King's Commission, The: 7. The Houses of Healing

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7. The Houses of Healing

The Houses of Healing

            When he awoke he was shaking and confused.  The room was almost totally dark, and miserably cold.  The fire must be out, he thought foggily.  He looked about, realized he lay on a bed but not under the covers, maneuvered himself finally under the graciously thick and warm blankets, his hip burning like fire, and huddled down for warmth.  He quickly slipped into a troubled sleep, woke hot and threw off the blankets, woke shortly after feeling as if he were freezing and fumbled to find them again, then a while later was throwing them off once more.  He was thirsty, but could not find the half-cup of water he usually left on the stand next to his bed.  He tried to sit up, found himself almost swooning with dizziness, and quickly lay down once more.  Before he slept again the cold was back, so once more he struggled to find his covers, the lancing agony of his hip making him cry out in pain before he found them.  He knew what had happened, for it had happened before--the socket had rejected his hip, and he knew it would be a torture to have it put back in its place.  But he also recognized he was sick with chills and fever, and he was in no condition to call for aid.  He covered himself fully and let himself slip out of consciousness again.

            Elise was surprised when the artist did not respond to her knock, and even more surprised when she found the door unsecured.  Uncertain what to do, she opened the door and peeked in.  The hearth was cold, and in the mannikin's bed lay a huddled shape.  Something felt wrong, and she set her tray on the table and came forward to the bed, placed her hand on his shoulder, and heard his groan, the rasping breathing.  His eyes were open and dull and unseeing, and she could smell the sweat of his fever.  No, she thought, he cannot become ill now!  But when her hand touched his brow there was no question.  He'd taken ill from his soaking the day before, and she recognized the signs of the chills and fevers.  She hurried from the room in search of Beneldil.  Within moments the two of them were in the chamber together, she quickly kneeling down to get a fire stirred from the few coals still lingering under the ashes, he lighting two of the lamps and leaning over to check out the condition of his guest.  There was no question, the two of the agreed--he needed to be taken to the Houses of Healing, and immediately.  The innkeeper headed out to the doors to see if he could find a guard or other help in transporting the mannikin up to the sixth level while Elise poured a cup of water and brought it to Ruvemir, tried to help him sit up, and was so startled when he cried out in intense pain she almost dropped the cup. 

            She managed to get it set on the chest, and noted he was now more awake.  "What is it?" she asked.

            "My hip--it's slipped out of its place."

            Between them they managed to get him upright enough to drink the water, and then she aided him to lie down again, but not without pain.  He was shaking with the chills once more, and she took the extra blanket from where it now lay on the other bed and brought it to him and put it around him.  In moments he'd drifted off again, and she hoped intensely they could get help quickly.

            Beneldil came back into the room, accompanied by the Elf who'd been working on the gardens.  He knelt by the low bed and checked the condition of the mannikin, and said, "He needs aid, now.  I can carry him to the Sixth Circle."  The innkeeper and the maid nodded agreement, and removing the top blanket Elise helped to uncover Ruvemir, then to wrap him as the Elf lifted him gently.  "His hip has become disjointed," she cautioned, and the Elf nodded his thanks, shifted his grip carefully, then straightened.  He headed swiftly up the streets of the city, past guards who pulled aside respectfully, thinking another child had taken ill, and finally arrived at the doors to the Houses of Healing where he was admitted swiftly.

            "Another child?" the Warden asked.

            "No, not a child.  One who knows severe chills and fever, and whose hip has given way."

            "But--not a Pherian?"

            "No, of the race of Men, but stunted."

            After a consultation, the Warden led them to a quiet room overlooking the Gardens, and they transferred the patient there, and removed the blanket.  Looking at hair, face and beard, the Warden nodded.  "No, no Pherian--a mannikin.  And gravely ill."  He looked at the Elf.  "Which hip is hurt?"

            "The left."

            Nodding thanks, the Warden lifted up the skirt of the mannikin's robe to expose the injury, and examined it with his hands, and felt the pained reaction.  He lifted an eyelid, felt pulse and forehead, laid his head on the chest.  Raising his head, he sighed.  "It's going into the lung fever.  He will be gravely ill before he gets better."

            The healer who'd followed him into the room also sighed.  "Shall I summon the King?  He was deeply tired when he left last even."

            With an answering shrug the Warden decided.  "If it were just chills or just the hip or just the lung fever, I'd say no.  But with all three together...."  The Elf nodded his own intentions, and set off swiftly to the citadel.

            Ruvemir of Lebennin was dimly aware of being lifted and carried out into the morning, and then he could hear someone asking about summoning the King.  But he was uncertain what all of it meant.  He knew his hip burned with fire and that he was beginning to be freezing cold again, and that he was starting to cough, which made the other ills that much worse.  Soothing voices were about him, he was being gently lifted while his robe was removed and another put in its place, and someone was placing a cup to his lips and instructing him to sip it....

            And then he felt a presence enter the room, and someone familiar was leaning over him, demanding details, a calming hand placed on his brow....

            Hands shifted him to his right side, held him firm.  Strong, capable hands were on his thigh, and then----

 *******

            He awoke some time later.  His body was wracked with a cough, but he realized that the knifeblade agony of his hip had been replaced by a dull ache, and a warm pack had been strapped to it.  The room smelled sweet, almost as if he were in his favorite place as a child, a hidden hollow midway beneath the larch trees to the south of his house and just this side of the river, and he smiled.  Someone was urging him to sit up so he could breathe better, was holding a basin to cough the sputum from his chest into, then when the spate was over, offering him a draught to drink.  He drank gratefully, then realized he was drifting gently back into sleep, and slid into it with equal thanks.

*******

            A hand was on his brow, and he woke, opened his eyes.  He was lying half sitting up, and he found himself very weak.  "How do you feel?" asked that familiar voice.  And he looked up to find himself looking into the grey eyes, grey with a hint of blue and green like the sea, of the King's officer.  Except that....  He looked with curiosity at the formal black robe the man wore; the emerald ring on his hand, the emerald with a serpent on either side of it; the impression something of weight had left on his forehead and hair; the hilt of a sword; the green stone on his breast.

            "I thought your name was Aragorn," he whispered.

            "Oh, I have many, many names and titles, my friend.  Too many, I think.  But I was born Aragorn son of Arathorn in Eriador."

            "Aragorn son of Arathorn.  I should have realized."  He took a long breath.  "My patron is the King himself."  To which he received a nod.  "Was your father Arathorn the Captain Thorongil?"

            "No."

            Ruvemir thought.  "Then another of your names?"  Another nod.  "I see."  He paused.  "Well, then apparently I was accurate in my depiction of Captain Thorongil in Casistir."  A smile this time.  "Just how old are you, then?  And am I always going to be off in my reckoning?"

            Slightly bemused by that last cryptic comment, the King responded, "I'm ninety--no, ninety-two.  I am one of the Dúnedain."

            "Oh.  So many years even you forget them?"  Again the smile.  "But...Strider?"

            "The name given me by the good people of Bree.  One saw me walking hurriedly along the Greenway one day and called me that, and so I was known there ever after.  And so I was first introduced to the Ringbearer and his companions."

            "And the one with the bow?"

            "One of my kin, the Lord Hardorn, younger son to my mother's brother.  Always there have been a few from among the northern Dúnedain in the service of Gondor, although those of Gondor have usually remained ignorant of their origins.  He and I served together when I was Captain Thorongil, and now he is my Officer of the Privy Purse as well as one of my bodyguards when I seek to walk abroad privately.  It was good to have one beside me in those days who knew who I was, and who today shares my experience and training among the Dúnedain as well as among the forces of Gondor."

            Ruvemir looked again at the formal dress.  "Did you receive the embassy from Rhun?"

            "You have been ill for longer than you realize, Master Sculptor.  No, today's audience was with the embassy from Umbar.  They sought to sue for a new treaty."

            "And did they get one?"

            "Of sorts."

            "On whose terms?"

            The King's expression became remote, and almost what Ruvemir considered feral.  "Mine," he answered succinctly.  After a pause he added, "I reminded them today that I have fought and defeated them three times.  The first time I merely vanquished their fleet.  The second time the forces under Prince Adrahil and myself burned the ships of their fleet in their berths.  The third time I took possession of their fleet.  I let them know today that if there is a fourth incursion, I will take possession of their land and scatter their people all over Middle Earth, and then destroy their city and their fleet utterly.  I will no longer tolerate any threats to our peoples from Umbar."

            "Did they believe you?"

            "Oh, I rather think they did.  When we burned their fleet one of their men injured me, and I bear the scar to this day.  Not particularly serious, but nevertheless deep.  However, he bears the scar from the wound I gave him as well.  I recognized him today as part of the embassy, and informed him that he'd best convince his people to accept my terms, or I would reveal not only where his scar is but also how I came to administer the wound which left it."

            "Where is it?"

            "Shall we say he must have had difficulty sitting down for several weeks after our last personal encounter?"  Ruvemir laughed, somewhat weakly.  "You have still not answered my question--how do you feel?"

            "Weak, but much better." 

            The King nodded.  "Good.  I still wish to send you on a journey so that you can base your sculpture on life, as much as possible.  And, I think if you are to do true justice to Frodo, you should hear his description from those who knew him best."
            "You would send me to the Shire?"

            "At least to Bree."  He looked off for a moment.  "The last battle in the War of the Ring for those four took place within the Shire itself.  After they left on their journey, still another cousin of Frodo's decided to put all that land in subjugation to himself, and with the assistance of a troupe of outlawed men he made fair toward achieving that goal.  By the time Frodo, Merry, Pippin, and Sam returned much, very much had been damaged, destroyed, or lost, including Frodo's own home which reportedly had been gutted, and that of Sam's father as well.  And the true leader of the brigands came there himself and ordered the murder of the cousin."

            "Would that be the Lotho mentioned in Sam's letter?"

            "Yes."  Aragorn paused for several moments.  "I made the law that no Men were to enter into the Shire, but to every law, it seems, there must needs be an exception, although I will allow the worthies of the Shire to decide this for themselves.  But I will send you to Bree with a plea that the Mayor, Thain, Master, and Master of Bag End allow you and your companion to enter their land to do research on my behalf.  As you are no taller than they, and even shorter than many, I hope they will agree to the suggestion and not see you as a possible enemy."

            "And who will be this companion?"

            "Your sister."

            Ruvemir was shocked.  "What do you know of my sister?" he demanded.

            "She arrived here yesterday.  Once she learned you were so ill she came at once to be at your side."

            The artist thought, and finally looked up and asked, "How long have I been ill?"

            "Almost two weeks, Master Sculptor.  You developed the lung sickness, or fever, if you will.  You have been little conscious most of that time.  Whether or not you would fully recover we had no idea, but all signs now point to such--although you are going to be weak for several more weeks, I fear.  Add in the separation of your hip, and the situation is made far worse."

            "How did my sister learn of my illness?"

            "The day you were brought here a letter for you arrived from Lebennin, and it was brought to the Citadel for me to judge what should be done toward explaining the situation to your family.  I wrote a letter myself advising them of your condition and sent it by swift messenger, and yesterday the lady Miriel arrived in her own person.  She is staying now in your rooms at the King's Head.  I have sent money to keep your rooms yours yet."

            "I am amazed she would even leave our home.  She has never felt comfortable amongst--"  He stopped, looked at the taller Man with some embarrassment.

            "Amongst people of normal height who do not know her?"  Ruvemir nodded and looked away. "Apparently her love for you has overcome her fears.  You are very fortunate, Master Sculptor, to command such devotion.

            "Now, tell me--how was your hip so injured?"

            Ruvemir thought for a few minutes, then described his ride out to the two mysterious sites on the field.  The King nodded with understanding.  While he spoke a healer came into the room with a tray, saw he was awake and smiled with definite relief, and at a brief gesture from the King set the tray on a table and stepped back.  When he was done, the King sighed. 

            "Well, until the sinews holding hip in socket are strengthened there will be no more riding for you, and we will be showing you exercises you must do two to three times a day to aid that recovery.  No, it will be walking and carriages for you for at least three months.  Now, here is some broth, and afterward I will allow a slightly more substantial meal if you desire, and now I must leave you to the mercies of my fellows here."  And he nodded and rose.  With a final smile and bow to patient and healer, he left.

            The new healer was a younger man, who bowed after the King but then turned his attention to Ruvemir.  Taking the seat Aragorn had quitted, he took up a mug from off the tray and offered it to his patient.  When he spoke his voice was pleasant.  "Your hands are likely to shake some, so I will steady the mug until it is lighter."  Ruvemir nodded.  He quickly realized the man's words were true, but he felt better when he had the contents of the mug within him, after which he submitted to an examination. 
            The healer unwrapped bulky bandages and removed a padded device of thin metal that apparently had been intended to hold his hip immobile at a slightly bent angle, kneaded it with practiced hands, and smiled with satisfaction.  Ruvemir looked on it with interest himself and commented, "The colors are as varied as the last time."

            The healer looked at him with interest.  "So, this was not the first time after all, as the Lord Elessar said.  I grow more amazed at his skill at reading the body each time I work alongside of him.  Well, now you are healing apace, Sir Artist.  Tomorrow we will begin the exercises intended to strengthen the sinews.  I caution you that at first they will be somewhat painful, but it is best the pain be dealt with if your hip is to become fully useful." Ruvemir nodded reluctantly.  The healer had him attempt to move his leg gently, nodded, and after changing the pads replaced the metal brace, then helped him rise and refresh himself, aided him to wash hands and face, aided him back onto the high bed, and finally asked if he wished to eat more, then with a bow he left him alone.

            His sketch booklets and his tube of drawing materials were to hand on the back of the chest by his bed, and with eagerness he drew them to him, opened to the last bare sheets of the old one, took out charcoal and ball of gum, and began a new sketch of the King as he had sat by his bed.  When a knock at the door heralded the arrival of an elderly woman bearing a tray with more food he waved vaguely at the chest and continued on, and she watched for a time with some amusement.  Finally when he paused to examine his work so far she commented dryly, "So, your art is of more interest than your belly.  A good sign, I suppose."  She sat stiffly in the chair and watched as he reddened slightly and looked to the tray.  She offered to take the booklet as he turned his own attention to the offerings, and gave a look requesting permission to look at the work in progress, which he gave easily enough.  She examined the brief study of her king and smiled with recognition.  "Our Lord Elfstone indeed.  A fine Lord and a fine healer, and, I am told, a master swordsman as well as master at reading the hearts of others.  We are fortunate to have such a one as our Lord and King.  The Lady Arwen is said to be returning on the morrow, and he will be gladdened."

            "Then the pox is finally past?"

            She nodded.  "At last, and a fine bother it has been during the time it was with us, I must tell you.  I have never had so many children at a time to care for, although we are fortunate it was not the measles, for then the children tend to be much more ill, and such tends to kill at least some of its victims.  Or the swelling of the glands of the neck--such also always seems to cost at least one or two, and can be terrible when caught by a grown man.

            "But the pox has not been without victims, although none died of it."  At his look of interest as he ate the sliced apples in spiced syrup she continued.  "On one older lad the pox formed sores on his eyes, and now his vision is almost lost.  What he will do I am uncertain, for his mother died four years ago, and he has served in one of the inns for his keep.  And a sweet if somewhat lazy boy he is." 

            She turned the page backwards in his booklet, then paused, her mouth opening slightly with surprise.  "The Pherian Meriadoc!  And a good likeness, too.  He was here in this house for some time, you know, as he recovered from the Black Breath.  He and the Lady Éowyn, the White Lady of Rohan who has married our own Prince Faramir, between them killed the Lord of the Nazgul, but doing so almost cost both of them their lives.   Our Lord Elessar was able to call them back from the gates of death.  The healing hands, the Lord Elessar has."  She looked back at the picture.  "A great heart he has--such all of the Pheriannath showed.  Great hearts, all of them.  While Master Meriadoc was so ill the Ernil i Pheriannath watched over him, obviously frightened for him, and when he awoke sat by him.  When he was left behind when the army marched to Mordor, Master Meriadoc felt useless; but while he recovered he served the Lady Éowyn.  And when he realized the Lord Faramir had come to love the Lady, he did his best to aid them to come together.  Then, when he was recovered he began to stand the honor guard for Théoden King among the Riders of Rohan, as straight and proud as any tall Man.  Then he was called to join the army as they awaited the awakening of the King's Friend, and he was so eager, and so fearful as he left the city."

            "Fearful of what?" Ruvemir wondered.

            "I think of what the quest might have done to the King's Friend, who was his kinsman, and whom he loved dearly."  For a few moments she was quiet.  "A gentle soul, the Lord Frodo, a gentle soul."

            "You met him?"

            "Yes, after their return, all saw him at the coronation of the Lord Elessar, there before the Gates to the City.  And he came here at times in the company of the King."  Her eyes looked into her memories.  "One time, one of those who had fought among the men of the city and who saw many of those who stood by him before the Black Gate slaughtered around him was brought here, more than half maddened by drink and the memories.  He was raving and had to be restrained by several men.  The King was called from a feast to aid in calming him, and the Lord Frodo accompanied him.  The brother of the man's wife had been among those who had carried him here, and full of fear and anger, he began to cry out against him and to threaten him if he did not quiet--and suddenly the King's Friend was there before him, his face white, his eyes large and shining, his voice full of authority as he commanded both to be still--and they both obeyed!  And he turned on the brother, asked him, 'Were you among those who fought?' and he said, 'No.'  And the Lord Frodo said, 'Then you cannot know the wounds he carries on his spirit.  Keep quiet if you cannot understand.'  Then he turned to the one who raved and those who had been holding him, for he had tried to do both himself and those around him an injury, and with a word let them know they should let the man go, and they did so.  Then he gestured to the man to kneel down so that he could look into his eyes, and the raving man again obeyed.  He reached out to touch the man's face, and there was grief and understanding in his eyes, and he said, 'Be at peace now, and allow the King to attend you.  For, like you, I have seen greater evil than I ever dreamed existed, and he called me back from it, and he can help you to find yourself as well, if you will allow it.'  And the man began to weep, and the Pherian reached out to take him in his arms and comforted him.  Many were fearful for the Lord Frodo, for the man had been full of violence, and several bore the marks of his struggles.  But the King Elessar would not allow others to approach, but said quietly that they should allow the Ringbearer to ease the man as he was doing.  And as he wept the King's Friend continued to hold him.  The madness left the man, and at last the King came forward and put his hand on the man's shoulder and offered him the draught we had prepared for him, and led him to a bed after he drank it, and laid his hands on him and sent him into healing sleep as he is able to do.  And the Lord Frodo sat by him through the night until he woke with the dawn, in possession of himself at last." 

            She sat silent for a few minutes, then shook herself and looked at him.  "I ask your pardon on an old woman's tongue, Master Sculptor," she said more brusquely, returning the booklet to the chest.  "Always I tend to talk too much, and to weary the ears of those I serve.  Ah, I see your appetite is healthy, at least.  Good, you are indeed recovering at last."

            Ruvemir realized he had eaten all that had been brought to him, although he remembered only the apples.  He let her take the tray, then relaxed against the pillows as she covered him with the blankets, and he fell asleep to dreams in which a white shape stood in defiance before hulking forms that fell back from before its wrath.

*******

            When he woke again it was apparently just after dawn, and a new form sat on the chair beside him, a stool at her feet, and as he stirred she smiled and informed him, "Well, Brother, it is about time you awoke," and both laughed as they reached out to clasp one another's hand.

            The day seemed to drag on forever, as various individuals came in to examine his hip, peer into his eyes, listen to his chest, help him to relieve himself, bathe him, bring him food and a draught of herbs he didn't recognize.  At noon the King arrived, and Miriel rose from her place to give him her courtesy, which he returned with a stately bow and smile.  Ruvemir's hip was unbound for the third time so far that day, and the King's hands felt it competently, after which he had Miriel sit upon a high stool so she could watch as they began to demonstrate the exercises her brother would need to practice to strengthen the hip.  The King was dressed today in a dark green velvet tunic which became him very well, and when he was done he appeared eager to be gone.  Ruvemir smiled and commented, "I wish you joy in the arrival of your Lady Wife, my Lord," evoking a sigh, and the cryptic comment "Ioreth" in return, and the King left in a haste that still managed to appear regal and gracious.

            Ruvemir and Miriel had little chance to speak, although she was able to tell him briefly their father was well, and that the woodcarvings he'd done over the last winter had at last all sold at the fair in Dol Amroth he'd attended a few days after Ruvemir had set off for Minas Anor.  And that he'd had the chance to return through Casistir, and commended his son's work there.  Ruvemir was pleased to receive praise from his father, whose own artistry had always inspired his own.  Then another healer came in with a basin of steaming water in which herbs were steeping which he told him were to help release the last congestion in his lungs, and he was to lie quiet and simply breathe the vapors.  Frustrated in his desire to speak with his sister, Ruvemir defiantly reached for sketch booklet and charcoal, and quickly set to work on a rather blistering depiction of this particular healer with a donkey's ears, and Miriel, peering over  his shoulder at the work in progress giggled, while the healer, unaware of his own role in the sketch being made, looked on disapprovingly until the elderly lady arrived with the noon meal for both Ruvemir and his sister, and informed him the Warden of the House asked he come to consult about the child whose vision had become dimmed.  Seeing the look in her patient's eyes as he watched after, she asked, "And has that one been telling you as he does that you ought to simply lie there and do nothing as you breathe your vapors?  He does that, we know.  As if you could not breathe deeply while listening to the lady's news." 

            As he went to set the book on the chest it slipped from his hand, and the healer with an exclamation stooped to pick it up.  Catching a glimpse of the subject, she laughed.  "Oh, how perfectly it fits the young popinjay," she chuckled, setting the book down carefully and then settling the wide tray over them. 

            There were, he noted, two dishes on it, two mugs, two sets of implements with which to eat.  "Thank you, Lady, for thinking also of the needs of my sister."

            "Oh, it is no bother for the cooks, who delight in sending good food to those who must stay with us.  And I understand your sister came a long way to...."  But then she stilled and listened, then said, "Harken to the singing of the Elves.  The Lady Arwen must be approaching the Citadel!"  And she moved around the bed to the window and opened it so they could hear.

            Many voices, sweet and clear, were raised without, singing a marvelously woven harmony of song.  And then among them another voice was raised, a deeper voice, a Man's voice, lying on the singing of the Elves as a bark lies sweetly on the water of the stream, enriching it, singing out the joy of meeting after separation.  And then another voice joined it, coming nearer, the voice of a woman, and all else was quiet except for the singing.  If there was ever anything that could have induced Ruvemir son of Mardil to lie still and simply breathe deeply, it was the awe of hearing that singing.  And looking briefly at the faces of the two women with him, he saw that both were as totally entranced as he, and that a gentle, sweet memory had filled the eyes of the elderly healer, while his own sister's face was filled with longing.

            Outside the two voices came nearer together, and finally met, and he knew that the Lady Arwen Undómiel must stand now beside her husband in the thin autumn sunlight, and her Lord and she were only finishing the Lay they sang before they embraced one another.  And when at last the song ended it felt like the losing of a sweet vision, and all three shook themselves, and the lady healer leaned to remove the covers from the dishes, then glanced again through the window with a hint of sorrow in her eyes.  "It reminds me of the days of my youth, when my Ellenion called upon me, and we knew the joy of love.  He died many years ago, slain by the Enemy when he worked amongst the wounded in Osgiliath, but he had the gift of singing as well as of healing, and often courted me that way."  She smiled, then. "At least I have the memories of that long time, and the son he fathered on me, and the beautiful grandchildren, and now their children as well, several of whom have the gift of singing.  Two sang before the Lord Elessar at his crowning, amidst the choir of children, and others amongst those who sang the hymns to Elbereth at their wedding." 

            The door opened with a rap, and a young page looked in and called out, "Lady Ioreth," and she turned away.  "The Warden asks you come and assist in a stitching, for one of the children who remains in the House has fallen and struck his head against a door and needs it closed." 

            She clucked her tongue and bade swift good-byes while swiftly closing the window, and hurried to answer the summons of her master. 

            "Another mystery solved," Ruvemir commented as together he and his sister applied themselves to their lunch, for once alone in the room.  She looked at him in question and he continued.  "The King murmured 'Ioreth' as he left, remember?  Apparently he is well acquainted with her chatter, although the chatter is pleasant enough, and not filled with evil tales on others."

            Miriel's eyes smiled.

            After their meal was finished, the young healer of the previous night came in and removed the form from his hip, and under his direction Miriel and Ruvemir worked on the exercises shown them earlier.  When he was satisfied, he indicated that the form would not be replaced, but that instead a bracing wrap would be fastened about his hips to assist the sinews in their continued healing but which would be less restrictive.  Ruvemir smiled.  Once this was in place he felt tired, and he lay down after bringing up some more of the sputum from deep in his chest, and while he and Miriel were talking he suddenly slipped back into sleep. 

            When he woke anew it was late afternoon and his window was shadowed.  Miriel was no longer in the room, and all seemed to be quiet and full of peace.  Two cups sat on the chest by his bed, one apparently a draught and the other most likely water.  He was wondering if he should drink the one when there was a familiar rap at his door, and when he called out to enter, it opened, and Elise stood there, smiling in pleasure.

            "Oh, sir, they told me that you had awakened and were nearly healed, and I see it is true.  I brought you these," and she proffered stalks of flowers and foliage wrapped in fine cloth and damp paper at the bottom.  "My mother and I cut them this morning, this being my free day from my work.  I came up to see you and Master Beneldil's son, who is also here, ready to go home on the morrow, finally recovered from the pox himself.  They brought him here the night before you came, and the fever was quite heavy on him for a time."

            "It is wonderful to see you, my lady Elise," he said, and she came over to his bed and sat on the chair.  "And I thank you for your caring for me, both before I sickened and after."  She smiled, and Ruvemir found himself responding to that smile as he hadn't to a woman's face for many years.  "And I suppose you have been caring for my sister as well?"

            "Oh, the Lady Miriel is your sister?"  And he noted a look of relief on her face that was quickly masked.  "I'd thought perhaps she was your lady wife."

            "Oh, no--no such one as that as yet."  And there was no mistaking the relief.  He was surprised to find himself not just flattered but excited as well.  Perhaps it was possible for a mannikin to find a deeper caring from one who was normal after all.

            It was some time before Miriel returned, and her own expression appeared mixed as she watched the two animated faces before her, and in glancing at her, Ruvemir realized with amusement she was a bit jealous, but more protective.  She crawled up on the bed and sat by him, gradually relaxing and joining in the talk. 

            When at last the young healer came in he found the three of them laughing as Elise described an incident where they'd found a guest who'd tried to sneak four dogs into his room and the havoc it had created.  The healer smiled to see his patient obviously much better, and when they noticed his arrival he simply smiled.  "Go on," he said. "Often a merry heart is the best treatment of all."  He moved to the chest and indicated Ruvemir should drink the draught, and then the water, and gently checked his pulse as he spoke, pleased to see his eyes alert and engaged, his wits obviously clear. 

            Elise finally, reluctantly, took her leave, and Ruvemir felt a tug at his heart as she left, and saw that she'd apparently noticed something in his expression, for she was clearly smiling as she left.  The healer smiled also.  "Well, I must say that if Master Meriadoc were here still he would be doing all in his power to bring the two of you together.  Apparently the Pheriannath enjoy the art of matchmaking."  Ruvemir felt himself redden, but Miriel sniffed.

            "To think the son of Mardil the Carver would be drawn to such as she," she said, then added, "Our father would only be most pleased."

            Ruvemir looked to her with swift surprise.  "Then you like her?"

            "Of course, goose.  And obviously you are quite smitten.  There's apparently no hope for it--at long last my aloof brother has found a lady love."  And he could see the mixed envy and pleasure in her face, took her hand, and kissed it.

 *******

            One more set of visitors he had that evening, after his sister left to return to the King's Head, advised he would probably be released the following day.  He was working on a study of the four Pheriannath together, trying to envision what type of grouping he would do, when a knock at the door announced the arrival of Gimli son of Gloin, accompanied by the golden-haired Elf who'd brought him the King's missive.  Both were dressed in identical cloaks, the silvery grey-green with the leaf brooch, and he realized these must be somehow tied to their trip from Imladris with the Pheriannath.  Gimli introduced Legolas, Prince of the Forest of Green Leaves, formerly known as Mirkwood, and the Elf gave a particularly deep and graceful bow.

            "Aragorn is otherwise engaged this evening, so we thought we would meet with you and see what studies you've added so far," the Dwarf explained.

            "I can imagine the King is quite busy this night," Ruvemir replied with a smile to which the others replied in kind.  "I heard the singing, and was quite moved by it."

            "Rarely does Aragorn sing before others like that," said the Elven prince, "but today his voice was quite pleasing."

            "Was that the Lay of Lúthien?" Ruvemir asked.

            "Yes.  Apparently he had been singing that lay the first time he saw the Lady Arwen, who had spent several years in the Golden Wood with her mother's kin and who had just returned that day to Imladris.  He says that he thought he'd been granted the grace to bring the image of which he'd been singing before his own eyes.  And certainly the Lady Galadriel has said that her granddaughter strongly favors Lúthien, who after all was great-grandmother to her father."

            All his life Ruvemir had heard and read the tales of the great Elves and the Great War against Morgoth--and he found himself feeling odd at the thought that he was suddenly a part of it all, for here was the great, great granddaughter of Beren and Lúthien, the Queen now of Gondor, and, he realized, now as inextricably tied to mortality as himself.  He felt his scalp tighten at the thought.

            Legolas continued, "The Evenstar of our people she has been, the sign that the time nears at last for us to seek out our proper place, or to remain here and fade at the end.  But for the sake of Aragorn Elessar we willingly relinquish her to his side.  May her gift strengthen the line of Mankind and renew it indeed."

            There was a moment of quiet as all thought over the meaning of the marriage of Arwen to the King of Gondor and Arnor combined, and Gimli looked from one to the other until he at last asked if he could see the further work he'd done.

            At last he said, "There's no study here of Samwise, except for this last one with the others."

            Ruvemir nodded in agreement.  "Master Samwise seems to be a difficult one to get people to describe for me, although he is apparently a strong presence amongst the four of them.  Perhaps you can give me a better idea of what he is like."  He took back the booklet and turned to the last page, and indicated they should begin.  After an hour they left off, and both looked at the sketch he'd produced and nodded. 

            "It is very like," Legolas said approvingly.  "Were the sketches done by the artists of Minas Anor a good guide for his features, then?"

            Ruvemir shrugged noncommittally, unwilling to divulge Frodo's secret skill of artistry.  "It is that told to me by such as you that give me an idea of what he was truly like," he answered, and the Elf smiled. 

            At that time the healers came in to do his exercises one last time, and Elf and Dwarf took their leave.  Once the exercises were done, he was encouraged to get up for a brief time and to walk down the corridor, and after watching him take about ten steps they brought out a cane, measured it to him, and took it to be cut off to his height.  Within twenty minutes it was back, a lovely thing of lebethron, the fine grain under his hand reminding him of his father's own skill.  Supported with this he tried the walk again, and was able to make it to the end of the passageway and back again, and smiling he set out on a second assay, only to find he was suddenly tired before he made it all the way.  He stopped and sat to rest on one of the benches scattered up and down the walls, and heard childish voices from the nearby room.  He peeked in, and there saw two boys sitting on beds set side by side, talking and sharing a bowl of sliced apple segments.

            "No," the one said, "it is more to your right, Ririon."  The other boy reached further away from the bowl when his companion suddenly corrected himself.  "No, I mean left--I keep forgetting to turn the directions in my head to be for you and not for me!"

            "Well, what can I say about such a woolly headed soul as you, Benril?"  The other quickly found the bowl and chose a segment for himself.  "I find I can see somewhat better at this time of day than in full daylight.  Isn't that odd?"

            His companion nodded, then said, "Yes, full odd.  I wonder what the King will do to your eyes tomorrow?"

            The other shrugged.  "Don't know.  But he says he hopes it will add more to my vision.  I just hope it doesn't hurt too much."

            "The King would never hurt you on purpose."

            "I realize that, but that doesn't stop it from probably hurting some anyway, you know."  For a moment there was quiet.  "But it will be worth it to see at least enough to find my way better.  Can you hand me my cup of water?  I don't want to knock it over again.  They need cups that don't fall over so easily."

            As Ruvemir finally rose and returned to his chamber, he realized he was perhaps not as badly off as a mannikin as he'd sometimes felt.


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.

Story Information

Author: Larner

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 4th Age

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 04/25/08

Original Post: 12/05/04

Go to King's Commission, The overview

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