The Road to Edoras by Dreamflower

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Fredegar sat down by the fire, and drew his knees up, wrapping his arms around his legs, and putting his chin on his knees. The rest of the hobbits had already sought their bedrolls, and most of the Men as well. Éothain, however, was awake. He had taken a turn on watch--he and Targon did so from time to time, even though they were the captains of their respective small companies--and had just been relieved by Danulf, who was pacing about the perimeter of the encampment. Tomorrow, they would be in Bree, and Freddy found himself a bit nervous. He was in charge of this embassy of hobbits, and they would for the first time be encountering Men who were not sworn to the service of one of the Kings.

He’d had several conversations with Targon, King Elessar’s envoy, but he had not really spent much time yet getting to know the emissary of the King of Rohan.

“Are you having trouble sleeping, Master Fredegar?” Éothain inquired politely.

“A little,” he replied. “Please, do call me ‘Freddy’. We will be travelling together for many long miles.” He took out his pipe to light it.

“When we are alone, or perhaps together with Targon. But you are the head of the embassy, and it would not be proper to be familiar with you in public.”

Freddy nodded; he’d had much the same answer from Targon. These Men were just as much sticklers for what was “proper” as Sam Gamgee ever had been. Thinking of Sam gave him a stab of homesickness. Sam was back in the Shire along with almost everyone else he really cared about. To distract himself he asked Éothain “Well, now that you have seen hobbits in their own land, what do you think of us?”

Éothain smiled. “I think that I am going to miss your fair land and its people. The first time I saw holbyltlan, I wondered if I had lost my mind. I realize now just how ignorant I was. But to those of us in Rohan, the little people who lived away north were always nothing more than nursery tales, and not much believed by anyone old enough to ride.”

“Tell me about it.”

The rider lit his own pipe--a gift from Holdwine Meriadoc, when he had recently taught the Man to smoke--and drew his legs up tailor fashion.

“We had seen many marvels in only a few days, we Rohirrim of my lord and cousin Éomer’s éored. It had, in fact been only six days since we had seen Lord Aragorn, with Legolas and Gimli, spring like magic out of the grass to challenge, it seemed, our passing. I was amazed to see them: strangers as they were in a land that brooked no strangers, and I did not believe their words that they had travelled so many leagues afoot in so short a time as they said. And, as I saw it, they were less than courteous to Lord Éomer--though I realize now that they were simply defending themselves against our suspicion. And I laughed at the declaration that they sought among the Orc band we had fought for two “hobbits” as Master Gimli proclaimed them-- “halflings”-- No offense meant, Freddy, for that is the term most people of the South use for your people.”

Freddy nodded. “I realize that, Éothain, and would not dream of taking offense.”

The rider nodded, and continued his tale.

“I was brash, impatient, and a bit discourteous. My cousin Éomer however, was impressed with their claims, most fortunately for all of us; he rebuked my scorn, and loaned two of our horses to the strangers, and we were soon on our way again.

We returned to Edoras, where of course we found Gríma Wormtongue still firmly established at the king’s side. My lord cousin feared trouble; he dismissed his é ored before entering Meduseld. As well for me he did so, for I am sure I would have done something rash when Éomer was arrested.

It was only three days since we had seen them upon the plains that Lord Aragorn and his companions, accompanied by Gandalf Greyhame upon the Lord of the Mearas, arrived at Meduseld. I was not there to see the way that the Wizard freed my Lord King from his ensorcellment, but I saw my king afterward, as he ordered the mustering of the Eorlingas!

‘Arise now, Riders of Théoden!

Dire deeds awake, dark it is eastward.

Let horse be bridled, horn be sounded!

Forth Eorlingas!’*

It was a stirring moment, a shining moment, to see our King once more his own self, sturdy and brave!

I shall not describe for you the battle of the Hornburg. Helm’s Deep was a difficult and harrowing fight, and I am sure you have heard enough of what occurred already from the Elf and the Dwarf.”

“Yes,” said Freddy, “Legolas and Gimli have told me just a bit about it. I think, they, like you do not think it fit for hobbit ears. I cannot say as they are wrong.”

“You holbyltlan are a peaceful people, and though you have learned to defend yourselves well, peaceful you remain for the most part.”

Freddy nodded. “For the most part,” he agreed.

Éothain sighed. As with any race, there were to be found hobbits who did not fit the mold of the rest of their people--some to the good, as with the Travellers and all that they had accomplished to save the world; and some to the bad, as with those renegade hobbits who had collaborated with the enemy during the Troubles, as the hobbits called the Occupation of the Shire.

“Afterwards, my Lord King Théoden chose several of us to accompany him on the road to Isengard. Again, I was confronted by tales out of the nursery, as we passed through the wood of the Huorns, and encountered the Ents.

When we rode into view of Orthanc, I got my first glimpse of the creatures that Wingfoot, Legolas and Gimli had pursued across the plains of my land in the hopes of rescuing. At this point I had thought myself immune to amazement, but the sight of smoke curling from their mouths was astonishing.

There, for the first time I beheld them: your small and valiant kindred. Meriadoc stood forth, and with a grin, called out ‘Welcome my lords to Isengard!’ I was utterly astonished, for in spite of all the marvels I had seen in the last few days, to see the small people I had always thought of as children’s tales with mine own eyes was the last thing I expected. And--” Éothain took his pipe from his mouth and looked at it in amusement, “I most certainly did not expect to see them breathing smoke!”

Freddy laughed at the wry expression on Éothain’s face. “No, I don’t much imagine you did.”

“I know how pleased the Three Hunters were to finally see their friends, though it was hidden of course, amid much jesting. This I have come to see is the way of your people. But I also recall the bleakness on Meriadoc’s face after Gandalf took his cousin away on Shadowfax. To have been so sundered from his kin, and left alone among strangers was hard. And it was even more difficult when the last of his friends went away on the Paths of the Dead.

When the muster rode from Dunharrow, many of us were aware that the King’s neice and the holbyltla were among us, but we feigned ignorance. Better they should die among us in battle, fighting for those they cared for, than to be left behind in despair. And well for us they did so, for the battle would have gone ill had they not slain that foul Dwimmerlaik.”

Freddy nodded. He was among the few who had been entrusted with the full story of what had gone on while the Travellers were away; Merry felt they owed it to him, for the part he had played in staying behind.

“Freddy, tomorrow we must get an early start if we are to be in Bree by noon, as Targon has hopes of catching the King’s Messenger there before he leaves. I suggest we seek our bedrolls.”

“Yes. I am beginning, finally, to get sleepy. Thank you for talking to me.” It had been fascinating to hear the first impression hobbits had made on the envoy from Rohan. He went thoughtfully to his bedroll. Tomorrow would come soon enough.

___________________________________________________

He woke to birdsong the next morning, and the sounds of the Men preparing to break camp. He was beginning to get used to this, though he did not fancy he would ever really *like* camping out. He rose and began to take up his bedroll.

“Captain Freddy?” Jolly Cotton handed him a steaming cup of tea. Jolly had been in Fredegar’s band of rebels during the Troubles, and had taken to calling him “Captain” then.

“Thank you, Jolly. How soon do you think we will be moving on?”

“Well, Captain Targon thinks that we should be ready to leave as soon as breakfast is finished.”

“And what’s for breakfast this morning?”

“Porridge. As usual.” Jolly made a face. The Men were not very imaginative when it came to meals.

Freddy went over by the fire, where the rest of his party had gathered, including Mistress Poppy and her apprentice Viola. He took the rather full bowl of porridge that Rolly Banks dished out for him, and then one of the apples that Mosco offered him. They all ate companionably in silence, concentrating even on the rather boring meal as only hobbits can. Freddy noticed that Denny and Rolly Banks kept shooting glances over to the side of the camp, where the prisoners were taking their own meal under the careful and watchful eye of Leodwald, one of the Rohirrim.

Berilac noticed as well. “Denny, Rolly, you really must not let them get to you.”

Denny ducked his head, abashed. “Sorry, Mister Beri. But I just can’t get over that the one who used to be head of my family was a traitor.”

Freddy cocked his head. “But he is no longer. Now your father is head of the Bankses. And you do not need to say ‘Mister’ to Berilac or me. You yourself are next in line to be head of your family.”

Denny nodded, and looked at his brother. They still looked a bit disturbed as they went back to their food. Their sudden rise in status had caught the Buckland branch of the Banks family off guard.

__________________________________________________

On the other side of the camp, the prisoners ate sullenly under the watchful eye of their guard. They would be afforded no chance for conversation, for as soon as the meal was finished, their hands would be tied, and they would be put in the saddle in front of one of the Men, to ride until they stopped. All four of them were suffering saddle sores, unused as they were, to the broad backs of the horses. Mistress Poppy had provided a salve, but it did not completely alleviate the problem. They found no sympathy for their difficulties among any of the others travelling with them.

_____________________________________________

The other hobbits finished their breakfasts and saw to packing up their ponies for the day’s travel.

“Freddy?” The mellifluous voice could only belong to Legolas.

Freddy looked up.

“Targon wanted to know if you are ready.”

He glanced around; it looked as though his entire party was ready to mount their ponies, so he nodded, and swung himself into the saddle. Legolas mounted Arod, and took Gimli up behind him as was their custom.

With Borondir bearing the sable banner of the White Tree, and Anwynd that of the running horse of Rohan, the small cavalcade moved out.

Freddy brought his pony up alongside Targon’s large horse. “How long will we travel today?”

The Captain of the Gondorians looked down at him. “I think that we should be in Bree by mid-day. I just hope that the King’s Messenger is still there when we arrive.”

_________________________________________________

Haldad son of Hathol wondered when he should take his leave. He had thought to wait until noon of the seventh day before he took leave of The Prancing Pony. But there had been no one here this week. Still, he was aware that the delegation that had come through earlier in the spring would be returning soon.

He went down to the common room, and ordered a luncheon of bread, cheese, pickles and ale. The Bree-landers had learned over the last few months to be courteous to the King’s Messengers who came to wait at the Pony. Big Folk and Little gave him smiles and greetings as he sat to his meal. The food was good, and the beer even better. He had heard from Old Butterbur the innkeeper that the beer had been blessed by the Wizard Gandalf, and Haldad found himself quite believing it. No, it would not hurt to have lunch first.

He had just finished his meal when there was a bustle at the entrance. He looked up to see what he had been hoping for all along: the sight of a Man dressed in the armor and livery of the White Tree, accompanied by one of the Rohirrim, and two gentlehobbits. The Gondorian was carrying a flat leather pouch.

At last he would have a worthwhile message to take south.

 





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