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The Tenth Walker  by Lindelea

Chapter 48. I hear some news of the Master, but want more

I let my head droop until my muzzle is resting lightly in my Sam's curls. Ah, how sweet the warm, living smell of my hobbit. My nostrils open their widest to take in the scent. Thus I stand, whuffling, as the sunbeams slowly trace their way down the wall. Half the morning goes in this dreamy way, and yet I don't regret the time lost from the green, green pasture. Why, I could graze or roll any day, but this day, my Sam has come back to me, and I am lost in remembering all of our journey, and marvelling, and the simple enjoyment of being if you take my meaning.

I am startled from a half-dream by a bemused, 'Well, what have we here?'

I lift my head, ever so carefully. I would not care to startle and waken my Sam, for his exhaustion is plain to all my senses. Had I the means, I would shush the interloper... er, farrier, for that is what I deem the new arrival to be. A box of tools is in one hand, and the other rests upon the unlatched door of my stall, open to the corridor. I might have taken myself off at any time, found my own way to the green meadow, but of course I did not wish it.

As it is, I nod my head at him, speaking as softly as I might--a ghost of a breath, a steady look, the barest shake of the head, my ears flopping loosely to the sides rather than pricked forward or laid back. Let be.

He nods, with a thoughtful look in his eye.

Stand steady, my friend, he answers, and I would snort, except that it would make too much noise. What is the matter with Men and Hobbits and now Elves, that they are so fixed upon the idea of steadiness?

He chuckles under his breath, sets down his tools, and turns away.

Ah. The fellow obviously understands the speech of horses and ponies. My Sam will sleep undisturbed, and I will guard his rest. I let my head droop again, my sigh ruffling his curls.

I do not hear the footsteps, but suddenly the farrier is back, for I hear his voice, albeit softly, 'As you see...' and I raise my head to see my guide beside him.

My guide nods, speaking to the farrier. 'They said he scarcely left his master's side, day or night, except to run messages...'

'A loyal companion,' the farrier says. 'But surely he cannot sleep that way...'

'I beg to differ,' says my guide, a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth. 'For surely he is sleeping that way... but he'll have a stiff neck when he wakens, at the least, should we leave him so.'

I realise belatedly that they are not speaking in that strange tongue of theirs that I am only beginning to learn, but in the common speech, undoubtedly for my benefit, or perhaps my Sam's, if he is only dozing and not deeply asleep. But my Sam is snoring lightly, and does not seem to hear the quiet words.

My guide steps through the open doorway, his feet making only the slightest rustle in the thickly laid straw. By your leave, Greatheart...

I nod my head at him, though I keep a watchful eye.

He belongs in a proper bed...

I shake my head at him. The straw is clean and deep after all, good enough to lie on. They know a thing or two about bedding down ponies in this place.

A proper bed for a hobbit, soft as a cloud to lie on, and warm coverings over him, he insists.

I raise my head a little higher and prick my ears forward, to think on this. I suppose I've never seen such a bed. My hobbits have slept upon the ground, rolled up in blankets, for as long as I've known them. I wonder what it would feel like, to lie upon a bed soft as a cloud (softer than straw? than grass?) and warmly covered? Decidedly odd, but perhaps it is what hobbits prefer. Or else it is some peculiarity of the Elves.

While I am thinking things over, he bends to my Sam, eases his hands into place, and lifts my hobbit in his arms with no more effort than if my Sam were a sleeping child.

Startled, I jerk my head higher and out of his way, but he steps back, neatly avoiding my nose, cradling my Sam with as much care as I used when I carried the Master, injured and ill, up hill and down, through winding, rocky ways. Indeed, Sam's snores scarcely waver, and he turns to nestle his face against my guide's shoulder with a sigh.

He'll rest, and comfortably, my guide says, and your feet will have their trim, and then you may run upon the meadow, and roll, and graze to your heart's content, and no doubt your hobbit will come and see you when he's rested, and when he's seen to his master's comfort.

I lower my head and blow softly, and fix a questioning eye on my guide. But wait... the Master?

But the Elf has already turned away, and is bearing my Sam out of the stables. I whicker after them, but softly, that I might not disturb my hobbit's rest.

The farrier picks up his tools and enters my stall, and is soon about his business. He talks cheerily enough, but has no answers for me about the Master or anything else I might want to know, for that matter.

It is a strange business to have my feet picked up, one at a time, and have tools applied: the great blades, trimming away the ragged edges, and a rasp that is unpleasant to hear, as well as the unnerving vibration that results from its being drawn across my hoof. I lay my ears back at the sound and feel of it, but manage to stand quietly enough though it takes some effort of will and the faded memory of old lessons, well learned when I was still young enough to spend the days by my mother's side, gentle hands, a patient voice...

Dim memories of my old man tease at the edges of memory. I don't remember my old misery ever taking such care--he'd not care to come so close to my feet, in all actuality, come to think of it.

The Elf alternately talks and sings to me, and he is so quick at his work that before I quite realise, he has finished. With a last word and soft pat, he takes his leave.

He closes and latches my door, but it is not long before one of the grooms comes to take me to pasture.

I had not realised what a difference it makes, to walk upon well-groomed feet. I think I might walk for leagues, perhaps.

If my Sam must travel on, I am ready to follow.


A/N: A few words or thoughts may have come from "Many Meetings" in The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.

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