King's Commission, The: 31. Beginning the Execution of the Commission

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31. Beginning the Execution of the Commission

Beginning the Execution of the Commission

            Gimli rode into the city three days later, driving a wagon loaded with six blocks of marble from Casistir, given him in thanks for the aid he'd given in not only breaking the deadlock of the various parties who had spent almost four years now arguing as to what kind of bridge to build, but also in setting the foundations for the two sides.  He did not say how he had managed to transport the great stones from one side of the Gilrain to the other, only smiling when asked.  "Oh," he said, "we Dwarves have our ways."  Only later did he confide to Ruvemir he'd gone to the quarries themselves to choose what stone he'd have, and there, where the stream was much narrower, he'd more easily gotten them to the other side of the water.  "Don't tell them in the city how I did it, though, or they'll think the bridge at Casistir is unnecessary."  Ruvemir merely laughed.

            Gimli had given him the six stones as a gift, and brought them up to the seventh level for him, to the northeastern side of the Court of Gathering, the long court toward the keel of the great thrust of stone which divided the city.  Ruvemir had spent much of the past two days drawing the design for Pippin's statue on one of his great sheets of paper, and now had four views of it, front, back, and each side, all only slightly larger than life size.  He carried the roll as he rode up through the city with the load of stone, and watched as a gang of Dwarves and Men offloaded them carefully, gently setting them down on the pavement.  A work shelter had been erected on the outer margins of the Court of Gathering near the Court of the White Tree and the Fountain, a screen on the southeastern side to break the worst of the wind, and there the sculptor fixed his views of how the statue would be made.  Ruvemir examined the six blocks, trying to decide which four held in them the figures of the four Hobbits he was to sculpt. 

            He'd been approached by one of the city's sculptors, Master Sculptor Varondil son of Beremor, who offered the services of one of his apprentices to assist in the management of the stone, the rough cutting, and the final polishing.  As he explained to Ruvemir, as one who specialized in the carving of tomb effigies there was a certain amount of repetition in the work he produced, and he felt the young man needed the experience of working in a standing figure for a change and to learn more about depicting the stance and gestures of living beings.

            The apprentice was named Celebgil, and was a tall youth of seventeen.  The young man stood by the small master sculptor to whom he was temporarily assigned and watched him with interest and a level of patronization--but then, he had not seen the works this one had done in Casistir, Lossirin, Dol Amroth, Benelien, or many other cities and towns and even hamlets throughout the southern fiefdoms.  For the moment Ruvemir ignored him, intent on learning from the stone before him. 

            The largest piece was too large for figures for Hobbits, and there was something of too much solemnity to it as well.  It didn't quite make him uncomfortable, but somehow it spoke of--of a different kind of memorial, and not that of a Hobbit.  Suddenly he knew what that block contained within it, and he pointed it out to the Dwarves and Men who were still lingering as he selected his blocks.

            "That one will be necessary in the future, but is not intended for this particular memorial.  I wish it taken to a warehouse to which I can have access in the future, and I will work on it on days when I cannot work here in the open.  Lay it with--" he examined it for several moments before making a decision, then took the brush from the black paint he had before him and marked a particular side "--this side to the floor."

            Celebgil could not see the difference between one side of the block and any others, but two of the Dwarves nodded, one of them the Lord Gimli, the King's particular friend among Dwarves.  "The stone speaks to you, then," Gimli commented.

            Ruvemir shook his head.  "No, I do not have the ear to listen to the stone as Dwarves do, my Lord Gimli; but good stone intended for figures will show me what figures it contains or will accept; and this one is for endings.  And with the major flaws in it concentrated to this side, it should be down and unworked.  Otherwise any stroke I give it will simply mar and not shape."

            Gimli nodded, smiling broadly. 

            Ruvemir then called his own two apprentices to his side and gestured for Celebgil to come closer as well.  He found himself looking at the two other youths with interest and more than a little amazement.  A half-blind youth and a child were apprentices to this little Man?

            Ruvemir was pointing out the flaws he saw in the stone, having the two younger apprentices touch them.  "Here, Ririon, your sense of touch will definitely play a strong part should you decide to work more in stone as you have on occasion.  I've already seen you have a feel for grain in wood, and you were able to feel the change in the soapstone you worked on our journey.  Now, feel the stone here and tell me when you believe you have found the flaws I have seen in it."

            The tall boy began to run his hand over the surface of the stone systematically, then, suddenly stopped, began to feel along a line, then swept his hand again, found the line again, and followed it toward the top of the stone.  Finally he said, "I feel a difference that appears to start here--" he began following the grain of the change with the right hand while more deliberately following it with the left hand "--and it follows this path.  Then it reaches here and curves somewhat, seems to go off possibly at at least two angles."

            "Excellent, Ririon.  Do you see the changes he is feeling, Pando, Celebgil?"

            The small boy put out his hand under that of Ririon, and followed the change in the grain of the stone.  "Yes," he said, "I can see it."  Ririon stopped the movement of his hand along the line of the change in the stone, then set it alongside that of Pando, following his hand's movements.  "It splits here, as Ririon felt it, then one line goes this way, and the other that."  He indicated the lines that the flaws followed.  Celebgil found he had to look closely to see what the other two were noting, and felt odd, as these two seemed to be more able to sense this apparently obvious flaw in the stone he could barely perceive.

            Ruvemir nodded.  "Also excellent, Pando.  I almost wish you would stay with me longer, but it is imperative I get you to Mistress Andúrien soon that your more obvious gift with clay is properly trained.  Now, Celebgil, I'd like you to trace the lower of the two lines of the flaw to its lower extremity."

            It had been some time since his own master had worked on such detail work with him, and almost Celebgil felt insulted; yet at the same time he admitted to himself that for the first time in quite a while he was actually learning something new about stone.  He began to rub his hand on the stone near where the boy Ririon had first noted the change in the texture, and found the beginning of the flaw indeed where the boy had noted it.  He began following it down, missed the split in the line and found himself following the upper fork, then traced back until he found the split at last--odd, how it was more obvious from this direction--and followed the lower fork all the way to the lower margins of the stone as it stood on end.  "I feel it better than I see it," he commented as he came to the lower extremes of the line of the flaw.

            "Yes, your sense of touch must be as attuned as your eye, and often your hand will teach your eye to see the changes that indicate how inclusions or flaws or cracks run within the stone you are working.  Very good use of your senses, all three of you.

            "Now, I feel I'd best introduce you.  Celebgil has served as apprentice for three and a half years to Master Sculptor Varondil, who has chosen to carve almost exclusively tomb effigies and carvings, or so I am told; and he has done even some design work for his master."  Celebgil felt flattered that Master Ruvemir had learned this much of his work to date, although he wondered as to why Master Varondil had told Master Ruvemir such a thing, for he felt that statement somewhat--exaggerated.  "Ririon is my ward, and has so far mostly done small carvings and figures in wood, usually of animals, geometric shapes, and babes.  He began working on this many years ago, before his vision was damaged last fall.  He has also done some work with soapstone, mostly just pieces to learn how to work the stone, the use of the tools, how to polish it, and so forth.  Since his vision was diminished he has been learning how to use his touch to direct the shaping, and has proven very skillful. 

            "Pando Proudfoot has shown skill with the working of clay and wax, and has shown an ability to do remarkably accurate portrait sculptures.  His own people in the Shire rarely do portrait work in any material, I've found, so there are few there who could teach him to further his gift; so I have agreed to take him to a master sculptor in clay and wax who lives in Belfalas and does her primary work there.  In the mean time he is learning what I can teach him of other forms of sculpture.  I will leave in a few weeks and be gone for about a month to take these to their primary instructors, Celebgil, after which time you and I will work together almost exclusively for some months as we bring the King's commission to its completion.  If your own master is agreeable I will take you with me so that you can see masters in other materials at work and perhaps learn some from them to extend your own abilities and appreciation of the work of other artists."

            Celebgil was surprised that a sculptor of stone would deign to work at all with those who were intended to work in other media, but there was little he could say without appearing unfeeling, so he wisely decided to simply nod knowingly and say no more.

            Ririon asked, "Ruvemir, what did you mean about this block being intended for endings?"

            "This stone will not accept the image of a living individual.  It is destined for a different sort of memorial."  His voice was solemn.

            "Oh," the boy said, although Celebgil didn't believe he fully understood what the mannikin meant any more than Celebgil himself did.

            The small sculptor looked at another of the blocks, which had been laid upon one side.  He examined it carefully, and took some measurements.  "No, not Sir Pippin," he said.  "But perhaps for Sir Merry....  Set it up on end."  When two of the Dwarves began to move to one end to follow his directions, both Ruvemir and Gimli protested.  "No, not that end.  The feet are held there.  Lift this end."

            Another Dwarf joined them as those changing the attitude of the stone finally got it set upright.  Ruvemir nodded distractedly at him, and this Dwarf came to stand behind him, looking over his shoulder.  "Not the Ringbearer, this one," he commented.

            "No, Sir Merry, I think, Dorlin.  They almost set it upon his head."

            The Dwarf twisted his own head sideways, then smiled.  "Yes, the head would be this way," he commented.  "The stone speaks to you?"

            Lord Gimli gave a grunt.  "Says he sees what figure the stone holds or will accept."

            "I see.  Different races; different ways of sensing the stone's intent, I suppose."

            Ruvemir walked around the block, then finally made his decision.  "No side particularly speaks to his face, but this side definitely speaks to the back of his cloak, and the tip of the sword--" moving around to the opposite face "--definitely rests below here."  He pointed to a specific spot on the stone.  He took his brush, and marked it.  He then carefully wrote MB on one side. 

            He again looked at the other stones.  Again he indicated one of the blocks should be stood on end, and this time the Dwarves and Men doing the manipulation waited for him to indicate which was the bottom.  He seemed uncomfortable with it for a moment.  "It is at an angle," he said, then smiled.  "The base needs to be reworked," he decided.  "Lay it again down, but on this face--" indicating a different side of the block than had been down before.  This stone had a bulge on one side, and a different bulge at what he had indicated would be the top, on the opposite side from the bulge on its side.  Again he took up the brush full of black paint, and he began painting a black line at a slight angle on the base.  "Here," he said, "the bottom of the base is intended to run at this angle."  Both Lord Gimli and the Dwarf he'd called Dorlin smiled and nodded agreement. 

            "I see how you have come to be a master sculptor," Gimli commented.  "The stonecutter who cut this out must have felt the discomfort of the stone to have the bottom face at the wrong angle." 

            Ruvemir nodded.  Again he wrote on the side, this time PT with a mark on one side.  He examined the bulge, and put a single dot.  "Here is the tip of the sword he holds.  This will be Sir Pippin."

            He looked at the three remaining blocks.  He started to indicate they should lift one of them, then stopped.  "No," he said.  "This one will not accept a Hobbit.  This intends to be shaped as a Man.  I've never seen a stone so proud of what it feels it ought to be."   He looked at it again for a time, then put a cross upon it.  "It, too, should go to the warehouse with the greatest of the six.  The top of it is--" he examined it again "--the top is this side."  He put a small circle at one end.  "I'm not sure what man is held in that stone, but he is tall, or sees himself as tall."

            Again he moved to the last two stones.  He smiled as he looked from one to the other.  "Yes, these are sufficiently humble and proud at the same time, just as are those whose figures they hold."  He examined one.  "Lord Frodo is in this one," he said at last, "although it will be difficult to bring him out.  There are many flaws in this one, but I sense they will be removed with the shaping.  I will need to be very careful, both in the rough cutting and the final carving.  I will need to do this one myself, Celebgil.  Like its subject, this stone will be somewhat temperamental if mishandled.  It knows what it holds, and will not accept a misaimed blow."  He marked one end, then painted FB on one face.  "I'd like this taken for now to the warehouse, as changes in temperature may cause fractures along the flaw lines.  That end is to be down."  The Dwarves nodded understanding, and both Gimli and Dorlin nodded solemnly and approvingly.

            He finally examined the last stone, then smiled gently.  "This will accept the figure of Lord Samwise Gamgee," he said.  He pointed to one end.  "There his feet are."

            "It's not as tall as the others," commented Celebgil as they stood it on end.

            "He is somewhat crouched in the stone," Ruvemir explained.  He looked at it critically, then put SG on one face and marked a dot at one edge.  "Sting's point is here," he said.  "It should go to the warehouse with that for Lord Frodo, but will be unhappy to be seen as weak.  No, place it there, near that corner of the workspace and shed."  The Dwarves and Men carefully lifted it and followed directions, then put the one intended for Sir Merry beside it.  Then one brought the cart around so that the three stones to go into storage could be lifted back onto it.

            Three individuals, cloaked against the brisk air of the day, came from the Citadel, and Celebgil realized one was the King himself.  They came near and watched as six Dwarves carefully lifted the greatest of the blocks onto the cart, laying it on the side Ruvemir had marked, and slid it to one side.

            "You will not need that one for the memorial, then?" asked the King. 

            Ruvemir barely seemed to note the arrival of such an august personage.  "It is intended for quite a different form of memorial, my Lord," he said, watching as they began to lift the tallest of the blocks.  "And this is to be a statue of a Man one day."

            He moved to the one he'd indicated should be for Frodo, and ran his hand over it.  "I wish a quilted pad to be placed around this before it is moved again," he said.  Gimli grunted his understanding and sent a younger Dwarf scurrying to the front of the cart, bringing back a great quilted tarp and a length of rope.  Ruvemir himself draped the cloth over the block, then wound the rope around it to hold the tarp in place.  "You can lay it on its side to move it--that side down, I think; but it is to stand on its base."  The Dwarves indicated they understood, and with extreme care it was lifted to the bed of the cart.

            "There are not enough left here for the full memorial," the King sighed.  "Shall I send again to Casistir so that the stone is consistent, or will you accept local stone?"

            The mannikin at last turned to the King and smiled.  "That block just loaded is the fourth stone, and will be shaped to Lord Frodo's image, my Lord Aragorn.  But it is temperamental, and I wish it to be housed where the temperature will not change greatly, and where, for now, it will not know rain.  Once it is carved it will tolerate rain well, but for now such could cause damage.  I will need to shape it myself, for the stone is full of lines of flaws." 

            "Oh, I see."  The King smiled.  "Then the stone is somewhat like its subject."

            "Very much like, sir."  Ruvemir turned again to Lord Gimli.  "Do you have another of the quilted tarps I can put over the stone intended for Lord Sam?" he asked.  Again the younger Dwarf hurried to get the desired item, and Dorlin and Ruvemir together covered the block he'd indicated would be shaped into Samwise Gamgee.

            "We will rough-cut first the block for Sir Pippin, my Lord, although I won't do the proper carving till I return from my trip south.  I will hurry as quickly as possible; but these two need to be taken to my father and Mistress Andúrien so that they receive the best preparation possible to work as their gifts and talents show now."

            The King nodded.  "When do you and Elise intend to be wed, then?"

            "Just before we leave for Lebennin.  Would you consider marrying us, my Lord?"

            The King laughed.  "I was wondering if I would be asked.  It would be an honor, Master Ruvemir.  And where will we celebrate the wedding?"

            "Master Beneldil had hoped we would marry there at the King's Head.  Certainly you know the way."

            Laughing even louder, Aragorn Elessar agreed.  "Let us discuss the details tomorrow, then."  He examined the stone.  "So, this is the one you will use for Pippin, then?  What is this line here for?"

            "We will recut the angle of the base to follow this line.  The grain of the stone lies this way.  It was miscut."

            Dorlin agreed.  "The stone does not like being miscut."

            "What kind of foundation will you place beneath the statues?"

            Ruvemir turned to Celebgil and asked him what his master would ordinarily place beneath a memorial statue.  Discussion on the base and the foundations and the plantings to be placed around the figures followed, including Pando and Ririon.

            Pando was insistent.  "There should be elanor and niphredil and kingsfoil and the Elven lilies that grow under Frodo's window and on the Hill.  That's what should be planted around the statues."

            Celebgil asked, "How do you know what grows beneath his window?"

            Pando looked at him with surprise.  "Frodo Baggins is my cousin.  I was born on Bagshot Row, just down the Hill from Bag End.  I've known him all my life, and miss him terribly since he left Middle Earth.  Sam planted those beneath his window for his comfort when Bag End was restored."

            "But Lord Frodo was a Pherian."

            "So am I, in case you failed to notice it."

            Celebgil looked at him with surprise.  He'd thought this was a little boy, but for the first time he noted the bare feet with the curly hair upon them, and the leaf-shaped ears.  "How old are you?"

            "Seventeen years.  You?"

            Ruvemir smiled.  "He is the same age, but closer to manhood than you, Pando.  Men come of age earlier than Hobbits, but they rarely live as long as Hobbits tend to do."

            "Oh," Pando said.  "But Sam said that the King will live longer than we will."

            "I am of the Dúnedain, Pando.  I am descended from the Lord Elros Tar-Minyatur and the Kings of Númenor.  I am not exactly a typical Man."  Pando looked up at the King's face with awe.  Aragorn smiled, then straightened.  "But you are correct, Pando--we will plant elanor, niphredil, Elven lilies, and athelas about the statues, with a barrier of rosemary for remembrance at the back of the grouping.  Your cousin and Sam would most deeply appreciate that, I think; and Pippin and Merry would also find it acceptable.  I will speak to our brothers about it when they arrive."

            "I never heard of niphredil and elanor and athelas before," said Celebgil.

            "Niphredil and elanor are Elven flowers, brought from the Undying Lands to Middle Earth by the kin of the Lady Galadriel," explained the King gravely.  "I hope they will remain throughout my lifetime, at least.  But as the Elves forsake the mortal lands, they will begin to fail."  He looked saddened.  "They are plants, however, that all four of those who were on the quest now know and recognize."

            "And athelas is the plant of the King," Ruvemir said, to which the King nodded.  The sculptor was carefully marking broad outlines on the stone with the black paint.  "When I was ill, my Lord, did you steep it for me?"

            "Yes, I did.  The scent was of larch trees."

            "I'd wondered.  I vaguely remember awakening to that scent.  And for Lord Frodo it was the Sea."

            "Yes.  And for Sam it was the scent of the earth of gardens."

            "So he told me.  It was highly appropriate.  He says that when he steeped some for little Elanor, it filled the room with the odor of puppies, by the way."

            The King again laughed.  "Puppies?  Ah, then I suspect she will keep dogs one day.  What is its scent when he steeps it for Mistress Rose?"

            "Bairns."  Ruvemir watched the King's face soften.

            "Sam is highly unusual, unusual for any race I am familiar with.  That the athelas should give off its full effect for him is one of the wonders I've contemplated."

            They were all silent as they watched the sculptor continue to mark the marble block.  Gimli finally asked, "Would you like a stone saw to cut the base even?  I would be willing to cut it for you."

            Ruvemir looked up gratefully.  "Yes," he accepted, "that would be most helpful, Lord Gimli." 

            "It will be a time before we return, then, but we will place these in the building given to our use in which we keep materials for the rebuilding of the walls and streets.  It is on the first level."

            "Thank you," the sculptor replied, still working on the face of the block that he was marking as four of the Dwarves left with Lord Gimli and the cart for the lower city.

            The remaining Dwarves and Men helped turn the block so that Ruvemir could mark a second face of the block.  Finally he straightened.  "At least," he commented, "I won't need to stand on a stool or scaffolding to carve these save for the tops of their heads."

            Lord Hardorn, who was with the King, commented, "Then what your fellow said that night in Casistir was not all in jest."

            "I spend much of my working time on low scaffoldings when I am carving Men full sized, my Lords.  I must, to reach the tops of their heads.  That is another of the things I will bring back from my trip to Lebennin, a portable scaffolding that my father built for me."

            "Will Miriel and Folco go south with you, then?"

            "Yes, and they will remain in Lebennin with our father and Ririon." 

            "I will send one as escort to drive the coach back from your family's home, then."

            "I thank you, my Lord."

            "I could drive the coach, my Lord King," Celebgil offered, realizing this would possibly give him the chance to accompany the sculptor on the trip south as Ruvemir had offered.

            "Could you indeed?  That would help a great deal."

            "It would also serve to broaden his training, my Lord Aragorn, as he would then be able to see the working of my father and Mistress Andúrien and perhaps a few others as well.  I will need to check with the Carvers Guild also, to find where Bergemon and Damrod are, for I wish them to assist in the Elves' Commission."

            "That is a grouping I will wish to see, by the way."

            "Your brothers will undoubtedly have some more specifics when they arrive."


            Straightening at last, Ruvemir cleaned the brush and put the top on the pot of black paint.  He looked to Celebgil.  "This will be enough to get you started," he said.  "Rough cut no further in than this at this time.  I will go now to see your master and gain permission for you to accompany us.  When Lord Gimli returns with the stone saw, draw off and allow them to cut the base at the new angle.  He knows stone well, and will do the best at making the base straight and smooth.  They will then set the block straight so you can continue working on it as it will stand when completed."  He turned to Pando.  "I wish you to watch how Celebgil uses his tools to do the rough cutting.  He will not be taking the line of the stone far in, but will be knocking off edges and giving the rough shape to the final sculpture.  Respect his work, and if he indicates he wishes you to be silent, be so that you not distract him.  Otherwise, ask what questions you think of to understand what he does."

            Again he turned to the borrowed apprentice.  "Today you are his teacher, so I expect you to take what time you must to give him the knowledge he needs to understand our artistry.  And I thank you for your agreement to this situation, young Celebgil.  That I have one as experienced as you assisting is a great help."  Ruvemir gave a bow to the youth, then turned to Ririon.  "You will come with me, Ririon, and meet with Master Varondil.  And, Master Dorlin, I would appreciate it if you would accompany us also, to give Ririon the benefit of your own experience.  After all, part of the reconstruction of the figures on the gates you did was with wood, was it not?"

            The three turned to the King and bowed deeply.  "If you will pardon us, my Lord King," the sculptor said, "but I must see to many things this day if we are to get the rough cutting finished before I must leave."

            The guardsman who was in the King's company looked, as he'd done throughout, somewhat bemused at the familiarity between artisan and monarch, while Lord Hardorn merely looked amused.  But the King, recognizing the authority of a person about a job for which he is fully prepared, bowed back to the artist.  "Then let me not stay you, Master Sculptor Ruvemir," he responded. 


            Master Sculptor Varondil had set his tools down for a brief break and was drinking a cup of mulled cider when the door to his studio was opened by another of his apprentices to admit the mannikin sculptor.  He looked up at Ruvemir and the two following him and the dog, the boy with a staff it his hand, and rose, with an air of surprise and barely hidden suspicion to greet his fellow artisan.

            "Welcome, Master Ruvemir," he said.  "And Master Dorlin, is it not?  Welcome to my workplace."

            "Thank you, Master Varondil," responded the Dwarf.  "Dorlin son of Dwalin, at your service," he said formally with a bow.

            "Varondil son of Beremor at yours, Master Dorlin," said the older Man with an answering bow, carefully examining the Dwarf before only just courteously inclining himself.

            "My younger apprentice and ward, Ririon son of Embril and Damsen," Ruvemir completed the formal introductions.  "He has mostly carved wood, and is formally apprenticed both to my father and myself, but he has not had the chance to meet with my father as yet, considering the trip to the Northlands we made as part of my current commission."

            Varondil gave the boy a close inspection, not seeking to fully hide a degree of amusement at hearing this blind child described as an apprentice.  "I see.  Welcome, young Ririon.  And did you carve your staff?"

            "No, it was gifted to me by the children of Brandy Hall because they knew I was a carver of wood and thought I would like it.  They gave me the dog as well.  Her name is Joy."

            "I see."

            The boy reached into his pocket and removed a small object.  "This is of my work," he said, presenting Varondil with a small figure of a sleeping child carved of a fragment of soapstone. 

            The older Man noted that in the pocket of the boy's surcoat was a folder of fine tools fit for carving smaller pieces, and a couple of folding knives.  This youth, he realized, was already much given to his art, and was being fully encouraged by his master and guardian to experiment fully.  Interesting.  And he was obviously more skilled than the Man had thought possible, he thought as he examined the piece he held.  "Well, I welcome you and your dog, young Master," he said.  "Come in and be comfortable.  May I offer you all some mulled cider?  We are mostly taking a break from our work."  But that the courtesy of the invitation was somewhat forced struck Ruvemir.

            Soon Ruvemir and Dorlin had joined Master Varondil at his small table while Ririon and Joy went to look over the work being done throughout the large, open room.  Varondil watched their progress with interest.  "The boy appears to be gifted indeed," he said.

            "Oh, indeed.  He has been carving for many years now, and was heartened to learn that he could continue to do so even after much of his vision was lost.  He is now finding stone to be satisfying to work with also--soapstone, at least.  Whether in the end he will work in stone or wood predominately or equally with both I cannot yet say.  But his gift appears to be mostly for the production of small figures--or so it appears so far."

            "So I see.  This one is very--charming."

            Ruvemir explained the reason for his visit, and the desire to have Celebgil travel with the party to the south, the chance to explore under masters in other materials.  Master Varondil considered, then agreed that his apprentice would undoubtedly learn a great deal and that he was willing to allow him to accompany them southwards.

            "Has Celebgil explored other materials?"

            "Some with clay, but not others.  I do not work with wood, wax, or metals."

            "In what material do you prepare models of your greater works?"

            "When I do so, in clay.  However, I rarely need to do a model.  And you?"

            Ruvemir shrugged.  "I've done them in clay, but prefer to do them in small blocks of stone.  The models for the King's commission I have done in soapstone."

            "I was surprised to learn that the Lord King had decided to see this project completed after allowing it to languish since the Pheriannath were in the city.  Do you know why it was not completed then?"

            Realizing that Varondil either had been among those approached before or was close to one of those who had produced the unsatisfactory portraits, Ruvemir realized he should be careful in his response.  "The Hobbits," he said slowly, "were not comfortable with the idea of being made the subject of a memorial.  They are, I have learned, a people not given to the type of formality preferred among Men.  Indeed, they are suspicious of those who, in their eyes, draw too much attention to themselves, seeing them as putting themselves forward or 'getting above themselves,' as they put it.  To agree to such a memorial would be seen as being unnecessarily prideful."

            Master Varondil was surprised.  "Do they not do images of their great ones?"

            "Rarely do they recognize one another for greatness.  There is one ancestor of the North Tooks and Brandybucks whom Sir Meriadoc called 'The Bullroarer,' who was known for his great size--for a Hobbit, at least--and for his strength.  That he saved his people from an invasion of great wolves and orcs is known, but this is not spoken of often, save that it led to the enjoyment of a sport played with oddly shaped sticks and small balls.  The great grandfather of Sir Pippin, Sir Merry, and Lord Frodo all three is known as the Old Took for his advanced age of a hundred thirty at the time of his death, while his sagacity is seldom mentioned.  Size and age therefore become the defining characteristics rather than accomplishments.

            "The four Hobbits saw the pictures done of them as being too formal.  Nor did they see themselves as being as unique as they truly were, and could not understand why the Lord Strider, as they mostly think of our Lord King, felt the memorial was deserved or needed."  Ruvemir noted the other sculptor drew somewhat back at the informal title by which the three Travellers spoke of the King.

            "And how did you learn this of them?"

            "It was why I was sent to Eriador in Arnor, to meet with the Pheriannath and their kinsfolk, that I might learn to understand them, to find what kind of image would be acceptable for them."

            "How did you get them to agree to the memorial, then?"

            Ruvemir smiled.  "With very great care and much negotiation.  They are, I found, easily offended in some ways where Men would find no offense, although at the same time merely laugh at many insults that tend to goad Men to draw swords.  But it was insisted upon by all of them that they could not be shown in the type of heroic pose preferred among most Men.  Hobbit sensibilities are different than those of Men in many, many ways, I have found."

            "You keep calling them 'Hobbits'."

            "So they name their own race."

            "And the King's Friend also agreed to this?"

            Dorlin shook his head gravely.  "Frodo Baggins is no longer in Middle Earth, Master Sculptor.  He was not there to object this time."

            At the mannikin's nod of confirmation, Master Varondil asked, "Then he is indeed gone?"

            Ruvemir nodded.  "Yes, passed over the Sea.  The Valar themselves have so honored him, and given him this chance for healing.  He suffered much as a result of many wounds and much anguish endured during the quest, and his health was failing at the end."  He took a sip of his drink, then set his mug down solemnly.  "Great is the grief of his kin and friends for his leaving.  I only wish I might have met him ere he left."

            The taller sculptor considered.  "Where is Celebgil now?"

            "He is at the work shed prepared for my use near the Court of the White Tree, where he is rough cutting the first of the four stones and learning of the Dwarves who will recut the base."

            Varondil appeared surprised and perhaps even dismayed.  "Then you have the stone you need already?  I had thought that perhaps I might be able to assist you to procure the stone for the commission."

            "Oh, and I thank you very much for such thought.  Had it not been for the Lord Gimli I should have been full glad to accept such aid.  However, while he was south in Casistir this winter assisting in the planning of their new bridge they gifted him with his choice of blocks of marble from their quarry.  He has gifted these to the purposes of the King in the honor of the Ringbearer and his kinsmen and friend, all of whom he came to esteem greatly."

            Master Varondil was both surprised and disappointed, for he owned an interest in the quarry that provided the material for most of the works done in the city, but could certainly say nothing against the generosity of the Lord Gimli of the Dwarves, particularly with another Dwarf sitting by him at the table.  He darted a quick look at the Dwarf.

            Dorlin smiled.  "They were most generous to my cousin for his aid.  The block on which young Celebgil works now is most fitting indeed for the image of young Pippin.  Remembering how he was as a child, it is heartening to see how responsible he has grown to be over the years."

            "You know them, Master Dorlin?"

            "I met with the four twice in their own land when they were younger.  My father was friend to the Ringbearer's cousin and former guardian, and I visited Frodo and Bilbo Baggins in their home while the younger Hobbits were also visiting them when they were children."  The taller sculptor's eyes widened.

            "I am surprised you are not wishing to be at the side of Celebgil as he does the rough cutting," Varondil finally said, turning back to Ruvemir.

            Ruvemir paused in his sipping at his cider.  "You had told me he was skilled at such.  Should I not trust him to work without my standing over his shoulder, then?"

            "Oh, no, I did not mean that.  But I thought you would wish to watch his work until you were certain they were in keeping with your own vision of what should be."  Was this protest just a bit too--swift?

            "He is not totally alone, and I marked the stone to show how much I wish cut away at this time, giving plenty of margin so that he will not cut into the figure itself."

            Again Varondil seemed surprised.  "You do plan ahead, then."

            Ruvemir shrugged.  "I tend to do so," he said, his tone amused.

            "I am told you have become familiar with the King."

            "He has allowed me to come to know him somewhat, yes."

            "I understand he saw some of your work to the south."

            Ruvemir nodded.  "He passed through Casistir shortly before I completed the statues I was commissioned to do there, and recognized two of those whose images I had wrought.  He based his choice on work I'd done on the images of Prince Adrahil and the Lord Captain Thorongil on the facade of their new hall."

            "He was familiar with their appearances?"

            "Yes, he was indeed, and all were also assured by Prince Imrahil that I'd captured his father well."

            "I am surprised he would know their seeming."

            "The Lord Captain Thorongil was of the Dúnedain of the North, Master Varondil."  Varondil noted the odd smile on the mannikin's face. 

            "Oh, then that rumor was true."

            "Indeed.  So the King and those of his kinsmen I have met have told me."

            "When will you go south?"

            "In just over two weeks' time, after my marriage.  I also wished to invite you to that celebration.  We plan that it should be at the inn where my sister and I have had our lodgings, the King's Head in the Second Circle.  It would give you the chance to meet the King personally, for he has agreed to wed us.  We are to meet tomorrow to discuss the details."

            "You are to wed?  How wonderful, Master Ruvemir."

            "Thank you.  Would your lady wife wish to attend?"

            Varondil shrugged.  "We shall see, then."

            With a few further pleasantries, they concluded the visit, and at last the shorter sculptor and his two unusual companions took their leave.  Varondil looked after them with speculation, then examined the small figure he'd been gifted.  Had he seen it first and then been told it had been done by a half-blind boy, he'd have not believed it.  And the Dwarf, he knew, was the one who'd done the restorations of the figures on the great gates.  He was interested in seeing the model produced by the diminutive sculptor, and the final memorial.  It would, he sensed, be quite different from what he'd once envisioned himself.  And that the Halflings should have been uncomfortable in being memorialized in stone seemed odd, yet he remembered several comments he'd overheard while doing his own drawings of them that had indeed confirmed the words of the mannikin sculptor.  He had not felt particularly upset when he was not chosen to do the memorial the King had purposed, particularly when he learned neither had been the others who'd also submitted drawings.  He'd had the distinct feeling that the subjects themselves would have insisted on watching the work done; and frankly he didn't like having subjects doing such oversight--it was one reason he preferred working on tomb effigies rather than statues of living heroes. 

            He was still amazed the stunted Man had achieved Master status within the guild of sculptors, which ordinarily looked with suspicion on those who are markedly different; the mannikin must indeed be skillful, then.  If he was then it would be well that Celebgil would have such training.  And what Celebgil learned he would then teach to the other apprentices as well--that had been the bargain struck between master and apprentice allowing the youth to serve the mannikin and so escape the confinement of the workshop employed by Master Sculptor Varondil.

            Well, he thought, although the sculptor now patronized by the King had not arranged to purchase the stone for his commission from himself, still the arrangement looked to prove profitable for Varondil son of Beremor.  His workshop would learn some of the mannikin's skills, and he would take advantage of the personal introduction to the King as well.  It should undo the sour taste left when the Pheriannath had refused to be depicted as drawn.  That he had helped this one currently in the King's favor would also undoubtedly work to his advantage.  He smiled.  And if he found an occasion to induce a measure of discord between the mannikin and the King--well, that would serve to keep folk coming to him for their own memorials rather than looking to the sculptor of the King's commission.  He sat back with a second drink to consider what he might assay, watching one of his other apprentices with appreciation as he slipped off his shirt in order to work more freely in the close heat now filling the workshop.

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.

Story Information

Author: Larner

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 4th Age

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 04/25/08

Original Post: 12/05/04

Go to King's Commission, The overview


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