85. Chapter 84 - June 1437
Ivy flinched as the needle pricked her skin yet again. She stuck her poor, abused thumb in her mouth and contemplated the embroidery in her lap. It was a knotwork pattern Aunt Lothiríel had taught her, though it was nowhere near as neat and even as her aunt’s delicate stitches. The pattern followed the hem of a baby’s dress, which was the only reason Ivy was putting up with the chore. She’d never had patience for embroidery. She’d rather do the knitting Estella had taught her, though she didn’t even enjoy that so much. But the tiny dress was going to be for her babies, and it made the sore fingers worth it.
She didn’t have much in her dowry chest. As a girl, she’d always thought she’d have until she was twenty, the age when hobbit lasses started filling their chests with the things they’d need as a wife. And she’d never considered gathering a dowry after her early maturity, thinking she’d never need it. Until Pippin. When they started courting, Estella had given her a chest and started giving her things to put in it. Since she would be Mistress of the largest household in the Shire, she wouldn’t need the domestic items--dishes and silverware and linens--that most girls collected, so it was mostly decorative items, some jewelry that had belonged to her grandmother, and baby things.
Éowyn and Estella had conspired together after her betrothal and decided she needed more things. Especially baby things. Ivy sometimes suspected that she had ceased to be ‘daughter’ and was now ‘provider of future grandchildren’. Not that she minded so much. She wanted babies, too.
Éowyn and Estella were sitting across from her, chatting together as they worked. Estella was knitting a blanket and Éowyn was embroidering a tiny dress, too. Ivy raised an eyebrow. They were giggling.
“Here’s another”, said Éowyn.
“I am a wonderful help to women,
The hope of something to come. I harm
No citizen except my slayer.
Rooted I stand on a high bed.
I am shaggy below. Sometimes the beautiful
Peasant’s daughter, an eager-armed,
Proud woman grabs my body,
Rushes my red skin, holds me hard,
Claims my head. The curly-haired
Woman who catches me fast will feel
Our meeting. Her eye will be wet.
“What am I?” Éowyn asked, grinning broadly.
Estella snorted. “I know what it sounds like!” They both broke into raucous laughter.
Ivy’s cheeks went warm. “I’m sitting right here!” she said. “Do you think you should be talking about that in front of your daughter?”
“It’s an onion!” Éowyn exclaimed. She grinned at Ivy. “What did you think it was?”
Ivy glared at her mother.
Estella caught her breath from her laughter. “I’ll never look at an onion the same again!” They both broke down again, laughing so hard they were in tears.
Ivy shook her head. She had wanted her mothers to like each other. Was it too late to change her mind?
“Oh! And my favorite!” Éowyn said, grabbing Estella’s arm.
“The young man came over to the corner
Where he knew she stood. He stepped up,
Eager and agile, lifted his tunic
With hard hands, thrust through her girdle
Something stiff, worked on the standing
One his will. Both swayed and shook.
The young man hurried, was sometimes useful,
Served well, but always tired
Sooner than she, weary of the work.
Under her girdle began to grow
A hero’s reward for laying on dough.”
Ivy squeezed her eyes shut. Her face was hot now. She needed to stop listening to them. Concentrate on embroidery.
“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, Ivy,” Estella gently scolded.
“Especially since it’s a butter churn,” Éowyn giggled.
Estella laughed. “I’ll have to tell that one to Celandine.” She winked at Éowyn. “My sister-in-law is famous for her butter.” They both giggled.
Ivy bowed her head back to her work, biting her lip. The riddles were funny. It’s just that it was her mothers were saying them. If it had come from Kel or Gwen, she’d be rolling with laughter, too.
“I didn’t think you were this shy about things, Ivy,” Estella said. Ivy looked up at her. The both of them were grinning at her. “You’re not going to be this shy on your wedding night, are you?” Estella winked.
“I’m not being shy,” Ivy said. “It’s just... You’re my mothers!”
They both giggled again. They were doing a lot of giggling. They were worse than Brenna and Aife.
“You and your brothers and sister had to come from somewhere,” Estella laughed.
Ivy rolled her eyes. It didn’t mean she had to think about it.
“At least you don’t have any reason to be shy on your wedding night, since you’re already experienced.” Éowyn said. “Then you can relax and enjoy yourself.”
“It’s good if you can be relaxed,” Estella added. “Especially if your husband is nervous. Which he most certainly will be, knowing Pippin.” She snorted.
Ivy just stared at her. She couldn’t believe they were telling her these things.
“Faramir was shy about it, our first time,” Éowyn giggled.
“I think most lads are nervous and shy that first time,” Estella said. “Worse than the lasses. Even if they’ve done it before. In fact,...”
Ivy shook her head and went back to her work. She didn’t want to hear this. Maybe she’d recite poetry in her head to block them out. Sindarin poetry. The epic stuff, that took lots of concentration.
Elleth alfirin edhelhael
O hon ring finnil fuinui
A renc gelebrin thiliol...
She was jarred from the verse by more raucous laughter. She couldn’t help but listen to what they were saying.
“I know! I noticed, too!” Éowyn said.
Ivy just gaped at them. Oh, Great Eru, they were talking about...
They were interrupted by a knock at the door. It opened and her father peeked in. “It’s awful noisy in here,” he grinned. “So what are you ladies talking about?”
Estella and Éowyn looked at each other and screeched with laughter. Ivy contemplated hiding under the table.
“Oh, nothing much,” Estella said after she’d caught her breath. Both she and Éowyn, smiled at him, lips pressed tight, seemingly ready to burst.
“Right,” her father said, watching Estella and Éowyn. He looked a bit worried. “Well, just wanted to let you know it was about supper time.” He quickly left. Ivy rolled her eyes as Estella and Éowyn burst into laughter again.
Later that evening, Ivy found her father sitting on the ledge outside Meduseld alone, smoking his pipe. She sat next to him and he put his arm around her. “What are you doing out here alone?” she asked.
He took a puff from his pipe, then looked at her. “Just having a think,” he said. “All this talk about your betrothal and your wedding makes me realize I won’t have you around very much anymore.”
Ivy hugged him, suddenly feeling a little sad herself. She wanted to be with Pippin, very much, but she would miss her dad, too. “I’ll only be in Tuckborough,” she said.
“I know,” he said, giving her a squeeze. “I know it’s selfish, but I’m glad things didn’t work out with that other boy. I don’t think I could have handled it if you’d stayed in Gondor.”
“I’m glad it didn’t work out, too,” she said. For lots of reasons. She now realized she couldn’t have left the Shire forever, either. And it meant she had Pippin.
“I think Pippin’s glad it didn’t work out, as well,” her father said with a wink. “It’s funny, that the last time we were in Rohan together, you weren’t even speaking to him.”
“Ugh! Don’t remind me,” Ivy said. Was she really that much of a brat as a child?
Her father laughed. “I’m glad it worked out for both of you,” he said.
Ivy nodded. Then she smiled. “Did you know I had asked him to marry him on his wedding day?”
“I didn’t really know what being married meant, then. I thought it meant he’d spend more time with me and play with me all the time.” She giggled. “Now I know it means a different kind of ‘playing’”. She clapped her hand over her mouth.
“Sorry,” she said, her face warm. “I’ve been under a bad influence today, having to listen to...all sorts of things.”
“So what were they torturing you with?” he asked. “You didn’t look too happy when I interrupted.”
She shook her head. “Telling naughty jokes and riddles, mostly. Then they started talking about...you know...and it’s... just...” Ivy sighed and covered her blushing face with her hands. “There are some things a girl doesn’t need to hear her mother and stepmother talk about.”
“Oh, it couldn’t have been that bad.”
“Oh, really?” Ivy looked up at him. “They were talking about you, Dad!”
Merry scowled. “What were they saying that was so bad?”
Ivy cocked her head at him, eyebrow raised. “Well, apparently there’s this noise you make when you...”
“Ivy!” Merry winced and turned bright red. He puffed his pipe, thoughtful for a while. Then he chuckled and said, “Well, if they can talk about that, then at least it means there’s no hard feelings between them.”
“I suppose so,” Ivy said. She still didn’t want to hear about it. She rested her head on his shoulder. She hadn’t spent a lot of time with her dad lately. She hadn’t seen him for three years, then the past year she’d been fighting with him or focused on Pippin. “Do you want to go for a ride tomorrow?” she asked. “Just us.”
“I’d love to, Ivy-lass.” he said. She snuggled closer, wrapping her arms around him and they watched the stars come out.
“Ivy told me what you were talking about today.”
Estella rolled over to look at her husband. “Her dowry chest? The wedding?”
“Among other things.”
Estella propped herself up on an elbow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Merry pulled the blanket up to his chin. “You were talking about me!” He pouted. He’d worried their whole trip here how to handle it if Estella and Éowyn didn’t get along. Now they seemed to be getting along too well.
Estella snorted. “Oh. That.” She choked on a laugh.
“Estella! How could you? I mean...” Merry gave an indignant huff.
“I’m sorry, Merry.” She bent to kiss him but he wriggled away, trying very hard to look hurt. She sighed. “We just got talking about...things, and we were giving Ivy a bit of advice--don’t you give me that look, the girl is getting married after all--and Éowyn and I got talking about our own experiences, and I just mentioned that cute little noise you make and Éowyn giggled--I don’t think she meant to--and then she said she had noticed it, too, and... Merry. There isn’t anything to be embarassed about. It’s no secret we’ve both bedded you. The children kind of give it away.”
Merry stared at her, a little surprised. “I thought you were jealous of her?”
Estella smiled. “Maybe I was. But not anymore. I like her very much and you know I’m a good judge of character. And she is so very much in love with Faramir, so there isn’t anything to be jealous of. And she’s very easy to talk to and I guess we just forgot ourselves.”
Merry sulked. They’d been talking about him! And it made him wonder what else they had discussed about him.
“Would you rather we didn’t get along?” Estella asked.
“Might save me my sanity,” Merry mumbled.
“What was that?”
“No. I’m happy you get along.” For the most part.
“All right, then.” Estella watched him for a moment. “Are you mad at me?”
“Maybe.” Merry raised an eyebrow and the corner of his mouth twitched. “You’ll probably have to find some way to make it up to me.”
Estella chuckled and poked his side. “You are a tease, Meriadoc Brandybuck.” She rolled over to straddle him and bent down, their noses touching. “Now. How about we see if I can get you to make that noise again?”
Note: The riddles are real Anglo-Saxon riddles from the Exeter Book. The onion is Number 23, the churn is Number 52. Translations from the Kalamazoo Riddle Group.
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.