Shelter From The Storm by Erulisse

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Disclaimer:  Tolkien built the sandbox; I only play with the bucket and shovel that he left for me.  No money, profit or non- is made from the publication of this story.  


ALEC December 2011 – “Coming In From The Cold”

Shelter from the Storm, a Yuletide Story

 

 

The wind whipped around the corner of the standing stone furling our capes as we stood at the crest of the hill.  It was icy cold and cut at us as if it carried a sharp blade. 

 

I grabbed at my cloak, pulling it closer around me and moving the hood forward to cover my head, affording me a small bit of protection from the iced fingers slashing at me.  Next to me, my brother shivered and turned slowly, his grey eyes surveying the scene stretched out before us. 

 

The skies were rolling, beautiful, but holding a sinister promise.  A storm was blowing in, borne on the swift, sharp wings of the cold north wind, and the only shelter nearby was the barrow upon which we were standing.  It was not exactly a comforting place; certainly not where I had planned on ending the day’s journey when we had left Bree early that morning.  I cast another glance towards my brother standing nearby. 

 

“Dan?” I asked quietly, but the gusting wind pulled the word from my mouth, mangling it in cold eddies before it reached my brother’s ear.  I sighed and tried again.  “Dan!”  My voice was louder this time, so even though the wind tried to intercept the word, Elladan heard it.  He was standing immobile, looking over the frozen lands before us with a glum expression on his face.  He turned to look at me. 

 

“Ro, this storm is blowing in much faster than we thought it would and I’m not sure we could even get back to Bree before the blizzard hits.”  My brother shook his head.  “We must find shelter.  We can either enter the crypt to get away from the wind, which will make it hard to protect the horses because they won’t willingly go inside any barrow; or we can set out southwest as quickly as we can, hopefully getting under the eaves of the Old Forest before we can’t see and the snow gets too deep to allow for easy movement.” 

 

I stepped closer to my twin while another gust of wind knifed through me.  “There are times that I wish we were less sensitive to the cold,” I sighed.  “Do you think that Glorfindel or Erestor would be as chilled by this wind as we are?” 

 

Elladan shook his head, letting a smile move quickly across his face before answering.  “If either of them was as chilled as I am feeling just now, I guarantee they would not let us know it.  So, we will never know the truth of it.”  He looked up as the first flakes of what promised to be a heavy curtain of white snow began falling.  “What do you want to do, brother mine?  We must make up our minds now, we have no more time to stand around and debate our path.” 

 

I turned towards the smudged horizon in front of us to our left.  “I don’t think we really have a choice, Dan.  We must head for the trees as quickly as possible.  Our horses will not survive this storm without some shelter and there is no way to light a fire up here on the naked barrows.  There.” I said, pointing towards a ridge in the distance.  “There is the pathway down from the barrows into the Old Forest.  If we can make it to that point, we may be able to find some shelter from the storm.” 

 

My twin nodded curtly, turned, and headed down the barrow mound to the horses which were awaiting us below.  I followed closely after casting one more look at the ever more unfriendly skies above us and the increasing number of snowflakes being whipped around us by the eddies of wind. 

 

We reached our horses and the pack horse, took the reins into our gloved hands and began walking around to the southwestern side of the barrow.  Setting our direction towards the pathway that marked the edge of the downs and the start of the forest, we started convincing the horses to move. 

 

Initially, the horses balked.  That passed quickly, though.  They soon decided that movement was preferable to being buried by the snow that was beginning to fall, getting heavier by the moment, or better than being frozen by the wind that was still blowing wildly around them.  They snorted their displeasure, but then began to follow us as we led them ahead.  Our small group of five began fighting the weather towards the cliff road that we knew was towards the west.  The weak winter sun was beginning to lower, the snow was increasing, and the visibility of the faint path we were following was getting more and more occluded. 

 

'I don't think I've ever been this cold,' I thought.  I was wearing two sets of leggings, a pair of woolen socks, both a short and a long tunic, and over everything, my winter cape.  However, the wind was biting, and it seemed that all of my clothing layers made no difference.  I was as cold as if I was standing on top of the pass to Imladris naked in the deep winter snow.  Although I assumed that Elladan felt as cold as I did, I was turning my mind more and more inwards and paying less and less attention to the land through which I was walking.  Walking was becoming an automatic function, without requiring active thought.  Suddenly I stumbled, falling face first into the snow ahead of me.  I barely registered the fact that my movement had stopped.  Fortunately, my horse, Alagos, also stopped, turning to nose and snuffle at my face. 

 

Elladan was soon standing over me, slapping my face to bring me out of my trance.  I was laying on my back, looking at the angry skies above me.  “Ro, are you injured?  Ro!  Wake up!”  My brother slapped my cold face again. 

 

I moaned, then sat up and shook my head.  After rubbing my eyes, I looked up at my twin.  “How did you know I fell Dan?  Help me up.  If I’m already this covered in snow, we can’t waste any more time.”  I held out my hand and was smoothly pulled to my feet with my twin’s help. 

 

“The pack horse stopped when Alagos stopped.  That caused Celedae to stop and I realized, looking back at him, that I couldn’t see you behind me.  Are you all right now, brother?” 

 

I nodded that I was fine now, and shook off my cloak, I then resumed my stumbling way towards the path at the forest’s edge.  Now we were more careful about staying together and kept each other firmly in sight.  The snow kept falling, piling upon the pathway, more each moment. 

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

The Master of Buckland walked purposefully through the corridors of Brandy Hall towards the chambers assigned to his cousin and long-time friend, the Thain of Tuckborough.  “Pippin,” he called out as he was escorted into the parlor of the Thain’s suite of rooms.  “The door wardens tell me that the snow is coming down heavier than down feathers floating after a pillow fight between faunts.  There are still several days until Yule, but the remainder of our guests may find it hard going if the snow continues at this rate.” 

 

His cousin, looking up from the latest issue of the Hobbit Weekly Times  he had been reading, was still bright-eyed although older and, some might say, wiser than when he had returned from his Great Journey those many years before.  “Who is still on their way?” he asked. 

 

“Sam, Rosie and their family are coming in from Hobbiton.  Sam will be fine, but some of the children may be cold.  Fatty and his wife will walk over from Crickhollow.  That’s nearby, so we’ll just send a few of the boys over with a wagon to make sure they don’t have any problems getting here safely.  Oh, and last week one of the Rangers passed on the message that the sons of Elrond were going to drop by to spend Yule with us while they passed through on their way to visit Strider in Annúminas.  They also haven’t arrived yet.”

 

“So, if we send some of the older boys out to meet with Sam's wagon, they can help to guide them in.  Another small group will take the wagon over for Fatty, and that leaves the two elves.  They might be a problem,” Pippin responded in a thoughtful voice.  “Normally I would never worry about the Twins, but for some reason, I suddenly felt uneasy when you mentioned them.” 

 

“I too would usually never worry about them, but this looks to be quite the storm.  It came up quickly and is hitting hard.  What do you think?  Should I send a small party down the road to Bree to intercept them if they took the roadway?  You and I can take to the Old Forest and try the lesser known pathways tomorrow.” 

 

Pippin sighed.  “I think they're all right, but it probably wouldn't hurt to make sure.  By now you know the Old Forest well enough to get us through safely.  But will we actually be able to track the Twins if we are under the forest eaves?” 

 

“I don't know why I have a strong feeling that we must do this, Pip, but it's as if I'm hearing a song at the edge of my mind and it's calling me into the Forest.  I won't go in there alone, though, and there's no one I trust as much as you to be next to me in a chancy spot.”  Merry walked to the small window and looked out into a curtain of wind-swept white flakes swirling around Brandy Hall. 

 

“If we go into the Forest, we should leave at first light tomorrow,” he continued.  “The sun is already low and the light will soon be gone.  We must trust to their knowledge of wood lore for the night and head east through the Buckleberry Gate into the Old Forest in the morning.” 

 

“I agree,” said the Thain, standing up and striding to where his cousin stood at the window.  “Let's check the storage rooms and see what supplies we can take for a winter expedition of a day or two.” 

 

Merry turned towards Pippin and smiled.  “I knew I could count on you,” he said as his hand clapped his cousin's shoulder.  “Come on then, let's go together and see what we can pack.”  The two of them left the room, heading down the corridors towards the lesser-used portions of the Hall. 

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

We had finally reached the edge of the barrow lands and were slowly leading our horses down the steep switchback pathway to the forest floor.  'It's a relief to be somewhat sheltered from that wind,' I thought, just as catastrophe hit. 

 

Walking ahead of me, the pack horse hit a patch of ice, losing her footing.  The mare, squealing in terror, slipped off the cliff edge, pulling Celedae off balance.  The large war steed shifted towards the cliff wall, bracing against the sudden pull of the pack horse’s body.  This movement caused his shoulder to accidentally hit Elladan, pushing him over the edge, following the lead of the packhorse before him.  Even though my brother tried to hold onto the reins of his horse as his balance failed him, his hands were too cold to hold his grip.  He fell heavily, plummeting down the cliff face, rolling several times, and landing face up in the snow below with his right foot bent sharply beneath him. 

 

I watched this play out in front of me, almost in slow motion.  I was suddenly torn.  My brother was lying at the foot of the snowy cliff, possibly badly injured.  The pack horse was panicked and struggling, her hooves flailing in the air, and whinnying in fear.  Celedae continued pulling against the other horse’s weight to keep it from falling farther.  My own Alagos was calm, but was blocked, unable to move past Elladan's horse.  I knew that if I cut the pack horse's lead rein, the horse would, more than likely, fall directly on top of my brother, further injuring Elladan and possibly permanently injuring or killing the horse.  Although I might have to resort to this, I would try everything else possible first. 

 

Adjusting Alagos’ reins, I looped them around the pack horse's lead rein.  Then, talking gently to the two war steeds, I guided them apart from each other.  The looped reins began moving up the pack horse's rein, shortening the lead and pulling the horse back up towards the pathway.  The loaded horse was still struggling, but soon I was able to talk to her, calming her down.  Soon she was able to reach the roadbed with her front feet, and she then reached forward with one back leg, pulling herself forward the rest of the way to safety with the help of the two war steeds.  She was trembling and frightened, the whites of her eyes were showing and her ears were twitching.  The other two horses came closer to the pack horse, and began to whicker, soothing and comforting her. 

 

I grabbed the closest medical kit and raced down the pathway towards Elladan’s body, leaving the three horses to make their way down the pathway under their own speed.  I knew that having both of us slip off the cliff would do no good, but I was worried.  My twin had not made any movement or issued any sound since he had fallen.  I needed to determine how badly my brother was hurt. 

 

Finally reaching the forest floor, I rounded the corner of the path, heading slightly uphill.  Kneeling down beside my brother, I looked carefully at him.  Elladan was almost as pale as the snow itself, and my concern mounted.  I quickly examined his body, moving it gently to untwist his leg.  Reminding myself to breathe, I checked as closely as I could beneath his boot, determining that his knee and upper leg were fine, but that his ankle was possibly broken.  Elladan wasn’t responding to my voice, but our bond was still present, although weak.  I was momentarily at a loss.  We were in the middle of a forest, but I needed to get us into a place of shelter and warmth as quickly as possible. 

 

At the edge of my mind a song inserted itself on tendrils of tune and word.  It was a calling … no ... a sending.  Looking up from Elladan's body towards the southern edge of the forest, I saw a soft globe of pulsing light hovering slightly above the ground.  A gentle voice spoke into my mind. 

 

Son of Elrond, hearken to me.  Your brother’s life force is waning and you need shelter.  My home is nearby the light will show you the way.  Do not waste time, but bring him quickly.” 

 

Shaking my head and trying to regain clarity of thought, I addressed the light.  “What...who are you?” I asked.  My voice fell oddly flat in the snow-covered dell.  “How do you know me?” 

 

“We have met in the past, Elrondion.  I am the River’s daughter, but you know me as Goldberry, the wife of Iarwain Ben-ada who you may know better as Tom Bombadil.  Although my husband is away just now, I welcome you and offer you shelter from the storm in his stead.  Now, move quickly. The sunlight is leaving, the storm is still blowing, and your brother is in need of healing.” 

 

I looked once more at my brother and came to a decision.  Walking into the forest, I found two long and a few shorter branches of deadwood.  Returning to Elladan I saw the globe slowly leave the clearing moving south through a small gap in the trees.  When I had my brother ready to transport, that would be the direction I would take.  I focused on getting my brother ready for safe transport. 

 

Stripping the side branches from the trunks and cross braces took little time.  I called Alagos to me and tied the two long branches to him, one on each side, making the first part of a Rohanese travois.  I then lashed the cross braces in place, and stabilized the entire apparatus around Alagos using Celedae’s saddle girth.  The saddles were added to the pack horse’s load.  My brother was still unconscious and I was very worried. 

 

After checking the straps one more time, I spread one bedroll over the framework, then I carefully picked up my twin, placing him onto the slats.  I tied him into place and then moved to Alagos' headstall.  Taking the reins into my hand, I began leading my horse to the gap where the light globe had gone.  The other two horses fell into line behind us and we entered the trees. 

 

I was finally under the eaves of the forest and the interlacing branches were keeping some of the falling snow away from me.  I fell into thought and continued following the pale globe of light that now was far ahead of me. 

 

After an indeterminate time, I entered a clearing.  The trees were no longer closing in around my little group, and although the snow was still falling, it was gentle and no longer blowing fiercely through in obscuring waves of flakes.  I looked around the small glade.  Ahead was a cozy stone house featuring warmly-lit windows, a carved well-kept door, and several stone steps that led up to the portal.  To my left was a stable with twin open doors and stalls for horses.  At least one horse was in residence.  Dropping the reins, I checked on Dan one more time, and then walked up the stairs to the doorway.  Knocking on the door, I heard a soft, sweet voice bid me enter. 

 

Walking into the room, I looked curiously around it.  It had been many yeni since I had last been in the house of Tom Bombadil, yet it looked almost unchanged.  Across from the entryway, Lady Goldberry was standing between the hearth and a bedstead.  There was a pot of steaming water on the hob and bandages were laid in readiness.  She looked at me and smiled. 

 

“Bring your brother in and place him here, on the bed.  He will feel better with the fire close by and you can more easily reach the hot water for your needs.” 

 

I bowed, “Lady, you have my thanks.  I will bring him in immediately and get him settled.  Then I must see to the horses.” 

 

She nodded her approval and I left, returning quickly with my twin cradled in my arms.  I laid him on the bedstead. 

 

“I will get him out of his wet clothes while you take care of your horses,” she said.  “Close the stable doors behind you when you are finished.  I believe your brother will begin to feel better soon.  Just being in a warm room will be beneficial.  Now hurry so that you can return the sooner.” 

 

After brushing down the horses, and unloading the pack horse and checking her over carefully for any injuries that I may have missed earlier, I supplied each horse with food and water.  I swung the pack horse’s supplies over my shoulder and walked back to the house.  If the storm was still blowing, it was being minimized in this glade by means unknown to me.  The sun had finally set and the night sky above me was a mix of windblown clouds and blazing stars. 

 

Re-entering the house I saw my brother sitting up in bed, a bandage around his head and a steaming cup of liquid in his hands.  Lady Goldberry motioned me forward. 

 

“Dan!” I exclaimed, as I put down the pack horse’s load, shed my cloak hanging it on a peg near the door, and moved quickly to my brother’s side.  “Dan,” I repeated.  “I’ve been worried about you.”  I reached over, held his face in my hands and looked carefully at his eyes.  His pupils were responsive and even.  Breathing a small sigh of relief, my attention then moved to the Lady who was standing at the foot of the bedstead. 

 

“Lord Elrohir,” her gentle voice interrupted my thoughts.  She gestured towards the boot still around my brother's right leg.  “I fear his ankle may be broken, but I cannot remove his boot without causing him great pain.” 

 

I nodded.  “Could you get the boot off yourself if I help him block the pain?  I cannot both remove the boot and block the pain at the same time.” 

 

“I think it would be best if I were to carefully cut the boot off.  It can then be repaired at a later date.  We can replace it, wrapping it tightly around his leg when you are ready to continue your journey,” she responded.  She reached to grasp a small knife that was on the tabletop next to her. 

 

“That might be best, Lady.  Dan, finish drinking that tea and then lie back down.  We’ll work together to block the pain while the Lady removes your boot.”  My brother nodded his head gently, clenching his eyes in pain from the small movement. 

 

After Elladan finished his tea I moved to the head of the bed, carefully supporting his head while he reclined.  Then, placing my hands on each side of his head, I reached inside myself grasping the tendril of our bond and following it to Elladan's fea.  There, we erected barriers against the waves of pain that were pulsing from both his head and his ankle.  His ankle pain increased steadily while the support and pressure of the boot lessened as Lady Goldberry cut off Dan’s right boot. 

 

Once the support of the boot was gone, his pain hit a crest and then decreased and leveled off.  Dan was able to continue erecting his own pain barriers now and I withdrew from his mind.  I moved down to the foot of the bed to take a closer look at his ankle. 

 

It looked bad.  It was swollen and angrily-red.  Gently examining the injury, I could tell that there the two bones at the ankle were cracked where they joined his foot.  They would need to be immobilized for one to two weeks to allow proper healing. 

 

“Lady, I fear that when we resume our journey, I may need to place a cast around the ankle.  Right now, however, I think my brother will be better served by merely wrapping the ankle snugly to keep the bones from further injury while the swelling decreases.” 

 

Goldberry nodded in acquiescence, handed me a roll of tightly-woven bandage fabric and rose from the bedside, moving through a nearby doorway into a room beyond.  I turned my attention to my twin. 

 

“Well, brother mine, you’ve cracked your ankle.  Right now I’m going to wrap it snugly in a bandage.  I don’t want to encase it in a cast until the swelling is under control, but when we leave I may have to plaster it for the journey. 

 

Elladan nodded.  “It’s all right, Ro.  It was a silly accident.  How are the horses?  Did we lose the pack horse?” 

 

“The horses are fine, Dan,” I said as I pulled a chair closer to the bed and sat down.  Taking up the bandage, I positioned myself at his ankle.  “Are you ready, Dan?”  After my brother said “Yes,” I slipped a length of bandage underneath his broken ankle and gently but firmly began wrapping it around the injured limb.  He hissed in pain as I continued the conversation. 

 

“The pack horse was frightened, but I attached my reins to the lead rein and had the horses separate, shortening the lead rein and drawing her up.  Once she got her feet under her again, she was fine.  Then I had a chance to run down the pathway to you.  I thank the Valar that Lady Goldberry was nearby.  I’m not sure we would have easily survived a night in the snow and cold with your head injury.”  I looked up from the bandage while tying a final knot.  “I’ll make you some tea with poppy to help with the pain so that you can sleep.” 

 

Shortly after Dan was finished drinking the poppy juice, he fell asleep under the influence of the powerful drug.  I pulled the blanket over him gently, stroking his head as I moved away from him.  I turned to Lady Goldberry. 

 

“Lady, I must thank you again for your timely help,” I said softly.  “Being able to have my brother rest next to a warm fire and have medicines and bandages available…thank you is simply inadequate for how grateful I feel just now.” 

 

“I’m sure you are also hungry and tired, son of Elrond.  Come this way.  We'll let your brother sleep and we can eat here in the far corner.  There is cheese, dried fruit, and a variety of vegetables.  Also, there is a loaf of fresh-baked bread.”  We sat down to eat. 

 

I shook myself awake twice over dinner, apologizing each time.  After the second time, Goldberry, (for she insisted that I use her name without the honorific), stood up from the table and led me to a snug room just on the other side of the wall from where Dan was sleeping.  She gave me a quick tour so that I knew where the bathing chamber and the door to the outhouse were, and then left me.  I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. 

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

The next day dawned clear and cold.  The storm had blown off in the night and left behind fields of pristine white sparkling in the morning sunrise like handfuls of diamonds scattered across the landscape.  Pippin looked out through Brady Hall’s entry door and was enchanted.  As he walked towards the ponies, saddled and ready for their foray into the Old Forest, his thoughts moved back to the first time Merry and he had passed through the gate and tunnel to walk among the semi-sentient trees. 

 

Merry was just outside of the entry finishing instructing his adjunct.  He then kissed his wife good-bye and walked towards where Pippin awaited him.  Both hobbits were dressed in their livery, Pippin in the black and silver of Gondor and Merry in the green and gold of Rohan.  Each of them wore mail and carried sheathed swords hanging from their waists. 

 

“Sam offered to come with us,” Merry said to Pippin as they mounted their ponies and took up the reins.  “He finally arrived with Rose and the children late last night, just before the storm ended.  I told him to get some sleep, that we would be back in time for Yule and he should relax with his lovely lady and let himself be waited on for a change.” 

 

Pippin chuckled.  “I can just hear him now.  ‘Master Brandubyck, Merry, I mean.  If’n I can be of help now, you must be tellin’ me.  I’m full willin’ to go into the forest with the two o’ ya.’  Is that about right?” 

 

“Yes,” Merry laughingly said as he started his pony towards the Buckland gate.  “That’s pretty close.  And I wouldn’t mind having him along, but I think the two of us will be fine and he really could use some sleep.  It wasn’t easy going between Frogmorton and Stock.  They had a bad time with the wagon getting stuck several times.  After Stock, it wasn’t as bad.” 

 

“Well then, let’s be off and find two lost elves,” responded Pippin and they went through the gate which was locked behind them.  After a short walk through the hedge tunnel, they were back in the Old Forest again, joined together on an adventure for the first time in many years.  They looked at each other, smiled broadly, and started their ponies walking towards the bonfire glade. 

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

I was awakened in the early morning by the voice of Goldberry telling me that my brother was in pain and wanted to use the chamber pot.  As I walked into the larger room, I noticed that she had built up the fire and put a full kettle of water on the hob to heat.  She left the room so that I could help Dan limp to the chair and then back to the bed.  Just that little excursion was enough to convince him that immobility would be his best option. 

 

“I’ll brew you some willow bark tea as soon as the water gets hot,” I said after I had him settled comfortably back in his bed.  “Now, let me take a look at that ankle in the morning light.” 

 

I went over to the eastern windows and pulled back the shutters.  Light streamed into the room, reflecting off the fresh snow surrounding the house.  It was strikingly beautiful and made me catch my breath when I looked at the light reflecting off thousands of individual snowflakes. 

 

Dan, I wish you could see this, but I don’t dare let you move, you need to rest yourt leg.’  I turned away from the window and checked the water which was heating, but not quite hot enough yet.  I moved to the foot of the bed and pulled the blanket away from Dan’s injured ankle.  The swelling was going down.  I estimated that if it continued this way, we would be able to continue on our way tomorrow. 

 

“Take it easy today, Dan,” I told him while I removed the bandage from his ankle and then began to re-wrap it slightly tighter, accommodating the lessened swelling.  “If the swelling continues to go down, we will be able to ride on to Brandy Hall tomorrow morning, getting there by mid-afternoon.” 

 

“That would be welcome, Ro,” he responded.  “I dislike taking advantage of Lady Goldberry’s hospitality any longer than necessary.” 

 

“Nonsense,” said the Lady as she breezed into the room, breakfast on a tray for all of us.  “You are most welcome here.  I’m happy to be of service to the sons of one who has been a trusted friend for many yeni.” 

 

She placed the tray on a nearby table.  I had finished tying the bandage anew on my brother’s ankle and was at the hob, pouring water over the willow bark to brew the bitter pain-relieving tea.  I nodded my thanks to her. 

 

“Give me the cup of tea, Elrohir.  You haven’t had a chance to wash or even change your clothing yet.  I’ll steep it properly and make sure that your brother drinks the tea.  We’ll all eat together when you are ready.” 

 

“She’s right, Ro.  Go ahead, get washed up and dressed.  Then come out and join us for some food.” 

 

I decided it was wisdom to follow their advice and left the main room.  By the time I returned, the sun was up and light filled the room.  Lady Goldberry and my brother were laughing and talking animatedly in the corner near his bed.  They were eating eggs, bread with honey-butter and jam, and drinking tea.  It looked and smelled delicious. 

 

“There’s a warm plate for you on the hob,” Elladan said as I walked into the room.  “I told La…..  Goldberry that we had been heading towards Buckland to see Merry and Pippin.  She remembers them from when they passed through here on their way to Bree those many years ago.” 

 

I took the plate from the hob, sat down and joined them while Goldberry poured me a cup of tea and placed it in front of me.  Soon all three of us were laughing as we recalled the various antics of the two younger hobbits who had become our friends. 

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

Merry and Pippin, passed north of Old Baldy and turned to follow the Withywindle northeast towards Tom Bombadil’s house.  They knew enough to stay away from the larger willow trees along the banks now, and it was winter so the trees were almost dormant.  It didn’t stop them from taking some sidewise glances towards the golden-branched trees as they remembered their problems with Old Man Willow the last time they had come this way. 

 

In the distance, it seemed that they were hearing an echo of those long-ago times.  A voice was raised in song: 

 

        Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!

        Ring a dong! hop along! fall al the willow!

        Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!*

 

Looking at each other, they shook their heads as if to clear them.  But the voice continued and got louder. 

 

        Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! My darling!

        Hobbits one! Hobbits two! In the forest darkling!

        Old Tom Bombadil, errands finished quickly,

        Home again, goes again, River daughter’s waiting,

        Horses stay, ponies walk, elves they are a’singing,

        Fair Goldberry, healing one, a golden globe a’sending.

 

Around the corner came a curious sight.  A short round man appeared from behind the trees, wearing yellow boots and a blue waistcoat.  His face featured a brown beard, bright blue eyes, and a broad smile.  Over his clothing he wore a furred cloak to protect him from the elements. 

 

“Ho! What have we here?  Hobbits two and ponies sturdy.  And if I be not mistaken.  ‘Tis Masters Meriadoc and Peregrin.  Now come, my friends, and follow me.  Join others tonight in safety be.  And in the morrow together leave, to rejoin your friends in revelry.” 

 

And with that, Tom nodded and moved ahead of them on the path.  His voice called out behind him.  “Follow me, and soon you’ll be, meeting those for whom you seek.  Food and drink await you there, and the cold no more will be.” 

 

Merry shook his head.  “Do you think that Tom Bombadil could ever say anything straight out, Pip?” 

 

“No, Merry, it’s simply not in his nature.  But staying with him overnight and asking him about the elves might not be a bad idea.  He might have seen Elrond’s sons passing through the forest.  They could have been passing on the other side of Mount Baldy going towards Buckland and we would never have known it.”  They clicked at their ponies and began following the footsteps of Tom Bombadil in the snow. 

 

After more than an hour in the cold, they entered a familiar glade.  Tom was waiting by the stables to take care of their ponies.  “Go on into the house, Hobbits mine.  Friends are a’waitin to greet one and all.  Your ponies will be happy, stories they will have to trade.”  And he took the reins, leading their ponies into the stable. 

 

“Merry, are those elven horses in there?” Pippin asked as they walked toward the stone stairs. 

 

“We’ll find out in a moment, Pippin.”  Merry opened the door and the two hobbits walked into a scene from their dreams.  Lady Goldberry was finishing hanging greenery from the exposed beams of the room and a yule wreath hung on the far wall.  Underneath the wreath was a bedstead where lay one of the sons of Elrond, the other twin was sitting on a chair between his brother and the fire.  Tea was brewing and biscuits and fixings were nearby.  Cookies were on a side table.  Broad smiles were on every face when they saw each other. 

 

“Merry.”  “Pippin.” “Elrohir.”  “Elladan.” “Lady Goldberry.”  Voices cascaded over each other in a harmony of joy and discovery.  Embraces were exchanged, and the first of much food and drink was shared.  Stories were exchanged, songs were sung, and tales were told.  When looking back on it later in their lives, all present could remember few times that were as filled with happiness as that afternoon and evening in the small house of Tom Bombadil and his Fair Lady Goldberry.  

 

I checked my brother’s ankle carefully that night.  “I think we can make it to Brandy Hall tomorrow if we bind your foot tightly in your boot.  I’ll plaster your foot when we are at Brandy Hall so that you can walk around easier.  We’ll relax there for a few more days, celebrate Yule with the hobbits, and then we can continue on to Annúminas.”  Elladan sighed with relief. 

 

The next morning dawned cold and clear.  I checked Dan’s ankle and declared him fit to travel for that day if his ankle was heavily wrapped.  He could ride long enough to arrive at Brandy Hall, and with the two hobbits as our companions, the time was sure to pass swiftly.  After helping Dan dress, I wrapped his ankle and then, after placing the cut boot onto his foot, Merry held the leather motionless while I wrapped the outside of the boot firmly to keep Dan’s ankle from movement and continue the healing process.  His healing thus far had been proceeding very well, but I didn’t want to push him any farther than necessary. 

 

I got dressed and joined the Hobbits, Dan, and our hosts for breakfast.  The hobbits were joyous, even throwing rolls to each other from across the table.  After the meal, Tom went out to see to our horses and ponies.  I joined him in the stable. 

 

“Tom, I can’t thank you and Lady Goldberry enough for your help over these past few days.  Our situation was dire and I dread to think what could have happened without…,” I was interrupted by Tom. 

 

“Nonsense, dear boy, our pleasure it was.  Company my Fair Lady Goldberry had, and voices to hear above the wind that blew.  Friends was I able to find, and stories we all shared.  A better Yule I could not have wished for.”  His warm smile would have melted drifts of snow. 

 

I knelt down in the stable, to be closer to Tom’s height.  “Nonetheless, I must express my gratitude.  If there is ever anything that we can do for you, it goes without saying that if it is within our power, we will do it without hesitation.”  I took his hand in both of mine.  “I owe you for the life of my brother, and that is beyond price to me.” 

 

I loaded up the pack horse, and I helped Dan to mount.  Waving good-bye and thanking the couple for their hospitality, the four of us left the glade of Tom Bombadil behind us.  A hairpiece for the Lady featuring a gilded lily set in gold and a fine carved flute for Tom had been left by the hearth as thank-you gifts.  I knew they would find them later in the day when they cleaned up after us. 

 

The hobbits leading the way with a merry song, we walked the horses through the Old Forest to the Buckleberry Gate and then progressed on to Brandy Hall.  It was the end of this adventure, and the beginning of the next.  But that adventure must wait for another day’s telling. 

 

fin

 

 

* * * * *

 

A/N  The first song of Tom Bombadil is from “The Fellowship of the Ring”, Ballantine Books, New York, 1965, p 167.  The other Tom Bombadil song is my own composition. 

 

 


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