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Buckland Celebration  by Baggins Babe

30th October, 1428 SR

After a very impressive breakfast Frodo made his way to the side door and stepped into a fine autumn morning. The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and the trees were still carrying a little gold and red among their stark branches.

       The gardener's lad was waiting for him, almost hidden behind a huge bunch of flowers. Frodo smiled and relieved him of his burden.

       "Thank you, lad. They're beautiful. You're old Nat Brockhouse's grandson, aren't you?"

       "Aye, sir. He used to be head gardener here, and now my da's in charge. He's over there, talking to Master Gamgee." The boy nodded in the direction of the conservatory, and Frodo smiled at the sight of the two master gardeners deep in conversation, heads close together as they peered at an interesting specimen in a pot.

       "I should have guessed that Sam would find his way out here sooner or later. I remember your grandfather - and your father when he was the lad." He looked at the flowers in his arms. "My word! I never realised there were so many colours."

       "I chose some of each, Master Frodo.I hope they're what you wanted?"

       "They are indeed. Thank you." He ruffled the boy's curls and watched him trot back to his duties.

       Sam watched his master and was glad that there was a spring in his step. He knew where Frodo was going and he knew that, today at least, Frodo wished to go alone, but he was always concerned lest the highly-strung and sensitive hobbit be upset. He had been relieved beyond measure when October 6th had come and gone without Frodo suffering any pain or melancholy. Perhaps this visit to Buckland was yet another milestone on the path of his recovery.


       Frodo strode along the path which wove between the tall gnarled trees, the dry leaves crunching lightly beneath his feet. In summer the path could be quite dark, even on a sunny day, and in dull weather it was sometimes extremely gloomy, but today the sun streamed through the denuded branches and gilded the fallen leaves. Squirrels chattered and scampered about, gathering fallen nuts and squabbling noisily, their red coats gleaming but providing excellent camouflage in the leaves. Frodo smiled at their antics; no-one could possibly feel melancholy on such a day, with the delights of nature all around him. The flowers in his arms were exquisite. He had not realised that these chrysanthemums - imported from Northern Ithilien some years before - were so colourful. He examined them as he walked, amazed at their jewel-like brilliance and remarkable colours -bright red, rich sunny yellow, deep bronze, crimson, a dark purple, gold, a glowing pink, orange and white. The petals were velvety and each flower head was the size of a Big Person's teacup.

       The path wound on and came at last to a small gate, familiar and yet bringing with it a remembered sensation of dread. He stood with his hand on the gate for some minutes, thinking. He had not taken this path for many years, not since before the Quest, because he had never felt well enough to deal with the emotions this pilgrimage brought him. He hoped fervently that he could deal with them now, particularly with his experiences while unconscious still vivid in his mind. Finally he drew a deep breath, opened the gate, latching it again behind him before continuing his walk. At last the shaded path opened out into a large grassy area, enclosed on three sides by a low wall and trellis which in summer would be covered in roses and honeysuckle. A large proportion of the grass was taken up with flower-covered mounds and neat wooden markers. This tranquil area was the burial ground of the Brandybucks.

       Frodo walked forward and paused before the front row of markers. To his left was the one for Gorbadoc Brandybuck and his wife, Mirabella Took, his grand-parents. To his right he could see Uncle Rory's and Aunt Gilda's, but his attention was held by the central one with its stark inscription:

     Drogo and Primula Baggins (formerly Brandybuck) Drowned in the Brandywine River, August 1380

        Such a bald statement of fact. Drowned. He remembered gazing in horror at the bodies of his parents on the riverbank, screaming wildly until Saradoc strode up the bank and held him. He remembered the day of the funeral, when he had stared dry-eyed at the coffins being lowered into the earth, too numb to feel anything. Almost everyone said that his parents were gone forever. Only Bilbo thought differently.

       Yet Frodo's experience during his illness, his glimpse of the world prepared for hobbits, and the souls of his parents still loving and concerned, told him that Bilbo had been right. He heard again his mother's voice telling him she loved him as they sent him back to enjoy life again.

       He patted the marker gently and traced the lettering with his finger. Then he filled some of the brass containers with water from the jugs which were always kept there, and arranged his flowers. The grave itself was covered in winter pansies and primulas, which made him smile fondly through a sudden blur of tears. No doubt Esme had given instructions to the gardeners about that. She had loved his mother very much and had regarded Frodo as her own, giving him all the love Primula would have given, and finally providing the much longed-for baby brother when Merry was born two years later. He could never understand why people thought he had been unhappy at Brandy Hall. He went to Hobbiton to live with Bilbo because Bilbo needed him and wanted to adopt him, but he had remained a favourite son of Buckland and returned frequently for visits, spending time with Merry and teaching the lad as much mischief as a Baggins could. After all, had Frodo not been known as the Rascal of Buckland in his teens and tweens for his outrageous behaviour and the pilfering of mushrooms? With the benefit of hindsight, Frodo wondered if his pranks had somehow been a test, to see if Saradoc, Esme, Bilbo and the others would still love him no matter what he did. The insecurity of the orphan, he supposed.

       "Thank you for sending me back. I love you both, and I'll come to you one day."

       With a last look at the marker, he bowed and walked back along the path, the squirrels eyeing him curiously and chittering from the safety of the trees. By the time he reached the house he was whistling to himself.

       "Well now, that's good to hear." Sam looked him over with an anxious expression on his tanned face.

       "Don't know about that. My whistling has never been particularly tuneful." Frodo gave Sam one of his most beautiful smiles . "It's alright, Sam. I'm fine. In fact I felt very different this time..........I suppose because I know that I shall see them again one day, and they're proud of me..........."

       "We're all proud of you, m'dear. We love you very much and I'm sure we're all grateful to your Mum and Dad for making you realise that."


       After elevenses Frodo took Rose and Sam to meet Aster, and they sat in her room for an hour, eating cake and drinking tea, swapping stories and laughing. When Aster began to dredge up embarrassing tales from his childhood Frodo and Sam withdrew, leaving the two women in a conspiratorial huddle. They called in at Saradoc's study on the way back,and found the Master and Thain about to have a pre-prandial drink. This was clearly not to be missed and they settled in the wood-pannelled room and drank Southfarthing Red until the luncheon gong sounded.

       With luncheon over, Frodo and many of the menfolk retreated to the parlour, leaving the ladies to occupy Esme's sitting-room and swap gossip. The very young children were taken for a nap and the older ones settled in the parlour to make the masks for their costumes and help make turnip and pumpkin lanterns. It was Hallows Eve, the night of the Fright Festival when the dead were honoured and everyone told terrifying stories, and the children went through the darkened corridors of the Hall hunting sweetmeats which had been carefully hidden. They were all looking forward to it.

       Pippin, Merry, Sam and Berilac sat on the floor making papier mache masks for various small hobbits, while Reggie and Everard Took, Minto Hornblower and Frodo sat round the large table to make the lanterns, assisted by Pinto and some of the other older ones. The vegetable flesh had already been removed by the cooks for use in pies and stews, and the shells were ready for carving into terrifying faces.

       "You be careful with that sharp knife," Sam said automatically, glancing up at Frodo.

       Pip and Merry exchanged grins - Sam sounded much as he did when reproving his children, and at one time their cousin would have been irritated by such obvious concern. However, they had noticed that Frodo was much more tolerant about Sam's fussing since his illness.

       "What are you two grinning at?" Sam asked.

       "Just amused about the way you talk to Fro. You sound just like that when you're talking to the little ones."

       "He's just concerned. I'm being careful, Sam dear." Frodo twisted round in his chair and smiled. "What do you think - is this scary enough?" He held up a turnip lantern.

       "Now that is ugly - looks like one of those orcs in Moria if you ask me."

       "Yuk!" cried Pip. "It's scared me!"

       "Do orcs really look like that, Uncle Frodo?" asked Pinto shyly.

       "Some are even uglier than that. Hard to believe that they were once Elves, tortured and transformed into something so hideous."

       "Reckon we saw every ugly orc in Middle-earth on our journey, between us all."

        "Those Men who came to the Shire were bad enough - squint eyed and flat nosed. I remember seeing them." Pinto shuddered. "We took refuge at the Smials and they came demanding supplies. Grandpa fired at them and they ran."

       "Good for Paladin!" said Frodo. "They didn't stay here near the Hall either. Saradoc did something similar. I think some of those ruffians were half-Orcs, which does not bear thinking about!"

       Sam was making a tall pointed hat for Elanor, who would be dressed as a witch for the evening. He was a very practical hobbit who was a skilled wood-carver and carpenter, rope-maker, wall builder, cook and gardener. He srutinized his daughter as she stood before him, then altered the inside of the hat somehow so it sat better and did not slip.

       "Sam is so much more practical than I am," sighed Frodo. "Everything he does is so useful, and what am I good at? Nothing of any use to anyone else, that's for sure!"

       "Rubbish!" said Reggie. "You have many talents and skills, Frodo."

       Pip nodded. "Cooking, writing, carrying Rings of Power, speaking Elvish, being impossibly handsome ...........Ow!" A lump of pumpkin bounced off his nose and Frodo-lad laughed so hard he fell flat on his back with his feet in the air.

       Sam was crimson. "I've always been one for trying new tasks, and I followed my Da round when I was a nipper, picking up all sorts of things. You're a gentlehobbit and we don't expect you to know how to make chairs or build dry stone walls."

Frodo sighed. "I know, but look at you! You can make a well-fitting hat, cook meals, fathom all sorts of machinery." He turned to the others. "When we were restoring Hobbiton Mill he told me all about the workings. Of course I knew that there were millstones and the water made the millwheel go round and that in turn rotated the stones, but Sam knew all about the bits which connected everything and why it worked as it did. He even knows if a plant is happy in the ground and if not he knows where it wants to be. I think you're a wizard too, in your way."

       "I just like to know about things. Nosey, that's me."

       "Modest as always. You'll have to teach me all these things, Sam."

       The door into the passage was not quite closed, and there was a soft giggling sound from outside. Frodo put his finger to his lips and they waited. Slowly the door opened a little more, and round it came three small ghosts, white and shapeless, making 'Woo-woo' noises. Pippin leapt up with a shriek of pretended terror and dived behind the sofa.

       "What is this? I'm scared!" Merry quavered, hiding behind Sam.

       The effect of this was to produce more giggles, until even 'Woo-woo' was beyond the little spooklets.

       "We scared you!" one said gleefully. "We scared you, we scared you!"

       "It's us!" another managed to snort.

       "Us? Who's 'us'?" demanded Pip suspiciously, poking his nose out an inch.

       "Us, silly Uncle Pip!"

       The tiny ghosts were revealed to be Rosie-lass, Persimmon and five-year-old Peridot, Pimpernel's daughter. They laughed a great deal and Persimmon clambered onto Frodo's knee.

       "Who did your costumes?" he asked.

       "Auntie Esme, Mum and Auntie Rose." Peridot, the leader of the trio, plumped herself down beside her father and smiled with typical Tookish charm.

       "You shouldn't scare elderly hobbits like your Uncle Frodo - he's past it, you know," said Pippin, and was jumped on by assorted childen.

       "Hah!" said Elanor dismissively. "Uncle Frodo wasn't the one hiding, was he?"

      "You were the scaredy one!"

       "Elderly?" Frodo repeated. "Do you mind?"

       Persimmon had found the gap in Frodo's right hand and was examining it closely. She seemed puzzled and he nodded.

       "That's right - I have a finger missing." She frowned. "It was bitten off." He stroked her hair as her lip trembled. "Don't cry, my little flower. It doesn't hurt."

       The child kissed the stump very gently. "Tiss better?" She gazed up into his face, looking for reassurance.

       "I'm afraid not, petal. All the kisses in Middle-earth won't make my finger grow back. But never mind. That gap is there as a reminder." He bounced her lightly and tickled her until she began giggling and forgot the finger.

       When Esme entered the parlour some time later she found it almost empty. It was dark and, no lamps being lit, the only illumination was the dancing flames in the fireplace. Frodo was on the couch, his feet resting on a padded footstool, with three little spooks asleep on his lap and beside him.

       "Are you asleep, dear?" Esme whispered.

       "Not really, just dozing with these sleepy little ones." He stretched carefully as the children woke.

       "Tea-time!" cried Peridot, and they hurtled off his lap and bounded out into the passage.

       "Hungry? Or did you need a rest?" Esme enquired as they followed the children.

       "I'm hungry. My appetite has improved, even in the last three months. Oh! I meant to thank you, Esme dear."

       "Thank me? What for?"

       "The flowers on the grave - the primulas. They are beautiful, and I know you must have asked for them."

       Esme smiled. "I always have them planted for the winter. Your mother loved her name-flower, and it seems right somehow. How did you feel today, going back there?"

       "Different. I want to tell you what happened to me when I was ill. Is your sitting-room empty?"

       "Yes. Everyone else is at tea. I'll ask for a tray to be brought in. I have never wanted to press you, my dear Frodo, but I am glad you wish to tell me." She took Frodo's hand in hers and led him into the cosy parlour.


       As Frodo stepped out of his bedroom he heard laughter and squealing. At the end of the corridor he saw the children, all in costume, making their way to the Great Hall. All the lamps had been snuffed and the only light came from turnip lanterns high on small shelves, the grotesque faces casting weird shadows on the curved walls, which caused much shrieking and delicious terror in everyone, from the oldest to the youngest. The little ones were at the front of the procession, shepherded by the older children. Primmie and her cousin Sapphire carried baskets for the hidden sweetmeats. Ellie, dressed as a witch with a pointed hat, black cloak and broom, had taken charges of her siblings - Frodo-lad who was disguised as a bear, Rosie-lass in her spooklet outfit. Primmie and Sapphire were dressed as Elves, and the group boasted many orcs, dragons, pixies, goblins, ghosts, cats and monsters. Grinning to himself, Frodo fell into step beside Pinto, who had a magnificent costume in black, with slashes to show orange and red beneath, and little tongues of flame sewn here and there. He was wearing a very realistic Balrog head, copied from a drawing by Merry.

       "That's an impressive costume, lad."

       "I hope this doesn't bring back bad memories for you, s.....Uncle Frodo."

       "Not at all. It simply reminds me of this night in my own childhood."

       "I suppose I'm too old to do this really but Mum went to a lot of trouble with the costume."

       "Oh, I was always saying I was too old, but when it came to it I still wanted to take part." He laughed. "My mother, and later Esme, made my costumes, and I always remember the year Esme dressed me up as Gandalf, complete with pointy hat and long grey beard. I even had a staff, and I'm sure I half believed it would work magic. I was absolutely mortified when Gandalf turned up! He took one look at me, roared with laughter, and spent the rest of the evening calling me his 'fellow wizard.' I never found him frightening in the least."

       "I wish I could have known him."

       "Yes, I wish you could too. He would have loved this gathering - he did so love spending time in the Shire, particularly when we had anything to celebrate. I never suspected he was a Maia, sent by the Valar to aid us all. He just seemed so ordinary, apart from his talent with fireworks, and he never did any magic when he paid us a visit."

       "The other wizard sounds very different."

       "Saruman was once even greater than Gandalf, and was senior to him when they came to Middle-earth, but as sometimes happens, the greater the power the easier they fall to corruption. Gandalf was grounded in the very soil. He loved nature and growing things, but Saruman..........Treebeard told Merry and Pip that he had a mind of metal and wheels, and it was true. He began to think only of power, and then he believed he could challenge Sauron - be his equal, or even master him. It is sad to see such a great one fall."

       "Why would anyone want all that power when they can have peace and food and pipeweed?" Pinto wondered, half to himself. Frodo thought this very amusing.

       "That is how we hobbits think, lad, and the world would be a much more peaceful place if all others thought that way. Unfortunately they do not, and Men often have a great desire for power over others."

       The children were darting from side to side, peering in cupboards, looking in jars and under rugs for their hidden sweetmeats, whooping triumphantly whenever they found treasure. In the main corridor which led to the doors of the Great Hall the path was lined on both sides with pumpkin lanterns, each pair larger in size than the last. Outside the doors were two enormous specimens with the most horrible grins, which caused the little ones to cling tightly to the older children, hiding their faces.

       The doors swung back and everyone gasped. The Great Hall was dark save for a few flickering lanterns, but as they entered the lamps were lit, revealing the Hall in all its spendour. The tables were full of pies, breads, baked potatoes, spiced mushrooms, soup in vast tureens, and huge bowls of punch and mulled wine and cider. In the centre was a big barrel full of water for the apple-bobbing, and there were flaming bowls full of raisins for games of snapdragon.

       The children rushed in, squealing with delight, and Frodo followed. His cousins greeted him with much teasing.

       "Joined the little ones for the night, Fro?"

       "You could have made more effort with the mask! You don't look all that scary!"

       "Thank you for that, Pip!"

       "Pippin!" said Eglantine, scandalised. "How can you say such things! Poor Frodo......"

       "Oh Tina, I'm used to Pip's insults by now. He's just jealous because I was kissed by so many lovely girls last night."

       Ellie wagged a finger at her Uncle Pip. "Stop saying bad things to Uncle Frodo, or I'll turn you into a toad. I'm a witch, you know!"

       "Ribbit!" said Pip, crouching on his haunches and jumping around. His performance was received with much laughter by children and adults alike, and his mother found herself laughing too.

       "You are the most incorrigible hobbit, Peregrin. I don't know where you get it from."

       Pip glanced over to where Paladin was teasing Frodo-lad, calling him Beorn the Bear. "Don't you? Father was almost as bad as me when he was young - Esme said so."

       Saradoc was sitting by the fire, heating a poker in the flames. Those who wanted their cider or punch hot would take a mug, go to the fire and have the poker thrust into the mug, where it sizzled and steamed. This was the traditional duty of the Master on big occasions, and Saradoc liked to retain the old traditions.

       Frodo helped himself to some punch and went to join his cousin. He perched on the fender and sipped carefully at the steaming alcohol. He looked around at the milling hobbits, still amazed to find himself here and taking pleasure in parties again. He could see Sam, who was helping to serve the smaller children, and their eyes met. He found himself grinning, and Sam returned the smile, his hazel eyes twinkling.

       "I have to say I find Sam Gamgee one of the most sensible hobbits I've ever met," said Saradoc, following the direction of Frodo's gaze. "He seems to come up with the most inventive and well-thought-out solutions to Shire disputes. But, Frodo, do you know the most rearkable thing about him? He never allows himself to be influenced by anything, not even deep feelings or ties of blood. Most people do that now and again, but Sam always considers the matter from every side, and if there were a dispute in which he was involved, I swear he would still decide fairly, even if he were the loser. In fact, the only time he might make a biased decision is if you were involved."

       "I'm so glad you think so much of Sam. I've always known about his qualities but I'm thrilled that others appreciate him."

       "I agree," said Paladin quietly, joining then. "He really is the ideal Mayor. He does not live up to his name either, does he?"

       "Aragorn always calls him 'Perhael, who should be called Panthael' and he is right. Sam has so much common sense. I don't know how I'd manage without him."

       Paladin smiled. "He will certainly ensure you never have to. And Rose is wonderful - what a capable woman!"

       The food looked so delicious that Frodo could resist no longer. He went to the table and helped himself to a wedge of pie, a baked potato and some mushrooms, then sat down to eat. Little Persimmon scrambled up and sat beside him on one side, and the Gamgee children joined her. Frodo looked at her plate and laughed.

       "Just like your Aunt Pearl when she was little! What a healthy appetite, my little flower. Shall I cut it up for you?"

       "Pease," she said, and reached up for a hug. He cut her food into convenient pieces and watched as she tucked in. He suspected she would take after her Uncle Pippin.

       Later, when the little ones had gone to bed, the adults, joined by Pinto and young Primmie, sat in the dark and told ghost stories, some invented and some true. Frodo told them about the barrow-wights, Merry related a tale from Rohan about a phantom horse and rider seen thundering across the Riddermark, Pippin talked about the Paths of the Dead and all he had heard from Legolas and Gimli, and Paladin frightened everyone with the tale of the phantom piper at Great Smials, who was only heard when one of the Tooks was about to die. Then Sam told a story of how he had gone into a lonely, tumbledown cottage near Tighfield, on a dare from his cousins, and been frightened out of his wits by the strange rustlings and knockings. Primmie and Pinto huddled closer with each of the tales, so Rose produced a rather sweet story to end the evening, telling how she had seen the ghost of one of the farm cats every night for a week after it died.

       "I hope you two aren't going to have nightmares." Pearl addressed her children.

       "I don't know about them - we will, that's for sure," said Pippin. "I'd forgotten about the piper." He shivered.

       "That was why we knew you weren't dead," said Paladin to his son. "We did not know where you were, apart from the garbled note you sent from Buckland, but we never heard the piper so we knew you were still alive somewhere, and plaguing the life out of someone."

       "Strider and Gandalf, most of the time," Pip laughed.

       Frodo yawned. It would soon be morning. They made their way quietly through the darkened passageways and sought their beds, too tired to wake if an army of ghosts had marched through the smial.


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