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Tree and Stone
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The Box

Dalf :

I rode into the city, left the pony at the stables on the First Circle after saying goodbye to the messenger with whom I had traveled, and walked up to the Citadel, asking for Lord Faramir. I put the packet of letters from Aragorn, Gimli, and the Hobbits into his hands, and at his request, waited while he read them.

“Gimli will be a good ambassador for your people,” he said at length.

“I agree,” I smiled, and took another sip of the fine ale he had had brought for me.

“And Aragorn intends to be here for his coronation on the first of Lothron, before the Gates,” he said.

“So he has decided,” I agreed.

“I hope, Prince Dalfinor, that you will be kind enough to fully explain his wishes to me.”

“I took notes on all that he said on the subject,” I assured him. “He consulted Lord Elrond, Gandalf, Prince Imrahil, Ėomer King, and Legolas, then applied his own good sense. ‘We have been at war for a long time,’ he said. ‘The people need to know that they have a King, so heralds and messengers must be sent forth, and they also need to witness it, those who live in the city and the Pelannor, if they wish to come. For that reason, I think that it should be held outside the city, and I should not enter it until after I am crowned, lest they think I mean to be an arrogant king.’”

“That is indeed good sense,” approved Lord Húrin, who had joined us. “Although how we can make final plans if he will not enter before that is beyond my understanding.”

“Since most folk have no idea of how he looks, I think he may come incognito, wrapped in those old leathers and his grey cloak,” smiled Faramir. He seemed undaunted by all yet to do, perhaps cheered by thinking he could soon lay down the burden of the office for which he had not been trained—but was showing that he was well-fitted for it. However, it was not for me to tell hm that, when Aragorn had not specifically said so—and most properly, would not, before discussing it with him.

It was, therefore, almost dusk when I walked down to the next Circle, finding my way easily to the mansion I had last visited what seemed a long time before. Not crumbling in appearance now! The stone had been washed, the front steps scrubbed, the glass windows gleaming in the sunlight, the missing tiles on the roof had been replaced. To either side of the front door were set small tubs of blue and yellow flowering plants, each with one red-blossomed one in front.

I walked up the steps and used the brass knocker shaped like a leaf, now brightly polished. In an instant, it was opened by Master Samno, resplendent in a dark blue tunic with a book embroidered on the left breast.

“The day’s greeting, Master Samno,” I said. “Are the ladies here?”

He grinned. “For you, Master Redglass, assuredly.—Oh, I’m sorry!”

“They are not in?”

“Nay, they are, but I shouldn’t’ve addressed you so, you bein’ a prince an’ all. We thought you must be halfway to the Lonely Mountain by now.”

I could not refrain from smiling back. “There has been a change of plan. I must speak with them.”

He led me into the library, where I saw evidence of changes as well—the books had been rearranged, with many of them gone—had she had to sell them for food? I wondered anxiously—and a sewing basket, piled with stockings to mend, as well as a spinning-wheel, stood near a low chair by the mantel. A small fire burned in the fireplace.

A maid—Lily?—in a dark blue dress with the same device embroidered on it, a neat cap on her sleek head, brought me a cup and flagon of ale on a tray, and had scarcely curtseyed before leaving, when the door opened again and both ladies entered with Lord Erragol.

My gaze went past Lady Silwen to my lady, who was wearing a yellow and blue gown, and I bowed.

Both of them curtseyed. Lady Silwen greeted me, and I answered civilly (I hope). After we were all seated, I must tear my eyes from my lady to answer the older one’s remark about my journey. “I hope it was as pleasant as may be,” she said.

I had had a chance to wash and change at the Citadel, so at least I did not appear travelstained. “Quite pleasant, my lady,” I answered. “Not as muddy as I had expected, going or coming. Lord Aragorn means to come to his crowning on the first of Lótessë, or Lothron as I understand you Dúnedain say.”

“In two weeks?” she exclaimed.

“Indeed. I outdistanced the army, which of course is coming more slowly. They will camp on the plains outside the city. I bore letters to Lord Faramir and Lord Húrin, and am just come from delivering and discussing them.”

“I would not have thought using a prince as a messenger,” said my lady, finally breaking her silence. She had been sitting with her hands clasped in her lap, looking down at them.

“I am still more used to being Master Redglass, or plain Dalf to my friends,” I said. “Gimli is to be our Ambassador to the King’s new court, and he has appointed me his assistant.”


I was in the midst of helping Radin with some walking exercises when Lady Silwen knocked and entered the parlor. My eyes widened as I saw that she had changed to her new, very elegant gown of beige edged with cinnamon velvet. “Rhylla is waiting upstairs in your room for you to change, Lindisilma,” she said briskly. “We have a guest in the library. Please hurry. Erragol, will you join us?”

“Gladly, my lady,” he replied.

“Please hurry, Little One!” she repeated, with a shooing motion.

I hurried upstairs, where Rhylla was indeed waiting with my newest gown and hot water. I quickly shifted out of my familiar (and more practical) bodice, skirt and apron, washed, and held my braid aside as she fastened the tiny buttons up the back. “Sit, m’lady, please,” she said. “Lady Silwen says as you’re to have your hair a-lookin’ more formal.”

Several minutes later, I went downstairs, wondering how long it would take for the hairpins to slide out of this more elaborate upswept style. Silwen waited with Erragol in the hallway, and we entered together.

I could scarcely believe it when I saw Master—no, Prince—Dalfinor smiling and resplendent in a formal russet brocade tunic, and I was so stunned I barely remembered to curtsey to his bow before sinking into a chair. Every night and morning since he had left, I had reread his note, reminded myself to be happy for the brief kindness and friendship he had shown me, and traced on a map where I thought he might be on his journey homeward, wondering what those lands looked like, and praying he was safe, that he would be happy. And now he was here instead! I could hardly grasp it; the change in his status made me shy. I almost could not look at him, but instead kept my eyes decorously (mostly) on the hands I clasped tightly to keep from shaking in my lap.

He and Silwen exchanged pleasantries, and he told us that there had been a change in his plans, that Lord Aragorn’s coronation would be in a fortnight. “Indeed. I outdistanced the army, which of course is coming more slowly. They will camp on the plains outside the city. I bore letters to Lord Faramir and Lord Húrin, and am just come from delivering and discussing them.”

“I would not have thought using a prince as a messenger,” I said. I must keep his more exalted status firmly in mind, lest I embarrass us both.

“I am still more used to being Master Redglass, or plain Dalf to my friends,” he said. “Gimli is to be our Ambassador to the King’s new court, and he has appointed me his assistant.”

Erragol nodded approvingly. “From what Lady Ėowen says, he will be an excellent choice.”

“So I believe, but I am biased, having known him all my life,” he smiled.

“His assistant? Then you will be here in Minas Tirith?” Silwen asked.

“Aragorn means to rename it Minas Anor, since it will no longer be guarding Gondor from Sauron,” he said. “The City of the Sun, is that not the new meaning? And we hope that your realm enters a golden age that will extend outward to all its allies.”

“Well said! You will make a fine diplomat, Dalf,” exclaimed Erragol.

Silwen looked thoughtful. “More exactly, the Tower of the Sun. The first of many new changes!”

I could not forebore from saying, “But that is its ancient name, from before the fall of Minas Ithil.”

“Aye. A most interesting time to be here!” Lord Dalfinor said, his eyes sparkling.

“And Sauron is truly defeated?” Silwen asked.

“Completely! If he ever does become re-embodied, it will be in some distant future age, not in our lifetimes nor our grandchildren’s, so the Great Eagles say.”

“You have seen the Eagles?” I asked eagerly.

“I have seen several marvels. But you were right, my lady, there were Eagles flying over Mordor that day! They took part in the battle at the Black Gates, the Morannon. And afterwards, when the earthshake and volcano destroyed most of Mordor, Gandalf leaped to the back of their Lord, and rode him as he and two others flew away; they found the Ringbearers surrounded by lava from Mount Doom as it erupted, and the other two Eagles picked them up and bore them away. You Saw truly, my lady.”

I intercepted a glance from Silwen, silently promising that she would have out of me what he meant, but Erragol was saying, “But the Great Eagles are myth!”

“No. They are as real, if not more so, than we are, being a link between Valinor and Arda. And they have asked that the Ringbearers be made Lords of all the Kindreds, and Gimli agreed for my folk, and Legolas and King Elrond for the Elves, and Ėomer King for the Rohirrim, and of course Lord Aragorn for Gondor and Arnor, and Pippin and Merry for the Halflings. They intend to ask the Onodrim as well, and Ghân-buri-Ghân of the Pûkel-men.”

“Who are these Ringbearers, to be shown such honour?” my mother-in-love asked in wondering tones.

“Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, two Hobbits of the Shire,” he answered. “They made a terrible journey which should not yet be spoken of openly, starved, wounded, and almost dying. Lord Aragorn put them into a healing sleep for three weeks, they were so badly injured, and Lord Frodo may never fully recover. I think that almost any other creature would have died, but it seems that Hobbits are even hardier than us Dwarves. It is one of the greatest honours of my life that I was permitted to spend time with them.”

“That we should live to see legends walking the city streets!” she exclaimed. “Am I right that they will be coming also for the coronation?”

“Aye, and to continue their recovery.”

“Peregrin Took, whom we call the Holdwine, is a mighty fighter, for all he is half the height of most Men,” said Erragol. “All Rohan owes him a great debt, for helping to preserve our lady’s life on the field.”

“His cousin Meriadoc Bradybuck also deserves much credit,” Lord Dalfinor said earnestly. “For in the battle before the Morannan, he slew a Troll, saving the life of one of your own soldiers, Beregond, and was almost crushed when its corpse fell on him.”

“But he will recover?” I asked anxiously. “He was so valiant during the siege, and brought so much courage and needed laughter to the Houses of Healing afterwards.”

“He is much recovered already,” he assured me, and laughed. “In fact, the evening before I left to come here, he and Pippin were engaged in teaching some of their drinking songs and dances.”

“I am relieved to hear it,” said Erragol, “for Lady Ėowen was most anxious about the Perian .”

“It is very good of you to come give us your news when you must be so weary after your journey, my lord,” Silwen said in what I recognized with a sinking heart as the hostess tone. Of course; she had effortlessly judged the length of his call, and protocol demanded that it now be concluded.

“Of course I wanted to share my news with my friends,” he said. “However, my lady, I also come to beg a favor of you, if I may.”

“You saved Lindisilma’s life, my lord, and helped save that of Wilmet.”

“Forgive me for not enquiring about your men sooner, Erragol!” he exclaimed. “And the rest of the household!”

“With such momentous tidings, it is understandable,” the Rohir replied. “I rejoice to tell you that Master Kinfinning has removed the tube, Wilmet heals apace and breathes without pain or effort, although he will never walk again. The saddest news we have, other than Jerenemir Makarmalta’s threat, is that the gash over poor Rafi’s eyes, while healing, has stolen the sight from both.”

“I am deeply distressed to hear it!” Dalfinor said in dismay. “But relieved to hear about Wilmet’s recovery. And the others?”

“All in various stages of improvement, or in getting accustomed to the changes to which they must adjust including Rill,” Silwen said. “But for protecting my daughter-in-love’s life, my lord, I am not disposed to refuse you any request at any time.”

This for her was recklessness; I had had no idea that she valued me so highly, and I gazed at her in astonishment.

She smiled at me before turning her attention back to our guest. “What favour do you need of us?”

“You spoke of many changes now and to come, my lady,” he said seriously. “One of the most significant for my folk is this embassage. It may seem strange to you, but there has never been a permanent envoy from the Dweorg to any other Kindred. Never! Gimli was chosen because of his being part of the Fellowship of the Ring, because he is the first of us to befriend an Elf—long has there been enmity between our peoples—, because he is a good friend of Lord Aragorn’s, and because he is going to found a new realm for us in the Glittering Caves near Helm’s Deep. He is a most extraordinary member of Durin’s folk; Aulë has favored him greatly.

“I said that we have never had an ambassador before,” he continued. “Now, we are aware that that is not so for many nations of Men, who have doubtless been here in more peaceful times.”

“That is so, and not all were peacefully minded,” she agreed. “I suppose now the Men from Hardor and Khand will send envoys, and perhaps even the Corsairs.”

“That being so, my lady, we need a place to live while we abide here, and while Gimli oversees the rebuilding of the Outer Gates as he promised Lords Faramir and Húrin. I told him I believed that most of the embassies are on this level, just one below the Citadel itself. Is that not accurate?”

“It is.”

“Gimli wishes to stay with his friends in the guesthouse they used before on this level, but he is aware that that is only until the Hobbits decide to return home, and meantime, he hopes that the help he has requested from King Thorin will arrive soon. They will need a place to stay, and so will he, an official residence. With so many changes taking place for the Men who live here, it seemed to him and to me that it would be best to find a suitable place which we can adapt for our needs.”

“What sort of needs?”

“Trifling, for the most part. We would need reception rooms, certainly, for entertaining, and an excellent kitchen staff that would not be averse to a great deal of ale being brewed on the premises, and in learning to make some of our own foods. Because we are of shorter stature than most Men, we would need to install some furniture—stools, chairs, tables and beds—that would accommodate us as well as expected guests. Pippin and Merry are determined to convince the better innkeepers to create at least a few rooms suitable for their folk, so you may be seeing other Halflings here in the future.” He counted on his fingers for each requirement: “As to our needs, we would need a resourceful head of the staff, someone who is flexible and capable. We would need to have the use of one room, probably a cellar room, to fit up as a workshop, for we cannot live anywhere for long without tinkering. Lastly, we would need to have the advice of someone who could give us lessons in Court and Mannish etiquette and languages, and also advice on which Fellowships, as I believe you term your artisan guilds, to contact to aid us in our projects.”

“I would be honoured to assist you in considering various buildings,” she assured him.

He cleared his throat. “As a matter of fact, Lady Silwen, we already know the most suitable place, the only one that Gimli wants to consider: House Ornamir.”

Our jaws dropped open. Erragol was nodding thoughtfully. “Am I right, Dalf, that Ėomer King is bringing our army also?”

“Aye, they will be camped on the Pelannor with the rest of the Hosts of the West.”

“Then my men and I will join them when they arrive. No doubt he will soon wish to set out homeward.”

Silwen stood up suddenly, white-faced.

Erragol leaped to his fee, alarmed. “Are you ill, my lady?”

“No,” she said with a gasp. “’Tis just—a great deal to take in, all at once. Like finding myself on a completely different heading, or in a different channel. But such is life! If our Horselords are vacating the premises, why then, you and your folk may do as you wish with it for so long as we control this property. You may tell Ambassador Gimli Glóin’s Son that. If you will excuse me, I have an engagement. Good day to you, my lords.” She curtseyed, and almost ran out of the room.

Erragol looked worried. “Excuse me; I fear she is ill!” and hurried after her.

I exchanged a glance with Master Samno—when had he joined us?—and he nodded. “This’ll do real well,” he said. “Nothin’ my Vanessë loves more’n plenty o’folk t’ cook for, an’ we’re right comfortable here. I can find most o’ whatever other staff you need, an’ I have a few contacts in other guilds an’ warehouses; if so be as you’re makin’ gates of steel, you’ll need t’ store all the materials, an’ a forge or two t’ make ‘em at. An’ it’ll give her ladyship summat to think on oncet they’re gone. I need t’ tell the rest. Lord Dalfinor; my lady.” He jerked a bow, and left.

“Has Lady Silwen been ill?” my Dwarf asked.

“A slight illness of the heart,” I said softly.

“The heart? Is it serious?”

“Only if she decides to acknowledge it,” I answered, and rose to my feet.

“And your foot?”

“Is much better,” I assured him. “The crutches you made for me are beautiful! I was almost sorry to lay them aside. It was very kind of you to take the time to make them for me when you had to prepare for your trip so suddenly.”

“Rather crude, done in such haste,” he said dismissively, and stooped to pick up a box I had not noticed on the floor beside his chair. Coming towards me, he asked, “Will Lady Silwen need you, or can you sit with me for a few minutes longer?”

“I don’t think she would like me to interrupt her just now,” I said with a faint smile, and reseated myself. “What is in the box, or am I rude to ask?”

“Ah. The box.” He cleared his throat and muttered, “I am fated to rush these things, it seems.”

“You need to depart?” I began to rise, and he put out a hand to stop me.

“No! Not until I—that is—if you wouldn’t mind—“ he stuttered to a halt. His face was red behind his beard. Taking a deep breath, he said, “I have much to tell you, my lady.”


Lady Silwen received our request for the use of her mansion with aplomb, although naturally she would need to consider it before giving me a definite answer. I understood that, but not the bitterness with which she mentioned the Rohirrim vacating the premises, or her haste in leaving the room. Erragol rushed after her, but to my surprise (and relief), Lady Silma did not follow. I did not understand her cryptic remarks about Lady Silwen acknowledging her heart ailment, for the lady had not struck me as one given to ignoring facts, but I did not know her well, after all, and it was really none of my business. Samno departed to inform the rest of the staff. At last I had leisure to inquire of Lady Silma’s injury, and she assured me that she was well-recovered, complimenting me on the crutches as if they were far finer than they in fact were. I picked up the box I had brought with such care from the Hosts, and sat down in a chair closer to her own. As I had expected, she sat down again; I had noticed when she entered that she still limped somewhat. But how to start, and how much to tell her? At last I said, “I have much to tell you, my lady.”

I described to her the camp, touched briefly on Dwelgin’s behavior, my conversation with the Elves, and my walk to the lakeside. “Do you think that might have been my family’s home?” she asked eagerly. “It matches what I recall being told by my ada, except that there was a house there.”

“I sensed it beneath that hillock,” I said slowly. “In fact, that night both Gimli and I dreamed about it.” I described my dream to her as her eyes grew wide with wonder, and then his. Reluctantly following his advice and Aragorn’s, I did not then tell her of what we had seen the next morning nor our talk with Gandalf. For who knew when or if she would go there herself? Would her brother, who as head of the family legally owned it, decide to reside there? I had not missed the slight indications that further trouble had come to his sister, and I suspected that he might be at the bottom of it. It had been impossible not to see, on my walk up through the city, that many of those who had fled before the siege had returned and were resuming their lives. No doubt her brother had returned as well, and I knew little of their customs and laws.

I had been holding the box on my lap as I talked, and set it on the table next to her. “It occurred to me that you might like a token of what I saw,” I said, my heart pounding as hard as fifty forge hammers. “Please, open it.”

“The box is so finely crafted,” she said, touching the wood with her hand gently.

“Another hasty job,” I said ruefully. “But Gimli lent me a few small tools, besides the ones I carry with me, and the metal for the hinges and clasp, and Legolas was kind enough to bring me the wood and materials used in the stain.”

She undid the clasp, as I showed her the trick of it, after admiring the device I had carved into it, the same I had seen above the door of her father’s house, the same that was embroidered on Samno’s and Lily’s tunics, an owl and a book.

Within, cradled in lustrous green silk that one of Aragorn’s kinsmen had given me, was a small basket. “Lord Samwise and Lord Frodo made the basket,” I told her.

She was lifting the silvery, aromatic blossoms and bronze leaves from it in trembling fingers, holding them to her cheek as her tears bedewed them. Then she laughed, dashing the drops away with the hand she held out to me. “Oh, how good of you, Dalf! You could not have given me anything more beautiful and wonderful than this! Thank you so much!” she cried. “I mean, Prince Dalfinor. My lord.”

“I thought that we had agreed that in private at least you would use my name alone,” I said.

“If you will call me Silma,” she almost whispered, blushing.

“Let me hear my name first,” I pleaded.

“Dalf, please use my name in private, and tell me about this. Truly, did the Ringbearers make the basket? How could that be? You said that they were so injured!”

“They are most resilient, Silma, although Lord Frodo—I think his name is Iorhael in your speech—may have suffered lasting harm,” I told her. “But the Hobbits were very interested in my gift for you. Pippin and Merry said that I should have a basket for the blossoms and leaves, since it will soon be Lothron, and it appears that that is a custom in their land. At any rate, they watched with interest as Gimli helped me cast the hinges and clasp, and Lord Samwise went with me to gather the blossoms and leaves, that we find the best ones but not injure the trees in the taking. He is a great gardener by trade in his own land, you see. The Shire is a most fertile and lovely place, filled with trees and gardens, hedgerows and fields, fallow and grazing meadows. Pippin and Merry gathered the withies for the basket, and the moss to put in, and we brought all of this, and the box, to the tent where Lord Frodo has been staying with Lord Sam. Sam began making the basket on the table between their beds, and Lord Frodo was watching. His hands were twitching, and finally he said, ‘For Valar’s sake, Sam! How can anyone so deft with any kind of growing thing be so ham-fisted with withies? Let me have them! Come over here and let me show you, Dalf!’ Lord Aragorn and Merry left the tent suddenly, but it wasn’t until later that I understood why. So, with his guidance, I managed to weave them together, and he added a few finishing touches with Sam’s help, after sending out Pippin to get the darker ones to add to the design. It was amazing to watch and assist in, for he seemed to know exactly how large to make it without measuring, including the handle—which as you can see, folds up and down, should you wish to display it outside the box.

“Then Aragorn, Legolas, Merry and Gandalf came back in, and Legolas said, ‘How will you pad it so it doesn’t shift inside the box as you take it to her?’ But Aragorn handed me the silk, and said that he wished to add it, for from what we had told him about you, and from his meeting you at the guesthouse, he deems you a most worthy lady. Legolas cut and folded it, fitting it in the top as well as the bottom so that it fits exactly the shapes of both box and basket. I put the blossoms and leaves inside, and Samwise arranged them, with a few directions from Lord Frodo as he lay on his bed.

“I was thanking them, when Lord Frodo, who was looking exhausted—he is still quite weak—raised his head from his pillow and looked over at Gandalf with a gleam of mischief in his blue eyes. ‘It is a pity, since almost everyone in the Fellowship has contributed, if you do not,’ he said, almost challengingly.

“Gandalf took out his pipe—even though Aragorn has forbidden him, the Hobbits, and Gimli to smoke there—and spent a few minutes in filling it. ‘Do you think so, Master Baggins?’ he asked as he took a spill and lit it at the lamp.

“Lord Frodo looked at him steadily. ‘I think Boromir would have agreed with me,’ he said.

“Gandalf laughed, and lit his pipe, stepped into the furthest corner from the beds, and began to puff out green smoke. It drifted in a small cloud over to the box, turned into a silvery mist, and settled down into the box, then into the leaves and blossoms. ‘I agree,’ he said, and turned to me. ‘Dalfinor, tell your lady that as long as she waters the moss once a year, beginning on her birthing-day this coming Nórië that they will stay as fresh as today for all her lifetime and yours. And may she water what grows in her heart as well! Does that satisfy you, Master Baggins?’

“Then everyone wished me good fortune in presenting them to you, and I closed the lid and took them to the tent I shared with Gimli and Legolas, and I brought them held on my saddlebow. They are all very grateful to you.”

“To me? Why?” she asked.

“Frodo’s right forefinger was…taken from him,” I told her. “He is an accomplished artist and bookbinder; both he and his uncle, Bilbo Baggins the Great Burglar, have done many translations from various Elvish languages and Adúnaic into Westron. I know that Bilbo hoped he would write an account of this journey.”

“Oh, that poor Hobbit!” she cried, clasping her own hands. “How heartbreaking! What a terrible blow!”

“Aragorn told me the next morning that Merry had rushed out of the tent because he was almost in tears. You see, they are close kin, and it has been a terrible grief to all of them, how sad and angry and frustrated Frodo has been, how he has barely tried to use his hand and almost hides it. This was the very first time he had tried to make something, Silma, and if you had seen how grateful they were! That is the real reason why this turned into a Fellowship project, for his sake and yours. Aragorn is hoping that you will think of some exercises that Frodo can do.”

“I will try,” she said. “I remember a similar injury that Helda treated. The chief danger was atrophy, wasting, of all the muscles in the hand, which would pull it into a claw shape. He must learn to stretch and use it as much as possible. It needs to be rubbed with lotions and manipulated until it fully regains what flexibility and strength he may have.—But I am also certain that you have left something out, Dalf.”

“What is that?” I asked, absurdly gratified that my name seemed to be coming easier for her to say.

“How grateful they were to you, for suggesting it and getting him interested in it, of course! How can I ever thank them enough, or you either, for such an exquisite gift?”

“If you will look upon it with joy, I am content,” I answered.

“Would that my father could see this!” she said, gently setting what she had taken out carefully back. “Oh, no! Have I perhaps destroyed Gandalf’s spell by taking them out?”

“He anticipated that you might,” I assured her. “He said, ‘I have known her long, and I never saw anyone enjoy flowers as much as she does. Tell her that she cannot harm them, save by dislike,’ If you wished, you could wear one or two in your hair, or use them as a bouquet on your wedding-day.”


I stared at him. “My what?” I gasped.

“Forgive me,” he said hastily, rising to his feet and turning away. “I forgot that you are still mourning your husband. Forgive me, please!”

“I—of course—you startled me,” I said incoherently.

And Silwen chose that moment to walk in!

He bowed to her. “My cousin and I hope that you will consider our offer, lady. I will return later for your answer.”

“I have considered it, my lord,” she replied. “And we accept. How much would he wish to pay us in rent?”

“Two hundred gold pieces per week,” he said, taking out a jingling bag.

“That is far too much!” I cried, and she agreed.

“Much too much!”

“That is not negotiable. We know that you will have a large outlay, and this is to begin,” he said. “I will call again tomorrow, if I may, and discuss some of the details with you.”

“You haven’t even seen over the whole house!” I protested.

“No need. I have much to do myself; please excuse me,” and with another bow, he was out of the room.

I picked up my skirts and ran after him.

He was already out of the house and striding up the street; let no one ever tell you that Dwarves cannot move quickly!

Rimbor bounded past me, raced to and in front of him, leaped up and took his arm in his mouth and stood, holding him there.

Dalfinor was trying unsuccessfully to extricate himself as I panted up to him. “Rimbor, bad dog! Stop that!” he ordered.

“Has he injured you?” I gasped.

“No, but I cannot free myself without hurting him or tearing my sleeve.”

“Then you will have to stand here for a moment while I catch my breath,” I gasped.

“You should not have run after me!”

“You ignored my calls, so yes, I did have to run after you! Dalf, I know you are a generous person, and so is Gimli, but you cannot simply hand out such largesse! And—since you also asked for etiquette lessons—you cannot simply dash out of a lady’s home that way!”

“I upset you; it seemed the best thing to do,” he said.

“Coward!—No, I am teasing you! Do your people never jest?—Truly, Dalf, the best thing to do is ask me if I am indeed upset, and why, if you think I am. I cannot bear to have my feelings ignored as if they are of no moment. If I do not want to discuss it, I will tell you. I was—surprised. I had not thought of such a thing before.”

“And the thought disgusts you.”

I stamped my foot. “Please don’t put words in my mouth, either!”

“Your pardon. Does it?’


“Disgust you.”

I could feel the color rising in my face but looked directly up into the blue eyes that were gazing so intently into mine. “If you had asked me before I met Jehan, I would have laughed at the mere idea. I believed that I would be alone all my life long, that I had nothing to offer any Man. It took a long time and a great deal of patience for Jehan to convince me otherwise.”

“And now?”

“It hasn’t been very long since he was killed,” I reminded him. “I have so little to bring to a marriage, no rank of my own, no beauty nor riches.”

“I disagree.”

I smiled at him. “That is kind. I never had more than the prettiness of youth, Dalf. I know that you are perhaps more familiar with the standards of your own people—“

“I am a Dweorg, my lady, and I can tell beauty as much as any of our folk. Gimli asked Lady Galadriel for a lock of her hair, to set in crystal as an heirloom of his house.”

“Oh, how romantic!” I cried. “And how could any human woman compete with that?”

“That is his ideal, but it indicates we are not unable to perceive beauty of spirit and heart as well as appearance when we meet it, whether in our Kindred or another.” he said.

I put out my hand. “Please forgive me, for implying that you could not,” I said contritely. “Nor have I forgotten what Jehan said to you. But this is neither the time nor place for this discussion. I am not always so unseemly! Forgive me for delaying you; I too have tasks to do. But I did want to mention to you Joregil son of Jorg, a master carpenter, with a workshop, Joregil the Joiner’s, on the north side of the Fourth Circle. Both he and his journeyman Menegil do excellent work.”

“Thank you for that information, Silma,” he said in his usual cheerful tone.

“I shall see you tomorrow,” I said with a curtsey.

He bowed with an answering smile. “Tomorrow.”


I went at once to Joregil’s, and found it easily. Like most of its kind, it was neatly arranged, with a boy sweeping up the sawdust and long curls of planed wood, while a young Man with dark hair was neatly pegging a leg onto a chair. The boy touched his sleeve and he immediately stopped, laid down his mallet, and came to me with a bow. “May I help you, Master Dwarf?” he asked civilly.

“The day’s greeting. I am looking for Joregil the Joiner’s workshop,” I said. “Are you his journeyman, Menegil?”

“Menegil son of Joregil, at your service. My father is out at the moment, but may I help you? And how did you hear of us? Father likes to know that.”

“Lady Silma told me of you.”

“Well, she is a lady in her manner, right enough, but do you mean Master Jehan Clerk’s wife?” he asked.

“I fear she is his widow,” I told him.

Both he and the boy looked distressed. The journeyman said in dismay, “I know he was in pain all the time, and brave with it, but we thought him good to live to an age!”

“No, he was killed by a falling rock sent by the orcs during the siege. I am grateful that I had the opportunity, although all too brief, to meet him.”

“Was Mistress Clerk injured as well?” he asked.

I told them what had occurred, and he shook his head. “What a terrible tale! My family will be saddened by it, and all our other friends. But I am being unpardonably rude! Will you sit, Master Dwarf—I’m afraid I don’t know your name as yet. Bobbit, fetch cups and ale from the cupboard.”

“A likely lad,” I said to be civil, and he smiled even while he shook his head.

“My son, and just beginning his apprenticeship. Go and find your grandsire, lad.”

“I am Dalfinor Redglass of the Lonely Mountain,” I introduced myself, explaining about Gimli and our needs, then explained further when Joregil arrived in haste. He was a graying version of his son, and the resemblance among the three was strong. He too was saddened by the news, but receptive to providing the furniture we needed.

It was easily two hours later that I approached the Fallen Dragon, only to find Wil looking out the gate. He beckoned to me, and I walked faster.

Master Dalf!” he said, grabbing my sleeve. “Thank the Valar that you’re here!”

“What is it?” I asked.

“Master Samno sent Nahamion down an hour ago, askin’ ‘f Lady Silma was here. Lady Ornamir saw her go out after you, but she never returned, an’ they’re anxious. They’ve sent three times in the last candlemark.”


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