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The Ties of Family
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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36
Bound in Love

Bound in Love

The conference on security of borders and coinage went on for three days, and Sestor found himself allowed to wander from room to room freely. Neither the Elves nor the Dwarves attending acknowledged the King’s authority to hold over themselves, but all the Men did; yet they all were clearly expecting this conference to assist in defining borders more clearly and developing proper procedures to be followed in approaching another people’s lands or for dealing with trespassers. They were also discussing coinage and how each would compare to the King’s coinage, which was becoming the standard for all within Gondor and Arnor, and for lands beyond as well.

The Hobbits were involved, Sestor noted, in all the business of the conference, and were listened to with respect by all. Their history of stable government and prosperity for all was repeatedly cited by the King’s own people as an example of how things could be for the rest if they would work on cooperating instead of remaining suspicious of their neighbors. The two taller Hobbit warriors, he learned, were the sons of two of the leaders of their people, one whose title was Master and one the Thain. All four of these as well as their wives were involved in a variety of discussions and debates, and the Angmarian realized the two sons were being groomed to follow their fathers when the time came. The solemn Hobbit was called “Sam” by his own people, “Sam-Dad” by his daughter, but always was addressed as “Lord Samwise” or “Lord Perhail” by those of other races, who treated him with the utmost deference and honor. He seemed to be most interested in questions of forestry and fields and gardens, and the archer realized that even his own people consulted his expertise when quoting figures to others or discussing ways to increase harvests without overwhelming the land. He was also consistently involved in discussions of education, at first asking questions of the leaders from other lands, then answering questions regarding what were called the Shire schools.

The one known as Ruvemir, who plainly was not one of the Hobbits, spent a great deal of time with the Elves, always with at least one of the youths who accompanied him and one or more of his large books open before him, busy apparently writing--until late the second day Sestor realized he was not writing, but instead was drawing. He had several Elves posing on horseback in one of the courtyards at the time, and both he and the youth were working at reproducing the manner in which they sat their animals as well as the look of the horses themselves. The Elves appeared both amused and flattered, and looked at his drawings after with interest.

“You are far better with the forms of Elves, Men, Dwarves, and Periannath than you are with those of beasts, Master Sculptor,” one commented.

“Yes, I am well aware, which was why I asked my friend Bergemon to assist me. With him it is the other way about. However, with the illness that struck his mother he has been delayed, and will not be able to join me until I return to Bree, most like.” He applied a ball of gum to one of the offending lines and sought to redo it aright.

Another of his books lay nearby, and one of those watching leafed through it with interest, then paused with a distinct look of approval. “You have caught Estel very well here,” he commented.

The artist gave a distracted look sideways at the picture angled toward him, one of the King seated, dressed in the figured robe and crowned with the circlet set with the great jewel, nodded, then turned his attention back to his current drawing. “Yes, the other evening when questioning Master Sestor there.” He made a vague gesture with his head in the archer’s direction. “Lord Aragorn is a fascinating subject to capture, I find.”

“This one will not be of much use in completing the Dúnedain’s commission.”

“No, but I think it will do well for the basis for a figure to be done for Annúminas in the future.”

The Elf looked at him with interest. “You have been approached about working on the new Citadel being built there?”

The artist smiled complacently. “No, not yet.”

Another Elf laughed. “He is confident of the value others will place on his work.”

The one looking through the book of drawings shrugged eloquently. “And well he might be. The work he has done in Minas Anor and Casistir is certainly well worthy.”

The artist sighed. “I think that this is as much of an insult to the rendering of beautiful horseflesh as I wish to do today.” He closed the booklet and uncapped a holder into which he placed gum and drawing stick, closed it again, then thrust the holder into a pocket in his surcoat.

“Here, Master,” the youth said, presenting his own booklet for evaluation.

All examined it with interest and growing respect. Ruvemir’s face lit with satisfaction and delight. “Here, Celebgil, you clearly outshine me. This is a fine depiction of the Elves’ steeds. I am most impressed.” The youth’s face lit with pleasure at this praise.

“Do you have the model for the Dúnedain’s commission completed?” asked another of those present as he brushed his horse’s already gleaming coat.

“Almost. I have yet Lord Boromir’s figure to complete, and that of the pony Bill.”

“An even tempered animal, Bill is.”

Ruvemir smiled. “A fit steed for the Lord Samwise.”

His wife came out, obviously in search of him. “There you are, then, my love. They tell me that the evening meal will be ready in a quarter mark, and you will need to wash and change.”

“I will be there in a moment only, Elise. How are you feeling today?”

“Very well. I am so well coddled I think this child will be most contented when born.”

“Well enough, then.” Ruvemir made it to his feet, accepted the cane handed him by one of the Elves, and walked back alongside his wife, their free hands entwined, the youth carrying the sketch booklets as he looked on his master and mistress with an expression of indulgence.

*******

That evening Sestor went out on one of the balconies overlooking the vale, and spied the Hobbit Brendilac and the Hobbit woman who cared for him, walking in the garden below him. As they approached he could hear much of their talk.

“...was so worried for you,” the woman was saying.

“It was more than a bit of a shock for me as well, Narcissa,” he replied. “And to be hurt so seriously twice in a matter of less than two months....”

“I know,” she said. “Fosco was so frantic after Bedro beat and kicked you.” After a pause she added, “And I felt that way this time.”

He stopped and looked at her. “Do you love me, Narcissa, do you think?”

She looked at his face searchingly. “I think I do, Brendi.”

He looked down. “I know I’m coming to care for you in a way I’d never thought I could again since Merilinde died.”

She gave a shrug. “I’m not Merilinde.”

He gave a short laugh. “And I’m not Frodo.”

“I don’t care for you as I did Frodo, Brendi; I care for you as...as I care for you.”

He leaned forward to kiss her, and the kiss began to grow in passion. Quietly, Sestor slipped back into the room behind the balcony to give them privacy.

*******

A discussion was going on behind closed doors about how to answer the threat posed by Angmar. Aragorn had included Hardorn, Halladan, Berenion, Gilfileg, Peregrin and Paladin Took, Faramir and Eowyn, Meriadoc Brandybuck, Gimli, Legolas, Elladan and Elrohir Peredhil, Glorfindel, two others of the Dwarves, and two others from lands east of the Misty Mountains in the discussion. At times the suggestions bordered upon the absurd, but at last Aragorn gave the others a nod. “We will have already given them something to think on, with the disappearance of three families followed by the return of Avrigien’s body and a number of broken swords. And those from Bree who know for certain what became of the group are here in Rivendell and can tell them nothing if they send to inquire. On our return we will....”

All laughed as the King’s plan unfolded. “It will definitely confuse them all,” Gilfileg commented, taking a pull at his flagon of ale.

The eyes of Elrohir shone with anticipation. “We will enjoy this one, little brother,” he said, smiling.

Peregrin Took laughed.

*******

In the morning Narcissa Boffin and Brendilac Brandybuck arrived late at the breakfast served, and both kept looking at the King where he sat by the Queen and Barliman Butterbur. The twins were watching them with interest, and Sestor found himself doing the same. Noting the focus of attention, Ruvemir of Lebennin found his own interest caught, and so the interest began to spread as two and three at a time the company found their attention drawn to the Hobbit couple midway down the right side of the room. Finally the Lord King Elessar himself asked the question all by this time desired to know the answer to.

“Is there ought I can do for you this day, Master Brandybuck, Mistress Boffin?”

The two of them were flushing deeply, but with as much dignity as he could manage, Brendilac addressed him. “My beloved Lord King, we were wondering if you would do us a great favor....”

The King continued to look on them courteously, although those close to his side noted the glimmer of humor in his eye indicating he had an idea as to what was desired, but intended to see those making the petition make their declarations unaided.

As Brendi found his mouth had dried and he couldn’t speak further, Narcissa gave him a look of mixed indulgence and frustration, and continued on. “We were wondering, Sire, if you would--if you would marry us.”

Forsythia Baggins gave a whoop of triumph, then turned red herself. There were a number of pleased smiles all around the tables as Hobbits and those who’d come to know the two of them over the past few weeks shared the general feeling of satisfaction and anticipation. The Lady Arwen beamed, and the King’s expression was at one and the same time pleased and gentle. “If it is acceptable with Thain and Master,” he said quietly, “it would be my honor. When would you desire this to occur?”

Brendilac straightened. “As we are to leave tomorrow afternoon, we thought perhaps this evening? If it isn’t too rushed?”

Merry laughed. “The two of you have stayed under the same roof since Brendi was beaten by Beasty Bracegirdle, and you think things are rushed?” Both flushed furiously, and the King laughed loud and long.

After a quick word from his wife, the King schooled his expression, and turned gravely to Brendi and Narcissa. “I believe that would be acceptable, Master Brendi, Mistress Narcissa. And we know there has been no impropriety in your relationship, no matter what Merry has implied.” Merry, however, did not look particularly abashed.

Lord Hardorn cleared his throat. “Speaking of marriages...”

Aragorn looked at him with interest. “Yes, Cousin?”

“As long as you and our beloved Lady Arwen have been throwing eligible young ladies my way, Gilorien and I decided that perhaps we might save me further embarrassment by asking you to marry us, also.”

Again the King laughed, and all laughed with him. He turned to one of the two women who’d accompanied Berenion. “This would please you, my lady?”

She smiled. “Please me? At least your introductions in Minas Anor have finally pushed him to ask me. I’ve waited long and long.”

“A double wedding, then--unless, Gilfileg...?”

“Aragorn, let me have the dignity of seeking her out yet! Although perhaps we will come down to Minas Anor in a few months’ time for you to see it done--if her father does not force me to use his services.”

Lord Berenion smiled as he shook his head. “Am not certain just what my brother will demand of you, Gilfileg. I doubt you’ll pry him out of his hold to go south, though, even for Lirieth’s marriage to you--although it may be worth a try.”

The King’s eyes sparkled with pleasure. “Well, a double wedding, then. Master Brendilac, it is not exactly appropriate that you prepare your own marriage contract. Is there another who might be called upon to do this?”

“Yes, my Lord--Isumbard is also accepted to write contracts.”

“Very good. And I will gladly write the one for Gilorien and Hardorn. Now, my friends, we must finish with the day’s business if we wish to enjoy the evening’s festivities.”

*******

The last of the meetings was done at midafternoon, at which time the place became a hive of activity. Narcissa and Gilorien were whisked off by the Queen and her ladies, attended by Mistresses Esmeralda and Eglantine and Forsythia. Berenion’s elder daughter Gloringilien was laughing as she helped hang greenery from the ceiling in the Hall of Fire and about the door, while Rosie and Sam, aided by the Elves, filled the room with banks of flowers carefully arranged, and Lady Avrieth watching over Melian and Rosie-Lass as they carefully examined individual blossoms.

The King himself had agreed to take several of the menfolk of several races on a tour of Rivendell, although Frodo-Lad, Elanor, Drogo Smallfoot, and Piper had made themselves part of the party. As he opened one door, he announced, “This was my room when I was but a child. My mother’s room was the next over. In my eleventh summer I was given a room closer to the Lord Elrond and my brothers. I’ve not been within this room for many years. Elladan here told me that this was the room for himself and Elrohir when they, too, were small.” The Elf nodded his acknowledgement.

The room was large and certainly comfortable, with two low beds, a single low desk, and a line of shelves fitted mostly with books written in a variety of tongues, but also some toys and puzzles, as well as specimens of rocks, leaves carefully preserved, and various other oddments picked up years ago. On the wall hung a faded drawing of two boys together leading out horses from what those who had been there identified as the stables for Rivendell, done obviously by a child. “Is that of Elladan and Elrohir, then?” asked Faramir.

Aragorn’s eyes had softened, looking at it. “No, I did that. It was of my brother and myself.”

“Your brother?” asked Paladin Took.

“My imaginary brother,” the tall Man amended. “Actually, I had two imaginary brothers, one whom I rather grandly named Gil-galadrion and the other Anorahil. Gil-galadrion was my own imaginary twin brother, and Anorahil was our younger one. I felt very left out, after all, knowing that Adar had been a twin and having Elladan and Elrohir as brothers and them being twins also, being the one singleton in the family. I wanted to give that status to another.

“Gil-galadrion was to be the romantic one of the three of us, the one who was most Elvish, who had curls where my hair but waved, whose eyes shone with starlight, as I was to learn was true of Arwen and the Lady Galadriel. He would be the one gifted with song and poetry and with the gift of dancing. He spoke many languages, learning them with ease where I must oft labor over the learning of them. He would have a heart swift to understanding and caring, who would understand the movement of the stars and the voices of the trees.

“Anorahil would be the creature of the daylight that Gil-galadrion would be of the evening, would laugh most loudly in the sunlight, who would find the hiding places of the small creatures that fascinated me. He would have the love of the land that my Elven brothers had, but it would be more practically focused. He would teach me how to find my way through the dark woods by bringing light into them, would dispel my often foolish fears by the shining of his intellect on them. It was odd--Gil-galadrion and I were to be the elder and twins, but Anorahil would still often in my imaginings chide me as an older brother would, correcting my misconceptions, pointing out the errors in my logic.

“I often made up stories about what we did together; but as I grew older they were more often about the two of them, for I wound about the reality of my isolation as a child the idea that they were often away on errantry, doing marvelous things while I must work day to day on learning to wield a blade, to bend a bow, to identify herbs and their qualities, to know the histories of the Edain and the Dúnedain, the Elves and Dwarves, Númenor and Gondor and Arnor and Rohan and Angmar. But I also dreamt of the days when we, especially Gil-galadrion and I, would ride together. Sometimes my desire for companionship was so great, I felt the two of them were indeed real, only just out of sight and reach.”

Elladan had gone very still. “This is very strange,” he said.

“What is strange?”

“That you and your mother should both think of you having brothers....”

“I do not understand.”

“As we were cleaning out Adar’s room, we found your mother’s journal in it. Neither Elrohir nor I have read it thoroughly, but in it she wrote of the sons she hoped to have. Let me go and get it for you. It is only right that you should have it.” He straightened and left the room. The rest looked at one another in question. After a few minutes Elladan returned, carrying a thick book bound in calfskin dyed the green of the sage bush, embossed in silver with seven stars and a tree, chipped and dulled from years of wear.

Aragorn gently ran his finger over it, then opened it to the earliest entries and scanned them. Pippin slipped up beside him and looked at it. “I can’t read it,” he said, quietly.

“No, it is in Adunaic,” Aragorn said softly. “This entry was written just after my father asked for her hand in marriage. Her father disapproved, for he felt she was too young. She speaks of the disagreement between her parents over the prospect of marriage, of the foresight of both that my father would most likely not live long.” He turned the page, scanned the next page, then several more. Then he paused, reread a page more carefully, went onto the next. “She has written of the preparation for their marriage, the choosing of a place for her to dwell, the gathering of the goods she would take with her into the marriage, her happiness, the way...the way his smile filled her heart, the touch of his hand made her rejoice.” There was a tenderness in his eyes.

He scanned a few more pages, then stopped, his head lifted. “She has had a dream of the sons she will bear, one to be King, the other two to assist him in his labors.” He began to translate slowly.

“‘Three brothers did I see, two of them twins, but not almost identical as are the sons of the Lord Elrond Peredhil. The older two will be dark haired, one with the grey eyes of the Dúnedain. the other with eyes the color of the summer sky. He with the grey eyes will be the heir, and to my beloved lord husband I must give the naming of him as is right for the heir of Isildur and Arvedui. But I will name the others, and for the second I have chosen the name Gilorhael, for he will reflect always the wisdom of the stars. He shall have laughter where his brother shall know the burden of leadership. He shall help his brother to know delight. He shall hear the voice of Iluvatar within his heart. He will help his brother to come to the Kingship.

“‘The third will have lighter hair, similar to that of my cousin Rahael. And he will be the anchor to both his older brethren, the one to bring their awareness away from the lure of the evening to the joy of day. An old soul do I see in him, my third son to be, solemn but full of the joy of life nonetheless. I will call him Anorhael.’”

All remained quite still for some moments as they considered what the lady Gilraen had written, as they compared them to Aragorn’s own imaginings as a child. Finally Saradoc Brandybuck swallowed, then said, “This is indeed rather remarkable, isn’t it, my Lord King?”

Aragorn nodded. His face had become very still and thoughtful. At last he began skimming through the book. At last he paused. “Here is the notation that she is certain that she has indeed conceived, and that she is positive that indeed she bears twin brothers.” He paged through now more slowly. Then he stopped, went through several pages, then turned back to them and read them thoroughly, his face reflecting pain. “She is worried, for something is troubling her pregnancy. My father is on campaign along the Misty Mountains, and has been gone for two months. She is apparently about five months along at this point. Here, just comments she has begun to spot blood. She is fearing a miscarriage.”

He again read on, then stopped. “She lost one of the babes, and definitely a son,” he said quietly. “The midwife who attended her gave her herbs to try to help her retain it, but she lost it anyway. She has been made to take to her bed to help her retain the other child. She has forbidden those who have attended on her to tell anyone she bore twins at the first, that she has lost one. She is certain that it is the one intended to be born second.”

Elladan moved behind him, read over his shoulder. Finally he commented, “I’d not read this, Estel.” His eyes carefully ran over the page. “See how her writing has changed--as if she has lost some of the lightness of heart she once bore.”

Saradoc Brandybuck, whose wife had suffered miscarriages, looked up into the Elf’s face. “You do lose much of your joy when you lose a child, my lord Elladan. Esmeralda and I--it took so much out of us, losing the ones before Merry was born. And Primula--she was absolutely devastated each time she lost one. It makes the ones who survive that much the dearer.”

The King continued reading the next few pages. Finally he sighed. “These are descriptions of the loss of the child, the attempt to retain the other. Finally one two weeks later when they are certain she is no longer in danger of further miscarriage. Then she apparently did not write in the journal for some months, until I was born, She describes me, the birthing feast given, the grief she felt that it included so few--her brother Halbeleg, her cousin Rahael, Rahael’s brother-in-law Berenion who is beginning his training with the Rangers, his brother Galdorn--a few other names.” He looked up. “Berenion was captain of the troop to which I was first assigned and has always trained the new recruits--it is so odd to think of a time when he was himself just a new recruit.”

“He’s the one who allowed the others to call you the Elven Princeling, then?” asked Ferdibrand.

“Yes.” The King smiled, then his smile faded. “I had no idea--no idea I nearly had a brother....”

“Could you perhaps have heard her discussing this when you were small, my Lord?” asked the Thain.

“It is possible, I suppose. However, I don’t remember any such talks.” Again he paged slowly, then began skimming again, until something arrested his attention. He backtracked, finally began to translate again. “‘The dream of the sons I would bear has come again. Something has caused me to lose Gilorhael, and so he will be born elsewhere, at a later time. I am torn, for the hope of the Dúnedain, North and South, has been lost for now. And my precious son of--son of starlight shall be borne by another, in a different land, different from what he was intended. And my son Aragorn shall not know the completeness he was meant to know, having lost the brother who--who lay by his heart for so long.

“‘Now I do not know if Anorhael will be born to me. Oh, the grief of it, for all three are necessary to the hope of the Dúnedain--indeed for the hope of all the free peoples of Middle Earth.’”

Again he skimmed through the book, finally paused again. He examined the date of an entry. “A few weeks before my father’s death. ‘I have conceived, I think. Apparently Anorhael will be born to me after all, and Aragorn will be able to know one of his brothers.’ Then reports of orc incursions north and east, the word my father and three other troops have headed that direction.” He turned more pages, then stopped. “‘Word has come--my beloved Lord Husband has been slain. Indeed, as was foretold, he has died young for one of our kindred. Aragorn is barely two years of age, and creatures of evil seek us. I see the Black Riders in my dreams, seeking to find Aragorn and me, to slay us and the child I carry.’” His face was full of pain, and he did not translate anything for some time, although he was clearly reading it closely.

Then: “‘I have constant dreams of the Eye, the Eye seeking for us, coming closer and closer to us. There have been several attacks on strongholds near us, including one which Halbeleg had deliberately falsely identified as housing us. We have found out one traitor among our people, and he has died the death as a result of his treachery. How will we preserve the life of Aragorn and the one I bear? I’ve told none that I have conceived a second time. I must keep it secret, for if the Enemy learns, more strongly will he seek us.’

“Then--then she speaks of the fever that spread throughout upper Eriador from Angmar, how it has killed twenty-two at last report. Then--then the notation I have taken ill with the fever, the concern of all for my wellbeing. Then, a day later, a note that I have become very, very ill indeed, that I have gone into unconsciousness, that one of the women who attended on us left the hall crying with grief that I’d died.

“And here--‘Elrond Peredhil of Imladris has come to us to assist in the fighting of the fever. He has assisted mightily, and many who were close to death have been saved through his intervention. But he has given orders that the bodies of those who have died be burned rather than buried that the fever not spread further.’”

He sighed as he ran his hand down the next two pages, then paused again. “‘I became ill two nights ago, and again have lost the babe I bore. I had borne it less than four months. The Lord Elrond is very gentle with me.’ And here--here is the decision to allow the rumor started by the woman who had attended on my mother and myself that I was dead to stand uncorrected, and to bring the two of us to Imladris for my safety. ‘The Lord Elrond has seen that I bore the two others who shared the burden of hope for the free peoples of Middle Earth, and that I have lost both. He has foreseen, however, that Iluvatar will not allow their spirits to remain unborn, that He will see to it that they are born indeed to the needs of Middle Earth, but that now they must be born elsewhere, in other guise. But my Aragorn--he is all of the hope for the world that I have been able to give to the Dúnedain, and so much of the dream of joy and beauty is now lost, must take a different turn, for the other two will come to their fullness later. And so much of my joy is lost with them. Will my small Estel, as he is to be known, ever understand why grief will lie with me ever? Beloved lord and husband, so greatly hoped for and desired sons--all lost save for the one! Ah, Aragorn, you alone of my hope and joy remain with me....’”

Saradoc Brandybuck and his son stood side by side, their expressions almost identical. They looked to one another, and finally Merry spoke. "Then...then Frodo and Sam, perhaps....”

Aragorn looked back at him, his face pale, yet with a look of triumph deep in his eyes. “Then---- But, I’ve always felt as if they were my brothers, and especially Frodo....”

Ferdi smiled. “It might just explain why your Light and Frodo’s are identical, you know; and certainly Sam’s is appropriate to the names given by both you and your mother. And even you thought of one of the others as the most Elvish of the three of you....”

After a few minutes of contemplation, the King said solemnly, “I ask you all not to discuss this further, or with Sam, please. I may one day discuss it with him, but perhaps I might not. I’m not yet certain. But I can understand why my naneth did not discuss it with me, or Adar either. Although I do find it somehow comforting right now.” He gave a gentle smile. He looked up into Elladan’s eyes. “I thank you, my brother, for giving this to me. It indeed assists me to understand Naneth better.”

He went to the picture on the wall, then gently removed it; went to a box sitting on a shelf and took it up. He opened it and slipped the picture and the journal into it, then placed under his arm.

*******

About a half an hour before the evening meal all gathered in the Hall of Fire. The King stood wearing a robe of dark blue embroidered with seven stars on the left side and a white tree on the right, the Star of Elendil on his brow. On a table near them lay two documents, bottles of red and black ink, two pens, and a stick of black sealing wax in front of a glowing candle. Over the King’s arm were draped two cords, both carefully woven of threads, it seemed, of all colors. The two bridegrooms, Brendilac dressed in a deep maroon, Lord Hardorn in rich purple and silver, both with wreaths of green on their heads, came together, matching their paces together, to stand before him, Halladan and Faramir and Berenion beside Hardorn; Meriadoc, Berilac, and Isumbard beside Brendilac. Paladin Took and Saradoc Brandybuck stepped forward to stand on either side of the King, who looked down on them, smiling before turning his own gaze back to the two bridegrooms.

The Queen and the Lady Mirieth raised the marriage song, and the door to the room opened, allowing the entrance of the Lady Gilmorien and Narcissa, each crowned with flowers, the lady in a long gown of softest green attended by her sister Gloringilien, the Lady Éowyn, and Lady Avrieth; Narcissa in a soft gold adorned with flowers and ears of wheat in white and darker gold accompanied by Estella, Diamond, and Forsythia, her arm under the elbow of Fosco. And so they came to stand by their bridegrooms, eyes meeting, hearts beating faster as the two voices rose in glory and beauty and were joined by the voices of Elladan and Elrohir of Imladris, singing in joy.

At last the King spoke. “Behold, this day are come before all present two couples desiring each to be wed to the other, to be handfasted one to the other, to bind themselves one to the other and to cleave one to the other from this day forward. Is there any who can show any reason why Hardorn of Arnor and Gondor should not marry Gilmorien of Arnor, or why Brendilac Brandybuck of Buckland in the Shire should not marry Narcissa Boffin of Overhill in the Shire? If so, let it be told forth now.”

None spoke out, and at last the wedding went forward.

“As none speaks against either joining, then we before you all rejoice to see each couple wed. Hardorn son of Halbeleg and Anbeth, King’s Man, you have chosen to take Gilmorien of Eriador of Arnor to wife. Do you do this full willing, in joy and delight in her and in your choosing?”

Solemnly, the chief of the King’s Guard and Minister of the Privy Purse answered, “So I have desired and so I do.”

“Gilmorien daughter of Berenion and Mariel, mistress of horses, you have chosen to take Hardorn of Arnor and Gondor as husband. Do you do this full willing, in joy and delight in him and in your choosing?”

“Long have I desired to say as I do now, yea, such is indeed my wish.”

“So let it be, then.”

The Master of Buckland looked on his young cousin and smiled. “And why this day do you come before this company, Brendilac Brandybuck?”

“It is my deep desire to take this Hobbitess Narcissa Boffin as my wife, to take her as mistress of my hole, to bring her into my family, to be the mother of those children who may be given to the two of us.”

“Why this day do you come before this company, Fosco Baggins?”

“To see my beloved friend and guardian Narcissa Boffin married to this gentlehobbit, Brendilac Brandybuck, if she will have him and if he will have her.”

“Why this day do you come before this company, Narcissa Boffin?”

“To take this gentlehobbit, Brendilac Brandybuck as husband, to enter his family, to become mistress of his hole and mother to all children that might be given us.” At this Fosco set Narcissa’s hand in Brendi’s and stepped back.

Now the King asked, “Brendilac son of Meriadan and Dianthus, one versed in the law and defender of those set in your care by others, you have chosen to take Narcissa Boffin of Overhill to wife. Do you do this full willing, in joy and delight in her and your choosing?”

“Yes, my Lord, I do.”

“Narcissa daughter of Fortumbald and Ivy, who delights in the land and is guardian to the young, you have chosen to take Brendilac of Buckland as husband. Do you do this full willing, in joy and delight in him and your choosing?”

“Yes, my Lord King, I do.”

“So be it then. Let all bear witness these two take one another full willing, in delight, before Men, Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, and all other children of Iluvatar. And let all further bear witness that this other pair does similarly. Let all see them this day handfasted together.”

Taking the right hands of Hardorn and Gilmorien, the King laid them so each grasped the arm of the other. “I hereby bind you together,” he said as he took one of the two cords and bound their wrists with it, “in token of your vows given before this company.”

Paladin Took took the right hands of Brendilac and Narcissa and laid them together, then their left hands similarly, their hands crossed over one another. The King then took the second cord and wrapped it around the crossed hands of the Hobbits, binding them also. “You, also,” he said gently, “are now handfasted, and are now bound together in token of the vows you have made before all.”

He nodded to the Thain and Master, who between them turned about the Hobbit couple so all could see the cord binding their hands together, and the King did the same for Hardorn and Gilmorien. “See them bound now, one to the other, bound in body and spirit, to rejoice with one another, to grieve with one another, to care for one another and to allow one another freedom, to argue and make up with one another from this day forth until death alone breaks this bond. Do all see and agree?”

All others followed the lead of those from Eriador and Gondor in saying, “Yea!”

He indicated they should turn back to himself, then quietly unbound first Hardorn and Gilmorien, laying their cord over his left arm, then Brendilac and Narcissa, laying theirs over his right one. “Let you now exchange your marriage tokens.” Once this was done and each had professed the love held for the other, he said, “Now let Forsythia and Fosco Baggins step forward before me.” Forsythia stepped forward from her place by Narcissa and Fosco had come from behind her, he placed a hand on the shoulder of each. “The two of you were orphaned young when first your father died of age and illness, and then your mother of illness and grief. You were fostered many years by others, and lost a second mother to illness, then were brought out of the home of your second father and into a third. Do you both agree to enter into the home these two provide until such time as you are considered adult in the ways of your own people, will you honor them as is mete for those who are cared for by others, will you support the love they now offer freely to one another that they may more fully share in the love and caring offered to you?”

“We will.”

“And do you, Brendilac and Narcissa, accept the care for these two not born to you, will you give them the same love and caring you would have given to them had they been born of your bodies and your love for one another, and will you respect that they bear memories of others who have loved them as father and mother, and accept that those relationships must be acknowledged and respected?”

“We do so gladly.”

“So be it.” Aragorn son of Arathorn stepped back. Looking on all four newly wedded, he said, “May the Valar and Eru Himself shine upon your joining with bliss and content, and grant you each and all strength to face what must be faced as life unfolds before you. Behold the new husband and the new wife, Hardorn and Gilmorien of Arnor and Gondor. Behold the new husband and the new wife, Brendilac and Narcissa Brandybuck of the Shire, of Arnor, and of Gondor. Let you each kiss in token of the love you give and accept.” There were two very passionate kisses given before the assembly. He then said, “And now, let all see the new family formed, of Brendilac and Narcissa Boffin and their fosterlings, Forsythia and Fosco Baggins. Let you all embrace in token of the love you give and accept.” As the four embraced, all cheered and applauded.

He then looked into the eyes of the new Hobbit couple. “It will be, in many ways, more difficult for the two of you than for the others. You have known other loves before cleaving to one another, and now must make shift to remember that these loves are not those you knew previously. You also accept the care for children almost grown, who must, as they reach for maturity, also test their skills and wisdom, and bring into the new family formed understandings which are not necessarily those you would have taught them had they been born to you. Yet, you all have known one another for some time, and so have already an idea as to what the others are like, the foibles and the strengths. Let you remember to keep about you patience and tolerance, and as much for yourselves as for one another. And let the humor which I have seen is so much a part of the lives of the people of the Shire continue to sustain you and one another as you forge new lives and relationships together.” He placed his hands on the heads of both, and they looked up into his eyes, and felt a special thrill as they received his blessing.

Finally he turned to his cousin and his new wife, placing his hands on a shoulder of each. “Long have you known one another and have desired this day, but in the way of our people you have deferred the day of your joining long past when others of the race of Men would ordinarily wed. Let you remember that you have now made the commitment at last, and rejoice to keep it full and joyful.” And he whispered into his cousin’s ear, “And it is about time, Hardorn!” The King’s Officer of the Privy Purse and chief of his personal guard laughed, and cuffed his cousin on the shoulder.

Each couple stepped forward with their witnesses to sign the marriage contracts, and the twins were surprised to find themselves encouraged to sign both copies of the Hobbit contract as well as the adults who served as witnesses. The King took the two contracts, signed them, affixed his seal, rolled each, wrapped and bound each with the proper cord, then had the couples grasp them with the knotted cords between their hands.

“Let all rejoice,” he said quietly, “that you have come together and have bound your lives together this day. And remember that you will know all emotions, anger and joy, love and frustration, fear and delight, finding and losing and finding again. Thus it is with life. May the joys outweigh the griefs, the delights outweigh the pain which must accompany them. And may the world be made better that you have decided to share your love. Love shared is loved multiplied; grief shared is grief relieved. So may it be throughout your lives together.” Again he blessed each couple, then released them to the rest of the company.

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