52. Morning After
Ruvemir woke before sunrise and at first felt decidedly odd. He did not recognize where he was; the wide bed was unfamiliar; and there was breathing that was not Pando's, Ririon's, or Joy's--a light breathing, that of----
He turned and looked down at his bride lying asleep in the grey light coming in the window, and gasped. Oh, yes, yesterday! He was married, married to this lovely girl who lay beside him, curled on her left side, her left hand under her cheek. He looked at her in wonder, then rose to relieve himself.
The day room was on the back of the house, overlooking the Pelennor. He pulled on his worn robe that not even Miriel had been able to talk him into letting go, walked onto the balcony and looked out. The Sun as she rose over the Ephel Dúath laid over the dark mountains a soft rosy glamour. Would they now begin to support life, he wondered as he looked out at them, now that Orodruin had pulled itself to pieces and there was no more Lord in the Black Land?
He looked down and saw the small yard that lay between the house and the Wall, the small grey bench where the Lord Frodo, after a morning of not being able to stomach his food, had huddled miserably until the spying of children relieved his tension, allowed him to keep down a mug of tea and a slice of toast. He saw the steps down on one end of the balcony, walked slowly down them, approached the bench, looked at it for several moments. Finally he sat upon it, looked out to see what he had seen, noted the bushes that screened the Wall and had allowed hiding places for Dorieth, her friend, and the boys they'd followed up to this level. He could see the walls of Mordor fairly clearly. What a sight for one who had felt impelled to go across those walls, who had climbed the steep, often ladder-like stairs of Cirith Ungol, who had faced Shelob and been poisoned there. Suddenly he was angry with the King for putting that gentle soul here where he could not help looking at that each day, where every sunrise brought back the memories. No wonder Frodo had chosen the study for his own, for there, at least, he did not look out at that.
He heard a window open in the next house, looked up to see a woman leaning on the sill, smiling out at the view to the east. As she finally started to pull herself back in she looked down and was startled. "Oh," she said, "I did not realize anyone would be there. Are you Master Ruvemir, then?"
"Yes, my lady, I am. You look out to greet the dawn?"
"Oh, yes, and to give thanks for the sight of those walls under the cleansing Sun, that they finally are open to simple light of day once again. No longer do we look out to see ever the pall of smoke there, worry that it will overwhelm us." She smiled. "Frodo used to sit there to give thanks for that, taught me to see how wonderful it is that we can see those walls now, and the green land that lies between us and them. He laughed to tell me that there was life within Mordor even when the Enemy dwelt there--twisted brambles and bushes with great tearing thorns, but life nonetheless. He said not even Sauron the Great was able to deny life its hold in the end."
A child's voice could be heard within, and she called back, "I am coming. You will not starve if you must wait a moment more, you know."
She smiled at him again. "My son is certain if he does not get his pottage immediately upon waking he will not grow, and he has determined that when he is grown up he will be as tall as the King."
Ruvemir laughed. "My son is the same."
"Your son? Ah, yes, you are now the guardian of the boy Ririon. Does he do well, then?"
"Oh, yes, very well indeed. He is a gifted carver. Each day he amazes me with what he is able to do. I will miss him when I must leave him in Lebennin with my father for his apprenticeship. I will insist he comes to visit us frequently while we are still in the city."
"Eldamir became very fond of him, and rejoiced he was given to such a good family, and one which will assist him to perfect his talents."
"I have rejoiced every day since he came to us."
She smiled at him. "Good. Now I must go. I give you a good day." The child's voice could be heard as she disappeared back into her home. He looked after, smiling in return. Now he rose, climbed back up the stairs, chastened to realize he'd become far too romantic in his thoughts regarding Frodo Baggins. He'd read the evaluations Frodo had written here of those he'd met, seen the humor in them. He'd seen the pictures he'd drawn here, the appreciation he'd drawn into the image he'd done of the woman Ruvemir had just spoken with. Yes, Frodo had known discomfort here, discomfort and nightmares; but he'd also known pleasure, companionship, laughter....
He went into the kitchen to search for something to eat.
He'd managed a pan of eggs scrambled with sausage by the time Elise rose and began searching the house for him. There was juice in the small cold room, a loaf of bread she sliced expertly, a small tub of butter, rings of dried apple, preserved strawberries. They ate in the kitchen, talking of what each liked best for each meal, their experience with cooking, their preferred chores. Together they washed up after, and he put things away. Then they rather awkwardly looked at one another, suddenly shy with each other.
Ruvemir reached out, stroked her shoulder, and she smiled. "Good morning to you, Mistress," he said softly. "My Mistress," he added with pleasure. "Shall we go in and begin seeing what has been gifted to us?"
A large pad of paper was found on the desk in the bedroom. He brought out a stick of graphite and a ball of gum, and together they began to do an inventory of gifts. There were elaborately woven and decorated blankets, towels, other linens. There was a fine set of serving dishes from Celebgil's family, a book on the history of the city from the bookseller Ruvemir preferred from the first level, the completed picture of the Elves and the Dragon he'd seen in Master Iorhael's shop, a set of silver spoons from Elise's family, a finely carved set of bowls and servers done in birch wood from his father.
Then he saw the box Merry had given him at Yule, making him promise not to open it until he was back in the capital. He'd left off opening it for so long, so now he examined it to find its fastenings. It was full of seven small leather-bound volumes, and suddenly Ruvemir realized what they must be. He found the letter Merry had included.
Dear Ruvemir, I found these in a chest in a storeroom where Frodo used to take refuge from time to time when he lived here in the Hall. I read a bit from them, and leave the rest of it to you.
A good Yule to you. M. Brandybuck
Ruvemir found Merry had set them in order of date, took out the first and set it aside. He looked up at Elise. "These were intended as my Yule gift from Merry, and not exactly as a wedding gift. They are the journals the Lord Frodo wrote as a young lad, after his parents died. Shall we read this one together as we travel?"
"Oh, yes! I've hoped to come to know about him from you--it is so plain you have come to honor him so from your journey."
This became the first item set aside for their coming journey.
They went through the dispatch case and opened the bundles. There was a fine tablecloth made by Marigold Gamgee and a set of napkins edged by Rosie and a package of seeds from Rosie and Sam and their family; a set of eight Dwarf-made tumblers each carved from a different stone from Pippin; a beautiful vase from the Tooks, a book on the history of the Shire from Fredegar Bolger, finely made linen tea towels from Viola and Budgie Smallfoot, a planter box and strawberry plants from Saradoc and Esmeralda Brandybuck. The last package looked to be a book, and as he unwrapped it Ruvemir's eyes misted--the book of children's tales Frodo had copied out for Merry when he was small!
Elise looked with pleasure at the elegantly bound volume in her love's hands, and he handed it to her, suggested she look for the pictures....
"Frodo Baggins copied that, drew the illustrations," he explained as she looked at the picture of the boy who looked so much like Merry talking to the fox. "He bound it as well." She looked up at him in wonder.
He found the pictures of the cloaks and the others promised by Merry in a stiff folder of pasteboard at the bottom of the wrappings. He smiled. "Sir Meriadoc is one of the most generous souls ever created," he murmured. "I am so glad I've been able to know him." He looked into her eyes. "You will adore him when you meet him and Mistress Estella," he promised. "You will love them all."
"We will meet them?"
"When we go north. If we can't enter the Shire, they've sworn to come to us."
"Did you send a gift to Fredegar Bolger?" she asked, remembering he'd told her this one was marrying at the same time as themselves.
"Yes, the day after we returned to the city. In the open market in the First Circle I found a tray and seven goblets and a server for fine liquor, all in silver, and sent that to him. I hope he has it by now."
They decided to leave off for now, went into what was now their room and placed the books on the shelves, searched the wardrobes and the dresser to see how their clothes had been ordered, started to find clothing to wear for the day, became distracted for a time....
They had decided what clothing they'd take with them by the time the cart came for them at noon, and already had their clothing chest half filled. This time Ruvemir was taking only two sketch booklets and drawing supplies and his fine tools for soapstone, so there would be no bulky chest of his tools to worry about. Elise was deciding what to place in her personal satchel when the bell was rung, and Ruvemir was watching her with delight. They wrapped their cloaks about them, for it was cool here in the Sixth Circle this day, and went out to ride down to the King's Head. He carried the alabaster figure with him, finishing the smoothing as they made their way through the various levels of the city.
By nightfall they had the coach ready, and Pando and Ririon kissed them as they left again for the upper city, Mardil placing a protective hand on each youth's shoulder. With a last fondle of Joy's ears, they entered the coach. Eregiel, who'd come down to assist in the loading, mounted the box while Artos leapt in to ride with Elise and Ruvemir, and they made their last trip for the time up through the city. By the time they reached the house both were tired.
Eregiel and Ruvemir placed the coach near the house and together unharnessed the team, which Eregiel led off to the upper stables for the night. There would not be a second team this time, for they were not traveling through the Wilds and would be stopping frequently along the way. Ruvemir was almost sorry, but at the same time relieved to have only two ponies for the coach itself to attend to this time.
As he was making certain the windows of the coach were all closed, Ruvemir realized he was being watched by someone from the house opposite. A single guard stood at the gate there, he'd noticed, and a second on the porch, the soldiers, he realized, from Rhun. Now Ifram from Rhun came out of the building and stood looking out at him.
"Welcome, Ruvemir of Lebennin. So, this is how you travel, is it?"
"Yes, it is how we travel. And how are you this evening, Lord Ifram?"
"Well enough. You and your bride are happy with the house?"
"Oh, yes, we are, although it seems somewhat empty with but the two of us right now."
"It will be quiet again once you set out for the southlands. All is well with the work site above?"
"Yes, the tools have been brought down here and stored in one of the parlors, the figures tarped and fastened with line, and the King has set a guard to make certain they remain unmolested. Would you and your brother like to join us for an evening drink ere we go to our beds?"
Ifram surprised himself by accepting. He and Shefti emerged from their house a quarter mark later and crossed the quiet lane to knock at the door of the house which had been empty until yesterday, and the door was opened by the small figure of Elise, who blushed happily to admit her first guests to her first home. They spoke of the trip to come and the route to be taken, and after they'd finished their drinks gave their hosts a good evening and returned to their own place, feeling better for having spoken with those they would travel alongside on the morrow.
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.