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Small Hands  by shirebound

SMALL HANDS

Chapter 1: The Eyes of the King

In the meanwhile the host made ready for the return to Minas Tirith. The weary rested and the hurt were healed. For some had laboured and fought much with the remnants of the Easterlings and Southrons, until all were subdued. And, latest of all, those returned who had passed into Mordor and destroyed the fortresses in the north of the land. 

‘The Field of Cormallen’, The Return of the King


“Hail, captains of Gondor!” cried the tall man who stood under the culumalda trees. He drew his long, shining sword, and held it aloft in greeting.

The brothers Delumîr and Caladîr gasped, exchanged amazed glances, and hurried to where the richly-garbed man stood. As one, they quickly knelt. This man had once been the Lord Aragorn, who had led them to the Black Gate, but before them now surely stood the King Returned, as the rumors in Minas Tirith had spoken. A light flickered about his head from the star on his brow, and the green jewel on his breast blazed even under a clouded sun.

“I beg you rise,” Aragorn said softly. “The Eagles brought word of your approach from the north. On behalf of all Free Peoples, we are grateful for your service, and take joy in your safe return.” He sheathed Andúril and pressed a hand to his heart.

The men slowly rose, and Caladîr, the elder, stepped forward.

“Sire,” he said, trying to keep his voice steady, “we are honored by your welcome. We completed the task set for us, and the remaining strongholds near to the broken gates have been burned. Before returning, we worked to clear a great deal of filth and obstructions from the streams thereby.”

“You have done admirably,” Aragorn said. “We will feast you and your men this eve.” He smiled gently. “And I deem that baths would not be unwelcome.”

Delumîr blushed, and self-consciously brushed his hands down his tunic such that clouds of dust began to fall. “We would be most grateful for that. But sire...” He looked puzzled. “You called us captains, but we are but men at arms of the fourth company. Were you expecting someone else?”

“No,” Aragorn said firmly. “You are last to arrive in camp, but far from the least in my esteem. You were the first to volunteer to stay behind amidst the ruin of a poisoned land when the host departed, not knowing how long you would be away from your families. I have eyes in many directions, and know that you both labored long and tirelessly. You demonstrated self denial and generosity by sharing your rations with those of lesser vigor, and on the long road back you kept the spirits of your companions from faltering. As your sovereign, I declare your new rank as well-earned. You will march in the King’s Guard just behind me and the hobbits when we approach Minas Tirith.”

The men’s faces shone with amazement and delight, and both bowed deeply.

“We are grateful, sire,” said Caladîr. “Proudly will we do so.”

“You do us great honor, my liege,” Delumîr said softly, and bent his head to hide his swelling emotions. Did you know how desperately our families need the extra coin such a promotion will bring? Perhaps so. And when he looked up, the King was smiling at him.

“Why did you come this way?” Aragorn asked. “There are more direct paths to the main encampment.”

“Sire,” Caladîr said hesitantly, “forgive us if we are trespassing in a restricted area. We asked the sentries, and they said that the Ring-bearers may be found in yonder grove. Would it be permitted... I mean, might we...”

“You wish to meet Frodo and Samwise,” Aragorn said, and the men shook their heads.

“Nay, sire,” Caladîr hastened to explain. “We merely hoped to linger here awhile, unseen amidst these trees, and perhaps catch a glimpse of them. We would not presume to approach them.”

“Have you sent your men to be welcomed and quartered, and your horses tended?”

“We have,” Caladîr said.

“Then come with me,” Aragorn said, motioning to the beech-grove.

“To see the Ring-bearers?” Delumîr asked in surprise. “What would we say to them?”

“Frodo and Samwise are worthy of all honor, and I understand that you might hesitate, having heard about them only through rumor,” Aragorn said, “but they would not wish to be spied upon from a distance, nor thought of as unapproachable. It is as hobbits that they won through to the Fires of Doom, and it is as hobbits that they wish to be known.” He gazed at the men gravely. “If in generations to come it is remembered that even small, frightened, and vulnerable beings could survive such a journey and the hardships they endured, perhaps it will be understood that any road can be walked and any goal is worthy of attempt, if one pledges to be steadfast. The hobbits will always remind us that the love of one’s home, and one’s friends and family, can inspire greatness.”

“We understand,” Delumîr said quietly, and Caladîr added, “For what else were we all fighting, if not our homes and family?”

“So you see,” Aragorn told them, “you are not so different from them after all.” He knew that while it was important for the hobbits to be treated with respect, it would hurt them deeply to be set apart, or seen as unapproachable by any of the men with whom they would be spending the next weeks... and possibly longer. “Can you now greet them with understanding, and a wish for friendship?” he asked, and the men nodded.

“Then come. I will introduce you. But please, gentlemen, do not kneel before Frodo and Sam. I tried that, and it made them terribly uncomfortable.”

“May we bow?” Delumîr asked.

“You may. I am certain they are used to that by now.”


** TBC **

AUTHOR NOTE:  I'm in the midst of preparations to move across the country, and most likely won’t be able to start chapter 3 for another month.  But here's chapter 2, and thank you for reading!


SMALL HANDS

Chapter 2:  Resilience and Respect

Then Aragorn entered first and the others followed. And there at the door were two guards in the livery of the Citadel: one tall, but the other scarce the height of a boy; and when he saw them he cried aloud in surprise and joy.

‘Strider! How splendid! Do you know, I guessed it was you in the black ships. But they were all shouting corsairs and wouldn’t listen to me. How did you do it?’

Aragorn laughed, and took the hobbit by the hand. ‘Well met indeed!’ he said. ‘But there is not time yet for travellers’ tales.’

But Imrahil said to Éomer: ‘Is it thus that we speak to our kings?’

‘The Houses of Healing’, The Return of the King


“Sire, a moment,” Caladîr said urgently, as they began to walk. “Before Delumîr and I led the men into Udûn we were grieved to see the Dwarf mourning over the body of Peregrin. We had seen the young halfling often in the company of yourself, or the wizard, and he seemed a jolly companion. Should we refrain from speaking of him in front of the Ring-bearers?”

He was startled when the King began to laugh, but his attention was diverted by his brother, who gasped and grabbed his arm.

“He lives!” Delumîr cried out. “There, I see him!”

“Who lives?” Caladîr asked, then he paled and his steps faltered. For there, emerging from the large tent they were approaching, was Peregrin Took, talking earnestly about something to the Dwarf, who was stroking his beard in thought.

“How can this be?” he marveled. “Sire, we saw the enormity of the troll warrior which crushed Peregrin. You saw it. There is no way...”

“There are two ways,” Aragorn told them quietly. “The resilience of hobbits, coupled with the determination and strength of a friend to find him beneath that great carcass ’ere his breath failed, and a strong and buoyant spirit was lost to us forever.”

“Resilience indeed,” Caladîr murmured, still scarcely believing his own eyes. “Halflings... err, hobbits, are truly extraordinary.”

As Gimli strode away towards the main encampment, Pippin spotted them and burst into a glad smile. “Strider!” he cried out happily. He began to hurry toward the King as quickly as his healing ribs and shoulder would allow, and Aragorn strode forward to meet him. The men followed in his wake.

Pippin bowed, then gazed up at Aragorn with delight. 

“We were hoping you would visit today, but Merry says that King duties are even more difficult and time-consuming than Ranger duties.”

“They are,” Aragorn said with a laugh, “but I find it impossible to stay away. Today I bring new friends to meet all of you.”

Pippin smiled up at the men expectantly.

“I am Caladîr,” the elder spoke, slightly out of breath. He was warmed by the young hobbit’s exuberance. “This dusty fellow is my brother, Delumîr. We are both greatly joyed to see you well, Master Peregrin.” He and Delumîr bowed.

“Peregrin Took, at your service. Please call me Pippin.” Pippin bowed in turn, then peered up at them closely. “I remember you, I think. From the march north?”

“Yes,” Delumîr said. “Congratulations on such a miraculous recovery.”

Pippin grinned. “The praise is due to Gimli, who found me, and Strider, who wouldn’t let me get up even though there was so much to see and do here. I was forced to heal quickly to earn my freedom.”

Aragorn merely smiled, then knelt to inspect Pippin’s rust-colored tunic. It was slightly long for the hobbit, but well fitting otherwise.

“This is good cloth,” he said approvingly. “Have enough garments been found to suit everyone’s needs?”

“More than enough,” Pippin replied. “The supply boats bring the most wonderful things.  Gimli seems to think it his duty to inspect everything, and appropriate what he thinks we might like.” He brushed the King’s embroidered sleeve with curious fingers. “This is nice. A king should dress well.”

“As should hobbits,” Aragorn said gently, “especially four very special ones.” He got to his feet as the brothers, who had been listening to the exchange, exchanged incredulous glances. To speak so informally to one’s king! And Lord Aragorn spoke in such a tender manner to this hobbit. It would take some getting used to.

Just then, Aragorn noticed Prince Imrahil beckoning to him from a nearby rise of land.

“Gentlemen, I hope you will excuse me if I do not accompany you further,” Aragorn said to the men.  “'King duties' require my attention, as my young friend here would say.  If you have no other pressing tasks, Sir Peregrin, would you act as my emissary and introduce Captains Caladîr and Delumîr to Frodo and Sam, and Merry, if he is about?”

“Of course,” Pippin said proudly.

“Thank you.  They are only now returning from the Black Gate.”

“They’ve been in Mordor all this time, and missed all the feasts?” Pippin asked in dismay. 

“Apparently we have,” Caladîr said with a smile. “But we begrudge not our duty, and the King has kindly offered to feast us this eve.”

“But that’s hours from now,” Pippin exclaimed. “You’d better come with me. We’re having luncheon as soon as Gimli returns.”

“A moment, Pippin,” Aragorn said, turning toward the brothers. “It would be a kindness if you could share with Frodo and Sam what you told me about the healing of Udûn – how the streams are being cleared, and the waters cleansed. They will like that, and such news will help ease their hearts.”

“We will tell them, sire,” Delumîr assured him. “And thank you.”

“It is we who thank you,” Aragorn said. “Enjoy your visit.” He strode away, and Pippin gazed after the King with an expression of love and respect. And even after such a short time in Lord Aragorn’s company, two brand-new captains of Gondor realized that they felt the same way.


** TBC **





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