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Sacrament

by CRB and Ladyhawk Baggins

1 June 1420sr morning...

Within Garden Hill, Daisy came to wake Lily at dawn with a warm cup of tea. She sat on the edge of the bed, holding the teacup in one hand while rousing her sister with the other.

“Wake up, sleepyhead! It’s your wedding day, my sweet!”

Daisy beamed as Lily sat up abruptly, eyes wide.

“Is it true, Daisy? Is it really, truly here? I can’t believe it... I’ve waited forever... it almost seems like it can’t possibly be true--!”

“Indeed, it’s true, sweet. It’s June 1st, and it’s here, and if you don’t get up quick, you’ll be late for your own wedding. Your wedding morning bath, your hair put up, flowers as far as the eye can see, and your dress... and all those covered buttons you put on it! I’m not sure Frodo’ll be too pleased about them all, dear sister!” Daisy teased, her eyes twinkling.

Lily wore a blank expression. “Why ever not? They’re so pretty...”

Daisy let a moment pass. “Drink your tea, sweet, and think about it...”

Lily was sipping her tea when Daisy’s meaning became vividly clear.

Oh! Yes... I -- hadn’t actually thought about that... what was I thinking? Do you think he’ll mind? I hope he won’t mind!” Lily fretted, suddenly anxious.

Daisy laughed and patted her sister’s arm. “Too late for that now, love. Thirty buttons!”

“Twenty-nine,” Lily corrected.

“Yes, sweet. Well, it’s a mighty good thing he loves you so much. He has more patience, I think, than anyone I’ve ever met. But then, come to think of it, you’ve a fair share of it yourself. You’ll make a fine match, you two.”

After Daisy brought her a second cup of tea, Lily tentatively asked her sister for advice about what to expect that afternoon -- after the ceremony. Her mother would have given such guidance to her at her betrothal, as was the custom in the Shire; but she was gone.

Lily took another sip of tea, her expression thoughtful. “Mum must be happy for me, now, Daisy... and Da, too... happy for all of us: for you and Hal and -- and Pearl, as well...”

Lily fought back sudden tears. “Oh, my... when I think of Pearl, and how they would have loved her--!” She raised her eyes to meet Daisy’s.

Her sister’s eyes were shining, and Daisy needed to smile to hold her own tears at bay. She put her hand on Lily’s arm. “There, now, little sister! -- you can’t be starting to cry at this hour of the morning! You’ll have us both weeping at every little thing, and your eyes’ll be so red and puffy by noon, Frodo won’t recognize you!”

They both giggled, and Lily pulled herself back to her earlier thoughts. “Frodo told me -- those who were grateful for what they’d been given would be with Ilúvatar after death, even if they hadn’t known His name. He learned it from Gandalf, and surely Gandalf must know such things... but Daisy, can you tell me more about... well, about this afternoon, I mean?”

Her forthright sister became enigmatic, her expression turning serious and her brows knitting. “Well, it’ll be enjoyable, but every hobbit’s personality and ways are different, of course... Frodo mightn’t be anything like my Hal...”

Daisy blushed, then seemed to realize that what she’d said was almost like saying nothing at all. She quickly embraced Lily. “Well, dear, just relax and make the best of it -- any pain you feel won’t be too bad, really...”

Lily was perplexed. She reminded herself that Daisy was doing her best to be encouraging.

She thought of Daisy just before her own wedding, and remembered the day when her friends -- most of them married -- had gathered for tea and talked of their hopes and dreams for their own marriages, with Lily listening in. They chatted of how the wedding afternoon would be pleasant, and a little painful, but it wouldn’t last long, and then it’d be over... after all, it wasn’t the best part of marriage. The best part, they agreed, was the children...

Loud knocking on the front door brought the conversation to a halt.

Feeling none the wiser, Lily smiled to herself as she recognized the sound of several little hands pounding on the door. The children of Hobbiton had arrived with their traditional offering for the bride.

She waited for Rosie to join them from the kitchen, then opened the door with Rosie and Daisy at her side.

The group consisted mostly of lasses, but there were a couple of lads as well. Lily guessed they were there more to be a part of the bevy than for the actual gathering of the flowers.

The oldest lass shyly handed the baskets to Lily.

“Flowers for the prettiest flower, today,” Cami Longburrow pronounced.

Tears sprang to Lily’s eyes. She did not attempt to hide them as she replied, “Thank you for your thoughtfulness. You’ve added beauty to my day.”

Cami and the other lasses curtsied, then scurried away, giggling. The two lads gawked at Lily for a moment, then tugged their forelocks and scampered after the lasses.

Daisy took the baskets, smiling wistfully. “I’ll start on the garland right after firsties.”

Rosie slipped an arm around Lily’s shoulders. “Look at the gazebo, Lily...”

Lily glanced at the flower-bedecked structure, still being added to by Sam’s siblings. “I recognize most of the flowers, but there are -- vines -- of -- what are they?”

“Sam says it’s jasmine, from the south. It seems Strider brought it with him -- it’s another gift, Lily. And oh, their scent... it’s unlike anything we’ve here in the Shire.”

Lily glanced at her friend, and her brows drew together. “Rosie! You’ll not be able to have firsties with Sam this morning!”

“It’s all right, love.”

“But it’s your first morning apart since you’ve wed...”

“I can’t think of a better reason than Sam serving in his place as Frodo’s fyllan, and me serving as yours...”

Lily embraced her friend and began to weep softly.

Rosie held her tightly. “Everything’s right as rain, Lily dear. You’re wedding your Frodo today, and Mr. Gandalf is here to help. The day is too beautiful for words. Oh, dear... If you keep crying like that I’ll end up being a puddle, myself. Come on, then, we’ll get some firsties into you and then get you into the bath. Oh! Sam sent a leaf of kingsfoil for your bath this morning; Strider said to crush it into the hot water and it’ll be quite soothing; even better than lavender.” She pulled away and looked into Lily’s eyes, assessing her with a warm smile. Then they joined the others at the breakfast table.

Pearl happily chirped and babbled her way through the meal. Will and Hal would see to the final preparations outside, while Daisy created the garland and Rose helped Lily bathe and dress. Daisy decided Pearl would be happiest outside with Hal.

Before taking Lily to the bathing room, Rose showed her friend the jasmine and honeysuckle blossoms she would lace through her braids.

Lily’s eyes danced with excitement and wonder. “Rosie, you’re right, their perfume is unlike anything we have here... I must thank Aragorn for sharing such an unexpected gift, from his own land. It’s exquisite...”

“Yes, indeed, they’re lovely, to be sure.” Rosie smiled. “Now, we need to get you into the bath, Lily dear! The day’s moving along without us.” She guided Lily into the bathing room, then crushed the leaf Sam had given her into the steaming bathwater before Lily stepped in. Remembering her own wedding day, Rosie gently rehearsed how the morning would progress. As she helped her friend dress, they finished reviewing what would happen at the wedding.

Lily began to weep softly, fear shadowing her face. What if the healing... what if Gandalf was wrong?

“Love, what is it?” Rose asked softly.

Lily sniffled, containing herself, as she searched Rosie’s eyes. “Please tell me I didn’t imagine Gandalf saying Frodo would be completely healed of the darkness.”

“Of course you didn’t imagine it! But he did warn us that Frodo’s memories would stay...” Rosie could not dismiss a nagging feeling something more was bothering the bride. “Is there anything else you were wanting to ask me?”

Lily looked away, then back at her friend, then away again.

“You know you can ask me anything, don’t you, Lily?”

“I’m certain your mum -- your mum spoke with you about it, and I asked Daisy, but... Rose, about this afternoon...” Lily blushed crimson.

Rosie nodded and smiled. “Yes, me mum had a long talk with me. Living on a farm, we’re practical folk. I don’t imagine Daisy was ready to talk to you about all that, only being wed just a year and a half herself.”

Lily gazed at her friend, beseechingly. “But you’ve only been wed a month...”

Rosie giggled. “I know, but it’s different somehow. Maybe because I’m sure my Sam is talking to Frodo about the same thing, probably at this very moment. Just relax and enjoy this afternoon.”

Lily glanced at her friend doubtfully. “That’s what Daisy said.”

Rose blushed lightly. “It’s difficult to explain. Saying too much can be just as upsetting as not saying enough, but only because you’ve nothing to compare it to... if you know what I mean. But see, that’s just it -- you don’t... hmmm.”

“Daisy says every hobbit is different, Rose.” Lily tried to find the words to explain her thoughts. “It’s as though she didn’t want to say one thing and have something else happen, because Frodo is different from Hal, and have me unhappy, or disappointed.”

Rosie considered her friend’s words as she inspected herself in the looking glass. Her underdress was white cotton chambray, with widely spaced red roses embroidered along the sleeves and cuffs and along the neckline. Her vest and skirt were wool crepe, of deep forest green. The vest had a simple pattern of leaves and vines quilted on its front, in a darker green even than the wool of the vest and skirt.

After adjusting the lacings on her vest, Rose continued. “Daisy’s right about that. I’ll tell you a little of my time with Sam. I think I can tell you enough to ease your own mind without saying too much. It’s not that it’s a secret, Lily. It’s just -- how do I say it -- it’s something private, and special... just between me and Sam, as it’ll be just between you and Frodo. It’s not meant to be shared with anyone else. You’ve heard the occasional lad or lass what goes on and on about... well, you know... And somehow it seems like day-old bread rather than like... well, like your blackberry preserves, for instance. You know how Frodo saved and savored it, only it’s even more special than that because he did share it with his close friends -- but this’ll be shared only between the two of you.”

Lily breathed deeply, and released it. “So it’d be as if I made him blackberry preserves and he kept them for himself...”

Rosie nodded. “For himself, and for you; just the two of you.” Rose sat on the edge of the bed, and Lily turned on the vanity seat to face her.

“There are things the two of you already share, just the two of you, and no one else,” Rose continued, as gently as she could. “I know there are, like the -- well, beggin’ your pardon -- but like the darkness... Today, that’ll be taken away, and you’ll be given something else to share, something so much better you can’t even imagine... The same things you learned about sharing the burden, you’ll need to learn about sharing the joys.”

Lily’s mind had wandered when Rose mentioned Frodo’s healing. It seemed like a waking dream, unreal... She collected her thoughts with some difficulty, recalling what Rose had said.

“We must learn to share our joys? Doesn’t that just come?”

“Some of it does... but Lily, you’re combining two lives into one. If you dump flour in a pan, then add sugar, eggs, butter, and milk, without stirring or anything else, will you get biscuits?”

Lily smiled. “No; it must be blended and worked. I understand... but how?” She thought a moment. “I think I know. It’s how we work together now; talking about it -- is that right?”

Rosie returned the smile. “Yes. It’s not like you know right off what to do and what not to do. He’s a smart hobbit, is Frodo, but even he’s not able to read your mind like one of his books, or he wouldn’t always be asking if you’re all right. You’ve got a wonderful gift of sight, but you ask him things, too, so you’re not reading his mind, either.”

Lily smiled and giggled. “Especially not when he enfolds me in his arms and kisses me...” She sighed, then blushed.

“That’s as it should be. There’s no fun in it if one of the couple knows everything...” Rosie gave her a meaningful look.

“Oh! Like that lad... in Bywater... a few years back. I don’t like to think how many lasses he tried to have his way with.”

Rosie nodded. “So you’d heard about him?”

“What lass hadn’t heard? -- and then been warned to avoid him?”

Rosie giggled. “Sure and certain.”

She stood and moved to help Lily into her wedding dress of peach silk and began buttoning up the back, methodically slipping each cloth-covered button into its loop. One loop was a little small, but it would be all right.

Rosie continued. “Anyway, Sam says, even after being on the Quest, marriage is the real adventure, of the very best kind. And the two of you are on it together. You both want to find joy and happiness, together, but it takes work and effort and...” She stopped as she noted Lily’s eyes in the mirror; they were growing wider.

“Daisy said it’d be pleasant and a little painful, and her friends, when she got married, said it may or mayn’t be pleasant, but probably short and hopefully not too painful but that it didn’t matter really because it’s the children that truly matter...” Lily’s fear was growing with each word.

“Lily!” Rosie finished with the last button, then turned her friend gently to face her. She did not hide the shocked expression on her face. “What rubbish!” She sighed. “Well, not entirely rubbish... Let’s start over. First, yes, there’s a little pain, but not for long, so don’t go thinking anything’s wrong. It’s just the way things are. And with some lads the afternoon is short, but I don’t think you’ll be needing to worry about that... Lily, don’t look at me like that. I’m only telling you all this because I know Sam is giving Frodo the same advice the Gaffer gave to him, and it stood my Sam in very good stead.” Rosie blushed.

“I got a tad impatient with my Samwise. He was going about everything so slowly. Not that I minded, really, but I did want things to move a little quicker, if you take my meaning...” Rose glanced at her friend. “No, I reckon you don’t, at least not yet... When I asked my Sam why he wouldn’t... step up the pace a bit... he said to me his gaffer told him a lass was like a flower. She needed to be tended gently if she’s to blossom... meaning plenty of attention, not too hot or too cold, and never rushed.”

As Rosie began brushing Lily’s hair, the bride smiled and murmured, “Oh, Rosie, I like the sound of that. And I do think Frodo would follow Sam’s advice.”

“You’ll both be fine. Me mum says some lads don’t like a lot of talk, but they cheat themselves by it. Sam’s not much of a talker himself, but he was more interested in pleasing me... Because Sam was willing to talk to me, I felt... safe, asking him questions, including asking for a turn...” Rosie blushed, then giggled. “Don’t let Frodo have all the fun.”

Lily eyed her friend in the mirror, uncertainly, as Rosie began to braid her long auburn curls and pin them up in preparation for putting the small blossoms in her hair.

Rose giggled again, then took a deep breath to relax. “He’ll kiss you in ways... never mind... but, you’ll want to return them in kind; let yourself have the pleasure of giving back.” She sighed and stared for a moment, unseeing, then blushed again. “There’s something about the giving... it’s everything; the pleasure it brings to -- to him -- and it’s the same for him, my Sam said, the pleasure of giving... it’s like -- like a balm, so to speak, if you take my meaning. You and Frodo love each other, Lily, and that’s what matters most. You’ve worked hard to create a friendship what’ll last. And there’s sparks like a fall bonfire between you two that anyone with eyes can see. Yet, there’s something more, too. The two of you’ve needed to work harder than most, what with Frodo’s burden, and your delicate nature...

“You’ll be fine, Lily... just follow your heart, like you’ve been doing all along.”

Lily quickly embraced her friend. “Thank you, dear Rose. I’m all right now, and I understand about the blackberry preserves. You’re right; some things shouldn’t be shared... not that one is greedy, but it’s -- precious.” She sighed. “I can’t use that word with Frodo, but I can say it to you -- and the word fits. Mayhap someday Frodo shall be able to forget its other meaning... I also understand better about -- the darkness being gone, but the memories remaining. Things won’t be easy just because It’s gone, but now we’ll have the chance -- the privilege -- to work at nourishing our love without folk questioning our every glance.”

Rosie smiled broadly and embraced her friend. “Sure and certain -- and all that matters today, Lily, is you and Frodo’ll marry, and his darkness’ll be gone.”

Lily’s eyes filled with tears. “And we’ll have all our lives together. One thing at a time: today, Frodo and I shall wed. Today, that’s all that matters.”

The friends embraced once more, then Rosie finished placing the honeysuckle and jasmine blossoms in Lily’s hair.

---------

At the same time Lily was being prepared for the ceremony, and in nearly the same manner, Sam was helping his master at Bag End.

Frodo had become increasingly nervous as the day approached, and Sam struggled to hide a smile at his master’s utter distraction.

“Sam? Why is it good to ‘have a laugh,’ as you put it, when I’m with Lily -- that is, after the wedding -- I mean... later today...?”

Frodo blushed. It had been easier asking Sam about such things a few days ago, when the wedding still seemed like a lovely dream. The wedding was today; suddenly everything seemed very real.

Sam was mulling over a reply, but Frodo went on.

“Isn’t it supposed to be a serious... well, how can I say it... a serious time? A serious moment? What if Lily thinks I am making light of -- of -- light of everything? Won’t she be hurt?”

Sam stopped adjusting his braces and turned to look at his friend.

“Laughter’s a great help for the jitters, sir... it’s -- well, it’s relaxing-like. I don’t think your lovely lady will mind it a bit. And also -- beggin’ your pardon, Mr. Frodo -- but she knows you better than that... Miss Lily knows you’d never be making fun of her or of anything -- that happens.” Sam was turning bright red.

At this Frodo blushed again as well. “I’m sorry, dear Samwise. Your help is invaluable to me. I can’t thank you enough.”

“Thank the Gaffer, don’t thank me,” Sam laughed. “He’s the one what told me. I’d have been a fish out of water for sure if it weren’t for him. You’ll have to take my word for it, sir. How can I say it? -- the old Gaffer passed along good advice... it stood me in good stead with my Rosie... It still does...” Sam smiled and looked back in the mirror, and started to button his golden-brown waistcoat, the one he’d worn at his own wedding.

“Dear Sam,” Frodo smiled, “we’ve -- that is, Lily and I’ve been so happy for you and Rose... how long has it been now? Wait, let me see -- May 1st -- a month? A month today!”

Frodo watched Sam’s eyes grow misty. “The best month of my life, sir, and the first ten days were... well, no, not just those first days--! It’s all been -- wonderful, but that’s, well -- Mr. Frodo, what’s the word for when you’re not saying enough about something?”

“An understatement?” Frodo offered.

“Yes,” Sam grinned, “that’s the one, thank you, sir. ‘Wonderful.’ Sure and certain it’s an understatement, and no mistake.”

Sam was blushing again, but smiling at his friend. Then he pulled up a chair and sat opposite Frodo; Sam noticed the groom’s hair was still damp. His master was less than halfway to being dressed, and time was getting away from them, but Frodo seemed lost in thought. It looked to Sam as though Frodo was seeing the deep wine colour of his new breeches for the first time. I’ve got to light a fire under him, Sam mused with a wan smile.

Frodo rubbed his right knee with his thumb, feeling the texture of the fabric. “She must have spent hours on this wedding clothing... days... this wool is exquisite; twill, isn’t it?”

Sam fetched the creamy silk shirt Lily had fashioned for his master. He held it open with both hands, waiting for Frodo to stand up and get into it.

“Yes, Mr. Frodo, I’m sure it’s twill, sir, and it’s lovely, for sure, and so’s this shirt... but you need the shirt and the waistcoat and the coat on you, sir, to get married... I’m not going to be much good as your fyllan today unless you let me help you, beggin’ your pardon, sir.”

Frodo laughed and stood, letting Sam assist him in slipping on the shirt and securing the buttons. He then fastened the new braces, another gift from Lily, to his breeches, and slipped the braces onto his shoulders. They were a darker wine than the coat and breeches, and Frodo smiled at the tiny embroidered letters ‘FB’ sewn in black thread in an interlacing pattern.

“I’m sorry, Sam... my thoughts are scattered, to say the least... all I can think about is Lily, and what will happen, and how to make her happy...”

And how the darkness shall affect us today, and forever... No, no. I’ll not think on it. Not today. Sam’s voice filtered through his troubled thoughts.

“The main thing to remember, sir, is the bit about not rushing things.” Sam then looked at his feet for a moment, before facing Frodo again. “That’s going to be the part you’ll have to fight the most, so to speak, sir. The Gaffer taught me that, too. It’s no good for the missus if everything -- well, if everything happens too fast...”

Sam noted the confusion on Frodo’s face. “It’s like my marigolds in the spring. Watering extra doesn’t make ‘em grow faster; they rot at the root, where you can’t see till it’s too late. But if I tend ‘em with what they want and need, they’ll bloom pretty as can be, all summer and into the fall. Practice from year to year works, but it’s the hard way. My gaffer told me to just watch the dirt it’s planted in. When it’s dry you add water; when it’s wet, you don’t. You can’t get impatient or all in a hurry... Then again, you’ve not done much gardening...”

Sam started again, with Frodo listening intently. “It’s like your Elvish lessons, master; and me learning my letters... Mr. Bilbo didn’t just hand you a book and tell you to start reading. Learning your letters and growing a flower ain’t all that different. It takes time and effort and plenty o’ patience. Now, you’re startin’ the most amazing lessons...” Sam’s voice trailed away for a moment.

“I’ve known Rosie for most of my life, sir, but learnin’ about Rosie, my wife, has been ever so much better than when I learned my letters. Now, you’re going to be learning about your Lily. If you can manage to remember she’s a flower like her name, Mr. Frodo, everything else’ll take care of itself, truly. Just think first of what she’d want...”

“I’d only ever want that anyway,” murmured Frodo slowly, half to himself. “But wait, Sam! How shall I know what it is she wants? Other than what you just told me, that is?”

“Ask her, sir.”

Ask her? Is it that simple? I mean, how do you ask...”

“Well, Mr. Frodo, yes, sir, indeed it’s that simple... Don’t worry... you’re far better with words than me, and I managed...” Sam cleared his throat self-consciously. “Anyway... you’ll find the right words, unless you can read her mind, that is, and don’t end up needin’ to ask her. But I wouldn’t count on that.”

Sam chuckled, and held open to Frodo the new waistcoat Lily had made, velvet brocade, with swirling patterns of deep wine-reds, rich gold, and intense green.

Frodo slipped into the waistcoat and allowed Sam to button it for him. He was so distracted he missed the humour in Sam’s words.

“I cannot read her mind but now and then,” Frodo admitted, and then a little smile crept across his face, along with another blush. “However, she seems able to read mine all the time. Which isn’t a bad thing...”

He raised his eyes to his friend. “Oh, Sam, I wish I could feel calm now. This accursed...”

Sam had picked up his own tweed coat, its deep blue and brown interwoven threads showing clearly in the sunshine streaming into Bad End. “What is it, Mr. Frodo?”

Frodo did not want to think on it, but the need to speak of it overcame him. “It’s the darkness. I still feel the Ring’s evil. It still lives in me; It pulls at me... Lily has healed me of some of It, though I don’t know how... she asks me to place all my trust in Ilúvatar... and assures me He’ll take care of us in this matter. We have prayed so much, both of us... Her faith is so much stronger than mine. I am far more afraid of what my evil may do to her, than I am about any of the rest of today, truth be told.”

Sam stared at his feet again, then looked Frodo in the eye. He placed his coat over one arm and clapped his anxious friend on the shoulder.

“There’s naught to do now but trust, then, and marry her. Miss Lily sees things we can’t. It’s a gift, sure and certain. Try to set your heart at ease, sir. I can’t believe the Creator’s going to leave the two of you to your own defenses, if you take my meaning. He’s kinder than that, sir. He cares about us.”

Frodo released an unsteady breath. “Of course, Sam. You’re right. Thank you, again. I think I shall be praying right through the day, though.”

“Not a thing wrong with that, and Rose and I can too, sir. We’ve got to believe in the promises we’ve learned about. He did help you save the Shire, and everything, sir, even though we didn’t yet know He was there with us. That was without us even asking Him for anything. I’m thinkin’ how much more He’ll help, when we ask...”

“Of course,” Frodo repeated, his thoughts drifting far away. He did not see Sam studying his feet again, a little more closely.

“You know, Mr. Frodo, even on my own wedding day, I don’t believe these feet of mine’ve ever been this well scrubbed.”

Frodo laughed out loud, and Sam joined him, putting on his own coat, then helping his master into his new one. Frodo stepped in front of the looking glass to be sure everything was right. Rosie had told him that the silky, cream-coloured shirt set off his skin and his chestnut curls, and he supposed she was right, but he wasn’t any good at these things... He remembered again Lily blushing at the comment. He really should ask her about it sometime... The dress coat was a deep wine colour that matched his new breeches, and the collar of his coat was matching velvet. He marveled again at Lily’s skill, and her love for him.

Sam came and stood behind him.

“Well, Sam, will I do?” Frodo smiled at his friend in the mirror.

“You’ll do, sir, though you could use a bit more weight, beggin’ your pardon, sir,” Sam chuckled.

Frodo ran his hands down the coat and over the waistcoat. “She does lovely work, doesn’t she? Did you see the quilt she created?” He indicated the white quilted coverlet draped over the bed.

Sam hid a smile. “Indeed I did, sir.” He could no longer contain the laugh bubbling up. “My Rosie asked me to put it on the bed, this morning.”

Frodo blushed. “I can’t believe I’ve forgotten already.”

“Don’t you worry about that, Mr. Frodo. You’ve plenty on your mind, and she’s all that ought to be there, anyway...”

Frodo smiled. “Thank you, dear Sam.” He reached for Arwen’s gem, then paused. “Should I wear it today, do you think?”

Sam reminded himself of the significance of the gem, and all it meant. “I’m thinkin’ you won’t be needing it today, sir, truth be told, and all.”

Frodo gently placed the gem in a wardrobe drawer, sighed, and turned to his friend. “Are we ready, then?”

Sam grinned. “Indeed we are, sir.”

---------

Just before noon, Will smiled at Lily in the front hall of Garden Hill.

“I’m happy for you, little sister.”

Lily returned his smile. “Thank you. And thank you for filling in for Da.”

“It’s my privilege. I sure wish they were here... Are you ready, then?”

“Yes,” Lily responded, her eyes shining.

Will opened the door for his sister and closed it behind them. He offered her his arm, and she accepted, smiling radiantly. Then they began the walk to the wedding place. They crossed the field to the new Party Tree, the mallorn, surrounded by hundreds of hobbits, and a deafening cheer went up.

Lily saw Prince Legolas and Gimli, and she saw Aragorn standing at the back of the crowd, puffing on a long pipe. He smiled at her and placed his right hand on his heart, bowing his head ever so slightly to her as she passed. She could hardly breathe.

As Lily was brought closer, she saw more clearly the large white wedding gazebo, with its high dome, covered in jasmine and honeysuckle. She breathed deeply of the heady scent, carried on the breeze.

Lily’s heart stopped a little -- for with each step she drew nearer to Frodo, his smile warm and welcoming. He was standing at the foot of the stairs of the gazebo. Rosie and Sam were waiting for them, with the Thain and Gandalf. Her heart skipped a beat, seeing the wizard, and knowing what lay ahead. She would not let Frodo see any fear in her eyes. She looked again at Sam; he was holding the garland, made of the wildflowers that the children had gathered that morning.

Lily fought for concentration. She wanted to remember every moment of this day, and already her mind was wandering, hazy. As she neared the gazebo she saw the Thain and Gandalf more clearly, the Thain in his formal officiating coat, some dark colour... Dark brown? Oh, it doesn’t matter! Lily thought distractedly. Gandalf was bright white, almost shimmering. Or was that simply her tears? Then her vision centered on Frodo, standing at the foot of the steps, waiting for her. He held her gaze, as strong and as tender as on that first day at the Bywater Fair.

She’s so beautiful, Frodo sighed, unaware of the crowd about him from the moment he saw her. His heart beat a little faster, then quailed at the darkness lurking near. He met Lily’s steady gaze and felt the darkness retreat.

Lily held tightly to Will and to the only item she carried, a single white amaryllis, in the hand her mother would have been holding had she been here.

They reached Frodo, and all murmuring ceased; the crowd became silent. She thought she heard some goldfinches singing, but she may have imagined it.

She endeavored to memorize more, but all else became secondary, as Frodo’s intense gaze held hers. Is the sky blue? Yes, I know it is... Is it sunny? Yes, but not too hot... Are there any clouds?

I do not know. She could not glance away from Frodo long enough to look for clouds, nor did she care. They would be able to cloud-watch together for many, many years, if Ilúvatar but granted them the miracle they sought. She held fast to hope.

As beautiful as everything was, still it did not seem real to her. Only Frodo seemed real at this moment. Her vision was indeed oddly restricted, but it was not an unpleasant sensation; her beloved filled it. When she first saw the crowd she had felt anxious, then suddenly all that mattered was Frodo, waiting for her there... and then she was standing next to him.

She heard her brother’s voice as if from a distant place, from some world other than her own...

Will spoke the Giving, the first of three ancient and binding wedding rituals.

“Frodo, son of Drogo, I freely give you Lily, daughter of Amaryllis, and she comes freely to you.”

Will kissed his sister’s cheek. Then, rather than simply grasping Frodo’s elbow, Lily gently but firmly laid her right hand atop his left. Frodo had seen this done at Aragorn’s wedding. It was a beautiful custom...

Her beloved’s hand was only a little warm, she mused, with a smile; he’s nervous too...

Frodo is with me! Her heart beat madly within her breast, and ached with an unbearable longing. Fear stood side by side with the longing, and the fear for what was to come -- the healing, if all went well... yes, Gandalf truly is here... oh, dearest Ilúvatar, take pity on us! We rest all our hopes on You...

She was in the gazebo now, but with no memory of how she came to be there. Frodo must have helped her up the three short steps; she remembered Sam helping Rosie... Now, she and Frodo were here...

Lily glanced up at Frodo and found him gazing at her once more. His face displayed an endearing mixture of fear, love, gratitude, and amazement. He sees into my heart, she realized, peace spreading through her.

Rosie approached from the edge of her sight and took the amaryllis from her hands.

If only my parents could see this day! Lily wished again. They would be so happy for me. She believed what Frodo had told her. They lived on, in another place, and closer, much closer to the Creator now. Surely they know what is taking place today.

Will turned and stood at the front of the crowd next to Daisy, Hal and Pearl, near Merry and Pippin. Bell stepped up beside Will and slipped her arm in his, then smiled up at him. He returned the smile and patted her hand on his arm.

The celebrants were bathed in the mixed heady scent of the Shire honeysuckle and the interlaced Gondorian jasmine which covered the gazebo, mingled with the other flowers interspersed throughout: roses, lilacs, and lavender.

The Thain stepped forward and stood next to Frodo and Sam, welcoming ‘all within hearing’ to the wedding of Frodo Baggins and Lily Burrows.

It’s happening, Lily exulted. She wondered if Frodo could read the excitement in her eyes... of course he could...

The Thain was here as an honoured guest; his presence was not required at weddings. Only six witnesses -- three each from the birthplaces of the bride and the groom -- were required for the wedding to be recognized as binding in the Shire, not the hundreds who now stood watching and waiting. But to the hobbits of the Northfarthing, the Thain was an almost legendary figure, since he so rarely appeared outside of Tuckborough.

The garland-placing was the second of the three rituals which needed to be fulfilled in order for the wedding to be recognized as legal and binding. The first had been Will’s giving of Lily to Frodo.

Sam held the garland in his weather-browned hands. He squared his shoulders and offered the garland to Frodo, then smiled encouragingly as he realized his master was struggling to concentrate.

Frodo and Lily were facing each other in the center of the white gazebo. The Thain had taken his place again at the back, next to Gandalf. Frodo placed the garland gently on her head, and fastened the two delicately-crafted mithril clasps, one on each side, into her carefully braided auburn curls.

The clasps were a gift from Gimli, who craned his neck a little more to see better over the crowd. He was proud of his contribution to the wedding festivities.

Frodo only had a moment of trouble with one of the tiny mithril clasps; his missing finger on the right hand sometimes hampered him. But he had practiced for this. Lily’s mind wandered, even as she kept her eyes on Frodo. She recalled the previous afternoon when he practiced with the clasps. She had giggled when he exclaimed that they were impossible to use, after dropping them twice, then kissed him for making her laugh.

No words were spoken during the garland-placing. It was a symbol of Frodo taking Lily for his own; she would never belong to another.

The hush was now broken by the Thain, who spoke from his place next to the old conjurer.

“Most worthy and welcome guests, and all hobbits here present, be still and hear the solemn vows made before you by Frodo, son of Drogo, and Lily, daughter of Amaryllis.”

It was hardly necessary to request silence, since they were already as quiet as mice. But it was part of the ritual, and, as in Deephallow at the Reading of the Promisings, the Thain took the honour of presiding at the wedding to himself.

“I didn’t know they were exchanging vows,” Merry whispered.

“Frodo and Lily had written their own, but they wanted to use the vows Frodo heard Aragorn and Arwen say at their wedding last summer. He told her about them,” Pippin whispered back. “Gandalf says all vows are sacred... Frodo asked Aragorn yesterday if he would give his consent, and of course, he did...”

Pippin’s brow furrowed. He kept his voice low. “Merry, you were sitting right next to me! How’d you miss all that?”

“I don’t know... I... marriage! I hardly heard any of that. It makes me nervous just thinking about weddings...”

“Shhh!” commanded Mrs. Bracegirdle, standing behind the cousins. Merry and Pippin turned and gave her an apologetic nod.

Frodo gazed steadily at Lily, and shared their private smile. As she returned it, she endeavored not to tremble. She did not want him to see how nervous she was; no. It would upset him.

Rings were often used in Shire weddings, as a tradition, but there would be no rings exchanged today. Lily and Frodo had not spoken of it once; it was understood there would be no rings.

Somehow -- for a reason he could not easily identify -- Frodo was less afraid of the darkness coming to steal away their happiness, and possibly their lives, in the days ahead. An unexpected sense of peace came over him, despite his nervousness for the rest of the day. They had prayed for months now, and had prayed more and more in these last few days, for more trust, and more hope; for some sort of miracle from the Creator. Mayhap the peace he felt now was part of the answer they would receive. Lily herself was a miracle; why could there not be another?

Sam was nudging his elbow, and Frodo wondered why. Oh! The vows... Frodo had vaguely heard the Thain mention something about it being time for them, but it was difficult to think clearly, with Lily, so beautiful and so dear, standing before him. But he heard himself speak; his voice felt strong, and clear. He recalled the words which he and Lily wanted to say before their actual vows...

“You are the keeper of our candle of hope. You have faithfully carried it through darkest night. I promise to carry it with you, now, and in all the dark moments ahead, as well as the brightest days, and remember what you taught me: to be thankful is to know.

“Lily, daughter of Amaryllis, I welcome you into my home.
All that I am and all that I have is yours.
With my body I shall worship you,
With my heart I shall love you,
With my soul I shall honour you, for time beyond measure.

“I promise this freely, in the sight of all.
Should we be granted the gift of children,
we shall teach them of Ilúvatar’s compassion and love.
May the Creator of all bless our joining,
now and in all the days to come.”

Many of the hobbits, despite themselves, began to murmur at these vows. Who was this Ilúvatar? Oh yes, they whispered amongst themselves, Frodo had spoken of it at the Battle Gardens... last autumn... These Bagginses! Could they not settle with being just hobbits?

“My dear honoured guests and hobbitfolk! Please be still for the remainder of the ceremony.” The Thain had a large voice and used it well. The crowd fell silent.

Pippin could not refrain from smiling. He was proud of how his old dad could shut folk up. He almost laughed out loud, already forgetting his own father’s words, but Merry was ready, and elbowed him. Pippin gave Merry a sidelong frown.

Lily was nervous. Here was the moment Gandalf had warned her of... She would be taking all of Frodo’s darkness into her own soul in the instant she finished her vows.

Merry and Pippin were paying very close attention. Their memories of the illness Frodo suffered in March were clear; so too were Gandalf’s words to Lily about what to expect when she and Frodo wed.

“Who else knows but us?” Merry whispered softly to Pippin.

“Rosie,” Pippin returned, just as softly. He kept his eyes on Lily; her vows were next.

“Not Sam?”

“No. I asked Rosie a few days ago. She tried to tell him, but he didn’t want to have to keep a secret from Frodo, so he refused...”

“I’m afraid, Pip.”

“So am I. Gandalf told us to pray for them. Hush, Merry! She’s going to speak.”

Lily struggled to remember her prepared words. His blue eyes were looking deeply into hers, and it was difficult to concentrate. Underneath it all she offered a prayer for Frodo’s healing and for her own safety. She wanted to glance once at Gandalf, but she could not take her eyes from her beloved. There was no turning back. She spoke directly to Frodo.

“Ilúvatar, the Creator of all, gave us the candle to carry or no. You have protected me and shielded me from the darkest night. I promise to carry it with you now, and in all the dark moments ahead, as well as the brightest days, and to remember what my da taught: to be thankful is to know.

“Frodo, son of Drogo, I enter your home with joy.
All that I am and all that I have is yours.
With my body I shall worship you,
With my heart I shall love you,
With my soul I shall honour you, for time beyond measure.

“I promise this freely, in the sight of all.
Should we be granted the gift of children,
we shall teach them of Ilúvatar’s compassion and love.
May the Creator bless our joining,
now and in--”

She faltered as she felt a terrible weight, a formless evil, rush into her. Then she gasped and coughed once, struggling to finish the vow.

“-- in all the -- days to come.”

As she began to lose her balance, Lily saw Frodo’s eyes close briefly, then reopen with a very startled expression. Then she could remember no more.

In a rush of sensation, Frodo imagined he felt the darkness leave him. Of course that was quite impossible. Light, free, whole... empty. He felt empty in a strange way, but then Lily...

Frodo opened his eyes, and to his horror saw Lily start to faint. She had not yet fallen, but her eyes were closed, and she swayed slightly. He grasped her by the shoulders and gently drew her close. Her head lay against his shoulder.

He was frightened for her; it did not seem to him like any normal kind of faint. It looked different somehow. She seemed instead weak, as if she wanted to open her eyes but could not. As if something was draining the life out of her... no. NO!

“Gandalf!” Frodo mouthed silently, in a panic, but the wizard only smiled, a rather forced smile...

He’s nodding to me as if nothing is wrong! Frodo puzzled, breathing hard. But--

Sam was at his side, ready to assist. “Master?” he whispered.

But Gandalf was holding out one hand, inviting them to kneel for the blessing...

In a strange dream, Frodo threw a confused look at the wizard.

“She’ll revive, Frodo,” Gandalf soothed in a voice so low only the wedding party could hear it. “This is her wedding day, and Lily is quite the most sensitive creature... Come, let me offer the blessing over you both... Samwise there shall help you. You needn’t kneel. Just come closer... Frodo! -- Trust me, as you always have before. When have I failed you?”

Frodo nodded mutely, the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle in Lily’s hair filling him with each laboured breath he drew, and the strange new lightness in his soul making him almost dizzy. Surely Gandalf would know if Lily was truly ill, he assured himself, dazed. If this was something other than a faint...

His voice betrayed his fear. “Sam, come to her other side. That’s it, yes... Dearest Gandalf, shouldn’t we let her wake completely first?” he whispered urgently. “We can stop the ceremony for a few moments--”

Impatient to start, Gandalf stepped effortlessly over the pair of white brocade pillows Lily had stitched for the pair to kneel on. Time was running out. He saw Frodo’s eyes, wide and afraid, as he searched the wizard’s face for some sort of assurance.

With Sam at his side, Frodo bowed his head only slightly and tried to assess Lily as she rested against his shoulder. She was breathing shallowly, her eyes still closed.

The Thain kept his eyes averted. Lasses often swooned in weddings, especially in the warmer summer months...

Sam threw Rose a worried glance, but to his surprise her eyes were impassive, as if she didn’t want to even know what was happening... Something was amiss here, and no mistake...

Merry and Pippin took a step forward, and then stopped. They could not let on that anything might be going wrong.

“Dear thing, she’s fainted,” Pippin stated rather loudly; he glanced back at Lily’s family and smiled, then found Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, far back in the crowd, looking on with concern. Aragorn appeared ready to step forward, but Pippin caught his expression. Aragorn knew Lily could be in no better place than next to Gandalf, no matter what was happening.

The word raced through the crowd. They murmured only a little. They had seen overexcited females swoon at weddings before; it was not an exceptional thing...

Daisy wore a stunned expression. “Will, Hal... she’ll be so upset when she comes round again. Oh, the poor thing. To faint in her own wedding... I want to go help her...”

“Wait, Daisy,” Hal murmured, not unkindly. “I’m thinking they’ve got things well in hand. Frodo’s got her, and Sam’s there with him, and Rose too... they’ll be caring for her now, and it seems to me they’re capable... she’ll be fine, sweetheart. She’ll just be embarrassed about the whole thing, later on... but we’ll only make more of a scene if we go up there.”

“I -- I suppose you’re right,” Daisy acquiesced, not completely convinced. She clutched at Will’s arm on one side, and Hal’s on the other, and absently kissed Pearl in her da’s arms. Though she could not hear the words, she knew Frodo was talking to the wizard.

“Gandalf, please--” Frodo begged. Mere seconds had passed, but to Frodo it seemed like hours.

Gandalf began the blessing, placing his hands on their heads. Lily’s flower garland was very small under his large hand.

The words of the blessing had been written for the ceremony by Bilbo, too old now to travel. Gandalf’s commanding voice silenced the crowd.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights, Ilúvatar, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of His own will He created all from naught with the word of Truth.”

Frodo glanced up through half-closed lids to see Gandalf’s eyes close as he prepared to finish the blessing. He seemed to be expending a great deal of effort for something so simple. Frodo grew more and more confused. And the darkness -- where was it?

“May Ilúvatar grant you joy in the gift of children and a long life together. May you always remember His mercies and grant them to others. May Elbereth and Eärendil shine on your love.”

Aragorn, far at the back of the crowd, stood up straight as he listened. He had never heard Gandalf speak these verses before. And he knew enough about hobbits to know they did not worship Ilúvatar, but of course Frodo was different. He had asked so many questions in Gondor, after the coronation. Gandalf had spoken of it to Frodo as well. Aragorn glanced at Legolas, who was also looking on with admiration, and a smile passed between them; but their smiles held worry as well. Surely, it was past time for Lily to have revived, especially with Gandalf there; this should have been the simplest possible matter...

Aragorn realized at once that this was what Gandalf had been reticent to speak of. Some sort of healing was taking place. But for whom? Frodo could never be healed...

Gandalf removed his hands slowly, first from Frodo’s head and then from Lily’s. He looks so tired, of a sudden! Frodo thought.

“There now,” Gandalf murmured, his voice strained, as if overly weary. A smile tugged at one corner of his mouth. “All is well, Frodo. Look at her...”

Frodo saw Lily blink, awake again, and restored. He exhaled, releasing all the breath he’d held for what seemed an eternity, and fought back tears. There was still more to come in the ceremony, but he wanted only to hold her, relief welling up within him suddenly.

Lily roused and opened her eyes. I’m -- I’m here, she thought, her mind working slowly, as she came fully awake. Frodo is here, there is no darkness in him! No darkness! Gandalf has done it... Oh, Ilúvatar!

She started to weep, partly from joy, and partly from having just a brief taste of the terrible desire to possess the Ring: the bitter evil, the bottomless misery, the utter hopelessness which Frodo had been living with for so long...

Then she forced her tears back. Frodo would worry. She felt well -- so well in fact that she felt more rested than before the darkness had entered her, and perhaps more than ever before in her life.

Frodo gazed down at his Lily, expecting her to need assistance to be steady on her feet. Her eyes were bright -- full of tears, but shining, and bright! He glanced back at Gandalf, then at Lily, with a questioning look, and let her stand on her own, reluctant to take his hands from her shoulders, lest she fall; but the next ritual required they not be touching -- not at the start...

Sam was standing nearby, still, but could see Lily had completely revived. Her colour was good. With a questioning glance at Frodo, he nodded in silent assent, and took up his original position in the wedding party.

Between his amazement at what had happened to Lily, and his own lightness -- a strange, boundless euphoria -- Frodo was more perplexed than ever. He needed to think very hard about what was coming next in the ceremony.

“Lily, my love, my own, please tell me you are fine. Can you go on?” he breathed, so only she heard.

She nodded, meeting his eyes to give him reassurance. She saw him smile tremulously, and return her nod.

The hobbits were buzzing with surprise at the odd words from the wizard. They could make little sense of it. But they soon quieted to nothing as they saw what was coming next -- the third and most favourite wedding ritual.

Frodo and Lily stood facing each other and placed their hands at their sides in readiness for what was to come.

For a moment, Lily was able to think clearly again and she realized they had come to their final moments, the old ritual of the open eyes and open hands. It signified that the bride and groom were beginning their marriage with honesty and would continue to do so throughout their lives. No words would be spoken.

Frodo and Lily had not been allowed to practice this ritual in its entirety, since it was considered binding, and not to be taken lightly. Though they had seen it before, growing up, they had seen it at the wedding of Sam and Rosie differently. When they saw it on that first day of May, they pictured their own future as well. It was no wonder to them now that everyone in the crowd became so still.

It was just as well there were no words to be recited within the ritual, Lily mused with a faint smile. She could not really hear anymore... It seemed to her, in her great excitement and joy -- and in imagining the pleasures awaiting them both -- that all sounds had been shut away. She could only hear and feel her own heartbeat, pounding in her ears.

And above all her excitement was a different kind of joy, for Frodo no longer harboured any darkness.

She could feel it, and suddenly, looking up into his eyes, she felt all the strength of his love for her, pure, and undiluted by any darkness. His soul was full of Light. She had never known this exact feeling, of his pure love, untrammeled, unhindered; free. Lily realized it was not only Frodo’s love for her. It was also his love for Ilúvatar, for others... his compassion. This was how he had managed to fulfill the Quest. This was why he offered to bear It, willingly.

Lily felt all this now, as Frodo’s eyes held hers. She had not thought ahead to this, and was taken by surprise as his great love surrounded her soul, bright, intense, aflame, like the Sun; she felt very faint, again, and wondered how she would be able to keep herself from being overwhelmed. Frodo would not wish for her to feel burdened in such a way, especially on his account; it would shadow his own joy... She fought for control of her breathing.

They were required to look into each other’s eyes at all times -- a few tiny blinks were permitted -- and keep their hands open, until the last moment of the ritual.

The open eyes would not have been hard, Lily mused, except that Frodo’s eyes were so unlike anyone else’s, the deep blue depths a direct window into his soul. After only a few moments of looking into those eyes, it seemed an eternity had passed, and she felt again the old sensation of falling into them. She forced herself to breathe evenly. As wondrous and beautiful as the ritual was, it was hard to accomplish without faltering.

Frodo kept his eyes steadily on Lily’s, watching the hazel hues changing there as a means of distracting himself from the odd euphoria he felt. He expected to feel happier on their wedding day than on any which had come before, and he did... but this -- this was not akin to any other feeling he had known. He still felt oddly dizzy, so light... he pushed the euphoria once again into the background, in order to concentrate on the ritual.

They opened their hands and stretched out their fingers. Then they raised their hands to the level of Frodo’s shoulders... Lily had to remember not to look away from Frodo’s gaze. She saw a tiny bead of sweat on his brow and then on his cheek -- no, it was a tear! She forced herself not to weep with him, for she would crumble, she knew. Despite her efforts, her eyes began to well with tears.

They positioned their hands so their palms were facing. Without moving their bodies, they moved their hands closer together, very slowly. Then their hands touched, open palm to open palm, and their outstretched fingers matched. Lily was happy to see Frodo had no thought for his own disfigured right hand -- he had looked steadily into her eyes, as the ritual required, but his eyes were filled with tears, and he was biting his lower lip. She saw this only from the corner of her eye. Lily blinked once, and tears cascaded down her cheeks. Her knees became weak... soon it would be over.

Their eyes were joined, and their palms and outstretched fingers were pressed together. They each took a step forward, and their bodies were pressed close. They locked their fingers tightly together, hands still at shoulder level.

At last, they closed their eyes, and kissed. It was not meant to be a long kiss, but they lost themselves a little in it, their hands still locked together. The crowd murmured in appreciation, for hobbits rarely kissed in public, except to kiss their children.

The ritual was complete; they were wed. Frodo released Lily from the kiss and wrapped his arms around her, wondering how he would be able to bear such joy as this every day, and every night... They held each other tightly, oblivious to anything and anyone else.

He whispered in her ear, “Lily, my love, are you well?”

She whispered back, “Yes, dearest Frodo, better than ever before in my life.”

“But you nearly... the darkness--”

“Shhh, beloved, truly, never has such pure joy, happiness, and peace been mine. All is well.”

The crowd went wild with cheering, but Frodo and Lily did not hear it, as he kissed her once again. Hobbits were throwing their hats into the air. Merry and Pippin slapped each other on the back and embraced one another.

Aragorn smiled, said a brief farewell to Legolas and Gimli, and departed quickly; they would catch him up shortly to escort him back to the Shire’s borders, keeping the promise they had made to Anborn. They were almost the only ones to see Aragorn go; but as the King of all the Free Peoples of Middle-earth slipped away from the crowd, he paused and caught Mrs. Longburrow following him with her gaze from across the field. He bowed and smiled. She giggled and blushed like a moonstruck lass, then stopped, collected herself, and curtsied. Then Gandalf found Aragorn, and they embraced in farewell.

Legolas and Gimli grinned at each other.

“Gimli, my friend, it seems weddings are indeed very happy occasions in the Shire, and I can think of no one more deserving of joy and happiness than the Ring-bearer.”

“True enough, Master Elf.” Then they joined the crowd moving forward to congratulate the couple.

Frodo turned to Sam and they held each other tightly, tears coursing down their cheeks.

Sam knew something more than just a wedding occurred; something happened to his master -- and to Lily -- and it had something to do with Gandalf’s blessing, or those vows... or both.

Rose and Daisy embraced Lily, followed by Hal, Will and Bell, all of whom then embraced Frodo as well, almost overwhelming him. Everyone shook hands with the Thain. Pearl chortled and shrieked with glee. Merry and Pippin had already jumped the three short steps up to the wedding party, with Legolas and Gimli close on their heels.

---------

Legolas and Gimli did not stay for the luncheon. They met with Frodo and Lily, Sam and Rose, and Merry and Pippin in one of the pavilions, to take their leave. Tears of joy and sadness flowed, for none knew how long it might be before they would meet again. Aragorn had gone on ahead, alone, like the Ranger he had been for long years. They would catch him up quickly enough.

Throughout the luncheon, Frodo and Lily held hands under the table. They glanced at each other often, and smiled each time, unable to contain their joy. Frodo grappled with the feeling of freedom rushing through him, as Lily endeavored to settle the wild racing of her heart.

Toward the end of the meal, Sam and Rosie gave the couple a quick glance and slight nod, and, as was the old custom at weddings, Frodo and Lily quietly slipped away.