55. Chapter 54 - June 1433
Ivy took a deep breath searched the crowd for her mother or Faramir... anyone familiar to her. But her mother and Faramir had people to greet, and even Legolas and Gimli were engaged in conversations with people she didn’t know.
The party was for her, a welcoming party, but only a few people had come to greet her once she had left her parents’ side. She knew the guests were watching her, though. Her mother had discussed things with her, how she may be treated. Ivy knew her existence was a delicate matter, as the people of Gondor were very much concerned with social standing and not quite as forgiving of illegitimate children as Hobbits, or even the Rohirrim. But no one would want to offend the Prince of Ithilien or the King, who had made the trip from Minas Tirith with Queen Arwen, so the guests would smile and nod and try to hide their glances at her furry feet and pointed ears.
Ivy’s existence had been revealed long ago, after Éowyn’s first trip to Rohan to meet Ivy for the first time. Her mother had felt that if she was going to establish a relationship with her daughter, then she did not want to keep Ivy hidden. No one asked about Ivy’s father, nor was it expected to be revealed. Etiquette did not allow inquiries into the paternity of a noblewoman’s child--at least not in front of her or the child. But Ivy was introduced as ‘Ivy Brandybuck’, and with her small stature, her furry feet, and her pointed ears, it wouldn’t take much effort for anyone to figure out who her father was.
Ivy had noticed the raised eyebrows, or downright shock, when Faramir had introduced “my children” with a sweep of his arm that included herself with Elboron, Théodred and Théodwyn. These Gondorians were obviously not used to a spouse accepting illegitimate children so easily. Ivy couldn’t understand it. Estella loved her as her own daugher and she had become a part of the Bolger family the day her father and Estella announced their engagement.
She heard whispers nearby and steeled herself a little before looking that direction. More people gossiping about her? She was a little surprised that is was four girls. They stopped their whispering and walked over to her.
“You’re a halfling, aren’t you?” one of them asked. Ivy could only describe her as ‘perky’, as the girl bounced on her feet in excitement, her brown curls bouncing with her.
“Yes,” said Ivy, glancing around at the girls. She was a bit taken aback by their forwardness, wondering if they planned to make fun of her. But their faces looked friendly.
“How old are you?” another asked. Ivy would have thought this girl was from Rohan, with her light blonde hair, except she had dark brown eyes rather than the usual blue or green of her Rohirrim kin.
“So are we. Well, except for Kelian.” She waved towards a girl with jet black hair and kind blue eyes, “She’s fourteen now. You’re so short, though. We thought you were much younger.”
“So which one is your father?” asked another. Like the first girl, this girl also had brown hair done up in curls, but she wasn’t nearly as perky.
Ivy just stared at them, wondering if they meant someone at the party.
The perky girl made a sound of frustration. “The halflings! The ones from the war. Everyone is saying one of them is your father.”
“Oh,” Ivy said. Obviously, young girls did not obey the rules of etiquette. She wasn’t sure if she was supposed to talk about it, but she wasn’t going to be ashamed of who her father was. “Meriadoc Brandybuck.”
“Which one was he? Did he take the Ring to the mountain?” the blond girl asked.
Ivy raised her eyebrows. They didn’t even know the name of the hobbit who had saved them all? “No, that was Frodo Baggins. My father rode with the Rohirrim,” she said.
“See? I told you!” the perky girl said excitedly. “That’s the one Lady Éowyn slew the Nazgûl with. It only makes sense.”
“My mother said it’s not proper,” the other brown-haired girl said. “A lady shouldn’t be with a man before she’s married. She said it’s very low.”
“They thought they were going to die!” Ivy blurted out angrily, defending her parents’ honor. She would bet that girl’s mother had never rode into battle.
The girls thought about this a moment.
“It’s very romantic, really,” sighed the perky girl. “Going out to battle and...you know...doing that because you think you’re going to die.”
“Except I think I’d pick someone taller,” said the other brown-haired girl. They shared a giggle.
Ivy felt her face go red and anger come over her. They were making fun of her father.
The girl named Kelian patted her shoulder. “Oh, don’t worry... you’re name’s Ivy, right?” Ivy nodded. “She didn’t mean anything by it, Ivy. Her mouth isn’t connected to her brain sometimes.” Kelian gave an admonishing glare to her friend, who mumbled an apology to Ivy. “You can be friends with us if you like,” Kelian said.
Ivy thought for a moment. She didn’t know if she really liked these girls, but she was a little lonely...
“All right,” she said softly.
The blond girl grabbed her hand. “Good. Come with us.” They giggled as they pulled Ivy away from the party.
Ivy found herself sitting on the front steps of the house, trying to keep up with the gossip of the girls. The blond girl was named Gwen and, like Kelian, seemed more mature than the others. The perky girl was Brenna and her entire focus seemed to be on boys. Ivy wrinkled her nose. She’d never thought about boys as anything other than a nuisance. The other brown-haired girl was named Eifa and she seemed to share the same fixation on boys as Brenna.
They were all daughters of Faramir’s rangers and lived here in Emyn Arnen. Being with them was a bit of a shock for Ivy. They were the same age as her, but were mostly concerned with boys and dresses and other things that interest young women. They reminded her of Dahlia and her tween-aged friends. The hobbit lasses who were Ivy’s age were still years away from such concerns. The last time she had seen Elanor, just before Ivy had left the Shire, they had played all day with dolls and toy horses and plotted ways to annoy their brothers.
The girls tried to draw her into their conversations, though Ivy really had no interest in what color hair ribbon would look best on Eifa. Kelian must have noticed her discomfort, because she turned the conversation to asking Ivy about her family. Ivy told them all about her family and friends in the Shire and how she had first met Éowyn.
“Why do you call your mother by her name?” Kelian asked. “If you don’t mind telling,” she added quickly.
Ivy shrugged. “Because I have two mums, really. And it would get very confusing if I called them both ‘mum’. Estella’s just as much my mother as Éowyn.”
“Doesn’t it bother Lady Éowyn, that you have another mother?” Gwen asked.
Ivy shrugged. “No. I mean, Éowyn didn’t want to give me up, but she seems happy that Dad married Estella. She did marry Faramir, after all, so I have two fathers as well.”
“But you don’t call both of them by their names.”
“I know, but...” Ivy didn’t know how to explain it. It was different with her dad. He’d been her constant since before she could remember. Estella and Éowyn and Faramir had been added later. “My dad is... everything. He’s always been there. I’ve never been without him.” Until now, a little voice nagged in her head, and she could suddenly feel every mile that lay between them. She bit her lip and turned away so the girls wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Ivy, I didn’t mean to upset you,” said Gwen, laying a hand on her shoulder.
“It’s all right.” Ivy wiped her eyes. “I’ve just never been away from him like this. I’ve only been away to stay with my friend Elanor and that was only to Hobbiton.” She sighed and stood up. She didn’t want to talk about it anymore. “We should get back to the party. Éowyn will be wondering where I’ve gone.”
Ivy was surprised to see that many guests had gone and that the sun was disappearing behind the distant hills through the trees. She hadn’t realized she’d been talking to the girls that long. The time had just flown by.
“Would you like to come with us tomorrow?” Kelian asked her. “We’re walking down to the market in the morning.”
Ivy hesitated. Walking to a market sounded, well, boring. And she’d just gotten here and she thought she should spend time with her family. But the girls seemed to want to be her friends and she had so few of those. She smiled at them. “Sure.”
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