39. Brothers in Light
Brothers in Light
Ruvemir rapped at his father's door, and at the invitation to enter led in his two companions. Mardil rose, surprised to see his son was not alone, until he realized who the taller of the two Men was, at which time he bowed deeply.
"My Lord King," he said with deep respect. "My son did not warn me you would be with him when he returned."
"He did not know himself. My young cousin, Eregiel."
He wore no mark of his rank save the Ring of Barahir, yet Mardil realized this was a Man in whom command was native, and to whom authority was granted by the Powers themselves. He went to the bell and rang, and stood at the door to ask that wine and four goblets be brought. The young man now on duty bowed and went to fulfill the request, and soon all were seated at the table with goblets in their hands.
"The work went well tonight?" Mardil asked his son.
He noted the smile. "Yes, full well. The dross is falling away."
"You observed this, Sire?"
"I thank you deeply for the care you showed for my son when he was so ill."
"It is my gift, and it is my duty to use my gift as is needed."
Ruvemir asked, "How does the girl Lorieth do, my Lord?"
"We fought the beginnings of an infection today, and it appears we have won, for the moment at least. I'd thought she'd awaken, but it appears that it is yet too soon. Miriel sat with her for three hours this morning, with a shirt I believe is intended for your marriage."
Ruvemir laughed. "So I'd guessed. The gift for the Queen was all but done last even, and I suspect she was awake much of the night attaching the skirts. And today ere my father came it was measuring strings and notes."
They all laughed.
For a time they talked lightly of the journeys each had made from the southlands. Finally Eregiel stretched. "This is better fare than they served at the tavern. But if we are to meet with the captains and the Elf Lords in the morning, Lord Cousin, we need to return soon to the Citadel."
Reluctantly the King nodded, finished his wine, and set his goblet upon the table. "Thank you both for your courtesy and hospitality. I hope to return it soon. You go to see the house tomorrow?"
"Yes, and to meet with Elise's family after, and to dine with them."
"I will leave instruction that the cart be here at the fourth hour, then, and that the house be opened to you."
"Thank you, my liege."
He rose and Eregiel handed him the silver-green cloak from Lorien he'd been carrying. The King donned it and bowed deeply as he drew up its hood, and as Mardil let them out the door the two Dúnedain disappeared quietly down the passageway and out into the night.
Mardil watched after with awe, then turned to his son. "Does he do this often?"
"What--appear suddenly in the inn? He's done it a few times. Once after the Lady Arwen returned from Ithilien the two of them appeared at my door begging asylum from the court, where both were feeling too closely watched due to the Queen's pregnancy. I doubt Master Beneldil realizes that the cloaked figure he has seen in the inn is the King himself rather than one of his kinsmen. Actually, he was rather quiet tonight. Something is bothering him. Perhaps the need to face war again."
"There is trouble in Rhun which if unchecked would threaten Gondor. He was born and raised to be a warrior, but he does not delight in fighting."
"This memorial--it means a great deal to him?"
"Yes, particularly the figure of the Lord Frodo." Ruvemir thought for several moments. "You look into the face of a Hobbit, and you think, this is a simple soul. Only you are wrong. Most are rather simple in many ways, but there is a depth of wisdom and courage in the heart of even the simplest and most timid Hobbit that must be seen to be believed. But in no way was Frodo Baggins simple.
"As I said, all who came to know him well loved him, including the Lord King. He was not King yet, but the Chieftain of the Dúnedain of the North. He met them in Bree and led them from there to Imladris, only the Ring betrayed them, betrayed the Lord Frodo repeatedly. The Lord Aragorn again and again saw Frodo defy It, defy the Ring and Sauron, saw him finally take up his courage in both hands to leave them behind that the Ring not destroy them as It was destroying himself. His honor for the Lord Frodo's sacrifice knows no bounds." Ruvemir's voice became softer. "My honor for his sacrifice knows none, either."
He took a deep breath. "All four of them came to the point of death, Father, every one of them. Nor would Middle Earth still stand if they hadn't. All of them, innocent as they were when they started out, bear scars on their bodies and their souls. And the Lord Aragorn drew them, each and all, back from the gates of death.
"But it was worst for the Lord Frodo. The Ring emptied him of his natural joy, of all hint of innocence, of his health. He recognized the quest would cost his life and was willing to give it that the rest of the world might stand; but at the last the Ring claimed him completely. He felt guilty, tainted. He came away with nightmares the horror of which cannot be told, and on the anniversaries of his worst woundings the full weight of the memories of agony and terrors suffered and survived would hit him and fell him. All agree that had he lingered only a few more days, till the next anniversary of one of the woundings, he'd not have survived. He was dying, sir, once again dying."
He looked up into his father's eyes, and the taller Man saw the deep grief and compassion that filled his son--and the pride. Ruvemir continued, "I wonder if I could have done what he did--to defy that evil for so long, to have made it to the Chamber of Fire itself, still carrying the Enemy's Ring. I doubt it. The Lord Samwise, who carried It for a day's time, does not believe he could have held out against It for much longer than he carried It on his person. Yet Frodo Baggins carried It, awakened and actively trying to defile and corrupt him, for six months, and still sleeping for seventeen years before that."
Mardil of Lebennin found his own native compassion stirred by that he saw in his son. "How did he manage to come away?"
Ruvemir turned away toward the window. It was some time before his answer came. "Somewhat over five hundred years ago one of the kin of the Hobbits who lingered here east of the Misty Mountains, whose folk lived near the Gladden Fields, fell into the River Anduin and saw a flash of gold at the bottom, and drew the Ring out of the mud, out of the River. His cousin and friend killed him to take It from him. He bore It away into the caverns that lie beneath the Misty Mountains. Thirteen Dwarves, a Hobbit, and a Wizard were crossing the passes above Imladris when they were captured by goblins and drawn into those caverns, and the Hobbit, the Lord Frodo's kinsman Bilbo, found It there, where It had abandoned Gollum. He carried the thing for sixty-one years, not appearing to age while he carried It in his pocket. Finally the Wizard Mithrandir convinced him to let It go, to give It to his young heir Frodo. Bilbo left the Shire, and left It, too.
"Gollum survived the loss of the Ring, and found the Lords Frodo and Sam lost in the Emyn Muil. He guided them for a time, having vowed on It to guide and protect them. Then he betrayed them, and they left him. But he continued to follow them, and in the end, after It claimed the Lord Frodo and he put It on his finger, Gollum bit off the finger wearing It and took It for his own again, and fell with It into the depths of Orodruin."
His father drew a deep breath. "So, that is how he became Frodo of the Nine Fingers." His son did not look at him, only nodded gravely, continuing to look out into the darkness outside the window.
Finally Ruvemir said, "Both the Lord Elessar and the Lord Frodo are equally great in spirit. Our Lord King was born and raised to be warrior, king, scholar, and healer. The Lord Frodo was born and raised to bring forth and consume food and knowledge. Both were born with depths of compassion and love and desire for renewal beyond normal mortal capacities. For all their differences in seemings, they are the same, Adar. When the Lord Frodo Baggins abandoned Middle Earth, the Lord Aragorn Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar lost his mirror image, the awareness of his own soul's purity and Light. If I see Frodo Baggins as the brother I never met, the King sees him as the one he knew and loved with the fullness of his being. I do not know if his grief will ever fully heal. He will bear it because he must, but it still pains him every day he lives apart from his other self. And for the Lord Samwise it is the same."
At last he turned to look up into his father's eyes once more, drawing himself as tall and straight as his stunted body could stand. "I have come to love them all three, both of the Hobbits and the Man who has become our King." A simple statement, but full of profound depth of feeling. Mardil the Carver found himself bowing before the devotion expressed so by his son.
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