18. A Randirric Wedding
Chapter Written by Angmar and Elfhild
"Dezi seems like a pathetic poor soul, and so lost!" Elffled remarked sympathetically. She remembered Wini the Simple, the slow, dim-witted boy from her village, and his gentle, innocent flirtations as he clumsily tried to impress her. Dezi reminded her a lot of him, except poor Wini would never hurt a fly. For a moment, she wondered whatever had become of Wini, if he yet lived or if he had been killed in battle. Tarlanc's voice interrupted her thoughts, which was fortunate, for she felt sad dwelling upon the fates of the Riders who had gone off to war.
"Aye, Dezi was a wretched fellow," Tarlanc agreed. "But while your kind heart feels compassion, remember that his vicious streak and bullying ways, combined with his mighty strength, could easily turn him as lethal as a mad dog. Fortunately for Tabahanza and me, his injury would leave him incapacitated for almost three months, removing that threat for a while. Actually, I had spent many long hours worrying that he would do everything in his power to disrupt the wedding. I was certain that those scoundrels who called themselves his friends would bolster up his courage with liberal quantities of wine, and he would come storming into my wain on our wedding night." Agitated at the recounting of his old memories, Tarlanc stood up and began to pace, his tall, thin figure silhouetted in the candlelight. Looking up at his master in puzzlement, Haun whined softly.
"Perhaps it was petty of me, but after Dezi was injured, I actually laughed to myself. Poor feeble-minded fellow." Tarlanc shook his head. "Now I am ashamed of my callousness, but then I was just happy that he could not interfere in my wedding and turn a day of happiness into one of trouble. My mind now at peace, I could look forward to my life with Tabahanza." Since he had moved away from the light of the candle, the girls could no longer see Tarlanc's face clearly, but they caught the sadness in his voice.
Sensing that the old man needed encouragement, Elfhild remarked, "Tarlanc, it must have been terrible to live with the fear that the giant might barge into your wedding! I can only imagine how relieved you must have been to know he could not make an appearance."
"Few were the nights that I could sleep soundly before Dezi's injury practically destroyed his leg. I am not so hypocritical to deny that I was glad when it happened! It could have been his damned neck for all I cared!" Thoughts from the past always have the power to affect people in the present, and the old man was letting his memories turn his mood sour.
Surprised at his strong reaction, Elfhild could only stare at him until a slow smile turned up the corners of her mouth and spread across her face. "You know," she remarked slyly, "I think I would have been glad, too."
"Elfhild, you were always a sharp lass. You could have been my daughter," Tarlanc chuckled. "Now let me go on with my story, or we will be here so long that my beard will grow another inch or two before I ever finish!" Smiles of understanding on their faces, the girls went silent as they waited for him to continue.
"When the healer came to see him, Dezi refused to allow the man into the tent. If his mother had not drugged his cake and his wine, Dezi would never have permitted his leg to be touched. The healer found that one of the bones in Dezi's calf had been fractured and that if the bone was not set, the leg would never heal correctly," Tarlanc recounted.
"'You will not hurt Dezi!' the simpleton had screamed, striking at the doctor. The man was too quick for him, and though his pride was wounded, the doctor's body was not. Mind you, I was not there, but I heard that it took four men and his mother to hold Dezi down while the healer set, splinted and bandaged his leg. Offended, the healer left Dezi to moan and whine on the cot, yelling like a babe who wanted his mother's breast. His screams could be heard all over the camp. I smiled every time I heard them, and thanked whichever benevolent Vala in the Undying Lands who had interceded on the behalf of Tabahanza and me. That said... now by the stars in Varda's sky, I will - I swear - tell you about the wedding! I know that is what you have been waiting to hear!"
Preparing for another bout of storytelling, Tarlanc inhaled deeply, but his throat seemed suddenly dry. Now that he had begun his reminiscences, he was not quite so certain if he wanted to finish them. What was he anyway? Just an old man who talked too much. Besides, he had always been a circumspect man, never wishing to embarrass anyone, and there were certain aspects in the remainder of his tale which were unsuitable for two young ladies to hear. Clearing his throat, he straightened his back and considered how best to continue.
"Before I get on with the tale, you must realize that not all folk have the same wedding customs as the Rohirrim. Why, to give you an example," he nervously drummed the fingers of his right hand on his thigh, "I have heard that among many of the tribes of the Haradrim, the fathers arrange the marriage, and the husband never sees the bride until the day of the wedding. The poor bridegroom has no idea whatsoever whether his bride is a spectacular beauty or an obese, homely dowd. You can imagine his shock when he removes her veils after the wedding and finds that she is missing a front tooth or two and has a wart on the end of her nose." The sisters giggled at that, and Tarlanc smiled, pleased that they had enjoyed his mild humor.
"The Randirrim, though, are not so restrictive. Many of the couples have grown up knowing each other from childhood. However," Tarlanc hesitated, "the Randirrim insist that the bride be, um, let me see how I shall word this..." he cleared his throat and tried to find the correct way to express a very delicate subject.
"Pure," Elfhild interjected with a giggle.
"And modest," Elffled added, tittering.
"Aye, those are exactly the words for which I was searching!" The back of Tarlanc's neck erupted in a hot flush of embarrassment which spread over his face, and he cleared his throat loudly. "After the bride and groom have been joined in marriage, there is a joyous celebration, conducted to impress the father's kinsmen, neighbors, family and friends. Unfortunately, the bride's father often finds himself going heavily into debt to pay for his daughter's wedding." Tarlanc chuckled, amused at what he considered one of the many vanities of mankind. "Then when these festivities are concluded, the guests follow the couple to the bed chambers and serenade them with love songs. With a great deal of jesting and teasing and no small amount of embarrassment to the couple, the guests see to it that they are put to bed and then leave the chamber."
"Aye, that is the way of many weddings in Rohan," Elfhild added in the hopes of encouraging the old man, who had suddenly turned shy. "Nothing at all unusual in that."
"But you do not understand... there is a bit more to it than that among the Randirrim." Tarlanc had become almost too embarrassed to speak, but the twins devilishly implored him to continue. "Please," he held up a hand, "it would not be appropriate for me to tell you everything. Instead, let me go on to the other parts of the story."
"Aye, dear Tarlanc, tell us only what you wish." Elffled turned away from him to hide her own blushing cheeks. How scandalized their family and friends would be to know that she and her sister were traveling unescorted with a man old enough to be their great-grandfather! They would be even more alarmed to think of them alone with him in the middle of a dark forest, listening to his naughty tales!
"The Randirrim usually follow the wedding customs of the country in which they live up to a point, and then everything changes. Instead of the feast and the joyful procession to the bed chamber right after the wedding, there is first another custom." Tarlanc coughed nervously. "The bride's mother and an honored matron retire to another tent, where they... ahh... advise the blushing bride..." Suddenly, he hit upon the words which would spare them all from embarrassment. "They would advise her on being a good wife. Aye that is it!"
The sisters looked at him questioningly. They were somewhat disappointed; both were hoping to hear a juicy tale. Of course, they knew that Tarlanc was too honorable and modest a man to say anything risque to two young girls who were still considered children among the long-lived Gondorians.
As he beamed at his own cleverness at evading the exact nature of the "advice," the visions of his wedding flooded through Tarlanc's mind. The Randirrim insisted that their unmarried women be pure and innocent. If it were discovered that the bride had been defiled by another man, the groom could reject her and demand the brideprice to be returned, telling her to go to the one who had ruined her. To verify the bride's purity, she was examined after the wedding by a "virginity judge," an elderly woman with much experience in performing the ritual. "Strange custom," Tarlanc thought, as he had so many times before. "It would save much distress if they had the examination before the wedding!"
The "judge of virtue" would twist a white handkerchief around her finger and insert the cloth into the girl's channel of love and feel for her maidenhead. If the highly prized barrier had been breached, the bridegroom was under no obligation either to pay the inspector or to accept the "damaged goods." It was in his rights to demand that the man who had deflowered her would have to bear the responsibility, for the offended bridegroom certainly would not.
Tarlanc had not known about the custom before his marriage. Much to his and his bride's embarrassment, the august lady came back in a state of dismay, crying and waving the handkerchief. With a sense of offended propriety, the judge proclaimed to one and all that Tabahanza was no virgin. Over the green meadow where the wedding had been celebrated there fell a great pall of shocked silence, save for the soft weeping of Tabahanza, who followed behind the midwife. No one spoke while the people waited for Tarlanc to demand satisfaction from the man who had stolen the groom's sacred right to deflower his bride. People looked to see if the guilty knave would come forward and confess his crime, but no man stepped out of the crowd. His face hot with the red flush of shame, Tarlanc had no choice other than to confess that his love had been too overpowering for him to wait until after the wedding to consummate the union.
At this painful confession of his new son-in-law, Wedri's dark eyes had blazed with anger, his face turning almost black with hot blood, his hand going to the dagger at his belt. Then to Tarlanc's great relief, Wedri had burst out in laughter, clasping his new son-in-law about the shoulders and kissing him upon both cheeks. Turning away, he then announced to everyone, "I was worried that my daughter had married a foreign weakling, but now I know that she has married a true man! They will give Ahãma and me many grandchildren to brighten our older years!"
Roaring with approval, the crowd picked up the father and his son-in-law and carried them all about the camp on their shoulders. Shouting wildly, Wedri had ripped his shirt to pieces as the crowd heralded him with even greater salvos of approval. When the jubilant procession had halted, the whole camp broke into wild celebration. Tarlanc smiled as he remembered how the men and women spontaneously formed a circle and began to dance. How they had swirled and turned, their bright, gaudy clothing like so many colorful flowers spinning around and around!
Tarlanc emphasized the jubilant celebration, the abundant food and wine, the happiness of the crowd, but he would never tell the maidens about the results of the embarrassing examination of his bride by the midwife. That would remain his secret.
"And then," Tarlanc concluded, wiping away the glistening sweat on his forehead, "there was dancing and feasting the rest of the night."
"Oh, Tarlanc, that was a wonderful story," Elfhild remarked. Even though the old fellow's tale was not exactly the most scintillating she had ever heard, still it was enjoyable. She found the culture of the Randirrim fascinating, and wondered if she would ever meet any of them.
"And so romantic!" Elffled exclaimed, clasping her hands together. "How beautiful the wedding must have been with all the music, singing and dancing. I would love to have a wedding like that in the Mark!" She giggled at the thought. "I would want you to attend. I would be so sad if you did not, my dear friend!"
"And I would not miss it for anything!" Tarlanc beamed, basking in the warm light of all the attention.
"But Tarlanc, there is something I cannot understand." Elfhild looked at him questioningly, her brows furrowed in consternation.
"What is that?"
"What is so unusual about the bride being given advice after the wedding?" she asked innocently, glancing around at both of them. "Although I thought that usually took place before the wedding..."
Elbowing Elfhild in the ribs, Elffled hissed in her sister's ear, "Sometimes I cannot believe how dense you are! Do you not understand anything? Can you not tell that this 'advice' involves something so embarrassing that Tarlanc does not wish to discuss it with us?"
"Oh!" Elfhild's eyes widened, and she blushed in embarrassment. She quickly sought for some topic to change the subject. "Was this the end of all the trouble with Dezi?" she asked, congratulating herself at her diplomatic solution to a delicate problem.
Tarlanc walked back to the blanket and retrieved his pipe and tobacco. Striking the flint to the steel, he soon had a fire glowing in the bowl. "My thoughts come easier to me when I am smoking a pipe," he explained, chuckling. "There is more to my tale, which I will continue now.
"For almost three months, Dezi sulked in his mother's tent, refusing to leave it. He could not bear the ridicule that he would receive for having fallen off the horse and breaking his leg." Tarlanc looked down at the red embers of burning tobacco in his pipe and thought back to those long ago days of his youth. "Somehow Dezi became convinced that his leg had never healed properly. No matter how many reassurances the healer gave him, Dezi's childish mind feared that his leg would fracture as soon as the cast was removed. Finally, in spite of his doubts and his sniveling protests, his mother and the healer were able to convince him to use the crutch that the camp's wood carver had made for him. When he first put weight on his leg, Dezi had burst into tears, whimpering that the pain was unbearable. It was not until a day later when at last he consented to leave his sanctuary.
"'Tarlanc is the cause of my pain, and with every step I take, I will think of him,' he explained to his mother as he stood at the entrance of their tent.
"'But how can that be, my son? He did nothing to make the horse run away with you,' the good lady patiently told him.
"'When the hateful foreigner first came among us, Tabahanza no longer liked me and would not look at my toys when I brought them to her! Never again did she sing her songs for me, but she sang them for him! He placed the evil eye upon me and cursed me with the magic of the Ancient Ones! He is wicked, Mother! Do you not understand?'
"All over the camp, people could hear his whining voice as he hobbled about his mother's tent. After a week or so, he finally realized that he was healed. That is when my troubles began once more, only this time they increased tenfold." Bowing his head, Tarlanc set down his pipe. As though in sympathy, the great hound licked his master's hand affectionately as the old miller gazed into the darkness.
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.