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Shire Yule  by Dreamflower



Frodo felt a touch of alarm; somehow to hear the King say "I have an idea" in the same tone of voice his own younger brothers often used just before committing some inventive bit of mischief, did not bode well.

"An idea, sire?" he asked aloud.

"I am thinking we could see to it yon fellow has a fuller belly and a warmer night than he looks to have now."

That didn't sound so bad. In fact, thought Frodo, it might very well *be* a good idea. "How?" he asked.

The King leaned back, took a pull on his pipe, and sent forth a smoke-ring. "This place is more than well-stocked. Why the five of us will scarcely use all these provisions in the few days we shall be here! We could take him some meat and other provender, a few bottles of wine, and some of the firewood as well."

Frodo grinned for a moment, as he could imagine the look of astonished delight on the poor fellow's face. Still, he couldn't help but hear a little voice of caution. It sounded, as the voice of caution often did, remarkably like his father. "It seems like a good thing to do, sire. But--er--are you sure it'd be quite proper for us to go off like that, what with the captain gone, and all…" He stopped at the look of amusement on Unc--the King's face. He flushed. "Beg pardon for presuming, sire…"

The King chuckled. "No, Master Gamgee, it's *not* altogether proper; but I think it will do no harm. It is only a league, you say. Why we can be there and back by suppertime!" He leaned back, and took another puff on his pipe.

Frodo-lad noticed he'd said nothing of teatime. He tried one more thing. "But what if Uncle Pippin or Uncle Merry should wake? They'd be dreadfully worried to find us gone!" Not to mention, thought Frodo, cross.

The King tapped out his pipe and stood up. "And so we will leave them a note. In fact, I shall leave it to you to write. If you will bring out the meat and wine and other provender, I shall see to fetching some firewood. Be sure to wear a warm cloak, lad! I would not care to answer to your parents if you should catch a chill."

Frodo watched as the Man went out the back door, and sighing, the lad went to the larder to obey his liege's commands. Soon he'd filled a large basket with a smoked ham, a cheese, some of the loaves, a couple of jars of brambleberry preserves and four bottles of wine. He hefted it onto the table in the kitchen, and then fetched paper, pen and ink.

"Dear Uncle Pippin,

The King sent Captain Bergil down to the Bridge to take word of Uncle Merry's sprain to Aunt Estella.

The King and me have gone to Lost Lamb Spring, to take some food and firewood to the poor fellow that lives up there. Uncle Merry knows where that is. The King says we will be back by suppertime. It is his idea.

I left some soup on to simmer at the back of the stove in case you are hungry.

I hope Uncle Merry's ankle is feeling better.


Frodo Gamgee."

He placed the note in the middle of the table, and then placed a platter to hold the corner of the note down. He fetched some more bread, some cheese and butter, which he then placed on the platter, and set out plates and mugs as well. That way it would be easy for Uncle Pippin to fix tea for himself and Uncle Merry. He went over to the stove, and moved the soup to the back, so that it would still simmer, but would not scorch, and then tried to think if there was anything else needed doing.

He glanced out the window, and saw the King coming towards the lodge, pulling behind him a sled, used for hauling things in the winter. It had quite a stack of pine-logs on it. Frodo noticed that the snowflakes were falling more quickly now, and that there seemed to be some of it sticking to the ground. He grinned--they rarely got any snow in Hobbiton.

The King came in, with a blast of cold air, and smiled to see Frodo's preparations. "It looks as though we are nearly ready, then, Frodo." He took the basket down from the table, and carried it out the kitchen door to the sled.

"What is the sled for, sire?" Frodo asked.

"Why to pull the provisions with, of course."

"We aren't riding?" Frodo was surprised, for he had thought they would.

The King shook his head. "Not to go just a league, I think."

Frodo nodded. Although Uncle Merry had given him a splendid pony, to take with him to the court at Annúminas, Frodo was unused to riding. He didn't mind the idea of walking.

"Now, Frodo, go quickly and fetch your cloak! We shall be off directly."

Frodo dashed to the small room that had been assigned to him, and as he snatched up his cloak--his mother had made it of sturdy brown wool, and lined the hood with squirrel for warmth--he noticed the two spare blankets, folded at the foot of his bed. Remembering the threadbare state of the Man they had seen, he gathered up the blankets as well, before dashing back through the kitchen and out the back door, where the King awaited.

The King smiled in approval at the blankets. "Good thinking, Frodo! That is just the sort of thing your father would have done! Sam was always prepared, and he always seemed to know what would be needed!"

Frodo's face lit up at this praise, and he drew on his gloves, which he kept in the pocket of his cloak. They were knitted of soft red wool by Aunt Estella. He drew the fur-lined hood of his cloak up, and blessed his mother for thinking of that, as a blast of chill air hit his cheeks. He tipped up his face, and felt the snowflakes land there and then melt.

The King took up the rope on the sled, and set forth, with Frodo walking easily at his side. Frodo glanced back at the lodge, seeing the tracks they were making in the new-fallen snow, which was gradually growing deeper.

"What do you know of this fellow, Frodo?"

"Not very much, sire. Uncle Merry brought Perry, Wyn, Rose-lass and I up here for a few days while the building was going on, and we did a bit of exploring as far as the edge of the wood. It was back in the summer-time, and one day we had a picnic by the spring. While we were there, we had a glimpse of him--he was just within the trees--and hid away as soon as he saw us, but Rosie was frightened, so we came back to the lodge right away. We asked Uncle Merry about him. He said that the Bounders knew that the fellow lived there, in a small hut not far from Lost Lamb Spring, and that he kept to himself and seemed harmless."

" 'Tis closer to the Shire than I'd care to see Men settling," said the King gravely. "but if it's only the one fellow, and he leaves the Shire alone, I shan't worry about it." His brow furrowed. "I may know what that hut is--the Rangers once had a small waystation in that area, but I am sure it was long abandoned." He glanced down at the small lad at his side. "Frodo, are you entirely certain about spending the year in Annúminas? Your parents were away for over a year, with Elanor and Robin and little Tolman. And here I have taken you away from them when they have only just returned home."

"Well, I missed them. I missed them all something fierce. And I suppose I will miss them something fierce now, too. But, well, Elanor had her chance, and I want mine. And I miss you as well, Unc--I mean, sire--and I mean to spend some time with you, because it's a long way to Gondor, and you'll only be here for two years before you're gone again. Sam-dad thinks it'll be good for me, too. He says I need educating, and that I should find out more about Men and their history, 'cause it's going to be important to hobbits now that the world has changed."

"Sam is a very wise hobbit, Frodo."

"Dad says hobbits only have pipe-weed 'cause of the Dúnedain." Frodo had been curious about that, ever since his father had told him.

The King laughed. "He's quite right. The Númenoreans brought not only pipe-weed, but athelas and potatoes and tomatoes and maize and several other plants to Middle-earth."

"Really? 'Taters too?"

"Yes, indeed." The King smiled, and briefly placed a hand on Frodo's head.

Frodo pondered that, and the two walked in silence for a while, for the wind had picked up and made conversation more difficult.

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