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Author Note: The hobbits’ tent and its furnishings are from my story “Keep Him Secret, Keep Him Safe”.
Chapter 3: A Most Resourceful Dwarf
Orcs, and talking trees, and leagues of grass, and galloping riders, and glittering caves, and white towers and golden halls, and battles, and tall ships sailing, all these passed before Sam’s mind until he felt bewildered. But amidst all these wonders he returned always to his astonishment at the size of Merry and Pippin; and he made them stand back to back with Frodo and himself.
‘The Field of Cormallen’, The Return of the King
When the tent flap opened, Merry leaped to his feet at the sight of two tall strangers peeking hesitantly inside. Only the unexpected sound of Pippin’s laughter from behind the men kept him from crying out in alarm.
“Stand down, Merry!” came his cousin’s amused voice. “And Sam, these fellows have been through quite a lot. They deserve a better welcome than being threatened with cookware.”
Merry relaxed as Pippin ushered the two men into the tent. He hadn’t even realized that Sam had been instantly at his side, a dripping ladle in his hand.
Delumîr, who had been very careful to brush off every speck of dust from his tunic, gazed curiously at the two small persons facing him. With only Peregrin to go by, he had assumed that all adult Halflings (hobbits, he reminded himself) were about the same size; however, the difference in height in the two before him was striking. Like Peregrin, both wore tunics and trousers of fine cloth, if a bit ill-matching, and the smaller one stood tensely, eyeing him and his brother with caution. Which one was Frodo son of Drogo?
“Sticklebacks! Where has that brush gone off to?”
Merry grinned in the direction of a voice coming from behind tall crates in the rear of the tent. Caladîr, surprised at the number and variety of furnishings in the spacious tent, realized that one area had been set aside for privacy, perhaps for changing garments.
“Pippin’s brought guests, cousin!” Merry laughed. “Come greet them, then we can locate that wayward brush.”
“Locate it again,” said a fourth hobbit, stepping out from behind the crates. “Do you suppose Gimli could find us another?”
“Without a doubt,” came a gruff voice from the tent flap. Caladîr whirled about in unaccustomed panic. While simultaneously attempting to take in his surroundings, identify the Ring-bearers, and hope no one heard his stomach growling at the delectable aromas issuing from a number of pots hung on a makeshift hearth, he now had to quickly step aside to avoid the Dwarf Gimli who had burst into the tent. With an effort, he calmed himself. He and Delumîr were guests in this home, however extraordinary, and in all lands to which they had traveled it was protocol for the guest to initiate introductions. However confusing the situation, that was his first duty. He cleared his throat, whereupon four sets of eyes were upon him.
“I am Caladîr of Gondor,” he spoke to the three unfamiliar hobbits and to the Dwarf, “and this is my brother, Delumîr. Lord Aragorn was kind enough to permit us to come and pay our respects.”
Delumîr was relieved that his brother had finally found his voice and initiated introductions. It was for the eldest to speak first, whenever possible.
The hobbit who had been behind the crates stepped forward, smiling at them both.
“At your service,” he said. “I am Frodo Baggins of the Shire. Please call me Frodo.”
Frodo Baggins. Caladîr and Delumîr both instinctively started to kneel, but remembered at the same moment that the King had entreated them not to do so. As they fumbled, Caladîr saw Frodo exchange an amused glance with the ladle-wielding hobbit; without doubt, there were many who insisted upon kneeling to him. He instead bowed deeply alongside his brother, hoping to remember every moment of this experience to tell his wife and children.
“Meriadoc Brandybuck,” said the tall hobbit. “Merry, if you please.”
“Samwise Gamgee, at your service,” said the third. “Forgive me, sirs, but the soup needs a final stir.” He turned to the hearth.
Samwise Gamgee, companion and servant to Frodo Baggins! It seemed incongruous to that the two smallest hobbits were the legendary Frodo and Samwise, but the King’s words came back to him: ‘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.’
Small indeed, and what difference did it make?
“I remember you gentlemen,” Gimli said, inclining his head slightly. “Gimli son of Gloín, at your service.”
“And at yours, Master Dwarf,” Delumîr said. “We are honored to meet all of you.”
“Please join us,” Pippin said, motioning the men toward the commodious table and chairs in the center of the tent. “Sam, is there enough food for two hungry men? I thought so. Strider said that Captains Caladîr and Delumîr have been away in Mordor and missed all the feasts. Look how skinny they are! No doubt they’ve been eating nothing but travel rations and a bit of small game now and then. There’s your brush, Frodo, on that stack of pillows. No, I don’t know how it got there.”
Amused and put at ease by Pippin’s nonstop chatter, the brothers accepted the invitation to luncheon with pleasure, but refused to sit until the hobbits had done so. Delumîr found himself seated between Frodo and Gimli, and was enjoying the lively conversation around him when Samwise brought each person a bowl of thick, steaming potato soup. The portion was a hearty one, and would have been a welcome meal for the brothers after so many weeks of limited rations, but to their delight, Sam was far from finished. Loaves of bread and small crocks of sweet butter were set about the table, along with bowls of cut-up fruits, three varieties of baked fish on a large platter, sliced cheeses, and, filling the last empty spot, a tower of small, delectable cakes.
“Go on,” Pippin urged the brothers. “This should hold you until the feast tonight, don't you think? Sam, this soup is wonderful. And where have you been hiding those cakes? Don’t you trust us?”
Sam just smiled, happy to see Frodo filling his plate.
Looking around the table, Caladîr filled his glass from a pitcher of water and raised it.
“My new friends, my brother and I thank you for sharing this meal with us. We miss our families. It has been a long time since…” His voice broke.
“It’s been a long time for all of us, sir,” Sam said understandingly. “I surely hope you like everything.”
Everyone ate ravenously, praising Sam many times for the repast.
“Delumîr, what have you been doing all this time?” Frodo blurted out suddenly. “In Mordor, I mean. We heard that, Sam and I that is, we heard that everything was destroyed. There was nothing. I mean… is anything left there?”
“No, Frodo, there is not,” Delumîr said. “For as far as we could see from the highest point in Udûn, even beyond where the Mountain once stood all is laid waste and the land is still.”
“Where the Mountain once stood,” Frodo murmured. Merry, seated on Frodo’s right, reached out to take his hand, which Delumîr noticed was missing a finger. So it is true, he marveled. All of it.
“Frodo,” Caladîr said gently, “there is nothing left to fear from the Black Lands. As the ash continues to settle, the air grows more wholesome by the day.” He remembered what the King had asked of them. “You ask what we were doing all this time? Among other things, helping to clear several choked streams, and dig deeper channels for the waters to flow.”
“Oh,” Frodo whispered. “Oh Sam, just think of it!”
Seeing Frodo’s eyes fill with tears of joy, the men suddenly realized that these menial tasks, almost an afterthought before they left Udûn, meant more to the King and the Ring-bearers than anything else they might have accomplished. Caladîr had noticed that both Frodo and Samwise drank and refilled their glasses several times, as if simple, pure water was as delicious to them as the finest wine.
“It’s wonderful, that it is,” Sam said dreamily, already imagining rain, budding trees, and parched, thirsty lands renewed. “Maybe this big city we’ve heard about has a few gardeners who’d enjoy spending time out there.”
“I suspect it does,” Delumîr assured him. “The King will set all to rights. I have no doubt of that at all.”
“Speaking of kings, I must attend Éomer,” said Merry. “You may have been given the day off, Sir Peregrin, but some of us are called to duty. Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure meeting you.”
Pippin, his mouth full, waved a farewell cake at Merry as his cousin left the tent.
“Sir Peregrin,” Caladîr said with a smile. The King had said that, as well. He assumed the title was an honorary one bestowed as a sign of affection.
“Pippin is a knight of Gondor, acclaimed for his deeds,” Frodo said, his eyes beaming with pride, “and King Éomer honored Merry for service to Rohan, saving Lady Éowyn's life, and aiding in killing the Dark Lord’s servant, the Witch King of Angmar. I wish I had awoken in time for the ceremonies.”
Delumîr gasped in shock, and Caladîr choked on a mouthful of fish.
“Merry did what?” Caladîr asked incredulously. “That tale had not reached us.”
“You’ll have to come back and visit us, and hear all the stories,” Pippin said. “Of course, Frodo and Sam had the worst of it, but Merry and I tried to do a little something, in our own way.”
“More than a little,” Frodo said quietly. “Much more. And there are still plenty of stories Sam and I haven’t heard, either.”
“We would be truly delighted to return,” Caladîr said.
“Excuse me a moment,” Frodo said, leaning forward to get the Dwarf’s attention. “Gimli, were you able to find any?”
“Yes, Frodo, and it’s quite large,” Gimli said, pointing to a sack he had brought into the tent. “’Tis a strange thing to see, and to feel. I hope Aragorn knows what he is about.”
“He usually does,” Pippin piped up, and the other hobbits laughed.
“Aragorn suggested that I try to find something called a sea-sponge,” Frodo explained to the men. “He says that they expand and become soft when placed in water, but still firm enough to give resistance when squeezed.” He flexed the fingers of his right hand. “I’m exercising my hand quite a lot, but Aragorn always seems to have new ideas.”
“Squeezing a large sea-sponge might indeed be helpful for you. Have you also tried wax?” Caladîr asked, and Delumîr nodded in agreement.
“Wax?” Frodo asked. “Like candle wax?”
“Yes,” Caladîr said confidently. “Master Dwarf, you seem quite gifted in locating prized objects. Are there any stores of wax in camp?”
“Aye,” Gimli said. “The Steward and his councillors must think that Aragorn is already making endless proclamations requiring his seal, if he even has one. Several blocks of wax arrived with the first supply boat, along with blank parchments, pots of ink, and an assortment of fancy pens.”
“Gimli, is there anything about this camp you don’t know?” Pippin asked in admiration.
Gimli just chuckled, his eyes twinkling.
“Excellent,” Caladîr said with satisfaction. “Frodo, I believe I know a way that Delumîr and I can begin to repay you and your companions for your hospitality. We are from a family of artisans -- not rich in coin, but in knowledge and skill passed down many generations.” At that moment, a faint trumpet call could be heard from afar. He got to his feet, and at his signal, his brother did the same. “We have lingered here most enjoyably, but it grows late, and my brother and I still need to see to our men and learn the ways of this encampment. If you wish it, and we gain approval, we will return.”
“Yes, come back,” Frodo said, reaching up to take Delumîr’s hand. “We’d like that.”
“Wait a moment,” Pippin said. “You didn’t explain how ordinary candles will help Frodo.”
“Did I say anything about ordinary candles?” Caladîr asked teasingly. Then he touched a hand to his heart and addressed the young hobbit respectfully. “Sir Peregrin, as highest ranking among us, we request your leave to depart.”
Pippin hopped down from the chair and solemnly gazed up at the men.
“Granted,” he said, “of course. And please find out if you can visit again tomorrow.”
“We will,” Caladîr assured him. “Our thanks to all of you.” He and Delumîr bowed again, then left.
As they walked towards the main encampment, Caladîr looked back at the tent.
“Now that we have met the hobbits, I understand Lord Aragorn’s unwavering esteem for them,” he said. “Tonight we must ask for his approval to assist Frodo. I wish to do what we can for him.”
“It would be a joy to contribute, even in a small way, to his healing,” his brother agreed, then he began to chuckle quietly. “Ordinary candles! Far from it. I think the hobbits will marvel at what we can show them.”
“So do I,” Caladîr said with a smile of anticipation. “So do I.”
** TBC **
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