10. Sundry Items of Gossip
Sam was astounded at how much better the pipeweed Mister Frodo grew in his garden was than the stuff he had brought with him. He hadn't expected that.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you all, Sam," Frodo said as they perched on the terrace steps with their pipes, waiting for Northlight to hitch up the cart (Raven and Amaryllis would ride with Tilwen and Galendur and their young ones, and Raven had to be quite firm with her daughter in the matter). "It was selfish of me to worry you so. But even long after it happened, I still could scarcely bear to speak of it. And I was none too proud of myself, either. I was supposed to be the strong one, and instead I was the one who fell apart."
"But you're pulled up and put together again, M—Frodo. And standing on your own."
"And it was others who pulled me up. As usual."
"Others pulling you up won't do no good if you don't make up your mind to stand on your own feet, and do it. Which you're doing now…so to speak."
"To this day," Frodo said, shaking his head, "I still cannot imagine how anyone could have done such a thing to our sweet lad. I just do not understand it. Maybe I don't even want to understand it."
Sam couldn't think of anything to say to that which wouldn't sound inane, such as There's a lot of bad in this old world, or Everything happens for a reason.
"Still, it must have done him plenty of good to know you cared so much for him, to of been hit so hard by what happened," he said. There now. That wasn't so bad. "Specially after his first father, and all. He must of seen what an improvement you were on him, and felt awful lucky."
"Yes, Raven said something to that effect. The things she told me about what happened to her did give me a few sleepless nights. But she said that although she was sorry for that, it was wonderful to know someone loved her enough to be so distressed over the terrible things she went through. It's one of the things that sustained her along all this time."
They took the mill-road, somewhat to Sam's surprise, since there were other roads they could have taken. He would of thought Mister Northlight wouldn't of wanted to be reminded of what happened, but Mister Frodo said that the mill-road was the shortest route, and Northlight wished to get home to his family soon as possible, and besides, it was easier on the horse that way. That was good of him, Sam said as he watched Amaryllis give her dad a quick little embrace before dashing off to join her friends. He felt pleased to see her so affectionate with him, but it also gave him a little drop inside, thinking of his own young ones.
"And he gets to see Lainadan that way," Frodo said as they rode past the mill. "We took especially good care of him after that. We bring him a bushel of our best orange-fruits and several bottles of currant wine—which his wife loves to cook with—every month, to this day, and some of our honey and strawberries also. He insists on giving us a sack of flour in return, which we do accept, but there is no way we can ever really repay him for Northlight's life, after all."
"Gloryfall named her second son for him," Anemone said over her shoulder. "That gave him quite a thrill, as you may imagine. Lainadan's son is quite smitten with both Nightingale's daughters Melda and Elanor. An odd thing, since Nightingale's husband Calanon was much taken with both her and her twin, at the first, and took a while making up his mind between them. And both twins quite fancied him as well, and they agonized over which of them should get him. Well I remember all the things they used to do, to decide which of them should marry him. They tossed a coin, and played little games with their names to see which one would be more suitable, and went to see a lady who was reputed to tell fortunes, and pestered poor Raven half to death as to which one of them should marry him, and so forth. Then we met the sculptor Annûnlanthir, who was vastly impressed with Moonrise's talent at carving, and he engaged his grandson Amonost to teach him. Well, Amonost ended up learning as much from Moonrise as Moonrise learned from him, and they quickly became close friends. And then Gloryfall met him and in her own words, she fell for him at first sight 'like an avalanche'...she's always had a tendency to overstate a bit, you know. But all their problems were solved, for Calanon really loved Nightingale best after all. He was just too soft to come right out and say so, until Amonost happened along."
Sam chuckled, even as his heart quickened at the sound of his eldest daughter's name. He already knew Nightingale had a child named for her, and had met her the previous night, but hearing the name spoken would always make him jump inside.
"Melda and Elanor were born about a year apart," Northlight said, "but there's a strong resemblance between them, and they are together nearly always. Even as different as they are in personality."
"Yes…and Elanor has those dimples," Sam said very softly.
"They both have," Anemone said. "Elanor just smiles more."
Sam took note of how happy it made her to talk of her grandchildren.
They could hear the crowd now. The Faire was already in full swing, with a small band consisting of drum, bagpipe, fiddle, flutes, harps, and tambourine, playing merry dance-tunes. And Sam could smell something delicious cooking. Roast pig, or his name wasn't Samwise Gamgee, he thought. Mingled with that was the sweetness of something baking, and wood-fires burning, and something spicy also. His stomach rumbled. He hoped they'd get something to eat first thing…even though it hadn't been so long since second breakfast, at that.
"Not ALL their problems were solved," Northlight pointed out. "Sabariel—Calanon's mother—put up quite a fuss about her son's marrying one of the sea-folk. A huge fuss, indeed. Never mind that her own husband was the product of a mixed marriage; that was 'different', she said. The race of Men were at least 'human.' Figure that if you can! Well, of course, she's the sort who can't see reason one way or the other, when her mind was made up, no use confusing her with the facts…and yes, she was a close friend of Ionwë's mother, not so surprisingly. She had her notions, and wouldn't be jollied out of them for love or money. Maldor—her husband—took their son's side, rather to our surprise, and I imagine it was horrible for Calanon to feel pulled apart between them. But he inherited a good deal of his mother's obstinacy, and he would marry Nightingale whether she liked it or not. Which says a good deal for his strength of character. It was put to the test, and he passed it. I've always been greatly fond of him; there's far more to him than meets the eye, and he's a fun fellow besides. He tried his best to protect Nightingale from his mother's nastiness and insults, and she knew it and greatly appreciated it. I doubt most people in the City took Sabariel's slanders very seriously. Even though there were more who greatly disapproved of mixing of the races than we had supposed."
"But after what happened to Northlight," Anemone said, "she did ease up—no doubt fearing people would think she had put Ionwë and the others up to it. And finally she and Maldor were reconciled."
"Another good thing that came of it," Northlight said.
Sam thought to himself that Sabariel probably did influence Ionwë a good bit, not that he probably needed any more of such. But he kept the thought to himself.
"I've grown rather close to Maldor," Frodo said. "He still is not quite the sort I would have chosen as a friend, but it's been worthwhile knowing him, and we learned much from each other when we chose to open our minds to it. It comes with having a large family, learning to deal with those we had just as soon avoid…as you no doubt know very well, my dear Sam."
"Don't I just!" Sam said with a little laugh. "And I did end up making friends with some I would sooner have not dealt with at the first, meself. And my Merry-lad and Pippin-lad both fancied the same lass, at one time. They were together always, spite of there being two years' difference between them, and this lass, Miss Honeysuckle Goatcloset of—"
"Goatcloset??" Frodo interjected. Anemone and Northlight both jerked their heads to stare at the two hobbits in back of the cart.
"That's right," Sam chuckled. "The Goatclosets come up from Nobottle, big as you please—I'd never heard of 'em and neither had anybody else, and it was our opinion that they was up to no good, at the first, but they made a name for themselves in the dry goods business, and got respectable soon enough. Their daughter Honeysuckle was right pretty, but a fickle little baggage she was, and liked all the attention my lads give her, and kept 'em guessing as to which she liked best. No use of Rosie and me tellin' 'em they'd best turn their eyes away, she'd just end up playin' 'em both for fools and settin' 'em agin each other. No, of course they wouldn't listen to their mum and dad. Rosie didn't even bother pretendin' to be civil to her. Told her right to her face that she was a wicked piece of mischief and she'd better stay away from her lads or she'd take a broomstick to her, she would. Well, what do you think them two silly lads ended up doin'? They would get up a fightin' match between 'em, that's what they did. Right in the town square. The winner would get the hand of Miss Honeysuckle. Well, there they were, the two of 'em, going at it, first one round, then the next…and when they'd had four rounds—spite of bein' two years apart in age, they was pretty equally matched as to size, by that time, Pippin-lad just a year or two shy of comin' of age. And one of 'em was bleedin' at the nose, and the other had a pretty nasty shiner, but still they kept at it, with Rosie callin' to Merry-lad not to hit his brother so hard, or she'd give him what-for afterward, and her brother's 'd laugh till they seen the look she give 'em, and of course I knew better, meself. And then, what do you think: Rosie's brother Tom comes up and says that he seen Miss Honeysuckle all snuggled up with his eldest lad's best friend under the big tree near the schoolyard—right there in broad daylight, yet. Well, that stopped 'em right in mid-punch, and they looked at one another for a moment that I thought would last forever…and a pitiful sight for sore eyes they were…and then, suddenly Pippin-lad started to laugh, and you could of knocked me over with a feather, and Merry-lad started laughin' too, and they laughed and laughed, and then they hugged each other, and then they cried, and then they laughed some more, and so did me and Rosie…it was a sight to behold and no mistakin'. But Miss Honeysuckle, she didn't even stick with Tom's lad's friend neither, she married Ludo Bunce, and not three months after the weddin' she run off with some peddler of perfumes, and hasn't been seen nor heard of since."
"Fortunately for poor Merry-lad and Pippin-lad," Frodo said shaking his head. "The, er, Goatclosets…did they have sons? I devoutly hope not."
"They did," Sam said, "three of 'em. But I forbade my lasses to have aught to do with 'em. Not so much because of their name, but because they was known to cheat folks."
Now they could see the merrymakers in full swing. Dancers near the Tree, very graceful indeed, in a wide ring, and a smaller ring inside of it, and here and there were wagons with folks selling treats…and yes, there was Guilin, with his two eldest, hawking their frozen stuff, which was getting quite a lot of business from the looks of things. The two younger ones Sam could see along with their mum, eating some of the stuff, Nessima reaching down to wipe it away as it dripped on their clothing. There were boaters on the pond, and couples strolling all about it, and young 'uns wading in and out of it without a care, and even a dog or two, chasing the ducks, to the excitement of the yellow ducklings that clustered on the bank, looking on, cute as you please. There were some folk in strange costumes, very colorful, with masks or paint on their faces and some mighty odd-looking wigs and hats, and some of these did tricks, and juggled, and turned flip-flops in the air, jumping high in the air on a contraption that looked to be a huge circle of canvas held to a metal frame by big springs. You'd think they would of jumped a big hole through it, but not a bit of it. Must have been pretty strong stuff, sail-cloth maybe. Up, up, they jumped, turning three or four flips at a time, coming down on their feet or their behinds, leaping up again sometimes with their legs spread out at wide angles and touching their toes. Onlookers, mostly children—Mister Frodo had told Sam not to refer to them as "elflings", for they didn't like it—cheered and laughed and clapped.
"Northlight used to do that," Frodo said as they watched, "back before his and Raven's wedding. He'd jump unbelievably high, then turn into a firework, then come very nicely down again in one piece. It was truly something to see."
Joy and pride fairly radiated from him as he spoke. Northlight looked a trifle sheepish.
"Who came up with that thing they're jumping on?" Sam asked.
"Well…some say I did," Frodo said, "but I will swear I had naught to do with it. I was merely fiddling with some springs that came from the old swing on the terrace, that were rusted and of no more use, and was toying with the idea of attaching some new ones to a hammock for the young ones to bounce on…and Galendur and Calanon and Leandros just happened to be there…and well, less than half a year later, this apparatus made its first appearance at the Sporting Center. No one seems to know its true origins to this day…or if they do, they aren't forthcoming." He cast a sidelong look at Northlight, who looked wondrously innocent all of a sudden.
"What say we get something to eat?" Anemone said, after a fruitful moment.
"I think that's a most wonderful idea, my lady," Sam said happily.
And then they heard a shout, and turned to see Amaryllis running toward them, with Silivren and Little Iorhael following close behind, both of them pushing what was obviously two wheelchairs lashed together.
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