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“A Faerie’s Garden”
A Faerie’s house stands in a wood,
Midst faerie trees and flowers,
Where daisies sing like little birds
Between the sun and showers,
And grasses whisper tiny things
About this world of ours.
Such flowers are there beside the way,
Lilies and hollyhocks:
Blow off their stalks to tell the time
Tall dandelion clocks;
While harebells ring an hourly chime
Like a wound music-box.
From “Enchanted Tulips”
Maud Keary, et al.
Tulip didn’t care that her young master wasn’t frightened - she was! Peeking out from under his shirt collar the knitted piglet let out a shriek of alarm that caused Pippin to nearly send her tumbling head over hooves. He placed his hands over his ears and yelped in surprise.
The lady in the brilliant gown smiled at him and held out her hand. Pippin gazed up at her in wonder and extended his. “Come.” She nodded at the place where Rhoswen still knelt. The faerie wore a scowl on her face.
“Ah, little one, remember what you’ve been told you about that! You wouldn’t wish to be forced to wear that face forever, would you now?”
Pippin giggled and even Tulip had to chuckle. How many times had Pippin’s mother said the same thing to him? Hobbit and piglet watched Rhoswen with interest to see what would happen next. Their new friend tilted her head to the side, waiting. No one spoke. Rhoswen stared at the ground, appearing to sulk.
“Well, are you going to introduce me to your friends, Rhoswen?”
Rhoswen’s scowl deepened. “Peregrin, allow me to introduce you to Alfie,” she said without looking up.
Pippin looked into the kind face with interest. “Is this your mum?”
The little one shook her head. “No, she is not.”
“Oh, well…umm, and this is Tulip!” Pippin brightened and pointed to his knitted piglet. Tulip had crawled back into his shirt and was peeking out at them with just one eye and ear revealed.
“Ah, Tulip, is it?” Her smile widened and Pippin’s heart soared. Who was this beautiful person? As if in answer to his thought Alfie bent and whispered in his ear, “I am a friend, young Peregrin.” She straightened and tossed a look of annoyance in Rhoswen’s direction. “And it appears I arrived just in time.”
“What do you mean?” Pippin looked from one to the other, puzzled. Tulip had to admit that it was indeed a mystery. And one she certainly didn’t like! She drew back and eyed the newcomer appraisingly from her vantage point under Pippin’s chin. Squeaking in alarm, Tulip ducked back into his shirt when Alfie bent closer to them once more.
“Why don’t you tell the lad what you were up to?” Alfie bid her. Rhoswen remained quiet, her pale cheeks colouring just slightly. “Very well. Then I will. Rhoswen invited you to dine with her, yes?”
Pippin nodded, looking back to his friend. Tulip poked her head out cautiously so she wouldn’t miss anything.
Alfie shook her head slowly. “Peregrin, you must not consume anything whilst you remain in our land! I cannot emphasise that strongly enough.”
Pippin watched her, eyes wide with curiosity. “But why? I’m very hungry, Alfie! I haven’t had anything but a few berries and mushrooms all day!”
Alfie lifted his chin and gazed into his earnest green eyes. She spoke in her soft voice. “Because, if you do, you will never again return home to your family, child.” Alfie nodded at the still sulking child who was now sitting with her back to them. “Rhoswen knows. Do you not, little one?”
Rhoswen turned around to face them, now shamefaced. She nodded reluctantly. Pippin’s eyes widened. Tulip squeaked her dismay.
“You didn’t want me to go home? But why?”
“I only wanted a friend, Peregrin. I like you, and I wished for you to stay with me always.”
“Rhoswen, you have been taught it is wrong to lure the unsuspecting under the guise of friendship, with the intention of keeping them here forever. You can visit Peregrin in his homeland, but you must promise me you will never try anything so deceitful, ever again.”
Pippin watched as Alfie glided towards her on feet that seemed to barely touch the ground, and placed her hands on the lass’s shoulders. Rhoswen’s eyes were shiny with tears.
“I am sorry. I promise I will not.”
Alfie nodded. “That is good.” She continued to appraise her. “You have a great deal to learn, Rhoswen.” The faerie child nodded solemnly. Alfie beckoned to Pippin with another of her generous smiles. He felt no fear whatsoever. He could tell that even Tulip was stunned with the sheer power of her presence.
“Come, children. Let us go for a walk, yes?”
Pippin nodded and took the proffered hand while Rhoswen accepted the other. They started on the little path that led deeper into the woods and closer to the sparkling stream. A thought occurred to him. “Alfie?” She tilted her head in response. “May I drink the water while I’m here? Or is that forbidden to me also?”
“Now, that is a very good question, young Peregrin. A very good question indeed.” Alfie was silent for several long moments and Pippin began to think she wasn’t going to answer. Again as if in direct response to his thoughts, she spoke. “Of course I will answer your question, my dearest little hobbit,” she said and chuckled merrily. On her other side Rhoswen joined her in laughter.
Tulip poked her nose out suspiciously, and then whispered in Pippin’s ear. He shook his head and darted a glance at Alfie’s face.
“Ah, Tulip is a very cautious piglet, is she not?”
Pippin bobbed his head up and down.
“And what do you think is wrong at the moment, that causes her to be so vigilant?” Alfie inquired.
“Well, she’s always watching out for me. She’s much more careful about things than I am. Sometimes I think she’s acting far too much like my mum, than my—oww!” Pippin felt the soft stamp of Tulip’s hoof, along with a sharp tug at his hair. He plucked her off his shoulder and held her out in front of him. “What was that for? It’s true enough, isn’t it?” Pippin rolled his eyes while Tulip scolded him soundly, but he let her have her say. He’d already learned it was the only way. Whenever she had something she wished for him to hear, she made certain he heard it. All of it.
Alfie and Rhoswen watched the byplay with great amusement. “Where did you get her, Peregrin? Has she been with you for a long while?” Alfie asked.
Pippin tucked Tulip back inside his shirt. Tulip whispered that she’d much prefer to ride on the outside, in order to keep a better eye on him. Perhaps he could tuck her into one of his braces? “I haven’t had her for very long. My mother made her for me while I was sick.” He absent-mindedly placed her under his braces on the left side and then patted her head as he reminisced. “But ever since we met she’s gone everywhere with me--”
Tulip interrupted, begging his pardon, but she did not go everywhere with him. Why, just last week he’d left her atop the shelf in his bedroom while he’d gone with his da into Whitwell on an errand!
Pippin frowned. “But I told you, I forgot,” he reminded her, “and Da wouldn’t turn around and come back for you because we were too far away!”
Alfie laughed at his antics and Pippin felt pleased that he and Tulip had been able to make her even more cheerful. “Tulip certainly has a great deal to say.”
They came to a little garden filled with the most brilliantly coloured flowers Pippin had ever seen. There were every description of flora; from daffodils, daisies, and irises, to bright bluebells, to delicate pink and white and yellow primroses, to tulips, hollyhocks, and roses of every shade; Along the edge of the garden grew a line of magnificent gladiolas, their silky petals bursting forth in every hue of the rainbow. The field behind the garden was decorated in tall heather that looked like a great purple sea waving in the light breeze. Further away, he spied white lilies dotting the rolling countryside amongst a meadow of yellow buttercups. The sight nearly stole his breath away and he gaped in wonder as he plopped down onto the cool grass next to Rhoswen.
At his feet grew rings of vivid purple violets, intertwining with queen’s lace and dark green ivy. Across the garden, plump red strawberries peeked out at him from beneath their umbrella of leaves, and Pippin’s mouth watered hungrily.
Alfie settled gracefully upon a large rock. “I wish to tell you a story. Perhaps it will help to answer some of your questions.”
Pippin pulled his eyes away from the bright view reluctantly and tucked his legs underneath him. His eyes went wide when he noticed the tiny butterfly-like creatures hovering over the flowers that were nearest him. They were exactly like the ones he’d seen earlier. He leaned closer to the one perching on a brilliant red rose and gasped, his mouth falling open. Tulip squealed and ducked inside his shirt, but immediately poked her nose back out to sniff the flower-scented air cautiously. The butterflies were actually tiny people!
“While you are here, young Peregrin Took, you must promise me that you will not eat nor drink of anything in this land,” Alfie told him with a solemn face. “Do you understand?”
Pippin nodded slowly, but was still unable to take his eyes off the strange sight. He didn’t truly understand, but he trusted Alfie instinctively. Even Tulip was coming around now. His gaze darted back to Alfie but quickly returned to the rose. The wee ‘butterfly’ regarded him with a curiosity equal to his own. Its melting golden eyes met and held his sparkling green ones, and Pippin stared, spellbound. Alfie laughed, the sound as entrancing as the trickle of water from a mountain spring.
“I see you have drawn the attention of the moss people. That is an honour as they usually are very shy around those they do not know.”
“Moss people?” Just then, Tulip clutched at Pippin’s hair with her tiny hooves, then scrambled beneath his collar, uttering a tiny cry. Pippin’s eyes grew wide again. Standing at his elbow was another odd, yet beautiful creature, about a foot tall and adorned in the colours of nature. She (he?) had hair that fairly shimmered with movement of its own, and skin that was a golden brown. Pippin was reminded of a tiny bear.
Rhoswen put a hand up to her mouth and giggled. “That is Ealhdun. He is a guardian spirit of the earth.”
“A spirit?” Pippin wrinkled his brow and looked at the being again. Despite her fright, Tulip reminded him in a rather loud whisper that it was impolite to stare.
“Yes, an earth faerie, Peregrin. He is very much in tune to all that surrounds him, but most especially the earth,” Alfie said. She held out her hand. “Come, Ealhdun. Sit with us for a time, and share our fellowship. Yes?” She nodded at him and he bowed his head respectfully and lowered his slim body to the grass near Rhoswen.
Pippin wondered if Alfie was perhaps the person in authority here, even if she wasn’t Rhoswen’s mum. After all, it seemed that everyone obeyed her without question. He eyed the newcomer curiously. “Hullo! I’m Pippin.”
Ealhdun nodded at him. “Yes, I am aware of who you are.”
Pippin tried to refrain from giggling, but simply couldn’t help it. The little being’s voice was high pitched and sounded like a song. He’d never heard anything quite like it before. But Ealhdun didn’t seem to mind. Pippin turned his attention back to Alfie as she began her story.
“Tell me about this cave you found.” Saradoc hurried the ponies along. He glanced up and noted that the daylight was starting to fade in the early evening sky. “First of all, where exactly is it located?”
Merry tried to remember exactly which way they had gone that day last spring. He was certain it was far to the north side of the farm, almost to the very edge of his uncle’s land. He remembered because of the green hills in the distance and the comments he had made about being near the boundaries. Oh yes, and there were blackberries everywhere. The brambles were what had hidden the entrance. They wouldn’t have spied the opening at all if Pippin hadn’t tripped over his own feet and fallen right in front of it. When Merry reached down to help him up his hand had felt the cool breeze that flowed from beneath the ground. Excited by their find, he had cleared off the vines very carefully and peeked inside.
“Merry,” his father interrupted his thoughts, “think hard, lad. Where were you when you spied it, and what landmarks do you recall seeing? And are you certain you were still on the farm?”
Merry nodded vigourously. “Yes, I’m certain of that. I remember we could still see the fencing along the north pasture where Oddie is usually roaming about. As a matter of fact, we’d seen him just before we set off down the hill and away from the fence. I recall Pippin telling me how often he’s been warned to stay away from him.”
The big bull was known to keep vigilance at the farthest perimeters of his domain, so that sounded right to Saradoc. “All right, what else?”
“I know I can find it again, Da. We covered over the opening so no one else would find it and I looked around to make sure I would remember where it was. Pippin and I talked about going in it but we never got the opportunity on that visit because I had to leave the next day. That’s when I made him promise me he wouldn’t go near it without me. And, not to spoil it by telling anyone.” Merry looked down at his feet. He could feel Pearl’s growing dismay.
He knew that she was still upset with him for not telling anyone about his discovery. He grimaced, thinking about what she’d said. If Pippin really had wandered that way there was no telling the number of dangers he might have stumbled upon. But the worst one was surely the cave, and if his young cousin had indeed decided to go exploring there, then they had to find him as quickly as possible.
Merry shivered, recalling the things he had learned about the dangers of caverns while listening to his father and Uncle Merimac talk about the ones located around the Brandywine river. There were several in Buckland, and he had been warned repeatedly not to go inside them. Guilt began to creep up on him like a smothering blanket. He knew the real reason he had wished to keep their discovery a secret. He had always wanted to explore a cave, but had never found the opportunity to do so before. Now, if Pippin suffered because of it, Merry would never be able to forgive himself.
“Merry.” Pearl’s voice was soft and drew him from his reverie. She sat next to him in the back of the waggon. Reaching out, she pulled him close and hugged him. The gesture caused the tears that had only threatened to spill over. “I know you didn’t think about what might happen. And I know how much you love Pippin.” A quiet sob escaped Merry’s lips. “Shh, now. I’m not angry with you. I’m just worried. I never meant to take it out on you.”
“I know,” Merry sniffed and wiped his eyes on his sleeve. “But I’ll never forgive myself if--”
“No,” Pearl shook her head and pressed a finger to his lips. “Don’t think bad thoughts. Everything will be fine, you’ll see.”
“That’s right, lad,” Saradoc called over his shoulder to his son. “We’ll find your cousin. He’ll be safe and sound, you’ll see.” Saradoc glanced at his wife and hurried the ponies a little faster.
The long trail led them ever deeper into the woods. The path ahead seemed endless to Paladin. His party of searchers had already walked for hours with still no sign of his small son, and nightfall was approaching. It was all he could do to keep from despairing. This was such an immense, dark place, especially at night. The lad was surely terrified by now. Wherever could he be? Paladin felt a sense of helplessness threatening to overwhelm him. Knowing he could not give into his anguish, he pushed on. He continued to have a strong feeling that Pippin was here. Perhaps not close by, but definitely somewhere in the forest.
Paladin may not have been certain just where his son was, but he knew enough from years of experience to trust in his deep intuition. He had not questioned his ability to ‘See’ in many a year, although it still tended to confound him. Now he reached deep inside himself while trudging ahead of the others, and saw Pippin in his mind’s eye. The lad was not in any danger, at least at the moment, and Paladin gave a sigh of relief. He no longer worried that something had already befallen him, for the deeper into the forest they travelled, the more certain he became that no harm had come to his lad yet. He concentrated hard, trying to judge which direction to turn. A strong sense of peace and a presence unlike any he’d known, settled over him. When it lifted a moment later, a great burden had been removed from his shoulders. He drew a deep, shaky breath.
Paladin signaled for the others to take a break next to the water. He noticed it was deepening, and the farther inward they followed the path, the wider the channel became. The brook was lovely, crystal clear and pure, with the promise of becoming much larger further along. The party took their turns drinking from the waters and allowing their ponies to do the same. Paladin knelt and scooped some of the cool water to his mouth, savoring the sparkling drink with his eyes closed.
After consuming his fill he sat back on his heels and brushed the palm of his hand across his forehead. He dipped his fingers into the water again and splashed it onto his tired face. As he got to his feet a flash of pink in the undergrowth caught his eye. Paladin spun and dropped back to his knees, pouncing on it with a small cry. Tulip! He shouted and waved frantically at the others to join him.
“Oh, we’ve been waiting for you, Pearl!” Eglantine rushed into the yard upon hearing the waggon rolling up, Nell and Vinca on her heels.
“Is there any word, Mum?” Pearl hopped nimbly down from her uncle’s carriage.
“No, not anything. Oh, I’m so glad to see you! We need all the help we can get. The shirriff’s been here and gone already. He’s taken a party of searchers down into Whitwell, going in the opposite direction from Pad and the others. They--”
“Eglantine,” Saradoc interrupted, “We’ve a new place to search that Merry informed us of. How many are still about?”
“Not many. Nearly all of the farmhands are either with Pad or searching on his own. They’ve divided up so they can explore every corner of the farm, and beyond. Shirriff Smallburrow gathered up a group of folks to help too, but they’re far from here by now. What’s the matter? Do you know something? What place are you talking about?” Eglantine called, following behind her brother-in-law as he moved away.
“We’ll just have to make do then.” Saradoc sprinted towards the barn to gather the items he needed for the search while Eglantine whirled on the rest of them.
“What is going on? I want to know, now.” Her voice was firm, leaving no room for argument.
Esmeralda placed a comforting hand on her arm. “Tina, Merry told us there is a cave he and Pippin located last spring. We wonder if perhaps Pippin may have headed there.”
“A cave? Where? A CAVE?” The full meaning of the possibilities struck Eglantine all at once and her voice rose. She took Merry by the arm. “Where, Merry?”
“It’s on the far side of the north pasture, Aunt Tina, perhaps two and a half or three miles.” Merry pointed over his shoulder. “We happened upon it when we were picking blackberries. A great many brambles and other growth hide it. I told Pippin to stay away from it, that he was not to ever go near it alone.”
Eglantine gasped. “Oh, Merry! The quickest way to get Peregrin to do something is to tell him not to!”
“I’m sorry Aunt Tina.” Merry hung his head.
“I’m not blaming you, dear.” Eglantine patted her nephew on the shoulder and sighed. “I just know my son and the way he thinks about such matters.”
Saradoc trotted towards them, his arms full of rope and wood for torches. “Merry, help me.”
Pearl and Pimpernel rushed to his side. “We’re coming too,” Pearl told her uncle.
“Of course.” Saradoc handed her a rope and several small shovels and pointed. “Start getting all this into the waggon. Tina, where does Pad keep the waterskins? And we’ll need some old cloth to soak in oil to make torches. And more rope,” he shouted as he hurried back towards the barn, but Eglantine was already sprinting away, the other lasses on her heels.
“We’ll need the lanterns too, it’ll be dark soon,” Eglantine panted as she started giving orders the minute they were inside the farmhouse. She dashed about gathering up the needed items in her arms, and then headed into the pantry, dumping everything into one of the bushel baskets. Pimpernel was right behind her and grabbed the water skins, rushing to the pump to fill them with Vinca’s assistance.
“Pearl,” Eglantine said, her face flushed as she worked furiously at her task, “Get some bandages and salve together please. Put them inside the pouch where I keep my other medicines and supplies. We may need them.”
Pearl took in her mother’s red face and noted the shaky voice. Without a word, she hurried to do as she was told.
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