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A Conspiracy of Hobbits  by Dreamflower

Sections in italics are taken directly from The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 3, “Three is Company”.



For a while, cooking with Sam, Frodo had been able to push Gandalf out of his mind. But now, as he was in his room, getting ready for the party, he was troubled and in no mood for it. Aside from his worries about the missing wizard, the thought that he would so soon have to part from his young friends weighed on his heart. He wondered how he would break it to them. He also wondered how they would take it. Merry would feel betrayed, he knew. Pippin would be broken-hearted. Possibly only Fatty would understand the true peril.

In spite of what Gandalf had arranged, he still was of two minds about taking Sam. Sam had a family and a sweetheart who would mourn him if he did not return. But except for his cousins, no one would really miss “that strange Frodo Baggins.” And his cousins were young, they would soon mend their grief. He hoped.

He took out the five packages, wrapped in muslin and ribbon. Only one of these gifts was new, but the other four were not just useless mathoms; they had their own stories. And the new gift would come to have its own story over the next few months, he feared. He sighed. It was time to get this party over with. And maybe Gandalf would yet come, he thought, though without any real hope.

When he entered the dining room, his guests, including Sam, were waiting already. By hobbit tradition, in a gathering the host arrived last, unless it was strictly a family gathering, in which case the eldest arrived last. Frodo fit both roles. He put on a smile and a cheerful manner, but he noticed Merry’s astute and worried look. There was one person he was not fooling.

“At last!” exclaimed Pippin. “The byrding’s here. Maybe we can eat now.” The tweenager eyed the table, laden with the fine fare that Frodo and Sam had been cooking all afternoon, as well as the spectacular birthday cake.

“Not quite yet, young Took!” laughed Frodo. Pippin could always cheer him up. “Presents first.” He held out one of the packages. “Sam.”

Sam looked surprised to receive his gift first. He untied the ribbon and let the muslin fall away, and held it up. It was a brand new jacket, of sturdy brown wool, with brass buttons. His broad face lit up like sunrise. “Oh, Mr. Frodo! This is too much. Thank you.”

“No, Sam, I think it is just right.” Frodo was pleased. Sam’s sister Marigold had been right. When he was trying to think of what to give Sam, he had a few ideas in mind, the jacket only one of them. But Sam’s sister had thought it a splendid idea. “Mr. Frodo, Sam’s never had a brand new jacket; the one he’s wearing now, was from our cousin Halfast that got a new one for his wedding four years ago.” She had also helped to make sure that the size would be right, as they could not take Sam to the tailor for fittings. Frodo wanted to be sure that any gift he gave Sam would not be one that had to be left behind on their journey; this filled the bill perfectly.

Now Frodo held up another package, this one rather long and narrow. “Folco, I hope that you will get much more use out of this than I ever did.”

Folco gave Frodo a shy smile, and untied the ribbon. “Oh.” He looked up at Frodo, dumbstruck.

It was a flute, beautifully carved with a relief design of a vine, made of a creamy yellowish material. Merry gave a start, and then laughed. “I remember that flute, Frodo.”

“You were only five when Bilbo gave it to me.”

“Ah yes, but you made such a lovely noise, all over Brandy Hall, until Grandfather Rory made you put it away.”

“ ‘Noise’ is a good word, but ‘lovely’ certainly does not fit. I never got anything out of it but shrieks and whistles.”

“Well, Frodo, as you said, I was only five. I thought it was supposed to make shrieks and whistles.” Merry wiggled his eyebrows, and Pippin sniggered.

Fatty had leaned over his friend to inspect the gift. “What’s it made of? I’ve never seen any substance quite like that before.”

Frodo shook his head. “Uncle Bilbo said that if you could believe the dwarf he purchased it from, it is carved from an oliphaunt tooth.”

Merry and Fatty looked skeptical, but Sam and Pippin both looked at the flute with awe.

“Play something, Folco,” wheedled Pippin.

Folco looked at Fatty, who nodded, and then he raised the flute to his lips, and played a bit of a sprightly tune well known in the Shire, though it had no words. The tone was beautiful. He stopped and looked at Frodo. “Thank you, Frodo,” he whispered.

Now Frodo held up a another package, this one rectangular in shape. “Fatty.”

Fatty opened it to reveal a book, bound in brown leather, the cover worn. He turned the cover, and then looked up at Frodo, a question in his eyes.

“Yes, Fatty, that is Bilbo’s translation of the ‘Lay of Gil-Galad’. You will notice that the translation is on the left hand page, and the original Elvish is on the right hand page, with the literal words in Westron underneath each line. This is the book that Bilbo used to teach me Sindarin.”

Fatty was a bit pale. “Then I could use this to teach myself? But Frodo, this is priceless.”

“I want you to have it, Fredegar.” Frodo never used his friend’s real name unless he was quite serious.

“Then I can only thank you.”

“Merry.” The next gift was somewhat small. Merry took it with a trembling hand. He knew now what Frodo was doing.

It was a pipe, but not just any pipe. “Frodo! This is your favorite pipe, that Bilbo gave you, that used to be *his* favorite pipe!”

“But Merry, I have a new favorite pipe now, that a certain Brandybuck cousin gave to me on *his* last birthday.”

It took all the self control Merry had to force a cheerfulness into his thanks.

“Now, Pip, here’s yours. Youngest last, unfortunately.” Frodo’s blue eyes were full of affection as Pippin took the package.

It was a scarf. It looked a bit familiar to Pippin, though he could not quite place it. Merry gasped. Frodo nodded.

“Yes, that was Bilbo’s scarf, that my mother made for him. She knitted it for him for her birthday the year I was ten.”

“Oh, Frodo!” Pippin gave a great cry and launched himself into his cousin’s arms. “I will treasure it forever!” He clung to Frodo, trembling.

“There now, I want you to enjoy it and use it.” He patted Pippin on the back, somewhat puzzled. Pip was all Took and very high strung, but Frodo had not expected him to get this emotional; after all Pip had only been eleven when Bilbo left, and he‘d never known Frodo‘s parents.

“Well, now that’s out of the way, suppose we eat.” Frodo gave a look to Sam, hoping his friend might change his mind and stay for the meal, but the gardener shook his head, and went out.


The table had been laid so that all four guests were at the same end of the table as their host. Frodo sat at the head, with Merry and Pippin on his right and Fatty and Folco on his left. This made it much easier to converse.

In addition to the three roasted chickens, redolent with the smell of rosemary, and Frodo’s famous stuffed mushrooms, there were roasted potatoes and carrots, mashed turnips, cauliflower cooked in milk and nutmeg, noodles with cheese (another one of Frodo‘s specialties ), a hearty lentil soup, a cabbage and apple slaw, and several kinds of cheeses, breads and muffins.

For some time the talk was limited to things like “Pass me some more of the noodles,” “I’d like another drumstick, please,” and “Frodo, why didn’t you make more of those mushrooms?”

Frodo was quiet, and still disturbed by Gandalf’s absence. The four younger hobbits were, however, in high spirits, and the party soon became very cheerful in spite of Gandalf’s absence. The dining-room was bare except for the table and chairs, but the food was good, and there was good wine: Frodo’s wine had not been included in the sale to the Sackville-Bagginses.

Pippin who was more used to ale than to wine, soon began to get a bit giggly. He was the first to start up with one of Bilbo’s songs, one of several silly songs the old hobbit had made up about the Man in the Moon. When they had exhausted all those, Fatty brought up another of Bilbo’s, a favorite from his childhood about “Princess Mee”. After a while, though they began to run out of songs they knew the words to and began to fill in with “tum tiddley tum,” and “fa la la”. Pippin finished up the last one with a rather loud hiccup.

“Pip, don’t embarrass me,” laughed Merry.

“Since when have I ever embarrassed you?” asked Pippin saucily, knowing very well he would be daring Merry to open the floodgates.

“Aha!” Merry leaned back his chair, and put his hands behind his head. “Let’s see--I guess the first time was when you were just a faunt. We were all visiting in Tookland; I was about eleven. For some reason, everyone seemed to expect that *I* was the one who needed to be watching out for him.” Merry raised his brows with a comically put-upon expression. “The family all went into Tuckborough. Now this one” he pointed at Pippin, who was starting to turn red, even though he had invited it, “had not started out learning to walk, he started out learning to run. The other thing, that no one bothered to tell me, was that he had also learned how to get undressed.”

Pippin groaned and lay his head upon the table. Everyone else started to snigger.

“Oh, yes, there I was, racing after him, having to stop every few feet to collect his wardrobe: first his cap, then his jacket, then his little shirt, followed by his breeches, and finally his nappy. And he’s going on his jolly way down the main street of Tuckborough clad in nothing but a grin, with me yelling after him. Until he collides with--guess who?”

Frodo stifled a laugh; he’d heard this one before. Fatty and Folco shook their heads.

“Why no one else but Ferumbras, the Thain. He picks Pip up, holding him out at arm’s length, gives me a wicked stare, and says ‘Here, young Brandybuck. I think you have lost something’.” Merry heaved a dramatic sigh. “And of course, that was just the beginning.” Naturally, everyone else at the table had begun to laugh so hard they were wiping their eyes, Frodo included.

Finally when everyone had exhausted themselves, Pippin muttered “That’s all very well. I’m the youngest, of course you’ve all got stories about me. It’s hardly fair.” He glanced sideways at Frodo. Sure enough his oldest cousin rose to the bait.

“You know, if we are going to start telling stories about when people were fauntlings, I can recall a few myself.” Suddenly Merry realized the trap he had got himself into, and glared daggers at Pippin, who risked the teensiest smirk in response.

“Yes,” said Frodo. “I remember one afternoon when Aunt Menegilda and your mother, Merry, were entertaining Uncle Bilbo and Aunt Dora to tea.”

Merry began to slink down in his chair. He knew what was coming now. He was going to get Pip for this.

“Now I realize what I didn’t then, that the Brandybucks always tried to be very careful around the Bagginses. While Uncle Bilbo was not so respectable any longer, for having had adventures, Aunt Dora most certainly was. In fact she was quite prim and proper. Of course, I was there--that was the whole point in having them, after all, to show that I was getting a proper upbringing at Brandy Hall. We are having the most dull and stifling conversation you can imagine, when in walks this tiny little hobbit, wearing only his shirt, and carrying a chamber pot. The aroma made it clear it was *not* empty. He walks right up to me proudly and says ’see Fwo, I did it all by myself!’ Aunt Dora was highly insulted, but Uncle Bilbo turned bright red from trying to hold in his laughter. I thought he was going to have apoplexy.”

Pippin began to howl with laughter, pounding the table. Merry kicked him underneath the table, and muttered “I’ll get you later for this.”

Pippin just winked at him. “At least it’s cheered Frodo up,” he whispered. And of course, now Merry could not be annoyed with him at all.

Of course now everyone had a story to tell about everyone else there--except Frodo. Finally Fatty said “Frodo, it’s hardly fair, you being eldest, no one can remember any stories about you.”

“Well, I’m sure Bilbo has a great many stories about me. I think it’s about time to drink his health. We’ll cut that lovely cake as well. Pip, be a good lad, and go fetch Sam to join us.”

So Sam came in, and Frodo cut generous portions of the cake, and poured out some more Old Winyards for everyone there.

As the eldest of the guests, it fell to Fatty to raise the traditional toast: “To the byrdings, to Bilbo Baggins, one-hundred-and-twenty-eight today, and to Frodo Baggins, fifty years old today, may they have many more healthy and happy returns of the day!”

“Whatever happens to the rest of my stuff, when the S-B.s get their claws on it, at any rate I have found a good home for this!” said Frodo, as he drained his glass. It was the last drop of the Old Winyards.

Sam and Pippin began clearing up while the rest went to the front room for a smoke. When those two had finished and rejoined everyone, they went out for a sniff of air, and glimpse of the stars, and then they went to bed. Frodo’s party was over, and Gandalf had not come.

Frodo was wakeful, and the refrain had started up again: where, where was Gandalf? Why, why had he not come?







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