The flowers wave gladly
The wind in the willow
Brings tears to my eye…
Mirabella Brandybuck was always singing songs under her breath, a habit she had inherited from her mother.
Fair rose and cockleshell
King’s keys and snapdragon -
She was suddenly cut off as her husband swept in, his heavy feet pounding the earthen floor. He stood for a moment as she looked him up and down, taking in his attire which included his grandfather Madoc’s seldom worn, fur-lined coat.
‘Gorby, where are you going?’ Mirabella asked, still swabbing plates and then dunking them in the adjacent tub to rinse them.
‘Meeting,’ the burly hobbit replied. ‘Hamish Goodpasture and Giles Hamwidge say that their animals have been acting all skittish, and they think it will be a right cold winter to top it all off, after such a bad harvest this year.’
His wife regarded him quizzically. ‘But you are no farmer - why must you go?’
She stacked a few of the plates and then began rubbing a skillet with great gusto.
‘I am going to show that the Master of Buckland cares about the affairs of his people.’ He said the words assuredly, leaning back against the doors of a pantry, then dabbing at his forehead with one of the dishtowels. The kitchen was rather warm, and he was overdressed.
Mirabella sighed. ‘And I suppose this meeting is taking place at The Stonebows?’
Gorbadoc nodded. ‘Yes, my dear. It has been awhile since I have sampled Frelibert Brewer’s ale.’
She raised her eyebrows, then replied, ‘The Master of Buckland cares much about the ales of his people.’
He laughed and patted his rather large belly. ‘I am merely doing my part to assist in assuring that our reputation for spirited hospitality remains intact.’
He leaned over, kissed his wife on the forehead, then turned to leave the room. ‘It may be a late evening,’ he said, glancing back at her. ‘You know how the farmers are once they have a listening ear beyond each other.’
Mirabella shook her head even as her husband walked purposefully out of the kitchen and made his way through the many corridors of Brandy Hall that would take him to the front door. She had a nagging sense that something did not ring wholly true in their recent exchange, but she was not by nature an unnecessary worrier. So she resumed her cleaning and her song, though now her brows were lightly furrowed, the words of their conversation running in the background of her mind, even as she kept singing.
The flowers wave gladly
Bright sun in the morning
Brings joy to all hearts.
A motion out of the corner of her eye caught her attention and she stopped washing, then stepped back from the tubs, wiping her hands on her apron. She walked a few steps over to the window which was open just a smidge, then her eyes widened with surprise.
She closed the window, thinking, Only my Gorbadoc could pick a wretchedly cold night like this and insist on going to the tavern, even if it is under the pretense of business.
She suddenly felt very alone. She took off her apron and hung it on its hook, then went to find Rori, her nine year old son. Maybe she would let him stay up a little late tonight to keep her company.
Gorbadoc was humming to himself even as he closed the front door. That story was so convincing, even I believed it for a moment! he thought as he readjusted his coat, readying himself for the walk to The Stonebows. It was bitterly cold, and after he had made only twenty or so steps from the Hall, he noticed flakes of snow landing on his shoulders and hat. He shook his head.
You are a glutton for punishment.
The thought swirled through his head, but he pushed it aside even as he kept his steady pace down the road.
Ah yes, but as well there are pleasures for those who continue down the path.
He took this one to heart, and began humming again, striding resolutely toward the tavern, imagining the reception he would receive, the blazing fires, the fine ale…
The rest he would not imagine, but wait to experience upon his arrival.
The tavern was doing a brisk business despite the cold and the time of the evening. There were a dozen or so hardy souls still partaking of Frelibert's unique peaty ale, and when they saw Gorbadoc, a great cheer went up.
“Broadbelt” Brandybuck was much-loved by the hobbits of Buckland for many sound reasons, but one in particular pleased the tavern-owners most, and his less munificent wife least: more often than not, when the Master of Buckland appeared at The Stonebows or The Horny Stag, he would buy a round of drinks for all present. He was in an especially jovial mood this night, and with a knowing wink as he shed his heavy coat, Gorbadoc motioned to Anson, Frelibert’s nephew, to pour a round for the assembled company.
Gorbadoc walked to the bar and a mug of freshly poured, fragrant ale was soon thrust into his brawny hands. He thanked Anson, and turned so that he could quickly let his gaze rove around the room. With a start he saw Farmers Hamish and Giles indeed sitting together, talking.
Of all coincidences! he thought as he raised his tankard in their direction. They waved for him to join them by the roaring fire, but Gorbadoc tilted his head toward a door which led to the stairs up to the second level and some private rooms. Some folk thought it was a bit odd, but there were some occasions when the Master of Buckland simply wished to have his pint and retreat, alone, to one of the several small furnished chambers on the second floor. When he did stay to wander through the room, chatting with them about the ups and downs of life in their more particularly perilous regions of the Shire, his personality was so amiable and gregarious that folk did not begrudge him his time alone. Though only officially named Master in the past year, his father's health had been declining over the past decade, and Gorbadoc was the Brandybuck whom the hobbits had become accustomed to seeing around farms and inns.
“That’s a lot of responsibility a-lying on Broadbelt, and a man’s allowed some thinking time away from home, even if it is under Brewer’s roof!” some said.
“From hearth to hearth, he keeps a watchful eye, and we’re safer for it!” said others.
One hobbit knew better.
Mostly hidden in the dark, since the only light in the room was provided by a small fire and a taper on a bedside table, Gorbadoc stood at the window for only a few moments before he heard a surreptitious knock on the door.
‘Come in,’ he said gently, without turning from the curtained view before him.
The door shut quietly, and the latch locked firmly into place before he rounded to greet his visitor. Holding out his arms, he said admiringly, ‘Luna, you are a vision for sore eyes!’
The object of his affections walked forward to meet him. There were many reasons why Lunella Merriweather had caught his eye, and she had played all of them up to their advantage this evening. Her uncommon grey-green eyes were set off by a mossy coloured skirt and bodice, the tight lacing of the latter creating inviting shadows which danced across her bountiful cleavage in the flickering half-light. Dark chestnut curls were pulled away from her face with a ribbon, strategically tied so that only one pull would release her hair down around her shoulders.
It had all been carefully calculated. Lunella was a very clever young woman, and while she did indeed enjoy the affections of the most powerful man in Buckland, she was of an age now where she needed to think seriously about a marriage. She planned later this evening, with honest regret, to say that they should no longer engage in these secretive trysts. But she would certainly enjoy herself one last time prior to such a dismaying message that she knew would not sit well with one who so obviously adored her.
‘Dear Gorbadoc,’ she began, as she held his hands and with mock shyness, lowered her eyes to the floor, but quickly raised them again, ‘you have been away for ages!’
He embraced her warmly, then put a finger under her chin and placed his lips on hers. They kissed softly at first, but soon did so more hungrily. Differing passions affected them: For Gorbadoc, it was lust, heavily tempered by tenderness as he knew that she had come to him uncoerced; for Lunella, it was his power which irresistibly drew her, yet also her gratitude that he allowed her to explore her sexual nature which she had come into rather young, and if she had acted on it in the open, she would have been shunned. And so, this equally advantageous situation had somehow arisen. If they had both been honest with themselves, however, it was the added layer of the fact that these meetings were illicit which more heatedly stoked their already smouldering desires.
A rousing cheer from the main room filtered up through the floorboards, and they broke apart for a moment, laughing at the souls below, caught up in their own very earnest issues, or in this case, jovialities.
Gorbadoc let his large thumbs play against Lunella’s insistent breasts, now pressing against the moss-coloured fabric, as he breathed into her ear, ‘I have a gift for you.’
She couldn’t help herself, but she shuddered nonetheless, both in anticipation and under his very focused attentions. ‘Yes?’ she queried, running her fingers through his silver-streaked hair.
‘Yes,’ he continued, and then he gathered her into another passionate kiss. Stepping away from her, he motioned to the bed, a rather homey quilt topping the sheets and sturdy woolen blanket that was sure to be found between the layers. ‘Please, my dear, make sure that you are comfortable.’
Lunella was rather unsure what to make of such comments, but did as she had been bidden. Given the winter chill, her feet were quite cold, so she rubbed them quickly as she sat on the edge of the bed, even as Gorbadoc walked toward the fire and warmed his hands for a few moments, then returned to her.
‘Close your eyes,’ he bade.
With toasty warm fingers, he gently put his hands around her waist and raised her from the bed so that she was standing, then slowly raised his hands under her skirt to remove her under-drawers. Once she had stepped out of them, he moved away from her. She could hear him moving things around, but it wasn’t until he took her by the hand that she realised what he had done. He had taken the quilt and the blanket and laid them on the floor, near the hearth, and now cradled her around the waist to lay her down in the warm bower near the fire. He also seemed to have removed most, if not all, of his many fine garments.
‘Please lie down, my beloved.’
Lunella was now beginning to wonder what on earth the Master was up to, but then she ceased her questioning. With an intent but tender tongue, Gorbadoc began making a trail from her inside ankle up her left calf, and then up further…
She found herself shivering, though not with cold. This was gift indeed!
He continued in his focused attentions, his meaty, familiar fingers exploring parts of her in a way that was both common and yet also unexpected, until a rather different sensation surprised her in her most intimate senses, and she -
Lunella half sat up, and exclaimed, ‘Gorbadoc!’
‘Yes? Does this displease you?’
She luxuriated backward. ‘Oh, no,’ she purred, now allowing his tongue to more freely explore places that she thought of only when with him, but this was altogether different…
Heats and need and wanting and tensions ready to burst all focused, and then unexpectedly, she found herself moaning in a low voice as her hands grasped at the quilt, her hips jutting brazenly toward his giving mouth, and she shuddered as she was wracked by waves of pleasure that she had never felt before. She continued to clutch at the bedcovering, even as she felt the much more familiar sensation of his most private and thick part of himself filling her, then he gently rolled them over. He was, after all, much larger than she was.
She looked at him in wonder even as his eyes were closed, and she moved in familiar patterns that she knew would bring him pleasure.
As they lay for a while by the fire, Lunella realised that she was still wearing most of her clothes, and somehow that was a reassuring thing, despite the astonishing intimate gift he had bequeathed to her. She didn’t want to know where, or how, such new ideas had come to him, but as she basked in the orange glow of the fire, she was grateful that they had been shared with her. She could never be seen with him in public, and yet she knew that he was very, very fond of her.
After a while, she disengaged herself from him as soothingly as possible. She tended to herself with a small handkerchief placed thoughtfully by Gorbadoc, a small but meaningful gesture, donned her under-drawers, rearranged her skirts and petticoats, then spent a few moments staring idly at the curtained window. When she heard the Master of Buckland rise, she kept her eyes toward the window in a gesture of modesty, and was rewarded when he came and surrounded her in his broad arms.
‘I have a gift for you,’ he breathed into her ear, even as he pulled the ribbon that allowed her hair to tumble down around her shoulders.
She felt her most tender areas throb again, even though she knew she needed to get home. And more importantly, this was to be the night when she brought these meetings to an end.
Would that my body did not betray me! she thought.
‘But you have given me a gift already,’ she murmured, enclosing his hands in hers.
‘Yes, I have. But that was not the gift that I spoke of.’
At this, she turned, puzzled.
‘Close your eyes,’ he bade.
She smirked. ‘You already had me do that, Gorbadoc!’
He gazed fondly at her. ‘Do it again. It will be worth your while.’
Lunella pondered this for only a very few moments, then closed her eyes. She found her right hand taken in his, and a piece of cold metal placed in it. Startled, she stared into the palm of her hand. Situated there, still with Gorbadoc’s fingers on it, was a gold ring with a diamond.
A diamond! She held her breath for a moment.
Had she not been as sophisticated a hobbit as she was, her mouth would have hung open. Lunella being Lunella, she only gazed at it, then picked it up with her dominant hand, and turned it in the light.
‘Gorby,’ she whispered, ‘What is this for?’
He shook his head. ‘No questions. I was fortunate enough to buy it from a Dwarf who said that he had purchased it from one of the northern Rangers who was down on his luck.’
She looked keenly at him.
‘I am not so down on my luck. “Broadbelt” is doing quite well, and as you and I can only share these occasional times together, I wished to give you something so that you would know how honest my affections are for you.’
Lunella fingered the gem in her left hand, feeling the gold warm under her fingertips, gazing at the jewel, its finely cut facets glittering brightly though lit by only meagre light from the now underfed fire.
‘It was strung on a necklace, but I thought it would suit you better as a ring,’ he said assuredly, his deep voice as smooth as silk.
She placed it on her fifth finger, and admired it in the fire glow.
‘You are the best gift-giver that I know,’ she said humbly.
Gorbadoc made himself presentable for going back through the main area of the tavern, then returned to the window to bid Lunella a reluctant farewell.
‘You will know…?’ he asked.
‘I always do,’ she finished, then traced a finger down from his brow to his chin.
As the door shut behind her, she moved to spend some more time before the fire, looking at this very unexpected and surely very costly gift. Then she made her way to the window, peeking from behind the gingham-checked curtain.
It was snowing. There was already a half-thumb’s amount sticking to the ground, which was uncommon. Despite the warmth in her body, she gave a small shiver. It was a few moments later when she heard a very distant call of a wolf to its kin. Then she shivered all over, and raced to the quilt and wrapped it around herself, shaking.
The Fell Winter had begun.
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.