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Time to Make a Change
A/N: This is not going to be a happy story. It centres around how the five major hobbits (Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin) deal with the loss of their respective fathers – or parents in the case of Frodo. Each hobbit will have his own chapter, and I may even have an epilogue in which the children of Sam, Merry and Pippin’s have to let their fathers go. Almost like several little stories in one.
This first chapter is for Bilbo, and the title comes from one of his father’s sayings that Bilbo quotes to the dwarves (when they get trapped in the secret passage into Smaug’s lair): “While there’s life, there’s hope”. I will try and incorporate Bungo’s other two favourite sayings into the story.
1: While There’s Life (Bungo Baggins)
The December of 1325 brought some of the worst weather the Shire had seen since the Fell Winter of 1311. Just as that winter had claimed many lives, as the New Year began, the whole Shire had suffered great loss.
For the most part, the deaths were in poorer families. Their homes were more open to the chilling wind, and many of them could not afford to pay healers to treat their ill. Sicknesses spread rapidly through large families. Children and the elderly were the first to be taken, but several young and fit hobbits also lost their lives.
Richer families were not immune though. In Hobbiton, Bag-End was considered the most luxurious and desirable hole. It hardly seemed possible that one of its inhabitants would fall ill from the cold, but as January 1326 rolled by, Bungo Baggins lay deathly ill.
Bungo was not young, but at eighty he was not especially old, and he had always been fairly fit. However, Bungo was on quite friendly terms with most of the poorer families on Bag Shot Row and he had been helping them tend to their ill and try to warm up their homes. There was little doubt that Bungo’s kindness was the cause of his illness.
Young Bilbo Baggins was devastated by his father’s condition. He had always been certain that Bungo would be around for a good many years yet – eighty seemed far too young to die. Bilbo could remember going to his grandfather’s funeral just a few years before. Old Gerontius Took had lived to be 130 years old. Why should Bungo Baggins not also live to that age?
If possible, Bilbo felt worse for his mother than for himself. Bungo and Belladonna had always been very much in love – they still often acted like a pair of love-struck tweens, much to Bilbo’s embarrassment. Bilbo wondered what his mother would do if Bungo did die. Would she follow soon after? Bilbo shuddered at the thought. He was not ready to be all alone in the world.
These were the thoughts that ran through Bilbo’s mind as he prepared morning tea for his parents. Belladonna rarely left the side of Bungo’s sick bed, so most of the work around the home was left up to Bilbo. Fortunately, the gardener of Bag-End, and Bilbo’s good friend, Holman Greenhand was always willing to help.
“Miss Belladonna still likes honey in her tea, don’t she, Mister Bilbo?” Holman asked.
“Yes, thank you, Holman,” Bilbo sighed. “Have I thanked you for all the help you’ve been for me?”
“There’s no need to thank me! For starters, I suppose it’s a part of me job, helpin’ out like this. And for seconds, there’s naught I wouldn’t do for you, Mister Bilbo.”
Bilbo managed a smile. His family was lucky to have such a kind-hearted and dedicated hobbit working for them. If only everyone could have someone so devoted. “Thank you Holman. So…” Bilbo searched his mind for a new topic of conversation. “Tell me news of your family.”
“Well, my cousin, Hobson – the Roper, you know him, don’t you? – should be having a new baby soon. His wife, Daisy, looks about ready to pop! They’re certain it will be another lad – Hamfast is what they want to call him. I wonder what they’ll do if it’s a lass.”
“Come up with a nice, simple flower name, no doubt.” Bilbo finished arranging the tea on a tray. “Would you like to come with me, Holman?”
“Well, er, I hope you won’t mind if I say no, Mister Bilbo…”
“I understand. I don’t much enjoy seeing sick hobbits either.” Bilbo looked at his feet. “Especially when it’s my own father.”
Holman placed his hand in Bilbo’s shoulder, momentarily forgetting that it was not his place – as a gardener – to do so. For a moment, he took his part as a friend. “Don’t you worry, Mister Bilbo. Mister Bungo is a strong fellow. He may just pull through. Now off you go. I’ll get started on this mess.”
“Thank you, Holman,” said Bilbo, and he did not mean for cleaning up.
With a heavy heart, young Bilbo made his way to his parents’ room. It was always his most hated chore – taking meals to his father. As much as Bilbo loved Bungo, it was almost too much for him to wait at the door until his mother or one of the healers admitted him. He never knew what to expect inside: Bungo stubbornly fighting the illness, or Bungo losing a desperate battle.
On this day, it was, sadly, the latter. Bilbo had never seen someone look so sickly, so close to death. Bungo’s skin was pale and clammy, with beads of sweat on his forehead. Belladonna sat at her place, by the side of the bed, wiping her husbands face with a dampened cloth. There were two healers in the room also, both of whom looked sad and full of pity.
At that moment, Bilbo knew his father was going to die. The tray fell from his hands, shattering the plates and cups, and spilling tea and biscuits all over the floor.
“Oh, Bilbo!” Belladonna cried. She left her seat and ran to Bilbo, gathering him in her rams like he was a child again. “What is wrong? Please tell me you are not also ill!”
“No, Mother, I’m fine,” Bilbo replied, with tears stinging in his eyes. He lowered his voice until it was a scarce whisper. “Father’s going to die, isn’t he? He’s not going to get better.”
Belladonna did not reply. She pulled away from her son and looked him in the eyes. Bungo’s eyes. In fact, every feature of Bilbo had come from Bungo. “Oh, Bilbo,” she said again.
“Bilbo? Come here my lad,” Bungo called in a wavering voice. He raised an arm weakly and beckoned.
Bilbo looked at his mother and she nodded. He made his way to the chair beside Bungo’s bed. “Yes, Father?”
“My dear, dear Bilbo. My only son, my only child.” Every breath seemed an effort for Bungo, but he continued. “Sometimes I used to think it a pity that we had no more children – there’s enough room here for many, many more. I used to get into so much trouble with Longo and Bingo when we were lads. The scourge of Hobbiton, we were. But Bella – my beautiful Belladonna – she only wanted you. Only one. I suppose growing up with ten brothers and sisters was probably hard to do.” Bungo could not find the heart to tell Bilbo the other reason he was an only child. He and Bella had tried twice before Bilbo came along. Both the children – one a lass, the other a lad – had died within their first few days of life. But Bungo had never been one to give up hope. They had tried once more and been blessed with Bilbo – and at the same time, one of Bungo’s favourite proverbs was born: “Third time pays for all.”
“It would have been nice to have brothers and sisters,” Bilbo admitted. “But then I would have had to share you and Mother. Besides, I have plenty of cousins, and Holman is as good a friend as any hobbit could wish for.”
Bungo managed a smile. “You always were a smart lad, my boy.”
Bilbo could contain his grief no longer. The tears he had been holding in burst free. “Father, I don’t want you to die!”
“Bilbo, all must die, eventually. Except the elves, of course. And old Gandalf – I do wonder if wizards ever age. He still looks the same as he did when I was a lad!”
“But you’re still young!”
“Remember little April Twofoot? From Bag Shot Row? She was only sixteen, and she died. My son, there is no such thing as too young. You are never too young – or too old, for that matter – to do anything. Do you understand?”
“Every worm has its weakness, Bilbo, and though I am by no means a worm, my weakness seems to be kindness. My helping out our poorer neighbours was what made me sick. But I do not regret doing it. If I had, more would have met poor little April’s fate. Do you with that I had no helped them?”
“No, Father!” Bilbo sobbed.
“Good lad. I would not have liked to leave this world knowing that you did not approved of one of my decisions.”
“Father, what am I to do without you?”
“You have come of age now, Bilbo. You are old enough to be the Master of Bag-End, and so you shall be.” Bungo grinned. “I also need you to look after that wily mother of yours. Make sure she doesn’t run off on an ‘adventure’.”
A tearful laugh came from behind him, and Bilbo realised that his mother had returned to the bed.
“Father, you’ve taught me so much…” Bilbo began.
“And don’t you forget any of it, Bilbo. I have a feeling that you will do something great with your life. The name of Baggins will not be tarnished in your trustworthy hands.” Bungo reached up and touched his son’s cheek. A face that looked so much like his own, but within Bilbo’s eyes, he could sometimes see a swirl of green. Belladonna had green eyes. “Bilbo, my son, my beautiful son…”
Bungo’s eyes closed and he saw no more. Bilbo’s world froze. He could not hear Belladonna’s sobs, nor the comforting words of the healers. He could only hear silence, and he knew that the steady, almost unnoticeable sound of his father’s breathing and heartbeat had stopped. Without it, the world seemed empty.
“Father? Father!” Bilbo sobbed. All of the sounds around him came rushing back. “Father, please, come back. I still need you!”
* * * * * *
A week later, the funeral of Mr Bungo Baggins was held and many attended. He had been well respected and liked in the Hobbiton, Overhill and Bywater areas. And, then, of course, there was all of the family and extended family. The Tooks had liked the husband of Belladonna a great deal, despite him being a “dreadfully dull Baggins”.
Bilbo hardly heard the encouraging words that every guest offered him. He always muttered some form of thanks, though. His father had always taught him the proper manners. Eventually, Bilbo found his way to the front step of Bag-End, the only sanctuary from the army of well-wishers.
“Mister Bilbo?” Holman Greenhand called softly. He was the only hobbit to find his new master.
“Hullo, Holman,” Bilbo said, quietly. Holman sat next to Bilbo. Fortunately for both of them, the snow had lessened in previous days.
“I was thinking about which bulbs to plant,” Holman said at length. He tried to keep the conversation light. “I’ll have to start plantin’ soon if we want them up for Spring.”
“Tulips would be nice,” Bilbo replied. “Pink and yellow ones. And marigolds – but they can wait until Spring.”
“Sounds good to me, Mister Bilbo.”
“Father always loved marigolds.” Bilbo looked up at Holman. “If your cousin’s baby turns out to be a lass, do you think you could suggest Marigold as a name?”
“Shall do, Mister Bilbo.” Holman smiled. “Perhaps you should keep the name in mind in case you ever have a lovely little daughter. ‘Marigold Baggins’ has a nice ring to it.”
Bilbo smiled back. “But I would have to find a lovely wife first – one that could put up with me! No, Holman, I don’t think that I shall ever marry.” He sighed and his smile faded. “I would not wish to put any lass through what my mother went through.”
“Not even the love she shared with Mister Bungo? Just wait and see, Mister Bilbo. You may yet meet the lass of your dreams some day, and then Bag-End will be filled with the laughter of little Marigold and Bilbo II and Bungo II and little Bella, and any others that may come along.”
Bilbo finally smiled again. “There is plenty of room in Bag-End for children, isn’t there?”
* * * * * *
Holman’s little cousin was born a month later; a lad, as Hobson and Daisy had guessed. Holman never had any children of his own, but he took young Hamfast under his wing and trained the lad up to take over the gardening of Bag-End after him.
Holman also told Hamfast about how Mister Bilbo Baggins had wanted him to be a lass called Marigold. Hamfast never forgot this, and when his third daughter was born, he could think of no better name than “Marigold Gamgee”.
* * * * * *
A/N: Well, there’s Bilbo’s chapter. Please tell me what you think. I wanted to involve Sam’s family to set up the deep friendship and affection that we all know develops between Sam and Frodo. Frodo’s chapter is next.
Time to Make a Change
A/N: In Gaffer’s story at The Ivy Bush about the deaths of Frodo’s parents, he speaks of Gorbadoc Brandybuck as if he were alive. But according to the Brandybuck family tree, Gorbadoc died in 1363, five years before Frodo was born. I don’t know if it was a mistake of the Gaffer’s, or a mistake of Tolkien’s, but in this story, Gorbadoc is long dead, and Old Rory Brandybuck is the Master of Buckland.
2: Waters of the Brandywine (Drogo and Primula Baggins)
Frodo Baggins loved visiting Brandy Hall as much as his father did. Drogo had enjoyed the visits because old Gorbadoc Brandybuck had always held the most glorious feast. Even after Gorbadoc had died, his eldest son, Rorimac, kept up the tradition.
Frodo’s reason was different. He loved going to Brandy Hall because his cousin’s wife was there. Auntie Esmie (as Frodo liked to call her, since her husband, Saradoc, was a lot older than Frodo and so seemed more like an uncle than a cousin) was always happy to look after Frodo if Primula and Drogo wanted time to themselves. And Frodo adored her. In fact, Auntie Esmie was one of Frodo’s favourite relatives (after his Uncle Bilbo, of course!).
The only problem with Brandy Hall was that there were always too many hobbits around (that was probably one of the reasons that Frodo preferred his visits to Bag-End). Fortunately, Auntie Esmie knew where to find the most quiet and deserted rooms, so that she and Frodo could spend a pleasant day together.
On this particular visit, Drogo and Primula celebrated their fifteenth wedding anniversary. Anniversaries were always a good excuse for a party (almost as good as birthdays, for presents were rarely given out on anniversaries), and since Primula, as the youngest sister of Old Rory, Master of Buckland, was so well loved, a huge banquet was held in their honour.
Frodo did not remember much of the night. There were far too many introductions that he forgot only moments after they had been made. Since his parents were the honoured guests, he stuck close to Esmeralda early in the night, but when she found her brother, Frodo decided to leave. Paladin Took had brought along the newest addition to his family, daughter Pimpernel, who was barely one year old. Esmie had not seen her since the birth, so spend a great deal of time fussing over the baby. Frodo slipped away, fortunately to find his Uncle Bilbo standing nearby.
“Frodo, my lad!” Bilbo greeted. “How are you?”
Frodo shrugged, but smiled all the same. He was glad to have found someone to talk to. “Bored. Auntie Esmie keeps introducing me to all these cousins and I can’t remember any of their names!”
Bilbo laughed. “I can understand that, but there’s nothing wrong with having lots of cousins. I’m having quite a time myself. All I can remember is little Pimpernel Took, Fredegar Bolger and Everard Took.”
Frodo nodded as he remembered those names as being among the many he had learnt that day. It seemed to him that everyone was having babies.
“How long will you be in Buckland?” Frodo asked, at length.
It was Bilbo’s turn to shrug. “When Primula told me that she and your father would be celebrating their anniversary here, I knew I’d have to come along. It’s been a while since I last visited Buckland, so I think I should at least stay a little while. Perhaps I will head back to Hobbiton when your family does.”
Frodo’s grin widened. He had hoped Bilbo would say that. Now he had his two favourite relatives in the one place!
Frodo remained with Bilbo for the remainder of the party. He loved hearing his Uncle’s tales about his grand adventure. Sometimes Frodo imagined himself joining Bilbo, sneaking into Smaug’s lair, or flying to the Great Eagles eyries. Eventually, though, the celebrations wore down. Primula found Frodo and, after thanking Bilbo for making sure the lad enjoyed himself, took her son to their room in the Hall. Despite him being twelve years old (and, thus, in his mind, all grown up), she still liked to baby him, and he rarely complained (as long as no one else saw).
“Your father and I are going out for a picnic tomorrow,” she said to him. “Auntie Esmie is going to look after you. Remember to be good for her.”
Primula placed a soft kiss on Frodo’s forehead. He never dreamed that it would be the last time he would feel her gentle touch or hear her voice.
When Frodo woke, he had a queer, sick feeling in his stomach. He was alone in the room that his family shared on their trips to Buckland (it had been Primula’s bedroom before she had married). His parents had already left for their picnic. Esmeralda came to the door and, smiling, took him to the dining room for breakfast. The sick feeling in his stomach soon lessened, but it did not altogether disappear.
They had a wonderful day together. First, they made a cake, then they tidied Frodo’s part of the room – with Auntie Esmie, even chores could be fun. Uncle Sarry joined them for morning tea – they ate the cake that they had made earlier – but he had to leave soon afterwards. Esmeralda explained that he had a lot of work to do with his father. She took Frodo to the library after lunch, and read him one if his favourite books (Frodo didn’t like to tell her that he much preferred Uncle Bilbo’s stories).
After she had finished the story, Esmie pulled Frodo into a hug and gently stroked his hair. “When I have a son, Frodo, I hope that he is as sweet, caring and beautiful as you.”
Frodo smiled up at her. “When you have a son, I will look after him like my own little brother.”
They ate afternoon tea together, but without Saradoc. It wasn’t until dinnertime approached that Esmie started to worry. Primula and Drogo should have been back hours ago. She reasoned with herself that they had probably just been enjoying themselves far too much, and would be back soon. But dinner passed, and so did supper, with no sign of them. Frodo’s eyes grew large with worry.
“Where’s Mamma and Father?” he asked, in a quiet voice. “They should have been back by now.”
“I don’t know, Frodo,” Esmeralda replied. “I wish I did.”
Eventually, Esmeralda had to put Frodo to bed. The look of worry on his face mirrored her own, but still, she tried to assure him that everything would be fine.
When Primula and Drogo had not returned the next morning, all of Buckland set out to find them. It did not take long for them to find what was left of the boat they had taken out onto the river. A young Maggot lad was unfortunate to find Primula washed up a mile down the river, and Drogo was not far away.
Esmeralda’s heart shattered. How was she going to tell Frodo?
* * * * * *
Frodo, at his Aunt’s request, had remained at Brandy Hall while the search was carried out. He sat in the library and read his father’s favourite book. At least, he tried to read it. His eyes were too clouded with tears to make out the words.
Esmeralda knew exactly where to find him. He looked up at her. She didn’t have to say anything; the look on her face told him everything. She opened her arms and he ran into her embrace. They cried together for several hours, neither able to speak.
Finally, Esmeralda found her voice. “They drowned Frodo, my sweet. They must have taken a boat out onto the river. We found the boat, and we found them… Oh, Frodo, I’m so sorry.”
“I knew something bad was going to happen,” Frodo whispered. “I had an awful feeling all day. What’s going to happen to me now?”
“I will look after you, Frodo, just as I always have.”
* * * * * *
The funeral of his parents was a memory that haunted Frodo long after he started to forget their faces and the sounds of their voices. Primula and Drogo had been greatly loved, not just in Buckland and Hobbiton, but also in Tookland and most of the Shire. Frodo had never much cared for crowds, and at the funeral, it was unbearable.
Frodo found sanctuary in the garden of the home he had spent his short life in. It had been sold only days earlier. Frodo was to return to Buckland with Saradoc and Esmeralda Brandybuck. His heart fluttered. Brandy Hall was nice to visit, but could he really live there? And what about Bilbo? While he lived in Hobbiton, it was easy for him to visit Uncle Bilbo. At least twice a week, Frodo would end up on Bilbo’s doorstep, begging for a story about his adventure with the dwarves. Frodo suddenly wondered if he’d ever go to Hobbiton again. Auntie Esmie very rarely visited Hobbiton. She only ever left Buckland to visit her brother in Tookland, or occasionally, one of her sisters who lived in the North-farthing.
Bilbo found him in the garden as these thoughts rushed through the lad’s mind. He sighed, “My poor, poor lad.”
Frodo turned and ran into his uncle’s outstretched arms. He cried until there wasn’t a tear left in him.
It was almost as if Bilbo had read Frodo’s mind. “Now Frodo, you know that you are always welcome at Bag-End, whenever you want to visit. There’s plenty of room, and I would enjoy the company. Why, next time you could come and meet Ham Gamgee’s new little lad, Sam. He’s only tiny now, but I’ll bet he’ll be a stout little fellow in no time at all.”
Frodo sniffled, and accepted the pocket-handkerchief that Bilbo offered him. “I would like that, Uncle Bilbo.”
“Good lad.” The two of them sat on a bench. Bilbo lightly stroked Frodo’s hair, and wondered what it would have been like if he had ever had children of his own.
Frodo snuggled into Bilbo’s embrace. He was surprised when he realised how much it felt like he was in his father’s arms.
* * * * * *
A/N: I know a lot of people have Frodo’s family living in Buckland before the “accident”, but Gaffer does say that “Mr Drogo was staying at Brandy Hall”, and since the Baggins lived chiefly in Hobbiton, I had Frodo’s home originally in Hobbiton. The next chapter will jump quite a few years forward, and belongs to Sam.
Time to Make a Change
3: Record Breaking (Hamfast Gamgee)
Entering that room was the hardest thing Samwise Gamgee ever faced. Nothing else even compared – not leaving his Master in the darkness of Shelob’s Lair, not taking the Ring unto himself (and later having to give in back), not even asking Rose to marry him. No, the hardest thing for Sam to do was open the door to his father’s bedroom.
Sam could still feel the blood pumping in his ears. It had started when his sister, Marigold, had come racing up to Bag-End’s door. The Gamgees – Sam, Rose, Elanor, Frodo, Rosie and Merry – had just sat down for lunch when Marigold burst in.
“Sam! Dad’s had a nasty fall!”
Both Sam and Marigold knew that their father was often involved in activities far to strenuous for his age. He had turned 102 several months earlier – a record in the Gamgee family – but he still insisted on tending his garden, doing odd jobs around the neighbourhood and building outdoor toys for his grandchildren.
Sam had left his half-eaten meal and ran to his father’s home, with Marigold close behind. It was fortunate that he lived so close. As they ran, Marigold filled in the details.
The Gaffer had been helping a neighbour paint the window frames of their home. He had insisted that he climb the ladder, since said neighbour was old Widow Rumble. The ladder had not been very stable and had collapsed beneath him. When he did not get up, Widow Rumble had found Marigold, who had brought her two children, Sam and baby Lily to see their grandfather.
Tom Cotton, Marigold’s husband, was waiting outside Number 3 when Sam and Marigold arrived, making sure that young Sam did not venture inside.
“Where is he?” Sam managed to pant.
Tom motioned to the hobbit-hole, and Sam immediately walked inside. It was not until he came to the actual door of his father’s room that he felt frightened.
He took a deep breath. “Get a hold of yourself, Samwise. You can do this.” And he pushed the door open.
Hamfast Gamgee smiled weakly from his pillow. The local healer, Violetta Bunce, stood near by. Sam tried to ignore the grim look on her face, but the one thing he could not ignore was the dried blood at Ham’s nostrils and ears.
“Hullo, Sam, my boy!” It was then that Sam noticed that his father could not seem to move his arms or legs.
“Hullo, Dad,” Sam replied, forcing a brave face. “Been climbing ladders again, I hear. You shouldna be doin’ that at your age!”
“Aw, don’t lecture me about that! Marigold already gave me an earful!”
“And so she should have! You’ve given us quite a scare.” Sam saw the healer motioning for him to join her. He quickly excused himself from his father. “Will he be all right?”
Miss Bunce kept her voice low. “He had quite a fall, I’m afraid. Broken many bones.”
Sam cringed, remembering all of the broken bones he had suffered, not to mention those of his friends and children. “Do you suppose he’s in much pain?”
The healer became very uncomfortable at his question. In fact, it took her several attempts before she could explain the full extent of the Gaffer’s injuries. “To be honest, Mister Samwise, he can’t feel naught at all. One of the bones he broke was his back. He’s lucky to be alive at all.
Sam felt crushed. He had hoped – though foolishly, he knew – that there was some chance of his old Dad pulling through. But a broken back was a morbid injury. Ham would not have much time left.
“Thank you, Miss Bunce, for your help,” Sam muttered, when he found his voice. “My sister is waiting outside. Would you mind explaining the seriousness of the situation to her? I am sure she will send word to the rest of our family.” Miss Bunce nodded and left the room. There was nothing more she could do.
From the bed, there came an unexpected cackle. Hamfast, despite his condition, was grinning broadly. “Handled that like the true Mayor, you did, Sam. Never thought I’d see the day a Gamgee became the Mayor!”
Sam found a stool and dragged it to the side of the bed. He felt it his duty to explain everything to his father, however difficult it may be. But the Gaffer just smiled sadly before Sam could even start. “Sam, I took a nasty fall. I heard the bones crunch when I landed, but I didn’t feel anything. I think I should be glad of that. I also know I’m lucky to still be here – and I’m glad of that too.”
Sam took one of his father’s hands in his own. He massaged it gently, as if trying to work feeling back into it. “The healer says you’ve broke your back.”
“So I thought. Ah well, never did me much good anyhow.” Ham grinned at his youngest son. “Sam, my boy, have I ever told you how proud you’ve made me?”
Sam was now certain that Ham knew he was going to die. The Gaffer had never been one to bother with fancy speeches, or explain his feelings for his family. But his children, and grandchildren, knew that he loved them dearly, even if he could rarely tell them so. For him to voice his pride in Sam was a great deal.
“And I don’t just mean for becoming the Mayor and giving our family a good name,” Ham continued. “Or helping put the Shire right. I never much liked it when you went away to strange lands with Mister Baggins, but he told me some of the great things you did.”
This was a surprise to Sam. The Gaffer had always turned a deaf ear whenever talk came to Sam’s adventure. Sam eventually gave up even trying to tell him the stories, but evidently Frodo had not.
Ham saw the look of shock on his son’s face and cackled again. “Yes, Sam, I know a good deal more than you think. ‘Samwise the Brave’ – Mister Baggins told me he never would have made it without you!”
Sam could not find the words to tell his father how much this meant to him. Growing up, Ham had been Sam’s entire world. He could not remember his mother very well. She had died after the birth of Marigold, when Sam was only three. His memory of Bell Goodchild Gamgee had quickly faded, though the rest of his family told him that Marigold was a mirror image of her mother. Ham meant everything to Sam and Marigold. And now they were going to lose him.
“I only made it that far because of everything you taught me, Dad,” Sam choked out. It was true. The good, common sense that Ham had drummed into Sam since he was old enough to listen had pulled him through many a tight moment.
“Well, I’m glad to hear you learnt something! I hope you’re teaching it all to young Frodo – and to Merry when he’s old enough.”
“Of course!” Sam’s thoughts suddenly turned to the baby that was growing in Rose’s belly. She was not very far gone, and the baby would not be born until the next year. Sam grieved that his father would never meet his next grandchild.
“You know, Dad, I’d love to name this next baby after you, but we promised Mister Pippin that the next lad would be named after him. Besides, I think this one will be a lass – little Goldilocks, if Mister Frodo’s predictions is anything to go by. He’s been all right so far.”
“Well if it is a lad, name him Pippin as you have promised! You know as well as I, that a Gamgee never breaks a promise. Just promise me you’ll name the next lad Hamfast. Did Mister Baggins mention anything about little Hamfast?”
Sam shook his head and laughed, despite his tears. “No, he only made it as far as Pippin-lad, but he did say there’d be many more to come that he could not foresee.”
“I don’t doubt him either!” Ham chuckled. “You and Rosie will give the Old Took a run for his money at the rate you’re going.”
Sam blushed. “Well, Mister Bilbo managed to beat the Old Took in age, and Mister Merry and Mister Pippin have beaten the Bullroarer in height. I have to break some record!” He pushed his father’s thinning grey, curls away from his face. “I will miss you, Dad.”
“I know, my boy, but I can’t be around forever. I’m not one of your elvish friends.”
They both looked at the door when they heard the sound of soft footfalls. In the doorway stood Tom, Marigold with little Lily, Rose with Merry, Elanor, Frodo, young Sam and Rosie.
“Well, half the family is here now!” Ham joked.
“Daisy and May should be here soon,” said Marigold. “I’m not sure about Hamson and Hal. We sent a message to them to come as soon as they can.”
“Then I shall try to hold on until they get here.”
Many tears were shed that day. Daisy and May – Sam’s two older sisters – arrived with their families in the early afternoon. Hamson and Halfred arrived just as night began to fall. Sam was impressed – it was no short journey for either of them.
Surrounded by his family, Hamfast smiled blissfully. His eyes closed for the last time. “I’m so proud of all of you,” he whispered.
* * * * * *
Sam sat in his favourite chair and cried the tears that had been threatening to fall all day. The funeral for Hamfast “Gaffer” Gamgee had been held, and Sam had had to make a speech to honours his father’s memory. It had been an exhausting day to say the least.
Rose shuffled the children passed the sitting room. The last thing Sam needed was four children demanding his compassion and attention.
She returned, silently, moments later, and wrapped her arms around his shoulders from behind. “You did well, my Sam.”
“You think so?” Sam asked, pulling his wife around so that she was sitting on his lap. “I don’t know that I did him justice.”
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the ceremony. Even Mister Merry and Mister Pippin were drying their eyes.”
Sam didn’t like to tell Rose that both Meriadoc and Peregrin could be very emotional when need be. He could still remember their tearful farewell to Frodo at the Grey Havens.
The loving couple sat in silence, just drawing on each other’s company. Sam finally broke the silence, as he rubbed Rose’s ever growing belly. “Rosie?”
“After little Goldilocks and Pippin, we’ll have to have another baby. I told Dad I’d name a lad after him.”
Rose nodded. “I promised your sister Daisy I’d name one after her.”
“I suppose we should honour old Mister Bilbo too.”
Rose grinned. “We can have as many children as you’d like, Samwise. After all, you have to break some record.”
* * * * * *
A/N: Well, Merry’s chapter will be next.
Time to Make a Change
“Théoden King, Théoden King! Farewell! As a father you were to me, for a little while.”
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, “Many Partings”
“Meriadoc, called the Magnificent, becomes Master of Buckland. Great gifts are sent to him by King Éomer and the Lady Éowyn of Ithilien.”
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, “Appendix B – The Tale of Years”
4: Master of Buckland (Saradoc Brandybuck)
Meriadoc Brandybuck often wondered if turning fifty would have any profound effect on his life. After all, fifty had been the age that both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins had embarked on their adventures. Peregrin Took was always quick to point out that Merry’s life had become quite more exciting a long time before he turned fifty.
But the age of fifty would bring change to Meriadoc’s life, just not in the way he expected (or, perhaps, hoped for). On the day of his actual birthday, Merry was given his title. It had been tradition in the Brandybuck family for the Master (or future Master) of Buckland to be given a title. Merry’s father, Saradoc had been named “Scattergold”, for his grand generosity. Rorimac “Goldfather” had been named for almost the opposite, for his shrewd business manner, and before him, Gorbadoc “Broadbelt” had been famous for his feasts, and his love for his own food.
Meriadoc was given the title of “the Magnificent”, for a great many reasons. Firstly, his family recognised the great things he had done on his “adventure”. He was the Knight of a distant land, something only his cousin Pippin alone had equalled. Then, of course, there was his involvement in the Battle of Bywater and the freeing of the Shire from Sharkey’s rule. Merry (along with Pippin, once more) had beaten Bullroarer Took in height, an incredible feat (though rumour had it, he had acquired assistance in this. Some form of outlandish potion was the general belief). It seemed only fitting for a hobbit of such grand stature to wear lordly clothes, and Merry’s mail-shirt was certainly that.
A lesser reason for his title came from Merry’s younger friends. Both he and Pippin had become quite famous for the parties they held at Crickhollow. Even after they had both married (and now, Peregrin had a son), the parties continued, and they were no less wonderful. One such party was held after the Title ceremony. Neither Merry nor Pippin remembered much of that party.
Sam and Rose Gamgee had been unable to attend the birthday party at Crickhollow, due to the imminent birth of their seventh child. Rose was due any day, and they thought it unwise to travel, even to Buckland. Merry was, however, not going to leave one of his closest friends out of the celebrations, so a week after the actual birthday, Merry and Pippin, along with Estella, Diamond and Faramir, travelled to Hobbiton and had another party for Merry’s birthday (though this one was far less grand).
Their stay at Bag-End was extended when the newest Gamgee child decided that he wanted to join in whatever fun his family was involved in. Little Hamfast Gamgee was born on the twenty-ninth of April, 1432.
Merry, Pippin and their families finally made their way back to Buckland. They took it fairly slow, but Merry could not help but feel anxious. There was something in his heart telling him to return home.
Night was beginning to fall as their carriage drew up to the West-Gate of Buckland. The hobbit on duty looked up at them and started.
“Oh, Master Merry!” he cried. “You’re back.”
“Yes,” Merry replied, somewhat confused.
“Begging your pardon, sir, but I think you should head to Brandy Hall.”
“I did plan to, but…”
“Sorry, sir, it’s not my place to explain.”
Merry looked upon the hobbit in complete confusion. He glanced at Estella and Pippin, both of whom, simply shrugged. Merry muttered his thanks and urged the pony onwards. His feeling of anxiety had now very much increased.
A message must have been sent from the Gates to the Hall, though Merry and his companions saw no one take it, for Merry’s cousin Berilac was waiting for them at the entrance. With him stood his wife, Pippin’s sister, Pimpernel. Both had grave looks on their faces. Merry assisted his wife from their carriage, before making his way to the door of Brandy Hall.
“Hullo, Berry,” he greeted, almost hesitantly.
“Welcome home, Master of Buckland,” Berilac returned, in an almost emotionless voice.
Merry’s eyes widened. He searched Berry’s face for any trace of fallacy, despite knowing that there was no way Berilac could lie about this. Not finding what he searched for, Merry pushed his way passed Berry and Pimpernel and into the Hall. He ran straight to his father’s room. Merry’s mother, Esmeralda, had passed away a few years back. Merry had been distraught – his mother had always been one of his closest friends. Fortunately, his father had been there to share the pain. But Berry’s words had brought a new wave of grief. Master of Buckland…
The room was empty. Fighting back tears, Merry continued through Brandy Hall, vaguely aware of the sounds of his cousins and family following him. Someone called him name, but he could not figure out who the voice belonged to. Pimpernel, or Diamond? Merry was making his way to his most hated room of Brandy Hall. Being so large and with so many inhabitants, Brandy Hall had its own mortuary. It had always been a favourite pastime of young Brandybucks to dare one other to go inside. Merry had been unfortunate enough to have entered the room and see his grandmother’s body waiting for burial. Since then, he had always avoided the mortuary, but now he knew it was where he needed to go.
The door creaked open, and Merry stared inside. A coffin sat in the centre of the room. He slowly edged towards it and peered into it. There lay Saradoc Brandybuck, as if in a peaceful sleep.
From behind him, Merry could just hear a hushed argument between his cousins.
“You could have thought of a better way to tell him!” Pippin’s voice hissed.
“What do you suggest I should have said, Peregrin?” Berilac returned. “‘Welcome home, Merry. And by the way, your dad’s dead’?”
But the voices soon faded away as other noises filled Merry’s ears. He heard horns blowing, and the desperate cries of the dying. In the distance, he could hear the strange calls of the mûmakil. The stench of death wafted into his nostrils and seemed to surround him. Looking upon Saradoc, he no longer saw the coffin of oak. Instead, he saw Saradoc dressed in the livery of Rohan. A white horse lay on top of him, but it then rolled away. Merry cried in pain as his right arm chilled and went numb. He stumbled towards his father.
"Farewell, Master Holbytla!"
Merry started sobbing. No, not again! He did not want to face this again. Saradoc no longer looked like Merry’s father. He had completely changed into Théoden, former King of Rohan. His elderly face was twisted in pain, but his eyes shone brightly.
“Never shall I sit with you in Meduseld, as I promised, or listen to your herb-lore.”
Amidst his tears, Merry finally found his voice. “No, not again! I don’t want to lose him again!”
Behind him, Merry’s family looked upon him in concern. They saw none of what Merry had. Only one of them understood what Merry was going through. Pippin shook his head, pitifully, knowing that his beloved cousin was reliving the events of the Pelennor Fields. Estella must have seen the look of understanding on Pippin’s face, because she turned to him.
“Peregrin! What’s wrong with him?” she cried.
Pippin did not know where to begin. They had told their wives of the adventure, but for the most part, the painful and difficult parts had been omitted. The cruelty of the Uruk-hai, the battle on the Fields of the Pelennor, the Pyre of Denethor – these were the memories that Merry and Pippin kept to themselves, and the memories that haunted their dreams.
“This isn’t the first time Merry has lost his father,” Pippin said at length, and he said no more.
Estella looked away from Pippin and ran to her husband. She cried out. Merry had fallen to the floor, holding his right arm against him. When she touched it, it was icy cold.
“Gandalf? Where is Gandalf? Pippin!” Merry cried, then he fainted.
* * * * * *
When Merry woke, he half expected to be in the Houses of Healing. But he was not. He was in a room in Brandy Hall. His own childhood room, he realised, as he saw the portrait on the wall of himself and his Took cousins. Someone was holding his right arm. Merry was thankful to realise that the feeling had returned to it, and it was no longer cold.
“Merry? Are you awake?” asked Estella.
“Stella?” he murmured.
“Yes, my love, I am here. You gave us quite a scare, Meriadoc.”
Estella smiled. Both she and Diamond had known, when they wed their respective husbands, there were somethings that they could not comfort them for. There were some times when Merry or Pippin needed one another. Merry had just given them all another example of the more painful moments of their journey.
“Yes, Pippin is here too.”
“Decided to join us, again, have you Meriadoc?” Pippin said, trying to be light-hearted.
“Oh, Pippin. I…I was…” Merry stammered, new tears spilling from his eyes.
“You were back on the Pelennor Fields. I know. It’s happened to me too. You know I can’t stand to have a blanket over my face, and the site of a house burning makes me retch.” Pippin managed a smile. “But you are back with us now.”
“But, it was as clear as day. Everything! The smell, the sounds, Théoden…”
“I know, Merry. It always is. Here, drink this.”
Merry allowed Pippin to place a mug to his lips. The cool water felt good as it slid down his throat. At last, he felt himself one more. He looked over to where Berilac and Pimpernel were hovering at the end of the bed.
“Why didn’t you send word to me?” he asked, in a quiet voice.
“If you had not returned today, we probably would have,” Berry replied. “He passed away only three days ago.”
“But I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye!”
“Nobody did,” said Pimpernel. “He must have died in his sleep. Berry noticed that he hadn’t arrived for breakfast. When we checked his room, he looked to be asleep, but he did not wake.”
Merry just nodded. So that was the end for Saradoc Brandybuck. No glory in battle, just a peaceful never-ending sleep. Merry shook his head. Perhaps he had not left his dream completely yet. He had been thinking of his father like he was a great captain of the West.
“We waited for you to return before holding the funeral,” Berilac continued. “If you are not well, we can postpone it for longer.”
“No, no, I am fine,” Merry said, sitting up as if to prove his point. “I just need some rest. Can we stay at Crickhollow for tonight.”
Once they were convinced that Merry was well enough to travel (even such a short distance), Merry, Pippin and their families returned to Crickhollow. Merry ate little for dinner, and even less for supper. He excused himself from the table and headed to bed. On the way, he noticed a bundle of letters that must have arrived while they had been in Hobbiton.
“Mail’s here!” he called. He flicked through the letters, taking those addressed to him. The last letter he found bore the seal of the Mark. Forgetting the rest of the letters, Merry went to his study.
He tore the letter open, though he knew exactly who it was from. The firm, but messy script on the envelope could only belong to one person.
It has been far too long since we last wrote to each other! I have often found myself anxious to hear word of the Shire, even if it is only to tell me that all is peaceful and perfect.
As I write, I sit in my room at Edoras, having taken Meriwyn, Éohir and Peregond to visit their uncle. Peregond has recently started speaking. Your cousin may be pleased to know that one of little Peregond’s first words was “Pippin”, so he has also inherited that nickname! My nephew, Elfwine, is trying his best to corrupt Éohir. I don’t have the heart to tell that all of my children have already been corrupted by you and Peregrin!
And what of you? Is your home yet filled with the laughter of children? By that, I mean your own. How goes Peregrin’s young lad? Faramir is still honoured that the future Thain of the Shire has been named after him!
Alas, I am afraid I must leave now. I hear the distant sound of my son’s cries. I dread to think what his cousin and brother have done to him. I hope this letter finds you well.
Your loving friend,
Lady Éowyn of Ithilien
(Éomer also asked me to extend his best wishes)
A sad smile graced Merry’s lips. Completely forgetting that he needed rest, he took out pen and paper, and started writing.
* * * * * *
Merry settled into the seat of his desk. His desk. He was still having difficulty accepting that he was really the Master of Buckland. It had been almost a month since Saradoc had died, and it had taken that long for Merry to be officially named the Master. He and Estella had moved back into Brandy Hall, and Peregrin was in the process of moving back to Tookland.
He heard a soft knock at the door. “Yes?”
Berilac and Pimpernel’s daughter, Garnet, peeped inside. She was carrying a very large box, and seemed to be having some difficulty. “Uncle Merry, this came for you.”
Merry walked over and took the box from the lass. “Thank you, Garnet.”
Garnet curtsied and left. Merry looked at the box, finding a letter on the top. He tore the letter off. The seal of Rohan was once again on it.
Our deepest sympathy for your loss. We both understand the pain of losing a father. And having to experience that pain twice. Your father’s memory will live on as long as you do not forget it.
We also wish to congratulate you on becoming the Master of Buckland. Both Éomer and Faramir certainly know the bittersweet feeling of inheriting such a title. We hope that you shall accept the gifts we have sent with this letter.
Once again, congratulations, Meriadoc the Magnificent, Master of Buckland.
Your loving friends,
Éomer, King of the Mark, and Éowyn, Lady of Ithilien
Merry looked inside the box and smiled.
* * * * * *
A/N: This was probably the longest so far, but I knew I had to involve Merry’s experience with Théoden. Pippin comes next.
Time to Make a Change
5: The Thain and the Took (Paladin Took)
Paladin Took was a very doting grandfather. Pippa and Adella, the daughters of his youngest daughter had always been spoilt, since Pervinca was the only one of Paladin’s four children who still lived in the Great Smials. But when Peregrin returned to his childhood home (after Meriadoc became the Master of Buckland), Paladin had a grandson to spoil as much as he had his granddaughters.
Despite being over 100, Paladin played with young Faramir (as well as Pippa and Adella) as though he were still a lad himself. On numerous occasions (when Paladin had time to escape his duties as Thain), both grandfather and grandson would return from an outing completely covered with dirt and were scolded by their respective wife or mother.
Peregrin enjoyed watching his father and son bond so well. He had never known either of his own grandfathers, but often latched onto Merry’s, when Old Rory had been alive.
But Pippin knew that Paladin would not be around forever. The passing of his Uncle Saradoc two years earlier had been a painful reminder (though Faramir had been too young at the time to remember). Paladin was almost ten years older than Saradoc had been. Pippin tried to push these morbid thoughts to the back of his mind.
There they remained, until one glorious Autumn afternoon. Peregrin was sitting in the Thain’s office, as Paladin often bid him to. He had just started to doze in the very comfortable chair when he heard a high-pitched squeal.
“Uncle Pippin! Uncle Pippin! Come quick!”
Pippin instantly recognised the voice as belonging to Peredoc Brandybuck, Berilac and Pimpernel’s son. Pippin’s elder sister had brought her children to visit their Took relatives. Earlier that day, Paladin had taken all of his grandchildren on a picnic.
“Uncle Pippin!” Peredoc burst into the room.
“What’s wrong, Perry?” Pippin asked.
Peregrin immediately rose from his seat and followed after Perry. He didn’t bother asking for any further explanations. The lad was only ten, after all. This was probably frightening enough for him. Perry led him to the stables. In the paddock reserved for Paladin’s favourite pony, Toffee, Pippin could just make out the form of a hobbit on the ground. He quickened his pace.
“Perry-lad. I want you to get your father and Uncle Everard. Can you do that for me?”
Peredoc nodded, and ran back to the Smials. Pippin now saw the other figures in the paddock, by the fence. Perry’s sister, Garnet, was holding Faramir. Pippa had her hand on Adella’s shoulder.
“Garnet! Pippa!” he called. He jumped the fence and ran to them. Just a little way in front of the children, Pippin saw his father’s battered and bruised body. “Oh, no.”
“Toffee got scared or something,” Garnet sniffled. “She bolted and Granddad flew straight off her back. He was showing us how to ride, because Addie said she was scared of ponies.”
Hearing her name being mentioned, Adella let out a loud sob. Pippin realised that the poor lass thought it was her fault. “Now, now, Adella, sweetheart. This wasn’t your fault. Ponies get startled all the time and buck their riders off. Look, here comes your Daddy.”
Peredoc had just returned with Berilac and Everard Took, Pervinca’s husband. Pippin took Faramir from Garnet’s arms so that she could be comforted by her own father.
“What happened?” Everard asked, lifting Adella into his arms, even though she was eight years old.
“Pony bolted,” Pippin replied. He walked slowly over to where Paladin lay and gently touched his head. To Pippin’s surprise, Paladin’s eyes opened, and he smiled slightly.
“Pippin…” he croaked.
“I suppose Addie’s even more scared of ponies now. Tell her I’m sorry.”
A sob escaped from Pippin’s throat, and he almost forgot that he was holding Faramir in his arms. “No, Dad, you can tell her yourself. She’s just over there. Dad?”
But Paladin would say no more. His eyes had closed once more, but the smile remained on his face. Pippin’s legs gave way beneath him. He only just managed to catch Faramir in time, before the lad fell from his arms.
Faramir seemed to sense that his father was upset. “Grandda sleeping?” he asked hopefully.
Peregrin looked at his young son, and managed a sad smile. “Yes, Faramir, Granddad’s asleep, but he won’t wake up.”
After many tears had been shed, Pippin knew that they would have to take Paladin’s body back to the Smials. Eglantine and the girls needed to be told also. Everard, Berilac and Peregrin made a stretcher from junk they found in the nearby stable, and carefully placed Paladin onto it. Slowly, they made their way back to the Smials.
The look of his mother’s face was something that Peregrin remembered to the end of his days. She was the first to see them returning. The smile had frozen on her lips when she caught sight of the stretcher. A cry escaped her lips and she ran forward. She collapsed onto Paladin’s chest, sobbing.
“No, no, no.”
Pippin placed his hand on his mother’s shoulder. She turned to face him, and fell into his embrace. “I’m sorry, Mama.”
Neither of them seemed to notice that he had used his childhood name for her. He hadn’t called her “Mama” since he had been a small lad.
* * * * * *
After the funeral business had been taken care of, Peregrin had been officially named the Thain and the Took. The thought still terrified him. He was certain that he was far too young for such responsibility. His father had been eighty-two when he had become Thain, and looking back through the Took family records, Pippin had worked out the average age to be around sixty-five. He was only forty-four!
But his mother, wife and sisters all had faith in him. And Merry offered some words of encouragement. He had become the Master of Buckland two years before, and at age fifty, he was the equal youngest to do so (Gorbadoc Brandybuck, Merry’s great-grandfather, had also been fifty when he became the Master). He assured his cousin that it wasn’t all that hard, just a lot of organising, note taking and book keeping. Pippin’s heart sank. He was terrible at those sorts of things.
At the close of his first exhausting day of being Thain, Peregrin Took sank into his chair, just as he had the day his father had died. He had never missed Paladin more. To take his mind off everything, Pippin started to reorganise the desk – he supposed it was a good enough start to being organised. In the top drawer, he found a letter addressed to “The Thain and the Took”. The envelope looked old, and Pippin wondered if it was a letter that Paladin had misplaced.
“Well, I’m the Thain now,” he said to himself. “And that means I can open it.” He tore the letter open and read it.
Thain Peregrin I, (“So it is for me!” Pippin gasped aloud)
If you are reading this, it means that I have left this world and that you are now the Thain and the Took – or that I am still alive and you have been going through my private documents, and are certainly in for severe punishment! (Pippin had to laugh. Paladin Took had been well known for his dry sense of humour.) I do hope my end was a good one, and not dying in a sick bed, as Ferumbras did. Perhaps being attacked by wolves… (Another reason to laugh. Pippin wondered if being thrown from a startled pony was good enough for his father.)
But I digress from the point of this letter. I realise that it may be difficult for you to face your newfound responsibilities. I write from experience, for I write this letter at the end of my first week as Thain. Quite an interesting week to say the least, but I am sure you will have a similar experience. You are a fine lad of twenty-five as I write – and your mother has sent you to Hobbiton for a fortnight. Probably so that you will not bother me. I do wonder how old you are now, as you sit in my chair and read this letter. Let us hope that my exciting end was not untimely.
I have learnt, Peregrin, that the duties of the Thain are not as daunting as they first seem. And do not, for a moment, believe that you must face them alone! It is my hope that my brother-in-law, Saradoc, was kind enough to depart this world before me, and that Meriadoc is currently serving as the Master of Buckland. Do not hesitate to ask him for guidance. I know I have, and will continue to plague Saradoc with questions! (Pippin smiled as he remembered his father constantly sending letters to Brandy Hall. Barely half of them were addressed to Esmeralda. Most went to Saradoc.)
I also hope that, by now, you have found yourself a fine Mrs. Took. Your mother has been and always will be my saviour. If you have found a lass that is half as wonderful as my Eglantine, you are indeed blessed.
You may also call upon other friends that you have (perhaps friends that you have not yet made as I write). Being the Thain and the Took, Peregrin, does not mean being alone.
Finally, my son, my Pippin, I leave you words of my love for you. I am honoured to have you as my son. You have made me proud (and, no doubt, I was prouder still before I passed on). I know that you will continue to do so.
Your father, Paladin Took
(If you would not mind, this leaving a letter for the next Thain is almost a tradition. I found mine from Old Ferumbras this morning. Awfully boring, but I suppose it came to the same point this one did. Be a good lad and leave a letter like this for your successor. And I do hope that it will be your son, and not some offspring of Meriadoc’s!)
Pippin grinned broadly. He hadn’t smiled like that since before Paladin died. Trust his father to make him smile even in death. Aside from amusing him, the letter had also relieved most of Pippin’s anxiety. If he could face a troll before the Gates of Mordor, he could face this Thain business. After all, he was a Knight of Gondor!
Still smiling, Peregrin found pen and paper.
Thain Faramir I,
* * * * * *
A/N: This one seems so short after Merry’s huge story! I think I still managed to get the point across, but I hope that Paladin's letter wasn't too cheesy and tacky spy movie-like. As you may have guessed, Paladin's grandchildren (aside from Faramir, of course), were all from my twisted imagination. The final chapter will be for Elanor, Faramir and Merry’s children.
Time to Make a Change
A/N: I have had to make a very slight alteration in this chapter – being another child for Elanor and Fastred. In “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil” it says that the name “Fíriel” was “the name of a daughter of Elanor, daughter of Sam”. Fíriel was originally not present in this story, but she has now been added.
“Among them the tradition is handed down from Elanor that Samwise passed the Towers, and went to the Grey Havens, and passed over the sea, last of the Ring-bearers.”
“In the spring of the year a message came from Rohan to Buckland that King Éomer wished to see Master Holdwine once again. Meriadoc was then old (102) but still hale. He took counsel with his friend the Thain, and soon after they handed over their goods and offices to their sons and rode away over the Sarn Ford, and they were not seen again in the Shire.”
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, “Appendix B – The Tale of Years”
Epilogue: Last of the Ring-bearers
Elanor Fairbairn was not surprised when she found her father waiting on her doorstep one afternoon in later September. In fact she had been expecting him since her mother’s death earlier that year. But when she estimated Sam’s travelling speed, and from that, the date of his departure, she understood. He had waited until the twenty-second of September, Frodo Baggins’ birthday.
“Well, hullo, Ellie,” he greeted in a tired voice.
“I’ve been expecting you, Sam-dad,” Elanor returned. “Come inside.”
“Thank you, Ellie. It was getting chilly out here.”
“Granddad!” Elanor’s youngest son, Frodo, cried, jumping into Sam’s arms. “You came to visit us!”
“I did indeed, Frodo-lad.” Sam placed Frodo back on the ground so that Elanor’s other three children could hug him; son, Elfstan, and daughters Niphredil and Fíriel.
Fastred smiled up at Sam from his armchair. “How lovely to see you, Father.”
Sam nodded. “It has been a while, hasn’t it? I’m afraid I have been rather busy.”
“You arrived just at the right time, Dad, as usual,” laughed Elanor. “We were just about to have afternoon tea. I assume you would like to join us.”
“I’d never pass up your afternoon tea, Ellie. You know that.”
Elanor forced a smile, before making her way to the kitchen to finish preparing the tea. Her heart was aching. She knew that Sam had come to say goodbye. He was on his way to the Grey Havens. Rose had died, and now Samwise was tired of this world. He was leaving it. He had told her of this when she had been a child, and she had never forgotten. Elanor sighed. For now she would keep a brave face.
All through tea, Sam told stories of his adventures to Frodo, Niphredil and Fíriel. Elfstan listened in. He was a lot older than his three siblings, and had heard the stories far more than they, but he would never grow tired of them. Niphredil asked if her flower still grew in Lórien, just as her mother had wanted to know when she had been a lass. Frodo asked if he would be allowed to go to Gondor and Rohan, since some of his cousins had been allowed to. Fíriel wanted to hear about the horses of Rohan. The stories and questions continued to dinner and supper and afterwards. Finally, Fastred announced that it was time for the children to go to bed. Reluctantly, Frodo, Niphredil and Fíriel said goodnight to their grandfather, oblivious to the tears that had formed in his eyes.
“I’ve made up your room for you, Dad,” said Elanor.
“Why thank you, Ellie,” Sam said, standing, with some difficulty. “A good night’s sleep is just what I need after a hard day of travel and story-telling!”
Elfstan helped his grandfather to the room he always used when he visited. After Elfstan had left, Sam placed the very small pack he had brought with him on the bed. For this journey, he needed few supplies, just a few snacks to eat on the road, one or two changes of clothing, and one very precious thing. Sam unwrapped a cloth bundle to reveal a large book with a red leather cover. He smiled sadly as he ran his hand over the well-worn cover. Many copies had been made, but this was the original, the Red Book. The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King. It had been written by three hobbits. The beginning was written in the spidery script of Bilbo Baggins. The majority was written in Frodo Baggins’ flowing handwriting, and the end in the plain, but firm print of Samwise Gamgee.
Elanor, standing in the doorway of her father’s room saw him regarding this great treasure. “Sam-dad?”
“I wondered when you would speak up, Elanor.” He turned and smiled at her. “You’ve been watching me for a while now, haven’t you?”
She blushed. “Well, not for that long…”
“Come in, Ellie, and shut the door.”
Elanor did what was asked of her. Shutting the door quietly behind her, she made her way to her father, and sat next to him, placing her head on his shoulder. She had the sudden desire to be a child again. She let Sam stroke her golden hair and wipe the tears from her cheeks. She hadn’t even realised that she had been crying.
“I suppose you know why I came,” he said softly. “Because I told you a long time ago.”
Elanor nodded. “You said, that one day you’d go to the Havens, just like Mister Frodo did. That was on my fifteenth birthday. You’d just finished reading the Red Book to us. A few days later we left and met with the King, and Queen Arwen named me her maid of honour.”
“That’s right. Do you remember what you said?”
She choked on a sob. “I said, that when you’re time came, I would go to the Havens with you, that I wouldn’t part with you.”
Sam fought his own tears back. “And I told you that it is not wise to choose before the time comes. The time has come now, Elanorellë. The choice of Lúthien and Arwen has come to you, my beautiful Elanor.”
“I have to choose?” Elanor asked in a small voice and Sam nodded. “But it’s so hard.”
“And that’s why I told you not to make the choice before the time. Back when you were a little girl of fifteen springs, I was the only thing you loved dearly. But now you have Fastred, and Elfstan, Niphredil, Frodo and Fíriel.”
“I can’t leave them…”
“I know. And I wouldn’t want you to.” Sam placed a kiss on his most beloved daughter’s forehead. “Your place is here, Ellie. I wouldn’t want you to leave it. I wouldn’t let you leave it.”
“But I’ll lose you!”
“You would lose me eventually even if I didn’t leave.” Sam smiled. “I don’t fear for you, Elanor. I don’t fear for any of you. Your family will continue to be the Wardens of the Westmarch, and the Red Book will pass down through it.”
“Have you told everyone else that you’re leaving?”
“I left a note for Merry. Bag-End belongs to him, the most fitting place for the Mayor, I think. But I did not say were I was going.”
Elanor took a deep breath. “I will tell them. I will tell them that the last of the Ring-bearers has passed across the sea.”
“That’s my girl.” Sam picked up the Red Book and placed it in Elanor’s hands. “This is for you. Treasure it. Honour it. And, now, to bed, Elanorellë.”
Elanor, with tears pouring from her eyes, kissed her father for the last time. She left his room and returned to her own. There, Fastred was waiting for her. She snuggled into his embrace.
When the Fairbairns woke the next morning, Sam had left. On his pillow, he had placed a shining jewel. The Star of the Dúnedain, given to him by King Elessar. Elanor took it and placed it with the Red Book.
“Goodbye, Sam-dad,” she whispered.
* * * * * *
Meriadoc Brandybuck read through the letter in his hand for the hundredth or so time. His old knuckles were aching from being held in the same position for so long. He finally concluded that there could be no doubting what was written in the letter. The signature most certainly belonged to Éomer, King of the Mark, and he had most certainly requested that he wished to see Merry again. It appeared that most of the letter had been written by another hand (most likely Elfwine, Éomer’s son), and the King had simply signed it. It seemed Éomer had fallen ill, and he believed his remaining days to be few.
Merry let out the breath that he had not realised he’d been holding in. He greatly wished to see his dear friend before he departed this world, but would his own body be up to the journey. It was no short distance between Rohan and Buckland.
“Théodoc?” he called to his only son.
Théodoc, who had been hovering outside his father’s office since he had delivered the letter, immediately ran to Merry. “Yes, Father, what is it? What did the letter say?”
“I’m afraid I cannot tell you yet, Théo. Fetch your sister, please, and have a carriage made ready. We are going to Tookland.”
Meriadoc knew that, since his wife, Estella, had died a few years earlier, Peregrin was the only person he could turn to for advice.
Théodoc returned quickly, with his elder sister, Éowyn, and her husband, Bilbo son of Samwise. Merry placed his hand on Bilbo’s shoulder. “My dear son-in-law, Bilbo. I hope you will not find me rude if I ask you to stay here. For this journey, I need to be alone with my children.”
Bilbo smiled, and for a moment, Merry was painfully reminded of how much he missed Sam. “I shall remain here, Master Meriadoc.”
“Thank you, Bilbo.”
Théodoc and Éowyn assisted their father to the carriage that had been prepared for them. Their two-day journey to Tookland was a slow one. Merry’s pony, Gimli, plodded along side them, and the Brandybuck children wondered at what that might mean.
Merry had sent a message ahead of them, so it was not surprising to see Peregrin waiting outside the Smials with Faramir, and his wife Goldilocks. Pippin’s own wife, Diamond, had died in the same year as Estella.
“Well, Merry, it’s been a while since you’ve come to visit!” Pippin jested. “Did you finally manage to squeeze out of your chair?”
“I often wonder, Peregrin,” Merry returned, “when you shall ever grow up.”
“I don’t plan to. Ever.”
Pippin escorted his cousin and family into the Great Smials. He knew that Merry had some important business to discuss, and he had quite rightly guessed at what it was. They had often discussed what they would do in their last few years, especially since Sam had left for the Havens.
The families ate dinner and supper together. While Éowyn and Goldilocks played with Faramir and Goldi’s three children, Paladin, Legolas and Lúthien, Pippin and Merry made their way to the Thain’s study and shut the door.
“You know something, Merry,” said Pippin. “I think we’re quite responsible for bringing some very outlandish names to the Shire. You, me and Sam, I mean, of course.”
Merry smiled. “Elanor, Faramir, Éowyn, Théodoc, Legolas, Lúthien.”
“Don’t forget Elanor’s children – Elfstan, Niphredil and Fíriel. And Pippin Gamgee’s lad, Aragorn. Now tell me, what have you come all the way to Tookland for?”
Merry pretended to be hurt. “My dearest cousin, don’t you believe that it was simply to see you?”
“If that were the case, you would have sent a message for me to come to Buckland and see you. That’s what you always do.”
“Ah, yes, of course.” Merry chuckled. He took the letter out of his breast pocket. “This arrived for me a few days ago.”
Pippin saw the seal and raised his eyebrows. “From Rohan!”
Merry nodded. “Read it.”
Pippin read through the letter and placed it on his desk when he was finished. “I suppose you have come to find out what I think you should do.”
“Well, yes, and…” Merry struggled to find the right words. “And to see if you would want to come with me if I do decide to go. After Rohan we could go to Gondor and Ithilien.”
Pippin smiled. “Oh, Merry, my dear ass! Of course I want to come with you! In fact, I wouldn’t let you go without me!”
Merry returned the smile and laughed. “I had hoped that you would say that. And I see that you think that we should go.”
“Most definitely. It would be a sad blow for poor Éomer if you did not come to see him. And I cannot remember the last time we saw old Strider!”
“What should we tell the children?”
Pippin suddenly became serious. He had forgotten all about his family. “They will understand. Sam’s did when he left. But I think we should at least let them come with us to the Ford.”
Meriadoc nodded. “We should leave tomorrow.”
The next morning, Meriadoc and Peregrin announced to their families that they had important business to attend to in Rohan. Faramir, Théodoc and Éowyn were to escort them to the Sarn Ford.
“Goldi, you should stay here with your children,” Pippin replied to her request to come too. “They will need you.”
Goldilocks ran into Peregrin’s arms and held him tightly. She could see in his eyes what she had seen in her own father’s the last time she had seen him. But she did not reveal her knowledge to Faramir. She simply whispered to her father-in-law. “Goodbye.”
Pippin and Merry mounted their ponies, Bergil and Gimli. Faramir had his own pony, while Théodoc and Éowyn used the ponies that had led the carriage. For the most part of the journey, they were all silent.
The Sarn Ford came into view on their second day of travel. Before they came to the Ford, Merry and Pippin dismounted. Their children did the same.
“This is where we must say farewell,” said Merry. “Forever.”
“What?” Faramir, Théodoc and Éowyn cried at the same time.
“You all know that Master Samwise had to leave the Shire,” Pippin explained. “And we must do the same. Our remaining years are few, especially Merry’s…”
“Watch it, Peregrin!” Merry warned, with a grin. He became serious once more. “We have duties outside the Shire which we must attend to. I hope you can understand that.”
Faramir, Théodoc and Éowyn nodded. Éowyn, for the moment, stood back. She knew that her father and uncle would have something very important to say to their sons.
“Théodoc ‘Pureheart’ Brandybuck, you are now the Master of Buckland. The youngest there had ever been, I believe, but you are quite ready for it. You can call upon your sister, if you need any guidance, or on you cousin.” Merry handed his son an official looking document. It named Théodoc his heir and successor, handing over to him all possessions and offices. Merry gave a little smile. “I’d like you to get married soon, too. You don’t want your cousin, Perry’s son to be the Master after you, do you?”
Théodoc laughed, and hugged his father. “Goodbye, Dad. Take care.”
It was Peregrin’s turn. “Faramir I, I name you the Thain and the Took. I don’t have any advice to give you, as such, but I will give you this.” He gave Faramir a letter addressed to ‘The Thain and the Took’. “Read that when you get back to the Smials. It should have a few helpful hints.” Peregrin also gave Faramir a document very similar to the one Meriadoc had given Théodoc. “You have a beautiful wife and three lovely children, Faramir. Treasure them always.”
“I will, Father.” Faramir embraced his own father.
“Daddy?” Éowyn’s small voice spoke up.
Merry opened his arms to her and held her close. She had been his first-born, and since he and Estella had lost to babies before Éowyn came along, she had always been very precious to him.
“Be brave, my sweet,” he whispered to her. “You are a Shield-maiden, remember?”
She nodded and sniffled. “I’ll miss you.”
“And I you, Éowyn. But you are both strong, and you can both survive this parting.” Seeing the confusion on her face, Merry placed his hand on Éowyn’s belly. “You can’t hide anything from me, Éowyn. Choose a good name for your child.”
“I’m sure I can think of one.”
Peregrin and Meriadoc mounted their ponies once more. With a final wave to their children, they rode away. Faramir, Théodoc and Éowyn stood completely motionless and watched their fathers cross the Sarn Ford.
At last they turned, the Master and his sister, and the Thain, and started the journey back to Tookland.
* * * * * *
A/N: Finished. Well, that was a rather long chapter – but I couldn’t divide it into two. For anyone who’s interested, the conversation mentioned in this chapter between Sam and Elanor comes from The End of the Third Age, by Christopher Tolkien – in the unpublished Epilogue of Lord of the Rings. I thought it was very sweet when I read it, so knew I had to use it. Thank you to all who have read this story (especially those who reviewed!), and I hope you have all enjoyed it!
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