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Just to be With You
A/N: This chapter will largely be concerned with my own interpretation of what the Lockholes may have been like. I’m sure everyone has their own ideas, but I hope you won’t think too badly of mine.
11: Prisoners and Outlaws
The ground was cold, and the air smelt dusty and damp. Estella felt groggy, and from the throbbing of her head, she guessed that she had hit it on something.
“W-where am I?”
“The Lockholes,” Fredegar’s voice answered. “Used to be storage tunnels in Michel Delving, remember?”
Estella managed to open her eyes. It did not make much difference. She could vaguely see Fredegar sitting not far from her on the ground. They were in a small room. Three of the walls were wood panelled, and the forth was not a wall at all. Cruel iron bars blocked one side of the room. No longer were these tunnels used for storing excess furniture and pointless records. The Shire had a prison, and the Bolgers were indeed in the Lockholes.
“Where are the others?” Estella asked.
Her brother shrugged. “I think Celandine, at least, is in this same tunnel, but further down. I thought I heard her scream. We’re lucky to have been locked up together.”
Estella nodded as she thought of being locked up with a stranger. Perhaps a young hobbit who had been locked up for so long that he had forgotten the proper way to treat a lass. She shuddered, and worried for Celandine and Tulip.
When he head had finally stopped spinning, Estella stood to explore her knew home. In one corner there was a filthy bucket and a tap. At least the makers of the prison had given some thought to hygiene. The floor was lined by three thin mattresses. Estella thought that it was crowded enough with just the two of them, and hated to think how uncomfortable it would be with three or more.
The bars were made of ugly black iron, from what Estella could see in the dim light. Straining her neck, she saw that the cells only lined one side of the tunnel, but she could not guess how many there were. A narrow path led along the side, with several pathetic torches providing the only light.
“I’d say that’s where they deliver the food,” said Fredegar, motioning to a gap at the bottom of the bars. “If we ever get fed, that is.”
They were, in fact, eventually fed. A sad and sorry young lad pushed a tray under the bars and continued on his way. Estella tried to ask him about their friends, but the lad simply ignored her.
Fredegar snorted as he collected the tray. “Oh, such a choice feast.”
They had been given two pathetic and dry pieces of bread, some strips of meat and two very limp carrots. There were also two mugs of water. Fredegar drank the water and munched miserably on one of the pieces of bread, but he left the rest for Estella.
“Don’t you want anymore?” she asked.
“No, I’m not hungry. You eat it.” Fredegar was actually famished, but he wanted to make sure that his baby sister had enough to eat. It was his fault that she was even here, after all. She should have been at Brandy Hall, hiding with her parents.
Estella and Fredegar were soon able to decipher the passing of time through the delivery of their meals. They were fed only twice a day, mid-morning and late afternoon, as far as they could guess. The same lad brought the food and took away the empty trays. Estella gave up on trying to talk to him after only a few attempts.
However, she was able to work something out with his help, though he would never know it. The lad dragged a trolley behind him, laden with the trays. When he delivered the food, the trolley seemed full, with around five or six trays. They would see him pass by their cell a little while later with an empty trolley. The opposite happened when he collected the trays. He would come to their cell with only one tray, and would pass again some time later with seven.
From this, Estella deduced that their cell was second from whatever entry there was to the tunnel, and there were at least five other cells down from theirs. One day, the lad arrived with an empty trolley when he came to collect the trays, and Estella shuddered as she realised what that probably meant.
The Bolgers passed the rest of the time talking softly to one another or sleeping. Occasionally, one of them would try to remember a poem or a tale of Bilbo’s, and the other would help. Freddie continued to give most of his food to Estella, thankful that the dim light largely prevented her from seeing the effect it was having on him. They had all lost weight during their rebel days, but now Fredegar was becoming dangerously thin. I hardly live up to my nickname anymore, he thought, grimly.
From what he could work out, it had been around three months since they had been captured. Outside, the world was well and truly into Summer. And in the far away land of Gondor, Merry, Pippin, Frodo and Sam were honoured and praised as heroes.
* * * * * *
One morning, before breakfast had been delivered, Estella woke to a great commotion.
“Put ‘er in ‘ere!” a rough voice ordered. Several figured appeared at the bars of the cell. The door was opened, and one of the figures was pushed in. They stumbled to the ground, but were quickly on their feet again. Estella could see that this hobbit was a lass from the dress, but she seemed too tall. She must have been at least a head taller than Fredegar, and he was by no means short.
But Estella had no time to think about that, for another hobbit arrived at the cell. Estella’s breath caught in her throat.
“Well, my dear,” sneered Lotho Sackville-Baggins, the self-proclaimed “Chief”. “Do you still refuse?”
“I’d rather stay in here for the rest of my life,” the imprisoned girl proudly replied. Estella had to admire her courage. Must be a Took.
“I can arrange that!” He leant close to the bars. “Are you sure you don’t wish to reconsider?”
She spat on his cheek. “Keep away from me, you pimply piece of filth.”
Thoroughly enraged, Lotho turned on his heels and stormed back up the tunnel, spouting orders as he went.
“That was brave,” said Estella, after a moment of complete silence.
The newcomer turned sharply in surprise. She obviously had not expected to have cellmates. Estella was shocked to see how young the girl seemed in the flickering torchlight. She would have barely been into her tweens, despite her height.
“Sorry to have startled you,” Estella continued. “Please sit! I’m Estella.” The girl looked at Estella, before taking a seat on the mattress. Estella handed her a mug of water, which she graciously accepted.
“Thank you,” she said. “And there is no need to be sorry. I just did not expect to have company here. My name is Diamond.”
“A pleasure to meet you Diamond.” Estella motioned to Fredegar, who was snoring on his mattress. He could sleep through anything. “You will have to excuse my brother, Fredegar. He enjoys to sleep late and is not a morning person.”
Diamond screwed up her nose. “How can you tell what time of day it is in here?”
Estella gave a little laugh. “Well, usually by when the food is delivered. One meal in the morning and one in the afternoon.”
“Only two meals a day! How awful!”
“I am sure it could be worse.”
“Yes.” Diamond said no more, and Estella did not want to push the girl. After some time, Diamond finally spoke again. “If you tell me what you are in for, I shall tell you why I am.”
“Sounds like a fair deal to me,” Estella replied. “Where to begin… Freddie and I were part of a band of rebels operating in the East Farthing, near Scary to be exact. Attacking ruffians and causing other mischief of the like.”
“I heard Lotho speak of you,” Diamond said, quietly. “He seemed very pleased that you had been captured.”
Estella gave Diamond an odd look. “You were a friend of the Chief?”
“No. No! Not at all! But we will come to that later. Please finish your story first.”
“I’m afraid there’s not much more to it. The ruffians must have worked out where we were hiding and smoked us out.”
“How many of you were there? And how long have you been in here?”
“There were sixteen of us. I don’t know where in there horrid holed the others have been locked up. And we must have been in here for a good few months now.”
“Months! How perfectly awful for you! Though I suppose I shall be here for that long too.” Diamond sighed. “Well, a deal is a deal. Let me tell you my tale.”
“Wait a moment. I have a question for you. You are a Took, correct?”
“Why, yes. How did you guess? I don’t really have an accent.”
“My mother is Rosamunda Took, and I am good friends with the Thain’s daughters. In fact, one of our fellow rebels was the Thain’s son-in-law.”
Diamond nodded. “I know who you speak of. I am from a Northern clan of Tooks, from Long Cleeve in the North Farthing, but we still recognise the Thain as head of our family. I have met his children once or twice.” She took a deep breath. “It was good that you asked of my family, since it does play an important role in my story. I was to be Lotho’s bride.”
“His bride?” Estella cried. “But you are far too young! He must be at least thirty years older than you.”
“Thirty-one,” said Diamond, with a grimace. “And let us not forget the fact that he is quite hideous to look at. I was certainly not thrilled by the idea of marrying him, nor was my family. But as the Chief, Pimple knows what he wants and how to get it. I agreed in order to protect my family.”
“Why did he choose you?”
“As much as he hates the Tooks, Lotho knows that there is something about us. We are braver than most, and I would guess that it is this courage and boldness that Lotho wishes his children to have. He would not want them to be weak, as he believes all other hobbits to be.”
Estella was horrified. Poor Diamond, barely into he tweens, had been plucked from her family for the sole purpose of bearing Lotho’s children.
“He probably would have preferred one of the Thain’s daughters – I think he would have taken some delight in getting back at Master Paladin that way.”
“It would have had to have been Pervinca, and she’s engaged. Both Pearl and Pimpernel are married.”
“They are all hidden away in the Great Smials anyway,” Diamond stated. “He could not have one of Paladin’s daughters, so he chose me. I am a direct descendant of the Bullroarer, Bandobras Took.”
Estella nodded. That explained Diamond’s height. Bandobras Took had been over four foot high, exceptional for a hobbit, and many of his descendants were known to be taller than average.
Diamond continued. “Lotho and his Men came to my home. We thought they had come for more ‘gathering’. They had, but they weren’t gathering what we expected. Lotho demanded that I go with him. When I refused, he threatened to burn our home. I had no choice. My brothers would have fought for me, but I don’t doubt that they would have been killed.
“I came to Bag-End with Lotho, and immediately had more regrets than I could handle. His mother tended to ignore me completely, and so did he, most of the time, unless it was to badger me into choosing a date for the wedding. I demanded more time to make up my mind over his marriage proposal. Eventually, he demanded an answer and I refused him. The result of my refusal you can plainly see.”
“I never thought Lotho would be so pathetic.”
“You have no idea.”
A groan from Fredegar alerted the two lasses that he was waking. He sat up and scratched his head.
“Good morning, Freddie,” said Estella. “I’d like you to meet our new roommate, Diamond Took.”
“Hullo,” Fredegar greeted. “Took, you say? Well, fancy that.”
* * * * * *
“Room for one more?” Peregrin asked his cousin.
Merry looked up, startled. He was sitting on a rock some distance from where the funeral escort of Théoden had set up camp in the Eastfold, smoking and thinking. “Oh, hullo, Pip. Make yourself comfortable. I didn’t think anyone would find me…”
“Of course I found you, Meriadoc!” Pippin took out his own pipe, and the two smoked in silence for a few moments. “What’s on your mind?”
The question caught Merry off-guard. “N-nothing!”
“Nonsense, Merry! And don’t try to say it has something to do with this funeral business, because it doesn’t. You’ve been acting strangely ever since we announced that we were going home.”
Merry smiled and slapped Pippin on the back. “Can’t hide anything from you, can I?”
“All right, since you have come all this way to see me, I will tell you.” Merry breathed deeply. “I am worried about seeing Estella.”
“Why? Because of what I said back in Minas Tirith about stealing her away? I was joking, you know.”
“I know, Pip, and it’s not that. We had a fight the day before I left for Hobbiton to help Frodo out with his moving. She was asking when we were going to get married, and everything like that. I didn’t know what to say to her. To cut a long story short, we exchanged a few unpleasantries and she stormed off. I said something about going away and never coming back.”
“I see.” Peregrin thought for a moment. “You did not seem worried that night at The Quarry, when we were all discussing fair ladies.”
“I had been drinking that night,” Merry replied. “And Fatty said that he was sure to forgive me. He was also sure that we’d come back, and he was right about that.”
“Fatty’s right about a lot of things, except the Old Forest, of course, but he can’t help what he’s heard.” Pippin placed a hand on Merry’s shoulder. “I am sure, too, that Estella will be thrilled to see you again.” They smoked in silence again, but it was impossible for Pippin to remain quiet. “I can’t believe you told her that we were leaving the Shire!”
Merry looked at his cousin accusingly. “Are you saying that you did not tell anyone?”
“Of course I didn’t!”
“Oh, fine. I told Pervinca, but that’s all. I had to tell her. She and Everard are engaged now, and I didn’t want to miss the wedding. She begged to come along with us, you know.”
“I guessed she would have.” Merry grinned. “I wonder what would have happened if she had come with us.”
“Elrond would have refused to let her join the Fellowship and she would have stayed in Rivendell keeping Bilbo company,” Pippin stated.
“Well, yes, but what about before Rivendell. Do you suppose something may have sparked between her and Sam? Near death situations can be very romantic.”
Pippin snorted but said no more. Merry, though confused by Pippin’s reaction to his comments about Pervinca and Sam, was certainly less nervous about seeing Estella again.
* * * * * *
A/N: Just to clear things up, there are several references to some of my other stories in Merry and Pippin’s conversation. Pippin saying he was going to steal Estella away comes from “What’s in a Name?”, the conversation about fair ladies comes from “To the Bottle I Go”, and Pippin telling his sister that they were leaving the Shire will feature in “Life is What Happens” (which is also the source of the Pervinca and Sam relationship).
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