7. The Home on the Hill
Elanor and her fiancee, Fastred, sat beneath the canopy of apple-tree branches in the garden of Bag End.
Fastred was eating apples. Every time he found a very sweet one, he gave it to Elanor.
Suddenly they heard the thudding of small footsteps and Elanor’s smallest sister Ruby, aged twelve, ran towards them.
Elanor caught her in her arms.
‘Ellie-sis! There’s a stranger at the gate!’
Soon the little girl was followed by the bigger boys: Frodo, Merry and Pippin. None of them looked anything like their namesakes; Frodo, aged 27, had sandy brown hair and a roundish face; Merry, aged 23, was very short, and Pippin, who was 21, had almost black hair.
‘And it ain’t just any stranger, he has a war-bow.’ Merry panted.
‘Is that so? Has anyone done as much as asked him in?’ Elanor wanted to know.
‘Well, no.’ Frodo admitted. ‘Mom and Dad are still visiting the Cottons.’
‘Then let’s go. I’m sure it’s just some Took on a hunting-trip.’
Elanor said, and they all went to the gate.
The stranger was no Took, that was obvious by his night-black hair, nor anyone else they might know.
He had the longest bow they had ever seen, a cloak over his clothes despite the warm weather, and no smile on his face.
‘Well! For a moment I thought the little lass was home alone!’
‘I’m sorry for the delay. Our parents are not home right now.’ Elanor curtsied.
‘Are you allowed to talk to strangers when your parents are away?’
‘Of course, and you can come in, too. My name is Elanor, this is Fastred of Greenholm, my brothers Frodo, Merry and Pippin,’ the youths bowed as they were mentioned,
‘and our little Ruby. Oh, and here come the rest of the lot,’ she added, when no less than eight children came from the house and garden. She introduced two golden-haired lasses, Goldilocks and Daisy, a slim maiden almost her own age, Rose, who seemed to be herding the little ones: Primrose, Bilbo, Robin and Tolman. A copper-haired lad with strawberry jam all over his face was identified Hamfast and given an angry look by Rose, who said his name ought to be ‘pantry-burglar’.
‘Thirteen. I’m impressed. You can call me Niphredil.’
Now she smiled, and her face seemed to change, and they saw their visitor was a young woman, although clad in breeches.
Young Frodo opened the gate for her, and Merry whispered a bit too loud in Pippin’s ear:
‘Big brother will be no company for us today. Look at his eyes!’
Frodo Gardner stared after Niphredil, still holding the gate as if he had forgotten how to close it.
‘The road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.’
Niphredil spoke the words as she entered the hall of Bag End.
‘Hey! That is one of old Bilbo’s!’ Elanor said.
‘Yes. May he rest in peace under a white stone at eastern Eresseä among the graves of the Teleri slain by Fëanor’s kin long ago at Alqualonde!’
‘You speak as if you had seen his grave.’
‘I closed the lid of his coffin. I was there. I knew him.’
‘Who are you?’
She curtsied with a gracious flourish she had learned at Elessar’s court.
‘Niphredil Baggins, at your service, your and your family’s.’
They all stared at her. It was Frodo who spoke first:
‘Yes. Daughter of Frodo Baggins.’
‘We owe your family all we have. Be our guest, and you will see Bag End is still a home of hospitality.’
At Elanor’s words, Frodo helped Niphredil take off her vine of arrows, and Fastred took her bow. Merry and Pippin carried her bag together and Goldilocks showed her the way to the better guest-room.
After Niphredil had arranged her things and washed her face, Elanor served tea in the garden. Rose and Frodo sat with them, and their younger siblings had their tea in the kitchen, supervised by Goldilocks. Fastred had gone to the Cottons to tell Master Samwise the news about the visitor.
Niphredil Learned more about life in the Shire as she listened to Rose and Elanor tell of family events and village gossip. Young Frodo was strangely silent. Suddenly he asked:
‘What year you were born in, Miss Baggins?’
‘The second of the Fourth Age.’
‘Really? That’s the same year I was born in. How come you have left home so young?’
‘Exactly because I was young, and everyone around me was old.’
She then told some of her adventures. Elanor mentioned she, too, was a maid of honour to Queen Arwen, and told of the King’s visit to the North.
Suddenly a hearty voice greeted them; Master Samwise had arrived. He was a stout hobbit with a touch of silver in his curls. Rosie was there as well, in her best greed dress and with her sweetest smile. Niphredil stood up and curtsied, as Elanor introduced her.
‘How do you do, master Mayor?’
‘Never the better, now that you are here. Please, call me Sam.’
Niphredil could tell he wanted news from Tol Eresseä, and she had plenty. She also had a letter from Frodo to his faithful friend, but no one except Sam ever learned what was written there.
‘I hear my children have already seen to your lodgings. Is there anything else I can do for you?’
‘Actually, there is. On my way here I met a maiden who has been separated from her sweetheart. They love each other, but their parents won’t allow them to marry.’
‘Because one of her family has never married with one of his family.’
‘So they are not cousins or anything like that?’
‘No. There is no such obstacle.’
‘If they are of age, I can wed them to each other.’
‘She is thirty, and he is twenty-nine, but no longer lives with his parents.’
‘When he turns thirty, I can wed them, but unless they wait three more years, their parents may cancel their right of heritage.’
‘Do you promise you will do this, no matter what you think of their families?’
‘I promise. Unless - unless they are not hobbits of the Shire, in which case I have no authority over them.’
‘They are of Shire families.’
‘Who are they?’ Rosie asked.
‘Eowyn and Marron Brandybuck.’
‘But they are first cousins!’ Sam exclaimed.
‘You know they are not.’
‘Rosie, tell her.’
‘Come with me, Miss Baggins.’
Niphredil followed her to a bench separated from the rest of the garden by thick evergreens.
‘I wish I would not have to tell you what may not be more than an ugly rumour.’
‘Do you know how long a hobbit woman usually bears a child?’
‘Seven months. At least my mother bore me that long.’
‘Yes. Now, Eowyn was born the nineteenth of May. Count back seven months.’
‘Yes. Now, everyone knows Lily was already heavy with child in November. But in the winter no-one except her own family saw her. Humans, I’ve heard, bear their children nine months. And Lily did indeed say Lang raped her in September. So this is what I’ve heard, and I hope you will not repeat it to anyone. What if Lily had a miscarriage, but somehow got pregnant again? Who in this case is the father of Eowyn? She is a tall girl, but not as tall as Meriadoc Brandybuck.’
‘You know yourself that is extremely unlikely. My cousin is no such man. Why did you tell me this?’
‘Because some want to believe it. People who say Eowyn would be a fine match for Faramir Took. I don’t believe any of it, but the young couple might be treated unfairly.’
‘They are going to live in Bree.’
‘Bree? You know, that might work. They have to be wedded here, but after that...’
So the two women started planning the life of Eowyn and Marron, and Niphredil wrote both of them a letter.
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.