My starters were:
A Coming of Age
I’ve had readers ask for a follow-up story other times and usually nothing clicks, but Daynawayna asked for a special follow-up to “Remember” and “Remembering More” and this time something clicked.
“I do hope that one day, Jeb or Oth will re-discover that book and do some research and bring back the True Story of the Travellers and show that there is no dishonor in the TRUTH. Pretty pretty please? ::whispers to you:: I'm not above begging... and it IS my birthday on Wednesday.... LOL And I don't even know you! LOL I'm sorry, really, but I'd love to see something like that sometime. :) Thank you for the wonderful stories and God Bless.”
This is for Daynawayna.
“We’ve done this before, Other, up until we were in our teens. I really can’t see the sense in doing it again. Nothing will have changed. We were never sure we had the right room let alone the right trunk in the right room and we never found what we were looking for.”
“Humor your old little brother,” Other grinned at Jebbin and nudged him in the ribs. “Bad enough to be a poor loser, worse by far, bigger brother, trying to renege on a wager.”
“I’m not a poor loser, Other, you’re an obnoxious winner and I was certain you were somehow managing to cheat, otherwise I would have happily stopped at best two out of three.”
“Perhaps. But pushing it to best fourteen out of fifteen seems more like a poor loser to me.”
Jebbin chose the path of least resistance; he changed the direction of the conversation as he turned his back on Other to once more walk down the corridor. “You have an odd taste in winnings, little brother. Chasing murky childhood memories of impossible events seems a rather strange choice of gift for your coming of age.” He stopped and lifted the lantern higher. This was a rather dingy, dark and dank section of Brandy Hall.
“My thirty-third birthday, my wager. You shook on it. If I beat you at chess I would get to choose my gift.” Had Jebbin turned to look at his brother, he would have seen that Other was looking insufferably proud of himself. Immediate family often gave gifts to the byrding on their birthday, but those presented on the occasion of “coming of age” were often a bit more grand, or some particularly important item that had long been in the family. To Jebbin, this seemed to be neither. Neither, that is, unless they found what they were looking for.
“He has a good point, Jebbin.”
Jebbin could hear the twinkle in the lass’ eyes as she chided him. Behind him, Athelas Took held tightly to Other’s hand. Jebbin wasn’t exactly sure how it was that she came to be on this quest with them. Mind you, she was his brother’s betrothed, but still . . .
The three of them stopped. Before them was a staircase, the top of which disappeared into the gloom beyond the glow of the small lantern.
“Was this . . .”
“I don’t remember . . .”
“Does it seem darker than it ought to be up there?”
The three hobbits hesitated.
“Up?” asked Jebbin.
“Up.” stated Other.
“Up!” Athelas exclaimed gleefully.
Jebbin thought to himself, and this not for the first time, that she really was an awfully Tookish Took.
They went up the stairs. At the end of a long dark tunnel, they came to a door. It was the only door off the tunnel.
The brothers looked at each other in the dim lamp light.
They knew this was the right mathom room. They had found it again after all those years. Jebbin put his hand to the knob and opened the door.
It was odd, this stepping back in time, stepping back into a place he had only been once before and had come to firmly believe he really hadn’t been in at all. Jebbin stood in the doorway as Other and Athelas pushed past him. Unlike that other time, Jebbin thought, when Other had followed him into . . . where was it he had said they were? The dim memory fluttered to the surface of his mind: Fangorn Forest. He had said they were in Fangorn Forest that day long ago . . . if it had really happened and not just been a dream. The room appeared to be here, but that didn’t mean any of the rest of his memories were of real events.
“It must have happened,” Jebbin thought to himself as he sensed rather than saw Other and his betrothed clambering amongst the mathoms. Jebbin was staring off into vacant air, not really seeing what he was looking at. “We’re here and Other is off on his own tangent just as I recall he was on that day. Then I saw this interesting looking, dusty old trunk.”
Jebbin’s eyes followed his thoughts and brought clearly into focus the trunk sitting on the dusty floor just a short way off to his right.
“It’s in there, isn’t it?”
Somehow Athelas’ whisper filtered into his thoughts and Jebbin didn’t even jump at the sound.
“And you’re afraid, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” his voice replied. He felt as though his voice spoke on its own, without any assistance from him. He was busy wondering how much of this childhood nonsense his daft brother had told her.
“He didn’t tell me. I just know,” she whispered in his ear so closely it tickled. “Go to it. Open the trunk.”
Jebbin still held the lantern up. He turned to look at Athelas. He was going to get to the bottom of this, take her to task, rake his brother over the coals. How dare Other lead her to believe any of this? He found himself staring into sparkling green eyes. Beyond her, Other was still climbing about muttering something about why weren’t they looking for the trunk, but that didn’t matter just now.
“Go ahead, Jebbin. Open it. It’s in there. You need to find it. It’s important that you do. You need it for your studies, for the book you are writing.”
His mouth calmly said, “Yes, I need to find it for my research.” while his heart was pounding and his thoughts were bouncing off the inside of his skull; ‘How can she know? How? I’ve told no one. How can she know?’
“The time has come,” Athelas said in a voice not quite her own. A pleasant voice, melodic like a flute one hears being played in the distance.
Jebbin turned, moved forward a couple of steps, sat upon a box across from the trunk, lifted the latch and opened the lid. The jacket lay on top of its contents, folded neatly. He lifted it. He turned it. The pocket that had been folded to the inside showed the outline of something rectangular, thin and not much smaller than the pocket itself.
Jebiamac Brandybuck’s wretched book of lies.
Jebbin slowly drew the book out of the jacket pocket as a chill ran up his arm and into his heart. The book of wretched lies . . . or was it?
Athelas was behind him, not having moved from the spot where she had whispered into Jebbin’s ear. Other looked at her questioningly. A thought stirred in his head that this had somehow been her idea all along. She said nothing, she only nodded him towards his brother. As he had those many years ago, Other plopped down next to Jebbin, looking at the book over Jebbin’s right arm.
They might be sitting as they had before but they were different hobbits than the two who had last sat down to read that small book. Other was, as mentioned before, coming of age; the very next day to be precise. He still had his rather “fling caution to the wind” attitude toward life as well as his Tookish Brandybuck love of adventure and daring. He had fallen in love not with some Buckland gentlehobbit’s daughter, no pampered daughter of Brandy Hall. No, Other had fallen in love with a blacksmith’s daughter. The blacksmith to whom he had apprenticed after he was finished with all the schooling that was expected of a Hall-born young hobbit. He had caused a good amount of talk when it was learned that he wished to learn a skill, craft, art . . . a manual labor occupation. He had chosen Tobius Took because of one skill Toby had that none other in the Shire possessed. Toby made the usual items a blacksmith made; pony shoes, hinges, cooking utensils and nails, etc. . . . but Tobius Took also made swords.
Jebbin was a teacher now. A teacher of reading, writing, literature, language and, of course, hobbit history. He had kept studying hobbit history and, without being truly aware of why, had particularly studied the lives of the Travellers. He delved for every detail he could unearth. He devoured the family records kept at the Hall. He travelled about the Shire. To Hobbiton. To the Great Smials. To Undertowers. He asked to see every family’s records he could from every family who would listen to him. He was desperately seeking for . . .
. . . the truth.
In his heart and in his head, Jebbin Brandybuck had never really forgotten that long ago dreary, drizzly day with his younger brother. Be it dream, delusion or reality, it had never really left a small corner of his mind. It had never ceased poking at his thoughts. “This all seems in order,” the ghost of Meriadoc the Magnificent had said on that dimly remembered day. And always, always, always Jebbin could hear his own childish voice saying in response, “But you just said that it seems to be in order. That means that it is right. That means that what you read in there is right.”
He had started to suspect that was in actuality the truth of the matter. Little dribs and drabs of hints in a few of the writings he read had worked their way to that corner where the memory of the book and the ghosts lay waiting until they melded together into the thought . . . maybe Jebiamac Brandybuck had written down the truth just as he had claimed. And like his ancestor before him, Jebbin Brandybuck had started writing a book of his own. It was to be the definitive work on the lives and journey of the Travellers. It would put to rest any doubts about the history held dear by so many hobbits of the Shire.
If only it could put to rest the doubts of its author.
Jebbin’s great work simply would not form itself into a cohesive statement of the matter. The niggles, the fragments of Jebiamac’s book, the splinters found here and there in the other writings, wouldn’t stay out of Jebbin’s efforts. Therefore, he had kept all of his work hidden.
“Are you going to open it, Jebbin, or just hope it all soaks into your head through your hands holding onto the cover?” Other nudged his brother as he spoke.
“Stay out of this, Other!” Jebbin snapped without looking up. he couldn’t pull his eyes from the book in his hands. “You’ve no notion whatsoever of what this is about.”
“What is it about, Jebbin?”
The brothers jumped a bit at the voice that didn’t belong to either of them nor to Athelas.
“You two seem to spend a goodly amount of time looking all agog,” Merry said quietly, noting they looked as bug-eyed as they had the last time he’d spoken to them. Then he stared at the two Brandybucks for a few moments. “You’ve changed,” he said, this time sounding confused.
“You!” Jebbin shouted. He jumped to his feet to lean his face as close to the face of Meriadoc the Magnificent as he could without touching the ghost. “This is all your fault. You and . . . and . . .” Jebbin’s emotions were getting the better of his thinking, so he simply stammered out, “the other one.”
“Peregrin the Peer . . .”
“Stay out of this, Other! Yes, you and Peregrin the Peerless Took. You started it all by saying this,” Jebbin backed away a bit to give himself room to wave the small book in front of the ghost’s eyes, “ ‘all seems in order.’ Those were your words. Your words!”
Merry stepped back a bit. The waving book was making him nervous, though he had the feeling it would pass through him instead of hitting him in the nose. “Ah . . . well . . . yes. I did say . . .”
“Ha!” Jebbin pounced. “You admit it! You admit it you foul apparition.”
“Foul? Foul! Just one moment there, young hobbit.” The ghost balled up his fists and took a step forward.
“Grand!” enthused another voice. “I’ve not seen a good punch up in a long while. Have you anything to nibble on while we cheer them on, Other?”
Peregrin the Peerless gradually came into view, sitting next to Other who looked at him wide-eyed but said nothing. Pippin glanced up at Athelas. A knowing grin came to his lips. He bowed his head to her, she returned the gesture, then the ghostly Took returned his attention to Merry and Jebbin.
“It’s a shame we’re in this stuffy old mathom room, we could sell tickets otherwise. Go on then, hit him a smart one with the book, Jebbin!”
The two combatants looked at Pippin who sat there with one arm draped companionably around Other’s shoulders. A silly smile stretched nearly from one of the ghost’s ears to the other. Beside him, Other Brandybuck sat with a matching smile upon his face. Jebbin and Merry stared at them for several seconds, then Meriadoc the Magnificent chuckled.
“They look like a matching set of bookends.” he managed to get out before he doubled over laughing. “I . . . I thought . . . he . . . your brother that is . . .” The ghost drew in a deep breath, which struck Jebbin as rather odd as he didn’t reckon the dead needed to breathe. “Oh! Oh my. I thought you and your brother were Brandybucks, Jebbin, but Other looks an awful lot like my idiot Took cousin.”
Other and Pippin just smiled more broadly before turning their heads to look at each other. Pippin’s eyes widened.
“Oy! You’ve changed, Other.” Pippin shifted his gaze back to Merry and Jebbin. “You have too, Jebbin! They’ve changed Merry. We’ve missed some more time, I think.”
Merry gave his cousin one of his, “Really, Pippin?” patronizing glances before turning back to Other’s brother.
“Shall we start over?” Merry asked Jebbin.
For a moment, Jebbin looked to rear back up into his virulent attack on Meriadoc the Magnificent’s translucent self, but he obviously thought the better of it, visibly settling himself down before speaking.
“Is this or is this not a pack of heinous lies?” he said stiffly, waving the book once again in the ghost’s face.
Merry turned his eyes to Pippin, this time his look was more beseeching than condescending. “Uh, Pip. A moment if you would?” Merry started to turn away, but Jebbin moved to block him while his mind was briefly questioning if blocking a ghost was possible to do.
“Oh no, you don’t,” Jebbin said firmly. “That’s what you two did last time. You went and had a lovely chat between the two of you and came back with your agreed upon speeches . . .”
“Hardly agreed upon, we hadn’t the time to . . .”
“Agreed upon answers then, if that suits your memory of the events better. It makes no difference. You hastily cooked up something betwixt the two of you and I need to know what that was.” Jebbin started to emphasize his next words by tapping the book onto Merry’s chest, which resulted in the book actually going into Merry’s chest. Jebbin shivered while hastily withdrawing the book. “Is what is written in this book the truth of what happened on your journey? Did Jebiamac Brandybuck write the true facts? Yes or no?”
Merry once again fixed his eyes on Pippin. Athelas Took fixed her eyes on the space between them. The ghosts felt a stirring of a breeze laden with the scents and sounds of autumn. Pippin smiled. Merry looked uncomfortable.
“They are hobbits grown. The truth will no longer crush their hearts and spirits.”
The flute-like voice spoke from a place where the spirits of the departed Travellers could hear it but those on life’s side of the grey rain curtain could not, excepting those of the speakers lineage. Athelas heard it too.
“A time will come that hobbits will be all but lost from this world. I do not know when, only that this is so. The truth will give strength to those who make it through the troubles to come. The truth will give hope to the hobbits who remain. Your kind will live on as my kind have since our troubled time and will continue to live until this world is no more. They will hide in the small places of the world, in the quiet places of the countryside, they will hide from the Big Folk. Those who remain will need to know hobbits have strength. They will need to know hobbits have a greatness inside themselves that needs no magic. They will need to know that there truly was a time that the world itself was saved from grave peril by a hobbit and those who loved him.”
A soft glow surrounded Jebbin and Other. The sensations of being in deep, untraveled woods in the waning of the year increased within Merry and Pippin.
“These two brothers of the blood are as near and dear to each other as are you two brothers of the heart. Each compliments the other. They are bound together as tightly as the two of you. The child of the head will tell the true story, the child of the heart will keep him from faltering when the truth is attacked. For it will be attacked. But the heart will remain true and the head will be proudly held high. This child of my child, my Tookling Balm, she will watch over them both so that all the kith and kin of my own dear Took will be given what is needed for them to endure.”
A warmth not common to disembodied beings flooded over the two ghostly hobbits. They nearly felt the life of this world flowing in them again. Then the feeling slowly faded, as did Culassisul’s voice whispering, “The time for the truth has come.”
“Well?” demanded Jebbin, for whom little time had passed and there was no knowledge of the flute like voice nor its message.
The eyes of the ghost of Meriadoc the Magnificent never left those of his ghostly cousin. They gave each other the slightest of nods.
“Yes. The book tells the truth.” Merry’s whisper was nearly as ghostly as himself.
Jebbin slowly sank, crossed legged, to the floor. “I knew it,” he sighed.
Other spared a moment for a soft, concerned look to Pippin before moving to Jebbin’s side. He pulled his brother into a firm hug.
“You lied to us,” Jebbin quietly said. His anger had drained out of him, leaving him feeling empty and weary. “You two, of all the hobbits in the history of hobbits . . . you lied to us.”
Merry sat down beside Pippin on the box across from the trunk. Pippin hugged his cousin about the shoulders, glad that, at least to each other, it felt like a good solid hug. Merry’s head hung low. He felt deeply shamed by that quietly spoken accusation.
“It’s hard to explain,” Merry muttered. “Neither of you have children yet I’m thinking,” he looked up at the brothers sitting on the floor, “though I’m sure you have younger cousins. I’m sure you’ve been around young children.”
“Yes, we have a good many younger cousins,” Other replied.
“Do you tell them the truth all the time? I mean . . . well, if it would ruin their wonder at life, if it would take away from their joy or security? Do you tell them there are no dragons? There used to be but I’m sure they are regarded as pretend now. Do you tell them there are no Elves or Dwarves?” Merry paused, looking thoughtful. “Are there any Elves or Dwarves about?” he asked Jebbin and Other.
Jebbin shook his head but Other spoke up.
“Not that we hobbits know of, no, Meriadoc the Magnificent.”
“Just Merry will do, Other. If there aren’t any as far as hobbits know, then I’m sure they are treated the same as dragons and faeries are. Pretend beings. Storybook beings. Beings one lets children believe in.”
Pippin and Athelas had given a bit of a start at the mention of faeries. They glanced at each other, winked then both looked back to the brothers sitting on the floor.
“Do you want to be the one that shatters those tightly held childhood beliefs, Jebbin? Do you, Other?” The brothers shook their heads. “No, and neither did I. No kindly adult does. That gets left to older children who see it as proof of their being grown-up that they no longer believe in such things and take it as their gleeful duty to tear such falsehoods from younger siblings and relations. With that said and agreed upon, can you see why we said what we said? Would you want us to be heartless heroes with no concern for a child’s innocent beliefs?”
Jebbin looked up. Tear tracks glistened on his cheeks. “But we told you it was what we had been taught by our tutor. You knew it wasn’t just the version of your story believed by children.”
“And all the more reason to leave things as they were,” said Pippin. “Would you have really been happy, as the youngsters you were then, being told your teacher, no rather, that every adult you knew and trusted were telling you falsehoods? And if you had, as the youngsters you were then, run to them proclaiming them to be liars and teachers of lies, do you think that would have gone over well with them?”
A light came into Jebbin’s eyes. “No!” he said with understanding brightening his voice. “No, that would have all been horrible. We would have thought, “What else that they’ve taught us is really lies.” And I can imagine how our parents and tutor would have reacted to being accused of lying to us.”
“We would have spent a lot of time in separate rooms, Jebbin.”
“And miss having afternoon tea,” Jebbin added to Other’s comment then looked at the ghosts. “Scandalous that would be, it has always been our favorite meal.”
“Ours too,” Pippin nodded and smiled. “It being mostly sweets and dainties.”
“And sentences!” Other exclaimed. “Can you imagine the sentences they would have had us writing, Jebbin? We’d likely still be sitting at desks in separate rooms writing, “Parents do not teach their children falsehoods.” “Teachers do not teach their pupils falsehoods.” and other such cheery phrases.”
“And you wouldn’t even know me, Other, having spent your life locked up in a room writing sentences.” Athelas softly said. “You wouldn’t even know me, let alone be betrothed to me. And Marjoram Proudfoot wouldn’t know Jebbin either, and that would be a terrible pity, though, even as things are, she’s not quite sure he knows she exists.” She had a charmingly innocent look on her face, but her eyes sparkled with mischief.
The brothers both blushed a delightful red.
“Ah!” exclaimed Athelas, “You do know she exists. I’ll have to let her know that bit of information.”
Jebbin and Other looked at each other, a silent conversation passing between them. The ghosts looked on with no intent to interrupt. They often had such conversations themselves. Finally, Jebbin and Other looked at Merry and Pippin.
“All right,” Jebbin said. “Points well taken and conceded. But now what? Now we are adults, well nearly both adults, and we have the book that holds the true story. I’ve wondered about and feared this for years. I have even begun writing a book to prove the validity of what we are all taught.” Jebbin paused, looking down and away for a moment before looking up into the eyes of Merry’s ghost. “I was writing to convince myself as much as to confirm everything to others. There was just something about what happened . . . it felt too real to not have happened. And there was something in the way you both changed from, “this all seems in order” to “that was the story we told most people”. It was as though, in the back of my mind, I knew you were not wanting to hurt our feelings.”
“Bright lad!” Merry exclaimed. “Further proof that he’s a Brandybuck and a descendant of mine.”
“Yes, yes, Merry. But which brother is already betrothed? Eh? Out living his life instead of nose in the books.” Pippin nodded to Other. “Tookish Brandybuck,” he said proudly. Other beamed.
“I’m going to have to find out just where your line and mine got muddled together, other than my Mum.” Merry muttered. “However,” he said to Jebbin, “what you have to do now is easy to do. It won’t be easy to live with, but it will be very easy to do. You write your book the way you’ve always known it should be written. You tell the truth.” Merry pointed to the small book in Jebbin’s hand.
“And go to Great Smials,” Pippin added. “On the bottom most shelf of the shelves nearest the window that is nearest the fireplace, in the corner of the shelf nearest the window, you’ll find a small book much like that one. Adelard Took wrote something similar before he married Mallow Brandybuck.”
Merry raised his eyebrows at his cousin.
“Sometimes one just knows these things, Merry. One knows one’s family and whom one’s great, great grandchildren marry and such as that.”
Merry’s eyes narrowed. “Is that where . . .”
“You’re muddled together again.” Other finished for him while grinning impishly.
Pippin waggled his eyebrows. Other sniggered. Merry rolled his eyes then continued addressing Jebbin.
“Go and get that other book as well. All the better having a source from both families. Then write. Write and talk and teach.”
“They ‘ll kill me.” Jebbin muttered, shivering a bit as he did. “Or at least they’ll exile me. I’ll be going against everything every Shire historian has written for hundreds of years.”
“And I’ll dare them to just try to prove you wrong. I mean really truly prove you’re wrong.” Other puffed out his chest as he spoke. “After all, the Red Book says the same things as the ghosts and Jebiamac’s book say, Jebbin, and . . .”
“What do you know of that?”
Other blushed and the puff went out of his chest. “You asked to see it and they politely told you no. So I just . . . well I . . .” He straightened up once more. “I just went and looked. I heard talk in the inns that none have seen it in a long count of years and those who have said they didn’t put much stock in it as it was well known how humble Mayor Samwise was. They don’t call him Samwise the Stalwart in the Westmarch nor Undertowers.” Other said to the ghosts, then turned back to his brother. “They remember how humble he was said to be and so reckon the tale in the Red Book is toned way down from what is thought to be the true story. Which of course we now know is the false story as no one has learned the true story for a long time.”
Merry and Jebbin looked knowingly at each other. “We’re surrounded by Tooks.” Jebbin sighed.
“And a good thing we are,” Merry said, pulling Pippin into a one-armed hug while ruffling his hair with his free hand. He knew it irked Pip to have his hair ruffled. “They are most handy in a pinch. Tooks: no Brandybuck should go through life without one.
But back to all of this, Jebbin. You have your answer. Write your book. Talk in every tavern and inn, at every fair and festival. Go tell the truth that all we did was what we had to do, we didn’t turn and run in the face of horror and possible death. That Frodo and Sam did the unthinkable, the unimaginable and actually lived to tell the tale.”
“That there was only a little of what is thought of as magic in the true story, and that none of us are any less for that.” added Pippin. “That we came home, set the Shire back to rights and . . .”
He paused. He and Merry looked at each other with the dim glisten of ghostly tears on their cheeks. When Pippin continued, he kept his eyes locked with his cousin’s.
“We mostly lived happily for the rest of our lives. Frodo couldn’t stay. He was hurt too deeply, a hurt for which there was no cure in our world.”
“And we were hurt as well,” Merry continued. “Sam and Pippin and I. We were happy, we lived full, rich lives, but the things we saw and did would ofttimes haunt our dreams and sometimes darken our days. Sam had to follow Frodo after his dearest Rosie passed on, then Pippin and I left for Rohan and Gondor knowing we would never again walk the lands where we were born.”
“Tell them that hobbits are all we need to be, without magic of the kind in those false stories.” Pippin turned to look at the brothers and Athelas who had joined them on the floor. “Tell them we are strong, brave, loyal, loving, merciful and just.”
“And that is all the magic anyone needs.” Merry added as the two ghosts faded from the sight of the living hobbits seated on the floor of a dusty old mathom room.
“Thank you, Other.” Jebbin whispered.
“You’re welcome. What did I do?”
Jebbin stretched to hug Other and Athelas both.
“Your gift. It really was a gift to me. You’ve set me free to believe the truth and to share it with the whole Shire.”
Jebbin placed the book in his own jacket’s pocket then lifted the lantern. Athelas folded the old jacket and placed it back in the trunk. Other closed the lid and flipped down the latch. They left the old mathom room, shutting the door with a reverent gentleness. They walked down the staircase then down the tunnel back to more well lived in parts of the hall.
Behind them, the jumbled remains of a very old cave in became visible for a few moments before the light of their lantern faded away. Two stairs had shown through the rubble at the edge of the fallen debris.
Sometimes, there is a little magic in this world.
Chapter End Notes:
Please read "Remembering Anew" next.