Blithe the Days of Summer – Part Three

Blithe the Days of Summer – Part 3

The breakfast that Aubergine Took had provided was a tasty and welcome start to the morning, and went a long way towards piquing Llythne’s curiosity towards the Summerday’s Festival, which she knew about, but was not actually really celebrated in Evendim. Brassica had been fortunate in borrowing ‘Bergine’s dress instead of Primmy’s–Primmy was stout even as hobbits went, and Brassica was closer in build to ‘Bergine, who was trim and perky. Once everyone had eaten, the tarts and the jammy bread having been washed down with fizzy sweet cider, Brassica retreated to the privacy of a bush, and wiggled into the soft yellow dress. It fit like a glove, and she spun and twirled girlishly, wishing for a mirror.

Now endowed with the capacity to flounce about, Brassica did so emphatically, her dress swirling about her every movement in a thoroughly pleasing fashion, as they tidied the camp and prepared to ride for the festival grounds. It had taken some cajoling to convince Beldrieth that they could spare a day for some relaxation and merriment, and that supplies could be just as easily purchased at the festival ground as they could in Bree Town, and probably with less fuss and bother. Once she had consented–and not unkindly, for she knew the value of a day of fun to the young hobbit–her charges had begun to prepare in earnest for the excursion.

At Brassica’s direction, Celebarad wore his gold and blue traveling jacket, because the hobbit was convinced that it was one of the finest and most elegant things she’d ever seen, and that it suited the elf especially well. Llythne had rummaged in her packs for a light linen tunic and laced, quilted leggings. Over this she wore a soft brown cotton vest, belted around the waist with a striped cloth sash. She bound her hair up into a loose knot, and tucked a book under her arm, and in a pouch at her hip, a pair of dice rattled dangerously.

Even Beldrieth shed her serious garb, removing her silvery scale-mail and hooking bow and blade on her saddle, in favour of a snug cloth jerkin, and fitted linen leggings, both of an elven cut. Truly, she was almost more severe in the plainness of her new outfit, but she was in a good temper and smiled and hummed softly to herself, as she mounted her stallion to ride to the festival ground.

Celebarad had reluctantly saddled Miriel once more, though he mused aloud that he preferred to ride her bareback, and that the mare preferred it too. Aware of Celebarad might do to make it up to Miriel for having to be saddled, Brassica rode with Llythne instead, perched prissily side-saddle behind the woman, in a manner quite unlike herself. She could hardly help it, though, it was a rare occasion when she wore a dress.

Though she hadn’t really realized it at the time, ‘Bergine and Primmy, with their curled and brushed hair and their soft festival dresses, had made Brassica feel tomboyish and awkward. Her hair was short and scruffy, because if she let it grow long it tangled into a veritable thicket of curls. She wore trousers and shunned skirts and dresses because generally they got in the way of her comings and goings. Her ma had tried, when Brassica started to work in the common room of the Barley Water, to bedeck her daughter in pretty, respectable frocks, but once it became plain that the sharp rise in Brassica’s clumsiness with dishes correlated with whether or not she was wearing a dress, this plan was abandoned.

Still, Brassica put it from her mind–she traveled in the company of a pair of elves, who she was convinced would always look more elegant than even the most finely dressed of hobbits, and so she wasn’t especially bothered by the notion of comparisons being made. Anyway, she was sure she would enjoy the festival, even had she been wearing a burlap sack.

“My word that’s a lot of people!” Brassica exclaimed, when they crested the hill and saw the pavilion grounds beginning to fill with assorted festival goers. They traveled on foot, or by cart, or on horse or pony, hobbits and Breefolk alike, talking and laughing as they proceeded up the road. Pennants and ribbons fluttered in the breeze, and towards the rear of the grounds, a great clay oven smoked merrily, surrounded by assorted cooking fires. Brassica mentally assigned this as her first stop once they reached the grounds.

A broad pasture had been fenced off, and it was here where people seemed to be leaving their horses, most of which grazed passively and. Celebarad laughed at the sight of the low fences. “Such things will not hold Mirel, if it is in her heart to run this day!”

“May you never ride Miriel to war,” Beldrieth wished fervently, as the mare pranced and stepped playfully high. The huntress’ own dark stallion could be said to look almost disdainful, if horses had room in their horsey heads for such a feeling. “There is not a spark of common sense between the two of you.”

“On a day of such rarity, we need nothing so common as sense,” Celebarad declared merrily, and then in some shared decision, the pair were off once again, spooking the Breeland horses that plodded docilely along, as they flew over the grassy fields alongside the road.

Beldrieth’s sigh was indulgent, but she smiled through it. “He’s seen more summer days than there are leaves in Lothlorien, but no, this is one of rare and special beauty. Ah, perhaps it is. Never before these people, in this place, these moments. If you can bear a small sadness, on so joyous a morning, remember that he is not much accustomed to mortals, and he does not think of the day you will die.” Then she turned her eyes to the pasture, as though she hadn’t said anything of such gravity, and shaded them against the morning sun. “We should leave the horses to graze.”

Llythne snorted at this and nudged Brassica in the ribs. “Oh, do remind me to pack an elf whenever I travel, you know how us mortal folk like nothing better than to be reminded that one day we’ll be feeding the worms.”

Brassica laughed at this, and brushed the gloomy sentiment away. “Well, I for one, will be making sure I give them a feast! Smell the air! All that food! Hurry up, hurry up, or let me down if you need to put the horses in the pasture, I can run there faster than we’ll get there at this pace!”

Not waiting for Llythne to help her down, Brassica slid from the painted mare’s saddle and hit the ground running, holding her dress up to avoid tangling it in her legs as she ran through the long grasses, nearly tumbling down the hill. She would never understand, she didn’t think, Miriel’s idea of running just to run, but a hobbit with a goal in mind will muster a respectably fair trot when there’s food to be acquired. “You’ve eaten not an hour ago!” Brassica heard Llythne call after her, but truth be told, it wasn’t really the food that had her running as much as it was excitement and eagerness and all-fired curiousity.

Ringing the festival ground–and Brassica had failed to notice it before, was a curious hard-packed dirt road. There were pennanted gates and oddly placed fences, and Brassica stopped in the middle of the peculiar track to examine them. The fences made the least sense of all, placed across the road. Ambling down the track, Brassica clambered in between fence posts, and came to a portion of the track that was hemmed in by tall green hedges. In the middle was a strange, single plank bridge over a muddy, marshy pool. It was three or four feet from the ground, entirely higher than necessary to cross a pool of relatively unoffending muck, and Brassica was standing at its edge, puzzling over the purpose of this bizarre bridge, when hoofbeats thundered behind her.

It was perhaps the fact that she’d been spending so much time around horses that slowed her reaction time, but Brassica turned only just in time to see a hobbit crouched low on the back of a pony, barreling towards her. She shrieked and threw herself onto the ground, covering her head and balling up as small as she could. Even so, she waited for the impact of the pony’s hooves, her all-too-short life flashing before her eyes. But no impact came. Then entire world seemed to shake as the pony went sailing over her in a glorious leap, to land in the marshy pool, skid, and send its hollering rider head first into the mud, like a stone from a sling.

Brassica leapt to her feet, and pausing only briefly to hitch her skirt up above her knees and bundle the hem up in a knot, she plunged into the mud herself, to help extricate poor Bungo Took, barely recognizable beneath a thick coat of muck, whimpering and dazed and cradling an injured arm. Brassica groaned and hoped that having rescued her brother would be a sufficient apology for ruining Bergine’s dress, as she let the skirt fall, and waded further in, hauling Bungo to his feet and back to the edge of the mud, to sit miserably on the ground, sniffling and blinking torpidly beneath the filth that coated his face. He stared at the pony for a few moments, and then, “Oh…Parsnip…” Sighing, Brassica pulled off the burgundy overskirt–which had been spared the worst of the mud, and handed it to Bungo to wipe his face off with. Then she plunged grimly into the mire again.

Stop that!” Brassica shouted at the pony, who had recovered from the shock of her interrupted journey, waded up to its withers and was splashing and frolicking like a joyful child. “You get out of there, right this minute! Parsnip!” Brassica had a brief twinge of guilty memory, herself, aged seven and a half, coated from head to toe in a similar mud, and her mother’s shrieks of horror as she had casually tracked half of Ponto Oats’ field into the common room.

Defiantly, the pony sank to its knees and submerged itself up to the neck in the mucky muddy water, and then whickered. Brassica gritted her teeth, certain that this was what pony-laughter sounded like. Spying a floating bit of rope attached to Parsnip’s halter, Brassica sighed heavily. Then she grimly waded the rest of the way in, and finished ruining Bergine’s dress.

The trio were more mud than they were hobbit or pony, by the time Brassica had fished everyone out of the muck, and led the fractious pony and the pale and shaken Bungo up off the stupid, cursed, dratted road, and into the midst of the festival to seek help and attention, and an explanation above all else.

There were peals of laughter from the folk around them as they proceeded through the Festival Ground, but none of it seemed mean-spirited, and would not have phased Brassica even remotely if it had been. Teeth still clenched, she sought ‘Bergine or Hal and Aldish (Primmy was a candidate who Brassica ranked firmly in last, in terms of petitions for help). Eventually a pair of kind, helpful seeming Breelanders directed her over to ‘Bergine’s table, underneath a shady blue and white marquee tent.

BUNGO!” Poor Aubergine was rendered into an unhappy state of concern versus scolding at the state of her brother, as Brassica related what she knew of Bungo’s unfortunate mishap. ‘Bergine had a better idea than Brassica of just what had transpired, and while Parsnip was handed over to Hal and Aldish to be looked after, she swung back and forth between lecturing and lamenting.

“You stupid, fool of a Took! You’ve gone and broken your arm, I’m sure of it, oh poor Bungo! Pa should have called you Bungle, and no mistake! You tried to race Parsnip, didn’t you? Oh, does it hurt very badly, Bungo? Well, you almost deserve it, you dreadful muttonhead!”

Helpfully, Brassica interjected. “I’ve got the gist of what a rattlebrained hobbit he is, if you want to go ahead and fuss. Bungo, you are a twit.”

“Parsnip’s a good racer,” Bungo protested, rather stupidly, as his sister upended a pitcher of water over his head to wash away the muck. “We were making brilliant time,” he spluttered.

“Here,” ‘Bergine offered, sparing Bungo for a moment, handing over her miraculously still-pristine white pinafore for safekeeping and directing Brassica to another basin of water. “I was just about to wash the dishes, but I can do laundry instead. Don’t bother about the dress, it’s only mud. I have another you can borrow, ‘til that one’s washed. It’s the one with the patches, in the tent.”

Behind the larger marquee, a small tent was also set up, presumably shared by the Took siblings. Brassica retreated into it and changed, still feeling quite guilty about the fate of ‘Bergine’s dress.

Bungo was free enough of mud by the time Brassica reemerged for ‘Bergine to be making a more thorough examination. By the seriousness of the young hobbit lass’ expression, Brassica could tell that the injury was a bit beyond poor ‘Bergine, and she spoke up again, “There’s two elves that I’m travelling with–Beldrieth, she’s pretty sensible, she’d probably be good for a look at Bungo’s arm. You’re still a twit, Bungo.”

Wringing her hands and verging on tears, ‘Bergine called to one of the Brandybuck brothers, “Aldish! Oh, Aldish, can you go and find Brassica’s friends? I’m just going to go all to pieces if she doesn’t stay. Please, Aldish?”

“Anything, ‘Bergine,” Aldish answered promptly, doffing his cap to the slightly teary hobbit. “Where will I find them, Brassica?”

Brassica looked around, scanning the crowd of big people, and bit her lip, realizing the slight foolishness of running off to the crowded festival without making plans with the rest of her party. “Oh…well, they’ll be around. They’re the only two elves as far as I know, and you know Celebarad, he can help you find Beldrieth. Llythne’s easy to spot, she’s got that strange silver hair–if you catch her robbing anybody, best leave her to it. Beldrieth made her promise not to, but I think she’s got itchy fingers. And don’t play dice with her.”

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