Recipient: Celeritas AKA labourslamp
Summary: ”In Brandy Hall there were many works dealing with Eriador and the history of Rohan. Some of these were composed or begun by Meriadoc himself…It was probably at Great Smials that The Tale of Years was put together, with the assistance of material collected by Meriadoc.” (Prologue: Notes on the Shire Records) In Part Two, Brandy Hall welcomes some very special guests at Yule…
Word Count: total story count—13,570; Part II—2,631
The inevitable flurry of activity involved in preparing for Yule soon made Merry almost forget his letter. He did wonder from time to time if it had yet been delivered, but he did not expect a quick reply. This year it was the Brandybucks’ turn to host the Tooks, and so of course, Merry wanted everything to be perfect.
The Yule log had been seasoning for months. A perfectly huge oak had been downed by lightning during a storm at midsummer, and Merry had ordered it prepared for firewood, choosing one particular section of the trunk as the Yule log. It had been measured and cut just to the size of the hearth in the main hall, and had been drying out ever since.
Perry planned to see to the cutting of the greenery this year, assisted by Cousin Ilberic, and Berilac’s son Saramac, and Wynnie would be in charge of the children as they decorated. There were feasts to plan and music and musicians, and the refurbishing of the guest quarters, for there would be not only Tooks this year, but Gamgees and Bolgers and Burrowses and Bankses as well as the usual contingent of Brandybucks.
Estella was buttoning him into his jacket—“Tsk!” she muttered. “You are rounder than last year! I should have put the buttons over…” when there came a tap on the door.
“Come in!” said Merry crossly. What on earth needed his attention now?
Saramac opened the door, and Merry saw that his eyes were wide with astonishment. “Cousin Merry!” the lad exclaimed. “There are Big Folk at the door! It’s Elves!”
With an excited grin, Merry dashed past his younger cousin and darted down to the Front Hall. Apparently word had spread, and a good many gawkers were beginning to gather in the area. Merry saw no one taller than a hobbit, and turned to Saramac, who had followed on his heels. “Don’t tell me you kept them outside the door?” he said. And he went to the great door and flung it wide open. “Elladan! Elrohir!” he exclaimed. “Do come in out of the cold!”
The sons of Elrond had to stoop only slightly to enter through the massive front door of Brandy Hall, and they were able to stand upright without danger of banging their heads. Merry turned to see whom he could ask to bring refreshment, but saw that Estella had already taken the matter in hand, as she spoke to one of the serving maids. He grinned in approval, and reached to draw her forward by the hand.
“Elladan and Elrohir, do you recall my wife, Estella?” For the twin sons of Elrond had been among those, years ago, who had attended the King and Queen at the Stonebow Bridge.
Each one bowed over her hand in greeting, and Elladan said graciously, “Of course we remember Mistress Estella! How could we forget such a lovely lady?”
This made Estella blush, but she was able to respond with a polite “Thank you.” Merry grinned. He could tell she was having to make an effort not to simper like a tween.
Just then, Pippin came up. “Why, I was thinking the lads were making sport of me, but here you are!” he exclaimed to the twins. He glanced at Merry. “You can scarcely blame me for thinking it one of Perry’s and Fam’s japes, to tell me that we had Elves for Yule!”
The two were easily persuaded to remain for the festivities, but Elladan drew Merry aside and placed a letter in his hands. “This is our grandfather’s answer to your request, Merry.”
Merry nodded. He could not take the time to read it now; his duties as Master and as host had to be fulfilled. He placed the letter in his breast pocket. It was time to bring in the Yule log.
The log was brought in with much ceremony where it was carefully laid in the huge hearth, with kindling placed about it. Then many cheerful hobbit voices were raised, singing “No Shorter Now Will Grow the Days”, the traditional Buckland carol for such occasions. Merry was unsurprised to hear their guests singing along. He was sure they had heard it many times when Bilbo had lived among them.
There were other songs. Pippin took little persuasion to sing, and they finished up with “To Wait for Sun’s Returning”:
"When night is longest,
When dark is strongest..."*
Merry felt a lump in his throat. He always thought of that song as the Quest carol, since he remembered the Company singing it as they walked along in Hollin many years ago. It reminded him sharply of Boromir.
Later that evening after the feast, as the dancers were gambolling to the music of Pippin’s fiddle and Ilberic’s pipes and Berilac’s drum and Wyn’s harp, and Mayor Sam had retreated with the children to the side parlour to tell stories, Merry led Elladan and Elrohir to his study and pulled out the letter from Lord Celeborn.
“Unto Meriadoc, Master of Buckland, from Celeborn, now of Imladris, my greetings, and the hope that this letter will find all well with you and yours.
I would be most pleased to place the resources of Rivendell’s library at your disposal. It seems to me a most worthy undertaking, and one that would have usefulness not only for your own people, but for a wider readership as well. Too easily it seems, the Secondborn lose the memory of their pasts, while the Firstborn, who remember only too well, neglect to pass much of that knowledge on to those who were not present.
While I have no qualms in lending you various books and scrolls for you to consult in Buckland (for I know that Elrond sent such things to Bilbo when he yet dwelt in the Shire, and all were returned in good time and in good condition) it might be more useful for you to spend time in the library here.
We have many chronicles of the Dúnedain here, as well as histories of the earlier Ages, and it might be more convenient for you to have them all to hand from which to make your notes. Therefore, I should like to extend an invitation to you to visit here, perhaps this Spring, so that you could do so.
I would be very glad to see you once more, and any of your kin whom you would like to bring with you. It would please me to once more offer the hospitality of this place to your kind. My son-in-law was very fond of hobbits, and the laughter and good cheer of your people brightened these halls for several years. I know that he would be glad to know that the kinsman of his dear friend Bilbo would feel welcome here.
Please send your answer back with my grandsons. I hope that their arrival has not been too disruptive! And give my fond greetings to your cousin, Peregrin.
May the stars ever shine on your path.
Celeborn, Lord of the Galadhrim, formerly of Lothlórien ”
Merry looked up at the twins. “I will have to give some thought to my answer, but I am almost certain that I will accept this kind invitation. But I need to speak to Estella and to Pippin.”
“We can stay a few days,” responded Elladan. “We have no pressing business to take us away.”
There was a tap at the door. Merry chuckled. “Come in, Pippin!”
Pippin grinned at the twins and nodded to Merry. “If your mysterious business is finished, will you be joining the dancing? We musicians are taking a break; but we’ll be starting up again as soon as we’ve had the chance to wet our throats. We have many hobbits eager to see our tall guests at the festivities!”
“We would be delighted to join in the dancing!” answered Elrohir. The two rose, and with a nod of the head to Pippin as they passed him in the doorway, went out. Merry lingered, glancing once more at the letter.
“Out with it, cousin!” said Pippin. “What message did they bring?”
“An invitation. Would you be up to a jaunt to Rivendell this spring?”
Pippin shook his head. “I am surprised at you Merry. Remember that this spring they are to begin building the extension of the Post Road from Pincup to Willowbottom and then Newbridge. Sam’s going to need my help with overseeing that.” But Pippin looked decidedly disappointed. “Otherwise I would love to come.”
“Ah!” Merry looked downcast.
“There’s no need for you not to go, Merry.”
“By myself? Where’s the fun in that?”
Pippin shook his head. “Now you sound like I did as a tween, when you could not accompany me to someplace I wished to go! I am not the only hobbit you could ask.” He cocked his head. “I hear the other musicians warming up. I think my fiddle is required.”
Merry followed, looking thoughtful. But he followed Pippin back to the Hall. At the very least, they’d be needing him and Estella to lead the Tangle Dance. He’d need to speak with her this night, before they retired.
"Estella, my heart?"
"Yes, Merry?" Her husband had been very quiet and thoughtful during the evening’s festivities, and Estella was quite sure it was the message from Rivendell that was on his mind. In the busy rush of Yule, the two of them had found no opportunity to speak of it. She knew he would tell her sooner or later-- she just hoped that the message would not be one to take him from her side.
"You are half-Took. Would you like to have an Adventure?"
She blinked. "Meriadoc Brandybuck, tell me straight out what is on your mind!" She was not cross, but she was firm. He could be maddening with his hints sometimes.
He chuckled. "Elladan and Elrohir brought me an invitation. Lord Celeborn says I am welcome to come to Rivendell and look through the histories there. I was thinking of going in Solmath, after my birthday. The journey is safe enough now. We'd have an escort of Rangers."
"Rivendell?" Her thoughts were in a whirl. "But the children..." Merry and Pippin had made occasional brief visits there in the past, but she had never thought to go with them, not with the children so young. She had not accompanied them on their visit to the South, either, though she'd been to Annúminas a time or two, and to Bree more than once. The children had accompanied them on those short travels.
Merry shook his head. "Wyn and Perry are of age..."
"Only just. And Dilly..."
"Would be pleased with the opportunity to spend time at Bag End with Goldilocks and Daisy."
"Is Diamond accompanying Pippin?"
"Pippin is not going. It would be just the two of us."
"The two of us?"
Merry knelt before her chair and took her hand. "Estella, I've often wanted you to see some of the places I've been. Rivendell is a beautiful and peaceful place, and there is much I could show you. I promise I will not spend all my time immured in the library."
She laughed. She did not know if it was Frodo's early influence on him or simply his own curiosity, but Merry had become more and more of a scholar as he grew older. And she had to admit, she was curious as well. She looked into the serious grey eyes, and saw how much he wanted her to say yes. She nodded. "Yes, Merry. I will go with you to Rivendell to see the Elves."
And his grin, as it had so often over the years, made her heart turn over.
"You wanted to see me, Da?" Perry stood leaning against the doorjamb of the Master's study.
Merry stood up from his desk and walked over to one of the armchairs that flanked the hearth, gesturing for his son to come in and join him. "Close the door, Perry."
"What's this all about, Da?" Perry was puzzled. He knew he'd not been in any sort of mischief that called for a reprimand. There must be news of some sort.
"Your mother and I are planning to be gone from Buckland for several weeks this spring. As you are of age now, I am leaving you in charge."
Perry gaped. "In charge?" His voice cracked for the first time in ten years. "Where are you going? Rohan? Why? Did Éomer King send for you?"
Merry shook his head. "Yes, in charge, although I am also asking Berilac to help you out. No, we are not going to Rohan, although if my liege sent for me, I should go at once. We are going to Rivendell, at the invitation of Lord Celeborn. I've a project in mind that requires I consult some of the records kept there."
"Oh." Perry could not imagine himself in charge of Buckland! Why, he'd only just come of age a few months ago! "Do you..." he stopped short of asking his father if he were sure he could do the job.
But his father was a perceptive hobbit. "You know, your Cousin Frodo was of age less than one day when he became Master of Bag End and Head of the Bagginses. At least I will be coming back in a few weeks, and not staying there, as your Cousin Bilbo did when he went to Rivendell the last time."
"When are you going?"
"Right after my birthday, weather permitting. Now, there are certain things that will need to be seen to. You know the spring routine. The ferry landings on both sides of the River will need to be seen to, as well as the ferry itself. You will need to check with the farmers, to see if they have all they need for spring planting. And of course you need to schedule an evacuation drill against the possibility of a flood..."
Perry leaned forward, trying to keep up with the flood of instructions, although if he knew his father, there would also be a detailed written list for him as well.
Once he had settled things with Perry, he saw Elladan and Elrohir off with the answer to the invitation. “Do not be strangers,” he said, as he bade them farewell. “You are not Men, and are welcome here anytime; and you know that you may go elsewhere in the Shire as well. I am sure that Sam and Pippin would love the chance to host you as well.”
They both laughed. “Perhaps we may make such a visit!” said Elladan.
Elrohir patted his stomach. “Hobbits are very hospitable! I am sure we should like to do that someday. But we will look forward to seeing you in Rivendell in a few weeks, Merry!”
They rode off, followed by a small crowd of children, all waving and shouting “Good-bye!”
Merry watched them ride away, and then turned to go back inside Brandy Hall. He had lists to make and letters to write, if he were to be gone so soon.
*This Shire carol first appeared in my 2008 Yule fic, To Wait for Sun's Returning. I have deleted the rest of the song so that the story will be eligible for the 2011 MEFAwards.