Down the Withywindle by Clodia

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Author's Chapter Notes:

A fixed-length ficlet written for Lotr_community's July Challenge, with borrowings from ‘The Adventures of Tom Bombadil’ in Tales from the Perilous Realm (2002).



Down the Withywindle...

... bobbing and drifting, a boat of a hat with a swan-feather sail comes to rest among water-lilies. Buttercups lie scattered on the bank. Sleep, says Tom Bombadil, oldest and fatherless. Sleep, Willow-man. Sleep, Badger-folk under briars. Sleep, Barrow-dwellers in buried gold.

... sunlight spilling over pebbles in translucent rills unfurls into hair...

Sleep, water-rat and finny fish. Tom’s come a-courting...

“... a-courting?” says Goldberry, arising lily-clad among lilies.

Tom leaps up. “Here’s my pretty maiden!” he cries. “Hey now, River-daughter!”

A scaly sheen glimmers silver through the layered leaves of her skin-slick gown. She finger-combs her flowing hair and smiles at him.

“Whither are you going, Tom?” she says. “Who do you come courting?”

He says, “I met a fair young maiden once...”

“A merry meeting that was!” says Goldberry, her laughter rippling like a trout-filled brook. “‘You bring my feather-hat back again!’ and ‘Sleep below the willow-roots, little water-lady!’ And when I swam back to my mother’s house, then you would not follow. No!”

She plucks the hat from the water-lilies. “Do you bring me this?” she says. “Is it a courting-gift?”

“I shall bring lilies,” says Tom Bombadil. “Green leaves and lilies white –”

“I have lilies here,” says Goldberry.

The hat sits oddly on her yellow tresses. Tom says, “Nay then, I shall heap the table under Hill with honeycomb and berries, white bread and herbs! On soft pillows you shall lay your pretty head –”

Goldberry yawns, sharp-toothed. “Shall I swim in starlight, under Hill?”

“The hearth is warm,” says Tom, “and the lamps are bright.”

“The Moon is brighter,” says Goldberry, sinking back. “Peace! White bread and bedding to court a river-maiden? Away with you, Tom!”

“Fisher Blue’s feathers! Old Barrow-wight’s gold!”

Laughter bubbles between lily-leaves. Goldberry vanishes with a splash, taking his feather-hat with her.



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