12. Epilogue: Christmas Merry
When she reached the crowd, she finally caught up to the fair-haired girl. She looked down and took her hand. “What’s your hurry, little one?” she asked.
The girl called Willow looked up at her. “It’s Santa, Grandma. Santa’s here.”
Acacia looked out over the heads of the crowd. “So he is,” she told the girl, “but you shouldn’t have run away like that. You scared me.”
Willow harrumphed. “Well, at least one of us is getting some excitement.”
Acacia stroked the child’s golden locks. “Always so anxious to get out and do something.” She smiled. “You remind me of a little boy I once knew.”
The girl wasn’t paying much attention. “I just wish there was something to do around here,” she nearly whined.
“Maybe that’s something you can ask Santa for,” Acacia suggested.
“Grandma,” Willow scolded, “Santa only does toys. He can’t get me out of this town.”
Acacia smiled at her again. “That may be, child, but it never hurts to ask.” Willow thought about this and Acacia resigned herself to simply waiting in line. But something about this whole situation seemed very familiar to her.
Forty-four years had passed since her one great adventure, and her life had never been the same. The trauma of her disappearance was the forge in which her family had renewed its strength. Her parents, like herself, had realized what was really important in life. They’d put aside their squabbling and became the family the once were, before all the pressures of jobs and the new town had turned them into mindless, angry robots.
She’d grown up, gone to college, and gotten married. She had kids and grandkids. It was almost time for her to retire. But now, at this moment, she felt her nine-year-old self coming back to her, and she wondered.
‘Whatever happened to Merry?’ she thought, ‘I hope he didn’t forget about me.’
That night, with her son, Rowan, and his family already gone to bed, she sat by the Christmas tree, staring past the hung stockings to the glowing fire that flickered in the hearth. Her thoughts strayed to another such night, almost a lifetime ago, when her deepest wish had come true.
“I wonder what Merry’s doing now,” she muttered, allowing her thoughts to be heard by any who would heed them, “I wish I could see him, just once more, to know that he’s all right.”
So she waited, half expecting the hobbit to just pop into the room. But nothing happened. As the fire burned on, she felt herself drifting off to sleep.
She woke to a sound she couldn’t remember hearing. She didn’t know how long she’d been asleep, but the fire had died down to a few dim embers. Beside her, the Christmas tree rustled. She jumped, but calmed down when she saw a small head full of curls hiding behind it.
“Maple, dear, go back to bed,” she mumbled, assuming her eldest grandson had snuck in, “No opening presents until the morning.”
The owner of the curls whipped around at the sound of her voice, but got tangled in the tree and lights. He flailed around for a while before finally stumbling out and landing in a heap on the floor.
She got up and pulled him to his feet, ready to scold him for nearly knocking the tree down. He looked up at her. Her eyes bulged in shock. So did his. He opened his mouth to scream, but, thinking quickly, she covered it with her hand. She didn’t want to wake her family.
He kicked her furiously and backed against the wall. His hand went to his side, but found nothing. He looked at her angrily. “Who are you? Where am I?” he demanded.
“Ow!” she yelled, grabbing her shin, then covered her own mouth, hoping no one heard that outburst. Startled as she was, she gazed in astonishment at the small person in front of her.
He was dressed in a pair of flannel pajamas with little X-Wings on them. A child’s clothing, clearly not his. She looked at his face and noticed something strikingly familiar. She saw his feet and ears and her suspicions were confirmed.
Her shocked whisper pierced the sudden tense stillness of the room. “Merry?”
His jaw dropped. It was him, all right. He looked much older than when she last saw him, though not as old as she was. She saw maturity in his eyes, experience, and ferocity.
“You know me?” he asked. His face grew stern again. “Declare yourself! Who dares abduct the Master of Buckland, a soldier of Rohan and friend to the King?” Anyone less involved in this little drama would have found the scene quite humorous: a great warrior hobbit boldly standing there, making demands, while dressed in baby blue Star Wars jammies.
Acacia would have smothered him in a hug, had she not been worried of what he would do. “Merry,” she said, holding her hands out in a gesture of surrender, “it’s me. Acacia.”
His grimace faltered. “You cannot be her. You’re a woman, not a hobbit.”
“I told you I wasn’t a hobbit, but you guys never believed me,” she insisted. “But, look. It really is me.”
He started to retort, but stopped. Looking into her eyes, recognition grew on his face. When he spoke, his voice was soft and uncertain. “Acey?”
She smiled broadly. “Yes! Yes, it’s me.”
He grinned wildly. There was the face of the brother she remembered. “It is you!” He ran to her. She kneeled down as he flew into her arms. After a big hug, he pushed himself back. “How?”
“I don’t know,” she told him, tears of happiness running down her face. “I guess I just...wished it and then you showed up.”
That wasn’t much of an answer, but he didn’t care. He stood back and had a good look at her. “You’re so big.”
She laughed. “You’re so small.”
He stood up straight. “All hobbits are small. Even you...used to be. But Pippin and I are the tallest in the Shire, now or ever, thanks to the Ents.”
Acacia’s wrinkled brow furrowed. “Ents?”
“Tree people,” Merry answered, as if that was enough.
“Well, that,” said Acacia, “combined with your little self-introduction, convinces me that I must have missed something really fun. Master of Buckland, already? Time does fly. And what’s Rohan? What king? And who are these tree people? This sounds like an interesting story.”
“Oh, it’s much more than a story, Acey,” he said, “It’s many, many stories, horrible and wonderful.”
She sat in her chair again, offering him a seat nearby. “Then I insist you tell me.”
And so Merry launched into the tale of his great adventure and soon they were laughing and getting along as if they’d never been apart.
All the while, in a far-off land called Valinor, a bearded old man clothed all in red sat, watching them through a certain magic mirror. A warm smile covered his face, until he heard a voice behind him.
“Nikola, it is not prudent for a wizard to spy incessantly on others, even those he is trying to help, especially when they do not even know he exists.”
The red wizard spun to face him. “But she does, Gandalf,” he explained, “She has always believed.”
The white wizard did not look convinced. “Eru gave you your powers to help people, and you have so far done a fine job, but you are bordering on voyeurism.”
“But I have to make sure they’re all right,” Nikola protested.
Gandalf shushed him. “They will be fine. Just give them a few hours in peace.”
Nikola nodded and Gandalf left, but the red wizard was not quite done. He used the mirror to scan for others in need of his help. His eyes twitched back and forth on the surface, then finally settled...and he grinned.
The sun was just beginning to rise when Merry finished his story.
“That’s amazing,” said Acacia, eyes still wide with awe. “It makes me wish I could have gotten to know Frodo and Pippin better, and met Sam. I think I would have liked them.”
“And they would love you, I know,” Merry responded with a warm grin.
“So you really got your adventure,” she mused. “I’m very proud of you.” She kissed his cheek and he blushed, despite himself. “But there’s one part you left out.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
She smiled suggestively. “What about those dozen kids?”
Merry laughed. “No, I decided to leave that up to Sam. At the rate he’s going, he’ll be there before the year’s out.” This got them both laughing hysterically as they conjured up all sorts of inappropriate mental pictures.
But their merriment was cut short as Acacia heard the tramp of children running down the stairs.
“Quick, behind the tree,” Acacia told Merry.
Before he obeyed, he took her hand and kissed it tenderly, very gentlehobbit-like. “I shall miss you, Acey, when I go. I always have.” He didn’t know how long he’d be there, but he knew his time was limited.
Acacia smiled. “Me, too, Merry. Me, too.”
They heard the children running across the kitchen linoleum. Merry dove out of sight just before they rushed into the room. They all grabbed their stocking, which had already been filled by their parents the night before, after they went to bed, and plopped on the couch to see what they got. Rowan and his wife strolled into the room as Acacia pretended to be just waking up.
Her son settled in to watch the kids as his wife went to make the coffee. Acacia realized with a start that the kids would soon surround the tree and Merry would be trapped. She looked behind it, where she’d seen him go, but he was gone. She looked around, thinking he might have snuck out, but there was no sign of him. She smiled sadly. ‘He’s gone,’ she thought, ‘I’ll probably never see him again, but at least I got to see him one last time.’ As she began to reflect on all that she’d heard in the past several hours, a voice broke through her thoughts. It was her son’s.
“Hey. Where’s Willow?”
But at that moment, in a land far removed from America and everything in it, the little girl called Willow found herself waking up under a tree of the same name. As she looked in wonder at the forest around her, she heard a deep voice echo through the trees.
“Hey dol! Merry dol! Ring a dong dillo! Ring a dong! Hop along! Fal lal the willow!”
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.