4. The Secret No One Acknowledged
I will refer here to the use of the "ess" suffix with the word giant. My dictionary lists "giantess" as a separate word from "giant", defined as "a female giant", and gives the origin of the word as the ME - Middle English - word "geauntesse". If the addition of this suffix, as a way to denote the female gender of a being, comes from Middle English usage, than I do not feel it would be unacceptable, nor too modern, for use in a Tolkien based fanfiction. I will therefore continue to use "hobbitess" to refer to female hobbits.
To: shirebound, V.I., Natta, Pippinfan1988, Lady of Ithilien, Hai, katakanadian, and Mysterious Ways, and anyone I forgot to mention; Thank you all for the wonderfully encouraging responses to this story and your patience with the time between postings. This one is being rather difficult to write and your kind comments help a great deal in easing the process. I don't know what I would do without you all!!
The two hobbitesses sat huddled together like children plotting some prank. They were in their nightgowns and sitting close to the small fireplace in Eglantine's sitting room, but there was no girlish giggling. Esmeralda had been deeply serious when she arranged to see her sister-in-law in the middle of the night. She had something to say that she knew her brother, Paladin, would not want her discussing with his wife.
"He's sound asleep, Esme," Eglantine said nodding toward the door to the bedroom.
"I hope so, Lanti. I assure you, he will send me back to Buckland in an instant if he were to know that I'm telling you this."
"Then why tell me? You have left it unsaid for all these years."
Esmeralda reached a trembling hand out to touch Eglantine's hand. "In the years before there had been no need to tell you." She closed her eyes and bit her lower lip. "Now, dear sister, there is." Esmeralda picked up the candle she had brought with her off the small table that stood beside their chairs. "Come, Lanti. I've things I need to show you."
Still feeling a bit like naughty children sneaking about, they went to the main entryway of Great Smials. There upon the walls hung portraits of many of the Took ancestors, both male and female. Esme and Lanti went up the long ramp the led to the second level, stopping near the top. Esme held the candle high, and they both looked at the first portrait on the wall.
"Isengrim II, as you know," Esme said. "He was the one whose imagination came up with the idea and plans for this wondrous smial. Have you looked at this portrait, Lanti?"
"Well, in truth, I've not looked at any of them much since I first came to the Smials with Paladin before we were married and he led me all about. Why do . . . you . . ." Lanti's mouth slowly dropped open, as her hand rose to cover it. "Pippin!" came her shocked whisper. Lanti took a step closer to the portrait and touched the frame with her hand while she continued to stare open mouthed at the face on the canvas. "It could be my Pippin! And," she turned to look at her sister in law, "it could be you in male clothing and hair style."
"Yes," was all Esme said, and she led Lanti to several other portraits: Fortinbras I, Gerontius (The Old Took), Hildifons (who went on a journey and never returned), Isengar (who went to sea as a youth and never returned), Fortinbras II, and finally Adalgrim (who was Paladin and Esmeralda's Father).
Esme quietly spoke as they looked at her Father's portrait. "I could show you several small portraits and miniatures in lockets of sisters and daughters to these and other Tooks who have the same features." She reached out, gently touching the canvas. "The sharp nose, the bow lips, the whole of the face and form rather finely made and seemingly delicate. But truly it is the eyes that grab you and hold your attention. Those green eyes."
"Yes," whispered Lanti. "Yes, more so in life than in the portraits, but even as paint on canvas they seem to have a power all their own. How many times has Pippin won me over with those eyes." She turned and touched Esme on the arm. "What is all this? Why would this be something Paladin would not want me to see?"
"Let's go back to your room, Lanti, and I'll tell you what Paladin fears."
Once more settled by the fire, Esme began her tale. "What Paladin fears is ridicule. If what I'm to tell you were to ever be found out by the hobbits of the Shire and the Buckland, the Tooks might well find themselves laughed out of the Shire . . . or run out."
Lanti closed her eyes a few moments, then opened them and nodded to her sister-in-law. "I understand. Please go on."
Esme reached forward and held both of Lanti's hands in hers. "Have you ever heard it said that sometime in the distant past, perhaps before the Shire had come to be, that a Took had taken a fairy for a wife?"
Eglantine let out a tiny squeal before she covered her mouth tightly as she turned red in the face from holding back her laughter. Finally, the fit passed, and she gulped in several deep breaths. "Oh, Esme! If I had known this was to be a joke to take the sting from your news about our sons, I would have told you not to bother!" Lanti took a few more long breaths. "A good night's sleep would have done me better, dear sister."
Esmeralda rose and paced for a bit, trying to control her temper; this was not the time to be angry. She turned and dropped to her knees at Lanti's feet and once again held both of her hands.
"It is not a jest! And I'm not mad! I've seen my own face in those portraits, and I know my own heart. I've read the letters and the diaries they have left behind them. I have read what their parents and siblings said about them as well. We are all so alike in so many ways." Esmeralda grasped Lanti's hands more tightly as tears poured from her clear green eyes. Eglantine began to stare into them. "It is true, I tell you, Lanti. You must believe me. Everyone of them were the Tooks that every other hobbit in the Shire sees as so odd and mad. Born early and seemingly weak, looking small and delicate but with a strength of will like an oak tree. The ones who dream odd dreams, like building this huge smial. They are the ones who go adventuring, or, like me, wish they could at least go to visit the Elves and the Dwarves and the foreign lands."
"But Esme, fairies aren't real. They are myths and storybook creatures." Lanti's voice had become soft and distant sounding as she continued to gaze into Esme's eyes.
"No, Lanti! Isn't that what many hobbits say about dragons? Yet old Bilbo helped to slay one. Others called him mad, but we knew better. If we had thought him mad we would not have let our sons spend so much time in his company. I know many hobbits who doubt that Elves are real because neither they nor anyone they know has ever seen one. But we both know they are real. How do we truly know fairies aren't real, or were real long ago? And think about it, Lanti, how do the stories tell of the fairies putting their spell on the Big Folk?"
Esmeralda's eyes shone in the fire light. Slowly Eglantine's deep brown eyes widened, and Esme heard the slow intake of her breath. Esmeralda's voice was the softest of whispers. "Their eyes isn't it, Eglantine my dear one? Always in the tales that have been handed down, 'Don't look in a fairy's eyes,' they say. A Fairy's eyes. Our Tookish eyes. My eyes and dear Pippin's eyes. Even now you have lost yourself in my eyes, though I did not mean for it to happen." Esmeralda got to her feet and went to the window and stood with her back to her sister-in-law.
Eglantine slowly blinked and shook her head a bit to clear it. "It's true!" she whispered. Then there was silence.
Esme looked into the inky blackness that was all that could be seen through the window. Clearer was the reflection of the room behind her and dimmer still, her own reflection. Somewhere in that thick blackness beyond the window were her son, her nephew, her dear cousin and their close friend. Merry and Pippin. Their names came into her heart with the sigh that passed her lips. They may as well both be sons to her and Lanti, they were that close to each other and to each other's families.
"There is more, Lanti, even harder to believe. But I have to tell you. You have to know." Esme closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Sometimes, rare times but still sometimes, I know what is happening to Pippin and to Merry if he is with him. The first time was when Merry fell out of a tree at your home in Whitwell and broke his arm. I saw it, like one sees a daydream or a flash of memory. I thought nothing of it until the message arrived that Merry had been hurt and, although he would be fine, he wanted me to come."
Esmeralda looked away from the window to where Eglantine sat staring at her. "You remember it, dear?" Lanti nodded to her. "My Merry was fourteen, so little Pippin was six. When I got to your house, Pippin ran to me before I got anywhere near anyone else and pulled me aside. 'I'm so sorry, Aunt Esme. It was for me. I'm sorry!' He cried and buried his little face in my skirts. We sat beneath a tree, and I held him and rocked him until he could speak again. He told me he had asked Merry if he knew how to climb trees. So, of course, Merry had to show him how, and when he was half way up, Merry lost his footing and fell. Pippin said, 'I watched, Aunt Esme, and I couldn't yell for my Mummy or yell to Merry or anything, Aunt Esme, 'cause no noise came out and I couldn't move neither. And he seemed to fall so slow, Aunt Esme. He hit his arm on a branch and it made a loud noise and Merry yelled, Aunt Esme, then he fell on the ground and he curled up and cried and cried. Then I ran to him and hugged him good, Aunt Esme, and I yelled and the noise came out this time and Mummy and my sisters all came. I'm so sorry Aunt Esme!'"
Esme's voice quavered a little at the memories of that day. She turned back to stare at the empty dark outside the window.
"I was stunned, Lanti. I held Pippin so tightly he yelped in pain and squirmed until I loosened my grip on him. I had seen it all. I had seen it all exactly as he told it, Lanti, and I felt it too. I could feel his terror and that horrible feeling of not being able to scream or move. I was in shock and shaking. Then, Pippin looked at me with his green eyes huge with emotion, my eyes, Lanti, *our* eyes, and he said the oddest thing of all." Esme closed her eyes, bit her lower lip and let her head fall forward.
Lanti could no longer stay away from her dear sister-in-law's side and came and put her arms around Esme. "Go on, dearest, what did my little Pip say to you?"
"He looked at me and said in a voice so quiet I could hardly believe it was Pippin talking. 'But you were here, Aunt Esme,' he said and reached up to touch my face. His fingers were cold and shaking. 'But you weren't here. I thought you were before I ran to hug him, but you weren't here when I looked about for you. But I really, truly thought you were here, Aunt Esme. Were you here, then disappeared?'"
Esme pulled back from Lanti and looked out the window again, moving her hand until the flesh and reflection met on the glass as though hoping her spread fingers could reach to touch Pippin's wherever he was.
"He felt me too, Lanti, he knew I had seen it all. We never spoke of it again. The next time it happened he was older and less open to sharing strange and unexplainable things. We have never talked about any of it."
Eglantine reached up and put her fingers to the pane of glass, placing them between Esmeralda's. A chill ran through her as their fingers touched.
"I believe you," she murmured in a hushed voice. "Pippin told me about it after Merry was all cared for and asleep that day." Lanti rested her head against her sister-in-law's, still hugging her tightly with one arm, as tears flowed down her face. "He told me he had thought you were there, but I did not believe him. I told him that being worried about Merry was no reason to make up stories, but that Mummy could see he was very tired and did he want me to hold him and rock him. He was so exhausted that he fell deeply asleep in minutes. I sat and rocked with him for hours because if I moved too much he would whimper and call out for Merry or me," she squeezed Esme tighter, "or you." They stood tight together with their intertwined fingers pushing against the cold pane of glass.
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.