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Eucatastrophe: The Return  by Dreamflower

EUCATASTROPHE: THE RETURN, PART FOURTEEN

In the Master’s apartment, Frodo put the finishing touches on his cousin, brushing the back of the rich green velvet jacket, before handing it to Merry to put on.  Pippin had turned his attention to Merry’s hair, combing it with all the attention that Merry had ever paid to his own curls.  Sam, Freddy and Berilac all watched in amusement. 

“That’s an amazing weskit there, Merry,” said Freddy.  The garment in question was a rich wine colored brocade, with gold buttons.

“Can you believe that at one point your mother was trying to make me wear a *lavender* waistcoat!”

Freddy snorted.  “Of course I can!  I am afraid mother rather ran wild with this wedding.”

Frodo helped Merry to button the jacket.  “Can’t have you putting the buttons in the wrong holes today, Cousin.”

Merry chuckled.  “Trust you to bring that up, Frodo.”

“Wrong holes?” asked Sam.

“Yes,” said Frodo.  “He used to start his buttons in the middle to save time, he said, and of course he’d be one hole off in both directions!”

“Frodo!  Be fair!  I was only seven years old at the time!”

Frodo just ruffled his hair affectionately, causing Pippin to cry out in protest, and attack Merry’s head with the comb once more.  “Frodo! You are being more hindrance than help,” Pippin muttered mutinously.

Frodo shook his head in amusement.  Merry’s nerves seemed to have all disappeared when he had awakened this morning, and Frodo sensed in him a calm eagerness now, to have it done with.

Just then, Saradoc stuck his head in the doorway.  “It’s time,” he said simply.  But Frodo saw his older cousin’s eyes spark with happy tears as he looked proudly at his son.  He gave them a nod, and went off, followed by all the other hobbits in the room save Frodo and Merry. 

Frodo put his hands on Merry’s shoulders, and looked up into the clear grey eyes.  “I am so very happy to be here for this day, Merry.”  He felt tears spring to his own eyes, and blinked them away.

Merry pulled him into a quick embrace.  “I know, Frodo.  And I can’t imagine doing this without you.”

Frodo returned the hug.  “I love you, sprout,” he whispered.

For once, Merry did not protest. 

Together, they went down the passage, and out into the brightness of a Midsummer’s noontide, and made their way to the large white pavilion that stood beneath the huge tree in the courtyard.  The two of them took their places next to the table where the contract lay, in all its gilded splendor.

In only a few moments, Estella came, escorted by Melilot.  She was radiant in a gown of finest white lawn, embroidered in flowers on the bodice and hem, and a sash of green silk.  The flowers on her head were like stars on her dark hair, and she had eyes only for Merry as she stepped to his side.

Saradoc blinked away his own tears, and cleared his throat.  “I have before me two hobbits who have come with a petition of marriage. Who will vouch for them?”

This was a moment Frodo had waited for most of his life.  He blinked at the tears of joy that threatened, and cleared his throat as he stepped forward.   "I am Frodo Baggins, a hobbit of Hobbiton. I present Meriadoc Brandybuck, a hobbit of Buckland, known to me as a hobbit of good character, who is of age, with no reasons why he should not be wed.” He turned a fond glance on his younger cousin, who met his eyes briefly, the happiness clear to see.  He gave Merry a smile of reassurance and stepped back.

That was Melilot’s cue, and now she stepped up.  “I am Melilot Brandybuck, a hobbitess of Bucklebury. I present  Estella Bolger, a hobbitess of Budgeford, known to me as a hobbitess of good character, who is of age, with no reasons why she should not be wed.”  She reached over and gave Estella’s hand a brief squeeze before stepping back to stand next to Frodo.

Frodo watched as Saradoc now turned to his son, his face beaming with pride.

“Meridaoc Brandybuck, is it your intent to wed Estella Bolger, of your own free will?”

Merry turned to face his bride, his face as solemn and serious as Frodo had ever seen it.  “It is,” he said, firmly and clearly.

“Estella Bolger, is it your intent to wed Meridoc Brandybuck, of your own free will?”

Estella blushed, but her heart was in her eyes, as she said proudly. “Yes, it is!”

“Meriadoc Brandybuck and Estella Bolger, you have declared before witnesses your intent to wed. The duties of marriage are to honor and support one another; the blessings of marriage are to love and respect one another. These duties and these blessings are meant to last for a lifetime. Are you prepared to take on these tasks, through such joys and sorrows as may in time come to you?”

“Yes, we are!” they said together.

Saradoc looked at the two of them for a long moment.  Frodo noticed the tears in his uncle’s eyes.  The Master of Buckland swallowed twice, and then, looking out over the great crowd of assembled hobbitry,  raised his voice.  “There was a time, not so very long ago, that I feared this day would never happen, that I feared I would never see my son, my cousin or my nephew or their friend again.  There was a time when we were sorely pressed, here in Buckland, and even more so across the River in the Shire.  And just when we thought that things could only grow worse,  word came: the lost were not only returned, but had returned with hope and the courage to end our trouble.  I have good reason to be proud of my son, who one day, I daresay, will completely eclipse me as a magnificent Master of Buckland.  And he will have at his side a wife who will make a wonderful Mistress of the Hall.  But more than this, I know that they have what it takes to make a good marriage: love, loyalty, determination and hope.  Estella and Meriadoc, may your joys be many, may your sorrows be few.”

Saradoc sniffed, and cleared his throat once more.

“And now, if the designated witnesses will come forward: Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Fredegar Bolger, Merimac Brandybuck, Berilac Brandybuck, Doderic Brandybuck, Paladin Took, and, to be attested by Paladin Took, Peregrin Took.”

This last did not occasion the comment and gossip that it had at Sam’s wedding.  It had been a foregone conclusion that the underage Peregrin would still sign his cousin’s Marriage Lines--many hobbits thought that perhaps Merry had been planning to make it a precedent so long ago as that.  “Because you know, the Brandybucks are well-known for planning ahead!”

Merry would just smile and arch an eyebrow when he was asked about it, and Pippin would beam.

Frodo had signed his own name and stepped back, to look over the sea of assembled hobbits--and one Wizard, one Dwarf, one Elf and one Man, who stood at the back of the crowd lest they obscure anyone’s vision.  Even from this far away, Frodo could see the pride on Gandalf’s face.  The Wizard met his gaze, and gave a brief nod.

The contract signed,  Saradoc announced: “I now present to you Mr. and Mrs. Meriadoc Brandybuck!” 

Merry needed no prompting, he pulled Estella close to him, and kissed her thoroughly, to the loud cheers of all the guests.

Frodo heard Merimac chuckled.  “He’s welcoming her into the family in proper Brandybuck fashion!”

The guests who had been invited into the Hall filed in for the wedding luncheon, while a great picnic was spread outdoors for all the other guests.  And one more guest had been squeezed in at the head table:  Haldad, as the representative of the King.

The feast was long and varied, and the wedding cake was immense.  To the amusement of Frodo, Rose found the silver penny.

After the cake had been served, Pippin rose from his seat, and went around to stand at the other side of the table, across from the newlyweds.

“I gave you this song earlier, for your approval.  But now I’ll sing it for all to hear:

“Come sit by me, love, I will tell you a tale,
To move your hard heart without fail:
I’ll tell you a tell of far foreign lands
Of forests and mountains and white sea strands.

Oh no, my dear, no!
No such place would I go!
But tell me a story do,
Tell me one true.

Come sit by me, love, I will tell you a tale,
To move your hard heart without fail:
I’ll tell you of doom and of sorrow,
And of those who had no tomorrow!

Oh no, my dear, no!
No sad tale of woe!
But tell me a story do,
Tell me one true.

Come sit by me, love, I will tell you a tale,
To move your hard heart without fail:
I’ll tell you of battles and warriors bold,
Who were the great heroes in days of old!

Oh no, my dear, no!
No hero from long ago!
But tell me a story do,
Tell me one true.

Come sit by me, love, I will tell you a tale,
To move your hard heart without fail:
I’ll tell you of those who have found their true love,
Whose hope was as constant as the stars above!

Oh yes, my dear, yes!
Such stories are best!
Tell me a story do,
Tell me one true.

Come sit by me, love, I will tell you a tale,
To move your sweet heart without fail:
I’ll tell you of my deep love for you,
And how I shall always be true!

Oh yes, my dear, yes!
That story’s the best!
Tell me that story, do,
And we shall make it true!”

There was much applause for this, and Pippin was prevailed upon to repeat it. 

When the luncheon was finished, it was back out to the front garden for music and dancing.  Frodo led the Tangle Dance, and afterwards found several willing partners for some of the other dances.  Breathless, he finally took a break, and found himself with Gandalf, who was smiling and clapping his hands.

“Well, Frodo, you appear to be having a wonderful time!  Are you glad you came back?”

He looked up at the Wizard.  “Of course I am!  I could not imagine missing this day!  Elvenhome was lovely--but my family is *here*.”  He sighed, “Except for Bilbo.  But if he had stayed, I am sure I would have lost him by now.  Still, he would have loved all this!”

“Yes, he would have,” Gandalf agreed. 

The music was uninterrupted by the appearance of more food at the outdoor tables.  This was the longest day of the year, and there would be tea and supper and late supper without any real break in between.  When some of the musicians flagged, others appeared to take their places.  Frodo had seen Pippin playing three different instruments--he had his fiddle again, and Aunt Esme had hers, and they were playing so well that some of the dancers had stopped just to listen.

Finally, the Sun went down, and as her last rays disappeared across the River, a great light shot up with a whistle, and exploded into flowers of light.

“Fireworks!” was the cry.  “Gandalf brought fireworks!”

As the marvelous fireworks exploded across the sky, Frodo found the tired but happy bridal couple.  “Are you ready to get away?” he asked.

The look they gave one another was answer enough.  Frodo chuckled.  “Remember our plan!”

As another spectacular firework drew everyone’s attention, Frodo spirited them down the lane, where a waggon awaited, driven by Gimli.  Pippin pulled aside a tarp, and Merry and Estella were soon hidden beneath it.  Frodo hopped up next to Gimli.

“Legolas has gone on to retrieve our packs.  We will drop you two off at Crickhollow, and the rest of us will go back to the Ferry.  Sam and Rose left earlier.  We’ll meet them in Stock and then head to Bag End in the morning.  Crickhollow will be just for the two of you for the next month!”

But from the muffled giggles he heard beneath the tarp, he was not certain if they had paid any attention to him.

Frodo laughed, and looked up at the stars.  Life was good, and only getting better.

________________________________

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  For a look at the Wedding Document prepared for Merry and Estella by Frodo, click on this link. You will see the full text of the legal contract, as well as the fully illuminated document!

http://talechallenges.livejournal.com/18869.html





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