By the slant of the light in the window, I woke at almost noon the next day. Rhylla was just setting a tray down on the dressing-table, saying promptly, “Master Kinfinning left a short time ago with Lord Faramir, but he said as how he was very pleased with Wilmet before he went, my lady. Lady Ėowyn left too, and I wouldn’t want to be that Healer who threw ‘em out when she’s done with ‘im! Lady Silwen’s with Wilmet and the Master says as how you’re to stay off that foot unless you use a crutch or have someone carry you, and Master Redglass says as how he can do it—“
A bell jangled loudly, augmented by hoarse yelling. “Rhylla! RHYLLA! GET IN HERE, NOW, YOU LAZY SLUT!”
“Oh, no!” she groaned. “Oh, m'lady, no, you can’t walk on that foot!”
“Then help me!” I ordered, and hopped, leaning most of my weight on her arm. Arriving at Rill’s room, we found him scarlet-faced, half-off the bed and the covers twisted. A tray had been thrown on the floor in a mess of broken dishes and food, but a wooden mug, half-filled with water, was on the nightstand. I picked it up and dashed it into his face. He gasped, and I took advantage of the lull in his plaint to say icily, “Act like an hysterical brat and you get the treatment you deserve! How dare you call your sister such names!”
“’Tis no business of yours!” he said sulkily. “’Tisn’t as if she ain’t heard us call her so afore!”
“I cannot change your father’s boorishness, but you will not use such language in this house!” I said coldly, leaning down to straighten the bedclothes—and he swung at me, hitting me in the eye and knocking me off balance.
I landed on the floor, my foot twisted under me and could not forbear a groan.
Someone—Master Samno—lifted me up and into a chair as I heard the sound of a brisk slap. Rhylla stormed, “How c'n you act like this, Rill? I don’t know you! I don’t even like you! This lady took us in, give me a position, an’ you do your best t’ get us thrown out into the street! Well, you can b'have like Father, but I’m a-goin’ t' make somethin’ o' myself, not get dragged in the gutter just ‘cos you’re a-feelin’ sorry for yourself!” She sounded breathless but composed. “Until an’ unless you come t' your senses an’ ‘pologize t' both of us, I’m done wi' you!” and her footsteps marched resolutely out of the room and down the hall.
“Rhylla! Come back! You get yourself right back here!” he shouted.
Master Samno picked me up and carried me out of the room, and in the hall shifted me enough to close the door behind us, before taking me into her chamber, where she was sitting on the bed, tears pouring down her face.
But as soon as we appeared, she got up and went to pour some water from the ewer into the basin and wet a cloth. “Let me bathe your eye, m'lady. I’m so sorry ‘bout that!”
I patted her arm and took the cloth from her. “Tis not the first black eye I’ve had from a man, although I’d hoped to never have another,” I said wryly. “Still, we’ve rather neglected him the past couple of days, other than caring for his wound and basic care.”
Master Samno stood near the door, arms crossed. “Not that that hurt ‘im any,” he commented. “I’ve knowed 'im all his life as I have you, Rhylla girl, an’ your da afore. Both men raised to think as the sun rises an’ sets on hisself, an’ everyone else the dirt under his feet, just put here on purpose t’ help ‘im. You take my advice—not that you asked for it,” he added with a gleam of humor, “—an’ you’ll let Lord Erragol handle him.”
“Lord Erragol?” she repeated.
“Aye. I talked t' 'im an’ the other Rohir ‘bout your brother yestiddy. 'E was a soldier, if not long enough t’ have some sense drilled into ‘im. Put him in with ‘em. Let him see he ain’t the only one sufferin’. Let him see how t’ act in this situation. There’s the makin’s of a good man in him, ‘tis just now hid by his pain and fear. He’s scared t’ death. Won’t hurt him in the long run t’ learn that bein’ crippled don’t ‘scuse him from actin’ like a man, wi’ manners an’ courage.”
“Do you think so, my lady?” she asked me.
“I think we should go discuss this with Erragol,” I answered. Master Samno helped me to the lift, which already had the castored chair (now restored to being a chair) inside it. He touched the control for the sluice, and I was lowered to the dining-room. I noticed that a handle had been installed on the inside, so I was able to open the door myself, as he came into the room. “Thank you for repairing this, Master Samno,” I said.
“Why don’t you just call me Samno, m'lady?” he asked. “I ‘preciate the courtesy, but it might be quicker. I didn’t fix it; Master Redglass did. Me an’ him has some ideas out o’ your man’s book ‘bout some things that may be helpful for the men.”
Rhylla came in with the tray from my room, followed by Lady Silwen with another tray, and Erragol. The Rohir said, “My men and I would be pleased to have Rill’s company, Lady Silma.”
“Are you certain about that?” I asked, gingerly touching my eye, which felt puffy.
“Here is the food for breaking your fast,” said Lady Silwen. “And here are a few remedies, long tested, to use on your eye. That cold water was a good idea.”
“I never have been much on swelling,” I reminded her.
“But ‘tis already bruising,” she said. “I had Mistress Samno make some of my cosmetic recipes, to help hide it.”
“Else that Dwarf’d solve the problem of Rill by rending him limb from limb,” said Erragol cheerfully. Rhylla, Silwen and I glared at him, and he took a step back, holding his hands palm outwards. “Peace, ladies! Seriously, however, I think that Master Samno and I should transfer him to the parlor, Mistress Rhylla absent herself from it for the next few days, and Lady Silwen tend his dressings.”
“I c'n do it,” volunteered Master Samno. “Nahmenion an’ me’ll take over bathin’ an’ food trays an’ fixin’ the beddin’ an’ all. You ignore him, my lady, for now.”
“Very well,” I agreed as Silwen dabbed something gently on my eye lid just under the brow and below my eye with a rabbit’s foot.
A moment later she handed me a small mirror; I could see that she had wrought a miracle of concealment, and told her so. And so quickly!
“Practice,” she said grimly, and we exchanged glances. “Now eat your food before ‘tis completely stone-cold,” she admonished.
“Yes, Bein-Nana ,” I said meekly, and she laughed, gathered up her tray and left.
Master Samno appeared a moment later looking sheepish. “M'lady, I was just about t’ tell you when they come in. Master Redglass had t’ leave, an’ give me a letter for you.” He took it out of his pouch and handed it to me.
“Thank you,” I said after him, carefully breaking the red wax seal. Not surprisingly, the paper was good quality, his penmanship clear and precise.
To Lady Silma:
I send this by Wil of the King’s Head. When I returned to the inn last night, I had intended to wait upon you this morning, but before dawn I was roused by a
messenger from the Lonely Mountain bearing news so important I must depart as soon as I finish writing this for the Field of Cormallen, to tell Gimli.
There was a battle in Dale: the Dwarves and Bardings were attacked by Sauron’s allied forces; Brand son of Bard I of Dale and our king, Dáin Ironfoot, were lost, and the rest fell back to the Lonely Mountain, where they were besieged for a week. At the end of that time, two days after Sauron’s passing, they broke the siege. Bard II son of Brand now rules Dale, and the new King under the Lonely Mountain, Thorin Stonehelm, has named Gimli his Ambassador to Gondor. I am summoned back to the Lonely Mountain.
I must take counsel with Gimli, and do what I can to aid our people.
May the Valar, and Eru Himself, guide and guard you until I can return,for there is a matter of import which I wish to discuss with you.
Silwen came in. “Well, they’re going to bring him down, so if we’re taking Samno and Erragol’s advice, we’d better get you out of the way. Here,” she handed me pair of wooden crutches, just my size, and waggled a finger at me. “You can be certain that everyone is planning to put them out of your reach when we think that you need to rest, and you are to keep that foot propped up as much as you can. Where do you want to go to now?”
“Oh, the kitchen,” I said. “I can at least cut things up for Mistress Samno.”
“If she’ll let you,” she said darkly. “The thing about hiring servants who aren’t used to being servants is that they can be quite bossy themselves!”
“Like old family retainers,” I said with a smile.
She looked at me keenly. “I hear that the Dwarf sent you a message with these sticks.”
“Aye, he had some news from the Lonely Mountain. There was a battle there, and Brand of Dale and King Dáin are dead; Bard son of Brand is now lord in Dale and Thorin Stonehelm is King under the Lonely Mountain,” I told her. “King Thorin has named Gimli as Ambassador to the Court of Gondor, and Master Redglass has taken the news to him at Cormallen.”
“Does this affect him?”
“He is summoned back to the Lonely Mountain.”
I thought I had kept my tone neutral, but this earned me another sharp look. She merely said, “Samno said that the crutches were handed in with the message.”
“I am coming to know his work,” I said, seating myself in the lift, for I had noticed a mirrored pattern of athelas and ivy on them, my name neatly carved just below the padded tops.
She made no comment, merely closing the door and sending me downward, ringing the bell so that they’d know I was coming.
It was in the darkness of the lift that I finally remembered what had been niggling at the back of my mind since first reading the message: Dalfinor Redglass was the son of Thorin Stonehelm, now King. No wonder he had been summoned; no doubt a Dwarven prince had much to do for his people.
The door began to open, I heard Lily’s voice saying, “An' here’s Lady Silma!” Hastily I put the letter in my pouch and tried to don a pleasant expression.
I suppose, if I had had time to make the journey on foot, or even on ponyback or in a wagon, I would have enjoyed that trip through the Pelennor, with spring rioting and the Ephel Dúath to one side of us coming to bloom for the first time in at least an Age. It did not help that I was riding pillion with one of the messengers sent by Lord Húrin to Cormallen, and that Dwelgin was riding pillion behind another. Nor did it help my temper that it was Dwelgin who had brought the message from my father, because we had been ever rivals (at least in his estimation) since we were young; he had never forgiven me for inventing the glass dye that gave me my call-name. However, riding thus made it difficult to talk, which suited me. I wondered how Wilmet fared, and how Lady Silma was; was she very stiff and sore from her ankle? Had she been able to sleep well? And what was I now to do about the private matter uppermost in my mind?
Dwelgin had made his way first to the Citadel, and thence down to the inn, where he waited for me in no good humor until my arrival. I had invited him to share my room, since there were two beds in it, both low enough for our comfort. He hated travel, and chose to disparage everything all too loudly. To my relief, Brenna winked at me when she brought our breakfast, and Wil was quite willing to take my message to Lady Silwen’s house.
I had hesitated long over what to write, not daring to let Dwelgin see any false starts. At last, having thought out what I could safely express while I made her a pair of crude crutches, I wrote out a poor missive. Indeed, lout that he was, Dwelgin looked over my shoulder and read it. “Who’s this Lady Silma?” he asked. I knew that he did not read the cirith well, being more proficient in runes.
“Silwen,” I said, folding it neatly and sealing it to prevent further perusal. “Lady Silwen of House Ornamir is a noble widow of the city who was good enough to invite me to the daymeal last night, with some of the Rohirrim and Lord Faramir, the new Steward.”
“Why would she invite you ?” he asked offensively.
I reminded myself forcefully that it would not be a good idea to fight with him since we were doomed to travel together for the next few weeks. “Oh, boredom, I suppose, or the hope of setting a new fashion. Several of the Rohirrim are staying at her home, and I helped one of them with a device.”
“Oh, another of your devices!” he sneered. “I cannot see why you waste them on Men!”
“Should it go unused?” I asked.
“By other than the Khazad, certainly!” he said. Of course he was speaking in our own tongue.
“It seemed a small guest-gift,” I said carelessly. “And she has an excellent cook!”
“What kind of device was it?” he asked.
“A tube of porcelain, that needed a nozzle,” I said.
“ Porcelain ?”
As if he was content to eat off nothing but the commonest clay or wood or tin! But that was Dwelgin, preferring to sneer at anything that did not fit within his narrow limits of what was meet for our people.
“What was this to be used for?” he asked next.
I shrugged. “The last I saw it was in a storeroom next to the kitchen,” I said truthfully.
As I expected, he lost interest immediately and asked instead, “Why are you making those?”
Wood being inferior to metal being the inference….This was growing tiresome, but again I reminded myself of civility and replied, “There were many injured in this war.”
“But you weren’t,” he said. “Now, if you had been where you were supposed to be, you would have experienced a siege! You missed out on all the glory!”
As if he were stone-blind and unable to see the clear damage showing that the city had undergone a siege and heavy fighting as well! I stopped listening, certain in my own mind that he had spent that battle safely ensconced in one of the remotest caves, well out of the way of any work, let alone any arrows. Eventually, he wearied enough to sleep, and I managed to slumber a bit through the sound of his snoring until shortly before dawn, when I got up to send Wil to the Citadel. Faramir himself came to break his fast with us and give me some messages for Aragorn from himself and Lord Húrin, and one for Ėomer King from his sister.
There was only time to send Wil to Lady Silwen’s house before we were mounted and on our way. I was content to see that the motion of the ferry across the Anduin made Dwelgin regret the many sausages he had gobbled, and then we were in the saddle again….
I could see that Cormallen was a fair place, although it would have been even fairer with Lady Silma at my side. I imagined her crowned with flowers in her lovely hair, smiling, then forced myself to face the reality of the huge encampment, neatly arrayed. We were passed through sentry-lines to the commanders’ tent, where we were bidden to wait a little until Lord Aragorn came.
“He is with the Ringbearers,” said Legolas from behind us. “The day’s greeting, Dalfinor Redglass.”
I was just in time to prevent Dwelgin drawing his knife (catch him with an axe? No.) and he pulled uselessly against my hand. “An Elf!” he spat. “And one of the Mirkwood filth! Why do you protect this spider-lover?”
Legolas put a hand on his knife, and Gimli stopped him, speaking too low for us to hear. The Noldo let go and stepped back, folding his arms. My cousin looked from one to the other of us. “Dwelgin, so far from the Mountain? It must be dire, for the two of you to be together!”
I bowed to Legolas. “Prince Legolas, greeting. Hullo, Gimli. We have news.”
“Then come over here and tell me—Wait there, Dwelgin.”
“I’m coming too! After all, I brought the news!” he said angrily.
“After almost getting yourself slit open by the son of King Thranduil,” retorted Gimli, “’tis best for you to cool your heels for a while. I want my cousin. Things must be at a pretty pass, for the King to send you.”
“’Tis Dalfinor’s out of favor, for being so long away,” Dwelgin said smugly.
Gimli loomed over him. “Dwelgin, sit down, shut up, and don’t move! Try not to get into any trouble with your big mouth until I get back, or I swear I will put my entire foot and leg up your backside!”
Outside, Legolas walking with us simply because Gimli had not released his arm, I handed my cousin the letters and told him briefly the news.
“Hum! This changes a few things!” said Gimli reflectively. “Well, I had promised that I would help to mend the Outer Gates of the city, so I may as well combine the two. Now, to your situation, cousin!”
I shrugged and tried to look indifferent. “I am sent for by King Thorin.”
Just then, a voice said behind me, “Master Redglass! Well met!”
I turned, and bowed to both Peregrin Tŭk and Lord Aragorn, who returned it. “The day’s greeting,” I said gravely.
“Ill news from the city?” asked Lord Aragorn, his eyes intent on my face.
“Depends on how you look at it,” grunted Gimli.
Legolas said blandly, “Ill indeed! King Thorin is desperate; he has appointed an Ambassador to Gondor.”
“Then Dáin fell in the battle in Dale?” Aragron asked.
My jaw dropped. “You knew already, my lord?”
“So the Eagles thought,” he replied. “But who is this envoy? Yourself, Master Redglass?”
I laughed. “Nay! I am much too young and untried! No, he appointed Gimli.”
The Halfling cocked his head and remarked shrewdly, “After all, does Legolas know you well enough to tease?”
The Elf smiled at him. “Not yet, Pippin. How fare Merry, Sam and Frodo today?”
“Merry is impatient to get up; perhaps tomorrow. Sam, as well. But Frodo is still sleeping.” His face clouded at that last, and I recalled Gimli telling me how close the Periannath were by kinship and friendship. “Still, Aragorn says he is doing well. Gandalf is with him.”
“I will go relieve him, that he may take counsel with the Commanders about the most recent news,” and with a bow to all of us, Legolas walked away.
Reminded of my duty, I handed over the packet of messages I had been given, and Aragorn went within his pavilion to obtain the one Dwelgin had been given.
Dwelgin emerged looking surly. “No more manners than any other Man,” he grumbled.
I reached out, but Gimli was faster, gripping a handful of his tunic and jerking him half off his feet. “Dwelgin, I will not warn you again: keep your opinions to yourself! You are no princeling to have the airs you take upon yourself, nor even a good craftsman, and I tire of you already. Sit down, shut up, and don’t move until I tell you to, do you understand?” He spoke in the purring tone that meant his temper really was aroused, and in Khuzdul. “Do not be even stupider than you usually are; we are not in our realms, and it behooves you to act civilly. Both of us outrank you, and I will support whatever we must do to get you to behave yourself. While you are amongst other Kindreds, you will not sneer, you will not be insulting, and you will not make comparisons between their ways and ours. Better yet, don’t speak to anyone but the two of us. Do you hear me?”
“Aye,” he gurgled.
“Swear by Aulë’s Axe that you will not harm anyone except an attacking orc! Swear it!”
Gimli released him with a shove, and he staggered a few steps before sitting on the stump that my cousin pointed to, his face a thundercloud.
“Now stay there!” Gimli ordered. “Dalfinor, with me.”
Wide-eyed, Master Took, as I am now told he spelled his surname, came with us.
“In here,” said Gimli, and we ducked into a handsome tent and sat on two stools. Gimli poured us each a tankard of ale and sat down as well.
“I do not thank you for that, cousin,” I said quietly. “Now he hates us both.”
“He has ever poisoned himself with envy of you, lad, and it is time you both accepted the fact that you are his superior in all ways, now including rank.”
“I did not know that you were a prince among your people, my lord,” Master Took said to me.
I groaned. “I am not! Or I wasn’t! Most of us don’t care about rankings all that much, other than the necessary respect owed to clan and tribe elders, and the King, and to the best of our artisans. And to our clan and tribal Mothers, of course.”
“So you had a letter from Thorin, did you?” Gimli asked casually.
“No. But as Dwelgin said, I am long overdue from returning,” I said glumly “He will not be pleased that I have nothing to take back, not even the wagon and ponies that brought me—nor the things for which I had bargained.”
“Drink your ale, lad. You’ll be very eligible now,” he said mercilessly, and I groaned again.
“Eligible?” echoed Pippin, as he asked me to call him. “Oh! You mean for marriage?”
“Aye, and many would say that means an end to any journeying elsewhere, except perhaps to another Dwarven enclave,” Gimli told him. “You see, Pippin, we have many more males than females, so most of our men have no hope of marriage or children.”
“What, ever ?” the Hobbit exclaimed. We both nodded, and his face showed his distress. “Why, that’s awful! Your pardon, I don’t mean to be offensive, but you see among us, it’s the rare Hobbit who isn’t wed.”
“But neither Bilbo nor Frodo are, nor you or Sam or Merry,” Gimli reminded him.
“Well, that was one thing that caused so many to call old Bilbo the Mad Baggins, don’t you see. I don’t know why Frodo hasn’t—I remember my mum saying that he seemed partial to Narcissa, and Pearl. Sam’ll likely ask Rosie Cotton as soon as we get back. I think our adventures have made him less shy!”
“And yourself and Merry?”
“Well, no doubt Merry will be looking about him soon, lots of nice Hobbit-lasses about, but you know I’m not even of age yet. I’ll be in enough trouble for having come away without a word (or permission) without trying to get married too young! But why would being married affect where you go afterwards?”
“Once a Dwarf is chosen to wed, he has to stay close to his wife. We have all too few children, Pippin. It is his duty to give her as many chances as he can, and protect them both.”
“You’ll be more eligible as well,” I pointed out, feeling goaded.
“So I will, but they have to catch me first,” he said cheerfully. “I have a good many plans of my own first!”
“What kind of plans?” asked Pippin.
“Well, I promised to help with those gates. That I can combine with being Ambassador; it will get me a band of our brethren to help me. Then I promised Legolas I would go to Mirkwood with him, and he is coming to Aglarond with me. Now that the Oathbreakers have been released and departed, their realm lies empty, and Ėomer King has promised me that I may have it; the Rohirrim have no interest in it, being surface-lovers. Wait until you see it, Dalf! More than enough room for many of us! We will make it a wonder!”
“You may,” I said sourly.
“Pour him another tankard, Pippin.”
“Nay.” I set mine, still more than half-filled, down and rose. “Please excuse me.”
“Stay a while, Dalf,” Gimli urged.
I shook my head. “Getting drunk will not help, cousin, although I thank you. Please excuse me. Pippin,” I bowed and left.
In the Appendices to RotK, Tolkien refers to other translations of Hobbit names, including Tu^k for Took, so it is not unreasonable that Dalfinor, used to writing in a different kind of script, might spell it as if transliterating it into runes instead of ciriths.