12. Bittersweet Wedding Day
Young Galahad Maggot and his twin sister Galadrella sat hidden in the willows at North Shallows. Brandywine was wide there, and they could hardly see the trees of the opposite shore. They had been camped here for three days now, and considered it a grand adventure, but were also worried for their cousin’s bridegroom: would he arrive in time?
Finally they saw movement: someone leaned against a tall stone in the middle of the river. The shape had long, dark hair. It was the Baggins girl. The twins stood up and finally saw Marron following her. They dared not shout, although no one was likely to hear. All they could do was wait.
When the travellers came nearer, they slowly rose from the water, and the twins saw that Marron leaned heavily on Niphredil. He also coughed a lot.
‘Are you all right?’ Galadrella asked.
‘We are now. Niphredil saved me. I slipped and would have hit my head, but she caught me.’
‘I promised everyone I would deliver the birthday parcel safe and sound.’ Niphredil smiled, and they all laughed as they sat down.
‘Where is Frodo?’ Niphredil suddenly asked.
‘We don’t know. He’s left the Shire, but nobody knows where he went. Eowyn is keeping a letter from him to you.’ Galahad told.
‘Left the Shire? Frodo Gardner?’
‘And so suddenly. I wonder...’ But Niphredil never finished the sentence.
Galahad led Marron a little way ashore, and gave him dry clothes, while Galadrella gave Niphredil one of her own dresses she had left at the Maggot Farm.
‘Why, I think no-one recognises me in a dress!’ She exclaimed.
It was the day before Grandma Maggot’s birthday. They had arrived just in time.
The feast was a grand one, with relatively few but well selected guests filling the whole household. The neighbours came, and many friends, and the Mayor and the Thain with their wives. The Master of Buckland came too, but left Estella to manage things in his absence, as his son was too young for that. The most respected guests sat at the big table, their relatives elsewhere in the main room, small children sat in laps and the bigger children had their meal in the large kitchen. The party began with cheers and congratulations, Mrs Maggot’s daughters gave gifts from her to everyone, and then it was lunchtime. Eowyn wore a good dress, but not the white one. Marron was hidden, with Niphredil, in Grandma’s room, and they had a cold meal that had been brought earlier. While everyone was busy with eating dessert and listening to the Mayor’s speech, Marron and Niphredil climbed out by the window and she left him standing there, in his best suit.
Niphredil met Eowyn at the door and gestured her to go and change into her bridal gown.
Then the daughter of Frodo Baggins entered the hall. She was wearing a pretty green dress, and it took a while for people to regognize her. Sam Gamgee had just sat down but stood now again and exclaimed:
‘Niphredil! I’m glad to see you. Do you know where my son has gone?’
‘Alas, I do not’, she said, for she had forgotten him in the excitement of the surprise wedding.
‘Mistress Maggot, I have prepared a special surprise gift for you. It is the fulfilment of one of your dearest dreams. It is waiting for you outside. Shall I take your arm?’
And striding gallantly as any youth she led the old lady outdoors, followed by the entire party, some of them carrying their drinks, cheese and apples, unwilling to stop eating because of this interruption.
There stood Eowyn tall and noble in her snowy gown. There stood Marron, looking a bit bewildered, as most men look on their wedding day.
‘Master Mayor, shall you wed us?’ Marron asked.
‘Please, master. This is my dearest dream, to see my precious Eowyn happily married.’ Grandma told them all.
‘Marron Brandybuck! Have you disobeyed me?’ The Master of Buckland demanded.
‘I have not entered Buckland. I came to Shire by swimming across North Shallows. Niphredil Baggins brought me, and Galahad and Galadrella Maggot saw us there.’
Everyone started chattering and gossiping. The Mayor was silent, thinking hard. Suddenly they saw someone rise from the bench beside the door, and rise taller than any of them, even taller than Merry, Pippin and Eowyn.
‘It would please me to see these two wed. Do not stand in their way, my friends. When they were younger, they walked secretly in my Wood and spoke promises. Their union will be a blessed one.’
‘Tom Bombadil!’ Merry, Pippin and Sam felt the years fall away as they saw Tom there, unchanged, save that the feather in his hat was white.
And so did Marron get his Eowyn. And the celebration was great indeed, and Tom Bombadil sang for them, and then went his way. And there was tea and cakes for everyone, and more presents, and many people gave the presents they had received to the wedded couple. And then there was dance in the hay-barn for everyone who could dance, and for many who thought they could until they heard Tomkin Maggot’s thrilling fiddle. The rhythm was so fast that everyone who danced to it was kept warm in the winter night. And there was beer and wine, and a bridal chamber where Marron led Eowyn, the very chamber Eowyn had been born in, Lily’s room, now decorated with mistletoe all over. After all, Yule was only a week away. II: Bitter
Merry was at a loss. Everything had happened so fast. Tom Bombadil, Eowyn wed, Grandma telling him the wedding dress was made of Lily’s wedding dress. After that he had drunk a bottle of wine, then another. Now he had decided to go out into the chill air to clear his head. Stars shone in the sky, high and cold. He had lost his daughter. At least she was happy.
‘Are you happy, Lily?’ He asked the stars.
‘Yes.’ The answer came in a whisper into his ear. He looked at the speaker, and gasped.
There beside him stood Lily in the flesh. She wore her familiar brown fur jacket, a green skirt, and a red scarf around her head. She looked straight into his heart with her piercing green eyes.
‘Of course a woman is happy when her only daughter is happy.’ Lily said.
‘Is this a dream? Where did you come from?’
There was mystery in her eyes, as she turned them away from him.
‘Hush.’ Her hand was warm on his cheek, and they embraced, crying. Lily led him into the stable, into a pile of hay in the farthest, darkest corner.
And Meriadoc Brandybuck had his dearest wish fulfilled.
He fell asleep holding onto that wish, holding onto Lily, who had returned to him from beyond the stars. Because she was so happy. Because Eowyn had found love. Or was she just a dream of a drunken head? Surely not, when her body was so solid in his arms...
But when he woke at the crack of dawn, Lily was not beside him. Someone else was. Thin, long legs showing under a green skirt. A small body wrapped in thick fur. Black hair, the scarf fallen away. A face turned away from him. He dared not look who it was. Part of him wanted to slip away before she woke. But the other part wanted to be honourable about it. As honourable as possible, anyway.
Suddenly the woman rolled around in her sleep. Merry stared at her, and spoke her name. She woke to it.
Her eyes were green, but she did not resemble Lily in any other way. Merry had wrapped a drunken dream around her and her ambiguous words, if she had indeed spoken them.
‘Oh, cousin!’ She said, ‘I am so sorry.’
‘So am I, Niphredil, so am I.’
‘I was drunk again. I did wrong.’
‘I was drunk, too. I saw Lily, not you. But even if you had been Lily I would have done wrong by Estella.’
‘I won’t tell anyone.’
‘I will tell my wife.’
‘Tell her also that I still respect you. I am unworthy.’
‘No. You are still a child. You are innocent, you never meant no harm to anyone. You wanted to give Lily to me for one night, did you not? You meant to wake before me and go.’
‘Yes. But I was drunk. And I was alone and I wanted someone and you are so handsome and I have lost Frodo.’
‘Frodo? Your father? What do you mean?’
‘No. Frodo Gardner. He’s left the Shire and Eowyn has a letter to me but I forgot it and now I must wait.’
‘Yes, you must. It’s her wedding night.’
‘Yes.’ Nobody had come to the stables yet, the animals all slept. The two cousins had a moment yet to themselves, before facing the world. ‘Where did you get that fur-jacket?’
‘It was Grandma Maggot’s special gift to me. She knew about the wedding beforehand, you see.’
‘Oh.’ ‘Frodo Gardner.’ Merry said thoughtfully, ‘Sam’s son, isn’t he?’
‘Do you love him?’
‘Maybe. I miss him.’
‘His family is such a respectable one, too.’
‘But his father left the Shire, too.’
‘Oh, that. Yes. But Sam was very shy with Rosie until their wedding-‘
‘Merry! He never. Not Frodo. I took your advice when we last met.’
‘Please tell no-one, except Estella, and ask her to keep it secret that it was me you - you - ‘ Niphredil suddenly started sobbing.
‘You don’t have to say it. I’m good at keeping secrets, remember?’
‘But is Estella?’
‘The very best. Her mother is a midwife.’
‘Do you love Estella?’
‘As much as you loved Lily?’
‘That I cannot measure, for I never loved them both at the same time. All I have of Lily is a memory.’
‘You are wise. I wish I could be like you, and love only one man.’
‘Who would it be? Frodo Gardner, or Legolas Greenleaf?’ ‘Ah! If only I knew. Frodo is so nice and so much like his namesake but also like his father, I mean he has a power of hope inside him. But Legolas is nice in another way, and he’s very wise and when I was with him I desired him with all that is in me, but now I have only a memory. And being separated from him is what made me a g’reshu.*’
‘Where did you learn that word? It’s a nasty one and of the Black Speech. Westron has no word like it.’
‘Where did you learn it?’
‘Lang used it of Lily so I asked Gandalf before he went West what it means.’
‘I knew an orc once.’
‘He was only a cub and as good as orcs can be. All he wanted was to ‘see golden trees and die’. So I took him near Lorien and he expected the elves to kill him but they let him live. And I walked under the trees and saw the flowers of my name and drank from Nimrodel and felt pure. And I looked into the Mirror but all I saw were the stars, but they were not the stars above me. In the mirror I saw Valacirca - the Sickle you call it, but above me it was hidden. And I was allowed to enter that land because I bore the mallorn leaf, and this.’
Niphredil showed her cousin the Phial of Galadriel, dark and dim.
‘It shone when I defended Snaga - the orc-child, and when I showed it to the Galadhrim, and once more at Rivendell, but there I erred again and after that it has been as you see it.’
‘In this I can give you no counsel. But Valacirca! What do you think it means?’
‘Oh... Elbereth set it in the sky to defy Morgoth! The Sickle of Valar! Their wrath, their revenge, a harvest of blood... ever since Eönwë gave me a bow I’ve known, somewhere deep in my heart, that my part is the path of war...’
‘Who walks it with you?’
‘Merry! Thank you!’ Niphredil hugged her cousin.
‘That was the best question anyone has asked me in a long while! That is my choice - who would I take to war? Frodo or Legolas?’
‘Your Father did not take Legolas to Mordor. He took Frodo’s father.’
‘I’ll remember that. But perhaps I cannot take either one, as Legolas wants me not and Frodo is gone.’
‘Eowyn has a letter.’
‘Yes. It is time I go into the house and you stay here and sleep alone.’
‘Niphredil... take care.’
‘I will. You too!’
* G'reshu: a disgusting word of my own invention. Appears first in 'Red Lily'. Approximate meaning: 'Whore', literal rather than an insult.
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.