During the meal Aragorn asked his guests where they would prefer to stay. "We have had one of the older barracks buildings refurbished for your use. We accepted that the guesthouses are not truly suitable, as all have two stories with the bedrooms on the upper floor. However, if you would be more comfortable in the lower city, several of the inns have rooms prepared specifically for Hobbits. I have been assured by Master Ruvemir, Mistress Miriel, Master Folco, and by Pando that they are indeed suitable and comfortable. Indeed, Master Folco and Mistress Miriel are staying in one such, in the Inn of the King's Head."
There was discussion among the Hobbits as to what would be preferable--to avoid the long walk up the city at the cost of being high on the mountain, or to feel more comfortable at the lower elevations with the long way to go in coming days.
Narcissa finally decided. "I don't wish to do the long walk, and Master Ruvemir has informed me he and his wife wish me to stay with them--I believe I will accept their offer."
Pippin and Diamond looked at one another. "I have duty in the morning, so it is best I stay here in the upper city, if you can bear it."
She smiled. "I find it does not bother me unduly, and I am becoming accustomed to sleeping where I am not accustomed, am I not?"
Merry and Estella followed suit. Sam and Rosie looked at one another. "I was fine there in the Sixth Circle afore, dearling," he said. "Do you think as you could stand it?"
"If it's on the lower floor I ought to be able to do so," she answered, "and I doubt as the bairns will care that much as yet."
"That's settled, then," he smiled.
"At what hour will the unveiling occur?" asked Fredegar Bolger.
"An hour ere noon," the King replied.
Fredegar, Budgie, and Ferdibrand conferred. At last Ferdibrand announced, "We've decided we would be more comfortable lower down in the city, if it causes no one else upset."
"I suggest you try the Dragon's Claw, then," Ruvemir advised. "They will have two rooms available while the King's Head has but one free, what with Folco and Miriel and the children there."
Ririon smiled. "It is a good inn to stay in," he said proudly. "I served there as a child, and am glad to recommend it. And Evamir Cook will be proud to serve you."
"He already has," Pippin said. "The bag he gave me had seed cakes in it, you know--and they are all gone."
"He did share a couple each with Diamond and me," Pando smiled, "and one each for Frodo-Lad and Cyclamen and Dorieth and Ririon and Folco."
"You selfish one," complained Merry.
"Well, as I endowed the inns to serve them, shan't I be able to eat as many as I want? Although actually, that left me with but one myself."
Aragorn laughed while Diamond sighed. "At least we have all been able to share the tureen of mushrooms," she said.
"Yes, a spoon each. We shall have to descend on them together to get a proper share."
Gimli snorted. "Hobbits!" he said, shaking his head.
"You had your spoonful as well," Merry pointed out reasonably. Dorlin looked at his cousin and smiled.
"I am surprised," Legolas commented, "that Éomer King and his Riders did not ride escort to your party."
"They had intended to," Merry said, "but the King changed his mind when he heard the Queen's news. Instead he was intent on arranging the use of a carriage for her. They should be here by evening."
Aragorn sat up with interest. "So, she has finally told him, has she?"
The Master's Heir and Holdwine of the Mark peered up at the King of Gondor suspiciously. "And how long have you known?"
Pippin smiled. "Has your foresight told you whether it will be a lad or a lass as yet?"
"Don't you think that such knowledge should come in it own way, Pippin?"
Ruvemir laughed. "And who was it sat in my room in the King's Head and announced his own awaited child would be a daughter lovely enough to make the stars sing?"
"But she was my own."
Pippin looked down at the small girl seated in a high chair by Elise on the inside of the curve of the table. "Will she follow after you as Queen?"
Aragorn looked at her, and his expression softened. "She has that right, for I have had the law changed that has restricted the succession to sons, in keeping with the laws of our ancestors on Númenor. However, I will say again, what I have foreseen, unless I die first in battle, which is ever possible, is that she will choose to forego that option in favor of the brother to come. Arwen has foreseen his face; I have foreseen only that Melian will prefer to allow her brother to accept the burden of rule."
"She has the option to choose, but he has not?" asked the Hobbit softly.
"Unfortunately, this is true. However, if that is what happens, I have also foreseen that her daughter shall marry her cousin and that they shall be co-rulers of the two realms, bringing the succession fully back into line. But I suggest you not tell them, that they feel not forced when the time comes." Ruvemir saw that the King's expression had become very serious--he did indeed mean this suggestion.
"Well, you have little to fear from any of us," Merry said quietly. "We shall have gone on our way long before that time, I suspect." Aragorn gave him a deep look, which softened into a gentle smile, and he gave a single nod.
At mid-afternoon a party arrived from the East, and an hour later one from the Southlands. Then, two hours before sundown Merry and Pippin went with the King and his guard and many of the Dúnedain to the stables in the First Circle to ride out to the Rammas Echor to greet the Rohirrim. Again there was a large meal in the Hall of Merethrond for the gathering guests.
Afterward, Moritum of Rhun looked at the gathering of small beings about the King and shook his head and turned to his brother. "I had thought the Periannath would be more similar to the small sculptor," he commented. "Yet they are very unlike him."
Ifram nodded. "Yes, very unlike. Yet they are good hearted folk, all courteous, and very lively." He looked up as Lord Gilfileg came to bring them glasses of wine. "Thank you, Staravion, although it is not your place to wait on us."
Moritum smiled up at his grandfather's former slave and shook his head. "I am yet amazed to find you were not but a dream of our youth, that you live indeed, and are so close to that one," nodding across to the King Aragorn Elessar, who sat now with Elanor on one knee and Melian on the other, Cyclamen before him, listening closely to the older child's chatter, his eyes shining with pleasure. "Why did you stay with us as long as you did?"
Gilfileg shook his head. "I could have escaped much earlier than I did, but had been warned there were children who needed my presence. I do not regret those years, not now that I have seen what you have become."
Shefti looked up from where he had been cutting meat for his wife's daughter and gave the King of Gondor an appraising look. "I have never seen him look so light of heart. These Periannath are good for him, I think."
Gilfileg smiled. "Frodo Baggins helped his own Light to fully kindle. For years it had been beaten back with care and the constant facing of the Enemy and his creatures, by envy and rejection from those who ought to have welcomed him with open arms, and by the growing concern that the promise of the future might never come. His hope never fully waned, but was constantly pushed down, ever and ever. Frodo's coming forth made him realize the time for concealment was over, that the moment of doom, for good or ill, was finally upon us. Frodo's determination rekindled Aragorn's faith and trust in the Creator and the Valar. The others gave him trust, rekindled his humor, showed him love of family among mortals."
Elrohir had been passing and had paused to listen to Gilfileg's words. "There you have it, Little Bird. After his father's death, what did he know of family among mortals? Yes, his mother was there, and our father stood as father to him, and we as brothers, Elladan and I. Yet it was not as a family among mortals should be. What can those of us who live always in the surety of tomorrow and the day after, even if those tomorrows are spent in the Halls of Mandos, teach of living in the moment?"
He looked to where Aragorn sat with small child on each knee, Cyclamen standing before him, her head thrown back in unbridled laughter, the Man's own face full of simple joy and shared pleasure. Nearby sat Éomer, King of Rohan, his hand about the waist of his wife, rejoicing in the knowledge of the new life she carried and the promise for the future it presaged, laughing with his friend. Faramir sat with his own head thrown back, laughing as loudly and fully as the Hobbit lass, Éowyn behind him, her hand on his shoulder, her eyes full of joy for her lord husband, lord brother, Lord King. Arwen sat laughing beside her husband, cuddling Frodo-Lad to her. Rosie-Lass sat on her father's lap, Sam sitting with eyes that approved of the relaxation of the all-too habitual solemnity in his friend. Merry and Pippin were to one side, discussing whether they should sing a drinking song or a comic ballad; Lorieth, Elise, Estella, Diamond, and Narcissa examining something shown to them by Miriel; Fredegar Bolger, Folco Boffin, and Ferdibrand Took talking animatedly with Rustovrid of Harad and Ruvemir, who was holding Lanril on his lap, Mardil and Master Faragil standing, smiling, nearby among Ruvemir's apprentices, who were competing at telling unlikely stories while the Prince of Dol Amroth listened with mock shock on his face.
Elrohir looked at them with what Ifram realized with amazement was envy. "What do we Elves, with our surety of the future, know of the adventure of life you mortals face? Even your future life you must approach through faith. It is no wonder it is called the Gift of Iluvatar, for where is the pleasure in knowing precisely what a gift holds?"
Gilfileg looked at his royal cousin. "The Hobbits have shown him how mortal families should be ordered, have shown him how to love, openly, freely, as they do." He then looked at Ruvemir, and smiled. "And there is another one who has helped him learn to live, another who has shown him a new way of healing, who has strengthened his trust in the Creator and the Valar. So many have been helped by Ruvemir to find peace in their hearts, to learn to honor those who deserve it."
Ifram nodded his agreement. "We have learned much of honor through example here in Gondor."
He who had once been known as Staravion smiled down at him. "You have always held far more honor than you realized, youngling."
Afterward Narcissa Boffin accompanied Elise and Ruvemir to their home along with Folco, Miriel, and the children. She was tired, overwhelmed by what she had experienced that day, all she had seen, all she had met. She was ready for some level of peace and quiet.
"You are fortunate that many of the apprentices will not spend the night with us, will be instead with their own families, either in their homes or in the city's inns," Elise said, watching the small party of youths that walked before them, singing a song whose words had been changed somewhat so as supposedly not to offend the adults' sensibilities. "Even Ririon is staying with my mother and Adar Mardil this night." She gave the youths ahead of them a fond smile. "They are a good group, really, and ready now to go to new masters, most of them. We will miss them, Ruvemir and I, but rejoice they are ready for this now."
"Why do they go to new masters?" their guest asked.
"I have two more commissions which need to be completed now," Ruvemir said, "both in the Northern kingdom. I cannot take them all in any case. Most were with me only because they lost their former master and needed special tutelage and gentle treatment, and so it was laid on me, with the assistance of my own former master and Master Orin of the Dwarves of Erebor to serve instead. Now most are ready to go to new places, and two----" He began to smile, and said in a lower voice, "Two are going to be surprised tomorrow."
As they reached the house, Anorieth, who had taken the place of Liana after her marriage to Shefti, opened the door and invited them inside, smiling to see the Small Master and his wife return with their guests.
"I do not know if you were told this," Ruvemir said as he took Narcissa's cloak and gave it to Anorieth, "but this was the house in which the Lord Mithrandir, whom you know as the Wizard Gandalf, stayed with Captain Pippin on their first arrival in the city, just before the siege by Mordor. After all was over, the others of the Fellowship joined them here. Mistress Loren, who served as their housekeeper during their stay, is to this day still aghast that the Hobbits would not sleep in the upstairs rooms as was right and proper." He pointed. "The small parlor that way was where the two knights slept, while Lord Samwise and Lord Frodo slept on the other side of the day room." He led the way.
Anorieth smiled as she followed. "I did as was asked in the message sent down, Master Ruvemir--the couch in the Mistress's parlor has been made into a bed. It is very comfortable, Mistress, and will serve you well."
Ruvemir looked at Narcissa with a look of apology. "The only drawback is that this was the parlor that led to the house's study. I do not care for stairs, and when at last we build our own home, if we do, there will be none--if I can manage that, of course. Stairs are very difficult for me. So it is that Elise and I have taken the study as our bedroom, which means that when we go out into the rest of the house we must pass through the room in which you will sleep. The study was also favored by the Lord Frodo, and the room in which you will sleep was used by Lord Samwise. He preferred to be close at hand when the nightmares disturbed his Master's sleep, which was all too common, I fear."
She nodded her understanding. She went in to find a comfortable looking room, the furniture only slightly too high for her usual comfort. The couch was relatively low, and laid out with clean linens and coverlets and several pillows. A table was covered by diagrams for stitchery and a holder with a variety of threads for embroidery. She smiled at this, then looked to her hostess, who had followed behind. "I think I will be comfortable enough here," she said.
Elise smiled in return. "The wardrobe is there, and your chest has been placed there at the far end of the couch. Would you like to bathe before the late meal? We've ordered one for you and the apprentices--youths eat as much as any Hobbit, I assure you." Again Narcissa laughed.
Some time later Narcissa, now changed into clean clothing, sat in one of the low chairs in the day room, brushing out her hair. Ruvemir was on the balcony with Folco, working on a small figure by lantern light while they talked, three of the four apprentices remaining with them for the night were playing some dice game she did not recognize, and the fourth was sitting, reading stories to Lanril and Lorieth. Elise was in the kitchen with the cook and her husband's sister while Anorieth set the table. It felt peaceful, she realized, and this chair was made to her comfort. She sat back and thought of when this house was lived in by Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. What must it have been like at that time? she wondered to herself.
Her understanding of what their journey had entailed had grown over the journey south. She had ridden mostly in the coach with Fatty and with Ferdibrand Took and with Cyclamen. Cyclamen had ferreted out the information that Fatty had read Frodo's book about the quest and had demanded he recount it to her. At last a bargain had been struck--he would recount, as best as he could recall, one chapter each morning and evening if she would not pester him between times. "Otherwise," he'd warned, "I will not be able to have any time to myself or to speak with my cousin here to tell him of what we pass." There were times when Narcissa had slept through these chapters, but she'd heard enough to realize that things had often been terrifying for the four of them. He'd recounted almost exclusively, however, the chapters regarding Merry and Pippin's experiences, saying only that Frodo had left the Fellowship at Amon Hen above Rauros Falls, which she understood was the border between Gondor and the former North Kingdom here on the eastern side of the Misty Mountains, and that he and Sam had set themselves to walk the rest of the way to Mordor. She knew that somehow the two of them had entered in, but not precisely how it had been done, nor exactly what had happened to them there. When Cyclamen asked about their part of the journey, he'd only shaken his head. "I still cannot easily discuss it," he said. "It was a terrible time for them is all I wish to say about it now. Believe me, you will undoubtedly learn more in Gondor--more than you wished to know, I fear." Thinking of this, Narcissa sighed, and having finished her hundredth stroke she slipped the brush into the pocket of her full skirt and rose and went out to join her host and her cousin.
She found the small Man fascinating, the oddly shaped body, well developed if still uneven shoulders and arms, the breadth of his chest, his short arms and legs, his beard and almost straight hair, his shoes. He sat on a low bench, deftly working the stone he held, the glint of the lantern somehow warm and comforting, smiling down at what he crafted while Folco leaned on the railing, looking out at the night, puffing at his pipe. Ruvemir glanced up and nodded at her approach, paused to indicate she should join him. "I am working on a model for one of the figures I'll be doing for the Dúnedain's commission," he said, "Captain Pippin. I find I enjoy doing figures of him."
"How do you know how to show them?" she asked.
"After getting to know them, I then imagine them in the circumstances in which they are to be portrayed. I've been doing this sort of work now for twenty years, and it has become natural to me."
Folco smiled and commented, "I've been amazed at how good he is at it, Narcissa."
Narcissa looked from one to the other. "Fatty was telling the story to Cyclamen of what the Travelers went through as we traveled, but would not speak of what happened to Frodo and Sam after they broke away from the others. I know somehow they went to Mordor, but don't even know where that is."
Folco looked at Ruvemir. "You should tell it then, for at this point you know the story better than I."
Ruvemir's face became serious. "You saw the black mountains there, across the River as you came south from Anorien?"
"Those are the Ephel Dúath, also known as the Mountains of Shadow. They were the west wall of Mordor." He straightened. "It is a long story, but I will try to be brief." And quietly he recounted, in as few words as possible, how Frodo had broken away from the rest, been followed first by Sam, then by Gollum, how they'd captured the creature and wrung from him his vow on the Ring, the trip through the Dead Marshes to the ridge looking down on the Black Gates, the decision to find another way, the trip through Ithilien to the Morgul Vale, the climb up the stairs of Cirith Ungol, the betrayal by Gollum. She was horrified to hear of the attack by the great spider, the bite to Frodo's neck, the assault on Sam by Gollum and then of the spider by Sam, the retreat by Shelob, the belief Frodo had died, the use of the Ring to get past the Orcs, the realization Frodo yet lived.
"Sam must have been so relieved," she whispered.
"He was horrified," Ruvemir sighed. "He couldn't get to him for a time, and so Frodo finally awoke to find himself imprisoned by the Orcs, suddenly aware that he was no longer in possession of the Ring, and in despair that it must be already on its way to Barad-dûr and Sauron's hand once more. Did they tell you about the mithril shirt that Bilbo gave him?"
"Something about it, although I don't understand it completely."
"It was the one the Dwarves gave to Master Bilbo during his own adventure. He gave it on to Frodo while they were in Rivendell."
"The one that was in Michel Delving? Oh, I saw that when I was a child--it was beautiful. Frodo was wearing it?"
"Yes, under his clothing. The Orcs took it and began to fight over it, to the point almost all killed one another. The Lord Samwise fortunately did not need to fight them himself."
He quickly described the rescue, the lack of food and water, the need to find the way in the desolation of Mordor, the thorny bushes, the rocks, the being taken for deserting orcs and the forced march toward the Morranon. When he told how they escaped she shuddered.
He paused as he found himself facing the description of the last assault on the Mountain itself. He looked at her, saw the shining of tears in her eyes as she sat, waiting to hear the last of it. Finally he said, softly, "It was very hard at the end. Frodo was weak almost to the point of death, and I suspect that only pure determination allowed him to continue on the last steps of the journey."
"Baggins stubbornness," Folco sighed.
"He fell once when he felt the Eye of Sauron searching the lands toward the Mountain, was in a fit of horror that Samwise can barely speak of. The Ring was trying so hard to take possession of his will, and Sam had to hold his hands. At last Samwise carried him on his back up the Mountain, for Frodo could not do more--he'd crawled when he could no longer walk, and now he could not even do that. Then Gollum, who had found them once more, attacked them there on the Mountain's side...."
She bowed her head as he described the final strength that had come to Frodo in the wake of that attack, the fending off of Gollum by Sam, the realization that, after all he'd been through, there at the very end the Ring was taking Frodo anyway, the final struggle with Gollum, the loss of the finger and the fall....
Her face was white, and tears of grief for him ran down her cheeks. "No wonder," she whispered, "no wonder he couldn't speak of it. It must have all but torn him apart." Folco closed his own eyes and swallowed.
Ruvemir nodded. "Sam carried him out of the chamber, and when he came to his senses convinced him to crawl to what little safety there was. The fumes and heat were overcoming them. They lost consciousness on a hillock, and were found there by Mithrandir and the Eagles of the North, were carried to safety. They did not awaken for two weeks--or almost two weeks, at least. They seemed on the way to recovery--but they had been through so very much, especially the Lord Frodo. It was hard for him to stomach his food, to fight the shame of what he saw as his failure, to deal with the recurring nightmares."
"So that is what Fatty couldn't tell us."
"Yes, that is what Master Fredegar could not speak of. It has taken years for Merry, Pippin, and Samwise to tell of their ordeals, and even now there are details they will not speak aloud. Lord Frodo spoke of it only in his writing, some with Master Fredegar and Master Budgie, and at the last with the Master and the Thain and their wives.
"The King has said he was so scoured by the effects of the Ring and all he'd been through that he could no longer feel the pleasures of life strongly enough to balance the griefs and the pain. He was very ill, in body and spirit, ere he went away, and probably only a few days from death."
"Could he have survived the journey, then?"
"They believe he has done so, those whose awareness has been most closely tied to Frodo's own. The King is certain he would have felt Frodo die, but has not felt such; nor has Sam. What--what has been perceived is that his Light is strengthening in the West, in fact. It is believed he will do his best to wait until Lord Samwise goes to join him, although Sam has sworn not to do so until Rosie is gone before him."
Folco asked, "Then you think one day Sam will go there, too?"
"Yes," Ruvemir said, "I do. Frodo asked him to live for the both of them."
Elise was just inside the room, where she had stood waiting and listening. "I am sorry that you were denied this part of his story so long, Mistress Narcissa," she said, gently. "Knowing would undoubtedly have helped you in your own grief and confusion." The Hobbitess indicated her agreement. "I came to tell you the late meal is ready. Do you think you can eat it, Mistress?"
"I think so." Narcissa rose and followed after Elise into the dining room, where Miriel was lifting Lanril into a high chair while the apprentices took their places. She noted the picture of the Citadel and the White Tree that hung on one wall, looked at it with admiration. "Again, I must say, 'Oh!'" she said. "But the Tree is different."
Gilmirion explained, "It was the old White Tree that died when the line of Kings failed before. It was removed when the King found the new one growing on the mountain and brought it back to plant it in the old one's place.
Narcissa examined it with pleasure, then suddenly looked more closely. "But the Queen's face is there, in the branches! Oh, how beautiful!"
Ruvemir nodded. "Yes, and no one can quite understand why he did that, for he seemed surprised when the Lady Arwen came to Gondor to marry our Lord Aragorn Elessar."
"You know who the artist is, then?"
"Oh, yes, for it was the Lord Frodo himself."
She looked at it with her mouth open for some moments, then turned back to him. "I'd forgotten he used to do pictures--I'd not seen any in so very long. He did that after they came here?"
"Yes, and gave it to an artist whom he met here in the city. I met the same Man after my own arrival, and he showed it to me. He died last summer, and left it to me. He left me two other pictures by the Lord Frodo as well as one of the books of poetry by Master Bilbo that the Lord Frodo had given him."
"Oh, Master Ruvemir, will you show the pictures to me?"
"Yes, after the meal if you wish."
After the meal he took her to the parlor he used as his own studio and showed her the picture of Master Iorhael he'd done, then took her to the study where he and Elise slept to show her the picture of Bag End.
It was in examining this painting with her that he realized a detail he'd noted several times but had not been able to determine precisely what it meant. In the flowers surrounding the door he'd often felt he was seeing faces--and now, suddenly, they focused for him. Yes, there were faces there, four faces, four faces of Hobbit women: Rosie Cotton, one of Pearl Took much as Frodo had drawn of her dancing, one of Primula Baggins, and one--one of Narcissa Boffin. He looked quickly to her face, wondered if she would see it, too. Her face was shining with wonder and gladness, looked at him. "He put me there, Master Ruvemir--put me there alongside Rosie, Pearl, and that other one. Do you know who she is?"
He nodded. "Yes, I do--the third was his mother."
"But he barely even spoke to me, except at Bilbo's party--he danced with me several times that night."
He smiled through the tears he felt gathering. "I think he did notice your regard, and treasured its memory, Mistress Narcissa."
The next morning much of the population of Minas Anor, the Pelennor, and nearer Gondor came up to the Court of Gathering for the unveiling of the memorial to the Pheriannath. An hour before noon the song of Elves, accompanied by harps and drums, began--a hymn to Manwë and Elbereth. A procession came out of the Citadel of Lords and Ladies from all over the two realms, from Rohan, from Rhun, and from Harad, of Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Finally came the party of Pheriannath, followed by Peregrin Took in uniform; and at last their King and Queen in formal robes, their trains carried by Cyclamen and Pando Proudfoot. They paced solemnly around the court of the White Tree, coming before the white tarp, before which stood the small sculptor, Ruvemir son of Mardil of Lebennin, his wife Elise and ward Ririon beside him, the dog Joy by the youth's side; behind them those who had stood as apprentices to him, along with Master Faragil, and Orin and Dorlin of Erebor. Nearby were Master Dorion and the engineers and masons and gardeners who had assisted in the construction of the base and the erection of the surround and the plantings about the feet of the figures.
When at last the song was completed, the King stepped forward. "Six years ago this day a great evil at last was purged from Middle Earth; and Sauron was destroyed through the results of his own vanity and greed when the work of his hand, into which he poured the greater part of his own power, finally came back to Mount Doom and perished there.
"Many were the hands and wills of those who over much of three ages of Middle Earth fought Sauron and he who preceded him; but in the end it was not might but Endurance and Hope which freed us at last. Evil there is still to face, but now it is the evil that we bear in our own hearts, not the overwhelming evil of those who were meant to be Powers and Servants of Creation who gave themselves instead to the gathering of power over others, knowing envy and hatred while seeking the destruction of what they could not control.
"Three of the four of the Periannath whose coming aided in that great victory are here with us today. The fourth, the Ringbearer, Frodo Baggins of the Shire, has been granted by the Valar themselves the chance for healing offered in Tol Eressëa for his easing, for of all who fought Sauron at the last, his was the greatest burden, the most difficult sacrifice. Three and a half years ago he accepted that grace, and so cannot return to us again.
"That we remember always that the Creator can choose the weak to confound the might of the Enemy as well as the strong, that we remember that those who have not fought for survival for many generations of any form of mortal life can yet show the example of courage and perseverance and faith to the inspiration of all, and that we never forget that Evil still must be fought every day of our lives, in one form or another, we dedicate this memorial."
He nodded to Ruvemir, who in turn nodded to the apprentices. Each moved to his appointed place, reached down and lifted a peg. Ruvemir took the linked lines fastened to the tarp and pulled it away, and all could see at last the finished work.
At the back stood Meriadoc Brandybuck dressed as Holdwine of the Mark, leaning on his Dúnedain sword in honor, his head held erect, his face solemn but with a hint of great, overwhelming joy and overwhelming grief at the same time.
Before him to his left stood the figure of Peregrin Took, Guard of the Citadel, standing with his feet slightly apart, Trolls Bane held at the ready, the blade lightly resting against his left hand, his expression determined.
Slightly more forward and to the right was Samwise Gamgee, bent slightly forward, dressed as he had been on the long quest, shirt with placket buttons only partly done, the cuff of one sleeve falling away from the wrist, vest partly rucked back to show where the brace buttoned to the left front of his trousers, pack on his back, looking up under his brows in defiance of an unseen foe, holding Sting ready to use it against spider or Orc.
At the front, buttons torn away, shirt partly ragged, cuffs of the Hobbit trousers torn and uneven and the left knee ripped, stood Frodo Baggins, his Elven cloak pulled back from his left shoulder, Phial of Galadriel in his left hand pressed to his breast, his left foot stepped slightly forward as he held his right hand outstretched, the circle of the Ring lying on the open palm, the missing finger obvious, his face stern and sad, chin lifted in challenge and defiance.
All wore their Elven cloaks, pulled back behind his shoulders in Pippin's case, hanging about them in Merry's and Sam's, half forward and half back in that of Frodo.
On the lip of the surround in front of the figure of Frodo Baggins was carved the inscription, ...or would you destroy it?
The name and titles of each in Westron, Sindarin, Quenya, and Dwarvish was inscribed on the base of each statue that stood partly above the earth which filled the surround, in which athelas, elanor, niphredil, and white Elven lilies had been planted.
The bard who had written the Lay of Frodo of the Nine Fingers stepped forward with the Lords Elrohir, Elladan, and the King himself; a harp was struck; the lay begun....
When at last it was done, all turned to the West, in honor of the Valar and all others who dwelt in the Undying Lands, including Frodo Baggins; and of the realm beyond and the Creator who ruled all.
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.