53. South and West
South and East
Not long after dawn Ruvemir and Elise loaded their last chest into the coach, brought out their personal satchels, made certain the house was secured, and settled themselves in as Eregiel finished harnessing the team and climbed onto the box. They drove to the doors of the Houses of Healing, where Ioreth stood holding the boy Lanril in her arms, Lorieth standing beside her, clutching her skirts, a stuffed dog under her arm. Eregiel carefully lifted both into the coach, and the girl sat stiffly by Ruvemir while Elise took the boy into her arms and smiled down on him. Eregiel lifted in their bundles of possessions and the changes of clothing and so on for the infant, and having assured himself that all were now ready, he clambered back onto the box and took up the reins.
Ioreth smiled at them. "That they have found so good a place, those who will care for them as father, mother, grandsire, aunts, uncles, cousins--that is very good, very good indeed. May you have a pleasant journey."
There was a bottle of milk with a nipple for the boy for later, root crackers for him also, biscuits for Lorieth for when she became hungry, although Ioreth assured them both had eaten well already. Ruvemir had brought Merry's gift, and realized he would be glad to share it with these two small souls.
At the fifth level they stopped at Hirdon's pottery, and there Celebgil was waiting with a large bag he lifted into the coach, and he then clambered onto the box as Eregiel climbed down, and the youth took the reins as he received the Ranger's salute. His mother, a shawl about her shoulders, handed up a bundle of food for him to eat on the way--apparently he had been too anxious to eat his dawn meal; his brothers and sister and Gabon called out their goodbyes, their father secured the door and could be seen to be surreptitiously wiping his eyes, and they set off.
At the King's Head they turned into the drive. Ruvemir had been pleased to note that Celebgil seemed to be expert at the use of the brakes to ease the team, and now as they stopped the young Man was off the box and giving the ponies praise for a job well done. That he was careful of the beasts and their comfort and their feelings gave the sculptor one more reason to be glad the youth was to go with them.
Ruvemir, Pando, and Ririon were kept busy for a time securing the various personal satchels they had within the coach, and then placing the food chest and the travel enclosure for Lanril where they would least impede the feet of those who must ride inside. At last they were ready, and Miriel was helped in by her husband and father, and with one last farewell from the staff at the King's Head, they set off for the stables just inside the great gates, Ririon, Pando, and Folco walking behind with Mardil and Faragil, each carrying saddlebags.
Folco had been daily down to this stable to check on his own ponies, often taking them out for exercise and assisting with the care of other animals as well. He now cleared his accounts, which were reduced as his help had been appreciated by the staff; and they brought out his animals already prepared for the trip. Mardil watched with approval as the Hobbit checked cinch and girth and bit, welcomed both; and now he took some of the extra material from the coach and carefully laid it on the back of his pack animal and secured it. While the others were taking care of things in the stable, Ruvemir excused himself and went to find the party of Dwarves he'd learned from Orin was working on repairs of a building nearby. There he found the Dwarf who'd given them the blocks of soapstone.
"I have wanted several times to thank you for your generosity to us, and have had little time. But, before we leave this time, we hope you will accept this from Ririon and myself, with many, many thanks for the gifts you have given us. We have both made use of the soapstone, and it was used to craft the model for the King's commission, among many other things. And Ririon has used some of it in his portion of this."
The figure was of Gimli son of Gloin, leaning on his great axe. Ririon had used a thin block of the soapstone to carve the axe, which he'd felt carefully one day while Gimli was visiting the worksite. The piece of alabaster his father had brought him had proven large enough for Ruvemir to do the figure of the Dwarf, and he'd done it in such a way that he could incorporate Ririon's axe into the final composition.
The Dwarf was obviously well pleased with the gift. He looked at the sculptor from under his heavy brows. "Both of you have produced this, then?"
"Yes, Ririon carved the axe. It can be worked free, although I fear that if it is done often it might be lost."
"It is finely done, finely done indeed. And there is no question at all the lad is gifted."
Ruvemir smiled. "None whatever. I am proud to have him as a son to my house."
"May he continue to inspire such pride then. I thank you once again. It is good to see one with such a gift learn to use it, and under a teacher such as you who can bring out the gift with pleasure instead of resentment." The Dwarf looked over his shoulder and called to one of his fellows, "Dorin, come see what Master Ruvemir and his apprentice have given me!"
Another Dwarf approached, a taller Dwarf with surprisingly mild eyes. "What is it, Borin?"
Borin held out the figure, and Dorin took it with appreciation reflected in his features. "Fine work," he said, "fine work indeed." He smiled into Ruvemir's eyes. "I am told that your other apprentice, the young Hobbit, is to train to work with clay."
"Yes, clay and wax. He will one day do castings, I believe."
"Oh, and I have something for him...." The Dwarf hurried off to where the Dwarves left their personal possessions while they worked, and sorted through things till he found a small bundle--a roll of cloth stitched into pockets, each of which held a tool intended to be used in shaping clay. "Orin said that he might find use for these," he said as he returned and held the roll out to Ruvemir.
Ruvemir accepted it with surprise. "I am overwhelmed by the generosity your people have shown us," he said.
Dorin gave a dismissive gesture. "To see young ones learn to shape--it does not matter what the race--it is simply an honor to assist them as we can."
Ruvemir returned to the rest to find that they were almost ready to go. Ririon was standing, stroking the forehead of a small dun mare, his face rapt. Hearing his guardian approach, he turned with a look of delight on his face. "Ruvemir! Look what Granfer has bought me! I have a horse, a horse that is mine!"
Mardil's face reflected the joy in the boy's face. He looked down into Ruvemir's face. "Such small things make him so pleased, Ruvemir."
The sculptor shook his head. "A horse is not exactly a small thing, Adar." But he was smiling wistfully as well, watching the boy stroking the horse's head, wishing he could be the one to teach him how to ride.
Pando rode upon the box with Celebgil; Miriel, Ruvemir, and Elise rode inside with Lorieth and Lanril, Ririon was assisted into the saddle of his first horse, Mardil and Faragil mounted their own horses, Folco sat upon his riding pony and held the lead rope for the his pack animal, and finally they were ready to go. Mardil took Ririon's reins to lead him for the first part of the way, and they finally turned south and west on the road into Lossarnach.
They'd gone about a mile across the Pelennor when they were hailed by three riders who sat their horses near a byre that apparently was being rebuilt since the war. "Master Ruvemir!" called Ifram of Rhun. "You are on your way, then?"
"Yes, we have started at last," the small sculptor called through the opened window of the coach.
"We have been given leave to explore Gondor by the King," the ambassador explained, "but find that now we have set out we have no idea which way we should go. May we travel with you for a time? Your people can then explain to us what it is we see. And I see you have no armed escort to protect you."
"We would welcome the company, although we ought to not require an armed escort here in Gondor itself."
"Well enough, then," Ifram said, smiling. "This our one escort, Ben'harin. After the other day, the master of our guard refuses to allow us to travel with no guard at all."
"We can understand why, my Lord Ifram. Feel free to join us."
The three riders joined the party and all started again south and east, headed for Lossarnach. Only four others saw the envoy from Rhun and his companions swing into line behind the coach, and they smiled and nodded with satisfaction. Then three looked to one another, smiled, and set themselves to secretly protect the small cavalcade, and following the plan they'd already agreed upon, separated to shadow the group while the fourth nodded them on the way and headed back into the city to report to the King.
Varondil son of Beremor, Master Sculptor, approached the building that housed the new embassy from Rhun rehearsing the story he was to tell. He had been told that Rhun was the source of both sandstone and, in one portion of the land, fine granite suitable for carving into great blocks for use in facing buildings, preparing foundations, used often as tombstones and in memorials, and so on. As one who brokered stone as well as shaping it into memorials for the dead, he had been approached by a wealthy merchant from the south who had determined to make his place of business distinctive by facing the building with a stone other than the white marble used everywhere. Would the Lord Ifram help to set up contacts to obtain Rhunic stone for this buyer?
He was to ingratiate himself with the young ambassador, to give thanks that the attempt on his life the previous week had been unsuccessful. And he was to somehow learn what schedule Ifram b'nto Agharan would hold to over the next week. Varondil's current patron would pay handsomely for this information.
He approached the gate, and when challenged by the guard at the gate to the low wall surrounding the Embassy he tried out the story he'd been told to tell. But it appeared neither the Ambassador nor the clerk were present--both were gone from the city, having been granted the King's permission to travel about the land of Gondor, to visit its fiefdoms, to see for themselves that the peace seen in the people was not limited to those who lived within the capital. Nor could the guard say where they'd gone first. They'd spoken of Erech, of Anorien, of the Pelargir, of Dol Amroth. Each was an eminent destination, but each in a different direction.
He thanked the guard and went to the stables. Three of the horses for the Easterlings were gone, and he was able to learn from the stableboy they'd left over an hour after the dawn, some time after the coach for the Master Sculptor who worked on the King's commission had gone by.
Not with Ruvemir, then--but probably inspired by him.
He hurried back to his workshop, and prepared his report.
The Master of the stable on the sixth level wrote a report and forwarded it to the Citadel--one had come to the stable that day and had inquired about horses, but had looked specifically to see how many of the steeds belonging to the Easterlings were gone. He had been dressed as an artisan, probably a master of one of the crafts.
The guard at the house of the embassy from Rhun sent a similar message.
From the one who'd come back into the city from the Pelennor a third message was sent to the Citadel, that he'd seen three carriages leave the city, two with the immediate families of servitors from the Citadel granted leave and the use of carriages to visit family in Lebennin and Dol Amroth while the King was on campaign, one for the party of the sculptor headed for Lebennin and Belfalas by way of Lossarnach. His report stated that at he'd seen at least five other parties leaving through the various gates in the Rammas Echor, but that he'd not seen any appearing to note the passage of the coach carrying Master Sculptor Ruvemir westward.
The messages were given to the King as he ate his breakfast, and he considered their implications. He looked abroad across the Pelennor, but no sign of the riding for Ruvemir's party could be seen now. But there were many ridings on the roads in all directions, headed north, south, east, southwest, west; toward Cair Andros and Osgiliath, Anorien and the Pelargir; along the River and over it. He hoped no one would tie the leaving of the ambassador from Rhun and his party to that of the sculptor. But he must trust in the Easterlings to keep their own guard and be ready to protect themselves, and for the unseen escort to do their jobs. It was to the East he himself would have to go. He looked up to catch the gaze of his wife, and his heart lightened. He would leave soon enough, but would take advantage of the time left here to rejoice in her and their daughter.
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.