111. Chapter 110 - November 1442
“Ponies!” Ari twisted around in his grandfather’s arms and pointed at the ponies that were crowding around the gate looking for handouts. “One, two, free, four, five, six.” He pointed at each pony then turned to look proudly at his grandfather.
“Aren’t you a clever boy!” Merry tweaked Ari’s nose, making his grandson giggle. “Your Granny Éowyn would be quite impressed with you!” He sighed and for a moment his smile slipped into a slight frown. “Your Granny Estella would have been, too.”
Ivy reached over and took her father’s hand, squeezing it. He only occasionally had these small moments of melancholy, now.
He smiled at her, squeezing back, then turned his attention to Ari again. “Do you like the ponies, Ari?”
“Yes!” Ari grinned. He looked just like his dad and had that same, mischievous grin.
“He loves ponies,” Ivy said. “Pippin’s already had him up on a pony a few times.” She giggled and nudged her dad. “And no, he hasn’t taught him to gallop yet.”
Her dad chuckled. “Are you going to be a Rider like your Grandad?” he asked his grandson. He grinned broadly. “I’ll have to tell you about all the heroes of Rohan you’re related to, like Éomer King and Théoden King. But the most heroic was your Granny Éowyn. She fought a Ringwraith!”
“Ri-raif!” Ari said, grinning back at his granddad.
Merry laughed. “Well, there aren’t any more of those left to fight, thankfully. And I hope you’ll never have to fight anything at all, like your dad and I did.”
Ivy glanced away. She hoped so as well. They’d had more news from the south that had her worried. The orcs were becoming enough of a problem that her uncle had sent Riders to help. Ivy worried about her family and friends in Ithilien. At least the Gamgees were staying in Minas Tirith and were away from the immediate danger. Many families in Emyn Arnen and the more remote areas of Ithilien had evacuated to either Osgiliath or Minas Tirith. Her family had stayed. They would still be safe in Emyn Arnen. Ivy didn’t worry too much about her mother and sister. It was the rest of her family that made her worry.
“Are you all right, Ivy?” Her father was looking at her, concern on his face.
She shook her head. “Just worried...about Faramir and my brothers.” She sighed. Her mother had written that Théodred was fully recovered and back on patrol. All three of them were in danger again.
Her dad gave her a reassuring smile. “Well, I don’t think Faramir or your brothers would want you worrying about them so much right now.” He patted her stomach. “You’ve got other things to worry about.”
Ivy lay a hand on her belly. She’d just found out she was pregnant again, due in the spring. At least this child would have a happier birth than Ari. She smiled. Her mother and Faramir would be here when the baby was born. She was glad Éowyn would be here. It was going to be hard, not having Estella with her.
Her dad held Ari up so he could pat the ponies’ heads. Ari was wriggling with excitement, laughing as the ponies pushed their noses at him. He certainly seemed to have inherited a love of horses from his Rohirric kin. They had to keep a close eye on Ari, now that he was walking, because he would often head straight out to the stables or paddocks and thought nothing of walking right in amongst the ponies.
Ivy leaned against the fence to watch them and yawned. She was just getting into the ‘tired all the time’ stage of her pregnancy. She didn’t mind that so much. She hadn’t had much in the way of morning sickness, so she was happy. She smiled to herself and rubbed her belly. She was looking forward to having another baby. Ari was growing up so fast, already toddling around and getting into trouble. Bori would be four next spring and Willow would be three. All of her babies were growing up on her.
“Mrs. Hillock, from Stock, stopped by a few days ago,” her dad said. He paused for a moment, then gave a little nervous cough. “She wanted to let me know her daughter was coming of age this winter. If I was interested.”
Ivy looked up sharply, startled from her thoughts about her children. She frowned. “What?” It was unusual for hobbits to remarry after losing a spouse. Only in a case like Pippin’s, with a divorce, was it expected that a hobbit might remarry, and divorces were extremely rare in the Shire. A widow or widower usually remained so for the rest of their lives, no matter what age they lost their spouse. “Why would she think you’d want to marry her daughter?”
Her father shrugged. “Celandine had warned me she was coming. She said if the gossip chain was anything to go by, I could expect a few more visits from matchmaking mothers fairly soon. Apparently people have gotten the idea I may remarry.” He chuckled. “Maybe because Pippin did, they think I will, too.”
“Are you...considering anything?” she asked. She would, of course, support her dad if he decided to marry again. She just couldn’t imagine him finding someone who made him as happy as Estella had. Estella had been everything to him.
“No.” he chuckled, shaking his head. “For one thing, I’m too old for a young lass just in her thirties.”
Ivy giggled. “Pippin might argue with you on that.”
He coughed and gave her an exasperated look. “I think you’re a little different, Ivy,” he chided. “Besides, it’s just families trying to make connections through their poor daughters.” He chuckled. “Pippin would never allow it anyway. He’d kidnap me and whisk me away to Gondor if I agreed to an arranged marriage.”
They both laughed, then her father sighed. “I don’t think I could remarry, anyway. After what I had with Estella, I just don’t think I could be happy with anyone else. I don’t think I could love anyone else the same way.”
Ivy leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Well, I’ll reply for both Pippin and myself, and tell you that you are only to marry for love. No other reason. If you don’t want to remarry, then don’t. If you do find someone else someday, I will be happy for you.”
Her dad smiled and slipped his arm around her shoulder, pulling her over into a hug and squishing Ari between them. He kissed them both. “How did I get such a wonderful daughter?” he asked her.
Ivy giggled and patted his chest. “I think it had something to do with a large battle and a small tent.”
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