30. Chapter 30
“That’s the last of it, Uncle Freddy.” Eomer hefted the last sack of corn into the wagon, then stepped back to rub his tired shoulders.
“Good, good. Thank you, boys.” Uncle Freddy came around the back of the wagon. “So how are you liking farm life, Faramir?”
Fari looked up at him, shoulders hunched in pain, eyes still half-closed from having to get up so early that morning. He looked like he was regretting accepting Eomer’s invitation to come to the Bolger’s farm in Bridgefields for the harvest. “Well,...” he said, obviously trying to think of something nice to say.
Uncle Freddy just laughed. “Prefer being Thain, do ya?” he asked. “Don’t worry, Fari, farm work isn’t for everyone.”
They followed Uncle Freddy around to the front of the wagon and climbed up. “Your Aunt Celly’s packed us enough food for six hobbits, I think, so it should hold you lads over for the trip,” Freddy said, winking at them. “And we should be in Bree in time for supper.”
Eomer shared a grin with Fari. They’d never really been to Bree, except for quick stops on trips south. They’d have a whole day on their own to explore tomorrow, while Uncle Freddy took care of business.
They waved to the farmhands as they left, the hired hobbits heading out to finish the potato harvest. It wasn’t long before they reached the East Road leading to Bree. They crossed the Brandywine just as the sun cleared the horizon.
The trip passed fairly quickly. The boys caught Freddy up on the news and gossip from Tuckborough and Brandy Hall. They talked quite a bit about Theo and Rose’s upcoming wedding. Rose had come to Brandy Hall for a few weeks, to help Éowyn and Ivy plan the party. She and Theo had been all over each other, making up for their time apart. Eomer was kind of glad to get away from it. It only reminded him that he was a bachelor, and not in a good way.
“It’s pathetic, really,” Fari said. “I thought they were over that mushy stuff, and I think it’s only gotten worse.”
Uncle Freddy chuckled. “Oh, I think you’ll understand when you find a lass of your own.”
Fari shook his head. “Nope. We’re going to be bachelors, right Eomer.”
“Right,” Eomer said half-heartedly. All the preparations for Theo’s wedding was making him reconsider his plans to be alone. Unlike Fari, who was still firmly set on bachelorhood. Much to poor Goldi’s dismay. Eomer sighed. She hadn’t even come with Rose this time. Rose had hinted it was because she was frustrated with Fari. Eomer couldn’t help but frown at his cousin. He’d give anything to have a girl like Goldi.
Uncle Freddy just chuckled. “All right, then. But I still think I’ll be dancing at your weddings.”
Fari snorted and turned to watch the scenery. Fari always got peeved when no one believed him when he said he wanted to be a bachelor.
They reached Bree just after supper. The wagon was stowed in the barn at The Prancing Pony and they went inside to get their rooms and something to eat. Amazingly, Mr. Butterbur recognized them all. He’d always seemed a bit absent minded, but Eomer supposed it was in his best interest to remember customers.
After second breakfast the following day, they drove the wagon over to the miller. “Old Mr. Underhill retired this summer,” Uncle Freddy said, “so his son has moved into Bree from Staddle to take over the business. I’ve corresponded with him. Seems a good fellow.”
They pulled up to the mill but instead of Mr. Underhill, they were met by a young lad.
“Are you Mr. Bolger?” he asked. Uncle Freddy nodded. “My father said to expect you soon. He’s had to travel to Staddle unexpectadly, so I’ll be taking care of business today.” He came up to the wagon and held up his hand. “My name’s Moira.”
Eomer stared at him--her--in shock. He’d never seen a lass wearing trousers before.
The girl shook hands with Uncle Freddy. “If you’ll bring the wagon over to the shed, we can get started.” She turned back and went into a building near the great waterwheel that ran the mill.
Uncle Freddy nudged him and chuckled. “That’s quite a lass, eh?” he asked.
Eomer could only nod dumbly. After getting over the shock of her attire, he realized that she was, in fact, very pretty. Her dark hair was pulled back into a braid, exposing a lightly tanned neck, and she had the bluest eyes he’d ever seen.
They reached the shed and Moira was seated at a table, a ledger open in front of her. “How do you usually take your payment, Mr. Bolger?” she asked.
“Half in flour, half in coin,” he said. She nodded and wrote something in the book. “All right, then, if you would, please unload the sacks into that corner.”
They emptied the wagon quickly, Fari passing the sacks down to Eomer, and Eomer trying his best to not get distracted by the girl chatting with Uncle Freddy.
“Do you also do business with Mr. Sandyman?” Moira asked him.
“Well, no,” said Uncle Freddy. “I much prefer dealing with your family, even if is a bit of a drive. I don’t really get along with old Sandyman.”
Moira nodded. “I’ve met him a few times. He just bought a new grindstone from my uncle. He tried to arrange a marriage between myself and his son--Bill, I think? A very unpleasant man. My father would have none of that, of course, which I’m very thankful for.” She gasped and touched her fingers over her mouth. “Oh, I shouldn’t really be saying such things.”
“Don’t worry, lass. I won’t say a thing.” Uncle Freddy winked at her and she smiled. Eomer just stared for a moment, wondering why he had a twist in his gut from hearing she had nearly been betrothed to Bill Sandyman. He was broken from his reverie when Fari dropped a sack of corn on his foot.
“Pay attention!” Fari whispered harshly.
Eomer shrugged and picked up the bag. Fari watched him with narrowed eyes for a moment, looked over at Moira, then back at Eomer.
Eomer avoided Fari’s gaze and busied himself with unloading the sacks. When they were finished, he saw that Uncle Freddy and Moira were back at the table. She was writing in the book again, then she leaned over to open a metal box. “There you are Mister Bolger,” she said, counting coins into her hand out of the box, “and your sacks of flour will be in the warehouse.” She passed the coins to Uncle Freddy. “I’ll meet you up there.”
“Would you like a ride?” asked Freddy.
“No, thank you,” she said, gathering up the ledger. “It’s lunch time, so I need to lock up the shed and mill house before I leave.” She smiled at them. “Would you like to join me for lunch? I’m alone today and would enjoy the company.”
“That would be great,” said Eomer. He blushed and stared at his feet. “If it’s all right with Uncle Freddy,” he quickly added.
Uncle Freddy was grinning at him with a twinkle in his eye, “I agree with my nephew. We’d very much enjoy your hospitality for lunch, Miss Underhill.”
“I’m glad you could join me,” Moira said, setting down a platter of bread. “It gets lonely when I’m the only one here. We lost my mother to the plague, so it’s just been my father, brother and myself for quite a while now.”
“I lost my mum to the plague, too,” said Eomer.
Moira touched his hand and it made his stomach flip. “I’m sorry, Eomer. I hope I didn’t bring up dark memories. It’s just that I know my mum wouldn’t have wanted me to dwell on her death, so I can talk easily of it.” She smiled. “She would have told me to get on with my life.”
“My mum, too,” Eomer said.
“My sister wasn’t one to dwell on the bad things in life,” said Freddy, “Luckily she instilled that in her children.”
“She sounds like my mum,” said Moira. “So, do you have brothers and sisters?”
“I’ve got an older brother and sister,” he said. “Well, Ivy is actually my half-sister. Dad’s married to Ivy’s mum now.” He shrugged. “It’s kind of a long story.”
“She’s the woman from Rohan?” Moira asked. Eomer nodded. “We’d heard all about it when the Master married one of the Big Folk,” she said. “It caused quite a stir in Bree, having the King of Rohan and Steward of Gondor staying at The Prancing Pony.” Moira smiled, then turned to Fari. “How about your family, Fari?”
“I’ve got loads of brothers and sisters,” Fari said. “Seven of them. And my Dad is married to Eomer’s sister.”
“So you’re his uncle?” she asked Eomer.
Eomer coughed slightly and glanced at Fari. They were moving into uncomfortable territory. “By adoption,” he said. “My sister adopted Fari.”
Moira gave Fari a sympathetic look. “Did you lose your mum, too, Fari?” she asked gently.
“I don’t have a mum,” Fari muttered, frowning down at his lunch. Moira opened her mouth, like she was going to ask Fari something else, but Eomer cut her off with a shake of his head. Diamond was not something that Fari liked to talk about.
“And your family, Mister Bolger?” said Moira, taking the hint and quickly changing the subject.
“My wife and I have two daughters, Clara and Chloe. About your age. The joy of my life, though they’ve both been driving their poor dad mad with chasing lads,” Uncle Freddy chuckled. “I think they’re anxious to get away from the farm. Neither have any interest in it, so I’ll be passing it on to Eomer.”
Moira turned to Eomer. “Oh! So I suppose I’ll be seeing more of you then?”
Eomer’s cheeks felt like they were on fire. “Yes. I always help Uncle Freddy.” She smiled at him and he got a giddy feeling in his stomach.
They finished their lunch and Uncle Freddy stood up. “Well, I need to be off to take care of some business. The boys were wanting to explore the town a bit. Do you have any suggestions, Moira?”
She finished stacking the plates. “I could show you around, if you like. My brother is running an errand for my uncle, but he said he’d be back to re-open the mill after lunch.” She looked at Eomer and Fari. “If that’s all right with you?”
“Great!” Eomer said, the word just popping out of his mouth. He blushed again.
“But...” Fari started. Eomer saw his eyes dart between himself and Moira. “Sure,” he said with a resigned sigh.
“Most Shire hobbits aren’t so easy around Big Folk,” Moira said as they made their way along the East Road through Bree. It was lined with shops and bustled with activity--mostly Big Folk, but a few hobbits here and there. Moira had changed clothes, exchanging her trousers for a dress and letting her hair out of the braid. Fari thought she looked even prettier now. Eomer certainly seemed to think so, too, considering how he was always staring at her.
“We’ve spent time in Rohan and Gondor,” Fari said. “Visiting the kings.”
“That must be exciting, to know such important people,” Moira said. “I saw the King and Queen pass by when they came on their tour once, when we still lived in Staddle. The Queen is so beautiful. Are they nice?”
Fari nodded. “The Queen is a bit quiet, but she can tell some good stories about the Elves. The King is very fun. He likes to tell us stories about my dad and Eomer’s dad, when they were on the Quest. They met him in the Prancing Pony, and my dad and Uncle Merry and Uncle Sam had thought the King--well, they knew him as Strider then--they thought he’d kidnapped Frodo Baggins, and they were going to go fight off Strider without any weapons!” Fari giggled. “They were going to fight off this ranger with a candlestick and a chair!”
Moira joined him in laughing, but Fari noticed Eomer was very quiet. This whole walk he’d been quiet, just stealing looks at Moira. He’d invited the girl along and now he wouldn’t talk to her? “You all right, Eomer? You’re awfully quiet. For once.”
Eomer shot him a dirty look, glanced at Moira and blushed again. Well, that confirmed it. Eomer was besotted. Fari sighed and wondered if Pip Gamgee needed a new best friend, what with Mer chasing after that girl from Bywater.
“He’s usually not this quiet,” Fari said to Moira. “I don’t know what could have gotten into him.” Fari glanced at Moira, then gave Eomer a pointed look. Eomer’s eyes widened and Fari smirked. Now Eomer knew that he knew that Eomer liked Moira. “Maybe he’s sick.” Lovesick, that is.
“We could go get some cider and a pastry from the bakery?” suggested Moira. “Maybe you’ll feel better then?”
Eomer nodded. “Th-that sounds nice.”
Fari rolled his eyes. Eomer was in trouble. He obviously liked this girl, but he was getting all tongue-tied and shy around her. Well, he might as well help him out. It was embarassing, the way Eomer was acting. Another reason to remain a bachelor.
They got their treat from the bakery and found a spot to sit in the shade of the tree. Eomer was still stealing glances at Moira, and Fari was certain she was doing the same to him. Fari shook his head. This was ridiculous. It was so obvious they liked each other. As much as he’d miss Eomer’s company as a fellow bachelor, he supposed he should help them along. “So, Moira,” Fari said. “Do you have a lad you’re sweet on?”
Moira coughed on her pastry. “Well... no.” She took a sip of cider. “I don’t really have the time, as I’m very busy helping my father. And I think the lads are a bit intimidated by me, because my father lets me do ‘lad’s work’.”
“Really?” Fari said brightly. “Eomer doesn’t have anyone either.” He met Eomer’s shocked gaze and nodded encouragingly towards Moira. Eomer blushed deep red. He glanced over at Moira. She was blushing, too.
“How about you, Fari,” Moira asked. “Any lasses?”
“Nah,” said Fari, around a mouthful of pastry, “I’m going to be a bachelor. Marriage is too much trouble.” He swallowed. “I’ll just pick someone to pass the Thainship to, rather than have an heir.” He gave a wicked little grin. “Eomer will need children, though, what with inheriting a farm and all.”
“Fari...” Eomer glared at him. Fari threw him his best “innocent Took” look.
“Well,” said Moira, standing up and brushing crumbs from her skirt, “It’s getting late, so we should head back. You’re welcome to stay for dinner, as well.” She looked at Eomer. “My brother will be back by now, and you should meet him, too, as you’ll be helping your uncle.”
She smiled at Eomer, who gave her a goofy smile back. Fari just shook her head and followed them back to the mill.
They had an enjoyable dinner with the Underhill siblings. At least Eomer came somewhat back to normal, talking with Uncle Freddy and Moira’s brother, Hugh, about farming. Fari quickly got bored with all the talk about corn, so he wandered into the kitchen to see if Moira needed help.
“No, Fari, I’m fine,” said Moira, washing up the plates from dinner. “I’ve been doing this on my own since I was fifteen. Although, if you’d like to slice the cake...”
“Anything!” Fair exclaimed. “Just so I have an excuse not to listen to conversation about corn!”
“You like her,” Fari said as they left Bree the following morning.
“She’s nice,” Eomer said, trying to sound indifferent. She was nice. And pretty. And interesting. And he’d never met any girl like her before. She was nothing like other girls. She spoke her mind and she didn’t care that Fari and he were heirs to the Thain and Master. She’d disagree with what they said, or shake her head and roll her eyes if their jokes weren’t funny. She treated them like any other lads.
Fari snorted and Uncle Freddy gave a quiet chuckle. “She reminds me a bit of your mum as a girl,” Uncle Freddy said, smiling at him. “She’s got the same spirit.”
Eomer nodded and sighed. He thought his Mum would have really liked her. Moira seemed the perfect girl.
“It’s too bad she lives so far away,” Uncle Freddy continued. “I’m sure your dad would let your visit Bree this spring, if you’re wanting to court her.”
Eomer’s stomach twisted at the thought. Court her? Why would Moira be interested in him? He’d acted a complete idiot yesterday, too shy to say much of anything. Fari did most of the talking. If anything, Moira would probably be more interested in him. “I don’t think so, Uncle Freddy. I doubt she’ll even remember me tomorrow. I didn’t really make a good impression.”
Fari laughed. “Right, Eomer.” He leaned over, arm over Eomer’s shoulder. “She was looking at you, you know.”
Eomer shrugged him off. “Quit pulling my leg. I’m not really in the mood for your jokes.”
Eomer glared at him and stood up. He climbed into the back of the wagon to sulk, huddling into his jacket as the first snow of the year began to fall. He’d finally found a girl that interested him, but why would she be interested in him?
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.