This story was posted on LiveJournal for the Waymeet "Foreyule Challenge": Choose a folk custom, folktale, superstition, legend (or urban legend) from any folk tradition in the world and use it to form the basis for your story.
DISCLAIMER: Of course. The characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.
MAKING IT RIGHT
Pippin returned to the house where the hobbits, Legolas, Gimli, and Gandalf were living during their stay in Minas Tirith. He came into the dining room where his cousins and Sam waited, snacking on muffins, and sank dejectedly into a chair.
"Uh oh," Sam said. "Were we right, then?"
Pippin nodded glumly, and surveyed the depleted platter with a critical eye before choosing a cherry muffin and biting into it.
"This is bad," Merry sighed. "You mean... that was the whole wedding? They held hands and Lord Elrond said a few words, and... that was it? After all those years of waiting?"
"That was it," Pippin replied around a mouthful of muffin. "Elladan doesn't seem to think it was unusual."
"Well..." Frodo frowned. "I suppose they know what they're doing. Men and Elves have different customs, remember."
"Nonsense," Merry declared. "Things are either done right, or they're done wrong."
"Exactly," Sam agreed. "Mr. Pippin, did even one of your sisters have to go without?"
"Of course not!" Pippin said, aghast. "Why court disaster?"
"There you go," Sam said, turning to Frodo with a satisfied look. "What are we to do, sir?"
"Just let me think for a minute," Frodo frowned. "What if... what if we see to it that Lady Arwen gets everything she should have had at the wedding, but just a bit late? We could think of something quick, and pretend they're wedding gifts."
"I suppose that would be all right," Merry said doubtfully. "Better late than never."
"I know what is concerning you four," Gandalf said from where he sat by the hearth, quietly smoking his pipe. "However, you need not fear for the future of this marriage. What is more, I am certain that our king and queen do not expect any of you to purchase anything for them."
"These things can't be purchased, Gandalf!" Pippin spluttered. "They have to be personal."
"Special," Merry added.
"Don't you want them to be wedded proper, Mr. Gandalf?" Sam asked.
"Hobbits," Gandalf muttered, failing to hide a smile. "What am I to do with you?"
"It's settled, then," Frodo said, sweeping aside the plates and mugs. "Now, lads, let's think hard. We need four gifts, and we have to divide them up so that..."
A week later, the hobbits sent a message to the Queen that they wished to meet with her and Aragorn at the couple's convenience. Instead of receiving word that they had been granted an audience, they were surprised when, that very afternoon after luncheon, there was a knock at the door.
"Strider!" Pippin cried out in joy as he opened the door. "And Lady Arwen! We didn't expect you to come to us!"
"Whyever not?" Arwen asked, smiling down at him.
"Please come in," Pippin said with a bow as he remembered his manners. "Everyone's out in the garden." He ushered the royal couple into the house and led them to the back garden, then scurried to the kitchen to fetch tea and biscuits. He could hear the delighted exclamations as Frodo, Merry, and Sam greeted their unexpected guests.
When Pippin came to the fragrant garden with a laden tray, he passed Merry, who was hurrying into the house to retrieve the gifts.
After a lovely tea, full of talk and laughter, Frodo stood up and faced Arwen, who sat gracefully next to her husband.
"No, Frodo," Pippin said suddenly. "Merry has to go first. He has the old one."
"The... old one?" Arwen asked, puzzled.
"I suppose we should explain, Mr. Frodo," Sam said.
"Explain what?" Aragorn asked.
"It's a Shire custom," Frodo explained to their guests. "A bride must have 'something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue' for her wedding. It's a bit late, I know, but we wanted to give Lady Arwen what was necessary. For luck, you understand."
"You wish to bless our marriage, as would be done for brides in your land?" Arwen asked, perceiving the hobbits' concern. "That is most thoughtful."
"My friends," Aragorn said, deeply moved, "you did not need to go to any trouble on our behalf." Although he had seen to it that the hobbits' needs were met, each had also been given a purse filled with coin for anything they might wish to purchase from the newly-opening shops. He was deeply concerned that the hobbits had spent all they had on wedding gifts.
"This is important," Merry insisted. "Marriages are tricky things... you can't be too careful."
"I agree," Arwen said, smiling fondly at each hobbit in turn. "What do you have there, Merry?"
"This is for 'something old'," Merry explained, pulling something from the small pile of objects he had brought from the house. He stepped forward holding a large, rolled-up parchment. "At least, what it depicts is very old. Frodo, take one end, would you?" Frodo took hold of one end of the parchment and pulled gently, helping Merry unroll a beautiful and detailed sketch.
"Is that—" Aragorn murmured.
"It's a map of the City," Merry announced proudly. "I assumed that Lady Arwen hasn't had much of a chance to look around yet, and might get lost. See, I marked the streets with the least damage so she'll know where to walk, and where the best inns are, and the dress shops, and..."
"Merry, this is wonderful!" Arwen enthused. "Truly, I have yet to see much of my new home, and this will be my guide. That is..." she smiled at her husband. "...one of my guides."
"I may use this myself," Aragorn said, studying the map intently. "It has been many years since I walked the levels of this City. The best "inns", you say?" He grinned at Merry, suspecting that the hobbit actually meant those places where the best ale was to be had.
"Inns fit for a lady, of course," Merry assured him, nodding to Frodo. His cousin released his end of the parchment, and it rolled up into Merry's hand with a snap. Merry handed the map to Arwen with a flourish and a bow.
Pippin stepped up next, obviously quite nervous. He held nothing in his hands.
"You bring us 'something new', young knight?" Arwen asked gently.
"A bit of a song I wrote," Pippin said shyly. "I couldn't think of... I mean, I hope this is suitable."
He took a deep breath, and began to sing.
"On the bough outside my window, there's a mourning dove
Cooing gently to his morning love.
Oh my love, he sings out boldly, do you see the sun?
Another day has just begun.
Though the days are dark and frozen and winter trees are bare,
The singing of that joyful dove rings across the air.
Oh he sees that only he can help her know,
They must travel on, beyond the snow.
Travel on! Carry on! Just continue to fly when hope is gone!
Keep on listening to the love I bring,
It's my gift to keep you strong.
There may be days when hope has died, and inside laughter is a cry.
But our strength and faith in a warmer place
Will keep us in the sky.
Though the days are dark and frozen, and winter trees are bare
The singing of that joyful dove rings across the air.
Oh I know the reason that bird can sing --
In his darkest hour, he believes in spring."
As the young Took sang, his words filled with soaring hope and joy, a single tear slid down Arwen's face at the beauty of Pippin's voice, and his gift to them.
"Pippin," Arwen said when the song was finished, "if the Shire did not beckon you home, I would ask that you remain in Minas Tirith until the end of your days. I can imagine no sweeter voice of any bard in the realm."
Aragorn gazed down proudly at his young knight, and nodded his agreement.
Pippin grinned happily, then bowed deeply before the royal couple before stepping back. Sam, Merry, and Frodo exchanged proud looks; it had been a long time since they had heard Pippin sing alone, and had nearly forgotten what a beautiful voice he had.
Frodo stepped forward next, several small pieces of parchment in his hands.
"From whom did you 'borrow' these, my friend?" Arwen asked him.
"From... Aragorn's mother," Frodo replied.
Aragorn was visibly startled.
"It's my gift for the Queen," Frodo continued. "I spoke with Lord Elrond, and Lady Arwen's brothers, and all I could find from Rivendell." He held out the parchments to Arwen, who took them and began to read silently, a smile lighting her face. "They're recipes, favorites of your mother," Frodo explained to Aragorn. "I thought the Queen might like to prepare some dishes for you from your childhood. That is...I don't expect her to cook for you, of course, you no doubt have staff for that; but from time to time..." he blushed and stepped back.
"Staff or no," Arwen said with delight, "I thank you for this gift, Ring-bearer. Every bride should learn a few recipes from her mother-in-law, should she not?"
"She should, indeed," Aragorn replied, taking the hand-copied sheets from her and reading them over. Frodo searched the King's face for any hint of pain or sadness, but relaxed when he saw only a gentle, wistful smile.
"And from you, Samwise," Arwen encouraged the shy gardener forward. "Something blue?"
"Yes, Lady," Sam murmured, his ears reddening. He knelt and picked up a cloth-wrapped bundle at his feet and brought it to Arwen, handing it to her. "Gimli helped," he hastily explained. "It turns out he's a wonder with heatin' and re-shapin' glass. So many windows and dishes were smashed in the battle, and when I found this bit o' glass..." He stopped suddenly, wondering why he was babbling so in front of the Queen.
"Samwise," Arwen breathed, unwrapping the gift, "this is truly beautiful." She held up a large, shallow bowl, crafted from glass of an exquisite shade of clear blue. A flat rim, several inches wide, was interrupted in spots with glass trumpets, or perhaps flowers – some an inch long at most -- their narrow ends dipping into the bottom of the bowl.
"It's a bird feeder," Sam explained. "You can fill the bottom with sugar water, and the hummingbirds we've seen everywhere can dip their beaks into the little horns and sip up the water. Or else you can fill it with seed for the sparrows and such. You've so many different birds, here, each more lovely than the next."
"Few birds will find a resting place more lovely than this," Aragorn said to Sam. He took the bowl from Arwen and admired how the rays of the afternoon sun caused the surface – alternately polished and faceted -- to glitter and sparkle. Engraved stars and leaves chased one another around the rim. "A bird feeder," he murmured into his wife's delicate ear. "Such a perfect gift for my Tinúviel."
"I could not imagine four more perfect gifts," Arwen replied, loud enough for the hobbits to hear. She gently took the bowl from his hands and set it down beside her. Overcome with love for her husband, she turned to him and captured his lips in a kiss.
The delighted hobbits beamed with joy at this unexpected display. That this marriage was now well and truly blessed, there was no longer any doubt. None at all.
"Travel On" lyrics and music by Carol R. Stein and Janet M. Stein. Copyright 1988 by Janet M. Stein (shirebound)