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Note: A special thank you to Andrea, who inspired an idea for this chapter.
Chapter 5: More Precious Than Gold
In his time the City was made more fair than it had ever been, even in the days of its first glory; and it was filled with trees and with fountains, and its gates were wrought of mithril and steel, and its streets were paved with white marble; and the Folk of the Mountain laboured in it, and the Folk of the Wood rejoiced to come there; and all was healed and made good, and the houses were filled with men and women and the laughter of children, and no window was blind nor any courtyard empty.
‘The Steward and the King’, The Return of the King
The evening before the large company at Cormallen assembled for their return at last to Minas Tirith, Aragorn summoned Caladîr and Delumîr to his tent. When the brothers were seated beside him, and a light refreshment had been served, the King smiled warmly at them.
“Once again I have reason to be grateful for your service – to the hobbits, to me, and also to the men,” he said. “Sam’s idea to infuse your candles with kingsfoil oil was inspired, and has been of great benefit to the wounded men. Those who suffered despair and a darkened spirit from the approach of the Nazgûl at the Black Gate were given candles to burn at night, and their dreams have lightened and been made more wholesome.”
“I’m overjoyed to hear these things,” Caladîr said. “Who would have imagined that a forgotten weed could have such an effect?”
“Forgotten no longer,” Aragorn assured them. “Tell me, gentlemen, what had you planned to do when you return home?”
“Embrace our families before all else!” Delumîr said with a laugh. “Caladîr and I have been discussing this as well. Whatever the King requires of us in the days of peace we will do, and with glad hearts.”
“Excellent,” Aragorn said. “I have watched your friendship with the hobbits grow, and they have spoken of their high regard for you. They trust you, as do I.”
“Thank you, Sire,” Caladîr said quietly. “We are both extremely fond of them.”
“My fondness for the hobbits is no secret, and will be more widely observed when we return to the City,” Aragorn said. “It is possible that not everyone will welcome a king, or believe that a Ranger from the North could claim to be one. It pains me to think of it, but I have begun to wonder if someone of misguided intent might seek to injure or entrap one or more of the hobbits – Frodo in particular – in an attempt to blackmail or dishearten me.”
The brothers stared at him with horror in their eyes.
“To surround our small friends with armed guards would limit and perhaps frighten them,” Aragorn continued. “I do not wish their stay in Minas Tirith to be anything other than peaceful, and a rest for their spirits.”
“Of course,” Caladîr said emphatically. “What did you have in mind?”
“Once you are settled back in your homes, and assured that your families are well provisioned, would you continue to visit with the hobbits as you are doing now? They have asked to be housed with Legolas, Gimli, and Gandalf, and will have that protection, but when their companions are away I know they will welcome your company as both friends and teachers. If one or both of you accompanies them as they explore the City, they would be seen in the company of respected soldiers... and would not guess about any possible danger. Of course I hope my fears are ungrounded, but it is better to be safe than sorry.”
It took Caladîr and Delumîr but one glance between them to agree.
“We would be honored,” Caladîr spoke for them both. “Our craft takes years to master, and lessons will occupy Frodo and his companions for as long as they wish to learn. Delumîr and I grew up in Minas Tirith, and can introduce the hobbits to a great number of skilled artisans and honest, hard-working families. They will make friends among those we trust.”
The men rose to their feet.
“We pledge ourselves to the hobbits’ safety, for as long as they dwell amongst us,” Caladîr assured the King, and he and Delumîr bowed.
Aragorn breathed a sigh of relief.
“Thank you, gentlemen,” he said with a smile. “I will rest more easily now. And who knows… you may find that teaching your honored craft to the hobbits will come to be of service to you and your families, as well.” With this enigmatic statement, he bid them goodnight.
One year later...
Minas Tirith’s recovery after the War was accelerated by the King’s moratorium on taxation for all citizens and farmholders for a three-year period – enough time, it was hoped, for farms, fields, orchards, livestock, and businesses to recover. A steady stream of Dwarves, responding to messages sent by Gimli Gloín’s son, had begun to arrive from the north, and the City’s roads, gates, and buildings were being made whole with surprising speed. The Elven prince, Legolas, continued to assist with the restoration of flowers and fruit-bearing trees. Hearing him singing softly wherever he went, many hearts were lightened. Also, the portion of the Steward’s treasury previously allocated solely for weapons and ships had been distributed by the King’s counsellors to maimed soldiers, as well as widows, orphans, and others in need. Renewed prosperity and buoyant hope were evident everywhere one looked.
The circumstances of Delumîr and Caladîr’s families had taken a dramatic turn for the better in a very short time, with their new wages as ranking officers put to immediate use. Then, as coin and goods flowed more freely in the City and outlying areas, sales of everything their families worked so hard to craft -- from serviceable but long-lasting household candles to lovely and elaborate wax sculptures -- began to increase. They were becoming hard-pressed to keep up with demand.
It was a most pleasant predicament, Delumîr reflected with a chuckle, but of course there was an additional reason for the shop’s popularity. After the last customer had gone for the day, he went into one of the storerooms and surveyed the items lined up on two long shelves. As always, the sight brought a smile.
Lord Aragorn had advised -- strangely, the brothers had thought at first -- that they pack up and bring from Cormallen all waxworks that the hobbits had made there -- large or small, clumsy or well crafted. Months later, after the King had been crowned and wed, it was time for the hobbits to depart the City with their Companions. Frodo chose a number of kingsfoil-infused candles to take home with him, and Samwise happily kept several pieces redolent with the rose oil he loved. Peregrin claimed the best and most fragrant of the waxen flowers he crafted in Minas Tirith as gifts for his mother and sisters, and after several months of lessons, Meriadoc had produced a horse of which he was quite proud -- similar in appearance to that noble steed ridden by King Théoden of Rohan.
Delumîr and Caladîr brought all of the candles and sculpted pieces left behind to their shop. Before they had decided what to do with them, soldiers who had known the hobbits at Cormallen began visiting the shop, alone or in groups, asking about items the hobbit heroes had made, and could they perhaps be purchased? They offered newly-minted coins, or services to barter, eager to obtain something that one of the small ones had formed with his own hands. Especially prized was anything Frodo Baggins himself had touched.
After talking it over, the brothers agreed to part with many things. They easily remembered who had made what piece, and were able to share with each purchaser an amusing or heart-warming story about hobbits that would be told and re-told throughout the City.
As the supply of hobbit-made items was finite, those who obtained one treated it as a treasure to keep in their families for many generations to come.
Before leaving the shop, Delumîr paused at a wall niche containing sculptures he and Caladîr had set apart from the rest, to be saved even if all others were sold. Their hobbit friends had crafted them in secret, and had presented them as gifts before they left the City.
Frodo had formed a gently-curved hill into which a round green door had been set. The hill was hollow, and the tiny candle Delumîr set inside sent a beam of yellow light through a window cut from a tiny square of glass. Sam had contributed groupings of miniature flowers and plants, and Pippin’s nimble fingers had created a small bench set beneath a nicely-shaped tree. Merry had molded a small brown pony, head down among Sam's flower beds.
The resulting tableau was what Frodo had lovingly called ‘Bag End’, his home in the north. No amount of coin, whether silver or gold, equaled their value to Delumîr and his brother. They called to mind treasured memories of bright voices, friendly faces, and small, dexterous hands. The Queen had even stopped by to see them, her presence bringing even more interest in the shop.
“Are you ever coming home?” came Caladîr’s soft chuckle from behind him. “Miranya will be feeding your supper to the neighbor’s dog if you tarry much longer.”
Delumîr grinned. “It would hardly honor the hobbits to neglect a meal.”
“You have learned much from our students, my brother,” Caladîr said with an equally bright smile.
They stood together, watching the tiny flicker of light shine from an equally tiny window.
“The King foresaw it all,” Delumîr said with awe. “Back at the campsite, he implied that what we gave the hobbits freely would return to enrich us, and that has indeed happened.”
He snuffed out the candle and left the shop with his brother. As they approached the home their families shared, each window shone with a warm light and the sounds of laughter and many contented voices came from within.
“We are the most fortunate of men,” Delumîr said softly. “Do we deserve such bounty?”
“To honor the hobbits is to appreciate the simple things of a life well lived,” Caladîr said. “For what else were we fighting?”
“You are right,” Delumîr agreed. “May the lives of all those who stood against the darkness be forever filled with the light of a thousand candles.”
He flung open the door, and his youngest daughter ran across the room to greet him. With a small cry of joy, he knelt to enfold her in his arms.
** END **
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