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Author name: dreamflower02 (pinch-hitter)
From a distance the scene would have appeared to be that of a fond grandfather strolling slowly on the beach with his little grandsons, as they occasionally stopped to look at some delightful treasure in the sand at their feet, perhaps a shell or a water-polished stone or an oddly shaped bit of driftwood. Once they stopped and gazed East at the magnificent sunrise, the sky streaked with fiery colours of rose and orange, blending into pale lavenders and purples beneath the fading stars of night as Anor began her daily journey to the West.
But closer examination would show that the taller of the three was no kin at all to the smaller, and the two smaller figures were no children at all, but two elderly pheriannath with white curls upon their heads and feet.
"This is so beautiful and peaceful!" said one, taking in a deep breath. "Thank you for bringing us out here this morning, Lord Amrothos!"
"You are quite welcome, Master Pippin! It will not be very peaceful later on."
"Ah, yes," said the other pherian. "The YestarŽ celebrations you told us of! I look forward to them!"
"We are much less solemn here in Dol Amroth than in Minas Anor, and of course these days in the White City, MetarrŽ and YestarŽ are scarcely even remembered, since the New Year now begins in spring, thanks to the great deed of your cousin." Amrothos looked down, and uncovered a sand ducat with the tip of his walking stick.* Merry bent down to pick it up.
"It looks like a flower," he said. "Or a star." He placed it in his pocket along with some of the other small things he'd found this morning. They would be nice to send along to the great-grandchildren in the Shire...
"Tell us about YestarŽ in Dol Amroth," asked Merry.
Amrothos chuckled. When it came to tales, the hobbits were insatiable. "I will tell you of the very first one that I remember--it started much like today, in fact, as my father usually brought us with him for a peaceful stroll before the festivities...
"I was only seven at the time, and Boromir and Faramir had come to visit us for the season...
Imrahil walked along slowly, younger sons and his nephew Faramir orbiting around him. Faramir bore Imrahil's little daughter LothŪriel upon his shoulders, for she was only two and scarcely likely to keep up with the boys upon the shifting sand. Elphir was not with them, for he had been thrilled with Boromir's request that he squire him for the tournament later today and the two of them were deep in preparations. The tournament of the Swan Knights was always a highlight of yestarŽ celebrations in Dol Amroth. Faramir had smilingly allowed his younger cousin that honour that usually went to him; he would much rather have the traditional walk on the beach with his uncle and younger cousins.
"Amrothos! Away from the water! If you get wet you will have to be sent home to change your clothing, and you will miss the start of the parade!"
At this dire threat, the youngest prince darted away from the tempting wavelets and put himself beyond temptation by coming over to take his father's hand. "Ada! When will it be the parade?"
"When the Sun is fully up, my son, and after we have broken our fast. For I shall not signal for it to begin on an empty stomach."
Erchirion, who had run a little ahead of his father, turned around and walked backwards to ask him "May we have frycakes for breakfast?"
"Yes, we shall have frycakes if you wish, so long as you do not tell your mother!"
Imrahil laughed. "I think not! But perhaps you may have lemonade instead!"
"I will have coffee, uncle," Faramir put in firmly, as he bounced LothŪriel and made her squeal.
"That is no business of mine, Faramir. You are of age and your own responsibility. I think you are quite old enough to drink what you please."
Faramir blushed and chuckled, then pointed to some folks just beyond them, coming out onto the beach laden with firewood. "Ah--I see they are beginning to prepare the bonfires already!"
"Yes, many families do that ahead of time, so that they do not miss any of the other festivities. But the servants will take care of that for us."
Their little party had come within sight of the wharf, and people were beginning to notice them. Imrahil knew that they would soon be intercepted by well-wishers and he took pity on his younger sons. "Erchirion, you and Amrothos run ahead and find where the food vendors are and locate the frycakes, so that you may show us when we get there. Amrothos! Take your brother's hand, and stay with him!"
Amrothos scowled a little at this command, but he obeyed and Erchirion grasped his hand firmly as they raced over the sand to the wharf, which was decked with colorful ribbons and already was being crowded by the vendors of food and drink and trinkets. Some of the entertainers who would not be in the parade were there as well. The brothers stopped briefly to watch a juggler before they began their search for the frycake vendor.
The heady aroma of coffee showed them that the coffee vendor was nearby. There were also casks being broached, of small beer and of wine. The Prince did not allow the sale of beer, ale or stronger drink before noon on the holiday. There was a booth selling lemonade, and someone clever had also set up a cart in which they had a block of ice from the mountains, carefully insulated by a blanket and hay. They were selling chipped ice, a farthing for a cupful. While it was winter, the day would still be warm enough to make such an indulgence welcome. There! Amrothos spotted it first and began to yank on Erchirion's hand to lead him to the frycake vendor. The vendor had set up a brazier to heat oil in a large iron spider. Then from a pitcher with a narrow spout he would pour batter in. The ribbons of golden batter would fry up into a puffy treat, which he would then drizzle with honey or sprinkle with sugar, depending upon his customer's fancy. He gave a grin when he spotted the young princes.
"Ah, my young lords! Have you come for my treats?" He took up the pitcher, and gave them an inquiring look.
Amrothos was eager, and started to say yes, but Erchirion jerked his hand in warning. "Thank you, but not yet, Goodman Bandir. We are waiting for Ada."
The vendor smiled and gave a little bow. "As is proper, my lord. I look forward to your custom when his Grace arrives."
Amrothos and Erchirion turned to see what progress their father had made. They were pleased to see he was nearly to the wharf, though he was thronged with people. But Imrahil raised a hand, and the people backed away. "Thank you, my good people," he said, "Give me a chance to break my fast with my children and then I shall give the signal for the parade!" He and Faramir (who still bore LothŪriel) mounted the steps to the wharf. The brothers ran back to meet him.
"Ada! Ada!" Amrothos cried, jumping up and down in excitement. "We found Goodman Brandir!"
"And there's ice, Ada!" added Erchirion. The youngsters led their father and cousin along in their wake back to the frycake vendor, who was quite ready for them. The other food vendors looked on in envy at the man who would get the Prince's custom.
Imrahil took his daughter from Faramir, "Unless, nephew, you would appreciate having honey in your hair?"
Faramir winced at the thought, and immediately handed the little princess over to her father. Imrahil grinned. He was prepared for this rather messy holiday tradition, begun years ago when his eldest was old enough for the walk from the palace to the wharf. He had a pouch at his belt stuffed with handkerchiefs, and he always carried his waterskin--not for the purpose of assuaging his thirst, but for the purpose of wiping sticky fingers and faces.
The frycakes were every bit as delicious as Amrothos remembered. He always had sugar on his, though his brother and sister preferred honey. They had lemonade with chipped ice as well, using the small mugs that hung from their belts by a leather loop. Their mother would not approve of their sharing the cups provided by the vendor. When first her husband had begun this tradition, Lady Lindiriel had been worried about him taking their children off without her or the nursemaid; but she soon learned that while her husband might be more indulgent than she, he was every bit as vigilent about their safety.
Bellies sated, Imrahil and Faramir still sipping at their coffee, the ruling family moved to the head of the wharf, and exchanged greetings with the Mayor and some of the Guildmasters who stood their awaiting their Prince.
Amrothos' eyes widened as he gazed down the main thoroughfare of Dol Amroth and saw all of the brightly decorated wains and the bands of minstrels and musicians and the gaudy mummers, as far as his young eyes could see. He had heard a rumour of a mŻmak, but saw no sign of any such amazing thing from here. But he looked up as he heard his father getting ready to start the parade.
"People of Dol Amroth! Let us make merry at the beginning of a new year, that all the year after will be merry as well!" He raised a red silk cloth high over his head and then brought it down.
The Mayor and Guildmasters had placed themselves at the parade's head and began to walk, leading the parade behind them. First was the decorated waggon in which rode "Lady Anor", a maiden chosen by the Guilds for her beauty to represent the waxing of Anor, she wore a traditional gown that belonged to the City--it was of bright yellow, and trimmed with ribbons of red, gold, and darker yellows, and picked out with bright glass beads of the same colours. Her only task was to sit atop the waggon, festooned with ribbons and such flowers as might be found this time of year, and to wave and smile at those who had come to watch the parade.
Each waggon or wain which passed tried to outdo all the others in magnificence and colour. Some presented tableaux which were meant to represent moments in Dol Amroth's history, others were just to be admired for their beauty. The horses or oxen pulling them were also decorated with ribbons and flowers. Sometimes the people on them would present a child with sweets or beads made of trinket-glass. Of course as they passed the Prince's family each of his children were given these. Imrahil confiscated the sweets for later, but all three of his children sported several strands of beads as the parade slowly passed.
Interspersed between them were the entertainers: mummers, jugglers, pipers and drummers, tumblers and flute players. To Amroth's delight there was a mŻmak, clearly a baby (for it was only about four times the size of a horse and had no tusks yet, but got up with magnificent barding decorated with false jewels and paint, with a pretty maiden dressed in the style of Harad riding upon its back. It was led by a man who also wore the style of Harad.
Finally the last of the parade came in sight: the Swan Knights of Dol Amroth on their huge chargers, lances bearing pennons which flapped in the breeze. The children shouted out greetings to the knights that they recognized, and especially loudly when Boromir came in sight, with Elphir riding alongside him. They would continue on after the parade ended to the Tourney Field north of town.
Last of all was a carriage, driven by one of the Palace servants and accompanied by several of the Palace Guards. Lady Lindiriel rode within, accompanied by the children's nursemaid and one of her ladies-in-waiting. Led behind was the Prince's steed and Faramir's. The children were handed in to their mother, and Imrahil and Faramir mounted their horses to ride alongside, for they too were heading to the Tourney Field, where they would have lunch in a pavillion, before going to sit in their box and watch the tournament.
Amrothos could scarcely remember lunch--he was still stuffed full of frycakes, but he watched the tourney with excitement. In spite of the fact that Boromir had warned them he was unlikely to win, he was certain that his cousin would prevail.
Boromir did indeed prevail over all others at unmounted swordplay, but though he was very good at the jousting in spite of the fact that this was not a skill much used in the field in the skirmishes he fought in, he yet only came in fourth. This gave him an overall standing of third place. Faramir was very pleased for his brother--Boromir had frankly told him that he did not expect to place, for he was very young compared to the other more experienced knights, and his place among them was honorary due to his relationship to the Prince and the Steward. He did not fight in their company.
Even so, Amroth shouted himself hoarse as he cheered for his beloved older cousin...
"That's all I can recall of that day. The adults would feast and then they and the older children would go down to the bonfires on the beach for music and dancing. Elphir got to go that year for the first time. But the rest of us were deemed too young and were bundled back to the nursery for supper and bed."
"It sounds like an amazing day," said Merry. "We have never had anything so marvelous in the Shire!"
"Ah, but Tuckborough has its Moveable Feast!" said Pippin. "And that is just as marvelous in its own way, if not so colourful!"
As they walked, the hobbits explained to their tall friend that particular custom. He thought how typically hobbity a celebration based on food would be. And he thought with wistfulness of those long ago days at his father's heels. Dol Amroth still had the finest yestarŽ celebrations in Gondor, and folk still came from far and wide to witness their parades, but somehow it did not seem the same anymore...
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