' me—put the dessert before the meal, you see, he took us in and let us live with him 'n' Lyssa. They were much older'n Geli 'n' me, you understand, an' the two of 'em already had a lad o' their own. No rushin' things for those two. Anyways, not long after Cyclamen—that's my daughter—I think as you've met her?" At Ruvemir's nod, he continued, "Not long after she was born the catarrh went through, an' lots o' folks was getting' ill. For some reason neither Geli nor me caught it, but Pulgo and Lyssa did—an' they both died. Left us the hole, you see, so we live there still with Pando 'n' our little lass.
"Only ones what was for us marryin' was them, Pulgo and Lyssa, an' our Cousin Frodo. My da Olo and Granfer Odo—they didn't want it, o' course—much less her da Fando. But Cousin Frodo—he called us in to talk to us. He's Baggins family head, you see, an' my Geli-love, she was a Baggins after all. Took him some time to talk 'em round, but he managed in the end."
"Why didn't your father and grandfather wish the two of you to marry?"
"Oh, Granfer was sure as we was too young. We wasn't of age as yet." At Ruvemir's second nod, he continued, "As for old Fando—he was always against me bein' with Geli, you see. Didn't think as I was steady enough—kept sayin' as I was flighty. Wanted her to marry a Bolger lad from there Overhill-way. Geli didn't want him—we've known as we wanted one another since we was about twenty, don't you see. When he told her as he was goin' to announce as they was betrothed, we thought as we'd best do somethin' or he'd force her to marry in spite o' us. So—so we did what we did, an' afore the party planned to announce the betrothal Geli tells her da, cool as cool, as we was expectin' and she couldn't marry none but the bairn's da. Oh, if'n that didn't put the fox in the henhouse!"
Fascinated, Ruvemir said, "Oh, I can well imagine."
Relieved not to see condemnation in the outlander's eyes, Sancho continued, "Cousin Frodo thought as we ought not t'marry neither, I think—or at least not at first. But as he talked to us and realized as how desperate we was and as how much forcin' as there was from old Fando, he started gettin' angered—for us. He was family head for the Bagginses, Cousin Frodo was, not Fando Baggins; and Fando had no authority to force his daughters t'marry someone as they didn't favor. I guess when he had Fando alone he made it clear as this wasn't never goin' t'be acceptable. And he talked 'em all round, he did. Then he made certain as all knew, when Pulgo 'n' Lyssa was gone, as he was lettin' the hole to us. 'Twas his, after all—had it from his folks, I think, as that was where he was born. Although I suppose as he might have sold it to Mr. Bilbo an' Frodo had it from him. Either way, 'twas Cousin Frodo's to let as he pleased once he' was Master o' the Hill."
"And your foster son wishes to become a sculptor?"
"Oh, but he does. Always playin' with wax and clay—got a cousin as is a potter as gives us clay. Cousin Frodo's own da was a carver 'n' joiner. Made some beautiful pieces o' furniture, an' hearin' as you're a master artist he thought as you might be willin' to teach him—if'n, o' course, he's good enough t'learn."
Ruvemir was taken aback, for he'd never considered such a request, but he found himself agreeing to meeting with the lad the following day.
Pando Proudfoot was more slender than he'd seen in most Hobbits, with a defiant expression on his face as if he'd faced a great deal of opposition and was bound and determined to do what he wanted in spite of it all. He explained he was seventeen and of more than an age to be apprenticed, but his father hadn't been able to find any profession to apprentice him to that pleased him.
"I started wanting to carve because of this," he said, holding out the box he carried. It had a carving of a Dwarf atop it, and somehow Ruvemir wasn't surprised to see Drogo Baggins's sign on it. "Inside are some of the carvings I've done."
Ririon came in as they began going through the box, and soon he was feeling the items and giving his own opinions on them. Finally Ruvemir supplied the Hobbit lad with an amount of clay and a stone plate on which to work, and asked him to shape something, and he watched as Pando began exploring the clay and then to work it. Pando Proudfoot's woodcarvings were nowhere near as fine as Ririon's had been, and his stone carvings were crude at best. But his wax and clay items showed promise; and now as he watched the young Hobbit work the clay Ruvemir realized that this was a medium at which the lad would excel. He'd begun a sculpture of what was plainly the face of Frodo Baggins, and it showed an awareness of the planes of the face that was heartening.
Finally the sculptor asked, "You have it in your heart to become a sculptor?"
"Yes, I've wanted it for years. Do I have any promise?"
"Some, but it is with clay you now show your best affinity. I have a friend who works with the plastic arts who could teach you far more than I in how to work wax and clay. However, I could begin to teach you until we could bring you to her."
"A lady sculptor?"
"Yes, unless you do not wish to work under a woman, which would be a great loss."
"Oh, but I don't mind at all, either lady nor gentlehobbit."
"She isn't a Hobbit at all, but a woman among Men. And she lives in Belfalas, far south in Gondor. Are you willing to go so far to work under her teaching? She is a master at her work."
The lad looked down at the face he'd been shaping. Finally he looked up, a determined expression on his face. "I'd go anywhere to learn to do this well," he said.
The interview with Pando's foster parents was long and involved, but in the end they agreed. When Ruvemir son of Mardil left the Shire to return to Gondor, he'd be taking with him a second apprentice.
That night Ruvemir finished the Red Book, and returned it reluctantly to his host the next morning. Samwise smiled to get it back.
"At least I now know almost the whole story," Ruvemir commented.
"All we could get out at the time," Sam agreed.
"No wonder you love him so deeply."
"He was always like an older brother to me."
Ruvemir clasped Sam's shoulder for several moments, then, as he pulled away, bowed deeply. Sam colored slightly, but only dipped his own head in respectful acceptance in return.
"Yes, Master Ruvemir?"
"When at last you come to him, bear him my respect and regards, and thanks."
"You think I will?"
"I am certain you will."
And Samwise Gamgee smiled, smiled a brilliant smile such as Ruvemir had seen only hints of before.
And later Rosie asked him in a whisper, "What did you say to him? He's not smiled like this since his Master left us."
Ruvemir examined her face closely before answering softly, "Only that I believe that when the time is right he will be able to see Lord Frodo again."
"It won't be while I'm yet here, though," she whispered.
"No, not while you are here. He'll never leave you."
"He told me, before he left, he didn't wish for Sam's heart to be torn still in two." She looked westward. "But it must be tearing his own heart in two, being the only mortal of two among the Elves and the Powers. But most like he's the only mortal of all, for I doubt as Mr. Bilbo has lasted this long. Oh, he's surrounded by Elves and by Beauty of which we see only glimpses; but he must long at times for mortal bread, and mortal love." She sighed.
"I think," she continued, "I think and I hope he's well now, that they've healed him. And I don't doubt he's changed. You couldn't stay in those lands without being changed, I think. Probably his mortal frame is falling away by bits, and the Light within him is shining out brighter and brighter till that's what's mostly left. I suspect that's what Sam will find when at last he takes the Grey Ship meant for him. Then they'll both come to join me."
All Ruvemir could do was nod.
He dreamt that night of sitting on the bench outside the front door of Bag End, looking down at the Party Field. Hobbits were busily preparing for a festival, raising tents, setting in place pallets to make a bandstand, setting up tables and benches, making stacks of ale barrels near a tall, ancient oak which stood where the Mallorn stood now. He smelled pipesmoke beside him, turned to look into the smiling face of Frodo Baggins, who held his pipe in his hand.
"For Sam's birthday," Frodo said. "He's coming of age tomorrow."
"He'll dance with Rosie and feel compassion for you," Ruvemir said.
"Yes. But It would destroy any relationship I make. It will accept no rival."
"So he says, also."
Frodo nodded. Finally he said quietly, "He should not feel torn in two."
"But it's all right for you to feel torn in two?"
"So will he, but not fully until he is reunited with you, you know."
Frodo looked down on the field. "One way or the other, ship or grave, I must leave him." He closed his eyes and began to glow with a clear, mithril light. "It has already eaten so much of me away. I can have no family of my own."
"He will give you the whole of his, the whole of his loves, to share."
Shining tears fell down Frodo's face, as he said softly, "Oh, I do know. I do know that." He looked down the hill again. "Bless him, my dear, dear Sam."
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.