10. The Gardener's Hand
'I love your eyes, Water-Lily, your eyes the most. They are green as the pastures of Rohan.'
'Oh, Merry!' The maiden places a soft kiss on his lips.
And the birds sing, and the sun shines, and the afternoon is so very long. A pearl the size of a mistletoe berry in a twofold cord of golden afternoons.
They knew now that they loved each other, and knowing it, everything fit into place. They had supposed Pippin would feel betrayed, but all he did was speak loving words of a girl she had met. She was young still, twenty- five, so Pippin would have to wait. He would wait together with Merry, for Lily was not ready for marriage either. The wounds left by Lang would take time to heal, and Lily wanted to face the birthing first. Merry kept reassuring her he would love her no matter what the baby looked like, no matter if she could bear no more children. But they both knew that was not what kept Lily from becoming Merry's wife just yet. It was her own love she wanted to be sure of, not Merry's.
The time of birthing came in the wonderful summer of 1420. Lily was in pain for a night and a day, lying in her bed, her sisters taking turns in watching over her, ready to wake the midwife Mrs. Bolger slumbering in a chair. Finally the child was born, healthy and large. The pain, however, did not leave the weakened body of the mother. She called for Merry, and reluctantly the midwife sent for him.
Merry had been staying at the Maggots' farm for a while, waiting for this day. He was sitting on the bench in front of the house, smoking nervously, when the midwife's daughter came to tell him:
"The baby is born. A fine, healthy girl. Lily wants to see you.'
Merry ran through the house, halting only to knock at Lily's door. Mrs Bolger opened it, whispering:
"Don't upset her. She is tired, poor thing.'
Lily lay in bed, eyes closed, shivering under the blankets, pale and wasted.
"Oh, Lily.' Merry kissed her cheek.
Slowly the green eyes opened, and Lily managed a smile.
"Have you seen my daughter?'
Lily's sister, Daisy, brought the baby to them. The child had the golden hair characteristic to many of the hobbit children born that year, a touch of Galadriel's blessing, perhaps. Her eyes also were golden, and slanted like tiny almonds. She was half larger than a hobbit newborn.
'What shall I name her?' Lily asked Merry when he held the baby, ' I can't think of a flower that would resemble her. I love her, deeper than feelings, and I want to give her a good name despite her blood.'
'How about giving her a good name because of her blood? Humans can be noble too, and brave, and bright like a sword's edge. How about naming her Eowyn?'
'That is a good name. Are you sure you don't want to save it for your own daughter?'
'She will be my daughter.'
Lily smiled. Then she suddenly started trembling violently.
"What is it? Are you all right?' Merry was worried. He put the child on the bed next to Lily.
"No. The bleeding didn't stop. Merry, I am afraid.'
"Can nothing be done?' Merry demanded of the midwife.
"Nothing, sir.' Mrs. Bolger had tears in her eyes.
"Lily, don't leave me!'
"You must promise me one thing.'
"I will do anything you ask. But please don't leave me.'
"Take care of Eowyn.'
"She is my daughter.'
"I think she needs a mother, too.'
"You are her mother. No-one else.'
Lily was turning paler all the time. The blankets smelled of blood.
"I will be gone soon. You will find someone.'
"Don't ask this of me.'
"Follow your heart. Keep my love in your memory. And raise Eowyn among the living.'
Crying, Merry kissed her. Then he covered her with the blankets, and laid the baby in her arms.
He watched her and images swarmed in his mind: Lily singing a lullaby, teaching Eowyn to walk, running after the child, mending her clothes, baking birthday-cakes, himself on a walk with his family, alone at night with his wife, days passing, the child growing, their love growing too. In moments a lifetime passed in front of his eyes, a life he would never live. For Lily's cheeks had lost all colour and her body was turning cold. The baby cried under the weight of stiffened arms. Slowly Merry reached out and took his daughter in his lap.
"Cry for your mother, Eowyn Brandybuck. Cry and remember her.'
Eowyn Brandybuck remembered, for her father often shared his memories of her mother. Eowyn felt she was different from the other children of Brandy Hall. She was large for her age and somewhat clumsy. She was also stubborn, brave and easily angered, so the others soon learned not to tease her. When she was six years old, her father took a new wife. Estella Bolger, an unattractive, shy, kind-hearted woman, the daughter of a midwife. The love of the couple was a shared loneliness and a friendly attraction. Eowyn called Estella "mommy', but when she spoke of "mother' she always meant Lily. Estella's son, Eomer, became the heir of Meriadoc the Magnificent.
At a grave in the Brandybuck family graveyard, stood a stone carved with no name, for it could not bear the name of Brandybuck. In an another way it was marked: lilies grew there and always would, lilies red as life, lilies white as death, lilies green-leaved.
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.