I do not own the people, places or main events these stories are woven around. They all belong to the Master, JRR Tolkien. This is fanfic.
1. Last Breath by elwen of the hidden valley
2. Lost by elwen of the hidden valley
3. Of Kings And Enemas by elwen of the hidden valley
4. All For One by elwen of the hidden valley
5. She Wore Blue Velvet by elwen of the hidden valley
6. Here We Go A-brambling by elwen of the hidden valley
7. Coming Of Age by elwen of the hidden valley
8. Visitors from the Lonely Mountain by elwen of the hidden valley
9. Titheniell by elwen of the hidden valley
10. The Silent Hour by elwen of the hidden valley
11. Count Down To Cake by elwen of the hidden valley
12. Fireside Tale by elwen of the hidden valley
13. Hold! by elwen of the hidden valley
14. It's Not Easy, Wearin' Green by elwen of the hidden valley
15. Lifesong by elwen of the hidden valley
16. A Chip Off The Old Block by elwen of the hidden valley
17. Elrond's Table by elwen of the hidden valley
18. Every One and No One by elwen of the hidden valley
19. Gandalf by elwen of the hidden valley
20. Hobbit Fluff by elwen of the hidden valley
21. Thorn by elwen of the hidden valley
22. Last of the Homely House by elwen of the hidden valley
23. Melegrist by elwen of the hidden valley
24. Mothers Day by elwen of the hidden valley
25. Nutsil by elwen of the hidden valley
26. One Last Hug by elwen of the hidden valley
27. Baggins Birthday by elwen of the hidden valley
28. Puddles by elwen of the hidden valley
29. Rainy Teatime by elwen of the hidden valley
30. Robes by elwen of the hidden valley
31. The Headless Bridegroom by elwen of the hidden valley
32. The Master Goldsmith by elwen of the hidden valley
33. The Song of Iluvatar by elwen of the hidden valley
34. The Warmth of Friendship by elwen of the hidden valley
35. Tithen by elwen of the hidden valley
36. Tithendell in the Rain by elwen of the hidden valley
37. A Trout Supper by elwen of the hidden valley
38. Two Gross by elwen of the hidden valley
39. An Uncles Heartache by elwen of the hidden valley
40. Day and Night by elwen of the hidden valley
41. Doom and Taters by elwen of the hidden valley
42. Dreams by elwen of the hidden valley
43. In Minas Tirith You Can Hear Them Scream by elwen of the hidden valley
44. An Ordinary Life by elwen of the hidden valley
45. The Mushroom Mishap by elwen of the hidden valley
46. Duty by elwen of the hidden valley
47. Pippin II by elwen of the hidden valley
48. And All Shall Be New by elwen of the hidden valley
The Wind Lord himself brought the news to Imladris. Not that it was more than confirmation to me. Vilya had glowed faintly for a moment and then I felt it begin . . . the fading.
It is as we had foreseen . . . all now will fade. Imladris, Lothlorien, the Istari . . . my daughter.
“Arwen . . . child of my heart. Soon another golden band will be worn in Gondor. Your lover will not be replacing silver with gold . . .as I did with your mother all those years ago. For I would not allow you to betroth yourself to Estel. Your hand has been unbound for most of your love’s adult life but your heart has always been bound to him.
He would steal your life . . . rob you of your mother’s arms on the farther shore . . . this man who I cannot hate even now. For he grew up in my house and I loved him as a son. And he has fulfilled all the requirements I placed upon him for your hand. I can ask nothing more.”
She is filling her dower chest in the room below. I can hear her as she folds the fine fabrics of her wedding gown . . . the soft jingle of her crown. It will be strange to see those many strands of mithril against her raven hair; her mother’s hair was as bright as the sun on ripe corn. And yet Undomiel’s eyes shone like the sun when I brought it to her.
Soon her brothers will return to escort us to the White City and it will be another’s honour to protect and love her whom I have loved from before her first breath. And when I have placed her hand in his I will leave this land . . . for my heart would break indeed to hear her last.
Here I have indulged my love of angst, angst and more angst.
Lost. Another friend lost. Another hole punched through his heart. There were days, like today, when his fea felt like a spider’s web caught in the storm . . . ragged and ravaged.
Frodo Baggins had lived a better life here but it was not as long as it could have been, had he not become enmeshed in the affairs of the mighty. Eighty years was not a great age for a hobbit. Elrond continued to stare at the newly planted holly bush . . . as he had been staring for hours. Long after the others had melted away he had remained standing beside this small bare earthen mound. Frodo had at least enjoyed his final years, finding peace at last. But Elrond would miss that merry giggle . . . the twinkling blue eyes.
Suddenly he felt a tightening of his throat, a burning in his eyes. Swallowing hard, he lifted his face to the sky as he battled to corral the threatening tears. Why was he on the verge of crying now? In six thousand years Elrond had seen much that would reduce most to tears but he had not cried since . . . since when?
He remembered crying when mother told them that father would not be returning. She had asked them to be brave. Later Elrond had taken some comfort in knowing that Father, Earendil, looked down on them from there but he had cried long for the loss of strong arms and gentle wisdom, nonetheless.
He had cried a little less bitterly when Mother left. In truth Elwing had been so bound up in her love for her husband that Elrond and Elros had often felt themselves secondary in her heart. For years she had been a distant figure roaming the sea strand alone. Elrond considered that she had abandoned her two boys long before actually fleeing to join her husband . . . leaving them to the whim of their enemies. Oh, the adult Elrond later learned that perfection is unattainable and that sometimes even wise people make unwise choices. Had Elwing foreseen that her children would be safe? He had hoped so and forgiven her, because that was the only sane way to move on. But young Elrond still wailed silently in a corner of his mind.
When Meadhros and Maglor had burst in upon the cowering Elrond and Elros the children had feared murder at the hands of these enemies. But Maglor at least was not the evil person they had expected. Elrond learned then that people were not always as others painted them. He learned that brothers sometimes loved each other even when they had opposing views. He learned that wrong was sometimes a matter of perspective.
Elrond looked down at his hands, where callouses were forming at the fingertips. He had taken up the harp once more only recently, after years of abstinence, playing it at Frodo’s bedside to ease his passage. Learning to play had been a gift from Maglor and Elrond smiled as he remembered sitting at his side as the elder showed him how to tune the delicate instrument. He had knelt for hours, entranced, as Maglor coaxed magical visions and feelings from its strings. He remembered, too, the day that his mentor had sent Elros and Elrond away, leaving the children to fend for themselves in a strange forest. The still young Elrond had wept briefly, before giving a final sniff and wiping his eyes. There was no time for crying if they were to live.
It was Gil-Galad who found the brothers and took them into his household, where Elrond turned his mind to study and vowed to guard his heart more closely. When his brother made the decision to become mortal, in order to take up the crown of Numenor, he wished him well. It was a choice the immortal Elrond had never understood fully, although he had his suspicions. From the days of Feanor the quest for power had run strongly through the Noldor. Although it was the Valar who had offered Elros the crown it seemed to Elrond that he may have simply decided to take a different path to the acquisition of that power.
Elrond cursed perfect Eldar memory as he brought to mind too clearly the night, a brief five hundred years later, that he had heard Elros’ heart flutter, heard it slow and falter. He remembered holding his own breath to catch just one more faint, distant thump. But it did not arrive and Elrond had gasped as he felt a sudden severing of the final thread that bound him to his twin. He had gasped but he had not cried, even though he felt more alone at that moment than ever in his life. Others had come and gone but his twin’s presence had been a constant in his fea from the moment of their conception in the warm haven of their mother’s womb.
There ended the last of his family. But to cry at Elros’ death would be folly. Mortals were mere butterflies in the span of an elven life. Elrond knew and had accepted the consequences of his brother’s choice centuries before . . . had he not?
Although Elrond grew up into a deep friendship with the High King, even he did not see the end until it was too late. They had been fighting together and then Gil-Galad had simply been swallowed by the melee. Elrond had helped to bury his body in a secret place. Older by then Elrond had, nonetheless, felt abandoned by his closest friend. Logic told him that in battle not all decisions were in their own hands but Gil-galad had seemed invincible. Then others were looking to Elrond for strength and leadership, so he buried his pain with his friend. No tears were shed that day. The loss set a last stone in the walls about his heart.
That was when Celebrian had glided quietly into his life. Theirs had been no sudden spark of awareness . . . at least upon Elrond’s part. His heart was held close and Celebrian spent patient years gently loosening his grip. Once Elrond had capitulated Celebrian spent many more years weaving gently at his tattered fea until it was whole once more. He had cried when their twin sons were born, unable to believe himself worthy of such a wondrous gift. When their daughter lay bawling and puce in his hands he did not know whether to cry or laugh so he did both. Here was his new family.
But when Celebrian was captured Elrond slammed shut the door on his anguish, afraid that he would drown in its depth. It was in those days of waiting that he gained some insight to his mother’s heart. When his sons returned Celebrian to him he locked away his horror and set about healing her body. When she told him she was weary of Middle earth and needed to sail west for the healing of her fea, Elrond saw her safely to the havens. Had he not borne one of the rings of power he would have sailed with her that day. Instead they kissed a last time and he turned away, damming his tears behind a wall of duty.
Once more Elrond focused his gaze upon his hands, turning them over. There sat his one- time duty . . . Vilya . . . ring of air and mightiest of the three elven rings of power. For centuries it had pulsed powerful and silent upon his finger. On occasion it had flashed too brightly to look upon. Now it was a simple gold band set with a sapphire as blue as high summer sky. A bee hummed past his spread fingers, briefly examined the holly bush at Elrond’s feet, and moved on to mine for nectar in a patch of pink clover.
Frodo Baggins had unwittingly brought more loss to Elrond. After Celebrian’s departure a terrible foresight had gripped his father heart and he had banished Arwen to what he hoped would be the safety of Galadriel’s realm. But it had not been enough to cheat fate. When the mortal lord of the Dunadain, Aragorn, had come seeking her hand, Elrond had set harsh conditions for their joining. It was a desperate final bid to save his child from the loss he had so often suffered. But Frodo’s success in destroying the One Ring had resulted in Arwen taking that bittersweet path of love and loss. And now the strong and beautiful presence of his daughter would die to them. Perhaps not for decades but, too soon, he would be forced to listen to his child’s final heartbeat. And what of his sons? They could yet choose to follow their sister for they had declined to sail with him. Would he cry at the loss of one or all of his children?
Elrond flinched as a hot tear splashed upon the back of his hand and he reached up in surprise to brush more from his cheeks. There had been no warning this time . . . no burning eyes or tightening of the chest . . . those feelings he had learned to recognise as a signal to shore up the wall. Lord Elrond was not in control and a wave of panic assailed him at the discovery that he could no longer dam such a deep lake of sorrow.
Slender hands settled gently upon his shoulders, slid down his trembling back and clasped about his waist. Celebrian’s steady presence enveloped him in love as she leaned in from behind; her chin finding its familiar resting place upon his shoulder. Warm lips feathered his ear as she whispered, “And so you finally let go. Now it is time for your own healing, my love.”
Oh, the indignity.
Had he not been raised in a household of elves, Ellesar, Tellcontar, High King of Gondor may have been intimidated by the ice blue winter sky glare from the being on the bed. As it was, he could only swallow back a smile as he held the eyes of the diminutive figure that sat in isolation in the oversized bed.
White knuckled fingers clutched a small, even on his frame, linen cloth about the little one’s dignity.
For a moment longer fierce ice blue locked with tempered steel grey, then Aragorn could bite back his amusement no longer. Frodo blinked, disgust chasing confusion across his finely drawn features as he watched the erstwhile stern king guffaw. For a split second Frodo moved to fold his arms, then tightened the grasp upon his dignity. Sadly, this only made Aragorn laugh louder and it was some minutes before he regained enough of his royal composure to speak.
“Frodo. It’s not as though I haven’t seen you undressed before. You were filthy when you were laid in my charge and you awoke clean. Who do you think bathed you and tended your injuries?”
“That was different. I wasn’t awake.” Even Frodo squirmed a bit at the fine line he was now drawing. But it just did not feel right, damn it. None of this was right. Aragorn was a friend and it wasn’t the same as Lord Elrond or some physician from the Houses of Healing.
“I assure you that I will behave only as a healer, not as a friend. If that is what you would prefer. All the other healers are busy tending the wounded at the moment and it this will be a very simple procedure. I promise.”
Small hands relaxed their death grip upon linen but Frodo put up one last defence. Those large blue eyes peeped up from beneath dark curls. “Are you sure I need this? Surely a spoonful of medicine would do it.”
Aragorn took this as a sign that his foe was about to capitulate. “How many spoonfuls of medicine have you had so far?” he asked as he began to spread a finely ground paste onto a small sliver of thin paper.
Small shoulders squared themselves as their owner realised that his last tactic had not had the desired affect. “I had one this morning and one at midday. Surely that’s not enough to have to resort to this.” Frodo resumed his death grip on the linen and his lips drew into a thin line.
His comment was greeted by an arched brow that was for all the world the mirror of his foster father’s. “And the spoonful you took before bed last night? And the one at tea time? Then there was the one you took at breakfast yesterday. You should know that you can keep nothing from Sam.” Aragorn began to roll the coated paper into a tiny pellet and advanced.
“Sam? Wait until I see him again. I should have known he would not be able to keep a secret. I suppose you asked him straight out? He never could lie to a friend.” Even as he spoke, Frodo began to edge backwards on the mattress . . . no mean feat without the aid of his hands.
“Sam was worried about you. You need to eat and he noticed that you were not doing so. When he saw you taking the medicine he put two and two together. I often wondered why his father named him Samwise. There’s nothing half witted about Sam Gamgee.”
The words were used to try a cover his forward momentum but Frodo was not fooled and scooted back further. He had not Aragorn’s flair for strategy however and soon found himself backed up against the headboard with nowhere left to go. The man pressed his advantage and reached out to take Frodo’s arm, albeit gently.
“Come on, now. Over you go. Just onto your side.”
Finally acknowledging defeat, Frodo let go the cloth and settled down onto his side. “Get on with it, then.” His eyes stared straight ahead and away from his tormentor, trying to find something to interest him in the plaster of the wall.
“Thank you, Frodo. This will only take a moment and should work fairly quickly. Once your bowels have moved you will feel much better.” He pushed the small mounds of Frodo’s buttocks apart, holding them that way with splayed fingers as he spread a little oil around the opening revealed.
Frodo hissed. “Your fingers are rough.”
Said fingers paused in their attack. “I am a warrior, Frodo. These hands have found more practice wielding a sword than a scalpel. I am sorry and will be as gentle as I can.”
The genuine remorse in his voice drew Frodo’s gaze over his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Aragorn. I know you only have my welfare in mind and I’m sorry I’m so difficult. Please . . . go on.”
Taking the little pellet, Aragorn inserted it deftly into the puckered opening, pushing it home gently with one finger. Then he wiped the oil away with a clean cloth and re-arranged the fabric that had fallen from Frodo’s narrow hips. “There. It usually takes a little while for that to work.”
Frodo sighed. “What if it doesn’t? What happens then? I am so weary of not being in control of my life.” A faint frown touched his brow and he squirmed a little.
Aragorn sat upon the bed behind him and gripped his friend’s shoulder in comfort. “It will work. That is one of Elrond’s best recipes. The only thing you need to worry about being in control of at the moment is your bowels.” He stroked Frodo’s dark curls. “And when you have regained some of your strength you will be able to return home. Where you can be the master of your own life once more.”
No sooner had he finished speaking, then Frodo’s face took on an expression of pure alarm. “Aragorn!!! I need . . . oh!!” The previously pale face was now bright pink and Frodo wrinkled his nose at the familiar but unexpected smell. “Oh Aragorn. I’m so sorry.”
There was a faint rustle of heavy velvet behind him. “That’s alright, Frodo. I can change.”
A few moments of conversation between Merry and Frodo at the Grey Havens.
Waiting by the ponies, Merry nodded towards Pippin as Frodo approached. “Is he alright?”
Frodo’s smile was faint, but certain. “He will be.” He laid a three-fingered hand upon Merry’s shoulder. “And you?”
Merry snorted and the ponies heads came up in alarm, before Merry and Frodo moved to calm them, stroking velvet noses. Swallowing back a lump, Merry attempted a wry smile. “I will be.”
Neither trusted themselves to look into the other’s eyes, continuing to pet and stroke the mounts long after the animals had calmed. It was Frodo who finally broke the strained silence.
“Do you remember, when I lived at the Hall, I used to have dreams that sometimes came true?”
Merry attempted a sidelong glance at him. “Are you trying to tell me that you foresaw all this in a dream? Because if you are, I wish you had warned me.” The words were spoken only half jokingly and Frodo rushed to re-assure him.
“Oh goodness, no! It’s just that . . . well . . . I’ve had one or two strange dreams lately and they have the same feel about them.”
Merry’s grey-green eyes finally met Frodo’s. “I’d be very surprised if you didn’t. I’ve had a few myself.”
Blue eyes widened and then dipped to stare at the ground. Merry’s hand tucked itself beneath Frodo’s chin, drawing the sharp-planed face to look at him once more. “But at least they are just that, Frodo . . . dreams. I would rather a few of us had bad dreams than have the whole of Middle earth living a nightmare."
His cousin found refuge in Merry’s calm eyes again. “You were always there for me, Merry. Sometimes I wonder which of us is the elder.”
“Oh, you were always the eldest. You just weren’t always the most practical.” That comment had the desired effect and coaxed a soft laugh from Frodo. When the laughter faded the pale face grew serious once more and he glanced about to establish the whereabouts of Sam. He spotted him, talking to Pippin on the dockside.
“Sam, however, is a very practical fellow. He has done so much towards restoring our home and without him . . . without Sam I could not have . . .” Frodo’s voice trailed off, lost in dark memory, and Merry let go the ponies to take both of his cousin’s shoulders in his hands.
“Frodo . . . this conversation is all over the place. Out with it. What are you trying to say?”
The words broke down a dam within Frodo and the words tumbled out, one upon the other, in a rush. “I think Sam will be Mayor one day. He has it in him . . . the good sense and the love. And if he does become Mayor he will need help. I want you to promise me that you’ll be there for him, just as you always were for me.”
For a few moments Merry stood, blinking and trying to absorb this startling news. “I’ve never considered that Sam would be the sort to put himself forward for such a position. But, then again, I’ve discovered that there are many layers to our Sam.” He frowned. “But you didn’t need to ask me. I’d stand by Sam, whatever he did.”
Frodo pressed him, nonetheless. “You were raised to be the Master of Brandy Hall one day. Your parents saw to it that you had the best of education and you grew up watching how an estate should be managed. Sam is a capital fellow and his gaffer taught him a thing or two. But he’s going to feel very unsure at first and he won’t want to bother you.”
“You’re serious, aren’t you, Frodo?” Merry glanced behind him, watching Sam and Pippin. Now that he looked more carefully he could see a difference in Sam. The square shouldered figure, staring calmly out to sea, was not the shy and nervous gardener who used to insist that he only came along on their walking trips because, “Mr Frodo don’t know how to look after himself proper.” Perhaps Frodo’s dreams were not too far off the mark.
For his part, Frodo had been waiting patiently, while Merry digested this new idea. Now he saw one of the elves call something to Sam and the hobbit turning towards his master. Frodo touched Merry’s arm, drawing him out of reverie. “Merry . . . do I have your promise?”
Merry laid a hand over his heart in mock seriousness, although there was no such tone in his voice.
“Of course you have my promise. I promise that I will be there for Sam, whether he becomes Mayor or not. And I shall be there for Pippin,” he continued, his eyes sparkling. “And I shall make sure that Pippin is there for him too . . . and that Sam is there for Pippin . . . and then . . . of course . . . I shall expect Sam to be there for . . .”
“Merry!” Frodo cut him off with a grin and a cuff on the arm, just as Sam bustled up.
“Mr Frodo. The sailors say as how they’re ready to leave, sir . . . something about the tide. They say it means they can’t wait no longer.”
“You’re just in the nick of time, as usual, Sam. Merry was about to talk my ear off.” Frodo turned, wrapping his cousin in a fierce hug. “Thank you, Merry.”
Merry returned his embrace with equal ferocity, although his voice was no more than a whisper in Frodo’s ear. “We’ve been there for each other from the beginning and we’ll make sure it stays that way. I’ll watch out for Sam, if you promise to look out for yourself.”
With one last squeeze, Frodo turned away, catching Sam’s arm in his and leading him back toward the boat.
Celebrian had taken little with her to the Havens. When he could bring himself to open her wardrobe some time later he found few gaps. Her wedding gown was missing and perhaps one or two others. The dark blue cloak she had left and Elrond wept upon finding it. The day before her departure harsh words had been spoken. All was mended by the time he handed her onto the ship, but in their pain the cloak had been abandoned.
Now he reverently laid it upon their marital bed, running a hand over the finely embossed velvet. It no longer smelled of Celebrian but rather of the rose petals it had been packed in so carefully for many years.
The cloak was his wedding gift to her. Elrond had fastened it about Celebrian’s naked shoulders, late upon their nuptual eve, as he led her onto the balcony to watch Earendil sail toward the dawn. Even now his arms remembered the feel of his new wife’s form beneath the heavy fabric as she nestled against him, head resting comfortably upon his shoulder.
Something glistened in the moonlight and Elrond bent to rescue one long silver hair from the clasp. He stretched it gently between his hands, measuring its length. Celebrian’s hair had been her glory, falling arrow straight well beyond her waist in a star kissed fall, and he remembered well the scent and weight of it as it fell about his face; the silken strength of it as he wrapped it about his fists.
He wound the single strand about the clasp once more, admiring now, as he had then, the silver against midnight blue.
Horses were assembling below his bacony and Elrond turned to examine his belongings. Like Celebrian before him there was little he needed to take to the Havens; just a harp and one small chest.
Removing a wine red robe from the chest, he replaced it with the blue cloak and closed the lid.
Wee Frodo nearly gives his mother a heart attack.
Primula bit back a squeak of alarm when she saw her faunt race up the path and she was at the door to greet him before he touched the handle. It was some relief to discover that the red stains all over his clothes and body were not blood, but bramble juice.
Placing her hands upon her hips Primula planted herself in the entrance and glared down at him. For his part, Frodo stared up in innocent confusion. “Hello Mama. Is it teatime?”
Primula’s eyebrows lifted. “Frodo Baggins, just look at the state of you? You’ve been down in the copse, haven’t you?”
Frodo gave her a sunny gap-toothed, red-lipped grin. “Yes. You’ll never guess what I’ve been doing.”
Primula began to see the funny side of it once the alarm faded and tried to restrain her laughter. “Oh, I think I can make a very good guess.”
When Frodo blinked in surprise she tugged at his sticky shirt sleeve, bringing his arm up to eye level. Her son’s eyes widened as he noticed his red stained fingers and he looked down in growing horror at the red stained shirt, the red stained breeches and the red stained feet. All he could manage was a subdued, “Oh.”
Primula’s chestnut curls bounced as she shook her head in exasperation. “Alright. Off with the lot while I fill the tub. Then you will climb in and scrub until you’re spotless.”
A rather sheepish Frodo stripped down to his smalls in the hallway and then followed his Ma to the kitchen, where the tub waited, along with a scrubbing brush usually reserved for laundry. Primula threw his clothes in a basin of cold water to soak, although she held out little hope of removing all the stains. It seemed that, until he grew out of them, her son was destined to play in pink clothes.
Then she turned to watch as Frodo dutifully scrubbed, and scrubbed, and scrubbed. But there was no shifting the stains. It seemed that for a few days at least he would have pink skin to match the pink clothes.
“Frodo. Next time you go brambling ask me for something to cover your clothes. Or better yet, ask me to come with you. We could at least have had apple-bramble pie. And I suppose you will be too full to eat your tea?”
When Frodo turned huge blue eyes upon her Primula could only relent. “Oh, get along with you.” She laughed as she threw him a towel, which he caught deftly. “Go and put on your nightshirt. Then come back to the table for tea.”
Frodo did not need telling twice and his mother smiled as a pair of pink heels and a little bare bottom disappeared swiftly through the kitchen door.
And that is why Frodo Baggins spent the rest of that year wearing what his Aunt Esmeralda euphemistically referred to as his “rose-clothes” when he played out.
Frodo's first night as master of Bag End.
It was very late and Frodo stood at the open bedroom door. Bilbo’s special birthday waistcoat lay, in its box, on the smooth bedspread, along with his fine velvet jacket, the quilted satin of its broad collar, glowing in the candlelight. A fire burned, welcomingly in the grate.
Where would Bilbo be sleeping tonight? Under the stars . . . or at an inn? Bilbo was fond of his feather beds. More likely an inn, then. Frodo pressed the mattress of the big bed with one hand. It yielded willingly. He had slept in it only once when he had first come to Bag End. There had been a violent thunderstorm and he had sneaked in with his Uncle, feeling a little guilty to be so frightened as a tweenager. Bilbo had said nothing, just hugged him close until he fell asleep. Should this be his bedroom now, as the Master of Bag End? He turned away and crossed to the armchair by the fire. Perhaps it would, one day, but not now. For the moment, this was still Bilbo’s room.
An old pipe lay, discarded and forlorn, on the mantelpiece by a jar of pipe weed. Old Toby. The room smelled faintly of it…smelled of Bilbo…Old Toby and lavender water. A weight in his hand made the young hobbit glance down at the envelope he held. He had forgotten he still had the ring. Why had Bilbo left like that…just put the ring on and disappeared? With no goodbye unless you counted the one spoken across the noisy Party Field.
Frodo realised what had happened as soon as he vanished…had tried to follow him, knowing that he would head for home. But Gandalf’s firework and the sudden public disappearance of his uncle had left a great many angry and upset hobbits and Frodo found himself surrounded within moments. He had only been able to watch over a sea of heads, helplessly, as Gandalf strode quickly back up the hill to Bag End. It had taken the young hobbit what seemed like an age to extricate himself and when he ran into the hall, desperately calling his uncle’s name, he had known at once that Bilbo was gone. He couldn’t say how he knew…he just did. There was an echoing emptiness to the place that had never been there before. Gandalf had been waiting of course, but he was not Bilbo.
It hurt that Bilbo had not waited for him and yet, perhaps it was better that way. It would have been a very tearful goodbye.
They had discussed his leaving, of course. In fact, Bilbo had broached the subject for the first time in this very room. The older hobbit had a bit of a cold and Frodo had insisted that he stay in bed for the day. Then Frodo had sat in the armchair and they had talked for hours. That was when his uncle had told him the full story of the finding of his ring, not the one about it having been a present, but the full tale.
He had even owned up to cheating in the riddle game with Gollum. Frodo had been a little amused for it was clear that Bilbo was not proud of that moment. His prowess at the riddle game had always been a source of satisfaction to him and it irked his uncle that his intellect had failed him on this occasion. Bilbo and Frodo had spent the rest of that February afternoon exchanging riddles. It was one of their favourite games. Frodo sighed and tucked his feet up beneath him on the large chair. There would be no more rainy afternoons spent in that pastime, now.
Bilbo had mentioned his leaving several times after that. At first it had been merely an expression of longing…a desire to revisit the places of his infamous journey. Then, over a period of time, the ‘maybe’ had turned into ‘when’. Eventually, Bilbo had even suggested a time; Frodo’s coming of age. But he had never actually sat his nephew down and told him that he would be leaving on a particular day at a particular time. For his part, Frodo had tried to avoid even thinking about it… a part of him believing that ignoring it would prevent it happening. He was torn between a love of his home and a thirst for adventure. Then the preparations for the grand party had gone into full swing and the topic had been conveniently forgotten in the bustle. But now the party was over and Bilbo was gone.
Frodo’s eyes wondered, aimlessly, about the familiar room, the flicker of the fire beginning to lull him towards sleep, although he fought it, still. A candle burned low on the washstand in the corner, a damp towel thrown over the edge, where Bilbo had hurriedly washed before leaving.
Frodo would have to heat his own wash water tomorrow morning. After thirteen years they had fallen into a routine. Bilbo would rise first, putting water on to heat, and bringing it to both their rooms. Then Frodo would go to the kitchen and begin preparing first breakfast, while Bilbo opened any mail or tidied up a little. Frodo would have to find a new routine now. But he didn’t want a new routine, he thought, blinking away tears. He quite liked the old one.
Suddenly, he felt very small. It was as though Bag End had swallowed him whole and he was not sure that he would ever be able to fill up its corners the way Bilbo did. The smial had never felt too big when his uncle was around. He seemed to permeate every nook and cranny. At every turn there was something of him, a pipe, a scrap of paper with his spidery writing crawling across it, a jacket thrown across the back of a chair. Then there were the noises. Singing coming from the kitchen, the scratch of his pen in the study, the soft slap of his feet on the tiled floor of the hallway.
Frodo yawned, snuggling deeper into Bilbo’s overstuffed armchair. The night sounds of the smial stole into his ears: the creak of the round wooden doorway contracting in the cooling evening air, the snap of the fire in the hearth at his side and the tiny rustle of a mouse, somewhere behind the panelling in the hallway. One sound was missing, the soft snoring of his uncle. For so many years, Frodo had been lulled to sleep by the companionable snores of his uncle, drifting through the wall to his bedroom; a buzzing lullaby, and now the smial felt silent. It was like listening to a favourite piece of music but having some of the notes missing and it grated on his soul.
Even with Gandalf’s comfortable presence, sleeping in the Big Bedroom, Frodo felt very lonely. No…. not just lonely … abandoned. It was a feeling he had not experienced for many years. As a child, his parent’s death had affected him that way. They had died in an accident but, to his child’s mind, they had abandoned him. Then Bilbo had come along and Frodo’s world had found an anchor once more.
The excitement of the day, the warmth of the fire and the comfort of the chair conspired against him and, even as the young hobbit considered where he would find an anchor now, his eyelids dropped and he fell into exhausted sleep, the envelope still held lightly in his hand.
Surprisingly quiet for such a large person, Gandalf slipped in and tucked a quilt about Frodo’s sleeping form, laying a hand upon his curls for a moment, before returning to the kitchen to light his pipe from the banked embers of the fire.
Frodo stirred at the sound of his curtains being drawn, screwing up his face and turning away as the sunshine of a bright autumn morning pierced his eyelids. Bilbo? He opened bleary eyes, the product of a little too much ale and not enough sleep, and tried to blink the world into focus, hearing the clink of a water jug being placed on the washstand.
“Good morning, Mr Frodo, Sir. I wasn’t sure whether you’d be wanting a wash or a bath in the mornings so I’ve just brought the jug, but it wont be no bother to go and heat more if you’d prefer a bath.”
Frodo came fully alert. “Sam? What are you doing here?”
Sam crossed to the fire and began poking the embers back to life, looking up at Frodo from the hearth. “Didn’t Mr Bilbo tell you, sir? He left instructions with the Gaffer that from today I was to come and help out in the house, as well as the garden.” His eyes opened wide. “He gave me a year’s wages in advance. But if I’m not to your suiting, Mr Frodo, I’ll pay it back of course. I aint never seen so much money all in one place at the same time but it’s set aside and you can have it back if you’re not happy.”
It was the longest speech he had ever heard Sam make and when his voice trailed off Frodo used the opportunity of the pause to laugh. “Oh Sam. I’m delighted. I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather have about the place. How clever of Bilbo to think of it.”
Dear Bilbo. He had known how empty Bag End would be. Frodo pushed back the quilt (how had that got there?) setting his feet on the floor. And found that he still held the envelope containing Bilbo’s ring. Stretching and giving a wide yawn, Frodo popped it on the mantelpiece. He would find somewhere safe for it later.
“You keep that money, Sam. I think we’ll suit just fine.” He crossed to Bilbo’s washstand and poured some hot water into the bowl. Turning in confusion as he heard a scuffle at the door.
“Well it’s about time you woke up, cousin. We were beginning to think you’d miss first and second breakfast,” announced Merry, from where he lounged against the doorframe.
“If you don’t want yours, can I have it?” asked Pippin from his side, a look of mock innocence on his impish face. There was almost eight years difference between Frodo’s cousins but already it was clear that when Pippen grew up they would be inseparable.
“What are you two doing here?” asked Frodo, in surprise. “I thought most people had gone home last night. Weren’t you supposed to be leaving with friends?”
“Bilbo asked Merry to stay. Owwww” Pippin exclaimed, as his cousin kicked him.
“You didn’t think you’d get rid of us that easily, did you?” asked Merry. His face was smiling but his eyes looked deep into Frodo’s and the new Master of Bag End saw understanding, not amusement, in the gaze of the potential heir of the Master of Buckland. Then Merry spun Pippin around and shoved him out of the door. “Come on Pip, lets see if we can eat our way through the contents of the breakfast table before Cousin Frodo manages to show his face.”
Sam shook his head. “Don’t you worry, Mr Frodo. Take as long as you like. I’ll make sure there’s some left for you.” Then he departed, closing the door, quietly, behind him.
Frodo paused as he picked up the lavender scented soap, listening to Sam whistling in the kitchen and Merry, ably assisted by Pippin’s reedy treble, trying to wheedle Gandalf into letting them have one of the unused fireworks from the party. “Just one?”
The Master of Bag End looked about the room in the bright morning light and smiled, softly. The smial did not feel too big today. It was a much more comfortable fit…like a favourite overcoat. “Thank you, Bilbo.”
The dwarves arriving with Bilbo were not the first to visit Imladris.
“Damn!” Elrond glared at the comb in his hand, then doggedly wielded it again, tugging hard at his wet hair. His wife only smiled into her book.
“Remind me again why we invited the dwarves to visit instead of sending an envoy to them?” he demanded between winces. A more inventive expletive shocked the usually peaceful air of their chamber; this one in perfectly accented dwarvish.
Celebrian marked her place and closed the book. Crossing their private chamber in a whisper of silks she came to stand behind her husband, where he sat at the dresser. Her open hand slipped in front of Elrond’s face. “Give me that comb before you make yourself bald,” she demanded.
In response Elrond only scowled at her in the mirror and clutched the comb tighter. “No. If I cannot inflict pain on them I need to inflict it on someone,” he growled stubbornly.
Celebrian giggled even as she pried his fingers loose and claimed the offending item. “I must confess that some of them do look in need of a good comb,” she replied lightly as she straightened the towel about his shoulders.
Nipping the comb between her teeth . . . she had decided not to lay it down for fear her husband would snatch it back . . . Celebrian poured a few drops of oil from a crystal bottle into her palm. As she circled her hands together the warm, woody scent of sandalwood enveloped them both.
Taking a deep breath, Elrond tried to relax his shoulders as his soul mate took handfuls of midnight hair and applied a thin film of oil to the tangled mess. Then he sighed in pleasure as the pads of her fingers began to massage soothing circles on his scalp.
“Glavin has the remains of a bird nest in his beard.” He commented. “ I did not care to examine it too closely but I am sure it was there. And it is easy to see why they travel light. They could probably dine for weeks on the remnants of previous meals trapped in those beards,” Elrond observed a little peevishly.
Celebrian pressed firmly on a particularly tense ligament at the base of her husband’ skull and he obliged her with an, “Ouch!”
Removing the comb from her mouth, Celebrian began to work gently at the ends of the luxurious hair. “Serves you right,” she admonished. “Most of them are very clean. I saw four of them combing and braiding each other’s hair yesterday.” Her eyes sparkled. “Whilst they were bathing in the blue fountain.”
Instantly, Celebrian felt her husband’s neck tense again. “Please tell me they did not chip the lapis lazuli tiles.”
She rapped him smartly on the top of his head with the comb. “I am sure they did not,” she asserted firmly. Then added, with a mischievous wink at him in the mirror, “But I think the fish were a little traumatised.”
Finally, Elrond smiled and, satisfied, Celebrian began to work a little higher, gently teasing out the knots.
Elrond sat passively. “The last party caught and cooked all the fish. We had to restock. Remind me again why we allow them into the valley. They seem to cause chaos whenever they visit.”
In response his wife waggled his intricately shaped fillet in front of his face. “Silver. You know as well as I that The Lonely Mountain is one of the closest places it is mined. And they were heading west to trade along the Great East Road. It would have been impolite not to have offered them respite on their journey. And well you know it,” she chided, replacing the fillet on its cushion. “You are only annoyed because they drive a hard bargain.”
“Well . . . I happen to like Elrianna’s new tapestry. I had hoped to hang it in our private sitting room.” Did Celebrian just hear her husband whine? Here was a side he did not reveal to the outside world and she loved him all the more for sharing it only with her.
She began to section off strands on his crown, deftly plaiting and weaving. “Well, now it will grace someone else’s sitting room. And that view of our summer garden will be a breath of fresh air in a cave, where sun is rarely seen. It will be much appreciated I am certain.”
The gentle touch of his wife’s fingers, her soft voice, the scent of sandalwood worked their magic and Elrond finally relaxed completely . . . the high lord of Imladris, soft as butter in his lady’s hands.
“I suppose I should not begrudge them the pleasure of at least looking at the image of a sunlit garden. And we have the original.”
“That is much better,” Celebrian replied with satisfaction as she set down the comb and bent to kiss the top of her husband’s head. “And our garden will flourish again in spring.”
“Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” There was a loud splash beyond their balcony, followed by even louder and raucous laughter.
Celebrian hid her own laughter behind her hand as Elrond dropped his head and sighed. “Not the silver fountain. I have just had it cleaned.”
“None saw her last meeting with Elrond her father, for they went up into the hills and there spoke long together, and bitter was their parting that should endure beyond the ends of the world.”
The Return of the King. Chapter 6 - Many Partings
With a step, light and quick as it had been six thousand years ago, Elrond Peredhil alighted from his horse, pausing to pat his mount’s neck before helping his daughter. Arwen was quite capable of dismounting alone, but waited for his strong hands upon her waist. Her slender fingers came to rest upon his shoulders and he set her feet down amongst the wild flowers of the upland meadow they had discovered together in the hills above the plains of Rohan.
In the valley, below them they could see the queen’s bodyguard, for even the king had been unable to dissuade them from following. Arwen had been safe in her father’s keeping for three thousand years, but now she was in the keeping of her people . . . the people of Gondor. The two turned away and Elrond lead her to an outcrop of sun warmed boulders. He stood for a moment, looking into her upturned face, and then settled at her side.
For some time they sat, staring straight ahead, each unwilling to meet the other’s gaze. Above them a skylark twittered upward, then her song melted away as she realised that the two invaders of her territory were no threat to her young. Elrond watched her circle downward and blend into the grass a few yards away. The air was warm, laden with the perfume of a hundred different meadow flowers and dressed with the hum of bees. This would be a good country for gathering medicinal herbs.
A delicate, long fingered hand slid beneath his, where it lay upon his knee. His eyes fell from the blue sky to this offering of love and his fingers wrapped themselves of their own volition about his daughter’s. How many times, throughout the ages of her life, had Elrond felt that touch?
There was the moment he had pressed his finger into one tiny pink palm and the fist, still damp from her mother, had wrapped tightly about his. A bond had formed then that he had thought would never be broken. She was his, a daughter to cherish. Never would she want. Never would she feel hurt. There would be no battles or pain for her. Arwen would be loved and walled away from distress all her life . . . he would see to that. Never would she have to endure the isolation and fear of Elrond’s own childhood.
He remembered a time when he had strolled through woods with Celebrian at his side, Arwen’s small hand clasped tightly in his as she giggled and kicked up a shower of gold and copper leaves. His heart still soared when he heard that light bubble of laughter, for it meant that his daughter was happy. And if his child was happy all was right with his world.
Elrond closed his eyes against the sun as another memory assailed him. She had dropped her embroidery and run to him for comfort, her long fingers tangled in the hair at his nape as she buried her face in his shoulder. Celebrian had just told her that she would be taking the boat to the West. He had lost his wife, and his daughter was losing a mother. That was the day that he finally had to acknowledge that there were some hurts that he could not shield her from. He bore one of the rings of power but he was no Valar. He was simply Elrond Halfelven, a father.
As though she sensed his pain, Arwen laid her other hand upon his and he opened his eyes. He had seen her hands enfolded thus before, but not with his. Joy and grief were inextricably mingled as he laid the hand of his daughter by birth into the hand of his son by gifting, and even the sound of her laughter could not lift the pain that clutched at his heart.
He looked up at the soft question, finding that a sparkling mist had covered the world. Arwen’s hand moved to brush aside his silent tears and he finally met her gaze. Her own eyes were yet dry, her visage filled with question.
“Do you weep for me, Ada? You must not, for I have made my decision and I rejoice in it.”
It was difficult to make his admission. “No. I do not weep for you. Aragorn is a good and noble king and a loving husband. I weep for myself, for I have lost that which I hold most dear in the world.”
Of a sudden, it seemed to Elrond that his daughter had aged a thousand years, for it was she who now comforted him. Her words would have been harsh, had they been pronounced with anything other than the deep love that she offered.
“No, Ada. You have not lost me. Rather you have lost your dream of my future.” She placed her hand over his heart. “I am always here. You cannot lose me. Just as when you leave these shores to join Naneth, I will not lose you. If you listen closely you will hear me, in here. I have changed your life forever and you have helped to shape me into the person you see before you. You have been my physician, tutor, knight, lord and friend. But most of all, you have been my Ada and I have been your Titheniell.”
Elrond’s eyes would no longer hold his grief and Arwen let her own tears fall, bringing her head to rest upon his chest, as she had done countless times since the moment of her birth. He brought his arms about her, feeling her conform to him as she had ever done.
“Titheniell . . . I have listened to your heartbeat since before you entered the world. I am not sure that I will be able to face a world where I will never hear it again. I survived my brother’s choice of mortality but I am not certain that I will be able to do so a second time.”
Arwen’s arms slipped about his neck, entwining in the dark swathe of his hair and her sobs shook him. “How can you say that? You gave us your blessing. How much more do you think it will pain me if I leave Estel now? For if I forsake my love and travel with you to Valinor it is I who will be living without the beat of a heart in my fea. Would you subject me to that?”
Her words struck deep into his soul. Could he watch her go through such torment? It had nearly killed him when Elros died. The only way to assuage the agony of his twin’s death had been to care for his descendants. The result of that had been the arrival of Aragorn in his household. And that decision had brought about Aragorn’s meeting with Arwen. It seemed to Elrond that he had brought about his own doom. Or at the very least, that of his youngest child.
He had known of the love between Arwen and Estel from its first stirrings, had seen the warmth of their eyes when they met, listened to the quickening of her heartbeat when they were within sight of each other. For a long time he had simply observed, hoping that the difference in their races would eventually force them apart. But time had only strengthened their love.
Galadriel had seen and even aided it for she was ever the rebel. It had been in Lothlorien that Arwen had pledged herself to Aragorn and for many years Elrond had refused to even speak to his mother by marriage. But she had simply out waited his silence. Beside Galadriel, Elrond was but a callow youth. He had always been vaguely surprised that she had allowed him to marry her daughter at all. But even she could not stand in the way of the love between Celebrian and Elrond.
Galadriel could no more stop the course of love than could Elrond. He bent to kiss his daughter’s head and at the feather touch of his lips Arwen’s sobs faded.
“I am sorry. I have been selfish and hard of heart. You love him.”
Arwen tilted her face upward, kissing away a tear that dampened his cheek. “You are not hard of heart. That is why you grieve and I love you all the more for it.” She drew back, taking his hands in hers once more. “I have loved you all of my life Ada, and will continue to do so, until the end of my days. I can offer no more love than that.”
Bringing her hands to his lips, Elrond kissed each before looking long at them. This memory would be his last. Never again would he touch these soft fingers. He released them tenderly.
“I could ask no more of you. And I will love you for all of my days. Be happy, my Titheniell.”
Titheniell = little daughter (sindarin)
Naneth = Mum (sindarin)
Ada = Dad (sindarin)
B2MeM 2017 prompt - “I love the silent hour of night, For blissful dreams may then arise, Revealing to my charmed sight What may not bless my waking eyes. “ Anne Brontë
I don't own anything here, except my imagination. The world, events and characters were imagined by JRR Tolkien.
“It's a cold day, Sam.” Aragorn dropped a soft blanket over Sam's shoulders even as the hobbit started at his quiet voice.
Sam pulled the edges close as the tall ranger folded long limbs to sit, cross-legged at his side, back toward the fire. “Thank you. 'Tis that. I reckon that wind blows straight down off the snow on them mountains. I don't see how folks could survive here in deep winter.”
Although hidden in this deep hollow of land they dare only set a small fire, for fear of unfriendly eyes. It gave off little smoke and even less heat, so everyone had set out their bedding as close to it as was safe. Sam had rolled himself in cloak and blanket like everyone else but sleep eluded him so he had got up as silently as possible just to try a pipe or two.
Aragorn fished about inside his tunic to produce pipe and the weed to pack it. He held out his pouch to Sam who was just knocking out the spent fillings of his own pipe. Sam accepted it, thumbing fragrant shreds into the bowl and accepting a light from the fire. For a moment both drew deeply, sitting in companionable silence.
About their small fire various sized bundles of cloaks and blankets indicated the presence of most of the rest of the Fellowship. Of course, Legolas was not among them. Aragorn knew that the young elven prince was perched in the uppermost branches of a tree behind them. As always, Legolas took more than his share of time on guard duty and, although Gimli was the one officially on watch, he provided another pair of eyes.
Sam used the long stem of his pipe to point to a grey line of low tumbled wall nearby. “Looks like someone was tryin' to keep animals here once. Are there still farms?”
Aragorn shook his head. “Not for many years. The people who farmed this land left many generations ago. Hollin is an empty place.”
Sam took another draw on his pipe. “Tis thin soil. Only fit for sheep but I reckon you could make a livin' if you'd a mind to.”
Aragorn's lips quirked. “Were you thinking of moving, Sam? Is that what's keeping you awake?”
“No indeed, Sir!” Sam spluttered. “Move from the Shire? My Rose wouldn't allow it.” He looked down at his feet. “And she certain, sure, wouldn't come with me, even if she is a farmer's lass.”
Aragorn grew curious. “Who's Rose? You've not spoken of her before.” He wrapped cold fingers about the bole of his pipe, aware that above them Legolas had grown still.
Sam continued to look at his feet in silence for so long that Aragorn wondered if he had fallen asleep after all. Then the little gardener spoke, his voice only for the ranger's ears. “Rose is daughter to Farmer Cotton. He's got land just outside Hobbiton and, well, me and Rose have been walkin' out a bit. I was goin' to speak to her Da.” He paused to sigh. “But then Mr Gandalf came back and things got a bit mixed.”
“I imagine they did. Walking out sounds serious. Does your master know your plans.”
Sam shook his head, his tone growing urgent. “No sir and I hope as how you won't tell him, neither. I told Rose we was goin' to be away for a while and she says she'll wait. I didn't tell her all, 'cause it's not my place to tell Mr Frodo's business. But I made a promise to Mr Gandalf and I aint had time to make one to Rose yet.”
Aragorn laid a gentle hand upon Sam's shoulder. “I understand, Sam. It is difficult to leave behind those we love, not knowing when or even if we will ever see them again. Is that what is keeping you awake?”
Sam's eyes widened in sudden insight. “Have you got a sweetheart waitin' for you too?”
Aragorn's face was turned away to the horizon, and for a few moments Sam thought he may have overstepped the mark. It was difficult enough to keep his place in the Shire when Mr Frodo was so free with his friendship, but it was harder still to know how to talk to wizards and elves and men. Mr Aragorn did not seem cross when he answered, however.
“I have set my sights upon the Lady Arwen. You saw her in Rivendell I think. She is the daughter of Lord Elrond.”
Sam was impressed. “The beautiful lady with the long dark hair? The one who sat under a canopy at the feast?”
“Aye. She has been compared to Luthien of old and I believe there is no-one alive among all the races so fair of face and heart.”
Something in his wistful tone made Sam ask, “Have you an understandin' then? Was you thinkin' of getting' wed when you come back?”
Aragorn's shake of the head was barely visible. “We have what I think you would call an understanding. But her father has decreed that I may not wed her until I return, and I may not return until certain events have taken place. More than that I am not free to impart at present.”
Sam drew on his pipe, bending to examine it more closely when it produced no smoke. “Seems like we're both in a bit of a pickle, if you don't mind me saying so, Mr Aragorn, Sir.”
Aragorn held out a glowing twig but Sam shook his head, knocking out the ashes of his pipe on a nearby stone. “I reckon I've had enough for tonight.” He stifled a yawn and added another branch to the fire.
“Why don't you take some rest, Sam? You look tired and your watch is not until near noon.” Aragorn touched the twig to his own pipe, hoping for a couple more draws.
Sam only shuffled uncomfortably however. “I'm not sure I want to sleep. I dream, see.”
Aragorn thought he could see only too well. “You dream of Rose and it hurts that you are so far apart.”
“Aye, Sir. I could almost wish for bad dreams but most often I see Rosie and that hurts even more. You'd think after all we've been through and what's maybe still to come that I'd have fodder enough for nightmares. But when I close my eyes all I see is my Rose.” Sam tried to sound nonchalant when he asked, “Is it the same with you?”
Aragorn scraped the ashes from his pipe with a small knife. “Do I dream of Rose Cotton?” he asked with a twinkle.
Sam snorted. “Now, don't you go makin' fun of me. You know what I mean. Do you dream of your Lady Arwen?”
Aragorn tucked away his pipe, his tone again serious. “I do. And I thank the Valar for that pleasure for as long as she is before me I am reminded why I have agreed to undertake this quest.” He reached aside to squeeze Sam's arm gently. “Take heart from your dreams, Sam, however bittersweet. There may come a time when they are all that stands between you and the darkness.” He nodded to the small bundle of blankets that was Frodo. “I could almost wish that he had such dreams. But then, perhaps not.”
Sam's wide yawn prevented him from asking Aragorn to elaborate upon that observation and the ranger chuckled. “I think you had best take to your blankets, Sam. Your master needs you awake and rested this evening.”
“Yes sir. I think I can, now. Will you be takin' some rest too?”
Aragorn stood, helping his smaller companion to his feet and accepting the return of his blanket. “One more round of the perimeter and then I will.”
Sam tiptoed to his place next to Frodo and rolled himself in his blanket but just before he settled down he whispered. “Good day to you Mr Aragorn. Sweet dreams, Sir.”
Aragorn nodded before turning to look up into the tree. His searching eyes soon found the answering glitter of Legolas' gaze and the elven warrior's sueded voice was cobweb soft. “The perimeter is secure. Take your own advice and dream while you may.”
I don’t own Bag End, or Sam, nor any of those lovely hobbits, nor wizards or dwarves. The whole lot belongs to JRR Tolkien and I’m just borrowing them for a few minutes . . . meanin’ no 'arm an’ I 'ope none will come of it.
We get dwarves passin’ through Bywater sometimes. They come to market, bringin’ all kind of knickknacks. The little un’s love the toys, though most can’t afford the prices and are a bit scared of ‘em. I mean . . . all that hair so you can’t hardly see their faces. And the boots! I wouldn’t like my toes stomped on by them boots. No, indeed.
Not that they was walking today. Took their cart right through the middle of Hobbiton and up to Mr Bilbo’s front door as bold as you please. I hope he aint plannin’ to go gallivantin’ off with them again. He’s gettin’ a mite old for that . . . not that he looks it most days. But on a time you can see it in his eyes. They can look tired.
I aint no good at keepin’ secrets. Ma used to say the little switch in my head that stops thoughts comin’ out my mouth sometimes gets stuck in the open position. So I try not to listen in to stuff ‘cos if I don’t hear it I can’t tell it. But I can’t help but hear when folks go and chat, right the other side of an open window, now can I?
There was Mr Bilbo and Master Frodo sittin’ at the table drinkin’ tea and me outside, trimmin’ the wisteria.
“We’ll need to get the big bedroom tidy Frodo. Gandalf is due tomorrow.”
“So early? Please tell me he’s going to bring fireworks?”
Mr Bilbo laughed. “Of course. This is a very special party; your coming of age and my eleventyfirst.”
Now, I can understand having a party for a comin’ of age. But eleventy one is a strange age to hold a special party for. It ain’t my place to go sayin’ it to Mr Bilbo, but it is. Tis a good age to be an’ I hope I get to live that long. But it’s a funny age to be celebrating special. A hundred I can understand or even a hundred and ten, but eleventy-one is an odd one.
That’s when they moved off, mayhap to sort out that bedroom. But I heard Master Frodo saying, “I don’t know whether people will remember the reason for the party, but if we’re to have Gandalf’s fireworks, they’ll certainly remember the event itself.”
When we was havin’ supper later, the Gaffer asked about my day. And that’s when that switch went and got stuck again. Then Marigold told her friend Tilly, and Tilly told her brother, and he told Mistress Proudfoot. And now everyone knows there’s to be fireworks at the party.
I can hear my poor Ma now. “Sam Gamgee, my lad. Aint never any good comes of eaves droppin’. You mark my words.”
I bet she’s spinnin’ in her grave. “Sorry, Ma.”
Well, he’s here. The wizard. I thought Mistress Proudfoot’s eyes were goin’ to pop right out of her head. I know Mr Gandalf a bit cos he’s been visitin’ Bag End on and off for years . . . although he don’t go about in the village much when he do. He spins tales as good as Mr Bilbo’s when he’s had a glass or two of Old Winyards.
Folks is scared of him and I don’t blame ‘em. He’s so big and he wears them huge boots. Not like dwarf boots but nearly as tall as me they are. And that hat makes him even bigger. They see big folk sometimes but only on the borders and they’re usually seen off. But, Hobbiton bein’ in the middle of the Shire, or round about, we don’t see many here.
Then there’s that fact he’s a wizard. You don’t want to cross a wizard. My Ma didn’t have a sayin’ for wizards but I bet she would have if she’d seen Mr Gandalf. Most folks stuck their heads out the door just long enough to wish they hadn’t. We’re sensible folk in Hobbiton and don’t hold with runnin’ off to kill dragons. Not that I wouldn’t mind seein’ an elf or two. I wonder if Mr Bilbo’s invited any to the party. Now, there would be a sight.
Don’t know how Tom Chubb is goin’ to graze his sheep in that field. All them carts have churned it up good an’ proper and the ponies have nibbled what ain’t been churned. I expect Mr Bilbo will have paid him rent for its use, cos he’s good like that. But still, the sheep won’t be happy.
The young uns’ have been taken by the fancy paintin’ on them carts too. Don’t reckon I’ve ever seen so many colours in one place, ‘cept on one of Mistress Lobelia’s dresses. My Gaffer says it ain’t natural. But then, Gaffer thinks a lot of things ain’t natural. The young uns was climbin’ all over them carts until Mr Bilbo paid Ted Sandyman’s lad to keep ‘em off. Not that it worked. Bert’s just collectin’ a penny from each, for him to look the other way while they clamber.
Well, I can’t sit here all day. This bag of party invitations is heavy. I reckon Mr Bilbo’s invited all the Shire, even some folk from away down in Buckland and that’s a tidy way to come. There’ll be even more carts and ponies in the field and the inns is goin’ to be burstin’ at the seams. Maisy Greenbow, as runs the Ivy Bush says she’s goin’ to string up an awnin’ in the yard so folks can camp out there if they have to. Says she won’t even charge for its use. Of course, if folks nip in for the odd pint or bite to eat I reckon the trade would more than make up for the use of the yard. She’s a good business woman, is Maisy. And she brews a crackin’ pint. None better.
Poor Mr Bilbo. That bell on his door aint stopped for days. Folks from all over Hobbiton have been tryin’ to see inside cos they know there’s a wizard and dwarves up there. I saw two lads tryin’ to crawl in through the kitchen window this mornin’. My gaffer spotted ‘em and, arthritis or no, he saw ‘em off.
I watched Master Frodo pinnin’ a notice on the gate this mornin’ but that’s not stoppin’ folk callin’. Why would it? Most folk round here don’t see no use for readin’ and writin’. I’ve tried to tell ‘em what it says but I don’t reckon they’re over interested. Not knowin’ their letters just gives ‘em an excuse to ring the bell.
I think the only reason Mr Bilbo don’t take down that bell is that he don’t want folk scratchin the paintwork on his door with their knockin’. Down in the Ivy Bush its become a joke. Every time one of the guests rings for service in the private parlour the whole tap room pipes up with, “Letter for Mr Bilbo!”
Well, I never did. Practically next door and I never heard a thing. You go to bed next door to an empty field and next morning someone’s cut a hole in the bank, built a gate . . . with steps mind you . . . and covered the field with piles of poles and ropes. Mistress Lobelia nearly had a fit of the vapours when she saw it. Mind you, she’s always havin’ the vapours. Marigold reckons its cos she wears her stays too tight.
Some folk reckon it were done with magic but I think it was them dwarves. Mr Bilbo once told me they rebuilt a huge wall in a day after the dragon left. So a gate and some steps would be nothin’ to them. But they’d no call to be so sneaky in the doin’ of it I must say.
Oh, here they come trooping out of Bag End as bold as you please, with arms full of canvas.
Maisy Greenbow is sendin’ her best cook to help with the party tomorrow. I reckon she’d have sent her second best if she could but, as no-one’s goin’ to be eating at the Ivy Bush on the party day she’s sendin’, Bill. I reckon there’s also a bit of competition in it, cos all the inns from miles around have sent their cooks too. If Maisy puts on a good show at the party she could be lucky and get some of the folks who’ve travelled stayin’ at her inn for a few extra days. There’s nothin’ like knowing you’ll get a good breakfast or two inside you to encourage folks to stay. Aye, she’s a good business head on them shoulders.
Well, here it is . . . September the twenty second.
Tis a good job the weather’s brightened up cos it looked like rain yesterday. I wonder if Mr Gandalf can change the weather. Is he that kind of a wizard? I’ve never seen him do magic but he must be able to, or why else would he be called a wizard? Maybe it’s his fireworks that are magic.
Oooh, the gate’s openin’.
“Mornin’ Mr Bilbo, Master Frodo. ‘Tis a grand day for a party. Happy birthday to you both, sirs. And many more of ‘em.”
Tolkien described Hollin as an empty land but I'm thinking there may have been one or two communities scratching a living there.
They say this was elvish land once. Hollin, it’s called on the maps but folks round here ain’t much into maps . . . too busy scratching life out o’ this cursed thin land. Course, some say fair folk never lived here, even that there weren’t no fair folk . . . that they’re some fireside tale for a winter’s eve.
‘Tis a while since we’ve had strangers here and these surely live up to the name. The old man and the scruffy fellow look plain enough, though there’s a watching air about ‘em. And we’ve had the odd dwarf tradin’ in market afore, but them children with the old eyes make me shudder. Then there’s that big man with the grand clothes, proud as a king he is and an odd one even among them. Them horse lords yonder side the mountains don’t dress that fancy. And there’s the ironmongery on ‘em all. They’re geared up for trouble. Whether giving or getting ain’t mine to know.
But ‘tis the other that’s brought a hush to market. Tall and pale as a silver birch in starlight he is. Clear and sharp as a winter moon but soft as mornin’ mist in summer. Fireside tale a walkin’.
This is a film version snippet. Theoden's thoughts as he awaits the attack at Helms Deep.
“Hold!” The word flies from his lips before I can even draw breath to shout it. And my men obey him without question. Who is this bedraggled man who can command elves, dwarves and men? This dirty youth who even has my sister daughter besotted.
He bowed his knee to me outside the Hall but he does not talk to me as subject to king but as my equal. And yet . . . I find myself listening to him . . . as an equal. Oh, I tried to put him down once . . . but my head told me that there was some wisdom in his words, even as my pride spoke out. I look out upon the carapaced swarm of our enemy and see the truth in his warning now. This can only be described as “open war”. And we are trapped here, outnumbered, under provisioned and with our best fighting force leagues away . . . unless Gandalf is able to keep his word. I doubt that he will. Even a wizard has some limitations . . . he cannot lift an army from one part of Middle-earth to another in the blink of an eye. No . . . we must make do with what we have.
Even there, Aragorn has had some influence. The Deeping wall now boasts a troop of elven archers. It is strange to see a lank haired, dirty young man commanding these tall, silent, folk as though he were one of them. And their leader, Haldir, accepts him as his commander . . . almost as he would a king. He has the air of a king . . . but of what is he king?
They tell me that he said he would die as one of us if necessary. I hope it will not come to that . . . but our enemy carpets the ground from cliff to cliff across the valley before us, lightening flaring off their wet armour. He has earned the respect of my men with that comment. He could have fled . . . I think the elf was considering it. But he stayed. And because he stayed, so did the elf and the dwarf. Do my people still trust me in the same way? I am no longer sure.
His companions tell me that Aragorn lived in Rivendell for many years. That elven influence would give him a certain confidence in his manner . . . but there is something more . . . a fire that is not of the elves . . . they are all ice and glass. He has a passion about him and strength of soul that I lost long ago. Where did I lose that flame?
That is why Saruman and Grima found it so easy to overcome me I think. I have lost that passion. But it burns strong in him, even though he tries to hide it. He holds it in check, in deference to me . . . but. My son is gone . . . but my people will be safe in Aragorn’s hands . . . if I should die here.
There is the roar . . . they come.
“Give them a volley!”
“There were soft green slippers set ready beside each bed.”
In The House Of Tom Bombadil – The Fellowship Of The Ring
Pippin dropped onto a thick mattress and picked up one green slipper. Curious, he held it up against the sole of his foot, discovering that it would probably fit.
Merry watched as he dried his hands and face. “Do you think we ought to tell him we don’t?”
Frodo gathered up a pair and sat on the mattress next to Pippin. “Maybe he hasn’t noticed that we don’t. We wouldn’t want to offend him.” He slid first one foot and then the other into the supple green suede and stood up.
With a grimace, Sam followed suit and then remained perfectly still, as though his feet had been nailed to the floorboards. Pippin shrugged, ramming his feet into the footwear and, not to be outdone, Merry did the same.
“Now what?” asked Merry, feet planted firmly on the floor.
“We walk, I suppose,” answered Pippin. He took two steps and came to a sudden stop with a yelp.
Sam yelped too.
At Pippin’s first step his slipper came off with such forward velocity that it flew across the room to hit Sam squarely on the shin. His second step had not been quite so forceful, resulting in that slipper only sliding forward. However, when he lowered his foot the heel ended up half in and half out, and it was landing with his full weight on the back edge of the slipper that had elicited his yelp.
Pippin jumped out of the offending slipper. “That didn’t go well.” He crossed to a scowling but still frozen Sam and reclaimed his footwear with a shrug of apology.
Merry slid a foot along the floor and followed it with the other. “There must be a knack to this,” he muttered as he began a slow circuit of the room, arms swinging from side to side and looking, for all the world, as though he were wading through treacle.
Frodo lifted his foot, tilting it upward at once as he felt the slipper begin to drop off. When he brought his foot down again the back of the footwear landed first however and the whole thing just fell off to one side. He too yelped as his arch landed along the hard edge of the sole and he began to hop about the room with his foot in his hands.
Sam remained perfectly still, hoping that someone . . . anyone . . . would work out how to walk in these things.
Pippin looked from the frozen Sam to the slithering Merry and then to a hopping Frodo and couldn’t help himself. He started to snigger. When the others turned to him in question the snigger became a giggle and the giggle grew into a guffaw. Merry had never been able to resist his cousin’s giggle and he began to snort and chuckle too, quickly followed by Frodo. Even Sam began to see the ludicrous side.
By the time Tom came to find out what had happened to his tardy supper guests all four hobbits were rolling on the floor helplessly, surrounded by an abandoned scattering of soft green slipper.
Legolas waits for one final sign that light has prevailed.
Ithilien was not so far away, after all. And something had been calling to him for many days now . . . a call even stronger than the gulls that sometimes rode the thermals inland from the coast.
His horse skittered nervously on the arid ground, sensing the history of this place, and Legolas laid a calming hand upon the pale grey neck. “Peace, Rathan. We shall not stay long.”
The elf scanned the ground about the huge shattered gates but found only ruin and ash. So now he turned his attention inward, listening. Through the still loud jangle of discord his keen ear picked out another sound. Fragile as gossamer on a summer’s morning it flickered in his mind and he urged the horse towards it.
Horse and rider had almost crossed the threshold when Legolas drew rein. Landing lightly upon the blasted earth, clear blue elven eyes turned to the corner of the gates, where shadow shielded the ground from sun’s full glare. His smile returning, he knelt in wonder.
Tiny, heart shaped leaves of emerald green paired themselves up a slender, white furred stem. And at the apex of this wonder one pale pink crown of petals nodded gently at him. Legolas caressed a single leaf, hearing the music respond, growing bright and loud beneath his touch.
Then another voice called and he glanced up, to see pale wings against a blue sky, impossibly far inland. He raised a hand in acknowledgement.
“Aye. Life returns and it is indeed time to leave.”
“What's this one, Da?” Gimli held up what looked to him to be a lump of dirty grey quartz.
Gloin's bushy brows rose, his voice harsh. “Don't drop it! That, laddie, is a diamond.”
Gimli jumped so suddenly that he almost did drop the stone. Only generations of inherited respect for the cutting of gems enabled him to retain his grip, and he looked down at the unprepossessing stone in his gloved palm. “If elves think these are special I'm not surprised that Ma says they're touched in the head.” But he did hand back the diamond when Gloin demanded its return with an imperious wave of his hand.
“Well, it's not worth much like that, but once it's been cut and charged properly . . . now that's a different matter.” Gloin drew out a shallow drawer and Gimli gasped in awe.
On a cloth of deepest blue sat row upon row of sparkling, glittering, clear diamonds. Gloin nodded proudly. “Aye. These were charged last night. And a more perfect night you couldn't find. The moon was full and not a cloud in the sky.” His eyes took on an avaricious gleam. “That elven kinglet will pay a pretty penny for gems like these. And if not he, then the men away down in Gondor are not averse to them either.”
Gimli frowned. “I've been told about cutting but what's, 'charging', Da?”
“Do they teach you nothing practical in that school of yours?” Gloin tutted, then selected a cut gem and held it up to the light. “A diamond is just a diamond unless you set it out in the moonlight a while. Then it soaks up the glow and comes to life. Look here.”
Gimli allowed his father to draw him close and both looked up into the faceted jewel. Sure enough, when turned at just the right angle, a glimmer of moonlight was seen, caught right at the heart of the stone. “It's beautiful, Da. Will you teach me how to cut and charge them one day?”
Gloin smiled, clapping his son on the back. “Aye, laddie. That I will. Now that we have our mountain back there'll be plenty to practice on.” Then he frowned as he considered the value of the diamonds before him. “But I think we'll start you off on a few bits of rose quartz and work our way up to diamonds.”
“Well Sam, what do you think of Master Elrond’s table?” Aragorn asked, popping an interesting looking pie on Sam’s plate.
“I reckon I haven’t seen a spread like this since Mr Bilbo’s leavin’ party.” He collected a tiny cucumber sandwich, then another because there weren’t more ‘an a mouthful in elven sandwiches.
Aragorn grinned, selecting a delicate strawberry tart for his own plate, its circumference a froth of whipped cream. Sam’s eyes widened and he added one to his own, already groaning plate.
He could see why Mr Bilbo liked it here but Sam missed his own kitchen. The food here was good but they didn’t go in much for ballast. About now he could devour a meat and tater pie with a good thick crust and lots of gravy.
He returned to his place at the little table set up especially for the hobbits. “When do you reckon we’ll be settin’ out, Mr Frodo?”
His master smiled weakly. “I don’t know, Sam and I’m not altogether sure I want to.”
Sam popped a sandwich into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. Elves had all the time in the world but it’s the job soonest begun that’s soonest finished, his gaffer said.
Tolkien owns everyone and I own no one.
Everyone knew that Bilbo Baggins told a great tale. Every one of Hobbiton's children knew his story of the great dragon, Smaug, by heart. Nearly every one of the adults in the Ivy Bush Tavern could recite Bilbo's adventure, from dwarven tea party to epic battle. Everyone was of the opinion that a story was the only good thing to come from adventuring, other than treasure. Everyone said that Bilbo Baggins came home with a chest filled with gold, and everyone took both treasure and story to be no more than the product of an over-educated mind. Everyone in the Shire knew that too much education could be bad for a body.
No one outside Bag End knew that Frodo Baggins could also weave a good tale. Not one of Hobbiton's bairns would ever lose sleep over stories of giant spiders. No one walked home, trembling in the dark, from the Ivy Bush, for Frodo never spoke of black clad riders, evil wizards, orcs and dark lords. No one accused Deputy Mayor Baggins of spinning tall tales. On the other hand, no one thought him an ordinary hobbit either.
Only after he disappeared that second time did everyone begin to ask what no one had dared before.
Now Sam opened Frodo's huge, red bound book and No One spoke in the Ivy Bush as Every One leaned in to listen.
They sat in companionable silence. Arwen bent over her embroidery frame, her nimble fingers threading the needle up and down through the black fabric, leaving a trail of silver in their wake. Gandalf stared thoughtfully at the tangled skein of multi-coloured silks in his lap whilst, at their feet, a tiny black kitten pounced and batted at a stray leaf.
The wizard began to tease at a bright yellow thread at the edge of the mass. It seemed to be largely unconnected with the rest but when he had worked at it for a few minutes he found that it dived into the centre of the labyrinth of strands and became lost. Voices drifted across the lawn and he looked up, his eyes taking a moment to adjust. Frodo and Sam were strolling along the edge of a flower bed, still bright with berried shrubs in late autumn. One arm about his master’s waist, Sam was pointing out the different colours with his other hand. Frodo leaned in to his friend’s support but his voice was light and clear and full of questions. They disappeared around a corner and Gandalf returned to the problem in his lap.
So many different types of thread. There were silks, in abundance, but also silver and gold, the gentle fuzz of wool and the soft matte of cotton. All were so different and yet, when combined they could make a thing of great beauty. They had to be put together in an ordered way, however. The result of careless action was sitting beneath his calloused fingers. His stomach grumbled in protest at not having eaten breakfast. In an hour he would be sharing lunch with the Lord of Imladris and the wizard knew that the main topic of conversation was to be the selecting of the members of the Fellowship. He looked down at a slight tug on his robe. The kitten had abandoned its leaf in favour of a loose thread on the hem of wizard’s mantle. Gandalf smiled. One more loose end amongst the rest.
A long loop of royal blue silk presented itself to his fingers. Both ends were lost amongst the web of colours. He finally managed to unravel it from a group of silver threads, which fell free in a separate knot in his hands, but for one that seemed determined to twine around it and be drawn into the complex knot at the centre of his problem.
Arwen’s soft voice gently chided the tiny cat. “Kizzy. Don’t play with that. Here.” She tossed a small ball of grey wool to the tiny creature and it caught it mid-air, batting it towards the lawn and running after it, tail pointed skyward.
After half an hour of pulling, teasing and chasing ends Gandalf began to wonder why he had volunteered for the job. He had been wandering across the terrace when he had seen Arwen struggling with the knot and knew that he could not just leave her to her trouble. Was it a need to meddle in the affairs of others? He had been accused of that before but he did not think so. He had felt an overwhelming need to help. It was a part of his being, like breathing and eating. The noon bell brought him back from his reverie and his stomach growled.
Arwen looked up from her work. “My father will be waiting for you. You had better leave that problem.” Her brows raised in surprise as she surveyed his work of the past hour. Nearly half the threads had been smoothed and skeined, with only the most tightly knotted ball left. “Thank you, Mithrandir. I would not have believed it possible to rescue so much from that chaos.”
He stood, setting the tangle on one side. “With your permission, I shall return after lunch to continue the work.”
Arwen smiled. “You are always welcome, you know that.”
The old man bent to kiss her forehead and then, taking up his staff, returned to the house.
Elrohir’s flawless brows drew up as he surveyed the prone form of his twin upon the bedroom floor. “What ever are you doing, Elladan?”
Elladan’s bottom rose as he backed out from under the huge bed, dustpan and brush in hand. He looked a little dishevelled, dark hair floating about his face. “Ada told me to clean out Frodo’s room, now that the Fellowship have moved on.”
Elladan grimaced. “Don’t ask. It’s a long story.”
“And why were you under the bed?”
Elladan waved the dustpan at his brother. It was filled with small and large balls of grey hairy matter and Elrohir stepped back in confusion. “What in all of Middle earth is that?”
“It’s all those woollen blankets we used on Frodo’s bed. Not to mention the pillows and down filled quilts.” He grinned. “This . . . my dear brother . . . is hobbit fluff.”
Aeglos can translate as, Thorn.
He set the bundle upon a table, only staring at it for a long time. When his hand reached out to lift the cloth he noted its tremor and paused to clench and unclench his fist until it stopped. Finally, as he had done every year on this date, he lifted the blue cloth to display one of the few relics of his greatest friend that remained.
The shaft had long since rotted away. Orc blood could be corrosive over time and it had been soaked through in their black ichor when Elrond had retrieved it from the battle field, many days after he had buried its owner, his King. But Aeglos’ mithril blade was clean and bright, the engraving as crisp as the day it had been wrought. He had cleaned it himself, his tears annointing as he worked.
Elrond smiled, remembering how, Gil-galad had allowed him to heft it once. With the impetuosity of youth he had almost taken off his foot at his first swing. Gil-galad had laughed and sent him for lessons with the sword master, declaring that with a shorter weapon Elrond would be less likely to do harm to his friends or himself. Determined to prove himself, Elrond had become a master with the blade.
Years later, at the Siege of Barad-dur he drank his fill of fighting and death. Lance and sword were put away; replaced by lancet and scalpel. Now Elrond of Imladris wielded only healing in his strong hands.
He stared at those hands now, turning them this way and that, and moonlight glanced blue upon Gil-galad’s parting gift; both power and shackle. One day he hoped that it too would become some cloth wrapped relic; that he would hug his dearest friend close once more before the world drew its final breath.
A gentle breeze brushed the hilltop, combing the ruins. In truth it was hardly a hill and not much of a ruin. But it was the highest point of what had once been a very beautiful garden, topped with a fine pergola. Even now, ancient rose bushes could be seen stranded amongst brambles and ivy and, here and there, a crumbling stone figure leaned precariously at the foot of a flight of impassible, overgrown steps.
The house itself had long ago succumbed to tree root and rain. Carved wooden railings and balconies were decayed to stumps, leaving intrepid explorers clinging to the rock cliff behind them to avoid falling into the deep chasm of the valley below. Marble columns tilted, sending once finely tiled roofs sliding to their death upon delicate mosaic floors. The ruins of this ancient home were now too dangerous to enter but sunbeams revealed glimpses of finely painted walls and the shelves of what was once an extensive library. The books were long gone, whether to rot or the greedy hand of looters mattered little now.
Few travelers came here and even fewer stayed beyond sunset. Those who did said that when the stars came out pale figures, slender and graceful, walked hallways and bridges that had long ago crumbled to dust. And sometimes, when Earendil rode the night sky toward the dawn, fair music could be heard and the figures danced and sang in tongues not heard in Middle earth for many generations of man. But if one were intrepid enough to try and touch these beings it was said that they dissolved into the mist and all would be silent again.
But a few years more, and The Last Homely House East of the Sea would slip quietly into the land of legend and fireside tale.
The travelers turned away, two sets of grey eyes sparkling with tears. This would be their last visit to the valley.
Elrond gathered Estel onto his knee and, with the carelessness of long familiarity, the youngster shuffled until he was comfortable. His foster father waited patiently . . . as he always did . . . and tried to ignore the little booted heels that dug into his leg.
“Ready?” Elrond asked with a smile as he drew a long wooden box towards them across his desk.
Estel nodded and Elrond had to tuck an arm about the small waist or the youngster would have slipped off his perch in his eagerness to see the promised history aid. His foster father’s nimble fingers released the clasp and lifted the lid.
Eyes widening in awe Estel leaned closer for there, nestled in blue velvet, was the sword of the last crowned king of Gondor. When he would have reached forward to test the edge of the blade Elrond captured his small hand easily. “No. It is sharp,” he warned.
Before Estel could pout Elrond took the small hand firmly in his and separated one pointing finger, curling the others safely into his palm. He guided the little finger slowly along the tang of the long blade, tracing the letters engraved there in an elven script Estel had not yet been taught. As he moved the finger Elrond spoke softly.
“Sun and Moon Birthed Me. Telchar Wrought Me. Narsil Am I.”
Then he moved Estel’s hand higher to touch the leather wrapped grip with its jewel tipped pommel, allowing the lad to to take some control here. The still chubby fingers were not yet long enough to wrap around the hilt, but Estel compared the different textures for a few moments. When he had taken his fill of exploring he leaned back to look up at his teacher.
“Did you really see King Isildur cut off the nasty man’s finger with this?”
Elrond smiled. “I did. His father even let me swing Narsil once, long before it was broken.”
Estel considered. “You are very old,” he commented, before moving on swiftly to ask, “Is it heavy?”
“It is, indeed. Much heavier than my own blade.”
Small grey eyes grew wider and Elrond tried not to wince as Estel wriggled around to face him, those sharp little heels kicking him in the shins several times. “I didn’t know you had a sword, Adar. Where is it? Can I see it? Can I hold it? Why don’t you carry it?”
Elrond raised a hand to stem the sudden rush of questions. “My sword is safely locked away and I do not now carry it because I have no need of it within the safety of this valley. Perhaps I will show it to you upon another occasion. As for holding it . . . I think you will need to grow a little first.”
Estel grinned a gap toothed smile. “If I had a sword I’d wear it all the time and go into battle every day.” He threw his arm wide to demonstrate the breadth of his swing and Elrond tucked back his head just in time to avoid getting a black eye. His shins were not so lucky, however, as Estel turned about once more to examine Narsil.
“Where is it broken? You said it was broken in the big battle.” When he would have reached out to touch Elrond captured his hand again. Then, as he had before, he guided Estel’s finger to a point about two thirds of the way down from the hilt. The two halves of the blade had been married up so carefully in the box that the break was all but invisible to mortal eyes, but Elrond ran his foster son’s finger unerringly along its breadth. What could not be seen by mortal eye could be felt and Estel gasped with delight at this further evidence that this truly was the blade wielded upon that big bad Sauron.
“Is it ever going to be fixed?”
Elrond’s gaze grew distant. “Perhaps it will one day. If a new king comes to claim the throne. And when it is it will need a new name.”
Estel settled more comfortably as Elrond closed the lid of the box and fastened the clasp securely. “When you are a man, full grown, you will have a sword and you will need to give it a name.”
“I shall call my sword Melegrist!” Estel declared firmly.
His foster father grinned, thinking the title more fitting of an axe. “Mighty Cleaver? That would be a fearsome blade indeed.”
In the distance a bell rang and Elrond began to set down his little pupil. “It is time for your lunch, Tithen Pen.”
Estel scrambled up to peck his cheek. “Hannon le, Adar.” Then he scrambled down, inflicting further bruises to Elrond’s shins in the process.
Once the little Edain had departed, slamming the door behind him in his eagerness to reach the luncheon table, Elrond reopened the box. Down many generations of man he had related the tale of the last great battle and revealed to Isildur’s heirs this now ancient blade. Would Aragorn, Son of Arathorn, finally be the one to claim the birthright of his line?
On Mothering Sunday Esmeralda noticed that Frodo did not appear at board for either first or second breakfast. This was the morning when all young hobbits brought their mothers flowers; indeed Merry had leapt upon his parent’s bed at dawn to present them with a posy of wild flowers, still covered in dew. Esmeralda had dug Saradoc firmly in the ribs when he began to warn their son of the dangers of leaving the Hall unaccompanied, so early in the day. Brandy Hall was well protected and the flowers had clearly only been gleaned from the lawn outside the front door.
Now elevenses were coming up and there was still no sign of Frodo. She found him in his room, staring out across the fields to where the Brandywine flowed serenely.
“Hello, Frodo. Are you not well?” Esmeralda laid a hand upon his brow, sitting upon the bed at his side. There was no sign of fever.
“I’m fine. Thank you, Auntie Esme.”
“You haven’t had any breakfast, though.”
“I’m not very hungry.” Frodo ducked his head, laying a cheek upon his upraised knees.
Esme stroked his hair. She had been expecting this and yet, now that the day arrived, she still did not have the words. “You miss your Mama and it just feels worse today, doesn’t it?”
Frodo leaned into her side and Esme wrapped an arm about him.
“I want her back, Auntie.” His voice broke. “I know she can’t come back but I want her so much.”
“Oh Poppet.” Esme gathered him to her bosom and rocked as he cried silently.
When he was spent she helped him wash his face and led him to the sitting room of their private suite. There Esmeralda sat him at the table to feed him toast and tea. Merry’s little posy sat between them.
When Frodo brought his empty plate to the kitchen Esmeralda handed him a single bright daffodil in a cup of water. “This is for you, Poppet. I think your Mama would want you to know she was thinking of you today, as well.”
Pippin selected another walnut from the dish at his side and whacked it. The shell shattered with a loud crack and he set too, picking out the creamy flesh. “How long have they been out there now?”
Merry looked up at the clock tower. “Four hours.” He filched a bit of nut and Pippin scowled, moving the rest beyond his reach.
“I hope that means luncheon soon. I’m starving.”
Merry snorted. “You’ve been eating non-stop since second breakfast.”
“Well, they haven’t given us elevenses yet. And it’s past eleven, I’m sure.” He smashed another nut. “How long does it take to hand over a ring, anyway?”
Merry frowned. “I have an awful feeling that there won’t be much handing over being done.”
Pippin’s hand stopped half way to his mouth. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, that I know our cousin well enough to guess that he feels responsible in some way and that he’ll probably volunteer to go whenever with whoever decides to do whatever with it.” Merry folded his arms, his frown deepening.
Pippin pulverised another nutshell as he tried to unravel that statement.
“Pip. What are you using to smash those nuts?”
“I found it up there.” The youngster pointed to a balcony above them where the back of an elegant statue could just be seen. “It’s the hilt of some old sword.” He held it up. “The blade was broken so I don’t think they’ll mind me using it. The pommel makes a perfect nut cracker.”
“Frodo, I know you’ve got them. Let me wash your hair. It will stop the itching.”
Getting down on hands and knees, Primula lifted the coverlet to find huge blue eyes blinking from shadows beneath the bed, tears spilling over dark lashes.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of, Poppet. Nearly every child in Brandy Hall has them. That’s why we need to wash everyone’s hair with special soap.”
Frodo flew into her arms, burying his head in her shoulder.
“What’s the matter?”
“Wanted to go . . . boat . . . you and Papa . . . after supper. Wont . . . with wet hair.”
“I’m sorry, but you don’t want to catch a chill. You can come with us tomorrow.”
“Promise?” he sniffled.
“Promise.” Primula bent to kiss his curls and thought better of it. “Let’s get these nasty things seen to.”
She gathered up her son. He was getting too big to be carried but Primula liked having him nestled in her arms. Perhaps it was time he had a baby sister or brother? She smiled. It had been a long time since she and Drogo had gone boating alone in the moonlight.
Just where did the four hobbits obtain those lovely waistcoats at the end of the movie?
“Well now. And isn’t this nice. It’s a long time since we’ve shared a birthday party, Frodo my lad.” Bilbo beamed at his nephew across the hearth.
The five hobbits sat contentedly before the fire in Bilbo’s small room, having partaken of a veritable feast.
Frodo took a sip of his wine and smiled. It had almost felt normal today. This was not the Shire, but there was a peace in Rivendell that calmed and soothed. “It seems a very long time, Bilbo. I’m so glad we were back in time.”
The elder hobbit blinked and sat up straighter in his chair. “Bless me. I forgot all about your presents, lads. We can’t have a birthday without presents. Sam . . . would you be so good as to look in that chest at the foot of my bed. There should be some parcels in there with all your names on them.”
Pippin was up before Sam. “I’ll help you.” The comment brought a laugh to everyone’s lips.
“Pippin! In some ways you never grow up,” snorted Merry as the other two collected packages and returned to the circle of chairs drawn up before the fireplace. If Frodo’s face grew distant at the comment, the others said nothing.
“Well, hand them around lads. I had them made especially for you all by the elves. So I know they’ll fit.”
There was a general ripping of paper and the fire blazed merrily as it was added to the fuel. Then there was a moment of silence as four faces gazed in wonder at the beautiful garments before them. Each had been gifted a waistcoat.
Sam’s was of a golden brown velvet, almost the same hue as his eyes . . . the colour of beech trees in a fine autumn. Pippin’s was of a deep green wool, lined with finest silk and Merry blinked in wonder at the mustard silk that had been quilted in stitches so fine that he would need one of Bilbo’s magnifying glasses to separate them.
There was a small sob and all turned to stare at Frodo. In his lap was a silver-grey waistcoat of the most exquisite figured silk, with two rows of silver buttons.
Bilbo leaned forward in concern. “Whatever is it, lad? Don’t you like it?”
Frodo shook his head and wiped away a tear with his shirtsleeve. “I love it with all my heart, Bilbo dear. But I have no presents to give you all. I’m sorry. I’m afraid there wasn’t time.”
“Well, I don’t know about the others, but I have my present,” Bilbo replied, his vague grey-blue eyes regaining some of their old light. “I have you safely back at my side. That is the best present you could give me and I will take no other . . . save perhaps one. Will you not give your old uncle a birthday hug?”
“Oh, Bilbo . . .” Within a heartbeat Frodo was on his knees at Bilbo’s side, his arms wrapped strongly about the ancient frame and his tearful face buried in his uncle’s shoulder.
Frodo says goodbye to Pippin at the Grey Havens. A slightly AU version.
Pippin tossed the stone as far as he could, the plunk of it's landing lost in the sound of breakers on the shore beyond the harbour. He looked at the tall white ship and wondered how deep the water needed to be to accommodate it. Much deeper than the Brandywine, he reckoned. He started as a hand landed on his shoulder and Frodo's whisper came in his ear.
"Careful cousin. Remember what happened last time you threw a stone into a puddle." There was a small smile on Frodo's lips but a sparkle of tears in those large blue eyes and Pippin felt very small, despite the fact that he was now looking down at his cousin. Frodo grunted as he was suddenly enveloped in a huge hug but it took only a split second for him to return it.
When he could recover his breath enough to speak, Frodo turned his cheek to rest upon Pip's chest and they both looked out at the wide grey expanse of water.
"Do you remember when we used to jump puddles, Pippin?"
Pip sniffed and blinked away one of the tears that rolled, unchecked, down his cheeks. "You always found the biggest ones and I was so small. That was mean of you, you know? You always cleared them and I always ended up wet." He glanced down at the dark curls resting against him. "But this is no puddle, Frodo. However tall I grow I will never be able to jump this one."
Frodo patted his cousin's chest gently. "Learning that there are some things that are just too big for you is an important lesson in life. I had hoped that you would learn it young, while the only harm you could come to would be splashed breeches."
Pippin snorted. "You didn't have to go back and face Pervinca. I'm sure that's why I was so small when I was younger. I spent so much time in hot baths that as fast as I grew inches Pervinca scrubbed them off."
Leaning away from him, Frodo looked up into those green-gold eyes. "Well, I think Treebeard took care of that for you. But there's more to growing up than inches, you know." Frodo turned back to the shifting water before them. "I'm just sorry that you had to grow up too soon. That was one puddle I shouldn't have led you into."
The arms wrapped about him grew tighter. "It was no-one's fault, Frodo. And you didn't lead me into it . . . I chose to come with you . . . we all did."
"Why did you come with me, Pip?"
The chest beneath his ear began to shake and Frodo heard his cousin's light giggle bubble up for Pippin's bright soul could not be restrained too long in tears. "Because I love you, you silly goose." Strong hands pushed Frodo away and they faced each other square on. "And that's also why I'm letting you go without me now instead of begging you to stay."
For the first time in what seemed like an age, Pippin saw pale lips curl upwards and there was a flash of the old Frodo in those azure eyes. One, three-fingered hand came to rest upon Pip's shoulder.
"You don't need to jump this puddle, Pip. You've learned to take your own path and for that, at least, I'm glad. Have a full and happy life, cousin. And teach your children to jump puddles while they are still young enough to run home to their mama and a hot bath."
With one final, quick embrace, Frodo turned and Pippin stood still, watching him walk away.
Written for a B2Mem2017 prompt . . . inclement weather.
Frodo sighed as Bilbo began to snore in his armchair by the fire. He loved Bilbo dearly, but his ancient uncle was quite content to spend his days in writing and dozing when inclement weather blew in. Frodo, would rather spend his days exploring this new land that he could see wavering behind the rivulets of rain on the window of their cosy little cottage.
He watched as a couple of tall elves flitted across the path before New Bag End, no doubt on their way to somewhere interesting. From their speed, Frodo relished the insight that even elves did not always enjoy being out in the rain. It seemed wet clothes were uncomfortable, whatever your height.
Before his arrival Frodo had always imagined the West to be a place of perpetual sunshine and clear blue skies. It had taken but a couple of weeks to shatter that image. When he mentioned his disappointment to Elrond he had smiled. “We must have rain to feed the trees. Without it we would be living in a desert,” tilting his head in the way that some elves did before adding, “And surely you would agree that all nature is beautiful, even the rain.”
Bilbo shifted, muttering something incomprehensible in his sleep and Frodo sighed again. Rain was not so beautiful when it trapped one indoors indefinitely. Upon a whim he opened the door, throwing a heavy cloak about his shoulders before stepping into the little, ivy covered porch.
Somewhere elves were singing, their voices blending almost seamlessly with the melody of the rain and lifting Frodo from his ennui. He drew in a deep breath. The air was chilly but the breeze must have been coming off the sea because it held the sweet, sharp tang of seaweed and salt, mingled with the musty undertones of damp earth and the high, clear sweetness of mint from the little herb garden beneath their kitchen window.
Rain blew in shimmering curtains and Frodo listened to it gurgling in the gutter alongside the path. It dripped from the eaves to splash in ever widening puddles and pattered on the leaves of the ivy that twined about the porch. Despite the overcast sky, one stray sunbeam was captured and fractured by a thousand drops of water so that Frodo was reminded of Gimli's descriptions of the glittering caves of Helms Deep.
He held out a hand to feel the tiny pinprick tattoo of a hundred drops on his palm. Turning it this way and that he watched as the steam curled upward and then slowed as his flesh was cooled by the deluge. Tucking his hand back into the warmth of his cloak he looked up, surprised to see Lord Elrond, statue like just a few feet away, watching him. Like Frodo, he wore a long, heavy cloak, oiled against the worst of the deluge.
“Good afternoon, Frodo. The weather is a little inclement for travelling abroad so I thought you would appreciate some company, but perhaps you were intending to take a walk after all. I would be happy to accompany you if that is your wish.”
Frodo grinned, stepping aside to wave his friend through the door. “I decided to see what you found so appealing about rain.”
“And what did you discover?” Rain dripped unheeded from the tip of Elrond's nose.
“That I enjoy it better from the other side of a pane of glass. I think I'd rather have a cup of tea if you would care to join me.”
Elrond chuckled as he ducked inside, pausing to offer Frodo a cloth wrapped bundle from beneath his sheltering cloak. “I believe it is tea time.”
Both smiled as Bilbo's drowsy voice called, “Frodo, is that someone at the door?”
“Yes, uncle. It is Elrond and he has brought a cake.”
Bilbo's voice was drowsy no longer. “How uncommonly decent of him. I'll go and put on the kettle. The lady Celebrian always bakes such lovely cakes.”
It seemed there was something to be said for rainy afternoons in the West after all.
“It is very simple, Frodo.” Elrond lowered his long body into the chair, giving a deft flick with both wrists. His body sat, robes floating down about his legs in elegant folds.
Frodo frowned . . . looking down at the voluminous court robes he had been asked to don for the feast. However hard he tried, they always ended up in a tangle under his bottom when he sat. But this was the hobbit who had climbed Mount Doom. He could do this . . . he really could.
He lowered himself into his chair, gathering the fabric in his hands and giving a large flick . . .
and sighed . . .
as the robes, which had managed to snag on the backrest of his chair, flopped neatly over his head, rendering him totally blind.
Legolas smiled as Aragorn patted his pockets for the tobacco pouch that could clearly be seen upon the bench at his side. He continued to watch in some amusement as, having reached the end of his pockets, his friend methodically began the search once more. Never having understood the enjoyment mortals gained from the noxious smelling pipeweed, Legolas considered it fortunate that the bowl on this particular pipe was quite small, for Aragorn had refilled it at least five times whilst they had been sitting together in the late afternoon sun.
It was Gimli who sighed and eventually waved the pouch beneath Aragorn’s nose. “That’s the third time you’ve lost this today, laddie. Your body is here but where’s your head?”
Aragorn accepted the pouch with a grimace but no comment and began to pack his pipe once more.
They sat within the walled garden of the Citadel, one of the few within this fortress city of Minas Tirith. Legolas’ laughter blended seamlessly with the birdsong around them. “His head is leagues away in the valley of Imladris, Master Dwarf, seeking the whereabouts of the lady of that realm.”
“I should have known there would be a female involved,” Gimli replied with a pull on his own pipe.
Aragorn interjected, a little peevishly. “I am still sitting here, you know.”
“So Gimli just pointed out. It is the whereabouts of you mind that we question. For one dreadful moment this morning I thought you were going to appoint my father’s envoy Prince of Ithilien and send Lord Faramir to my father with your thanks and good wishes.”
Even Aragorn chuckled. “That would have been interesting. Although I would like you to bring some of your people to Ithilien at some point, if you are still willing.”
“I had not forgotten and will do so gladly, once I have my father’s permission. And, by the way, my father’s envoy brought other news.” Here Legolas paused with a smile.
“Well?” Aragorn tilted his head in query. “You smile overmuch this evening. I find it quite disconcerting.”
Legolas continued to smile. “He said that he passed a party of riders travelling down the west bank of the Anduin. He remarked upon it for it is many years since he saw the Lord of Imladris moving beyond his own borders to travel abroad in the land.”
Aragorn leaned forward, his pipe forgotten in the light of this news. “Elrond was among them? And what of Arwen?” His eager expression drew into a suspicious frown. “And just when were you going to tell me this?”
“Believe it or not, I was going to tell you when we sat down. But I was enjoying watching you too much. And yes, the lady was with them.” He permitted His Majesty to push the royal elven shoulder in mock anger.
Suddenly the king was in full control of his head once more. “When will they arrive do you think? A large party will not travel as quickly as one envoy. And no doubt they will wish to visit Lorien and the lady’s grandparents, as it is on their way. They must have set out upon the day of my coronation to have reached Anduin so soon. I wonder how they came by the news so quickly.”
Legolas jumped in as soon as there was a gap in his friend’s musing. “I suspect the eagles may have taken word, or perhaps the Lady Galadriel had some hand in it,” he offered.
“Aye. She’s a canny lady, as wise as she is beautiful,” added Gimli with a sigh.
“Oh, now do not go misplacing your head too, my friend. I cannot deal with two lovesick calves.” Legolas offered Gimli a stern glance, although laughter tugged at the corners of his lips.
Gimli spluttered. “The Lady is bound to another. I am no mooning calf. Mine is a courtly love only.”
“Peace, Gimli,” Legolas raised both hands in placation. “I would not wish to imply otherwise.”
“Enough, gentlemen.” Aragorn exploded into action, pacing to and fro on his long legs. “Give me peace to think.”
Gimli took another puff on his pipe and Legolas subsided into amused silence as Aragorn began to think aloud once more. “If they travel swiftly, from Anduin they could arrive within five or even four weeks.”
Legolas drew back as Aragorn’s face loomed suddenly in front of him. “When and where did your envoy say he saw the party?”
Legolas was silent for a long moment, apparently considering the question, and then he burst into laughter. “I cannot do this any longer. It is too painful to watch.” Finally he mastered his amusement. “My father’s envoy advised me that Lord Elrond and his daughter will be arriving at the gates of Minas Tirith upon the eve of midsummer.”
“You have kept that from me for all this time? You have sat for the best part of a day and watched me fret and worry?” Aragorn’s eyes narrowed and he threw aside his pipe.
“You’d best run, Master Elf. Tis not wise to withhold such important news from a prospective bridegroom,” offered Gimli as he settled in to watch the fun.
This was one occasion when an elf accepted advice from a dwarf without question. Legolas took to his heels with some alacrity and the King of the West abandoned all dignity to pursue him for several circuits about the goldfish pond.
My shop has been linked with the ruling house of Gondor for generations; that being the Steward’s House of course. So I was honoured, but not surprised, to be asked to repair and clean the crown before the coronation. And what a task that was. When our new Steward opened the box I cried in shame for my own people; that such a treasure had been left to decay, unremarked. I had to set my whole workshop to restoring it and we only just managed in time for the coronation.
It seems the Steward told His Majesty of our work and it was only a few days after the celebration that I was summoned to the Citadel. The Elessar wanted something special to mark a feast today; a salt cellar for the high table. I was nervous, for Lord Denethor had been a hard taskmaster, with a temperament that could switch from ice to flame within the space of a breath. Not so The Elessar.
The Steward, the new one that is, Lord Faramir, led me to a private chamber rather than the throne room. And the king bade me sit at table with him. That I should be invited to share bread with my king! Never had I dreamed to be granted such an honour and yet there we sat, surrounded by plates of white bread and cheese, sipping fine wine while he spoke and I drew.
A member of the fair folk and a dwarf also joined us, even the wizard for a while, and we talked the whole morning, for The Elessar wanted certain things incorporating within the design. I did not understand why at first, and the elven prince had to sketch for me the shape of the flowers, for I have never seen or heard of Niphredil.
When I returned to my workshop the dwarf followed, offering the solution to a problem that had vexed me in the design. The waterfall, running into a river that winds about the piece from the very top to the sea at its base, was the most challenging feature. It seems that the valley where both King and Queen were raised has many waterfalls and The Elessar wished to honour his lady thus.
I intended to try and craft it from silver but Master Gimli offered to send for one of his folk. Davin assured me that he could carve it from blue crystal and he did not lie. When I saw it, but a day since, I had to reach out to touch, so real did it seem. The gemstone was carved and polished to form waves that ranged from near invisibility to deepest blue, and seemed to change with each mood of the light.
All of my studio contributed their skills, from master craftsman to journeyman and lowly apprentice. For such a work as this we would normally toil for months, or even years, but we had scant weeks. And yet, had we taken longer I do not think we could have done better for it was made with willing hands. Ours was the first royal commission for the new House of Elessar Telcontar.
At the very top I planted the White Tree, in full blossom, symbol of our people since before their arrival in this land. Once again, it was the dwarf who assisted, sending for mithril, the true silver, to create it. Never had I worked with such a material. It felt almost alive beneath my fingers, delighting to be cast and chased. And yet, once formed, it was as hard as tempered steel. About its roots Davin carved crystal cups for salt and my apprentices created golden spoons. We had just enough time to have the handles enamelled, so they were finished with a blue cornflower. Hearing that the King weds today and who it is he weds I can understand better the imagery. It is a consequence of my work that I know many of the symbols of the ancient houses of Numenor but it was Prince Legolas who explained the rest just hours ago, for they belong to Elvenkind. He told me that this was the symbol for an elven queen of old, Idris Celebrindal, ancestress to our new Queen.
Along the banks of the river we set slender golden Athelas leaves and delicate silver Niphredil. The fine shapes of both leaves and flowers took great skill and it was not a task I dare trust to my apprentices. Poor Halin took on the job and, even now, I can see in my mind’s eye all the tiny pieces spread upon his table. At least the apprentices could help to solder them to the finished cellar or he would be working still.
The flowers were symbol of Luthien the Fair, an ancestress of both King and Queen. It is said that our new Queen is as fair as she, although I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing her. Were it not for tales of the King using Athelas to heal those afflicted at the Pelennor I would never have considered placing it upon the cellar, for my people considered it a weed for generations. Although when I assessed it with an artists eye I had to confess that the long, slender leaf was a pleasing shape that I look forward to using again. Whether Halin would agree with me is another matter.
The ship, its sail emblazoned with the six pointed star, I knew from childrens tale. For this was the ship of Earendil the mariner, who sails the night sky still. It seems he also was ancient ancestor of both King and Queen. We are truly blessed to have the return of a royal house with such a lineage. I placed it upon the river for I wished to distinguish it from the nine ships at the cellar’s base. In these Elendil brought the men of Numenor to our shores and Davin carved crystal salt dishes to sit within each. The two which foundered the dwarf helped me to set disappearing into the crystal waves. How he achieved it I do not know and he will not reveal the secrets of his craft. I can hardly blame him for we goldsmiths hold close our own secrets, but what would I give to become his apprentice for a few years?
I would have embellished the piece further; with Elendil’s shattered sword perhaps or the ring of Barahir. But the Elessar drew his blade, Anduril, that he said was forged by elven smiths from the shards of Narsil, and told me he needed no other reminder. But he did ask me to make a small change when he saw the cellar nearly complete. There are some may find it a little disrespectful to the symbol of Gondor but the King said that when considered upon it, it was the most important part.
And then the periann from the guards said he wanted an addition to that change. Well, I knew he was a friend of the king as well as a guard, but I wasn’t about to make changes to such an important piece without the King’s approval. I sent a message to The Elessar, and when the page returned with his note I could scarce believe it. The lad said that His Majesty had laughed long and hard and the note he sent back simply said, “Do it!” I would have questioned further had it not been signed and sealed.
The Ringbearer would not pose for my pen but I believe I caught his likeness in mithril well enough. So beneath the white tree there now sits a small figure smoking a pipe, with an open picnic basket at his side.
Now it is finished and a servant is filling the last crystal salt cups. I can hear the crowd cheering outside and a part of me regrets not being there to see my king bound to his lady. But this is my gift to them and it is enough. I must leave. The doors will open in a moment for The Elessar to escort his fair bride, our new Queen to their wedding feast.
Long may they reign in honour and love.
Companion pieces inspired by stills from the movie.
Legolas could feel the wrongness of the place as he entered the clearing. Something was in hideous pain. Finally tracing the thread of agony he reached out, wrapping tendrils of comfort in soft melody and trying to soothe the raw hurt emanating from the ancient oak before him.
The orcs had taken a perverse delight in torturing it over a long period of time. Legolas staggered under the weight of the images pouring in to his mind as he drew closer. They had cut it first; leering as the fragrant sap bled from long slashes carved into the bark. Then they had moved on, pealing back strips to leave deep, open wounds down its side. They never took enough to put it out of its misery, however. Long shreds had been left at various places around the trunk so that it could not die, only endure. It had endured their attentions for forty years. Old wounds had healed but always there were fresh ones and with each new hurt its song faded, changed, faltered.
Tears flowed freely down the elven prince’s face as he stood before the ruined giant. It had been mighty and proud once: had sung its strong melody to countless generations of men, although they had not heard it. Now it reached stunted branches to the sky in supplication for strength, whether it be strength to live or to die, it no longer cared. All song was gone: the only sound it was capable of, the wailing exclamations of its pain.
Legolas waited for a moment; loath to set his hand upon the ravaged flesh for fear that the anguish emanating from it would overwhelm him. Letting his own melody build within he searched for others to weave in to harmony. Grass and flower, leaf and berry offered up their song to his questing mind and he drew them to him, binding them in healing rhapsody. Taking one last step he leaned against the hurt, wrapping the scarred trunk within the circle of his arms and setting his cheek against the rough bark. Tenderly, he offered up his song, directing it to fill the voids within the oak, entwining it around the weakened soul, strengthening, smoothing away the pain and bitterness.
Slowly, a new thread of song was added to the symphony, its bass tones forming a platform for the lighter notes of elf and glade. Haltingly at first, the oak rejoined its neighbours, the music swelling as they drew it up, welcoming it back into their fellowship.
Legolas pulled away, his thread of song carefully un-entwining from the ecstasy of sound around him. The elf danced lightly to the centre of the glade, threw wide his arms and spun around in undisguised delight, his eyes shining and hair gleaming gold in the sunlight. Gimli stared in awe struck wonder as all about the clearing leaves unfurled on branches long thought dead, blossom filled the air with heady scents, flowers bloomed amid grass now lush and green, birds burst in to song and silver elven laughter floated on the sparkling morning air of Ithilien.
A light breeze sent clouds scudding across the night sky, seeking in vain to hide bright Ithil and the stars of Elbereth, high above them. The place was silent, but for the dark whispering of a stray breath of wind that eddied about the vale, teasing coldly at their cloaks: underscored by the distant howl of wargs and overlaid with Gandalf’s voice, chanting at the doors.
His own heart sang quietly, subdued by the cold menace of the place. Soon he would be asked to enter the dwarven realm of Moria. Did Durin’s folk still live there? Legolas touched the ancient rock wall before him, straining to hear some measured drum of life beyond. Nothing. And yet he could hear Gimli’s bold strong rhythm not far distant. If there were dwarves within, should he not be able to hear them? Perhaps the depth of cold granite beneath his palms choked off their song. His long life contained no memory of such a place: he had no experience on which to call for aide.
All about him he could hear the music of his companions. Aragorn and Boromir wove an ancient harmony of war and oath. Gandalf’s melody was strong and sure. No note faltered but, as always, it was muted for he held his power leashed. The hobbits formed their own quartet of song. It rang merry and bright, although within it wove a counterpoint of fear and, somewhere below, he heard the dissonance of the Ring, now inextricably interwoven within Frodo’s soul. Legolas tore his mind away, as he found himself drawn down in to the cold metallic tones.
Slowly, as he sorted through the different harmonies, he began to find other music here. He turned from the wall and tilted his head to listen again, sending out a questioning phrase of song. From deep within the lake before him came a dark reply, but it was so quiet that he could not identify the opus that had birthed it. It chanted dark want and hunger and Legolas drew back, shuddering at its icy discord.
Suddenly a soft, strong duet insinuated itself in to his heart. It was ancient and carolled of sun and life and growth. The wood elf followed the light theme and found himself standing before the gates once more. His song spiralled up in relief as he stood between two ancient holly trees, their shapes distorted by abuse and age. In his preoccupation with the dark of Moria he had not heard their soft melody: had thought them long dead.
Legolas stepped towards the twisted trunk of the nearest and reached out to stroke the warm wood, sighing with relief as he was accepted, and moved closer, to lean his full weight against the ancient sentinel. Their symphony enfolded him. Feeling his distress, they sought to sooth his anxious thoughts and wrapped him round with soft melody of comfort, as a mother singing lullaby to a fretful child.
He stood, enraptured, as their slow measure told of days long past, when the doors of Durin’s halls stood wide to the world. They sang of sunlight on many fair folk, elf and dwarf, passing to and fro between their welcoming and outstretched boughs. Then the music slipped in to a melancholy minor as they intoned of darkness that had descended slowly, the slamming shut of the doors and the growing foulness of the deep lake that lapped in oily discord about the borders of their deep roots. Now, for many turnings of the seasons, theirs had been but a two-part harmony. No eldar came to share their song and tell of far off lands and great deeds.
Tears slipped from the prince’s eyes and fell in silent homage to their lonely vigil. He reached down within his soul and began to weave his symphony. He sang of the sun on a thousand green leaves in the summer of his forest home and wove in the deep strong harmony he had found in Imladris. Next, he blended in the light trill of bird song at evening; the delicate tones of wind swept gorse and heather from the mountain passes and drew a chord from each of his companions. Carefully he orchestrated, setting counterpoint and harmony, melody and rhythm, until he was satisfied. When all was arranged he offered it up to the ancient holly beneath his fingers.
His heart leapt as they accepted his creation; weaving in their own soft melody and pulling in the moon and stars to swell the music until it filled the wood elf’s soul and would have swept him away, if the cold grate of stone on stone had not pulled him back.
And Durin’s doors swung slowly open to swallow him in silence.
Seeing Strider’s costume at the exhibition in Boston inspired this little scene. At his back, wrapped carefully in a leather cover, was rolled a soft, thick, fluffy, pale brown wool blanket. It looked a little too cuddly for the ranger and I wondered whether it had been a gift to him and what it would feel like.
Darkness helped. The grey shadowy figures that haunted his eyes by day were swallowed by the coming of night. Would that those which haunted his mind would do the same . . . but he was grateful for any small mercy.
From out of the icy darkness came two embers of warmth at his waist and his stomach lurched as, for a moment, he flew before being settled against more comforting heat. He was aware of strong arms cradling him, a heartbeat against his own . . . its strong rhythm of life calling him back . . . re-awakening senses, frozen for so long.
Touch . . . his right hand resting against scuffed leather. Smell . . . woodsmoke and sweat. Sound . . . the strong and even inhale and exhale of breath above his head. Sight . . . faded blue linen framed by muddied moss green leather. Taste . . . but here there was only the metallic taste of poison in his mouth.
Words drifted around him.
“ . . . seems worse . . . How . . . help?” His mind tried to grasp meaning and recognition of the voice but waves of frigid pain forbade it.
A rumble against his ear, resting warm against firm muscle. These words he felt, rather than heard. “He needs heat, within and without. Build a fire and warm some of that broth from Sam’s flask.”
Warmth. The heat against his side was only a tantalising reminder of what that felt like. He tried to curl closer to it . . . was rewarded by arms gripping him closer.
“Merry . . . please remove the blanket from my bedroll. It is thicker than his own.”
“ . . . never felt . . . so soft.”
“It was woven by the elves. A gift upon my coming of age.”
Sudden movement kindled icy flame in his veins and he was helpless to prevent the cry that passed his lips. He bit down on his lip . . . desperate to conceal the changes there . . . his shriek echoing too closely the chilling call of his pursuers.
“ . . . sorry. Just a moment and you will feel better.” The voice tried to soothe but he hardly heard it above his own whimpers of despair.
It would all end soon. The agonising chill that had started in his shoulder was now spreading. He could almost feel the tiny crystals of ice forming in his blood, could hear his heart labour to push the sluggish liquid about his failing body. He wanted to cry like a child who has tumbled down a step, but his tears were frozen, his throat thick with a stranger’s voice.
The sensation of being enfolded in soft fabric almost made him gasp as it cut through his anguish. A fresh scent brushed gently at his nostrils and he clutched at this new comfort, inhaling again.
The heady scent of summer roses at sunset. The sharp clear spike of lavender teased by a breeze. The sugar sweet perfume of honeysuckle twined about a doorway. The hope filled exhalation of evergreens bedecking a warm room in the depths of winter. All these underpinned and blended with his carer’s woodsy smell and, for the moment, pain was held at bay.
“ . . . ready, Mr Strider . . . not too hot.”
The rim of a cup was pressed to his lips and he opened to accept the heat its contents promised. And finally the metallic taint was washed from his mouth by the taste of coney and mushroom, laced lightly with herbs. He recognised Sam’s hand in the delicate blending and was surprised by that knowledge.
Sam was holding the cup to his lips. Merry had brought the blanket that now cosseted him so soothingly. Pippin sat tending the small fire only yards away and Strider held him tenderly in his lap. Frodo stirred, brushing his furred instep against the thick soft wool of Strider’s blanket, and snuggled deeper into its depths.
The shadows receded, pushed back for a time at least by love. Perhaps they would reach Rivendell in time.
Frodo could not remember ever feeling so at peace and he gently scratched the neck of the warm furry mound on the floor at his side.
After the Council everyone craved his attention but he escaped swiftly to the sanctuary of his room. Carrying the One Ring from the Shire to Rivendell was one thing, but to take it all the way to Mordor and right into the Enemy’s lair was quiet another. Even now he did not understand what had made him speak up and the memory made his head spin and his stomach churn alarmingly.
He would have scrambled to his feet when Lord Elrond stepped into his chamber a little while later but the elf simply waved him down, announcing cryptically that he had brought him some medicine.
Whilst not unknown, cats were not common in the Shire, their presence generally confined to farms where they helped control the rat population. Elrond introduced this one as Tithen. Frodo assumed that in some things at least the elvish sense of humour was similar to that of hobbits for this cat was anything but little. Indeed she was the biggest, fattest cat he had ever seen, standing almost as high as Frodo’s shoulder where he sat on the rug and at least as big again around. It was clear that Tithen had been fed only the choicest foods. He suspected no rats passed this white whiskered muzzle.
He was startled at first but Elrond only smiled when she ran from behind his robes, tail waving mast-like and step nimble despite her size. She made straight for Frodo. Of course, the fact that her target was sitting, hands about his knees, on a thick rug in front of a blazing hearth may have had something to do with this sudden switch of loyalty. When the huge creature sat neatly at his side and leaned in to delicately sniff at his face Frodo froze in place, feeling the unfamiliar tickle of long wiry whiskers against his cheek. For a moment amber eyes met summer blue and then Tithen butted gently at Frodo’s chin before leaning in closer to rub her head along the chest of his deep green velvet jerkin.
Bilbo Baggins nephew was a little annoyed when he glanced down to see a wide trail of ginger hairs smeared across the front of his new suit, but that was the moment in which Tithen began to purr loudly and his every thought paused. Winding her way twice through the tunnel formed by Frodo’s thigh and calf she settled on the rug in a huge striped ginger and white puddle. It seemed she was no respecter of personal space for Tithen lay so close against his hip that he could feel the vibration of her thrumming purr in his bones.
Softly smiling, Elrond slipped from the room as his guest was thus distracted.
When Frodo continued to sit, wary and perfectly still, Tithen made her needs known by butting at his calf and then stretching higher to rub against his clasped hands. Frodo was amused at her assertiveness and a little surprised at how wonderfully soft cat fur felt against the back of his wrist. As it became clearer that she was no threat, he lowered one tentative hand to her back. The buzzing burr deepened as Tithen looked up to blink amber eyes lazily at him once before closing them and lowering her chin to the rug.
Frodo’s small fingers all but disappeared into the thick, soft warmth of Tithen’s pelt and annoyance at the hairs on his clothing floated away as he sank further under the spell of the deep rumble beneath his palm. Dancing flames, the warmth of fire and cat, the crackle of burning wood and the rhythmic, droning purr all conspired to gently soothe his heart and mind at last.
Frodo smiled as he stared into the flames. Here was true magic and it had nothing to do with elves.
Inspired by events described by an online friend.
Tithen was an integral part of Rivendell’s healing song. She accepted that. The twolegs fed her and she graced them with her presence, which was apparently all that was required of her. As soon as she saw the injured twoleg she knew she had a duty and adopted him. If she sensed he was worried or sad she would settle against him and if he was happy she would roll and pounce about the flower beds to entertain him.
The other miniature twolegs were not so happy about this new member of their fellowship, however. She could see that the fat one accepted her only because he saw that the injured one needed Tithen. The yellow furred one seemed to consider her a nuisance and Tithen obliged him by taking every opportunity to pounce, causing him to trip upon several occasions. The noisy one, perhaps being the smallest, was more than a little frightened of Tithen’s magnificent ginger furred presence and would not approach her at all. She stored away this observation but did not take advantage of it for a long time. Then it rained.
Tithen was a wise old cat and knew better than to get caught in the rain, but she was accompanying her charge on a walk in the gardens and it seems this twoleg was not so wise. He should have taken the hint when the she kept stepping in front of him and butting her head against his hip. It took several exasperating minutes before she managed to convince him he was going nowhere and managed to herd him back toward the house.
They were only minutes away when the heavens opened and rain fell so hard that it was like trying to run through a hail of arrows and almost as painful. Tithen disappeared into the house at a speed that belied her bulk. There were limits to care beyond which any cat would not stray and being out in the rain was apparently one of them. By the time Frodo arrived in the hobbits shared sitting room he was soaked through to the skin and, despite her speed, Tithen was little better. Frodo arrived to an ominous silence and he skidded to a halt upon the polished oak floor.
Tithen was in the centre of that floor at the end of a trail of meandering wet kitty paw prints. Frodo looked down at his own wet feet and picked up Tithen’s trail where they lead to the corner. There Merry was pressed into the angle of the wall, holding a footstool, legs outward in an obvious attempt to keep the enormous cat well away from him. Frodo could see cat hairs mingled with Merry’s usually well groomed but now woefully wet foothair and guessed that Tithen had found a way to dry herself off.
Sam was standing of to one side like some petrified garden statue. His breeches and foothair were also wet, up to the level of a large standing cat. The only one dry was Pippin.
Frodo’s cousin was standing in front of a rather elegant couch, his eyes wide and hands held out trembling before him in a warding motion. Tithen stood at bay, dripping on the floor only a few feet from him. Her tail was raised in greeting but Frodo noted the tiniest flick of the tip and knew instantly that Tithen intended mischief. It took only one dainty wet paw step to send Pippin leaping up onto the seat of the couch, with a wild shriek that brought to mind vividly an incident with an illicitly got firework at Bilbo’s party.
Frodo found that he was so caught up in simply watching events that it never occurred to him to take any action. He just stood in his own growing puddle of rainwater. For one more moment Tithen did likewise, seemingly not used to such antics from people. A corner of Frodo’s mind began to giggle, slightly maniacally, at the unlikely image of an elegant elf gathering up flowing robes and leaping onto the couch with such a yelp.
Had she been dry Tithen would have been highly entertained by the twoleg’s antics. But she was wet and required his services. Tithen blinked slowly at her target but it seemed that the twoleg did not understand her greeting. She could not comprehend this fear for she had done nothing to earn it. She merely wanted to get dry and the twolegs were coated in stuff that would do that. Of course these smaller twolegs did not grow as much of the stuff as her usual carers but they would do for the moment.
It was a simple thing and the twolegs were there to serve her after all. She had used two, and there was only one dry twoleg left. Wet fur was a nuisance she was unused to and had she not been guarding the other she would not be in this position. They owed her. Besides, Tithen was tired of this one behaving so strangely in her presence. Anyone would think she intended to devour it. She had learned long ago that the kitchen provided much better fare.
Deciding that she had been cold and wet for far too long Tithen gathered herself and landed effortlessly upon the seat of the couch.
Pippin’s eyes grew wider and then slammed shut as a huge and rather wet cat slide across his legs, circling him once, twice, three times. Then the torture stopped. He cracked open one eye to find Tithen still upon the couch but now sitting on her haunches, tail wrapped neatly over her feet. Then she opened a pink maw, edged with wicked looking needle sharp white teeth, and emitted a tiny squeak. She was still wet. Pippin was now wet. The finely embroidered cushions on the couch were also getting wet.
As all eyes were fixed on the cat a calm voice ordered, “Off the furniture if you please, Tithen. You know the rule.” Everyone turned to the doorway as Tithen dropped delicately to the floor.
Elrond crossed silently to the couch and held out a towel to Pippin, who accepted it without question. “She does not like to have her fur ruffled when you dry her. Stroke from head to tail.” Then Elrond turned his attention to the rest of the room’s occupants.
“Master Merriadoc. That is a piece of furniture and best used as such. As a defence it is woefully ineffective and I suggest you would be better served by learning the use of sword and shield.”
Merry dropped the footstool as though it were a burning brand, wincing when it landed with a loud clatter.
Elrond raised one brow at him before fixing his keen gaze upon Sam. “Master Samwise. My home is graced with many statues. I do not, at present, need another. Your services are required by your master, who appears to be dripping all over my carefully polished woodwork.” He glanced over his shoulder at Frodo, who still remained caught in the scene. “And you should dry off, Master Ringbearer. I expended a great deal of effort in returning you to health and would appreciate it if you did not now decide to contract a chill.”
With one last pointed glance at Pippin, who still stood upon the couch, Elrond pivoted neatly on his heel and departed in a flow of velvet and silk.
Merry replaced the footstool meekly and Sam ushered his master from the room with the promise of a hot bath and dry clothes.
Fourleg and twoleg regarded each other warily.
Brandywine looked peaceful in the spring sunlight but Frodo knew better. Only weeks since, this peaceful river had swallowed his life, spitting out his parents bodies like unwanted titbits a mile downstream. He turned his back on the treacherous flow, returning to the safety of Brandy Hall.
Frodo watched from a high bank as youngsters shrieked and splashed in shallows at the rivers’ bend. Saradoc tapped his shoulder. “Don’t you want to play, Frodo?”
“No thank you, Uncle. I’d rather finish my book.” He turned the page, trying to lose himself in the history of his Brandybuck forefathers.
Like the river, summer rolled by but Frodo could be neither enticed nor cajoled into the waters of the Brandywine.
Frodo awoke with a start, to find a large trout wriggling upon the grass at his side. Esmeralda called up from the shallows, “Put it out of its misery, Frodo. There’s a good lad.”
Lifting it by the tale Frodo wacked the fish firmly against a rock before wrapping it in a napkin and tucking it into the empty picnic basket. Curious, he stepped down onto the rocks at the river’s edge. Esmeralda had tucked up her skirts and stood ankle deep in the water, bent double beneath the shade of a willow.
“What are you doing, Aunty?”
Esme straightened putting a finger to her grinning lips, so Frodo moved closer. “Don’t tell me there’s a bairn under my roof that doesn’t know how to tickle trout? Come here and I’ll show you.”
Frodo eyed the river suspiciously but his aunt beckoned a trout supper sounded very interesting.
“The bed’s mainly flat rocks here but mind you don’t make too much of a splashing or you’ll scare them away,” Esme instructed as Frodo stepped warily into the water.
It was unexpectedly warm and it was also a little deeper than he expected and Esmeralda grinned again as she helped him turn up the cuffs on his breeches and shirt.
“They like to rest in the shadows here. The trick is to make a cradle of your hands, like this.” She turned her hands palm up and laced the fingers. “Then you slide along beneath them, slowly mind. When you’re well under you flick upward and toss them onto the bank.” She demonstrated the action and Frodo nodded, lacing his fingers appropriately. “Good. There’s one just by your left foot, can you see it?”
Frodo bent and, sure enough, pale shadow coalesced into the outline of a fat trout. He dipped his hands silently beneath the water, slowly gliding them beneath the unsuspecting supper. With the quick deftness of youth he flicked and the fish flew onto the bank in an arc of shimmering water. Squealing with delight he leapt after it, smacking the head smartly before slipping it into the basket with the first.
Esme smiled softly, watching him race back to wade carefully into the shallows with her. Maybe they’d try fishing with rod and line from a boat next week.
"Now, now, Mr Frodo. You're not well enough to go out there." Rosie tried to push Frodo back into his chair but he batted her hands away and climbed determinedly to his feet.
"You have all gone to a great deal of trouble to prepare my birthday supper. And I know that none of those you invited will refuse. I'm expected to be there." He strove to hide the quaver in his voice, not altogether successfully.
"Frodo . . . what are you doing out of your bed? You're still not strong enough after that fever." Sam hurried into the study, moving at once to slip a hand beneath his master's elbow. Frodo shook him off, somewhat querulously.
"I have to be there, Sam. It's our first big celebration and people need to know that life is getting back to normal. There are three hundred people out there Sam, all wanting something to celebrate . . . something to make them feel like hobbits again. I can't let them down."
Frodo took one shaky step and moaned as his knees suddenly gave way. Sam had been prepared for just such an eventuality, however, and caught him up at once, swinging him into his arms like a child. For his part, Frodo gave only token resistance, finally surrendering to his body's needs. He laid his head upon Sam's sturdy shoulder and closed his eyes as he was carried back to bed.
"Don't you worry about that party. If you get three hundred hobbits together in a field with a bushel or two of food there'll be a party . . . guest of honour or no." Sam resisted the temptation to add that most of them wouldn't even notice that the guest of honour was missing. Frodo may be the saviour of Middle earth but he had kept a low profile and had withdrawn even more this past year, as his health began to fail. Even now, months later, he hardly weighed more than he had when Sam had carried him up the side of that accursed mountain.
Frodo was settled upon his bed and Sam began to undress him as Rosie ran to the kitchen to make some chamomile tea. Having conceded defeat, Frodo allowed himself to be slipped into a nightshirt and covered with warm quilts. He opened weary blue eyes as Rosie returned, smiling as Sam touched the cup of soothing tea to his lips. Frodo took a small sip and smiled.
"Three hundred hobbits. That sounds worthy of a collective name. What shall we call a collection of three hundred hobbits, Sam?"
Sam glanced up at Rosie, unsure whether his master was simply musing or rambling with fever once more. Rosie laid a gentle hand upon Frodo's brow and smiled up at her husband. There was no sign of fever, although if Frodo did not rest she was sure there would be. Sam coaxed another mouthful of the sedative tea into his friend.
"I'm sure I don't know, sir. And anyways, there won't be three hundred because we three will be right here."
Tears began to gather in Frodo's pale blue eyes. Sam remembered when they were once the deep blue of a bright summer day. Now they were the faded blue of an old work shirt, too long in the hot sun.
"I'm sorry, Sam. I've spoiled it for you and Rosie. You should be out there celebrating too. I will be asleep soon if Rosie has made this tea as properly, as she always does. You two should go and enjoy yourselves."
Sam continued to bend to his task of dosing Frodo, his voice brooking no further argument on the matter. "I'm not leaving you alone. I promised that I'd never leave you and I'm going to keep that promise."
Rosie sat upon the edge of the bed and stroked Frodo's hair. "And I'm not going anywhere without my husband so it looks like you're stuck with me too."
Frodo was growing drowsy . . . the tea working quickly upon his weakened frame . . . and the tears that had been threatening to spill over, dried. His lips curved into a smile.
"Two hundred and ninety seven does not sound as worthy of a collective name, somehow."
Rosie smiled back, continuing to soothe with her touch. "Aye, well, some of the Sandyman's aren't coming. I think they're keeping a low profile these days."
Those pale blue eyes rolled slowly towards her, pain evident in their depths. He had hoped that this party would be a healing time . . . a time for those who had been on opposite sides of the fence during Sharky's rule to finally set aside their differences. Perhaps it was too soon. Frodo's thoughts began to float, drifting out of his hold as the chamomile lulled him towards sleep.
"How many" He licked his lips, mouth suddenly dry despite the tea. "How many will there be?"
"Never you mind that, Frodo. Why don't you take a little nap and me and Rosie will stay with you?" Sam lowered the dark curls back into the mound of pillows; his heart squeezing in his chest as the candlelight caught a few strands of silver among the burnt chestnut locks. Too soon. Frodo should have many years of happiness before him but he was old before his time. It was not fair. But then, one of the lessons Sam had learned early was that life was not always fair. And the past two years had more than confirmed that.
Frodo blinked slowly at the ceiling. "But, how many?"
Sam sighed. Frodo was nothing if not stubborn and would likely not give in to sleep until he knew. Sam began to reckon up. There were the three of them, and then eight . . . no . . . nine of the Sandyman family. "I reckon there'll be two hundred and eighty eight. Now will you please rest, Frodo?"
Dark lashed lids fluttered shut and Sam was surprised to hear a soft chuckle from his friend. "Two hundred . . . eighty eight. How nice. Two hund . . . eight . . . Two gross . . . of hobbits."
With one last sigh Frodo drifted off into sleep, a small smile touching the corners of his pale lips.
Oh my dear boy, have I brought you to this? You look so pale and drawn but at least you’re sleeping peacefully now. You look so tiny in that great bed. Elrond has brought you back from the brink but now it’s just you and me. He left a few minutes ago and the room seems too big and empty without his strong presence. What would I have done if you had been lost? I dare not think of that. I cannot. How could I have gone on living if you had died? And all this is my stupid, stupid fault. I should not have listened to Gandalf. You were of legal age but, in some ways, you were still a child; innocent of the evil in this world. You thought life was a big adventure, and I encouraged your imaginings, foolish old hobbit that I am. Now, instead of fireside tales and silly trinkets to share with your children, you have pain and nightmares.
You were far too young to take on the burden I abandoned on your doorstep. I can see the chain around your throat now, like a silver noose; the slight bulge of the ring beneath the soft fabric of your borrowed nightshirt. I could take the ring back, if you like? But, would you let me? Even in your fever, you screamed wildly when they accidentally tried to part you from it. I thought you would truly die at that moment. And this is all my doing. Are you doomed to carry it for the rest of your life? Will the Frodo I know disappear, consumed by this thing that sits so heavy between us? Elrond says that I cannot take it back, that it has moved on. He makes it sound as though the thing has a will of its own. It’s only a ring. How can it have a will? Oh, my dear boy. Will you still be my own sweet Frodo when you wake up or will this ring change you?
Will you open your eyes soon? Elrond says you will but there’s no flicker of movement. The thick lashes are still pressed firm closed on the dark shadows encircling them. I remember the first time I saw those eyes, the colour of summer skies. A tiny mite cradled in your mama’s arms you gazed, wide eyed and still unfocused, on the world; your little fist wrapped tightly around my finger. “All babies have blue eyes,” your papa had said but the months drew on and still they shone that impossible periwinkle blue. Won’t you let me test my memory of them against the reality? Did your eyelids move then? No.
Your hand lies cupped in my palm. At least it now longer clenches in pain with each breath. You still bite your nails, I see. How many months did I spend, trying to break you of that habit? But you were stubborn and, in the end, I had to admit defeat.
Elrond says you have been fighting to hold on to a thread of life, “worn as thin as spider silk.” I have waited, helpless, as you and he battled to hold your soul to this world. He is surprised by your strength but I have seen you fight like this before. Watching you struggle for breath these past days and nights brought back awful memories. My stomach still recalls the queasy feeling as I sat beside your sickbed all those long days and nights, that first winter that you came to live at Bag End. So many years ago and yet it was etched so deeply in my heart that I can feel it sharply, still. You were such a sick little hobbit and I was a crusty old bachelor uncle, unused to looking after youngsters. It was frightening to see you toss in fever and listen to that awful, dry cough. The doctor gave up hope but you would not let go of life. By midsummer you were climbing trees (you have a most unhobbitlike fondness for climbing) and getting into mischief again, the carefree hobbit lad you used to be; the hobbit you should still be. Do you still climb trees, I wonder.
Your heart was so merry and bright, although your parents’ deaths left a little well of sadness. Will you ever again throw back your head and laugh, in total abandonment, at some silly quip? Will you smile that gap-toothed smile, dumpling cheeked and twinkling eyed? My heart stopped the day you fell from the tree and knocked out your two front teeth. The ones that grew to replace them never quite came together. How you cried when you tumbled from the branch, the blood running from between your lips such an improbable bright scarlet against your pale chin. I tried to hold you but you would have none of me, wanting only to run to the comfort of your mama’s arms. I could only stand and watch, in awe, as her murmurs and the gentle stroking of her hand on your back, stilled your wails in a way that only a mothers’ touch can. And yet that gap is so endearing, a little imperfection in a face grown handsome now. I suspect you’ve stolen a few maids’ hearts with that smile. Is there one waiting for news of you now, back in the Shire?
How I wish Primula had been here to comfort you in these past few days, but she is gone and so is your papa. Drogo was so proud of you. I used to watch his shoulders straighten every time he saw you. I remember the first time he and I took you for a short hike. On the way home you were so tired that he had to carry you and you fell asleep in his arms. I can still see the adoration in his face as he looked down at his son. I have tried to fill that empty space in your heart but I know that the wound of their leaving has never really healed. And now, I have wounded you too. I stuck you with that knife as surely as if I had been there, at Weathertop, to push it home myself. So much pain in a life, as yet, still short. Will you ever forgive me?
Your face is as white as chalk. It was ever pale but there’s dullness to it now that was never there before. Your complexion was always fresh and clear. I remember your cheeks flushed palest pink as you let go your mama’s hand and tottered up the lane to my outstretched arms, not yet fully in control of your feet. I so enjoyed those early visits to my favourite nephew. When you were only a little older you would climb up on the garden wall by the gate, to wait for me, and then throw yourself into my arms, never doubting that I would catch you safely. Will you ever feel able to trust me like that again?
The fever has left dark tendrils of your hair plastered to your brow. Do you remember the first night that you moved in to Bag End? The journey and the excitement had left you so tired that you had stumbled to bed without even waiting for supper. I popped in to see if you wanted some cocoa and found you fast asleep. Your back was turned to me and all that could be seen in the light from the doorway was that mass of chestnut curls, glinting gold where they caught in the candle’s flicker. I tiptoed in to check whether your eyes were closed and tucked the blankets around you. Then I stood watching you sleep, smoothing back the soft locks from your forehead as I’m doing now. Can you feel my touch? Would you shrink away if you could?
Wake up, Frodo. If I could change your waking I would. You should be opening your eyes to your cosy little room and Bag End but, instead, you will wake in this large, pale room. It’s beautiful but it’s not comfortable and comfort is what you need now. What a terrifying journey it must have been for you. Ah, you sighed. I think I saw your eyelids flutter. Please wake up, Frodo. But will you want me here, when you wake? I don’t think I could bear to see those blue eyes full of pain and accusation; and anger? Perhaps I should leave before you rouse. Gandalf will stay if I ask him and Sam will not be parted from you, even though he is weary after all these days and nights of vigil. They will comfort you. Gandalf says there will be feasting soon and that you will be well enough to attend. You always liked a party.
I don’t think I’ll go. I don’t feel much like eating and celebrating.
Oh Frodo, my lad. Will you ever forgive your silly old Uncle Bilbo?
Blankets were spread upon the lush grass of the party field around the stripling mallorn tree. All the residents of New Row and Bag End were present. Some lounged amongst the remains of their picnics, filling up the corners, and others had settled down for an afternoon snooze in the sunshine.
Sam watched, as Frodo chased a giggling gaggle of faunts, smiling when the children turned the tables, overwhelming Frodo to drag him to the ground, where they proceeded to tickle him mercilessly.
Rose stroked her husband's ear with a grass stalk, leaning in to whisper, “Penny for them.”
“I was just thinkin' as how I never thought to see that scene again. I was rememberin' Mr Frodo playin' with his cousins and me before . . . well, you know.”
“Before the troubles? I wish I'd known him better then.”
Sam smiled wistfully. “He was the merriest hobbit I ever knew.” He waved at the folk scattered about the field. “They think everythin's back to normal.”
Rose wrapped her arms about him and kissed the tip of his ear. “I'll check the oil lamp in his room when we go in.”
“No! You shall not have it! It is mine!”
Sam and Rose came awake with a start, scrambling out of bed even as Elanor started to fret in her cradle. In what had become on instinctive routine, Rose drew on her dressing gown and made for Elanor while Sam dragged on his own gown and made for Frodo's room.
Sam drew a deep breath as he laid a hand upon Frodo's bedroom door handle, then he stepped into the darkness beyond. He blinked, trying to discern shapes in the black interior. The lamp upon the bedside table must have burned out. Deep gasping breaths came from the direction of the bed but Sam had to pick his way by memory to the window. There he opened the curtains and pale moonlight slipped into the room.
Frodo sat in the middle of the bed, his hair wild and eyes wilder. He clutched at the jewel hung about his neck and Sam knew enough to approach slowly, his voice as gentle as he could make it.
“Tis alright, Mr Frodo. Tis gone forever. You did it. Now here's your Sam come to look after you. Lets find you a fresh nightshirt and then I'll fetch you a cup of tea. It will all seem better after a cup of tea . . .”
“The gods were gathered on guarded heights, of doom and death deep they pondered. Sun they rekindled, and silver Moon they set to sail on seas of stars.” Frodo's voice was scarce more than a whisper, blending with the sigh of grass stroked by a summer wind and the soft flutter of leaves in the trees about them.
Sam frowned a moment but remained content to lie back at his master's side. “That's a big thought, Mr Frodo.”
His reply was a chuckle and Sam smiled to hear that which he had thought lost forever. “It certainly is, Sam, but I can't take credit for it. It was penned many ages ago.” Like Sam, he lay upon his back on the hill which sheltered South Coomb farm. Above them the stars winked in and out and the moon sailed serenely through them, like a ship on some ethereal sea.
Sam listened to Rose Cotton's voice somewhere in the smial below, berating one of her brothers for stealing the last egg, and smiled. Life with Rose Cotton was not going to be boring, of that he was sure. “I reckon I wouldn't want to be one of them gods. My gaffer says he don't hold with ponderin' too deep.”
“Perhaps he's right, Sam. But you must agree, those gods did a fine job.”
“They did that but I think I'll leave them to their ponderin' and kindlin'. I've had enough doom and death and I'd rather ponder the plantin' of taters.”
Frodo smiled as Earendil's ship peeped over the horizon to commence his nightly journey. He wondered if it had a swan prow, like those that sailed from the Grey Havens into the West.
Mrs Cotton shouted up to them. “Sam, Mr Frodo . . . don't you go fallin' asleep up there. There's tea in the pot and yer beds will be more comfy than that damp grass.”
Sam clambered up, holding out a hand to help a still smiling Frodo to his feet. “We're comin' Mrs Cotton.”
This story was written in answer to a challenge to write an AU tale of Frodo at Helms Deep.
Bilbo closed his study door and reached up with the candlesnuffer to extinguish the hall chandelier. It was just as he put out the first flame that he heard Frodo’s voice . . . a soft whimper. Lifting his own candle once more, Bilbo tiptoed to his nephew’s bedroom door and listened more closely. He could hear Frodo murmuring and shifting in his bed, the murmurs growing clearer.
“No . . . there are too many . . . we will never win . . . horrible . . . blood . . . blood everywhere . . . why? So much death . . .No!” The last word was barely less than a scream and Bilbo almost dropped his candle in his hurry to get into the room.
Another scream met him as he all but fell through the door and he found Frodo fighting with covers that had entangled him as he thrashed in his dream. Finally managing to sit up, Frodo turned a wild face in the direction of the candle flame. Bilbo took a step forward and froze as the young lad began to scrabble backwards until he was pressed up against the headboard; eyes wide and his mouth beginning to stretch open around another scream. Before it could form, Bilbo spoke into the quivering silence.
“Frodo . . . Frodo lad. It’s alright. It’s just a dream.” He deliberately kept his voice soft and low as he moved steadily towards the bed, bringing his little pool of light closer and closer, familiar words and the soft glow of the candle easing away the darkness.
Frodo’s mouth closed and he swallowed hard, his face paling even further. Bilbo recognised the symptoms and rushed to slide a clean chamber pot onto the bed as his nephew doubled over and began retching. Hurriedly placing the candle on the bedside table, Bilbo supported him with an arm about the heaving shoulders and when the retching ceased, a little while later, Bilbo drew his nephew back to rest exhaustedly against his shoulder. The older hobbit produced his pocket-handkerchief and dabbed gently at Frodo’s face.
“Let me get you some water to rinse your mouth. Do you think you’ve finished, or would you like me to bring another chamber pot?”
“’m alright, Bilbo. Don’t need ‘nother,” Frodo murmured. His uncle arranged pillows behind him and hurried from the room with the used receptacle, deciding to bring a fresh one anyway. When he returned, with a clean pot, a jug of water and a cup, Frodo had drawn the covers up but was still shivering in his bed.
Settling the pot on the bed, within easy reach, Bilbo placed the water on the table and offered Frodo a cup. “Swill your mouth out lad and then just sip the rest slowly.” Bilbo paused long enough to ensure that his nephew was following instructions, then turned away and began to stir the fire in the hearth, adding more wood.
“There now, lad. That will be warmer.” Bilbo perched on the edge of the bed, moving the chamber pot onto the floor but still within easy reach. He brought a hand to rest on his nephew’s brow, relieved to find no fever and more than a little surprised when Frodo leaned into his touch. It had been a good few years since the lad had done that. Bilbo changed position so that he was sitting next to his nephew, and put his arm about his shoulders again, growing more worried when Frodo settled himself against him at once, his face almost buried in his uncle’s waistcoat.
“Do you want to tell me about your nightmare?”
The dishevelled curls resting against his chest shook slowly. “No. Please. It’s too awful.”
A gentle hand soothed up and down Frodo’s arm. “Sometimes it helps to get rid of the dream if you talk about it.” His comment was met with no visible or audible response but he did not press, guessing that it would take the lad some time to marshal his thoughts and words.
“Bilbo . . . when . . . when you were at the Lonely Mountain, you said there was a battle.”
Unsure of the direction of Frodo’s thoughts, Bilbo tried to answer as best he could, although that particular event in his adventure was one he had no wish to recall too clearly. “Yes I was and a nasty bump on the head I got.”
“What was it like? Not the getting hit on the head bit . . . the battle. Was it . . . very horrible?”
Bilbo could feel his nephew shudder. Although the old hobbit had told the tale of his journey to and adventures at the Lonely Mountain many times, he had always skimmed over that part. He had no wish to recall the scenes of carnage that had been caused by simple greed, and certainly no wish to inflict such images on others.
“Yes lad. It was. Now do you want to tell me why you’re asking that? It’s not the sort of thing that should be filling the head of a youngster like you.”
“I saw it . . . in my dream. But for some reason I felt as though . . . as though I were responsible in some way. They were all dying around me. Men and goblins . . . horrible goblins. They were huge and their blood . . . their blood, Bilbo, was black.” The last word was accompanied by a sob and Frodo clutched his uncle more closely.
Bilbo’s heart raced so fast that he was sure that Frodo’s head must be moving with the beat of it. Stupid, stupid old hobbit, Bilbo chided himself. Some guardian you turned out to be. Going and giving the lad nightmares with your silly tales.
He sought frantically for some image to turn the lad away from goblins and blood. He could not deny the events of his story and yet he had to soften it a little. The lad needed to see some light . . . light . . . elves.
“Yes, Frodo my lad. It was a frightening sight, and yet the elves . . . Ah, now to see an elf fight . . . that is an amazing thing. They are so light and graceful that it becomes almost a dance. They are so nimble. Why I saw one . . .” Bilbo paused as the dark head leaned back to gaze up at him in confusion.
“That’s right. There were elves, weren’t there?”
“Of course there were elves, lad. Tall and beautiful with fine bows, shining swords and long slender lances, flashing in the sunlight.”
Frodo blinked, his voice taking on a distant, singsong tone. “His sword was long, his lance was keen, his shining helm afar was seen.”
Bilbo smiled. “That’s right. I see you’ve been paying attention to your studies. Yes. They were just like Gil-galad.”
The bright blue eyes looked up at him once more. “But there were no elves in my dream. Well, only one. And only one dwarf. The rest were men, tall and proud atop high stone walls and their long blond hair whipped by the cold wind. And . . . and goblins. Hundreds and hundreds of goblins. In armour as black as the night around them and harsh voices that grated upon my soul and made me want to turn and run.” Frodo shivered once more and Bilbo drew him closer in the circle of his arms.
“It was only a dream lad. And anyway the men of Dale have dark hair and we fought on a mountainside, if you remember. Your mind took the silly tales of an old hobbit and spun a story of its own. Maybe you should stop eating cheese for your supper. It’s obvious it doesn’t sit right with you.”
“But why would I dream of such a battle, and so different from the one you always described. It was dreadful, Bilbo. The goblins wore heavy iron armour from head to toe, except for a large white hand painted on their chests. And they were so big. I had never imagined they were so huge.”
“Hush, lad. Imagination plays strange tricks and goodness knows you’ve a healthier imagination than most.” He tried a smile but Frodo would not be turned aside.
“It felt real. I was so frightened. And it wasn’t like the storybook fights, where people get stabbed and fall over. It was horrible. The goblins were . . . they were hacking people’s arms off and ripping open their bodies with thick bladed knives so that I could see their insides. I wasn’t really there but I was bound up in their doom somehow. Those men, Bilbo . . . they knew it was hopeless, and yet they fought on for as long as they could. They were buying me time, I think. I do not understand it fully. How could I be responsible and yet not actually there, Bilbo?”
Bilbo halted the rising tremor in his nephew’s voice by drawing him into a tight hug. “Hush now Frodo. It was only a dream.”
Only a dream? Like the other dreams Frodo sometimes had? Like the time he dreamed of Sam standing at his mother’s grave, and the next day Bell Gamgee had keeled over dead . . . as sudden as you please. Or the time that the lad had dreamed of his parents’ faces floating in water and two days later . . . Bilbo drew back from such reverie.
“It was only a dream, Frodo. Come on. Let’s go and get you a glass of warm milk and then you can sit with me by the fire in the study until you feel calm enough to go back to sleep.”
Surely this could not be one of those visions. How could his lad be involved in such carnage? Bilbo found himself fingering the gold ring in his pocket, evidence of his own unexpected adventure. But a glimpse of the tears still glistening in Frodo’s eyes brought that hand away from the smooth metal at once, to fumble instead for his nephew’s dressing gown.
“Thank you Bilbo.” Frodo allowed his uncle to help him into the dressing gown and then lead him to the study. Once through the study door Bilbo felt the shoulders encircled by his arm relax at once. Here was the world Frodo was familiar with. Here were the pillars of his everyday life.
A fire glowed in the hearth and candles dotted the mantle and various pieces of furniture. Frodo had often chided his uncle, for Bilbo had a frightening habit of piling up books and papers in unsteady towers and then standing a candle atop them. The lad was always worried that Bag End would go up in flames one night, but Bilbo prided himself on never having knocked over a single taper. The very air was filled with books; musty with the scent of paper, ink and leather bindings, of lavender soap and Old Toby. It smelled of home and was as far away from the sight and stench of battle and goblins as it was possible to get.
Bilbo fussed about him, seating him in a chair by the fire and draping a warm rug over his legs. It was comforting and Frodo tucked up his feet and leaned his head into the deep padding of the chair back, eyelids beginning to droop as he stared into the fire. Noting his nephew’s relaxing features, Bilbo left for the kitchen to warm the promised milk.
By the time he returned Frodo was deeply asleep in the chair and the old hobbit did not wake him, bringing in a quilt from his bed instead and wrapping it about the lad atop the blanket. It would do him no harm to sleep in a chair for one night.
Watching the now peaceful face of his nephew, Bilbo lit his pipe. Frodo had always been an overly inquisitive lad. That was one of the reasons Bilbo had decided to adopt him; that and the fact that he was being overlooked far too often in that big warren called Brandy Hall. A brain like Frodo’s needed to be stretched or it found ways of stretching itself, as was evinced by the fair number of scrapes the lad had got into over the years.
It had been one of Bilbo’s dreams that when he set off on his travels again, once Frodo was of age, he would persuade the lad to come with him. The younger hobbit showed a keen interest in the affairs of the world outside the Shire and was pleasant company on a long walk. It would be most enjoyable to retread the paths of his journey with Frodo at his side.
Esmeralda had tried to warn him that there was something slightly different and a little strange about Frodo but Bilbo had not understood the thrust of her comments at the time. Then Bilbo had found out about the dreams.
Frodo had told him about them one night, a few months after first coming to Bag End, when Bilbo had found him crying and upset, just as he had tonight. It seemed the lad had been plagued with visions of future events since before he could remember. Oh, there were the ordinary dreams of childhood but, once in a while, there were others. Bilbo had grown used to them over time and both now accepted them as being as much a part of Frodo as his wide blue eyes. And, until tonight, even those visions had not stalled his plans to ask his nephew to travel with him.
Frodo stirred in his chair and Bilbo held his breath, praying that the dream would not return and sighing when the lad settled once more.
Suddenly, tonight, Bilbo no longer saw Frodo as a companion or nephew, but as a young hobbit who deserved a happy and carefree life. He had been looking at the relationship only from his own selfish standpoint. Not seeing the lad as an independent soul with needs of his own. Now the thought that this kind and gentle heart, that had given itself so freely to Bilbo, may be hurt in any way was more than the old adventurer could face. If Bilbo took Frodo from the safety of the Shire would tonight’s dark vision become reality? If Frodo stayed in the Shire would he be safe from it?
Surely such an event could never happen here. What could possibly precipitate it and where did Frodo fit in? His fingers strayed to the ring. Now why did he keep doing that? It took a great deal of strength but Bilbo pulled his hand away and wrapped his fingers about the warm bowl of his pipe instead, taking one final draw of Old Toby. Then, straightening his shoulders and knocking his pipe out on the hearth, Bilbo blew the stem and bowl clear and set it upon the mantle.
No. He would not ask Frodo to accompany him when he left the Shire. Bilbo would spend their remaining time together teaching Frodo to love his home and then perhaps, the lad would never stir beyond its borders after all. And tonight’s dream would remain only a dream. Hobbits were not made for such terrible things and Bilbo intended to protect his nephew from them if he possibly could. Even if it meant giving up his own dream to stop the other from being fulfilled.
He rose from his chair and paused to settle a small kiss upon Frodo’s brow before turning to his desk to continue his writing. He would sit up tonight in case the dream returned.
The new king of Gondor provides his friends with a seafood feast.
Shirebound gave me this prompt. "How can you eat that oyster-thing? That's disgusting!"
I don't own any hobbits. They all belong to JRR Tolkien and I'm only borrowing to torment them for a little while.
“I love trying all these new foods,” Merry declared as he squeezed lemon over an oyster. “Having a seafood feast before we all head back inland again is a wonderful idea.”
Sam watched but made no attempt to join him, preferring instead to spread some succulent crab meat upon a thin wafer. “I've become quite partial to some of this stuff from the sea. Have you tried that white fish, Mr Frodo? It's not so strong a flavour as river fish.”
“I have. And it's even nicer with that parsley sauce.” Frodo swallowed a bright orange mussel, using his fork to point to a boat of gently steaming pale sauce. “I don't understand why Gimli will not even try seafood.”
Pippin's mouth turned down at the corners as he watched Merry tip back his head and let the oyster slide out of its shell and into his mouth. “How can you eat that oyster-thing. That's disgusting!”
Merry chewed once and swallowed, smacking his lips. “Why? It's got a lovely delicate taste . . . sort of sweet and salty.”
Frodo gave a mock shudder. “You do realise you're eating them alive, don't you?”
Merry's reply was delayed as he slid another pale, lemon drizzled oyster into his mouth and chewed. “Oh no you don't, cousin. You won't catch me out that way again. I remember you once telling me that mushrooms screamed when they were picked.”
Frodo grinned. “It stopped you eating them, though, and that left more for me. You were so easy to tease when you were a faunt.”
“My Mam gave you a sound telling off for that one and Dad put you on stable cleaning duty for a week,” Merry crowed as he swirled his tiny fork in another oyster then lifted the shell and threw back his head once more.
“It was almost worth it. You didn't eat mushrooms for a week before Aunt Esme found out, and I got to eat your share whenever they were served.” Frodo selected another mussel, pausing to dip it in a pale yellow sauce before popping it into his mouth.
“Actually, Frodo is correct. The oyster is alive.” Aragorn interjected as he helped himself to a few cockles.
All eyes flew to Merry, who froze, mid chew. They watched in fascination as his face cycled through pink to white and then green. Eyes wide, he began to search frantically and it was Legolas who thrust a small dish beneath his chin. With some relief, Merry spit out the oyster and Legolas hastily threw a napkin over it while Frodo offered a glass of water to his cousin.
Aragorn hid a smile behind his own napkin but then grunted in apparent pain, turning questioning eyes upon his elven friend who glared back.
Legolas turned to Merry. “It is believed that oysters do not feel pain as we do,” he offered as he waved for a servitor to remove the covered dish. “I confess that I have never enjoyed their texture when raw and prefer them cooked and served in a sauce.”
Sam eyed the other foods set before them on the table as though expecting them to get up and start marching toward him. “I don't hold with eatin' creatures that aint dead. Is there ought else I should know about this lot?” he asked warily.
Frodo calmly helped himself to a spoonful of white and another of brown crab meat. “It's alright Sam. The rest of it has been cooked. It's just oysters they prefer raw. I don't know why because in my opinion they have very little taste and are rather chewy.”
Pippin, who knew Minas Tirith better than any of them and had been fascinated by the fish market in particular, saw his chance to clear the table of other diners; leaving more for himself. “Well, yes, it's all cooked. But have you seen how they do it?” he asked with some relish.
Now all the other hobbits set down their eating utensils and Pippin found himself the centre of attention, a position he delighted in. Letting his gaze roam their faces slowly he dropped his voice. “They take the shellfish, crabs and lobsters and throw them into huge pots of boiling water.” He paused for dramatic effect. “While they're still alive. You can actually hear them scream!”
Three sets of eyes widened, three sets of cheeks whitened and three faces turned to Aragorn. “Is that true?” asked Frodo in a voice barely more than a whisper.
Before answering, Aragorn glanced aside at Legolas. He held no inclination to have his ankle kicked again for it hurt, even with boots on. Legolas rolled his eyes but nodded and Aragorn dabbed at his mouth with a napkin before replying. “That is the quickest and safest way to kill them, yes. And there are those who argue that most shellfish have no way of feeling pain as other animals do. They have no voices and the screaming you describe is just air escaping their shells.” He pointed to a dish of mussels. “And just how would you chop the head off one of those anyway?”
Sam was the first to recover, having wrung the necks of a few chickens and skinned a coney or two in his time. “That's true. I couldn't rightly tell you whether they even have a head.” He began to pile crab meat on his wafer once more.
“A good point,” agreed Frodo as he took a bite of his own. Living close to the land as most hobbits did they were, in general, more pragmatic about such things.
Merry, having by now recovered his normal colour, helped himself to a lobster tail and some sauce. “Just be sure to let me know if I try to eat anything else that's still living.”
Pippin grinned, accepting with good grace that he would not have exclusive use of the feast after all. “Of course, Merry.”
Aragorn leaned aside to whisper to Legolas behind his napkin. “I suppose now is not the time to tell Frodo that crabs are thought to be of the same family as spiders?”
Legolas' foot made unerringly accurate contact with the king's ankle again.
“Ouch!” Aragorn hurriedly slid his feet behind the legs of his chair. “Apparently not.”
Stardreamer offered the prompt, "Do you ever feel... useless?" asked Merry. "I mean, we fought in the Great War of the Ring, and we drove the orcs out of the Shire, and now sometimes everything seems kind of boring."
AN ORDINARY LIFE
I don't own the hobbits. I don't own any of the other amazing creatures, or the Shire. I only have my own imagination. The rest belongs to JRR Tolkien and this is fanfic.
"Do you ever feel... useless?" asked Merry. "I mean, we fought in the Great War of the Ring, and we drove the ruffians out of the Shire, and now sometimes everything seems sort of boring." He picked his way over a muddy patch in the trail.
Frodo followed in his footprints. “I find that I quite enjoy 'boring' nowadays.”
Sam allowed Pippin to precede him. The four adventurers had stolen a few days to be together and it was Frodo who had suggested they go for a walk in the woods near Bywater Pool. It had been raining for several days but today the sun had arisen in a bright blue sky.
“I've never liked, 'boring' either. But I think I prefer this to fighting in a battle.” Pippin hitched his small pack higher, not in the least surprised when Sam added, “I'm with Mr Frodo on this. Borin' will suit me fine.”
For several minutes they continued in a silence punctuated only by their breathing and the sweet trill of birdsong. It was as they were settling down on a fallen log to eat their sandwiches that Merry spoke again.
“I'll give you that 'boring' can be good but what about feeling useless?”
Sam began peeling a hard boiled egg. “Well, I don't feel useless. We still got some trees to plant and now Bag End is cleaned out there's Mr Frodo's things to bring back from Crickhollow.”
“Oh Sam. You don't have to keep running around after me.” Frodo accepted the peeled egg nonetheless, pausing to dip it in a little pot of salt placed ready by Sam.
“I wouldn't feel right, leavin' you to sort out all that on your own,” Sam asserted as he peeled another egg.
Pippin snorted. “He won't be on his own, Sam. Merry and I are going to cart back the furnishings and we can help Frodo arrange them.”
“You have things of your own to see to in Tookborough and Buckland. Just send them with the carter. I'm sure I can call on neighbours to help if needed.” Frodo poured cider for them all. “You two are the least useless of all of us. People look to you for leadership.”
Sam frowned. “They're lookin' to you for leadership too, Mr Frodo. Don't forget you're still Deputy Mayor.”
“Then, that just proves my point. We're none of us useless,” Frodo announced with finality.
There was a short pause and then Pippin asked, “So, does anyone fancy going to search for the Entwives?”
Febobe gave me the prompt:-
"But the mushrooms don't *belong* in the soup!" cried (fill in the blank with character name)
-Frodo turned an unhealthy shade of white, looking as if he might faint or be sick, not that anyone could say which it might be.
The Mushroom Mishap
I don't own the hobbits or Strider and the only mushrooms I know well come in tubs from the grocer.
Strider set a punishing pace as they travelled through Chetwood and the hobbits had to stumble along behind as best they could. Even their new pony found the going hard, having to be coaxed by Sam through some of the thicker copses.
As they approached evening of the first day Merry noticed that Frodo was walking more and more stiffly and he dropped back to see what was the matter. He knew his cousin well enough to realise that he would say nothing about any discomfort, unless confronted directly.
“I can see why they call him, Longshanks.” Merry grinned as he fell into step.
“He certainly doesn't believe in taking time to admire the scenery. Have you noticed how silently he moves?”
“All the big folk I ever saw went crashing about in their clomping great boots, so that we could hear them a mile away.” Merry caught Frodo's elbow as he stumbled. “Almost as noisy as you're being now. You're stumbling about like a bear in a thicket. What ever is the matter, cousin?”
Frodo grimaced as he accepted Merry's help to step over a fallen log. “Remember when I fell off the table at the Prancing Pony?”
“How could I ever forget? I thought we were sure to be thrown out.”
“Well, let's just say that landing on my behind on a hard wood floor is not an experience I want to repeat any time soon.” Frodo rubbed his rear and winced.
Merry chuckled. “Is that all? I thought you had at least broken a leg.”
His words had the desired affect and Frodo snorted a laugh. “I see this old and decrepit hobbit will get no sympathy from you.”
“Of course not, because you're neither of those.”
Nonetheless, he continued to pace his cousin, helping him when he stumbled, until up ahead Strider called out, “We shall stop here for the night, gentlemen. Do not make the fire too large.”
Pippin threw himself down with a dramatic huff as Sam began to unpack their cooking gear. Merry helped lower Frodo onto a log, wincing in sympathy when he saw him favour the left side as he sat. “You stay here while I help collect wood for the fire,” Merry instructed.
A few minutes later Strider hunkered down before Mister Baggins. “What ails you?”
Frodo had to admit that the big man could be as forthright as a hobbit. “It's nothing. Just a bit of a bruise . . . from when I fell in the Pony.”
Strider nodded. “Have you no embrocation to put on it?”
“We had to leave most of our non-food supplies behind when we lost the ponies,” Frodo confessed. “Liniment or bread? Not a difficult choice for a hobbit,” he added with a rueful smile.
For the first time Frodo saw their dour guide chuckle. “I am beginning to learn that. Sit here and once we have a fire going I shall see what I can do to ease you.” He disappeared into the trees and within a few steps was lost to sight or hearing.
An hour later the hobbits sat around their small campfire, eating the thick vegetable stew that Sam had created. Frodo even had a portion of fried mushrooms that Sam said Mr Strider had brought specifically for him. Their guide was off in the woods somewhere doing something he called, “Checking the perimeter,” whatever that meant. The mushrooms were delicious and Frodo was touched by the consideration, even as he fended off Pippin's wayward fork.
“I do not think we have been followed. My ploy seems to have worked.” Strider settled, cross-legged by the fire and accepted the bowl Sam offered. “I ran back as far as the road and spotted some recent boot prints heading east but they showed no signs of turning off after us. They will probably travel a few more miles before they realise we are not ahead of them. By then it will be too dark for them to backtrack and pick up our trail.”
Frodo's nose wrinkled. “At least you saw no hoof prints.”
“Not fresh ones, no. Sam, where have you put those mushrooms I brought earlier? I need to set them to boil for a few minutes.”
“Oh, there's no need, Mr Strider. I fried 'em up myself.”
“And very nice they are, too. How ever did you know that mushrooms were my favourite food?” Frodo chewed another mouthful of the delicious treat but paused when he saw all colour drain from Strider's face.
“The mushrooms were not intended for eating. I brought them to make a poultice for your bruise. They are not edible!”
Frodo turned an unhealthy shade of white, looking as if he might faint or be sick, not that anyone could say which it might be. Everything seemed to slow down in Frodo's mind. It took him an age to set down his plate of mushrooms and days to spit out the half chewed piece in his mouth. Then he felt a hot flush race through his body, followed by the sensation of being dowsed in freezing water, and time returned to normal as he stumbled off into the trees.
Strider was only half a step behind him as Frodo dropped to his knees behind a convenient tree and was violently sick. For some time he was aware of nothing else, certain that he must have rid his stomach of at least a week's worth of food. When he leaned back on his heels Strider wiped his lips with a wet cloth and held out a water pouch with the instruction, “Swill and spit, then take slow sips.”
Frodo accepted a little sheepishly. “You must think us very stupid,” he murmured.
Strider rubbed soothing circles on his back. “No. I must learn to be more specific in my instructions. I am unused to travelling much with others and you are all new to the wilds. I shall be more careful in future.”
“Will I take any further hurt from the mushrooms?”
Strider wrinkled his nose at the evidence of Frodo's reaction so far. “I doubt your body had much time to absorb the toxins and their effects are not deadly, just unpleasant.”
Frodo smiled ruefully. “It pains me to say this, Strider, but in future will you please assume we are all faunts when it comes to plants in the wild.”
“Faunts?” Strider helped him to his feet.
“Children. The young ones who, given a toy, will take it straight to their mouths.”
Strider chuckled as he led his companion back to the fire. “Understood.”
Linda Hoyland gave me the prompt:- The weary travellers took shelter from the heat of the day beneath the branches of a mighty oak.
I don't own anything. The world, events and everyone in them belong to JRR Tolkien.
The four hobbits settled down together for a snack, after spending all morning being shown the town and Golden Hall by King Eomer. After their long journey from Gondor, followed by King Theoden's wake, it was a great relief to simply sit still, alone at last; just the four of them. The weary travellers took shelter from the heat of the day beneath the branches of a mighty oak, behind and a little above the palisade surrounding the hilltop. Meduseld perched upon a lonely mound in the centre of a broad plain so it looked as though an entire world was spread out before them.
“Where do you think they're going?” Pippin nodded to where Elrond and the new queen of Gondor were riding across the plain, toward the foothills of the surrounding mountains.
Frodo turned his head, finding Aragorn also watching from some distance away. “I think the lady and her father want some privacy to say their goodbye's.”
“Goodbye's?” Merry frowned as he laid his head upon one raised knee. “I had forgotten that Aragorn would be leaving us here. Our fellowship is breaking again.”
“As it should,” Frodo murmured before taking a sip from the water flask Sam offered. “It has done what was needed and more.”
“I don't reckon I want to think on us all partin' again. I shall miss Strider and I suppose Master Gimli and Legolas will be leavin' as well. I like Legolas. He's not so scary as some of them other elves.” Sam craned his neck to look over the palisade at the elegant pavilions of Lothlorien and Rivendell below.
Frodo smiled. “Scary? I don't think we need be frightened of them. The elves know more than we because they have lived for longer, that is all.”
Merry narrowed his eyes. “I don't suppose there's much scares you any more, cousin, but most elves still make me uneasy. I always get the impression that they know what I'm thinking even before I think it.” He accepted the water flask from Frodo, taking a good swallow before passing it to Pippin.
Sam handed out chunks of bread and cheese. “I know what you mean, Mister Merry. Sometimes, when that Lady Galadriel looks at me, I feel like my head is some old mathom house and she's having a good old rummage around in it.” He shuddered.
“Oh Sam,” Frodo smiled. “I rather think that when you become as old as she, you have seen the same actions and behaviours played out so many times, that you come to know how people will react in any situation.”
“I hadn't thought of it that way,” Sam confessed. “Maybe that's why I like Master Legolas. He's not as old as some of them others, is he?”
Frodo chewed as he considered. “It may be. I have never considered his age but he does feel younger than Lord Elrond and most of the other elves.”
Pippin washed down some cheese with a mouthful of water. “How can you tell? I bet he's still way older than us.”
“Oh, I've no doubt he is. But he still finds so much in the world to delight him. Lord Elrond once told me that the main reason elves travelled West in the past, was because they became weary of this world. Not in the way of being tired after a long walk, but rather that they tire of seeing the same events play out over and over again.” Frodo set down the remains of his bread, no longer hungry, and touched the warmth of Arwen's jewel against his breast.
“But won't they have the same people and events in the West too?” asked Pippin, simply.
Frodo shrugged. “I don't know. Maybe so. But now they have another reason to leave.”
“What's that Mister Frodo?” Sam frowned as he collected up the remains of Frodo's meagrely unhobbit-like meal.
Frodo nodded to where Aragorn still stood, staring out across the plain. “Middle earth no longer belongs to them. They have helped to set things right and now they must stand aside to let others enjoy it.”
Aragorn's head turned, his keen gaze finding Frodo's. No words were spoken but after a moment the King of Gondor shrugged straight his heavy mantle and turned back to his duties. Beneath the tree Frodo tried in vain to shrug off a duty ended, and stared longingly toward the western horizon.
I don't own Frodo or Elrond. Everyone and everything belongs to JRR Tolkien . . . except Pippin II.
Bilbo had been gone a sixmonth and, outwardly, Frodo seemed to be coping well. He walked less often it was true and the little cottage they had shared for several years was tidier, the garden weedless. He still called upon Elrond and Celebrian and the many other elves he had befriended since his arrival, and he received many visitors in return. But the healer in Elrond could see a hollowness within. He waited to see if it would heal on its own, as such things often did, but when it did not he decided it was time to take a hand.
He found Frodo upon hands and knees before the kitchen window, a bucket at his side filled with soil and mint leaves. The air was thick with the clean, sharp-sweet smell of the plant.
“Good morning, Frodo.”
Frodo dumped another handful of mint into his bucket and straightened, using one hand to rub the small of his back and leaving a muddy smear on his shirt in the process. “Good morning, Elrond.”
Elrond nodded toward the little herb plot and the area scoured clean before his friend's knees. “Whatever has the mint plant done to offend you?”
“It has become a bully and is going to strangle my nice thyme plants if I don't reign it in.” Frodo pointed to the bucket. “I don't suppose you would like to take some of this home to make mint tea? I have far too much and this little lot is destined for the compost heap otherwise.”
“I am certain Celebrian would be happy to accept some to make tea and I can use the rest for compresses and ointments.”
“Good. I don't like to see things go to waste. Sam taught me that much. If you pass me that riddle I can sift out any soil.” He pointed to the large round, mesh based instrument near Elrond's feet.
Elrond merely looked conflicted and Frodo noted that he had both arms folded within his heavy outer robe. “Before we do that, I came to ask a favour of you.”
Frodo stood and Elrond noted how much more slowly he did so, remembering the younger hobbit who, even recovering from a morgul wound, would clamber to his feet so easily. How swiftly mortals aged, even here, in the beneficent air of the West.
“Name it. You know I will do anything I can. You and your family have already given me far more than I could ever repay.”
Elrond smiled softly. How many times had he told Frodo that the debt was entirely his, and the gift from his daughter only a fraction of the payment owed by all of Middle earth to this unassuming hobbit? So many times that he decided that one more would be a waste of his breath. They would never agree upon the matter. Instead, he held out his arms to reveal a small brown, squirming bundle.
“Erestor and Faerwen's dog had puppies six weeks ago. Dawdle was doing well at first but then developed an infection. I tried to help but, sadly, she died a few days ago. They have been hand rearing the litter since then but this little chap is not doing well. He needs more attention than Erestor and Faerwen can give and they wondered if you would be willing to accept a house guest.”
A little wet black nose sniffed delicately at Frodo's proffered muddy fingers. “I've never particularly liked dogs . . . an unfortunate incident in my childhood.” The softening of gaze and voice belied any claim to dislike however as a little pink tongue swiped experimentally at Frodo's palm. Frodo withdrew his hand at once, scolding gently. “Here now! That hand is dirty. You shouldn't be licking it.”
Elrond chuckled, bending his long length to set his gift upon the grass at Frodo's feet. The puppy took two wobbling steps before landing upon her little rump and rolling completely over before clambering back onto pink padded feet. “She will come to little harm from good clean soil.”
Just as well, Frodo noted, as the puppy began to scratch at the newly cleared earth of the kitchen garden, showering the lawn with soil. If hunting was not to be her niche, digging would definitely suit this rather long bodied dog, with legs that barely managed to hold her round pink belly off the floor. This was certainly not a dog bred to hunt down deer.
Frodo made a grab for the puppy's scruff as she made to squat amid the young thyme plants. She yelped as she was deposited firmly in some long grass. “Oh no you don't, you little mischief! If you need the toilet you can do it there.” After circling a couple of times the puppy obliged, then bumbled back to plant herself upon the grass at Frodo's feet, gazing up at him with adoring liquid brown eyes.
Elrond, despite tight clamped lips, appeared to find the event highly amusing, his grey eyes twinkling. “I think she likes you. At the least, she obeys you.”
Frodo lowered himself to the grass and the puppy made a valiant effort to clamber into his lap, drawing a giggle from her mortal climbing frame when she only succeeded in tumbling onto her back and rolling over before trying again. After several more attempts Frodo took pity upon her, lifting her into his lap, where she shoved her face between the buttons of his shirt, tucked her little wet nose against his belly and promptly went to sleep.
Elrond hunkered down at his side. “She definitely likes you.”
Frodo pursed his lips, but his hand strayed to rest upon the soft rise and fall of the puppy's chest. “How long would I be expected to care for her?”
“Just until she is old enough to fend for herself and find her new family,” Elrond replied neutrally. “A few weeks only.”
Frodo touched the little pink pads of one back foot and the puppy twitched in her sleep but did not awaken. “A few weeks,” he echoed, already under her spell. “Does she have a name?”
Elrond smiled, congratulating himself. “Not yet. That is a matter usually decided between dog and family. But if it would make it easier I am sure she would not object to a temporary name, if you have one in mind.”
Frodo looked from damp grass to cratered herb bed. “She is small and full of mischief. Pippin, I think.” He stroked the back curled so tightly in his lap. “I shall call you Pippin.” He turned to lift one brow at Elrond. “Just until she finds her new family you understand.”
“Absolutely,” Elrond replied. “I am certain that you will be the first to know, when she makes her choice.”
And Frodo was.
Hobbits are an industrious people so re-ordering the Shire was taking less time than Sam initially anticipated. In truth, after all the damage done by Sharkey and his minions, Sam had secretly harboured the fear that his beloved Shire would never be the same again. Of course, Mister Frodo said that it never could be the same, but that change was not always a bad thing. Mister Frodo had always been a deep thinker. At least the Lady Galadriel's gift of soil from her garden was beginning to heal many of the scars, and Sam had stopped to water the little mallorn seedling in the party field on his way up the hill.
Number three New Row was as snug a hobbit hole as anyone could wish for, with its brick lining and big windows, but Sam decided that he liked the old cob-lined and whitewashed number three Bagshot Row better. As yet, none of the refurbished holes on the row were furnished so, as Sam stood in the centre of his Gaffer's new home, it was easy to bring to mind how it had looked throughout his childhood and tweenage years.
Some of the planks in the big round door were new but it was painted the same shade of buttercup yellow that Hamfast and Bell Gamgee had always favoured. The front window was larger but still round and Sam ran a hand along the curved sill, imagining he felt the ghost of spotted wax. His Ma often set a candle there on winter evenings to welcome her husband home and, as a tween Sam had accompanied his Gaffer up the lane, drawn by that little shimmering point of golden light.
Turning away he found the old kitchen range, leaded and polished to a shine, just as Ma used to like it. It was too big and heavy to remove, but Sharkey's men had used it for the storage of some very unsavoury items, and Sam and Rose had taken personal responsibility for its cleansing. The boiler on the left, with its small brass tap, held just enough water for the kitchen sink, and Sam made a mental note to ensure that it was filled before his Gaffer moved in. To its right, the oven was big enough to take several loaves and the central fire with its hob was laid with kindling, just awaiting a spark. Sam glanced up automatically, but the layered wooden drying rack that once graced the ceiling was gone. Ma used to hang laundry there on wet winter days and a towel, ready for Hamfast to take his wash after a long day gardening.
There had once been a small wooden settle in the alcove to the left of the chimney breast, with a corner cupboard above. Its key, the only key in Number Three, always resided in Ma's apron pocket for it held her most treasured possessions . . . four sets of matching crockery that had been a wedding gift from her family. The dishes, with their pretty border of yellow daisies, had once belonged to Ma's grandma. Sam scrubbed a sneaky tear from his cheek. Like so many other things, those dishes had gone missing some time during Sharkey's occupation of the Shire, and would likely never be seen again. Bell Gamgee had cherished them, only using them on special celebration days or when Mister Bilbo called. With their loss there was no point in replacing the cupboard and Hamfast had not the heart to insist that they do so.
In the alcove to the right of the black kitchen range had once stood a huge wooden dresser on which was stored all of the family's cooking and eating dishes, pots and pans. Sam remembered helping his Ma empty and wash everything during the annual spring clean, a job Daisy hated. A new dresser was in the making, along with a chair for the Gaffer, and pots and pans were being donated by most of Hobbiton. Ma's chair, rescued from the mill just before its demolition, would soon be back in it's proper place to the right of the hearth. Bell Gamgee had nursed all her children in that rocker and no doubt Marigold would take it with her when she wed next year.
The sound of hammering and voices drew Sam to the back wall of the smial where a smaller round window looked out onto New Row's shared back yard. Through it Sam glimpsed a group of hobbits still building the privy and wash-house, shared by all three smials in the row. Construction of a new stable and pigsty would begin next week but Frodo had decided not to replace the workshop, instead allowing the land to be turned over to vegetable plots for numbers one and two New Row.
A huge square white sink stood beneath the window, and a sturdy wooden drainer had been fitted next to it only yesterday, set with a brand new water pump. Sam knew that Marigold was working on a curtain to hide the buckets and other paraphernalia that everyone collected under their sinks. Mari's was blue but Sam remembered the bright yellow one his Ma had made from Daisy's old dress.
Next to the sink was Number Three's back door, narrow and arched for there was not enough wall space to accommodate a round one. And at right angles to it was the pantry door. Not as big and fancy as the one in Bag End, yet it was lined with many shelves and had a thick marble cooling slab on the back wall. When Sam was a faunt there were times when money for food was scarce but Ma always managed to fill those shelves, and he remembered many a family foraging trip to collect fruits and nuts, mushrooms and herbs. Beneath the slab, behind the water bucket holding the milk can, had been the perfect place for games of hide and seek. It's outer wall facing north, it was cool on the hottest days, it's tiny window set with an open wire mesh to allow free circulation of air.
An arch led to the bedrooms, although one would now become a small parlour, with a fireplace planned before next winter. Sam's Gaffer had protested that he had no need of such a posh thing but, with all the children grown, Number Three had little use for three bedrooms. Mr Pippin said he would be sending some old furniture from Great Smials to furnish this new room, but Sam suspected that Da and Mari would end up sitting by the kitchen fire, as they always had.
He wondered what table would occupy the centre of the room. All Bell's children, in turn had spent many an hour playing beneath the huge oblong table that once graced this kitchen, while she chopped vegetables, skinned rabbits, kneaded bread, mixed cakes, rolled pastry, ironed laundry or cut out fabric for new clothes on the surface above. That table had been the heart of the smial, its wood as smooth as silk and almost white. Sam remembered the circling swish of the brush above his head as Ma scrubbed it each day. One leg only had been recovered from a rubbish heap and Da said it did not do to dwell on its fate. Sam suspected that the new table would be smaller.
He glanced down at the freshly laid tile floor as a shadow appeared next to his own.
“You ready, Sam?” Rose entwined her fingers with his. “You've been in here ages. Is somethin' wrong with your Da's new smial?”
Sam smiled at her. “No. I was just rememberin' how it was when Ma was with us. I wish she could see it now. I think she'd like it.”
Rose leaned in to lay her head on his shoulder. “I'm sure she would.” Then she straightened and gave his hand a little tug. “Come on love. Mr Frodo's got the kettle on.”
Sam allowed her to lead him into the little front garden, pausing to close the freshly painted door of his old home, before following her up the hill to Bag End and his new one.
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