Most of the Hobbits went out upon the Pelennor after the unveiling of the memorial to enjoy the day of carnival and entertainment that was begun. The Lord King himself and his wife, child, and foreign guests accompanied them, and all enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Narcissa was overwhelmed and perhaps somewhat overstimulated as well. She ate a luncheon purchased from one of the food tents, wandered about with Merry, Estella, Diamond, Folco and Miriel for a time, keeping an eye on Cyclamen and Pando as they followed Ririon and the apprentice Armanthol with the one introduced as Lord Gilfileg. Finally, three hours after noon she excused herself and returned to the Sixth Circle where Ruvemir himself met her at the door, serving her with a light meal and seeing her into her room after where she rested until it was time for Elanor’s birthday party, about an hour and a half ere sunset.
After the party, which was rather short in deference to the feast to come, all went together to the Court of the White Tree to look once more on the memorial. This time all looked on it more calmly, and Narcissa felt strangely at peace as she looked at it, at Frodo’s sad, challenging expression. Sam was looking at the clothing which was depicted on his own figure and that of his Master with great interest.
“Yes, that’s much as we looked just as we prepared to enter the spider’s lair,” he said, “with his clothing just like that, even the tear in the knee as he got as he slipped on a steep part of the stairs.” He looked at Ruvemir, who now stood holding Rosie-Lass in his arms, young Angara, step-daughter to the Rhunim scribe, beside them. “How’d you come to know as what the clothes looked like so exact?”
“I’ve seen them, you know. They have been carefully preserved and placed in the Hall of Memorials, displayed in crystal frames crafted by the Dwarves.”
Sam’s flush could be seen even in the twilight that was beginning to darken in the sky. “Gandalf had said as this would be so, but I still find as it’s hard to accept, that anyone would want as to look at such rags as we wore there at the end. We was quite the sight.”
“My beloved Lord Samwise, the two of you were supported, guarded, and guided by the Valar and the Creator Himself at the end. All would have perished had the two of you not continued on, knowing that you were unlikely to return; and They granted the two of you the grace of rescue and the chance of healing. All that is reminiscent of that journey is considered blest.”
Sam looked again at Frodo’s statue. “At least you didn’t show him wrapped only in my Elven cloak,” he said. “I don’t know as how it was mended as well as it was, for it was clean when Gandalf give it back to me, and its holes so well healed I still have to look close as to tell where it was ripped and torn from the falls as he took there in Mordor. It means the more to me, don’t you know, knowing it was what he had about him then. Seems to bear a bit of his scent even now, which is comforting somehow.”
“Then how were his clothes preserved if he didn’t have them when you were found?” asked Narcissa.
It was Pippin who answered. “When we came to the Black Gate, Aragorn and Gandalf rode forward with Lord Halladan as his standard bearer, King Éomer, Legolas, Gimli, Prince Imrahil, Lords Elladan and Elrohir, and myself.” His face had begun to pale, Narcissa noted. “The rest of the army stayed back. Gandalf as the Lords’ Herald called out the challenge for Sauron to come out and surrender himself, which we all knew was mere words for show.
“Then the Gates opened, and out rode--out rode a figure attended by Sauron’s war captains. He was Sauron’s Herald, I suppose. They called him the Mouth of Sauron, at least. What he might have looked like once I have no idea. I suspect he had been born a Man, but his long service for Sauron had twisted him, made him fell and dark, as though his blood had somehow congealed within him, as if he were being transformed somehow into something else--perhaps a particularly Man-like orc or something. Yet, he didn’t truly look like an orc, either.
“They brought with them a bulky bundle wrapped in black cloth. After showering us with insults and calling Aragorn a piece of Elvish glass, he said he had been given tokens he was to show particularly to Gandalf, if he was one of the party come to the parley. He took the bundle and opened it, showed it forth. It had Frodo’s clothing, all of it, even his undergarments, ragged and bloody, all save the leather shirt he’d worn under the mithril shirt--that was missing. The mithril shirt was there, too, and the crystal belt--and Sam’s sword. That was so odd--to see Sam’s sword and not Sting. I think it was due to that oddity Aragorn and Gandalf realized it was a bluff. And they’d not have stripped only Frodo. So, where were Sting and Sam’s clothing? And he spoke of only one prisoner.
“At first Gandalf blanched, but then his attention was fixed on the sword, and something changed. He rode forward and snatched it all out of the--the thing’s hands, wrapped it hastily in Frodo’s cloak from Lothlorien, let the black cloth they’d wrapped it in fall. He said he took it as mementos of the one we’d lost, but that we would not trade all of the free lands and the safety of their peoples for the life of only one individual. And we rode back.
“While Aragorn was ordering the forces on the sides of the two hills on which we stood at the last, Gandalf tied that bundle to the pommel of the saddle Aragorn’s horse Roheryn bore, spoke into its ear and the ear of his own horse Shadowfax. He gave orders to those who had ridden to dismount and tie their reins to their pommels and let them go. All the horses followed after Shadowfax as he led them away from the battleground, just before the army of Mordor came close enough to stop their escape.”
“Yes,” said the Lord Steward Faramir, who had come back up from the party with the Hobbits, “both Mithrandir and the King said the same thing, that at first both were shocked and certain Frodo must indeed lie in the dungeons of Barad-dur, until they both looked at the oddity of the sheath and sword brought. The hangers on Sam’s sheath didn’t quite fit on the glittering belt as did the hangers for Sting’s sheath. And it appears that none in Mordor appeared to appreciate the fact that this indicated two Pheriannath and not one. No, if they held Frodo, they must hold only his corpse--that was obvious. At least Sam was still free; and there was not the feeling of completeness to the horror they felt that would indicate Sauron was now in possession of the Ring.”
There was movement from the Citadel, and the Lady Éowyn and her brother and his wife, Éomer attended by Merry, came out to join them.
“The feast will be starting soon,” Éowyn advised the party as her husband reached out his arms to embrace her. There were other groups coming up the ramp from the lower city, and the Shkatha of Rhun came forward with his brothers and guard so that the Lord Shefti could retrieve his daughter from the company of the Halflings. Elanor looked at the removal of her playmate with sadness in her eyes.
“Do not worry, little one,” said the Lord Ifram, “for she will be at the feast also. There will be no time to play at the first as we prepare for the meal and eat; afterwards there will be some time, I suspect.”
The Ambassador from Rhun and Master Ruvemir shared a smile with one another as the bell tolled to call them to the Hall of Merethrond.
Ah, Minas Anor--what a dramatic city! After a few days Narcissa felt comfortable to wander through it freely. She was shadowed, she noted, by an Elf or two wherever she might go, and she found herself grateful. When she saw them she’d nod an acknowledgment of their presence, and they’d incline their heads gracefully in return. But as no one in all of the city offered her any threat she had no need of their defense.
She explored from the Fields of the Pelennor to the heights of the Citadel, and together she, Diamond, Estella, Rosie, and Mistress Miriel found shops and secret squares none had dreamed or known of before. When she could get away from her own duties Elise would join them, and often her sister Dorieth would accompany them as well as Pando, Cyclamen, Ririon, and Celebgil. They were often presented gifts of flowers and greenery by those they passed, and would be offered glasses of water, juice, cider, or wine, and sometimes food as well. The sacrifices offered by the four Travelers were deeply honored by the people of Gondor and Minas Anor, Narcissa had come to realize.
On their fourth day in the city Ruvemir led them and Lord Rustovrid and his party from Harad into the portion of the Citadel where the Hall of Memorials stood. Here were kept tokens from many of the battles fought by Gondor and its allies, and they saw the armor worn by King Anárion, the helmet of Elendil the Tall, the standard of Eorl the Young, broken swords and cleft shields and horns which had been carried by the greatest defenders of Gondor’s long history. On one wall hung two crystal cases holding the clothing which had been worn by Frodo and Sam from the time they left the rest of the Fellowship at Amon Hen onward. Narcissa and Ruvemir went together to look up at it. She certainly recognized Frodo’s, for the trousers were ones he’d worn on his walking trips for years, although now they were so worn it was difficult to tell what color they’d once been; and the shirt was the one he’d preferred to wear when marketing. Now they hung here in Minas Anor, treated with greatest respect.
“Sam and the King have both told me that for most of the trip through Mordor itself Frodo wore only Sam’s cloak from Lothlorien belted about with a length of rope, for they had stripped him in the tower of Cirith Ungol,” Ruvemir told her when they stood alone together before the frame holding Frodo’s garb. “He wore some orc gear for a time, but could not bear it any more after a few days, and would not wear it further. Sam continued to wear some of the orc clothing over his own clothing, in case he needed to search for water along the orc roads so he wouldn’t be recognized easily as a stranger to the land. But Frodo had little strength and got to the point he could not bear the touch of the cloth of the servants of Mordor, much less their helmets and other gear.”
The guards on duty in this room stood tall and proud, honoring the memory of those who had fought for the realm of Gondor over the centuries. They were shown swords and spears of many, and the cloven horn which had been borne by Boromir son of Denethor, and the hilts of the swords which had been carried by Merry and the Lady Éowyn. In one box sat a horrible blackened crown. “That was worn by the Lord of the Nazgul,” explained Ruvemir with a shudder. “Quite a contrast to that one,” he added, pointing to a gold circlet over a gilded helmet that sat nearby. “That was worn by King Théoden. They buried him with the helmet he wore when he was younger, allowed this one to remain here.”
He then indicated a small shield, one which had obviously been crumpled and carefully straightened, that stood nearby. “And that was borne by Pippin to the Black Gate, was found beneath the body of the troll he slew.”
Before they finally left the room of memorial, Narcissa went back once more accompanied by Cyclamen to look at the clothing Frodo had worn. She examined it closely, saw how buttons had been torn away, shirt studs lost, the knee ripped, hems worn and frayed. Below the frame on a laquered stand was a vase of colored glass similar to the beads the woman had given her when she’d entered the city the first time, a vase filled with white blossoms and green sprays. Beneath the frame containing Sam’s clothing stood a matching vase, filled with herbs and flowers of many colors. She nodded, feeling this was right somehow.
After they left the room they went out to the Court of the White Tree, and sitting on the grass around the fountain they shared memories of Frodo from their earliest encounters with him. Sam found himself mentioning the first time he’d gone to the Free Fair with Frodo, and of the wooden bird figure Frodo had looked at repeatedly. “I remember that,” Narcissa said, “for I was shadowing him all over the fairgrounds that day. He spent such a long time looking at that bird.”
“He always loved birds and flying things--and stars,” Folco said. “How many times I’d come to spend the night at Bag End and we’d sleep out on top of the Hill and he’d tell me the names of the stars and the constellations. And he never went birdnesting, for he said he didn’t wish a bird not to be born due to him. One sparrow, one summer there, came to trust him, and he’d hold out buttered bread on his hand and it would fly down and light on it, and would peck at the bread. I had to stand away from him behind the oak tree, for I couldn’t stand still long enough for the bird to come to trust me and fly down to him if I stood by him.”
“I’d forgotten that, I had,” Sam said. “Yes, now I member that bird. I think as I still have a picture he done of that sparrow. He’d build boxes for the sparrows and the finches, he would, and would hang them each spring in the trees of the orchard and the Party Tree.”
“He’d get so frustrated with me,” Pippin said, “for teasing the birds in his nest boxes. I certainly remember the stars, how one night about eight of us slept up there on top of the hill, all watching the stars and making up new names for constellations and all.”
Fredegar Bolger laughed. “What we were not doing that night was sleeping, or at least not much of it. Berilac had come with Merry from Buckland, and Ferdibrand had brought you, Pippin, and the Gaffer had grudgingly allowed Sam to join us. We were as giddy as any group of lasses as ever got together to dress one another’s hair. Folco had brought a bottle of Ponto’s home brew and we were all sampling it, even you, Pippin, when we thought Frodo wasn’t looking.”
The King joined them then, after spending a moment in communion with the White Tree. Sam looked up at him. “Meeting with the embassy from Umbar go all right?” he asked.
“More pleasantly than the last one, I must say,” he said, settling down on one elbow in the grass. He pulled out his pipe, accepted some pipeweed from Folco, and lit it, drawing on the smoke with contentment. Elise and Melian, accompanied by Elanor, Angarra, and Frodo-Lad, came from around the side of the Citadel from the gardens area. After them came the Lady Arwen with Éowyn and Lothiriel and a few of their maids, Miriel carrying Rosie-Lass and followed by Lorieth and Lanrion, and Lord Hardorn.
Narcissa smiled, for indeed one of the Rohirrim maids was hanging back to speak with the King’s cousin. “Your plan to see him married appears to be going forward, Lord King,” she said.
“Oh, a plot is it?” asked Pippin, a broad grin on his face. “So that’s what the three of you were hatching on the morning of the unveiling! Is that why he’s been assigned more to the guarding of the Queen?” He looked over at where Eregiel and Artos stood today on guard for Aragorn, then back at Hardorn’s approach behind the Queen as he tried to simultaneously look out at all sides and yet remain courteous to the lady. There was soft laughter throughout the party as the Queen joined them and the children hurried forward to all flop down comfortably about Samwise Gamgee. Then all perked up as behind the Queen came servants from the kitchens with blankets, and baskets and trays of food and drink for luncheon.
As Hardorn approached he gave a sketchy bow and salute to his King, along with a searching look. From his position, reclining on his side in the grass beneath the Tree, Aragorn simply smiled back at him, saluting him with his pipe.
They’d been there nine days before several of the Hobbit ladies made the journey down to the Fourth Circle to seek out the young woman who’d given them the strings of beads. They finally found her.
“Mistress Linneth?” asked Estella.
“Yes, although I am surprised you know my name,” she said.
“Frodo remembered it and told us of you and your father. We recognized who you must be by the descriptions Frodo gave of your father’s work and the beauty of the beads you gave us. He always remembered the wonder of how the devastation of the Mountain had nevertheless brought forth such beauty from your father’s hearth.”
“Lord Frodo himself made a strong impression on us, on my father and me,” Linneth responded. “He was fascinated by my father’s work and spent three days with him in his workshop. Would you like to meet him?”
The workshop of Celebrion son of Celebmir was hot from the fire of its furnace, yet full of a feeling of light and space. Shelves about the room held the results of his work--bowls, pitchers, vases, goblets, figures, ewers, cups. He was putting the final touches of a bowl of cased glass when they arrived, and all were taken with its beauty. Much of his work was etherial in appearance, but this was very solid and rich, a deep cobalt blue within, then a layer in which flecks of silver were embedded, and a clear layer over all. Diamond especially looked on it
“Oh,” she said, “I would love to have such a work in those colors, but in a pitcher rather than a bowl.”
Finishing his work at last, Master Celebrion turned to see the guests his daughter had admitted, and stopped, surprised and amazed. “Pheriannath? But you are the ones come to the unveiling of the memorial. It is a great honor!”
They spent all of the afternoon in the workshop looking at his work and listening to his tales. He’d traveled once to Far Harad, and there he’d been taught the use of volcanic ash to bring a special play of light to the glass’s surface, and had thought to gather as much ash as possible after the coronation of the King so as to allow himself a goodly stock likely to last many years. Yet, he indicated, he enjoyed experimenting with many techniques and colors, and proudly showed off his workmanship. Cased glass, simple crystal, much in the way of the volcano glass with its play of colors, similar work done with various salts, cased glass with designs carved through the colors, cut glass, etched glass, enamelled glass--he had examples of each.
In the end each ended up purchasing or commissioning items from him, starting with the pitcher in the cased blue, flecks of silver, and clear glass desired by Diamond. Narcissa found a blue bird with enameled stars on its base that reminded her of the figure that long ago Frodo had admired at the Free Fair, just after he came to live at Bag End, and she purchased that.
The next day she went alone to the Hall of Memorials in the Citadel, and placed it there by the vase in which the white blossoms stood before the frame holding Frodo’s garb from the quest. She was preparing to leave when Sam came in with Rosie and the children, including Lorieth and Lanrion, Cyclamen and Pando. He smiled at her, then paused as he spotted the figure she’d just set by the vase. He flushed and then looked back up into her face.
“You thought about that bird, too?” he asked. When she nodded, he continued, “I’d saved up some of my own money, went back to see if I could buy that bird for Frodo. I didn’t have enough, but Master Stock give it to me for what I had anyway. I gave it to him for my birthday the next spring. He took it with him on the ship.”
“Oh, I am so glad,” she said. “I am so glad.” They shared a smile. Pando carried a small box, and out of it he lifted a carefully formed ceramic bird, delicately painted, and set it by the glass bird she’d set there, and Lorieth set there a wooden bird.
“Ririon carved this one,” she said. “After Master Sam had told us of the bird Lord Frodo took with him, we wanted to leave these here, too.”
They shared smiles with one another. “Yes,” Sam said, “it appears we all had the same idea.” He set down a bird woven of golden straw. Rosie laughed, and pulled out of the pocket of her skirt a pair of enamelled shirt studs in the shapes of birds against stars and set them there with the rest. Together they nodded once more, then finally left the room together.
When the day was done, one of the guards went to bring the King, who looked at the small offerings and smiled, tears filling his eyes. He looked up at the torn clothing so carefully preserved and displayed, and said softly, “You’ve flown away, my friend, but not so far the heart can’t wish to bridge the gap.” The next day he brought a pen made of a sea bird’s plume, one which had not been stripped of its fibrils, and set it by the birds. Elladan and Elrohir were with him when he set it there, and nodded.
“Very fitting,” Elrohir said.
Elladan smiled. Gently he added one final gift, a small flute carved in the shape of a bird.
“You found my bird flute?” asked Aragorn.
“Yes, when we cleaned out the garden beneath what had been your room’s balcony--we found it there in the soil. We were going to give it to you, although it no longer brings forth music when blown into; but felt this was a better place to leave it.”
Aragorn looked at it and at the other figures that stood there already. “Adar gave it to me when I was so young, told me it had been played by my father. I was heartbroken when it went missing. But it is the right place for it, to sit here with the others.”
That evening with Pippin on duty, he went out to the White Tree, then to look on the memorial, and looked long into the face of his friend, then began to sing, in Quenya, a lament for friends sundered by the seas. Pippin stood by, his sword drawn, looking so much as his figure did in the memorial, listening to the grief and hope expressed in that song, one made for other sunderings endured ages past but certainly appropriate for this time. Narcissa, who sat quietly with Cyclamen and Pando under the Tree, listened also, and came to understand why the four of them so loved the Lord King Aragorn Elessar. After a time a white figure moved out of the shadows and joined him, and Aragorn kissed his wife gently, then finally went back to the Citadel with her, holding her closely to his side.