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Consequences of a Fall  by Dreamflower

AUTHORíS NOTE: The following chapter contains references to other stories of mine at Stories of Arda. For your convenience they are noted here: * refers to "A New Reckoning", and ** refers to "The Dare".

EPILOGUE

At least, as a member of the family, she did not have to serve at table, and was able to eat with the rest. Not that she expected to have much appetite.

She thought back to that horrid night at the Ball, when everything began to come unraveled. It had all been Opalís fault, stupid child--stealing and then running away and then getting herself hurt--if it had not been for that, her animosity towards Peregrin would never have come out.*

She was only grateful that not *everything* had come out; she could have ended up banished from the Shire, rather than just from the Great Smials.

She sighed. She had never again been tempted to take things into her own hands, but she most certainly had been hopeful. There had been that time when the lad got drunk and nearly died**, and then when he had disappeared with his Brandybuck and Baggins cousins, and that gardener--she gave a disdainful sniff at the thought of consorting with hired help--into the Old Forest. She had felt quite triumphant when Paladin had declared him dead. But then, like a bad copper, he had turned up once more. She had never known of anyone who survived so many near brushes with death.

Well she wasnít about to go and get a meal ready, with her hair flying every which way. She deliberately turned back to the mirror, after untruthfully assuring Euphorbia at the top of her voice that she was "Coming! Iíll be right there!" She closed the door to her room firmly, that she might not be distracted by any more pointless bustle.

She was adding the final touches to her hair, which she dressed rather severely, when she heard the knocking at her bedroom door.

"Hyacinth," said her brotherís voice just outside in the hallway, surprisingly calm, "it is time for dinner; our guest has arrived."

She squared her shoulders, firmly quashed the sinking feeling in her middle, and followed her brother into the dining room.*He* was there indeed, speaking to Euphorbia; then he turned.

"Hyacinth," he greeted her gravely.

She nodded, too nervous to actually speak and return his greeting.

Euphorbia had prepared a lavish meal, far better than their everyday fare, and listened to the visitorís compliments on the food with every outward sign of pleasure. Their guest regaled them with news and with stories, but Hyacinth heard little of what was said, and her food felt like lead in her stomach. *Why* was he here, for goodnessí sake? What could he have to say to her?When the meal ended he turned to her brother. "Mr. Brockhouse, if you do not mind, I need to speak to your sister."

Her brother nodded. "You may use the back parlor," he said.

When they reached the room and were inside, Hyacinth turned to him, for the first time speaking directly to him. "Peregrin, why are you here?" She tried to make her voice sound haughty, but it came out rather timidly. She looked up at him, once more startled at how tall he had grown when he had been away on his journey.

He gestured to the armchair by the fire, and she sat down. He took the chair across from her. "Hyacinth, Reggie needed someone to bring you his terms."

"Terms?" Her voice squeaked alarmingly.

"Yes. Reggie has decided to disavow you. However, he will not seek to have the marriage dissolved, in spite of my fatherís urging. He does not wish to bring further disgrace on Opal, Garnet or Amethyst."

She went white--disavowal meant that they would be legally separated. Yet it was not so serious as having the marriage dissolved, which meant it would be as though it never happened, and Reggie would have no further obligations to her.

Not trusting her voice, she nodded.

"He will grant you a yearly stipend of ten silver pennies, which will be paid at Lithe. Five of that will be paid directly to your brother for your upkeep. The remainder will be yours to use as you see fit."

She drew in a deep breath. That was not so generous as she had hoped for, but it was not an inconsiderable amount, either.

"If you should wish to see your daughters, he will pay for a room at The Leaping Hare for a period of one week every six months, and they may visit you there. Because of your banishment, of course, you would not be able to see them at the Great Smials. I am sorry to say that none of them wish to visit you here at your brotherís, however. And as Opal is still recovering from her injuries, you would not be able to see her on her first visit."

For the first time since his arrival, she showed some of her own haughtiness. "They chose their father over me. They may see me here or not at all. As for Opal, she brought her troubles on herself, and it is on her account that I find myself in this situation. I have no wish to see her at all."

He studied her gravely, to her surprise, his green eyes shining with tears. He blinked them away. She was unaccountably reminded of his Baggins cousin, and she felt the way she had sometimes felt at *his* regard--exposed and found wanting.

"Thatís too bad," was all he said. "Opal is recovering well, and will be apprenticing as a†healer†to Mistress Poppy when the latter returns from Gondor, and Amethyst has a suitor. Garnet is doing well, also."

Doing well? she wondered if he realized how little that meant to her, since she had no part in it. What difference did it make if they were doing well when she could not share in their triumphs? Hyacinth turned her head away, and refused to look at him.

He sighed, but said nothing more, just sat there, and she could feel his regard as the silence stretched. Finally she could bear it no more, and turned to him. "Is that all?" she asked coldly.

He leaned forward. "You know, it was hardly my fault, being born."

She flushed, and felt once more exposed.

"Hating me, you know, got you nowhere. I was not about to die to oblige you." His voice was light, not angry at all. "I was in deadly peril for nearly a year, and yet I lived."

She felt a chill run down her spine. Did he have any idea? She thought back once more to that long-ago night. It would never have happened: *Something* would have prevented it, she realized. For the first time ever, she found herself believing in destiny. It was clear that he had one, and all her hopes had always been vain.

He stood up, and looked down on her, and there was pity in his gaze. "Iím going to my rest now--and I doubt that I will see you tomorrow, for I plan to leave before first breakfast."

As he left the room, she stared after him, feeling suddenly cold and bereft.

He had something, something special about him--how could she never have realized it all these years? He was *meant* to be Thain.

She had wasted her life. And--she felt suddenly sick--it was her own fault.





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