|About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search|
EUCATASTROPHE: THE RETURN, PART TWELVE
Frodo found himself awake early. It was something new for him, to waken in time to see the dawn nearly every morning. It had begun on the voyage to Tol Eressëa, when all of the Elves would waken to greet Anor, as she broke over the Eastern horizon. He found himself strangely invigorated at that time of day.
He had expected to fall back into his old, and self-confessed slothful habits on his return to the Shire, but he had not. He got up and dressed, for sharing a hole with Rose Gamgee had cured him of his bachelor habit of breakfast in his dressing gown, and made his way to the kitchen. He passed by the room which Legolas had been given, but the door stood open. The Elf was probably already outdoors.
Frodo opened the kitchen window and looked out--yes, there he was, beneath the same oak he had climbed yesterday, his face turned to the East, and a low song on his lips, which Frodo could barely make out. He was tempted to go and join his friend, but he was still a hobbit, after all, and tea seemed rather a more urgent need at the moment than song.
Humming under his breath the same melody that Legolas sang, he pumped water into the kettle, and stirred up the fire in the stove, which had been banked for the night. Once he’d put the kettle on and taken out the tea cannister and teapot, he turned his attention to the larder. Pippin had indicated that it was nearly bare yesterday, but he noticed that the ingredients for griddlecakes were there, even if there were no sausages and eggs to accompany them. There were also some jars of preserves, put up at the Hall.
He was busily making a lovely stack of griddlecakes when Pippin wandered into the kitchen in his tatty old dressing gown. Even though it was nearly worn out, and was far too small for him since he had returned from his Journey, he refused to get rid of it. It had been a gift from his Auntie Peridot when he was twenty-seven.
“Ah, Frodo! I thought I smelled something good!” He reached over to the plate and snatched one of the cakes, deftly dodging Frodo’s ill-aimed swat, and taking a bite from it. “Mmm…very good, cousin!”
Frodo chuckled. “You will eat them all before we even sit down, you impudent thing!”
Pippin just smiled, and took down two plates. “There are plenty here for the two of us. Legolas never eats first breakfast, Gimli usually sleeps through it, and Merry will as well. He didn’t sleep well last night. He had some unsettling dreams.”
Frodo looked over at Pippin with alarm. “Nightmares of the Quest?” he asked worriedly. While he felt that he was mostly free of his bad memories, he worried about the others--they had not had the same benefits that he had.
Pippin shook his head and smiled. “Nightmares of quite a different sort! He was dreaming that he was at the wedding dressed only in his smallclothes! Apparently in his dream, only Rosamunda seemed to notice, and she approached him with a weskit she wished for him to wear. As she came after him, at first it was a very plain black one, but it kept changing color while she chased him. And then Estella started weeping that he was standing her up!”
“Oh dear!” Frodo wasn’t certain whether to laugh or not. Poor Merry!
“Anyway,” said Pippin, as the two of them sat down together to stacks of griddlecakes and strawberry preserves, “I am going to the market this morning in Newbury. Care to come with me?”
Frodo shook his head. “I think that I shall work on the Marriage Lines. I have only a few things to complete, and then that will be one task out of the way.”
“You can use Merry’s desk in the parlor,” said Pippin. “He’s not going to be busy there anytime soon.”
Frodo nodded. “Well, then, as I made the breakfast, I shall leave the washing up to you, Pip.”
Pippin rolled his eyes. “Bossy older cousins!” But there was fond laughter in his voice.
Frodo fetched the long brass tube, in which the document had traveled, and the case containing his inks, paints, pens and brushes.
Frodo was humming pleasantly beneath his breath, as he unrolled the large document. He placed a heavy polished stone at each corner, and blew gently, in case of any stray particles of dust. He did not turn around, for he knew Legolas had come in. “What do you think?” he asked shyly. He wondered if his work would come up to Elven standards of perfection.
Legolas came near, and stood over his shoulder. The document was written in the precise rounded Westron that the hobbits of the Shire preferred. He recalled the document Frodo had prepared for Sam’s wedding, with its rich border of roses and other flowers, and a small watercolor inset of a Shire landscape. This was quite different in style.
“It reminds me of Rohan,” he said cautiously, in case his guess was wrong.
Frodo beamed at him. “I’m so glad to hear you say that! I was quite taken with the intricate knotwork I saw decorating much of Meduseld. And, as Merry is a Knight of Rohan, I thought that I would include some of that. But I hope that there is not too much of it, for he is also a hobbit of Buckland, and Estella’s of the Shire.”
Legolas looked more closely, and Frodo held his breath for the verdict. “The knotwork has a Rohirric flavor, but I like the tiny river scene you have placed within the illuminated capital. A scene of the Baranduin?”
Frodo nodded, pleased.
“And there are the floral vines within the knotted borders, and the style of the lettering. I certainly think that you have honored the Shire as well as Merry’s Rohirric connections.”
“Thank you! That is just the effect I was hoping for.”
“You cannot have much left to do to this,” said Legolas.
“No, not a lot. I took it with me on the voyage to work on, and I’ve done more since I came back. Mostly I need to fill in and illuminate the dates, for I did not then know what the date would be--Merry did promise to wait for me, but I was not sure if Estella and the Bolgers would allow the delay.“ He stuck his tongue in his cheek and examined his work briefly. “I did most of the gilding first, but I was uncertain about gilding their names. What do you think, Legolas? Should I gild them, or simply paint them in color?”
“Why, whichever you prefer, of course. Or whichever you think Merry will prefer…”
Frodo chuckled. “I should have known not to ask your advice! You are an Elf, and won’t commit yourself! But--yes, I think that Merry would like the gilding--he tends to be a bit on the colorful side--he reminds me a good deal of Bilbo in that. And I am quite certain Estella’s mother Rosamunda would like the gilding! Yes, let us be extravagant!”
Frodo took out a tiny porcelain dish, and a little jar of distilled water, and found a tablet of gesso, lightly tinted yellow, which he placed in the dish. He had prepared it himself, of slaked plaster and honey. He stirred some water in carefully with a small brush, and then began to apply it to the lettering on Estella’s name. He soon became absorbed in the task, completely oblivious to the silent Elf watching over his shoulder. While the gesso dried, he turned his attention to the letters in the date. He carefully mixed a bit of crimson pigment in another of the porcelain dishes, and began to paint each letter carefully. When he had finished, he checked the gesso. It was dry enough to add a second layer, which he did. He rinsed his small brush, and wiped it carefully with a bit of cloth, before putting it down and stretching flexing his fingers. He startled a bit to realized that Legolas was still there.
He grinned. “I should have thought you would have grown bored by now,” he said ruefully. “It can’t have been very entertaining to watch me work.”
“On the contrary,” replied the Elf. “I always find it fascinating to watch someone who knows what they are doing at work.”
Frodo blushed, and glancing at the clock on the mantelpiece, said, “This has to dry before I lay the leaf. So I think that I will make a couple of other additions. I had left some blank areas, in case there were any last minute changes to the contract. I think I will place the Rohirric device here,” he pointed, “below the place where Uncle Sara will sign and seal the document. And I do believe I will put a few more asters on the vinework.”
Soon he was once more absorbed in the work. He paid no attention when he heard Gimli enter the room. Once he had drawn in the charge of horse-heads, he checked the gesso. It was precisely right. He took up a reed, and carefully blew through it to moisten the sizing, and then, very carefully, took up a tiny sheet of gold leaf to lay down.
Once the leaf had been laid upon the names, he took up a large soft brush, and began to gently brush away the residue. Next, he took up his agate burnisher, and soon the letters gleamed.
He was trying to decide about painting the device he had drawn, when they heard Merry calling. “Oi! Where is everyone? It’s nearly time for elevenses!”
“We’re in the parlor, Merry, but don’t come in here! I don’t want you to see this yet,” Frodo exclaimed. He stood up and stretched, and smiled at Legolas and Gimli. “I suppose that it’s time for a break, at any rate.”
The three of them returned to the kitchen, where they found Merry looking through the barren cupboards. “Where is Pip?” he asked.
“He went to market,” said Frodo. “I think you will find your cupboard is as bare as old Gammer Hubbard’s.”
“Well, that’s a fine state of affairs,” Merry grumbled.
“And one I am here to solve,” came Pippin’s cheerful voice from the kitchen door. His arms were laden, and two young lads, also burdened with bags and parcels, stood behind him. He advanced to place his market basket on the table, and gestured for the lads to do the same. He took some coins from his pockets, and pressed them upon his helpers.
“Ooh! Thank you Captain Pippin,” exclaimed the older of the two. “Look, Bert! Two whole coppers apiece!” They stammered their thanks again, and then raced away.
The rest of the day was busy. They all returned to Brandy Hall after elevenses, for Merry and Estella’s second day of sitting for their gifts. Frodo left Legolas and Gimli in Pippin’s company, and went with Saradoc and Odovacar to discuss some details of the ceremony. Around teatime, Sam and his family arrived, and there was a joyful reunion. Frodo had missed them a good deal while he was gone, and he took possession of little Elanor, only reluctantly relinquishing her to Gimli after several heavy-handed hints.
He looked at Rose, and smiled, a little secretive smile that he saw mirrored in Legolas’ face. She *had* quickened within the last couple of weeks. She gave him a puzzled look when she saw him studying her, so he quickly looked at Sam, and asked for the Hobbiton gossip. Soon everyone was laughing at Sam’s account of the Gaffer’s escalating rivalry with Widow Puddifoot in the matter of growing the largest marrow.
Later, while Merry was quite busy fending off his future mother-in-law’s questions as to why the couple was not moving into Brandy Hall, Frodo spirited Sam and Pippin off to show them the gift he was presenting to Merry and Estella the next day.
“Oh my, Mr. Frodo! That’s a nice piece, that is!” exclaimed Sam in wonder. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one so large!”
Pippin had not said anything, but his green eyes glittered with curiosity, and he approached it with hands outstretched. Frodo smacked his hand smartly.
“Oh no you don’t, Peregrin Took! You don’t touch it!”
Pippin turned wide eyes on him.
“No, that look is not going to work on me! This came all the way from the Lonely Mountain, and it is from both Bilbo and me, so you just keep your Tookish fingers off.”
Pippin sighed. “I wouldn’t hurt it.”
“You’ll have plenty of opportunity once they get it to Crickhollow. Then if you break it you can face Merry’s wrath--and Estella’s!”
“I wouldn’t hurt it,” he repeated. “What makes you think I would?”
“Uncle Sara’s spyglass, Uncle Bilbo’s mantel clock, Pervinca’s wind-up doll, the scales at Whitwell, your clockwork dragon from Uncle Bilbo…”
“Oh, well,” Pippin said huffily, “if you are going to bring up ancient history…” But there was a twinkle in his eye. He was enjoying this.
“Well, Mr. Pippin, there *is* the matter of that bell in Minas Tirith…” said Sam slyly. Frodo looked at him in surprise; Sam rarely got involved in the cousins’ disputes. But Frodo could tell Sam was just as amused as Pippin was by the argument. With a start, he realized they were both humoring him.
“Shall we rejoin the others before Merry decides to come looking for us?”
After supper, they headed back to Crickhollow. They had walked up this time, and so they were walking back. Legolas and Pippin were singing, and Gimli was following along in their wake; Frodo hung back. He could tell Merry wanted to talk.
“Why am I so nervous about this wedding, Frodo? I keep reminding myself that it’s something I want. I can’t wait for Estella to be my wife. And it’s not all the pomp--we had plenty of that at the court of the King, and it never made me so nervous. We all got used to people staring at us.”
Frodo smiled. “Yes, but with the exception of a few close friends, they were all strangers to us. These are our family and friends that we’ve known all our lives--and while it *should* make you less nervous, it actually makes you more so. After all, you will be around most of these folk the rest of your life, and you worry about making a fool of yourself in front of them. But the truth is, you are not going to make a fool of yourself--once you have Estella by your side, you will forget everything else. Remember Sam and Rose, at their wedding?”
Merry smiled. “Of course you’re right, Frodo! And it’s what I do know when I stop to think about it. Thank you for reminding me!”
“Well, it’s one of my duties, after all--dealing with the groom’s nerves!”
|<< Back||Next >>|
|Home Search Chapter List|