The Adventures
of
Frodo Gardner

Volume VI
He Clasped Her Fast, Both Flesh and Bone
By Dolores J. Nurss

Chapter 26, Part 210
So Long as the Flower Dress Bright...
July 14, 1452

Frodo opened his eyes where he lay on the bench downstairs. The first gray light already shone through the last pattering of rain in the window-slits above, and a sweet air slipped through. The first birds had begun to sing. He stretched deliciously, glanced over at the empty cot nearby--and then sat up suddenly, a rising fear in his throat. Uncle Nibs had not returned. “What will I say to Mama?” he gasped, then threw on his clothes and readied himself as quickly as possible to search for his kin.
 
But the door burst open before he got to it. “There he is!” the mob cried. “Get him!”
 
“Wait! No! I have to find my Uncle! No!” But too many hands grabbed at him at once, pulling off his mourning vest and belt. Their winey breath choked him and their grinning faces alarmed him.
 
“Awr, the laddie don’t know his own good,” they laughed, wrestling him into a longer vest of a dusky violet-blue, beaded in the ceramic work of Seaside, then tying a bright red sash around his middle against his struggling. “Away with ‘im, then, let’s go! Look–the sun rises!” And off they hauled him, high above their heads, while the new sun blazoned color onto the remaining clouds. Even in his panic Frodo gasped at the beauty of it all, his heart pounding with layers of contradictory emotion, staring up at the mile upon mile of piled-up thunderheads inflamed with brilliant light . Errant sprays of rain shivered over him between warming rays of the early-slanting glow, and sometimes a rainbow glimmered in the sky. Already the party-strewn streets had begun to steam with the rising heat, as his captors splashed through the puddles with abandon.
 
Frodo heard a music well up ahead, as the mob twisted and turned through the streets of Seaside. An elvish flute pierced his heart, enticing him forward despite his darkest fears. And then a harp sang out and his heart nearly stopped altogether. The voice that accompanied the instruments carried, faint but clear:
 
"Gather the elders and gather the young,
Gather the light-hearts and grave,
For what we create here shall always be sung,
Wherever love makes our hearts brave.”

 
All fear dropped away from him. He gazed up at the arching spectrum overhead and asked, “How can such blessings come my way, when I have done so much ill?”
 
"So long as the flower dress bright for the bee,
So long as the earth loves the plough,
So long as the river the riverbed please,
So long as the wave lift the prow,
 
So long shall a lad and his maiden unite,
So long shall they pledge their hearts true,
So long shall the young ones be born to delight,
So long shall the old greet the new.”

 
Frodo slicked down the hair that those carrying him had ruffled so badly, straightened the strange blue vest the best he could while tumbling about in many people’s hands, and tried as hard as he could to will his face to stop burning.
 
"Light love is a flower, but marriage a tree–
Light love blooms awhile and is spent.
Light love shall dance gaily for spring's fleeting glee,
And then in harsh weather be bent.
 
But the tree blooms in bushels unmatched by the flower,
Then after the blossoms bears fruit!
And after that sweetness the autumn's bright fire
Braves its colors from crown unto root,”

 
“At last I understand,” Frodo said to those who jostled him in the air. “You held my bachelor party for me last night. Thank you.”
 
"Still later the hard times in winter strip bare
To the shapely essentials of boughs,
Yet spring again after blooms brilliant and fair!
For what flowers can't guess the tree knows.
 
In less than a season the field-flower dies,
But the tree grows year in and year out.
Through the sweet times and hard times the branches still rise
And the trunk grows more hardy and stout.”

 
When his bearers burst out onto the beach a great shout went up, cheers and clapping. It seemed like all of Seaside waited for him there.
 
"So gather the children and gather the old,
Bear witness: two graft to one tree!
The stripling made gentle, the maiden made bold,
And both bound to one root are set free!”

 
Frodo searched, until he saw the intersecting arches twined with summer flowers. His heart beat so hard that it shook him when he saw the other end of the crowd bearing up a tiny figure. The people parted to reveal a second halfling that led the way, beaming, red-faced and merry like Frodo hadn’t seen since the days when his aunt Maybelle yet lived and laughed. But Frodo had only eyes for the one carried on a flowered bier: the harpist singing directly to him with the most luminous, loving eyes, her pupils full and dark.
 
"So long as the flower dress bright for the bees,
So long as the earth loves the plough,
So long as the river the riverbed please,
So long as the wave lift the prow,
 
So long shall a lad and his maiden unite,
So long shall they pledge their hearts true,
So long shall the young ones be born to delight,
So long shall the old greet the new."

 
Matthilda handed the harp over to Lanethil, with its new-carved horse-bone pegs and inlay; he then strummed softly in the background for her, weaving enchantment in and out of the rising mists. The women set Mattie down even as the men let Frodo’s feet touch the earth, and she walked towards Frodo on Nibs’s proud arm.
 
Frodo could not help but stare, lips parting in awe. Her golden-brown curls had grown out fully since the day she first abandoned the mail, tumbled about her shoulders under the transparency of a dawn-red veil, held in place by a wreath of wrygrass and field-flowers. Full, round cheeks blushed with health, and her smile showed unstained teeth (the one missing front tooth lending her a curiously guileless charm.) But as much as he welcomed these changes, Frodo could not take his eyes for long from the glorious white dress, gathered and tucked beneath the slit and gauzy red over-robe, the fabric clinging from the last of the rain in confectionary loops that emphasized more than concealed all of the luscious curves, from an overflowing bodice where twin cushions of delight strained at the laces to offer him a place to rest his impassioned brow, to the soft tummy that seemed to long to press up against him, to the seductively swerving hips that he could practically feel his hands close upon already, to the swaying stride of thighs sculpted out by Pearl and Lanethil’s best arts of the bakery and dairy (building on a firm foundation of Brandybuck Mercantile’s richest delicacies before that) all the way down to the delicate toes that peeped out naked from beneath the skirt, fringed in the most inviting velvet curls. Everything about her shifted and quivered and moved...deliciously.
 
What a disgusting little sow she has become! I cannot imagine why...
 
“Shut up, Sauron,” Frodo breathed so earnestly that the once-great maia could not help but obey.
 
Frodo began to tremble from the moment his Uncle placed his hand in hers, and did not abate throughout the ceremony, whose rites swirled about him like birdsong and rain-scent and shifting light of rainwashed sun. He repeated whatever words they cued him to, his eyes feasting gluttonously on what he had not dared to hope for when first he embraced a homely wife in the wilds of the Ephel Duath. He hardly even notice when old Kila cut his hand, only aware that she pressed it palm to palm with Mattie’s and bound it there.
 
Signaled by a few chords of the harp in Lanethil’s grasp, tiny, leathery fingers pushed a ring into Frodo’s free hand. He glanced down, surprised, to see Trickster bedecked in ribbons and a little flower crown; the monkey hastened to Mattie and gave her the other ring, and the couple adorned each other’s fingers, repeating, “With this ring I thee wed.”
 
“You may kiss the bride.”
 
That’s all he needed. Frodo ripped through the thread and tore back the veil. The embrace felt better than he had imagined possible, soft and cuddlesome and incredible; he could barely hold himself back to the norms of what even the Nurnings accounted publicly acceptable. He drowned in her kiss until Uncle Nibs tapped him on the shoulder and he remembered himself.
 
That foretaste of delights to come burned in him all through the requisite speech-making (for Nibs had insisted on grafting hobbit customs onto Kila’s ramblings for a truly long occasion) and an all-day feast on Eowyn’s tab (now that folks knew who she was and trusted her credit) and many songs, and suitable tributes to Yavanna and the Powers of the West, and much good advice from elders who had not even heard of marriage until just that year but figured they ought to weigh in on it just the same, to words from Nibs that actually meant something. Yet the yearning tasted sweet with anticipation and Frodo did not begrudge the long nuptials, so happy was he to see Nibs at least appear to accept his union with Mattie.
 
When asked about it, Nibs answered, “Maybe it’s all a mistake, and maybe not. Time will tell. But if you’ve got your heart set on her, I might as well hold out for the most respectable proceedings I can. And you might well be right, lad–you’ve been right about some of the queerest things since you got here.” Then the older hobbit poured himself some more of the ruby-red kaktush wine and grabbed up a buttery crescent-roll from a passing tray.
 
Bergil brought up Bleys, beflowered for the occasion, and set the hobbit couple on the donkey’s back. A loud and cheering crowd escorted the newly-blessed couple all the way to their door, pelting them with handful after handful of wry-seed. Then, after the last of the revelers went singing off into the distance, after Frodo carried Mattie over the threshhold, he suddenly laughed, remembering the unfloored state of his room. “Come, my love,” he said, “I know of one place, at least, where we can find the privacy we desire.”
 
Mattie laughed, too, when he explained. “I have no luck in my wedding-nights,” she giggled. “But what could matter more than luck in the spouse?”
 
Frodo led her out the back way, into the little barn (where Bleys chewed on the last of his decorations.) The builders had made it proof against all wild animals, snug against weather, and good enough for a pair of hobbits far from the holes of their forebears. There Frodo spread a blanket on the mounded hay and invited Mattie to join him. She winked at the donkey, saying, “Close your eyes, Bleys.” What followed after surpassed (almost) any delight that Frodo had ever experienced short of Valinor.
 
Late in the warmth of the summer night, drowsy but awake, wrapped in the sweet scent of hay, Frodo felt her cuddled up against him and knew utter, perfect contentment. He could not resist thinking, “See, Sauron? Nothing has come of your dire innuendos–she remained clean the entire time.”
 
Do you believe that this gives you a victory, my poor friend? Yet for an entire week you felt an agony of fear. I know–I tasted its delicious bittersweetness. Nothing will ever cure that fear, you know–unless one or the other of you dies. Otherwise you will always stand on the brink of losing the one you most love–to me. You will suffer every time she leaves your sight. I wish you well on your marriage–your marriage riddled through and through with doubt!
 
And just then Frodo noticed the bridal veil, lying upon the barn floor in a shaft of moonlight, and the wreath that had held it in place on Mattie’s head. And he saw the poppies woven in among the other flowers of the fields, and he shivered in the swelter of the night.
 
HERE ENDS VOLUME VI.
 

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