I lean against the tree behind me and settle in for a good smoke while I watch the guests at Master Baggins’ party dance. I am tired from cooking for so many, for it is not my usual work. I notice Nardri has taken off his boots and hat, so I decide to imitate him. Once my feet are bare, I feel the soft grass tickling my soles. It is an odd sensation, but a good one. The last flames of the sunset streak the air orange and a cool breeze rustles the leaves above my head.
“So, Vestri,” says Nardri between puffs, “what do you make of these hobbits?”
“I am not sure,” I admit. “They are friendly enough, particularly Master Baggins and his heir—they have worked very hard to welcome us. But they seem rather naïve in some ways, and not inclined to see the enemies that lay in wait outside the Shire.”
“You are quite right,” Nardri says. “But I do like them for all that. They are cheerful folk who enjoy life, and keep good tables. It is hard to stay grim when so much fine beer and meat is here.” He watches a group of hobbit children race by as they play happily with the toys we brought from Dale. “And the children bring much light as well. I wish we had this many babes in our halls.” I can hear the sadness in his voice.
I do not answer him, for my own lack of a child pains me. Instead, I resume watching the dancing hobbits. One couple catches my eye in particular; it is young Frodo Baggins and his partner. She is the prettiest hobbit lass I have seen here tonight, with fairer hair and skin than most. They make a handsome pair as he lifts her, her blue skirt swirling. The dance ends, and she wanders over to a small knot of giggling lasses who are standing near us. The breeze carries the sounds of their whispering to me, and I note they are pointing at us. I fight down my irritation and ignore them. But to my surprise, the pretty hobbit begins walking towards us, trailed by another hobbit in a gold gown who resembles her greatly.
The pretty one stops in front of us and drops us a curtsey. The gracefulness of her act is damaged by how she sways while standing—too much wine, without question. “My good dwarf masters, my name is Pearl Took, and this is my sister Pimpernel.” She motions to the hobbit behind her. “I’m a cousin of Bilbo and Frodo, and bid you welcome to our birthday feast.”
Nardri scrambles to his feet and gives her a clumsy bow. I follow suit quickly, speaking carefully in the Common Tongue. “We are honoured, Mistress Took, to be guests at such a great occasion. I am Vestri and this is Nardri, and we are of the toymakers’ guild in Dale. What may we do for you this evening?”
She holds out her small hands to me. “Will the two of you dance with me and my sister?”
I look at her in disbelief. Nardri’s mouth falls open, and we trade a look. “You wish for us to dance, Mistress? Surely you jest—we dwarves do not dance,” I say in dismay.
“But you must,” she insists, “for all the guests are, even Gandalf.” I see the tall wizard treading a stately measure with a hobbit matron, and hear that the musicians are playing a far slower tune than before. I shake my head, a kind of panic coming over me. She turns to Nardri, her face imploring; she looks very appealing. “Please, sir, come dance with me. We want everyone to feel at home here in the Shire, and this is how we celebrate.”
Nardri hesitates, and then takes her hand, allowing her to pull him into the crowd of dancers while torches are lit around them. I watch as he carefully places his feet while trying not to step on her toes; it is a blessing that he already removed his boots. I am about to sit down again when I hear a slight cough at my side. I realize that the sister is still standing beside me.
“Forgive me, Mistress Took, but I truly would beg your pardon, and decline your kind invitation.” I take a good look at her in the twilight. She is not quite as pretty as her sister, but she seems less intimidating, her hazel-green eyes sparkling with mirth and her gown shining with the earth’s richness.
“But Pearl is right,” she says as she smiles at me. “Everyone is dancing, and we want you to as well. And please call me Pimmie.”
A sudden notion occurs to me. “Did your friends challenge the two of you to come and ask us?” I ask suspiciously.
She laughs softly. “They did, but that is not the only reason I ask. I truly wish to dance with you, Master Vestri, and with your long red beard. Come join me, for you have nothing to fear.” She takes my hand and gently tugs me after her.
I let her lead me into the dance. As the music plays, I stop worrying and lose myself, simply enjoying the beauty of it. When the dance demands that I must take her into my arms, I do it uncertainly and marvel at her fragile form, so unlike a dwarf woman’s. We move slowly, and I can smell the sweetness of her hair. I close my eyes and pretend fleetingly that I hold the most beautiful of Aule’s children in my arms, and that this evening will go on and on as I win her heart under the twinkling stars in the dusky sky.
When I open my eyes again, Mistress Pimmie smiles at me and I smile back in the flickering torchlight. I reflect that while the Shire is not home, it is home-like enough for me to be happy, at least for now, and I keep dancing.
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.