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Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By  by Pervinca

Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

This fic is about the relationship between Pippin’s son, Faramir, and Sam’s daughter, Goldilocks (if you look at the Appendices at the end of RotK, you’ll see that Faramir and Goldilocks get married). I couldn’t found a story about these two, so I decided to write my own. If you haven’t read all of the books, I suggest you don’t read this fic, as it is a real spoiler for the end of Return of the King.

This is the revised version of this story. I went back through it and changed a couple of things. The main change is the addition of Meriadoc’s wife and children. As stated in one of the chapters, my old version of LotR didn’t have Meriadoc’s marriage to Estella Bolger included, so when I started writing this, I didn’t include it. Since then, I’ve decided to mention Estella (mainly because I want to write a Merry/Estella fic at some stage, and I’d like all of my hobbit fics to tie in together). Meriadoc’s children are of my own creation. The family trees do not include any children of Meriadoc, but the end of the Tale of Years states that he and Peregrin “handed over their goods and offices to their sons”, suggesting that Merry did indeed have children (or at son, at least). I decided to give him a son and a daughter; their names will be revealed later in the story.

* * * * * *

Chapter 1: A Night at The Ivy Bush

"PIPPIN! COME DOWN!" Goldilocks Gamgee yelled to her older brother. The 31-year-old hobbit was a known mischief-maker, and had climbed the mallorn tree in the field by Bag End.

"No way, Goldi," he called back. "The view from here is great. You should see it."

Goldi frowned, annoyed that Pippin, who was two years her elder, was still as stupid and irresponsible as a hobbit in his teens. She shook her head, golden curls tumbling, and stormed off.

"Goldi! Goldi, wait!" Pippin quickly scooted down the tree, and ran after his sister. "I’m sorry."

The golden-haired hobbit-maid smiled. Although Pippin was as foolish as his namesake, Peregrin (Pippin) Took, he was also just as kind-hearted and friendly.

"I forgive you," she sighed. "But Mother wants us to help her with the invitations."

Pippin and Goldi’s older brother, Merry, would soon be turning 33, quite a respectable age for a hobbit, as it was when he or she would "come of age". However, most people believed that reaching the age of 33 would have little effect on Merry Gamgee. He, too, was very much like his namesake, Meriadoc Brandybuck. And Meriadoc, along with Peregrin, was still a notorious rascal.

Still, Pippin and Goldi were excited, if only for the reason that they would soon reach this age also. But aside from this, Merry, Pippin and Goldi were the closest of the Gamgee children. The eldest two, Elanor and Frodo, were married, and Elanor had a son, Elfstan. The next down, Rosie, busied herself by helping her mother with the house duties, claiming that she never wished to be married. Merry, Pippin and Goldi came next, a tight trio; close friends as well as siblings. Although younger brother, Hamfast, was closest in age to Goldilocks, he preferred the company of his Cotton cousins. Daisy and Primrose worried only about finding a husband, while Bilbo, Ruby and Robin were barely out of their teens, and Tolman (Tom) was still in them.

As soon as they had entered Bag End, Pippin and Goldi were laden with envelopes. Rose – their mother – piled each of them with as many invitations as they could carry, and sent them to the post office.

After delivering the invitations to Hobbiton Post Office, Goldi and Pippin strolled back to Bag End, purposely slow, so that they would not have to go on another errand. It was widely known that Merry Gamgee’s birthday was going to be one of the biggest parties in a long time. Not since Old Bilbo Baggins’ infamous party had so many hobbits been invited to a party.

Pippin and Goldi both knew so much about Bilbo’s party from stories told to them by their father, and Peregrin and Meriadoc, that it was almost as if they had been their themselves.

"Do you suppose that Merry’s party will be as remembered as Bilbo and Frodo’s?" Goldi asked.

"Probably not," sighed Pippin. "There won’t be any fireworks, and I don’t think that Merry is planning on using a magic ring to disappear at the end of it, and run off somewhere."

Goldi laughed. "True."

"Goldi! Goldilocks Gamgee!" a voice called.

Pippin grinned as Goldi cringed. The voice belonged to Lily Noakes, a young hobbit-maid from Bywater, who believed herself to be Goldilocks Gamgee’s closest friend. In actual fact, Goldi was not too fond of Lily, but did not have the heart to tell her. Lily was much like Goldi’s younger sisters, Daisy and Primrose (in fact, she was also "friends" with Daisy) – only concerned with finding a husband and starting a family. Unfortunately for Lily (and also unknown to her), she had become a joke with most of the hobbit-lads from the Hobbiton and Bywater area. She was not the most attractive of lasses (unlike the Gamgee girls, who were all considered rare beauties), and her constant flirtatious behaviour was a source of ridicule for almost everyone. The Gamgee children had made a game of escaping from Lily and her constant babble.

Goldi forced a smile, knowing that she would not escape Lily today. "Hullo, Lily."

"Hullo, Goldi, Pippin." Lily smiled at Pippin, and fluttered her eyelashes. Pippin screwed up his nose in disgust as soon as she was not looking. "Are you doing some party errands?"

"Yes. Delivering invitations," Goldi answered.

"I cannot wait until the party! Will there be many handsome – and rich – hobbits there?"

"Well…uh…"

"Oh, speaking of handsome, do you want to come out to The Ivy Bush Inn tonight? You could bring Daisy along."

Goldi thought for a moment at whether she would prefer to stay at home and help her mother and father with party business, or spend the night with her silly sister and even sillier friend. She decided that The Ivy Bush sounded (only slightly) more appealing. At least, with Daisy and Lily both present, she would not really have to worry about either of them.

"I shall ask Mother, but it should be fine."

"Fantastic! Shall we meet at about six?"

"Yes, fine. Now, Pippin and I must be off. We have a lot of work to do. Good day to you."

"All right. Good bye, Pippin."

Pippin and Goldi rushed back towards Bag End, completely forgetting that they had planned to walk back as slowly as possible.

* * * * * *

"Oh, why does Lily have to come too?" whined Daisy, as she and Goldi left Bag End. As soon as the words "Ivy Bush" had left Goldi’s mouth, Daisy had locked herself in her room to get ready, so it was only now that she had found out about Lily.

"It was her idea." Goldi knew that she was not going to enjoy herself tonight. Maybe I’ll find a nice quiet corner to hide in.

The Gamgee girls met Lily outside The Ivy Bush. They could already see that it was quite crowded inside, especially for a Tuesday night, but the girls knew the reason for this. Many people from out of town had been invited to Merry’s party. They had travelled to Hobbiton several days before the party, to "enjoy the Bywater air".

They walked in, and immediately, at least five hobbits called out to Lily, asking her to come and meet their friend from out of town. Lily ran off to her favourite of these hobbits, leaving Daisy laughing at how foolish she really was.

"She doesn’t even realise that they only want to show her off as their favourite joke!" Daisy herself wandered off, still giggling.

Goldi let out a sigh of relief, finally free of her annoying companions. She tried to find a quiet corner, but with so many people, this proved to be quite difficult. Finally, she found a seat, furthest from the bar.

She was sitting for barely five minutes, when a hobbit wandered over to her. He smiled at her, and she had to admit that he was quite good-looking, but also strangely familiar. He reminded her of someone, but she could not think whom.

"What are you doing sitting all by yourself?" he asked.

"Trying to avoid my ridiculous sister and friend," Goldi answered, curtly.

"I’m sure there are better ways to do that, rather than hide in a corner. Are you thirsty? Can I buy you a drink?"

"I am quite capable of buying myself a drink, thank you very much, sir."

"Sorry, I did not mean to offend you."

Goldi sighed, and silently scolded herself. You have to stop being so rude to people, Goldilocks Gamgee. He was just trying to be friendly, and you jumped down his throat. "It’s okay. I am sorry that I snapped at you. Would you like to sit down?"

"Thank you. But I must find my father first, to tell him where I will be sitting."

But as the young hobbit turned to walk away, a voice called to him. "Hi, son! There you are."

Two older hobbits joined Goldi and her new companion in her hiding spot, which was now proving to be not so good a spot. Goldi looked at the two newcomers, and gasped. It couldn’t be!

Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

So as not to get them mixed up with Sam’s sons Merry and Pippin, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took will be referred to by there full names. Similarly, Sam’s wife will be called Rose, and his daughter will be caused Rosie, to avoid confusion there.

Chapter 2: Childhood Friends

"Uncle Peregrin! Uncle Meriadoc!" Goldi cried.

Peregrin Took looked at the young hobbit-lass. Uncle Peregrin? Only Sam’s children call me that! Golden hair…hmm… "Elanor?"

Goldi shook her head. "No, Uncle Pippin, it’s me, Goldilocks!"

"Goldilocks!?!" all three male hobbits exclaimed.

"Little Goldi! When did you grow up?" asked Meriadoc Brandybuck.

Goldi giggled. Why do people always say that? She looked at the young hobbit, who had originally found her. Uncle Pippin called him "Son", that must mean…

"You remember Faramir, don’t you Goldi?" said Peregrin. Faramir said nothing. He seemed too shocked to speak.

"Of course I do," Goldi stammered. She could hardly believe that this handsome young hobbit had been one of her closest childhood friends. "How could I forget the person that got me into trouble so many times when I was little?"

Faramir grinned mischievously, and any doubts Goldi has were instantly gone. That was the grin that used to follow the phrase, "Oh, come on, Goldi. No one will find out!" Goldi blushed slightly. Forget when she had grown up, when had Faramir grown up?

"Look at you, Goldi!" said Meriadoc. "You really are your mother’s daughter. Lucky you. Good thing you don’t look like Sam." He laughed.

"I didn’t know that you were here," Goldi admitted.

"We decided to come early. Diamond and Estella are already at Bag End, but we wanted to stop by The Ivy Bush, first. I suppose we should have invited Sam along. Oh, well."

Diamond was Peregrin’s wife, and therefore, Faramir’s mother. She was fairly close to Rose, so would most likely be helping Rose with the party organisation. Estella was Meriadoc’s wife and was also close to Rose. Meriadoc and Estella had two young children. Though they had been married earlier than Peregrin and Diamond, Meriadoc and Estella had had many problems conceiving. Estella had lost two babies before their daughter Éowyn was born. Son Théodoc came along two years later. The two were the same age as Goldi’s youngest brothers Robin and Tom.

"Goldi! Goldi!" called Lily from not too far away.

Faramir noticed the look of horror that passed over Goldi’s fair face. She did not want Faramir, Peregrin and Meriadoc to meet Lily. No doubt Lily would flaunt herself all over Faramir, embarrassing herself, and Goldi, in the process.

"There you are, Goldi!" Lily ran over. She immediately eyed Faramir. "And just who might this be? Trying to hide a handsome young hobbit from me again?"

"Lily," Goldi said, through clenched teeth, "this is my Uncle Peregrin, Uncle Meriadoc, and Peregrin’s son, Faramir. Faramir, Peregrin, Meriadoc, this is my…friend, Lily Noakes."

"Oh, your cousin! Then I suppose he shall be at the party?"

Faramir did not even try to hide the look of pure disgust on his face. Goldi elbowed him the side, but fortunately, Lily didn’t notice. Goldi had difficulty deciding whether it would be worse for Faramir if Lily went on believing he was her cousin, or if she knew the truth. She decided that the latter would be better.

"Uh…no, Peregrin isn’t actually my uncle. He’s just a good friend of my father. He shall be at the party, but he may be very busy." Out of the corner of her eye, Goldi could see Faramir mouthing Thank you! She winked to him.

Lily pouted. "Well, if you are not going to share him, then I will be off. Good bye." She walked off in a huff.

Faramir let out a relieved breath, and then he and Goldi started laughing. Goldi felt like it was almost like old times again: laughing and fooling around with one of her closest friends. But something was different. The way Faramir looked at her unnerved her, but she was aware that she was gazing at him in the same way. Can I be falling in love with Faramir Took? Goldi shook her head to clear all such thoughts. Of course I’m not falling in love with him. Why…why that would be like falling in love with Pippin or Merry!

"Well, she seemed like a nice young lass," said Peregrin, with a half smile. He took a large swig of beer from his mug. "Ahhh, that hits the spot."

"I am really looking forward to Merry’s party," said Faramir.

"Ah, I still remember my thirty-third birthday party," sighed Meriadoc.

"No, you don’t. You drank too much beer, and passed out!" Peregrin pointed out. "Let’s just hope Merry isn’t too much like you, Meriadoc."

Meriadoc simply grinned and drained his mug. "Well, that shall do for me."

"You are becoming boring in your old age, Meriadoc! But you’re probably right."

"Wait for a moment," said Goldi. "I’ll get Daisy, then we can all go together. You are staying at Bag End, aren’t you?"

"Of course!" Faramir draped an arm over Goldi’s shoulder. She could feel a red tinge creeping over her cheeks. "I would never miss the chance to spend time with my best friends. How are Merry and Pippin, by the way?"

"Same as always. Foolish and irresponsible."

"Just like us!" cried Peregrin, laughing.

Goldi smiled. "I’ll be right back."

Goldi searched through the crowd for her younger sister. She found Daisy, surrounded by several young hobbits, offering her everything from jewellery to farmland in exchange for her love. Daisy giggled and told all of them she was flattered. She delighted in the attention, but she had enough sense to know that these hobbits were probably lying.

"Goldi! Come and meet my new friends!" Daisy called, with a giggle, when she saw her sister. The hobbits’ attention was diverted to the elder of the two Gamgee girls, for it was common knowledge that Goldilocks Gamgee was one of the prettiest lasses in the Shire.

"Not now, Daisy," said Goldi. "We are leaving. Uncle Peregrin, Uncle Meriadoc and Faramir are here, and we are going home."

Daisy sighed heavily. "Well, if we must. Good bye!" She waved to her band of admirers, and they all begged her and Goldi to stay. Goldi dragged her younger (and sillier) sister over to Peregrin, Meriadoc and Faramir.

Meriadoc laughed in shock. "Surely this is not Daisy?"

"Uncle Meriadoc!" Daisy hugged him. "It’s been too long since I saw you last!"

While Goldi, Pippin and Merry were favourites of the Tooks (since they spent much of their childhood in Tuckborough, visiting Faramir), Daisy – and to a lesser extent, Primrose – had always been Meriadoc Brandybuck’s favourite "nieces". In fact, both the Gamgee girls had taken young Éowyn under their wing, teaching her how to capture the attention of potential suitors.

Meriadoc laughed again (his nickname "Merry" had not only been a shorted version of his name). "True, Daisy. Very true. You must visit me at Brandy Hall more often!"

Daisy then noticed Faramir. "Faramir! My goodness, look at you."

"I would prefer to look at you," said Faramir, taking Daisy’s hand and kissing it. Daisy blushed furiously, then giggled. Against all her will, Goldi started to feel jealous, but this was quelled when Faramir winked slyly to her. Goldi remembered that (along with getting his Gamgee friends into trouble), Faramir enjoyed teasing the younger Gamgee girls.

"Faramir!" Goldi scolded. He grinned at her.

"Come on, everyone!" called Meriadoc. "I’m sure Sam is waiting for us!"

Faramir and Goldi smiled at each other, then followed Meriadoc and Peregrin out of The Ivy Bush, with Daisy in close pursuit.

* * * * * *

Sorry this chapter was pretty boring. It’s a kind of filler chapter. The next one will be more interesting, I promise!

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 3: Just Like Old Times

Goldi greatly benefited from the Tooks and Brandybucks staying at Bag End. Diamond and Estella helped out with everything, taking all the jobs that Goldi would have otherwise been laden with. If Rose ever said anything along the line of, "Oh, Diamond, let Goldi do that", Diamond would stubbornly refuse to sit down, saying that, "I’m sure Goldi wants to spend some time with my Faramir."

And that she did.

Faramir, Goldi, Merry and Pippin were reliving their childhood…by getting into trouble and causing general mischief. The day after Goldi had met Peregrin, Meriadoc and Faramir at The Ivy Bush, the four young hobbits came home, covered in mud. Pippin, always the truthful one, told their parents the entire story.

Faramir had felt like going for a walk, so he convinced his three Gamgee friends to come to Bywater with him. It was there that he had an idea. Wednesday was Market Day in Bywater, where hobbits from all over the Shire came to sell and buy livestock, produce and various nick-knacks. When Faramir saw a group of goats in a pen, he grinned in that very Tookish way.

"Let’s let them out," he had said.

Though Goldi warned against it, the Gamgee lads were easily lead, and the "Come on, no one will find out" line worked on them every time. Goldi refused to play any part, and watched as the three boys snuck up next to the pen. Faramir carefully opened the latch, then hit one of the goats on the behind. The goat bolted out of the pen, and its companions followed.

But Faramir’s "fun" set off a chain reaction. The goats knocked over an apple cart in their panic. The apples spilled all over the ground, and several unfortunate hobbits slipped on them. Soon, the market place was covered in apples, dropped shopping and angry hobbits.

Though he was a mischief-maker, Faramir was no fool. Before any of the irate hobbits had recovered enough to notice them, Faramir, Pippin and Merry followed the goats’ example, and bolted. Running so fast, they did not see Goldi until it was too late. They collided, and four hobbits rolled into Bywater pool.

Goldi was not happy. She stood (dripping wet), grabbed a handful of silt from the bottom of the pool, and threw it straight at Faramir. It hit him right in the face. That started an all out war, with all four hobbits hurling mud at each other. Goldi’s mood had soon lightened, and she started having fun. When it had started to get dark, they returned to Bag End. And that was how they had ended up on the doorstep of Bag End, covered with mud from head to toe.

Rose and Diamond were furious. They yelled and screamed at their children, and threatened to send them to bed without dinner or supper. But Goldi, Faramir, Pippin and Merry found it hard to take the scolding serious while Peregrin was snickering in the background, and Meriadoc and Sam were smirking, trying not to laugh. Sam and Peregrin were eventually able to convince Rose and Diamond not to be too harsh on the four young hobbits (especially Goldi, since she had played no part in the goat incidence). The two mothers gave in, seeing as no one had really been hurt by the event, and simply told the dirty hobbits to clean themselves up before they had anything to eat.

"That was very lucky," said Pippin, as they walked to the bathroom. He frowned at Faramir. "That’s the last time I listen to any of your ideas. Stupid Took."

Goldi just smiled slightly. One of the Gamgee children would always say that after they had gotten in trouble over one of Faramir’s "great ideas". But in not time at all, they would once again follow along with one of his plans. Goldi wondered how long it would be before they all got into trouble again.

* * * * * *

"All right, yes. The band goes over there. Are you all here? Good, good. That’s all fine. But, goodness gracious, where is the baker with the cake!?!" Goldi could hear her mother’s worried cries from her bedroom. She laughed to herself.

The day had finally arrived – Merry Gamgee’s thirty-third birthday party. Merry had been given gifts from his family (both immediate, and extended) the day before, as was tradition when receiving gifts. Rosie and the younger Gamgee children had bought him a suit – pants, shirt, waistcoat, jacket and all – to wear to the party (and other special events). It was made of the finest of materials, with beautiful embroidery. Goldi and Pippin had found a beautiful writing set, which they gave to their older brother since he loved to write poetry. Older brother Frodo gave Merry a pony, which he had been raising. The Tooks gave him a fine bow and arrow set (something which Rose was not too pleased about, but she was polite enough not to say anything). The Brandybucks had given Merry a shield from the land of Rohan. Meriadoc had picked it up on his last visit to the King of the Mark. Elanor gave her brother a pipe. It had a beautiful mahogany stem and had been engraved with Elvish runes, spelling out Happy Birthday, Merry.

Goldi had changed into her party dress, made especially for the event. It consisted of a skirt, blouse and vest. The skirt and vest were pale blue silk, while the blouse was white. She left her hair out, golden curls spilling down her back.

There was a knock at her door. "Come in," she called, assuming it was Pippin, telling her to hurry up.

"Goldi! You look beautiful," said the visitor.

"Faramir!" Goldi cried, blushing at his complement. "I…I thought it was Pippin. What did you want?"

"I came to see if you were ready. The guests have started to arrive."

"Already? Well, I’m ready. Let’s go."

Together, Goldi and Faramir walked to the Party Field. The field next to Bag End had been called that ever since Bilbo Baggins’ birthday/farewell party. Goldi tried to ignore the fact that Faramir was staring at her, and told herself that the redness of his cheeks was due to him walking too fast.

By the time they arrived at the Party Field, it was already filled with guests. The band had started up with a lively tune, and a group of hobbits (including Daisy and Primrose Gamgee) were dancing in front of the bandstand.

Goldi searched around for the rest of her family and friends. Meriadoc and Peregrin had already settled as close to the ale kegs as possible, and seemed to be onto their third each. Sam was at the front gate, with Merry, greeting the guests, and handing out presents (since it was hobbit tradition to give out gifts at a birthday party). Rose was running around everywhere, desperately trying to finish up last minute organisation. Frodo, Rosie and Elanor were talking together, with Elanor’s husband and son. Frodo’s wife, Pansy, had been unable to attends due to illness. Hamfast and the Gamgees’ Cotton cousins were quite close to the snack table, dealing with food in a similar way to how Peregrin and Meriadoc were dealing with their ale. The youngest Gamgee children, along with Meriadoc’s two children were trying out the toys they had been given. Diamond and Estella were involved in a conversation (which they obviously wanted to escape from) with Lily’s aunt, Hannah Noakes. Pippin was nowhere in site – which was a bad sign.

"Now where do you suppose Pippin is?" Goldi sighed. She knew she should look for him, but the dancing was almost too appealing to resist (Goldi loved to dance). Especially while she was with Faramir.

"He’ll show up. Come on. Would you like to dance?" Faramir grinned.

I thought he’d never ask! Returning his grin, Goldi took Faramir’s outstretched hand, and let him lead her to the dance "floor".

Goldi and Faramir took over the dance floor, spinning around wildly. Faramir grabbed Goldi and threw her into the air. She squealed, but knew that he would catch her. The older hobbit guests scorned them. "That isn’t traditional dancing. Young folk these days!" But the younger guests loved the display. They formed a ring around the pair, and clapped in rhythm.

Goldi and Faramir linked arms and spun each other around. Faramir threw Goldi again, but this time, when he caught her, he did not put her down. Instead, he held her above the ground, and spun around on the spot. Goldi giggled. But she did not like the smirk on Faramir’s face.

After several minutes of spinning, Faramir let go of Goldi. She screamed at she flew across the dance floor…and into Pippin’s arms. Pippin – still carrying Goldi – walked into the centre of the ring, to Faramir’s side. He placed Goldi on the ground, and he and Faramir bowed to their audience. Goldi was too shocked – and too angry – to move. With a quick scowl to both her brother and friend, Goldi stormed away.

Lily ran over to her. "Wow, Goldi! That was fantastic. You were dancing with Faramir Took! He’s so handsome!"

Goldi scowled again. "Yes, he is. And he’s also an irresponsible fool!"

"That’s not very nice, Goldi," said Faramir. He and Pippin were standing behind her. "It was just a bit of fun. We weren’t going to let you get hurt. Pippin was there to catch you."

"That is not the point!" she cried. "You planned that! You planned something against me! I thought you were my friends." Though she tried to fight them, tears were forming in her eyes.

The sight of Goldi almost in tears was like a knife in Faramir’s heart. He could not believe he had upset one of his best friends. His face became sombre, and he looked straight into Goldi’s eyes. "Goldilocks, I’m really sorry. I never meant to upset you by my little joke. And the only reason I involved Pippin was so you wouldn’t get hurt. I knew he’d be able to catch you. Please, forgive me, Goldilocks."

Goldi knew that Faramir had only ever used her full name when he was serious. And he did look like he meant his apology. She had never seen him look so serious about anything.

"I…I…" Goldi stammered. Faramir pouted, but his eyes remained focussed. Goldi had to smile. "I forgive you. Just don’t do it again."

The infamous Took smile spread from ear to ear on Faramir’s face. He pulled Goldi into a hug, causing her to blush furiously. Faramir lowered his voice, so that only Goldi could hear him.

"I will never hurt you like that again, I promise. You know that, don’t you? I…"

Faramir was cut off by Pippin yelling out, "Dinner’s ready!"

Goldi opened her mouth to say something – ask what Faramir what he was going to say – but he held a finger to her lips. He smiled. "Come on. Let’s go eat."

Goldi followed her brother, Lily and Faramir to the dining area, still wondering what Faramir had been going to say.

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 4: Faramir’s Plan

After dinner, Faramir disappeared. Goldi searched the entire field, but could not find him. When she asked Lily if she had seen the young Took, Lily smiled slyly. "Even if I did know where he was, would I tell you? You may have been dancing with him, but he’s not yours yet."

It took every bit of control in Goldi’s body not to hit Lily. Instead, she thought up the perfect comeback. "Let me just tell you something, Lily. You don’t have a chance with Faramir – you don’t have a chance with anyone! You are a walking joke around here. And I have never EVER thought of you as my friend."

With that, Goldi ran to the only place she had not yet looked: Bag End.

* * * * * *

The hobbit hole was dark and empty. The front door creaked loudly as Goldilocks pushed it open. For probably the first time in her life, Goldi wished that she had some Took or Brandybuck in her – something to make her a little braver. She took a deep breath, and stepped into the hole, trying to pretend that the shadows of normal household items did not appear twisted and evil in the darkness. She tried to ignore the black shapes that reached out to grab her feet like the hands of wights. A noise from up ahead made her almost squeal, but she held it back, and, gathering all the courage she had, continued forward to where the noise had come from.

The noises became louder as she approached her own bedroom. A loud thud was followed by a hoarsely whispered curse. Goldi started trembling. Someone – or something was in her room.

The door was shut, but light was seeping out from underneath it. Goldi grabbed the first thing that her right hand came in contact with – a heavy book. Brandishing the book as a weapon, Goldi opened the door.

"Argh! Goldi! What are you doing!?" cried Faramir. He stared at her like a stunned fish.

"What am I doing? Faramir, this is my room! What are you doing!?" Goldi was nearly breathless, a combination of fear and anger. Faramir was standing next to her bed. On the bed was a bag, nearly full with her clothing. The doors of her cupboard were open, as were her drawers. Another bag was on the floor. It was filled with what appeared to be Faramir’s clothes.

"Well…I…uh…" Faramir stammered. Goldi started to tap her foot; a sure sign that she was quite angry, and that he had better explain himself quickly. "I was going to surprise you tomorrow morning, but…"

"Oh, I think I’ve had quite enough of your surprises, Faramir Took!"

"You did not let me finish! Do you remember, how when were younger, we used to have pretend little adventures? And Merry and Pippin would on a team together, and they had to capture us?"

"Yes…" Goldi did not know what Faramir was getting at.

"Well, I want to go on a real adventure. And since you were always on my team, I wanted you to come with me. I figured that you probably would not agree if I just asked you to come along, so I was going to run off – with your things already packed – and hope that you chased after me."

"Wh-where were you planning to go?"

"The way our fathers went." Seeing the horrified look that appeared on Goldi’s face, Faramir quickly added: "Oh, not to Mordor! I only meant as far as Rivendell or something. But by following the roads that our fathers took!"

Goldi was half worried that this was another one of Faramir’s little jokes. But then again, he had always been an adventurous child. And the idea of going to Rivendell did seem quite fun. "Well, I suppose it would be all right…"

"Great! So, let’s go." He threw a few more things into the bag, gave it to her, then dragged her out the door.

"Faramir! Wait!" Goldi cried.

"What’s the problem?" he asked.

"Well, firstly, I’m not about to go on and adventure wearing my party dress. Secondly, we should leave a note to tell everyone where we have gone…"

"We cannot do that! They will follow us, and take us home. And THEN, we will be punished."

Goldi released that he was right. But she also knew that they could not just leave without telling their parents something. "Well, we should at least leave a note saying that we have left. They do not need to know where we have gone."

"As you wish." Faramir ran to the study, found a piece of paper, and jotted down a quick note. As he did, Goldi quickly took her party dress off, quite regrettably, for it was very beautiful, and dressed in some clothes that were more suited to travelling.

Faramir returned and read aloud the not he had written:

Goldi and I have gone on a little adventure. We shouldn’t be away for too long. Don’t worry about us. - Faramir Took

"There. Happy?" Faramir left the note above the fireplace, after he had addressed it to The Tooks and Gamgees. "Can we leave now?"

"Oh, all right," Goldi sighed. I hope Merry will not be upset that we missed the rest of his party. Faramir and Goldi left Bag End, and snuck away, careful to avoid the Party Field.

As they marched along, Goldi asked Faramir, "You do know the way to go, right?"

"Of course!" he replied. "My father has told me many times. Plus, I brought this along." Faramir held up a sheet of paper. In the dim moonlight, Goldi could just make out the lines of a hand-drawn map. The names of places (and several side notes) were written in the handwriting of Frodo Baggins.

Goldi gasped. "That’s Frodo Baggins’ map! You stole it! You stole it from the Red Book!"

"Actually, it was in our copy of the Red Book. The one we keep at the Smials. Therefore, I didn’t steal it. It was mine to begin with."

Goldi accepted Faramir’s explanation, but she still looked at him suspiciously. If he had stolen the map, it certainly would not have been the first time.

The two of them walked in relative silence, cutting across the fields and meadows, rather than using the road. Goldi assumed that Faramir was taking this route for sentimental reasons – they both knew that Frodo, Sam and Peregrin had not used the roads on their journey to Buckland. But Faramir had another reason. If they used the roads, they would have more of a chance of being caught, and then taken home. Their adventure had only just begun, and Faramir was certainly not ready for it to end yet.

Faramir started to hum softly to himself. Eventually, this became a song, one that most hobbits knew very well.

Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go

To heal my heart and drown my woe.

Rain may fall and wind may blow,

And many miles be still to go,

But under a tall tree I will lie,

And watch the clouds go sailing by.

"Isn’t it ‘let’?" Goldi asked, presently.

"What?" Faramir turned to look at her.

"It’s suppose to go ‘let the clouds go sailing by’ not ‘watch’."

Faramir shrugged. "I like to sing ‘watch’ instead, since that’s what I like to do. I watch the clouds. It’s a lot of fun."

"I see." Goldi smiled to herself as Faramir continued walking, and singing. He had a pleasant singing voice, and as he sung, many of Goldi’s doubts disappeared.

Suddenly, Goldi heard another noise above Faramir’s singing. A sound that neither of them wished to hear. Something had fallen over just behind them, landing with a crash. Faramir ran in front of Goldi, arms out, protecting her fromwhatever had been following them.

"Show yourself!" he commanded. Goldi had to admire his courage, foolish as his deed was. For all they knew, their follower could have been anything from a hobbit to a wild beast. But Faramir stood his ground, undaunted by fear. "I said show yourself!"

Faramir was about to step forward and confront the follower, when a figure came from ahead. Goldi screamed as the figure crash tackled Faramir to the ground.

* * * * * *

Hehehe. Like my little explanation about the title of the fic? To be perfectly honest, it was an error on my account. I had convinced myself that the Drinking song finished with "watch the clouds go sailing by" and thus I titled my fic. Then I read the poem/song again, and saw how it really ended! Faramir’s explanation was a little better than mine! Lol

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Just for anyone who wants to know how old the characters actually are, here are the ages of the main characters of this fic: (note: this story takes place in the Year 1460, Shire-reckoning)

Goldilocks Gamgee – 29

Faramir Took – 30

Pippin Gamgee – 31

Samwise Gamgee – 80

Peregrin Took – 70

Meriadoc Brandybuck – 78

Chapter 4: A Frightening Discovery

"Ow, Goldi! Do you have to scream so loud?" complained Faramir’s attacker.

"Pippin!" Goldi cried. And with that, she fainted.

* * * * * *

Goldi heard voices before she was able to see anything. Two voices were having a conversation – and neither of them sounded particularly happy: Faramir and Pippin.

"Hurry up with the water!" said Faramir.

"Don’t you order me around, Faramir Took!" Pippin retorted. "I will remind you that I am a year older than you."

"Maybe. But you’re just a stupid Gamgee!"

"And you’re a fool of a Took!"

"Well, I cannot say that I’ve ever heard that before," Faramir returned, sarcastically.

A feeling of coldness hit Goldi’s face, and she realised that one – or both – of them had splashed her with water in an attempt to revive her. She sat up, spluttering. "I’m awake. No more water!"

Both Faramir and Pippin stopped bickering and looked at Goldi with smiles on their faces. In their own ways, they both adored her, and would do anything to protect her.

Goldi took a few deep breaths, before she glared at her brother. "Pippin! What are you doing here? Have you told Father? I bet you did! Tattle-tale!"

"No, I didn’t tell Father! I swear!" Pippin held his hand to his heart. "I followed you, when I saw you go into Bag End. Then, when you and Faramir snuck out, I realised you were going off on an adventure. Without me! And then I found the note, which proved it. Oh, and by the way, I added my name to the note." He stuck out his tongue.

"I cannot believe you followed us!" Faramir cried in dismay. "No one else did…did they?"

"No. Only me. Merry would have been the only other one who would have followed you, but he was too busy talking to girls to notice you leave! And now that he’s thirty-three, he can’t come on our adventures. He is too old."

"Our adventures? You were never invited, Pippin Gamgee!"

"Well, that is hardly fair. Goldi got all upset when we didn’t let her in on our little dancing joke, and this is much worse!" He looked at the two other hobbits slyly. "Unless…unless this is really a romantic getaway. You two are running off to elope, aren’t you?"

"NO!" both Goldi and Faramir cried. Fortunately for them, the pale moonlight did not reveal the glorious crimson shade that their faces now bore.

"Well, then there is no reason why I should not come along!" Pippin stoutly concluded.

Faramir looked at Goldi. She shrugged. Pippin really had them there. There was no reason why he could not join them.

Faramir sighed heavily. "Well, I suppose you may join us." As an afterthought, he added, "Besides, if we didn’t let you come, no doubt you’d just run back home and tell everyone where we had gone."

Pippin grinned, widely, and nodded. "You’d better believe it."

Both Faramir and Goldi sighed again in defeat. Goldi was about to stand up, but she thought of a better idea. "Well, since we have stopped already, we may as well rest here for the night. It is getting late, and we were dancing before hand, so I am quite tired."

Faramir nodded. "Agreed. I doubt that our parents have even found the note yet – or will for a while yet. And even if they have, they do not know where we have gone. It should be fine for us to rest."

The three hobbits found a patch of fir-wood, which they settled under. What they did not realise was, just over forty years earlier, Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee and Peregrin Took had rested in the exact same spot, though their journey had been much more perilous. Goldi, Faramir and Pippin drifted into a peaceful sleep.

A fox ran past, perhaps a descendant of the fox that had spied Frodo, Sam and Peregrin. And just like that original fox, this one stopped and sniffed, thinking all the while, "Hobbits! Three of them. How strange. I do wonder why they are outdoors, sleeping under a tree. Nothing like that has happened in a long time." But a hare soon caught his attention, and he left, with no further thought of the hobbits.

* * * * * *

"Diamond!" Rose called

Diamond turned – the worried look on her face mirroring the look on Rose’s. "Yes, Rose. What is it?"

"I don’t suppose you have seen Goldilocks or Pippin?"

"I was about to ask you if you had seen my Faramir! They are all missing? How peculiar!"

"Where are Sam and Peregrin?"

"Well, last I saw, Peregrin was getting re-acquainted with an old friend he calls ‘Ale’, and Sam was helping Merry cut the cake. We had better find them, before they go missing too!"

Together, Diamond and Rose searched for their husbands, locating both of them after very little time.

"Samwise!" said Rose. "I can’t find Pippin or Goldi anywhere."

"And Faramir is missing, too, Peregrin," Diamond added.

"Have you looked everywhere?" Sam asked. Peregrin just smiled, lazily, and took another swig of beer. Diamond snatched the mug out of his hand, and frowned at him.

"Peregrin, this is no time for drink! Our son is missing!"

"I’ve looked everywhere…except for Bag End," Rose admitted.

"Well, then, let us check Bag End," said Sam. "No doubt we’ll find all three of them asleep in their beds, after having to much fun, and both you women will feel like fools."

Sam, Rose, Diamond and Peregrin made their way to the front door of Bag End. Meriadoc and Estella joined them along the way, mostly to help Diamond with helping Peregrin. Meriadoc, being eight years older than his cousin, had mellowed slightly more than Peregrin, and thus, unlike the Took, knew when he had had his fill of ale.

The hobbits found the door to Bag End unlocked, which was not at all unusual. Doors in Hobbiton (and in most of the Shire) were seldom locked after dark, even when there was a party on, and nobody was actually home. Meriadoc led Peregrin to an armchair, and left him there. The rest of the hobbits began to search the hobbit hole.

Sam checked in all of the missing hobbits’ bedrooms, but did not find any of them. Rose checked the bathrooms and kitchen. Meriadoc wandered up the hall calling out, "Faramir! Pippin! Goldi!"

All the searching was stopped, when an ear-piercing screech came from the living room, where Diamond had been looking. Sam, Meriadoc and Rose all raced to the living room, and even Peregrin woke, and sobered slightly at the sound of his wife’s screaming.

Diamond was holding a piece of paper, and crying. She held out the paper, in a trembling hand, to Sam. "They’ve gone!"

Sam read the note aloud. "Pippin, Goldi and I have gone on a little adventure. We shouldn’t be away for too long. Don’t worry about us. - Faramir Took. ‘Pippin’ seems to be written in a different hand. It looks like Pippin’s own writing."

Rose joined in with Diamond’s sobbing. Sam and Peregrin both tried to comfort their respective wives, Peregrin doing surprisingly well for a hobbit who had only just been unconscious in an armchair.

"My poor baby!" cried Diamond. "He must be so frightened."

"I doubt it, Di," Peregrin soothed. "I mean, he is my son."

Diamond swallowed all her sobs and looked Peregrin straight in the eye. "You must find him. You must find him and bring him home."

"But, Diamond, we don’t even know which way they have headed in!" Sam pointed out.

"That does not matter!" Rose joined Diamond’s side. "You must go after our children, and find them, even if it takes you a week!"

"I’ll wager it’ll take longer than a week to find them," Meriadoc mumbled.

Sam sighed. "You are right, Rose. We will have to go after them, but I am afraid we will have to wait until the morning. Peregrin is in no state to travel presently."

Peregrin stumbled, purposely, to back up Sam’s argument.

Diamond and Rose looked at Peregrin and Sam, then at each other. Together, they concluded, "Well, all right. But you are going to leave first thing tomorrow morning."

"Yes, dear," Sam and Peregrin sighed in unison.

Meriadoc grinned. "It’s times like this I am so glad that Éowyn and Théodoc are so well behaved."

"Oh, and Meriadoc, you should go with them," said Estella.

"What!? Oh, that is not fair!"

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 6: Three is Always Company

The warm morning sun and quietly chirping birds woke Goldi. She opened her eyes, thankful that the shade of the trees had shaded her face from the Sun’s rays. Though she was awake, she wasn’t quite ready to get up. The ground was surprisingly soft and comfortable, though her side must have been against a tree, for there was something hard that she was pressing upon.

Goldi suddenly realised that she was lying on her side, and not her back as she had thought. What she had thought was a tree against her side, was actually the ground. Then what is that soft thing at my back? It was only then that she noticed the soft warm breeze tickling her ear. It was someone breathing.

Squeezing her eyes shut, Goldi moved slowly and quietly until she was sitting upright. She opened her eyes, and saw what she had feared. Faramir was lying next to her, breathing softly. And worse, Pippin was nowhere in sight, which meant he had seen them snuggling in their sleep. I suppose we both got cold during the night, and found the warmth beside us. But Goldi knew that explanation would probably not work on Pippin. Goldi sighed. Pippin loved to tease her, and now he had the perfect material.

But when Pippin returned carrying filled water flasks, he did not start a verbal assault on his sister. He greeted her pleasantly, and mentioned how lovely a day it looked. Goldi wondered if he had not seen herself and Faramir snuggling at all. However, this thought was dismissed the moment Pippin’s eyes fell on the young Took. Pippin looked at Faramir with an angry glare. He kicked Faramir’s side, and yelled, "Wake up, you lazy Took!"

"Wh-what?" Faramir woke in a daze. "Oh, good morning."

"Get up," Pippin sternly replied. "It is already half-past eight, and if you want to get a good start on anyone following us, we had better leave now." Pippin grabbed the remaining flasks, and stormed back to the stream, without another word.

"What’s wrong with him?" Faramir asked, rubbing his eyes.

"I’m not sure, but I will find out." With that, she ran after her brother, leaving an only half-awake and very confused Took.

Pippin was nearly finished by the time Goldi found him. She stood behind him as he filled the last of the flasks, with her hands on her hips. "What was that all about?"

"You mean you don’t know?" he asked, doubtfully. "This morning…he was lying awfully close to you. Closer than he ought to."

"It was cold last night."

"And…?"

"We probably snuggled together for warmth! Nothing more than that. There was no need to kick him anyway."

"Do you promise that was all it was? Snuggling for warmth?"

"Yes. Faramir and I are simply friends. There is nothing going on between us." Goldi smiled. Pippin smiled back, accepting her explanation more easily than she had expected. As he headed back to their camp, and was out of earshot, Goldi surprised herself by adding, "Well, not yet, anyway."

* * * * * *

Diamond shook Peregrin. "Wake up, you sluggard."

"Just five more minutes," Peregrin muttered.

That was a bad idea. Diamond immediately started screaming at him. "Peregrin! You will get up right this minute, and go to find our son! How can you be so insensitive?"

"Diamond, please, not so loud. I have a headache!"

Meriadoc, in the guestroom next door, woke up with a start. He heard Diamond’s screeching, and feared that the Black Riders had returned and were out for revenge. Then he realised that it was Peregrin’s angry wife, and his fear grew.

"Mordor hath no fury like a Took-lass scorned," he chuckled, climbing out of bed. He could tell by the tone of Diamond’s voice that they would be leaving as soon as possible. With a sigh, he changed into some comfortable travelling clothes.

Merry poked his head into Meriadoc and Estella’s room. "What’s going on in there? Diamond certainly does not sound too pleased. I know Peregrin drank a little too much last night, but not so much as to earn such a nagging."

"Last night," said Meriadoc, "we discovered that Faramir, Pippin and Goldilocks have gone on a little wander. Your father, myself and Peregrin have…been forced to go after them."

"Pippin, Goldi and Faramir went on an adventure without me?" Merry was fuming. "That is not fair!"

"Funny, I said that exact same thing last night, but for the opposite reason. Well, come on, Merry-lad. We should go save Peregrin from the wrath of his dear wife."

They left Meriadoc’s room to see Peregrin already escaping, backing out of his room at a rather quick pace, and pulling on his clothes as he did.

"Hullo, Peregrin. How are you this morning?" said Meriadoc.

Peregrin frowned. "I have the most terrible headache, which was made worse by Di’s persistent screaming. I wish we did not have to go!"

"I am the one who should be complaining. It is your son that is missing. I was simply nominated to go along. But I will go, and so will you, even if I have to drag you all the way to Rivendell and back."

Peregrin’s eyes brightened. "Rivendell! Meriadoc you are a genius. Now we will not have the scour all of Middle-Earth for those three rascals. They have gone to Rivendell! I doubt it not."

Sam had arrived to hear the end of Peregrin’s speech. "Who has gone to Rivendell?"

"Faramir, Goldi and Pippin of course. Where else would they go? They have heard our tales many a time, and most likely want to experience the adventure themselves. It makes perfect sense!"

"Peregrin Took, in all the years I have known you, this must be the first time that I have heard you say anything intelligent. To Rivendell we must go."

Rose had woken early, and had prepared packs for their journey. The moment the three hobbits eyed their packs, they knew that their journey would be slow. Of the three of them, Peregrin was the youngest and thinnest, yet he was still quite unfit. And the packs were unfairly and unnecessarily – or so the three hobbits thought – large and heavy.

Peregrin, Meriadoc and Sam sighed in dismay, but shouldered the packs without audible complaint, knowing that anything would be better than remaining at Bag End with two irate and over-protective mothers. They pitied the Gamgee and Brandybuck children, who would, no doubt, bear the brunt of Diamond and Rose’s fury.

Diamond, Rose and Estella almost forgot to farewell their husbands as they shooed them out the door and onto the road. "Hurry back!" they commanded. And with that, the door to Bag End was shut.

"Well, here we are again. A company of three," said Peregrin. "Though this time, Cousin Brandybuck joins us in the place of dear Frodo." A cheerful and carefree face hid pain and sorrow. Tears openly sparkled in Sam’s eyes. Meriadoc looked at the ground.

Suddenly, he cried out. For upon the ground, just in front of them, he had seen proof beyond doubt that Pippin, Faramir and Goldi were indeed headed east. Upon the grass that bordered the road, footprints could easily be distinguished: two sets, side by side, one smaller and lighter; and another set, slightly to the side, even lighter than the second, though larger.

"It seems that we need not a ranger among us to notice signs!" laughed Meriadoc. "Surely these prints belong to our truants. Goldi and Faramir’s can here be seen, side by side, and these must be Pippin’s – stealthily following his friend and sister."

"They are going across the fields," said Peregrin. He turned to Sam. "I would wager that they are trying to retrace the steps we took on our way to Buckland, and perhaps even beyond – to Rivendell."

Sam nodded. "I believe you are right Peregrin. But I also think that we should not follow their road. We would never catch up to them by that route. They are three, young and strong, while we are old and unfit. Taking back ways would slow our pursuit, so we must stick to the roads, though it may mean that we will only pass them at parts where they journey to the main ways."

"Then we are agreed," said Peregrin. "I for one, would much rather follow the roads then stumble across the countryside again. At least this time, we will not be chased by Black Riders!"

So Sam, Peregrin and Meriadoc tightened the straps of their packs, and started down the road, and as Bilbo Baggins had always said, they had no idea where they would be swept off to.

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 7: Faramir and Pippin’s Fight

"Are you sure we’re going the right way?" sighed Goldi, as she, Faramir and Pippin trudged through the close trees of the Woody End. They all had leaves and brambles stuck to their clothing and tangled in their curls.

"Of course, I do!" replied Faramir, while he struggled with a rather stubborn tangle of weeds. "When have I ever been wrong?"

"Well…" said Pippin. "There was the time…"

"Figure of speech, Pippin! I didn’t need you to answer! Anyway…I think that we are nearly through the woods. I can’t be too far now."

Faramir, Goldi and Pippin had been travelling for most of the day, stopping only when Pippin complained that he was starving, or that his feet were hurting, or that it was too hot.

Goldi was pleased that there had been no more violent outbursts from Pippin towards Faramir. However, when she was not looking, Pippin gazed on Faramir coldly. He was beginning to doubt Goldi’s opinion of her relationship with Faramir, or at least, suspect that Faramir’s opinion was quite different. Pippin had noticed several things on that day. Faramir seemed slightly too eager to help Goldi: taking her hand if she needed balance, grabbing her at the waist if she stumbled. Pippin had also caught him staring at Goldi on a number of occasions. But while Goldi was around, Pippin could do nothing about it. She had obviously been upset when he had kicked the young Took, and Pippin didn’t want to upset her again. He would have to wait.

He did not have to wait long. When they were almost at the far edge of the woods (or, so Faramir assured them), Goldi realised that she had left her water flask at a small brook, which they had passed a little while earlier. She made her two companions stop and wait, while she ran off to retrieve it.

Pippin now needed little more proof of Faramir’s feelings towards Goldi, for as she ran back, he stared after her, with an almost dreamlike look on his face. Pippin scowled.

"Stop that," he said.

Faramir, roused from his daydream, looked at his friend. "Stop what?"

"You know what I mean. Stop looking at my sister like that!"

"Pippin, calm down. Goldi and I are just fri…"

Pippin did not let Faramir finish his sentence. He grabbed the younger (but larger) hobbit by his collar, and pushed him against a tree. "Now, you listen to me, friend. For now you are just friends, but I know that you want it to be more. You love my sister, don’t you?"

"Pippin…"

"DON’T YOU!?"

Faramir looked at his feet. In a small voice, he answered: "Yes."

Many emotions welled up inside of Pippin. Rage that a hobbit could dare to feel such affection for Goldilocks. Happiness that Goldi may find the joy that Elanor had. Envy that two of his best friends had something that he was left out of. These were just a few, and there were too many for his small mind to grasp. So he did the only thing he could think of. He pounded his fist into Faramir’s gut.

Faramir winced in pain, wondering why Pippin had reacted so. But he had little time to wonder, for Pippin was ready to strike again. He ducked just in time, so that Pippin’s hand just missed his face, and slammed into the tree. Pippin snarled, and charged at Faramir. He tackled the young Took to the ground, and they wrestled viciously. This proved an awkward ‘game’, since they both still had their packs on the backs.

Pippin pinned Faramir to the ground, but the younger and stronger hobbit head-butted him, and rolled over so that he was on top and had the upper hand. And so this continued, with Pippin and Faramir trading places as to whom was pinning down whom. They began rolling, tearing up the forest floor as they did. Too late, they realised that they had come to a sharp incline. They teetered on the edge for a moment, before they tumbled down with a cry and landed at the bottom.

Goldi, who had come running back as fast as she could when she heard raised voices, saw them as they went over the edge. She called out, then quickly ran after them, careful not to lose her own balance and tumble down with them.

When she reached Faramir and Pippin, they were still bickering, pulling at each other’s hair. Goldi grabbed each of them in one of her hands, and pulled them apart. "Pippin Gamgee! Faramir Took! Just what is going on here?"

Faramir scowled at Pippin. Pippin scowled back, but said only: "Faramir did something that made me angry."

"Well, that’s hardly a reason for you to start a fight with him! What did he do to cause such a violent reaction from you?"

But Pippin refused to answer. He did not wish for Goldi to know of Faramir’s feelings, lest she would return them. Faramir also remained silent, glowering at his so-called ‘friend’.

Suddenly, in the midst of a terrible brooding silence, Pippin spotted something more desirable to a hobbit than any peace pipe. He and Faramir had landed at the base of a tale oak, and beside them several mushrooms were growing. His eyes became large and greedy. Faramir looked at the mushrooms and almost started salivating. Even Goldi’s stomach, when she smelt the aroma on the breeze, growled with a sudden hunger, but she kept her wits. She slapped Pippin’s hand before he was able to grab at one of the mushrooms (the largest, at that).

"Pippin!" she said. "We do not know where we are! Those mushrooms might belong to someone."

Faramir had by this stage, stood up, and he was looking eastward, and slightly north. "I know where we are. And those mushrooms do belong to someone."

As if to back up Faramir’s words, the harsh barking of dogs was suddenly heard. Pippin froze, for he was gravely afraid of dogs. Very soon, the barking became loud, and quite close, and a hobbit with two dogs suddenly appeared from behind a small hillock.

"You there!" he cried. "What are you doing? This is private property! You’re tresspassin’, that’s what you’re doin’!"

Faramir subtly moved close to Goldi, and whispered one word to her: "Maggot."

Goldi nodded, showing that she understood. She curtsied, and seeing that this hobbit was still quite young, she smiled sweetly. "I’m very sorry…Farmer Maggot, was it?"

The hobbit stopped, and blushing, bowed to Goldi, paying little or no heed to her companions. The dogs, however, had Pippin and Faramir trapped, right up next to the oak. They growled viciously if either hobbit moved.

"Well, hello there, Miss," said the hobbit. "Maggot’s my name, rightly, but I ain’t the Farmer, if you know what I mean. That title, and all o’ this land, belongs to me ol’ Dad. But once he’s gone, it will be mine, with me being his oldest son. I’m Harold Maggot, but mostly I’m called Harry. Just as a matter o’ interest, how’d you know my name was Maggot?"

"Our father’s once took a…short cut through these fields," answered Goldi. "You’re father helped them in their quest."

"Father?" Harry gave a little laugh. "I think you mean grandfather. I know what you’re talking about, and that was at a time when my grandfather was the Farmer Maggot. He’s long dead, and my Dad is now the boss. So, can I take it, your names are Gamgee, Took or Baggins?"

"That’s right. I’m Goldilocks Gamgee, but you can call me Goldi. This is my brother Pippin, and our friend Faramir Took." Pippin smiled weakly and Faramir gave a little wave, both anxiously eyeing the dogs.

Harry realised how terrified Pippin and Faramir looked. He let out a shrill whistled, and called out: "Foxtrot, Claw! Back here! Leave them poor hobbits alone."

The two dogs immediately stopped growling, and plodded to their master. Pippin and Faramir both sighed in relief.

"Now, uh, Miss Goldi, if you and your two companions would like to, I’m sure it would be no problem at all for you to come back to the Farm House for dinner. We love having extra guests, and I’m sure my Dad would like to see you, seeing as he was there when your Dads came through. What do you say?" Harry gave Goldi his best charming smile.

Goldi tried very hard not to laugh, especially when she saw the looks on Faramir and Pippin’s faces. They were both glaring at Harry, Pippin, with over-protectiveness of his sister and Faramir with…jealousy? Goldi was shocked, but there was no doubting that Faramir was jealous of the way Harry was looking at her. Goldi smiled to herself. You have nothing to worry about, Faramir Took. You aren’t the only one who wants us to be more than friends.

Aloud, she accepted Harry’s offer. A meal indoors and a bit of beer for Pippin and Faramir was just what they needed after their hard day. Harry led them to the Farm House. Pippin and Faramir lagged behind a little, still stiff and aching from their fight. Goldi took the opportunity to increase Faramir’s jealousy by talking to Harry. She loved watching Faramir squirm. It was payback time for everything mean he had ever done to her.

As the sun was setting, the four hobbits and two dogs came to what appeared to be a shrine. Not far away there were two graves, side by side, but directly in front of the hobbits were three small crosses labelled Grip, Fang and Wolf.

Harry stopped. "These crosses are for my grandfather’s best dogs. Grip, Fang and Wolf. Never has there been, or will there be again, such great animals on this farm. Claw and Foxtrot here are descended from Grip, and some of the other dogs in the house are from Fang – Wolf never sired any pups." He pointed to the graves, for the path did not go past them. "There lays my grandfather and grandmother. Both of them always wanted to be a part of the farm."

Harry seemed to wave slightly to the graves in farewell, then started back down the path silently. Goldi, Faramir and Pippin followed him, but not before noticing, in the remaining light, that about Maggot’s grave, the mushrooms were large and plentiful. And no one would ever take one. The tombstones at the graves, labelled simply Maggot and The Missus, frowned over the mushrooms, threatening to attack anyone who dared to touch them.

Even in death, Farmer Maggot protected his crops.

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 8: An Evening with the Maggots

Peregrin and Meriadoc waited for Sam to catch up to them. This was the fifth time that they had had to do so. After becoming Mayor, Sam had taken on several other traits of the previous Mayor, Will Whitfoot. Though he was nowhere near as large as "Flourdumpling", Sam’s girth had been steadily growing. He was also eighty years old, which wasn’t particularly aiding in his fitness.

Despite having to wait on Sam often (and Meriadoc on several occasions too – Peregrin was the only one having no trouble with the pace), the three of them had made quite good progress. They had passed the Three-Farthing Stone, and were coming close to Frogmorton as the day began to end.

When Sam had caught up, Meriadoc yawned and stretched. "We shouldn’t go on too much further today. I say we stop at The Floating Log, since we never ended up doing that long ago, thanks to ‘Sharkey’ and his goons."

Sam seemed hesitant to stop. Whether for worry about his two children, or fear of his wife, Peregrin and Meriadoc could not tell.

"Sam, they’ll be fine. No doubt they’re stopping somewhere for the night too," said Peregrin, who was essentially, in the same situation as Sam. "Besides, Faramir won’t let anything happen to them – Goldi especially."

"I’ll have you remember that my Pippin is a year older than Fara…" Sam trailed off as he registered Peregrin’s final line. "What do you mean, ‘Goldi especially’?"

Peregrin shrugged. "Faramir likes Goldi, a lot. They grew up together, and he was always looking out for her." He smiled. "Wouldn’t they make the perfect couple?"

Meriadoc saw the look of rage that appeared on Sam’s face. Peregrin didn’t seem to notice – or he was ignoring it – for he continued with his little speech.

"Just imagine it. A Took and a Gamgee – a truly splendid match! I have little doubt that Faramir is in love with Goldi, and it probably goes the other way too."

"Peregrin…" Meriadoc warned.

But his warning came too late. While Peregrin was mid-sentence about where they could hold the wedding, Sam punched him square in the jaw. Peregrin yelped in pain, and fell onto his behind.

"My daughter will not be marrying your son. Do you understand?" Sam growled. Peregrin nodded mutely. Neither he, nor Meriadoc had ever seen Sam so angry (in fact, very few people had – only Shelob and Gollum). Without another word, Sam started back down the road towards The Floating Log, and Peregrin and Meriadoc had to run to keep up with him.

* * * * * *

As Harry, Goldi, Faramir and Pippin neared the Farm House, they were joined by another hobbit. He was obviously younger than Harry, perhaps even younger than Goldi. When he saw Harry’s companions, he shook his head sadly.

"What’s this, Harry?" he asked. "You’ve been into Buckland again, haven’t you? Picked yourself up another pretty little ‘Brandybuck’ lass?" He looked at Goldi scornfully, then glared at Pippin and Faramir. "And who are these? Her bodyguards? I mean, with her bein’ a ‘Brandybuck’ she needs protectin’, right?"

"What is he talking about?" Pippin whispered to Faramir. The Took shrugged.

"Ed," said Harry to the other Hobbit. "You don’t know what you’re talkin’ about. This here lass is…"

"A greedy liar, simply after your land and money!" Ed sneered. Both Pippin and Faramir scowled at Ed, disliking him more than they did Harry for insulting Goldi.

Goldi, herself, frowned at Ed. "Now, you see here! How dare you go around accusing me of such things! I am not after any land or money. I have quite enough of that of my own."

"Sure you do. With you being a Brandybuck and all…"

"I am no Brandybuck, though I do know one quite well. Master Meriadoc, if that name means anything to you." Goldi smiled to herself as a look of shock passed over Ed’s face.

"She ain’t lying, Ed," said Harry. "That’s what I was tryin’ to tell you. This here is Goldilocks Gamgee. Yes, that’s right – Gamgee. You know that name as well as I do. And one of them is her brother." Harry pointed to Pippin and Faramir. "The other one is Faramir Took, son of Thain Peregrin. So you’d better watch your mouth!"

Ed promptly shut up. The five of them continued on to the Farm House.

"You’ll have to excuse Edmund," said Harry, seemingly forgetting that Ed was now walking with them, though he kept several paces behind. "He’s my younger brother, the second oldest in our family. He really loves the farm, and he don’t want it to fall into…bad hands." Goldi heard – or thought she heard – a snort come from Ed’s direction.

"What did you mean by all that talk about Brandybucks, Ed?" she asked, wanting Ed to join in with the conversation. She felt sorry for him. In a family like the Maggots, Goldi assumed that there was nothing worse than being the second eldest son. Being so close to inheriting everything, and yet having to watch your elder brother receive it. Goldi was glad that her family did not work quite like that. Sam had an heir (it was Merry, since Frodo had established his own family and estate), but all the Gamgee children would inherit some of the fortune that their father possessed. In fact, the girls might end up better off, if they married into another rich family.

Harry shifted uncomfortably as Ed answered the question. "Well, you see, Miss Gamgee, Harry has had several encounters with young lasses claiming to be Brandybuck heiresses. They know who he is, and what he’s going to inherit. This here farm is on good land, some of the best in the Shire, especially since your Dad came and sprinkled some of his dust here. I don’t suppose you could tell me, but was that dust magic?"

Goldi smiled. "No. It just came from a land far away, with rich and fertile soil. Elvish land."

"Ahh. Elves! Well, I guess that makes sense. Anyway, like I was saying, Bamfurlong is very well known as one of the greatest in the Shire. So, young lasses, upon seeing my brother, pretend to be young Brandybucks. What their true names were, we never found out, but we’ve had three ‘Brandybuck heiresses’ try to convince Harry into marrying them. It got Harry’s – and the rest of us, I’ll admit – hopes up. If Harry were to marry a Brandybuck – or any other rich girl – we could expand the farm. But, as I told you, none of these lasses were true Brandybucks. And as soon as we discovered them, they took off. That’s why I acted the way I did when I saw you. Them so-called ‘Brandybucks’ are the only lasses who seem to come by here now days."

"Well, I forgive you for your manner, Edmund. It is quite understandable that you would react harshly to any girl who met up with your brother after three…‘false alarms’. Fear not. I am not planning to marry your brother and take all of this land." Goldi wanted to add, "My heart belongs to another," but thought it wise not to do so.

The rich smell of bacon cooking indicated to the group that they were drawing near to the Farm House. Pippin’s stomach growled loudly.

"Mmm. That smells really good," he mumbled. Faramir nodded in agreement. For the time being, their earlier fight had been forgotten.

They were greeted at the door by Allysia Maggot, the beautiful wife of the current Farmer Maggot. She welcomed Goldi, Faramir and Pippin, for she was a kind-hearted hobbit-maid, who was always willing to take in guests.

Harry almost immediately led his newfound friends to his father, Abemund Maggot. Harry introduced them, and Maggot’s eyes grew wide.

"Gamgee? Took? You don’t say!" he cried. "I remember when your fathers came through here. I, myself, wasn’t much older than Harry here when that happened. Fancy that. Harry, fetch the gentlemen a pint each. And, what would you like, young lady?"

"Just water will be fine," Goldi answered, shyly.

Harry left to collect the drinks, while Maggot asked them the question that they were dreading. "So, what brings you out this way?"

If Faramir had not been there, Goldi was convinced that Pippin would have spilt the entire story to the Farmer. But fortunately for them all, Faramir was there, and he had already devised an answer for that question if it was asked.

"My father still owns Crickhollow, along with his cousin Meriadoc Brandybuck. The three of us are going on a little holiday in Buckland. We…ah…felt like being reminiscent and following the trails our fathers took."

That part, at least, was true. In fact, Faramir’s entire explanation was only a slight expansion of the truth. He did plan to stop at Crickhollow; he had the keys in his pocket. They would rest there for the night, and leave in the early morning.

"I see," said Maggot. "Well, I hope that you will at least stay for dinner. My missus always cooks enough food to feed a small army of hobbits, so we should have plenty to spare for guests."

Goldi, Faramir and Pippin graciously (and somewhat eagerly) accepted Maggot’s kind invitation (though, Harry had already offered it to them). Maggot led them to the dining room, and found seats for them all: Goldi on his right, and Pippin and Faramir on his left. The rest of the Maggot family soon filed in, along with several non-related workers. When everyone was seated, Mrs. Maggot brought out the meal. It was an average sort of meal at the Maggot household, but to the three guests, it was an almost exotic feast.

There were mushroom dishes of every sort: baked mushrooms, pickled mushrooms, mushrooms with bacon, fresh mushrooms – just to name a few. There was also fine salted pork, diced bacon and vegetables that were cooked little enough that they still kept their crispness. Though the hobbits ate to their hearts content, there seemed no lack.

While they ate, Maggot spoke to Goldi. The conversation occasionally involved Pippin and Faramir too, but Maggot seemed to find Goldi easiest to talk to. Either that, or he was annoyed at the other two for drinking his ale a little too heartily. Both were slightly red in the face, and Pippin seemed to be having some trouble keeping upright. They also had obviously forgiven each other for the earlier fight.

Maggot spoke of the weather, and also mentioned how good the soil had been ever since Sam had gifted the land with a little of his precious Lothlórien dust. Maggot asked Goldi to thank her father next time she saw him, and she promised that she would.

"Round here, we call that stuff ‘Gamgee’s Magic Dust’, but I hear that you said it was from Elvish lands, is that right?" Maggot asked.

Goldi nodded. "Yes, my father received it as a gift from the Lady Galadriel."

"Well, fancy that. But I suppose that isn’t too hard to believe. Word has it that Frodo Baggins and his companions went to some strange lands in their travels. Too bad nobody in their own Shire seems to recognise them for that. They’re only concerned with what happens here." Maggot shook his head sadly. Goldi realised that he was one of the few hobbits outside of their own families that recognised that Frodo, Samwise, Peregrin and Meriadoc had taken part in much more important events then simply the Battle of Bywater. "Frodo Baggins…he passed away didn’t he?"

Goldi had been told the tale of Frodo by her father. She knew that Frodo had passed from Middle-Earth at the Grey Havens, and gone to the Undying Lands, a place where Elves could live out eternity in peace. Frodo and Bilbo, as Ringbearers, had been allowed to travel to the Undying Lands to find peace from their burden. Goldi suspected that her father would, one day, join Frodo, Bilbo and the rest, since he, too, had for a time been a ring-bearer.

Goldi sighed, and with an effort, answered: "Yes. Mister Baggins did pass away."

Maggot again shook his head sadly. "A shame, really. When Mister Bilbo lived to such an old age. Well, he’s in a better place now."

"Yes, I’m sure he is."

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 9: Crickhollow

After dinner, Farmer Maggot insisted that he drive his guests to the Buckleberry Ferry. Goldi agreed, but only because she did not wish to help Pippin and Faramir all the way there. Getting them from the ferry to Crickhollow would be hard enough. Both had drunk more than their fill of ale. Pippin was singing.

As seem to be the tradition with the wife of the farmer, Mrs. Maggot handed Goldi a basket, from which rose the pleasant aroma of mushrooms. Goldi tried to refuse the gift, but Mrs. Maggot would hear none of it.

"We have more than enough mushrooms growing here, Miss Goldilocks," said Mrs. Maggot. "And besides…" She looked at Pippin and Faramir, "those two will probably be starving when they sober up." Goldi finally gave in, and thanked Mrs. Maggot for her kindness.

Harry and Ed came over to her.

"Well, it was nice meeting you Miss Goldi," said Harry, blushing again. "Please, feel free to visit us any time you want to."

"I will do that," said Goldi. She gave Harry and Ed a quick kiss on their cheeks. Both of them blushed furiously. Goldi smiled to herself. Good thing Faramir didn’t see that.

Farmer Maggot was waiting at his cart. The pony shifted restlessly, anxious to leave. Pippin and Faramir were already in the back, Pippin fast asleep.

"You’d best ride in the back, Miss Goldi, and keep an eye on those two," said Maggot, with a chuckle.

Goldi nodded, and climbed into the back of the cart. Faramir spotted her immediately, and crawled to her side.

"Hullo, Goldi," he slurred. Goldi flinched as Faramir layed his head on her shoulder. "You know what? You’re really pretty. I think those two farm boys thought so too. I like you, Goldi. I like you a lot. In fact, I lo…" He fell asleep before finishing his sentence.

If Goldi hadn’t cared so much about his wellbeing, she probably would have thrown Faramir out of the cart. Or, at least, kicked him. Even when he was drunk, he still knew exactly how to make her mad.

With a sigh, Goldi rested her head on the side of the cart, and tried to ignore the fact that Faramir was snoring loudly in her ear.

* * * * * *

The trip to the ferry seemed to take forever, but they finally arrived. Goldi even fell asleep herself for a few moments. But the long trip (and long sleep) had done a surprising amount of good for Faramir and Pippin. They had both sobered up considerably. Pippin still giggled at the most bizarre things (like hearing the pony whinny in farewell as Farmer Maggot returned to the farm). Faramir only felt slightly light-headed.

And also, quite horrified. He remembered everything that had happened – unlike Pippin, who would probably wake the next morning with a terrible headache and no recollection of the night. But Faramir had a clear memory of what he had said and done, including almost telling Goldi that he loved her. So close, I came so close to ruining everything.

Faramir planned to tell Goldi his feelings at some stage on their journey. Pippin’s arrival had made things slightly more difficult, especially when he made it clear that Faramir’s feelings were quite obvious. Faramir knew that Goldi must also suspect something, but he would not tell her anything yet. He wasn’t ready, and he doubted she was either.

"What have you got there, Goldi?" Faramir asked, seeing the basket in her hand.

"Mushrooms. A gift from Mrs. Maggot," answered Goldi. "I see you are feeling better. We had better get to Crickhollow, before Pippin falls in the river, or does something else equally as stupid."

Together, Faramir and Goldi helped Pippin stagger to the ferry. Goldi made him sit, while Faramir untied the ropes, and pushed off with a long wooden pole. The ferry drifted across the Brandywine River. Its passengers sat silently, watching the West Bank fade away.

As they reached the opposite shore and stepped back onto solid ground, Pippin, who was sitting on the path, suddenly cried out: "What’s that?! Over on the other bank!"

Faramir and Goldi looked to the West Bank of the Brandywine, half expecting to see a black shape crouched on the ground, and hear the sound of snuffling. But they saw nothing, and the only sound they could hear was Pippin’s hysterical laughter.

"I can’t believe you fell for that!" he cried, between bouts of giggles. "Did you really think there was a black rider over there?"

With a quick side-glance at each other, Faramir and Goldi each grabbed one of Pippin’s arms, and began to drag him along the path, ignoring his cries of pain.

* * * * * *

After the Battle of Bywater and the Fall of Sharkey, Meriadoc and Peregrin had lived together, for some time, in Crickhollow. Even after they had both married, the two couples remained in the cosy house, with Meriadoc and Estella helping to raise young Faramir. Meriadoc had moved back to Brandy Hall when his father died, so Peregrin had taken his family back to the Great Smials. However, the two hobbits still had joint ownership of the house (Frodo had left it to both of them), and it was used as accommodation for Peregrin and his family on their frequent visits to Buckland.

Faramir and Goldi followed the road that led to Crickhollow. Pippin had fallen to sleep again, which made him somewhat easier to drag, since he was no longer struggling. Faramir insisted that they avoid the bright lights of Brandy Hall. He often visited Meriadoc, so it was quite possible that someone would recognise him. Also, Goldi and her sister Daisy looked very much alike, and since Daisy and Primrose had made frequent visits to Brandy Hall, someone could easily mistake Goldilocks for her sister.

When they finally reached Crickhollow, Goldi and Faramir were exhausted. There was some distance between the house and Buckleberry Ferry, and having to drag an unconscious hobbit the entire way did not make the journey any easier. Goldi waited as Faramir fumbled with the key. He unlocked the door, and they stumbled in, finding a bed for Pippin, and leaving him there.

Goldi and Faramir both slumped into comfortable chairs. Crickhollow was finely furnished, and comfortable enough to accommodate a good crowd of hobbits.

"So, what is the plan for tomorrow?" asked Goldi, taking a bite out of a mushroom.

Faramir grinned. "I think you know the answer to that."

Goldi’s eyes widened. "No, you are not serious! You cannot be planning to go through…to go through…the Old Forest!"

Many things had changed in the Shire (and in all of Middle-Earth) since the destruction of the Ring, but the notoriously queer reputation of the Old Forest was not one of these. Even the children of Sam, Meriadoc and Peregrin were taught to fear it (though Faramir had obviously not listened).

"Why not? Our fathers managed to survive it. I am sure we can, too."

"They were lucky to survive it. Remember Old Man Willow? The only reason our fathers made it through the Old Forest was the help of Tom Bombadil, and we cannot be certain that we shall also receive that help."

But it was no use arguing with Faramir. Tooks can be a stubborn as mules if they have made their mind up about something, and Faramir would not be swayed.

Goldi gave in, seeing it was absolutely hopeless. "Fine! But if I end up trapped inside a willow, I will not be happy!"

* * * * * *

Inside The Floating Log, Peregrin held a mug of beer to his aching jaw, and scowled at Sam.

"I said I was sorry," Sam mumbled, taking a swig from his own mug. He knew that he should not have hit Peregrin, but part of him felt that the Took deserved it. Goldi was not old enough to be married, and even if she was, why would she want to marry Faramir Took? Because she grew up with him, replied a little voice in his head. Because they have always been close friends, and now that they have started to grow up, they want it to be something more. Sam knew any argument against that would be useless. He, himself, had experienced the change from friendship to deep affection. He and Rose had grown up together, with him being close friends with her brothers. And now – they had been married for many years, with thirteen wonderful children who were all starting to grow up.

That’s what it is, Sam thought, with a sigh. I don’t want Goldi to grow up. I want her to stay as my little girl. I’ll just have to get used to the idea. I suppose Faramir would be a fine choice for Goldi after all. But I don’t think I’ll tell Peregrin that.

Sam smiled behind his mug.

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

A/N: Just a note to anyone expecting Tom Bombadil to make an appearance…sorry! I thought I’d tell you he wouldn’t be in it now, before we get to the part where he could appear. I do have an excuse, though. Number 1: I’m not particularly fond of Mr. Bombadil. And number 2: He’d be too hard to write in anyway. With the rhymes and all. I will make mention of him, but don’t expect him to be written in, because he won’t be. Sorry to disappoint anyone.

Chapter 10: Old Man Willow

Goldi opened her eyes – and stared right into Faramir’s face. She gasped, and pulled back slightly.

"Good morning," he greeted.

"Morning?" Goldi regarded the room and what she could see of the rest of the house. "But it’s still dark."

"That is right. It is four-thirty in the morning, and time for us to leave. Pippin is already up, and making breakfast for us. I have packed enough food to last us until Bree."

Goldi rolled out of bed, annoyed that Pippin – of all people – was awake before her. Her annoyance was slightly reduced when she saw the state her brother was in. He was half stumbling around the kitchen; his eyes half shut and blood-shot.

He grumbled something like a greeting as Goldi sat down at the table. Goldi wondered how she had slept through the verbal war that most certainly would have occurred when Faramir woke Pippin.

The three hobbits ate a relatively small breakfast, of dried fruit and bread, which Faramir had found in the storeroom of Crickhollow. Goldi was sure that Faramir had organised that in advance; it seemed strange to her that a house used only for guests would be stocked with fresh bread. But she said nothing.

After they had eaten, they were ready to leave. Goldi and Pippin waited by the gate with their packs shouldered, while Faramir locked the front door. For once, Pippin was silent as they strolled to the Hedge. Normally he complained about everything: being hungry, being tired, having aching feet. This particular morning would have given him plenty of reasons to complain; it was cold, misty and miserable. Obviously his head was aching too much for him to make a sound.

Finally they reached a tunnel, which was cut through the Hedge. Pippin reached the gate first, and at last, started complaining. The gate was locked tight.

"Oh, wonderful! Trust a Took to make us walk for hours to a locked gate!" Pippin glared viciously at Faramir.

"Pippin, Pippin, Pippin," Faramir sighed, shaking his head. "Trust me yes – but trust me to be more organised than that." He retrieved the keys to Crickhollow, and for the first time, the Gamgees noticed the large brass key that was obviously not for the house. Faramir inserted the key, turned it to the left, and the gate opened with a click. With a smug grin, Faramir motioned for Pippin to go through.

Grumbling yet again, Pippin walked through the gate. Goldi followed, winking at Faramir as she went passed him. You have a lot of courage, Faramir Took, to annoy Pippin when he’s in a mood like this.

Faramir shut the gate behind him. The clang sound it made as it closed seemed to fall muffled, like a wet cloth had been dropped upon it. Faramir, only slightly unnerved, joined his two friends, who were staring at the wall of trees in front of them. The trees looked angry and unforgiving as they towered over the hobbits. The mist curled around their roots and lower trunks.

"Shall we get going?" Faramir asked, trying to sound cheerful. Goldi and Pippin looked at him, barely managing to hide their fear.

Faramir took the lead, following the Hedge for a little while, before turning onto a path that wound beneath the trees. Goldi and Pippin followed him reluctantly. After several minutes under the canopy of the stifling branches and leaves, Pippin glanced over his shoulder to see the Hedge. He cried out. The Hedge could no longer be seen, and the path they had been following was closed in.

"The trees! They’re moving in!"

"Shhh!" Faramir hissed. "Don’t speak so loudly. You will make it worse, for all of us. The only thing we can do is keep moving."

Pippin opened his mouth, like he had something to say back to Faramir, but shut it again promptly. He knew the stories as well as Faramir did. Pippin remained quiet, but made sure he walked closer to Goldi.

An hour later, the sun had obviously risen, because the temperature under the canopy became higher, and the atmosphere, more uncomfortable. Suddenly, Faramir tripped, and fell flat onto his face. He sat up, cursing and spitting out dirt and leaves. He seemed to have forgotten his earlier warning to Pippin.

"It tripped me! That rotten tree tripped me!" he snarled. He tried to attack the offending tree, but Goldi stopped him.

"Faramir! Calm down," she said. "Remember what you told Pippin: The only thing we can do is keep moving."

Faramir sighed heavily, and stood. He brushed himself down, and with an angry scowl and the tree, continued walking.

As the three hobbits continued on their way, the trees also continued on their way – carefully shutting off the path behind.

* * * * * *

It took Sam and Meriadoc half an hour to wake Peregrin. Even an hour later, when they had eaten a hearty breakfast and had started down the road again, he was still complaining.

"…and I do not see why we had to come without ponies! It would make it all so much easier!"

Sam and Meriadoc, who had been largely ignoring Peregrin, suddenly stopped and paid attention. They looked at each other, and immediately started cursing.

"Ponies! How could we have forgotten?" cried Sam. "We are all fools!"

"Do you suppose we could borrow some from someone?" suggested Meriadoc. "I know we cannot go back – it would take us too long, but someone around here might have a few spare."

Sam shook his head. "Ponies are too important to the people around here. They would not lend us even one. Especially…" Sam smiled grimly, "…to three rascals like us."

"If we paid them?"

"No. Like I said, ponies are too important. Would you sell one of your ponies?"

"No, I suppose I wouldn’t."

While this discussion had been going on, Peregrin sat watching, confused. Finally, he spoke up. "Are you saying, that we didn’t mean to come without ponies? That you two simply forgot?"

Sam and Meriadoc stared at Peregrin in disbelief. Sam broke the silence, by laughing out loud.

"We are getting old. Meriadoc and I forgetting to take ponies, and Peregrin thinking that it was intentional." He shook his head, and laughed again. "Well, ponies or no, we have to get going. We can’t let those young ones get too far ahead of us."

With that, Sam started down the road again. Peregrin and Meriadoc soon followed, Peregrin still looking utterly confused.

* * * * * *

Noon came and went. The temperature rose, and the air became even more stifling. It seemed an eternity since Faramir, Goldi and Pippin had rested at the Bonfire Glade, when, in fact, it was only an hour or so. The trees were herding the hobbits south, towards the Withywindle Valley – which was exactly what Faramir expected (and, secretly hoped) them to do. He walked, head held high, whistling softly to himself. Pippin and Goldi were exhausted, and tired of the beastly forest. Both of them wondered why they had agreed to come on this crazy adventure in the first place.

Eventually, the hobbits realised that they were wandering along the weed-choked banks of a stream. Goldi and Pippin huddled closer to each other and to Faramir. They knew that they would soon come to the old Willow tree that had captured Peregrin and Meriadoc, and nearly drowned Frodo, and they did not know what Faramir planned to do when they reached the tree.

Goldi was waiting for the intense and sudden fatigue that her father had told her hit him as he neared the tree. But it never came. She remained alert, if somewhat physically exhausted from the walk. What she did become aware of was a strange grating sound. She knew she had heard this noise (or one similar) somewhere before, but she could not think where.

The grating noise became louder, and suddenly, as the hobbits rounded a corner, an ancient willow reared up. Pippin cowered behind Goldi, but, when he saw Faramir standing boldly in front of the tree, he straightened himself again and puffed out his chest.

"Don’t worry, Goldi," he said, in a tone that betrayed his act of courage. "Faramir and I will take care of this worthless excuse for firewood."

Goldi barely heard him. She was too busy trying to work out the connection between the grating noise and the fact that they had not felt fatigued…

"It’s asleep!" she cried out suddenly. Faramir and Pippin looked at her strangely. Goldi blushed for a moment, and explained what she meant. "The Willow Tree; it’s sleeping. Remember how we were told that Tom Bombadil told Old Man Willow to go to sleep. It only troubled our fathers because it was awake. We are completely safe."

Faramir started laughing, and Pippin began to look a lot braver now that he knew that there was no danger. In a much lighter and happier mood, the three hobbits continued down the Withywindle (for that was the creek beside them). At length, they came to a path that was more obvious and purpose-built. It was bordered with stones. The hobbits followed it, half-expecting a merry little man to appear at any moment.

But he did not. Nor could the hobbits see any sign of his house, where their fathers had spent several nights resting. They could see something that might have been a house on a hill some way ahead, but the walk was too far and difficult for them to investigate. Instead, the hobbits set up a small camp well away from the edges of the forest. They ate a small supper, and agreed to leave early the next morning.

Goldi did not sleep particularly well that night. She watched the hill where they thought they could make out the "house". On several occasions, she thought she saw the dim flicker of candlelight from that hill, but she could not be sure. At last she fell asleep, with a final thought of: At least the grass is nice and soft here.

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 11: Journey Through the Barrow Downs

The morning had started out bad, and started to get worse. Faramir, Goldi and Pippin woke to another miserable morning, but unlike the previous day, the weather did not improve. As the hobbits picked their way through the notorious Barrow Downs, a faint drizzle of rain began, which became heavier as the continued on.

It was Pippin who suggested they have a break first. In fact, he demanded it, and collapsed on the ground, refusing to go any further. Had they wanted to, Goldi and Faramir would not have been able to get him to move, so they followed his lead, and sat down.

Goldi wrapped her cloak around her, trying hopelessly to keep out the rain. Faramir handed her an apple; she wondered where he had found them. Goldi shivered, but not because she was cold. The Barrow Downs were as frightening as their legend told.

"I think we should keep travelling until we come to Bree," said Goldi. "I do not wish to spend the night in this place. I do not like it."

"The Forest was worse," Pippin promptly replied.

"No, Pippin. I would much prefer to be back in the Forest. In the Forest, I felt uncomfortable and suffocated, yes, but here…here I feel only dread. The Forest is living, however queer it may have seemed, but there is nothing living about this place. Only death."

"That would be the Barrow-wights," said Faramir. He sounded carefree, as if the thought of a Barrow-wight did not bother him at all. He bit a huge chunk out of his apple, and continued talking with his mouth full. "We are lucky to have not been captured by one yet."

"Yet?" cried Pippin, not hiding his terror.

"Of course! We are not through the Downs; there may be wights waiting for us just a few miles ahead."

Goldi looked at Faramir in shock, but soon realised that he was not as fearless as he tried to appear. His face showed no fear, but his eyes betrayed him. They were dilated, terrified for his own safety, and that of his two closest friends.

Faramir had succeeded in one thing, at least. By scaring Pippin, he had given the Gamgee a new source of energy. Now, instead of begging for his companions to wait for him or for a rest, he was urging them to hurry up and be on their way. He wanted to be out of the Downs as quickly as possible, and if that meant ignoring his aching feet and tired legs, then he was willing to do it. And Goldi and Faramir were willing to let him; Pippin did not complain once more during the trip across the Downs.

But no matter how much they wanted to leave the dreaded Barrow Downs, the hobbits could not go on forever without resting. They had to stop twice more.

The first stop was planned. The three hobbits rested on the flat, carefully avoiding the towering barrows, with their stone teeth puncturing the curtain of rain. Goldi, Faramir and Pippin huddled close together, for safety as well as for warmth.

The second stop was initiated by a discovery rather than a suggestion. Utterly tired of the dismal place, Goldi was looking ahead, searching for any sign that they were nearly the end of the Downs. Ahead of them, she saw something glitter in the limited sunlight that managed to pierce the heavy cloud cover.

Curiosity got the better of her, and she started towards it. Since she was leading, Pippin and Faramir followed her. It was not until they were trudging up the side of a small grassy hill that they noticed what Goldi had. The cap of the hill was scattered with various trinkets and treasures. It was obvious that there had once been a great lot of treasure, but it had been greatly reduced.

Goldi, Faramir and Pippin knew exactly why there had been a pile of treasures sitting atop a hill. They were shocked that after forty or so years, there was still some left. They had reached the hill where Tom Bombadil had left the treasures removed from the barrow of the Wight that had captured Frodo, Sam, Peregrin and Meriadoc.

"Lawks, look at this!" cried Pippin. He had found a knife much like the ones that Bombadil had armed their fathers with. It seemed that there were more of the weapons than four. Faramir grinned at Pippin’s discovery. He also picked up a wide, flat knife, obviously of Westernesse design. He found a longer, thinner Elvish knife, which he handed to Goldi.

Goldi took it hesitantly, wondering why they should need to be armed. The lands between the Shire and Rivendell had been mostly free if danger for many years now. For the first time in the entire journey, Goldi began to worry that Faramir planned on going further than Rivendell. Perhaps he planned to go to Moria, where orcs were still known to live. Or North, to Angmar, which was still home to many dark and unpleasant creatures.

Since she did not have a belt to hang the sword, Goldi found a piece of leather which she threaded through the sheath of the sword. This, she strapped against her back, beneath her pack, though she could easily reach it in an emergency.

Amongst the treasures, Goldi found a small gold broach, dotted with green gems, which she thought her mother might like. Apart from this and their swords, Pippin and Goldi took nothing else from the hoard.

But Faramir – when Goldi and Pippin were not looking – pocketed a small gold and blue object. For reasons known only to himself, he kept it hidden from his friends. They would find our what it was and its purpose in due time.

Since they had already stopped. Faramir, Goldi and Pippin decided to have a meal break also. They finished off the bread and fruit, and treated themselves to some salted pork.

They started out again after eating, Pippin, surprisingly, leading. He set a fairly rapid pace, still anxious to escape the Barrow Downs.

* * * * * *

Sam, Peregrin and Meriadoc came to the West-gate of Buckland, dripping wet and miserable. The rain had started while they were on the road, and they could not find anywhere to stop. The gate warden let them in, only half-believing that these three bedraggled hobbits were really the Mayor, the Thain and the Master of Buckland.

Unable to go any further that day, Sam, Peregrin and Meriadoc started looking for somewhere to spend the night. Peregrin suggested Brandy Hall, which was what gave Sam his idea.

"Why don’t we stay at Crickhollow? Do you have the keys?" he asked.

"I do not have mine – I left them back at the Smials," answered Peregrin.

"Do not worry. I can pick up mine from Brandy Hall. Why don’t you two wait at Crickhollow, while I fetch them." Meriadoc steered off their current course and returned to his home.

It was a good couple of hours before he met Sam and Peregrin at Crickhollow. By this time, they were both in a foul mood, which was not helped by Meriadoc’s ‘apology’.

"Awfully sorry," he said, upon his arrival. "You know relatives – all wanting to know how the party went, why I am back so soon, why I want the keys to Crickhollow, when…"

"Just open the door!" Peregrin snapped. His teeth were chattering, and as if to urge Meriadoc on, he let out a series of violent sneezes.

Meriadoc opened the door, after murmuring a profanity about Peregrin and his family. Sam and Peregrin rushed in, not caring that they were dripping water all over the floor.

"You are making a mess!" Meriadoc complained.

"Maybe if you had not taken so long, we would not have been so wet!" Peregrin shot back.

As the cousins continued arguing, Sam explored the house, remembering the first time he had been there. Announcing to Frodo that they would not let him go on his quest alone. He came to the kitchen, and found the first signs that someone had been in Crickhollow recently.

"Merry! Pippin!" he called.

Meriadoc and Peregrin rushed at the sound of his call. There was a hint of urgency in his voice. When they reached the kitchen, they saw what he had. Goldi, Faramir and Pippin had neglected to clean up their breakfast dishes. Three dirty plates and three used cups were sitting on the table, with crumbs littered about.

"I will check the bedrooms," said Meriadoc, leaving the room. Sam and Peregrin remained, staring at the table, prematurely believing that they had caught up with their truanting children.

But, when Meriadoc returned a few moments later, they knew that they had gotten their hopes up too soon.

"Three of the beds have been used, but it appears to have been at least a day ago," Meriadoc reported. "There is a certain ‘abandoned’ feeling about them."

"The same applies for the entire house," said Sam. "Can we be sure that it was them, and not just a group of wandering hobbits?"

Meriadoc shook his head. "There are no signs of any break-in. One would need a key to get inside Crickhollow."

"Then how did Goldi and Pippin get in?"

"Faramir must have taken my set of keys," answered Peregrin. "Very resourceful boy, my Faramir. Always thinks it all through."

Sam frowned, but did not say anything aloud. If your resourceful Faramir lets my Goldi get into any trouble, I’ll have his head on a platter, I will.

Meriadoc sighed. "There is no point in going on any further today. We are all too cold and tired. We should rest here tonight, and leave early tomorrow morning. To Bree."

Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

 

Chapter 12: Barliman Butterbur

Night had well and truly set in by the time Goldi, Faramir and Pippin saw any sign of the end of the Downs. In fact, they did not even notice that they had come to the end until they were actually walking along part of the East Road.

“We’re through!” cried Goldi, suddenly breaking the miserable silence that had lasted for many hours.

Her voice broke Faramir and Pippin out of their tired trances. All three of them quickly forgot their fatigue, as the thought of an inn, with a fire burning, and a hot meal filled their minds. They started running, and did not stop until they came to the West-gate of Bree. It was shut, but they expected that, just as they expected to see the tired-looking gatekeeper lazing in the doorway of his lodge. He heard them coming, and suddenly became alert.

“Good evening, young sirs,” he greeted, then, seeing Goldi, added, “and young miss. How may I help you?”

“He’s very friendly,” Pippin murmured to Goldi. She nodded.

“We have been travelling all day, and are looking for an inn to spend the night,” Faramir replied.

The gatekeeper regarded Faramir for a moment. “You’re Faramir Took, aren’t you? Thain Peregrin’s son!”

“Oh…yes…I am.”

“Come in, come in, Master Took.” The gatekeeper opened the gate, and allowed the three hobbits to enter. “What brings you to Bree?”

“No reason. I just wished to show my two friends here what a lovely village Bree is.”

“Ah, yes. Well, I’m sure you know the way to The Pony. I do hope you’ll enjoy your stay here.” With that, the gatekeeper returned to his lodge, and the hobbits continued on their way down the streets of Bree.

“Well, that was easy enough,” stated Pippin. “I was afraid that we would not be let in!”

“That gatekeeper is no Harry,” laughed Faramir, referring to the gatekeeper who had been present when their fathers had passed through. “I have met him several times, coming to Bree with my father, and Uncle Merry. A very fine-spoken gentleman – especially for one of the Big People. Now hurry. This way to The Prancing Pony.”

Faramir was able to lead them quite quickly to the inn. Aside from a recent re-painting, The Prancing Pony looked how it had always looked – three storeys high, two wings running out to the back, and a large archway leading to the front door. The three hobbits smiled at the wooden signboard that was swinging in the gentle night breeze: The Prancing Pony by Barliman Butterbur.

As the walked towards the door, Goldi said: “Do you suppose Mr. Butterbur is still the owner?”

“I doubt it,” answered Faramir. “I did not come to the inn last time I was in Bree, so I do not know who owns it, but Mr. Butterbur would be too old by now. Most Big People don’t live as long as hobbits, remember.”

They felt the warmth of a fireplace as soon as they were inside. Merry voices could be heard talking, laughing and, occasionally, singing a few lines of a song or two from a room further inside the inn. A short, plump woman came from this room. She stopped short when she saw them.

“Hullo, there. Have you been waiting long? Half a moment and I’ll be with you.” She went through another doorway, and returned almost as quickly with a young hobbit in tow. “Go and see to the guests in the common-room!” the woman ordered. The hobbit nodded, and plodded through to the common-room. The woman smiled at Goldi, Faramir and Pippin. “Welcome to The Prancing Pony. I’m Ellouise Butterbur. How may I help you?”

“Butterbur!” exclaimed Pippin. Faramir elbowed him in the side, to shut him up for at least a moment.

“Ah, yes. Beds for three.”

“I’m sure we can manage that. Any ponies to be stabled?”

“No.”

“May I ask your names? You are Shire-folk, am I right?”

“Yes, we are. I am Mr. Took, this is Mr. Gamgee, and Miss Gamgee.”

“A Took and two Gamgees!” Ellouise exclaimed. “I expect my uncle will be wanting to talk to you. He is always talking about you Shire-folk.”

“Your uncle?” Goldi asked.

“Yes, Barliman Butterbur! I assume you know the name, seeing as this young sir cried out when I said it was my name.” Ellouise motioned at Pippin. She smiled broadly. “Follow me.”

Ellouise led the three hobbits to a small room. The door was open, but she knocked anyway.

“Yes? Is that you, Lou?” a male voice inquired.

“Yes, uncle, it is,” Ellouise replied. “I have someone to see you.”

They entered the room. An elderly man was seated on a large armchair in front of a fireplace. On a small table next to him was an empty plate and beer mug. The gentleman himself had a bushy brown moustache, shot through with much grey. His blue eyes shone in the dim light, as he looked at Faramir.

“Master Peregrin? Is that you?” he whispered.

Faramir shook his head. “Peregrin is my father. I am Faramir.”

The man started laughing. “Peregrin’s son! Fancy that. Are you the only one? Are your companions also children of Master Took?”

“No. They are Pippin and Goldilocks Gamgee, children of Master Samwise. Two of thirteen, I might add.”

“Ah, no surprise there. I always thought that Sam a bit of a ladies’ man…or hobbit if you’d rather. And by the looks of the young Miss, he found himself a lovely girl to marry.”

“Rosie Cotton – one of the Shire’s fairest lasses,” Pippin stated proudly.

“Of that I’m sure. Well, now, I’ve forgotten to introduce myself, though I’m sure you all know who I am. The name’s Butterbur, or Barliman if you’d prefer.” Butterbur smiled warmly. “I’ve also forgotten my manners. Take a seat, my young friends.”

The three hobbits found places on the floor. Ellouise excused herself, and returned to the common-room.

“So, tell me, Master Faramir, what brings you to Bree? Without your father, I may add,” Butterbur asked.

Faramir lowered his voice, like one who is conspiring. “We are going on an adventure –  Pippin, Goldi and myself. Following the paths our fathers took on their way to Rivendell.”

“Faramir!” Pippin cried out. “You were not supposed to tell anyone!”

Butterbur laughed. “Fear not, young Master Gamgee. I won’t be telling anyone. No doubt I will have forgotten by tomorrow morning. My memories going in my old age.”

Goldi laughed to herself, not wishing to hurt the kind man’s feelings.

Faramir proceeded to tell Butterbur the details of their journey so far. Butterbur listened as intently as he could, murmuring, “You don’t say?” more than once.

The night wore on. Butterbur dozed off several times while Pippin and Faramir told him of recent Shire events. Of course, he fiercely denied even closing his eyes when they told him he’d fallen asleep. Eventually, Ellouise returned.

“Sorry to interrupt,” she said, “but I think it may be time for my uncle to go to bed. I have made up your bedrooms; there’s some supper and washing basins waiting for you also.”

Faramir, Goldi and Pippin thanked her. They said goodnight to Butterbur, telling him they probably would not see him before they left, because they planned on leaving quite early.

“Well, all right, young ones,” said Butterbur. “But do come and visit again. Bring your fathers along. And Master Merry as well. Good night.”

Ellouise took them to the room that had been prepared. Before shutting the door, she thanked them. “I have not seen my uncle so happy and full of life. I do hope you visit again, like he requested.”

“We will,” replied Goldi. “I have never met a more polite nor kind gentleman.”

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

Sorry that chapter took so long to write. I had the biggest case of writer’s block imaginable! The next chapter won’t take nearly as long – I promise!

Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 13: Buckland to Bree

The clouds that had brought miserable weather the day before, had sailed clear on by as Faramir, Goldi and Pippin left the Prancing Pony just after dawn. But despite the glorious weather, Pippin was yet again in a vile mood. Goldi was beginning to doubt that he could be in any other mood, since he had seemed angry for most of the journey. This particular day was the worst. He was snappy at Goldi, which meant he was downright horrid to Faramir.

The only comfort his two companions took, was he only snapped at them if they spoke to him. They discovered quite quickly that if they left him alone, he walked in a brooding silence, which suited them quite fine.

“We should let him get into a mood like this more often!” Faramir whispered to Goldi. She stifled a giggle, not wanting to attract her brother’s attention.

 

*   *   *   *   *   * 

 

Peregrin and Sam waited impatiently outside Crickhollow for the second time while Meriadoc locked up the cottage. They had refused to allow him to return the keys to Brandy Hall, despite that the morning was much clearer than the previous day. Neither of them wanted to lose any more time than they needed to.

In relative silence they made their way to the eastern Gate of Buckland, until Peregrin voiced the question that had been worrying them the most. “You don’t suppose they went through the Old Forest, do you?”

“They wouldn’t, would they?” Sam said, with an edge of fear in his voice.

“Faramir might,” Peregrin admitted, grimly.

“And if he had the keys to Crickhollow, they have a key to the gate in the Hedge,” added Meriadoc. It was beginning to seem more and more likely that the three truants may have taken a “short-cut” through the queer Forest.

At last, Sam sighed. “I suppose there’s nothing that we can do, really, if they have gone through the Forest. We just have to press on to Bree and hope that someone has seen them.”

None of the three hobbits liked the decision, but they knew it was the only one they could make. So with rekindled fear for the safety of their children, the Mayor, the Thain and the Master made their way along the road.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

Life at Bag End had become a living nightmare for those who had remained. Firstly, there was Rose and Diamond’s impatience. They had decided after only one day that Sam, Peregrin and Meriadoc had taken far too long to locate the children. When Estella pointed out that, not only did Faramir, Goldi and Pippin have a head start, but they were younger at fitter than those that chased them, both mothers dissolved into tears. If that wasn’t bad enough, there were also Merry Gamgee’s constant tantrums over how he had been left behind by both parties.

“And on my birthday too,” he often grumbled.

Young Théodoc whined persistently about the whereabouts of his father, especially since Meriadoc had promised to take him to Tuckborough after Merry’s party. The best Estella could do was assure her son, “Papa will be back soon.”

“Not likely,” Merry grumbled, in one of his foul moods. “No doubt they’ve all gotten caught in the Old Forest and won’t ever come back. Serves them right, too.” He received a clip on the ear from his mother, but didn’t seem to care.

“I just don’t understand why they went away!” an exasperated Diamond sighed.

“Faramir has always been a rather…flighty lad,” Estella stated, though she wished she could have found a better term. “Hardly surprising after all the stories he’s heard. And he and Goldi were always close friends as children.”

“But why did Pippin go too?” Rose asked. It was hardly fair that they were demanding answers from Estella, but she had always been exceptionally good at solving riddles.

Estella shrugged. “Sam did say that it appeared that Pippin had written his own name on the note. Merry, dear, what would you have done had you discovered your siblings and Faramir had run off, leaving a note to say they had gone, but not where?”

“I would have added my name to the note and followed them!” Merry replied without even thinking.

“There is your answer. Pippin somehow worked out what Faramir and Goldilocks were up to and followed them, but not before adding his own name to the note Faramir had left.” Estella took a sip of tea. “It’s completely logical.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Diamond sighed. She felt very slightly better, since she had been afraid that Faramir had run away because she had been a bad mother, or something of the sort. “Still, I wish they would return soon.”

“Oh, I doubt they will for a while yet,” stated Pervinca, one of Peregrin’s elder sisters. When she had heard about the situation, she had immediately come to Bag End. She was very fond of her young nephew, and also very good friends with Rose. “Faramir did not just run away for adventure. There was something else on his mind, though I don’t know what he’ll do now that Pippin’s in the way.”

“What do you mean?” the other three hobbit-maids asked. They knew that Faramir had always been particularly close to his aunt and would tell her things that he could tell no one else. She had even more time for him in recent times since her own two daughters had grown up and married.

“You mean you haven’t worked it out?” Pervinca smiled, but there was a strange look in her eyes that only Rose understood*. “Faramir is in love with Goldilocks. He has been since they were children. The few years apart allowed him to court others and realise that she was the only one for him. And you know what they say: ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’.”

“So true, Pervinca, so true,” Rose whispered, though no one heard her.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

It took Sam, Peregrin and Meriadoc a full two days to travel to Bree, much as it had their children. Though the path they took was shorter, they were far slower and were not fuelled by the fear of queer trees and Barrow-wights.

It was only twilight when they came to the gate, so it had not yet been shut. The gatekeeper greeted them politely, but drew in a sharp breath when he recognised them.

“Why Master Peregrin!” he cried. “How strange to see you!” The hobbits obviously did not understand his surprise, so the gatekeeper continued. “Why, just a few days ago I let your son through these gates. Said he was taking two friends site-seeing in our lovely village.”

“You’ve seen Faramir?” Peregrin exclaimed.

“And he had two friends with him?” Sam joined in, equally as excited.

“Yes, sir,” the gatekeeper replied, made somewhat uncomfortable by the hobbits’ eagerness. “Another lad and a pretty young lass.”

“Thank goodness, they are okay!” Meriadoc laughed in relief. Seeing the expression on the poor gatekeeper’s face, he explained. “We have been tracking these three hobbits all the way from Hobbiton.”

“Well, I suggested that they go to The Pony,” the gatekeeper said, helpfully. “But I can’t say if they stayed there or not.”

“We shall go to The Pony anyway,” Sam decided. He took the gatekeepers hand in his own and shook it. “Thank you, sir, thank you so much.”

And the gatekeeper bowed his head. “I only wish I could have done more. Had I known that they were being tracked, I might have tried to keep them here longer.”

“You’ve done more than enough, my friend,” Sam called back, as he, Peregrin and Meriadoc ran in the direction of The Prancing Pony.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

* This is a small reference to one of my other stories, “Life is What Happens”, in which Pervinca and Sam have a bit of a fling, for want of a better word, but realise the limitations of their relationship (since it is set in a time period when Sam’s family is still quite poor, and he is certainly not an eligible suitor for the daughter of the future Thain). I thought it would be interesting to have Pervinca make an appearance in this story, where the families of Took and Gamgee are once again coming together.

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 14: Reunion at The Prancing Pony

Sam thought his lungs were going to seize on him when he finally reached the door of The Prancing Pony. He was certainly not up to running, but he had not stopped. Part of him sternly believed that he would find his daughter and son at the Inn, and that belief would not allow him to stop, despite the pain. Meriadoc and Peregrin were in no better shape. Panting, the three of them stumbled into the Inn.

Ellouise Butterbur greeted them kindly as they entered. She must have had more helpers that night, for she was not as run off her feet as usual. “Good evening, sirs. How can I help you? Rooms for three?”

“Well, actually,” Sam stammered, trying to find his breath to speak. “We wanted to ask you…”

“Lou? Lou!” a voice interrupted Sam. “I need you, Lou!”

Ellouise looked apologetic. “You’ll have to excuse me for a moment. Why don’t you go to the Common Room and make yourselves comfortable? I’ll find you as soon as I can.” And with that, she had disappeared.

“Strange lass, that one,” Sam mumbled. “Must be a relative of Mister Butterbur.”

“I think it may be his niece,” said Meriadoc. He had visited Bree more recently that his companions. The Common Room was warm and inviting. A group of hobbits noticed the newcomers, and greeted them gladly.

“I say, it’s the Master of Buckland!” one hobbit declared, recognising Meriadoc.

“And that’s the Thain and the Mayor with him,” another added.

Sam had almost hoped that they would not be recognised. He knew it had been quite foolish to think so. Their faces were known from Gondor to the Grey Havens. Soon, the three Travellers were badgered by questions about their coming to Bree. While Meriadoc and Peregrin tried to answer all the questions and even find space to ask a few of their own, Sam remained silent. He had the strange feeling that they were being watched. Sure enough, in a darkened corner of the room, three cloaked and hooded figures sat. One was of much smaller stature than the other too, and a cloud of smoke seemed to hover above them. From beneath one of the hoods, Sam caught the twinkle in the figure’s eyes, and a glimpse of an all too familiar smile.

He staggered a few steps forward, as if drawn to the mysterious onlooker. Meriadoc and Peregrin saw Sam walking away. Their voices caught in their throats as they saw what he had seen.

“It can’t be…” Peregrin whispered.

“Well met, Master Samwise,” the smiling figure said quietly, as the three hobbits drew near. He and his companions made space for them at their table. “Though, I would appreciate your discretion. We have gone unnoticed and unrecognised completely this night. A shame we cannot say the same for the three of you.”

“Strider!” Sam finally managed to whisper.

“Will you ever cease using that derogatory name for your king?” one of the other figures asked.

“Oh, Sam will call Aragorn whatever he likes, Legolas!” Meriadoc snorted.

Legolas laughed, but quietly. Though the other patrons had let the hobbits alone once they had sat down with the strange hooded travellers, Aragorn still wished for his presence to remain unknown.

“Yes, Legolas,” the third figure – the smallest of the three – grunted. “Just be glad that they have not yet come up with pet names for you and I.”

“You’re right, Gimli!” Peregrin cried. “We’ve known you all this time, and have never given you nicknames.”

“And let us hope it will continue to be so for another long time.”

“Strider, what are you doing here?” Sam asked, seizing the split second of silence. “And with Gimli and Legolas, no less.”

“To be honest, Master Samwise, we came to see you,” King Elessar answered. “Lady Arwen wished to visit her brothers in Rivendell, and Legolas, Gimli and I came with her. We decided that we greatly desired to see our little friends again. I have sent a confidential message to Bag End requesting that you come to meet me at the Bridge of Baranduin, but I suppose it shall now arrive to an empty house.”

“No, not empty. Just a house of anxious wives and children.”

“Then this is not just a pleasant walking trip for you to reclaim your youth?” Legolas asked. “You have urgency in your voice.”

“We’re following Pippin, Faramir and Goldilocks. You should know of them, if you have not met them. Pippin is my third son, and Goldi my third daughter. Faramir is Peregrin’s only son.”

“Following? Where have they gone?”

“We believe they are headed to Rivendell, following the paths that we took on our own journey. We were hoping to maybe find them here, but as yet, we have not been able to ask…”

“They’re not here,” said Meriadoc. “We managed to ask a few of the guests here. One of them said he saw three hobbits matching our description of them leaving two days ago.”

“A trait of the Tooks, running off on adventures, am I right, Master Peregrin?”

“That you are, Lord,” Peregrin replied, with a bow, for he was still a knight of Gondor, and Aragorn was his lord and master.

“Well, I believe that we may now be able to spend that desired time with you, my friends.”

“What do you mean, Stri…I mean, Aragorn?” Sam asked.

“Do you recall what I spent my time doing before claiming the throne? I dare say, the three of you have little hope of catching your truants, especially if they have decided to avoid the road. With Strider the Ranger at your aid, you may have more luck.”

“Luck indeed!” Peregrin cried. “It is beyond hope!”

“Nothing is beyond hope, Master Peregrin.”

“There you are, sirs,” Ellouise Butterbur panted, and she came to their table. “I am dreadfully sorry; my uncle needed me…”

“Your uncle is Barliman Butterbur, is it not?” Meriadoc asked.

“Why, yes he is? And you are Master Brandybuck! I thought I recognised you when you came in.” She looked at Sam and Peregrin. “I am willing to guess that you are Master Took and Gamgee.” They nodded. “You must come with me at once, then! Please.”

Meriadoc, Sam and Peregrin all looked at one another, before standing and following Ellouise. Aragorn also followed. Ellouise looked at him suspiciously. “And who might you be, sir? I remember you and your companions arriving earlier, but I do not see why you should wish to come with these hobbits.”

“I am an…old friend of your uncle,” Aragorn replied. “He may be pleased to see me, or he may not. I cannot be sure.”

Ellouise nodded and did not question him further. She led them to the same room that she had led Faramir, Pippin and Goldi to several nights previously.

“Back so soon, Lou?” Barliman laughed. “Did you forget something?”

“No, she found something,” Aragorn replied. Lou slipped out, leaving her uncle with his guests.

“Now, I recognise that voice, but I don’t remember where from.”

“Perhaps we might help you to remember,” said Meriadoc.

“Why, Mister Brandybuck!” Barliman cried. “And with Mister Took and Mister Gamgee with you! How lovely to see you again. But I still can’t seem to place your voice, sir.”

“That is understandable,” Aragorn said slowly. “For it has been a while since I last visited Bree. And even when I did so, I seem to recall you not being so fond of my presence…”

“Strider the Ranger!” Barliman gasped. He managed to bow. “I should be saying ‘Your highness’, shouldn’t I?”

“You may continue to call me Strider. I would prefer my presence to remain unknown.”

“Well, most people in Bree have short memories when it comes to faces. Not like me. When I see a face, I remember it to the end of my days. Now that reminds me of something…” Barliman thought for a moment before breaking out in a grin. “Of course, I had three young visitors just a few nights ago. Two lads and a lass, I believe you know them.”

Sam nodded. “My son and daughter, and Pippin’s son.”

“They’ve gone off on their own little adventure it seems. I do hope it won’t turn out so bad as yours did, Mister Gamgee.”

“Well, we hope to catch up with them. The Wild can be…wild. Those children really don’t have much of an idea of what’s out there. Stories are one thing, but actually being there yourself is a completely different matter.”

“Well, good luck to you, Mister Gamgee.” Barliman yawned. “If there’s anything I can do to help you, I’d be more than happy to do it.”

“Strider’s already offered his assistance,” said Peregrin.

“There is one thing we could use though,” Meriadoc said, slyly. “You wouldn’t happen to have a spare pony, would you? We ran off so quickly we forgot to bring one with us.”

“That I might be able to organise,” answered Barliman. “Speak with my niece, and she’ll do what she can. Now, if you sirs will excuse me, I am awfully tired…”

“Sleep well, Master Butterbur,” said Aragorn, turning to leave. Barliman was already asleep. Peregrin, Meriadoc and Sam all stood quietly, and followed the King out the door.

“I shall speak to Ellouise about acquiring a pony,” Meriadoc offered.

Aragorn nodded. “Legolas, Gimli and I have a room organised that should be able to fit three more, if you care on joining us. We will have to leave early tomorrow if we want to make a good start.”

They all accepted his offer. Of course, that meant that none of them got much sleep. They stayed up to the late hours of the night, exchanging stories and remembering the times they had together.

*   *   *   *   *   *

A/N: Another horribly short chapter, I’m afraid, but an important one! I always wanted to have Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli make an appearance in this story. They were going to come into it later, but it works better this way.

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 15: Lost Tempers and Fireside Talks

Goldilocks wanted to scream. She seemed surrounded by midges, and every inch of exposed skin had been bitten. She was quite certain that the rotten insects preferred her taste to that of her companions. Pippin swatted half as much as she did, and Faramir did not seem in the least bit phased by the midges.

Goldi was also starting to worry about their supplies. She had finally found the fatal flaw in Faramir’s plan: they had no pony to share the load. Between the three of them, they could carry enough food to last them for a week or so, but what would happen when they were deep in the wilderness? Goldi knew they would have to start rationing soon, even though they were only five days out from Bree.

Their journey was miserable even after they had left the marshes behind, so it was not surprising that tempers eventually boiled over. However, it was not Pippin who snapped, it was Goldilocks. The thought of the diminishing food had been weighing on her mind, and she was tired, cold and muddy. To make things worse, Faramir was constantly taking out the map, never seeming satisfied with what he saw.

“What’s wrong?” Goldi finally asked, after Faramir had studied the map for the third time in one day. “We’re not lost are we?”

“Well, er, no, not exactly…” Faramir stammered. Her question had caught him completely off-guard. He had hoped that neither of his companions had seen how anxious he looked. He had indeed lost them. The map did not show a clear path through the marshes, and Faramir was certain that they had turned too far north.

Goldi stopped walking. “What do you mean, ‘not exactly’? We’re either lost or we’re not, and from the way you keep studying the map, I’d say it’s the former!”

Pippin also stopped. “We’re lost?”

Faramir knew he had to admit their predicament. “I think we might have gone a little too far north through the marshes. Nothing serious…”

“Nothing serious?” Goldi screeched. “Our supplies are low enough as it is, Faramir Took, thanks to your lack of proper planning! How are we supposed to survive lost in the wilderness?”

“We’re not lost!” Faramir snapped back at her. It had stung him deeply to have Goldi yell at him. Throughout their adventure, she had always been the one who stood by him when Pippin became angry. He pointed to the hills they could see in the east. “Those are the Weather Hills. If we make for them, we should find Weathertop, and from there, we should be able to see all the land around us.”

“Fine,” Goldi said at last, though her voice was still icy. She was utterly sick and tired of this miserable adventure. Her Gamgee good sense had finally taken over, and she wondered why she had even come in the first place. She longed for her bed at Bag-End. She longed to see her ridiculous younger sisters flaunt themselves over every available male at The Ivy Bush or Green Dragon. She longed for a bath! Goldi was glad she did not have a looking-glass with her. If the appearances of Pippin and Faramir were anything to go by, Goldi knew that her face must have been filthy, and she could see that her hair no longer shone like gold under the sunlight.

“Perhaps we should rest here for the night,” Pippin suggested, becoming the peacemaker of the group for the first time. “I don’t know about you two, but I’m mighty tired.”

Faramir and Goldi continued to stare at each other, neither willing to give in. Finally Faramir turned (and Goldi smirked triumphantly), and said to Pippin. “Good idea, Pip.”

The three of them unstrapped their packs and sat on the ground. Pippin started a fire, hating the uneasy silence that had fallen upon the group. He had been able to stand these silences in the past, because it had usually been him refusing to talk to his sister and friend. But having Goldi and Faramir fighting just seemed wrong. It was at that moment that Pippin Gamgee realised that he wanted Faramir to marry Goldilocks. He remembered Elanor’s wedding day. He had never seen his eldest sister so happy. She had almost been glowing. He wanted to see Goldi that happy, and Faramir Took was the only hobbit who could do that, Pippin was sure of it.

On Goldi’s orders, they ate very little for dinner, and skipped supper. She had decided that they should start the rationings early, clearly displaying her lack of faith in Faramir’s ability to lead them safely through the wild.

As soon as night had fallen, Goldi made herself as comfortable as possible on the ground, and promptly went to sleep. The day had exhausted her. Pippin wandered a little way from the camp to find more firewood. Faramir remained behind, staring into the fire, trying to blink away the tears that had formed in his eyes. Goldi’s harsh words echoed in his mind, hurting him further. She’s right, he told himself, I should never have made her do this. Why couldn’t I just tell her in a normal way?

“Don’t let it get to you,” Pippin’s voice said.

Faramir looked up in surprise. Pippin had returned, and was piling wood onto the fire. “W-what do you mean?”

Pippin smiled. “Honestly, Faramir, how long have we been friends? I know we haven’t seen each other as much as we used to, but you’ll never change, and I’ll always be able to know what you’re thinking. I know you as well as I know Merry and Goldi!”

Faramir managed a small smile. “I suppose…”

“She’s just cranky, is all. She’ll get over it. Always does. That girl can’t stay mad at anyone for too long.” Pippin sat himself next to his Took friend. “Forgive me?”

“What for?”

“For hitting you when we were in Woody End, of course. I don’t know what came over me.”

“You were just protecting your sister,” said Faramir. “If I had a sister, I know I’d do the same thing. In fact, I once hit a lad for saying something about my cousin, Adella.” Faramir grinned. “Uncle Everard tried to look angry at me for that, but I could tell that he was glad I did it. Saved him the trouble.”

Pippin laughed. “Was it the same lad she married?”

“As a matter of fact, yes it was.”

“Well, I’ve condemned Goldi now, since I hit you!” Pippin joked.

“I really do love her, Pippin. You know I’d never hurt her.” Faramir’s voice was small and quiet. “I could kick myself for bringing her out here. It was a stupid idea.”

“You’ve had a lot of stupid ideas in your life, Faramir Took, but I wouldn’t class this as one of them. Goldi’s angry now, but she’s enjoying this adventure and so am I.”

Faramir smiled again. “Thank you, Pippin.”

“What are friends for?” Pippin thought for a moment. “And one day, hopefully, we’ll be brothers too!”

“Merry’s not going to hit me too, when we tell him, is he?”

“I’ll try to convince him not to, but he has his own mind set on a certain lass.” Pippin was grinning too. His brother had confided in him just days before the party about the lass that had caught his eye. Pippin had been practically bursting to tell the news to someone.

Faramir raised an eyebrow. “Oh really? Who is she?”

“Lavender Boffin, from Overhill.”

“Old Folco’s daughter? My dad is good friends with him. Nice fellow.”

“Yes, and Lavender is fairly pretty. Merry actually asked her for a dance at the party, but I think that was after you and Goldi had disappeared.”

“And what of you, Pippin?” Faramir asked. “Has a special lass caught your eye?”

Pippin blushed. “Well, perhaps…”

“Who?”

“You’ll think I’m silly,” Pippin admitted, looking at his feet. Faramir solemnly shook his head, indicating that he would think nothing of the sort. With a sigh, Pippin gave in. “Rosemary Bolger.”

“Uncle Merry’s niece?” Faramir asked, and Pippin nodded. “She’s older than you, but then, my Aunt Pim is older than Uncle Berry. And Dad tells me that Uncle Merry’s mother was older than his father.”

“Hmmm, I was going to ask her to dance, but I was too shy.”

“Pippin Gamgee too shy to ask a lass to dance? I don’t believe it!” Faramir laughed, for he knew that out of all the Gamgee children, Pippin had most inherited his father’s shy and bashful nature when it came to the fairer sex. “When we return to the Shire, perhaps we should do something about that.”

Lying not too far away and facing away from the two lads, Goldilocks smiled. Of all the Gamgee children, she had most inherited her father’s uncanny ability to convincingly feign sleep.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

“We should rest here for the night,” Aragorn declared. He, Legolas, Gimli and the hobbits had set out from Bree three days earlier, and were now deep in the Chetwood.

“This place looks familiar,” Sam mused.

“That would be because we came this way, many, many years ago.”

“I thought as much.” He screwed his nose up. “I don’t suppose that means we’ll be going through those nasty marshes again.”

“From what you have told me, I would guess that your children have taken that path. It is my hope that the marshes will slow them down, for it is difficult to make a clear path across them. We may reach Weathertop before them.”

All of the hobbits shuddered at the name of the accursed hill. None of them had any great desire to return to it, but knew that they would have a wide view of the countryside from its peak.

Legolas was speaking softly to their ponies in Elvish. Ellouise Butterbur had indeed helped them. She had somehow managed to acquire not one, but two fine ponies, both of which seemed to be enjoying their journey, despite being weighed down with supplies. As a trust payment, Aragorn had left the two horses that he and his companions had ridden to Bree on at The Prancing Pony. Horses of Rohan, accustomed to galloping in wide, open spaces would be of no use here in the wild.

“I like this wood,” Legolas declared.

Gimli smirked. “I do wonder, Master Elf, if there is a wood in the world that you do not like.” When Legolas simply smiled in reply, Gimli knew he had made a very correct point. He turned his attention to the hobbits. “What do you suppose made your children decide to run off on this little adventure?”

Meriadoc snorted. “You obviously have never met Faramir Took, for there would be no need to ask that question if you had. Worse than his father, if that is even possible to comprehend.”

“Diamond’s fault, that,” Peregrin stated. “Descendants of the Bullroarer always have a lot of spirit.”

“I remember him,” said Aragorn. “Master Peregrin brought him to Gondor when he was around fifteen years old. You would have thought I had learnt my lesson about dealing with Tooks. I don’t believe my kingdom will ever recover.”

“Oh, come on now, he’s not nearly that bad!”

“He certainly is,” Meriadoc argued. “And to top it all off, he has a hobbit named after you with him. I can’t imagine a worse combination.”

“I’d say that if young Théo was a little older, he and my Merry would make for an interesting mix,” said Sam, with a grin.

“Dear Samwise,” Legolas laughed. “I think you should have known better than to name your children after these two!”

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

A/N: Finally- a chapter that’s reasonably substantial in length! Hopefully I will be able to equal it with the next chapter.

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 16: An Important Message

“You beat me again!” Merry Gamgee complained. Young Bilbo simply smiled up at his older brother. The two had been playing chess, and Bilbo had one three out of the five games.

“I think you lose your skill at playing chess when you come of age,” Robin stated. He, Tom and Théodoc had been watching the game intently. “Because then you have to start showing an interest in lasses, and boring things like that.”

Upon seeing Merry blush, Théodoc laughed. “Don’t think we didn’t see you with Lavender Boffin at your party! Everyone saw!”

“It’s true,” Ruby giggled, as she and Éowyn joined their brothers. “Mother-Rose has even started talking about a wedding!”

“It will, of course,” said Éowyn, matter-of-factly, “have to wait until after Faramir and Goldi get married.”

Merry frowned at this. The conversation he had overheard his mother having with her friends was still weighing on his mind. Was Faramir really in love with Goldilocks? In some ways, it seemed so strange to him. They had grown up together. During their childhood, it had always been Merry, Pippin, Faramir and Goldilocks. Collectively, they nearly destroyed the Great Smials when Sam, Rose and Elanor had gone to Gondor. Just as Merry had always been closest to his brother, Faramir and Goldi had always been inseparable. During their tweens, they had drifted apart. Faramir seemed to be with a different lass every time they saw him, while Goldi tended to refuse the offers that came her way. Would she refuse Faramir too? Merry doubted it. They had been close, and they could become closer still.

“Won’t that be the biggest event in the Shire history?” he said, to amuse the younger hobbits. “Perhaps we could even convince Pippin to ask a lass for a dance.” The all laughed.

At the sound of a rap on the door, both Daisy and Primrose squealed together, “I’ll get it!”

They always loved answering the door, in case it was a handsome (and available) hobbit knocking. Unfortunately, on this day it was only a messenger, though the letter he held looked particularly fancy. Daisy took it and called to her mother. “There’s a letter here!”

“Who from?” Rose asked, poking her head out from the kitchen, where she, Diamond, Estella, Pervinca and Elanor were drinking tea.

“Don’t know.” Daisy handed the letter to her mother.

“It’s from the King,” Elanor gasped. She had seen a very similar letter once before, but Daisy would have been too young to remember it.

Rose hesitantly looked at the letter. “Do you suppose I should open it? It’s addressed to Sam.”

“It’s addressed to the Mayor and his family,” Pervinca pointed out. “And since Sam is not here, I think that gives you full right to open it.”

Diamond and Estella seemed to agree with Pervinca, so Rose carefully tore the envelope open. She gasped as she read it. “The King has asked that we meet him by the Brandywine Bridge again!” Rose looked up at her friends. “What should we do?”

“I’d bet that Brandy Hall and the Great Smials have also received such letters,” stated Elanor. “We should certainly go.”

“But Pippin, Merry and Sam aren’t here – not to mention Faramir, Goldi and Pippin-lad!” Diamond cried. “The King would wish to see them.”

“I think we should go to the bridge,” Estella suggested. “We may be able to ask the King for his assistance.”

“Or he may have seen them on his way,” Pervinca added. “If he came from Rivendell, and that is where we believe Faramir, Goldi and Pippin have gone, then it is quite possible that he may have found them.”

“Oh, Pervinca, do you think so?” Diamond asked her sister-in-law.

“Anything is possible, Diamond.”

“We should leave at once,” said Rose. “Stella, do you think that Buckland will be able to handle us all?”

Estella laughed. “I am sure that we could squeeze you all into Crickhollow. Pervinca, will you and Everard join us?”

“Well, I see no reason not to,” Pervinca replied. “A trip to Buckland would be nice. I have not seen Pim for a good while. I’ll meet you there, since I will have to collect Everard from the Smials. And I will check if a letter arrived for the Thain too.”

Rose nodded. “Ellie, tell your brothers and sisters that we are leaving for Buckland first thing in the morning.

* * * * * *

Faramir, Goldi and Pippin reached Weathertop just before dusk. Goldi did not like the look of the looming hill, and from the look on Pippin’s face, she guessed that she was not alone in this feeling, but she said nothing. Faramir was right; Weathertop was their only hope of finding their way.

On their way up the hill, they caught sight of a small dell. It would have made the perfect resting place, but a chilling feeling fell onto their hearts as they approached. The dell no longer seemed inviting. No one said anything, but all of their thoughts had turned to a night attack several decades previously. They hurried past.

Exhausted and panting, they finally reached the crown of the hill. Pippin collapsed on the ground, shrugging his pack from his shoulders. Goldi and Faramir, as often had happened on their journey, followed his lead. There was no point in surveying the lands. Night had fallen, and they would have been able to see very little.

“I’m going to light a fire,” Faramir stated. He looked at his two companions to see if they had any objections, but neither said anything. Faramir tried to hide the hurt look on his face as he started the fire going. Goldi had barely spoken a word to him since their fight in the marshes. He was beginning to doubt Pippin’s assuring words.

When he managed to get a good fire going – fortunately, there was plenty of available wood – Faramir sat back with his friends. With an encouraging grin from Pippin, he prepared himself to apologise to Goldi, but a noise from behind them stopped him.

“Pleasant evening, isn’t it?” a voice commented. Goldi, Faramir and Pippin all turned to see three figures standing just outside the reach of the firelight. Their faces were hidden by the darkness and by hoods.

“W-who are you?” Faramir demanded.

“Merely travellers, like yourselves,” the figure closest to them replied. “Would you mind sharing your fire with us, for the night is cold.”

Goldi could have sworn she had heard the voice before, but she could not think where. It seemed buried with a memory from her childhood. She also thought their was something significant about the size differences of the three strangers. One was very much shorter than the other two, but too tall and stout to be a hobbit. Another was tall and slender, but the one who had spoken to them was the tallest.

“I don’t think we should let them come near,” Pippin hissed. “We don’t know who they are!”

Faramir nodded, but Goldi could see that he, too, was struggling to work out why the voice seemed so familiar. He did not have to cast his mind back quite so far as she. He remembered hearing that same voice once yelling at him, when he had been a teenager.

“Faramir Took! Can you not be left alone for a moment? What have you done? I should have learnt my lesson long ago about Tooks!”

“I’m sorry, Your Highness!” Faramir squeaked, as he became caught up in his memory.

The tallest figure laughed. “It seems impossible to fool you, Master Faramir, despite what may be said about your family. You are too much like your namesake.”

Goldi and Pippin gasped as the hoods were thrown back, and there stood King Elessar, with Legolas the elf and Gimli the dwarf. No wonder I thought he sounded familiar! Goldi remembered that the King had once come to the Brandywine Bridge to greet his old friends, and their new families. His own edict had made it impossible for him to enter the Shire.

“Did I not tell you that you would have more luck with Strider the Ranger?” Aragorn called. From the shadows behind him, stepped three more figures that Faramir, Goldi and Pippin had certainly not expected to see.

“Dad!” they all cried out together.

“Goldi! Pippin!” Sam ran to hug his daughter and son.

“You had better have a good excuse, Faramir,” said Peregrin, as his pulled his son into an embrace. “Your mother has been worried sick. She made us come after you.”

“Uncle Merry too?” Faramir asked.

Meriadoc laughed. “Yes, my dear wife thought I should tag along to make sure Sam and Pip did not get lost or fall down a hole or anything like that.”

“Please don’t be angry at Faramir,” Goldi whispered to her father. “We’re all safe, and he meant no harm.”

“I’ll have to decide later whether or not to be angry at him,” Sam replied. “Right now I’m too happy to see you both again.”

“What’s this?” Meriadoc asked, pointing to the sword on Faramir’s belt. “You didn’t steal your father’s old Troll’s Bane, did you?”

“Oh, no!” Faramir cried. “We found them. The treasure from the Barrow that Tom Bombadil rescued you from – it’s still there! Well, some of it anyway. Pippin and I found swords like Dad’s and Sam’s, and we found a nice Elvish knife for Goldi.”

Sam did not know if he approved of Faramir arming his children like that, but he held his tongue. No doubt Rose would have enough to say about it when they returned home.

“The Barrow Downs? You went through the Barrow Downs?” Peregrin asked.

“Of course!” Faramir replied. “And the Old Forest, and…”

“I think that there is a story to be told,” laughed Legolas, interrupting, “but perhaps it could wait until after supper. And then it should be told from the beginning, for those of us who do not yet know it all.”

The hobbits had no complaints about that. Goldi, Faramir and Pippin were happy to see that their fathers had brought ponies with them. They were able to make a hearty meal form the remainder of their rations, plus some of what the ponies were carrying.

Faramir could not wait until after the meal to tell their story. As they ate, he told of their adventure from Bag-End, through the woods of Woody End, to the Maggots, through the Old Forest and the Barrow Downs, to Bree, and through the Midgewater Marshes. He was careful to leave out anything pertaining to his reason for coming on the adventure, and Pippin also refrained from mentioning anything about it, even though he constantly interrupted Faramir’s tale to add any other points the Took may have left out.

“Well, you certainly have had yourselves quite an adventure,” said Gimli, once the story had come to a definite end (it had taken a while to do so, because Pippin kept thinking of things that Faramir had forgotten).

“Imagine Old Man Willow being asleep!” laughed Meriadoc.

“I hope you have all learnt your lessons, though,” said Sam, more cautiously. “Adventures should never be taken lightly. You three have been incredibly lucky.”

“We’re lucky that you found us,” Faramir admitted. “We became lost in the marshes, and Goldi pointed out that our food was getting low. Rather stupid of me to not bring a pony.” He caught Goldi’s eye and mouthed I’m sorry to her. She smiled back at him – she had forgiven him long ago, but had enjoyed seeing him suffer.

“Well, it is rather sad that you did not make it to Rivendell after all,” said Aragorn. “I believe you have some rather anxious mothers waiting for you back in the Shire. Perhaps one day in the future, you may be able to get there.”

Faramir shrugged. “I’ve been there before. The real fun was in the adventure, not having anyone telling me to be careful…except for Goldi of course.”

* * * * * *

A/N: Sorry to the readers who hoped they would make it to Rivendell! But think of poor Rosie and Diamond waiting for their babies to come home, and not knowing where they are! They had to come home eventually.

Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 17: Enough is Enough

Goldilocks shyly approached Legolas. The elf was tending to the ponies, speaking to them softly. His voice was like a song, and Goldi was enchanted. She had never met an elf (that she knew of), though her father had told her that Elanor looked much like one. Legolas was certainly more than she expected.

“Greetings, Glorfinniel,” he said, turning to face her. “How may I help you?”

“I-I’m sorry,” she stammered, feeling rather silly.

Legolas laughed. “What for, child?”

“For staring like I was. I’ve never met an elf before.”

“Ah, but your eldest sister has the grace of the elves.”

“She’s not as tall as you though.”

The elf laughed again. “No, well I suppose she is not.” He looked at her for a moment. “You have some of the elven grace yourself, Glorfinniel.”

“Glorfinniel?” Goldi repeated. She had just noticed that Legolas kept using that name for her.

“‘Tis your name in the Elvish tongue,” he answered. “Would you prefer for me to call you Goldi, for I would not mind.”

“Oh, no! I like ‘Glorfinniel’. It sounds very pretty.”

“And so it is a very fitting name for you.”

From a little distance away, Faramir was fuming. His Goldilocks was talking to Legolas and blushing! He had seen so many lasses with that same look on their face when he had spoken to them. After all the trouble he had gone to for her, Goldi was falling for the elf! He stormed away, making no attempt to be quiet.

“Faramir?” Goldi called, seeing his departing back. He ignored her.

“Young Faramir seems very upset about something,” Legolas commented.

Goldi sighed as she realised what it was. “He’s jealous.”

“Jealous? Of what?”

“Faramir brought me out on this adventure to tell me that he loves me. He hasn’t yet, but I overheard he and Pippin talking a night or two ago. When he saw the two of us talking, he jumped to conclusions…”

“He believed us to be courting?” Legolas asked, in disbelief. When she nodded, Legolas laughed. “Is it a trait of the Tooks to assume the worst?”

“I believe so.” Goldi laughed too, but then she frowned. “I’m so sick of waiting for him. Why can’t he just say it?”

“He probably wished for privacy. With your brother around it was hard enough, but now...!” Legolas smiled at her and his eye twinkled. Goldi was shocked. Her father had never told her about the mischievous streak of many elves. “Faramir is in the deeper part of the woods, yonder, throwing stones, I believe. If you wish, Glorfinniel, I shall keep the rest of our company occupied so that the two of you may have the solitude you desire.”

Goldi’s eyes brightened and she smiled back up at the elf. “Oh, Legolas! That would be simply perfect!” She hugged him. “Thank you, so very much.”

“My pleasure.”

Whilst Legolas moved in the direction of the camp, Goldi delved into the woods. She found Faramir not too far away from the camp, and he was indeed throwing stones. Goldi made a mental note not to say anything incriminating within the earshot of an elf.

“What are you doing, Faramir Took?” she demanded, observing the damage he had caused. Several trees in the immediate area had gashes on their sides, and many were missing branches.

“Managed to tear yourself from Legolas’ side, did you?” Faramir sneered. “Don’t even try to deny it! I’ve seen how you’ve been looking at him from the moment you met him.”

“And just why would you care anyway?” Goldi tried to turn the situation to her advantage.

It didn’t work. Faramir scowled. “I don’t!”

“I’m sure these trees would argue against that.”

“Why can’t you just leave me alone? Go back to Legolas!”

“Honestly, Faramir! I’ve just met him.”

“The King and the Lady Arwen fell in love the first time they met. And she gave up her immortality for him. Plenty of elf-maidens have done that. Who’s to say that Legolas won’t be the first elf to do it, if he loved a mortal?”

If Goldi had not been so angry with Faramir, she might have laughed at his wild tale and vivid imagination. He had only, for a moment, seen them talking, and already he believed that Legolas was willing to give up his immortality to be with Goldi.

“I cannot believe you, Faramir,” she cried. “Firstly, Legolas is not about to give up his immortality just for me. Secondly, you’re jumping to conclusions. And thirdly, I wouldn’t want to be with anyone but you.”

Faramir opened his mouth to hit her with a really nasty reply, but then her final words struck him. “You wouldn’t want to be with anyone but me?”

“Oh, Faramir, did you really think you had me fooled? You brought me out here to tell me that you loved me, and frankly, I’m sick of waiting for you to do so. I’ve decided to beat you to it. Faramir Took, I love you.”

Faramir was still too shocked to speak. He opened and closed his mouth several times, his eyes unblinking. Goldi simply had to laugh, her anger fading quickly as she did.

“Well, Master Took, you look as though you have something you want to say.”

“Goldi, I…” He broke into a grin. Instead of answering her, he ran over and kissed her. He picked her up and spun her around, as he had at Merry’s party. “Goldilocks Gamgee, I love you too. More than the Sun, more than the earth, more than life itself.”

Goldi giggled, unable to do anything more than that. His kiss seemed to have taken away her ability to speak. Of course, it was not the first time she had been kissed, but there was something different about it. She laughed again when she realised that her actual first kiss had been with Faramir too. They had only been around ten years old. Merry and Pippin had dared them to kiss. Both Goldi and Faramir had spent an hour afterwards scrubbing their mouths.

“What’s funny?” Faramir asked, setting her on the ground, but not letting her go.

“Just remembering our first kiss,” she replied. When he looked confused, she explained: “When my parents went to Gondor with Ellie.”

Faramir laughed. “Ah, yes! I believe I scrubbed my mouth out for three days after. That was certainly fun.”

“Well, was the second kiss any better?”

“I’m not sure. I think I might have to try again and make sure.” He tilted her face up towards his (he stood a head taller than her) and placed his lips against hers again. He pulled away after a moment and smiled. “Definitely better. Though I hope you won’t mind me trying again every so often, just to make sure.” He brushed a stray curl from her face, then looked around. “I’m surprised that no one has come looking for us yet.”

“Legolas is keeping them occupied, so that we could be alone,” Goldi answered

“Miss Gamgee! And I though I was the scheming one.” He smiled, sheepishly. “I suppose that was what you were talking to him about.”

“More or less.”

“Forgive me?”

“Of course!”

Faramir grinned, and leant in close to her ear. “Marry me?”

For the second time in one day, Faramir struck Goldi speechless. Though she could not deny wanting to hear those words, it shocked her for him to actually say them. “Y-yes…but I’ve not yet come of age. And neither have you.”

“My mother hadn’t when she wed.”

“But your father had.”

“I suppose.” Faramir thought for a moment. “It might be better if we wait, at least until I come of age – that’s only three years away. That way, we can plan the most wonderful wedding!” He slipped a ring onto her finger. It was golden, encrusted with sapphires.

“What’s this?”

“A betrothal gift, of course! Father said that when he proposed to Mother, he had a diamond necklace made for her by the dwarves. Afraid I only found this on the Barrow Downs.”

“Oh, Faramir, I don’t care where it came from, as long as you gave it to me!” She threw her arms around his neck. “I suppose it’s official now. I am to be Mrs. Faramir Took.” Goldi suddenly became serious. “Faramir, what are we going to tell our families?”

“That we’re engaged.”

“Yes…but…” Goldi looked at her feet. “Some of your family might not approve of me. After all, you are the future Thain…”

“And you are the Mayor’s daughter! Goldilocks, even if your father was still ‘just a gardener’ – as I believe you concern is – I would not care. I would give up everything I am to be with you.”

A tear rolled down her cheek. “You would?”

“Of course! My Aunt Pearl – Dad’s eldest sister – she married a lawyer. Some of the family did not think this at all proper – even though he was a lawyer, and they make good money – but she didn’t care. And neither did her parents. All they cared about was that Auntie Pearl and Uncle Orli were in love. They’re still together today. You are going to be Goldilocks Took, and if anyone has a problem with that, I shall have them banished from the Shire!”

Goldi laughed. “There would not be any need for that.”

Faramir kissed her hand. “I just thought of something worrying. You’ve been speaking about my family not approving of you, but what if yours does not approve of me?”

“My father adores you, Faramir! Not to mention my mother. And Merry and Pippin, and…”

He silenced her with a kiss. “I know, love, but I think I should speak with your father. I need to convince him that I am good enough to marry his daughter.”

* * * * * * *

A/N: They’re finally together! It certainly took them long enough. But don’t worry; there are still a few more issues that our hobbit lovebirds need to face before the end. Samwise Gamgee being the first of those...

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 18: Knight of Gondor

Legolas managed to keep the rest of the company occupied by discussing trivial matters, such as their children, and how things were fairing in Gondor and Ithilien. Unfortunately, Pippin eventually noticed that they were two heads short.

“Where are Faramir and Goldi?”

Legolas gritted his teeth. It was not a very elf-like thing to do, but it was something he had picked up from Gimli. “I believe they were talking over yonder. They had something to work out.”

“Oh, I see,” Gimli chuckled. “And I wonder what that ‘something’ was. Personally, I think they make a rather pretty pair…for hobbits.”

“You should watch what you say about that,” Peregrin warned. “Sam doesn’t much like it.” The Took was secretly disappointed that Sam had not punched Gimli for his comment. It would have been interesting to see the dwarf’s reaction.

“I said I was sorry for that,” Sam grumbled.

“What did you do?” Legolas asked, hoping to stall a search for the missing hobbits.

“It doesn’t matter,” Peregrin dismissed. “Sam simply has something against his daughter marrying my son.”

“Why is that, Master Samwise?” said Aragorn. “From what I have heard, the two have been friends since they were children. What better basis for marriage?”

“I…uh…” Sam stammered. “She’s too young! That’s the problem.”

“Sam, Diamond had just turned thirty-two when we married, and I seem to recall Elanor being only thirty when she married Fastred,” Peregrin argued.

“Yes, but Fastred was thirty-four, and you were thirty-seven,” Sam stubbornly replied. “Faramir’s not yet come of age neither.”

“They might wait,” Pippin piped, earning a glare from his father for choosing the wrong side to argue upon.

“Perhaps Sam thinks that Faramir is not good enough for Goldilocks,” Meriadoc offered. He had a daughter of his own, and though he did not think she was of courting age yet, he thought he partly understood Sam’s doubt.

“My Faramir? Not good enough?” Peregrin fumed.

“Merry meant not to insult you, Peregrin,” Aragorn said, quietly. “Sometimes a father needs reassurance that a man is the right match and will take care of his daughter. Just think of what the Lord Elrond put me through before I could claim Arwen’s hand.”

Peregrin turned to glare at Sam. “You aren’t planning on setting such a high target for my son, are you? Diamond would kill me if he was to be harmed in any way.”

Sam almost laughed at the idea of Faramir taking on the armies of Mordor and being crowned as King of Gondor. “No, no. I would never do that to him…”

“Sam, if I made him a knight of Minas Tirith, would you then recognise him as being worthy of Goldilocks’ love?” Aragorn suggested.

Legolas thought the reactions of the hobbits to be very amusing indeed. Peregrin’s mouth fell open and remained that way. Meriadoc mumbled something about speaking to Éomer about having Théodoc made a knight of the Mark. Young Pippin beamed with pride for his friend, and Sam could do nothing but stammer, “Well, I suppose I might.”

Aragorn turned to Peregrin. “I had been thinking of knighting him for some time. Arwen suggested it, and I agreed that it would be wise to have every Thain also be a knight of the King. Faramir has not yet come of age by your standards, I know, but he has passed that age at which his father performed his greatest deeds.”

“My lord,” said Peregrin, kneeling before his King, “nothing would honour me more than having my only son serve you as I have.”

“Then let us call for him and it shall be done.”

Legolas was about to argue and stall the search once more, but at that moment, Faramir and Goldilocks rejoined the group.

“Mayor Samwise,” Faramir awkwardly said. “There is something that I wish to speak with you about…”

“It must wait!” cried Peregrin. “We have something far more important that needs to be done.”

“But, Father…”

“Hush Faramir! Take out your sword, and place it on King Elessar’s lap.”

“I…” Faramir closed his mouth as he realised what was being asked of him. Well, Faramir, you wanted to prove to Sam that you’re good enough for Goldi. This might just be the way. Faramir unsheathed his sword from the Barrow Downs and laid it across Aragorn’s knees. He knelt before the King.

“Well, Master Faramir,” said Aragorn, “do you wish to offer your service to me?”

“I do sir.”

“Then you must speak the pledge.”

Faramir repeated after Aragorn: “Here do I swear fealty and service to Gondor, and to the Lord and King of the realm, to speak and to be silent, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my lord release me, or death take me, or the world end. So say I, Faramir son of Peregrin of the Shire of the Halflings.”

Aragorn smiled at Faramir. “And this do I hear, Aragorn son of Arathorn, High King of Gondor and Anor. And now, Faramir son of Peregrin – your keen wit and unsettled spirit have led you and your companions thus far. You have not brought them to any harm. You have shown more valour than many men twice your size, and so, I name you knight of Gondor. Arise.”

Faramir stood, though he felt as though his legs would collapse beneath him. He glanced at Goldi and saw that her eyes were glistening with unshed tears of joy and love. He smiled back at her.

“Now, Faramir, you said you wanted to speak to me,” said Sam. “If all’s said and done, then go ahead.”

“Well, actually, I wanted to speak to you privately,” Faramir explained.

“No need for that, lad! We’re all friends here. Anything you have to say can be said right here.”

Goldi made her way to Faramir’s side and held his hand in support. He appreciated it. Standing before Samwise Gamgee, Faramir took a deep breath. “Mayor Samwise, I wish to ask for your permission in marrying your daughter, Goldilocks. We have pledged our love, and she had agreed to become my wife – with your consent.”

“You’re both awfully young,” Sam choked out. He looked at his daughter. He could not remember ever seeing her so happy.

“We were going to wait until Faramir comes of age,” said Goldi. “That’s three years away, and I’ll be older than Ellie was by then.”

“Well…” Sam gave Faramir a stern glare. “You had best take good care of my Goldilocks, Master Took.”

Faramir broke into a huge grin. He hugged Sam tightly. “Oh, thank you, Sam, thank you!”

Sam had to smile back. “There now, lad. It’s all fine. I know you’ll be the perfect husband for my darling daughter.”

“I will! I promise I will.” Faramir turned back to Goldi and gathered her in his arms. “Can you believe it, Goldi? I’m a knight of Gondor, like my father! And your father as agreed to our marriage.”

Goldi grinned at him. “Uncle Peregrin, do you have any objections? I wish to marry your son.”

Peregrin hugged his son and his future daughter-in-law together. “Goldilocks, I have been waiting for this day since the day you were born.”

* * * * * *

Within a few days, the company had returned to Bree. Aragorn had decided to keep to his original plan and travel to the Brandywine Bridge. After all, his letters would have been delivered to the homes of his friends, and it was possible that their remaining families would come to greet him. He greatly wished to see the rest of Sam’s children, and he had specific orders from Éowyn and Éomer to bring back news of Merry’s son and daughter.

The announcement of a wedding was always a cause for celebration, even if the two betrothed were not actually from the immediate area. The Prancing Pony was a hive of excitement on the night that the travellers spent there. Ellouise Butterbur hugged both Faramir and Goldilocks in turn.

“Oh, I guessed it from the moment I first saw you both!” she cried. “Those two will marry one day, I said to myself.”

The six hobbits enjoyed the attention of the Inn patrons, but Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli once again kept to the shadows. They still wished to remain unrecognised.

Once the celebrating had died down, Ellouise came to the travellers and spoke to them softly. “I don’t know how long it’ll be before you come to visit us again, so would you mind seeing my uncle once more.”

“We always planned to,” Goldi replied with a curtsey.

Butterbur greeted them happily the moment he saw them. “Master Faramir and Miss Goldilocks! Allow me to congratulate you!”

They both blushed and uttered their thanks.

“I see you finally caught up with your young truants,” Butterbur said to Sam, Peregrin and Meriadoc.

“We did indeed, thanks to Strider the Ranger,” Peregrin laughed. “I don’t think any of us suspected Faramir’s reasoning for running off, but it’s all been made clear now. The King has even made Faramir a knight!”

“A knight? Well fancy that! Perhaps I should be congratulating him for that as well.”

Faramir bowed. “It is such a pity that you shan’t be able to attend the wedding, but a law is a law.”

“I wouldn’t want to break the King’s edict, especially if he won’t be breaking it himself.” Butterbur glanced at Aragorn.

“No, I shall not be entering the Shire. I was unable to attend Master Peregrin’s wedding because of my edict, so I shall not break it to attend his son’s.” Aragorn smiled at Legolas and Gimli. “But I have a feeling that there may be some guests at the wedding who are not Shire-folk.”

Goldi saw his look. “Legolas and Gimli? You mean the two of you will come? Oh, please say yes!”

Legolas smiled warmly at her. “How could we refuse after such a plea?”

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 19: More Announcements

The company spent only the one night in Bree. All were anxious to reach Buckland. They returned the two ponies that Ellouise had leant them, and took back their two horses. Aragorn and Legolas did not ride the horses, instead placing Faramir and Goldi on one, and Pippin in front of Gimli on the other. Sam, Peregrin and Meriadoc walked with the King and Legolas. Sam had been quite adamant about not riding a horse. He thought that they were far too high off the ground.

As their happy company approached the Brandywine Bridge, Legolas looked up and laughed. On the east side of the river, a great many pavilions had been set up, many of them Big Folk sized.

“It would seem that your letters arrived after all,” he said to Aragorn.

“This would be Ellie’s doing,” Sam stated. “She’d never pass up a chance to meet with King Elessar.”

And as Sam said this, they all saw evidence that Elanor, at least, was present somewhere. Ahead of them, Elanor’s young son, Elfstan had been playing, but when he saw them, he stood and ran to one of the nearby pavilions.

“They’re here! They’re here!”

From this pavilion stepped the Deputy Mayor, Deputy Master, Deputy Thain and the Warden of the Westmarch. Since they often had need to leave the Shire, Samwise, Peregrin and Meriadoc had all enlisted trusted friends to run their offices in their absence. That way, the Shire would not be without a Thain, Master or Mayor.

Sam’s Deputy Mayor was Tom Cotton, Rose’s older brother and the husband of Sam’s sister, Marigold. Meriadoc’s cousin, Berilac Brandybuck took on the Master’s role whenever Meriadoc had to leave, and Peregrin’s Deputy Thain was Everard Took, the husband of his sister, Pervinca. Fastred Fairbairn, Elanor’s husband was the Warden of the Westmarch. He had never left the Shire, and so had no need of a Deputy.

“We would like to welcome you…” Tom started, but then he saw the five hobbits, and grinned.

“So, there you are,” Everard laughed. “Looks like we won’t have to stand in for you after all.”

“Elfstan, run off and find your mother and your Gammer,” Fastred told his son. Elfstan smiled at the Big People first, before running to one of the further pavilions.

Faramir, Goldi and Pippin were helped down from the horses. Once his children were safely on the ground, Sam bowed. “As Mayor, it is my honour to welcome you, King Elessar Telcontar, and your companions, Legolas Greenleaf, and Gimli, son of Glóin.”

“Pippin! Goldi!” Rose ran to embrace her children.

Diamond was not far behind. “Faramir Took! You had better have a good excuse for running off like that! Do you have any idea how worried I’ve been?”

“Sorry, Mother,” Faramir mumbled, feeling like a child, and terribly embarrassed about being treated so in front of Goldilocks and King Elessar.

Diamond’s anger melted away, and she hugged her only child. “Just don’t do it again.”

Estella, flanked by her own two children and the rest of the Gamgee brood, also came out from the pavilion. She smiled at Meriadoc, as Théodoc and Éowyn smothered him in a hug. “Welcome home, Meriadoc.”

He grinned. “Did you miss me?”

“As always.”

Sam and Peregrin were also greeted warmly by their wives, once Rose and Diamond had finished fussing over Faramir, Goldi and Pippin.

“You made it home in one piece,” Diamond joked, but her eyes told how much she had miss Peregrin.

“You did well, my Sam,” said Rose, kissing her husband’s cheek. “But I can’t deny that I was becoming rather impatient.”

“You’ve never much liked waiting for me, have you, Rosie?” Sam laughed.

One reunion that was slightly less pleasant was that between Merry and Pippin Gamgee. Merry ran over and punched his brother in the gut.

“How dare you just run off like that without me!” he growled. “I’ve had to sit at home for the past few weeks, with Mother and Diamond and Estella all worried sick, while you were off having fun on an adventure!”

“Ouch, Merry!” Pippin whined. “You did not have to hit me! Besides, it wasn’t all fun, and it wasn’t as though I was welcome.”

“What do you mean?”

Pippin smirked and whispered something in his brother’s ear. Merry listened intently, and suddenly smiled broadly and cried out, “What? Truly?”

Pippin hissed at him to keep quiet.

Goldi had a reasonable guess at what her brothers had just spoken about. She had just been welcomed back by her eldest sister, and Elanor smiled at her. She took Goldi’s hand in her own and played with the ring.

“Now, where did this come from?” Elanor teased.

Goldi flushed and pulled her hand away. “I…I found it!”

“Oh really? Did you find anything else on your little adventure?”

Luckily for Goldilocks, Meriadoc was standing close by, and he came to her rescue. “Now, now, Ellie. Leave your sister alone. I believe everyone should be able to hear the announcements at the same time.”

He nodded to Aragorn, who cleared his throat. Pervinca and Pimpernel Brandybuck (Peregrin’s sister and Berilac’s wife) were now present also, with Pimpernel’s son, Peredoc.

“My good friends of the Shire,” Aragorn greeted. “It is wonderful to see you all. I must say that it was quite a surprise when I met up with the Counsellors of the North-kingdom in the same cosy Bree-land inn where I first met them. Perhaps more surprising was their reason for being there, but it has all worked out in the end. The lost hobbits have been found and returned to those who missed them dearly.” Aragorn looked at Diamond. “Mistress Took, I believe your son has something he wishes to tell you.”

“Faramir?” Diamond looked to Faramir in confusion.

Looking incredibly nervous, Faramir smiled weakly. “Mum, the King has made me a knight of Gondor, just like Father. And when my first born son is old enough, he’ll be made a knight too.”

Tears of pride filled Diamond’s eyes. She ran to embrace him, but Faramir was not yet finished. He motioned for Goldi to join him.

“Upon my knighting, Mayor Samwise deemed me worthy,” Faramir announced, taking Goldi’s hand in his own, “to wed his daughter Goldilocks. Mistress Rose, I now ask for your blessings as well.”

A cry escaped Rose’s mouth, and she covered it with her hand. When she finally found her voice again, she stammered, “It would be an honour to call you my son.”

Goldi turned to Diamond. “Mistress Diamond, will you permit me to marry your son?”

“Gracious, of course I will!” Diamond laughed, but then she frowned. “When do you plan to hold the wedding?”

“Three years from now,” Faramir replied. “Once I’ve come of age.”

“Well, that’s good to hear,” said Rose. “I was going to ask the same question. You are both a little too young just now.”

“Well, now that everything is all said,” Peregrin stated, “do you suppose we could get a bite to eat?”

Aragorn laughed. “My friend, you have not changed.”

Diamond tried to scowl at her husband, but could not and broke into a smile. “My Lord, Legolas, Gimli, if you would follow me. We have been expecting you, and a grand feast has been prepared.”

She walked toward the largest pavilion of all, and the rest of the group followed.

Walking between Rose and Estella, Pervinca Took laughed. “What did I tell you? Faramir and Goldilocks make a wonderful pair.”

* * * * * *

The King, Legolas and Gimli remained by the Brandywine for a week. Many hobbits from Buckland to the Westmarch came to see them, especially the friends and extended families of the Thain, the Master and the Mayor.

After his visit, Aragorn would be travelling to his dwelling by Lake Evendim, where Queen Arwen would meet him. He extended an invitation to all the Shire-folk, but most of them politely declined. After all, they had a wedding to plan! Legolas and Gimli left with the King, promising to return for the wedding.

“You had better keep to that promise, Master Legolas,” Goldi warned. “I want you to stand witness for me.”

Legolas laughed, and assured her he would. Of course, he did not know what ‘standing witness’ meant, but assumed he would find out in good time.

Once the King had left, the Gamgees and the Tooks returned to their own homes. The parting between Faramir and Goldilocks was a tearful one, but Faramir promised he would visit Hobbiton as soon as he could. It was not particularly far from Tookland.

Goldi decided that she was going to sleep for three days. Now that she was home, she was exhausted. It would be a good while before she went on another adventure. However, after he first day of rest, she realised that there was something important that she needed to do, so late the next morning, she made her way to Bywater.

Lily Noakes opened the door of her family’s hole and started.

“Hullo, Lily,” Goldi greeted.

“Hullo, Goldilocks,” Lily returned. She had not forgotten Goldi’s savage words at Merry’s party. “Heard you went to Bree with Pippin and Faramir Took.”

So that was the story the Shire had been told. Goldi had wondered at that.

“Yes, that’s right.” She shifted uncomfortable. “Lily, I need to apologise to you. What I said at Merry’s party was cruel and unnecessary. I am deeply sorry for it.”

Lily sighed. “No, don’t apologise. It was about time someone told me what the lads really think. Also about time that I realised how foolishly I’ve been behaving.”

“Do you suppose that we could start over trying to be friends?”

Lily smiled, and Goldi realised that Lily was actually pretty when she smiled. “That would be lovely.” Lily caught sight of Goldi’s ring. “That’s a beautiful ring! Did Faramir give you that?”

“He did.” Goldi blinked. “How did you know…?”

“Rumours travel quickly, Goldilocks. A lot of folk from around here went to Buckland to see the King, and there’s been a lot of talk about an apparent engagement between the Thain’s son and the Mayor’s daughter.”

Goldi laughed. “And here I was hoping it would be a surprise. Well, yes, the rumours are true. Faramir and I are to marry, but not for a few years yet. You are being given an early invitation to the wedding. There are bound to be several handsome young hobbits there.”

Lily smiled again. “Actually, to be honest, I don’t care so much about that anymore. I will just be happy to be there on your special day, my friend.”

* * * * * *

A/N: I hope everyone enjoyed my little reconciliation between Goldi and Lily. And don’t worry; I have plans for Lily at the wedding. I wouldn’t leave the poor lass lonely for the rest of her life!

 Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 20: Wedding Plans and Matchmaking

If Goldilocks and Faramir expected the three years before they wed to pass slowly, they were to be proven very wrong. They were kept so busy that the years passed in a flash.

Aside from planning the wedding, there were many other important events. Goldi’s cousin, Lily Cotton celebrated her coming of age not long after they returned from their adventure. Pippin’s was the next important birthday, a little over a year after their return. He did not wish for quite so grand a party as Merry’s had been. Instead, he invited all of his close friends and family to Bag-End (which still made for a rather large group). Unfortunately, Miss Rosemary Bolger was unable to attend. Pippin had hoped to talk to her.

After Pippin’s birthday, Merry admitted that he was courting Lavender Boffin, daughter of Folco. Both families were very pleased by this arrangement.

A little while later, Frodo and Pansy Gardner had their first (to be only) child, son Holfast. Samwise and Rose were immensely pleased to have a new grandchild. Rose playfully told her eldest children that she wanted a granddaughter next.

Despite all that was happening, everyone managed to focus their attention on the upcoming wedding of Faramir and Goldilocks. As Merry Gamgee had once predicted, it was going to be one of the biggest events in Shire history, and all involved wanted to make sure that it would be perfect.

The venue was easy enough to choose – Peregrin and Diamond had been married in the Party Field, despite some complaints from their families (many thought that a marriage between two Tooks, especially the son of the Thain, should have been held at the Great Smials). Peregrin had suggested the venue before either Faramir or Goldi had asked. It certainly made things easier for the Gamgees. It never was easy travelling with such a large family.

Since Goldi had chosen Legolas to be her witness, Faramir had to choose a female witness (it was a tradition at hobbit weddings for the witnesses to join the couple in their first dance, and thus, the two witnesses had to be of differing genders). He chose his Aunt Pervinca, who was deeply honoured, but also seemed a little nervous. Faramir did not ask her why.

Something that was somewhat more difficult to decide upon was Goldi’s dress. Faramir’s uniform – the livery of Minas Tirith – arrived around a year before the decided date of the wedding, and there was no way he would wear anything but it. This proved a problem for Goldi. If Faramir was to wear black and silver, what colour could her dress be so as not to clash? Elanor’s wedding dress had been green, and Pansy (Frodo’s wife) had worn blue. Goldi did not think either of these colours would go well.

Eventually, Diamond was called upon. Since Peregrin had also married in his livery, Rose and Goldi thought that Diamond might have been able to offer some advice. Diamond’s dress had been silver, to match Peregrin uniform, but she did not think that would suit Goldi.

“Your hair is gold,” she said. “I don’t think that silver would sit well on you.”

However, she had thought of a solution. Diamond suggested that since Faramir would be wearing black and silver, Goldi should wear white and gold. “Opposites often match very well,” she said.

And she was right. The tailors were asked to make a white and gold wedding dress for Goldilocks.

Faramir’s coming of age was the next important event. His birthday was in February, and the wedding was planned for April (the mallorn tended to flower at the beginning of April). Faramir and Goldilocks were not separated from one another the whole day.

After the party, Peregrin took his son and future daughter-in-law to Whitwell, where his family owned a farm. Paladin and Eglantine Took had lived there during the first few years of their marriage, as had Pervinca and Everard. Peregrin thought that the newly-weds would prefer to spend their first few years together away from the crowded halls of the Great Smials. He and Diamond had not moved back to the Smials until after Faramir had been born!

Goldi loved the smial that had been prepared for them. She thanked Peregrin many times, before he had to beg her to pay it no mind. After all, it was the least that he could do.

As April approached, it was time for serious business. Legolas and Gimli came to Bag-End in March, much to Goldi’s delight. Legolas handed her a box.

“A gift from the King and Queen,” he stated. “They ask that you not open it until the morning of your wedding.”

Goldi took the box with a nod. She noticed that Elanor seemed to be smiling, knowingly, but when pressed by her younger sister for an explanation, Elanor simply replied, “You shall just have to wait, dear sister.”

It was a good thing that Legolas had arrived before the wedding. He still had no idea what was expected of him as a witness, and Pervinca Took had to teach him everything there was to do. He had paled when she told him, somewhat hesitantly, that they would have to dance together. The hobbit-maid was barely half his height. Gimli had made the situation even worse by laughing heartily.

“I am certainly pleased that I agreed to come along to this wedding!” he said.

The Tooks and the Brandybucks stayed at Bag-End the evening before the wedding itself. With Legolas and Gimli staying there too, and Elanor, Fastred and Elfstan, the hobbit-hole was rather crowded, but no one seemed to care.

Finally, the morning of the wedding dawned clear and bright. Faramir was not able to see Goldilocks for very long – she was bustled into a room by her sisters to be dressed and readied. He dressed in his livery, impressed by how well it suited him.

“I’m very proud of you, Faramir,” said Peregrin, standing in the doorway.

“Thank you, Father,” Faramir replied, and he meant it. As an only child, his parents were especially important to him. “How do I look?”

“Like the Ernil i Pheriannath.” Peregrin grinned. “If you’re ready, you might want to join me listening to Meriadoc practice his speech.”

Faramir had asked Meriadoc to conduct the wedding for him. It was not the first time that the Master of Buckland had had to do so, but it was going to be difficult for him. Faramir was like a son to him.

“Sounds like fun,” Faramir laughed, walking to Sam’s study with his father.

* * * * * *

In her bedroom, Goldi was being fussed over by Elanor, Diamond, Estella and her mother. She had the dress on, and now they were doing her hair. Rosie stood to the side, watching.

“Now you all understand why I don’t wish to be married,” she snorted. “Far too much effort, for very little reward.”

“You say that now, sister,” laughed Elanor, “but you may one day change your tune. There are bound to be plenty of handsome bachelors at the ceremony today.”

“Don’t say that so loudly,” Goldi said, with a grin. “Daisy and Prim might hear you.”

“Oh, Goldi, have you opened the gift from the King yet?”

“I completely forgot!” Goldi rushed to her cupboard and retrieved the box. Sitting on her bed, she opened it and gasped.

Inside were bunches of elanor and niphredil. The other hobbit-maids in the room looked to see them. They had all seen the flowers before. Estella and Diamond had travelled to Lothlórien with their husbands on numerous occasions, on their way to Gondor and Rohan, and Elanor had been blessed with a similar gift for her own wedding.

“How did they manage to last so long?” Goldi finally asked. None of the flowers had wilted, yet they must have been gathered at least a month earlier.

“They come from Lothlórien, Goldi,” answered Elanor. She picked up one of the pale niphredil flowers. “Niphredil – that’s exactly what I wanted.”

“Pardon?”

Elanor lowered her voice so that only Goldi would hear her. “Fastred and I are trying to have another baby. Mother-Rose said she wanted a granddaughter, and I was trying to think up a name if I do have a little girl. What do you think of ‘Niphredil’?”

Goldi grinned and nodded. It may have sounded outlandish, but so did Elanor, and Faramir for that matter. Elanor returned the grin, and started to pin the flowers in Goldi’s hair.

“Oh, don’t they look lovely!” Diamond cried. “We will have to send a letter to the King and Queen thanking them!”

It took some time, but eventually, Goldilocks was ready. Faramir, Sam, Meriadoc and Peregrin were sitting around Sam’s study when the hobbit-maids entered.

“You look amazing,” Faramir breathed, kissing her forehead.

“So do you,” Goldi replied. She looked at her father. “Can we go to the field now?”

“I don’t see why not,” answered Sam. “We can watch to see the guests arrive.”

The rest of the Gamgees, along with some of their Cotton cousins, were already in the field, making the final touches. Goldi and Faramir were made to sit down.

Some of the first guests to arrive were Faramir’s aunts and their families. Faramir left Goldi for a moment to greet them, especially his cousin, Peregrin Burrows. Though he was a fair bit older, Pegs, as he was usually known, got along very well with Faramir. Pegs was not yet married, though he was a very successful lawyer, taking the family business over from his father, Orlando.

“Congratulations, cousin,” he greeted, with a grin. “You have certainly made a fine catch. I don’t suppose your lovely bride has any available relatives.” Pegs had not been present at Faramir’s coming of age party, and this was the first time he had seen Goldilocks.

“Well, as a matter of fact,” said Faramir, “Goldi has several sisters, though none quite so beautiful as her – or so I think anyway.” He motioned to where Rosie was helping Merry and Pippin put up a banner. “Rosie is the second eldest, and not married. In fact, I don’t know that she has her eye on anyone either.”

Pegs grinned. “Then perhaps I shall have to speak to her and change that.”

Rosie turned and caught them looking at her. She blushed, and turned away, but not before noticing how handsome Faramir’s cousin was.

Goldi had not seen any of this. She had been watching the road for approaching carriages. She smiled broadly as she recognised the cart coming up the road. From the front, Abe Maggot waved. “Good mornin’ to ye, Miss Goldi!”

“Glad you could make it, Mister Maggot!” she called back, running to greet them.

Faramir followed her. “You invited the Maggots?”

“Of course I did!”

Farmer Maggot was helping his wife from the cart as Goldi and Faramir ran up. Mrs. Maggot embraced Goldilocks and smiled warmly at Faramir. “My goodness, Master Faramir! Just look at you!”

Faramir returned her smile. “The King made me a knight, so that Mayor Samwise would know that I was good enough to marry his daughter.”

“Faramir!” Goldi scolded. “Actually, the King decided that he would make every Thain a knight of Gondor.”

“Congratulations, Miss Goldi!” Harry cried, as he jumped from the cart. Ed was right behind him.

“Thank you for invitin’ us, Miss Goldi,” added Ed. “Oh, and Master Faramir! Didn’t notice ye there.” Ed handed Goldi a potted plant. It looked to be a young apple tree, and it was already in bloom. “To brighten your new home.”

“There was no need for this!” said Goldi. “Your presence was gift enough, but I thank you.”

“Go on and tell them the good news,” Mrs. Maggot urged, while her husband helped their daughters from the cart.

Harry grinned. “Me and Ed have decided that, when Dad leaves us, we’ll run the farm together. There’ll be two Farmer Maggots!”

“That’s wonderful news!” Goldi exclaimed, hugging each brother in turn.

“Our plan now is to find ourselves a pretty pair of sisters to be our Mrs. Maggots,” Ed joked.

Faramir laughed, but stopped when he saw the odd look on Goldi’s face. He was certain that he had seen that same look on his father’s face, when Peregrin was up to something.

“Harold, Edmund, would you like to come with me?” Goldi asked sweetly, but she had a mischievous gleam in her eye. Faramir thought to himself, The prospect of marrying a Took has turned her into one!

Goldilocks lead Harry and Ed into the field, where guests were mingling and preparing for the ceremony. On a table by themselves, Daisy and Primrose Gamgee were scanning the crowd, and giggling. Faramir now understood.

“Daisy! Prim!” Goldi called.

The younger Gamgee sisters looked up to see their sister leading two young hobbits towards them, and Faramir close behind.

“Harold and Edmund Maggot,” Goldi announced, “I would like to introduce Daisy and Primrose Gamgee, my sisters. Daisy, Prim, these are some friends of Faramir, Pippin and I.”

“Good day to you, sirs,” Daisy greeted, curtsying. Primrose followed suit.

“Gracious,” Ed mumbled, turning beet red.

“A pleasure to meet you both,” Harry managed to stammer. Daisy had caught his eye. With her golden curls, she looked much like Goldi, but there was something a little saucier about her smile and the twinkle in her eye.

Though Ed also thought Goldi beautiful, it was dark-haired Primrose that he now found enchanting. And her deep brown eyes rendered him almost speechless.

“Daisy, Prim, would you mind keeping Harry and Ed company,” Goldi asked. “They’ve come all the way from the Marish, near Buckland.”

“Not at all,” Daisy replied, her eyes never straying from the eldest Maggot brother.

Faramir waited until he and Goldi were a safe distance away before he started laughing. “That was beautifully done, my sweet.”

She smiled back at him. “When Ed said that he and Harry wanted to marry sisters, what else could I do? Besides, as an elder sister, it is my duty to make sure my younger sisters find suitable husbands. I can think of no one better than Harold and Edmund.”

Faramir kissed his bride on the cheek. “It’s our wedding, and we’re spending all of our time organising potential suitors for your siblings.”

“Who have you been organising for?”

“I was trying to help Pippin overcome his shyness around Rosemary Bolger. And my cousin, Peregrin Burrows, asked me about Rosie.”

“Rosie? Oh, really?” Goldi knew that her elder sister usually shunned affections, but she was certain that she had caught the older lass gazing at Faramir’s lawyer cousin.

“Faramir! Goldilocks!” Pervinca Took called. “There you are.” She smiled at them. Legolas was with her, looking somewhat uncomfortable. “We’re ready to start.”

Faramir lightly kissed Goldi. “So are we.”

* * * * * *

A/N: As far as I can work our elanor and niphredil still grew in Lothlórien at the time I’ve set this story. In fact, I’m sure they continued to until the passing of Arwen. The wedding itself will be the next chapter. Nearly there!

Watch the Clouds Go Sailing By

Chapter 21: Vows Under the Mallorn

Meriadoc Brandybuck stood beneath the mallorn. Samwise Gamgee stood on his left, and Diamond Took on his right. Elfstan Fairbairn grinned proudly at his grandfather. His aunt and new uncle had allowed him to be the pageboy for their wedding. Little Aster Banks, Pervinca’s granddaughter, had been chosen as the flower-girl. Her dress had been made to match Goldi’s.

Finally, through the aisle made by the wedding guests, Pervinca and Legolas escorted Faramir and Goldilocks to the mallorn. Legolas knew that his face was bright red. He could not believe he had agreed to this! As they passed Gimli, seated in the very front row of guests, Legolas was sure he heard the dwarf chuckle.

Meriadoc grinned at the two young hobbits. He cleared his throat, before starting on the traditional wedding greeting. “Welcome, dear friends. We come here today to celebrate the union of two families, and the marriage of two hobbits. As the Master of Buckland, it is my honour to do this.” As was also tradition, he held out his hands with the palms facing upwards, and addressed Diamond, as the mother of the groom. “Diamond Took, do you give your blessing to your son, Faramir, to begin his own life and family, while remembering those who brought him into this life?”

With a shaking hand and wavering voice, Diamond placed Faramir’s left hand in Meriadoc’s right. “My dear, sweet Faramir. You are my only child, and have always held you so closely. Now it is time for another to hold you. I give you my blessing to begin your new life with she who you have chosen.” Diamond stepped back to stand with Peregrin. Tears were already starting to spill from her eyes.

Now, Meriadoc turned to Sam. “Samwise Gamgee, do you give your blessing to your daughter, Goldilocks, to begin her own life and family, while remembering those who brought her into this life?”

“I do indeed,” replied Sam. He took Goldi’s right hand and placed it upon Meriadoc’s left. “Goldi, where can I start? I cannot think of anyone better for you, than he who you have chosen. I don’t know how I ever could have doubted him. Your love for him should have been enough for me. You bring together two families that have for too long been separated, and I am so proud of you. You have my blessing for your life together.” Sam also stepped away.

“Pervinca Took and Prince Legolas of Ithilien.” Meriadoc grinned at the elf. He looked so unhappy to be there. “You have been chosen by the betrothed as their closest friends, and appointed as witnesses to their union. Do you promise to stand by and support them in their marriage?”

“We do,” said Pervinca, and Legolas repeated the reply a moment later.

With a nod, Meriadoc faced Faramir and Goldilocks. “And now, Faramir and Goldilocks, will you speak your vows?”

Faramir took a deep breath. “Gracious, Goldilocks, like your father, I don’t know where to start. I have known you all of my life, and I am so honoured that you have agreed to be with me for the rest of it. When I think back, I realise that I have loved you for all that time, but I just have never known it. Every day spent with you was a blessing. I wish that I could have chosen a better place to propose to you, but I suppose that Weathertop hill is a place that not many will copy, and that few will be able to top. Of course, I do challenge Merry and Pippin to at least try.” He grinned at his two friends. As he did so, he noticed a small look exchanged between Merry and Lavender Boffin, and realised that Merry had missed his chance to accept the challenge. “I love you, Goldilocks Gamgee. I always have, and I always will, I swear this to you upon my honour as knight of Gondor and future Thain.”

Amidst tears, Goldi smiled at Faramir. “Faramir, I cannot remember a moment spent with you in which you have not managed to frustrate me, and this is no exception. You have said everything that I wanted to say better than I had planned, and now my well practiced vows are useless.” She grinned again. “So, if the vows I now speak seem like nonsense, just remember that I had to make them up on the spot.

“Faramir Took, you chose the perfect way and place to propose to me. Any other way would have not represented who you are, and thus, why I love you. Your love for me made you do some foolish things, from facing the terrors of the Old Forest to believing I could ever love another.” Goldi winked at Legolas. “But despite your foolishness and you uncanny ability to infuriate me, I love you, Faramir. I have since we shared our first kiss, and I will continue doing so until we share our last.”

Meriadoc grinned. “Any objections?” he offered the crowd of guests. They were silent. “Then it is my honour and pleasure to pronounce you husband and wife. As Master of Buckland, you have my blessing, and as dear old Uncle Merry, you have my love. Congratulations!” He joined their hands together.

Faramir picked Goldi up and spun her just once, before kissing her. Goldi wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back. The guests all stood and cheered. Even Legolas smiled broadly and clapped, forgetting his embarrassment.

Finally, Meriadoc held up his hands to hush the cheering. “And now, to bless the union, the appointed witnesses shall join our new couple in the first dance.”

Faramir held Goldi’s hand and led her into the centre of the field. Sam and Diamond followed them, and lastly came Pervinca and Legolas. The elf felt a fool, and this was not helped by the smug smirk Gimli’s face bore as he stood in the crowd.

Pervinca seemed to sense Legolas’ discomfort. “I’m afraid this is hobbit tradition. If we do not, as appointed witnesses, join Faramir and Goldi in their first dance, bad luck will come to them and their marriage will not be blessed. Would you wish that upon them?”

“Of course not. I just…”

“Just follow my lead Master Elf.”

They made an interesting pair, with Legolas standing nearly twice Pervinca’s height and trying to follow the steps of the traditional hobbit dance. But they were not the only interesting sight. Diamond was a head taller than Sam, and since she was used to dancing with Peregrin, or occasionally Meriadoc or Faramir, kept stepping on his feet.

“Oh, I’m sorry Sam!” she whispered.

“No matter, Diamond,” Sam replied, trying not to wince. “I suppose you never thought you’d ever have to dance with me at a wedding!”

“Oh, I suspected it since they were children. I’ve been told that you and Rose were friends from the cradle, and sweethearts from your childhood.”

“Aye, we were indeed.”

Faramir and Goldi saw none of this. They only had eyes for each other. Tears welled up in Goldi’s eyes. “Oh, Faramir, this is too perfect. I keep expecting to wake up. It can’t be real!”

He kissed her softly. “It’s real, my sweet, and it is better than any dream.”

“Hmm, I know.” She rested her head on his chest. The dance ended, and Goldi moved away from Faramir.

“Where are you going?”

“To throw my posy, silly,” she replied. “I want to see who the next lucky lass will be.”

The guests all heard her say this, and soon, all of the unmarried maidens had gathered together. Daisy and Primrose were there, along with Rosie, who they had pulled with them. Lily Noakes stood by the edge of the group and smiled at Goldi. She was only partaking for the sake of tradition. Much to Meriadoc’s distress, young Éowyn had joined the group, but he could do nothing to stop her. Ruby Gamgee refused to participate, and for that, her parents were grateful.

Goldi turned her back to the group, and tossed her posy. She turned back to face them, expecting to see a ruckus as all of the lasses fought to claim the posy. Instead, she saw the group staring in shock at the lass standing in the centre holding the posy in her hands. It was Rosie Gamgee, the daughter of Samwise who claimed that she never wished to marry. The look on her face was so comical that Goldi had to laugh.

“Ellie told you that you’d change you tune, Rosie,” she called. Rosie managed a small smile, and cast a glance towards Peregrin Burrows.

* * * * * *

From his seat, Pippin Gamgee watched as Legolas made a hasty retreat from the dance “floor” to join Gimli, while Goldi threw her posy. From the scowl on the elf’s face, Pippin rightly guesses that he was not too pleased. Pippin turned back to watch his favourite sister return to the arms of her new husband, who just happened to be one of his closest friends. Pippin grinned. He was so happy for them both.

From the corner of his eye, he saw his sister Rosie accept a dance offer from Faramir’s cousin Peregrin Burrows (now that the first dance was over, the dance floor was open to all couples). She was still clutching Goldi’s posy. Sam had returned Diamond to Peregrin and taken Rose’s hand, while Meriadoc had collected Estella from the crowd. It the midst of the dancers, Daisy and Primrose were trying to teach Harry and Ed Maggot some difficult steps. Even Merry was dancing, with Lavender looking very comfortable in his arms.

Feeling alone, Pippin sighed, but as he did, he caught sight of Rosemary Bolger, sitting by herself. Her own parents were dancing near Meriadoc and Estella. He took a deep breath, and made his way over to her.

“Good day, Miss Bolger,” he greeted.

Startled, she looked up. “Hullo…Pippin, isn’t it? Pippin Gamgee?”

“Yes, that’s right.” Pippin’s heart fluttered. She knew his name! “Miss Rosemary, would you allow me the honour of this dance?”

With a smile, Rosemary took the hand that he had offered. “Master Pippin, the honour would be all mine.”

Pippin felt very proud of himself, but knew he would have to thank Faramir. He led Rosemary out into the field. Faramir caught his eye and winked. Pippin grinned back.

* * * * * *

Hamfast Gamgee raised his mug. “To my sister, and new brother.”

His companions raised their own mugs. They were the Gamgees’ Cotton cousins, Sam, Carl, Hobart and Holman, sons of Rose’s brothers. Sam Cotton, Tom’s son, was the eldest. Taking a swig from his mug, he scanned the crowd.

“Looking for pretty lasses?” Carl teased. Carl was Jolly’s eldest son.

“As a matter of fact, I am,” Sam returned. His eyes fell upon one lass who was standing by herself, watching the dancers. “Is that Silly Lily?”

“Silly Lily” was a common nickname for Lily Noakes, and one the Cottons often used since Tom’s daughter was also called Lily. Hamfast followed Sam’s line of sight and nodded. “It sure is. My, she don’t scrub up too bad, does she? I mean, when she’s not trying so hard to grab your attention.”

Sam nodded, and drained his mug. He placed it on the table next to him, and made his way over to Lily. His cousins watched as he bowed before her, and offered his hand. She smiled sweetly and accepted. The Cotton and Gamgee lads cheered.

* * * * * *

“What’s funny?” Faramir asked, as he heard Goldi giggle.

“My cousin, Sam, just asked Lily to dance,” she explained. “Remember my friend, Lily. She was at The Ivy Bush that night before Merry’s party.”

“Ah, yes, I remember the one. And you told me that you patched things up with her.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

Faramir turned to see where Lily was dancing with Sam Cotton and grinned. “She seems to have patched things up a little more. And Pippin’s dancing with Rosemary Bolger. I knew he could do it.”

“It seems our hard work this morning has paid off. Have you seen Daisy and Prim with Harry and Ed?”

“Let’s not forget Pegs and Rosie.” Faramir kissed Goldi softly on her forehead. “We appear to have started a trend, my love.”

“Yes, but I don’t suppose any of them will manage to beat the lengths you went to, to admit their love, my handsome knight.” She stood on her toes, and whispered in his ear. “How far is Whitwell from here?”

Faramir grinned. “Too far. And we’d miss out on Mother-Rose’s wedding cake.” He chuckled at the disappointed look on her face. “But I do not think that anyone is inside Bag-End just now…”

Without another word, Goldi grasped his hand and dragged him with her towards Bag-End. That was where their first adventure together had started. It only seemed right that their second adventure – the adventure of marriage – should begin there too.

The End

 

A/N: Thank you all so much for reading! This was the first The Lord of the Rings fanfic that I ever started on, and I changed my mind about it so many times. Originally, Estella and the two Brandybuck children were not in it, but when I started “Just to Be With You”, I had to go back and add them in. And, of course, they were actually going to make it to Rivendell before their fathers, along with Aragorn, found them, but that plotline ended up being far too difficult. It was hard enough simply to get them to Weathertop!

Once again, thanks go to Pearl Took for her help with hobbit-weddings. This was the story I originally asked to use some of her ideas in, but then the Meriadoc/Estella wedding ended up being written first!

I really hope you enjoyed my little tale about Master Faramir Took and Miss Goldilocks Gamgee. It took me two years to write, but I think it was worth it!

- Pervinca





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