1. (one chapter story)
"Well, master Meriadoc, I think I've had my answers. I thank you."
Merry hoped he could smile, but his own sadness had returned when he had told Faramir what little he knew of Éowyn.
"Come with me to the garden wall over there, the one that faces East", Faramir now said.
"There they are, my friends, all of them - save your noble brother, my lord." Merry pointed at the mountains.
"He was your friend, then?"
"In the same boat we sailed from Lórien, and he died trying to save me from the Orcs. I suppose I can call such a man my friend, thoufh he was far above me in rank."
"Indeed you can, and I now remember your friend Peregrin thought so as well. But I now see I know little of you pheriannath, and your land in the North. Would you kindly tell me of it, or is it a burden to remember a home so far away?"
"It is a very useful burden, for it can be used to hide other burdens inside it. Many times on the road my heart was lightened by something one of us had carried in his heart. Sam speaking a poem, Pippin joking, Aragorn telling an ancient legend, Legolas singing an elven song, Gimli sharing a spark of dwarven lore, Boromir descriping a noble battle. In my own heart I carried the images of my homeland."
"So tell me of this land, while we sit here."
Waiting for what? The clouds to lift, or Éowyn to appear? Merry wanted to ask, but dared not.
Instead, he let his mind relax and closed his eyes for a while.
He described the peaceful life in the Shire, the habits that were peculiar to it, and even told a little of Bilbo's adventures. Then he started describing the Four Farthings and their local differences, when Faramir politely interrupted:
"And in which of these is your home, master Meriadoc?"
"In none of the four. My family is the Brandybuck family, and we live in Buckland, on the eastern side of the river Brandywine."
"I've never heard of such a river, and I thought I knew all the names on the map of Eriador by heart."
"On your maps it must be named Baranduin, then."
To Merry's surprise, Faramir laughed.
"And your people call it Brandywine? Why give such an amusing name to such a grand river?"
"Some say our tongues are too thick for foreign names, or that we feel safer in places with safe, common-tongue names. Personally, I favor an old explanation that is known among my family. Would you like to hear it, my lord?" Merry tried to sound polite, but he was painfully aware that Faramir had called him 'Master Meriadoc' more often that he had remembered to add the important 'my lord' to his own words.
"Indeed I would."
Merry took out his pipe, out of habit, but also to show a Shire habit to Faramir.
"My people count their years from 1601 of this age, because it is the year they arrived to the Shire from the East, crossing Baranduin and claiming the lands between it and the Far Downs. They were led by Marcho and Blanco, who were brothers. This much is history.
My father told me the story I now tell you.
After everyone had crossed the Great Bridge, which was there already and still is, Marcho wanted to give a speech. He was over 60, but still considered himself as nimble as a young lad. He was also shorter than his brother, but quite tall nonetheless. He wanted, howewer, to stand above everyone else when he gave his speech. So he climbed to stand on the railing of the bridge, which was stone and quite broad. After he had stepped there from his cart, he was certain he looked very important and a brave settler of the wilderness. In fact, the bridge must have reminded everyone the Shire was not a real wild wilderness. The road to the elven havens went right trough it, and still goes.
"So there was Marcho, standing on a railing like a bird with unusually bad balance.
He began his speech:
"My fellow hobbits, who are as loyal subjects of the King as I am, and my brother Blanco.
This is a land we have all been waiting for, I mean a day, no, actually I mean the land as well: a land of our own. The noble king Argeleb the Second has granted it to us for all time, in return of our loyalty to him and those that come after him, our keeping his roads and speeding his messengers on their way. All 'hooray!' the king!"
And they all shouted as loud as they could: "Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!"
"As you know, this land is to be called 'The Shire', and each of you can take as much land as you can sow and reap, and as much as your animals feed to need on - I mean need to feed on. You can build on your land as you wish, but it is recommended neighbours live close together for safety. As long as there is free land, anyone who can farm it can take it, but some forests and meadows will be left as they are, for hunting and the gathering of wild plants."
"His speech was quite long, as hobbit speeches tend to be, and his listeners were getting bored. Blanco was feeling ignored, for he had done most of the hard work of leading the families safely there.
He was only forty, young for a hobbit. He now took a bottle of liquor from his coat pocket, and let it circulate among the men. Then he gave it, still half full, to his brother, and said:
"Your voice is getting hoarse. Moist it with wine and drink a toast to the Shire!"
Marcho was indeed thirsty, and he almost emptied the bottle after raising it in honour of his new homeland.
Too bad it didn't contain an ordinary wine instead of Breeland brandy. Marcho was already a bit nervous and confusing words was quite usual to him, but now his speech took a turn towards the interesting.
"There on his day we celebrate the shounding of the Fire. Our kin has come a long way from breyond Bee. Not all have yet followed us fish tar; but I trust when they hear of sour access they all shunderstand bat is whest for them. It won't be long before this land is full of vomely hillages, golden fields and penery scaths. Hall 'ooray' she Thire!"
They shouted:"Hooray the Shire", then some, led by Blanco, shouted: "Ooray she Thire", and it was some time before the noise went down enough for Marcho to continue.
"You all have deserted vanks - I mean deserved thanks - for endurance and taying stogether on the road. More thanks I give you personally and bror my fother - I mean bother, no, wait, you know, Blanco...
He had to wait until his audience were done with laughing. Blanco suspected the 'bother' was intended.
... for choosing me your chief and accepting Blanco as my madviser - adviser I mean."
He got a generous applause and more laughter, too. Marcho thought it was time to bow, tried to, and almost fell into the river. The silver bottle, much to its owner's dismay, did indeed meet that fate. Blanco himself caught Marcho's arm and helped him down from the railing.
"Marcho sat down, all dignity forgotten, on the bottom of the bridge, leaning against the railing and puffing heavily.
Blanco finished the speech for him with questions and answers:
"Now all children, have you learned the name of our new homeland?"
"The Shire! The Shire! Hooray!" shouted all the little boys and girls.
"And you ladies, our sunshine, I ask: where is our border in the West?"
The women replied with a song from the road:
"All the way to Far Downs tall, where elven towers' shadows fall!"
"And you menfolk: our border in the East, this very river atop which we just heard a wonderful speech given?" Blanco gave a broad gesture, which included river, bridge and brother all.
"Louder, I cannot hear you!" said Blanco, winking at the fellows who had shared the bottle.<
br> "Bran-duin, are you deaf?" shouted someone at the back, but Blanco's friends choired:
"And so was our river named, and so it still is. And the best brandy I know is brewed in the East Farthing, where these events took place." It was the traditional way to end the story, and a clever way for the teller to find out if there was any brandy in the house that he could compare to the mentioned brew. Merry, however, felt fully rewarded when he saw the shadow had departed from Faramir's eyes and a smile had taken its place. Indeed, the Steward could not keep laughter away from his voice when he gave his heartfelt thanks for a marvellous story.
"I see your companions now lack a valuable friend to lighten their burdens."
"They will manage. Pippin is a master when it comes to funny stories, and Frodo has Sam. You met those two, I hear. Were they all right?" And so began another story, and the clouds remained over the mountains in the East, and Éowyn did not come.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.