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 Three, the journey from Bree to Rivendell...
Word Count: total story count—13,570; Part III—3,413
Estella found that she was still somewhat intimidated by the buildings in Bree, although not so much as before she had been to Annúminas. But still they loomed over one. Merry, of course, paid no attention. He had been there many times to her three. She turned to look at him, riding so confidently. He was not dressed in his armour or livery, but he had his sword at his hip. He met her eyes with a smile, and she felt better immediately.
They rode up to The Prancing Pony, where they were met by Dib Mugwort, the son of Bob, who had succeeded his father as a groom there. “Hullo, Mr. Brandybuck, Mistress Brandybuck!”
Merry dismounted, and reached up to assist Estella, his hands firm about her waist. He kept her steady as her feet touched the ground. She’d been in the saddle several hours, after all.
Merry turned to Dib. “We are to meet some Rangers here. Have any arrived?”
“Ranger Mellor is here, and a younger one, I don’t know as I’ve heard his name.”
“Thank you, Dib!”
They entered the Pony where they were greeted effusively by Barliman Butterbur’s son, Barnet. Yes, yes, their usual rooms were available, no other Little Folk here right now, and how nice it were to see Mistress Brandybuck again, and weren’t Thain Peregrin coming? Well, that was a shame, but it was right pleasant to see Mr. and Mrs. Brandybuck again, it was! Estella was quite breathless just listening to him prattle! Good heavens, he could outtalk Pippin!
When he finally left, with a promise to send his nephew along with hot water and clean towels, Estella let out a deep breath, and then meeting Merry’s eyes, they both burst out into laughter.
“He’s just like his father,” said Merry between chortles and snorts.
The hot water was soon brought, along with their things from their ponies, and they took a few moments to freshen up before heading to the common room to see if they could find Mellor.
Mellor was indeed waiting for them there, sitting at one of the tables with another Man much younger. “Greetings, Merry! This is my great-nephew Meldil, who is learning to become a Ranger. He turned to Estella, and bowed over her hand. “It is good to see you again, Mistress Brandybuck.”
“Thank you, Mellor,” Estella replied. She studied the Dúnadan. He still looked strong and unbowed, though there were more lines in his weather-beaten face, and his once-dark hair was nearly completely silver. She knew that he was of a long-lived line, although he was only very distantly related to the King. Merry assisted her into one of the two taller chairs that had been placed at the table, and then he clambered into the other. She smiled at the younger Ranger. “It is nice to meet you, Meldil.”
He gave her a gracious nod. “At your service, Mistress Brandybuck.” He turned to Merry. “And at yours, Sir Meriadoc! It is an honour to finally meet you! My uncle has told me so much about you and about Sir Peregrin!”
“Please, call me Merry! And I can imagine the stories he’s told. Don’t believe half of what he’s told you!”
“You are too modest, Sir…er…Merry! After all, you were one of the Nine Walkers! And you slew the Witch-king of Angmar…”
Merry shook his head. “No, at the most I hamstrung him. It was the Lady Éowyn who actually killed him.”
Mellor shook his head. “From what I know of the events, you share equally with her in that great deed!”
Merry flushed, and Estella knew he’d rather give all the credit to the one he called his sword-sister. But he let it pass. He’d mellowed over the years—she could remember a time when he’d have argued the point. She placed her hand over his, and he turned to give her a smile.
Barnet Butterbur came over to the table just then, and they were soon involved in the intricacies of ordering their meal. Soon enough, freshly made bread, mutton stew, cheese and ale were set before them, and conversation lagged as they gave full attention to the food. But when Merry and Estella were filling up the corners and while the Men sipped their ale, the conversation turned to the journey ahead.
“We’ll stay the first night at The King’s Rest, that used to be called The Forsaken Inn long ago. And we will also stay at the watchtower at Amon Sûl. They have accommodations there for guests; but we will need to camp most of the nights upon the road. I have arranged for a packhorse and a tent for the two of you, Merry.”
“That’s very thoughtful of you, Mellor,” Merry replied. “I don’t mind sleeping under the stars myself, but I am quite sure that my wife would much prefer the comfort of a tent!”
Estella had known there would be some camping involved, but she was dismayed to realise they would be camping nearly every night of the journey save two! The comfort of a tent was better than nothing, but she’d much prefer a cosy inn like this one! She suppressed a sigh. It wasn’t as though she had never camped. But it was not her favourite activity. Still, she did not wish to make Merry feel guilty for the inconvenience to her. She’d not complain for all the world.
”The Watchtower at Amon Sûl
25 Solmath, S.R. 1458
Your father and I arrived here yesterday just before suppertime. Since there is a King’s Messenger here, who is to depart tomorrow for the Shire and Annúminas, I thought to take the time to send a letter to you.
We met Mellor in Bree, and his nephew Meldil, who are to be our escorts. You may remember Mellor’s partner Eradan? Mellor told us that after many years, Eradan had finally returned to Gondor to visit his parents and other family. While there, he met a woman, and they were wed! They now make their home in Ithilien, and Eradan is part of the White Company in service to Prince Faramir, instead of a Ranger. Mellor says that Eradan said in his last letter that he misses Eriador in the summertime, but not at all in the winter!
We stayed only the one night in Bree, and left early the next morning after first breakfast. We ate second breakfast and elevenses while in the saddle—apples and cheese pastries and water from our bottles. You know that your father is quite used to travelling that way, but I must say I do prefer to stop and have a real meal, which we did do at luncheon. Your father insisted I rest, and he did the cooking. We did not stop for tea, either, but we had tea with supper when we finally made camp for the night. This set the pattern for our days of travel.
It took us about five days to arrive here from Bree. We are setting a leisurely pace, for your father says we should enjoy the journey, as nothing is chasing us—though we are making better time than Bilbo and the Dwarves did! We are more closely following his route than the one that your father and the others took so long ago. The weather has been cold and damp, but more of a misty drizzle than a steady rain. The tent, however, is dry enough, and the new cloak your father gave me for his birthday is wonderfully warm and repels the water quite well.
We have not strayed from the Road. The first night we stayed at an inn, “The King’s Rest”. It once was known as the “Forsaken Inn”, I was told. It is quite a pleasant inn, and it is run by the son-in-law of Barliman Butterbur. We had a very nice evening there, and a good night’s rest, and left the inn behind shortly after second breakfast. The innkeeper’s wife, Mistress Molly, makes an excellent tea-bread, and on the way home she is going to give me the receipt for it. I look forward to staying there again on the way home.
I was somewhat apprehensive about coming here to Weathertop, after all I had heard about it. I feared it might make your father melancholy, recalling that fearful event that took place here. But the tower is new and large and altogether dominates the hill, and Merry said he scarcely recognises the place.
However, there could be no mistaking. Captain Anardil, who is part of the Arnorian army and in command of this fortress, showed us around. In the courtyard is a large stone plinth, and it is engraved upon the top in Westron. This is what it says:
‘On this spot, on the Sixth Day of Narbeleth, in the Year 3018 of the Third Age, five of the Nine Nazgûl, fearsome creatures of the Enemy Sauron, attacked and gravely injured the Ringbearer, Frodo son of Drogo, a hobbit of the Shire. The Nazgûl were driven off by Aragorn, son of Arathorn, who was at that time Chieftain of the Northern Dúnedain, and not yet crowned as King Elessar Telcontar.
The Ringbearer bravely bore with his injury, which could have proved fatal or worse, and recovered from his wound in Rivendell, ere setting off on the journey to destroy the Enemy’s Ring.’
Your father and I were very moved by this evidence of the honour the Men hold for Cousin Frodo.
Along with Mellor and Meldil we dined privately with the captain that evening before we went to stay in the guest room prepared for us.
The room is, of course, meant for Big Folk, and the bed was perfectly enormous, and I should scarcely have been able to clamber into it, save for a footstool kindly left for our use. We also used it to be able to reach the ewer and basin on the washstand. I’ve no complaints at all of the Men’s hospitality, and in spite of its size the bed was quite comfortable, neither too hard nor too soft and the linens were smooth and clean and smelled of lavender.
We will remain here one more day and one more night, to rest and to allow the ponies and horses to rest as well, before we travel on.
I hope that you all are well at home, and that you are being a support to your brother. Please give him my love, and that of his father—who also sends his greetings to you. While I am enjoying this journey, I miss both of you and Niphredil as well. I hope she is not giving Sam and Rose any trouble at Bag End.
I will write to you again when we finally reach Rivendell.
With all my heart, I remain
Your loving mother.”
It was about a week later that Estella found herself gaping alongside her grinning husband.
“Good heavens! I had no idea!” She stared at the three weathered stone figures. Years of rain and ice, sun and wind, had taken their toll on Bert, Tom and William, but their faces could still be seen, and Estella had to admit to herself that they were far uglier than she had ever imagined. And their size! She shuddered.
“Pippin…” she whispered. “How could he have survived?”
Merry looked at her, suddenly somber. “The one which fell on him was head and shoulders bigger than these. I still wonder how he lived. Strider thought it was due to the Ent-draughts. But, oh Estella! If you could have seen him: so bruised and in pain, I scarcely recognised him.”
Estella drew him into the circle of her arms, and leaned against him. “But our Pippin is a fighter, Merry! And he’s most definitely recognisable now! There is no mistaking that sharp Took nose! And he has, after all, survived that troll by many, many years!”
Merry laughed, and his arms tightened about her. She felt his chuckle rumbling in his chest against her ear. “Thank you, my heart! You know just what I need to hear!”
Five more days brought them to the Ford of Bruinen. Estella’s pony, Dearie, a heretofore placid and agreeable little mare, suddenly balked at the idea of entering the noisy river. After much coaxing failed to move the stubborn creature, it was decided to leave her on the western bank with Meldil, and Mellor took Estella up in front of him on his great horse. It was the first time she had ever been upon the back of so large a creature, and she would have much preferred to ride with Merry upon his sturdy Rohirric pony, Brytta. But Merry thought her safer with Mellor as they negotiated the ford, so she did not object aloud.
She averted her eyes as they rode up a steep path; there was a gulley to the left that seemed perilously close to the verge. Ahead she could see a waterfall, and then suddenly as they rode round a curve in the path, she could see ahead to the valley. There were many waterfalls to be seen now, as the path led in a zigzag fashion into the valley. The pines soon gave way to oak and beech, and finally a grassy sward that lead to a narrow bridge across a wide ravine. There was a river rushing below, and Estella ventured to say, “That looks like the river that we just crossed!”
Mellor chuckled. “That is because it is a part of the river that we just crossed. The Bruinen’s course is as winding as that of our path down into the valley!”
The hooves of horse and pony clacked and clattered on the wooden bridge, and Estella was not sure if it was only her fancy that it swayed as they crossed. But Merry was riding just in front and seemed perfectly calm, and behind her, Mellor was relaxed, so Estella tried not to dwell on it.
As they crossed the bridge, the Last Homely House came in view ahead. Estella had heard many descriptions of the place, but the reality was far beyond her imaginings. It was both grand and yet comforting, and it seemed in a way to be growing right up out of the ground.
They were riding through groves of beeches on either side of the path, and Estella could hear singing. It teased at the edges of her memory, the tune sounding faintly familiar, the words almost but not quite, familiar—they were being sung in a language that she recognized as Sindarin. She’d heard that language a few times before, from Legolas when he had visited, and occasionally from her brother Freddie, who had applied himself to learning it—but that did not quite explain the familiarity of the tune. “That song?” she asked. “What is it?”
“It’s a song of greeting,” said Mellor. “It is often, although not always, sung for guests as they enter Imladris.”
Ahead of her, Merry laughed. “I’ll explain it later, Estella!”
And then, they were riding into the courtyard of the house, and several Elves came to meet them and to take the horses and to help them dismount.
Merry took Estella by the hand and Mellor followed, as they went towards the house.
And then the doors opened, and an Elf came out. He was tall and grave and beautiful, all clad in white, with hair like silver. His eyes were keen and wells of wisdom, and Estella felt sure he could see right through her if he wished. She found him almost terrifying, until he smiled, and then she felt her heart lifted away from all her fears and worries and weariness.
“Welcome once more, Meriadoc, to the Last Homely House,” he said.
Merry drew up in a very formal manner. “My Lord Celeborn, may I present to you my wife, Estella?” And with his hand on hers, he brought her forward.
Estella gave a brief curtsey. “Estella Brandybuck at your service, my lord.”
“And I am at yours, Mistress Estella,” and he gave a gracious nod of his head. “Do, please, enter in. I am sure that you are weary, and would rest somewhat before the evening meal. And you will find something to sustain you in the meanwhile in your quarters.” He turned and gestured, and an Elf-maiden came forward. “This is Camireth. She will show you to your rooms, and bring you aught that you need.”
Merry and Estella followed Camireth, although somehow Estella had the feeling that Merry already knew where they were going. He held her hand lightly, and strode along confidently behind the Elf-maiden. Estella did her best not to gawk at all that there was to see. She reminded herself that she was the daughter of the Bolger, the Mistress of Buckland, and Lady to Sir Meriadoc, and not merely some rustic! Her surroundings were beautiful and very alien. She had thought she’d know what to expect, after having seen Annúminas and Bree, but this was completely different to anything she had seen in either of those places.
“Merry!” she whispered. “You said you’d explain about that song.”
He gave her a grin. “That was Bilbo’s ‘Tra-lalley’ song.”
Even as her mouth opened to say “No!” she suddenly realised that it was so, and yet…”It was different?”
Merry nodded. “Bilbo did not know any Elven languages when he came through here the first time. Those were the words his mind fitted to what he thought they were singing! And I’ve since been told that his ideas were not too far off the mark—you will often notice that Elven song will make sense to your head and heart even when it does not to your ears. He learned better years later when he began to learn their languages, but he never corrected his version. He said it was because it would make more sense to hobbits that way, but I think it also was rather a joke on the Elves as well! There are more than a few who think that the Elves actually sang that silly song!”
Estella burst out laughing, and then blushed when Camireth laughed as well.
“Master Bilbo had a very droll sense of humour,” she said, “and there were certain Elves among the singers who quite deserved what came of his account of their song!” She led them around a corner, and Estella blinked.
There in a wall of this very elegant Elven corridor, was a perfectly round, perfectly hobbity door! It was bigger than the door at Bag End, about the size of the front door of Brandy Hall. She stared at Merry, astonished.
“These are the rooms where Bilbo lived when he was here. Perfect accommodations for us hobbits when we visit,” said Merry.
Camireth opened the door, and Merry led Estella within. She gazed about her surroundings in fascination. Yes, she could easily see Cousin Bilbo living here comfortably for years on end. There was a hearth, small enough for a hobbit to be able to manage the fire, yet large enough to warm the room, which was bigger than hobbit sitting rooms usually were. A merry blaze crackled there now. The furniture was a mixture of comfortable hobbit-sized chairs and tables, and a few others large enough for guests of the Big Folk to sit upon. A desk of hobbit-size, very similar to the one that stood in the study at Bag End, save for the lovely and elegant carvings that proved it was made by Elves, stood beneath a large window that had a splendid view of the wooded valley walls and many waterfalls.
A small round teatable stood between two armchairs, pulled up beside the hearth, and the scents of bread and spices and teacakes teased her nose in a most delightful manner. There was a teapot covered with a cosy, and teacups and plates, all of them sized just right for hobbit hands. Estella heaved a sigh of happiness, scarcely noticing that Merry was relieving her of her cloak. She turned, and saw him hang it beside his own, on a peg by the door.
“Tea, or explore our rooms first?” he asked.
She smiled. “Tea! Glorious tea!”
Merry laughed and they sat down in the chairs. “Will you pour, my dear?”