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16
The King's Sculptor

The King’s Sculptor

Sancho Proudfoot, who had been the patriarch of Number Five on the Row, for the past eight years--not counting the Time of Troubles--for all he was only recently of age, looked at Cock Robin with disbelief. “The King is sending what to the Shire?”

“A sculptor.”

“And what is a sculptor?” he asked.

“Makes statues, great huge statues, for the King’s city.”

“Why?” asked Ted Sandyman.

Robin Smallburrow shrugged. He hadn’t realized Ted was in the Green Dragon, or he’d not have given his news. “Wants a monument made of the four Travelers. Sending him here to see what they looks like.”

“How’s he to do one of Frodo Baggins?” demanded Griffo Boffin. “He’s not here in the Shire any more.”

“Went sailing, sailing away with Sam’s Elves,” agreed Ted.

Griffo looked sideways at the laborer. Somehow the idea of being agreed with by the likes of Ted Sandyman made him uncomfortable. Cock Robin eyed Ted with much the same feelings Griffo himself had. “The letter says this sculptor has a gift to be able to make sculptures of the faces of those as ain’t here no more.”

Moro Burrows, who’d married Sam Gamgee’s sister Daisy, asked, “When is he to come?”

“They’re in Bree now.”

“What does Sam think of this?”

Robin shrugged. “Not very happy about it, or so it seems. Said the monument was a fool idea.”

“Then why would he consider going along with it?”

“I suppose for the King’s sake. Certainly was happy enough when he recognized his seal and writing on the letter.”

Folco Boffin stretched. “Sam and Frodo both think the world of the King,” he commented. “Both would do about anything for him, I think.”

Sandyman snorted. “And why do you think Baggins might of survived this long, even there among them Elves?” he asked. “Saw him afore he left the Shire--stiff wind would of lifted him and blown him away. On his last legs, he was.”

All turned on him with openly expressed dislike in their eyes. Folco examined him coldly. “He was given the grace to go to the Undying Lands in the hope he would be able to finally receive the healing that could not come to him here in Middle Earth. All swear he nearly gave his life for all of us, although I’m still not certain precisely what all was involved in what he did. In that case, he certainly deserves whatever healing could be given him.” Ted shrugged, but wisely kept his mouth shut after that.

Folco soon started for home, stopping by his cousin Narcissa’s hole to share the news with her. She nodded, but made no comment on it. She was busy making a shawl for Forsythia for Yule. “They coming to Griffo and Daisy’s place soon, then?” he asked.

“No, for their mum has become quite ill. I’ll go see them in a couple weeks’ time, probably, if we don’t get a heavy snow.”

“Bear them my greetings.”

Folco had met them at the Free Fair the last couple summers, when Fosco stood up among the menfolk to dance the Husbandmen’s dance. Folco had been intrigued to meet these young cousins, and had watched after them with great interest. When he learned that Frodo himself had asked that Narcissa serve as an independent guardian for them he was even more intrigued. Her attitude of grief which had been on her since Frodo’s leaving had caused him concern, but it appeared to be at least somewhat relieved when she spoke of these young things.

The twins had attended the meeting of family heads regarding trade which was held in Michel Delving in late August, and then had gone to Bree in early October for the general conference on mutual trade within Arnor and between Arnor and Gondor and Rohan. Much attention was given to the representatives from the Shire, although almost all was given the Thain and Master and their sons and the Mayor; few paid much attention to the two younger Hobbits and the Hobbit lady who accompanied them, or the three Hobbit lawyers and two bankers of discretion that completed the party. The Lord Steward with his great height, grey eyes, dark hair and beard, and courteous, competent, and watchful demeanor impressed the Shirefolk greatly, as did the five Dúnedain who attended him. Merry and Pippin both personally greeted most of those who had
come to the conference by name and were given a good deal of respect in return, which underscored the fact that what they had told of their journeys was not exaggerated. All stayed at the Prancing Pony overnight, whose proprietor seemed pleased if somewhat bemused to host them, although they did not spend much time there, meeting in a grange hall on the north side of the village.

*******

Folco himself went to the Great Smial the day after he spoke to Narcissa, for he enjoyed spending time with his cousins there, now that Ferumbras was gone. It was there that he met the sculptor from Gondor and his sister, and he accompanied them from Tuckborough back to Hobbiton and then stayed there at Bag End as a guest through Yule.

Narcissa went to Westhall just a week after she spoke to Folco, and was concerned when she came back a week later. Lilac Gravelly was definitely seriously ill, and Lyria Bottomly was obviously concerned when she spoke of her. She spoke with Daisy and Griffo, and the three of them were all equally worried for the foster parents of their young kinsmen. Narcissa had little time or thought to spare for a strange artisan from the land of Gondor.

She saw Ruvemir and Miriel of Gondor at the Yule bonfire, but thought little enough about it. They were certainly intriguing, with their odd bodies, the sculptor’s overly large hands and short beard, the straight hair of both, the odd clothing and the boots they wore. With them was an extremely tall lad, but one, she heard tell, who was almost blind similar to what was true of Fosco. Almost she went over to meet them, but at that moment others were about Sam and Rosie and their guests, and she thought better of it.

The news that Folco had declared his love for the foreign mannikin lady Miriel of Gondor during Yule spread like wildfire throughout Hobbiton, Bywater, and Overhill; the news they were to be wed soon was received by all with surprise, amusement, and great interest. Then came the news Folco was selling his home, and that he intended to go to Gondor with his new bride and live with her on her father’s farm. Narcissa was shocked. She received the invitation to the wedding, but chose instead to drive to Westhall to see Fosco and Forsythia, for their mum was still seriously ill and they refused to leave her side.

One would think Lilac Gravelly would be reassured that the children loved her by their refusal to leave her while she was ill, but instead she seemed more anxious than ever to prove to herself that they cared for her. Her demands for such reassurance became frustrating and even wearing. She was anxious when Narcissa came, although she was also strangely comforted by this. Narcissa did her best to make things comfortable for Lilac, but she found herself relieved when it was time again to return to Overhill. She hugged the twins, gave her farewells to Emro and Lilac, who finally appeared strong enough to get out of bed, and drove away from the farm gladly.

As she drove by the house where Folco had lived, she was sad to see it sitting there dark. She would miss her cousin, and could not think how on earth he could even consider leaving the Shire, even for the sake of love.

The next day she spent with Daisy and Griffo, who described the wedding to her. Will Whitfoot had performed the marriage, and folk had come from all over the Shire to attend, many happy that at last Folco had found love, but many apparently out of curiosity about this mannikin lady and her odd brother who’d come so far to learn about four of their own. The Master and the Thain had come also, she learned, along with many of their folk who appeared to have developed affection for the foreign guests. The courtesy and respect the two had shown to all was much commented on, and the happiness Mistress Miriel had shown when approaching her bridegroom had satisfied the most hardened of Shire romantics.

It was told that Master Ruvemir also was to marry soon after he returned to Gondor, that he had a love there among the daughters of Men. Of those who had come to meet and know the two guests to the Shire, all spoke well of them, including Daisy and Griffo, and all expected that he would make a fine husband to whoever was lucky enough to have caught his regard. Narcissa decided to reserve judgment.

*******

The first letter arrived from Tharbad.

My dearest Cousin Narcissa,

I write from Tharbad where we are having to stop for a time to have a wheel and axle replaced. We stay with the wheelwright, who is a courteous Man, and he will accept no pay for his hospitality, although we have decided to give him more than he quoted for the repair of the coach in part as compensation.

I am at times overwhelmed by the immensity of the lands outside the Shire, for now I have seen true mountains and valleys, and rivers to make the Brandywine appear a mere stream by comparison. I’ve seen many Men now, the courteous and quiet Dúnedain, the bustling folk of Bree, the sullen and untrustworthy people of Dunworthy, and the industrious folk of Tharbad, who remind me very much of the folk of the Shire.

The coach is mostly being driven by a Dwarf, Dorlin son of Dwalin, whom you may remember from visits to Bag End before Uncle Bilbo left the Shire. We are accompanied by one of the Dúnedain, Eregiel son of Miringlor, who is a cousin to the King, and his dog Artos as well as a puppy who was gifted to young Ririon at Brandy Hall.

Ririon, as with Fosco, is nearly blind. He appears able to see light well enough, but as if he were seeing it through cloudy glass in most parts of his vision. He wears a hat with a wide brim when outside, which he tells us helps to limit the glare and allow him to see what detail he can more easily. He is quite a personable lad with a pleasant disposition, and is very gifted in his artistry. He cannot seem to hold off from carving, and almost always has a piece of wood or stone or some clay in his hand as we travel, constantly shaping, whether it is a simple yet pleasing pattern or a complex and lovely figure.

You may have heard that Pando Proudfoot joined the party headed south, for he has taken it into his head that he wishes to sculpt as well. I’ve seen him working with stone and wood and do not see great signs of talent there, but when he works with clay he does wonderful shapes. Certainly Ruvemir feels he will do well under the teaching of a friend who sculpts in clay and wax and does castings in metal. This friend lives in Belfalas, which he tells me is far to the south in Gondor.

Ruvemir must be the most wonderful brother-in-love that one could ever hope to see. He is very intelligent and courteous, and has boundless curiosity and enthusiasm for about everything. I find myself constantly amazed at how much beauty and fascination he can find in what I see as commonplace objects. He draws empty fields as they are, and you seem to see the promise of the crops which will grow there in the coming spring and summer. He holds a fallen branch and can describe the grace of the tree from which it fell. He sketches a child at play, and you seem to see in the resulting picture the graceful youth or maiden it will become.

But it is in speaking with people he is most gifted, for I find one can confide almost anything to him and he can help to cut through the knots of pain and fear and anger and grief to find the heart of the matter, and then help to see it aright. It was amazing to see the effects of his visit there at the Great Smial as he would ask about Frodo, and the pain would begin to fall away, the confusions loosened, and the love we all feel for him would become obvious. He has himself developed a respect and level of affection for our lost cousin that equals any I’ve seen within the Shire. Sam was rather suspicious of Ruvemir at the first, but by the time we saw him just before we left the Shire when he came to bid us his farewells at Brandy Hall he was as enthusiastic to see the memorial done as any of us, and his examination of the model Ruvemir has done was tender, and his respect for him beyond bounds. What is more, Ruvemir has developed a love and respect for our people, and particularly for Sam Gamgee, that is quite moving.

I cannot wait to meet our Lord King. Eregiel, Miriel, Ruvemir, Ririon, and Dorlin all think so highly of him, and you’ve certainly seen how the faces of Frodo, Merry, Pippin and Sam always light up when just speaking of him.

As for my Miriel--oh, Narcissa, how I wish you’d met her and come to know her. She is so different from anyone I have ever met, and yet I feel as if I’ve known her all our lives together. She is very well read, and like her brother sees to the heart of the matter in an instant in almost any situation she faces. She is more retiring than Ruvemir is--where he has always defied the world to accept him on his merits, she has until recently tended to hide from it somewhat.

I have learned that there are few Mannikins in the outer world, and that they are not actually a different race from Men as Hobbits are. Instead, Mannikin is a descriptive word for those among Men who are born stunted in their growth. Both the parents of Ruvemir and Miriel were normal in size for their kind, I am told, and both gifted in artistry. Their mother was a designer and weaver of tapestries, while their father is a well-respected woodcarver. Eventually Ririon will come under his tutelage as well as that of Ruvemir, for he appears to be equally good in carving wood and stone.

As children Miriel and Ruvemir were often teased and taunted and treated very badly as a result of their differences. In many places, Ruvemir tells me, such children will be sold to troops of entertainers as an oddity and to be trained to tumble and so on to cause people to laugh. Many are treated as children all throughout their lives, and it is not uncommon for them to be abused or ignored. Miriel and Ruvemir were fortunate to be born to parents who accepted them as they are and who encouraged their intelligence and curiosity, and saw to it their artistry was trained fully. Ruvemir has gone out into his land and has carved his figures wherever there is desire for them; Miriel stayed at home and did her embroidery and sewing, and has until now sent them out with her father to sell at the fairs and markets which he frequents. Of course, he has always attended only the most exclusive of sales and markets, and both his work and hers have always brought the highest of prices. But until now, few who have bought her work have known that it was wrought by one known as a Mannikin.

Miriel is not beautiful in the way that beautiful lasses or ladies of the Shire are beautiful, or in the way that I’ve learned beautiful women among Men are beautiful--not beautiful in body, at least. But her eyes would be beautiful in any race, as is true of her heart as well. Never have I known such as she, and never had I thought to know such love as she has brought me. I am so blessed, Narcissa, and I can only hope that you, too, will know such. one day. Frodo would wish to see such, I know, for he cared for you deeply and desired your happiness and delight, even when he could not give you the love you desired.

Please do not close yourself off completely now that he has gone. He would never have wanted that. Know that just as he had begun to realize just how deeply you loved him once his heart healed from Pearl, even so it may prove for you as well, and there is no betrayal in accepting it when it comes.

I am glad that, in his way, he has given you the experience of children through young Fosco and Forsythia, and that he, too, had sufficient through them and through his caring for so many so much younger than he, that he can appreciate how wonderful a father he would have been had his health allowed it.

I will write again when we reach Gondor.

Your cousin,
Folco


Narcissa sighed as she finished the letter. Certainly in the last letter he’d written himself Frodo had wished her joy, but in the one he’d dictated to the Elven woman along the way he’d assumed she was never going to marry, or so it had appeared. She remembered the last sight she’d had of him, his saddlebags over his shoulder as he’d left Will’s office at Michel Delving, his gaze already seeing other places, when he’d wished her joy. For a second, as he’d said that, he was looking right at her, and she knew he meant it--he did wish her joy--a joy he could no longer feel.

Is he healed now? she wondered. Is he able to know joy now? But, the only mortal in all of the Undying Lands, he can never marry now. She thought about it--marriage and the raising of a family was the one joy totally lost to him--and the one he had always wanted more than anything else. He might know deep friendships and beauty of a sort beyond telling here in the mortal lands, he might know accomplishment again and, she desperately hoped for him, the pleasure of painless movement, the glory of his stars, the ability to dance again--but he could never know the physical or emotional or spiritual joy of love of a wife or of ones own children. She understood now that Frodo had taken the Enemy’s Ring all the way to Mount Doom in Mordor, that he’d given up all in order to do so, and it had cost him his ability to know physical and spiritual peace in Middle Earth, and had cost him forever the hope of family.

She found herself pitying him--and without realizing it she stopped numbering herself among those who would never know that joy.

In February the twins again came to visit their sister, and they indicated their mum was much better--or appeared to be, at least. But during their next visit there came a message--Fendi Gravelly, Uncle Egro’s grandson, rode into Hobbiton on a lathered pony--their mum was took bad--real bad; and dropping all else they harnessed up the pony trap they’d rented and headed off back to Westhall accompanied by Narcissa.

Lilac lay restless in her bed till she heard them come into the smial, and relaxed only when Forsythia and Folco stood beside her. She held onto their hands tightly, smiling for the first time in days, they learned later. “My bairns,” she whispered. “You was sent to me, and I’ve been so glad....”

She died during the night.

Emro was shaken by his wife’s death, and seemed almost unaware of anything else for days. Narcissa did her best to assist as she could, but didn’t believe that he even noticed. She stayed for three weeks after the funeral and finally decided it was time to go home when Emro finally began to look at plowing the back fields.

In late April Fosco and Forsythia came back to Hobbiton again, quiet and sad. Emro was working the farm, but half-heartedly, they reported. The two of them worked alongside him, but were glad to get away for a week.

*******

The second and third letters arrived within a week of one another, just before Midsummer.

Dearest Cousin Narcissa,

We have made it at last to Minas Tirith, save they now call it here by its original name, Minas Anor, the Tower of the Setting Sun. It is the most amazing place I have ever heard tell of. It is like a great tiered cake of a city built around a steep hill at a mountain’s foot, the White Mountains behind it and the Fields of the Pelennor before it. You cannot believe it, not till you see it!

We have seen so much--I have met Ents, the Rohirrim, their King and Queen, and at last the King Elessar and his Queen Arwen Undomiel. Everything Frodo, Merry, Pippin and Sam have said of them is true. Ruvemir showed the King the model for the monument and he was in tears of grief for Frodo; then Ruvemir told him of Sam’s circlet of honor from when he was made a Lord of the free peoples--he and Frodo were both given this honor--and how he’d found out Sam had let Elanor and Frodo-Lad teethe on it, and the King sat down on the floor and howled with laughter, clutching at his knees. Everyone laughed with him--we couldn’t help it! When he told that Sam had even checked with the Dwarves to make certain chewing on it wouldn’t hurt the children the King laughed the more.

I’ve also seen Strider the Ranger, and I can’t think of a more implacable foe for anyone. He is quite an amazing person.

We are staying at the Inn of the King’s Head in the Second Circle of the city, and the room was designed by Pippin himself, they tell us. It is so comfortable! Ruvemir’s Elise serves here until she marries him, and she is indeed very beautiful and warm and, from what I can see, well worthy of his love and regard.

The Lady Arwen will give birth soon, and Ruvemir works on his figures while we await the birth of the child and Ruvemir’s wedding, which will be in a few weeks on the High Day, here at the King’s Head.

I wish you were here, dearest cousin, and hope you will come to see it here one day. The love the people of Gondor feel for the four Travelers, and particularly Frodo, is beyond belief. Maybe you can bring your wards one day. It would be a wonderful trip for them.

Until I can see you again, I remain

Your loving cousin,
Folco

Oh, my beloved Narcissa,

If only you could have been here for Ruvemir’s wedding. It was quite the most moving marriage I have ever seen. The King himself officiated, and his love for these two was quite obvious. They actually bind the hands of those being wedded here, with a multicolored cord that represents all the different moods and happenings that will happen throughout married life.

The Queen attended, also, carrying her daughter, who was born the Monday before the wedding. Ruvemir was asked to be one of those who attended on and witnessed the birth, by the way, he thinks in place of Frodo.

Tomorrow we leave for Lebennin where Miriel and I will live with their father Mardil the Carver. He came to the city along with Ruvemir’s teacher Master Faragil for the wedding, and I must say I am impressed by my father-in-love. He is so tall compared to his son and daughter, yet looks like both of them. I only wish that their mother had lived so I could have met her as well.

There will be war soon, I fear. The King prepares to lead troops East to aid the people of Rhun against their enemies from further East, the Wainriders, so called from their practice of fighting from their wagons and from chariots.

Until then, the people of Minas Tirith and Gondor rejoice in the presence of the King and the birth of the first child of King and Queen.

Oh, and did I tell you yet I am to become a father--on the day we leave the city for Lebennin? We are to foster two children orphaned when their family perished in a fire upon the Pelennor. The King himself drew them from the fire and has seen to their burns. They will go with us to the South to Master Mardil’s farm where I will live with my family by marriage.

Ruvemir works on the figures aided by Ririon and Pando and a borrowed apprentice, Celebgil son of Hirgon. Ruvemir finds he enjoys working with the lad, who is apparently quite gifted in his own right. The figure of Pippin is quite advanced, and he’s begun working on the figure of Merry as well. The stone for Sam’s figure has known some rough cutting, and that for Frodo’s is being worked in a warehouse down in the First Circle--he says the surface layers are flawed, and it needs to be protected until he gets down further into the carving. The King himself has been there to see some of the working for this, and he sang as Ruvemir worked.

I find myself fascinated by our King. In so many ways he reminds me of Frodo, as different as the two of them are. I see now why Sam says that the two of them are like brothers.

Please consider coming to Gondor, Narcissa. Please do so. You will find a great deal of pleasure here, I think. And you do deserve it.

All my love,
Folco


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