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“I wasn’t there when it all happened,” Ferumbras said. “Ironically, I was small-game hunting with my friend Adelgard. We were near Three-Farthing Stone and didn’t return until the following day to find the Smials in an uproar and the Whitwells gone in a fury. Would anything have been different if I had been there? I doubt it.
“We had been careful to keep everything from Mother, or so we thought. Mother was as good a Took as any other, and once she put her nose to something, she always rooted out the truth eventually. She had been sneaking about, learning all she could and putting everything together. Mother could be incredibly shrewd. She required only the barest of facts and the rest she could generally figure out on her own. Asking the right people the right questions got her enough information, and going with that to my father, demanding that he tell her everything at once, told her more than she ever wanted to know.
“To say she was furious would be an understatement. She was livid that her son would be rebuked for a tramp. It was an affront to the Took name and she would not have that. What she did then would follow her the rest of her years. Though many agreed with her, no one could forgive her for her actions that day.”
“What did she do?” Twitch asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
“The only thing she felt she could do,” Ferumbras said.
Chapter 19 - Curse of the Tooks
Ami barely slept. Every time she thought of Perry out there on the hills, so close, she wanted nothing more than to dress quickly and go to him. She marveled that she had been able to withstand the separation for the last six weeks - no, the last year - when now she wanted only to be in his arms and never leave them again. She did get up a few times during the night, but remembering her promise to take Pally, and now Ferdinand, with her, she did nothing more than pace the floor. Finally, she settled on the window ledge and looked out over the hills, wishing her window faced east.
She did manage to doze and so was startled awake by a light rapping on her door just after four in the morning. She rubbed her eyes and yawned widely, her jaw popping. She pushed off the window ledge and shuffled over to the door. Pally was standing in the hall, along with a half-asleep and thoroughly curious Ferdinand.
“We should go get them now,” Pally said. “It’d be best if we can get them inside before too many folk are up and about.”
“I don’t think it’s necessary to sneak them in under cover of night,” Ami argued, though she wasn’t sure why. The lack of sleep and the anticipation and, if she were honest with herself, fear of what the day might bring was not a soothing combination.
Pally refrained from responding.
Ami huffed. “Perry and I were going to watch the sunrise.”
The light was low. The single lamp that Ferdinand carried lit a small circle in the hall and her doorway where they stood. Even in that light, Ami could see the bitterness in Pally’s eyes. “If you get your way, you’ll have all the sunrises you’ll want with him. If Mum and Da haven’t completely lost their minds, that is. Now get dressed.”
Ami shut the door in their faces, then fumbled about her room to the bedside table. She lit the lamp and turned up the flame, then carried the lamp to the vanity. The light reflected off the mirror and filled the room with a haunting glow. She shivered from the cold, or so she told herself.
She washed quickly and dressed, ran a brush through her curls and foot hair and clipped her hair back with a rose clip to match her Promise gift. She added a dash of rose water to her neck and washed her mouth with a few quick swishes of water. She looked at herself in the mirror and hoped she wouldn’t look as tired as she felt once the sun rose.
She opened her door to find Pally and Ferdinand leaning against the opposite wall. “I’m ready.”
“Let’s go then.” Pally went ahead and led the way outside.
They walked quickly over the hills, the small flame of the lantern falling around their feet, lighting their path. The predawn air held a hint of chill, the promise of autumn nearly arrived. Ami wished she had thought to grab her shawl but the chill wasn’t so cold to make her uncomfortable. They walked in the silence through the steel-grey night, and within a half-hour they reached the hill where Ami had been reunited with Perry. Over on the other hill, a small fire was burning. Ami’s heart leapt.
“So these are friends of yours?” Ferdinand asked, breaking the silence.
Ami didn’t know what Pally had told him already. She looked to her brother quickly, but his expression was carefully neutral. “Yes, they are. I met them at the fair last year.”
“It’s that shepherd lad, right?”
Ami threw another quick look at Pally. He was frowning slightly but still didn’t look inclined to say anything. “Yes. His name is Perry Nettleburr. It’s him, his brother and their friends.”
“They’ve come for a visit? Are they thinking of apprenticing some of their young ones here?”
“That would be something,” Pally muttered but whatever he could have meant by that, he didn’t elaborate and Ami didn’t ask.
“No. I’m helping them with a project of theirs,” Ami said. “They need some construction done.”
“Ah. So they’ve come to speak with Master Tobold?”
Ferdinand was slowly and craftily whittling out as much information from Ami as he could. He should know better than to play that trick on another Took. “Master Tobold doesn’t know they’re here, but it would perhaps be prudent to speak with him, now that you mention it. Do you know if he’s available today?”
Ferdinand grinned, recognizing the attempt at deflection. “I’ll check his calendar when we get back.”
“Here we are,” Pally interrupted.
They had reached the base of the hill. Ami looked up and could see their guests moving about, packing up their camp. A figure was approaching them. Ami guessed it was Ambrosia from the swaying of skirts, but it was her mother Felicity instead.
“They’re nearly ready,” Felicity said. “Might I speak with ye for a moment, Miss Ami?”
“Of course,” Ami said, baffled. She followed Felicity for several paces farther downhill. “Is something the matter?” she asked, once they came to a stop.
Felicity shook her head. “Nay, Miss Ami. I’ve just been asked to give ye this, if ye accepted Perry’s proposal. Tis from Eveline. Ye’ve got something old,” she said, indicating the pendant. She rooted in her pocket and produced a handkerchief of soft sheep wool. An amaryllis was sewn in the middle. “Tis something new. Perry’s got his already.”
Ami hadn’t even thought of the traditional wedding handkerchiefs and she teared up thinking of Eveline making this for her, knowing how the elderly matron felt about this union. She took the handkerchief and surprised Felicity with a hug. “Thank you.”
“It’d be yer ma’s job to give ye something borrowed and blue.” Felicity returned the hug, feeling awkward but pleased. “Perry’s a fine lad. I thought he might marry my daughter at one time, but she went and set her sights on Beak. Eveline was worrit Perry might not find himself a lass, we’re so few and the other lasses so much younger. Funny how things work out, isn’t it.”
“Indeed.” Ami tucked the handkerchief into her pocket and walked with Felicity back to Pally and Ferdinand, then onward to the camp.
She found Perry almost at once. Conscience of her brother’s and cousin’s presence, she settled for embracing him and pecking his cheek. “No sunrise today, I’m afraid,” she said regretfully.
Perry nodded. “We’re just about ready to go,” he said as Dougal came with a bowl full of dirt and extinguished the fire. They hadn’t unpacked much - they didn’t have much that needed unpacking - and once everyone’s bedrolls or blankets were squared away, they were ready to move.
Ami could sense the hesitancy in the group as they approached the Smials. There were no lights shining in the windows now and the vast hill and those surrounding it were as dark and innocuous as any other. They remembered the lights though, the mere hint of the vast warren that awaited them below ground, and they hung back slightly. Perry, despite his own fears, squared his shoulders and walked in the lead with Ami, Pally and Ferdinand. Ferdinand watched Perry curiously but oddly refrained from asking any questions. Ami wondered if that was good or bad.
They made the trek in silence and reached the door to the guest quarters as the first hints of pink lighted the eastern sky. Ami regretted the lost opportunity to watch the sunrise, but if all went well today, as Pally said, she’d have plenty of sunrises to share with Perry.
The tunnels inside were sparsely lit with wall sconces, just enough to see where one was going. The first impression was of a long dark tunnel with many doors on either side, all leading to places unknown. Even Perry hesitated for a moment but he gripped Ami’s hand and continued forward, pulling the rest of his group with him.
The Whitwell Tooks stayed in an apartment not far from this door. They rounded the first corner and at the second door, stopped. Pally and Ferdinand entered first, leaving the door open. The smells of food cooking wafted out into the tunnel, settling the nerves of everyone there in an instant. They all suddenly realized how hungry they were. Ami met Perry’s gaze and saw his determination. She risked a quick kiss then led them all inside.
After the introductions, they led their guests to the bathing rooms to wash. If they had been wide-eyed by their brief encounter with the apartment, they were nonplussed by the bathing rooms. Merlin said it best for everyone. “An entire room just for bathing? What do you bathe in here?” he asked as he glanced around in awe.
Dougal pointed to the tub. “Is that where you wash your clothes?” None of them could believe it was for washing hobbits.
“I get it now,” Ferdinand said to Pally as they closed the doors behind their guests. “You’re pulling a prank on me.”
Pally shook his head. “I wish I were.”
“So then what is going on here, Pally?”
“I’ll explain later.”
When they returned to the apartment, the guests offered to help with the food preparations. Their eyes traveled over the parlor and adjoining kitchen, taking in everything around them. A few had glazed-over expressions, overwhelmed by all the things to explore. Still, they insisted on doing their part to help with the food and soon they were forming a line around the kitchen, chopping, mincing, juicing and peeling. Conversation was limited to the preparations and food in general, further relaxing everyone.
When first breakfast was ready, Adalgrim pulled Perry aside and into the study. Clematis and Ami followed, leaving Amber and Heather to entertain the guests. In the study, Adalgrim sat at the table, where he had placed both of the room’s chairs. He and Clematis took the settee, leaving the chairs for Ami and Perry. They settled in and began eating in strained silence.
“The meal is delicious, Mistress Clematis,” Perry said about halfway through.
“Thank you, Perry,” Clematis said. “It was kind of you all to help.”
“Indeed it was,” Adalgrim started, keeping his tone amiable. Now that they were talking, they may as well continue. “It’s good to see you again, lad. We’d just about given up. In fact, we were to set out for home tomorrow.”
One didn’t have to be fluent in Took double-talk to understand the question Adalgrim wasn’t asking.
Perry swallowed the bite he was working on and reached for his tea. After a sip, he answered. “I’d’ve followed right behind ye if I could,” he said. “But I wanted to give Nana time to be accepting of it. She deserved that.” He paused, looked at Ami then back at her parents, all watching him expectantly. He didn’t require any further prompting.
“I’ve been busy though. I did go up and speak with Mr. Banks. I’ve seen him several times in fact. We’ve worked out a deal for the wood. It worked just as yer daughter said as it would, but seeing as we’re going to need so much, we changed it a bit. We’ll cut the trees by thirds - every third tree that is, and plant in their spot. Once the saplings are growing good and hale, we’ll take the other third, and finally the last. Figures it’d take about ten years in all, and another five after that to see to the final plantings. He’s lent us the tools as we’ll need.
“He’s also given us the rocks as were dug up when they excavated the last holes in the hills. They’ve been taken up land behind some farms, which the farmers are wanting to expand but can’t. They couldn’t find no one interested in hauling them away afore now, so they’re given ‘em to us clear and free, so long’s we’re willing to do all the work of hauling ‘em. We’re more’n interested and willing, and the smith offered to break the rock down into workable chunks for us, so long as we keep him in belts for five years once we’ve got the tannery up and going.
“None of the plans as Ami left us detailed how to build with rock, but I remembered seeing all the homes and buildings in Michel Delving and along the way, and in Pincup too, so I know it can be done. I figure we could use that for the foundations and only have to use the wood for the roofs and inside walls. I haven’t figure out yet how far we can make it stretch, but each time we haul a load to Nohill and go back, there seem to be just as many rocks left as what we started with. It’ll do us a good spell is my guess. We’ll need mortar, which Mr. Banks says needs to be ordered special from the North Moors, as none of us felt comfortable dealing with Brockenborings. The smith said as he could cut the larger rocks to sit atop each other without needing mortar, so that’ll help. The mortar’s expensive.”
“A large part of that expense will be to cover the cost of delivering it,” Adalgrim said. “The Brockenborings is closer, and I doubt anyone there will remember anything about your grandfather. Even if they do, you’re not him. There’s no reason you can’t deal with them.”
Perry shook his head. “Nana would have fits, as would all the elders. They remember and that’s enough. If it’s the delivery that’ll cost so much, I’m sure I can find a few willing to make the journey. Now as we’re dealing with Pincup and seeing how easy it is, folk are getting bold. How do you think I got so many to follow me here?” His grin was both self-deprecating and proud.
“You’ve certainly been keeping busy,” Clematis said, sounding as impressed as Adalgrim looked. “Do you think you will get any building started before the winter?”
“We plan to fix the shacks up and get them solid,” Perry said. “Those’ll take the least amount of work and give us something to practice on. It’ll also give us someplace dry to sleep when needed and we can better store the harvest. We’ll use the winter to draw up our plans and figure out how much material we’ll be needing and to finish hauling the rock. We won’t start cutting trees until after the sowing in the spring.
“We need to figure out a build order. The tannery will be first, of course. After that, I figure we can pull names from a sack and we can probably manage having three projects going at once. Beak figured five, but I think it’s best to start slow, at least until we know what we’re in for. So two houses for one communal structure at a time is what we’re going with for now and everyone seems happy with that.”
“It’ll take time to get everything accomplished at that rate,” Adalgrim said.
“We’ll get it done,” Perry replied simply. “Once we know what we’re doing, we can add onto the number of projects we have going at once. The lasses are willing to help, and the elders and younglings can see to the crops and beasts. We want to build as much as we can without outside help.”
“I believe you will get it done,” Adalgrim said.
They finished their meal, and while Ami and Clematis went to the kitchen to get everyone seconds, Adalgrim took the opportunity to fix Perry with a hard stare.
“My children are everything in the world to me,” he said, keeping his voice low so as not to be overheard; the lasses had left the study door ajar. “I want nothing but what is best for them. When you have your own children, you’ll understand why I’m hesitant to allow this match. Darling has always been trusting, too easily at times. It’s clear to me you’re an industrious lad and that you are truly committed to seeing your situation improved. That’s a comfort to me, but I still have reservations.”
Perry looked down at his teacup, empty now, then back at Adalgrim. He drew a deep breath, pretending a confidence he didn’t feel. “I love yer daughter, sir. I know I’m not good enough for her, and I don’t deserve her. Honestly, I don’t know why she’s set on me. Perhaps I am being selfish, taking what shouldn’t be mine, but I’ll make myself worthy of her, and you, even if it takes the rest of my life.”
He glanced around the room, furnished and resplendent, and swallowed audibly. That she was willing to give up so much for him, seemingly without hesitation or regret, he couldn’t believe his good fortune. It only made him more determined to prove himself to her and everyone else. “It’ll be a hard and long road afore I’m able to provide her with what she’s used to. I want nothing more’n to travel that road with her, and I’ll do all in my power to see her taken care of. I’ll not disrespect her or treat her unkindly. I know why ye worry about her, living with such as us, but she’s stronger than ye know and I’ll see as she wants for naught. It may be some years afore I can give her what she’s used to here, but she’ll have it. We’ll all have it.” He risked a grin. “Including one of them bathing tubs. Those are nice.”
Adalgrim laughed. “They are nice, aren’t they? Even in Whitwell, we only have a wooden one and not nearly as big.”
Clematis and Ami returned then and they commenced eating. Clematis steered the conversation effortlessly, asking about Perry’s childhood, his parents and grandparents, and sharing her own remembrances of growing up in Overhill. Her own upbringing could be considered humble by Took standards. In her own way, she was telling Perry that she understood, at least in part, where he was coming from. Perry was grateful for the gesture. Adalgrim then launched into a debriefing on his duties in Whitwell, overseeing the farms there and all that the job required. It was a lot of information, but sprinkled with helpful tips. Perry listened intently, asking questions for clarification when needed. Ami mostly sat silently through all this, offering a tidbit here and there but content to sit back and watch her parents interact with Perry, and him with them. It almost felt as though they had been doing this for years.
The interview lasted nearly two hours. It was almost time for second breakfast when they finished. They had imparted all the wisdom and advice they could for the moment, and Perry had passed their inspection and scrutiny. Adalgrim and Clematis met eyes, a silent conversation taking place in those glances. Eyebrows lifted and mouths twitched and all the while they didn’t break eye contact. Finally, they reached out and clasped their hands, holding tight. Clematis closed her eyes, but not before Ami saw the tears forming there.
“Very well,” she said, her voice choked. “You may marry our daughter.”
Ami’s concern for her mother was momentarily forgotten at her joy of hearing these words. It was all she could do to keep from jumping up and hugging everyone.
Adalgrim grasped his wife’s hand harder still. He didn’t cry but his voice was low when he spoke, as though it would break if he used his normal tones. “I do not want to regret this decision, Peregrin. You are taking something very precious from us today.”
“Ye won’t regret it, sir,” Perry said, his voice shaking slightly with his own veiled emotions.
“Oh, I already do, though not for lack of faith in you,” Adalgrim said. “I imagine a long engagement is not what either of you have in mind.”
“If they’re to start building before the winter, I’ll need to go back with them now,” Ami said. “I can only do that properly if we’re married.”
“We do have to leave tomorrow, Darling. We can’t put it off any longer,” Clematis said. “Weddings take time to plan and organize.”
“If we go with you back to Whitwell, it’ll be just as long to come back, plus all that time to plan a wedding...” Ami trailed off. “It won’t leave us time to get anything accomplished before the cold sets in.” She shook her head. “I never wanted a big fancy wedding, and while waiting for harvest would be ideal, I feel as though if we don’t do it now, it will never happen.”
“Are ye sure, lass?” Perry asked. “Ye’d want yer friends there, surely. I don’t want ye doing something hasty and regretting it later.”
“I’ve thought about this, nothing but this, for six weeks. I only need you, seven witnesses and an officiator,” Ami said. “I don’t need anything else. We can do it today, and I’m already packed.”
Adalgrim sighed. “Leave us alone with our daughter for a moment, Perry, then we shall see the Thain.”
Perry left and Ami hugged her parents. They were all crying, though Ami’s tears were not entirely sad. She would miss her family but she was eager to start her life with Perry and return to Nohill. Hearing all of Perry’s plans, she realized anew how competent and enterprising he was. That he wanted her help, needed her help, needed her, was both astounding and humbling. She hoped fervently that she could live up to all his expectations, even as she envisioned the future of Nohill. She had drawn it so often in her mind and now it would someday become reality, and she would be there to see it. When it was built and finished, she would bring her family to see it and ease their minds once and for all that they had made the right decision today.
She thought she might have said all this in between the hugs and kisses and tears, but she couldn’t be sure. She distantly heard their instructions to be careful, to keep warm, to come visit often, to keep in touch. They expected a letter every day. They needed to figure out what to do for Yule. They stood back and looked at Ami long and hard, as though they would never see her again, then with an effort turned to the door and went to the parlor to announce the engagement to everyone there.
Clematis took Ami into her chamber and loaned her a pair of lace gloves to wear for the ceremony. She then redid Ami’s hair, braiding it, weaving in a blue ribbon and tying it off with a blue butterfly clip. When Ami was ready, she hugged her tightly and they cried again.
“My Darling,” she said and kissed her daughter’s brow. “I suppose now I give you the talk about what a wife should expect from her husband and vice versa.”
“You don’t have to, Mum,” Ami said but was grateful when Clematis sat her on the bed and started speaking anyway.
Before she knew it, she was again in the parlor with Perry at her side. Soon after that, they were walking through the tunnels, receiving curious glances and warm good-days. A couple of gossiping busybodies tried to engage them in conversation, to little effect.
“What was that about?” said one to the other as the Whitwell Tooks and their unusual guests walked past.
“I don’t know,” said the other, “but Lalia would. Where is she this morning?”
“I’m not sure. She shouldn’t be too hard to track down.”
They went to find the Lady.
The Whitwells reached the Thain’s study and upon his admittance, filed inside the room. Lalia wasn’t there, to everyone’s relief. Fortinbras lifted an eyebrow and smiled. “Good day, Whitwells,” he said. “What might I do for you today?”
“A word, if you please, Peanut,” Adalgrim said, indicating the private garden.
When he and Fortinbras slipped outside, Esme pulled Ami aside. “Wouldn’t you rather have a proper wedding?” she asked her sister.
Ami shook her head. “I don’t want to wait. I can’t go back to Nohill until we’re married and Perry came here only to get me. We both want to get back and start our work there, and when all’s done, you can come for a nice long visit.”
Esme hugged her, tears forming in her eyes but not falling. “You’ll be so far away. What am I going to do without you?”
“You could marry Marcho Hornblower,” Ami teased.
Esme laughed. “That’ll be the scandal!”
Outside, Fortinbras stared around his private garden and listened to all his cousin said. More so, he listened to the strain and forced cheer in Adalgrim’s tone. When Adalgrim finished speaking, Fortinbras said, “I can be the mean one for you. I can forbid this marriage. I probably should.”
Adalgrim paused. That he was actually considering it, after giving his consent, made him sick. He was worried, yes, but he didn’t doubt Perry’s determination. If worse came to worst, he could always insist that Ami and Perry come to live in Whitwell. “No. If you feel uncomfortable performing the ceremony, just point me to the marriage contracts. I’ll do it myself. We’ll still have enough witnesses.”
“How poor is he?”
“He’s rich enough where it counts.”
“I have to ask this, and please don’t take offense, but is Ami with child?”
“Of course not!”
Fortinbras held up his hands. “Folk will want to know, because of the rush and the secrecy. I don’t like that this is being rushed. I think it would be prudent to wait a while, at least a month, to do things properly.”
“He came here to get her, and they don’t want to wait. Please, Peanut. This is hard enough already.”
“There will be concern that he’s only after the Took money.”
“He isn’t. He and his kin aren’t very fond of money, especially money from the gentry.”
Fortinbras nodded. “Very well. Let’s go in and end their suspense.”
They stepped back into the study. Fortinbras was still uncertain. He knew nothing about this lad, his people or his village, and he had more to consider than just Ami and her parents by allowing this marriage to go forward. Yet he trusted Adalgrim’s judgment and knew his cousin would not consent for his daughter to marry someone who was only interested in the Took gold. If Adalgrim and Clematis were in agreement, he had no reason to refuse them. He knew also that refusing would accomplish nothing. Adalgrim had already said he’s perform the marriage himself if need be.
“Darling,” he said. Ami stepped forward. “Are you sure about this?”
Ami took Perry’s hand. “I am, more than anything.”
Fortinbras looked Perry up and down, then scrutinized the others. If they had any idea of whom’s study they stood and what that meant, they gave no indication of it. Perry met his eyes unwaveringly. At least the lad had gumption, and quite a bit more than that from what Adalgrim told him.
Fortinbras nodded. “And who shall witness?”
Adalgrim said, “I shall, as well as Clematis.”
Perry nodded towards his cousin and friends. “Dougal, Filigon and Will are of age.”
“That leaves us two short,” Fortinbras said.
“I’ll witness,” Amber said.
“As will I,” said Heather. As widows, they held their late husbands’ authority for legal transactions.
Fortinbras shuffled through the stacks of parchment on the shelves along the wall until he found a blank marriage bond. The language on all marriage bonds was the same, except the names and date. He dipped his quill and paused before touching ink to parchment as Lalia’s face popped into his mind’s eye.
She had cornered him shortly after Ami’s forfeited adventure. When she had overheard Rumbi and Pally discussing Nohill and the shepherd lad, she had threatened the poor stable lad Sprig with dismissal if he didn’t tell her everything he knew. By the time Fortinbras finished filling in the blanks as much as he could, she had been even more furious than when he started. She had only refrained from saying anything to the Whitwells because Fortinbras had assured her it was all over. That was before Ami and Marcho called off their false engagement. Lalia had been waiting for the eggs to crack ever since, but she had also held her tongue. Fortinbras could only imagine what she would say about this. Hopefully, her elevenses would go long and she wouldn’t be back until after the ceremony was finished.
“Peanut?” Adalgrim said when he paused too long. “If you’ve forgotten Darling’s proper name, it’s Amaryllis.” He spoke lightly, but Fortinbras could hear the strain in his voice.
Fortinbras met Adalgrim’s eyes. Another silent conversation took place, ending with Fortinbras drawing a deep breath, nodding and dipping the quill again. Best thing to do now was to hurry before his wife returned from visiting Gardenia. Thank the stars Rumbi was on a ramble with Adelgard; this would devastate him, of that Fortinbras had no doubt. Several minutes later, the bond was completed, awaiting only the signatures.
“Have you the wedding cloths?” Fortinbras asked.
Ami pulled her kerchief from her dress pocket and gave it to her mother. Merlin produced his brother’s. Perry’s kerchief was dyed green and had an emblem of a sheep in the center. Merlin handed this to Dougal, the eldest of their group besides Felicity.
Fortinbras paused again, then forged ahead. He looked at both Ami and Perry, speaking to them alone. “Marriage is not a vow to be taken, or given, lightly. You will find that a life together will be both joyous and trying, it will have both comfort and conflict, triumphs and trials. Only those of sound mind and full understanding of what they are about to undertake may be so joined, and only when it is of their own choosing. Amaryllis Took, have you come here today of your own free will and accord, and do you understand the duties and blessings of marriage?”
“Yes I do,” Ami said.
“With whom do you come and whose blessings accompany you?”
Adalgrim bowed. “She comes with me and with the blessing of all her family.”
Fortinbras turned to Perry. “Peregrin Nettleburr, have you come here today of your own free will and accord, and do you understand the duties and promises of marriage?”
“Yes I do,” Perry said.
“With whom do you come and whose blessings accompany you?”
Dougal bowed. “He comes with me and with the blessing of his family.”
Fortinbras said to the room in general, “Is it the agreement of those assembled here today that this couple be joined in marriage?”
“It is,” they said as one. Only Paladin remained silent, but he nodded. He didn’t trust himself to speak.
“Will the bride and groom face each other and touch right hands together,” Fortinbras said. Ami switched hands and faced Perry, meeting his eyes. They both smiled. Fortinbras addressed the bride first. “What is your name?”
“And what is your desire?”
Clematis handed the wedding cloth to Fortinbras, who folded it lengthwise and wrapped it around Ami’s and Perry’s wrists. “With this symbol of your love, so speak your promise,” he said.
Ami let out a nervous breath, but she spoke clearly and unwavering. “I, Amaryllis Took, do take you, Peregrin Nettleburr, as my husband. Now do I make my promises to you. I promise to share laughter in times of joy and wonder; to share tears when sorrow touches our lives; to share my dreams and hopes, that our love and minds may grow; to share compassion and understanding during times of frustration and anger; to share all that I have, and all that I am, to the end of days.”
Fortinbras turned to Perry. “What is your name?”
“And what is your desire?”
“To join with Ami, who I love.”
Dougal handed the groom’s wedding cloth to Fortinbras, which he placed over the other. “With this symbol of your love, so speak your promise.”
“I, Perry Nettleburr, do take ye, Ami Took, as my wife. Now do I make my promises to ye. I promise to share with ye laughter in times of joy and wonder; to share tears when sorrow touches our lives; to share my dreams and my hopes, so that our love and minds may grow; to share compassion and understanding during times of frustration and anger; to share all that I have, and all that I am, to the end of days.”
Fortinbras placed his hands over Ami’s and Perry’s. “By your vows of love and these symbols of unity, I now declare you husband and wife.”
Ami threw her free arm around Perry’s neck and they kissed soundly. Then the witnesses signed and the bond was completed with the Thain’s stamp. Ami kissed Perry again.
“I’m your wife,” she said, dazed.
“Aye.” For once in his life, Perry couldn’t think of anything to say.
“So what do we do now?” Merlin asked.
“You explain yourselves.” The voice came from the adjoining office and sounded hard, almost savage.
Everyone turned as one. Lalia stood in the doorway, face red with rage. She stepped into the room and towards Ami, everyone else forgotten.
“You harlot! You ingrate! You insufferable, selfish child!” Lalia was so focused on getting to Ami that she was stopped short with surprise when Perry neatly stepped in front of her, blocking her path.
“Lady, I don’t know who ye are, but that’s my wife yer disrespecting.”
Lalia’s laugh was shrill. “Of course you don’t! You’re nothing but a scrag, a whelp, a burr to decent folk. You think you can besmirch the Took name?”
“Lally,” Fortinbras started.
“No. You know I’m right. You agreed with me that her antics were out of line, and then you do this? I will not tolerate it.” She looked around Perry at Ami. “Either this marriage gets annulled or you get out, out of my home, out of Tuckborough, out of the Tooklands, out of this family. And you never return. Do you hear me? You are banished!”
To be concluded...
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