Last Summer by Rhymer

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Story Notes:

This was written for Back to Middle Earth Month 2014. The prompt was as follows: "It's time for the summer fruits and berries: strawberries and blackberries are abundant, and in some places the trees droop with peaches and plums. The tomatoes and cucumbers are ripe on the vine. Create a story or a work of art featuring a Summer seasonal food. Bonus for including a recipe." A recipe for Summer Pudding, a traditional English dish, can be found at the end of the story.

Sunlight dappled through the golden flowers of the young mallorn tree, and butterflies danced in places that only a year ago had seemed ruined beyond repair. Children shrieked with laughter, and their parents lay stretched in the sunlight, wiggling their toes in the soft gentleness of fresh grass.

The Shire was healing, Frodo thought. Middle Earth was healing. Frodo was…

He could not finish the thought. But the mallorn gave him hope. It had only been a year, after all. In one more year, perhaps, he would feel whole again, or maybe the year after that.

And even now, there were days like this, when he was surrounded by people he loved, and the memory of shadow was faint and far away, like a story that had already ended.

"There's such an abundance of fruit this year," said Rose Cotton – Rose Gamgee now, Frodo reminded himself – "that I made summer pudding."

Pippin clapped his hands with delight. "Summer pudding! I haven't had that since…"

Pippin faltered. "Before," Merry finished for him. It was a word they used so often: before, meaning so many things. Before the edges of their known world had been rolled back. Before Frodo's friends had discovered the strength that lay within them. Before Sam was married. Before they had seen horrors, but had seen, too, the ending of those horrors. Before, when they lived without knowing it in the Years of the Ring, whereas now they lived in the Years of the King.

"Before," Pippin echoed. They were sitting beside each other, he and Merry, with food piled up around them on a white cloth. Everything Merry picked up, he offered to Pippin to share. He always did that, now. Frodo wondered why, but had never asked.

"I… thought it would be good, you see," Rose said shyly, "because we didn't think we'd see all this fruit again, and sometimes… I know that sometimes my Sam eats something that reminds him of the dark times and those places you went…"

Sam looked at her sharply. Of course, Frodo realised. Sam didn't want me to know about that. In the months since their return, Sam had never breathed a word to Frodo that would imply that he, too, was sometimes haunted by what they had endured. He has always tried so hard to be strong for me, Frodo thought. But in a strange way, it was a relief to know that Sam was less healed than he wanted Frodo to believe. Frodo had no doubt that Sam would heal fully in time, and thrive. And if Sam could heal, perhaps Frodo would too.

"But you travelled through the winter," Rose said, "and these… these are summer fruits. There's blackcurrants here, and blackberries, and bread… oh, and raspberries, too. There's nothing in this bowl but happiness, because," she said, looking shyly at Sam, "my Sam came home, and everything's growing again, more beautiful than it ever was before."

No memories, Frodo thought, as Rose began to dish out the pudding. No memories in these.

It was untrue, of course.



It struck him, sometimes, at the strangest moments. There were times when Frodo could contemplate with perfect equanimity the knowledge that he was about to leave the Shire, with little chance of ever returning. Other times, the smallest, most unlikely things pierced him suddenly to the core.

He knew the song of his local blackbird, the one who considered his garden to be its own undisputed territory. He would never hear that song again.

He would never see the sun slanting on this brook again, and never stand beside that fence and look up at the first catkins of spring, bright with yellow pollen.

Just here, beneath that overhanging linden tree, he had sung a walking song with Merry and Pippin. He would never see that tree again.

After Crickhollow, of course, he would never see Merry or Pippin again, either, but for some reason, that hurt less. He thought it was because the big things, the really important things, were too huge and terrible to contemplate. Part of him wanted to believe that Gandalf was wrong about the Ring. Part of him still wanted to believe that he was just moving to Crickhollow, and his friends would still be there.

But the little things – the catkins, the trees, the blackbirds – caught him unawares, before he could build himself those protections of false hope. The Ring was a dreadful, terrible thing, and he had to get it out of the Shire. Perhaps he would pass it on to someone else, or perhaps he would keep it, but as long as the Ring existed, he could not return to the Shire, for fear that the Enemy would follow. He knew all this. When he saw those small, precious things, they slipped through his defences and exposed the truth.

It was blackcurrants, this time.

Pippin stood cheerfully on the doorstep, a large bowl of blackcurrants cupped in his arms. From the colour of his lips, he had been sampling the fruit lavishly while waiting for Frodo to let him in. "Blackcurrants?" Pippin said brightly. "They're from your garden. Sam gave them to me when I came through the gate. He said they were for you. He seemed to think I might eat them all before you got to try any." His juice-stained face assumed an expression of outraged innocence. "He's grown quite protective of you all of a sudden, has Sam."

"I'm moving to Buckland," Frodo said. "To a good Hobbiton native like Sam, that's a bit like moving to the wilderness to live with wolves."

Pippin laughed, and took another handful of blackcurrants. Frodo could hear Sam's shears snipping away in the garden, but Sam himself was out of sight. Sometimes Frodo was desperate to talk to Sam, the only other person who knew the truth. Other times he wanted to avoid him, because when he was surrounded only by people who thought he was genuinely moving to Crickhollow, Frodo could almost believe it, too.

"They're good blackcurrants," Pippin said. "Got any cream?"

Frodo had. He filled a bowl for both of them, and a third for Sam, resolving to take it to him later, perhaps with Pippin there, to keep their talk safe. The taste was rich and intensely sharp. They were delicious, the best blackcurrants he had ever tasted. Of course they were. Everything was the best, during this, the last of summers. Valleys were at their most beautiful. Food was the sweetest. The flowers were at their most lovely, and the Shire had never seemed more precious.

It was the small things that hurt the most, Frodo had thought, but of course they were not really small things, not at all. It was because he loved the Shire that he was leaving it. He was doing this for the trees and the flowers and the fruits of the Shire. Gandalf had spoken of distant places, but Frodo was doing this so blackbirds could still sing in Hobbiton, and catkins could hang from branches, and blackcurrants would forever grow in the garden of Bag End, even if Frodo was no longer there to eat them.

And they would continue to grow, he vowed. He would do what he had to do. No matter what the personal cost, he would do his duty. He was saying goodbye to the flowers and fruits of the Shire, but only because he was leaving them, and not because they themselves were fading.

And because he was leaving them, he hoped, they would forever endure.



The birds were singing as they had always sung, in countless unchanged autumns. A jay chattered and rooks cawed. A blackbird shouted in alarm from the undergrowth, and a buzzard screeched as it circled overhead.

It was just a bird, Pippin told himself. A rare bird from the far north migrating down to the south. Birds did that, he knew. Bilbo had told him, but at the time Pippin had barely listened, eager to run free and laughing in the sunshine. They were just birds, the thing that had wailed and the thing that had answered it. They were just birds, and this was just a fun adventure, something they would talk about for years to come.

"See," he said out loud, not really meaning to. "It's just an ordinary part of the Shire. There's nothing dangerous here."

He believed it, too. Of course he believed it. He was young Master Peregrin Took, Pippin my lad, ah bless him, hasn't he grown! But his cousin Merry, eight years older and deemed to be eight years wiser, had trusted him with this conspiracy of his. It had been such fun, such a wonderful lark! Pippin had hidden himself in hidey-holes, like childhood games of hide-and-seek, and had brought Merry nuggets of information about such exciting, wonderful things: a magic ring, and elves, and maybe dragons, too; dragons had to come into it somewhere.  

Pippin had cherished his secret as they had prepared to leave Bag End for the last time, hugging it to himself with delicious relish. How Frodo would gape when it was finally time for the big revelation! He would pretend to be angry at first, but he would be laughing even as he was rebuking them, and then they would all clap each other on the back, have a beer or four, and set off singing to travel to such wonderful places!

But then Frodo had seen that Black Rider of his, sniffing beside the road. Later they had all glimpsed him, but Pippin and Sam had hidden under a tree bole, and hadn't really seen much of him, had they? Men were strange, and scary because of their strangeness. In the twilight, it had been easy to confuse a stupid, blundering Man on a horse for some creature of unknown evil, just as it was easy to feel terror in the wailing of a rare bird.

Nothing was wrong. Nothing was wrong. It was just the best sort of adventure, the sort of adventure he had been longing for all his life.

They were nearing Farmer Maggot's land. Nothing could go wrong in the sunlight, when you were surrounded by grain and turnips – oh, and blackberries, wild blackberries, tangled in the hedgerow! Pippin ran ahead to gather some, curling up the front of his jacket to hold them. They would stain, of course, but he was far away from his mother's scolding, and too old for it, besides.

He reached for the first berry, but found it withered and foul. All the berries on the branch were ruined, he saw, although small flies still clung to them, eating their shrivelled remains. The next branch was the same, and so was the next. He touched one berry, and it collapsed into a blackened mess, staining his fingers with dark stickiness.

The blackberries in Hobbiton had been fat and juicy, still in their prime.

It was the Black Rider, he thought, and he shivered, but not with the cold. He passed this way. All living things are blighted as he passes them.

He looked at the sunlight, and tried to laugh the thought away. He looked at the placid fields of ordinary turnips, and tried to will the thought away. But he remembered dead moss on the tree bole where he and Sam had hidden. He remembered the killing cold of his terror.

It is real, he thought. It is real.

Because of course he hadn't slept through the whole of Frodo's talk with the elves. He had heard much. He had considered more, when he had woken early and failed to get back to sleep. But Frodo had sounded so anxious when he thought his friends couldn't hear him. And so Pippin had greeted the morning cheerfully, and had chattered about breakfast, and run singing across the grass as if he had no care in the world.

Perhaps it was even true. It was what was expected of him, after all.

"What have you got there, Pippin?" Frodo asked. "Blackberries?"

There were lines of care between Frodo's eyes that had not been there a year before. When eavesdropping, Pippin had heard him speak of treasure and Bilbo and far-off mountains, and that was what had always seemed most important. But Frodo had also spoken of a burden and an enemy and duty. Frodo had spoken of fear.

The danger was real. The wailing had not been a bird, and this was not a game. But Pippin would go on; of course he would. Frodo was committed, and Pippin would not let him face these Black Riders alone.

"Blackberries, yes, but they're past it, I'm afraid," Pippin said with a laugh. "You know how they can get in late September." He looked at his fingers, and wrinkled his nose. "So much for afternoon tea! We'll have to place our hopes in Farmer's Maggot's mushrooms."

Frodo smiled at Pippin's cheerfulness, and the tension between his eyes eased a little. "Nothing disheartens you, does it, Pippin?"

"Of course not," said Pippin, and set off singing.

He would be what Frodo needed him to be. And perhaps that was what he himself needed, too.



Sometimes, even now, the wind brought with it the sudden smell of pine resin and fresh, damp earth, not so different from the smell of home. Mostly, though, Merry was surrounded by the smell of horses and tall men; of grease and metal and sweat and smoke. Even the cooking fires smelled different from home, made from different wood and cooked with different herbs and different spices, with different voices whispering over the flames.

Nobody spoke to him. There was a conspiracy of silence about his presence in the éored, and if he made a sound, the Riders pretended not to hear him. They walked round him, pretending not to see him. Sometimes they even stepped over him, not pausing in their conversations, acting as if he did not exist.

It had been a relief, at first. When Dernhelm had taken him up, he had been so terrified that King Théoden would notice and order him to go back. The first time a Rider had looked right at him, Merry had almost stopped breathing. Then the Rider has looked away again, and Merry had let out a shuddering breath, sagging with relief. By the fourth time this happened, Merry had understood that this was a conspiracy. The Riders understood how desperately he had dreaded being left behind, and although they could not openly disobey their king, they condoned Merry's rebellion.

It had made him feel less alone, at first. They understood him. They sympathised with him. They accepted that although he was small, he had a place here, and they would help him claim it.

But that night, Merry had dreamed that he was wearing Frodo's Ring, and was truly invisible. Stalking on silent feet, a Black Rider approached him, a dark blade in his hand, like the blade that had stabbed Frodo on Weathertop. Merry shouted for help, but in the dream, the Ring stole his voice, too. Around their fires, the Riders of Rohan calmly ate their bread, and looked unseeingly through the space where Merry lay. He was already dead to them. He did not exist. He had never existed. No mortal eyes could see him, only the Enemy and the servants of the Enemy. He screamed, and…

He had woken to find himself desperately cold, with nobody around him who would heed his terror. "Can you hear me?" he had whispered, his voice like the rustle of dead pine needles. Dernhelm had sighed in his sleep, a sound closer to a sob. Nobody had answered him.

Today the conspiracy was almost more than he could bear. It was dinner time again. They let him take bread, but they would not hand it to him. If he thanked them, their eyes looked straight through him.

He sat alone, holding the flat, hard bread in both hands. He thought it would taste like ashes if he tried to eat it.

Until these last few days, he wondered, had he ever eaten alone?

Hobbits all loved their food, of course; that was one of the unassailable truths of their identity as a people, something that all hobbits knew. But until now, Merry had not understood what this truly meant. Food was not just food, of course. Food was fellowship. Food was bread broken with a friend. It was hospitality. It was pausing in a long journey for a breather and a snack and a reminder that some things, at least, would remain forever unchanged. It was something to talk about, when the things that you had seen were so huge and so terrifying that you could find no words for them, so you turned to Pippin, who always understood you, and you made a joke about breakfast, and he made a joke of his own, and people watching, people who didn't understand, might wonder how you could prattle about food at time like this, but of course that wasn't what it was about, not at all.

But Pippin was gone. Pippin was gone, and Merry was alone, an invisible ghost at a feast of strangers.

Merry turned the bread round and round in his hand. He wanted to tear it in half, and give one half to Pippin and keep one himself. "There you are, Pippin, my lad." He mouthed the words silently, but did not say them out loud.

What would the Riders say, he wondered, if he got up and ran to the nearest fire, screaming, "Look at me! Look at me!" Some of them were singing, just a few quiet songs, in a language Merry did not know. He wanted to sing a song of the Shire, but there was no Pippin to join in the chorus. Songs were nothing unless you had someone else to sing them with. Bread was a cold, hard thing when you had to eat it all alone.

He remembered his own conspiracy, not many months gone in time, but so immeasurably far away. 'Conspiracy' had been a grand word for it, a foolish word, a childish word. It had been more than half a game to Pippin, but also to Merry, too, or so he realised now. Truth began to dawn with the Barrow Downs, with the Black Riders, with Moria, with Boromir. Sometimes Pippin had been ahead of Merry in his comprehension of the true situation, and sometimes Merry had been ahead of Pippin, but through it all, they had been together. Merry had never eaten alone. Whatever happened, Merry could turn to Pippin, and they could say those bright, light words, joking about food, and even it was just lembas bread or orc-draught, it had always been shared.

"It is no game," Merry whispered to himself. "It never was. Nothing will ever be the same again."

Footsteps sounded behind him. Merry knew not to bother turning round. Whoever it was would only ignore him, and… I don't think I can bear that, he thought. Not now.

But this time, the steps stopped beside him. The Rider crouched down. It was Dernhelm, Merry realised, recognising him by his slight stature and his graceful way of moving. Dernhelm had a large chunk of bread in one hand, and carried two bowls of stew in the other, one precariously propped on top of the other.

Merry looked away, tears pricking his eyes.

Dernhelm did not speak; except for those few words during their first meeting, he never did. Instead, he placed the bowls carefully on the ground, and took the bread in both hands. Tearing it into two portions, he silently held one half out to Merry.

For a moment, Merry considered refusing it, but that would be the pride-filled stubbornness of a sulky child. He took it, his eyes blurring with unshed tears. Then he tore his own bread, and passed one half of it to Dernhelm, who took it without a word, but with a quick, sharp nod of acknowledgement.

Dernhelm was not Pippin. He was not Frodo or Sam, or Strider or Gandalf, or any of the other friends who had gone away to dangers of their own, leaving Merry bereft and discarded. He never spoke, and Merry had no idea what he looked like. But he had broken bread with Merry, and although that might seem like such a little thing, to Merry, in that moment, it was everything.



Galadriel had shown Sam the truth in her mirror, and although Sam had never forgotten it, part of him had never truly believed it. The mirror did not always show the truth, Galadriel had told him. Sometimes it showed might-have-beens. Sometimes it showed things that would never be, unless the one who saw them gave in to the temptation of their fears and turned from their path.

In Mordor, Sam had stared into the face of utter doom. He had faced the end of all hope, and the end of a world that had proved to be so much larger and more beautiful than he had ever known. Worse still, far worse to him, he had faced the loss of Frodo, destroyed before Sam's eyes by the unimaginable burden of the Ring. In Mordor, Sam had imagined a hundred different dark endings, seeing them in the mirror of his own mind.

None of those endings had come to pass. One by one, every dark imagining had faded away, like mist melting away in the morning sunrise. In Cormallen, Sam had woken to a series of happy endings. Frodo was alive, and free of his burden. Merry and Pippin were tall and bold and confident, with tales of their own, and Gandalf – Gandalf! – was still alive, shiny white and full of laughter. Frodo received the honours he deserved, and Strider was King of Gondor and the Western Lands, with Queen Arwen beside him, as beautiful as a midsummer night.

And so, with every other dark imagining proving to be unfounded, it had seemed to Sam that the picture from the mirror would fade away, too, like a bad dream that disappears with the morning.

Instead, the truth was worse.

But it was over now, or at least that was what everyone was saying. Sam was saying it most of all, because it had become a habit to stay cheerful for Frodo's sake, and to do everything that you could to ease, even if just for a moment, the strain that showed so often in Frodo's eyes. It was over, and all that was left was the tidying up.

All that was left? Sam was on his knees in rubble, and he let his head sag forward with exhaustion and desolation. Every hour of tidying brought fresh griefs: beautiful things found shattered on a junk heap; the burned stump of a once lovely tree; stench-filled holes in places where he had once played. In his hands he held his latest find, and this time he wanted to weep.

"Sam?" But he would not weep, because Frodo was coming. "What have you got there, Sam?" Frodo asked.

"The Gaffer's old raspberry canes," Sam told him. "Dead now, of course. They were ripped up and thrown down here, and these huts built around them."

"I remember the Gaffer's raspberries," said Frodo, with a faint smile.

"It's worse than Mordor, that's what I said, and that's what it is." Sam gripped the dead canes that would never again bear fruit. "Worse, because we remember how beautiful it used to be."

"I set out on my journey to stop things like this from happening to the Shire," Frodo said, "but it's happened, and…" He stopped, and gazed past Sam, staring at nothing. Sam let the canes fall, forgetting everything but concern for Frodo. Just as he was about to say something, Frodo spoke again. "Do you remember the Pelennor? It was just a wilderness when we saw it, ruined by battle, but Faramir told me that it used to be beautiful, with orchards and fields. He made it sound a bit like the Shire. To a Man from Minas Tirith, what happened to the Pelennor is worse than Mordor, and worse than this."

"But I'm not a Man from Minas Tirith." Sam could not stop himself from saying it.

"No," Frodo said sadly. "When it touches our own lives, it hurts the worst. Of course it does. And it's right, I think, that people fight most fiercely for the places they love. I wanted to save the Shire. Then I saw Rivendell and Lothlorien, and Faramir told us about Gondor, and I knew what else was at stake, but it was still the Shire I thought about most. It was the Shire that kept me going, to stop it becoming like Mordor in truth. Because this isn't, Sam. This really isn't."

But I hardly thought about the Shire at all, Sam could have said, but did not. Oh, yes, I thought about it, but everything I did, it was for you. Gandalf had told him to stay with Frodo and keep him safe, and that was what he had done. Gandalf and Strider had acted for the whole of Middle Earth, Frodo had acted for the Shire, and Sam…? Sam had gone through every one of those last terrible days driven by one thought: to keep Frodo from falling, and to carry him if he did.

The others were heroes. Sam was just a simple hobbit, who served his master and forgot the world.

"We've hidden from the truth of things for so long, Sam," Frodo said. "We've lived our happy, carefree lives, when outside the Shire, the world has been burning. We know now that we only got to do it because Aragorn and his Rangers protected our innocence. We hobbits are no longer entirely innocent. Perhaps… perhaps this will be the making of us. The world has changed."

I don't want it to change, Sam thought, but he had said too much already. He was kneeling in the dirt, his eyes glistening with unshed tears, and Frodo was giving him comfort. That was not how things were supposed to be. Frodo looked tried and strained, and that meant that Sam had to take action.

"Raspberries are resilient." Sam picked up the barren canes. "They'll grow again, maybe not these, but other ones. It's not too late to plant them for next summer's fruiting."

Frodo smiled. "Raspberries next summer. I look forward to it. I remember…" he began, but he did not finish.

Sam looked at him closely. Frodo looked tired and strained, yes, but ten times better than he had looked in Mordor, and that was something. No, Sam corrected himself, that was more than just something. It meant that all would be well. Fruit would grow again, and trees would be replanted. Chimneys would be pulled down, and lovely little houses would be built in their place. Plants renewed themselves every year, but for a time, Sam had feared that Frodo was so broken by the Ring that he would never recover.

Like summer fruits and flowers, Frodo would flourish again. Sam had fulfilled his duty, and all was well.


Another year had come and gone. "Summer pudding beneath the mallorn tree," said Pippin, as he took the hunk of bread that Merry handed him. "It's becoming a tradition."

"Can it be a tradition when it's only happened twice?" Merry asked.

Pippin shrugged. Sam was busy with baby Elanor, with no trace of the diffidence that had assailed him the first few days after her birth, when he had been terrified of doing something wrong. He had said none of this to Frodo, of course. Still protecting me, Frodo thought. My dear Sam.

Frodo was protecting Sam in just the same way, of course.

"Just think," Pippin said. "It's already two years since Strider got married."

"He means the King," Sam explained to baby Elanor, just three months old, and unable to understand a word.

"And now Sam has a baby," Merry said. "What's going to happen before next summer?"

Rose dished out the pudding. Merry and Pippin started to eat theirs immediately. A year ago, they had paused a little after the first mouthful, as if the food had stirred memories, not all of them good. Now the memories were a thing of the past. They looked forward, not back. They ate the food, and as they ate it, they talked about the future. They wondered if Aragorn would come and visit. They wondered who would be mayor if Will Whitfoot ever stood down. They wondered if Sam and Rose's next baby would be a boy or a girl. They wondered who Merry and Pippin would end up marrying, and which of them would marry first.

I have stopped wondering about my future. Frodo froze with the spoon in his hand. When did that happen? Why?

But he knew the answer. Deep down, he had known it for months, although he had not admitted it to himself until this moment. His hand rose to Arwen's jewel, as things that had only been hinted at suddenly became clear to him.

There was no future for him in Middle Earth, but that did not mean that there was no future. He had already said his goodbyes to the Shire three years before, but against all hope and expectation, he had come back. He had been given the gift of two more years here, but although much of those two years had been precious, and some moments had been truly happy, he could not endure a third one.

It was almost time. Did the others know? They talked about who Merry and Pippin would marry, but they never speculated about a wife for Frodo. They spoke of the future, but they did not remark on the fact that Frodo, alone of all of them, did not join in.

This is the last of it, Frodo thought, as he cherished the taste of blackcurrants and blackberries, of raspberries and bread, and cream on top of it all, eaten outside, in the beauties of the Shire. I will never eat this again.

And almost he wept, but the tears, he thought, were tears not of grief, but of hope.




Summer Pudding

1 kg / 2 lbs 2 oz. of assorted summer fruits (e.g. raspberries, blackcurrants, blackberries, redcurrants, strawberries etc.)

175g / 6 oz. of caster sugar

7 slices of day-old white bread.

You also need a bowl or basin of roughly 1 litre / 2 pints capacity.


Put sugar in a large saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons of water. Heat it gently until sugar has melted, then bring to boil.

Add fruit (but not strawberries) and cook for 3 minutes over a low heat, gently stirring it a couple of times. The fruit should end up softened, but still more or less whole, in a dark red juice. Sieve off the juice and keep separate.

Line bowl/basin with cling film. (This will make things easier later.) Dip a slice of bread in the juice and use it to line the base of the bowl. Then line the entire bowl with juice-dipped bread, leaving no gaps. (You'll probably have to cut most of the slices into wonky halves or triangles. You can plug gaps with fragments of bread.) Leave 2 slices of bread for the top.

Spoon in the fruit. If you have strawberries, add them here and there as you do so. Leave to seep for a bit, then cover the top with the remaining bread, trimming off any overhang. Pour a little more juice over the top, but leave some for later. You want the juice to seep through the bread, but not drench it so much that it loses its shape.

Cover with cling film. If you've got a saucer or plate the same size as the top of the basin, cover with that, and hold it in place with a light weight. Chill for a good few hours, or overnight.

To serve, put serving plate on top of pudding, and flip the whole thing over. Remove basin and cling film, and hope the whole thing doesn't fall apart. If any of the bread still looks white, spoon remaining juice over it. Serve with cream and any excess juice.


Chapter End Notes:


The Pippin scene was inspired by some real English folklore. According to tradition, blackberries have to be eaten before Michaelmas (29th September) because on that day, the Devil comes along and blights them.

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