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Written for the LOTR Community "The Great Feast" challenge. For Claudia, Kitty, Febobe, Tracey Claybon, and all others whose birthdays I've missed in the past few months. And with memories of Pon Nak, my beloved sister-in-love.
For the Wedding Feast
“So, Samwise Gamgee, it’s the Princess’s weddin’ day at last, is it?”
Sam looked up from where he was slicing boneless beef steaks into thin strips, although his hands did not pause in their work. “That it is, Tom. And I wish as you wouldn’t call her that. It embarrasses her terrible, it does.”
Tom Cotton, husband to Sam’s sister Marigold, shrugged and took a deep draught from his beer mug. Swallowing and wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve, he commented, “Her’s about the prettiest lass in all the Shire, and has served the Queen herself and all. And the stars know as even poor Mr. Frodo doted on her more’n about anythin’ else in Middle Earth afore he left the Shire. Can’t think on anyone else as deserves the title more’n our Elanorellë.”
Sam returned his attention to the beef, his nose twitching slightly as it sometimes did when someone mentioned his long-absent friend. “Mayhaps as you’re right, Tom. But our dear lass has never put on airs nor thought herself above anyone else, not ever since she was born. And now she’ll be leavin’ us as her and Fastred will be startin’ up their lives together back in Greenholm.” He was quiet as he cut three more slices and scooped what he’d cut so far off the cutting board and dropped it into a basin of what appeared to be some kind of oil. As he set to cutting even more slices he continued, “We’ll not know what t’do without her, her mum and the younger ones and me.”
“It’s not as if she’s never been gone, though,” Tom noted, “what with her stayin’ up north in the King’s new city, servin’ in the King’s own house.”
“That may be true,” Sam said, “but then she was still ours, but from now on she ain’t. She’ll be mistress of her own hole, she will, and Fastred’s wife, and soon enough mother to her own bairns.” He wiped his forehead with his bared arm. “Think of that—me, a gaffer in my own right! How Frodo would laugh at that, all delighted!”
Tom’s face grew more solemn. “That he would,” he agreed, his voice quieter and more respectful. “He loved her deeply—I know that, memberin’ how he looked at her last time as I saw him. It’s too bad, really, as he couldn’t be here today. How he’d of loved to dance at her weddin’, or so I’m thinkin’.”
Sam gave a nod as he finished up the last of the steak he’d been slicing. “Indeed he would.”
“Not,” Tom added, “that I member him dancin’ at any weddin’ after the four of you come back from down south-aways. That seemed so strange at the time, seein’ as him was about the best dancer in the whole of the Shire when he was younger.”
Sam set aside his knife and added the new strips of beef to the basin. “You’re right—Frodo didn’t dance after we come back home.”
Sam looked up to meet his brother-in-love’s questioning gaze. “He was hurt too bad for too long. It’s why he left when he did, Tom, for he wasn’t getting’ any better. You know as how moody he’d get when we was stayin’ at your place, there afore Bag End was finished for him to return home, and how his shoulder’d pain him so. It never healed, there where the Witch-king stabbed him. And he couldn’t walk on and on, not like he always did afore. When we was headin’ south he’d outwalk every one of us, but not after we was saved from Mordor. But, think on it. If’n you’d been stabbed with a Morgul blade and nearly was turned into a wraith, then was poisoned by the most evil of great spiders as the Enemy ever bred, was beat by orcs and almost died of lack of food and water and rest and the poison of the worst fire mountain as ever was, and had your finger bit off by the likes of that Gollum, do you think as you’d of ever got better?”
Tom had to allow that perhaps he’d have done no better than had Frodo Baggins. “It’s just too bad he couldn’t dance after that, though,” he said.
Sam set another steak on the board and prepared to slice it. “Actually, he did dance twice, there in the White City, after Lord Strider was made King, and again at the King’s weddin’ to our Lady Arwen. Danced the Husbandman’s Dance for the King and Queen, he did. Pippin was singin’ the song for it, and as they picked up the tune the musicians joined him in the music. And Mr. Frodo, he made it through all seven turns, each one faster and faster! Only----” He paused, staring off into old memories before finally continuing, “Only when it was done it was all he could do to stand upright. Almost collapsed right there afore all them fancy lords and ladies. That was it for him—he wouldn’t dance again.”
He was quiet, looked down and gazed for a moment at the knife in his hand as if he didn’t recognize its purpose, then gave himself a shake and returned to his slicing.
Tom decided he’d best change the subject. “And what is it as you’re fixin’ for the weddin’ feast, Sam?”
This time Sam smiled. “It’s a dish as Mistress Loren taught me, there in the guesthouse where we stayed in Minas Tirith. Said as she learned it of a lass what had been saved from a slave ship from those from Harad, one as Prince Imrahil’s folks captured. Don’t know as where this lass come from to begin with, but it was a land far, far away from Gondor. She wasn’t much taller than a Dwarf, although she was in truth a woman amongst Men. But her skin was almost yellow, and her hair and eyes so dark as to be almost pure black, and her eyes rather tilted. Mistress Loren’s family give her a place to live, and she took to helpin’ with the cookin’. So I asked Lord Strider for the oils and seeds and sauce as is used in the makin’ of it, and decided it would be quite the treat for my eldest’s weddin’ day!”
Tom leaned over to sniff at the basin. “Don’t think as I’ve smelled anythin’ quite like it. So, it’s got carrot strips in it, does it?”
“Yes, and green onions and garlic as well. I think as you’ll like it fine. Now, if’n you’ll see to it as the rice there is ready to cook, I’d be much obliged. It goes right fine with rice, it does, although Mr. Frodo preferred it with somethin’ else as they call noodles, there in Gondor. He never cared for rice much, not my Frodo.”
Elanor Gamgee-Gardner Fairbairn had to have been the prettiest bride that Tom had ever seen, dressed in that gown of tea green silk. And as her father danced with her afterwards her face glowed so with happiness that Tom was certain she’d managed to pass up even her aunt Goldy on the day Tom and she’d been married by Mr. Frodo.
All praised the food served at the wedding feast, and as Tom had his third serving of the sliced beef that had been marinated in the foreign oil and spices, he saw a rather tall, slender Hobbit who appeared somehow familiar speaking with Elanor beneath the Party Tree. The two of them danced a turn there in the dappled light under the golden leaves of the Mallorn, then the strange Hobbit bowed in a courtly manner to the young bride, kissed her tenderly on the top of her head, above the crown of primula blossoms and elanor flowers she wore, before he left, although afterwards Tom could never say for certain which way he’d gone.
Recipe from TriFood.com http://www.trifood.com/bulgogi.asp
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