You are a Dwarf, invited and sent to the wedding of the first King that Gondor has seen in a thousand years. It is understandable, perhaps, if you feel a little out of place.
Published . 1132 words.
You are a Dwarf. You might not be the finest Dwarf that Eru ever breathed life into, but you’re a reliable son and you do good work for your aging father, overseeing his mines and keeping the hold running. Still, you were surprised when King Dáin announced that you would be among the party to travel to the coronation of Gondor’s new king, the first king that that stewardship had seen in a thousand years.
Here you stand, at the king’s own wedding reception, awash in a sea of the free peoples of Middle-Earth, trying to figure out who you should talk to next.
Out of one corner of your ear, through the hubbub, you hear one of the Shirelings say, “Oh, ‘t’weren’t nothin’,” and you turn in that direction, thinking that there might be some trade opportunities to discuss, just in time to see Lord Elrond of Rivendell say, “No, Master Gamgee, indeed it was not.”
“Just a hike,” says another Shireling, appearing from behind Elrond quite suddenly.
“A mere stroll,” says a third, dressed in the sigil of the Tower of Gondor, which you didn’t know a Shireling could wear.
And then Gimli, son of Glóin, is there, with a sopping tankard, and on his feet is the tallest Elf you’ve ever seen carrying two more, and they chorus, “A market-day outing!”
Following on the feet of the Tower Shireling is a princess of Rohan, dragging by his elbow a Man, the Steward himself, who laughs and seriously proclaims, “A chance for Samwise Gamgee —”
“— a gardener!” chorus the Shirelings —
“— gardener of Bag-End, to show his quality.” The Steward’s face is sad despite his voice, yet the two Shirlings laugh all the louder, and the gardener blushes.
It’s a reference to something, that much is clear. But for as much as you have heard of the King’s companions, you still haven’t heard the full story. You turn to the person beside you, not quite really paying attention who, and ask, “What did Samwise the Gardener do?”
“He was a Ringbearer,” says the person beside you, and you turn in disbelief. The most-beautiful Elf you have ever seen says, “He carried Frodo Baggins up the side of Mount Doom, and the Ring was destroyed. It was the end of an Age,” says the Elf, and a crushing sadness comes over you, for despite the triumph of the victory and the gaiety of the wedding, you feel as if a light is fading from the world. “But do not fear, young Master Dwarf, for there are many Ages yet to come.”
Utterly unmoored, you wander out of the party tents, onto the long promontory of the Tower, reaching out over the White City, where the clamor of the city below meets the quiet of the stars above. There is an old tree out there, bearing a flower, and a bench under it, whereupon sits a fourth Shireling, who stares off to the East.
You walk over, but know not what to say, and so you stand there, with your hand on your pipe in your vest, and eventually the Shireling sits up and sees you. He says, “Oh! Please, sit. Don’t go standing about on my account,” with the air of someone who is entirely tired of being feasted.
So you sit, and pull out your pipe, and by the time the Shireling has pulled out his, you’ve got your pouch out, and then he has his, and with the quiet set of gestures you exchange some leaf and stuff your pipes with each other’s leaf. After a few puffs, the Shireling asks, “Lonely Mountain? The farm on the southern flank?”
Poleaxed, you can only grunt in agreement, and hazard your own guess, naming the only Shire breed of pipeweed you know: “Longbottom Leaf?”
“Southern Star,” he says. “Next farm up the river is Longbotton Leaf, though. But is this from that farm…?”
“Yes,” you admit. “My brother grows it. He exports to Esgaroth and Dale. Or he did, until the Easterlings came. He’s replanting. He won’t be sure of the crop until next year at the earliest.”
“It tastes familiar. I haven’t had this in a long time,” he says, and at your expressed surprise, continues, “My uncle and I smoked the last of his stock of Lonely Mountain leaf in 2990.”
“How did he come by it, if I may ask?” Today is Midyear Day, in the three thousand and nineteenth Year of the Sun. You look again at this Shireling, who must be at least 50 years old, by this account.
“Oh, my uncle picked it up on his travels.”
“Trade from one of the towns of Men, perhaps?”
“A little further East than that,” says the Shireling, whose bashfulness is turning into something else.
“Rivendell, perhaps? We do have some trade with the Mirkwood Elves; it could have been carried by them to the West…”
“Further East than that,” says the Shireling, smiling now at his joke.
“East of Rivendell there is only mountains! Unless your Uncle traded with the Dwarves of the Khazad-Dûm under King Balin?”
“Before Balin’s time, I am afraid. You must guess further East than that.”
“Before Lord Balin? Oh, but you smoked it in 2990, and he didn’t reclaim Moria until 2989. The Men between the Misty Mountains and Mirkwood? Those were dangerous years!”
“Further East than that, even.”
And now you really must wrack your brain, because the political geography of Mirkwood and Erebor and the Kingdom of Dale has changed so much in the last century. “Before or after King Bain was crowned in Dale?”
“Before Bard was crowned, even.”
This Shireling must surely be pulling your leg, so you say, “Well then, your Uncle must have received it from King Thorin II, in person, for he is Bilbo Baggins!” And you laugh, for it cannot be so.
“Just so,” says the Shireling, and takes a puff of your brother’s pipeweed.
“… Then you must be?”
“Frodo Baggins, at your service.”
“And at yours,” you say, faintly.
“It is very good pipeweed,” he says.
You sit there, under the singing stars, and listen to the carousing of the town beneath. All those happy revelers, their feasts and songs and ales, among the common people below. The nobles and Elves in the tents behind you, and the Men’s servants and squires, celebrating among the glittering jewels and bright metals and warm lamps. Yet of them, the most-celebrated name could be found not among the commoners, nor among the nobles. Even the great names of history, who will be written down in stories told to children, could sometimes be found sitting on a bench, under a tree, smoking some pipeweed.
Eventually, you say, “I’ll be sure to pass that along.”