6. Petals on the Path of Heroes
Then came the day when things had revolved a full circle: with visitors the story had begun, with visitors it ended, or at least reached a peak. There came a small group of young hobbits, led by two unbelievably tall youths on strong ponies. The riders looked strong too, and noble. As if ordained by fate, Lily was at the gate to greet them, and in her red dress, too.
'Good afternoon, sirs! Who may you be and what brings you here?' She curtsied.
'Don't you know me, Lily?'
She gasped, for she recognised his voice - and his smiling eyes. Little Pippin was little no longer, and looked much older than his years. And what he was wearing: chain-mail and a black overtunic with a white tree, sword on his belt and a helmet on his head.
'You remember me then, Peregrin Took? I knew you would come back.'
'Even though I had the Shadow at my heels when we last met?'
Lily found no answer, and turned to look at the other large hobbit. He was as tall as Pippin and more heavily built. He also wore the gear of a fairy- tale knight, but his overtunic was green and embroidered with a white horse.
'May I ask who is your companion here? He looks foreign, but so do you.'
'You have a short memory, Water-Lily.'
But Lily remembered the nickname. She had received it when she was twenty, and a boy had rowed her up and down the Brandywine in a little boat. She had been a different girl, not so proud, not so vain. Later, the boy had not cared to compete for her attention with others. The boy's name had been -
'Who else? How have you fared in these troubled times, you and your family?'
A shadow erased Lily's smile.
'Come in, the lot of you. Father will be glad to see you.'
'That's what we're here for. To see your father', said Pippin.
'And to give him thanks for helping us a year ago', said Merry.
Many an astounding story was told that evening around the dinner-table of the Maggot family. Lily was sure the stories were true, because they seemed altogether too wonderful to be anyones invention. A ring and a king, elves and dwarves, armies and battles filled her head and overflowed in question after question. The rest of the family would have preferred to hear more of the recent events in the Shire, but as it was, they still learned a great deal.
As the young heroes started preparing to leave for Crickhollow, just like on that night so long ago, Lily followed them to the yard. There she took Pippin aside and asked him a question that had been burning in her heart.
'Among the humans you've seen, was there a tall one with grey clothes, a ponytail of black hair, and a red scarf on his head?'
Pippin thought for a moment.
'Yes, I remember seeing such a one.'
'What happend to him?'
'He got killed at Bywater.'
'Who killed him?'
'My cousin Alf, I think.'
'Alf! Alfons Took?'
'Do you know him?'
'He was here some days ago.'
'Why did you ask about the human?'
'He was evil.'
'Weren't they all?'
'More or less.'
That night sleep escaped Lily. She thought first about Pippin, how much he had changed for the better. He would be a great Thain one day. There was no mistaking the way he looked at Lily: there was a promise in his eyes of fun to be shared. He had learned the game.
Then Lily's thoughts turned to Alf. The youth had used mild words in front of her father: nice, handsome, friend. But the fire in his eyes had contradicted them, offering more. And he was the one who had killed Lang.
The image of Lang rose unbidden in Lily's mind. She shuddered under the sheets.
To drive the nightmare away, she summoned another image. A golden afternoon, willows weeping by the river, birds singing ever so softly, a white boat gliding close to the shore. A boy and a girl, the girl in a green dress, the boy clad in brown. Her hair so very thick, so very fuzzy, her features like carved of wood. But the boy looks at her as if she were beautiful. He rows slowly, and as he leans towards her, he suddenly stops the movement there, to look into her eyes.
'I love your eyes, Water-Lily, your eyes the most. They are greener than the willow-leaves, greener than the reeds, greener than anything.'
'Oh, Merry!' The girl places a soft kiss on his forehead.
And the birds sing, and the sun shines, and the afternoon is so very long. A pearl in a cord of golden afternoons. But now the necklace is broken, and all the pearls are lost.
For there had been a silent reproach in Merry's eyes at their meeting. You have a short memory, Water-Lily. You have forgotten how to be yourself. You have become a doll. You dress in red because nobody else does. You have become proud. You do not care about the feelings of others. And now you are going to break Pippin's heart. For you are not the woman he thinks you are. Merry had not spoken such words, but the feelings were easy to read in his eyes. In this way, he was like father.
What shall you do, Lily my girl?
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.