A Long Expected Departure by Dreamflower

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Author's Chapter Notes:

AUTHOR’S NOTES: (1) All sections in italics come from The Fellowship of the Ring , Book 1, Chapter 1, “A Long Expected Party”

(2) Bilbo is, of course, 111, Rory is 99, Frodo is 33 and Merry is 19 (the equivalent of 71, about 64, 21 and about 12 ½ in Man years)



The Master of Buckland pushed himself slightly away from the table, a signal that he had filled all the corners he was going to fill for the time being. His daughter-in-law, Esmeralda, who sat next to him, smiled. Age had not dinted the old hobbit’s appetite in the least, but at a party like this one, even the most eager could be forgiven getting sated before the end.

He cast an eye at her. “Where’s Meriadoc?” he inquired after his grandson.

“Ah,” she said, “I believe he and young Pippin were going to see if there were any fireworks left over.”

Rory chuckled. “They had better watch it. Old Gandalf is likely to turn them into something unpleasant if he catches them messing about with his fireworks.”

She smiled. “I don’t believe it for a minute. Merry--he might, but Pippin has a way even with the wizard. Now where is my husband?”

The old Brandybuck gestured with his chin towards the head of the table. “He went up to congratulate young Frodo on his majority, and now he has got caught up in conversation with your brother Paladin.”

“Frodo’s turned out quite nicely, don’t you think?” Esmeralda said proudly.

“Indeed, I do. I’m glad that you and Saradoc had the raising of him before old Bilbo got his hands on him, though. No telling what notions he’s put in the lad’s head, but he’s got a good Brandybuck foundation under all of that Baggins nonsense.” His tone was light, but Esme was intuitive enough to catch the wistfulness in his tone. Old Rory had always had a soft spot for his nephew, the only child of his late and beloved youngest sister. He had always regretted the fact that Frodo could not seem to get over his parents’ death as long as he remained in Buckland. There was something else in Rory’s tone tonight, though, as well.

There was a stir at the head of the table as Bilbo rose.

Esme chuckled. “Looks like we’re in for one of his speeches.”

Her father-in-law grinned. “He can be a bit long-winded at times, can’t he? But I daresay he deserves every word of it tonight. Eleventy-one is a respectable age, even for one with some Took in him.”

 “My dear People--”  Bilbo had scarcely opened his mouth before there was a general outcry of cheers and a few good natured cat-calls. 

 “My dear Bagginses and Boffins, and my dear Tooks and Brandybucks, and Grubbs, and Chubbs, and Burrowses--”

“If he names every connection of the family we’ll be here all night--” said the Master under his breath. Esmeralda sniggered.

“--and Hornblowers, and Bolgers, Bracegirdles, Goodbodies, Brockhouses and Proudfoots--”

Here he was interrupted by old Olo Proudfoot. “ProudFEET!”

This brought on general laughter.

“Proudfoots. Also my good Sackville-Bagginses that I welcome back at last to Bag End.” Rory risked a glance at the foot of the table where Lobelia and Otho sat with their glowering son, Lotho. Lobelia had a look on her face as though she had taken a swallow of something rotten. He playfully elbowed his daughter-in-law to look. She did, and then put a hand to her mouth to hide her grin. “You wicked thing, Rory! If she catches me laughing at her, I’ll get the sharp edge of her tongue!”

And you’ll give as good as you get, my dear.” There was no love lost between Esmeralda and Lobelia. Rory had never cared for her either. And his wife Menegilda, who had not traveled to the Party, still blamed Lobelia for Primula’s death, since Lobelia had given his sister a gift at her wedding--something many people thought not only in poor taste, but horribly bad luck as well. It was just as well his wife had not come, or the encounter between the two of them would have made that dragon from old Gandalf’s fireworks look tame.

 “Today is my one hundred and eleventh birthday: I am eleventy-one today! I hope you are all enjoying yourselves as much as I am!”  The noise was nearly deafening as many of the younger hobbits, as well as some of the older ones who should have known better, erupted into thunderous applause and cheers, as though Bilbo would ever make a speech that short. Some of the tweens and older teens began to play music on the toy instruments provided as party favors.

Hullo, Mum! Grand-da Rory!” A familiar arm draped itself over Rory’s shoulder, and he glanced up to see his grandson standing there. At nineteen, he was beginning to develop a certain tween lankiness. The lad bent and kissed the top of his mother’s head.

“Where’s Pippin?” she asked.

“Oh, Pearl came and fetched him away. She *said* it was because she needed to wash his face and comb his hair. I think it was because she thought I was going to get him in trouble,” he said resentfully. His eyes were scanning the head of the table, seeking the form of his beloved cousin Frodo. He was not happy with being deprived of both his younger and older favorite cousins. Rory shook his head; those three were closer than brothers, despite the age differences.

Suddenly there were three loud blasts from one of the toy horns. Bilbo had got tired of waiting for the racket to subside.  “I shall not keep you long. I have called you all together for a Purpose!”  No, thought Rory, what is the old fool up to now? He glanced at Esme. Her gaze was troubled, and like Merry, her eyes were on Frodo. The lad looked a bit unsettled.  “Indeed, for Three Purposes! First of all, to tell you that I am immensely fond of you all, and that eleventy-one years Is too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits.” Rory felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. His old friend *was* up to something. He took a sip of his wine.  “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”  Rory nearly spewed the mouthful across the table. Esmeralda grinned and rolled her eyes. Merry was looking puzzled, as indeed were most of the hobbits at the table.  “Secondly to celebrate my birthday. I should say OUR birthday. For it is, of course, also the birthday of my heir and nephew, Frodo. He comes of age and into his inheritance today.”  Good heavens! thought the old Brandybuck, I do believe he’s off again! I’ll give him a sharp word after the party for this, if he means to leave poor Frodo now of all times! No wonder the lad was not enjoying his own party.  “Together we score one hundred and forty-four. Your numbers were chosen to fit this remarkable total: One gross, if I may use the expression.”  There was silence at this. A number of people were looking insulted. As well they might, thought Rory, since Bilbo had intended it that way; he risked another glance at Lobelia and Otho. They knew whom the barb had been aimed at.

Rory missed the next part of the speech: a bit of rambling about the old hobbit’s travels with the Dwarves. He was thinking back to a conversation he’d had with Bilbo at mid-summer, when they had met at the Great Smials in Tookland for the Lithedays celebration.


“I do hope I can count on you to keep an eye on Frodo for me if anything should happen to me, Rory old friend.”

“Whatever are you on about, Bilbo! You will outlast us all!”

“Neither of us is a spring chicken anymore, my dear Brandybuck, and you are after all, twelve years younger than I.”

“Maybe I am. But you look fifty years younger than you ought! You will pass the old Took, I’m sure!”

And Bilbo had laughed and said that was his ambition. And they had gone on to talk of other things.


But now Rory suspected that Bilbo had not been worried about dying at all. Oh, no, my old friend, he thought angrily, don’t do this to Frodo…

 “…thag you very buch.’ I now repeat it more correctly. Thank you very much for coming to my little party. Thirdly and finally, I wish to make an ANNOUNCEMENT. I regret to announce that--even though, as I said, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to spend among you--this is the END. I am going. I am leaving NOW. GOOD-BYE!”

Bilbo stepped back, and there was a sudden blinding flash of light. He was gone, as though he’d never been there. Rory’s face darkened with anger. How dare he? Suddenly he caught sight of his grandson’s stricken face, and the look almost of fear on his daughter-in-law’s. At the head of the table, Frodo looked as though he had been slapped. With an effort, he abated his anger, and forced a light tone into his voice.

 “There’s something fishy in this, my dear! I believe that mad Baggins is off again. Silly old fool. But why worry? He hasn’t taken the vittles with him.”  He looked once more at Frodo, and then to give him something to do, called out: “Frodo, my lad, send round the wine again, and we will give old Bilbo another toast!”

Recalled with a snap to his duties as a host, Frodo came to himself at once. Esmeralda looked at Merry, who looked as though he might burst out in tears in spite of his nineteen years. “Merry, go to Frodo at once.”

She watched him leave, and then turned to her father-in-law, green eyes blazing. “You knew this was coming?”

He shook his head. “Not here and now, no. But I have expected him to do this ever since he came back from the last time. He never truly settled back down to life in the Shire. I had hoped he would give Frodo a few more years, however.”

“We should never have allowed Frodo to go to him!” she said angrily.

“My dear, it was meant to be, for some reason I cannot understand. But Frodo still has his friends. He will be all right.” Perhaps if Rory could convince her, he could convince himself.

Esmeralda got up as she saw her husband headed in her direction, and went to meet his embrace.

And Rory took another sip of wine, and said under his breath, “Safe journey, old friend.”


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