Several days later, Elanor had finally settled on what she could and could not fit in her traveling pack, and was mostly satisfied. She brought two gowns, her best and another for daywear, and the clothes she wore when traveling, breeches and an embroidered tunic with a well-tended cloak. Besides her cooking wares, she also packed a brooch. It was of blue sapphire with the sign of the rising sun emblazoned in pure bronze with two trees growing in the center in silver and gold. She had received it as a parting gift from Gondor when she had ended her stay as attendant to the Lady Arwen. It was a work from Númenor, and was said to have special attributes of great potency. She was not sure why she would risk so beautiful a thing, but felt that it was right to have it with her, almost as a good luck charm.
It was then the fifteenth of September, and Elanor bid goodbye to her siblings, making her sister Rose, the second eldest girl, swear to take care of the younger ones while she was away. It was high time to set out, and Elanor went to collect her companion.
Upon entering the open door to his hole, she found him in his room, dithering over some article of clothing. When he noticed her at the door, he jumped, banging his foot on the post of his bed. He swore fluently.
“Why, Faramir, I’m shocked,” Elanor said mildly. “I didn’t know you knew such language. And in front of a lady!”
Glaring at her, he replied, “Where is this lady? I wish to apologize to her.”
Elanor laughed, a light, bell-like sound. “That’s the hobbit I know. Aren’t you ready yet?”
“I was just thinking, Elanor… Are you sure this is such a good idea? We’re just hobbits, I doubt the King will miss us. And is it right for a person of my station just to up and leave at the hint of an invitation?”
Elanor’s eyes narrowed. “Now you take that back, Faramir Took, or I’ll have to knock you about like the time you made Primrose cry. You know there are dozens of able hobbits willing to take your place for a little while, though you may have a time of it dislodging them when you return. And anyway, my dear hobbit, an invitation from the king is not disputable. It is a summons, a command. Now, to important things. You know that brown weskit you’ve packed is dreadful, go and fetch the green one and we’ll be on our way.”
“All right, have it your way. It’s all arranged, we’ve just got to stop by the stables to grab Ronan, the chestnut mare. And I like my brown weskit, what’s wrong with it?”
Leaving the room, Elanor replied over her shoulder, “It makes you look… responsible.”
Several minutes later Faramir emerged to find Elanor already mounted on Bill IV, an auburn pony named in loving memory of the beast that had borne Frodo from Weathertop to Rivendell, not to mention a fair bit of baggage afterwards. Faramir walking beside, they made the short walk to collect Ronan and were soon on their way, though Faramir had needed three tries to mount her. Both the pony and the Hobbit were rather rounder than they remembered.
It was their third night out when Elanor sat up in the glistening twilight. Faramir lay a few feet away, facing out from the light of camp and attempting to fall asleep. Her clear voice broke the near silence of the crackling fire.
“Faramir, are you awake? I reckon that we’re not far from the Maggots’ farm now; what say we go and check on the boys’ mushrooms, just to make sure they’re safe.” Even the fire could not mask the mischievous light in her eyes, glinting in the darkness.
“Elanor, that’s not proper, the poor hobbits have to make a living!”
“Now, Faramir, you know that the Maggot boys always plant extra, not a year’s gone by that they haven’t been raided, and I’ve never seen them starve.”
“Still, it’s not on…”
Elanor’s voice grew irritated. “Faramir, what is wrong with you? You’ve not been yourself, all this talk of responsibility and propriety. And you, the thief in the night. Not even old Wolf could catch you!”
“I have responsibilities now… I don’t have the luxury of being care-free.”
A fire burned in Elanor’s eyes that had nothing to do with the sparks before her. “Care free, am I? Yes, raising a dozen siblings has always been worriless! No responsibilities here, not in providing for and doctoring and loving those that can’t care for themselves!”
“Elanor…” Faramir sounded hurt.
“Oh, stay here. You’ve gotten stuffy, you have. Stout old thing, I would be surprised if you could even climb the Mallorn tree on New Row. And when I get back, I’m not sharing.” She huffed off.
* * *
All had gone well, until Elanor had risen to leave, sure that no one had heard even the creak of a twig. It was then that she found herself eye to eye with the most feared animal in the Shire and out, sitting patiently and waiting until she was through.
“Oh, no.” Elanor whispered. “Not Snuggles.”
The massive boarhound began to growl menacingly, baring his yellow teeth and slowly licking his black lips. Elanor ran. Nipping at her heels, the massive beast ran no faster than was needed just to keep pace, though she knew that he could run much, much faster.
“Run, Elanor!” came a voice. “I’ve got him!” Leaping from the tree above them, Faramir managed to swat the creature’s nose before tearing off in a wild chase through the fields. Elanor ran until she came to the fire, and dumped her mushrooms unceremoniously at its side. She lay flat, panting and clutching her heart. After she recovered ten minutes later, Faramir bounded up and collapsed. A dog howl was heard in the distance, but there was no sign of pursuit.
When Faramir recovered his breath, he did something quite unexpected. He laughed. Hysterically, until he was panting again.
“Oh, Elanor,” he gasped. “I’d forgotten how wonderful that felt. Are you willing to share now?”
Tossing him a mushroom, Elanor gaped and asked, “How did you do that? And why were you hiding up a tree anyway?”
“A thief should never share his secrets, lest he find himself robbed,” Faramir replied sagely. “Actually, I was up the tree trying to see if I could prove you wrong. And I did! I can climb any tree I want.”
“But, how did you get rid of Snuggles?”
Grabbing a few more mushrooms, he said briskly, “I ran faster. When I knew he couldn’t see me anymore, I swung up on a branch and watched him for a bit. Seemed a tad confused after my trail disappeared, but he didn’t give up the chase. I’d say he’s halfway to Buckland by now.”
Elanor looked carefully at him. In the light of the fire, he looked like the friend of her youth, young and full of life. She laughed.
“Well, my valiant savior, in any case I am in your debt. But you still can’t have all of my harvest. Give back those two you stole and we’ll be equal.”
A glint appeared in Faramir’s eye. He leaped up, ran for his life, and swung himself up into the gnarled bows of an aged oak, throwing early acorns at a wrathful Elanor while he relished the last hard won fruits of her labors.