15. Whispers in the Moonlight
The garden had always been his place of solace, the place where he went to think, to puzzle through a problem, to find grace when life's problems seemed overwhelming. Of course, up until now, his problems had been mere gnats, he realised. The Ban, now... that was an Oliphaunt, threatening to smash him into the ground with a stomp of its massive foot.
He sat down on the bench near the coop. The chickens were all shut up for the night, and the Shirriff had put a lock of sorts on the door, to deter tampering whilst the hearing was adjourned. Frodo wondered who would try to tamper with the chickens. He supposed he was the likeliest suspect, though with the Ban already pronounced, what would be the point?
He wondered miserably why they didn't just have it over with and done. Why stretch this misery out, why prolong the travesty of a hearing?
He stiffened at a whisper behind him. 'I hoped I'd find you here.' A figure slipped around the bench, sitting down beside him, and he gasped, then remembered he must not speak.
'They said...' the whisper continued, 'They said you're to be shunned.' He looked away, but she went on, 'Is it true?'
Desperate, he put a hand to her mouth and shook his head. The penalty for one caught speaking to one under the Ban was to be shunned as well, and one already under shunning faced banishment from the Shire if caught in violation.
'Talk to me,' Daisy hissed, for it was she, 'or I will scream and then we may be banished together.'
'Daisy,' he whispered. 'I'm under the Ban; you must not speak to me and I cannot speak to you.'
'I know,' she breathed. 'Dad said I could not see you again, but I had to... I had to, just one more time.' The cold light of the moon revealed a tear tracing its way down her cheek. 'I had to say goodbye.' Impulsively, she hugged him, and his arms went around her in an answering hug.
Pulling back at last, she looked into his face. 'I have to know,' she whispered. 'Were you... would you have...?'
'I was going to speak at Yule,' he said quietly. Yule was the traditional time for planning a wedding in the spring. But of course, Frodo wouldn't be speaking again for a long time. Not this Yule, at least, and by next Yule, perhaps Daisy's parents would have found a more suitable match.
On second thought, there was no "perhaps" about it, Frodo thought bleakly. There had been quite a few other young hobbits seeking to walk out with her, when she'd decided to accept Frodo's attentions.
'O Frodo,' she sobbed, and hugged him again. 'I'll wait,' she gulped defiantly, as she drew back.
'Your father would never stand for it,' Frodo said. 'I've been branded a thief.'
'But after the shunning is lifted...?' she whispered. He shook his head in despair. For all the talk of forgiveness and "serving your time", and being accepted back into the bosom of the community, he couldn't see anyone trusting him, hiring him, after this. His name, the careful reputation he'd built up, had fallen in ruin. He'd be lucky to find work digging ditches, and he'd have to bring his own shovel to do so. No one would loan him one. Thief.
'Then I'll remain an old maid,' she said defiantly. 'And when you're an old, bitter gaffer, smoking on your doorstep, I'll bring you fresh-baked biscuits every day and sit down and gossip with you and scandalise all the neighbours.'
He laughed silently at this picture and hugged her again. 'Ginger biscuits?' he asked.
'By the basketful,' she whispered. She drew a shuddering breath, and pulled her shawl up over her head again. 'I must go, but know this... I love you, Frodo Gamgee Gardner.'
'I love you, Daisy Burrows,' he answered softly.
'I'll hold you to that,' she whispered. 'And since you're under the Ban, you won't be able to tell me if you change your mind!' And with that, she slipped away, becoming one with the shadows.
Frodo sat a long time before he finally took himself off to bed. When he got there, he found a crumbly ginger biscuit laid upon his pillow that had obviously come from a little brother's pocket. He ate it slowly, pocket fuzzies and all, and thought that perhaps he might just survive the shunning after all.
'How did you know he was lying? He hardly spoke,' Pippin asked his chancellor.
'He was lying,' Ferdi said firmly. 'I heard it in his voice. Two words, or two thousand words, it doesn't matter. The truth was not in his voice.'
'Are you saying he is the thief?' Pippin said.
'Why would he steal his own father's chickens?' Regi asked, puzzled. 'Why would he...?'
'I think the proper question is why would he want to hurt Frodo Gardner?' Ferdi said. The others pondered this, while Reginard got up to refill their glasses from the ale pitcher.
'We still have no proof,' Pippin said at last. 'Without hard evidence, evidence that I can hold in my hand, I cannot reverse my judgment. Frodo remains under the Ban.'
'Samwise is still Mayor,' Regi said. 'He had his bad spell before he could speak.'
'That won't last,' Pippin said morosely. 'He'll speak first thing, when we recommence on the morrow.'
'Today, you mean,' Regi said. 'It's past middle night already.'
Pippin shook his head sadly. It was well past teatime.
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.