10. Bride as White as Snow
It was a good harvest that year, a snug autumn in house and hole, and each and every hobbit looked forward to a bonny Yuletide indeed. Niphredil remained at Bag End until the beginning of December, when she suddenly announced she had an errand to Buckland.
During her stay she had become almost a part of the family - she told stories to the little ones, taught Merry and Pippin some archery, and even learned to bake with Rosie and Elanor. She bought fabrics and made herself some skirts and dresses, green as grass, yellow as the mallorn-leaves in November.
Frodo went with her, he did not want to be parted from her. Everyone knew he was in love with her, and since she allowed him to accompany her, it seemed she had feelings for him, too. Elanor was loath to let her brother go, and she warned him many times not to do anything he might regret later. Niphredil heard of this - Frodo kept no secrets from her - and asked Elanor the meaning of it.
‘Baggins you may be, but you are young, and young of soul, and the spirit that is in you sleeps yet, you have danced too fast and lost your West and East - you are dangerous, that is the result, although you do not mean to be.’
These were strange words from the mouth of a hobbit-maiden, but the wisdom in them was not lost from Niphredil. Indeed she saw a light in Elanor’s innocent heart not unlike the light of sunset upon the Blessed Realm.
‘I hear and I see. What you say is more true than you know. I have heard a prophecy that you shall outshine me, and you have. And I am not suprised - you are the daughter of Samwise Gamgee.’
‘I don’t know what came over me! I meant to say something else, but now I have forgotten it all. Tell me, friend of my heart, where did those words come from?’
‘Many things there are unseen, and powers that walk from mind to mind. The courage in despair, the beauty and the wisdom in simplicity, who can say where they come from?’
As friends they parted, under a bleak December sky, and Niphredil, once again clad in breeches, shouldered her bow and her bag, which was heavier than before, and accompanied by the well-wishings of the smaller siblings of Elanor and Frodo, walked briskly down the hill, with Frodo on her side, and Elanor’s eyes followed them all the way down.
The day after the following, having stayed the night at the Golden Perch, Niphredil and Frodo arrived at the Marish, the Maggot Farm to be precise. Eowyn was there, helping to prepare for Grandma Maggot’s one hundredth birthday, which would be celebrated a week before Yule. The tall maiden stood at the gate, waiting for her two friends. When she saw them at the end of the road, she ran to greet them.
‘Niphredil, oh, Niphredil! It’s really going to happen!’
‘Of course, dear.’
‘What?’ asked Frodo.
‘Eowyn, shall we tell him? He’s trustable but I wanted you to decide.’
‘I know he is. Frodo, I’m getting married. On Grandma’s birthday. Your father is expected anyway, the mayor is always invited to a hundredth birthday. I’m getting married with Marron, and it must be kept a secret from everyone at Brandy Hall.’
‘I promise I won’t say a word.’
‘Good. Now, what I’m here for is to smuggle Marron across the Brandywine without entering Buckland. Eowyn, have you found me a route?’
‘Yes. My cousin Galahad Maggot drew you a map. There is a place called the North Shallows, five miles north from the Bridge. Nobody ever goes past it with a boat, there are so many stones. The Brandybucks think it may have been a ford long ago, when there was no bridge and Big People dwelt here. It’s very hard for a hobbit to cross, you have to be able to swim and some of the stones are sharp. Animals refuse to cross there. But Marron can swim, and I guess you can, too?’
‘Yes. But how did you know?’
‘You’re just the sort of hobbit to do things like that.’
‘Ha! I take that as a compliment. Before we go in and stop talking secrets, Frodo, will you come with me to Bree?’
‘I would, but I’m rather afraid of water.’
‘Oh. And we just can’t have you walking the road alone, when everyone remembers you left with me. Well, I’m sure this farm has work for you, what with the party coming and all. You could make pies with your mother’s recipe, but remember not to eat all the mushrooms!’
They walked in to a house as full of hustle and bustle as an anthill, but ever so much more homely.
Eowyn’s numerous cousins and aunts had spread their baking and cooking from the kitchen to the long dining table, some of the smaller children sat under the table begging for morsels of sweet dough, competing for the place and playing with two puppy dogs.
Eowyn seemed to be no part of the preparations, and she soon explained her special job was keeping company to Grandma Maggot - it would be a terrible thing, wouldn’t it, if the one whose birthday it was got forgotten because she was too old to help. But when Frodo and Niphredil entered the old woman’s room in Eowyn’s wake, they saw she had not been idle.
Spread on the bed was the lower part of a wondrous white wedding gown, made of bleached linen and embroidered with flowers cut out of luxurious white silk. The upper part was in Grandma’s lap and she was stitching it with little beads of white mother-of-pearl, in the pattern of one great, stylished lily. The matron was so concentrated on her craft that she did not notice the youngsters had entred the room.
‘Grandma, they are here.’ Instantly the woman lifted her eyes, startling sky-blue eyes, and looked at her guests.
‘Hmm. One Baggins, one Gamgee. Well, young hobbit, will you follow her no matter where she goes?’
‘The name’s Gardner, Ma’am.’ said Frodo, unable to answer the question.
‘And he matters to me, whether he follows me or goes away. But I must compliment you on that wonderful gown. The lily pattern, the silk - perfect for a winter wedding.’
‘Forgive me my odd greeting. But when I saw you, I sort of didn’t, I saw your fathers, although I’ve only ever seen them once or twice. This gown - it is not all new. The silk and the beads are from the dress my Lily sewed for herself and never needed. I argued long with myself whether to take it apart or not, but I sincerely hope there shall be no need for a maternity wedding dress in this family while I live. Besides, it was made for Eowyn too - she was already inside her mother’s body when Lily first tried this on. The veil she shall have as it is, a bit yellowed but it won’t show with her golden hair shining though, and besides it has real pearls on the brow.’
‘Eowyn, I envy you! Such a significant dress, and a secret wedding, I don’t understand how you can bear the exitement!’
‘I can hardly bear it.’
‘A little while yet, I promise to bring you your fiancee as soon as I can. In fact, if I could just have some of those mushroom pastries I smelled dowstairs, and some other provisions, I shall be on my way. If you could lend us a cart, Frodo could drive me to the Bridge. He plans to wait for me here.’
‘Eowyn, negotiate them some provender, be a dear. Those girls of mine dowstairs are counting every crumb, bless them!’
Negotiation was indeed the best word for what Eowyn did. She had not trusted even her own aunts with her secret, so they thought they were preparing Grandma’s birthday feast. Niphredil seemed to have no business with it, and while they would gladly serve her a meal, provisions and mushroom pastries were another matter. And the cart was needed to haul a load of gifts from a craftsman in Woody End, another direction entirely.
‘The gifts can wait! Niphredil has to go to Bree and back again before the feast!’
‘Why so? She ain’t no relative of ours, and I want no girl wearing trousers on such a day, with the Mayor here and all!’ said Rose Burrows, who was in a bad mood because she had just burned a batch of cookies. Rose was generally a friendly woman, but her short memory caused many baking accidents and these in turn caused a short temper. ‘Aunt Rose! Frodo here is the Mayor’s son, and Niphredil is almost one of his family. Heavens, she is Niphredil Baggins!’
‘And I’ve got a pretty dress in my bag. Made it myself. With embroidery on the sleeves!’ Niphredil put in.
‘Please, Aunt Rose! Niphredil will bring a special gift from Bree, but it’s a secret, for it’s a gift to Grandma.’
‘Oh! Then it’s all right. Boldo, dear! Since you seem to be idle you could help these young folks get that stubborn creature of yours to draw the cart!’
Eowyn’s Uncle Boldo was a good-natured fellow with grizzled hair. He smiled and seemed not to notice that the fire had gone out in the pipe he was holding in his mouth. He helped them indeed, and introduced them to a mule named Dandy.
‘Big and strong and lazy as a bear in winter. But he’s afraid of the stick although I try to spare it.’
And so they set forth.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.