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Shire Yule  by Dreamflower


It's been a long time since I wrote a story that was not either a WIP or an exchange story or a challenge story. But this one came to me tonight after the Children's Pageant at church, and I came home and just wrote it all up at once. And though it's been a very long time, I thought this was a good place for it.

Rating: G, but a little angsty
Summary: It's the Year of the Troubles, and the Year is Turning but the Troubles aren't over yet. Pippin's sister Pimpernel ponders what the New Year might bring. Will her brother ever come home?

The Darkest Night

First Yule, S.R. 1418

Pimpernel carefully blew out all the candles in her sitting room and placed a screen before the hearth to block the firelight.  Her father had ordered that all windows in the Great Smials be shuttered at night, lest the Ruffians get an archer close enough to send an arrow through a lighted window. But she ached for a bit of starlight. Silently she opened the window and pushed the shutters open. She breathed in the frosty air, and then looked up. But not a single star was to be seen; the sky was cloudy and overcast. Even the Moon was hiding behind the clouds. Tears sprang to her eyes, and with a disappointed sigh, she closed the window. Not even a star tonight. Truly, it was the darkest and longest First Yule she could recall.

Not that there had been any celebration this year. The Thain was still mourning his son. And he feared that Ruffians might take advantage of a hobbit holiday to spring through their defenses. She relit one of the candles and walked over to the nursery, pushed the door open. Little Flora and baby Alyssum were both sound asleep, Flora in her tiny cot, and Alyssum in her cradle. Neither of them was old enough to realise they were missing a special day; she was glad of that. If they were only a little older they'd be wanting to green the hall and anticipating presents, neither of which would happen this year.

Milo was out with the Tooks, with the patrols on the perimeters of the Tooklands. He would not be home for a few more days—he had to be home in a few days. There were some who had not come home. One killed by a Ruffian archer, and several captured and dragged off to the Lockholes. She shuddered and pushed the thought away.

And then there was the spectre that haunted the Great Smials ever since the end of Halimath, not that anyone had seen Pippin's ghost. No, it was just that he was conspicuous by his absence. Her father would not speak of him, and so no one else did either, at least not in front of his parents or sisters.  But he was missed; he would have found ways to cheer everyone up even in these horrid circumstances if he had been here.

Only Aunt Peridot had defied her younger brother, and had brought out her lap harp tonight and played one of Pippin's favorite Yule tunes; it was a long slow and melancholy tune, altogether fitting to the longest night, but the words looked forward to the dawn.  And Paladin had glared at her, and she had glared right back, and so had Aunt Primrose. He said nothing, but he had not been best pleased.

She found herself humming the tune, and as she did, new words began to fit themselves to the melody in her head. She could not lose those words, for Aunt Peridot clearly believed that Pippin was not dead, and she had raised hope in Pimpernel's heart. The words that came to her were both sad and hopeful, dark and light, grief mingled with anticipation. She placed the candle upon her desk, and pulled out a quill and some parchment, and began to write:

The darkest night is upon us now,
No Moon nor Stars to guide us
With shutters tight
We close in the light,
And trust to silence to hide us.

The dark, the dark with dawn will pass,
The Sun will show her face at last.
Home, Home the lost will come,
And captives will find their freedom.

Once we danced and sang all night
And gave the morn our greeting.
Now widows weep
As children sleep,
And hearts with sorrow are bleeding.

The dark, the dark with dawn will pass,
The Sun will show her face at last.
Home, Home the lost will come,
And captives will find their freedom.

Hold tight to faith and hope and love
Light candles for tomorrow.
Day after day
And come what may
Our joy once more will follow.

The dark, the dark with dawn will pass,
The Sun will show her face at last.
Home, Home the lost will come,
And captives will find their freedom.*

She looked at it—she had changed few words as she wrote; it was a fair copy, though marred with a tear. She signed her name at the bottom with the date, and then opened her desk drawer and placed it underneath her appointment book. The book was a new one for the  new year—Milo had gifted it to her quietly a few days ago, when he knew he would be gone during Yuletide.

She looked at it, and took it out. She would do something to affirm her renewed faith that her brother would come home.  She turned to the last page, marked with the days of Foreyule. On the last day she wrote:

"Show my song to Pippin." She closed it with a little frisson of fear. What if her very act of affirmation made it not come true? Some hobbits believed if you spoke of possible good luck it would never come about. She'd never believed that before—but… No, no she would not think that way. He would come home, and so would Milo, and so would Milo's brother Mero, who had been taken to the Lockholes. And so would Merry and Cousin Frodo, and so would Samwise Gamgee. And the Ruffians would be gone! While she was at it, she would make her hopes and dreams big!

She replaced the book on top of the song, closed the drawer, and blew out the candle, and went to her cold and solitary bed.

First Yule S.R. 1419

"What is it you want to show me, Pimmie?" Pippin laughed as she dragged him by the sleeve. Yule this year had been twice as merry and giddy as any Yule before, perhaps to make up for last year. "I could have filled up the corners a little more at Second Breakfast! Haven't all the presents been given out? I love the new scarf and mittens that you made me."

She pushed him into her sitting room. "That's your present for this year. I made a promise to myself to give you last year's gift when you came home!"

Pippin looked down at her in astonishment. "You made me a present last year? I thought everyone had given up on me!" So far as he had known his family had given him up for dead long before Yule. A tear sprang to his eyes and he reached out and gathered her into his long arms. She wept a little against his shirtfront, and then pushed herself away.

"Well, I suppose I had. But then I saw that Auntie Peri had not given you up. And goodness, if the Aunties believed you would come back, how could I not believe it, too?" She sniffled a little, gave him a watery smile, and then walked over to her desk and took the song out, and handed it to him.

He looked at it almost without seeing it at first, wondering what she had written. And then he read it.

"Oh, Pimmie!" His voice choked a little. "This is beautiful!" He embraced her again.

"I want you to sing it, Pippin! I don't want people to forget that even in that terrible year we still had some hope!"

He nodded solemnly. "I will. And I won't forget that you found your faith in me before I got home."


Pippin did indeed sing the song that night, the last song at the bonfire. And the song was sung year after year, even after he became Thain, and long after he had left the Shire. And it was sung not only in the Tooklands, but in Buckland and in Hobbiton and Michel Delving and in the far off Westmarch and all over the Shire, that all hobbits might remember the Year of the Troubles and how they had come out the other side of it with dignity and compassion and courage.

(*A/N: The song will scan to the tune of "Greensleeves".)

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