3. Lady Lilywhite
A moment later a guard came, unarmed and alone.
‘One tired hobbit!’
The guard stared at her between the bars of the gate. Suddenly he screamed and ran back indoors, shouting to his companions:
‘It is her! The ghost of Lady Lilywhite!’
Soon a group of young guardsmen stared at her.
‘I’m no ghost!’
‘You must be,’ said one of them, ‘no ordinary woman would walk alone where you have just walked.’
‘I’m not ordinary. I’m armed.’
‘She looks just like they say: bright green eyes, pale face, tall and strong.’
‘I don’t even know who this Lady is!’ Niphredil pleaded.
‘Perhaps you have forgotten, being dead.’
‘It would make sense. Her fate was so terrible she would like to forget it.’
Niphredil ran out of patience. She picked an arrow and shot it, between the bars of the gate, between two staring hobbits, right in the middle of the guardhouse door they had left swinging open.
‘That is the Black Arrow of Valimar. It is a warning. Let me in, in the name of the Sun and Moon!’
‘Who are you, if you are not Lilywhite?’
‘My name is Niphredil, and I am homeless but not poor. I have come a long way to meet my relatives in the Shire.’
‘Name your relatives.’
‘The Master and the Thain.’
‘They have no vagabonds in their families.’
‘Of course, because vagabonds don’t have a family. But what say you of Hildifons and Isengar Took, or, indeed, Bilbo Baggins? Related to he Master and the Thain, were they not?’
‘And which of these do you claim your ancestor?’
‘Stop teasing her! Let her come inside and give her some tea, poor child! First you call her a ghost, and then you demand to know her genealogy! You can see she’s a hobbit and if she were an enemy that arrow wouldn’t have hit mere wood!’
The speaker was an older guardsman, who had been silent until now. Obviously the youngsters respected him, for the gate was opened and Niphredil received at the guardhouse with many apologies and hot tea.
‘So, what is this Lilywhite Lady you are so afraid of?’
‘It’s a bunch of nonsense and no more!’ proclaimed the old hobbit, who had introduced himself Hob Hayward.
‘Nay, she was a woman once!’ And young Samkin Smallburrow began to tell what was obviously a popular story:
‘I ain’t saying no names, but there was a right big family, and Lily was the daughter’s name. She was so fair men fought for the honour of dancing with her, and no man ever said no to her but one. And that one went far away and Lily waited for him to return. Now, this was the time when things went real bad in the Shire, with Lotho as Chief and Big Men stealing everything, and one of the Big Men done Lily and done her almost dead. And she was big with child and then the man who said her ‘no’ came back and soon things were better. And again all young men wanted Lily although she was with child, but now she said ‘no’ and then the one she loved finally loved her right back. And that man was Master Meriadoc. But Lily gave birth and then died, and when she died she cursed every woman who had ever loved many lovers to die as she had died. And Master Meriadoc married Mistress Estella. And he buried her and put no name on the tombstone so that her curse would have no power, and her ghost made lilies grow on the grave so she would know it and have power. And she wanders in the wilderness, and if women have a hard job birthing they break the leaves of a lily and confess the names of all men they have loved.’
‘What about her baby?’ Niphredil asked.
‘Why, they took her to live at Brandy Hall.
’ ‘What is her name?’
‘Eowyn’, Niphredil whispered. Poor girl, she thought. Separated from her lover and having such stories told about her mother.
‘Bunch of nonsense, is what I say’, old Hob commented.
‘It is true this Lily once lived and lives no more, and also that a human did violence to her and she died giving birth to Eowyn, who is now Brandybuck. She did have green eyes but otherwise she did not resemble you. When she died she was engaged to Master Meriadoc. I don’t think she cursed anyone, and I think she rests in peace. Her grave has no name because Meriadoc wanted to bury her at the Brandybuck graveyard, but his father told him not to write the name of Brandybuck on the stone. He refused to write anything in that case and planted the lilies instead.’
‘Oh, but that is such a boring story!’ exclaimed Samkin.
‘On the contrary. I think I learned something very important about my cousin Merry.’ Niphredil said.
‘He is your cousin?’ someone asked.
‘Second cousin, as is the Thain Peregrin.’
‘Who are you? I mean, whose daughter?’ old Hob asked.
So she told them, and there was beer, and song, and old stories. Niphredil fell asleep in the middle of her description of Minas Anor, her head resting on her arms on the table. Samkin and one of his friends gently carried her into a spare bed.
Then they arranged her belongings on the chair next to it: the cloak, the sword, the bow and arrows, the heavy bag.
‘How did she manage to carry all this from Bree to here?’
‘From Minas Anor. She said she walked all the way, remember?’
‘Whatever. I’ve never seen a girl like her.’
‘Mad as a Baggins, as my dad would say.’
‘I wouldn’t.’ Samkin touched her hair. ‘I would say she is pretty as an elf.’
‘What did she say her mother was?’
‘A holy one. A sister of the Sun.’
‘Far above your level, then, Samkin my fellow. As if she weren’t already. Cousin of the Thain and Master!’
‘Hush, don’t wake her.’
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.