Written for the LOTR Community "Back Garden of a Dream" challenge. For all with May birthdays.
There were a few documents to be signed, and Andred was surprised when money was given her after she’d finished this task.
The clerk who had witnessed her signing of the documents indicating her former home and business were now returned to her gave a rueful smile. “The Master for your village was not authorized to do as he did, and was made to pay a fine of reparations to you for allowing your brother to dispossess you. It cannot repay you for all that was lost due to your brother’s wastefulness, but hopefully it can help you to rebuild your life.”
Remembering how she’d come away with but a small sum of coin slipped to her by her mother, she felt anger building up within her for the unfairness she’d known at that time. “It is perhaps little enough, but it is more than I have known for quite some time,” she answered him.
She went out of the Citadel, her mother again at her side, uncertain as to what she ought to do next. Should she return to the small village near Peshastin where she’d lived as her husband’s wife? But, other than her mother, what did she have there now? None of those she’d thought of as her friends had offered to help her stand up against her brother’s claim, and none had given her aught more than good wishes when she’d found herself homeless and purposed to travel to the White City. Her mother had managed to save a store of fabrics, but what would she do with them? To sell them to support herself and her mother, she would have to remove either to Peshastin or to Pelargir, or perhaps to Dol Amroth itself. True, with her husband and children lost to her she was now free to travel herself as a merchant; but this was a chancier life for a woman alone than for a Man. Indeed, the life of a traveling merchant had ever been lived by menfolk, and with good reason. The thought of having to travel in caravans and to spend days at a time upon the road, often having to camp in wild lands as her husband had often described to her and the children, did not attract her. Nor was she skilled with any tongues save for the Common Tongue and Sindarin, not that she was totally fluent with Sindarin, even.
So, what did that leave her?
That was answered when she saw Gilriel waiting for her near to the monument to the Pheriannath. She could have the fabric brought here, and could perhaps become a partner in Gilriel’s shop! She had money now with which she could buy an interest in the business, and goods to augment what Gilriel kept. Both were decent seamstresses, and they appeared to appreciate one another’s company and skills. It was a thought. She would broach the idea with Gilriel tomorrow, perhaps.
But for now----
Well, for now there was the change in her fortunes to take in, and the friendship of Gilriel and Norien to appreciate and celebrate. She was surprised to find herself weeping with relief as Gilriel reached out to embrace her in congratulation as well as to comfort her for the disappointment her brother had brought her. As the two younger women and Lanriel sat down upon the bench facing the memorial, Andred found herself looking again at the carved visage of Frodo Baggins. Now it appeared distracted, not offering her any challenge, but instead as if he considered what the Ring had brought him to.
It had brought him to the edge of death itself, she knew. But he had recovered, and had returned to his home, had been able to ascertain that his own land was made whole again, that those he loved were safe and recovering from the types of trouble that had befallen them during the war. And then he had gone on, granted the grace to enter the Undying Lands in spite of his mortality.
Is he happy there? she wondered. She hoped that he was, and that the separation he knew from all that he’d loved before the Ring became his burden did not weigh on him. Certainly she’d found her own banishment from her home far less a grief than she’d once thought it would prove. Here she had found purpose, friends, a place, and even an unexpected friendship with their King, who was far less of a mystery and more of an approachable Man than she’d ever imagined. She suddenly knew that she did not want to return to Lebennin! Since her husband and sons were lost to her, now Minas Anor was fast becoming her home.
Yes, tomorrow she would have that talk with Gilriel, and then with her mother about whether she would prefer to return to their old home or, perhaps, remain here where they might build a new life. And—well, she was not too old to look to build a new future, maybe even to find a new love with whom to build a new life. It was what Gunter had sought there upon the Pelennor. But she determined that she would be far more discerning than he’d been.
Young Ingbold appeared from the Citadel with trays of food. “The Queen indicated that you had not had a proper meal since before the hearing between Mistress Norien and her sister, and asked that this be fetched here for you and your mother,” he explained as another page set out two folding tables for the trays to be set upon. With polite bows, the two youths took their leave to return to their work, the women’s thanks going with them.
“How thoughtful all here are!” Lanriel noted.
“Indeed,” Gilriel responded. “We are so fortunate to have two such as these as our Lord and Lady.”
Andred shrugged her bag containing her book of poetry from her shoulder. She was uncertain as to why she’d brought it with her that day, for she’d not had time to read from it. She’d found, however, that somehow the small, white volume offered her a feeling of comfort, and she was rarely without it.
Gilriel touched the bag tentatively, and asked, “May I look at the book? I know that you treasure it, and it must be very special to you.”
Andred nodded her assent as she took slices of ham between folded flat bread. “I was allowed to take it with me from the Rest House where I first stayed on entering Minas Anor. The scribe who copied it was most talented, and his choice of poetry is quite interesting—or so I, at least, find it.”
A number of the visiting Hobbits were drifting out of the Citadel now, many of them carrying bread rolls filled with various meats, and with tankards from which they drank. The Hobbitess Narcissa, accompanied by the one who had earlier put his arm so familiarly about her waist, started toward the monument until Pearl Took called her back. Her companion smiled after her as she turned back to join a group of her female companions, but continued on until he stood between Andred and the statues, contemplating that of Frodo thoughtfully.
“Did you know him well?” Andred asked him.
“Frodo? Oh, but yes. We are cousins by way of the Brandybucks, while my wife Narcissa is a cousin of his through both the Tooks and the Boffins, while the twins—” here he indicated the two young Hobbits who’d set flowers before the memorial, “are the younger children of Frodo’s Uncle Dudo Baggins by his second wife Emerald, who was first cousin to Frodo’s mum and Merry’s grandfather. As was said this morning, we are all related to Frodo to one degree or another except for Budgie over there. But with the Goold connection on the part of his wife Viola, even he’s now related to Frodo—albeit distantly—by marriage.”
He straightened. “Forgive me for not introducing myself earlier—Brendilac Brandybuck, at your service. Although you may call me Brendi if you like. Most do.” He gave a deep bow. “And I grieve for the pain you know as a result of your brother’s behavior,” he added to Andred. “It must have hurt you and your mother both deeply.”
“Yes,” Andred answered simply.
The doors to the Citadel opened, and Norien and Gunter emerged, walking side by side. They came down the steps and paused to share one last exchange. At last they parted, Gunter now turning toward the ramp down to the Sixth Circle, accompanied now by one dressed as a healer from the Houses of Healing, while Norien stood watching after, finally looking about and coming to join them again. She appeared most thoughtful as she reached the party by the memorial and sat down beyond Lanriel.
“I never thought to ever feel sympathy toward Gunter,” she sighed. “But she has tried to murder him—has been putting rat poison in his food for at least the last six days. I could see it once we were in the lesser audience chamber—his hair is starting to fall out, and his skin is so grey! He has been having such troubles with his stomach, too.”
They all shuddered at the thought.
“It’s hard to think on,” commented Brendilac Brandybuck. “I know Frodo was having awful times with his own stomach. But everyone agrees his problems went back to the weeks he had not enough food or water while he and Sam traveled through Mordor, added to swallowing the fumes from the Mountain. I didn’t realize one could swallow fumes.”
“You weren’t here while the Mountain belched out its cloud of fumes and ash,” commented someone behind them, and they realized they’d been quietly joined by Captain Peregrin and Sir Meriadoc, who had approached them from behind as silently as only Hobbits might. “They left a taste in the back of the mouth, and made one’s tongue feel gritty,” the Hobbit Guardsman continued. “Afterwards there were piles of ash lying everywhere throughout the city, and a glassblower Frodo came to favor came to collect it as it made the most beautiful glass imaginable. Plus it caused the most flavorful fruit and vegetables to grow that year. I suspect that had Sauron realized that making the Mountain spew forth so much ash would promote such excellent produce he would have perhaps thought twice against so benefitting the farmers of Gondor.”
“We arrived just as the wind began to turn, now coming from the south rather than the east as had been going on for quite some time,” Sir Merry added. “There’s no question that the air was hard to breathe, and afterwards my handkerchief was quite black with it as I sought to clear my nose and throat. Aragorn’s face was streaked with the ash when I awoke in the Houses of Healing. He’d not had time to do a thorough wash-up, I fear, before Gandalf came to fetch him into the city to see to Faramir, Éowyn, and me. All three of us were so close to death from the effects of the Black Breath by that time.”
“And the ash seemed to seep in everywhere through the smallest of cracks,” Pippin noted. “It was all they could do to clean it out of the Houses of Healing before we left for the Black Gate.” He shook his head, turning his attention to the statues again.
“What I don’t understand is why Frodo had so many problems, but not Sam,” Brendi objected. “After all, he went with Frodo all the way to the Mountain, didn’t he?”
Merry answered him, “But Sam only carried the Ring for such a short time, and hadn’t been bitten by the spider as Frodo had, and he’d never been wounded with a Morgul knife. Both Elrond and Gandalf told us that Frodo could not ever properly recover from such a wound as that here in Middle Earth. I wonder if it is possible even in the Undying Lands.”
Gilriel looked up from the white book in her hands. “Have you read this one?” she asked Andred. “This poem about Sarn Gebir?” She began reading aloud.
Strider said of the river
he had no greater fear
than the stone-shattered rapids
of Sarn Gebir.
He said that the current
was fast and severe.
We must find the portage
’round Sarn Gebir.
Yet we sailed under stars
when the weather was clear,
for we knew we were some days
from Sarn Gebir.
Oft the banks were steep
and the walls were quite sheer
as we sailed further south
toward Sarn Gebir.
A Nazgûl cried aloft;
eastern orcs gave a jeer
as we were seen sailing
for Sarn Gebir!
Arrows were loosed;
one orc threw a spear!
But still we sailed on
toward Sarn Gebir!
The Elf shot the beast
and we gave out a cheer
as it fell toward the rapids
of Sarn Gebir.
We found cover at last
and our relief felt so dear.
We’d wait before continuing
toward Sarn Gebir.
Thick fog rolled in
’fore we paddled clear
of the bushes that had hid us.
Now, Sarn Gebir!
We went slowly southward,
searching far and near
for the signs of the portage
’round Sarn Gebir.
The crash of the waters
was suddenly near!
“Halt!” cried our Strider.
“It’s Sarn Gebir!”
No warrior ever
with sword and with spear
labored as did we
’gainst Sarn Gebir!
We fought the foul current
as we worked hard to steer
our frail Elvish boats
from Sarn Gebir.
Better the rocks of the shore
than the stone teeth so near
as we paddled like mad
from Sarn Gebir.
The Elf sought the path
which we knew must be near
that would lead to the portage
’round Sarn Gebir.
“It’s over this way!”
he said to our cheer.
“We’ll soon carry our boats
past Sarn Gebir.”
So we Hobbits saw
to the packs and our gear
as the others hauled crafts
past Sarn Gebir.
The sound of the rapids
were in the left ear
as we walked through the fog
’round Sarn Gebir.
The sound and the fury
at last lessened in fear
as we approached the far jetty
below Sarn Gebir.
So it is in the future
I’ll admit with a tear
I’ve not yet seen the rapids
of Sarn Gebir!
Most were laughing, but Captain Peregrin was reaching for the white book. “Where in Middle Earth did you ever find that!” he cried.
“Do you know the book?” asked Andred, taking it back from Gilriel.
“No, not that particular book, at least. But I certainly know the poem!”
“Because I wrote it,” he explained. “What I’m wanting to know is how it ever came to be in any book at all? May I please see it?”
She gave it over to him with reluctance, but relaxed as she saw the respect with which he treated the volume. He gave a peculiar smile as he opened it reverently. “I think I understand,” he said softly. “Come here, Brendi.” He, Merry, and Brendi met at the right end of the bench on which the four women sat. Pippin turned the book toward the shorter Hobbit, who took a sharp breath as he looked at the writing.
“Frodo wrote this,” he said. “I’d know his hand anywhere!”
Merry was nodding. “He must have written it while we dwelt here in the guesthouse on Isil Lane in the Sixth Circle,” he said. “But I don’t know when, or why it would be in this woman’s possession. Not,” he added hastily, “that I begrudge you having it, you must understand.”
Pippin was still smiling that peculiar smile. “He wrote out a number of poems that I think he bound somewhere about the Citadel and gave to the widow of Halargil, just after Halargil died. I’ll bet that this is that book!”
“Halargil?” asked Norien.
“Halargil was one of Lord Denethor’s personal guards. He died while we were staying within the city. Frodo and Strider were with him when he died, in fact. But how did you get it?”
Andred explained about finding it in the library at the Gentlewomen’s Rest House, and the permission she’d been granted to take it away with her in return for her replacing the book with another.
“But how would a book Frodo gave to this woman in the Sixth Circle end up in a rest house in the lower city?” asked Brendi.
“Because she was the widow of a Guardsman,” Pippin said with a shrug. “Anything that she left when she died a few years ago that no one in her family might want would have gone to the Citadel’s stores. And if the Lady Arwen endowed this rest house, then she probably gave them permission to take books from the storehouse that has excess books in it. I know that Lady Lynesse found two books there that used to belong to Faramir that Gandalf had sent him. And one of those Frodo had copied for Bilbo and Bilbo bound while he lived with Lord Elrond in Rivendell before he gave it to Gandalf.”
“But would Lord Frodo know how to make books?” Gilriel asked.
Merry laughed. “Know how to make books? Oh, that he did! Bilbo learned how to create and bind books years ago when he stayed for a time at Rivendell, there when he found the Ring by Gollum’s lake, and Bilbo taught Frodo how to do so. Thain Ferumbras was most taken aback that a gentlehobbit of Bilbo Baggins’s standing would stoop to such labor, but Bilbo and Frodo both worked as copyists and bookbinders. Why, Lalia herself paid Frodo good money to write out invitations to her parties for her! He was the most popular copyist in the whole of the Shire!”
“And this Lalia was…?” asked Norien, fascinated by the tale.
“Thain Ferumbras’s mother. And a sourer old shrew than Lalia Clayhanger Took is hard to imagine. Although perhaps Lobelia Bracegirdle Sackville-Baggins could have given her a run for her money. But even Lobelia had Frodo do invitations for her, too—most grudgingly, I’m certain.”
“To say the least, and she tried to cheat him for the work done,” Brendi returned, nodding at the memory of it. “Lobelia was always trying to cheat Frodo. But then it was so much harder for her to even get into Bag End when he was living there than it was with Bilbo alone, so she couldn’t as easily steal from him as she used to do with Bilbo.”
The Hobbits laughed, and Pippin gently turned pages in the book. “Oh, but here are the poems about Tom Bombadil that they tell in Buckland,” he said, and turned a few more pages. “And, look! He included the one Sam wrote about the Stone Troll! Do you remember, Merry, how solemn Sam looked as he stood at the foot of old William and recited that, his hands folded as if he were reciting in the schoolroom in Brandy Hall? I’m surprised Frodo even remembered it, as ill as he was at the time.”
“And here’s the one about the Oliphaunt,” Merry said. “At least he and Sam got to see that Oliphaunt in Ithilien.” They both nodded, remembering their own sight of Oliphaunts upon the fields of the Pelennor during the battle before the White City.
“I wonder who wrote this one about the coming of the King?” Brendi asked.
Pippin straightened some. “Faramir composed that one. Sam was out with Strider looking at where the proposed herb garden should go behind the Citadel, and Merry was standing guard in the Silent Street. Frodo, Faramir, and I were in the reception room at the end of the King’s wing, talking about poetry. And Faramir recited it for us. He had another that he’d been writing to Éowyn, but he only gave us a few verses of it, saying he didn’t want to let anyone else hear more until he recited it to her. And I recited the one about Sarn Gebir. I’d been working it out in my mind, you see, while I stood guard on Faramir’s room in the Houses of Healing, and I finished it up while I was recovering in Cormallen. And Frodo remembered it all! But, then he always had such an ear and memory for poetry.”
“But who is this Strider?” asked Lanriel. “His name is in your poem, and you keep mentioning him as if he were one of those who came south with the Ringbearer and the King.”
Merry and Pippin exchanged amused glances. “Oh, but Strider is the King. That’s what they named him when his patrols took him into Bree, and it was how we were introduced. Telcontar means Strider, after all. Aragorn son of Arathorn, the Lord King Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar, the Healer, the Restorer, the Far-strider. That’s our King. That’s our friend.”
And as she glanced once more at the sculpture of Frodo Baggins, Andred felt certain that there was the ghost of a smile on the distant Ringbearer’s face at Captain Peregrin’s naming of their beloved King.