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Reunion in Minas Tirith  by Baggins Babe

Autumn 1429 (SR)

The last days of the visit flew by with more sightseeing, picnics and trips to see the strolling players. Rosie was fascinated by the magic they created, and they went to see them on several occasions. They visited Snowmane's Howe on the Pelennor, and saw the place where the carcase of the fell-beast was burned, where nothing ever grew. They also enjoyed a trip on the River Anduin in a magnificent covered barge. Rosie was very nervous when she first stepped into the boat but she soon settled and decided she liked the gently rocking motion. She reclined on the cushions, feeling like a queen, and the others teased her that she was going to stay in Gondor and live in style. They ate and drank and the men smoked, and Aragorn said all monarchs and nobles should spend time with hobbits. Gandalf had always said it was good to have a hobbit or two nearby because it ensured that everyone kept their feet anchored in the soil. They spent evenings in the gardens, smoking and drinking ale under the stars, sharing hopes and dreams and just sitting in companionable silence, as dear friends do.

       They were all sorry when their stay finally ended, but they had to leave in early October in order to be home before winter set in, and the King knew it would be unfair to keep them away from the Shire and the children any longer.

       "Besides, it is hardly a parting - we shall soon travel to my Northern Kingdom, and there we shall meet again. The Palace of Annuminas is being restored to its former glory, and you shall all come and view the improvements.  My good Gimli and his friends have been overseeing the re-building. I also wish to visit the city of Fornost to pay my respects to those of my people who lost their lives during those dark years." He lit his pipe and blew a smokering. "Ah! Old Toby! That and Longbottom Leaf are my two favourites I have to say." He sighed contentedly and stretched his long legs out, Strider the Ranger once more. "I hope I get to meet all these characters I've heard so much about and seen tantalising glimpses of. Can't wait to meet Mrs. Bracegirdle!" He threw a wicked grin in Frodo's direction.

       "Very funny! Although I daresay she'll cast me aside without a second glance once she meets the King!"

       Frodo's usually angelic face was suddenly suffused by an evil smile. "What a good idea!" he said, delighted by the thought. "I can't wait to introduce you!"

       "Cruel, cruel," murmured Aragorn, chuckling softly. "You'd do that to me?"

       "You'd be more successful in fighting her off than I am," Frodo giggled. "And'Gap of Rohan' would not seem as daunting to you!"

       Faramir and Eomer joined in the laughter. It had been a happy time for everyone, and one they would remember forever.


       The children were all upset when the time came to say good-bye to their friends. Even little Boromir was subdued and a bit tearful, and the girls sobbed and clung to their favourite hobbits, wailing protests.

       "Now, little one, you will see us again soon. Please don't cry or you'll make us cry too!" Frodo attempted to disentangle himself from little Gilraen, who was clinging round his legs. As fast as he unclurled one hand the other grabbed on again.

       "No! Don't want you to go! Won't let you!" She grabbed his hand and kissed it. "Stay here for ever and ever, Uncle Frodo!" She snaked her other hand round Sam's knee. "You too, Uncle Sam! And Aunt Rosie!"

       "Listen, my little petal," said Sam gently, "There are other little girls and boys waiting at home for us, and they would be heart-broken if we didn't go home. You wouldn't want them to be sad, now would you?"

       "Bring them here, and we can all live together!" said Eldarion. "We'll be sad if you leave, but I don't like to think of your children being sad and lonely without you." He scrubbed the tears from his cheeks and tried to smile. "I do want to meet them all."

       "And so you shall, my dear child," said Rosie, hugging the future King of Gondor and stroking his hair. "As your Papa says, you will all be travelling north to Annuminas, and we will come and stay and bring all the children to meet you. They are as anxious to meet you, you know."

       "Does Frodo-lad like frogs and things?" Boromir asked. Rosie laughed.

       "He's like his dad - likes most creatures unles they're eating his precious plants. He's going to be another fine gardener, that one."

       "Papa! We should have a Shire Garden here in Gondor! Uncle Sam can tell us what to plant, and it will remind us of all our hobbit friends." Eldarion's grey eyes shone and he gazed up at his father with a pleading expression which Aragorn was powerless to refuse - not that he wanted to.

       "I think that is a wonderful idea! Perhaps Sam and Legolas can devise something before we part?"

       Little Finduilas tucked herself under Frodo's arm and snuggled up to him. "What's your favourite flower, Uncle Frodo?"

       He looked at her and smiled. "I like all flowers but I think roses are my favourite. Although the flowers in Rivendell and Lorien were very beautiful, like elanor and niphredil."

       "My favourites are the creamy white roses, and forget-me-nots, because they remind me of Frodo's eyes," said Sam thoughtfully.

       "Then we must grow some," said Faramir.

       "We grow lovely irises at Bag End too," added Frodo wistfully. "We planted those for poor Smeagol - the Gladden Fields, you know?" He smiled wryily. "I wonder what he would think? Probably reckon 'Master' had taken leave of his senses!"

       "I don't know so much," murmured Sam. "He was awfully fond of you when he was Smeagol - I think he'd be touched."

       "It is settled," declared Aragorn. "We shall have a Shire garden here in Gondor to remind everyone of our dear friends in the North." He grinned wickedly. "I wonder if we can grow Longbottom Leaf?"

       "We shall think of you, sitting in a hobbit garden here in Minas Anor, puffing away on some good, Gondor-grown pipeweed!" Frodo said, half-laughing. "I shall miss you, dear Strider, but we will write frequently and tell you all the gossip from Hobbiton..........."

       "Including the latest on your love affair with Mrs Bracegirdle!" Aragorn interrupted, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he laughed at Frodo's mutinous expression.

       "Or if you won't tell us, we shall rely on these three scoundrels to let us in on all your secrets!" said Faramir, hugging Frodo affectionately.

       "I let myself into these things, don't I? She's more of a dragon than poor old Smaug!"


       At last the farewells were said, the pack ponies were loaded and the little group prepared to set off. They were riding as far as Edoras with the King and Queen of Rohan and their children, and the Lord Celeborn, with the Imladris twins, together with Gimli and Legolas, who were travelling with them as far as Helm's Deep so that Gimli could show them the Glittering Caves. Aragorn and Arwen embraced their guests lovingly, followed by Faramir and Eowyn. The children put on brave faces and kissed everyone warmly, including baby Pip, who gurgled and laughed, flinging his fat little arms round everyone. Aragorn bounced the baby hobbit until he squealed with delight.

       "I have seen your other children, of course, for I could not resist looking into the palantir when Frodo was recovering. They are beautiful and strong, and Elanor is stunning. I think when we come to the North, she shall be appointed a lady-in-waitng. They will be overjoyed to see you again - I hope to witness that reunion if I may?"

       "You do us so much honour," Sam exclaimed. "One day we hope to welcome you into Bag End, that you may see us at home, as we have seen you."

       "When we do travel to the Brandywine Bridge, I shall present you with the Star of the Dunedain, my dearest Sam, for it is Frodo's wish that it be done before your own people." Sam embraced the King but could not speak.

       Arwen smiled tearfully as she kissed her grandfather and brothers. "Visit us again soon, dearest Anada! It has been so wonderful to have you here." She smiled as he tilted her face and gazed into her eyes.

       "My child, it has given me great joy to see you so happy. You were right to stay - you and Estel have a love which will grow with the years and you will both be reunited beyond the Circles of the World, to love each other for eternity. Love is a rare gift, my dearest child. May the Valar bless you both. Nay, do not weep. I shall come to Gondor again, and I shall also come north to Annuminas. Mithrandir was right - everyone should have a hobbit or two in his care!"

       "Dearest sister, there has never been a more beautiful queen in Gondor! Estel, my friend, be happy." Elladan hugged the royal couple.

       "May the Valar protect you both. No doubt we shall be back to plague you soon, when we have escorted Anada back to Imladris. We may also sneak a trip to the Shire, if the Mayor permits, as we have a longing to see Bag End again and taste Mistress Rose's wonderful cooking," said Elrohir, his eyes twinkling. "Besides, I have to see this Mrs Bracegirdle!"

       "Thank you both," said Frodo. "Perhaps she will be so distracted by you two that she will forget me!"

       Sam beamed. "You are both very welcome, always. You missed the last round of Shire parties so be sure not to miss next Spring's."

       "They won't," said Merry. "I'll get a few barrels from The Golden Perch which is the best ale in all the Shire. You'll enjoy that, won't you?" The twins laughed and nodded.


       Those remaining in Gondor saw them off from the fields outside the gates, then returned to the Citadel to watch their progress round the base of Mount Mindolluin, up the North-way and onto the Great West Road. They would spend two days at Edoras before beginning the journey to the Gap of Rohan and home. They would not go through Eregion and Rivendell and Bree this time, but would part with Celeborn and the twins at Isengard and travel the North-South Road to the Sarn Ford.

       They received a warm welcome at Edoras as people turned out to greet their returning King and Queen. Frodo always marvelled at the Rohan people, most of whom lived far more simply than he did at Bag End. They were a hardy people with a genuine affection for their ruling family, who looked to their king as children to a father. Eomer was obviously very popular, particlarly with the ladies, and the hobbits teased him unmercifully for it, to which he submitted with good humour. They explored the city with Merry as guide, which was probably why they managed to get lost for a while, as Frodo remarked. They loved standing on the steps outside the Golden Hall and gazing over the surrounding land, and they were inveigled into playing hide and seek with the children while Celeborn kept score. It was a happy time for all and they were sorry when they had to leave, but the frosts were sparkling on the flat lands of Rohan in the mornings. It was time to go.

       At Helm's Deep Gimli proudly led them into the Glittering Caves and they were left overawed and amazed at the majesty and beauty. Lamps had been placed here and there, designed to bring out the fire inside the crystals, or to shine through some of the delicate veins, glowing pink, yellow, green. Great blooms of rose quartz spilled out of the rock, shimmering like the lips of the lady Galadriel, and rich, exotic blue and crimson minerals peeked through, revealed by the tiniest thinning of covering rock.

       Frodo felt almost overwhelmed. His senses were reeling with the beauty and wonder. He felt such gratitude that he had been allowed a second chance to experience so much richness. He smiled at a stunned Rosie, to whom Gimli presented an exquisite rose quartz crystal set on a mithril chain. She gave the dwarf a kiss, and the others laughed to see a blush rise under the beard as Gimli was covered in confusion.

       As they rode near Fangorn they noticed a new group of trees, which were obviously rather more than they seemed. To their delight it was Treebeard, Quckbeam and three more Ents, who were waiting for them.


       "Good day, eldest," said Celeborn, bowing to the old Ent.

       "Haroom, my friends, this is a merry meeting. You have been to Gondor?"

       Pippin nodded. "We have. The King sends his greetings to Fangorn. Is Isengard undisturbed?"

       "Nothing and no-one comes near." He spied Sam, Frodo and Rosie. "This lady I have never met - will you not introduce her, Samwise?" Sam jumped and cursed himself for being a ninnyhammer.

       "This is Rose, my wife, and the baby is called Pippin. The other children are at home."

       Rosie had been rather wary of the strange being but as she looked into the reassuring depths of his eyes she knew there was nothing to be afraid of. She smiled shyly up at Treebeard and spoke.

       "I've heard a lot about you, sir, and I'm honoured to meet you at last."

       "A pretty one! And lots of little hobbitlings at home? I am glad to hear it." He turned to Frodo. "How fares the Ring-bearer? You look much better than when I saw you last."

       Frodo cheerfully admitted to being very well, and the Ents seemed genuinely pleased. They talked for a while before bidding them farewell and riding towards the Gap of Rohan, where they said good-bye to Celeborn, Elladan and Elrohir, who promised to visit the Shire the following spring.

       Soon it was just the five of them. In the evenings they would set up camp, light a fire and sit quietly, watching the stars emerge, Rosie lulling baby Pip to sleep while the men smoked their pipes. Their progress was steady and comfortable and their travelling lightened with laughter. They traversed the wide expanse of Enedwaith and crossed the turbulent River Greyflood at Tharbad. The next river was the dear old Brandywine, flowing quite rapidly as it made its way towards the Blue Mountains and the sea. Frodo stared into the frothy water; despite the fact that his parents had drowned in the river he still thought of it as part of home. He had taught Merry and Pip to swim in it, after all.


       It was afternoon when they rode over the Sarn Ford and were back in their beloved Shire. They had a choice now: to take the road and stay at Great Smials, or to go cross-country and stay at an inn in Pincup overnight. They opted to go to Pincup, and trotted through the South Farthing towards Green Hill Country, happy in each others' company without the need to say much. It was November, and the sweet familiar smell of autumn was in the air, that evocative mixture of rotting leaves, damp soil and woodsmoke which marked the season clearly to anyone with a sense of smell and imagination. The land was preparing to go to sleep for the winter, guarding the seeds for next summer's harvest. The trees were still wearing their autumnal colours, although most were in scanty garb now, the last few leaves clinging on gallantly until they were torn away by the first gale. Dry leaves gathered in drifts in the gateways and under hedgerows, eddying and swirling as the wind caught them. In the distance the land was veiled in a damp mist and a haze from many bonfires. Smoke puffed from many chimneys and drifted in the still air. Sam felt his heart sing as he rode. Some folk said autumn was a melancholy time but to him it was merely another change, another season in the cycle of nature of which he was a part.

       The inn was warm and welcoming, their rooms comfortable and the blazing fire in the parlour was very inviting. Merry and Pip saw to the ponies while Sam carried the bags in. There were a few regulars in the bar, who greeted them with interest and listened in awe to their tales of Rohan and Gondor, while at the same time giving them wary looks. Bagginses, Brandybucks and Tooks were known to be a bit strange but the Gamgees had been ordinary respectable Shirefolk until all that Baggins influence turned them odd. Rosie could hardly refrain from giggling, and wondered how these staid people would react when the King came north to visit. Frodo often quoted someone as saying that travel broadened the mind, and these folk could certainly do with having their minds broadened. She chuckled again as she remembered Pippin remarking that it also broadened the arse when the days were spent on ponies!

       They had the parlour to themselves as the only overnight guests. The stew was rich and filling, the ale almost as good as a 1420, and the apple and blackberry pie with cream just begged to be eaten. Baby Pip snoozed and snored in his basket beside his mother, one hand resting on his rounded tummy while the other was tucked beneath his chin, thumb in mouth.

       "That was wonderful!" Frodo pushed his plate away, lit his pipe and leaned back in his chair. The trip had been a joyous event but home was always best and it was good to be back.

       "You know......" Sam began, filling his pipe. "........I've said it before but I'm going to say it again anyway. It's nice to know there's a big world out there, but it's even nicer to be in here, in the Shire. The world's a nice place, right enough, but I wouldn't want to live there! Not forever, if you get my drift. It was marvellous to see all our friends again, and visit amazing places, but here is where we're meant to be."

       Rosie nodded. "I had a lovely time, and it was a luxury not to have anything to do, but I'll enjoy getting back to my own kitchen and some proper work.

       "Sure you can remember how?" teased Merry. "You'll have forgotten how to make pastry and what goes into your famous parsnip pie. Your mother will have to teach you all over again!"

       "Hah!" she said airily. "I cooked for us all when we stayed in Emyn Arnen - and the King himself praised my cooking. I've had to promise to send him some of my jam and chutney. Do you think I can copy Mr. Butterbur and put "By Appointment" on the jars?"

       "We ought to go and pay old Barliman a visit soon," said Frodo. "He gave us such a welcome last time!"

       "Yes, he burst into tears when he saw 'dear Mr Baggins' alive and well," said Pippin. "He was burbling more than usual, and more forgetful than ever."

       "Gandalf always said he had a mind like a lumber room!" Frodo chuckled. "Poor old Barliman, he was quite emotional, wasn't he?"

       Pippin went off to bring more ale and returned to say that Estella and Diamond were staying at Great Smials, according to the well-informed local gossips. He and Merry would therefore part from the others on the Stock Road and turn west towards Tuckborough, for a few days pleasant lazing with Pip's family. Frodo, Sam and Rosie were anxious to see the children again, so their paths would diverge on the morrow. They drank each other's health and reminisced about their adventures before making their way to bed, pleasantly tired and ridiculously contented.

       They set off early the next morning, watched by a group of curious Pincup residents. Frodo settled the bill and emerged to find a pleasant autumn morning, crisp and clear with a hint of frost. The remaining leaves glowed on the trees and the sky was a sharp bright blue. It was going to be a lovely day. He waved and nodded to the watchers and mounted his pony, clicked his tongue encouragingly and Strider obediently moved off.

       They rode steadily for the Stock Road, halting along the way for a combined second breakfast and elevenses. At the road they parted from Merry and Pip, who turned left, their two extra pack ponies laden with gifts from their Rohan and Gondorian hosts. They waved to each other until the road dipped and the two had vanished from sight, then they had an early lunch before the last cross-country part of the journey. When they reached the Three Farthing Stone they knew they were almost home, and the ponies seemed to know it too, for they picked up speed and began a fast trot onto the East Road and through Bywater, where they were greeted with delight by the folk in the market square. The afternoon sun was setting as they rode into Hobbiton to an equally warm welcome, then out and up the hill towards Bag End and home.


       Gammer Cotton was taking in some washing and the children were frolicking in the garden while Frodo-lad swept up the dead leaves and carried them to the compost heap. Rufus was happily pouncing on the leaves and rolling over before rushing off again. They were expecting the travellers at some time, and had returned to Bag End to dust and polish and make ready. The smell of baking filled the smial and drifted out on the chilly air as Merry-lad tottered around his gammer's feet, picking up fallen pegs and yelling in outrage when Rosie-lass took them away before they went in his mouth. Ellie was helping to fold the washing and put it in the basket when the sound of hooves in the lane made them all look up.

       "Mum! Dad! Uncle Frodo!" the children all yelled together as they made a dash for the gate, where they were forestalled by Mrs.Cotton, who refused to allow them out until the ponies had halted. Once the three had dismounted, the gate was opened and four very excited children hurtled out and threw themselves at their beloved parents and uncle. Everyone was laughing and crying and exclaiming all at once. Baby Pip's size was marvelled at, and Rosie could not believe how much the others had grown in a few months.

       "By Elbereth! You've sprung up like one of your dad's prize marrows!" said Frodo, hugging his little namesake and burying his face in the sandy curls. He pulled Ellie into the hug and she wrapped her arms tightly round his neck.

       "We missed you, but did you have a lovely time?"

       "What was it like?"

       "Is the King as kind and handsome as you said he was?"

       "Is the Queen still as beautiful?"

       "What are the children like?"

       "Would we like them?"

       "When can we meet them?"

       "Woah!" said Frodo. "I'm quite dizzy from all those questions! Let us inside and we'll tell you all about it once we've unloaded the baggage and stabled these poor ponies."

       While Rosie and her mother shepherded the children inside, Sam and Frodo took the five ponies round to the stable and rubbed them down before making sure they had hay and water. This took some time and the children were hopping up and down impatiently by the time they returned, watching for them from the doorway, peering into the dusk and calling to them to hurry.

       The smial was warm and cozy and full of the smells of home: polish, baking, washing. Frodo allowed himself to be enveloped in the dear familiarity of it all. It had been his home for so long, and no matter where he went he was always comforted to know that it was still here, nestling in the side of the hill, the polished floors, the dried flowers, the cheerful clutter. He removed his cloak and jacket and sat down in the rocking chair beside the fire, wiggling his toes in the warm glow and sighing with contentment. He greeted Mrs Cotton and she beamed and handed him a cup of tea.

      "There you are, Mr Frodo. You do look well - quite a glow in your cheeks now. It is grand to have you all back."

       "Thank you, Mrs Cotton. It's been a wonderful time but it's nice to be back." He lifted Rufus on to his lap and stroked the soft fur. "You've grown fatter than ever, my lad."

       "My Tom wants to borrow him now and then. Says he's never known such a ratter! No wonder he's fat."

       Sam started to chuckle. "See, I told you he's not a typical hobbit! He hasn't even noticed the tea table yet!"

       Frodo turned and followed the direction of Sam's finger, while the children hugged themselves and tried to stifle their giggles. His eyes widened as he looked at the table, set out by the women and children while they had attended to the ponies. Pippin would have swooned away in sheer delight - there were sandwiches, tartlets, cakes, a ham and a side of beef, a huge bowl of crisp salad, two loaves of fresh-baked bread and pats of creamy butter, not to mention a fruit pie and an enormous jug of cream. A dreamy smile spread slowly over Frodo's features.

       "Ah! My goodness, it's a feast fit for a king! I hope you'll both cook for Aragorn whe he comes to Annuminas. He won't want to go home again!"

       He sat down at the table and the others joined him. Lamps were lit, the fire stoked, more tea was poured, plates filled and the excited chatter was replaced by munching for some time.

       At last they all sat back, undoing buttons to accommodate the feast they had just consumed. The children snuggled against their parents and uncle, eager for tales of kings and castles, and they were not disappointed. With little Pip asleep in the cradle and the others snuggled, each on an adult's lap, they asked endless questions until their eyelids were drooping. Sam looked at his family with such love and pride he thought he would burst: Ellie lay in her father's arms and little Fro had his head on his uncle's shoulder, half-asleep although he would have indignantly denied it. Rosie cradled Merry-lad and Mrs Cotton nursed a snoozing Rosie-lass. Rose smiled across the table at Sam and dropped a kiss on little Merry's head, and Frodo looked up and caught her eye and grinned.

       Outside, the wind picked up and howled along the lane. Rufus stretched out before the fire, sprawled on his back with his legs in the air. The logs crackled in the grate, sending sparks flying up the chimney, and the closed curtains made everywhere feel very warm and safe. Sam looked around with great satisfaction.

       "Well, we're back," he said.


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