4. First Study
"Where do I begin?" Strider commented to himself. "He is perhaps--just under four feet high--came to just below Gimli's shoulders. Slender--very, very slender for a Hobbit; thin, ascetic face with a distinct cleft to his chin. Hair a cap of dark brown curls. Ears gently leaf shaped, as is common of his kind. Beardless--Hobbits do not raise beards. Eyes large and startlingly blue beneath carefully arched brows, with dark lashes. Nose straight and slightly aquiline, another unusual trait among Halflings." Ruvemir started. So, this was indeed a commission to do a study of a Pherian after all? The Man sprawled now in his chair near the fireplace noted the look. "Yes, he is one of the Pheriannath. Their own name for their race is Hobbit. And I assure you that you will not be able to use yourself as a model as your fellow Bergemon suggested." The two Men, tall and short, shared a smile over that one.
He took another drink of his goblet, then looked to his companion. "Which shall it be, Gimli--as he was when we started, or as he was at the end?"
The Dwarf gave an elaborate shrug, pursing his lips and shaking his head. "Was there that much difference, Aragorn? When I first saw him he'd only just recovered from his wound, and it was his first real meal in--how long? He looked hale enough, but his skin was still transparent, color just coming back to his lips and cheeks." Strider nodded. Ruvemir filed the new fact about his patron in the back of his mind--his real name was Aragorn? Explained the A glyph on the seal, then. "He was seated by my father and looked quite lost in the chair. All the cushions provided by Lord Elrond's people seemed barely to lift him high enough to see over the table. Sam and Merry and Pippin seemed far more substantial, compared to him."
Strider shrugged. "I wasn't at the feast--was receiving the news of the first scouts about what had been learned of the Riders and their whereabouts. My first glimpse of him awakened was in the Hall of Fire, seated by Bilbo, his eyes once more present and clear. And after the seventeen days of his wound that was very reassuring. It was good to see him without pain at last." Both nodded.
There was a rap at the door, and Strider once more hooded himself and faded into the corner. Ruvemir, at his nod, called out the request to enter, and Elise entered with another tray.
"It is one of the requirements for letting this room that was put on us by the Ernil i Pheriannath that at least once a day its inhabitants receive a plate of these seed cakes, whose recipe he provided us with, and a pot of tea, which he also gave us precise directions for. He even left funds for this purpose. Said it would not be appropriate for a Shireling without such, and that he had determined to spread his cousin Bilbo's secret recipe for the seed cakes throughout the realm." She shook her head in wonder at the memory, and Ruvemir saw that the Dwarf was smiling broadly. Strider's response was not as easily seen, although he thought the Man's shoulders were shaking with suppressed laughter.
Quickly Elise placed the mugs, strange server, assorted other vessels, and a plate of large cakes on the table, gathered the used dishes and the remains of the meal onto her tray, and set it aside on the folding table while she moved about the room lighting the lamps. "I see you lit the fire yourself. I would have done so, had you wished to wait."
Ruvemir smiled at her. "There was no need, my lady. We are capable of such things as lighting the fire, after all." He noted she colored prettily at the title he'd given her, and decided he'd see if he could bring similar responses in the future. When at last she was through she curtsied to the company and withdrew, smiling at them as she left.
Gimli smiled after her as the door closed behind her. "Pretty thing," he commented, and gave Ruvemir a contemplative look. "Not much taller than a Dwarf woman, or than you. You could do worse, you know."
Strider, lowering his hood, pulling his chair once more before the fire and looking at the offerings on the table, was smiling, also. "Dear Pippin. Bilbo would skin the young scoundrel alive if he knew he'd been handing out the family recipe all over the realm."
The Dwarf snorted again with amusement. "Nonsense. Oh, he'd bluster, all right, but would be intensely flattered and pleased with himself, as you well know." The two shared a laugh over their friend.
Strider demonstrated the proper manner to serve tea, and Ruvemir tasted it with reserve, finally deciding this must be an acquired taste. Strider drank his mug with satisfaction while Gimli refused it, saying he'd stick to his ale. The tall Man smiled. "I suppose that if I expect you to do justice by a Hobbit, it is only right you get a taste for Hobbit culture and pleasures. I'm a bit surprised Peregrin didn't also direct them to serve mushrooms to the guests in these rooms, although I suppose it is possible he did, and they are only waiting to spring them on you."
"Is this one truly a Prince of the Halflings?" Ruvemir asked, having decided that while he wasn't overly fond of tea, the seed cakes were well worth eating.
Strider thought for a moment. "Not really, although he is possibly the closest to such a one as the Shire produces. I learned during our travels that his father is the Thain of the Shire, whose office of old was to serve as liaison between the King of Arnor and the folk of the Shire. Once Paladin Took resigns his office or dies, Peregrin will take his father's place in that capacity."
"What are they like in their homes, these Pheriannath?"
"I've ridden along the Road through the Shire only four times in my life, so I've seen little enough of it. Gimli could perhaps tell you more, for he has been through it between the Iron Hills and Erebor more than once, I think." The Dwarf shrugged, and the Man continued. "Hobbits do not build cities, but dwell in villages and on farms. Their preference is to live a farming life, and they love all that grows and delights in fertile soil. They do have commerce, but until recently most was contained within the Shire itself or shared with the folk of Bree and with those Dwarves who frequent the Road."
"And what profession was that of your friend?"
Gimli shrugged again as if not sure how to describe him, but Strider answered, "He was a scholar and a gentlehobbit. His kinsman Bilbo was the head of the Baggins clan, the Baggins, you might say. When Bilbo decided to remove to Rivendell he left that distinction to his adopted heir, who also inherited the family smial and business interests, which proved to be remarkably diverse and complicated."
Gimli looked interested. "I had no idea, Aragorn. Hobbits always appear so simple in nature."
Strider laughed. "Simple? Oh, do not be fooled by appearances, Gimli. Remember what Gandalf used to say, that there was more to this Hobbit than met the eye; that is true of all Hobbits, but particularly, I think, the Bagginses. You should have seen his will--even Sam, who always thought he knew what went on in his beloved Master's life, has been amazed to find out just what Frodo has saddled him with as his heir."
The name hit Ruvemir with a jolt. The Pherian Frodo, who'd gone to Mordor itself? This was what he was being asked to memorialize? He set down the remains of the seed cake he'd been eating with deliberate care, and looked more closely at his patron.
Strider had noted the change in attitude, and was now examining him closely in return. "Yes," he finally said, quietly, "we are speaking of that Hobbit."
There was another period of quiet. "He went into the land of the Enemy," Ruvemir said at last. Strider nodded. "And he carried the Enemy's Ring to Orodruin for destruction." Another nod. "No wonder you wish to make a memorial for him." A single nod in response.
At last the tall Man continued. "To be a scholar in the Shire is a most unusual profession indeed. Most Shirefolk have never been further than forty miles of their birthplace in their lives, and most are unlettered. Those who don't work on the farms still live close to them, often own shares in them; and most even of the gentry grow much of their own food. Bag End, the Baggins family smial, has its own orchard and vegetable gardens and herb garden, although it is most noted as the site of the most beautiful flower garden in the entire Shire, perhaps in all of Eriador and Arnor. That was the work of the Gamgees, who for three generations served as gardeners and caretakers for the property." He paused for a moment, finished his tea, set the mug down and looked at it thoughtfully. "Samwise Gamgee, son of Hamfast, began working alongside his father as gardener of Bag End when he was yet a child. He has an affinity for plants and growing things, and helped after the victory over the Enemy in the replanting of gardens here in Minas Anor. Frodo, once he was taken to Bag End as Bilbo's ward and heir, befriended Sam, who responded to the friendship with a depth of love and devotion unprecedented, I think, in the history of the West. When Frodo left the Fellowship to go to Mordor by himself, seeking to take the danger of the Ring away from us, Sam reasoned out his Master's plans, followed him, would not let him go alone. Together the two went through horrors we can little imagine, and they managed to win through it all, even survive--although I cannot begin to tell you at what cost."
"I see." All seemed to find a focus for their thoughts for a time. "And you have chosen me to do this based on the work you saw in Casistir."
"Yes, I have."
"Captain Thorongil was related to you?"
A suppressed laugh. "Oh, yes, intimately."
"It was long thought by some that he was of the Dúnedain of the North."
"Will the King agree to this project?"
"It is his will."
"I see." Ruvemir rose to his feet, went to his wardrobe, opened it, and reaching into the pocket of his cloak he unfastened the brooch he'd pinned there earlier, brought it out, and returned to the table. "I did promise to return this to you, Lord Strider."
"Thank you. It is good to have it back." He pinned it to his cloak, currently held closed by a loop of cord over an elaborate knot, and Ruvemir realized the brooch was the usual item used in securing the fastening. "Are you willing to accept the commission, Master Ruvemir?"
"It would definitely prove--interesting."
"Yes, I'm sure it will be."
"Let me think for a bit."
And, as he thought, his hand was moving on the page of the sketch booklet, charcoal quickly outlining the image of the Pherian Frodo he'd begun to develop.
As he thought and sketched, the Dwarf looked to the windows, then to his companion. "It grows late. They have certainly missed you by now."
"Hardorn knows where I am, and will send to fetch me if I am needed on the King's business."
"Surprised he isn't here beside us, his bow in hand. Almost as ready with it as any Elf, if you ask me."
"He was schooled in its use, after all, by my brothers."
"I suppose that explains it, then."
"And the only reason he agreed to stay there was because you were with me."
"Hmmph. As if you couldn't take care of yourself."
"It's good to have a comrade to watch one's back, Gimli."
The Dwarf shrugged again. "And where was the comrade to watch your back when you took off to Bree when the news came?"
This time the Man shrugged. "There was no time, and in the end I came too late."
Silence, save for the crackling of the fire and the sound of charcoal on paper, held for a time, until at last Ruvemir set down his stick, and after contemplating his work for some moments, turned it for the others to see. It was the face only, but in spite of the fact it appeared a bit Mannish, there was in it something of the spirit of Frodo Baggins--he could tell by the way Gimli nodded and Strider took a slow, deep breath, then released it in a prolonged sigh.
"Not truly Frodo," commented the Dwarf.
Strider nodded agreement. "No, not truly Frodo, but closer to his nature than the work we had from those who tried to draw him from life. It is a start." He looked deeply into the artist's eyes as he rubbed his chin. "I truly wish you to take this commission."
Ruvemir nodded his assent, and the two Men clasped hands on 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.