Begin Again by elwen of the hidden valley

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This tale is woven around the characters, settings and events created by JRR Tolkien.  This is non-profit fanfic.

“Frodo?  Come on, Poppet.  You’ve stayed in your room long enough now.  Come and join your Uncle Saradoc and me for second breakfast.”

Aunt Esmeralda’s coaxing tones were accompanied by a light tap on his door and Frodo looked up from his book with a sigh.  His Aunt meant well, he knew.  A part of him also knew that her words were correct.  He could not stay in this warm dark womb of a room forever.

“I’ll be there in a minute Auntie,” he called quietly as he closed his book.  Frodo did not bother to mark the page.  He knew the story well.  It was a tale about the beginning of the world.  An elvish tale given to him by his father on Drogo’s last birthday.

His last birthday.  Frodo glanced down at the beautifully tooled cover.  It had, indeed, been Papa’s last birthday.  There would be no more.  At least . . . the day would come and go each year but there would be no reason to bake a special cake and there would be no-one to distribute presents.  He fingered the deep blue ribbon he had been using as a bookmark, bringing it to his nose and inhaling deeply.  Yes . . . it still smelled faintly of lavender . . . of Mama.  The smell always reminded him of Mama and he was not sure whether that was good or bad.  He need only catch the scent to be reminded of her embracing arms but that only served to remind him that they were no longer there.

He draped the ribbon across the book and placed both reverently upon his bedside table before rising from the bed, fastening his weskit and turning down the lamp. 

His room at home had a window, with pretty yellow curtains.  Mama had wanted to replace those curtains once, with some thicker ones, but he had pleaded with her not to.  He liked to be awoken by sunshine filtered through their thin yellow fabric for it gave his room a warm golden glow that was comfortable and welcoming.  That little smial belonged to someone else now and this new room suited his sombre mood better.

Frodo took the four steps from bed to door in near darkness and opened the portal hesitantly.  As he was now under the care of Auntie Esmeralda and Uncle Saradoc he had been moved closer to their rooms, in the quieter upper family section of Brandy Hall.  He had been staying in the guest apartments before, in a much noisier part, when he and his family had come visiting.  At first, Frodo had found the constant hubbub frightening after the peace of his family's little smial.  Then he had grown to quite enjoy it.  There was always something going on to hold his attention.

This section of the Hall was quiet, but not like his home . . . his old home . . . he corrected himself as he padded down the hallway to his Auntie and Uncle’s small suite of rooms.  This was not the peaceful quiet of the little brook murmuring at the bottom of the garden and the chirp of sparrows in the trees.  The quiet here was of thick walls and carpets, closed doors and heavy upholstery.  It was not a silence that one listened to but one that seemed to eat sound. 

Frodo’s parents were buried in the little graveyard in the valley and it felt to the child that he too had been buried these past three weeks.

Reaching a large plain door at the end of the hallway, Frodo paused to run fingers through his unruly hair, suddenly realising that he had forgotten to brush it this morning.  Mama had always brushed his hair in the mornings, even after he was old enough to do it for himself.  He tugged at his weskit and knocked timidly.

“Come in,” came Saradoc’s rich tones, and Frodo stepped into the small living room, squinting for a moment in the sunlight streaming through the large round window in the outer wall.  When he had managed to blink the room into focus he found his Uncle smiling across at him from his seat at the breakfast table.

“You don’t have to knock to come in here, lad.”

“I’m sorry Uncle.  I forgot,” Frodo murmured, staring at the carpet.

Saradoc sighed. “Don’t stand on ceremony.  Come and take your seat.”  His uncle indicated a chair next to him that had been thoughtfully raised with cushions to accommodate the still growing child.

“Thank you, Uncle Saradoc.”  Frodo crossed the room and scrambled into the chair, blushing and muttering his thanks again when Saradoc pushed him closer to the table.  Frodo’s feet dangled several inches from the floor so he tucked them behind the rungs to stop them swinging.

Aunt Esmeralda appeared from their tiny kitchen, a flurry of yellow skirts and perspiration damp curls.  She set a heaped plate before her husband and turned a sunny smile on Frodo.

“Well now, Frodo.  What would you like to start with?  I’ve eggs and bacon, sausage and mushrooms and I could fry you a slice of bread if you like.”

Frodo glanced across at his uncle’s plate, to find the items listed.  Normally he would have liked them all but somehow they didn’t smell the same as when Mama cooked them.  He swallowed back an irrational urge to burst into tears at that thought.  Despite his mind’s disapproval however, his stomach growled to be filled.

“Could I just have some scrambled eggs and mushrooms, please Auntie?”

His aunt wiped her hands with her apron and regarded him quizzically.  “Are you sure?  Wouldn’t you like a rasher of bacon with that?  Or a nice juicy sausage?”

Frodo shook his head.  “No.  Thank you.”

“Alright then, Poppet.”  Esmeralda cast a meaningful look at her husband before bustling back into the kitchen.

Saradoc attacked his plate with a will.  “Well, Frodo.  What are you going to do today?  It being the end of the week there’s no lessons today.  What will you do with your time?”

Frodo turned his gaze to the window and watched sunlight sparkle upon the river in the distance.  “I don’t know.  I have a book to read.”

His uncle did not look up from his plate but his knife hesitated in its dissection of a sausage.  “I hope that doesn’t mean you’re going to spend another day locked up in that room of yours.  We put the bedrooms in the inner wall for a reason.  You don’t need daylight to sleep and that’s what you’re supposed to do there.  You’ll damage your eyes, sitting in the dark and reading by lamplight day in, day out.”

Frodo reached for the glass of apple juice set by his plate.  “Perhaps I could read in here?” he suggested.  The juice was just the right combination of sweet and tart and he emptied the glass quickly, surprised to discover how thirsty he was.

“I’d rather you went outside in the fresh air for a bit, lad.  You’re beginning to look a mite pasty and you need some roses putting back in those cheeks,” his uncle replied around a mouthful of sausage and fried bread.

Frodo was saved from making a reply by the return of his aunt with breakfast.  She put it down in front of him with a flourish and Frodo noticed that she had added that rasher of bacon after all.  He poked at it with his fork; not at all happy about the strange way it smelled.  He usually liked bacon but this just didn’t smell right.  His aunt noticed his toying.

“You don’t have to eat it.  I just hoped I could change your mind if you saw it.”  She refilled his glass and Frodo picked it up at once.

“Thank you, Auntie Esme.  But I really don’t feel like eating a big breakfast today.”  He pushed the bacon to one side and scooped up a small forkful of egg.

Nodding in approval Aunt Esmeralda brought in her own plate and she and Saradoc kept up a steady stream of conversation about the doings of relations and the state of the crops.  They did not ask Frodo for his opinion on anything, for which he was very grateful.  He felt so weary today and just getting the food from plate to mouth seemed to take all the energy he could muster, although he did down two more glasses of apple juice.

When the meal was finished Saradoc left them to tidy away and wash the pots, after which Esmeralda shooed her nephew off.  Mindful of his uncle’s wishes, Frodo collect his book and cloak and went in search of somewhere to sit outside and read.  He ended up beneath an old oak by the river.

The rhythmic tumble of the river combined with his initial weariness and, before he knew it, Frodo was asleep.  How long he would have slept he did not find out, for he was awakened from an unpleasant dream of drowning by Petunia, one of Brandy Hall’s many youngsters.  She had been sent in search of him by Esmeralda when it looked as though he was going to miss afternoon tea, as well as second breakfast, elevenses and luncheon.  Needless to say, Petunia was not in the best of moods at the prospect of being made late for her own tea by her errand, but Frodo endured her scolding silently after his initial apology. 

When Frodo did not eat much at the tea table his aunt laid a hand on his forehead, worriedly.  “No sign of fever.  I know you’ve not felt much like eating since the accident but if you don’t eat more you will make yourself ill, Poppet.”

“I’m sorry, Auntie Esme.  I’ll try.”  He ate another couple of sandwiches and a piece of cake but everything tasted slightly sour again.  He did drink a lot of tea, though, for he was still quite parched.

After helping his aunt with the clearing away Frodo sneaked off to his bedroom, intending to read.  But when his aunt came to call him to supper she found him fast asleep with his book in his lap.  Unwilling to wake him, Esmeralda put the book aside, loosened his clothes and covered the lad up.  It was still early days and people reacted differently to grief.  Perhaps one of Frodo’s ways of coping was to sleep.



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