It was yet another refreshing morning, just south-west of Michael Delving. Eruviel ducked out of her little home, arms laden with an exceptionally large basket of fresh-baked elven breads, several wheels of cheese, and vegetables from her laughably small garden. Closing the unpainted hobbit door behind her Eruviel took a moment to take a deep breath of the crisp breeze that rode on the beams of the rising sun.
The hole had been dirty, cold and vacant when she had first moved to the Shire seventy years prior. Now it was warm, clean, and often frequented by her little friends for afternoon tea, dinner and supper. It had taken a while to earn the trust of the small-folk, but her careful watch of the border of the Sire, along with her failed years at growing proper potatoes had warmed up the Hobbits of the Westfarthing to her. It was a quiet, comfortable life for the most part, and it seemed to heal parts of her soul that had grown despondent.
She wore a finer dress today of a cheerful yellow, a red velvet fest laced up her torso, and a soft, green cotton shawl wrapped around her waist. Her rich brown hair tumbled down her back to her hips, reflecting the morning light as it swayed with each step.
Her bay mount grazed inside the short, green lawn, waiting to bear it’s rider.”Quel amrun,” she greeted the steed. He nickered at her, not bothering to raise his head from the patch of grass that had consumed his attention. Eruviel smiled, shaking her head at him, then pat his neck twice in command for him to follow. “You are going to be fatter than a child’s pony, Eosul. Though, I should begin to skip second breakfast myself.” The horse huffed as he reluctantly followed her out of the picket gate.
Using a stone marker as a stepping stool, the elf-maiden gracefully mounted the bare-backed steed, careful to not drop her basket or parcel’s. No saddle or reigns today. It would be a fine, peaceful day for the ride to Tuckborough. Her horse began the walk on his own accord to the junction with The East Road as Eruviel arranged the food more comfortably across her lap. The calm, bay steed jaunted down the road, swerving every so often to snag a bite of grass as Eruviel bid her smiling neighbors “Good morning” . . . as well as their neighbors and their neighbors. She exchanged “good mornings” with a grocer on his way to Michael Delving, and to a band of hobbit children who traded her two jars of red and purple berries for a large loaf of bread.
Ahead at a bend in the road she saw a wagon full of barrels being driven by a lady of the small-folk. Eruviel had just enough time to tighten her knees to keep her seat before her horse broke into a canter to catch up with the cart and pony.
“Good morning to you, Lady ‘ruviel!” chimed the hobbit woman driving the bouncing wagon.
“Good morning to you as well, Lady Marisily! And well met!” she beamed down to the pink-cheeked woman. “Are you off to Tuckborough this beautiful day?”
“That I am, friend. Gotta take these here barrels of Old Toby to the party! You have quite a bounty there with you too. Master Took invite you as well?”
Eruviel looked to the precarious stack held before her. “He did indeed. It is very kind of him to consider me to join his birthday celebration.”
“And why would he not?” laughed the little hobbit as she lightly bounced the reigns on her pony’s rump. “You’ve been livin ‘ere for a good many years now. A part of the community, now more than ever!”
With Marisily chatting merrily about parties, pipe-weed, and the good growing season, the several hours ride to the Great Smials too no time at all. Cheers arose from the party-goers as the wagon turned down the road, the abundance of Longbottom Leaf just as important as the amount of food and ale. Not long ago had Tobold Hornblower domesticated the plant, and now every hobbit in the Shire smoked as much as a chimney. Though her neighbors and friends twisted her arm, she had yet to try the pipe.
Music flowed over the hills, pairs and circles of the little folk dancing in the square amidst the late afternoon light. The street swirled with laughter, stories, and pipe-smoke. Bright red and yellow banners hung from every lamp post, and streamers adorned the eves of the hobbit holes and branches of the tall green trees.
“Lady Elf is here!” shouted several of the merry Hobbits. In seconds she was surrounded by a cheerful crowd, half of them excited simply at the sight of more food. Clutching a jar of berries to herself, the basket and parcels were whisked off her lap and she laughed at seeing only half of her bounty reach the long tables laden with more food than she could remember seeing at one time. Slipping from Eosul’s back, she landed nimbly on her feet, giving the horse a pat on the flank, sending him out into the fields of grass to graze and relax.
“Lady Eruviel!” Called a robust hobbit voice from behind her. Turning she curtseyed low to the halfling before taking a knee. “Heruamin, Thain Took, you do me an honor. Your party looks to be overflowing with merriment.”
The male hobbit bellowed a laugh, clutching his sides before reaching out and shaking Eruviel’s hand. “You are very kind, but I will have none of your proper nonsense tonight, my elf friend!
Her musical laugh joined the chorus of shouts, laughs, and singing that surrounded them. “I shall do my utmost to be as hobbitish as I can tonight, you have my word.”
The Master Took’s grin turned mischievous at her words and a twinkle glistened in his eyes. “In that case, I have a present for you!” Reaching into the bulging pocket of his green velvet jacket, the middle-aged Thain produced a thin parcel twice as long as Eruviel’s hand, wrapped in purple velvet. “For all that you do for us, tall one,” he said, placing the gift in her up-turned palm and waiting rather impatiently for her to open it.
She glanced up at the bright-eyed hobbit, she began opening the folds of soft cloth to reveal possibly the finest pipe she’d ever seen. Made out of a rich red-colored wood, limbs and leaves swirled down the stem, and a thin silver ring lined the inside rim of the bowl. One side of the base had a carving of a hobbit party, and the other side was adorned by a slender archer shooting an arrow at a wave of claws. “This is the most beautiful gift I have ever been given,” she said, meeting the Thain’s shining gaze. Laughing aloud, she added, “You are indeed scheming, Master Took, for I do not doubt I will be forced to smoke from this one day.”
“Not one day, but today,” he laughed. “Marisily! Bring me a pinch of fresh Longbottom leaf! Our elf friend is finally going to smoke!” he shouted across the square. Cheers erupted around them at the Thain’s proclamation, and everyone laughed as Eruviel’s cheeks flushed.
Taking the pinch that the woman brought him, the Master Took fit in the pipe-weed, lit it, and handed the pipe back to the elf-maiden. Chants of “Smoke!” and “Elf!” rose as dozens upon dozens of hobbits crowded around them. Nodding his head forward, the Thain grinned widely, “There is no escaping this, my friend. You did give your word!”
Laughing along with the crowd Eruviel slowly lifted the end to her pink lips. The crowd grew silent, watching as she puffed a few times as she’d seen others do before. Then, lifting her chin towards the sky, she exhaled, offering a small smoke ring for the gleefully watching party-goers to see. Cheers and laughter arose as she coughed out the last of the smoke, her eyes watering slightly. Master Took clapped her on the back laughing before getting carried away by the happy mob. Countless other hands patted her on the back in congratulations as she rose before they took hold of her and whisked her into the throng of bouncing, dancing hobbits.