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Crown of Laurel  by Lyta Padfoot

"Crown of Laurel"
Part I: Sip of the Cup

        Lavender North-took set the wreath of sweet-smelling flowers atop her cousin's brown-gold curls. It slipped halfway down Diamond's brow and for a moment Lavender saw not the bride of today, but the little girl she'd often made daisy-crowns for in the summers.

        "This wreath has a mind of its own," grumbled Lavender as she straightened it. The bridal wreath was an old Shire custom. Previous generations assigned meanings to the flowers they knew and hobbit lasses selected their flowers of their garlands with great care, often taking their namesake flowers and those of their new relations. Pimpernel and eglantine, change and poetry, peeped out amidst forget-me-not, gillyflower, sweet basil, and roses. All common elements in the bridal ring, but Lavender wondered at the inclusion of laurel.

        "I know gillyflower is for affection, forget-me-not for remembrance, sweet basil for good wishes, and roses for love, but what of the laurel?"

        Diamond laughed, her happiness transformed the sound so that it was like chimes in the wind. "Laurel is for victory. Mother Eglantine told me the Bullroarer's bride wore it in her wreath."

        "Where are your hairpins," her cousin asked a moment later. It might make it harder to remove the wreath, but it seemed the only way to keep it in place for the ceremony and feast.

        "The little box by the bed," Diamond pointed to a small wooden box on the beside table given to her by Lavender's brother as a birthday present. As she picked it up, her thumb brushed the tiny carved squirrel reverently. Hildibold married a girl from the Tookland and had been among the nineteen hobbits killed at the Battle of Bywater.

        "You have lovely hair pins," Lavender noted as she opened the box, studying the fine tortoise shell pins that once belonged to Diamond's late mother. She picked up a carved comb, also of tortoise shell, carefully made to match the leaf patterns picked out on the pins. Lavender had never seen it before.

        "Your betrothal gift from your father?" she guessed. Hobbits did not as a rule give gifts other than flowers at a wedding, but it was tradition for parents and children to exchange presents before a betrothal. These gifts were often handmade and usually intended to be used at the wedding; Diamond's gift to her father was a shirt of creamy linen embroidered by her own hand.

        The bride nodded. "I can't believe it's my wedding day!"

        "I image every lass says as much," Lavender said with a wistful smile as she set about securing the headpiece. She had aided many brides but had yet to be one herself.

        Diamond gave her friend's arm a sympathetic squeeze. "You'll meet the right hobbit soon."

        "I know."

        "Imagine all the fine folk come for the wedding. I don't doubt you'll have many a fine hobbit vying for a dance with you. All those Tooks, Brandybucks, Bolgers," the bride's eyes glittered with mischief. "And you'll see more of them than I will!"

        They both laughed. It was custom for the bride and groom to 'escape' to their chambers shortly after the wedding feast, leaving their guests to enjoy the party. As soon as the bride tossed her wedding-wreath on the table, any unmarried lad or lass who caught the newlyweds could demand a kiss of the bride or groom. It was a game of sorts with the talk awarding the prize to couples who succeeded in reaching their rooms unscathed.

        "I imagine I will, unless you and Mr. Peregrin are planning on spoiling all the fun by lingering like Holly Twofoot and her husband did." Holly and her bridegroom elected to wait out their guests and slipped away after most of the rowdy tweenagers who had thought to chase them had been shooed off to bed by their families.

        Diamond blushed from curls to well-brushed feet. "No."

        "I hear Mr. Meriadoc means to claim a kiss from you," teased Lavender as she straightened the skirt of Diamond's pale green gown. "Word is that he has an ambush all thought out."

        "He'll have to catch me!" Diamond said pertly. "Besides, Pippin and I have an exit strategy all mapped."

        "Mr. Merry has rather long legs."

        "So does my husband!" Diamond blinked as she considered what she said. "My husband," she sighed. Lavender shook her head.

        There was a knock at the door and Diamond's great-aunt Althea stuck her head in. "It's time."

        "A minute," Diamond called. She reached up a hand to her bride's wreath and tugged a rose and a bit of sweet basil free. She tucked them behind Lavender's ear.

        "For luck... with the gentlehobbits."

        Lavender startled, it was a special blessing to be given flowers from a bride's wreath. "You might want these back - you'll need all the luck you can gather as its Pippin Took you're wedding!"

        Arm in arm, tears of laughter shinning in their eyes, the two cousins walked into the hall where the rest of the family awaited them.

* * *

        As Diamond had no mother or sisters living, Lavender sat beside her at the high board representing her female kin. She watched her cousin brought forward by her father, wearing the shirt she had embroidered for him, and led to the anxiously waiting Pippin, clad in the silver and sable uniform of a knight of Gondor.

        Paladin Took, as head of the Tooks, filled an ancient looking goblet with sweet wine. The Took marriage cup was said to be older than the Shire, it was of special silver that never needed polish and was encrusted with tiny cabochon rubies set in star patterns. Lavender had only ever seen the North-took cup (it lacked jewels but was carved like wood so it looked like a silver tree) used in a family wedding, but she hoped this cup had the blessings that other goblet offered. With a start she remembered the North-tooks were a very young branch of the Took family and her great-great-grandparents probably sipped from that same jeweled cup on their wedding day. The realization relaxed her. This was not some new and strange cup, but one blessed by the love of their kin, a link in the chains of tradition and life.

        Paladin spoke the words, his face bright with joy at the occasion. "We gather today to celebrate the marriage of my son, Peregrin Took, and Diamond of Long Cleeve. Until today they drank life from separate cups, from this day forward they shall ever sip from the same cup. Their joys shared and magnified; their sorrows common and lessened."

        The words said, Paladin handed the cup to Diamond and she drank half of it, wrinkling her nose slightly. Lavender suppressed a giggle; Diamond had never acquired a taste for wine and even the sweetest seemed bitter to her lips. When she was finished, she passed the cup to Pippin and he drained the cup before returning it to his father.

        Paladin set the cup down on the high board between the places set for Pippin and Diamond. He then took the pair's hands and joined them, raising their united hands high so that all could see. Everyone cheered as the newly married couple enjoyed their first kiss, held by tradition to mingle the last drops of the wedding wine.


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