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At Tharbad's Greenway Spring Faire  by Dreamflower

B2MeM Challenge: Based on this prompt by lindahoyland: Where did the kitten come from? Is it lost? Does it lead our M-e heroes and heroines into adventures? Gen.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/52734929@N08/15076383868/lightbox/
Format: Ficlet
Genre: Fluff
Rating: G
Warnings: n/a
Characters: Sam Gamgee, Elanor Gamgee, Rose Gamgee
Pairings: Sam/Rose
Creators' Notes (optional):
Tater and Strawberry are OCs from my story “Testaments of the Past” co-written with Gryffinjack.
Summary: Little Elanor is upset when one of her kittens goes missing.

Tater's Adventure
"Sam-dad!"

Sam glanced up from the box of seeds he was sorting through as he heard the patter of Elanor's little feet padding through the smial. "I'm in the kitchen, Elanorelle," he called. Her voice sounded urgent.

"What is it?" he asked. "Is something wrong?" For her little face was scrunched up in distress, and he could see that she had been weeping.

"Da, Tater is missing!"

"Ah!" Tater was one of their cat Strawberry's recent litter of kittens. The oldest and boldest of three ginger males and one white female. Elanor had named them Tater, Turnip, Tomato and Truffle.

"Strawberry was crying! She can't find him neither!"

"Are the rest of the kitties in the garden shed?" Sam asked.

She nodded her head mournfully. "Uh-huh. But Tater's not there. I looked and looked. And I looked outside, too."

Sam stood up and held out his hand. "Come along then, Elanorelle, and we'll look for him."

xoxoxoxoxox

Biggest Brother prowled low to the ground in the brush beneath the shrubs. He had finally figured out the secret of the leather flap through which Mother occasionally disappeared, and now he could explore all he wished!

First he had followed a bright fluttery thing, that flapped about in the air, first temptingly in front of his face, and then tantalizingly just out of reach. But it finally flew out of sight. Then he saw a small hopping thing, that let out little buzzy chirps as it jumped away from him. Prey! Perhaps he could catch it and take it home to Mother to prove what a mighty hunter he was! He had pounced at it several times before it led him here, and then it had vanished. He would have been disappointed, save that he could see one of the feathery things that flew in the sky. It darted down to seize a berry, which it was devouring at the top of the bush. But when Biggest Brother tried to climb up, the leaves and branches shook and the feathery thing also flew away out of reach.

He was beginning to be tired, and if truth be told, hungry as well. Perhaps he should go home to Mother and his sibs, even if he had no prey. He still had a mighty adventure to tell them of. But it was ever so far back to the cosy den beyond the leather flap.

"Tater! Tater! Where are you?" He heard the voice of the Smaller Two-legs, who came to visit the den from time to time, with gentle hands and a soft voice. She would hold him carefully in her lap and he would purr for her. She was calling the word she used for him, what Mother called his "hobbit-name".

"Kitty! Kitty! Kitty!" That was the voice of the Large Two-legs. He came often to the den, and brought with him food for Mother, which she sometimes deigned to share. Then he would fetch away objects, or bring objects, or sometimes sit there and mess about with objects. He, too, had a gentle way with kittens, though his hands were not so soft.

For just an instant, Biggest Brother thought of hiding deeper in the shrubbery to make a game of them finding him. But he was tired and hungry, and it would be much faster and easier for the two-legs to carry him back to the den.

"Mew!" he called. "Mew! Meoww!"

He could hear the heavy feet of the two-legs running towards him.

"Tater!" The Smaller Two-legs cried out in her high-pitched voice. Soon her little hands reached in to pluck him out from his hiding place.

"Bless me!" rumbled the Larger Two-legs. "How did you come so far all on your lonesome?" He reached down to where Biggest Brother was cuddled on Smaller Two-legs' shoulder, and scratched his head. That felt nice, and Biggest Brother leaned happily into his touch. "Well, let's get you home to your ma!"

xoxoxoxoxoxox

As the family sat at tea, Elanor chattered happily about the excitement. Rose and Baby Frodo had missed it all, being down at the village when it happened.

"And we found him right under the lilac bushes under the kitchen window, Mummy!" said Elanor as she plucked another bit of shortbread from the plate.

"Well, Ellie, that's a far piece for a little kitten like him to go all on his own!"

Sam finished swallowing his own shortbread and took a sip of his tea. "He's a bold one all right! He's figured out his ma's cat flap. I put a box beneath it. Strawberry'll be able to leap out easy enough, but it'll be more trouble for the little ones. But they're getting older, no keeping them penned up too much longer." He gave Rose a look.

"I reckon it's time for us to start finding homes for the kitties,” she said. At the downcast look on her daughter's face, she added, "Don't you think the Gaffer might like one? Do you think he'd like to have Tater?"

Diverted by the idea of her Gaffer with a kitten, Elanor grinned and clapped her hands.

Sam just sat back and admired his little family.

xoxoxoxoxox

Strawberry admired her four children, nursing away. Their little teeth were getting sharp though; it was time to wean them. Soon they'd be old enough to move away, and she once more would have some peace and quiet.

B2MeM Challenge: Based on this prompt from starbrow Elrond and Frodo have a chat about their unique family circumstances and their love for the ones who sheltered and kept them safe as children.
(Remember Bilbo was treated as somewhat of an outcast from the Shire on his return, nothing anything like Maglor & Maedhros of course, but still enough for Frodo to feel it.)

Format: Ficlet
Genre: Gapfiller, Character Study
Rating: G
Warnings: n/a
Characters: Frodo, Elrond
Pairings: n/a
Creators' Notes (optional): A couple of Elrond's conversations with Bilbo occurred in my drabble series Getting Reacquainted and in my drabble Fathers by Choice.
Summary: When Frodo returns to Rivendell after the Quest, he has a conversation with Elrond.

Fathers of the Heart

Frodo stood on the wide porch, gazing at the magnificent view of one of the waterfalls and trying to let the beauty soothe his famished spirit. But he was troubled, and even the serenity of Rivendell could not banish his thoughts.

"Frodo?"

He looked up to see his host. "Master Elrond. It is a beautiful evening."

"It is. However, I thought you would still be with Bilbo and your other friends, celebrating your joint birthdays."

"We were. After your marvelous feast, we went back to Bilbo's rooms and visited a while. But Bilbo soon grew weary; I stayed to see him tucked in, and Merry, Pippin and Sam went down to the Hall of Fire. I shall join them shortly I suppose." He sighed, and looked back in the direction of Bilbo's apartment.

"I see that you are troubled." Elrond stepped closer, and then also looked back. "Are you worried about Bilbo?"

Frodo nodded. "It's so strange yet to see his age beginning to catch up to him. It felt so odd to be tucking him in, when for much of my life that was his role." He hung his head. "I know there's no logic to it, but somehow I feel it's my fault." He stopped abruptly. He would not mention the Ring; bad enough that he could not cease thinking of the cursed thing. He was not obliged to speak of it.

But the Master of Imladris had no such qualms. "The Ring extended his life to be sure, Frodo, but it was not good for him. You know that. He may be aging more quickly, but he is happier now, especially now that his child has come safely through his trials." Elrond smiled gently at him, as the hobbit looked up with startlement on his face.

"His child?" Of course Frodo knew that was how Bilbo thought of him, but it was surprising to hear it from Master Elrond.

"We spoke of that often while you were gone. It was something we had in common."

Frodo cocked his head, thinking hard, and then it came to him. "Aragorn."

"Yes. Both of us were fearful for the safety of the sons of our hearts." He smiled, and his smile made Frodo recall Bilbo's description: "kind as summer". "Both of you won through, and we were immensely proud."

Frodo felt a little of the tightness in his heart ease. "Thank you. I am glad that Bilbo has made such a good friend in you."

"But you and I have something in common, as well."

"You and I?" What could he have in common with this ancient and immensely wise person?

"Yes, for both of us were raised by those we thought of as 'uncles', though they were not."

Frodo's eyes widened, as he suddenly recalled his First Age history. "Oh!"

The Elf put a hand upon Frodo's shoulder and pointed upwards to the sky, where Eärendil rode high. "That is all I know of my father. I cannot recall much of him, he was so often and so long away even before the calamity that befell us. I remember my mother somewhat more. But Maglor and Maedhros had spared us and took us in. Maedhros we saw but seldom: he was distant but courteous, and though he showed no outward affection, he sometimes deigned to teach us. Maglor, though, was as a father to us. He it was who endured our childhood mishaps. At first we were afraid of him, but he eventually won us over, with music to start, for we were very young. Elros resisted him longer than I, for he felt it would betray our own parents to love the one who had driven them away. Yet even he came to love our foster father in time." His eyes grew distant with memory, and Frodo realised that it must be rare for him to speak of those days.

"I resisted my Uncle Saradoc and Aunt Esmeralda; I did love them, but not as much as they deserved. I tried not to show them the kind of affection I would have given my parents; I did feel it would be a betrayal. I never could resist Uncle Bilbo, though, I suppose because he was not always there at first. By the time I went away to live with him, I understood things a little better. Besides, we always had seemed to have so much in common, even when I was very small and he came to visit my parents."

"I could tell from the first time I met you that you and Bilbo were kindred spirits. But I had heard much of you over the years--he often found excuse to boast of you, and I know that he missed you greatly, more really than he missed the Shire or his home." His hand tightened slightly on Frodo's shoulder, and he looked down with a twinkle in his eye. "Had I a silver penny for every time I heard the phrase 'Frodo is the finest hobbit in the Shire' over the years, my coffers would overflow!"

Frodo blushed to the tips of his ears. "Bilbo was good for me. He did not hover over me or seem to worry overmuch the way my Brandybuck kin had always done. I understood later that he was simply better at hiding his worry. But in many ways he treated me more as a friend and companion rather than a child, and I responded well to that. After he left, the thing I missed most was our long rambles as we spoke of so many different things that most hobbits never cared about it."

"I missed the songs. Our evenings were always ended by Maglor's music, as he played and sang to us. He was a bard beyond compare, and I shall never forget the sound of his voice."

Frodo looked up shrewdly, with a twinkle in his own eye. "Is that why you have music in the Hall of Fire every evening?"

Elrond laughed outright. "Bilbo is quite right. You are a hobbit of exceptional intelligence! Shall we join the others there now?"

As the two of them walked back in that direction, Frodo could not help but think how lucky Bilbo was to have found such a staunch friend in the Last Homely House.

    

B2MeM Challenge: From this prompt by Grey Wonderer: Saradoc,young Sam,'What does the Master of Buckland do?

While Saradoc Brandybuck is either picking up or dropping off Merry at Bag End, Saradoc tries to explain the job of the Master of Buckland to a young, curious, Samwise Gamgee. Other characters welcome, the other Gamgee kids, Frodo listening in, Bilbo, the Gaffer, whatever you like.

Format: Ficlet

Genre: Fluff, Friendship

Rating: G

Warnings: n/a

Characters: Saradoc Brandybuck, Merry Brandybuck, Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, Hamfast Gamgee (the Gaffer)

Pairings: n/a

Creators' Notes (optional): This story draws a lot on the fanon of my particular Shire-universe, in which Merry makes an annual long visit to Bag End every spring, and becomes good friends with Sam. Sam is about 11 in this story, which would make him about the physical equivalent of a Man-child of about 7, though he is more intellectually mature.

Summary: Saradoc Brandybuck has an interesting conversation with young Samwise.


The Master and the Gardener's Apprentice


Saradoc ambled along the path, watching as little Merry fairly flew ahead of him to where Frodo waited at Bag End's front door; he was carrying Merry's travelling case, and he was in no hurry. Let the young ones have their greeting.


He arrived at the step to hear Merry chattering away, telling his older cousin about the new foals in the Brandybuck stables, and other such important news. Frodo placed a gentle hand on top of Merry's head, and Merry instantly quieted down. "Hello, Uncle Sara. It's good to see you again," he said, "I've missed you and Aunt Esme."


But not enough to return to Buckland, Saradoc thought, pleased to see the healthy color and sparkling eyes of his cousin. "You are looking well, Frodo. Is Bilbo about?"


"You arrived a bit early." Frodo's tone was apologetic. "He had to go down to the market for a few things we were out of. He should have been back by now, though."


"Well," Saradoc handed Frodo Merry's case, "why don't you take Merry in and get him settled, and I'll have a pipe here on the bench by the door and wait for Bilbo?"


As the two youngsters turned into the smial, the chatter started up again, and Saradoc settled himself on the bench and took out his pipe. He leaned back and took an admiring look about the meticulously kept garden. Saradoc envied Bilbo the Gaffer, but knew he stood no chance of luring the fellow to Buckland. He was surprised to see young Sam on his knees next to the bed on the other side of the bench, trowel in hand and a flat of seedlings on the ground at his side. He smiled to see how carefully and quietly the child worked.


"Why, Samwise! You are so quiet, I didn't know you were there!"


"Thank 'ee, Mr. Brandybuck. Gaffer says as we should try not to be noticed when we work." Sam sat back on his knees, and tried to blow a sandy curl off his forehead.


Saradoc grinned; that was a gesture he'd often seen Merry make after he had been concentrating hard on a task. "Merry will be glad to see you, Sam. I hope that you will be spared from your work to play with him some while he is here."


Sam gave him a sunny smile, his warm brown eyes twinkling. "I hope so, too! Gaffer says so long as Mr. Bilbo still wants me to, I can when I finish my work in the morning. Mr. Bilbo won't let me work morning and afternoon anyhow."


"Bilbo is a wise hobbit. He knows that growing lads need to play as well as work."


"That's what he told Gaffer." A troubled shadow appeared on Sam's face. "Mr. Brandybuck, my Gaffer told me as when we get older, me 'n' Merry won't be friends, 'cause Merry's going to be Master of Buckland one day." Sam sighed. "Gaffer says as I shouldn't hold it against him, 'cause that's just the way it is, 'cause it's in the Brandybuck family, like me gardening is in the Gamgee family. What does the Master of Buckland do? Are you the Master of Buckland?"


With a sigh of his own, Saradoc shook his head. "The Master of Buckland is the Head of the Brandybucks, and must run things for the whole kit and caboodle of the kin who live in Buckland. And he also is responsible for those who live in Buckland and are not kin. I am not yet the Master. My father, Old Rory, still holds that duty, Sam. But I will be one day, and Merry will be the Master after me. I hope both those days are far off."


"How come, sir?"


"Because right now, I am the Son of the Hall, but I will become the Master when my da dies, and then Merry will be the Son of the Hall until I die."


"Oh." Sam looked distressed. "I hope they're far off days, too, sir! Merry would be mighty sad when that happens. Is that 'cause you're gentry? I can work in the garden and be a gardener now. I don't have to wait 'til the Gaffer dies." The child shuddered at the terrible thought.


"Yes, Sam, that is why."


"Well, then, I'm ever so glad I'm not gentry. But I will miss Merry being my friend when he gets old." He took his trowel and carefully planted another little bedding plant.


This was delicate. Saradoc did not wish to contradict Sam's father. The Gaffer had his own prickly pride. But Merry had already given his friendship to Sam, and he knew his son--he might not have the time to visit Bag End often when he grew older, but he would always consider Sam a friend. "Sam, you know, Merry won't stop being your friend. He might not be able to come as often, even to see Frodo, once he has his own duties. But he will still be your friend and you can be his."


"So, what does the Master do to take care of his kin?" Sam patted the soil around the tiny plant, and then dug another hole.


"Things are a little different in Buckland, Sam. The Master and his family work right along with everyone else when a job needs doing; but he also has to make sure that everyone else does their job as well. My da always says that the only difference between the working hobbits and the gentry is that the gentry have more responsibilities and have to wear more uncomfortable clothes."


Sam looked up at Saradoc in his wool suit and weskit, high collar and cravat, and giggled. "I don't think I could do any work in clothes like that, Mr. Brandybuck, begging your pardon."


"Samwise!" The Gaffer came around the corner of the smial. "Who are you a' talking to? You don't want to be pestering folk with all your yammer!" Then he caught sight of Saradoc sitting there. "Begging your pardon, Mr. Brandybuck! Has Sam been a' bothering you?"


"Not at all, Master Hamfast," replied Saradoc. "He is busy working, but we were also having a pleasant conversation."


"Well, I suppose that's all right, then." He turned to Sam. "Are you done with them bedding plants yet?" he asked.


Sam looked up at his father. "I just have two more as needs to go in the ground, and then take the watering can to them."


"Good job, then, see to it! And then put the can and the trowel and the flat back in the garden shed. It's time we go down to Number Three; your ma will be waiting lunch for us. I do believe she put a ham bone in the beans."


Sam grinned and hurried to finish his task, though he was still careful with the little plants. Then he rushed off to put his tools away, his father watching him run.


"Sam is a fine little gardener already, Master Hamfast." said Saradoc.


"Thank 'ee, kindly, Mr. Brandybuck. I think as he's shaping up well enough, though I say it as shouldn't. Are you sure he weren't bothering you?"


"He was not. I do hope you will allow him to come up after lunch. I know Meriadoc will be glad to see him. He looks forward to playing with Sam almost as much as he does seeing Frodo."


The Gaffer looked doubtful at that statement, but said, "Aye, Mr. Bilbo already asked could he come up and visit today after Master Merry came, and no doubt take tea as well. His mam will make sure he scrubs up good afore he comes back."


Saradoc saw and understood the doubt. "Sam's a good lad, and I am pleased that he and Merry get on. I think he's a good example for Merry."


This made the Gaffer blink. Mr. Brandybuck sure didn't act like gentry; mayhap things were different across the Brandywine. That might account for some of Frodo's easy ways--and mayhap Mr. Bilbo, too, who spent enough time there every winter. Folks always said Bucklanders was queer.


Sam came barrelling back around the side of the smial and skidded to a stop next to his father. "Everything is put away now, Gaffer!"


The Gaffer and Sam took their leave, Sam holding his father's hand and skipping alongside him. At the gate, both paused to give Bilbo a nod as he entered, a laden market basket on his arm.


Bilbo smiled to see Saradoc there. "Well, hello, Sara! I am sorry I was delayed and could not be here to greet you, but Lobelia cornered me at the greengrocer's and I had to listen to her harangue me on letting down the Baggins family standards. It's good to see a pleasant face."


"That's quite all right, Bilbo! I was enjoying a nice conversation with little Sam! He's quite a treat."


"He is, indeed," agreed Bilbo, "and Frodo has no stauncher friend here in Hobbiton."


"I'm glad to hear it! Now, I do hope that you have a substantial luncheon planned, for my stomach is trying mightily to get my attention!"

Bilbo laughed as they entered the smial. "I should say so," he said. "There is a lamb stew on the hearth, and fresh bread, as well. Not to mention some of my honeycakes for afters..."  


   

B2MeM Challenge: A photograph: "Deep in the Forest" by lindahoyland
Format: Drabble (100 words)
Genre: Genre:character study
Rating: G
Warnings: n/a
Characters: Fimbrethil, Sam's cousin Hal
Pairings: n/a
Creators' Notes (optional): It was really hard to cut this one down to 100 words!
Summary: What did Sam's cousin Hal see "walking seven yards to the stride, if it was an inch"?

Deep in the Forest

When had she last moved from this young wood? The young trees here were glad of her guidance and had formed around her a small forest. It was quiet and orderly; she had sung among them for many years. Yet sometimes she took a notion to move. Always before she dismissed the thought, but perhaps it was time to find others of her kind again.

Fimbrethil stepped from the forest eaves, and was startled. One of those small creatures who lived in the area ran from her, yelling. They were such hasty little things.

B2MeM Challenge: This prompt from grey_wonderer: Frodo decides to plant a section of the garden himself, believing he will enjoy raising his own tomatoes, potatoes, whatever you want him to attempt to grow is fine. How well does he do? Does he get any help? Is Sam offended? Amused? Annoyed?
This can be pre-Quest or post-Quest.
Format: Drabble
Genre: Humor, Friendship
Rating: G
Warnings: n/a
Characters: Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, Hamfast Gamgee, Sam Gamgee
Pairings: n/a
Creators' Notes (optional): This prompt from grey_wonderer: Frodo decides to plant a section of the garden himself, believing he will enjoy raising his own tomatoes, potatoes, whatever you want him to attempt to grow is fine. How well does he do? Does he get any help? Is Sam offended? Amused? Annoyed?
This can be pre-Quest or post-Quest.
Author's Notes: Well, this is what came to me when I saw the prompt. Obviously it is partially inspired by movie-verse, in which Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin collide in the middle of Farmer Maggot's cornfield. Since the word "corn" has another meaning in most of the rest of the world, I've chosen to use the word "maize" which is used elsewhere than the USA, and is not unfamiliar to most Americans, though it isn't common here. Other notes at the end of the story.
This is a set of eleven drabbles.
Summary: The Gaffer is not amused when Bilbo and Frodo want to grow a "furrin" food from Buckland.

Frodo's A-maize-ing Garden


I.
Frodo's pang at watching the Brandybuck carriage take Merry away from his annual spring visit to Bag End was blunted by curiosity as he looked at the package Aunt Esme had given him. "An early birthday present," she'd said, for she'd be in Whitwell with the Tooks on her birthday. He opened it in anticipation, for he had no clue what she might have given him.

He untied the string, and pulled away the thin muslin in which it came. There was a small burlap bag that rattled. He opened it, and gave a delighted shout. "Uncle Bilbo!
It's maize!"

II.
"Maize, Mr. Bilbo?" In spite of the Gaffer's mild tone and respectful attitude, Bilbo could sense the waves of displeasure rolling off his gardener like shimmers of heat on a dry summer day.

"Why not?" Bilbo returned, in as neutral a tone as he could manage.

"We don't have no cows nor pigs, Mr. Bilbo. And what I hear, maize uses up a lot of the good from the earth, and takes a lot of garden space to get much out of it." Clearly his mind was made up.

"Very well, Master Hamfast. I won't ask you to plant it."

III.
Sam overheard and was disappointed. For one thing it was a shame Mr. Frodo would get no use from his aunt's gift, and for another, Sam was fascinated by the idea of a crop that was new and different.

But his Gaffer didn't take with no "furrin plants"; Sam knew Mr. Bilbo wouldn't argue no more. But Sam knew they grew a lot of things that were "furrin". Mr. Bilbo had told him tomatoes, pipe-weed, pumpkins, even 'taters was from that same foreign place, Westernesse that sank beneath the Sea.

Still, Sam knew the Gaffer wouldn't want to hear it.

IV.
"I'm afraid the Gaffer won't plant it, Frodo. If I give him a direct order he will comply, but his heart won't be in it."

"I understand, Uncle Bilbo," Frodo sighed. Sweet maize, boiled upon the cob and served hot and dripping with butter, was one the great treats of a Buckland summer. Only in the Marish was eating maize grown. Elsewhere it was thought of as merely fodder for the livestock.

"I don't think you do, lad. Do you know enough to tend it yourself if I give you a corner of the garden?"

Frodo smiled. "I certainly do."

V.
The Gaffer was surprised the following day to find that a portion of the lower garden, which was usually lawn, had been staked off. Not only that, but to his astonishment, Mr. Frodo was pushing the small hand tiller they used for preparing the kitchen garden behind the smial. He'd have to speak to Mr. Bilbo! Mr. Frodo couldn't just go tearing up the property like that!

He turned to do so, when he saw his Master coming. "Good morning, Master Hamfast," he said cheerily. "Isn't Frodo doing a good job preparing his part of the garden for his maize?"

VI.
It was on the following Highday that Frodo invited Sam to come fishing with him down at the Water. Since there was no work to be done that day, the Gaffer gave permission. He was still unhappy over Frodo's maize plot, but was getting over it. They walked along, poles over their shoulders. Sam carried the worms they'd dug, and Frodo had a bucket.

They cast their lines and Frodo quickly had a hit. He pulled it in.

Sam looked disappointed. "He's too small to keep."

Frodo shook his head. "Too small for hobbits, perhaps, but not for the maize!"

VII.
Sam watched as Frodo carefully heaped up the earth in his plot into little hills. In each one he buried a fish, before planting the little kernels. He grinned. The Gaffer could not bear to watch, so he'd set Sam to tending the kitchen garden out back while he kept to the front, but he knew his father would want to hear all about it anyway, though Sam had to pretend he was speaking only to Marigold.

He knew that the Gaffer was hoping Frodo's efforts would fail, but truth to tell, Sam would put his wager on Mr. Frodo.

VIII.
When the maize was almost knee-high, Frodo undertook the next steps. When Bilbo had gone to Michel Delving on business, he'd had him pick up seeds for speckled beans and pumpkins. He'd no intention of using seeds the Gaffer had saved in the garden shed from last year. This was how the maize was grown in Buckland and the Marish, and he was confident it would work, but he'd rather not waste that seed if it did not.

Carefully, he planted the beans around the tiny stalks, and the pumpkin seeds in small hills he made between the maize hills.

IX.
Frodo's garden was the talk of Hobbiton. Every time the Gaffer set foot in The Ivy Bush, he was twitted by his friends. He'd finally given in to curiosity and took a secret look at the plot. Not only was the maize now taller than a hobbit's head, but the beans was a-crawling up the stalks, fine and leafy, and the pumpkin vines were growing well. Why, grown thataway between the mounds, they kept the weeds down a treat. And didn't it beat all, the way a gentlehobbit like young Mr. Frodo worked!

He was sorry he'd ever said "No".

X.
It was the first week in Wedmath when the maize was ready for harvest. Frodo felt proud as he picked the first green ear and pulled back the husk to reveal the juicy yellow kernels. The ear was plump and blemish-free. It was just right! To have it at its best he'd need to harvest it at once, and serve it right away. He'd need baskets! And he'd need to tell Bilbo they'd should set some cauldrons boiling.

And, he grinned as he thought to himself, send invitations to all down the Hill so that I can share my bounty!

XI.
The Gaffer took a deep breath. Crow was not his favouritest thing in the world to eat. That maize was sweet and juicy, nigh on as good as mushrooms. He owed Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo an apology, he did.

The two of 'em was still a-finishing up, their mouths all greasy with butter, as they gnawed on the cobs. They looked a right treat, they did, and the Gaffer smiled to see it.

"Mr. Bilbo, sir; Mr. Frodo..." he began, twisting his hat in his hands.

Bilbo waved a hand. "Say no more, Gaffer. Just remember the next time."

o0o0o0o

Author's End Notes: I've never personally grown corn in my own garden, but I have helped tend and harvest it in other people's gardens. I have grown beans and pumpkins, however. The method I described is the one that the Native Americans taught the settlers from England.

Of course, maize (corn), tobacco (pipe-weed), tomatoes, potatoes, squash, pumpkins and many other plants that make appearances in Middle-earth, either book or movie verse, are New World plants. My head-canon is that they were brought over from Nûmenor, along with athelas.

I also know that our modern big corn that is sweet and juicy is also a fairly recent development. But perhaps over the long millennia since the Third Age, the plants were lost.

 B2MeM Challenge: This prompt by hhimring: Someone opens the pages of a book and something falls out.
The book is either a volume from the Rivendell library or the personal copy of an inhabitant of Rivendell. It could contain Bilbo's translations from the Elvish or an ancient elvish lay or be a ledger of household accounts--there are many possibilities.
What is it that falls out of the book: a fragment of a letter, a pressed flower, a ripped page or an elaborate bookmark, maybe? Does it evoke memories or trigger a discovery? Perhaps it even has some kind of special powers?
Who is it who opens the book--Elrond himself, someone who lives in Rivendell or a visitor?
This could be set at any time since the founding of Rivendell and feature in very different types of stories.
And this prompt by the_winterwitch: Any kind of fanwork - story, art, craft - show us or tell us about a book/scroll/manuscript from Elrond’s library. Title, description, summary, cover, binding, endpapers, the art of book-binding, illumination or anything related, or a story about one particular book, be it its creation, history, content, or just playing a major role in any kind of story. It doesn’t have to be a complete work/book either. Anything goes here, provided it centers around anything that has to do with the Library of Rivendell.
This could be set at any time since the founding of Rivendell and feature in very different types of stories.
Format: Short story, art,
Genre: Friendship, Nostalgia, Calligraphy
Rating: G
Warnings: n/a
Characters: Aragorn, Arwen, Erestor, Merry, Pippin
Pairings: Aragorn/Arwen
Creators' Notes (optional): See the end notes.
Summary: When Aragorn and Arwen come to visit Rivendell some years after becoming King and Queen, Erestor has an interesting find to show him, and his guests, the Thain and the Master of Buckland.

First Draft


“It is good to see you again, Erestor.” Aragorn took a deep breath and let it out again. In spite of all the years away, in spite of the many changes, Rivendell still felt like home.

“I am glad to see you as well, Estel.” He spoke mildly, but there was a twinkle in his eye. He was well aware of the irony of addressing the High King of Gondor and Arnor by his childhood name.

“Yes, Meriadoc and Peregrin,” came the voice of the Queen. “I have already asked for a tea to be sent up here to the library in a few moments. I am sorry that Samwise and his family could not come this time.”

“Well, a wedding takes a lot of planning. Sam's parting with his oldest daughter, and Rose is hoping to make it a grand affair.” Merry gave a sly look to the King as they entered the room. He gave a brief nod that did for him and Pippin in lieue of a bow, and said, “Of course, it would make it the grandest wedding the Shire has ever seen if the King and Queen attended. I am absolutely certain he could get permission from the Thain, the Master and the Mayor.”

“Now, Merry,” Aragorn said, “we have been through this all before.”

“Well, at any rate, even if the King doesn't attend,” said Pippin with ill-concealed glee, “The Queen can attend. She is not a Man after all.”

“I shall have to think on it, Sir Peregrin,” she said archly.

“Arwen!” Aragorn exclaimed.

Everyone else burst out into laughter, including Erestor.

But just then the tea trolley arrived, and the hobbits were completely distracted until all were settled in with refreshment in hand.

There was the usual hobbit chit-chat over food. “I must say, ever since both Bagginses left, Rivendell is the only place I can get Bilbo's seedcake.”

Arwen smiled. “That is because one of the first things Bilbo did was give the cooks here his recipe for both his seedcake and his honeycake!”

Erestor sat forward, “Speaking of Bilbo reminds me! A few weeks ago we found something here in the library that might interest all of you.” He rose and went over to one of the shelves and removed a book, and took a paper from within.

(Click to see the page.)

   http://ic.pics.livejournal.com/dreamflower02/4494641/138186/138186_600.jpg 

"He wrote it for me not long after our first meeting here. I was so touched by it; he was the first outsider to know my true identity, other than those who'd known before I did. He was certain that I would achieve my goal."

"And so you did, my love," said Arwen, laying her hand gently over his.

"Well, I like the final version better," said Pippin, "but it's lovely to see his handwriting again. Good old Bilbo!"

"Good old Bilbo, indeed!" added Merry. "Do you suppose we could get his seedcake recipe from the cooks?" he asked as he managed to snatch the last one before Pippin could.

o0o0o0o0o0o

Author's End Notes: This story takes place during the second progress of Elessar's visit to the Northern Kingdom. I always assume that there would be a visit to Rivendell at a time like that. It's in S.R. 1450, since Elanor weds in S.R. 1451.

About the "rough draft": This is done on "parchment-style" cardstock with a copperplate nib. I patterned the calligraphy sort of after the font by Nancy Lorenz known as "Bilbo-hand". I deliberately did not try to lay out the poem perfectly. I allowed myself to be a little careless.

I also played around, experimenting with wording that was different, and scrawled a few rhymes in the borders. I know how I am when writing poetry, and I know that I never hit it exactly right the first go-round. I don't expect Bilbo was any different. I also played around with the opening line, a little tribute to Shakespeare: "All that glisters is not gold." from "Merchant of Venice" by way of lindelea. *waves*

 

B2MeM Challenge: This prompt by lindahoyland: Are the Rangers ever seen in the Shire? If so what do the Hobbits make of them? Do the Rangers ever openly help the Hobbits or have the Hobbits ever helped a sick or injured Ranger?
Format: format:multi-chapter
Genre: genre:adventure, genre:gapfiller
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Violence and one passing mention of cannibalism among orcs
Characters: Ranger OMC, various hobbits, Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took
Pairings: Bandobras/OFC
Creators' Notes (optional): This draws somewhat on my account of the Battle of Greenfields as recounted by Berilac Brandybuck in Chapter 15 of "In the Court of the High King"
Summary: Wounded and in peril of his life, a Ranger of the North carries a dire warning to the Shire: invasion!

The Invasion

Part 1

Early summer, T.A. 2747 (S.R. 1147)

Hirluin carefully crept down the rocky outcropping where he had hidden in order to spy on the band of orcs he had been following. They had joined with a larger group, and from what he could glean, they were soon to meet up with yet another group, larger than both groups put together.

It was what else he had heard of their plans that had him worried. It appeared that this bunch had a leader from Mount Gundabad, a huge orc named Golfimbul, who was luring followers with promises of juicy pickings in a fat little land to the West and South of their own barren lands. This posed a dilemma for Hirluin. If the group headed straight for the Shire at the pace they had been keeping, they would arrive at the Northern borders in a little over a month. By rights, he should notify his fellow Rangers of this danger. But with the orcs between him and the quickest route back to the nearest waystation, it would take him far too long. Not only that, but if the orcs should turn aside, he would have no way of knowing. Yet the innocent and peaceful folk of the Shire were in dire peril.

The best he could come up with was to try and stay ahead of this horde of marauders, and arrive in time to give the Shire-folk time to flee or to hide. Their homes would be overrun, and their bounty stolen, but at least they would live to return and restore their homes eventually, for the orcs would not be happy in such an open land once they had plundered it. They would return back their bolt-holes in the mountains and the hobbits of the Shire could reclaim their own.

One advantage he had was his mount. Belan was hardy and fast; the two of them could certainly outpace the orcs. These orcs had no wargs or even wolves; such mounts had been hard for them to come by in recent years. And no horses or ponies would bear any of the foul folk. He only needed to be sure of their route; it would do no good to come with warning if he could not tell the hobbits of where the orcs would enter their land.

Belan waited for him in the small copse of shrubs and stunted trees that grew at the foot of the outcropping; he was a stallion, but of medium size, sturdily built. Unlike many stallions Hirluin had ridden in the past, he had a generally placid nature except when in battle (or near a mare in season). And he had a great heart, doing all that Hirluin had asked of him and more. The horse had been cropping at the meagre grass, unhindered by hobble or tether; he knew to stay where he'd been left. He looked up with a small "whuff!" of greeting. Hirluin patted him on the nose and mounted. He had a general idea of the way the enemy would be moving tonight. He would follow that path until moonrise, and then check to see if he was right. He could continue parallel with them for a while, until he knew for certain where their entry to the Shire would be. But he must be very careful not to be spotted.

He rode for several hours, once needing to stop and hide briefly, when he heard orc scouts. He hoped he would not be found--having to kill a scout would alert them that an enemy was near-by. Luckily the first scout went ahead of him, but not to the side where Hirluin was, while the other went in an altogether opposite direction. Once he was sure they were gone, he rode on for nearly an hour more, when he saw the first scout returning. Once more he stopped, hiding in the shadows of a long hill. This time he stayed put for a long time, for this time the orc army caught up and passed him by. He was thankful to be downwind of them, for had they caught his scent, he would have been done for.

They passed by about a furlong and a half to the north of his position. He wished he had Elf-sight, to get a better look at them and a more accurate count. He had estimated about a hundred and a score, but was not certain. Perhaps if he could find a better vantage point for watching he could take out the Dwarf-made spyglass he carried.

As the last of them passed by, he started up again, moving a little farther to the south to avoid detection. Belan knew how to move quietly and Hirluin concentrated on not being seen. It was nerve-wracking. He'd done this before, but never for such an extended length of time.

As dawn approached, he once more found a place where Belan could comfortably wait for him; a stand of junipers grew near a small streamlet. He knew he would need to rest before the day ended, but first he needed to make sure that the enemy were encamped in the area he expected them to be. Orcs hated the Sun, and would avoid daylight if they could. They also were not particularly fond of trees; they'd have found some rocky area as they had done before, if they could. Sure enough, a large stream, or perhaps some small nameless river, had worn a deep crevasse in the land. The orcs were hidden in its shade between a low cliff and the water. There were cracks that could even hold a few of them, though he saw no sight of a cave. He took out his spyglass and began counting. It looked like the leader had his own crude sort of tent, a sort of pavilion of crudely stitched hides, that hung over a framework of branches. It could only fit him, and his subordinates were perforce making do with what shade and shadow the cliff-face could offer them. At noon they would be exposed, to their discomfort, but by afternoon they would be sheltered by the slightly higher bank on the opposite side. Once the Sun went to her rest, they'd move on, though he was sure they'd be delayed in the fording, as this was not an especially low ford. Orcs were not natural swimmers.

Hirluin decided to return to his horse. The two of them could easily swim across, and then he would find a safe place (or as safe as could be, under the circumstances) and get some sleep while he could. It would be another harrowing night of shadowing the foul creatures, and he would not be able to be alert if he did not at least get a few hours of sleep.

For nearly over two weeks this was the pattern of his days; sometimes he was able to get well ahead of them, other times he was forced by the terrain to travel perilously close. Food was cold and consisted of dried meat and dried fruit, and what he could manage to forage as he moved. He could not risk a fire, nor could he risk hunting, for he could not waste his arrows, nor could he set snares that might be found by orc scouts.

It was the lack of fresh meat that had slowed the orcs themselves. While they were predators, they were not clever. They relied on their sheer numbers and strength, which was no help to them when prey could hear them coming for miles. Nonetheless, it appeared that one evening they had managed to flush a boar. Hirluin watched them from the boughs of a tree, as they tried to corner and spear the enraged beast. It turned on them and managed to savage at least three of its hunters before it was finished off. Then there broke out the predictable quarrel over the spoils. In the end, there were nearly twenty fewer orcs in their ranks, and Hirluin knew the outcome of that--he left before the inevitable cannibalism began.

When he rejoined his horse that night, he muttered grimly, "If they may only find a few more boar in these parts, I may not need to worry about an invasion of the Shire!"

Belan snorted, as if in derision.

The Ranger gave a dour snort of his own, that passed for a laugh with him. "I know. I cannot be so lucky!"

Another few days, he thought, just a few more, and he could be sure enough of their entry to make a break and head straight out to the Shire with his warning. The orcs were behaving very predictably. There had been another fight recently, and he had seen Golfimbul himself strike the head from the troublemaker.

But his own luck did not hold. It was entirely by accident that he came upon one of the scouts making water against a tree; their eyes happened to meet, and without hesitation, Hirluin put an arrow through its throat. But he had not realized this orc had a companion. It was Belan's whicker that alerted him, so that he was wounded, rather than killed by the other orc's spear. But the orc knew nothing of horses, and it was Belan's hooves that put an end to that orc.

Hirluin turned his attention to the wound in his side; the spear had gashed him rather than piercing him, yet nonetheless the cut was deep and bleeding copiously. He would have to staunch it, and bind it well, lest a blood trail lead the rest of the orcs directly to him. Thankfully a nearby freshet, just a little trickle of a stream, flowed nearby. He washed the blood as well as he could, and bound it with his only clean shirt, tying it as tightly as he could. Ignoring the pain, he mounted Belan, and rode, rode hard to the West. After all the trouble he had gone to, he refused to die without delivering his warning.

He knew that sooner or later the other orcs would miss those scouts. At best, they would think them deserters. At worst, they would be pursuing him. Best put as much distance as he could between him and them. He rode, barely conscious, until the Sun was well up. Then he dismounted, half falling, and dragged himself to a nearby tree, taking a long draught of water from his waterskin, before falling into oblivion.

He rose, stiff and hurting while the Sun still was high in the sky. He was not up to mounting. Belan knelt and Hirluin dragged himself up to the horse's back. Once more they rode. He could not bring himself to do more than chew on some dried fruit and take an occasional sip of water. He was fairly sure that he was well ahead of the orcs, who must travel afoot while he was on horseback. He patted Belan's neck, and the bay tossed his head. "If I live to tell this tale, old fellow, you will be the hero of it, I am sure!"

It was after the Moon had come up that he saw a welcome sight: the glitter of moonlight on the water, too wide for a stream--it was a river, and only one River flowed here: the Baranduin. Still, he had to ride some distance North before he found a ford, for he knew he was too weak to swim this time.

As they splashed up onto the Western bank, Hirluin knew he could go no further now. But he had to find someone, anyone, to receive his message.

TBC

B2MeM Challenge: This prompt by : Are the Rangers ever seen in the Shire? If so what do the Hobbits make of them? Do the Rangers ever openly help the Hobbits or have the Hobbits ever helped a sick or injured Ranger?
Format: format:multi-chapter
Genre: genre:adventure, genre:gapfiller
Rating: PG-13   
Warnings: Violence and one passing mention of cannibalism among orcs
Characters: Ranger OMC, various hobbits, Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took
Pairings: Bandobras/OFC
Creators' Notes (optional): This draws somewhat on my account of the Battle of Greenfields as recounted by Berilac Brandybuck in Chapter 15 of "In the Court of the High King"
Summary: Wounded and in peril of his life, a Ranger of the North carries a dire warning to the Shire: invasion!

The Invasion

Part 2

"Snakes and adders! What on earth is that?" The old farmer blinked and shook his head and then looked again. It was still there. "Dilly!" He shouted for his wife.

She came out of the hole, wiping her floury hands on her apron. "What on earth are you making such a racket about, Hob Greenhand?"

For answer, he merely pointed across his field in the direction of the Brandywine.

"That's a mighty big pony," Dilly said, after a moment of staring, slack-jawed.

"That's no pony, wife. That's a full-growed horse, if my eyes aren't a-lying to me."

"A horse. Like the Big Folk ride. What's it doing in the Shire, I wonder." The horse was just standing there, not grazing or any such thing.

"What I want to know is, where's the rider. See, it looks to be wearing a saddle."

Hob stared for a few minutes more, just thinking. Then he squared up his shoulders and said, "You go back in the hole, Dilly, and bar the door. Don't open it unless you hear it's me, understand? I'm going to roust up the lads in the barn, and we'll go see what's going on."

Dilly nodded, and headed reluctantly back into the hole. They were very isolated here, so close to the Northern bounds of the Shire. She wished their daughter Myrtle was still living at home, but she was off two years a-gone to apprentice to the healer in Long Cleeve.

Hob waited until the door had shut behind his wife, before he headed to the barn to waken the two hired hobbits who slept in the loft. "Diccon! Hari! I need your help!"

A few minutes later, armed with two pitchforks and a scythe, the three hobbits approached quietly through the turnip field, making next to no sound. But the breeze carried their scent to the horse, who raised his head with a snort. Still, he moved not an inch from where he stood, four legs planted firmly on the ground, as though he was guarding something.

And he was. In front of him lay one of the Big Folk, sleeping, unconscious or dead, Farmer Greenhand could not tell. The horse looked at them warily, but made no threatening move. The Man moaned softly, the first indication any of them had that he was alive, and the horse gave a soft whicker and lowered his head to sniff him. Then the horse looked up again, directly at the hobbits, as though asking them for help.

Farmer Greenhand looked at his companions. "I think as the horse wants us to help that Man," he said. "Maybe he was throwed, or fell off or something, but he needs help."

Diccon and Hari exchanged a look, and Diccon said "But Mr. Hob, sir, what if that horse has a go at you?"

He looked over at the horse, which once more nudged the unconscious Man with his nose and then looked up at the hobbits again. "I don't think he will. If he does, well, you'd better make yourselves scarce." He put down the pitchfork he was holding and slowly approached. "Nice horsey! Good horsey! You just stay right there and we'll help your master, we will..."

The horse actually stepped back as Farmer Greenhand drew near, and gave another soft whinny. The hobbit knelt down to look at the injured Man, and gasped. He'd expected maybe a knot on the head from a fall. Instead he saw blood, both dried and fresh staining the leather tunic the Man had on. His face was ghastly pale, with dark rings beneath the eyes like bruises, and now Hob could see that he was feverish as well. The Man needed a healer! What a shame Myrtle wasn't to home! But Dilly could help some, and mayhap they could figure out what to do with him.

He was about to send Diccon to get her when he recalled that he'd told his wife to only open the door for him. He gestured to them to come over.

Reassured when the horse had made no hostile move (indeed he seemed to be watching with concerned curiosity) the other hobbits approached slowly. "Stay by him, lads! I'll go fetch Dilly, and we'll try to think of some way to move the poor fellow out of this field."

Hob raced back to the hole, and Dilly was watching through the window. She opened the door before he could even raise his hand to knock. "What is it, Hob?" she asked.

"Yon horse is guarding an injured fellow, I suppose it was his rider. He's well and truly out of it, but his clothes is stained with blood. We need to figure some way to get him out of the dirt, and think o' some way we can help him."

"Well, water won't go amiss, whatever the trouble is. Bring along a bucket o' clean water from the well, Hob. I'll grab some old sheets as I was planning to tear up for rags. They'll do for bandages if we need them, and they're clean. Oh--and maybe some o' that salve Myrtle left for us when she was to home last time. She said it'd be good for stanching cuts." She turned and headed for the linen room, and Hob hurried to the well. Soon she joined him, and they walked down together.

Dilly refrained from asking too many questions, for which Hob was grateful; he had blessed few answers to give her. When they arrived in the turnip field, he saw that Diccon and Hari had lost their fear of the horse. Diccon had taken his jacket off and rolled it up to put beneath the Man's head, and Hari had become so bold as to be standing by the horse, patting his nose and telling him soothingly that his master would be cared for.

Dilly's eyes widened as she saw just how big both horse and rider were. The hobbits looked like faunts alongside them. But she was drawn immediately to the poor injured Man. She knelt by him, and turned up her nose just a little at the rank smell of sweat and blood. Thankfully, his tunic fastened down the front with large buckles--well, to her anyway, they were probably small for him--and so she was able to draw it away from him without having to cut it. The shirt below was dirty and stained, of course, but had originally been made of nice linen. She felt the lump of some sort of bandage beneath, and blushing she drew it up. Another shirt had been tied around his torso, just below his ribs. It looked crude and awkward to her, and she realized he had probably needed to tend himself when the injury was new. The wound had crusted blood as well as fresh, and so had probably been made a few days before. The fresh blood had probably happened when he fell off his horse. She placed her hand near the cut (how in the world had he come by such an injury?) and felt heat, though she smelled no putrefaction; the cut was infected, but not yet so badly that it could not be healed. But he certainly could not stay in the turnip field. How could they move him without harming him even more?

 Well, first things first. "Diccon, raise his head up. I'm going to see if I can rouse him enough to take some water." Hob handed the dipper to her, only half full to make it easier. Diccon was awkward, and the fellow's chin nearly touched his chest. He gave a little moan, and thankfully roused enough to swallow a couple of sips. His eyes fluttered open, and he blinked, clearly trying to make sense of the concerned faces peering at him. He gave a croak, and then when it was offered, another sip of water.

"Hob...hobbits? The Sh-shire?" he whispered hoarsely.

"Aye," Hob nodded, "you are in the Shire, and we are hobbits. I'm Hobson Greenhand, and this here's my wife Daffodil, at you service. That fellow just behind you is my hired hand, Diccon Brown. And the one over yonder with your horse is Haribold Sandybanks. You feel up to telling us who you are and why you're here?"

The Man closed his eyes, and for a moment they thought he'd gone out on them again. But then he drew a deep breath, and his eyes opened again. Then he spoke a little more strongly, "Grant that I am in time! I am a Ranger, Hirluin son of Dirluin, by name, and I bear a warning forthe Shire: danger is..." He stopped, his voice growing weak again. Dilly held the dipper up to him once more, and after another sip of water, he continued. "Orcs. Orcs are coming."

"What's orcs, Mr. Hirluin?" Asked the farmer, perplexed.

"Orcs, orcs..." He paused. "Your people call them 'goblins', I believe. They are dreadful. One of them gave me this wound with his spear."

Hob and Dilly exchanged a look. Goblins were creatures out of nursery tales, surely. But this fellow had obviously ridden long and hard to warn them.

"Please believe me. You must warn your people to flee or to hide." He closed his eyes once more, as though it was too much effort to keep them open.

It was Dilly who broke the horrified silence. "First things first, pardon me saying so, Mr. Hirluin. And first is getting you out of our turnip field to where you can be tended. You can't go nowhere as you are now." She sat back on her knees, and put the dipper back in the bucket. She looked at the bandages she had brought--better to deal with his injury once they got him put. But she tore off one strip, folded it, and placed it over the cut, and then retied the shirt he'd been using. That would stop any fresh bleeding until they got him...where? It wouldn't do to try and get him inside the smial; probably would hurt him worse. But perhaps the barn? "Hari," she said. "Run up to the barn; use Bossy's old stall, it's the cleanest as she's no longer there. Use fresh hay to make up a good pallet, and cover it with the tarp we use for the threshing. It's clean, too, and not needed again for months. It will be big enough for Mr. Hirluin to lie on comfortable like."

But now the really difficult matter. She looked at her husband, and he followed her gaze back towards the hole and the barn. "We can't carry him, not even if all four of us try. And I don't suspect as he can walk that far. Not right now."

Hirluin opened his eyes and looked at his rescuers. They were right; he was too large for them to carry, and he could not possibly walk that far. If he tried, he feared his strength would be taxed too far and he could not risk that. But he had a way. It would be painful and tax him as well, but not so much as trying to walk would do.

"Fear not, good hobbits," he said. His voice was still cracked and raw, but it felt stronger. "Move aside," he said, and he made a clucking noise.

Hob, Dilly and Diccon scrambled to move out of the way as the big horse moved towards them. He came to stand by his master, and then Hirluin spoke in a tongue that none of the hobbits recognised. To their astonishment, the bay knelt down next to Hirluin, who grabbing on to his mane, managed with a grunt of pain, to drag himself up onto the big animal.

Hirluin fought a wave of nausea as Belan stood beneath him. He spoke once more in Sindarin: Thank you, my friend; now follow these small ones. It was all he could do to remain in the saddle. He spoke to the hobbits again: "Belan will follow where you lead him now."

Hesitantly, Hob took the reins, which hung down loosely. To his surprise, the horse did indeed follow placidly behind him. He still felt a little frightened to have such a large creature walking behind him, but only because it made him feel so very small and vulnerable. He was not truly scared of the horse.

By the time they made their slow way to the barn, Hirluin was fast losing consciousness again. But as Belan lowered to allow them to roll him onto a comfortable hay pallet, he used the last of his strength to say once more: "You must warn your people; send warning..."

As Dilly began to tend the now insensible Man, washing and re-bandaging his wound, clucking over it and wishing she dared to stitch it (but wasn't it too late for stitching?) and wishing further that her daughter was to home, Hob stood up and summoned Diccon to his side. "Diccon, take Dobbin," and he pointed to the pony's stall, "and ride out to see if you can find Bil Lightfoot, if you can't find him, find Shirriff Headstrong. Tell 'em about this Man and his warning. Have 'em send word to Long Cleeve. Mr. Longhole there can get a messenger to the Thain. Make sure they listen and believe you!"

Diccon was pale. He'd nearly forgotten the Big Man's warning about goblins! Could there really be goblins coming? Here he was being sent off to warn the Bounder and the Shirriff, and he wasn't sure he believed it himself. "Do you think it's true, Mr. Hob?"

Farmer Greenhand looked down at where Dilly was carefully tending their unexpected guest. "He thinks it's true; and better safe than sorry."

Diccon nodded. Then he went to saddle up the farm pony, and try to figure out where he could find the Bounder.

TBC

B2MeM Challenge: This prompt by lindahoyland: Are the Rangers ever seen in the Shire? If so what do the Hobbits make of them? Do the Rangers ever openly help the Hobbits or have the Hobbits ever helped a sick or injured Ranger?
Format: format:multi-chapter
Genre: genre:adventure, genre:gapfiller, genre:hurt/comfort
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Violence and one passing mention of cannibalism among orcs
Characters: Ranger OMC, various hobbits, Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took
Pairings: Bandobras/OFC
Creators' Notes (optional): This draws somewhat on my account of the Battle of Greenfields as recounted by Berilac Brandybuck in Chapter 15 of "In the Court of the High King"
Summary: Wounded and in peril of his life, a Ranger of the North carries a dire warning to the Shire: invasion!

The Invasion


Part 3

Hirluin wakened, startled at his surroundings at first, he blinked and shook his head. Of course, he was among the hobbits. He looked around; he realised he was in a barn. It was small, well made and tidy. He was quite comfortable upon a pallet of hay, and he could see Belan looking over at him from the low wall of the next stall over.

"Eh, you're awake then!"

He turned his head to see the farmer, Master Hob, sitting next to him. "Are you feeling a bit peckish?" he asked.

Hirluin was surprised to realise that he did indeed feel hungry. His appetite had not been good since his injury--which had been just as well, since he had little he could have eaten and not much time for it either. He nodded.

"Hari! Go tell the missus our guest is awake. I know she wants to feed him."

Dilly arrived in a few moments with a large pot that had a most savory smell. Hari was carrying dishes. They appeared rather large for hobbits; then he realised that the spoon was actually the dipper from the well and the bowl was a mixing bowl. Dilly put the pot down next to Hirluin, and the smell made his mouth water.

Dilly looked over at her husband. "Hob, can you help him sit up?"

As the hobbit, with Hari's aid helped the Ranger to a sitting position, Hirluin could not help a painful gasp. But he waved the hobbits' concern away. "Do not trouble yourself. I must sit up to eat, and I must learn to put aside the pain." Truthfully, he felt a wave of lightheadedness, but it passed. Dilly was dipping some of the delicious smelling stuff into the bowl, and he found himself watching with rapt attention.

"Can you hold it and feed yourself?" she asked.

He nodded, and took the bowl and the dipper. It was broth, but there were very tiny bits of meat and vegetables floating in it, and it was a rich deep brown colour. He dipped up a bit of it and sipped. It was hot, but not hot enough to burn his mouth. It was just salty enough, and he closed his eyes in bliss. He had not had hot food since he'd been injured; only dried meat and fruit and waybread, and when that had run out he'd not even felt like thinking about food. He found he was eating eagerly.

"Here, now, Mr. Hirluin, slow down a bit! You don't want to make yourself sick." She took the now empty bowl. "We'll wait a bit, and if it sits well with you, you can have some more."

He nodded, seeing the wisdom in her words. Truthfully, he was full, though his mouth was seeing fit to argue the matter. He said as much to Mistress Greenhand, who put her hand to her mouth and stifled a giggle.

He laid back down upon his pallet, and soon had drifted once more into a profoundly deep sleep.

The second time Hirluin wakened, Mistress Greenhand served him more of the delicious broth, along with some fresh brown bread to dip into it. She left after he ate, and he was able to make his way to a corner of the stall where a small chamber pot had been placed. After he had finished he slowly returned to his pallet, and soon fell deeply asleep once more.

When he woke again, it was full dark; he could see very little, but he could hear crickets chirping. He was alone, but he did not feel like going back to sleep. He kept thinking of the danger these small people were in. They had kindly taken him in, a stranger with a wild story, and offered him hospitality and healing. The thought of what the orcs--goblins as the hobbits called them--would do to his new friends, made his blood run cold.

Just then he heard the creaking of the barn door, and the hissing of whispered voices.

"Rob Headstrong, I don't care if you are the Shirriff, you are not to wake up that poor Man! He needs his rest!" That was clearly Mistress Greenhand.

"Now, Dilly, let the Shirriff do his work..." and that was the Farmer.

"Missus Dilly, I don't want to do any harm to this Big Person, but I need to learn about this story of his. He may be all you say, but he sounds mad. Goblins! Why would goblins care about the Shire?" a third voice hissed.

"Do not fear to wake me," Hirluin said, his voice sounding louder than usual in the previous quietness. "I was not asleep."

He heard the creak of the stall door, and the hobbits entered. One was carrying a dark lantern; he raised the shutter. The faint light seemed almost glaring to Hirluin, but he blinked a few times, and soon his eyes had adjusted to the light.

Two of the hobbits were the Greenhands, but the third was a stranger. The third hobbit was slightly taller and a good deal stockier than Hob, and though Hirluin could not see the exact colour of his hair, it was dark.

He came near to the pallet, and Hirluin sat up once more, not without a gasp of pain as his injury pulled slightly.

The new hobbit came into the stall, and gave a nod of his head. "Robur Headstrong, Chief Shirriff in the North Farthing, at your service," he said.

"Hirluin, son of Dirluin, Ranger of Eriador, at yours, Shirriff Headstrong."

"What's this I hear you are saying about goblins?" Hirluin's heart sank. He could hear the skeptical tone of the Shirriff's voice.

Maintaining a serious mien, Hirluin gave a brief account of his encounter with the orcs. "There are about one-hundred of the beasts still left, and they are fierce, cunning and merciless. I was able to move quickly with the help of my horse, since they are still afoot; but they will soon be approaching your northernmost border. You must warn the people to flee or to hide, for there is no hope with such a dreadful foe."

"You want to panic the entire Shire?" The Shirriff looked indignant. "You are just one person, and you have outrun them. And hobbits are very good at hiding. Besides, how bad can these 'goblins' be?"

"More terrible than you may imagine! Are you going to do nothing?" Hirluin allowed his anger to show. What a stubborn hobbit!

"The Bounder has headed over Greenfields way to see if he can find anything out. He'll report to me, and then we'll decide what to do."

Hirluin was fuming. But he dared not say more and antagonise the fellow. It was going to be up to him. If only he knew who was the right person to approach...

He could tell that both the Greenhands were angry, but Dilly set her face. "Come along, Shirriff Rob, we'll get out some blankets and you can bed down by the hearth. It's too late to ride home. Hob, would you stay and see that our guest gets some more water?"

"That's right kind of you, Mistress Dilly." The Shirriff followed his hostess out of the barn. Hob scowled after them.

"Old fool! But that's a Headstrong for you! We told him you was telling the truth, but he don't want to 'make a fuss' if nothing happens."

"Is the Bounder more reliable?"

"Aye. But he'll be going right out of the way. We need someone to go West, to Long Cleeve. Mister Jago Longhole's the only Squire up this-away, and if he sends a messenger to the Thain, it'll be listened to."

"Why not go directly to the Thain?"

Hob gave him a shrewd look. "Well, it's a goodly distance for one thing, almost to the South-farthing. The Squire can make sure as a messenger can get fresh ponies at the inns, and so ride right through. Faster to convince him we need the messenger."

"I shall go myself, if you would be so kind as to give me directions."

"You can't." Dilly had come back to the barn. She glared at him over the stall door. "You aren't well yet."

"Aside from that, you'd never make it on your own anyhow. The way across the moor is full of bogs and such."

"Nevertheless I must try. I do feel much better than I did when I arrived."

Dilly sniffed to show her opinion of that statement.

Hob pursed his lips and nodded at him. "You'll need a guide. Take me with you, then. I know the way well. I can keep you and your horse from falling into bogs, and get you there the quickest way."

"Hob!" Dilly's voice was sharp.

"Daffodill Greenhand, you know well that this is no lark. If we don't get a message to the Thain we'll be overrun with them goblins! You saw what they did to Hirluin there, and he had a sword and all to fight back."

She nodded reluctantly.

Hob turned and looked back at Hirluin. "Can that big horse of yours ride straight through?"

"How far is it?"

"Nigh on seventeen leagues, give or take a few furlongs."

"It seems that it is the middle of the night now?"

Hob nodded.

"Then if we leave now we should be able to arrive by midday. It is dark, and we will, by your account be riding on treacherous ground. By morning we may be able to pick up speed in the daylight. Belan is strong, but your extra weight will slow him a little bit. We shall not be able to ride at top speed, I am afraid."

"That's a long sight faster than we can go in our waggon when we go to visit Myrtle. It takes us nigh on two days."

"Well," said Dilly, "If you are set on this, I'll make you up some packets of food you can eat from the saddle, bread and cheese and pasties and such, and some apples. And fill a couple o' waterskins."

By the time that Hirluin had Belan saddled, Dilly had returned with a canvas satchel of food that could be tied to the saddle. Hirluin lifted Hob up to sit before him, wincing with pain. He feared he had pulled his wound again, and hoped it did not start bleeding afresh. Then he mounted, and Dilly stood at the barn door to watch them ride away into the darkness.

For the first few hours, they made good time. They were upon a road, and Belan could alternate trotting and walking. But soon enough they came to a fork in the road.

"Which one do we take?" One road stretched to the East, the other to the South.

"Neither one nor the other," said Hob. "South'd just take us on to Greenfields, which'll have us going down the length of the moors; West'll turn South and take us to Long Cleeve, but that's a longer way. It's made to avoid the moors. So we heads straight on, Mr. Hirluin and just cut across a corner of the moors. But we'll need to go slower, for a little, until the Sun shows herself and I can see the markers."

"Dawn is not far off now, I ken," said Hirluin. They rode at a moderate pace for a while. Every now and then, Hob would ask Hirluin to stop, but only for a second, as the hobbit tried to get his bearings. Soon the Sun rose, and they picked up the pace. Hirluin drank gratefully of his waterskin, and ate one of Dilly's mushroom pasties. Hob simply kept up a steady pace of eating, frequently offering Hirluin food. But the Ranger was beginning to feel his pain again, and had little appetite.

Now Hob could see the markers set to mark the bogs, and began to steer them around them. Soon they curved to the West.

"T'won't be long now," said Hob. "It's nigh on time for nuncheon." Indeed, the hobbit's stomach began to rumble. Hirluin could not help but wonder in amazement. Hob had eaten steadily through the morning, and even now was munching on an apple.

"Look!" Hob pointed South, where Hirluin could see the sparkle of a distant river. "That's the Water. We'll follow it up to Long Cleeve. There's a road again, as runs alongside the Water."

Hirluin was grateful. Belan was tired, he knew, and he himself was beyond exhausted. But the thought of what would happen if the hobbits remained unwarned burned ever in his heart and gave him strength to ignore his pain. They found the road as Hob had said, and rode upon it as it rose uphill. The hill was cleft in two by the river, and on the northern side was a rocky ridge, almost a low cliff. The southern bank was not so high. As they rode they began to see a few hobbits going about the day's business who gaped in astonishment. While Dwarves were sometimes see in this part of the Shire, it was very rare to see one of the Big Folk.

As they rode, Hirluin noticed the cottages that made up a small village. But just beyond it rose up another hill, at the apex of the ridge, riddled with round windows and not a few doors. Hobbits began pouring out of the doors like ants whose mound has been disturbed. All of them gathered around at a respectable distance. Hirluin dismounted stiffly, fighting off dizziness. He turned to help Hob down, leaning against Belan for support. As Hob half slid to the ground, Hirluin's knees buckled, and he found himself kneeling on the ground, fighting off pain and nausea.

An older hobbit with an air of authority about him stood forth from the crowd. He looked at Hob. "Farmer Greenhand, could you please tell me what is going on?"

"Mr. Longhole, this here's Hirluin, a Ranger, and he's come all this way, wounded and sick as he is, to bring us a warning."

"A warning? Of what?"

Hirluin summoned up all his strength to look at the hobbit. "Goblins, sir. An army of them, headed for the Shire." His head bowed and his hands were on his knees. He was utterly spent.

TBC    

B2MeM Challenge: This prompt by: Are the Rangers ever seen in the Shire? If so what do the Hobbits make of them? Do the Rangers ever openly help the Hobbits or have the Hobbits ever helped a sick or injured Ranger?

Format: format:multi-chapter

Genre: genre:adventure, genre:gapfiller
Rating: PG-13   
Warnings: Violence and one passing mention of cannibalism among orcs
Characters: Ranger OMC, various hobbits, Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took
Pairings: Bandobras/OFC
Creators' Notes (optional): This draws somewhat on my account of the Battle of Greenfields as recounted by Berilac Brandybuck in Chapter 15 of "In the Court of the High King"
Summary: Wounded and in peril of his life, a Ranger of the North carries a dire warning to the Shire: invasion!

The Invasion

Part 4

Jago Longhole looked at the Man, and then drew in a deep breath and turned to the hobbit at his side. "Gabby, go find Mistress Beryl. Tell her the patient is one of the Big Folk, and make whatever arrangements she tells you may be necessary to care for him. Find some strong, likely lads--we'll probably need six to eight hobbits to carry him into the smial. Then send someone over to the Post Office and tell the Postmaster we will need his fastest Quick Post Rider for a journey to Tuckborough. Tell him it is an emergency." Then he raised his voice to the crowd: "If you've no good reason to be here, then go on about your business."

Gabby nodded briskly and went in search of the Healer, who also happened to be the Mr. Jago's sister, Beryl. Gabby wasn't sure he believed in goblins, but the Squire clearly took the threat seriously, so he would too. Fortunately word had already reached Mistress Beryl through the gossip of the crowd, now dispersing. As he went into the smial he found her already headed in his direction, trailed by her apprentices, Myrtle Greenhand and Miss Diamanté, the Master's daughter. "Mr. Jago's asking for you..." He said.

The Healer nodded. "I heard there is an injured Big Person." She did not pause, but continued to bustle along briskly to the main door.

Gabby was used to her in an emergency, and matched her stride for stride. "Yes, Mistress Beryl." He glanced behind him at the apprentices. "Miss Myrtle's da came along with him."

"My da?"

"Aye, Miss Myrtle."

Myrtle started to speed up, but Mistress Beryl spoke up. "Remember your place, Myrtle."

"Aye, Mistress," she replied meekly, slowing down again.

As they went back outside, the Healers went over to where Jago stood by Hob Greenhand and the stranger still were. The Man was still sitting upon the ground, his big horse standing guard over him.

-oo000oo-

As Gabby went on his assigned tasks, Jago had gone over to where Hob and the Ranger were. Hob was leaning over his guest with a worried expression. Hirluin's eyes were glassy, and there was a faint sheen of sweat on his face. His breathing was shallow.

Hob looked up. "Mr. Longhole, sir, he needs some help."

"I've already sent for the Healers, Farmer Greenhand. They should be here very soon. What can you tell me about his warning? Clearly, you believe it, or you wouldn't have come with him."

"Well, sir, considering he nigh killed hisself getting to the Shire, I think he deserves to be listened to. I don't think it's madness, nor no fever dream. If he says goblins are a-coming, then I'm sure as sure can be he's telling us true."

"I'm inclined to agree with you, Farmer Greenhand. I've always found you a shrewd judge of character. Did he give you any details?

"He said they was coming in from the north. He come ahead of them as fast as he could; washed up this side o' the Brandywine right in my turnip field. If they was directly behind him, that's about where they'd come in, or mayhap a few miles to the East or West o' there. He also said there was about a hundred, evil brutes, big and cruel."

"Very well. If it comes to nothing some folks might be fussed, but if it's true, they'll be far more than fussed--they could be dead! Better safe than sorry!"

"That's what I say," replied the farmer, "but Shirriff Headstrong, he didn't want to bother folks!"

Jago snorted. His opinion of Rob Headstrong was not high, but the shirriffs were appointed by the Mayor; he had no say in that. Just then he smiled to see to his sister and her apprentices approach. Beryl gave only a brief nod of acknowledgement to as she went straight to the patient. Even kneeling as he was, the Man was still taller than she was standing. She drew her amber pendant over her head, and held it before the Man.

Jago often found his sister's use of her pendulum to be fascinating but mysterious, but even to Jago's untrained eye, the pendent was swinging erratically which he knew was not a good sign.

She put the pendulum back on, and felt the pulse at his neck. He blinked and looked at her blearily.

"M-must...warn..." he could barely whisper the words.

"Shush, lad," Beryl responded comfortingly. "Let me check you over." There were spots of blood on his shirt, and she lifted it. The bandage beneath was beginning to seep, to all appearances, not for the first time. "I want to examine his injury more closely, but I can't do that here."

-oo000oo-

Gabby watched as the three Healers went over to where the injured Man was, and then went to his other task; he'd soon commandeered three stable hands, two of the undercooks, and two of the gardeners, and a visiting blacksmith. He sent the youngest of the stablehands off with the message for the Postmaster. "Bring the Quick Post messenger back with you, as the Master will have a letter for him."

The tween nodded. "Yes, Mr. Gabo." He turned and raced off in the direction of the village.

He turned to the others he had recruited. "Go over to the healers, and do whatever Mistress Beryl needs of you to help her with the patient."

The hobbits looked over in the direction he had pointed. One of the undergardeners looked doubtful. "That Man? I don't see how we'll be able to handle one of them Big Folk."

Gabby turned a stern look upon him. "You do what you're told. That Man has ridden long and hard even though he's wounded and sick, to warn us of danger. He deserves to be taken care of. He's a guest of the Master now!"

The undergardener looked abashed. "I'm sorry, Mr. Gabo, sir."

"Now off with you! Mistress Beryl needs help."

He watched the hobbits go to join the healers, and then turned and went into the smial. He had been Jago Longhole's assistant since he'd come of age and his cousin had asked for his help. Gabo Banks had taken great pride over the years in anticipating Jago's needs. First he'd see to a guest room for Farmer Greenhand. Then he'd ready Jago's study so that he could write his message to the Thain, and make any other preparations necessary in case the Man's warning was true. Gabby very much feared it was.

-oo000oo-

Mistress Beryl was pleased to see strong arms and backs approaching, although she was still concerned about how they could take him inside. Even with all this help, carrying him would be awkward at best, and could even harm the patient if he should be dropped. He was clearly too weak to walk so far. She voiced her concerns aloud.

Farmer Greenhand twisted his hat in his hands, and told her of the solution they had used on the farm.

The healer shook her head. "I don't think so. We could not get him into the smial on a horse, and I would prefer not to treat him in the barn!"

One of the cooks spoke up. "Mistress Beryl, would that long work table on wheels they use in the main kitchen work?"

"Could you lift him up that high?"

"We oughtn't need to, Mistress; we could take the pegs out of the tabletop and lift it down aside of him. I'm thinking it would be a mite easier to move him back up on top of it, and put the pegs back in."

"That sounds like an excellent idea, Rook! Thank you for thinking of it. Can you see to borrowing it for us?"

"Yes'm, Mistress Beryl." He turned to the other undercook. "Mat, come with me. It'll take two of us to steer that big table."

Mat nodded, and the two cooks went off to fetch the table. Beryl turned to her apprentices. "Dia, go fetch some blankets. We'll need several to cover the table and make our patient comfortable."

"Yes, Mistress," and she too, hurried off. Beryl watched her with pride; she doubted that her niece would become a full-fledged healer. Diamanté was, after all, Jago's only child and heir. But she was working hard, and had no problems in learning the proper attitude of an apprentice. The skills she was learning in handling people would be useful in running Northcleft on her own or with a future husband, and any healer training would always be handy in an emergency.

She turned to Myrtle. The apprentice was quietly waiting for her orders, though Beryl could read the signs; the lass desperately wished for a word from her father. Farmer Greenhand looked far more impatient than his daughter, wringing his hat in his hands and casting glances at her. "Myrtle, you may have a moment to speak with your father, and then you must go to the stillroom. I will need you to prepare some birch bark tea, and add a teaspoonful of the goldenseal infusion we just prepared. Check our stores of boneset and comfrey. See if we have any comfrey salve left. If not we shall need to make some up."

"Yes, Mistress Beryl." Myrtle took a deep breath and looked at her father; Hob came over, and the two exchanged a few short words--just enough to insure one another of each other's well-being, Beryl assumed. There was a look of relief on Myrtle's face, and then she too, hurried off.

Then Beryl looked at her brother. Jago had been calmly waiting as she made her assessment. Now she turned to him to answer any questions he was bound to have about this stranger suddenly thrust upon his hospitality, and to get answers of her own.

"Will he be all right, Beryl?"

"He seems likely to live. A lot will depend on his injury; but it's not a new wound, and it hasn't killed him yet. There are some signs of infection, however, and we must hope that the injury is not badly septic. His main problem aside from the wound seems to be exhaustion, blood loss, and he's badly parched and been eating poorly for several days. He should not have been riding at all, much less travelling so far and in such haste."

Farmer Greenhand had stayed by them after Myrtle left to do her duties. He spoke up diffidently. "We gave him water and some broth; we was afraid to try and feed him up too much. But he seemed to be doing better when we set out; he said he had to come to convince folks of the danger, when the Shirriff didn't take him seriouslike."

"Fear not, Mr. Greenhand," said Jago. "I do take his message seriously. As soon as I can I will send a message to Tuckborough to the Thain. And I'll begin gathering up the local muster so we will be ready when we hear back from Thain Ferumbras."

The farmer heaved a sigh of relief.

Just then the two cooks came back, wheeling along the path a long butcher-block worktable on wheels. It was close to seven feet long and It rolled smoothly enough along the flagstone path, and they brought it out to the drive where the group stood. At the same time, Diamante came hurrying back, her arms filled with blankets, and behind her a couple of maidservants similarly burdened trotted along.

Rook and Mat used a wooden mallet to remove the pegs that held the wooden tabletop, and then with the help of the stablehands they were able to lift it off and lower it to the ground. Diamante needed no orders, but with the help of the maidservants she began to quickly arrange a comfortable pallet upon it.

Beryl stood over the Man, Hirluin, the farmer had said his name was. He had been resting with his head on his knees. She roused him, for he had fallen asleep, poor fellow, and urged him to move enough to sit upon the pallet and then lie down.

She gave a start, and one of the maidservants squeaked when the big horse took a step closer, and pawed a hoof as they began to lay hands upon his master. This roused Hirluin more than aught else had done. The horse lowered his head, and nuzzled at the Man's face. He reached a hand up weakly to pat it on the nose. "Peace, Belan," he murmured, and then said something softly in an unfamiliar language. "Can someone see to my brave fellow?" he asked. "He's worked so hard..."

One of the stablehands, who'd been looking with admiration at the huge animal, offered to take him and see him watered, fed and groomed.

"I'll help," said Farmer Greenhand. "This is a good horse." He followed the stablehand as Belan was led away, watched by the anxious eyes of his master for a moment.

It took both remaining stablehands, both cooks and gardeners, the blacksmith and Jago himself to lift the tabletop now that Hirluin was lying atop it. Beryl held her breath, fearing that if they could not keep it steady it might tilt and drop her large patient upon the hard ground. But in spite of much grunting and groaning, the hobbits managed to place it smoothly upon the frame once more, and the two cooks replaced the pegs that held it in place.

Beryl heaved a sigh of relief. "To the infirmary," she said. The sooner she had her patient where she could begin treating him, the better.

Jago followed the little group into Northcleft, and then went on to his study. He had a letter to write to the Thain.


   

 B2MeM Challenge: This prompt bylindahoyland: Are the Rangers ever seen in the Shire? If so what do the Hobbits make of them? Do the Rangers ever openly help the Hobbits or have the Hobbits ever helped a sick or injured Ranger?
Format: format:multi-chapter
Genre: genre:adventure, genre:gapfiller; genre:hurt/comfort
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Violence and one passing mention of cannibalism among orcs
Characters: Ranger OMC, various hobbits, Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took
Pairings: Bandobras/OFC
Creators' Notes (optional): This draws somewhat on my account of the Battle of Greenfields as recounted by Berilac Brandybuck in Chapter 15 of "In the Court of the High King"
Summary: Wounded and in peril of his life, a Ranger of the North carries a dire warning to the Shire: invasion!

The Invasion

Myrtle had prepared the various medicines as her Mistress had requested. She had also checked the supplies of bandages and clean linens, which were stored in a cedar lined room next to the stillroom. They'd no bedsheets nor blankets large enough for one of the Big Folk. She knew that Mistress Beryl had doubled them up in making the transport for the Man, but it would not do for any length of time. If he moved around very much, he would soon have some places bunched up and some that had no covers at all. While she was waiting for her Mistress, she took two of the largest sheets and her sewing kit; she lined up the edges of the sheets, pinned them, and began to stitch them together. Sitting in the stillroom with the door open so she could see any activity in the corridor, she used a sturdy backstitch with doubled thread to keep the sheets from separating, but made the stitches large enough to be easily picked out once their patient was gone.

She was nearly halfway through when she heard them coming. Mistress Beryl was directing the hobbits who were pushing the "bed" along. The infirmary was right across from the stillroom, and her mistress glanced in her direction with a nod and a quick smile, to show she approved of what Myrtle was doing.

"Mistress Beryl?" Rook said. "I don't think we can turn this to get it into the infirmary." The passageway was too narrow and the table was too long to maneuver it into the small round door.

Myrtle put down her sewing, and went to look out the door, and shook her head. What could they do now?

But there was scarcely a moments hesitation before Mr. Jago spoke up. "The parlour at the end--" he pointed to the end of the hallway: the doorway there was extra wide and no turns were necessary. They could push the make-shift bed straight in. The room was known as the "summer parlor"; surrounded by four guest bedrooms, it had doors to a veranda outside instead of windows and so was cooler in the summertime, and was quite bright, as it had a skylight in the ceiling. There were no guests currently staying in the guest rooms, making the summer parlor the perfect location for Mistress Beryl's patient.

Mr. Jago opened the door wide, and then stepped inside to push aside a couple of armchairs and a small table, and then returned to help push the table on into the room.

Myrtle had followed with a tray upon which she had placed the tea her Mistress had ordered, and the salve, a kettle of hot water, and a roll of clean bandages. Diamante saw her, and cleared one of the side tables so that Myrtle could put the tray down. Both apprentices went to stand by the healer's side.

Mistress Beryl thanked her helpers. "You have done a good job getting him here, lads, but now you have other things to do. Go along with you, with my thanks. The "lads" all bobbed their heads at her and left the room. Jago remained.

"Please keep me informed, Beryl. Do you think he will be all right?"

"I need to examine him more thoroughly, but if his wound is not badly infected, he should be all right in the long run. He has a long recovery ahead of him, though."

Jago nodded. "Well, little sister, I have to write a letter to the Thain. Let us hope that he won't dismiss it all as moonshine."

Beryl patted her brother's shoulder. "Ferumbras is a sensible sort. I am sure he will pay attention to what you say."

"I'm sure you are right, Beryl." Jago left the room, closing the door behind him.

-oo000oo-

Jago found Gabby waiting in his study and gave him a nod. His cousin was sitting in a chair in front of the desk, upon which he had laid out all that was necessary for the writing of a letter. Jago sat down behind it in his own chair and picked up his quill and began to write.

9 Forelithe, S.R. 1147
Northcleft, Long Cleeve
Northfarthing

Dear Thain Ferumbras:

I send you this urgent message! Today, a well-respected hobbit of the Northfarthing, a Mr. Greenhand, who lives near Greenfields, came to Northcleft accompanied by one of the Big Folk, a Man, who was seriously injured and ill. He had come to the Shire in spite of his injury, to warn us of danger.

It seems that there is a group of goblins, at least one hundred strong, marching on the Shire and intending to invade us. I know that this sounds like a wild tale. However, I have no doubt that the Man, whose name is Hirluin son of Dirluin, and has described himself as a Ranger, is telling the truth.

I urge you to call up the Shire muster, and send them with all haste to the Northfarthing. In the meantime, I shall be calling up any able-bodied hobbits I can here in Long Cleeve. We will be ready when you arrive. I shall also issue warnings to the villages to evacuate or hide.

Please hurry! By the time you get this warning, the goblins may very well be at our bounds!

Respectfully yours,

Jago Longhole, Esq.

He put the letter to one side, and drew up another piece of parchment. This would be a letter of authorization for the Quick Post rider. Showing it would enable the rider to get food and refreshment and fresh ponies along the way. The Thain would reimburse the innkeepers and hostlers if he agreed this was an emergency for all the Shire. Otherwise, Jago himself would have to eat the cost. He hoped that Ferumbras would agree with his belief that this was a real threat.

Gabby cleared his throat. "The Quick Post rider should be along anytime now. I told them to send their fastest rider straight along to your study."

Jago looked up briefly. "Ed?"

Gabby nodded. "Very likely. I did ask for their fastest rider, and I am afraid my son suits that bill." In spite of the words, there was an undercurrent of pride in his voice. Gabby's son Edro had found an outlet for a restless spirit in his job as a posthobbit, and he was indeed the fastest Quick Post rider in the whole of the Northfarthing. Ed's recklessness and mischief was no longer an issue as the lad found his job exciting enough to keep him out of trouble.

There was a tap on the door, and Jago called "Come in!" It opened and the very one they had been speaking of came in.

He greeted them with a cheeky grin. "Uncle Jago, Da. Mr. Dingle said you need a Quick Post rider for Tuckborough. The lad who came for me said it's urgent and has to do with Big People, though I thought perhaps he was pulling my foot hair."

"Come sit down, Ed. He was not jesting. We have under this very roof a Man who came to warn us of an invasion of goblins. As wild and strange as his story is, I have no doubt he's being truthful. You will have the letter, but I do want you to do your best to convince the Thain that this is serious, and that every minute counts. Let him know the goblins are supposed to come in through the Northern bounds near Greenfields, and that I am already doing what I can to prepare our people. But we must have help to hold them back from the rest of the Shire!"

Ed stared at his uncle and father in astonishment. "Seriously?"

Both of them nodded solemnly. Jago passed over a large letter, folded thrice and sealed closed. "This is for the Thain." He slid over the second one. It was only folded once, and the seal was on the inside beneath the message. "This is your authorization. Use it as you have need to get fresh ponies, food and water. But do not stop nor stay more than you must, for the sooner the message sets out, the sooner the Thain can call up the Muster."

Gabby looked his son in the eye. "Don't kill yourself getting there, son."

"I won't, da." He stood up and took up the letters. "Shall I pass the word as I go?"

"Only to those who will believe you, Edro," Jago replied. "But it will help the villages to be ready when the Thain passes through."

"I won't give out details nor mention goblins. I'll just tell them that you have reason to believe enemies are going to cross the bounds and that you are asking the Thain to call up the Muster."

"That's very sensible, lad. Good thinking, and good journey."

"Yes, sir." He turned and left the room, his shoulders squared, and lacking the usual spring in his step. Jago knew that he had given his young cousin a big responsibility.


-oo000oo-

As soon as Jago had left, Mistress Beryl turned at once to her patient. With her apprentices' help she divested him of his shirt. While he had seemed weak and passive as they moved him, he had never been completely unconscious; he had muttered some in a language that none of the hobbits had understood, and had turned his head to follow the voices of those attending him. But as Myrtle and Diamanté lifted him so that Mistress Beryl could take off his shirt and bandages, he gasped, and hissed an oath.

Mistress Beryl shook her head at the sight of the wound; without stitches, it had not knitted together properly. Although the entire cut was not septic, there were areas where it was inflamed and infected, which could spread if not dealt with right away. She shuddered at the jaggedness of the injury, which indicated to her how savage a blow it had been. It was far too late for stitches to the original injury, but she would need to cut away the infected areas. She briefly thought of the old method her own old mistress had taught her, using maggots--but she did not think the wound was so far gone as to call for that.

"Mytle, we need tea: valerian, hops, chamomile, birch bark. I also want the poppy, prepared with cherry, and the wintergreen salve. We are going to have to debride the infected areas. Diamond, see to boiling my instruments and setting out the clean bandages." She turned to examining the rest of her patient. There were old bruises here and there, some small cuts that would need attention, and he was definitely dehydrated and malnourished. She'd need to feed him plenty of strong beef broth and red wine a lot of clean fresh water...

-oo000oo-

Edro went to the stables. For this stage of the ride, he wanted his own pony. Arrow was nearly as swift as his name, and he also did not shy at riding in the dark. He was also hardy. With Arrow he might even make it as far as Needlehole before having to change his mount. He knew the innkeeper there usually had several ponies to choose from him, and that old Tib would take good care of Arrow until he could fetch him back.

He stopped and blinked twice on entering the stable to see, of all things, a full-sized horse! Young Matto was standing on a milking stool grooming the beautiful animal.

"Is that the Man's horse?" he asked the groom.

Matto nodded. "His name is Belan. Isn't he something, Mr. Edro?"

"Indeed he is! I wish I was not in a hurry, else I'd help you with that fine fellow! But I'm taking Arrow off on an urgent message." He turned aside to his own pony's stall and led him out to be saddled.

"That'd be to the Thain," Matto said knowingly. "That there Ranger, he said goblins was a-coming! I thought maybe 'twas nought but a fever-dream, but seeing as Mr. Jago took it serious-like, it must be true. I'll be ready for the muster when it comes!"

Ed had been busy quickly saddling his pony as he listened to the groom. "Good for you! Well, I'm off!" He tightened the girth one last time and swung himself up.

"Good luck and safe journey to you, Mr. Edro!"

Ed said "Thanks!" as Arrow shot out of the stable.

    B2MeM Challenge: This prompt by : Are the Rangers ever seen in the Shire? If so what do the Hobbits make of them? Do the Rangers ever openly help the Hobbits or have the Hobbits ever helped a sick or injured Ranger?
Format: format:multi-chapter
Genre: genre:adventure, genre:gapfiller
Rating: PG-13   
Warnings: Violence and one passing mention of cannibalism among orcs
Characters: Ranger OMC, various hobbits, Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took
Pairings: Bandobras/OFC
Creators' Notes (optional):
Summary: Wounded and in peril of his life, a Ranger of the North carries a dire warning to the Shire: invasion!

The Invasion

Part 6

Edro and Arrow rode full out for a good long time, with brief stops for water and to give Arrow a breather. Since it was Forelithe, the Sun did not seek her rest for a good long time, but finally she was low in the West, and full night came on. It was not a bright evening, so Edro stayed on the road. It was in good repair, and better not to risk going cross-country in the dark.

He slowed Arrow to a canter, and then a walk, and back to a canter again. Even in the dark he was familiar with this stretch of road. It was not his first journey to the Southfarthing, after all. By an hour past midnight he had reached the first crossroad. There was a single turn-off to the West leading to Nobottle; scarcely a league further on was the road leading East to Needlehole, which was only about a league and a half after that. He allowed Arrow to canter again, and gave him a pat on the neck. "By moonset you'll be in a nice cosy stall, lad! But I'll have to keep on going..."

It was quite dark by the time they came cantering into Needlehole. The only light still burning in the village was the lantern next to the sign of The Golden Goat. He swung down from Arrow's back, and his knees almost buckled. But he quickly got his bearings, and went to knock on the inn door. He pounded the big iron knocker. He knew that Hasty Puddifoot, the innkeeper, always had someone near at hand however late it might be, to answer the door to benighted travellers.

He knocked once more, and heard a voice grumbling, "I'm coming! I'm coming! Just hold on!"

The door was flung open by Hasty's son Mallard. "Ed! I've not seen you on a while!"

"I'm glad to see you, Mal. But I'm on an urgent message run to the Thain. I can stay only long enough to change ponies and then I must be off again. It may be that the Thain will need to call up the Shire muster!"

"Bless me! You don't say?" Mal stood back to let Ed in. "Well, come in for a moment, and rest for a few minutes anyway--it will take a bit to find you a good pony, and this is news I need to wake Da for. Do you have a letter of credit with you?"

Ed nodded wearily. "It's from Uncle Jago."

"I'll go roust Da. You help yourself to ale from the tap, or if you'd druther, there's hot water on the hearth and the tea canister's on the mantel." Mallard did not wait for an answer, but headed back toward the passage that led to the family's own quarters within the inn.

Tea sounded good to Edro. If he were stopping for the night, he'd have the ale, but he needed a clear head; he had a long ride before him, on an unfamiliar pony. He hoped the pony he got was sturdy and had plenty of go in it. He found a mug on one of the shelves above the mantel, and poured in hot water. He had just set the tea to steep when he could hear voices, and Mal returned with his father Hasty.

"Mr. Edro! Mal says you have a message for the Thain!"

"I do, Hasty. I must go on with my journey as soon as another pony can be provided. Here's my letter of credit." He took the letter from within his jacket pocket, but Hasty waved it away.

"I know you, and I know your Uncle Jago will stand good for it if the Thain don't pay. What's this emergency?"

"We've had word from the bounds; there is reason to believe that enemies are coming here to the Shire, over the North bounds. Uncle Jago wished me to prepare folk as I went--it is more likely than not that the Thain will call out the Shire muster, so be ready to spread the word in the village tomorrow. I'm sure we will pass through here on the way back!"

"Aye, Mr. Edro!" Hasty turned to his son. "Mal, see to getting Toffee ready for him, and take care of the pony what he came in on."

"Yes, Da!" Mallard immediately went out to take care of the task.

"You finish your tea, now," said the innkeeper. "Would you care for a bite to eat while he's taking care of the ponies?"

"If it is something that I can eat quickly, I won't say 'no', Hasty, for until I get to the Great Smials, I'll likely just be eating fruit or journeybread as I ride."

Hasty went into the kitchens behind the bar, and returned with a platter containing bread, sliced cold ham, a round of cheese and some pickled onions. He placed it on a table, and Edro joined him with his tea. Ed took up the knife that was on the platter, and used it to slice some of the bread and cheese. He slapped the cheese on the bread, added a slice of the ham, and a couple of the small onions that he speared with the knife. Then he folded the bread over and took a bite. Hasty took a slice of the ham himself, to keep his guest company.

"So, how sure is your Uncle that an enemy is coming? What sort of enemy?"

Edro had taken a large bite of his food just as Hasty spoke. He pointed to his mouth, and took his time in chewing, as he considered his answer. Finally he swallowed and took another sip of tea. "Uncle is very certain. He would not send to the Thain if he was not; you know the  sort of fine we'd have to pay if he sent out a false alarm! And though he has asked me to only give the details when I arrive at the Great Smials, I can tell you that we can be sure these intruders will be extremely dangerous."

Hasty looked thoughtful. He also took his time eating that slice of ham. Then said, "Well, if the danger's likely to be so great, I'll speak to Mal. We can call up our local muster anyhow, drill 'em and such, so as they'll be prepared if the Shire Muster's called. I think we've got about a dozen sturdy hobbits. Some of 'em can even shoot a bow, and most is really good with slings and stones."

Needlehole was too small a village for a proper mayor, but Hasty was a leading citizen there and was usually the one looked to when the village had need of someone to speak for them. Ed nodded, and told Hasty it sounded a good plan. Then he concentrated on eating, and asking polite questions about Hasty's family. He had just finished a second sandwich and was sipping on another mug of tea when Mal came back in.

"You're all saddled up and ready to go, Mr. Edro!"

He scraped his chair back, and stood up. "Thank you, Mal! And thank you for the supper, Hasty!" 

Toffee awaited him outside the inn. She was a pretty little mare, and looked like she'd be up for a nice long run. She ought to at least get him as far as Hobbiton. He was sure to be there by first breakfast, and he would stop at The Ivy Bush and have a real meal, before changing ponies for the last leg of the journey. Since it would be daylight, he could risk going cross-country, and cut a good long piece from the trip.

He waved farewell to Mal and Hasty, and urged Toffee into a canter.

-oo000oo

Hirluin blinked. Where was he? The room was dim, the ceiling low. A small flickering light was to his left. He was very sore, especially in his side where he had been wounded. But it no longer throbbed and burned. His head felt foggy and he found it hard to shake off sleep. He also had a mild headache. He slowly turned his head and looked at the small light. It was a candle on a small table, and as his eyes began to adjust, he could see a small figure sitting in a chair next to it. It was a hobbit-woman, her hands busy with a hook and some thread or fine yarn, though she was not looking at it. She was looking at him. "Ah, you've wakened, have you?" She smiled at him and he realised she looked familiar to him.

Oh! Now he recalled the face bent over him out in the courtyard where he had arrived. "H-healer?" he rasped. His throat was dry.

She placed her work on the small table and stood up. "Yes. I am Mistress Beryl Longhole. My brother Jago is the Master here." She moved across the room silently, out of his line of sight, and he heard the sound of liquid being poured.

After a moment, she  stood by his bedside, and held out a small tumbler. "Here, drink this, Hirluin."

The vessel was small and held only a couple of mouthfuls, but he drank it. It tasted of honey and vinegar and mint, and was quite refreshing. "Thank you," he said, as he handed the small cup back to her--to Mistress Beryl.

She took it, and said, "That's not nearly enough for a great strapping fellow like you." She stepped away long enough to bring him another. "I am afraid we are not used to hosting Big Folk here. We shall have to see if we cannot find something larger for you to drink from."

Now that he was waking his mind was not quite so foggy. "My message?" he asked.

"My brother sent it off to the Thain with a Quick Post rider. Even as swiftly as young Ed can ride, it will be sometime tomorrow before it could arrive. Normally it would be the day after tomorrow. But Ed is fast."

Reassured that all that could be done, had been done, Hirluin lay back against the pillow.

"And how are you feeling?" asked the healer.

"I have felt better," he said wryly.

"Tcha! None of that. I want to know exactly how you feel!"

"My side is painful, but not so painful as it was. I feel rather weak, and my head is foggy and aches. Yet I know I felt much worse when I arrived here!"

"I'm sorry about the headache and fogginess," said Mistress Beryl, "but I'm afraid we had to give you poppy before I began work on cleaning out the infection in your wound. Never having dealt with a patient your size before, I fear I may have given you too much. You slept longer than I expected."

Well, poppy explained it, thought Hirluin. He'd had to take poppy after an injury before years ago. It sometimes had the same effect as overindulging in ale.

"It's only a bit past midnight," she said. "I suggest you go back to sleep for a while. Your headache should be gone by morning.."

She gave him a gentle push as he started to raise his head and ask something. He felt her small hand, like a child's hand, smooth his hair back from his forehead, and a cool compress that smelled of lavender was laid across his brow. She stroked his head and hummed a soft, slow melody. Soon he was sound asleep once more.

-oo000oo-

Dilly was saddlesore. The plowpony was never meant for riding. She pulled up alongside the Bounder. "Well, Bil Lightfoot, how soon'll we get there?"

"We should be at Northcleft by dawn or a little after, Mrs. Greenhand." The Bounder worried what her husband would say to him, him letting her come along. But she wouldn't be left behind, and that fool Shirriff had put her back up so when he found out Hob and that Man had gone to warn the Squire even though he'd said the warning was naught but fever dreams. Shirriff Rob was full of his own importance, he was! But then Bil had come along to say that the report was true after all. Two of his fellow bounders had seen them awful creatures. Now as many of the North Bounders as Bil could find had been set to go north of the Brandywine, stay out of sight, and do their best to set snares and traps to slow the goblins down.  But if they couldn't slow them down, they'd be at the River sometime late tomorrow.

At least the Ranger's warning had come in time to evacuate Greenfields. Anyone not part of the local muster had been sent to flee away to Oatbarton. Livestock had been freed--with any luck the goblins would spend a few days there, looting and chasing down and hunting the various sheep, cows, ponies and so forth. He hated to think of the hardship it would cause, but better the animals than the hobbits.

Bil looked to the East; dawn was coming, and they were approaching Long Cleeve.


B2MeM Challenge: From indy1776: Family traditions, from the silly to the serious. Are the children read to at bedtime every night or do they exchange silly gifts on birthdays/Yule/etc. or do they light candles for deceased family on a certain day of the year? Maybe silly games like “pinch punch first of the month” or do they have a game night once a week? Or are there traditions for spotting the first spring flower, firefly, or something of that nature?
Something, anything about family traditions
Format: Drabble
Genre: Family,
Rating: G
Warnings: n/a
Characters: Frodo Gardner, Harding of the Hill
Pairings: n/a
Creators' Notes (optional): Why was the "Gardner" surname dropped after only two generations? I've speculated on that for a while. Perhaps Harding was a bit more socially ambitious than was usual in the family, and wanted to put certain bits of family history behind him.
Summary: For three generations the Toast on September 22 has taken place in Bag End. Will it continue to a fourth?


September 22, S.R. 1534
"To the byrdings, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, who sailed away eighty years ago, and to my father Samwise, who joined them nineteen years ago. We do not know their fate but we can hope they found what they were looking for across the Sundering Sea." Frodo Gardner held his glass high and drained it.

Harding dutifully drank, blushing with embarrassment. He'd only been a child when his great-grandfather had left. Now he glanced over at his betrothed. Lila looked amused; her father looked disgusted.

He'd put an end to this particular family tradition, once he was Master of the Hill.     

B2MeM Challenge: From a prompt by samtyr: There is a modern-day archaeological discovery that ties in with Elves and proves they did exist (in the manner of finding King Tut or Richard III). Of course, there still a few elves still living... somewhere. They're just super-talented at not being noticed. Maybe Elladan and Elrohir chose to be elves but didn't want to leave. Perhaps Thranduil and some of the others didn't want to leave his/their home either. There's always a chance that Gildor and his people decided not to sail at the last minute. (Setting can be writer's choice but suggest using http:// lotr. wikia .com /wiki/Europe as a guide.) Format: Drabble set
Genre: Modern AU
Rating: G
Warnings: n/a
Characters: Revealed in the end notes, for those who don't guess.
Pairings: n/a
Creators' Notes (optional): This set of three drabbles is based on a single drabble, “Translator”, posted at great_tales, which in turn is taken from an incomplete and unposted crossover from 2012's B2MeM. It is also part of my “Eucatastrophe” AU, which I will explain more in the end notes.
Summary: Three drabbles—Three of the wise who have lived through the Ages are discomfitted by a recent discovery.

There is Nothing Lost, That May Not Be Found


Ron Elwin looked up from the file he had just downloaded. This was startling to say the least. If it was what he suspected, action had to be taken.

"Kelly!" Working from home had its advantages.

His wife came into his home office. "What is it, dear?"

For answer, he turned his laptop around, so she could see the file. "There's been a 'find' in Italy".

"But I thought that had been dealt with in the 50s." She skimmed the file, a concerned crease in her brow.

"We need to speak with your mother. Do you know where she is?"

-oo000oo-

"Tanis!" Dan called from the clinic's office. "Ron and Kelly are on Skype. They said they needed to speak with you. It sounded urgent."

Tanis Goldenwood nodded, excusing herself to the elderly patient, reassuring her in her native language. Tanis spent three months a year at her grandsons' clinic in Nigeria; they passed as cousins, since there was no discernible age difference.

She went into the office; Ellery was speaking with his parents; he offered his grandmother the chair. Then they all listened with alarm to what Ron had to say.

"We must get in touch with Pilgrim," she said.

-oo000oo-

Oliver Pilgrim sat in Lord Roderick's study. Roderick's chair was built to raise him up, so he would be at a height with his friend. The family traits ran true in him, as in all the eldest males of the Tucker-Hill family. They were enjoying their visit.

But just then his mobile rang. "Excuse me; it appears to be Tanis."

Her news was disturbing. He turned to his host. "Would you be up for a jaunt to Italy?"

Lord Roderick grinned in reply.

But Oliver frowned to himself. Was the time nearing to reveal that the Three had not faded?

-oo000oo-

Author's End Notes: As most of you may have guessed, Ron and Kelly Elwin are Elrond and Celebrian; Tanis Goldenwood is Galadriel; and Oliver Pilgrim is Gandalf. Dan and Ellery are Elladan and Elrohir. Lord Roderick Tucker-Hill is the grandson of the Roland Tucker-Hill from the drabble at great_tales and is clearly a direct descendant of certain hobbits.

This is set in the far future of my “Eucatastrophe” AU, in which the Three Rings did not fade, but instead were set free from the domination of the One to reach their full potential. Clearly the Bearers of the Three have taken good care of the Rings in their charge and have used them responsibly over the millenia. Another side-effect of the AU is that travel to and from Aman became two-way, though those who took advantage of it were few and far between. I have several stories set in this AU.

I had to leave out a lot I wanted to explain to keep this down to three drabbles! But I will be glad to answer any questions about it that won't spoil my WIP.

The title is a quote from Edmund Spenser's The Faery Queen

B2MeM Challenge: From a prompt by Grey Wonderer
A young Sam (12 to 18 years) takes Frodo to his favorite fishing spot and at some point during their fishing trip, Frodo offers to teach Sam to swim. Your choice as to how the topic comes up in conversation. What is Sam's reaction? Is he interested? Frightened? Shocked by the offer? Does he agree to it or argue against it? Why does Frodo offer in the first place?
Format: Ficlet
Genre: friendship, character study, gapfiller
Rating: G
Warnings: n/a
Characters: Frodo, Sam
Pairings: n/a
Creators' Notes (optional):
Summary: Frodo and Sam; two conversations about swimming


Sink or Swim

Frodo shed his jacket, and wiped his face with his handkerchief; it was already quite warm though it wasn't midsummer yet. "You know, Sam, this really is a nice spot."

"It is that, Mr. Frodo. Me brother Hamson found it when I was just a little fry." Sam bent down to look for a fly in the basket that held his tackle. Mr Merry had shown him how to tie flies on his last visit to Mr.Frodo. This was his first opportunity to try them, and he hoped to catch a couple of nice fat brown trout for supper.

Stretching briefly, Frodo gazed wistfully at the water. "This reminds me of the little cove off the Brandywine where I taught Merry to swim..."

Sam shuddered. "Is that so?" He asked, more out of politeness than any wish to know about it.

"Yes. It had a nice sandy bank that ran right down to the edge of the water. Merry and I had a lot of fun there; later on, it's where Merry taught Pippin, and the three of us would go there on hot days to cool off."

Frodo reached up and unbuttoned the top button of his collar. "I could teach you to swim, Sam."

The young hobbit's hand twitched mid-cast, and he began drawing in his line for another one. "No, thank you, Mr. Frodo. All that splashing would scare the fish off."

"Ah. Well, perhaps when we are finished with fishing then."

"No, sir." Sam hoped that his Master would drop the subject. But his hope was quickly dashed.

"Why not, Sam?" Frodo was puzzled. Sam rarely ever told him 'no' since Frodo had come to live at Bag End the previous year.

"Because it's not..." Sam stopped himself. He couldn't say the Gaffer's favorite word on the subject, "unnatural" without hurting Mr. Frodo's feelings and offending him. "it's not what Gamgees do." Then he turned the tables. "Why do you want to teach me to swim, Mr. Frodo? It's not like I'll ever go boating or anything."

Frodo couldn't bring himself to tell the child the real reason: his firm conviction that had his father known how to swim, both his parents would still be alive. He couldn't bear the thought that anyone he cared about would ever suffer a similar fate. He just repeated what he'd said earlier. "Because I thought it would be good fun! Merry and I always had fun." He ran his finger under his collar. "Besides, it's hot!"

"Please, Mr. Frodo, I don't want to. Don't ask me again, sir."

Frodo nodded. "Very well, Sam. I won't bring it up again." He bent down to pick up his own rod, and prepared to cast his line.

Sam nodded and made another cast; this time he got a bite. He grinned and set his line and forgot all about swimming.

-ooo000ooo-

Many years later, two hobbits made their way up a rocky shelf, so as to be out of sight of the Western shore of the Anduin. There they plopped down briefly to gather their bearings.

"Sam, you're drenched all through. You need to change into dry clothes before we go any further." Frodo took up his waterskin and took a drink, averting his gaze. The travellers had precious little privacy during their journey, but they tried to do their best to at least maintain the illusion.

"Yes, Mr. Frodo." Frodo could hear Sam fumbling in his pack, and then getting into dry garments. "Mr. Frodo?"

"Yes, Sam?"

"Do you remember that day we went fishing and you wanted to teach me to swim?"

Frodo suppressed a smile. "I most certainly do."

"I suppose I ought to've listened to you back then. Then mayhap I wouldn't've almost drownded today."

Frodo chuckled. "Yes, Sam. Probably so. But I shan't tell you 'I told you so', for I'm too glad that you did not, in fact, drown."

He heard the sound of Sam standing back up and shifting his weight. Sam had packed his wet clothing outside his pack, so they'd dry. "Well, I suppose we'd better get started. As the Gaffer says, 'You won't go far when standing still.'    

B2MeM Challenge: One of my own prompts: "in a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."
Smials. Hobbit holes. Round doors and round windows, grass on top, roof-trees, gardens filled with flowers; cosy comfort inside, sitting rooms with warm hearths, kitchens full of good smells and pantries laden with food. Grand warrens like the Great Smials or Brandy Hall, modest manors like Bag End, or humble holes like Number Three Bagshot Row
Drawings; paintings; photo manips; blueprints; models; collages; quilts; whatever your hands can make, show your idea of the quintessential hobbit dwelling.
Format: Non-fiction, Art
Genre: craft, tutorial, wearable art
Rating: G
Warnings: n/a
Characters: n/a
Pairings: n/a
Creators' Notes (optional):I waited to claim this until I could figure out how to download and post my pics, since my LJ scrapbook is not working. I finally resurrected my old Photobucket account. The colors are not very accurate; the shirt was a lighter shade of red than in the photos, and the art was not quite so pinky in color.
Summary: A Bag End themed T-shirt.

In a hole in the ground...

Materials:
A good quality cotton T-shirt, in your choice of colors (but dark or vivid colors will work better)
An image. I created my own art, or you could download an image from the internet or other sources.
A scanner
Copy paper
Iron-on transfer paper for dark colors
A piece of heavy cardboard
An iron

Directions:
1. Wash and dry the T-shirt, but do not use fabric softener or a dryer sheet.
2. Create your art. It should be the size of your copy paper (8 ½" by 11").
3. Scan your art and print out a copy. If you need to adjust the colors, you can use a photo editor to adjust the colors. Check to see if you need to decrease the size. Somewhere between 75% and 85% is about what you can go.
4. When you get a copy that suits you, you can use the transfer paper. If you have lettering, there is no need to reverse it with this particular type of paper. (I used jolee's Easy Boutique Image for Dark FabricTM.
5. Put the cardboard inside the T-shirt for support and protecting the surface.
6. Follow the directions to iron the transfer to the shirt.

This was my original painting, done on heavy watercolor paper. I started with a pencil sketch, which I inked with Micron pens, .005 and .01. I used watercolor pencils, and gauche, and a tiny bit of acrylics in white and yellow for touch ups.

http://i257.photobucket.com/albums/hh216/dreamflower2/Bag%20End%20scan%201%202.jpg

I was not happy with the sky. I had used a light blue to paint it in, but in all the scans it came up grey. So I used the paintbucket tool at LunaPics to change the sky color, and printed it out.

http://i257.photobucket.com/albums/hh216/dreamflower2/5b9345aa-1a82-420a-b809-846bcec0f2c1.gif

Here it is with the calligraphy added. I used a hand based on Nancy Lorenz' Bilbohand, which I used in an earlier entry this year. I also touched up the colors in the flowers before the final scan.

http://i257.photobucket.com/albums/hh216/dreamflower2/Bag%20End%20calligraphy%20added.jpg

Here are views of the finished shirt:

http://i257.photobucket.com/albums/hh216/dreamflower2/Bag%20End%20shirt%201_1.jpg

http://i257.photobucket.com/albums/hh216/dreamflower2/Bag%20End%20shirt%202%202.jpg

To care for your T-shirt: turn it inside out; wash it by itself or in a small load on the delicate cycle (or wash by hand); hang to dry--do not put in dryer.

B2MeM Challenge: Two photo prompts from lindahoyland: A cave. The starting point for an adventure? Someone's home, where danger lurks, a shelter?
https://www.flickr.com/photos/52734929@N08/15197108769/in/photostream/lightbox/
A waterfall in M-e or Valinor What happens? A romantic interlude, an accident, a swim?).
https://www.flickr.com/photos/52734929@N08/15383625425/lightbox/
Format: Vignette
Genre: Gapfiller, Friendship, Character Study
Ratings: G
Warnings: n/a
Characters: Faramir, Mablung
Pairings: n/a
Creators' Notes (optional): I could not help it, when I saw the prompts "cave" and "waterfall" in such close proximity they all but shouted at me. It took me a while to find my voice in this; originally I wanted to do this as a "frame story" with Faramir recounting it to the hobbits, but it was rather clunky. Not until I decided on Mablung as my POV character did it begin to flow.
A rod is an antique unit of measurement: about 16 1/2 feet.
Summary: In Ithilien, shortly after Faramir becomes the Captain of the Rangers, he and Mablung make an interesting discovery.


Fairest of All the Falls

"Do you see it, Captain?" Mablung looked at his young commanding officer, wondering if he would see what Mablung had seen. The Steward's son was not only young to be a captain, but Mablung had yet to think what to make of him. Lord Faramir had been among them but a fortnight, and for the first week, their previous captain, Lord Angrod had been introducing him to the men and to his duties. Now Captain Faramir himself had only been leading them for a week since Captain Angrod, and he was different to any commanding officer Mablung had served under before this. As the Captain's second, he must learn the man's mettle.

"The waterfall is beautiful," he replied thoughtfully a smile briefly warming his solemn face. "And I thank you for the sight of it; and yet I think that you would not have taken such pains to bring me here if there was not more to it than beauty."

Mablung felt gratified. He had suspected a keen intelligence, but so far Captain Faramir had not spoken much beyond what was needful. Yet Mablung had seen him watching and observing, a keen light in his grey eyes as he studied the Rangers who were in his company. So far, there had been no need of action, and some of the men had begun to wonder if this green young fellow would say "boo" to a goose. A few had even grumbled a bit about one who got a position through blood ties rather than ability. Mablung had put a quick stop to that. And he reminded them that this was the Steward Denethor's son, and young or not, that sort of talk was both stupid and dangerous.

The Captain walked further up the bank in the direction of the waterfall, which poured majestically down over the upper river, its roar loud even at this distance. Peering closely at the head of the fall where it had carved stone clefts on either side, he squinted. Mablung knew that what he had seen was difficult to find unless the light was right. It had to be at least late in the afternoon before one could discern the shadows behind the glitter of the sparkling water.

"Mablung, do my eyes deceive me, or is there an opening behind the waterfall?" There was a hint of excitement in his voice.

"Yes, Captain, there is." And Mablung felt vindicated in his opinion of this young man. Keenly observant, clearly.

"Is that opening large enough to be useful?" he asked.

"Yes, sir, I do think it may be. I have not been all the way up there yet, but I did get close enough to see that it is probably a cave. It is at least large enough to serve as a supply post, but I suspect it is even larger than that."

Captain Faramir smiled again, and this time more than briefly. "Do we have time to go up there and find out?"

This did surprise him. He had expected that even if the Captain agreed that his find was useful, that they would go back to the others and then return later, perhaps the next day. "It will be dark before we can return to camp, Captain," he said.

"That is true. Yet we are scouting, and the men must know that occasionally scouts do find things that may be unexpected and will take more time." Captain Faramir's eyes went back to that barely visible and highly enticing opening. "And there is a full Moon tonight. Ithil will ride high." There was an eager note in the voice, almost a pleading, and Mablung was once more reminded of his commander's youth. And he was right, of course, even if it was curiosity and excitement that drove him.

"It can't hurt, sir," Truth be told, Mablung was as eager as the captain to see if his hunch about that place was true. The two of them found some dry branches in a nearby copse of alderwood, to serve as torches if they found themselves in a cavern in the dark.

The two of them walked along the side of the riverbank. The Captain gestured for Mablung to take the lead as the way grew narrower--after all, he had been closer. But they were both silent in the way of Rangers in the wild, and it mattered not for the closer they got the louder the water was. Soon they reached the spot where Mablung had ceased his explorations. The upper bank had somewhat veered away from the place where the river actually flowed through the cleft below the falls. A very rocky slope led down to the water, where shale and stones followed the course of the river. In rainy seasons this second bank might very well be obliterated by high water, but to all appearances it seemed to be the easiest route to the waterfall itself. They clambered over the rough rocky way, careful of their footing on the wet stone. Soon they were at the foot of the falls and behind the water. Another stony slope led upwards, this one seeming to be solid granite rather than river-tumbled rocks. It was not especially steep, and when they stood directly below the falls they could look upward to see the entrance to a cave. Slowly they made their way up; behind the water it was not so loud as in front of it. The way up seemed much easier than it should have been. About halfway they stopped to catch their breath, and the Captain looked at Mablung.

"Mablung, if I am not mistaken, these are steps leading up."

Mablung would not have thought of that, but Captain Faramir was right. To all appearances they stood upon a rough stone stair of shallow hewn steps. They went on, finally coming to the actual opening. It was a very short jump from the edge of the slope to the cave entrance, something easily filled in to make a sort of landing.

The two men turned, looking west through the thin curtain of the water. The Sun was just going to her rest, and the two men gasped in astonishment at the beauty of the sunset through the waterfall, like an ever-changing veil of jewels shining before them.

They stared for a moment, and then the captain said: "Henneth Annûn I name you, 'Window of the Sunset'."

Mablung looked at him, his captain's face transformed by delight and awe and a kind of majestic solemnity. Faramir's Númenórean heritage clearly shone through, and he reminded Mablung of one of the statues of his ancestors in the Citadel.

Finally, before the light failed them, they turned to look at the cave behind, for from the echoes it was clearly more than a small grotto. They took out the branches they had brought. "Just light one, Mablung," said the Captain, "for without pitch or rags to make true torches, the wood will burn quickly."

Mablung nodded, seeing the sense in that. He took out his striker and lit the end of one of the branches, and held it aloft. Now that they were within the cave, it was easy to see the signs that men had been here before.

Faramir looked up and around. "See how smooth the floor is? And look above: no hanging stone formations, no sound, even, of water dripping through the river above us. I believe this cavern may have been built by men at some time or another, though surely long abandoned."

Now that the captain pointed it out, Mablung could see the signs he was reading. How such a feat could have been accomplished he had no idea.

"I think," mused the Captain, "that at some time, this place may have served in just such a fashion as the use we plan to make of it.

They explored the perimeters of the large chamber. It was a bit over two rods in width, and close to three rods in depth. there were two side chambers and four small alcoves, evenly spaced. By the southern wall, they found the remains of a firepit, and close examination showed a narrow vent for the smoke near the top of the wall behind.

"This was clearly used either as a base camp or a place of refuge at one time," said Faramir. "It is cleverly wrought using, I think, some of those lost arts of engineering brought East over the Sea by our ancestors. I am glad that we have rediscovered it."

The two of them returned to the grotto that served as the entrance before the light in the sky had fully died, and also before their second branch burned out. They made themselves as comfortable as they could, sitting on the stone floor and leaning against the back wall as they gazed out through the water running down. The sound of it was a strange wild music in their ears.

They talked a while. Mablung spoke briefly of his family, and the captain returned the favor, speaking of his father with respect, and his brother with true affection, and of his kin in Dol Amroth with wistfulness. Captain Faramir questioned Mablung lightly about some of the men in their company, and the two spoke more in a few hours than in the entire week before.

"Look!" The Captain pointed to the silver glow that had begun to grow through their sheer curtain. "Ithil has risen; it is time to go and find our fellow Rangers. I believe that tomorrow we shall begin to make plans to move to our new home here.

As they carefully and silently picked their way through the moonlight, Mablung realized he had not thought his discovery to bear such promising fruit. But he had found something valuable on this scouting trip, and the cavern at Henneth Annûn was the least of it. For the first time in his career as a Ranger he had found a commander whom he would not only respect and follow and admire, but with whom he felt a friendship that might endure.





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