44. Dinner with Family-to-be
Dinner with Family-to-be
Ruvemir watched the double column riding up the main way from the city and began drawing swiftly. He knew nothing about the Gondorian officer who rode between the two lines of Men save that he saw his duty very seriously. Somehow, from the Man's expression, Ruvemir found himself believing this officer was finding his current position of leading lines of soldiers from two of the peoples of the world who once were Gondor's fiercest enemies within the world of Men to be highly ironic.
Flanking the line were Elves in the silver-green cloaks of Lothlorien and silver-grey of Imladris, each armed with bow and long knife or softly curved sword. The nearer of the two lines, those on the right in their own orientation, had darker skin, eyes so deeply brown they appeared black, and tightly curled black hair, similar to that of the youth Gabon he'd seen in the house of Hirdon the Master Potter. Those on the left had swarthy skin, hair a rich dark brown to black with a much looser natural curl than seen in the Southrons, noses with pronounced bridges, all remarkably slender, eyes darting back and forth suspiciously--save for the eyes of their leader, who looked about not with suspicion but with curiosity and even approval at what he saw about him. Why Ruvemir felt drawn to this stranger he could not say, but he was caught by his attitude, and sketched his face and expression swiftly, impressing the features on his mind as he rode by. The Easterling saw the pony cart in the alley beyond the inn where they'd dined, Ruvemir noted, then turned his head to look at a group of children on his other side, paused in their play to watch the riding of the guests of the realm. Ruvemir suddenly found himself proud of the folk of his nation and the capital, how their attitudes spoke not of suspicion but of the pride of the nation of Gondor. He smiled, and watched after as the two columns continued to ride upwards toward the Citadel at the top of the city. He wondered briefly where they'd be housed, then sighed as the last of the flanking Elves disappeared after their charges, and the way at last cleared.
He paid the one who'd served them, and rose with the rest of his own party and walked in a leisurely manner to the alley where he was aided into the cart with Elise's grandmother now at his side, Miriel and Master Faragil opposite him. Finally, as the congestion of the streets at last ebbed, the carter mounted the bench on the front of his vehicle and shook the reins, at which the ponies moved out and headed down the streets.
Faragil and Idril, seated opposite one another, were discussing the ways in which the city had changed from what they remembered from younger days. Dorieth was walking between Celebgil and Pando and regaling them with some story of which, Ruvemir was certain, her mother would not approve were she walking on their side of the cart. Pando's eyes were quite wide with surprise, and Celebgil was darting swift glances to the side to make certain the adults weren't overhearing the soft exchange among the young ones. Elise and her mother walked with Mardil and Ririon on the opposite side, and Ruvemir noted his father watching the three young ones on the right side of the cart with an indulgent expression that recognized the vagaries of youth. Miriel was pointedly looking at her brother, but was actually listening to the talk of the three young ones, and at one point she gave a slight shake of her head at what she heard.
At last they came to the Second Circle and turned into the drive to the King's Head, and all came forward to assist those in the cart to dismount. Ruvemir thanked the carter, who refused as always the offer of coin, saying he was already paid for doing his job, and the Man gave a sketchy salute and left, headed for the stable outside the great Gates where the city's vehicles and their teams were housed.
All were relieved to enter the King's Head, and seeing them the young Man who manned the desk on the days Beneldil and his family took their own days of leisure from their duties to guests asked if they'd like to use the Dwarves' parlor to continue their visit. Soon they were sitting about the room, laughing and talking still, enjoying the company and the day. Finally Elise's family took their leave reluctantly, reminding Elise and her intended they were expected to the evening meal in two hours' time. Mardil again stated he would watch the three younger ones while his son and Elise were gone, but Ruvemir saw his father looked out after the departing women with regret. Faragil, on the other hand, made a point of escorting them home, and Ruvemir saw there were signs of possessiveness in the older sculptor's eyes as he laid his free hand on the hand of Idril which lay on his elbow as they walked. Ruvemir looked into Elise's eyes and smiled. "It appears the women of your family all cast a similar spell on those gifted with artistry," he commented, and her eyes first widened with surprise, then crinkled with laughter as she realized that Celebgil was looking after her sister with a look of longing on his face and her beloved's father had a similar expression looking after her mother.
Elise stayed an hour longer, then took her own leave reluctantly, and this time it was Ruvemir who accompanied her to the door, where she decidedly kissed him and set out for her home. Ruvemir watched after, feeling as if the next week would take forever to pass.
An hour later he presented himself again at the door to the house of Idril and knocked. Elise admitted him this time, and now she was beautifully dressed in a soft gown that set his heart beating wildly. She saw the effect of her choice on him and smiled happily, drawing him in and swiftly kissing him before her sister could discover he'd already arrived.
"Mother has been keeping Dorieth busy in the kitchens, which has left her feeling most abused," Elise reported, and Ruvemir laughed. She showed him into the same day room as this morning, and Idril offered him a glass of wine, which he accepted and sipped at slowly, gathering another look of approval from his beloved's grandmother.
They asked him about his youth and the estate on which Ruvemir had been raised. They were positively impressed when he described working among the cattle and his enjoyment of the calves when they were born in the spring, of days spent with his father in the workshop, of his discovery of how much he enjoyed working stone, of his feelings of being displaced when his father made the conscious choice to change his son's articles of indenture to Master Faragil but how those feelings passed swiftly when he realized just how much satisfaction he received from doing his first large practice piece.
Lisbet found herself describing her late husband, who'd been a mason. "He died when Dorieth was about eight. It was a hard business, for a scaffolding collapsed with six masons upon it as they were seeking to repair damage to the tower of a building in the First Circle, the hall for the Guild of Cooks."
Idril sighed. "This was a great tragedy, for four of those on the scaffolding died, and one was permanently injured and died a six-month later. Had the Lord Captain Thorongil remained in the realm it is likely it would have been avoided. He had been attempting to convince the Steward there must be regulations to check scaffoldings for safety, for he'd assisted in a similar collapse during one of his stays in the city when two men broke their legs and one suffered a cracked skull. All three recovered completely, but it was certainly not due to the care shown by those who erected the scaffolding on which they'd been working."
"At least it won't happen easily again," Lisbet said, "for the King has passed such a regulation, as well as other regulations intended to protect those who labor in potentially dangerous situations. They were passed soon after he accepted the Crown, in fact. That he would think of such things, he who was raised in the wilds of the north, was a subject of amazement to those in the city, most of whom are willing to pay more up front if it means they are less likely to be killed or injured when they work."
"Well," Ruvemir noted, "he is a healer, after all, and he has undoubtedly seen such injuries elsewhere during his long life."
"Exactly how old is he, I wonder?" asked Dorieth.
"He ought to be nearing ninety-three now," Ruvemir answered. At her look of startlement he reminded her, "He is, after all, of the blood of Númenor almost unmingled. He will outlive all of us, most like."
"How do you know how old he is?" asked Lisbet.
"I asked him when I awoke in the Houses of Healing last fall," Ruvemir answered. "I recognized his features at last, and realized he was far older than I'd realized."
"Recognized them from what?" asked Mistress Idril.
Ruvemir smiled, but shook his head. "I met him first in Casistir in Lebennin, where he first laid on me the commission to prepare the memorial for the Pheriannath. He came to me dressed in his garb as a Ranger of the North, and I had no idea who he really was until I awoke in the Houses of Healing and found him sitting beside me, still dressed formally from meeting earlier in the day with the embassy from Umbar."
"He was a Ranger in Arnor, then?"
"Yes, and I'm told by his cousin Eregiel who accompanied us southwards through Eriador that even there he was considered the greatest warrior, tracker, and healer among their people."
"Tell us about your visit among the Pheriannath. How do they live?"
Idril watched her granddaughter's betrothed with interest as he described his visit to the Shire, and saw he had developed a deep fondness and respect for the Hobbits, as he told them they named themselves. This also positively influenced her, as had the flowers he'd brought for each of the women of the house. That Elise should be drawn to such a one, and see beyond his physical seeming to the shining heart of him, his empathy, his gentleness and love of beauty, was reassuring. That he now knew the King personally and felt such an obvious personal love and respect for him, and that he'd come to similar feelings toward the Pheriannath was heartening. She'd raised her daughter and granddaughters to be discerning beyond the outward seeming, and Elise had chosen a husband full worthy of honor and respect. Now, if only Dorieth would follow suit.
Ruvemir was describing the Pherian Samwise, the Esquire to the King's Friend, except it appeared he was truly his gardener and almost younger brother. She saw the humor in the mannikin's eyes as he described his shock at realizing what Frodo-Lad Gamgee was using as a teething ring, then saw the respect that followed as he described how Sam had looked as he donned his circlet of honor and the love and pride he'd seen in the eyes of Sam's wife Rosie.
Lisbet was shocked at the tale. "I would hate to see how the King would react to such news," she said.
"Oh, he began to laugh when I told him, laughed loud and long, setting all within the Hall of Meduseld laughing with him. He says that this is so in keeping with Sam's habit of self-effacement that he ought not to have felt surprise at all. He told me the other day that he has sent a proper teething ring to the Gamgees for their new babe, who is due at any time as is that of the Queen Arwen. His love toward the Lord Samwise, Captain Peregrin, and Sir Meriadoc is very obvious, as is his sorrow that he will not again see the Lord Frodo."
"I can still not imagine what that journey must have been like for him and his friend," Dorieth said. "To go through such hardship, and to have to slip unseen among the Enemy's creatures--it must have been torture," She shuddered.
Ruvemir nodded. "It was very bad--both have said so. The Lord Frodo came so very close to dying while in Mordor, and it fell to the Lord Samwise to sustain him as he could." At Idril's look of question, he added, "The Lord Frodo was commissioned by his kinsman Bilbo to write out the story of the quest, which he did ere he left Middle Earth; and the Lord Samwise allowed me to read the book. He also allowed me to read his own story, which he'd written out to ease his grief at his Master and friend's leaving. On seeing and first hearing Lord Sam you might think he was a simple one; but I have found him to be one of the wisest and most caring souls I've ever met. I can now appreciate just why our Lord King so honors and loves him."
"I remember seeing him fussing at the Lord Frodo," Dorieth said carelessly.
Her grandmother straightened. "When did you ever see such a thing?"
Realizing she'd given herself away, Dorieth blushed. "It was not long after they came to the city. Remember the night I stayed with Elvinien in the Third Circle, not long after our Lord King was crowned? Her brother Margold was going up to spy on the Pheriannath with some of his friends from the Fifth Circle, and Elvinien and I followed after, although they kept telling us to stay behind. We crept along the Wall, and came to their house, which had a balcony looking down on the Pelennor on the back side. The Lord Frodo was sitting on a bench between the house and the wall, huddled in his cloak. We almost didn't see him, except the Lord Samwise came out to seek him, begging him to come in.
"'I don't want to go in, Sam,' he said. 'It is too close inside.'
"'But you had such a bad night last night, Mr. Frodo,' his friend said. 'And you were sick this morning.'
"'It's nothing, Sam. It's just my stomach isn't used to so much food yet.'
"'That's nonsense, Mr. Frodo,' his friend said. 'I don't get sick almost every time I eat. You know what Strider said, several small meals, no large ones. And you ate hardly nothing at all. I'm going to ask him about it.'
"'No, Sam,' Lord Frodo said. 'I don't want you to bother him with this.'
"'But he'd want to know. And maybe he'd have some herbs to ease your stomach.'
"The Lord Frodo laughed, but it wasn't as if he thought it was funny. 'And what would that be? You must be using up most of the city's store of mint and ginger on me as it is, and it's not helping.' And when his friend started to protest again he got stern. 'No, Sam, I forbid you to say anything of it.'
"Finally the Lord Sam said, 'If he asks me, I have to tell him.'
"The Lord Frodo sighed and said, 'I know. I won't ask you to lie for me. Just don't tell him everything. I'm sick of being fussed at.'
"'It's only because he cares, Frodo.' Then he asked, 'Want to try some tea, Mr. Frodo?' and Lord Frodo nodded.
"Once he was gone, Lord Frodo sat quiet for a time, then said, 'Now, all, come out now and let me see you.'" So we went out. He looked at us and shook his head, but he was smiling. Finally he said, 'It's just like home, this. I suppose I missed my young cousin spying on me, so you are making me feel more like normal.' And he asked us who we were and where we lived, and we told him. He said I'd come from the furthest down in the city yet. And then he asked us if we'd like to have him tell us a story, and we said yes."
"What did he tell you about?"
"About Lothlorien, and how very beautiful it was, how it was like he'd never seen green before he went there."
"Yes, he wrote that in his book as well, and Lord Sam has said the same."
"I didn't know Lothlorien was a real place. I thought it was just a story place."
Ruvemir sighed. "I suppose it is becoming a story place now, now that the Elves have mostly left it."
"Why are they leaving?"
"The time of Mankind has come, for the power of the Elven Rings was lost when the Lord Frodo brought the Enemy's Ring to its destruction. Lord Celeborn would not stay in Lothlorien when his Lady Galadriel left and went back to the Undying Lands. Now the rest of the folk of Lothlorien have left it, to follow their Lord until they decide to leave, or until he decides to leave."
"When did the Lady Galadriel leave Middle Earth?"
"At the same time as the Lord Frodo, two and a half years ago. She rode beside the Lord Samwise on the way. She stood beside the Lord Frodo on the deck of the grey ship as it left."
"So he knows someone there."
"Yes, he is not completely alone." He thought about it for a time. "Did the Lord Samwise see you?"
"Yes, he came out with a cup and toast for the Lord Frodo, and smiled when he saw him telling us stories. He left the cup and toast beside him, and as he spoke, Lord Frodo drank it, ate the toast."
"Did he keep it down?"
"Yes, he did. He looked better when we left."
Elise sighed. "You never told me."
Dorieth looked at her hands. "I ought not to have gone anyway. But I'm glad I did." She looked at Ruvemir. "Did his cousin really spy on him?"
Ruvemir laughed. "So he tells me. It was Pando. He says he used to play Túrin and the Dragon with him, too, before Lord Frodo and the others left with the Ring. And all his life Frodo Baggins told stories to children."
"Who was this Strider the Lord Frodo didn't wish to know he was ill?" asked Idril.
"It's one of the King's titles. They named him that in Bree, the town nearest outside the Shire. The King has granted the Lord Samwise permission to call him that for as long as he wishes to do so."
"He didn't want the King to know how ill he was?"
Ruvemir shook his head. "He always sought to hide when he was ill."
"That was foolish."
Ruvemir nodded and sighed. "He was foolish regarding his own health, from what I can tell. But he was in a great deal of pain much of the time. He was very badly injured, again and again. He was stabbed, bruised, poisoned, beaten, bitten. And the Ring tried to destroy his very soul."
Dorieth shivered again.
Lisbet finally asked, "What will you do once you have completed the King's Commission?"
"I have two more to complete in Arnor, one for the people of Arnor, and one for the Elves of Rivendell." He looked at Elise for a moment, and smiled before continuing. "Elise has told me she wishes to go with me."
Mother and grandmother looked to Elise, who straightened. "Yes, I wish to see those lands where our King once lived, and which are part of the realm once more."
"Where will you do these statues?" Idril asked.
"I'm not yet certain, although I hope to learn more tomorrow night. Possibly in Annúminas, the northern capital; or perhaps Bree, for that for the people of Arnor. For the one for the Elves, perhaps in Imladris."
"I see. Then it is likely to be some time, once you are done here, ere we see the two of you again."
"I do not know that we will remain there the entire time. The weather is much colder in winter there in the north, so it is likely we will return south for that season, although perhaps we might find ourselves wintering in Annúminas, or even, perhaps, the Shire itself, if King and the Shirefolk will permit it. Certainly all have indicated the desire to host us again if possible in their letters."
Idril and Lisbet looked resigned, but on seeing the face of Elise as she looked on the Man she loved, they smiled for her happiness.
The dinner was pleasant, and afterwards they spent some time together singing and talking. When at last Ruvemir indicated he must leave, Elise walked him to the door and onto the porch, where she smiled.
"They do like you, I sense," she murmured.
"And my father and sister have indicated they like them as well, as I certainly do." He searched her face. "I am still amazed to find such as you in this world, with your beauty, your discernment, your loving nature." He reached up to embrace her, and they kissed for quite a long time before he reluctantly broke away. "Soon, my love, soon I won't have to leave your side in this way." He kissed her once more, then turned back to the main way and the Inn of the King's Head.
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.