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Author name: Dreamflower
First Yule, S.R. 1427
"I don't suppose this is what you had in mind when you made the journey North," said Frodo, leaning forward on the windowsill, and staring through the panes into a sea of swirling white.
Faramir, who stood behind him gazed out at the same view and chuckled. "To be honest, my friend, I do not know exactly what I expected. But this chain of events did not enter my mind."
Laughter erupted behind them as Sam finished proclaiming one of Bilbo's more fanciful humorous verses. Everyone else was huddled about the hearth, a roaring fire lending welcome warmth to the room.
"Your turn, Merry!" said Sam, flushed at the success of his recitation.
Merry grinned, thought a moment, and then said, "Have I ever told the story of the first time that Pippin ever embarrassed me?"
"Merry!" Pippin stood up. "No!"
"Yes. You see he was just a faunt at the time..."
Pippin turned pleading eyes to Frodo, who had turned around. "By all means let us hear it," Frodo said. "And then afterwards I will tell the story of when Uncle Bilbo and Aunt Dora came to tea in Brandy Hall..."
Merry shut his mouth with a snap, and glared furiously at his older cousin, who then winked at Pippin.
"Traitor!" muttered Merry.
Frodo simply laughed.
Faramir watched the byplay between the hobbits with amusement; he had arrived some weeks earlier, come to represent his fief of Ithilien, having left his Uncle Imrahil in charge of Gondor during his absence. He could not say that he had expected his trip to Annuminas to include a blizzard that kept all of them trapped at Yule in the newly finished hobbit wing of the Northern Citadel--the only completed part of the Northern Citadel, at that. The plan had been for everyone to adjourn to the Shire, to the Great Smials, when the Council was ended, where they had been invited to spend the holidays in the newly-built guest wing there. Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli were probably already there. The King had called for a gathering of his Northern Council, and all were to adjourn to the Tooklands when the meeting ended, as it should have, a few days before Yule began. Weather was generally mild enough in Foreyule that it should not have been a problem. The lower floors of the Citadel were complete enough that the Royal party could set up camp there, and the hobbit wing was finished. They would have been comfortable enough for a week of meetings. But a sudden snowstorm had changed everything. Now the week looked as though it might turn into a fortnight or longer if the snow did not abate.
Today was the last day of the year in Shire Reckoning, and the hobbits had asked some of their friends to join them in the warmer and more comfortable finished wing. It had been built with hobbits in mind; bedchambers, water closets, bathing rooms and the large kitchen were are all sized for the Small Folk, but the public spaces were spacious enough to accommodate the Big Folk without stooping or bending over or bumping heads on beams or chandeliers. The sitting and dining rooms and open halls also had furniture of various sizes, wide windows that were arched rather than completely round, and were made cosy with large hearthsides and many rugs and hangings.
The Royal couple, Faramir and his Captain Beregond, some of the King's Guards (including Beregond's son Bergil), the Northern Steward Lord Hador, his brother Lord Hiril, and a few others were among those who had joined Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin. Because the planned stay had been brief, none of the hobbits had brought their wives or children. However a family of hobbits had been engaged to staff the wing for cooking and cleaning, Hob and Zinnia Diggle and their tweenaged son Hobson, and daughters Ivy and Fern. The family had prepared a fine meal for them all, while managing not to deplete the stores that might be needed in the days to come. Now all were gathered into the large sitting room that faced West over Lake Evendim.
The King and Queen had been sitting close together on a settee sized for the Big Folk. Now Arwen leaned forward. "I should like to hear some of your famous Yule songs," she said. "It's very pleasant to listen to hobbit singing." She turned her gaze on to Pippin, who was quite helpless to resist it.
"What should we sing?" he asked. "We can't sing of greening the hall, since no one could possibly gather greens in this weather, and the fire's already blazing, so we shan't be bringing in a Yule log either."
As the hobbits began a lively discussion of which song they should begin with, the King interrupted. "Many years ago, when I was Strider the Ranger..."
All the hobbits stopped speaking and turned to him at once.
"...I recall one wintry Yule when Halbarad and I tracked a Warg into the Shire. We destroyed it near the village of Scary. As we wondered how to dispose of the beast so that no Shire-folk might find it, we heard the singing down in the village. There was one I particularly liked, it began 'Come now, good hobbits be of much cheer...'. The melody stayed in my mind, but I could never recollect the rest of the words."
This was all they needed. Pippin began, and soon enough all the others joined in, not only Frodo, Sam and Merry, but most of the worker hobbits who were also there by reason of the snow:
Come now, good hobbits, be of much cheer,
The hobbits sang it again, and this time some of the Big Folk joined in. One song led to another: "Sing Tarrilee", "To Wait for Sun's Returning", "The Tuckborough Carol" "It is the Turning of the Year" and many others. Sometimes the hobbits took time to sooth their throats with mulled cider, and the Big Folk contributed songs as well. The King and Queen entranced all with a Sindarin song of the changing seasons from Rivendell, Guardsman Bergil sang a song of winter from the region of Lossarnach, while Faramir was pressed into singing himself and chose a popular song often sung at the Yestarrë festival in Dol Amroth. Pippin was asked to sing a song written by his sister Pimpernel, "The Darkest Night". This melancholy tune was followed by the rollicking tune of "Buckland Yuletide" which had all clapping and tapping their feet.
As the night waned, the snow ceased to blow and the sky cleared. "One more song," exclaimed Frodo, "and then I think we should all seek our beds!"
Good-bye, Old Year, good-bye!
Good-night, Old Year, good-night!
Farewell, Old Year, farewell!
Good Day, New Year, Good Day!
Hello, New Year, Hello!
As the song finished, Faramir turned once more to the window. He gave an exclamation of surprise. "Someone is coming!"
There were shouts of astonishment as all stared at the distant sight of a sled being pulled by two horses, easily seen from afar against the whiteness of the snow. Who on earth could possibly be travelling through such weather? There were two figures in the sled, and as they drew nearer, one leaped down and began to run lightly over the snow.
"Legolas!" shouted Pippin. "It's Legolas!"
"And Gandalf as well!" added Merry as it drew near enough to see the driver. "Good old Gandalf!"
"But how have they managed to come here through such dreadful weather?" asked Beregond.
Frodo laughed. "Elves pay the snow no mind," he said, "and it seems the cold does not bother the White Wizard, either."
Aragorn just laughed as the new arrivals drew closer; then he sprang to the large round door and regardless of the blast of cold air, raced out to meet the newcomers. He was quickly followed by the hobbits and the rest of the gathering. He sprang at Legolas, laughing and grabbing him in a quick embrace, while Frodo, Merry and Sam all swarmed over Gandalf, hampering him as much as helping him to alight.
Servants were sent to see to the horses and to bring in the many packages and parcels in the back of the sled.
As the two new arrivals stood near the hearth, with goblets of the mulled cider pressed into their hands, Aragorn looked at them. "What on earth possessed you to come out in such a storm?"
Gandalf laughed and exchanged a look with Legolas. "Several worried wives and children and numerous hobbit relatives who were upset that you all could not make it to the Shire; we assured them that we would find you and make sure all was well. And the storm was much less in the Shire than here."
"Well," said Frodo, "this is a pleasant beginning to a New Year!" He raised his own goblet. "A toast to the New Year! May it be filled with many blessings!"
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