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Author:the_arc5
Title: The Fabled Courtship of Elanor the Fair (3/5)
Theme: Summertime
Elements: The garden was looking splendid; the roses ran riot over the fence, and the flowers along the path were in full bloom.
Author's Notes: Some last minute-editing threw me off my posting schedule. In other news, I may wind up with a sixth chapter, instead of just five. Ah, the joys of late edits...
Summary: Everybody wants to court Elanor the Fair. Elanor the Fair has rather different plans.
Word Count: Chapter Three - 2159



Whether from the one-sided conversation with the petunias or a raging headache, the next morning found Fastred in a black mood. Fortunately, Rob talked enough through breakfast for the both of them, and his aunt noticed nothing amiss. After breakfast, Rob announced plans to walk up to Bag End (toting a handful of irises today), and Fastred quickly declined. Stuffing his pockets with chunks of bread, cheese, and early apples, Fastred set off along the Water for a solitary walk, grumbling slightly to himself.

The walk didn't remain solitary for long.

"You look grumpy," a small hobbit lass announced from a low tree branch. Fastred jerked his head up and stared at her, momentarily speechless.

"Aye, he does, Ruby," another lass agreed, peering from behind the tree trunk. "Did you loses something?"

"Er, no," Fastred managed.

"Did you get a sunburn? I'm grumpy, when I get sunburned," the tree-lass, Ruby, asked. Fastred shook his head.

"Are you hungry?" the other lass suggested. "Ruby and me have some cake. Cake helps me when I'm grumpy."

"No, I... Thank you, but I'm not hungry," Fastred fumbled, suddenly feeling out of depth.

"How come you're grumpy, then?" Ruby said sharply.

"It's... Well, it's just... Er, I'm not sure how to explain," he said helplessly. "I'll just be along, I shan't bother you. Good day."

"He's in love!" shrieked Ruby, tumbling out of her tree. The other lass scurried to help her up, but Ruby popped up easily and ran to stare up into Fastred's face. "That's it, isn't it? You're in love. Look at him, May."

May obligingly looked. "You think so, Ruby?"

"I know so," Ruby said firmly. "Aren't you?"

Fastred took a nervous step backwards. "I, um, I think you've..."

"He is," May breathed, reaching up to gently touch Fastred's sleeve. Fastred frowned at her.

"Now, see here," he began, but found himself being tugged toward the tree by two suddenly euphoric hobbit lasses. They sat cross-legged on the ground and glared at Fastred until he did the same.

"Well, tell us!" Ruby exclaimed after a moment of silence. "You tell us the story, and we'll help you. It'll be just like a tale."

May giggled. Fastred looked pained.

"There's nothing to tell," he sighed. "The lass doesn't even know my name, and she's got enough suitors to fill up a barn and a half anyway. And I'm not in love," he added uncertainly.

Ruby frowned. "You love Ellie."

"Ellie?"

"Elanor," May supplied. "Ruby is Elanor's sister. Everybody loves Elanor."

"Don't I know it?" Fastred grumbled beneath his breath. Ruby pursed her lips, thinking.

"You've never hung on our garden gate, though," she mused. "Fro hates that. He says it ruins the hinges, fools hanging on it all day. And if you don't hang on the garden gate, that means you haven't brought ugly flowers, either. Ellie doesn't like all the ugly flowers. She doesn't like violets, either, because they maker her sneeze. And if you don't bring ugly flowers, you don't sing stupid songs. I hate those. So I suppose it's okay that you love Ellie."

Fastred blinked rapidly, trying to follow this logic. May nodded, as if it all made perfect sense, and gazed appraisingly at Fastred.

"I think he's handsome," she said detachedly, as if appraising an apple tree or a pony. "His hair is funny, but he has a kind face."

"I like his hair," Ruby said indignantly. She stood to pat Fastred's curls. "They're pretty."

"I don't know," Fastred began again, and was shushed immediately by May. Ruby gave his head a final pat and flopped back down to her place by the tree.

"Can you sing?" she demanded. Fastred heaved a breath.

"Aye."

"Let's hear it, then," May said, just as impatient as Ruby. Fastred shook his head at the bizarreness of it all and sang a short, jaunty verse about cherry-picking. May giggled, and Ruby beamed.

"No doves," she said, as if that decided his singing ability. "Do you tell tales?"

Fastred laughed outright. "Aye, pumpkin, I tell tales."

"Tell us one!" May crowed, and he laughed again, his dark mood suddenly lifted.

"I shall!" he cried, and scooped one lass into each arm, settling them close to him as he leaned against the tree. "And since you are such experts in love, I think I'll tell the tale of the frog."

"The frog?" May asked, wrinkling her nose.

"The frog," Fastred said firmly. "Now, once, a long time ago, long before you and I were born, there lived a young hobbit lass..."

Fastred told Ruby and May the story of the young hobbit lass, the tragedy of her wretched life and her only friend, the fat green frog. He told how the lass was courted by a boorish lout who never cleaned his feet or hair and sang truly terrible songs in a truly terrible voice. He dropped his voice, and sadly told of how the lass decided to run away to Bree, to serve ale, and how she crept to the Water to say goodbye to her friend the frog one last time.

"And as the tears rolled down her cheeks," Fastred whispered, his eyes sliding shut, "she leaned down to the frog that had listened to all her troubles, and sang to her when she was sad, and she gave him a kiss.

Boom!" he cried, startling his wide-eyed audience. "With a blaze of light, the frog was gone! In his place, there stood a handsome young hobbit-lad!"

Fastred finished the story, explaining the faery charm that had turned the lad into a frog, and how he loved the lass and wanted to marry her. Ruby sighed, content, as he finished.

"And they lived happily together until the end of their days," he said quietly. Ruby and May looked at each other, then back at Fastred. May looked shocked.

"That was better than Elanor's tales," she whispered. Ruby glared at her.

"Nobody tells stories better than Ellie! But," she amended, "that was pretty good."

"I'm glad you liked it," Fastred said genially. "Now, I think it's time for elevensies. Apple?"

He shared the contents of his pockets with Ruby and May, who did, in fact, have cake. The three ate contentedly in the shade of the tree, and for a while, were quiet.

"Oh!" Ruby said suddenly, an apple halfway to her mouth. "We don't know your name."

"Fastred," he said, bowing as well as he could, sitting down. "Fastred of Greenholm, at your service."

"Ruby Gamgee, at yours," she replied, dipping her head.

"May Cotton, at yours," May piped up.

"Cake, Fastred?" Ruby said primly, and the three fell to the business of elevensies once more.

*****


"Tolman, if you touch that cake one more time, you'll get none of it," Elanor admonished her youngest brother. Tolman clutched at his stuffed lamb and glared at Elanor murderously.

"Wan' cake," he announced. "'M hungry, Ellie."

"You'll get some, soon enough," she told him. "Fro? Merry, Pip? For pity's sake, hurry along. Tolman is about to swallow this cake whole."

Her brothers filed into the kitchen, still slightly damp from washing. Merry ruffled Tolman's hair and settled to the table, deftly slicing the cake and putting it on Tolman's plate.

"There you are, lad," he said, giving his brother's hair another ruffle. "This looks good, Elle. Are those mutton sandwiches?"

"Nice thick ones," Pippin confirmed. "Here, Tolman, have a sandwich with your cake, there. Sandwich, Fro?"

"I should think so," Frodo replied, taking two.

"Just in here," Ruby's voice floated in from the hall. "Ellie? Fro?"

"In the kitchen," Elanor called. Ruby soon appeared, trailed by May.

"There's enough for all of us. Come on, May, sit down," Elanor admonished, nodding to an empty seat. "Ruby, stop fidgeting and eat."

"I brought a friend," Ruby said, twisting her pinny.

"So I see," Elanor said. "There's no need for an announcement, May eats luncheon here as often as her own home."

"Not May," Ruby corrected. "A new friend. Be nice, Elle."

With that, she darted into the hall and reappeared with Fastred in tow.

"Fastred, this is my sister, Elanor. And these are my brothers, Frodo, Merry, Pippin, and Tolman. Robin, Bilbo, Daisy, Goldilocks, Hamfast, and Primrose aren't here. And Mam and Da are out visiting, too," Ruby said, working her way around the kitchen table. Fastred bowed slightly to the company and followed Ruby.

"I hope I'm not intruding," he began, but Merry interrupted.

"Of course not. You're Rob's cousin, aren't you?"

"Aye," Fastred confirmed, wincing slightly. "But don't let that put you off."

Pippin laughed heartily. "I like you already, Fastred. Mutton sandwich?"

The tension in the room disappeared entirely, and the hobbits set to the luncheon with gusto. Only Elanor was strangely quiet.

"He's not a bad sort, Rob," Fastred said between sandwich and tomato salad. "He just tends to the overdramatic, is all. My father is always after me to knock some sense into him, but it hasn't taken yet."

"You and half of Hobbiton," Merry laughed. "I like Rob well enough, but if it isn't a lass, it's a tussle, and he hasn't figured out that if he wants to fight with the entire pub, he ought to learn to fight."

"You're from Greenholm, aye?" Frodo asked. Fastred nodded. "I heard that the cherry orchards are doing well this year."

Frodo, Merry, and Pippin, gardeners all, leaned forward as Fastred told them about the orchards, irrigation, and planting schemes. Ruby was noticeably less impressed.

"Fastred, tell us another tale," she pleaded, plucking at his sleeve.

"There's a place for tales, and it isn't the table," he answered gently. "After luncheon, though, if you'd like."

"Fastred tells good stories," May informed the table. "And he makes them up, all in his head, don't you, Fastred?"

"Never mind, May," Fastred murmured, but Tolman perked up.

"I like stories," he said hopefully.

"Then you can listen to one after luncheon," Elanor said, a tad sharply. "Finish your cake."

Merry looked at Elanor as if she'd lost her mind. Elanor glared back at him, and he shrugged.

"Well, let's have a pipe in the back garden, and you can give us a tale out of your head," he said, pushing back from the table. "Does that suit?"

"Aye," Fastred said, standing as Merry did. "Thank you, Elanor. The luncheon was delicious."

"You're welcome," Elanor said shortly, gathering up the dishes. Frodo gazed at her for a moment.

"Go on," he said, addressing Merry. "I'll help Elle clean up, and I'll be there in a tick. Tolman, leave Ruby's ribbon alone."

Merry led his siblings, May, and Fastred out the door and into the garden, whistling.

"What's wrong, Elle?" Frodo asked, grasping his sister's wrist. Elanor froze over the stack of dishes and said nothing. Frodo sighed and released her.

"Come on, Elle. You were fuming all through luncheon."

"He's using Ruby to get to me!" Elanor hissed, clattering dishes into the wash basin. "At least Rob only hangs on our gate. To use a little lass like that! It's just... Just..."

"You can't know that," Frodo interrupted mildly. "He seems like a kind fellow. He might not have even known that Ruby was your sister."

"Why is he telling Ruby and May tales in the first place?" she snarled, tipping a bucket of warm water over the dishes.

"Knowing Ruby, she probably told him to," Frodo said, fetching a towel. "And May helped. Besides, he hardly paid you any attention at all at luncheon."

"So he's won you over, has he?" Elanor huffed. Frodo frowned, took a step back, and popped her smartly with his dishtowel. Elanor cried out and whirled on him, eyes blazing.

"Now that I have your attention," Frodo said calmly, as if nothing had happened, "I want you to listen. I know that you've got every lad in Hobbiton at your heels, and I can't imagine what that must be like. You haven't met a lad that was just friendly in a long while, and I know that. But Elle, you're being terribly unfair, and selfish besides. Da speaks well of Fastred's father, and the lad was kind enough to Ruby. He didn't make any advances on you; he didn't even talk to you, besides to thank you for lunch. I think you're putting schemes in his hands that he had nothing to do with; he said himself that he was no admirer of Rob's hare-brained ideas. And if you're upset because he isn't mooning over you like a newborn lamb..."

"I just don't think our sister should take up with strangers," Elanor snapped, turning to the dishes again.

"We know his name, his home, his occupation, and that he likes mutton and tomatoes," Frodo said, reaching for a wet platter. "He may not be family, but he's no stranger. It's a start."

Through the window, they could hear Ruby laughing. They finished the dishes in silence.

Chapter One
Chapter Two

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
dreamflower02
Jul. 17th, 2008 05:59 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love this--is she peeved because she thinks he's sneaky or because he didn't pay attention to her? LOL! Seems like she doesn't even know!

Frodo's a wise brother. I really *LIKE* him!

So glad you got this up--I'll post a link soon!

(and I'm eager to see what comes next! Will Sam and Rose be as complacent as Frodo? Will Tolman like his stories? Will Ruby and May tell the world that "Fastred loves Ellie"? And how will Rob react when he finds out?)
the_arc5
Jul. 17th, 2008 08:38 pm (UTC)
LOL!

All these questions and more, answered in our next episode!
nancylea57
Jul. 17th, 2008 07:12 pm (UTC)
i think dreamflower covered it. Wow, great, wonderful....ps you're a day late. i watched all day for you; then when i go to bed you sneaked it in. More please!!!!!!!
the_arc5
Jul. 17th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
My work schedule, plus some last-minute editing (read: I sort of rewrote this chapter) put me off schedule. Sorry! There will be more tomorrow, though!
mumstheword54
Jul. 18th, 2008 12:48 am (UTC)
I've been enjoying your story! I seldom see Elanor/Fastred courting stories, so this is doubly enjoyable.

Thanks for adding chapters so quickly!
blslarner
Aug. 3rd, 2008 12:17 pm (UTC)
Poor Elle, not knowing quite what she's feeling! Love it. Little does she know that it's Ruby and May who are manipulating and advising Fastred, and manipulating her, too! I hope he hears and appreciates more of her stories. And how Rob, Milo, and Hugo will be JEALOUS! Heh!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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