21. Chapter 21
Theo sighed contentedly and rested his cheek in Rose’s curls. They were cuddled on a couch in front of the fire in the family’s parlor, enjoying a peaceful winter’s day. Eomer and Goldi were stretched out on the floor, intent on a game of chess. Theo smiled. Goldi coming to stay had been a wonderful idea. Rose was much happier having her sister here, which made him much happier.
“We should go visit Éowyn,” Rose said. “Maybe take her some tea.”
Theo chuckled. “And then she’ll scold you again for fussing over her. I think she’s about ready to murder Dad.” Éowyn had gotten sick again this winter, and though it wasn’t as serious as her bout of pneumonia in Rohan a few years ago, they still worried over her. Much to Éowyn’s frustration. She was feeling better now, but Theo’s dad still worried over her like a mother hen.
A commotion of voices--mostly children--in the hallway alerted them to the arrival of guests. The Tooks had come to Brandy Hall for Ivy’s birthday and would stay until Yule--about two weeks. “Well, there goes our peace and quiet,” Theo sighed.
He really couldn’t complain too much, though, especially not when little Estella scrambled up onto his lap to give him a kiss. “I missed you, Uncle Theo.” She gave Rose a kiss, too, then ran over to jump on her Uncle Eomer.
Bori and Ari came in last. Theo noticed Bori had a heavily bandaged hand. “What did you do?”
“Ari hit him with his sword,” Willow said, throwing her brothers a withering look.
“What?” Theo looked at his nephews, shocked, wondering what had possessed Ari to hit Bori with a sword.
But Bori just rolled his eyes. “Really, Willow, quit being so dramatic.” He turned to Theo. “We were just practicing and I missed a parry. I cracked a few bones.” He shrugged and held up his damaged hand. “It didn’t even hurt that much.”
Willow snorted. “You certainly seemed to be in a lot of pain when Lily and Mum were setting it.”
“That’s because he’s a soft Gondorian,” Ari said, and he punched Bori hard on the arm. Bori didn’t even flinch, he just grabbed Ari with his good hand and, with a move that Theo recognized from his lessons with Elboron, tossed his brother to the floor. They wrestled around for a moment until Pippin broke them up.
“Enough, boys!” Pippin scolded his sons. Pippin sounded exasperated, like he spent way too much time scolding them.
They rolled apart. “Sorry, Dad,” they said together, but after their father left they grinned at each other in a way that told Theo that this match would be continued later. He suddenly realized how much his nephews were changing. They were both taller than him and thin, but in a healthy way. Ari was even taller than Bori had been at thirteen. They reminded Theo of their cousins in Rohan and Gondor.
“I see you’ve been subjected to the Gondorian-Rohirric wars,” said Fari, coming up next to his brothers. He glared at Bori and Ari. “Behave yourselves,” he said firmly. “You know that you two pounding on each other upsets your mum.” Surprisingly, considering Fari was now smaller than them both, they shrank under their brother’s gaze. It seemed there was still some power in being an older brother. “Now behave yourselves,” Fari scolded.
The boys left to greet their grandparents, and Theo turned to Fari, “Aren’t you worried they’ll pound on you? They’re both bigger than you now.”
Fari snorted. “But they’re clumsy, just like all Big Folk. I had the same lessons from Elboron and I’m much quicker than they are.” He smirked. “We’ve already had it out and they’ll think twice before trying anything with me again.”
Bori and Ari had a few more ‘battles’, until finally Éowyn intervened. Their grandmother was obviously experienced at dealing with unruly boys, because after she scolded them at great length--switching to Rohirric at one point--Bori and Ari were perfectly behaved.
“Ivy’s worried about them,” Rose told Theo later. She’d been with Éowyn and Ivy as they discussed the boys afterwards. “She was so sure they’d be normal hobbits, because they seemed to be just like other children until they reached their teens.”
“But they do look like hobbits,” Theo said. “Except they’re taller and thinner.” And there was something about the look in their eyes...
“But they’re Rohirric, too. Éowyn thinks it’s just showing now that they’re close to maturing and they’re already going through all those other changes.”
“Poor Ivy,” Theo sighed. “She was always so afraid they’d be born different--like her--and she was so happy when she thought they’d be normal hobbits.” He turned to Rose. “What about the other kids?”
Rose shrugged. “Ivy said Willow hasn’t shown any signs. She seem to be all hobbit. It’s still a little early to tell with the others.”
Theo nodded. Hobbits didn’t start maturing until around twenty. At fourteen, Willow was still very much a little girl, like every other hobbit girl. Not like her mother had been. At sixteen, Ivy had no longer been a child when she’d returned from her stay in Gondor. She’d been a grown woman, old enough to get married as far as the Big Folk were concerned. He hoped, for Ivy’s sake, that the other children were like Willow.
“Éowyn suggested sending the boys to Rohan, but Ivy was firmly against that,” Rose said.
Theo nodded. That didn’t surprise him. Ivy was very protective of her children. But he had to admit that Éowyn might be right.
Fari stayed at Brandy Hall when the Tooks left for home after Yule. “I need a break from my siblings!” he said, flopping down onto the floor in front of the parlor fire that evening. “How do you put up with so many?” he asked Rose and Goldi.
“Well, mine aren’t as much trouble as yours,” said Rose.
Fari laughed. “I suppose.”
“Aren’t you afraid they’ll hurt each other?” asked Goldi. “Again, I mean.”
“Nah,” said Fari, sitting up. “Éowyn said her brother did the same things with his cousins and friends. He was always coming home with cuts and bruises and smashed fingers from play fighting. He even broke his arm once. We’re just not used to that sort of thing, but in Rohan it’s normal.”
“I couldn’t imagine living like that, always having to be ready for war,” sighed Rose.
They all sighed at that, thinking about what their friends and relations in the south had to live with. Eomer finally broke the silence.
“Well, it’s snowing something fierce,” he said, looking out the window, “so we can hold our own little war tomorrow!”
They rushed over to the window, their mood lightened by the enormous flakes visible in the light from the windows.
“I’m not going to go out and get pelted with snow!” exclaimed Rose.
“Come on, Rose,” whined Theo. He went over and kissed her, ignoring the sounds of disgust from Eomer and Fari. “It’ll be fun.”
“And Goldi’s going to play, too, right Goldi?” Fari said, tugging at her braid.
“Of course I am,” said Goldi. Quick as lightening she grabbed his hand and twisted, making Fari yelp. “And I’ll win, too!”
Theo looked over at Fari. “Do you hear them? I haven’t heard them in a while.”
Fari snorted. “Go ahead and stick your head up and check, then.”
Theo tried to peer through the hedge, but he didn’t see anything. Only the snow covered lawn in front of the opposite hedge where their enemy was dug in. He craned his neck. Off to the side he could see Rose, bundled up and seated on a bench. She had stayed out of it, claiming they needed even teams. She decided to watch from a safe distance. Right now, she had her hands to her face, giggling. Uh oh...
Fari got hit first. A blur of blue cloak and golden hair came from the side and tackled him, pushing his face in the snow. Theo burst out laughing as Goldi triumphantly sat on a squirming, yelling Fari. Too late, he remembered that Goldi’s teammate still hadn’t appeared.
The next thing he knew, he was face down in the snow, his brother’s weight on top of him. “We win,” Eomer said in his ear, then rolled away to let him up.
Theo sat up, wiping snow from his hair. He couldn’t be mad about the loss. Especially not when he could watch Fari be bested by a girl.
“Let me up!” Fari whined. He tried to push Goldi off him, but she held fast. He only managed to turn over on his side.
“Say I’m the best,” she said, leaning over to keep his shoulders pinned in the snow.
“I’m the best!” Fari said. He got the smirk wiped off his face with a handful of snow. “Fine! Goldi’s the best,” he muttered. She smiled proudly and scooted off him. Fari sat up and brushed the snow from his face. “The best at being annoying,” he muttered. Then he sprang up, giggling, and took off across the garden, Goldi right behind him.
Theo stood up and pulled Eomer up after him. They made their way over to Rose. A yell from behind the grove of skeletal lilac trees let them know that Fari had been caught.
“He’ll never learn,” Theo laughed. Fari seemed to make an extra effort to tease Goldi, and she always got him back.
When Fari and Goldi returned--Fari picking snow from his collar--they all went in for tea. Eomer and Goldi did a victory dance around Theo and Fari, singing and laughing all the way into the Hall.
“I want a re-match!” Fari exclaimed, before dropping a lump of snow he had hidden in his coat pocket down the back of Goldi’s dress.
Goldi squealed and Rose rushed over to pull the snow out. Rose handed her sister the half-melted snow and Theo saw Goldi share a look with Eomer. Eomer grabbed Fari, pinning his arms back. Goldi walked up and calmly stuck the snow down the front of Fari’s trousers.
Fari screeched and started dancing around. “That’s not fair!” he yelled, before turning around to remove the snow.
“Ha!” said Goldi, “You forgot I have seven brothers. I know exactly how to defend myself!”
“And you helped her!” Fari said, turning a scowl on Eomer.
Eomer threw his arm around Goldi and grinned. “I had to help my fellow soldier against the enemy.”
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.