Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Starlight at Eventide

Author: Ariel
Nominator: Ariel
2006 Award Category: Races: Hobbits: Post-Grey Havens - First Place

Story Type: Other Fiction : Length: Medium Length
Rating: R -- Reason for Rating: Consentual sex
Summary: In his fight to save Estella's life, Merry Brandybuck sacrificed more of his marriage than he realized.


Reviewed by: Mechtild -- Score: 10

You began with a splendid opening chapter. The reader finds out at the same rate Estella does how sick she’s been, why she’s been sick, and who’s been sticking close by her. The thrum of Merry’s heart is the repeated motif, the sound and feel of it: constant; strong; anchoring her to life. It’s as if you have started off your fic with a steady, insistent beat, sort of like the opening of Ravel’s “Bolero”. *smile* You included much that underscored how real your hobbits were; adults, easily recognizable as people past their first youth, but still in their prime years for loving and being fruitful, not “cute little wee folk” who are merely playing at grown-up life. Also very real and recognizable was the observation that Merry loved Estella all the more desperately, nearly losing her; her brush with death made him fearful of spoiling her recovery, almost as if he were superstitious, the way many of us are. “If I enjoy this too much, it will go away!” That Estella should not perceive this feeling in Merry was also perfectly recognizable. She is worried over having lost her looks. And, honest author that you are, you let your hero admit that he misses her former looks. She mourns for the loss of fertility, but Merry doesn’t quite understand that. The scene in which he peeps through the door when she is weeping by herself is very affecting. This was a story about people with a deep, committed relationship that has come under unexpected siege. Yet they manage to come through it because of love, good advice from beloved friends, and taking the risk of talking honestly and plainly with each other. They emerge as more vibrant, more enriched than ever; in themselves and in their love for each other, even as they realise that the other is more deep and mysterious than they had ever imagined. You do much to support this premise, and do it well. A few notes. I loved…. -- the way you conceived the scene between Merry and Pippin over horseflesh. The juxtaposition of the ease and naturalness of the horses mating and the difficult time Merry was having recovering his amorous relationship with Estella was perfect. Pippin was awfully sympathetic, too, as a friend who can be frank without being confrontational. -- the way you wove in the spectacle of Aragorn and Arwen together, calling to Merry’s mind the song of Beren and Luthien, so that he could draw the comparison of Luthien’s love with Estella’s: that she would wish to love him to the full, come what may, even at the diminishment of her life. -- the touch you added in Ch. 8 that Merry could feel Estella’s heartbeat – “steady and strong” – recalling the steady, strong heartbeat that had so comforted Estella when she was ill. -- the way you subtly drew a comparison between Estella’s new “Elvish” looks (in her new dress at the celebration) and Frodo’s, harkening back to Merry’s continued sorrow over the loss of his “Elvish” friend. Her new look seemed to make Merry love her all the more, yet, perhaps, amplifying his fear that he would lose her, just as he lost his older friend. How appropriate that their joyous reconciliation should come at this point in the story. And such responsiveness! I was in admiring awe over Estella reaching a climax after Merry had only unfastened her corset, followed by “nuzzling her inner thigh.” No wonder he had missed this woman in bed! And no wonder she had missed being in it with him! Yet it’s not just the pleasure. In their love scene in last chapter you underscore this by your choice of words: she is Merry’s “treasured spirit”; he “embraced her soul with tenderness”; he “felt her bright spirit”; her “essence filled his heart”; “he cradled her spirit”; she was “his light”. All of these expressions emphasize that the bond he feels with his wife is deeper than what their bodies celebrate physically. This line was super, as your sum-up: [“Within his wife’s being he had seen the dark under the stars of the world’s beginning. Perhaps all women held, unrealized to themselves, some morsel of that power that brought the world into being (…)”]

Reviewed by: Inkling -- Score: 7

Once again, Ariel has crafted a tale of thought-provoking, graceful prose, psychological depth and heartfelt emotion. This is a very "grown-up" and satisfying love story that tackles challenging subjects seldom addressed in fanfic: the cooling and rekindling of marital ardor, the trauma of breastfeeding failure (one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the story), a fascinating examination of gender dynamics, the portrayal of strong, complex female characters and friendships, and a truly steamy sex scene featuring (gasp) a married couple! Though even here the treatment is far from conventional... poetic, philosophical musings are interspersed with the hot stuff. There are lovely insights into all of the canon characters, as this line demonstrates: [Talking always helped Pippin to see matters more clearly, but Merry's waters ran deeper and flowed more quietly.] Different authors bring different qualities to fanfiction, and the wisdom and maturity of Ariel's writing are always a pleasure to encounter.

Reviewed by: Cuthalion -- Score: 5

First and foremost, this is an amazing, wonderful lovestory... between two lovers who have already been married for years, which makes the whole thing even more precious. After a serious illness of Estella Brandybuck Merry is reluctant to treat his wife as he has done before, and she feels lost and neglected by the hobbit she loves most... Ariel writes with deep understanding or a woman's heart, and to follow the conspiracy that is cooked up to help Estella to get her husband and lover back (with the help of Queen Arwen and a luxurious coach) is a pure delight. I never get tired of her insightful. clever and (in this case) delightfully erotic tales!

Reviewed by: Lily -- Score: 5

I have seldom read a story that captured the relationship between Merry and his wife so well. After the birth of her youngest child Estella falls seriously ill. Merry meanwhile takes care of her and their children. He is characterised as a wonderful husband and caring father and yet he cannot fully comprehend what is in his wife’s mind when she slowly regains her strength and realises how many things have changed over the past months of her illness. This is a very intriguing story on how family, friendship but most importantly the love of husband and wife – and how desire may be rekindled after a long period of time.

Reviewed by: Imhiriel -- Score: 4

A fine example of what the old promise "In sickness and in health..." truly means. Estella's uncertainty about her own body and Merry's fear after her long illness is depicted very realistically and with great sympathy. Their discussion of their feelings is very moving in its honesty, as is Estella's great courage. The comparison to Arwen gives it added poignancy. This thought resonated very strongly with me: ["But I don't want that easy quiet to become an empty silence."]

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 4

This is a story of marital love and romance. Not the dewy-eyed and star-struck romance of newlyweds, but the deep love and abiding care and protectiveness of a deeply-committed couple wed for years, and on the verge of taking the romantic and physical side of love for granted. When that is almost lost after Estella's illness leaves her physically fragile, and Merry fearful of hurting or harming her, they must work to recover it. A very insightful peice of work.

Reviewed by: Bodkin -- Score: 4

I can see exactly why Merry was so protective of Estella and couldn't see that she needed to get back to normal - and that his desire for her was part of that. I'm glad that they worked through their problems. And it seemed very right - that, in the end, he should perceive stars, while her vision was more earthy. Estella seems very close to the Earth Mother - productive, receptive, warm and so on, while Merry is wilder and more free, better able to fly, yet protective of those in his care.

Reviewed by: Lindelea -- Score: 3

This story was painful to read, the death of dreams, and yet the resolution was so very satisfying with the arising of new hope and a new relationship, shaped by sorrow yet somehow deeper and richer than before.