54. To Bavarin
Everywhere they looked as they waited by the byre they saw scars from the war, but scars that were healing. The byre they waited by itself had been thrown down, many of the stones from its walls apparently cast against the walls of the city, the forces of Gondor. Trenches had been dug here and there, and although most had been filled in again, there were still places where the ground was lower. Ruvemir had lowered the windows of the coach, was telling of his first ride upon the Pelennor in the fall, of being overtaken by the storm, of being thrown from his horse into one of the trenches which had filled with rain water, of becoming soaked through, of having to lead his pony to that very byre by which they'd waited to be able to mount it once more. Now the byre was being rebuilt, and gathered stones and buckets for the mortar were neatly awaiting the coming of the farmer and his sons even now making their way toward it from their farmhouse.
The reasons for the two fenced areas so close to one another was explained, and Shefti found himself interested, but realized that Ifram was shuddering with disgust as he looked at the bare patch of ground where the Nazgul's winged mount had been burnt. Ifram looked at it with loathing in his eyes, and when he caught Shefti's questioning gaze he explained, "They were horrible to see, Brother, horrible and fearful. And those they bore----" All shuddered.
Elise spoke from within the coach, "We would feel them pass over the city, the Nazgul, and all would quail, even when they did not cry out. It was a relief to be taken to the places of refuge among the mountains so that we no longer felt them overhead."
Again Ifram shuddered, looked pointedly away from the place to the road they followed westward. Shefti looked in wonder at the site, then turned back to see the city across the Pelennor, the pied stone in the lower levels where soot-stained marble blocks surrounded replacement stones which were pristinely white, where new, white buildings rose above smoke-darkened walls. The lowest levels of the city had been rising again now for six years, were being renewed. His brother followed his gaze.
"It is still a wonder to me that any sought to assault such a place," Ifram commented.
Shefti shrugged. "When one builds such a mighty work, there will be others who will seek to lay it low again, Brother. Such is the way of Mankind."
Ifram shrugged himself.
As they neared the Rammas Echor they came upon what appeared to have been a house site that had been laid low, and relatively recently. The three Easterlings looked on the blackened mass with interest.
"It was a crofter's home," Ruvemir explained. "It caught fire a few days after we returned from the north and Rohan. The King was visiting near the gates of the city with some of the Lords and Captains; he saw the smoke from where he was, sounded the alarm, led them to assist in putting out the fire. The two children who ride with us were saved from it, but their father and older brother died when a beam fell on them. The King pulled Lorieth from the fire himself, and the father was able to throw the boy to safety in the arms of the King ere the beam fell. All fought the fire together, lords, captains, and those from here within the outer wall." The guard looked shocked to hear that the King himself had taken part in fighting a fire.
Once they left the Rammas Echor west and south into Lossarnach, the signs of war diminished markedly, for few of the enemy had come here, concentrated as they were between the ruins of Osgiliath, the wharves of the Harlond, and the walls of the city itself. They saw woodlots and farmsteads, the wood kilns of charcoal burners and hamlets of small holders. Everywhere homes were well kept, roads maintained, walls and fences in good repair, crops already lush in the fields, pastured animals placid and well fed. Children played in dooryards or scattered grain to fowl or led fat pigs and goats along the lanes; goodwives called to little ones to stay out of the roads as they passed by; husbands and older children worked with their hoes in the fields of vegetables.
Folco Boffin paused in his eating of some trail food and smiled. "It is good farmland, well maintained," he commented. "I think I will do well enough, then, here in Gondor. It makes me feel more at home."
"Your own land is thus?"
"Yes, but more rolling. We are mostly farmers, we of the Shire.
From within the coach they could hear a child's voice, "Mistress Miriel? When will we arrive?"
"Not for several days. We are in Lossarnach and will be in it through today and much of tomorrow."
In late afternoon they stopped in the town of Bavarin where Ruvemir explained he would be meeting with a cartwright to discuss crafting a coach better designed for traveling the wilds. The inn was small but pleasant looking, built on the edge of the town beside a small lake.
A wiry man stood at the desk, his face lighting as he saw who came through the doorway. "Master Ruvemir! A surprise, sir. Do you wish to stay for a few days with us, then?"
"Just the night, Tervinion. How has business been, then?"
"Quiet, although now that the warmth has returned it has begun to pick up. How large a party do you have?"
"We will need five rooms--two each for three, one for three and an infant, one for myself and my bride, and one for my father and my former master."
"Bride?" Master Tervinion straightened to look as the small woman standing by Ruvemir's side. "You have married, then? Ah, a blessing then on the two of you! When did this happen? So, the party was here to the north for the wedding, then?"
It was a good enough explanation, so Ruvemir chose to agree.
"Five rooms! And we have but eleven in the inn! Oh, but it may be pleasant to be able to turn away other custom for once. Well, I think we can suit you well. But I warn you, Narieth will be most displeased. How long has she tried to woo you into her bed, and now she'll find you wed?"
Ruvemir reddened as his young bride looked at him with great surprise, and tried to gesture him to stop. Tervinion laughed and chose keys, led them down the hall, opened the first door.
"A room for two Men," he explained, and Mardil and Faragil entered in with their saddlebags. The next room had three narrow beds in it, and was accepted by the Easterlings. Master Tervinion smiled at them, but did not appear to care what part of Middle Earth might have seen their origin. He was more interested in those who still followed down the hall. He looked at Miriel and Folco and the two children with great surprise.
Ruvemir smiled. "My sister Miriel and her husband Folco and their two children," he said by way of introduction, deciding to keep the innkeeper's attention here rather than thinking of the Men who accompanied them; the mystery of it would keep Tervinion's interest fixed for some time, he knew.
The innkeeper thought better of the room he'd intended, opened a different room that had a double bed and a narrower one in it. "We can bring a cot for the infant," he said. Miriel smiled and thanked him.
He led the way back to the other room and opened it, disclosing three narrow beds. He looked with great interest at the three youths who entered in, a youth almost grown; a second, younger one accompanied by a quiet dog, on whose back he rested his hand; a child--no, not a child at all, he realized. Another, different sort of mannikin, then, similar to the husband of Ruvemir's sister. The three boys examined the room and began the discussion of which would take which bed, and the others withdrew and closed the door.
"My apprentices," Ruvemir smiled.
"I see." He led the way to the furthest room, opened the door. "Perfect for newlyweds," he explained. "How long ago was the wedding?"
Ruvemir looked at his bride with pleasure in his eyes. "Only two days past, in the capital."
"I see. I rejoice to see such. And, Mistress, please realize that I am only teasing your husband. It has been a longstanding joke between him and Mistress Narieth, who owns the eating place in the village, that she wished he would have her. In actuality her own husband would never sanction such a thing, and neither would she."
Elise looked sideways at her husband and sniffed. "It appears an odd sort of joke to me," she said. Again he flushed and Tervinion laughed.
They met as had been prearranged outside the inn some time later. Ruvemir explained he'd done work here six years past with the family of a woman who was dying, to prepare a memorial for her that captured what she'd been like before she fell ill, and that he'd enjoyed the town sufficiently that he often came to stay here between commissions, or on his way from one place to another. Also, one of the premier cartwrights in the realm lived here and practiced his craft, and he intended to see about having a special coach made for their sojourns to the north as he completed his next commissions. He directed them to Mistress Narieth's establishment, warning them that the Mistress did have rather a bawdy disposition, but that her food was excellent and the service worth the blushes.
Master Ruvemir returned from his visit with the cartwright obviously well pleased with negotiations, smiling as he entered the doorway and saw Elise sitting with Miriel and the children near the wall.
Mistress Narieth looked up from her figuring, and smiled lazily. "Ah, friend Ruvemir," she said. "It has been quite some time--well over a year, in fact. Why is this--eager to escape my attentions, are you? And now I find you have betrayed me indeed, taking a bride elsewhere?"
The Easterlings watched the situation with interest and amusement, seeing the flushed face of the sculptor, who was obviously wondering if bringing the party to Bavarin had been such a good idea after all. But after he'd sat down beside his bride Narieth brought to the table an elaborately iced cake. "You must allow me to express my pleasure--and surprise, I might add. If I cannot have you, this one looks as if she will be more of than a match for you, and will keep you in your place. Joy to both of you." She leaned down and kissed Ruvemir on the cheek, making him blush all the more, and she laughed. She then looked down at Celebgil with an appraising air.
"No, Narieth," the sculptor said. "Don't start it with him, especially since there is a small woman in Minas Tirith who has already caught his attentions and who, I think, sees him as hers already--until and unless, of course, the two of them find other interests elsewhere."
She looked at Celebgil with increased interest. "Oh," she said, "I know all about small women--very fierce in their protection of those they see as theirs. No, I will leave this one alone." She looked to Folco and sighed. "Another with a small woman at his side. I have no chance at all, do I?"
She then turned to greet two others who entered, smiled at them in obvious recognition, and began to tease them in a similar mode. Ruvemir sighed with relief. Elise looked at him closely, and finally allowed herself to smile. "You did not tell me of the lady friends you had entertained before, Ruvemir. Although it appears she is particularly entertaining herself."
He leaned forward, drew her to him, and kissed her. "Now," he said, "I think Pando and Folco would particularly appreciate it if you were to cut the cake."
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.