Blithe the Days of Summer – Part 1
Never mind that the town was half in ruins. Never mind that the guard were hard pressed to fend off from the Orcish camps that filled the canyon of Cirth Nur, and that Brassica and company had been fortunate to pass through Trestlebridge in a rare lull in the increasingly vicious assaults by the Tarkrip Orcs. Never mind that they were lucky that the inn was even still standing. And certainly never mind that it had been Llythne’s first time in a building less than a century old. Brassica had been shocked at the notion of what the big people allowed to pass for an inn.
She held her tongue, when they had stabled their horses, and been directed to the big old building, half its windows broken, and the door hanging on a single remaining hinge. She had managed to stifle the gasp when they were directed to rooms that were small, even by hobbit standards–and that there was not even the remotest consideration given to the fact that she was a hobbit. She had choked down the greasily filmed, lukewarm stew that the proprietress had reluctantly served. And then she had been shocked that creatures so elegant as the elves had been able to endure musty straw mattresses. Sharing a room with Llythne, she had talked the poor woman to sleep in a furious whisper, as she had listed the shortcomings of the Inn of Trestlebridge, and staunchly declared that she’d never, ever stay there again, if she could help it.
When they were clear of the gate, and beyond earshot of any of the residents of the tragically besieged hamlet, Brassica had exploded into a rant about what an inn should be.
It wasn’t out of any particular vindictiveness. But Brassica couldn’t help it, she was a hobbit with standards. Her family had, for generations, been the proprietors of one of the most well-regarded inns in the Shire, and Brassica had been stunned by the Inn in Trestlebridge. Her companions had listened patiently to her objections, and done their very best to try and provide some perspective, but it was only by the time they’d settled down for the night, in a camp of their own, that her ranting was winding down.
“See, now, aren’t we better off?” Brassica declared, to Celebarad, who was the only person still listening to her raving–Beldrieth having wandered off in her typical fashion, and Llythne busy with feeding the horses. Brassica had the suspicion that the horses didn’t actually need feeding, but she didn’t particularly hold it against the burglar. “Huh, it’s a darned shame, sleeping on the ground is better than sleeping in that rathole of an inn!”
They sat together companionably beside the campfire. Brassica had spread her bedroll out, and shed her mailshirt and other heavy accouterments in favour of a pair of soft woolen trousers, and a warm flannel shirt, child-sized items which she had procured in Trestlebridge. Night had fallen, and they had long since settled in their camp for the night–a small, peaceful dell, off a fork in the main road that they had followed down from Trestlebridge. The sky was a perfectly cloudless dome, a deep, dusky violet at the horizon, and an inky black overhead. The nighttime breeze was sweet with the scent of wildflowers, and crickets sang their soft, metallic song. It was summer now, and truly summer, no longer were they in a region that was cooled by a great lake and swept by icy winds out of the north, or traipsing through the gloom that seemed to hang over the North Downs. It had actually rained on their way into Trestlebridge, which had added a certain degree of insult to injury, when their refuge from the rain had proven to be a whole other kind of trial.
“I am sorry that you have been angered,” Celebarad offered. However well his Westron was progressing, he had been given the opportunity to try out a great many platitudes on Brassica that day. Once he had grasped the subtlety that surrounded the fact that Brassica’s anger was not actually real anger, and rather in the nature of the righteous outrage and indignation more typical of hobbits, Celebarad seemed perfectly willing to tolerate her grousing in exchange for what Brassica suspected was a private amusement on his part.
She wasn’t especially bothered. She stretched out on the ground with a sigh and a harrumph. “You know,” she began to explain, getting to the meat of just why she was upset, “I didn’t realize, until we’d been on the road for a while, just how much traveling wears you out. Even just the riding! Maybe it’s not this way for elves, but I’m tired when I hit the ground again. I want a hot meal to fill my belly, and a soft pallet to curl myself up on, and I want to know I can close my eyes and not need to worry about anything but sleeping.”
“It is good to rest well,” the elf agreed brightly, and Brassica grinned at his enthusiasm
“Yes, it is! And it’s important. And it’s nice when there’s someone waiting for you, when you come riding into town…and they…well, they say ‘Hello!’ and ‘Welcome!’ And they bring you into their place, and they do everything they can to make you comfortable. Maybe they show you into the common room, and say that the stablehand will take care of your pony, and you should just put your feet up. Then they bring you a nice hot meal, because they had one ready. And…then they take you to your room, and it’s cozy, and they did their best to make it as nice as they could…with flowers and a pitcher of fresh water…” Then Brassica had to stop, because homesickness had surged through her like a tide. Some small part of her seemed to realize what had stung most about the Inn at Trestlebridge–everything that it wasn’t was everything that her home was.
But before she could go meandering off down a path of sadness and that lonely longing for home, the sky exploded.
There were three of them, great, white gems that arced into the sky, and then softly shattered into a million shimmering lights, to fall slowly like a fiery shower of petals against the velvet black above. The briefest moment later, there were three muffled bursts which echoed in the sky for a moment, before fading, like the burst of radiance before them.
Brassica was on her feet at this time, and gaping up at the sky. Then, galvanized to action, she seized Celebarad by the elbow and tugged. “Come! Come on, we have to go!”
“Why? Where?” the elf asked, apparently slightly bewildered.
“Fireworks,” Brassica hissed insistently, and pointed up towards the faint trails of smoke that still hung high in the air. “We have to find out where they came from!” Abandoning the elf, she dashed over to where Llythne sat–the woman had finished whatever tending the horses required and now sat, perched comfortably on a low hanging bough of the tree to which their mounts were tied, reading a book and munching an apple. “Llythne! Did you see?!”
Brassica could have screamed for the apparent ignorance of her companions where fireworks–one of the most wondrous elements in a hobbits existence–were concerned. “The fireworks! We have to go see where they came from!”
“Oh, that’s a question I can answer from here,” Llythne responded, apparently quite comfortable on her tree bough, and reluctant to be moved. “We’ve come into Breeland at the height of the Summerday’s fest. To the southeast is the Festival Ground, and that’s where your fireworks are coming from.”
Hobbits in general have a dear fondness for parties, being a great embodiment of the things that hobbits love most–these things being food and drink and merriment, pomp and ceremony, and everyone having a grand old time, thereby giving everyone something to talk about in the months and years to come. There had been no such party that was as talked about as Mr. Bilbo Baggins’ birthday. But Brassica would have gladly loved a new party to take its place in her memories. “We have to go! We simply must!”
Llythne still seemed reluctant. “Oh…but I’ve settled in for the night, and the first of the watches is mine…”
At this time, Celebarad had caught up, and another burst of fireworks in the sky overhead caused the trio to look up again at the temporary stars which had burst once more into a rain of light, and a faint crackle in the far off darkness. Brassica could have exploded herself from joy and wonder and eagerness–without realizing it, she’d begun to hop from one foot to another, to try and burn off some of the excited energy. “Oh, but please…”
“The horses are rubbed down and tied up for the night,” Llythne hedged. “Anyway, you’ve seen a good many summers–Lithe Days in the Shire are a great to-do, from all I’ve ever heard. This won’t be all that much different.”
“But it’s here and it’s now! And…and I bet Celebarad hasn’t ever been!” The hobbit was now jumping up and down, unable to contain herself. “Please, please!”
Llythne suddenly laughed. “Brassica, you don’t need my permission. You’re a hobbit of age, you’ve every right to go wherever you please. You won’t have any trouble bullying your elf-knight into taking you wherever you’d like–by the way, you’re putting all the tack back on her, Celebarad, she’ll not like to have it on again after retiring for the night.”
The elf smiled at this and undid the sorrel’s bridle. “Miriel will grudge me no such thing,” he answered, stroking the mare’s nose and neck, with an additional soft comment to the horse in Elvish. “She shall bear us both and gladly, and none of her wearings are needed.” His mount thus prepared, he swung into the seat from the front of the horse with a lithe, agile movement. “We will return at the close of your watch,” Celebarad promised.
Brassica felt a sudden flutter in her stomach at the notion of climbing up on the sorrel–if she was honest, she didn’t much care for any of the horses, as tall and restive as the sorrel was, particularly…but there were fireworks to be seen. So, steeling herself, she reached up for the hand that Celebarad held down to her, and then with a hop and a brief stomach-dropping moment in the air, she was plunked into the lack-of-a-saddle behind him. “Oh, this does feel straan–”
And not for the first time, her comment was lost in what became a shrieking whoop, as a horse over which she had no control exploded into motion beneath her. Brassica barely had the time to cinch her arms around Celebarad’s chest, clinging to two handfuls of his soft elven tunic as Miriel thundered away down the road, unrestrained by her completely unconcerned rider, and his very, very concerned passenger.