29. A Stop in Edoras
A Stop in Edoras
They were met the next day by a riding of Rohirrim who accompanied them to Edoras, where they were greeted with pleasure by Éomer King. "So, you have returned, and brought with you even more guests."
Ruvemir quickly introduced Folco, Pando, and Eregiel. "More kin to the Ringbearer and my swordthain? Welcome to you both. And a kinsman to my friend Aragorn? Again, thrice welcome are the Dúnedain of the north. You are come in good time, for your Lord King is due to arrive tomorrow, accompanied by his wife, my sister and her husband the Prince Faramir, and my wife's family. Rooms have been made ready for you. Will you share a room with your sister, Master Ruvemir?"
"Actually, my Lord, it would be best if my sister were to share a room with her husband, my brother-in-law Folco Boffin."
Éomer stood for a moment in surprise, then smiled broadly. "So, love has blossomed there in the far lands of the Holbytla, has it? I wish both of you joy in your union." A woman came from the back of the halls, her hair auburn and her eyes grey-green. "My own bride, the Lady Lothiriel of Dol Amroth."
Ruvemir gave a deep bow. "It is several years, my Lady, since I last saw you. It is with joy I greet you here."
"Master Ruvemir! Ah, so it is you my lord husband has spoken of. I ought to have known. Word has come that the commission in Casistir went full well."
"Oh, yes, and earned me the one on which I am now engaged. Have you heard from your father recently?"
"My father? Yes, he said that he and the King passed through Casistir and were impressed with the statuary that decorates the new Hall. What of the work you did there so impressed the King that he sent you to the land of the Pheriannath?"
"He didn't tell you of the subject of the work I did there?"
"He told me it was of the assault on Umbar by my grandfather and the Lord Captain Thorongil, but that was all."
Ruvemir laughed. "I understand that when they looked on the statue of your grandfather all present were very impressed with how well I'd caught his image. However, when they saw the statue of Captain Thorongil they were all very taken aback."
"It appears I caught his image far more exactly than I'd expected."
Eregiel started to laugh. "Was that it, then? What did Aragorn say when he saw himself in your statue?"
Queen Lothiriel paused, obviously taken aback herself. "You mean the Captain Thorongil, about whom my grandfather and my father spoke so often, was the King in disguise?"
Eregiel shook his head. "Not exactly in disguise, my Lady. Remember this was over forty years past, when he was still quite young by our reckoning. He needed no disguise, for his heritage was known only among a select number of the Dúnedain of Eriador and the inhabitants of Imladris. He need only not give his right name, and no one would have been any the wiser of his real identity."
Éomer shook his head. "He and my uncle both told me of how he rode with the Rohirrim as Ælric and Thorongil under my grandfather Thengel. I had no idea this was not known in Gondor as it is here." He looked closely at the sculptor. "You had no idea when you made the sculpture of Thorongil you were picturing the King?"
"None whatsoever. I'd not yet seen the King. When he came to Casistir he did not name himself openly, and most, as I did, took him for an officer of the realm under the new King. The first time I saw him, he was seated at a table near ours, and his face was poorly lit. Then when he approached me to take the commission he came dressed in his Ranger's cloak from Eriador and with his hood up, and he told me to think of him as Strider. I had no idea who he really was for months. I thought he was one of the King's kinsmen from the north. Even when Lord Gimli called him Aragorn I had no idea, for I'd only heard the King named the Lord Elessar. Even when I recognized the features of Thorongil in his face, I thought that the real Thorongil had perhaps been his father."
"What a jest!" Éomer laughed. "In what odd ways has my friend amused himself." He shook his head. Then he looked at his wife. "And you have met Master Ruvemir before, then?"
"Yes, about eight years past. The city of Lossirin in Belfalas wished to have my grandfather's statue placed in a niche on the facade of the Merchants' Hall. My father was in Minas Tirith at the time consulting with the other lords and captains over the anticipated movements of Sauron and Umbar, so when Master Ruvemir came to learn of the visage of my grandfather, I was the first he met with. There were a few drawings and one rather excellent painting of Adrahil available, and several statues about Dol Amroth itself, although I think the one Master Ruvemir did was far better."
"Thank you, my Lady. From you I consider that high praise indeed."
She smiled. "Oh, I can imagine that the King, having seen himself in stone in Casistir would have indeed have felt taken aback."
Éomer smiled. "Well, what I wish to see now is the progress he has made on the memorial for the Ringbearer, Merry, and their companions."
Once again the model was brought out, and once again Ruvemir saw recognition in the eyes of those who examined it, and the special gentleness and honor they appeared to give the small sculpture of Frodo Baggins. Several of the men-at-arms about the King had ridden with him to raise the siege of Minas Tirith and had also marched on the Black Gate, and had taken part in the feast on the Field of Cormallen, and they almost bowed down in honor before the figure of the Ringbearer. One commented, "I was nearby when the Eagles bore them out of the ruin of Mordor, bringing them to the Lord Aragorn. We thought they were both lost, for both were unconscious, and thin past all bearing. The Lord Aragorn was weeping as he clasped the Lord Frodo's body in his arms, his face stricken. And as he leaned over the Lord Samwise it was the same, the grief, the caring. As for Gandalf Greyhame--his face was certainly as grey as his cloak used to be that day."
Éomer's face had become solemn with respect, also. He touched the small figure of Merry gently. "He was not to have come to the battle at all, but came nonetheless, riding under my sister's cloak--not that she was to have come to the battle, either. When the Lord of the Nazgul came all others were thrown and killed or knocked senseless, or carried away by the madness of their horses. Only he and my sister stood by our uncle after Snowmane was slain by a dart and rolled on him in his agony. Together they faced that great evil, and vanquished it, though it almost cost both their lives and sanity." Then he turned his attention to Pippin. "And this one's quick wits saved first his cousin Merry, then the Lord Faramir, then those beside whom he stood at the Black Gate, and who knows how many others besides." Then he looked at Sam. "The Ringbearer has said of this one he would not have survived had he managed, as he'd intended, to leave Lord Samwise behind, that this one's great hope alone sustained them both, even when Lord Frodo was at the point of death." Finally he looked on the Ringbearer himself. "And this one's endurance was beyond all hope." He looked up into Ruvemir's face. "You have caught them, caught them indeed. Yes, such are the ones who deserve greater honor than we'd dreamed when first we saw them."
He then looked on Pando and Folco Boffin. "And you two are kin to them? Then know you are thrice welcome, for your people have taught us more of faithfulness and dedication than we had dreamed possible."
Folco stood shaking his head. "We are most closely related to Frodo, of the three. He is our beloved cousin. But until these three came to the Shire, we simply failed to understand just what he did for all of us, what his leaving of the Shire meant to the rest the world."
Éomer smiled. "Then we will rejoice to show you what the sacrifices of these four, and particularly what was done by the Lords Frodo and Samwise, have saved in the rest of Middle Earth."
They slept that night in chambers prepared for them in Meduseld, and the next day, not long before noon, they stood on the foreporch of the hall to watch the Lord Aragorn Elessar's party arrive from the east. A finely sprung coach carried the Queen Arwen and the Lady Fíriel of Dol Amroth, and beside the coach on Olórin rode the King, followed by the Lord Faramir, the Lady Éowyn, Prince Imrahil and his son Elphir, and a guard of twelve men and two officers and a light wagon. And driving the coach--
"It's Lasgon!" Ruvemir said, smiling.
The Queen's coach was brought inside the city gate and carefully placed beside that which had carried Ruvemir, Miriel, and Ririon so far, and the King's party carefully made their way up through the city to the Golden Hall. Ruvemir shook his head. "I barely remember making the climb yesterday. My hip is obviously strengthened over what it was, for it has not ached since our arrival." Miriel smiled at him, and Eregiel laid his hand on his shoulder.
The Hall Guards sprang to attention, a horn was blown, and out of the doors of the Hall of Meduseld came Éomer King and his wife and the young Door Warden, Haleth son of Háma. Éowyn hurried up the steps to the porch to embrace her brother, leaving behind any hint of decorous protocol, and the rest laughed as they followed after.
Aragorn walked with his arm linked in that of his wife until they came to the top of the stair and he found himself at a loss as to whom to greet first--sculptor, kinsman, or brother-king; and he looked on the additions to the party with interest. After greeting Éomer and Lothiriel, he turned first to Eregiel. "Well met, my young cousin," he said. "So Halladan did send you along as guard on the return trip, as he'd intended."
"And a good thing he did," Ruvemir commented, "as we had some difficulties along the way."
Eregiel smiled. "It is long since you would swing me up behind you onto Roheryn, my Lord Cousin."
"I doubt I could do it now--you've grown too tall for it any more. Ah, I see you have brought a couple of your hounds with you."
"No, only Artos is mine. Joy is the companion of young Ririon there."
Aragorn and he embraced, and Arwen smiled as she followed suit. "You have grown tall indeed since I last saw you, Eregiel," she said. "Welcome to the southern kingdoms."
"My Lady Arwen. We bear greetings from your brothers, who have told me they will follow in a few weeks to greet their niece."
The King then turned to Ruvemir and Miriel and the rest of their companions, who all bowed low, as he gave his own bow of respect. He looked deeply at Ruvemir's face. "You are smiling. Do you have the final design planned, then?"
Ruvemir nodded. "The model is within, my Lord King. It was a wonderful trip, but it is very good to see you again."
"You've done a model?"
"Yes, and the three in the Shire have all accepted it. And you'd best not go against the Lord Samwise's predictions, or I fear he will come down and explain most solemnly that this is what he has agreed to."
Aragorn laughed. "Yes, I suspect he would at that. Then we will be working on your next commission."
"Oh, don't be in too great a hurry, my Lord. My next two commissions have already been issued, before I finish with this one."
"Oh, yes, and this time you and Lord Gimli and Prince Legolas are all involved, and I'll need some assistance in how to depict Lord Mithrandir and the Lord Captain Boromir, as well as Lord Frodo as he was then. Then in the second, I'm to do the Riding of Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel and many from Rivendell and Lothlorien along with the Ringbearer and the Ring-finder."
"Who have given you these?"
"Lord Halladan has let me know that the people of Arnor wish a memorial to the entire Fellowship of the Ring made, and Lords Celeborn and Glorfindel and Elladan and Elrohir have commissioned the Riding of the Elves. I will not have much in the way of time of my own, it appears, for at least another two years or more."
"So I see. Your work is, after all, impressive. Now, let us have introductions."
"Ah, yes. May I introduce Folco Boffin, cousin to Lord Frodo and more distant cousin to Sirs Merry and Pippin, and husband to my sister Miriel."
"My Lord King, my Lady," the Hobbit said, bowing low.
"Husband?" the King asked. "It appears there are indeed tales to tell now."
"Oh, indeed. And this is Pando Proudfoot, another cousin to the Lord Frodo, and older brother to Cyclamen. He is a second apprentice until I can bring him to a better teacher for his gift, which is with clay and wax."
"Pando? Both your cousin and Sam have told me of you in their letters. So you, too, wish to become a sculptor?"
"Yes, my Lord Aragorn. I've wished it for ever so long."
"And this is Joy, a gift to Ruvemir from the children of Brandy Hall," Ruvemir added.
The dog was a single wriggle of pleasure as the King and Queen greeted her. Artos yawned, stretched, and came forward for his own share of royal attention.
Now there were introductions the other way round, as all were introduced to the Steward of Gondor and his wife, the Prince of Dol Amroth, his lady, and his heir, and finally all entered the Hall. Ruvemir was given a good deal of respect by all, as were the Hobbits and the Lord King's kinsman, and the sculptor was glad to see that the King was walking in alongside Ririon, watching him use his walking stick to find his way, and with Joy walking alongside him and obviously watching for anything that might inconvenience her young master. Ririon was animated as he explained how much he'd enjoyed his visit to the Shire, how he'd been to a birthday party in Brandy Hall and had been given the walking stick, how he and Ferdibrand Took, who was a cousin to Sir Pippin and who was totally blind from the Time of Troubles, had explored using the stick to assist him in finding his way, and how Joy had apparently realized on her own that her eyes assisted her master to avoid difficulties.
"She's a very wonderful dog, my Lord King, and I love her very much. I wasn't certain at first that Ruvemir and Miriel would allow me to keep her, but she's turned out to be so much fun. And she just began walking beside me and putting herself just in front of me to stop me when there's something I might hit. Ruvemir says she is constantly stopping me running into low branches. I feel like I can do more on my own."
"I see," Aragorn said, once he could get a word in edgewise.
"Oh, and your foster brothers said you were a competent healer after all," the boy added, and the King laughed out loud.
"Now, from Elladan and Elrohir that is excellent praise indeed," he said.
"So Lord Glorfindel said, my Lord."
They approached a table set up near the dais on which stood the model for the memorial and Ruvemir's sketch booklets. The Lady Arwen had smiled through the spate of words that had poured out of Ririon, and now she was watching with interest her husband's reaction as he approached the model, saw him taking a deep breath and readying himself for what he would see. Miriel had draped some of the golden linen cloth over a portion of the table so that the boy could see the contrast between the grey-green figures and their background, and beside it Ruvemir had laid the booklets opened to the sketches that had most closely inspired the work. Ruvemir had also draped a bit of the blue fabric over his special gifts that sat nearby, intended for his sovereigns. Ririon led the King to the table and unerringly to the model. "There it is, my Lord King. Sir Pippin and Sir Merry and Lord Samwise are all pleased, as are the Thain, the Master, the Mayor, and their ladies. And at last I have an idea what Lord Frodo looked like, although it is too small for me to make out the detail."
Aragorn leaned down, then went down on one knee to look at it more closely on its level, and let out a great sigh. "Yes," he said gently. "Yes, that is indeed what I myself had envisioned for them." He gently examined each figure, Pippin with Troll's Bane at the ready, Merry leaning on his sword--and even in this small model it was plain it was indeed the sword Merry had carried from the Barrow, and Sam with Sting, with Frodo before all, holding up the Ring. He looked into the remembered face, the perceptive eyes, and sighed, unconsciously giving a brief bow of recognition and honor. He looked at Ruvemir. "You have him wearing the mithril shirt under an open shirt of his own. And this is definitely the cloak he wore from Lorien. But why did you give Sting to Sam to carry?"
"The Lord Frodo hated the thought he must bear a sword, my Lord, and gave it repeatedly to Lord Samwise, who has it kept in great honor in a chest in their study, with the mithril shirt and now both their circlets of honor. It was Samwise who used it in defense of them both and against the great spider of Cirith Ungol."
"Now both circlets? I don't understand."
"Lord Samwise has allowed both Elanor and Frodo-Lad to teeth on his own circlet. I'd been looking at it for days before Frodo-Lad dropped it and I picked it up and realized what it was. Lord Frodo had confided to the Thain and his lady he suspected Sam would use it as part of a trellis."
Aragorn shook his head and then began to laugh. His laughter became louder and deeper, and soon the rest of those in the hall were laughing, too. "Ah, dear Sam," he finally said, wiping his eyes. "He regularly punctures my growing regality and pomposity. Frodo's has been cherished, and his own given to practical use! Bless him, the dear, dear Hobbit. But now both are properly honored?"
"Now that Rosie knows what it is and what it signifies, she will no longer allow the children to mouth it, and insists that it be placed in equal honor to that borne by his Master. By the way, he says he checked with Lord Gimli to make certain the children would take no harm from the mithril before he allowed them to place it in their mouths. He was properly cautious with it."
Aragorn's laughter rang out again, and he sat back on the floor hugging his knees. "I can't wait," he finally managed, "to meet Mistress Rose. To marry such a one--he must drive her to distraction with his self-effacement. Oh, Sam; oh, my dearly beloved Samwise Gamgee!" He looked at the model. "May I remove his statue from the base?"
Ruvemir slipped it out of its place and offered it to his King, who held it with great tenderness. For some moments he turned it in his hand, examined it very closely. "I don't know," he said at last, softly, "which was the worse for denying just how much their actions meant to the whole of Middle Earth. He and Frodo both shied so from the honor they so richly deserved." And now tears slid quietly down his cheeks. "And yet in the midst of telling you just how little they deserved praise, the two of them would sit or stand there, with such great native dignity."
He returned it to the sculptor, who replaced it and handed that of Frodo to him next. Again it was handled with great gentleness, closely examined from every side.
Ruvemir said softly, "Many were beginning to realize just how close to death he was, Lord Aragorn. The last week or so before he left he had begun to actively fail, apparently. The last dinner he had with his older cousins who are now Master and Thain and their wives, he was fighting hard to appear as normal as he could, although apparently the previous night he'd had a difficult time, and it appears to have been more than just the nightmares. Sam had kept a steady stream of tea made of athelas, chamomile, and willowbark going into him, and often set more to steep over his bedroom fire. He said that when he put athelas to steep for him, it always seemed to smell of the Sea."
The King nodded. "So it was when I steeped it for him in Ithilien. As I knew he'd never seen the Sea I always wondered about that."
"Lord Samwise feels it was a presentiment of the fact his healing would only come if he crossed to Elvenhome." Aragorn nodded. "He collapsed after the meal, and Master Saradoc half-carried him to his bed and helped him undress and into a nightshirt. He was already sleeping when Sam came to bring a basin of athelas to set by his face. He was still weak and pale the next morning until Sam brought to him the bundle of herbs sent by the Lord Elrond and mixed some of them as directed with the tea of athelas."
"Probably some of the Elven herbs used to return strength. They are very strong in their effect when blessed by such as our Adar, yet most will do little when I use them. Do you know if there was foxglove in the mixture?"
"I have no idea which herbs they were, Lord. Although the Hobbit healer Budgie Smallfoot said he gave Lord Frodo a limited tincture containing foxglove and some other herbs when he came there and he realized his heart was failing."
"It would help some, although it is a very dangerous herb to use without great care."
"So I understand, my Lord." He looked at the figure in the King's hand. "The last time he visited the Great Smial he sat for a time by his cousin Ferdibrand, who as Ririon indicated, was blinded by blows and kicks to the back and side of his head administered by Sharkey's Big Men." The King raised his head and looked angered by this report. "Ferdibrand befriended Lord Frodo only after he went to Bag End to live with Master Bilbo, and says he saw a Light glowing in the heart of his cousin." He saw the small nod of recognition given by the King and Queen both, the look to the King by Prince Imrahil. "Mistress Rosie also spoke of seeing such a Light about him."
The King smiled. "Another reason to wish to meet with the lady," he commented.
"Ferdibrand said that last visit as he held Lord Frodo's hand, he realized his cousin's pulse was erratic, and a neighbor said the same of him." A look of concern from the King. "He said he realized Frodo was coming close to death, but that his Light was still very strong, perhaps stronger than it had been, that he'd been aware of it throughout Frodo's stay, and that he'd been able to tell where Frodo was within the Smial by following its progress."
The King had straightened at this, a look of wonder on his face. The Queen, however, smiled. "Yes, it is not the eyes of the body which perceive the Light of Being when it can be seen."
"Ferdibrand said that he wished to hold Frodo and protect him, but that somehow Frodo divined the thought and explained none could protect him and that he must away soon. It was perhaps two months before he left. The neighbor, who must have seen him either just before or just after that visit, also realized Frodo was dying.
"But all believe Frodo is still living, my Lord. Ferdibrand says he can discern Lord Frodo's Light when he looks to the West, and that the Light of Mithrandir is nearby it."
The King's eyes closed and he swallowed, then smiled. "May it be so," he whispered. Arwen placed her hand on his shoulder, and he reached up and covered hers with one of his own. Finally he returned the figure to Ruvemir, who again replaced it carefully, and handed him that of Merry. This one he smiled at with pride, and finally he returned it and accepted that of Pippin.
"Every time someone mentions your name, Sir Pippin goes unconsciously to attention," Ruvemir smiled.
The King laughed. "My shadow in the black and silver of the Citadel," he said. "I miss his presence."
"They all send their greetings, of course, and gifts. They are in a special trunk of their own. And Treebeard of Fangorn also sends his greetings and his deepest respect. He says you restore his faith in Mankind, which is strained by the doings of the Dunlendings."
Aragorn sighed. "We'll have to look into that situation soon, then." He rose from his seat on the floor as he returned Pippin's figure to the artist. Suddenly he looked to his wife, and commented, "Here I've been lounging on the floor, and you continue to stand. Forgive me, beloved." She merely smiled at him, and accepted his gentle kiss of contrition.
Ruvemir said, "I had a dream of Lord Frodo at Bag End. I've done two figures based on it. The first I gifted to Lord Samwise, and this one is intended for you, my Lord. The second figure is intended for your lady wife." So saying, he moved the blue cloth he'd set over the gifts for the King and Queen.
The King looked down at the two figures with surprise, then finally reached down to pick up the taller one, of himself seated in the chair which had sat by Ruvemir's bed in the Houses of Healing, and examined it with awe. Finally he handed it to Arwen, then picked up the second one, of Frodo seated, pipe in hand, on a bench, leaning forward slightly to look before him and down, a smile on his face.
"You've caught him smiling," he whispered. "Oh, Master Ruvemir, I thank you. I truly thank you."
One of the women who cared for Meduseld's cleanliness came forward with a chair for the Queen, into which she folded herself with thanks. Éomer gestured to the Counselor's chair on the dais and commented that the King of Gondor and Arnor might sit there rather than on the floor of his hall, and with another laugh the King of Gondor and Arnor gave his host a bow and accepted this more dignified seat.
Soon all were examining the model for the memorial while Aragorn looked through the sketch booklets. Finally he looked up at Ruvemir, who'd been explaining to Prince Imrahil how the touch of the cloak on the ground served as an extra support for the figure, and once he'd caught the sculptor's eye commented, "I thought you'd tired of doing Men. Seems to me my own figure is well represented within these booklets, and that you've done your share of images of Lord Faramir as well."
"I suppose I've been practicing for the works to come, my Lord King, for I am certain I will do many of you and the Lady Arwen in the future. And I've been doing a few studies in anticipation of the memorial to the Nine Walkers and Bill in my newest booklet, which is not here right now."
Again the King laughed full well. "Ah, so you have learned of Bill, have you?"
"Yes, and the fear of the creature in the pool before Moria as well, and how it spurred him to flee at the last. You know he returned to Bree and is once again with Lord Samwise?"
""Yes, he informed me in a letter. They have told you the full story, then?"
"Never the full story, but as full as they could at the time, my Lord King."
Lothiriel had come out with the cup of welcome. "I apologize for not bringing this earlier," she said, "but I was so enthralled by watching the King examine the model for the memorial I quite forgot about it. Accept it and be welcome, my Lord."
Aragorn rose and bowed deeply, accepted it and took a drink. The cup was then proffered to the Queen, the Prince of Dol Amroth and his lady, the Lord Steward and his lady, and finally to the young Lord Elphir, then to the captains and the men who'd followed the King to Rohan. "Another table will shortly be set up, and together we will have a luncheon, although tonight there will be a feast with all within Edoras joining us."
Aragorn bowed with thanks. "It has been a few years since I last ate in this hall, my Lady Lothiriel. You grace it well."
Éowyn smiled. "It is odd," she commented, "to accept the cup of welcome here when for so long it was my duty to offer it."
"Now it is your turn to be the guest, my Lady. And it is a joy to see you by your brother once more, for he is always far happier to see you than to look for your figure and realize it is so far away now."
Éowyn gave a crooked smile, then laughed. "A part of me remains here still, even though I love our home in Emyn Arnen. I will never cease to be, in the end, a Rider of Rohan and my brother's sister."
The luncheon was a fine one, and while they ate stories were told and listened to. All seemed enthralled by the story of the realization between Miriel of Lebennin and Folco Boffin of Overhill that they loved one another, with all coming out at Yule when following a kiss Folco had made his proposal before all assembled, followed by the wedding a few weeks after in Bag End. Then Miriel gave the full story of the discovery that the silver circle young Frodo-Lad was chewing on so solemnly was the circlet of honor given to Lord Samwise at the Field of Cormallen, and the reaction of Mistress Rosie when she realized just what it was and what it meant. But when she told of the great dignity shown by Lord Samwise when he was asked formally by Ruvemir to wear his circlet as it was designed to be worn, and as he'd finally led them to the study where he opened the chest containing Frodo's circlet, mithril shirt, and Sting, all listened with great respect and solemnity. When the story was done Aragorn sighed. "It appears that native dignity I spoke of earlier grows in him, Master Ruvemir." The sculptor replied with a nod.
The King turned to Dorlin son of Dwalin. "Now, Master Dorlin, tell me of your visit to the Iron Hills. Has your heir been born yet?"
The Dwarf almost choked on his ale, and he looked at the King of Gondor with surprise. "And what do you know of such things?"
"Do you think one who was raised in Rivendell as son to Lord Elrond and who has studied the ways of Dwarves with Bilbo Baggins doesn't know the meaning of visiting ones mother's people?"
For a long moment the Dwarf studied the Man, then finally smiled and answered, "A son was born four days after Yule. It was with great reluctance I left again, and I will not remain in your city many months, Lord Aragorn, for I must fetch my wife and son to Erebor soon."
"May both be a delight to you through a long and rich life, Lord Dorlin. And if there is anything I can do to honor you and your family for the sacrifices you've made for the friendship of Gimli, please let me know."
"I was surprised not to see him here."
"He has gone south to Casistir to help in the preparation to build a new bridge there. Although if I know Gimli, he'll most likely have it planned out and half of it built before our Lord Prince Imrahil is off home again to Dol Amroth." All laughed.
The King's face became solemn. "Which brings us to the other reason besides friendship and the desire to see the model we have visited you, Éomer. The latest intelligence from Rhun indicates the Wainriders are encroaching heavily on their lands and people. Will your Riders join us in a campaign there this summer, my Lord?"
"We've studied the reports you've sent us, my brother, and it appears the danger they pose is real. Yes, we will follow your banner."
"Thank you. Meanwhile, what can we do about the Dunlendings? They are disturbing the Ents, and I will not allow them to be troubled if I can do otherwise."
This led to a prolonged debate and discussion. Finally the Lord Elessar sighed. "I'll have Hardorn check it out, then. Eregiel, will you serve as his bodyguard? And whom can you send in the party, my brother Éomer?"
"When do you send it?"
"Is tomorrow too early?"
"I could send ten men."
"I'll send five behind them." He turned to one of the officers who had accompanied them. "Lord Hardorn has apparently remained in the stables with the animals. Will you please summon him and let him know his cousins are awaiting him and desire his presence? And let young Lasgon know he, too, will be welcome to join us as well. The two are probably entertaining the guards and those serving today in the stables."
"Yes, my Lord." The officer gave a bow and left.
"Hardorn came with you, my Lord Cousin?" Eregiel asked.
"Who did you think was driving the wagon? Always fancied himself a groom."
"I recognized Lasgon on the box of the queen's coach," Ruvemir commented.
"He was just admitted into the Guard of the Citadel, and has fallen under Lord Hardorn's sway already. Hardorn likes to go unnoted, and does so often by appearing as inconsequential as possible. Few enemies will take much note of those driving the supply wagons, so he takes that position and carries an amazing arsenal with him. He can disappear in an instant, and will appear unexpectedly within the ranks of the enemy themselves, usually beside the leader of the group, and will either incapacitate him or take him prisoner and disappear with him, leaving the enemy leaderless and confused, which tends to make them easier to deal with."
"And who taught him that strategy?" asked Prince Imrahil with a laugh. "I seem to remember using that ploy against a party of Haradrim at the suggestion of Captain Thorongil!"
"He and I worked it out between us, actually," the King explained. "We've used it successfully several times in both realms. Remember, Lord Imrahil, that I was not the only one of the Northern Dúnedain who served in the armies of Gondor. He often appeared as my aide or even my body servant. The number of folk who totally ignore body servants and will speak freely before them as if they were deaf or part of the decor is amazing. As our numbers have always been fewer in the North, we have had to learn to walk camouflaged and to outflank enemies by trickery. Often one man alone must serve instead of a squadron, so we have learned to be flexible and devious. Our long association with the Elves has helped there. Few are as devious or more practiced at moving unseen than an Elf; and rarely do they resort to their own powers to achieve this."
A few moments later the officer returned followed by Lasgon and Lord Hardorn, who was attired roughly--until he pulled off his rough cotte and showed himself to be clad in fine Dwarf mail beneath. He handed the cotte to Lasgon, then turned to his cousin and Eregiel and bowed.
Eregiel laughed. "Bow to me, Uncle? No--" as he launched himself at his kinsman. A long hug later, Queen Lothiriel was offering the latest comers the cup of welcome and more platters were set on the board, and Ruvemir was quietly exchanging greetings with the new Guard of the Citadel who had worked once as page to four Hobbits.
The King and Lord Hardorn conferred quietly as they ate, and soon Hardorn beckoned four of the Guard to himself. Ruvemir wondered who the fifth man was to be.
That evening Ruvemir brought out the chest of gifts from the Shire and saw them distributed. They were mostly homely gifts--pots of preserves; bottles of ale; more bolts of fine cloth; a Hobbit vest, finely decorated, made to the measure of the King; a lace shawl for each Queen; a fine wooden pipe for Dorlin; a Hobbit cloak made for King Éomer; a finely knit shawl for Éowyn; a box of Hobbit kerchiefs each for the King and Prince Faramir (Aragorn laughed); a fine woven scarf also for the Steward; and a bottle of wine labeled to be sent on to the Prince of Dol Amroth. Also included were fine bowls and cups of Shire make, hand decorated with flowers and fruits, for all.
Ruvemir described Pippin's birthday party, old Toby's bottle of Old Winyards, and the firework. The King described the leap over the chasm in Moria and the terror in Pippin's eyes and the trust he gave Boromir. Folco described Bilbo's last party and remarkable disappearance. Éomer told of the ride through the dark to reach Mundberg. Éowyn described how she disguised herself for that ride with the helmet and mail and cloak of a fallen Rider and the talk she'd had with Elfhelm over Merry's presence in his eored. Eregiel described the attack from the villagers originally from Dunlending. The Queen told of her delight when she realized Pippin's gift for singing and how she and the King had taught him Elvish songs and lays. Then Ririon started telling the story of the afternoon in the library in Brandy Hall, but let Ruvemir tell most of it. The artist produced the picture he'd done of Sam, his finger holding his place in his book, as he told of the last ride to the Havens, and all examined it with respect. And Pando described the Free Fair at Michel Delving when Frodo had resigned the post of deputy Mayor, the songs sung, and the sudden arrival of Lords Elladan and Elrohir and the singing of the Lay of Frodo of the Nine Fingers.
"The four of them were all in tears, Frodo pale but proud in the midst of his messages," Folco added to the tale. "But most of us had no idea what it was all about." He looked at his wife's brother. "Now I finally understand. Poor Frodo--no one realized how what he'd done out there--out here, I mean--impacted us all." He shook his head. "Evro Brandybuck saw his brother killed before his face, and he's not yet got over it. He's understandably bitter."
"We were commanded not to tell those we met we were of the race of Men," Miriel said.
"Ferdibrand Took realized what we were anyway, and he held no bitterness--at least not toward us,"
The King nodded. Finally he said, "Well, I must to bed. Tomorrow will be busy."
Soon all were dispersing to the quarters made ready for them. After readying himself for bed, Ruvemir heard a knock at his door. Pando reached it first and opened it, then accepted a missive brought by the King. "For Master Ruvemir," he said, and smiled at the artist. "Good night."
Soon Ruvemir was eagerly unfolding a long letter from Elise, and he kept the candle burning long as he read and then reread it.
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.