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The Prisoner and The Hobbit  by Dreamflower

Author's Note: Because SoA does not allow the changes in font we are using at other archives, and in order to avoid long blocks of italics, the actual correspondence will be indicated by being enclosed in {brackets}.

 The Years of the Trees/Riddles in the Dark

Sauron slowed to a jog and then a walk, resting his hands on his hips as he caught his breath. His heart pounded in the cradle of his chest but gradually returned to its steady beat. He wiped the sweat from his brow. How good it was to take exercise outside!

Until today, Lord Námo's guards had escorted him daily to a featureless hall where he might run about while they kept him under their vigilant watch. There were no others there although Sauron sometimes caught a lingering odor of a human body - elvish - which caused him to wonder if there were other prisoners who used the sparse chamber to stretch their legs. The hard floor jarred his knees and hips when he attempted to run, so more often than not, he walked. Round and round he went with little structure to his thoughts although since his exchange of letters with Mr. Baggins, snippets of song often popped into his head while he strode about the hall. Clap! Snap! The black crack! Grip, grab! Pinch, nab! That orc song quoted by Mr. Baggins in his last letter was a catchy one. Sauron also contented himself with push-ups and sit-ups in his cell. To be housed in a healthy body again was something he appreciated deeply, and he did not wish to become soft.

Today, when he was escorted from his cell to take his exercise, the guards had taken a turn down an unknown corridor where a door slid open silently. Sunlight dazzled him; he blinked like an owl at noontide until his eyes adjusted. Sauron looked around the enclosure, surrounded by high smooth walls, carpeted with thick grass, and open to the impossibly blue vault of the cloudless sky. He started walking but quickly broke out into a run. He reveled in the feel of his heart and lungs at work, the contractions and release of muscles in his legs, and the springy texture of the grass beneath his bare feet. It was as close to the sensation of freedom as he might experience. He thought he might run forever, but it had been a long while since he had exerted himself so strenuously. He had then ended the run. He could always resume tomorrow.

Something to look forward to, he thought. He was not altogether sure what had prompted to Doomsman to allow him the privilege of stepping out into fresh air, but he was not about to question it. He stopped and tilted his head back, closing his eyes and allowing the sun to wash his face. He dug his toes into the grass and inhaled the scent of green growth, his own sweat and the wisps of iron that rose from the guards.

The guards. He did not need to hear them speak to know that it was time for him to return to the prison. Theirs were unspoken commands that embedded themselves in his mind and his sense of smell both. He lowered his head and opened his eyes. He walked toward them, but glanced over the walls of the enclosure to see the tops of pine trees waving gently in the breeze. Their needles almost sparkled in the sun, and the grass within the enclosure nearly glowed. They were the very embodiment of green, just as the sky was the embodiment of blue.

Another perfect day in Aman. He pulled in one more deep breath of the rarified air and let it out slowly. I wonder, though, do the hobbits notice the difference in the sun's light here? How colors are so much more intense than those of Middle-earth? I suppose they attribute it to the 'magic' of the West. How would they feel if they knew the particulars?

He dashed the thought. He probably would not be allowed to elaborate to Mr. Baggins why the sun's light here was subtly different than that which bathed Middle-earth, and really, did he want to destroy any cherished notions the old hobbit and his kinsman held? No, that would not do. What would be the point?

One of the guards handed him a small urn of cool water, which he gulped, thirsty from his exertions. They escorted him to the showers where he stripped off the soaked chiton and dropped it in a heap on a bench. He padded across the tiled floor to the wall where a line of spigots and showerheads were embedded. The presence of multiple showers, maybe a dozen all told, puzzled him.

Does Námo plan to imprison others? Or are other prisoners already here, separated from me? On the other hand, maybe this is all an illusion. He turned the spigots to release a torrent from the showerhead and stuck his hand into its chilly drops. Feels real enough.

Once the water was tepid, he stepped under the blissful deluge, washing his hair first and then soaping himself off. After drying with a rough towel, he found, as he always did after he bathed, a clean chiton folded and waiting. He picked it up and let it slide over his shoulders.

He drank more water once he returned to his cell and lay down on his bed. He still felt flushed from his run, but it was a satisfying feeling. In fact, he had not felt this good in a very long while. He turned over on his side, debating on whether to take a nap or read. Maybe both. He reached for the reading tablet on the nearby table, but his eye caught the two letters lying folded by the stack of paper and the cup of pens.

Ah. I have left Mr. Baggins in the lurch for far too long.

He sat up and went to the chair, scooting it forward as he sat down and settled into it comfortably. The woman who brought him his food had recently added a simple blue cushion for the hard chair. As always, Sauron thanked her, and as always, she said nothing in return. He wondered if she even wished to do so.

Before he picked up Mr. Baggins' letter and a piece of blank paper, he unfolded the other letter he had received only two days ago, a letter that had snapped him out of an extended black spell during which he had slept badly in the throes of nightmares, full of the tormented screams of his victims, and always ending when he felt himself falling into a darkness that would swallow him whole.

Then the letter he held in his hand arrived, and he had read it through cleansing tears as its words reminded him that he had not always been so cruel and that there was at least one person in this world who had never ceased loving him. Then today, he felt the sun on his face again. Those two things made it easier to pick up the pen and write to the old hobbit.

{Dear Mr. Baggins,

I hope you can forgive this abysmally long delay in my reply to your letter. I will plead only the excuse of feeling quite ill for these past weeks. It seemed nothing lifted the heaviness from my heart, and I simply could not bring myself to write or even study. But the dreary clouds have blown away, thanks to two recent developments.

The first is that Lord Námo has allowed me the privilege of taking my exercise out-of-doors. It is a plain enclosure, but it has grass and I can breathe clean fresh air rather than the seemingly artificial stuff piped into my cell. I had a good run today. How long, I do not know, but judging by time and what I recall of my accustomed pace when I possessed a body much like (if not identical to) the one I am housed in now, I'd say I ran close to a league and a half. No doubt I will be sore on the morrow, but it's a worthy ache to dwell in a healthy body again.

As I ran out under the sun, I thought about your question: what was it like to live during the Time of the Two Trees, a time when the sun was hidden from us? Given the expanse of time between that reality and when the Quenta Silmarillion was written, I am not surprised that the descriptions you read were marvelous and poetic. I also can well understand why Olórin might have been circumspect when you asked him to elaborate about that time, especially if you had asked him back in Middle-earth. Likely, there was much that had been obscured in his memories once he arrived in Eriador. Those memories he retained, he would not have told you in specifics for fear of disrupting your more simple lives. But now that you're here, you will not be returning to tell tales to those who dwell in Middle-earth, so I see no harm in answering you.

The Years of the Trees began not long after the Spring of Arda ended with the great war between Melkor and the Valar. It was thought that Melkor had gone to ground beneath Utumno, and all was silent in that cold desolation. Nonetheless, the Valar were cautious. They raised the Pelori as a wall and as a further means of protection, Varda crafted great Domes to cover the land. She set simulacrums of the natural stars high up in the Domes, but more powerful sources of light were needed for life to continue and thrive beneath them. Hence, Yavanna's extravagances: the Two Trees that combined the botanical and astronomical, and truly, these were magnificent works of art and science both.

The descriptions you no doubt have read of the Trees are reasonably accurate, that is, there were equal cycles of light from Laurelin and Telperion each and mingling of the gold and silver during the transition. Strange and beautiful that was, but honestly, I will take dawn and dusk any old day. But the Valar are Artists, and we, the Maiar, followed their lead.

So day-to-day life. In certain ways, it was quite extraordinary, especially when I think of some of the inventions I helped my first master (that would be Aulë) craft and later, those created on my own. I spent a great deal of my time in Aulë's workshops and laboratories where I was counted as the most talented among his retinue. I loved to delve into the deeper workings of materials: of stone, of gems, of minerals. Very deep indeed. I wished to understand the substance of our adopted world (that would be Ennor) and beyond, that of Eä itself. The Valar know much of such things, but they do not reveal all to even the Maiar, their argument being that we should discover knowledge for ourselves with their guidance.

Although I devoted much of my time to my work, I found enjoyment in other pastimes, some ordinary. For example, I liked to fish, and Aman afforded many places to do so: lakes, rivers, pond, streams and the seaside. Every kind of fish imaginable swims in the waters of Aman, for the Valar are collectors. The Blessed Lands harbored (and still harbor) all those birds and beasts with which you are familiar and many of which you are not. I also understand that Lord Oromë has been inclined to experiment and thus has come up with some interesting hybrids for his own amusement.

At any rate, during the mingling of the Lights, I fished for salmon and bass in freshwater and for bluefish in saltwater, but my favorite has always been the wily trout. Some of my best memories are those of the times I fished for trout in the cold mountain streams here in Aman and later, in the foothills of Eregion. I don't suppose I will go fishing again.

What else? When not working and studying, I ate, drank, slept, bathed, read for pleasure and sought the company of friends. I expect Olórin's life was similar, and this is probably not so terribly different from life in the Shire, at least in the most basic ways. Just as I do now, I enjoyed good food and drink, especially wine, breads and grains of many types, strawberries, oranges and peaches, cheeses, roasted game like quail or venison, a rare chunk of beef and, well, I could go on. Obviously, I will not condemn hobbits' appreciation of food and drink! But I appreciated simple things, too. For example, cool water after a hard day's work tasted as good as the delicious wines from the vineyards of Yavanna. I might have taken my daily meals, which I shared with my colleagues in the workshops, for granted (I do not any longer) but the feasts were always cause for enjoyment.

I think the Valar envied the Maiar our ability to partake so freely in feasts and other pleasures of the senses. The Valar might take a bite or a sip here and there, but they risked becoming locked into physical form by doing so. We Maiar were (and are) able to indulge because the assumption of corporeal form is more natural for us than it is for the Guardians, who have been removed from their original form for aeons (another Greek word I learned; suffice it to say it means a very, very long time). Thus we enjoyed our hröar more completely than the Valar did theirs, and in fact, that is why the Great Ones brought us along with them to Arda, so that we might act as a bridge between them and the Eruhini. Indeed, the majority of us Fays readily assumed the forms of Man or Elf, although some favored the forms of other creatures like eagles, bears, spiders, and even trees!

Wolves, too. I suppose I needn't bring that subject up with Mr. Baggins just yet. He continued to write, the words flowing across the page.

Others of my people worked according to their houses. For example, the servants of Yavanna were often farmers, bakers, herders, brewers and vintners. Servants of Oromë hunted yet tended the wild beasts. Ulmo's people lived by and in the sea. Some were fishermen, but others had stranger occupations below the waters. Others lived more lofty lives, like those who served Varda and Manwë. The folk of Námo? They tended the many confused and frightened fëar who found themselves torn from their bodies but who had the courage to answer a vague but compelling summons. For in those times, the Elves had no knowledge of Aman. Námo called to them all the same.

Although I worked hard in Aulë's forges and had the muscles to show for it (vain of me, I know), I also liked to take exercise that calmed my mind, most often in the form of hikes. If I found myself on the coast for an errand on behalf of my master, I would swim.

There were a great many musical performances, recitations of poetry and theatre, and I availed myself of some performances. However, my interests were more focused on the sciences, so my attendance at these was infrequent.

I lived by myself in a comfortable apartment within the Halls of Aulë. There I studied and read. I also visited friends, most of whom were also part of Aulë's train, for we understood one another best. We worked hard and played hard, too. We men sometimes sang bawdy songs although we toned these down considerably out of respect for the few women who worked in the forges on occasion.

We were not above twitting one another. Take Curumo for example. Bear in mind, he had his good qualities, but he could be a braggart. One day, I applied a thin film of grease to the handle of his smith's hammer. As he was striking hot steel on the anvil, and going on and on as to how this plate would fit into the remarkable machine he planned to construct, the hammer slipped out of his hand. The thing went flying, and nearly pinged Aulë, who had just stepped into the forge. Curumo found himself sweeping metal filings off the floor for a week.

How we smiths would argue about our latest ideas! Make no mistake, despite our camaraderie, we competed against one another and rivalries often broke out. Aulë frowned upon such behavior, but being as preoccupied as he was with his own projects, he was more often than not oblivious to the friction among a few of us. Perhaps salons in Lórien's realm where Olórin dwelt were more genteel. Perhaps Aulë should have paid closer attention to those of us who served him.

I say that because despite efforts to shield Aman from Melkor, he nonetheless had knowledge of what transpired beneath the Domes in the light of the Trees, thanks in no small part to me. When Varda raised the Domes, I was still counted among Aulë's people, but secretly, my foot was already half out the door and set over the threshold of Thangorodrim.

It was difficult to negotiate the borderlands between Aulë and Melkor's domains and my loyalties to each, but Melkor's influence was more powerful than I can possibly describe to you. As a result, I became increasingly adept at deception and hiding my true purposes, but as one gets better and better at deceiving others, so one becomes better at deceiving oneself. Eventually, my situation became untenable, and I had to make my final choice. So I cut my ties with Aulë, not without a great deal of pain, and fled Aman to cast my lot with Melkor. Thus, I was not in Aman when the first Elves arrived so I cannot speak to any questions you might have about the Eldar's lives in the sheltering arms of the Valar.

I hope that answers at least some of your question as I interpreted it. Now on to your letter.}

Sauron unfolded the letter and scanned the spidery script. He likes to write with a quill. How very old-fashioned and charming. He read the opening paragraphs of the letter.

[Frodo himself felt somewhat sheepish after his brief outburst of anger during your conversation, feeling that he should not have lost his temper. Personally, I felt that it was good for him to do so. My cousin has always been one who preferred to keep his darker feelings to himself, whether they be grief or anger or sorrow. He has never been loth to share joy or love, but those joys have most often been the joys of others. I put it down to his having been orphaned so young.]

Orphaned? I wonder what happened to his parents? He winced when a dark memory threatened to surface. Frodo Baggins has more in common with me than he realizes. But that is my story, not for him to know. How could he possibly understand? He pressed his lips together and continued to write.

{With regard to your kinsman, perhaps it was healthy for him to release his feelings if he otherwise tends to bottle them up. No need for him to feel sheepish. On the deep hurt, yes, I know what happened to him at Weathertop, for those were my very orders to the Witchking: to strike with the Morgul knife. At the time, I knew that a Halfling bore the One, but I did not know just who it was. So the Nazgul were to try to gain a sense of which one carried the Ring (not so difficult since the Ring drew them) and to strike a hobbit - any hobbit - but clearly the Ringbearer drew their attention. I'm afraid Frodo's injury is not one I can ever hope to heal by telling him I am sorry for all that happened.}

[I suspect that Gandalf has not told you many of the details so that I will actually have something to write to you about. Please give him my thanks!]

Sauron felt a smile creep across his face. He could almost hear Bilbo when he read the words. It was true that Olórin had not related most details of the great adventure, but Sauron had heard snippets of the tale from Bilbo himself, unbeknownst to the old hobbit. During the voyage from Mithlond to Avallonë, he could not help but overhear conversations while still imprisoned in the mithril ring that Olórin wore on the finger next to the one that bore Narya. Then there was the earlier occasion in Imladris when he awoke and heard an old voice telling two little boys a tale about riding a barrel on a river. He swallowed the knot of sorrow that caught in his throat when he thought of those children. No doubt Mr. Baggins would think him a spy if he told him such things. In any case, he had not heard the tale in full so best to encourage the old hobbit.

{Although it was no doubt a frightening experience for you, 'Thirteen Dwarves, a Wizard and a Hobbit sought shelter from a storm in a small cave in the Misty Mountains' sounds less like the introduction to a joke than an intriguing tale which you made good on. The goblin song (if one can call it a song) is now stuck in my head! I am not at all surprised that the goblins used the Common Tongue. There are many tribes and just as many dialects amongst the orcs of the Misty Mountains, so they use Westron to communicate with one another. Try as I might, I could not get the wretches to adopt the Black Speech.

I can well imagine that Olórin was quite formidable there in the goblins' cave, wielding Glamdring and all. He has that kind of contradiction: grumpy and generous, gentle and ferocious. But then I had my contradictions, too, among them great power but fear and doubt. I am more human that you might guess. But tell me, what of your encounter with Gollum and that least of Rings?}

'Least of Rings.' Sauron had to chuckle at Baggins' cheek in turning his own words back on him, but the smile disappeared abruptly when he thought of Gollum. What a wretched creature, the lowest sort of murderer.

He had heard rumor that Gollum preyed on the flesh of other humans, a practice that repulsed him, even during those years of the Third Age when he, as the Necromancer, had been obliged to follow a grisly diet to maintain his far-from-perfect corporeal form. Yes, the orcs, too, consumed human flesh, but it was an engrained part of their beliefs, more ritualistic than a dietary staple: by eating their enemies, especially the heart and the brain, the orcs believed they became stronger. He had not been able to stamp the practice out, but then again, he admitted to himself, he had not tried terribly hard to do so, for the orcish consumption of human flesh proved useful in that it added to the fear that they engendered. Gollum's hunger was plainly a baser kind. Sauron shook his head. He doubted that Bilbo's encounter was pleasant in the least. He next read Bilbo's description of the Ring's effects on him.

[I suppose that is one indication I should have had of the effect the Ring was having on me. For as I approached the age of one-hundred, time seemed to me to drag by even more slowly. I remember telling Gandalf I was feeling all "stretched" and "like butter spread over too much bread".]

{However prosaic, that is as an accurate description of the effects of the Rings of Power on mortals as I have heard. Your Grandfather Gerontius must have been a very wise hobbit. Through your letter, I have come to understand hobbits a great deal more. Your description of the governance of the Shire as well as the nature of Hobbits as a race were most enlightening and serve to explain the effects of the Ring on you.

As for the Ring's detrimental effects, I do believe you are an uncommonly honest person, Mr. Baggins, but all of us lie to some degree. Usually, these are the "little white lies" that allow us to smooth the bumpier passages of life. The Ring, just as it allowed you to disappear in a pinch, as you might say, and gave you good health, also brought to the fore the less savory parts of your personality.

'A good luck piece.' How fortunate for you that you were naďve to the Ring's true nature! Also how fortunate for you that Hobbits factored so late in my calculations.

I wanted to ask you this: didn't a gardener of some sort bear the Ring if briefly? Olórin mentioned him during our conversations while he bore me here to the Blessed Lands. Speaking of Ringbearers, I must say that when I first saw your kinsman Frodo after I had been reincarnated, I was taken aback to find his face confirmed as that of the Ringbearer. For a long time, I had thought it was another hobbit, that young fellow who looked into the palantir, who had the Ring. What was his name? Begins with a 'P', I think. Foolish lad, but surprisingly tough of mind. My images of you hobbits were rather fuzzy after the destruction of the Ring. Before I was handed over to Olórin, the one who bore the mithril ring in which I resided shielded you from me, so I could never quite get a grasp of who was who, save for you in Imladris since you were the only hobbit residing there.

On Olórin, yes, I understand he means well, and I do not hold his actions against him. He was doing what he thought was right, just as I was convinced mine was the right strategy (and to be frank, Mr. Baggins, I do not think all of my motives were wrong). We were enemies, no doubt about that, so you can imagine his surprise when the little mithril ring that contained my spirit — my true, fundamental spirit — was set in his palm not long after the destruction of the One. He showed just as much mercy then as he did far, far back in our long history. I will never forget the kindness he showed to my little sister and me in the distant past, and apparently, he has not forgotten who I was, and at least to some degree, still am.

That brings me to the second development that has lifted my spirits so: I received a letter from my sister recently. I had seen her at the day of my judgment in the Maháxanar, because she was there to support me, but we were not allowed to speak. Nevertheless, I felt her presence acutely. She never stopped believing in me, and that I could be saved. She and Olórin, along with Aulë, Nienna and Ulmo, were my advocates on that fateful day.

When I say she is my sister, I do not mean that figuratively as the Valar do when they use the words 'brother' and 'sister. ' She is my sibling by blood. She serves both Aulë and Yavanna, a very tricky position, but one she has handled with aplomb. She is brilliant, and she is also balanced, practical, and earthy. She typically takes the form of an elf-woman with blue-grey eyes and brown hair of a color that reminds one of polished bronze. She arches her left eyebrow just like I do, a characteristic we inherited from our father. She goes by the name of Mairëa, and on her, it fits perfectly. I don't know if her business ever takes her to Tol Eressëa, but if so, perhaps you will meet her. If you do not mind, I would like to mention our correspondence to her and recommend you as a worthy person.

Well, then, I expect this is enough for now. I hope this letter finds you well, and I hope to hear more about the Shire and the famous Took clan in your next missive.


D.L. Sauron}

He waited for a few moments to ensure the ink was dry before he folded the letter, and then tucked it inside an envelope. He didn't bother to seal it, for he knew that Lord Námo himself checked the content of his letters before they were sent. He placed the envelope beside the letter from Mairëa. Yes, it had been a good day.


Bilbo had begun to wonder if he was going to hear from his correspondent again. Had he offended him, with his mild gloating over how hobbits had defeated him? Or perhaps his punishment had taken a harsher turn and he would no longer be allowed to correspond? But no, he was certain that Gandalf would have told him if that were the case. At least, he thought Gandalf would tell him. It was somewhat disturbing to learn that there might be things that Gandalf and others were actually forbidden to tell him and Frodo.

Considering how upset Frodo had been at first about the secrecy surrounding Adamanta and the history of hobbits, he was beginning to wonder. Yet he could not find it in him to doubt the goodness or wisdom of those who had been so kind to him and especially to Frodo by granting them this home and a chance to heal. Certainly anyone familiar with the history of the First Age did not believe the Valar or their servants were flawless, but as misguided as some of their decisions had been in the past, he never doubted that they intended only good for the world in their stewardship. Ah, well! He would either hear from his correspondent or he would not. But he might put the question to Gandalf the next time he saw him.

As it turned out, he did not need to. The very next day after he had thought of it, Gandalf turned up with a reply to his letter.

As Gandalf sat nearby, Bilbo began to read. He paused. "He was ill? I would not have thought such was possible for a being like him."

Gandalf had taken out his pipe, and spent a moment or two in the ritual of lighting it. He took a puff and said, "Not an illness in the way that you think of it, but he has taken on a hröa and it is very affected by the fëa within. But he was certainly subject to a weight of darkness, cold and pain for a while. I daresay it was something very much like what Frodo suffered on the anniversaries of his woundings."

Bilbo found himself almost feeling sorry for Sauron, and was not sure he liked the feeling. Though he said nothing, he could tell from the expression on Gandalf's face that he knew what he was thinking.

"You do not have to continue this if it is too difficult, Bilbo."

Bilbo shook his head. "You know that I will."

Gandalf chuckled. "You are nothing if not a stubborn Baggins," he said wryly. "I have never known you or Frodo to turn back from a course of action once you have undertaken it. But I thought it only fair to remind you that you have a choice if you wish to take it."

Bilbo continued reading, enjoying the descriptions of life during the times of the Trees, chuckling in surprise at the account of the prank on Saruman, and raising his eyebrows at the confession that Sauron had the Goblin Song stuck in his head. Would it be too cruel to introduce him to "One Hundred Apple Pies"? Probably. Bilbo thought that his correspondent's account of his life and activities sounded in some ways almost prosaic and bucolic-much like, in fact, life in the Shire.

Now that was not a notion he had ever thought of before!

{Dear Mr. Sauron,

I am pleased that you now feel well enough to take up our correspondence again. I had begun to think I might have offended you in some way with my last letter. It is good to know that you are no longer ill-it had not occurred to me that illness was possible for one of your people.

It is also good to know that you have the chance to go outdoors into the fresh air and sunshine. To hobbits, the idea of locking someone away like that is utterly repulsive, although we do understand how in certain cases it might be necessary among the Big Folk. My people have always either allowed families to deal with trouble-makers, or in the case of the seriously incorrigible, made use of banishment. Until Saruman (whom you call Curumo, and the Shirefolk learned to call "Sharkey") came to the Shire, the hobbits there never even had the facilities to lock anyone up.

I am, however, amazed at your description of running a league-and-a-half for sheer pleasure! Among hobbits, physical exertion beyond what is necessary for day-to-day living, is a pleasure reserved for tweens and children, and not something indulged in by adults. (There is a single exception to this, but it is far too complicated to go into right now. It is a thing hobbits call "golf". I shall perhaps save that for another letter.) Even my own occasional rambles about the Shire were looked upon as a dubious eccentricity- if I absolutely must travel about, why did I not ride a pony or hire a trap?

Thank you for indulging my curiousity about the time of the Two Trees. I have long wondered about what things might be like then. The few Elves I have known who were present during that time seem strangely reluctant to speak of it. The Lady Galadriel simply gave me a look that made me feel like an impertinent tween and changed the subject, and Glorfindel (with whom I became quite friendly during my years in Rivendell) seemed even more reluctant to discuss it, feigning not to even hear my question.

["She set simulacrums of the natural stars high up in the Domes, but more powerful sources of light were needed for life to continue and thrive".]

I take it from your use of the word "simulacrum" that the notion that she scattered the actual stars across the sky was no more than a poetic fancy. I have to say, I rather suspected as much. Still, I've no doubt that the reality was beautiful as well. And the Trees must have been amazing-to create something that could do the work of the Sun and the Moon in the absence of their light must have been quite a feat!

You enjoyed fishing? Angling is a popular sport in the Shire-fresh fish for dinner is considered quite a treat! It is more popular in Buckland than in the Shire proper. Buckland is a strip of land on the East side of the Baranduin, which we hobbits call the Brandywine River. (No doubt you will appreciate the pun involved in the linguistic shift to Westron!) Bucklanders are the only hobbits who will go about on the water in boats-most hobbits consider activities such as "boating" and "swimming" to be "unnatural". But Bucklanders are quite at home in boats, and sensibly believe that if one lives alongside a River one should know how to swim in case of accidents.

Frodo's parents were lost in a boating accident when he was the tender age of twelve. Although the accident was unwitnessed, the evidence suggested that his mother (Primula was a Brandybuck, and my own first cousin on my mother's side) struck her head on the side of the boat, and thus was unconscious. His father Drogo, (my second cousin on the Baggins side) could not swim a stroke and so was unable to help either Primula or himself.

At any rate, most hobbits of the Shire are content to do their fishing from the bank of stream, river or pond, and never venture forth on the water's surface.

["Just as I do now, I enjoyed good food and drink, especially wine, breads and grains of many types, strawberries, oranges and peaches, cheeses, roasted game like quail or venison, a rare chunk of beef and, well, I could go on."]

And if you did, you would not bore me in the least! Hobbits can (and often do) rhapsodize about food for hours!

["Indeed, the majority of us Fays readily assumed the forms of Man or Elf, although some favored the forms of other creatures like eagles, bears, spiders, and even trees!"]

I find your use of the term "Fays" for your people quite interesting for a number of reasons. My own people have a number of legends about the "Faery Folk", whom many seem to think also includes the Elves! But all of these stories were thought to be the stuff of moonshine and are considered entertaining but unbelievable by most of the hobbits of the Shire.

It had not occurred to me that the Great Eagles, or Beorn, or even those talking Wolves and Spiders we encountered were actually Maiar! Or were they the descendants of Maiar? I had no idea that such was feasible. This is quite a revelation! I had always been led to believe that Melian was the only Maia to make a union with one of the Children of Ilúvatar. I have recently learned that this is not in fact, true!

I had to laugh about your jest on Saruman! It sounds much like the sorts of japes that hobbit tweens often get up to in the Shire. The tweens are a time of much energy and mischief. Hobbit youth often engage in pranks, or what we call "scrumping"-- minor pilferage of the gardens of our neighbours or the pantries of our kinfolk. It is not considered a crime even by its victims unless the young folk get too bold or too greedy, and thus break the unwritten rules of such activities. (Getting caught at it is considered its own sort of transgression, at least by the participants!) Frodo was once a daring scrumper until he got caught. And perhaps Gandalf might tell you of the occasion my cousins and I attempted to pilfer some of his fireworks! I was not much amused by the consequences then, though I chuckle at it now. But pranks upon one's cousins and siblings are a staple of growing up in the Shire.}

Bilbo glanced at the next section of the letter.

He'd rather skimmed the next part of it, once he saw where it was leading. This was the part he found difficult: remembering exactly who he was dealing with. Being reminded that this affable correspondent had been the premier enemy of the Free Folk for two Ages of the world was jarring.

[With regard to your kinsman, perhaps it was healthy for him to release his feelings if he otherwise tends to bottle them up. No need for him to feel sheepish. On the deep hurt, yes, I know what happened to him at Weathertop, for those were my very orders to the Witchking: to strike with the Morgul knife. At the time, I knew that a Halfling bore the One, but I did not know just who it was. So the Nazgul were to try to gain a sense of which one carried the Ring (not so difficult since the Ring drew them) and to strike a hobbit - any hobbit - but clearly the Ringbearer drew their attention. I'm afraid Frodo's injury is not one I can ever hope to heal by telling him I am sorry for all that happened.]

No, he couldn't. Frodo was healing more and more each day, but Sauron's remorse did not enter into that. And the thought that the Ringwraiths had been ordered to strike at any hobbit gave him cold chills. Frodo had barely survived his own wounding. Had one of the others-Sam, Merry or Pippin-been wounded in his stead, Bilbo thought it would have utterly crushed him. Frodo loved those three like brothers. If one of them had been killed, he was sure Frodo could never have carried on.

And then there was this part:

[Speaking of Ringbearers, I must say that when I first saw your kinsman Frodo after I had been reembodied, I was taken aback to find his face confirmed as that of the Ringbearer. For a long time, I had thought it was another hobbit, that young fellow who looked into the palantir, who had the Ring. What was his name? Begins with a 'P', I think. Foolish lad, but very tough of mind. My images of you hobbits were rather fuzzy after the destruction of the Ring.]

That was disturbing as well. Bilbo was not sure how he felt about the former Dark Lord asking questions about Sam and Pippin.

And truthfully, he did not know a great deal about what had happened to Pippin in that encounter.

He pursed his lips, and then pushed his reply to one side, capping the inkwell. He needed to talk to Frodo and Gandalf before he decided what to write next.

He found Frodo in their small private garden deadheading some roses. Although Sam had always done any gardening at Bag End, that did not mean Frodo was ignorant of the subject. He was familiar with most of the common garden tasks-having lived in Buckland where people were expected to lend a hand at whatever needed doing in spite of social status, he'd done his share of them from time to time. Bilbo suspected that one reason his cousin enjoyed gardening here and now was that such tasks helped him to feel closer to Sam.


Frodo looked up and smiled, and joined Bilbo on a stone bench. "Yes, Uncle?"

"What do you know of the time when Pippin looked into the palantír?

Frodo looked surprised. "Good heavens! Why do you ask?" Then his expression changed. "Never mind, I think I know why." He looked briefly thoughtful. "I don't really know a great deal about it. Pippin was very reluctant to speak of it. And so what I do know I got second-hand, from Merry, from Gandalf and from Aragorn. I know that it was a frightening and painful experience for him. Gandalf, I am sure, could tell you more about it than I can. I am quite sure he knew more of what passed with Pippin in that encounter than he told to me. I am sure that he entered Pippin's mind to learn what happened."

"Thank you, Frodo. I do intend to speak to Gandalf as well."

Frodo sat silent for a few minutes, and cast a sidelong look at him. Bilbo could tell there was more he wished to say, so he simply waited.

"Uncle Bilbo, I told you that I don't object to your doing this. Gandalf seems to wish it, and I believe that it must in some way assist him in his task of overseeing his charge. Clearly the Valar believe it necessary to attempt to reform Sauron, and so I agree that if you can be of some help to Gandalf then you should do what you can. But I fear I still do not trust him."

Bilbo shook his head. "I do not especially trust him either. But we have come to an accommodation: I relieve some of his boredom, and he satisfies some of my curiosity. Trust does not really enter into it. Do not worry about me, Frodo."

"Very well, I will try, at any rate." But they exchanged a smile. They both would always worry about one another, and they knew it.

Bilbo chuckled. "By the way, he told me of something in his last letter that might amuse you."

Frodo looked at him. "I can't imagine what, but clearly you can. Since you are clearly dying to do so, tell me then."

Bilbo told him of the prank on Saruman.

Frodo stared in astonishment, and then giggled, then chuckled, and then laughed out loud, shaking his head in disbelief the whole time.

After tea, Bilbo returned to his reply, deciding to skip over the matters of Frodo's wounding and of Pippin and Sam for now.

{Gollum and the Ring. Well, as to the Ring, the truth of the matter is that I simply found it and did not have a clue as to what I had picked up.

After Gandalf rescued us from the goblins, we fled as fast as we could. Unfortunately, a hobbit cannot hope to keep up with a troop of Dwarves on the run! Seeing that I was likely to fall behind, they took it in turns to carry me. We sped through dark caverns with only the faint shimmer of Glamdring and Orcrist to light our way. (Gandalf had the presence of mind to retrieve the latter from the Orcs before we fled.) We knew we were pursued, but even so, some of them were able to sneak up on us. One of them grabbed Dori, who was carrying me at the time.

Needless to say, he dropped me. I fell, hit my head against an inconvenient stone, and was knocked unconscious.

I came to, alone and in the dark. I'd not a clue where the others had got to, nor where any of the goblins were either. I groped about trying to get my bearings, and my hand fell upon something cold and metallic. I absent-mindedly stuck whatever it was in my pocket. For a long while after, I merely sat in the dark.

Then I remembered my own sword. It was not really a sword, but rather a long knife that had come from the same troll's hoard as Glamdring and Orcrist. It was long enough for a hobbit to use as a sword, at any rate. The Orcs had missed finding it because I had worn it inside my breeches. I drew it out, and was surprised to see it shimmer as well. Clearly it was of the same Elven make as the swords. It was faint enough to reassure me that the goblins were around but not very close by. Not knowing what else to do, I decided that all I could do was to go forward.

I had trudged and trudged for what seemed like endless hours, when my foot struck water. I stopped. The faint light of my blade was not enough to show me what sort of water I'd encountered-just that there was a body of water of some sort blocking my way. It didn't seem to be running, so I knew it was no stream, but I couldn't tell if it were a lake or a pond or merely a puddle.

As I was trying to think what to do next, suddenly a most unpleasant voice came hissing out of the darkness: "Bless us and splash us, my preciouss! I guess it's a choice feast, at least a tasty morsel it'd make us, gollum!"

I must've jumped a foot straight up, at least!

I held my little sword out, and asked "Who are you?"

The creature didn't answer, but turned the question back on me. It was quite foolish of me, but hobbits are creatures of habit, and I foolishly introduced myself nearly as I would have at home.

It was clear Gollum didn't like the look of my weapon. He proposed a game of riddles. The idea of it was that if I won, he'd agree to show me the way out, while if he won, he would eat me. Needless to say I didn't care much for the terms of the wager, but riddles were as good a delay as I could think of at the time. I certainly did not trust him to keep his word and as for myself, I had no intention of simply standing there meekly to be devoured.

I will not trouble you with all the riddles. Rest assured I have not forgot a single word of a single one, but it would make this letter far too long. At any rate, at one point I almost stumped him, and at another he nearly stumped me. Finally, as my own store of riddles was beginning to dry up I was nervously putting my hand in my pocket. My fingers felt something hard and round. Without realising I was speaking aloud, I said, "What have I got in my pockets?"

It wasn't my riddle, but he took it for one, and made some wild guesses, none of them right. I didn't even know the right answer myself but I knew his guesses were wrong.

I pressed him to show me the way out, as he had promised. Then he told me he needed to fetch his "birthday present"; that it was needed. I waited as he went off into the water. I did not expect him back, but I waited for a short while on the remote chance he'd keep his word.

Instead, I heard a horrible screech! He'd missed his whatever-it-was, and quickly guessed the right answer too late. I saw him returning, and the look of madness in his eyes was terrifying. I turned and ran for my life, Gollum in pursuit.

As I was running, I had stuck my hand in my pocket, finally wondering what it was I'd found that he wanted so desperately. It slipped onto my finger without my realising it; and then he ran right past me, not seeing me!

I could hear him talking to himself, not in the way most of us do, but as if he were actually two different people. Clearly he thought I already knew the way out and was heading there. I followed him.

Then he began to hesitate. I gathered from his rambling speech that we were nearly there-but he dared not go further, for the area around the exit was packed with Orc guards. He sat down. He sat there blubbering and wailing, in my way! The passage was too narrow for me to go around him, and he blocked my way to freedom!

I confess, I was sorely tempted to slay him. He had meant to do the same to me, after all. But he just sat there weeping, alone and utterly wretched, and all I could do was feel sorry for the pitiful thing. I gathered up all of my nerve and my small rags of courage, backed up a bit, and then took a leap. I leapt right over him and kept on running. He nearly grabbed my feet when I went over, but missed.

The last I heard of him was his screech of dismay and fury: "Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it! We hates it forever!"

His curse followed me as I fled, and I admit that I often heard it in my worst nightmares in the years long after.

I managed to dodge through the goblins guarding the door; the Ring nearly betrayed me, but I found my way out and down. I searched for signs of my companions, wondering if I were the only one who had managed to actually escape. I had nearly made up my mind to go back and see if I could find the Dwarves and Gandalf when I heard their voices, and was able to rejoin them.}

Bilbo stopped writing. He was breathless and had palpitations, as though he had only just then escaped from those darksome holes of his memory. This was not the lighthearted account he had given to the children of the Shire for generations-the Ring never entered those stories. And it was not even the account he'd later given at the Council of Elrond. This felt like reliving the whole thing.

He realised that his hand was cramped, and a look out the window let him know the hour was late. He had not noticed-Elven lanterns gave off a steady light and they did not gutter or burn down the way candles did.

He went to bed rather hesitantly, expecting nightmares. Instead, he fell asleep deeply and soundly, and if there were dreams, he could not remember.

He awakened long after his usual time. It was nearly elevenses, and the smell of coffee and scones tickled his nose. He followed the aroma into the kitchen, where he was delighted to find not only Frodo, who was taking out a pan of scones rich with the smell of berries and cinnamon, but Gandalf as well.

"Good morning, Uncle Bilbo! Did you not sleep well last night?" Frodo asked as he placed the hot pan on a folded cloth.

"I slept uncommonly well, lad. I cannot believe that I slept so late!" He turned to their guest. "Hullo, Gandalf! I am glad to see you here this morning!"

"I'm glad to be here, Bilbo! Especially since Frodo has been baking!"

The three friends enjoyed their elevenses, slathering the scones with fresh butter and sipping their coffee. Soon there was not a crumb left. Frodo rose. "I am to meet the Lady Celebrían and Adamanta down on the beach, Uncle Bilbo. Since you were such a slug-a-bed, I shall leave the washing up to you!"

Bilbo laughed. "I suppose I deserve that! Off with you then, Frodo! Give the ladies my greetings!"

"I will." Frodo dropped a kiss on top of Bilbo's head. "Good day, Gandalf!" and then he was off.

"It is good to see Frodo in such high spirits!" said the wizard.

"It is," said Bilbo. "But I think also he wished to leave so that we could talk."

"Ah! Have you finished your reply to the latest letter then?"

"Not yet. I wanted to ask you about something he brought up. Did you know that he thought Pippin was the Ringbearer? He was asking me about Pippin, and about Sam, too!"

"I did know he thought that-it was why I had to whisk the lad off to Minas Tirith so suddenly."

"What did happen with Pippin? Frodo said that you would know more than he did."

Gandalf nodded. "I have to say, the youngster was not entirely to blame. He should never have been allowed to handle the palantír in the first place. His impulse to look into it could not be completely blamed on Tookish impulsiveness-that sort of thing has its own lure! But he did not stand a chance once he looked in it. Sauron must have been monitoring Saruman's stone-he latched onto it at once, and seeing a hobbit, drew the logical, but incorrect, conclusion that Saruman had captured the Ringbearer. He pounced upon Pippin at once and pressed him down into the darkness. Pippin resisted admirably-he kept his minds upon the green hills of the Shire and off his loved ones, somehow. Sauron grew insistent and pushed too hard, and for one brief instant almost broke Pippin. But not quite-he lost himself in a way, and all he could remember was that he was a hobbit. He was sorely tried, but never once allowed himself to think of Frodo. I broke the hold when I got the palantír away from him."

"Poor child!"

"Fortunately he took no lasting harm! Why he questioned me half the night once we left, his curiosity unquenched by his trial."

"He wants to know about him, and as I said, about Sam as well." Bilbo gave Gandalf a troubled look.

"He can do them no harm from across the Sundering Sea. Tell him as much or as little as you wish, Bilbo, but do not fear that he can do anything to them."

{I have to say, I was most distressed by your revelation that you had instructed the Ringwraiths to attack any hobbit! I certainly will not share that bit of information with Frodo; I have to say it angered me quite a lot to realise the harm that could have come to those youngsters in his company, simply because they had been brave enough and loyal enough to go with him.

You asked about two of the three. Sam, I think, can wait. I will need quite a lot of paper and ink to do justice to Samwise Gamgee!

The other two were Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took. Peregrin, or Pippin, as he was commonly called was the youngest of them. He was not even an adult at the time they left the Shire-and having five years to go until his majority then, even now he is still not an adult! Yet he had always followed Merry and Frodo about from the time he could toddle.

He probably was too young for the things he did; I know Frodo would have preferred to leave both him and Merry behind, but especially Pippin. Still, he knew that they would follow him anyway. It was deemed safer for them to do so openly.

Master Elrond was against Pippin's going-he wanted to send him home to the Shire. I can remember Peregrin standing in front of the Lord of Rivendell, hands on his hips and his pointy little chin jutting out emphatically, saying: "Then, Master Elrond, you will have to lock me in prison or send me home tied in a sack. For otherwise I shall follow the Company." He looked Elrond right in the eyes without even flinching. Of course, once the permission was granted, the lad was terrified of his own temerity!

I had not seen him since he was a small child. I remember before I went away a tiny blur of exuberance and enthusiasm. I do not believe I ever knew a child so full of energy or questions. He ran his parents ragged, but he obeyed Merry and Frodo who were his idols. He had a very pleasant voice and was always singing and humming. Frodo told me that he had learned also to play several instruments and is still a delightful singer. He was also a very tender-hearted child, easily moved by the misfortunes of others. He was very Tookish, and I have the word of Gandalf, who should know, that he was the spitting image of my Grandfather Gerontius (who was his great-great-grandfather).

He would have died for Frodo. He very nearly did-in the battle before the Black Gate he fought in the livery of the Tower Guard. He slew a troll single-handedly (I was assured of this by several who had reason to know the truth of it) but was almost crushed by its body. He was lucky to be alive afterward. When I saw him once more in Rivendell, I was pleased to see that he had gained a little wisdom and patience, but his bright spirit remained unquenched. I think that he shall one day make an excellent Thain, though he is still not eager to take the job.

As you can see, I am moderately fond of the youngster, and perhaps a little proud.

I find myself quite astonished by the news that you have a sister! I did not know such was even possible for one of your people. But as I said above, I have recently come to know that my knowledge in that area has been somewhat lacking.

She sounds a most interesting person. If she should come to the Blessed Isle, I shall be honoured to make her acquaintance.

I think that I have rambled on quite enough for one letter. I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely yours,

Bilbo Baggins, Esq.}

Chapter End Notes:

Author's Notes from Dreamflower: My section contains references once more to my story "Ancestress" and also to my story "The Knight Has Been Unruly". Also the part about Pippin's musical abilities are from my own fanon, as are my speculations on the deaths of Drogo and Primula.

Author's Notes from Pandemonium: Sauron's reference to the Domes of Varda and the stars as simulacrums are inspired by Tolkien's later writings about the cosmogony of Arda (see History of Middle-earth, vol. X, Morgoth's Ring, "Myths Transformed") in which he attempted to retrofit his secondary world from a flat-earth to a round world as we know it. Although some have opined that such retrofitting would have "ruined the myth," I'm convinced that had JRRT written out in full, his vision would have been magnificent and would have added to the heightened sense of reality that blends with Faerie in his secondary world.

Sauron's sister makes an appearance in Light Over the Mountain (on the SWG).

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