Éowyn’s expression was insistent, so he put his pack on the ground near his pony, being especially careful with the silver horn newly bequeathed to him, then did as he had been bidden. Once the two were out of the sight of the others, she looked mournfully at him.
‘I have dreaded this day,’ she spoke softly. ‘But I will not say good-bye, for I believe with all my heart that I will see you again, so I will only say farewell. And,’ here she fished around in a small silken bag that hung from her belt, ‘I have yet one more gift for you.’
Merry stammered, ‘Lady Éowyn! My pony will be rather unwilling to carry me should I be the bearer of any more gifts from you and King Éomer!’ He shook his head and took to readjusting his mailshirt so as to have something to do other than thinking about this separation. He was as eager as the other hobbits in the Fellowship to return home, but the days in Edoras had been especially heartrending for him and he still felt emotionally raw.
‘Do not make me command you.’ Her face was serious, but Merry knew her quite well enough to hear the underpinning of humour in the comment. ‘Hold out your hand.’
Lunawyn sat hunched over some papers at her desk, her right hand making a rather unconscious foray from a nearby bowl of sweets to her mouth and back again. Brows furrowed, with her left hand she traced the lines of text as she read them, her lips mouthing the words. As focused as she was on the parchment, she did not hear her older brother come in.
‘Grand-Merry is here, Wyn!’ he said into the quiet of the room, and Lunawyn jumped out of her chair.
‘Wolves’ teeth, Borodoc!’ she swore at him. ‘Must you be so… so… shadowlike?’
He grinned at her. ‘It’s not my fault that you get so focused on old tales.’ As she glowered menacingly at him, he repeated his message. ‘But speaking of old tales, granddad is here.’
Lunawyn’s face softened.
‘And not only that, but the elder Thain is with him! They must be up to no good, those two.’
She cocked an eyebrow. ‘Goodness only knows. I’ll be there momentarily.’
Borodoc replied, ‘They are on their way to Gondor. Must have just felt like stopping by.'
As her brother left the room, Lunawyn tidied up her papers, then popped a last chocolate in her mouth. She was a bit befuddled as to why her grandfather and Thain Peregrin would be visiting them tonight, but she absolutely adored the elderly Meriadoc. This was despite the fact that the effects from his rather uncommon experiences during the War of the Ring had managed to rest upon her by the uncommon name given to her, much to her chagrin. Why her own mother had not stood up to him, even though it was true that Lunawyn had been born during a full moon - Lunawyn did not even sound hobbitish...
She stopped before a looking-glass on the way out of the room, stuck out her jaw, and blew upwards so that her fringe of strawberry-blonde curls was out of her eyes. Sighing, she tried to put the rest of her unruly hair behind her ears. Why is Grand-Merry here, tonight? she wondered, then blew out the candle by the door as she walked through the doorway.
He did, and even as his breath caught at seeing the glittering ring she placed there, he found himself thinking, ‘Whether as Dernhelm or Éowyn, I would recognize those ragged fingernails anywhere!’
‘Lady,’ he began, ‘I can’t take this. It is too precious - '
She cut him off. ‘Meriadoc, during those long days of riding you mentioned your home again and again. Your future, Peregrin’s future, of the woods, your meandering Brandywine, of happy childhoods. You and I both will be thinking of our own futures, and I want you to have this to become a part of your line. It would make a lovely betrothal gift, would it not?’
Merry tried earnestly not to blush, but under her stern and amused gaze, he doubted in his success. He picked up the ring, and was stunned to see that the gem was a circular diamond, set in gold. Looking Éowyn fiercely in the eye, he repeated, ‘I can’t take it.’
Éowyn closed her hand around his so that the ring was nestled in the palm of his hand, whether he wished it or no. Her face took on a hardened expression as she said, ‘The guards of the Hall found it with many other heirlooms of my house when the Wormtongue was banished. Apparently he had quite a skill for hiding such items in his locked chest.’ Then she relaxed slightly and shrugged as she continued, ‘Oddly we cannot seem to place its heritage, so I am inclined to think that it is some liege-gift from Gondor, or maybe even from the Dwarves to Eorl’s wife, kept hidden away from prying eyes.’
‘Don’t let Gimli hear you say that!’ Merry exclaimed, ‘He’ll want to take it back!’ A capricious look glinted in his eye. ‘Perhaps I will go and tell him right now…’
Éowyn’s face fell, and Merry quickly became serious. ‘No, dear Éowyn. After all that we have been through, even if you showered me with rubies and emeralds that would make Gimli’s beard stand on end, I would hold each one dear since it came from you. I will cherish this heirloom of your house as much as the horn of Eorl.’ He shook his head. ‘Though I am feeling a bit badly for Pippin, as he seems to be returning only with a new set of clothes from the livery of Gondor!’
Éowyn’s horsey laughter soon had a bearded face peering at them from around the nearby corner.
‘There you are, you scallywag!’ Gimli bellowed, then he bowed his head at Éowyn. ‘My apologies, dear Lady,’ he began, but she waved her hands to stop him.
‘No, no, it is my fault,’ she said. ‘I have kept him, but it is only because I am loath for him to depart, even though this is one of only many partings for him.’
Merry nestled the ring deeply within an inside pocket of his breeches, knelt on one knee, and took Éowyn’s fingernail-bitten hands in his. He kissed them, determined to appear as valiant as he could, then stood up. ‘We will see each other again,’ he said, convincing himself as much as her, even as he heard Gimli clearing his throat nearby.
Éowyn took back one of her hands to brush away a stray tear, then placed it back in his once more, smiling. ‘Well, I for one have a wedding that shall happen within the year.’ She looked keenly at him. ‘And I do not think that you would wish to disappoint King Elessar, the to-be-crowned Prince of Ithilien, and the King of Rohan by not attending. Not to mention the bride!’
Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took stood, their poses mirroring each other before the fire in the spacious living room, warming their backs against the early spring chill. Borodoc and his mother, Dernhilda (Hilda, as she was always called) had served the two large, grey-haired hobbits cups of mulled cider, their glasses cradled in their hands.
‘Luna!’ Merry exclaimed warmly, and handed his cup to Pippin as he strode toward his granddaughter. ‘I thought perhaps we had lost you to your reading!’ he said, throwing his arms around her in an affectionate hold.
She nuzzled his shirt as she tried to shake her head. ‘I would never miss an opportunity to see you!’
After a few moments she disengaged herself to bid proper greetings to her grandfather’s cousin, the branches of these two family trees seemingly “as inseparable as a hobbit from good earth,” as her mother would often say.
‘Dear Thain,’ she began, but then her brother interrupted from his leaning-place against the wall.
‘He won’t put up with such titles around here - I already tried!’
Pippin put the two cups down on a small table, then took her hands in his and smiled. ‘You may call me anything you wish as long as you put “dear” in front of it.’
Lunawyn blushed. She was still a tween, after all, and it wasn’t always easy living in the shadow of the tremendous deeds of her famous grandfather and his cousin, the Thain, and the recently departed Mayor Samwise, and even “Frodo,” a quasi-mythical hobbit who had supposedly gone to the elves… well, it was sometimes all a bit much even for her to believe. But the tall stature of her Grand-Merry and the rather regal presence of the Thain made her feel even more youthful, and she looked at the floor.
‘Well, that’s a first, embarrassing the steadfast Wyn!’ Borodoc said mockingly, but was silenced by a sharp look from their mother.
‘Now Pippin, still charming the young ladies, are we?’ Merry walked the few steps to them and placed a hand on Lunawyn’s shoulder. ‘We are both far too old for that.’ He picked up the Thain’s glass and returned it to him as he winked. ‘Just keep your eyes to your cider.’
Lunawyn lifted her clear grey eyes to her grandfather’s in gratitude.
‘Luna, I should very much like for you to show me what it is that you have been studying.’
At this, Hilda turned her head and raised her eyebrows at her father, but Meriadoc only smiled in return. ‘I will only borrow her, my daughter. Surely there is some news from your relations in Tuckborough that you would care to ask the Thain about… out of my hearing?’
She chuckled, then waved them along.
Lunawyn tried to divert her grandfather to some poems of ancient Rohan that had been recently translated so that she could tidy up just a bit more before he noticed the true shambles of the room. It almost worked. Merry sat in a well-stuffed chair and read some of it aloud as she stealthily reshelved some texts.
Mundburg the mighty, raised on high
by the contrivance of sea-kings, blood-drenched,
covered in darkness, stood under shadows.
Marvelous keystones fastened by coils,
firmly fixed by a resolute lord,
the broad fortress wall overgrown by briars,
hall of sea-kings, best of hall-joys,*
After a few lines, however, he fell silent, and Lunawyn found herself unintentionally looking out the window at a starry night, the crystalline lights incredibly vivid in the crisp sky.
She turned, and was surprised to see a serious expression on Meriadoc’s face.
‘I have something for you. Something old. Older than anything even written about in your ever-increasing library.’
The young hobbit walked to her grandfather somewhat hesitantly. His voice sounded rather final, and it put her on edge.
‘You haven’t some big secret, do you?’ she asked in as light-hearted a voice as she could, looking innocently at him.
He regarded her shrewdly. ‘We Brandybucks are full of surprises, you know!’
Feeling much more at ease, she laughed aloud. ‘Yes, yes - I will forever have folk looking at me, wondering when I will go running off to far away lands, as ridiculous as it sounds.’
Merry smiled, but there was an aura of sadness behind it, and Lunawyn immediately wished that she hadn’t just said what she had.
‘So!’ she continued. ‘In the dark of night, unannounced, you have come and wish to give me something. Sounds like one of the tales that you used to write down!’
He nodded, then placed his somewhat gnarled fingers into an inner pocket in his vest. As he fished about, a motion caught Lunawyn’s eye, and she quickly turned her attention to the window.
‘Grand-Mer!’ she said excitedly. ‘A shooting star!’
She ran to the window and leaned her head toward the glass, looking upward to see if others would follow, as they often did. Soon her breath had fogged up the window, but there had been no other flashes of streaking stars. Turning around, she looked abashedly at him.
‘I am sorry,’ she began. ‘It is very immature of me, but they are just so rare…’
Merry motioned for her to join him, and she walked toward him near one of the bookcases. He held something in his hand, but she couldn’t tell what it was.
‘Many years ago, I was told to give this to one whom I love,’ he said quietly. ‘In the graciousness of my long years, there have been many to whom I have given my heart.’ He held Lunawyn’s gaze, and as she tried to appear mature and understanding, she felt goosebumps rising on her arms, though she did not know why.
‘But I have held onto this until now. You remind me so much of her - your stalwart spirit, your honesty…’ He opened his hand. ‘And your eyes. Surely you have wondered why I imposed such an uncommon name on you, my Luna.’
Lunawyn looked down, and saw a gold ring with a shining diamond set in it. Cautiously she sent her fingers out and took it, turning it in the shadowed light of hearth and moonbeam. It was unadorned, aside from the gem, which, while undeniably beautiful, seemed to her cold and distant. She turned her gaze back to Merry for security.
‘Grand-Merry,’ she mumbled as he enclosed her young hand in his.
‘You have Éowyn’s fire in you,’ the elderly hobbit said gently. ‘She would have approved of my decision.’
Lunawyn was agitated. ‘But you will certainly tell me the story behind this ring when you return, correct? You are our archivist.’
Merry nodded. ‘Yes, I shall.’ Then he tilted his head and ran a hand through his grey hair. ‘But you, too, have inherited my penchant for writing down our history, much to your mother’s chagrin.’ A wry smile settled on his lips. ‘So consider yourself a co-conspirator, dear granddaughter.’
He stood up and stretched, joints cracking as he did so, and Lunawyn put the ring in her dress pocket.
'Dear Luna, I need to return to my cider, the rest of the family, and the Thain - all before tending to bed!’
Despite her misgivings, she conjured a smile, and threw her arms around him.
‘I won’t be able to sleep a wink until you come back, you know!’ she said accusingly. ‘Shall I tell Mother about this?’
Merry shook his head. ‘No need for that. You will be coming of age before you know it. You are allowed to keep some secrets.’
He kissed her on the top of her head, then with a last squeeze, he left the room and headed down the corridor to the main living room.
Lunawyn returned to the window and used a sleeve on the glass to rub away any remnants of condensation from when she had stood there moments ago. Though her vision was now blurred, she was still able to see that there were indeed some other stray falling stars. She forced herself to stare at them, even as hot, silent tears coursed down her cheeks, knowing by the intense ache in her heart that her Grand-Mer would never return.
‘Merry?’ Pippin’s voice could now be heard nearing the side of the building. ‘Merry, it's time to leave!’
Gimli turned and walked toward Pippin as Merry and Éowyn embraced.
‘Your generosity will be my undoing,’ Merry murmured.
‘Give it to one whom you love,’ Éowyn replied. ‘Now go before I have to produce some finery for the Master Dwarf in your party!’
The unlikely companions gazed fondly at one another, then Merry attempted a jaunty bow and turned and joined the rest of the entourage.
*This is from HF's poem Song for the Free People and is partially quoted here with permission.
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.