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Author: Rhyselle
Title: Dear Estella (the Daughters of Jerusalem Remix)
Title, author and link to original story: Daughters of Jerusalem, by Celeritas
http://www.lotrgfic.com/viewstory.php?sid=503&chapter=1
Rating: G
Beta: Dancingkatz and Kaylee
Author's Notes:
Summary: In Celeritas’ fic, “Daughters of Jerusalem”, Estella Bolger finally agrees that Merry could write to her. Rather than re-writing the original, my muse decided the original story was the prologue or introduction to this fic, which consists of some of the correspondence that came of that conversation.
Word Count: Approximately 4,300

Dear Estella





January 30, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Brandy Hall, Buckland

Dear Miss Estella,


I’m taking you at your word that I may write to you and that you won’t return my letters.

We missed your family at Da’s birthday party today, but I understand that with Freddy still being under the weather, your Mum felt it best not to bring him out into the winter weather. Dad gave out gifts of food, blankets or clothing to everyone who came, and made sure that if anyone needed anything to keep themselves warm and fed, they got it. The winter has been a bit milder than we’d expected, but after so many months of being hungry, and folks losing their homes and livelihoods, I’m sure that for most it still seems that the wind bites as hard as it does in the Misty Mountains.

A year ago today we (Frodo, Pippin, Sam and I) were in the Elven realm of Lothlórien on the other side of the mountains. You couldn’t tell it was winter there except that the trees weren’t green. They were gold. Mallorns don’t lose their leaves until new leaves begin to grow in the Spring, you see. And the Lady Galadriel, she did some kind of magic to keep it warm there, even though outside the borders it was certainly colder. Not as cold as it gets here though, since it’s further south. I’m still not quite sure how long we were there, recovering from our trying to cross the mountains and then having to go under them through the mines of Moria after we couldn’t get through the Redhorn Pass. I’m told it was about a month, but it seems that you don’t notice time passing when you’re in an Elvenhome. Rivendell was sort of like that too, but not so much.

We were so sad there, because one of our company had fallen to the Enemy while we were in the mines. I will admit that I was frightened—but that wasn’t the thing that scared me most on our journey. But I don’t think I can tell you about that part; not yet.

What were you doing a year ago, Estella? Had the Troubles already started, then, or was it like winter usually is in Budgeford?

Mum just came into my room and wants me to entertain the tweens to keep them out of the way while she and the rest of the ladies here for the party start to clear things up. I know that I should have been out there with the rest of them in the big hall, instead of in here writing to you, but it was pretty overwhelming for a bit and I had to get away from them for awhile.

I wish you could have been here.

Sincerely yours,

Meriadoc Brandybuck

-----



February 5, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Budgeford, The Bridgefields, Northfarthing

Dear Meriadoc Merry,

Why are you being so formal, Merry? Yes, I’m still upset with you, but you’re my brother’s best friend and we’ve known each other for years. So just address me as Estella and I’ll continue to call you Merry as always.

Dad has decided that we are going to extend our family garden this year, onto that parcel of land that he used to lease out for the Chubb family’s cows. Until they can breed the two they have left, or acquire new ones, they won’t need it this year. At least they were left with Molly and Bluebell. I’m not sure where they hid them after the rest of their herd was taken by the Gatherers, but they were awfully thin when Lily Chubb brought them out after the Ruffians were expelled.

It’s actually reassuring to hear that you’ve been afraid at times, Merry; although I do find it hard to believe you could be after having seen you in your armor and such when you marched the Ruffians over the Brandywine Bridge last fall. But then, Mum never looked scared when we got in trouble as children, coming home with banged elbows and knees from our play, not even when she had to put a dozen stitches in Freddy’s leg that time he slipped and gashed it on the sharp stone at the old ford, so I guess anyone can learn to hide it.

It’s time to start cooking second breakfast, and the post will be here soon, so I’ll wish you well, and hope that you aren’t again inflicted with tween-sitting duties anytime soon.



Sincerely yours,

Estella


-----


February 16, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Brandy Hall, Buckland

Dear Estella,

After our talk right before the New Year, I wasn’t sure if I’d be overstepping. I was an idiot again, I see. Will you forgive me?

A year ago today, I was sitting in a small white boat on the River Anduin, setting out South from Lothlórien, with Pippin trying to hide his discomfort at being on the water, and Boromir of Gondor, a Man we traveled with, who did most of the paddling so we could keep up with the other boats.

So it figures that today I was again on a boat, on the Brandywine. The Bucklebury Ferry got hit by a large branch that came floating down the river after that storm we had the night before last, and it took a lot of us to get them detangled, and the ferry drawn back to the west bank. Da thought for sure that it would sink, but it turned out to be a lot less damage than we thought. I just wish that it hadn’t been necessary for me to be the one to ride it back to shore. But, there was a lot of debris coming down stream and Da pointed out that I’m a lot stronger than most of the lads, and so I could do the best job of pushing other branches and such away from the boat while everyone else pulled on the ropes.

You’d have thought that I’d fallen in the river from the way Mum carried on when we got back home, all wet from the spray and the mist that started to fall after we’d gotten the ferry secure. We really need a bridge there, instead of the Ferry, but that’s for the future.

In the meantime, all of us are being scolded by the women of the Hall, and plied with hot baths, hot toddies and extra blankets. When I started to get annoyed by it, I suddenly remembered a time on the plains of Rohan when I’d have done practically anything for such care. If I start being an idiot about things that people who love me do for me, please knock the sense back into me—although I don’t think you need to hit me quite as hard as you did 2 years ago!

Please tell Freddy that I’ll be stopping by when I do my rounds with the Bounders next week. Pippin will be with me, but I'll do my best to make certain he doesn't eat you out of house and home!

Your devoted servant,

Merry

-----

February 19, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Budgeford, The Bridgefields, Northfarthing

Dear Merry,

Since when are you my devoted anything—unless you count devoted to pestering me with these letters?

Now that Freddy isn’t inhaling a pantry’s worth of food at each meal, there’s plenty for Pippin—and for you, too, as I rather expect that your appetite hasn’t diminished from before.

Freddy wishes that he could come out with you two, but Mum won’t let him leave the house for more than an hour, and only then bundled up until he looks almost like his old self.

I’m doing the marketing for Mum as she is feeling poorly today. When I checked the pantry while making my shopping list, I found a pot of preserved berries in the back of the topmost shelf behind some cleaning supplies. Do you still like those little dried-berry cakes with the pounded sugar and nut topping?

Sincerely yours,

Estella

-----


February 21, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Crickhollow, Buckland

Dear Estella,

I’m as devoted as you are sincere. You know that Aunt Dora (all right, she’s really my cousin) insists that all gentlehobbits must be devoted to the ladies to whom they address their correspondence.

Your Mum’s berry cake recipe is better than anything I’ve ever had, even at the great feasts in Minas Tirith. I’d be honored if you’d make up a batch for our visit. Dad just called me to his study, so I don’t have time to tell you about my day before the post boy leaves. Remind me to tell you and Freddy about it when we get to Budgeford.

Your devoted servant,

Merry

-----


February 24, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Budgeford, The Bridgefields, Northfarthing

Dear Estella,

Too bad I’m not a minstrel like the one who made the song for Frodo. Your cooking is most definitely worth a song of praise. The rest of the Bounders are going to be mighty jealous when we come to eat supper tonight and they see the generous portions you packed up for Pippin and me.

Last night, when your family welcomed us inside, I felt more at home than I have anywhere since I got back. It’s not that my Mum and Dad don’t love me, but after being away from Brandy Hall for so long, I’m just not used to having a hundred aunts, uncles, and cousins practically breathing down my neck all the time, especially as they don’t seem to understand it when I can’t sleep and end up walking outside under the stars despite the cold. Brandy Hall is too small for me, it seems; closing in around me.

Pip and I are thinking about permanently moving into Crickhollow, at Frodo’s invitation, now that it’s been cleaned up and repaired. I’m not abandoning my family; of course I haven’t stopped loving them, but I can’t be exactly like I used to be anymore—and it feels that they are trying to force me back to that thoughtless lad who stole vegetables from the farms of the Marish, and who stole a kiss from you without thinking about the consequences of either.

We need to be at the Bridge by dawn, and I’m sure you are still sleeping. Tell Freddy that when he gains another two stone, I’ll let him come with us. We’ll stop in next week before heading to Hobbiton to get the deed to Crickhollow sorted out.

Your devoted,

Merry

-----



February 28, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Budgeford, The Bridgefields, Northfarthing

Dear Merry,

Freddy has horrible nightmares and goes out and walks outside a lot, too. That’s how he got so sick last month. And you saw that he still isn’t really over it. I tried to get him to tell me what they are, because I know that, when I have bad dreams, talking about them helps me to calm down and put them from my mind. But he won’t say anything to me about them. Maybe I’ll suggest he write them down if he can’t talk about them. What do you think?

When I went out to sweep the front step this morning I found crocus popped up along the walkway in bloom! Spring is coming early this year!

Yours,

Estella


-----


March 3, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Crickhollow, Buckland

Dear Estella,

Spring does seem to be arriving early! The daffodils are popping up as well in my Mum’s garden, and I expect that she’ll be having all of us out to pull weeds and plant the annuals in the next day or so.

Your idea of writing down the nightmares is working—for me at least. I suggested that Pippin try it, too, as we are coming up on the anniversary of some very nightmarish things that happened to us two years ago. But not all of it was bad.

In fact, today is the first anniversary of one of our victories, when the Ents—I told you about them before, the tree herders of Fangorn Forest—took over Isengard and destroyed Saruman’s ability to create more orcs and kept him prisoner. I just wish that they hadn’t let him go, elsewise, you’d have just had to deal with Lotho instead of those half-orcs and evil Men last year.

Oh, dear. I was trying to share something wonderful with you and I ended up mentioning sad things again. I’m sorry. You deserve only happy things, and if it were in my power, you’d never know sorrow again.

Pippin is repairing the roof and from what I’m hearing from the open window, he’s mashed his thumb again. I’d best close this letter and go see what I can do to keep him from flinging the hammer through the shingles.

Your devoted,

Merry


-----


March 6, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Budgeford, The Bridgefields, Northfarthing

Dear Merry,

Mum says that without sadness, we wouldn’t recognize when we were happy, so don’t feel bad for mentioning the Troubles.

I hope that there were no further injuries as you finish fixing up your new home. I heard tell that Diamond of Long-Cleeve has her eye on your housemate; tell Pippin to make sure to keep the sitting room presentable just in case she comes to call!


Yours,

Estella

-----



March 10, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Crickhollow, Buckland

Dear Estella,

If we keep the place presentable, does that mean you’ll come to call, too?

Pip and I will be going to Hobbiton at the end of the month to help move Frodo back into Bag End, now that it and the New Row are finished. In the meantime, we’re busy between working with the bounders, and my Da is pulling me more and more into the running of Brandy Hall. My pony is getting a lot of exercise these days between Crickhollow and the Hall!

My nightmares are getting worse lately, and I’m about to run out of parchment to scribble them down on. I wake up in the middle of the night gasping, but then I think about writing to you, and the fear goes away. I don’t want to tell you all about the dreams; you shouldn’t have to hear them. But knowing you understand about nightmares makes it easier for me to recover.

Pippin just knocked on my bedroom door; I must have woken him up. Time for tea and biscuits and walking out under the stars again.

Your devoted,

Merry


-----



March 12, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Budgeford, The Bridgefields, North Farthing

Dear Merry,

Is that an invitation? Mayhap I’ll take you up on it, mayhap I won’t.

Freddy joked yesterday that we might as well make a bedroom for him on the back porch, with walls for privacy but open to the sky, and then he wouldn’t be a-bothering us with his bad dreams. I suppose it’s a good thing to be able to joke about it. Laughter is better than tears, I’d think.

Yours,

Estella


-----



March 18, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Budgeford, The Bridgefields, Northfarthing

Dear Merry,

Dare I hope that I’ve made you speechless? I was expecting a reply to my last note but maybe the post went astray. Or were you out with the Bounders again?

Yours,

Estella

-----



March 20, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Crickhollow, Buckland

Dear Estella,

I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your first note; the 15th was a bad day for Pippin and me and it took a few more days to get over it.

I’m back in Brandy Hall for the week, although I’ll be leaving on Saturday for Hobbiton. Pippin and I are taking my cousin Frodo’s furniture and belonging back to Bag End, and we’re staying to celebrate Sam’s birthday on the 6th. Is Fatty in good enough health to join us? I know that Frodo invited him. I’ll be pleased to stop by on the way to pick him up so he doesn’t have to travel alone. Tell him to send a note back by post if he’d like to ride with me.

My father decided to have me help him to do an intense review the Family accounts and I have to admit that I had no idea of the complexity of the books he’s been maintaining as Master of Buckland. Yes, he’s had Berilac doing most of the daily and weekly clerking, but Da checks them over at least once a month, and always for every quarter day—which is why I’m here now instead of riding the bounds with Pippin to make sure no more ruffians get into the Shire.

Funnily enough, the King in Gondor has to do the same thing. Not riding the bounds; the army does that, but accounts. Strider--er, that’s what we called him before we knew he was the heir of King Isildur--Strider would sneak away from his court to the house we (Pip, Frodo, Sam and I) shared before we came home, and complain about what a waste of a beautiful day it was to have to pore over roll after roll of kingdom accounts with the head of the Exchequer. I grumbled about it to Da, and he told me that was the reason I was working with him now, so I won’t have to do a huge long inventory of every last line of the accounts when I finally take over as Master. I suppose that the accountants in Gondor were justifying every last penny spent in the kingdom since the start of the first reign of the Stewards. At least I’m only reviewing what’s happened since last quarter day!

In any case, we finished up for the day right before tea time, and I’ve been told to go out and have fun this evening--not to find something useful to do, but to go--well, it sounds rather childish, but to go play! Isn’t that just ridiculous? I’m a grown hobbit of 38 years, after all. I could go to the pub, I suppose, but the gaffers keep looking at me as if I’m going to drag off their young’uns to do something foolish and heroic, and most of the lads get all protective of their lasses, as if I’m going to sweep them away and marry them out of hand. I can hear you laughing now. But it’s just not the same as it used to be, when I could go have a pint and a smoke with my friends and talk about ordinary, everyday things.

So, instead, I’m hiding out in the corner of our library, writing to you. I remember you said you wouldn’t open my letters but I’m glad that you do.

Your devoted,

Merry



-----



March 21, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Budgeford, The Bridgefields, Northfarthing

Dear Merry,

My brother should have sent a note back to you agreeing with your plans for Master Gamgee’s birthday, but I wanted to be certain that you know that he needs to travel by wagon or carriage still, as he’s still not as well as he wants to be.

Household accounts aren’t difficult, but they are most certainly tedious! Mum has me doing them now; says her eyes aren’t good enough these days to read the numbers in the ledger, but I think she just wants to push them off on me for good—or at least until Freddy marries and his wife takes over.

To think of a King reviewing his own accounts! In the old stories, they have all sorts of servants to do things for them. Although, I suppose that you do need to check if the servants are doing their jobs right, or you could end up in a real mess when you go to buy a brace of chickens for supper and find you don’t have any credit left at the butcher’s!

Da asked me to pass on his thanks to your Da for the loan of the plow ponies. We’ve got our fields plowed and planted already, thanks to the early spring and just enough rain. I’m real grateful for the supplies that got returned to us from the stockpiles the ruffians made, or it would have been a far worse winter and spring. Some townfolk kind of forget that just because the sun’s warm, doesn’t mean that you’ll have food right away. It will be June before the first of the berries are ripe, and the wheat and oats and root vegetables will take the summer to grow. But things are already sprouting!

Remember how Freddy hated long beans? It was practically the only thing he wouldn’t eat before. But he insisted on us planting a dozen rows of them in our family garden, putting the poles out himself, so it looks like a forest of saplings when we go out the kitchen door—and the vines are already a good foot up each pole—almost like you could see them growing if you watched hard enough.

I can’t imagine you not being able to be comfortable in a pub, Merry. You and your cousins spent half your time dancing on the table tops once Pip got old enough to manage a mug.

Can’t say I blame the gaffers or the lads being worried, though. You come through the door and they can’t help but see you’re different than those ones that stayed home. It’s not your height, or your armor, or that sword you never seem able to put down these days. You’re more

We all changed, Merry, from the Troubles, but most don’t want to admit it, and act like it never happened. But I can’t look at my brother and pretend that. I see how thin he still is, and how serious, talking all the time about how as soon as he’s well, he wants to guard the Shire with the Bounders, and now he told me this morning that he wants you to show him how to use a sword! Don’t you dare do that, Merry. Not now. He tries to hide it but just weeding the bean patch plumb wore him out, and he could barely pick up his fork to eat his elevenses.

So you be sure to bring along a cart or carriage when you go to Hobbiton.

Yours,

Estella


-----



March 22, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Crickhollow, Buckland

Dear Estella,

I’ll borrow Da’s good carriage. He had it re-sprung this winter, so it will be a comfortable ride for Freddy. If he manages all right for this trip, you and he can use it to come to Sam’s wedding on May 1st. You should have gotten your invitation by now, I’d think.

My parents send their regards, and Mum has packed up quite a bundle of things for me to bring to your Mum that she has been meaning to send up to Budgeford. She’d appreciate if it you’d be so kind as to distribute things to those who could use them best.


Your devoted,

Merry



-----


April 4, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Budgeford, The Bridgefields, Northfarthing

Dear Merry,

Please wish Sam Gamgee a Happy Birthday from me and my family. How long do you think you’ll be in Hobbiton? How’s Freddy doing. You’d better be making him rest, like you promised when you picked him up.

Be sure to let me know when to expect you him back from Bag End.



Yours,

Estella


-----



April 8, 1420 (Shire Reckoning)

Bag End, Hobbiton

Dear Estella,

Something wonderful happened on Sam’s birthday, two days ago. Remember when I told you about the Elvish tree he planted in the Party Field that grew so fast this spring? It blossomed the morning of his birthday! I like to think it was a surprise present from our friends on the other side of the mountains in Lothlórien.

I’ll be bringing Freddy back home next Tuesday, as Frodo asked him to stay over a few more days. Things are busy here and not just because of building and planting and suchlike. Rosie Cotton has been in and out of Bag End, helping add the finishing touches now that it’s been repaired and repainted and all the furniture has been moved back from Crickhollow. Sam’s been spending every waking minute that he’s not out and about planting new trees all across the Shire working in the garden so that it will be perfect when he and Rosie get married on May 1st.

Frodo will officiate, of course, since Mayor Whitfoot still isn’t quite back to his old self, and Sam has asked Pippin and me to stand up with him. Since Rosie doesn’t have any sisters, May and Marigold Gamgee are going to stand up with her.

Getting ready for a Shire wedding isn’t that much different from how it’s done in Gondor, or even Rohan, from what I understand. The words spoken are a bit different, but the brides are always beautiful, and the grooms are always dumbstruck when they see them. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on Strider’s face when he finally realized that Queen Arwen was really, truly his wife. It wasn’t right after they gave each other rings (like the elves do), or even after he put the crown on her head to make her Queen.

You’ve seen how my Mum always pours out my Da’s tea right as a meal starts, and puts in just the right amount of sugar for him? Well, we were at the King’s table at the wedding feast, and one of the servers brought in a pitcher of wine for them, and Queen Arwen took one look at it, and asked them to bring back a different one, and she poured it into Strider’s cup herself, and that’s when I saw it. It seems that the whole time we’d been back in the city, they’d been bringing him wine that he didn’t really like, but he didn’t say anything because he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. And that’s when it happened. I didn’t think anyone could look happier than he did when they were pronounced husband and wife, but that moment at the feast made him look like he’d been given everything he ever wanted in his whole life.

I hope one day to look at you my bride to be just like that.

Your ever devoted,

Merry

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
labourslamp
Oct. 2nd, 2010 03:26 am (UTC)
Wow, this is so wonderful!!!

Aside from the fact that I am a sucker for hobbit romance, and letter-courtship automatically doubles the romance-factor (which is probably why I built letter writing into Merry's and Estella's rapprochement, lol!) you've done so much with... well, a lot of things.

First of all, the way Merry is so unsure of himself at the beginning, clearly is still head-over-furry-heels for Estella but doesn't necessarily want to let that on (I loved how he cited Aunt Dora!), and the way he still clearly feels really really bad for what he did--and the way Estella's also finding her footing and not quite wanting to let on her growing... erm, admiration for Merry. You've done so much with the characters but really, really subtly, and I love that.

Then, the way so much of the letters are talking about everyday things, or the way the two of them understate or even joke about the dark things they've been through. How very hobbity!

Of course, on top of all of that is that you took a fic in which I threw all those obstacles (some more troubling to me than others) in the way of Merry's and Estella's romance and ran with it.

Finally, that last line of Merry's. I had a huge grin on my face the entire time I was reading this, but that one made me squee!

Thank you thank you thank you!
rhyselle
Oct. 2nd, 2010 03:48 am (UTC)
Oh, I was really hoping you would like it! :) I'd started out to do a drabble series and nothing was coming together--then the idea of actually writing the letters popped into my head. My biggest fear was whether or not I brought the characters out properly, each having their own voices in the letters. It seems from your response that I did. :)

I'm very glad that you loved the last line. I hadn't intended the write the proposal (and I don't think that Merry intended it to happen quite that way!), but the muse put that last line in place. Then Merry had meant to strike out the word "you" in the last line... but his heart controlled his hand, and not his head. :)

Aunt Dora probably would not have approved of a proposal by letter, but I'm glad you do! :)
labourslamp
Oct. 2nd, 2010 03:58 am (UTC)
And I'm sure Merry will be on tenterhooks (and alternately kicking himself for not blotting the entire word out) until Estella replies!

I actually didn't read the last line as a proposal proposal (though if Estella reads it that way and replies, "Yes," I'm sure he wouldn't have minded!)--just a statement of intent, getting out into the open all that subtext that was sitting placidly between the lines of all the previous letters. Whether Estella's ready to marry Merry or not (or at least be engaged to him), I think she's appreciate that level of candor, at least!
curiouswombat
Oct. 2nd, 2010 09:51 am (UTC)
Lovely - I do like stories written in letters - if you see what I mean! The last line is just the perfect ending, too.
armarielrozita
Oct. 2nd, 2010 05:56 pm (UTC)
A charming piece, with the voices just right, and an excellent follow-up to the original, which left me wondering, "Is that all? Looks like there should be a next chapter!" This fits the bill.
dreamflower02
Oct. 2nd, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
What a perfect correspondence! So very hobbity, the acknowledging of trouble and of Troubles, but dealing with them in as light and practical a manner as possible.

I love Estella's prickliness, which goes right to the original, picks it up and carries it on! And Merry! Oh, you have him down just right-- he's so gallant! In fact, if I had to describe him in just one word, I think gallant is the one I'd choose, and it comes across just right here. Lovely, lovely letters! *happy sigh*
blslarner
Oct. 3rd, 2010 08:38 am (UTC)
I agree with what has been written previously. How utterly perfect, for the letters to begin to bear such fruit, and for the unwitting proposal to slip into the last one! Excellent characterizations.
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