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Reunion in Minas Tirith  by Baggins Babe

September 1429 Minas Tirith

The days sped past with the friends delighting in their time together. They were aware of the excited preparations in the city as Ring-Day approached. Tableaux were rehearsed, bunting hung from the buildings and everywhere they were greeted with enthusiasm and genuine affection. Frodo had been embarrassed to find that he was not allowed to pay for anything when he went to the markets, and everyone in the taverns insisted on buying him drinks. Had he chosen to take advantage of all the offers he would have been permanently drunk. He blushed to the tips of his pointed ears when Bergil relayed a message from one of the city's professional ladies of pleasure, to the effect that there would be a warm welcome for him should he choose to visit.

       "What?!" he spluttered, as Merry and Pippin howled with laughter. "Does that mean what I think it means?"

       Bergil's eyes twinkled. "What do you think it means?" he chuckled teasingly. "My dear Frodo, it means that every brothel in Minas Tirith is yours to command, and there will be no charge for the pleasure!"

       "Are we included in the invitation?" quipped Pippin, and ducked as his cousin's hand whirled past his ear.

       "You are a respectable married hobbit, Peregrin, and should not be asking such questions!" Frodo replied. "And I don't believe I shall be taking them up on offer  ...... um..........well............." He was very pink and somewhat flustered.

       Aragorn laughed. "My citizens have taken my words to heart I see. I told them to take care of you and treasure you, and they are all obeying my command with comendable enthusiasm! Free food, free drinks and now the company of ladies - it sounds like a hobbit paradise!" He exchanged a smirk with his Steward and the two collapsed at the wide-eyed look on Frodo's face. "Oh Frodo! You look stunned!"

       "I am stunned." He smiled. "We don't have such places in the Shire, where we are very respectable, I'll have you know! Goodness! Besides........I'm a hobbit and these ladies are Big People.......I mean.............they're taller than me.........."

       "Goodness has nothing to do with it!" said Merry. "And height differences don't matter when you're lying down!"

       "I think......," said Bergil slyly, "........that you have stolen several hearts in this city. I've heard several .....ah....comments."

       "Don't you start!" Frodo muttered, now positively crimson. He looked to Sam for help but his friend was carefully studying the ceiling.

       Gimli slapped Frodo on the back. "Go on, laddie! Don't look so shocked."

       Bergil grinned. "I think we've teased this poor hobbit enough! Well, just remember, the offer is there should you feel the need............" He privately wondered about Frodo - he was unmarried, after all. Were there any ladies back in the Shire whose company he enjoyed? Or was he imposing human needs and desires on to hobbits? Perhaps they didn't.........although he remembered some riotous nights out with Merry and Pippin when they most certainly did!

       Frodo was still blushing, and picking imaginary bits of fluff from his weskit, but finally he spoke. "Actually .............. to be honest........... well, the fact is, the Ring ..........I thought that side of life was burned out of me forever. I've had no feelings since...........what with the Ring and what happened to me in.......Cirith Ungol.........there was nothing left."  He glanced at the assembled company and smiled a sweet, sad smile, his eyes bright with unshed tears. "The truth is, I was the Orcs. They took everything, not just my clothes. They wanted to humiliate me completely. And the Ring burned everything else away........."

       "Bastards!" Gimli swore loudly. He had killed many Orcs in his time but he wished he could have killed every last Mordor Orc personally, preferrably with his bare hands. Many others in the room drew in their breath in shock.

       Aragorn swallowed. "Frodo, you don't have to say this..........I suspected.........Gandalf said something .........and knowing what has happened to others.................." He looked at Faramir, who was horrified.

       Frodo looked up, a few tears now slipping down his cheeks and clinging to his long, dark lashes. "No, it's alright, I'm among friends. I said I thought it had.............." He wiped the tears with the back of his hand. "In fact I think even that side of life may have been given back to me lately. I seem to, that is.....some of those feelings have returned in the last year."  He tried to glare at the others. "Oh stop that! You know what I mean!"

      "I blame myself," Sam said softly. "I should never have left you......" He looked more miserable than Frodo had ever seen him .He had long suspected but his master had never admitted the truth of those lost hours. Frodo ran to him, wrapped both arms round Sam and hugged him tightly.

       "Don't be silly! If you hadn't left me we would have both been captured and there would have been no-one to rescue us. And the Ring would certainly have been taken. You must never blame yourself, Sam, promise me you won't? We each did what we had to do. I certainly don't blame you." His voice wavered. "After all, if things had been reversed, would you blame me?" Sam shook his head. "Well then, just remember that. You saved my life then and you have saved it several times since." He kissed Sam's brow gently and smiled somewhat wryly. "Things happen."

       "That's not quite how we say it in Gondor," said Bergil quietly, feeling guilty that he had begun what had turned into a painful conversation. "Forgive me, Frodo. I would never have started this subject if I'd known.............."

       "No, it's not quite what we say in the Shire either! I was being polite. And how could you have known? I'm glad you all know. For years I believed the shame to be mine but during my illness I was made to realise that I was wrong. I had to learn to place the shame where it belonged - with the perpetrators. And as I said, I've now discovered that those feelings aren't dead after all, so even more of my life has been returned to me." He drew a shaky breath and chuckled suddenly. "I'm beginning to sound like a regular Periwinkle Bunce!"

       "Who?!" chorused the entire company except the hobbits.

       "She was a hobbit who always saw the bright side of everything - which was damned annoying I daresay! She was renowned for never grumbling and always finding something good in the most dire situations."

       "She was strangled by her husband when he complained she'd burned his dinner so badly it was inedible and she told him that was a good thing because at least it wouldn't give him indigestion!" said Merry with a perfectly straight face.

       "No she wasn't, you ass!" said Frodo, his arm still round Sam's shoulders. "But she's become a terrible example of what can happen in the face of relentless cheerfulness!" He was relieved to feel Sam's rumbling laugh, and the rest of the company joined in.


        Aragorn was restless as Ring-Day approached. He kept going to the windows or walking into the courtyard and gazing down at the road which wound like a ribbon round the base of Mount Mindolluin and out of sight as it turned north-west round the Grey Wood. When the others asked him what he was looking for he would smile in a secretive manner and tell them to wait and see. Arwen rolled her eyes and smiled at the others behind her husband's back.

       They were all about to sit down to lunch one day when the trumpets sounded from the top of the White Tower. Aragorn leapt up and the others followed him to the walls. A contingent of horsemen were riding toward Minas Tirith, bearing the banners of Rohan, and at the head of the eored rode Eomer and his queen, Faramir's cousin Lothiriel.

       "Eomer! I didn't know he was coming! He never said anything!" Merry was almost dancing in his excitement.

       When the royal couple arrived in the Courtyard of the Fountain they were almost bowled over by the welcoming committee. Eowyn ran to greet her brother, laughing and crying at the same time. Faramir followed, surrounded by shouting, scampering children, and greeted his cousin warmly. She was the daughter of Faramir's uncle, Prince Imrahil, and they had known each other all their lives. Her father had travelled to meet them and he also joined the party milling about the courtyard, embracing hobbits, Elves, a dwarf and assorted humans.

       "Eomer! You kept this quiet!" Frodo embraced the handsome king of Rohan, who laughed.

       "How could I miss such a wonderful occasion? We had to come and join you to see this special day with the Ring-bearer present. Not to mention that it gives us the opportunity to celebrate your birthday with you!"

       "Eomer, my brother, this is a first!" Aragorn slapped him on the back. "Usually when you come to Gondor you come with an army to help me fight our enemies, but this time you are here in peace and the Rohirrim will raise mugs of ale, not swords."

       Luncheon was a happy and informal occasion. Celeborn and Imrahil sat together and talked earnestly as the elder statesmen of the group. Queen Lothiriel had settled down with the other women and they were already talking about children, husbands and the forthcoming celebrations. Aragorn and Eomer sat with Frodo between them, and everyone seemed to be talking at once. The children could barely contain themselves; Legolas sat with them and told them Elven stories while they ate, which did at least keep them quiet. The Rohan King and Queen had brought their two children, young Elfwine who was almost the same age as Eldarion and a very handsome lad, and little Eowyn, four years old and already as spirited as her aunt. She insisted that Legolas sat next to her, and fed him from her plate.

       "Uncle Legolas might not like the same food as you, little one," said her father as she handed the Elf a tartlet.

       "Yes he does! We're going to get married when I'm older and he has to do what I say!"

       Eomer roared. "Well, that's us men put very firmly in our places I must say! So Faramir, do you do everything my sister tells you?" He winked. "What about you, Samwise?! Who rules in your household?"

       Faramir gazed lovingly at his wife. "Of course, my lord. I would not dare do otherwise. My wife knows how to wield a sword!"

       "I'll just ask Rose's permission to answer that," murmured Sam. "Don't know about swords but my wife can do a lot of damage with a tea towel!" He grinned as the entire company collapsed in helpless laughter.


        Frodo suspected that it would be another long and happy evening with much drinking involved, so he took the opportunity of a nap. When he awoke he had a bath and lingered in the scented water, day-dreaming and wondering what his birthday would be like. He had bought presents for everyone and just hoped that the clothes he had chosen to wear would be fine enough for the occasion. He was having a wonderful time and even the traumatic moments had proved useful.

       "You fallen asleep in there?" Sam's voice.

       "No, just idling." He grabbed a large towel and stepped onto the rug. "Come in, Sam."

       Sam opened the door, carrying Frodo's clean linen. "Did you have a nap?"

      "Yes, it was lovely. What about you and Rose?" He towelled his hair briskly and shook it so the cloud of dark curls settled where they would.

       "Um.....sort of," said Sam, pinking slightly.

       "Oh!" Frodo chuckled. "Lucky you!" He pulled on his under-drawers and clean shirt, darting a mischievous grin in Sam's direction.

       "Well, there's all those ladies out there just waiting for you to pay them a visit!" teased Sam, grinning broadly.

       "Thank you! I thought you'd remind me of that!"

       "Or there's always Mrs Bracegirdle when we get home to the Shire! I'm sure she'd be happy to oblige while Mr.Bracegirdle's at the Ivy Bush one night!"

       "Samwise Gamgee! That is a scandalous suggestion! Besides, I'd get lost in the cleavage."

       "She makes good pies though." He smirked at Frodo.

       "Rather a high price to pay for a pie if you ask me!" Frodo retorted, and bolted for the bedroom and the rest of his clothes.

       "What is?" Rosie enquired from the next room. "Are you decent?"

       "Yes, Rose." He buttoned his breeches, flipped his braces up over his shoulders and reached for his weskit.

       "You haven't answered my question. What is a high price for a pie?" Rosie peeked round the door, brushing her shining, honey-coloured curls.

       "A night of passion with Hyacinth Bracegirdle!"

       "We'd have to send in a rescue party!" cried Pippin, running in and bouncing on the bed.

       Rosie smiled wickedly. "From what I hear, you have half the ladies in Gondor swooning at your feet."

       "Only half?" queried Merry. "I'd be insulted if I were you, Fro!" He squeezed his cousin's shoulders. "From what I can gather, if you venture into some parts of the city you'll be beating the women off with a stick! I should take a bodyguard or two if I were you."

       "Yes, we'll come with you if you like!" added Pippin, stretching out on Frodo's bed, his hands clasped behind his head.

       "Not you as well! Honestly, I'll never live this down!" Frodo's eyes sparkled impishly. "You two have wives at home, and I have no intention of encouraging you in any mischief. You may be able to go home and look Stella and Di in the eyes but I can't, and I don't fancy being beaten over the head with a rolling pin for leading you astray!"

       Rosie snorted. "As if you have to lead these two anywhere! Though they would no doubt lead you into all kinds of trouble if you let 'em! And for the love of Eru, Meriadoc Brandybuck, where did you get that weskit?! It's a bit..........."

       Merry looked affronted. "What's wrong with my weskit?"

       "Rose means no-one can look at it without shading their eyes!" answered Frodo. "The colour is rather dazzling, Merry, you have to admit." He scrutinised his cousin's sartorial choice, pursing his lips and wincing. The waistcoat was purple, with white and blue flowers, and the colours and pattern were not the sort of thing common in Hobbiton.

       Merry twirled, showing off. "You're just jealous because you don't have one like it!" He pinched Frodo's cheeks because he knew his cousin hated it, laughed and ran to the door. "Last one to dinner has to sing "The Virgin of Staddle" solo!"

       There was a scramble and they all ran after Merry, calling him names which were far from complimentary.


       Lord Celeborn and Prince Imrahil had retreated to a smaller chamber for dignified discussion. The ladies were in Arwen's sitting room talking quietly and laughing at the overheard singing going on along the corridor. They were talking of Frodo and his revelation of the previous day. Rosie had always suspected that his treatment at the hands of those foul Orcs included the worst type of assault but Sam had told her that Frodo had never spoken of it. The quietly frank confession had been a shock to many of the company, particularly Gimli and Faramir.

       Eowyn poured a little more wine. "Poor Faramir, he was so appalled by that. He knew Frodo had been beaten and tortured but he did not realise they had ........done that. He wept last night when he told me."

       "Legolas said Gimli swore for twenty minutes afterwards, and didn't repeat himself once. He was very shocked and upset." Arwen smiled as she found a tray of sweetmeats, including chocolate. "My brothers tell me he went off for three hours of axe practice afterwards - he said he imagined every swing to be taking off a Mordor Orc's head." A shadow flickered across the beautiful face. "Our mother suffered at the hands of Orcs, and they are capable of anything"

       Rosie put a comforting arm around the Queen and Arwen smiled gratefully and hugged her back. She had grown to love the little hobbit like a sister. Rosie was funny and practical and kind, and very good company. All four women got on well and liked each other.

       Lothiriel selected a chocolate from the dish. "I've missed these! We don't have chocolates in Rohan so I have to take a supply back with me and hide them!" She pushed the dish towards Rosie.

       Rosie bit into one and the others laughed as her eyes went wide in wonder. "Oh my! That's ..........mmmmm."  She closed her eyes blissfully. Arwen's musical laugh filled the room.

       "Now I shall send chocolates to the Shire as well as oranges! One of the Masters of Herblore in the Houses of Healing says that in women these produce similar sensations!"

       "Lawks! You mean if I eat many of these I'll put Sam out of a job?" Rosie chuckled and tried another. "What do men make of 'em, I wonder?"

       "Most men don't seem bothered about them, although Frodo likes them, I believe," said Eowyn.

       "Ah well, he's always been a bit different. He's a sweet soul, and I'm just thankful that trip to Mordor didn't pitch him back into those illnesses. I was so afraid it might, but he seems able to cope these days." Rosie looked very thoughtful. "Sam said he was afraid too, especially when they saw the place where the Lord of the Nazgul rode out. Frodo was taken ill then, sick and faint, but he recovered and once they were in Mordor the land was so changed that he seemed able to deal with it. The places where he suffered don't exist any more."

       Lothiriel cocked her head. "Oh dear! I think my husband is teaching the company Rohan drinking songs."

       "Shouldn't worry - they can't be any worse than the ones they know already!" giggled Rosie. "They sang 'Nineteen Nights in Nobottle' and 'The Maid of Michel Delving' last time, and I never thought Frodo knew the words to those! Then they went to a dwarf tavern one night and came back singing very rude songs - well, I assume they were rude. They were in dwarvish so I can't be sure."

       "Since most drinking songs are rude, I think you're right to assume." Eowyn laughed. "Do you think the Elves in the party will get drunk again?"

       Arwen started to giggle. "If my brothers and Legolas have not learned to avoid the effects of ale after several thousand years, I doubt they will have remembered from a few weeks ago! Do men ever learn anything? Elves, humans, dwarves and hobbits are all very much alike - the menfolk never learn!"

       "My brother should remember the first time he over-imbibed," said Eowyn. "He raided my uncle's ale casks, arrived staggering drunk at table, picked a fight, threw up and was soundly thrashed - and still does it again!"

       "They're all the same," tutted Rosie. "My brothers, Sam, Merry and Pippin......Not seen Frodo drunk very often but when he was ill he used to drink a lot of brandy. Found him unconscious several times, passed out at his desk. He doesn't do it now, thankfully."

       "He did very well last time - Estel said he was very drunk but he still came down to breakfast before most of them. - before his cousins or Gimli, and certainly before my brothers and Legolas!" Arwen listened for a moment. "What are they singing now?"

       Rosie started to laugh. "It's a little ditty called "The Virgin of Staddle" and highly vulgar, which comes as no surprise!"


       The song was indeed about the maiden from Staddle, who did not remain a maiden very long apparently, and indeed had almost as many adventures as the young lad in Nobottle. Eomer had the advantage over his Gondorian hosts as Merry had taught it to him on one of his many visits to Rohan.

       They sat back, laughing, and poured more ale all round. Eomer gazed at his companions: Aragorn relaxed in one corner of a long couch, bare feet tucked under him, clad in a simple dark blue tunic and leggings; Faramir sitting with Beregond and young Bergil, his blue eyes slightly veiled behind half-closed lids, a dreamy smile on his face; the elegant Elves reclining in a silk-clad heap with Gimli looking as out of place as a sheep among horses; the four hobbits snuggled together. He looked hard at the little group. Merry and Pip were giggling conspiratorially while Frodo leaned comfortably against Sam's sturdy shoulder. Eomer thought he really belonged on the other couch with the Elves since he was so unlike the other hobbits. His delicate features glowed in the candlelight and the blue of his weskit complimented those startling eyes. There was an ethereal quality about Frodo, so fragile, so fair, and yet so strong to have survived an ordeal and its aftermath which would have killed a man. He almost radiated light, like the Elf lord Celeborn. What had Gandalf said? "That boy should be blessed by the Valar and watched over for the rest of his days." Eomer hoped so. Merry had been so distressed at his cousin's slow deterioration and it was a miracle to see the hobbit recovered and back to something like his old self. Not that he would ever be entirely whole, but it was close enough. Some wounds can never be healed but perhaps the scars can be lived with.

       "You look serious, Eomer my friend," said Aragorn quietly.

       "I was watching Frodo. So small yet indomitable. He has suffered greatly." He glanced at Aragorn, who sighed.

       "Yes. More than any of us can comprehend, for the Ring wrought such damage on his mind and body that it was doubtful he could survive. I called him back on the Field at Cormallen and it took all my strength then, for he was sure he had failed and wished only for death. The suffering he endured since did make me wonder if I was right to bring him back but I think had I not he would have wandered in a wilderness, as indeed he did when he almost slipped from us two years ago. I think Merry has told you how his life was despaired of?" Eomer nodded. "It took the assistance of many in Valinor to help him, and the love of those in the Shire. Had he gone to the West with Lord Elrond I doubt he would have survived. I think only Sam, Rose and the children kept him anchored at all and without them he would have slipped away. Elves can die of grief, you know, and Frodo does have Elvish blood on the Took side of the family."

       "That explains his looks! I wondered why he was so different from the others, although you can see it slightly in Pippin to a lesser degree." He smiled as four cheery hobbits beamed at him from the other side of the table, raising their mugs in a silent toast.

       "Come along, Eomer! You must know more songs than that!" chided Merry.

       Eomer laughed. "You wish for another song, Master Holdwine? Very well, you shall have one. This is called

       "A Warning to the Maidens of the Westfold" and is similar in content to your "Virgin of Staddle" I think."

       It was a happy, unsteady company which staggered to bed later. The hobbits were very affectionate, hugging each other tightly, until Eomer realised that part of the reason was to hold each other up. They were giggling hysterically and confusing each other as to which direction they needed to take.

       "No, no, no, no,!" said Pippin firmly. "'S this way, I tell you!"

       "Rubbish! 'S this way. Your trouble is, you're!" said Merry.

       "No, you're drunk! Pip's as sober as...............whatever!" added Frodo.

       "What do you know? You're more intox.........drunk than he is!" Merry argued.

       Frodo sniffed. "I am not drunk. I'm just a bit tipsy," he said loftily, then hiccupped.

       "Reckon you've all had one over the eight," said Rosie, emerging from the Queen's apartments. "Honestly, you lot need a sheepdog to guide you back!"

       "Eight?" Frodo repeated, puzzled. "I've had more than that, I'll have you know. Let go, I can walk." He let go of Merry and Sam and promptly slid down the wall.

       "Weren't we having one for the road?" asked Sam rather plaintively. Frodo looked even more confused.

       "Road? I don't remem....ber a road. Thought we were indoors?" He frowned, which made Rosie laugh so hard she had to join them in leaning on the wall.

       "Just follow me, you silly lot, and try not to get lost."

       "We never try to get lost," said Frodo. "It just happens!" He started giggling again.

       "'Sright! Just........happens.....ooops! Just like that!" agreed Pip.

       "P'raps we should try to get lost.........and then we wouldn't? I think..............." Frodo added doubtfully, re-ran the sentence through his ale-soaked brain and blinked, wondering what he meant.

       Eventually, with much effort, Rosie hauled her menfolk back to their quarters and poured them into bed. She did not envy them their hangovers, as none of them had managed to drink any water before passing out this time. There would be many sore heads in the Citadel next morning.


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