a sharp knock -- actually, it sounded more like a crew of workmen had
decided for some unknown reason to reinforce the door of his room before
calling it a very late night.
Merry jumped up, startled, breathing a sigh of relief as he managed to
catch a large drip of ink on his hand and cuff instead of on the page
he had been laboring over. He scrubbed at it with his handkerchief as
he went to answer the summons, which had begun again in earnest, and was
either a tremendously strong child or someones hard booted foot
judging by where the sound was coming from.
He opened the door, and the sudden removing of that obstacle let Gimlis
momentum propel him headlong into the room, spinning in a small circle,
trying not to drop either the cloth wrapped box he cradled like a lover
in one arm, the mugs he clutched in his other hand, or the small keg of
what Merry very much hoped was beer that he held beneath his arm.
Ahh, good, you are still up, he growled as he headed for the
desk to deposit the keg, stopped himself as he caught sight of the parchment,
and turned to deposit it in the window seat, where Merry imagined it was
comfortable and happy looking out at the stars while it waited for its
new friends to join it. He laughed aloud at the comment; everyone in this
wing was probably up now.
This is an unexpected pleasure, he said as Gimli crossed to
the bed and gently laid the other package safely out of harms way.
No one has seen you about for days. We thought you had decided to
move in with the blacksmiths.
The dwarf smiled, a brief flash of white teeth in a russet beard. Well,
I have been busy, lad, as you know. As I would guess you have been yourself.
But my little bits of tinkering with air intakes and bellows and the like
to further my own work has earned me an unexpected windfall. He
walked back to the window seat and patted the keg lovingly. It would
go down better shared, and you and Pippin and I have an appreciation of
the brown gold that Legolas sadly lacks. Are you interested?
Pippin should be back soon, Merry began wistfully, but brightened
and held two mugs out toward his friend. But I dont imagine
it would do much harm if we started without him?
Good lad! Gimli replied, pulling the stopper and carefully
pouring. They each breathed deep and took a long pull, followed by an
appreciative sigh and a smile that was as much for the company as the
nut brown brew.
What will be built from your beautiful plans? the dwarf inquired,
gesturing with his mug toward the table where Merry had been working.
Nothing, Merry smiled, looking lovingly into the liquid gold.
Aha! Very Dwarven that. We also love to design just for the delight
of the idea and the image.
Very Elven as well, I think, Merry replied. But these
are not plans, because they are about the past, not the future. History.
And nothing will be made from them, because they set out the design of
something that has already been made. A king.
He led Gimli to the cluttered table and showed him the parchment, corners
held down for the moment with books and ink bottles. Its his genealogy
his family tree, he mused. Well, it is just the sort of present
a Hobbit would give, I guess. But I wanted
oh, I dont know.
I guess I wanted him to embrace my culture, take us all into his heart.
We will all be brothers when the king comes home.
A very true thought. True indeed. Gimli flushed for a moment,
though his beard and the lamplight hid it well. It is beautiful,
Merry and intricately and carefully wrought. I might make a jeweler out
of you if you care to spend some time with my folks. And it will remind
him every day of the days he carried this lineage in his heart, tracing
the lines to its fulfillment.
His descent, yes. Merry pushed the big books back and revealed
more of the work, its lines and joinings, its crisscrossed patterns like
knotwork, its roots and flowers and branches. But hobbits are concerned
with more than just the line from father to son. Men speak of their families
as a line but for us it is more like a web, every strand a life
that touched a heart.
Hammer and tongs! Gimli exclaimed, reaching to touch upon
the page the intricate weaving that had produced the long-awaited life.
Meriadoc, you said it was a family tree! This is Fangorn Forest!
How did you find all these people?
Merrys eyes lit as he saw his friends admiration. When
I was healing, there was little to do but sit in the gardens and read
and worry. I was getting a little tired of the one book I had found, and
feeling very left behind, until I discovered that Faramir was equally
anxious and bored. I suggested we trade books
but in fact we ended
up trading much more. Conversation, to start with, and stories. He would
make a good hobbit himself, he has the knack of seeing connections. I
was explaining to him how Pippin and I are related, and related to Frodo
this bores most big people, you know; but not him! He told me the
story of Arvedui, and how he tried to claim the throne of Gondor when
Ondoher and his sons died. Arvedui was a direct descendant of Isildur,
and the husband of Fíriel, the only surviving child of Ondoher
Merry paused, laughing. Well, I am sure that is more than you really
want to know. But Faramir told me there had been a document made at the
time that traced out the connections while Gondor decided what to do.
That was where I got the idea. And he made sure I was given access to
the library. So
Gimli drained his cup and went to set it by the keg. Merry,
he said quietly, There is more to your design than something that
has already been made. There is hope for the future. What I have been
doing well, traditionally, it must be made in secret. But now that
I am finished
would you like to see what I have wrought?
Indeed! said Merry eagerly. I have been longing for
a glimpse, but I thought I would have to wait for the day.
He lifted the little keg down to the floor and settled in the window seat
while Gimli went to carefully unwrap the package he had placed upon the
bed. He returned, handing Merry a beautifully carved box, an inlaid vine
of athelas running around a cleverly hinged lid. Merry ran his finger
over the smooth surface and gave a low whistle of appreciation. In
all our travels, I have seen no work finer than this, he whispered,
and the dwarf made a pleased rumble deep in his throat.
Lifting the lid, he was amazed to find a carved couple not dolls,
not toys, no- - sculptures would be closer to it. Every feature, every
detail was perfectly placed with a craftsmans eye. Merry was mesmerized
by the flow of their black and silver robes, the delicate fingers of their
hands, the light in their painted eyes. Each wore a tiny faceted star
upon their brow, gleaming in the flickering lamplight of the room.
Gimli, he murmured, nearly speechless. How beautiful
how real they are!
The dwarf made a noise that was part acknowledgement of the compliment
and part clearing of the throat to begin a story. Merry had drawn stories
out of each of the fellowship as they traveled, and his ears perked in
delight as he recognized the sound.
I too felt the desire you spoke of to share the traditions
of my home and people, to acknowledge that sense of family we grew into
on our road. He reached out a finger to stroke one of the figures,
and Merry was taken with amazement that hands that wrapped so easily around
the haft of an axe could also turn to such delicate work.
Like your charts, this is a way we remember our history, and also
how we reach with hope toward the future. It is not so much a physical
gift as a wish
Merry could see the light gleam in his friends
eyes as he spoke.
When two of my people marry which happens all too rarely
now - their fathers work together to fashion a carving like this - but
of a khazâd, of course. It is our way of remembering that we were
fashioned just so, by the hand of Aulë, even before the firstborn
awoke. But it is also a plea to Ilúvatar, to remember his compassion
in granting the dwarves life, and grant life to another it is a
wish for a child.
He sighed, and Merry was filled with his sadness and longing. Hobbit children
were plentiful, but still every one was considered a gift. The long years
of the future must seem strange to those who saw their own time drawing
to a close.
I have both honored and broken my traditions by carving these,
Gimli continued. Our friend and his bride are not of the race of
stone. But he is king of the city of stone, and my wish is no less fervent
that they be granted the joy of the future. There is still
great room in Arda for many that might rejoice in it
He closed the lid, and carried the box back to the bed, and wrapped it
again in its fine cloth covering.
Coming back to the window and nodding to Merry to hold their mugs, he
poured them another round. We always carve a male, he admitted,
as Aulë did, and as hope for an heir. But I have often wondered
if Aulë had also carved our race seven mothers if we would have seen
more Dwarven women born. I thought it best not to take the chance. Do
you think that was brash?
No, Merry replied. I think it was thoughtful and heartfelt.
Hmmm, the dwarf replied, and they sat for a while in thought
and appreciation of liquid gold.
Then Merry held up his mug, and Gimli clinked his roughly against it.
Heres to life, then, the hobbit said. The past
and the future.
The dream and the plan, the dwarf replied and they drained
their mugs and smiled.