5. Surprise Invitation
Hesgar had become a regular guest for dinner over the past month and a half. The Miller thought it fair compensation for the young man, given all the work he did; that, and Lillium enjoyed the Rider's company. The Miller preferred they visit here, at the homestead, rather than at the Warrior's Den. He still had not been able to bring himself to openly admit that he liked the young Rider; he was not good with all the touchy feely stuff.
"Come, I will see ya out," the Miller said, pushing his chair from the table and grabbing his cane.
Hesgar was surprised but moved to stand, also. The older man never "saw him out." It was always just a "g'night" from the door. The Rider briefly wondered if something was wrong. So, with a quick "thank you" and "Good night" to the lovely Lilium, the young man followed the Miller from the house.
The older man said nothing as they made their way to the stables. When they were finally in the barn, he spoke up. "I want to thank ya for your help 'round here. 'Tis very kind."
"I am glad I could help," Hesgar replied.
The man sighed. "While I believe you are the kind of man who helps out of the goodness of his heart, I know your attraction to my daughter brought you here."
"I will not deny I have feelings for her," the Rider began, "She is a beautiful young woman."
The Miller nodded. "I know what goes on at the Warrior's Den; how men try to coax her into less than appropriate situations. Hell, I even know some of the women there push her. They do not seem to care she's not yet eighteen." Hesgar made to speak but the older man stopped him. "I also know that you have stepped in on more than one occasion. Seems you also do not make a habit of bedding women just too easy your…physical…needs." He paused and looked intently at Hesgar.
The Rider had no idea where this was all leading so he merely nodded in agreement, waiting for the man to continue.
"Lilium also says that you have never offered more than your arm when you walk her home and never have you asked for…*compensation*…for your kindness."
"Sir, I swear…"
"Now do not go swearin'. Just let me finish." The Miller continued, "Everyone I have spoken too, who knows of you, has told me the same thing; you are a generous, honest, kind and loyal man. They say you have served the West-mark selflessly and are the best tracker in all Rohan."
Hesgar began to feel uncomfortable with both the praise and the Miller's knowledge of him. It seemed the man had gone to great lengths to discover the young Rider's merits. Hesgar could not imagine why. Well, actually, he could. The Miller was no fool. He knew Hesgar more than fancied his Lilium.
"Look," the Miller continued, "What I am tryin' to say is that I was wrong about you and I judged you unfairly. I guess not *all* Riders are cretins." Hesgar chucked softly; the Miller joined in and, for the first time, truly smiled at the younger man.
"Thank you," Hesgar answered. "I do not blame you for your initial feelings and I assure you I have no ill intent in regards to your daughter."
"'Tis good to hear for it makes what I am about to say all the easier." Hesgar looked questioningly at the older man. The Miller cleared his throat and shifted his weight a bit. "See, the Summer Festival is comin' up and I know my little flower wants to go. The problem is," the Miller sighed again, "I really do not have the energy or desire to go. I am too old and my wounds still bother me; Lilium would not enjoy herself for she would be too busy fussin' and worryin' over me. Still, she will be quite disappointed if she cannot attend—though she'll never admit it. She is too young to attend alone and, although some 'ladies' from the Warrior's Den invited her to join them, well, I am not comfortable with that, either. I know she fancies you--a lot. And you have had plenty of opportunities to press your advantage and you yet did not. You have done much to show your true colors to her and to me. What I am getting' at is this: I trust you and thought perhaps you would be interested in takin' Lilium to the festival in my stead. I know it would make her very happy--and I will not have to worry."
Hesgar stood in stunned silence staring at the older man. Here the young man had been trying to bolster his courage to ask the Miller for permission to take Lilium to the festival and the Miller turns around and does the asking. Hesgar's heart started to race as he smiled at the Miller.
"I would be honored to take her if she is agreeable," he replied. "I promise you she will be safe…"
The Miller interrupted, giving the younger man's shoulder a squeeze. "I know son, I know."
Inside the house, Lilium paced frantically. She had no idea why her father wished to speak to Hesgar, nor why it was taking so long. The Rider had ever been the gentleman and the young woman could not think of anything that might have upset her Da. Thanks to Hesgar, almost all the repairs had been completed and at minimal cost as he refused payment. Though she was still working at the Warrior's Den, the desperate need was no longer there. She continued on only as excuse for it allowed her the nightly walk home with Hesgar. He was the sweetest man she had ever known. He made her feel special and made her swoon. However, not with the false flattery that many others used. She knew that he said nothing he did not mean. In a few months she would be of age and perhaps the friendship she now had with the Rider would blossom into…she snorted, like her father would ever condone that! She should just forget about him that way…oh what was going on out at the barn! When she thought she could not take it anymore, her father returned.
Lilium stood in the middle of the front room, waiting for him to say something—anything! The Miller limped past her. He reached for a small tin on the top shelf of the pantry and opened it. His daughter stood rooted to the floor, her heart racing, hands sweating. Finally her Da put the tin back and moved towards her, still not saying a word. His expression was unreadable, but there was something almost peaceful in his eyes. Taking her small hand he placed three gold pieces in her palm.
"Tomorrow, I want you to go to the seamstress and have a fine dress made." Lilium stared first at the coins in her hand and then at her Da. She made to object; she did not need anything new, but her father cut her off. "You will be wantin' to wear a pretty new dress when Rider Hesgar takes you to the Summer Festival."
Lilium's eyes lit up as his words registered and she threw her arms around her father, nearly knocking him over. "Oh thank you Da!" she cried.
The old Miller hugged his beloved daughter. She was growing up; it was time to trust her AND Hesgar; it was time to let her fly.
*AN: I was going to end it here, but I think a little epilogue might be good to just wrap things up nicely. But believe me, nothing inappropriate happened at the festival!!
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.