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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}.

Distant Kindred


Sauron snatched the letter from Olórin's hand.  He snapped the seal, unfolded the paper, and proceeded to devour the spidery script.

Too fast!  Slow down and savor this, he reminded himself. 

"Astounding.  Most astounding,"  he said aloud, and then, "Fascinating.  I wonder if...?"    Then he fell silent while he soberly contemplated the old hobbit's words.

He had read the letter three times over before laying it down on his lap and turning to his counselor, who smiled broadly behind his white beard.

"You look like the warg that just swallowed the warbler. What amuses you so?"

"You do.  You're like a child with a sweet when you read Mr. Baggins' letters."

Being compared to a child was not what Sauron expected, but lately, he did not attempt to conceal his excitement when he received Mr. Baggins' missives.   "I suppose so.  I do look forward to them.  But here, well, he has quite a revelation."

Olórin merely raised his bushy brows, his signal for Sauron to continue. 

"Master Baggins has Maiarin blood."

"Ah. Yes," replied Olórin casually. "He just learned that.  Caught him by surprise, I'd say."

"Were you aware of this, that is, when you roamed Middle-earth making a pest of yourself?"

Olórin's mouth quirked at the jab, and he puffed on his pipe, blowing smoke to send a string of smoke rings into the dappled green sunlight.   Sauron, in turn, took a long drag on his cigar, and sent forth another set of smoke rings, which joined with those of Olórin to form a chain.   The chain of smoke drifted interlinked over the stream and floated up into the canopy of green leaves overhead.

"Not explicitly," said Olórin.  "You must understand that when I was first sent to the Outer Lands, my memories of Aman were, hmmm, let's say more than a little befuddled, so I did not know exactly who this ancestress was, but that there was a clan of hobbits who showed the signs of Faerie, Frodo and Bilbo among them."

"It explains a great deal," replied Sauron.

"How so?"

"Bilbo Baggins' resilience to my Ring, for one.   Frodo Baggins' ability to survive the plains of Gorgoroth while still bearing the Ring, for another.   And mostly, the very fact that they were willing to leave their comfortable little land.  I gather that for the most part, hobbits are not so adventurous."

"You gather rightly.  Most are not.  But the Tooks are different.  More inclined to bolt off into the Blue, as they say in the Shire."

Sauron grinned at the quaint colloquialism.  "Mr. Baggins' relative — Hildifons Took — must have been of that stripe.  Am I right in guessing that those young hobbits have a streak of Took in them?"

"Yes, Peregrin, obviously, and Meriadoc , too.  Not Samwise Gamgee."

"Yet he bolted off into the Blue."

"He did, but that was out of loyalty to his master."

"Ah.  Loyalty.  A dangerous thing.  Often leads to betrayal."

"In your experience, perhaps.  Not in theirs."

"Yes, not in theirs.  They enjoyed a very different kind of life than I did, now didn't they?"  

To deflect his counselor's further inquiry on that thought, Sauron turned his attention to the stream that babbled near the bench alongside the woodland path where he and Olórin sat side-by-side.   He had to admit that Rivendell was a pleasant enough place, even as a replica.  He took another drag on the cigar and sent forth the shape of a winged dragon.   Olórin responded by puffing a ship from his lips.  The smoke-ship pursued the dragon to colllide with it, forming a cloud that hung in suspension until the breeze destroyed it.

Restless, Sauron shifted on the stone bench.  He had more questions, but Gandalf was not the one to answer them.    "I was wondering if you'd mind waiting while I dash off a short note to..."

"Mairëa?"

"You know I hate it when you interrupt me.  Yes, to Mairëa."

"Why do you think Mairëa would know of Mírimë?" 

"To begin with, Mairëa has always been a friendly and inquisitive sort.  She knows many here in Aman, Maia or Elf.  But I cannot help but think that this woman - Adamanta, as Mr. Baggins calls her - must be one of Yavanna's people."

"Was one of Yavanna's people.   Her allegiance is now given to Nienna."

"Ah.  So you do know more than you are telling me."    There was much unsaid there.  A change in allegiance from Yavanna to Nienna implied a deep hurt in need of healing.  Sauron thought he might know why, and if he was right, then he understood this Mírimë's sorrow.

"There's something else,"  he said to Olórin.

"Yes?"

"This game of golf.  I would like to know more about it."

"I will see what I can do."   Olórin rose from the bench, and Sauron followed in kind.

As soon as he stood, the shackles of light tightened around his ankles, and the dappled sunlight and stream disappeared, leaving a large, featureless chamber, empty save for the bench upon which Sauron and Olórin had sat.  Quicker than thought, the iron-scented guards were at his side.   In silence, they escorted him to his cell, and before the door swung shut and sealed, he already sat at the table where he composed a letter to his sister, coming straight to the point:

{My dearest Mairëa,

Forgive me for the lack of a preamble, but Olórin waits for me while I write this so that it may be delivered to you without delay.   As you know, I have been engaged in correspondence with Mr. Bilbo Baggins, the perian who lives in Elrond's household.   His most recent letter contained a most astounding revelation:  he is one of a clan of hobbits who claim descent from a Fay, a woman named Mírimë.   I guessed that she might belong to the House of Yavanna, which Olórin confirmed, although he said she now owes fealty to Nienna.   Nonetheless, because she once was of Yavanna's house, I thought you might know her. 

Yes, I can hear you now.  You will scold me and tell me that I ought to know her, too, from our early days here in Aman.  But I buried my nose in my work most of the time, and when I did come up for air, I socialized with those of Aulë's House, not those of Yavanna like you did.   Furthermore, I do not remember her at all from our lost years at Home before the Guardians took us under their wing.  

So I ask, what might you tell me of her?  I wish to know in part because of my own curiosity (of course), but also because of Mr. Baggins.   He's a remarkable old fellow.   I doubt that he will ever hold any kind of affection for me, and I cannot blame him, but his letters enliven me. You have my gratitude for whatever you might impart.

With all my love,

~S.}

He folded the letter and sent it through its usual route through the tray of the door.

Within two days, he received a reply from his sister. 

{My dearest Mairon,

Firstly, I will make no apologies for refusing to address you by that dreadful name you now insist others call you.  I do not like it, and I never will. 

Secondly, I will answer directly.  Yes, I know Mírimë.   She worked closely with Yavanna and, like me, she tended peoples of Middle-earth during those early years.   It is no surprise that you do not remember her from Home, because because she came across the Sea, but I made her acquaintance here.  A lovely woman, as I recall, merry and generous of heart.   But where I was bound to the Tatyar to prepare them for the Great March, she was assigned another people, a race of diminuitive Eruhíni dear to Yavanna:  the hobbits.   While she watched over them, she fell in love with one of their men, donned hobbit-form, married him and bore his children.  Thus she sealed her fate.  You and I both know how that is, and for all of us who join with the Eruhíni, the endings are invariably bittersweet.  Yet we cannot help ourselves, can we? 

I was not on hand when she returned after her beloved died, but was told that her grief was so profound that Yavanna urged her to seek solace and healing from Nienna.  I have not had the opportunity to see her since her days in the House of Yavanna, but I would not mind a visit with her in the least.   Long ago, she never failed to put a smile on my face.   I hope she has recovered from her grief, and I expect that meeting her descendants may ease such pain, even if it brings back sweet but sad memories.

Do ask Mr. Baggins of her, and through him, please send my kindest regards to his ancestress.   I can well imagine their first meeting must have startled him!  If I can pull myself away from the workbench and the gardens long enough, perhaps I shall take the ferry to Tol Eressëa to meet her myself and, if he is willing, to meet your correspondent.  You have told him about me, haven't you?

Speaking of visits, I continue my campaign to be allowed to see you.  The Master is working hard on my behalf, but you know that he and Námo often lock horns over many issues, large and small.  But soon, I hope.  Soon.

Your loving sister,

Mairëa}

At the same time that Mairëa's letter was delivered, his reading tablet, which he had given to the guards, had come back with a number of new books on it, and as he had requested, they focused entirely on the subject of golf.  He dove into those immediately.   All came from the Other Time and Place, which was so mysterious, and yet familiar, too.  

Many of the books were written by a fellow named Bernard Darwin.   Sauron made note of the name, reminding himself to ask Olórin if this fellow was related to the other famous Darwin, whose book On the Origin of Species also resided on his reading tablet.  He often found himself wondering if there was a connection of Charles Darwin to the Númenórean naturalist, Darwen Toanehtë, who had sailed with Tar-Aldarion before he became king, and who had written a book that brought forth a startlingly similar theory to that of the Darwin of the Other Time and Place:  all species originate from a common ancestor. 

Yet how to explain the races of Elves, orcs and trolls?   Darwen's speculations hit close to the mark. Consequently, a small, but influential, group of Eldarin scholars of Aman, likely aided and abetted by the Valar, successfully suppressed her work, which led to much more violent suppression by the Númenórean nobility. 

She was too close to the truth fo their comfort, he thought cynically.  I expect those loremasters of the Eldar wouldn't take too kindly to being called 'hopeful monsters.'   He had to grin wickedly at the thought.

However, Mr. Darwin the Golf Enthusiast did not once mention common origin, but eloquently held forth on the great game of golf.  Sauron studied every word. Darwin's reflections on a course named Aberdovey transported Sauron to a distant green land where gulls cried on the margins of the world and grasses waved in the West Wind, where small balls went soaring to land upon velvet greens or to be devoured by sand traps.   It reminded him very much of the western shores of Eriador, and the more he read, the more he realized that the country called England was strongly reminiscent of Mr. Baggins' beloved Shire.  

He had requested technical books, too.  He poured over these and committed to memory the stance of a swing and the design of clubs.   He caused a minor stir with the guards during his exercise, when, in the midst of running, he stopped and practiced swings with an imaginary club and envisioned a ball arcing over the high wall to land upon a smooth green in Darwin's Aberdovey.  

There was another book, too, one that was very humorous:  The Clicking of Cuthbert by one P.G. Wodehouse.  Now that made him laugh aloud as he read it.   In many respects, the land, people and culture that Mr. Wodehouse described also called to mind those snippets of the Shire that Mr. Baggins had related.   In fact, Mr. Wodehouse's tone reminded him very much of Mr. Baggins.  He wondered if Wodehouse might claim hobbit ancestry.

From his readings was born an idea.  It would take time to accomplish, but first, he wished to write his reply to Mr. Baggins.

{Dear Mr. Baggins,

I will come straight to the point:  when I read your letter, you could have knocked me over with a feather as well.   Your revelation that you are a descendant of a Maia is most remarkable.   Do you realize that makes us distant kindred?  Delicious, isn't it?

I took the liberty of writing to my sister to ask of your Mírimë, or Adamanta, as she likes to be named by you, her great-to-the-umpteenth power grandson.  Mairëa remembers her from our very early days here in Aman and in Middle-earth.  My sister describes Adamanta as a merry, generous woman who often put a smile on others' faces.   Now I know from whom you inherited your daunting cheerfulness and optimism.    My sister has asked me to pass along her kindest regards to Mírimë - Adamanta - and that she remembers her fondly.

How does it feel to know that you harbor bits of the Fay within you?  It's a strange thing about Maiarin blood when mixed with that of the Eruhíni (and your race would be counted as such):  as the generations pass, it becomes more and more diluted, but now and then, individuals pop up that harbor strong Maiarin traits.  Not that you'd be able to change shape or what not, but certain talents and tendencies manifest themselves.  Your friend Aragorn is like that.   Melyanna exerts herself strongly in him.  I expect your kinsman Frodo harbors something deep inside of him that he inherited from his ancestress, this Adamanta.   As loath as I am to say it, Elrond and his cronies probably could not have picked a better person to take on the quest to destroy my trinket.

But never mind that.  One thing I am learning from correspondence with you is to try to look at the brighter side of life.  Trite, but true.   I have my dark moments, and I expect I always shall, but it is gradually becoming easier to seek a more pleasant viewpoint, even in confinement.  My books transport me, and so do your letters   Do tell me what you will of Adamanta.  Be assured I am very interested in her.   She obviously had at least one child.  Were there more?

[During the years of the Wars between the last of the Northern Kingdoms and the Witch-king of Angmar, a small contingent of Shire archers had set out to join the King.  None returned to the Shire, and their fate was always a question unanswered.]

Ah, Angmar.   Now there was quite a sorcerer!   Glorfindel describes a time when the Witch-king operated with considerably more independence from me, for I was struggling in hidden places to perfect the art of necromancy.  You needn't know more about that, for it is a grisly, dark art, and I fear I have already disturbed you sufficiently.  At any rate, the Witch-king did an admirable job of stirring up trouble and holding down the fort in Rhudaur.  

As capable as he was, I can't say I liked him much.  Well, to be truthful, I held him in contempt.   As a man, he was despicable:  a scion of the royal Númenórean lineage who was shipped off to Middle-earth because he had — how shall I put this delicately?  He had unseemly appetites for young boys, a most disordered kind of behavior.  But between that and his lust for power, he was easy to ensnare.    He was another one of those, like Aragorn, whose Maiarin traits came to the fore, which is why he, aided by a Ring of Power, became such a powerful sorcerer and an effective instrument in my hands.  Do you know that I do not recall his given name?  I expect he forgot it himself.

So hobbits had a hand in the great wars of the disintegrating North Kingdom? Your folk are less peaceable than you claim!   That contingent of hobbit-archers must have fought bravely, I will give you that.  As for the Witch-King's ultimate demise, I felt his death, or rather, the moment when the spell was broken, but until now, only heard rumor of how this came to be, nothing from the horse's mouth, as it were.   So it was this woman of Rohan, you say, and Meriadoc Brandybuck who brought him down?   I would know more of what happened, if you do not mind.   One of them surely must have wielded an ensorcelled blade to accomplish this.

You say that Glorfindel had the foresight to predict that "no man" would bring down the Witch-king.  Well, we all have our moments.  You are right that Glorfindel and I have "history,"  although we saw one another in the flesh only once, and that was when I rode into Ost-in-Edhil after we breached the walls.  That was not an altogether pleasant first meeting.   I knew he had returned to Middle-earth, having been groomed by my kindred Maiar, to thwart me.   My kin did a good job, for that elf-man carries an air of the Maiar about him, and he indeed thwarted me right and left in ways I did not expect.

But now?   At this risk of sounding like your prim Dora Baggins, I Do Not Approve of him.  Fussy of me to say, I know, and maybe even ridiculous, but I cannot help it.  Never mind why.  By the same token, if and when he should arrive on these shores, I do feel that perhaps he and I should try to reach some sort of peace.

Yes, Mr. Baggins, we all have things we are reluctant to tell others, but I must ask:  did Glorfindel tell you of his battle with Gothmog's lieutenant?  I heard only rumor of it.   I was not active in the siege of Gondolin, because I was still cowering in Taur-nu-Fuin. } 

As soon as he committed the words to paper, throbbing pain erupted on either side of his neck.  He dropped the pen and, with the palms of his hands, rubbed his skin, smooth except for the crescent-shaped scars that hovered over the great arteries and veins that carried blood to and from his brain.   

Would he ever forget Huan's fangs?  He didn't think so, especially since the scars from that bite persisted in every form that had housed his fëa since the awful battle, just as his missing finger persisted.  Yet avoiding the subject of his humiliation at Tol-in-Gaurhoth did him no good.   Olórin was always after him to be open, so he may as well continue the tale.  As soon as he made that decision, the pain disappeared.

{Let's just say that my defeat at Lúthien's hands and the loss of the fortress did not please my master, so I laid low for a good long while after that.   I'll never forget Huan's hot (and very smelly) breath right in my face, his fangs within a hair's breadth of my life's blood, and Lúthien's song.  Great Bauglir, I will never forget her song!   Beautiful, but deadly. 

Upon my release from that demon-hound's jaws, and with great difficulty,  I took on vespertilian form to flap off to the enchanted pine forest.  Let me tell you that crashing through those trees was a most unpleasant experience.   At any rate, I took little part in events in Beleriand after that.  Apparently, my former master decided to entrust much of his designs to Gothmog, for good or ill.

Speaking of valaraucar, I understand that your kinsman encountered the one that dwelt in the depths of Khazad-dûm, and that Olórin tussled with it, and so met his temporary demise.   I also had a brief encounter with the creature.  When I lived in Ost-in-Edhil, I often visited the Dwarven mansions under the mountains, and once, when Celebrimbor and I were taking a tour of the deeper mines, I sensed its presence.  It was hibernating in the crevices of the rocks, but stirred in its sleep when I drew near. Thankfully, it did not wake fully, and we beat a hasty retreat.  It settled back into sleep after that, until many years later when the Dwarves, to their peril, awoke it.

I cannot tell you how frightening that experience was!  Yes, frightening.   The valaraucar are fierce, wild creatures, and difficult to control.  Although they are counted among the Ainur, they are not of the same kind as Olórin, Melyanna, Eönwë and myself.   The Valar collected them from a surpassingly strange place:  the outer layers of a star where these beings swam about in unimaginably hot fires like whales and dolphins swim in our seas.  The Valar gave them the ability to assume forms more compatible to Endor, but that weakened them in certain ways.  Hence Gothmog drowned in a fountain. What an ignoble way to go.

You imply that not all of Elrond's household were as kind and polite to you as Glorfindel.  I hope that only a few were like that, but Elves can be an arrogant lot.  I should know since I lived as one of them for a good while.  I expect there were many Elves you met in Rivendell.  Did you know any who worked in the forge?}

Sauron paused and scratched his head.  That's a leading question, but truth be told, I am curious.  I suppose he'll respond or not.

{Thank you for the fish recipe.  It does sound tasty and quite easy.  It made me nostalgic for the fishing expeditions I took with Ar-Pharazôn.  Say what you will about what transpired, but the King of Númenor was a good fisherman.   Our expeditions were not exactly "roughing it," as the King enjoyed luxuries, but your recipe is refreshingly rustic.  And may I say that the idea of purloined mushrooms made me laugh?  Do hobbits often steal mushrooms?  But I must curse you (of course, I jest) for causing me to crave fish and chips.

Now on to golf.  Mr. Baggins, may I say that your descriptions of the game piqued my interest in a most significant way?  When I become interested in something, I dive into it with great enthusiasm, and so I have with this game of golf.  I asked for books about it, and Manwë's chief archivist indulged me in a most abundant manner.  

These books have ensnared me, and I am inspired to translate one of them into the Common Tongue so that you can understand it.  It is a very funny book, and I think you (and Frodo) might enjoy it.   The author is (or will be?) a fellow named P.G. Wodehouse.  His name sounds like that of hobbit, doesn't it?  Or maybe  that of a Man of Bree.   He is quite a humorist, whatever his name is.  I am not altogether sure how effective the translation will be, but I would like to give it a go.  Then I will send it to you.}

[I've played, but not often.  Frodo is better at it than I am, though not much fonder of the game.  Most gentlehobbits do know how to play. He says it's just a way to spoil a good walk.  But Tooks (and especially the North-tooks) can be quite obsessive about it.  Meriadoc is quite good at it, although there are no links in Buckland (one of the early Masters of Buckland declared it a waste of good land).  Pippin is also quite good at it.]

Sauron stopped writing and chewed on the end of the pen.   He thought back to Darwin's descriptions of Aberdovey and could not help but imagine there must be a similar setting on Tol Eressëa.  It seemed like the kind of country Elves would favor. 

Upon thinking of Aberdovey, an impulse blossomed within him.   It was a strange sensation, and one that he had not experienced for many years.  He recalled such feelings when he had been very young, a time when he had liked nothing more that surprising those he loved with little gifts.   How long had it been since he had given a gift freely with no strings attached to it?  Far too long.  For whatever reason, he now dearly wished to give something to those golf-loving hobbits. True, there was no love between himself and the Bagginses.  They would surely despise him forever, and he did not want their pity.   Perhaps they would not welcome a gift from him.

No matter.  The compulsion had sunk its hooks into him, and he had no choice but to give into it.  The gift would be something that both Frodo and Bilbo might enjoy together, and he knew just what it would be.   For all of Bilbo's protestations to the contrary, Sauron suspected that the old hobbit might enjoy some time on the links, if Elrond could contrive such a thing, especially with his kinsman, who likely was reasonably proficient with the game. 

But how to accomplish this? he thought, tapping the pen against the table.  Elrond must hire a tailor to make their clothing, so perhaps I might enlist Olórin to obtain their measurements from that tailor.  Olórin can be trusted to keep this a secret.  Ha!  Yes, that is it!  Who would have thought it?  Gandalf the Grey and the Dark Lord, Co-conspirators!

That thought amused him enough to make him laugh aloud, but then his mind set to whirring.  What was it that had been said of Curumo?  Ah, yes.  A mind of metal and wheels.  Such is mine.  Nothing wrong with that.  Metal and wheels can be used to good purpose, and I intend to do just that for Bilbo and Frodo.  Once I have the measurements, I can begin the design, and then send it to Aulë's workshops by way of Mairëa.   Then perhaps she can persuade...

 

Immediately, his mood darkened when he thought of just who in Aulë's train he wished to make the gift for the two Bagginses and otherwise oversee the project.  The Noldorin man he had in mind was a most capable smith, and he should know, for the smith had been his apprentice many years ago in Ost-in-Edhil.   More than that, the young man had been dear to him. 

How likely is it that he will be willing to take on this project?  Probably not likely at all if the request comes from me.  I used and betrayed him, just as I used and betrayed so many others. But if Mairëa speaks on my behalf, then maybe, just maybe, he will do it.  He will listen to her, and if he knows this is for the hobbits, that might help my cause, too.   I may as well ask, and if not him, then perhaps Aulë can recommend another.

No, that would not do.  Sauron did not want another smith who now lived here in the Blessed Lands to work on the project.   Yet, with everything he had done that had ruined his former apprentice's life, how could he be at all surprised if his request was rebuffed?  He again read the passage from Bilbo's letter

[I am not quite sure how to respond to your revelations of what came after; the words of condemnation I am sure you've heard before and to say it was a shame seems like an ironic understatement.  Should I tell you it was despicable? I'm sure you know that.  And I think that you are also beginning to know what regrettable means.  It was a hard thing to read, but I think it must have been a harder thing to write.

 

I also think that it must have been hard for you to tell me of your reaction to my story of the Ring-I am afraid I did not even think of your emotional reaction to my tale, and after all, you did ask. But I should have thought of it, for even now I can recall my own possessive feelings for it.]

He set pen to paper, determined to address Mr. Baggins' comments head-on and honestly.

{Now on to a more serious subject.  What I wrote to you about the children of Ost-in-Edhil playing marbles and what happened to them later was in fact quite difficult for me to write.  Although not the least of my transgressions, for there are worse,  their fates at my hands were among the most heinous of my deeds.   I would venture that 'despicable' does not begin to account for many of my actions, among them the most deeply personal of betrayals.   

But beginning to know what regrettable means?  Mr. Baggins, be assured that I have long known regret.   That and sorrow are nothing new to me.  There have been very few moments in my long and eventful life that my conscience did not exert itself.   A nagging sense of right and wrong is a consequence of not being wholly evil.  Obviously, I did not heed my conscience for the most part, but it still made itself heard.  It howls at me now.

Yes, I was angry when I read of your account of finding my Ring, and yes, I did ask, but please do not hold back.  I am only being frank with you as my correspondent whom I increasingly trust.  I do not wish to hide what I was - what I am - from you.   If it is too much of a burden for you to hear such things, please do not hesitate to tell me.

So there it is.  I had been in lofty spirits when I started writing this, but upon surveying my incomprehensibly long list of ill deeds and thinking of how the supplications of my conscience fell like dry leaves into the fire of my Purpose and Will, I am feeling less than lighthearted, and this letter has taken a dark tone.  I will try to change that by suggesting that you ask Olórin about our contest of smoke rings.  I think it will amuse you.  

I realize that I have spoken entirely too much about myself here without any inquiries of how you are faring in Tol Eressëa and how it might compare to your Shire.  And this Sam Gamgee.  You are still being a bit cagey about him, now aren't you?  If you would, do tell me of this master gardener who prepares delicious fish and chips.  Damn it, my stomach is growling now.  I wonder if Lord Námo's cooks will accomodate my craving?  Actually, I am fed quite well here.  Hence the need for my running about on the grass.

With that, I shall close, wish you well, and hope that you are enjoying as many mushrooms as you care to eat.  I daresay that in Elrond's household, these are legitimately acquired mushrooms, but that purloined mushrooms doubtless taste better.

Sincerely yours,

D.L. Sauron}

With that, he folded the letter, set it aside to place on the tray later, and picked up his tablet, turning to Mr. Wodehouse's tales of the eccentric inhabitants of Blandings Castle.  The stories were funny enough in their own right, but Sauron was all the more amused when he substituted the names of Fingolfin and his clan for Mr. Wodehouse's characters.

  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Gandalf arrived with the letter, Bilbo and Frodo were entertaining Adamanta to tea on their terrace. 

"Gandalf! You are just in time!  Do join us,"  said Frodo.

"Yes, please, Gandalf!" added Bilbo.  "We've not seen you in several days!"

"Far be it from me to decline," he replied with a twinkle in his eye, "especially since I see some of your famous honeycakes on the table.  Not to mention Frodo's currant scones.  He drew up the chair kept for his convenience (or that of any Elf who might be visiting) and took the cup of tea that Adamanta poured out for him.

The four of them talked pleasantly as they made their way through the excellent tea, Frodo regaling Adamanta with the stories of his cousins when they were children.  Frodo licked his fingers after finishing one of the honeycakes.  "Do you remember," he asked Bilbo, "the time you allowed Pippin to help you make honeycakes?"

Bilbo laughed aloud.  "How could I forget?  It was when the Dwarves came to visit.  I'll never forget the sight that child made when he answered the door covered in flour and honey!"  He glanced over at Adamanta.  "Pippin was an excitable child at best-but the combination of too much honey, and Dwarves at the door and he was nearly impossible to contain!" He laughed again.

Frodo put down his teacup and glanced over at Gandalf.  Then he began gathering up the dishes.  "I shall leave you all to your conversation," he said, "and do the washing up."

"Frodo is as perceptive as ever," Gandalf said as he watched Frodo push the tea trolley in through the wide glass doors.  He reached into his robe, and handed out a letter. "I am sure he knew why I was here."

Bilbo sniffed.  "Of course he did," he said as he took the letter from his friend.  "But he'd rather not be here when I read it." He slipped a finger under the seal.  "It took the fellow long enough to answer this time."  He looked over at Adamanta.  "Do you mind, Adamanta, if I..."

"Not at all," she replied.  She was aware of the unusual correspondence, since Bilbo had asked her permission to mention her to Sauron.  "I am most curious as to how he reacted to your revelations of me," she added with a twinkle in her eye.

Bilbo chuckled, and began to read.  His eyebrows rose, and he glanced up at her.  "He says he mentioned you to his sister--  Mairëa?  And she remembered you from before?"

Adamanta closed her eyes in thought briefly, and then nodded.  "Yes, yes I do remember her as well."

"He says that she passes her regards to you.

She smiled.  "That's very kind of her; she was a kind person as I recall, and we were friends on a time, although not close ones.  But that was before. But I would give her my regards as well."

Bilbo skimmed quickly through the rest of the letter.  As always, much food for thought...he folded it and placed it in his pocket, and looked over at his guests, and they resumed their conversation.  After a while Frodo returned, and the afternoon was spent in pleasant talk.

That evening, Bilbo took up his quill and began his reply.

{Dear Mr. Sauron,

As it so happens, Adamanta was visiting here when Gandalf arrived with your letter.  I told her of your sister's message, and she remembers Mairëa fondly, and returns her regards.

"Distant kindred"?  I suppose that it does.  But then it is my conceit that all are distant kindred of one sort or another, especially if one goes back far enough.  Of course, not all the branches on the Family Tree are as congenial as others.

As to how it feels to learn that the oft-ridiculed legend of the "Took fairy wife" is true?  The only word that comes to mind is "gob-smacked".  Even after a few months, I still feel a little gob-smacked!  But I am so glad that Frodo and I have come to know Adamanta!

Adamanta is a delightful hobbitess; as Mirimë she is beautiful as well, but I do not see her in that form often.  Gandalf tells me that she has decided to retain the fana of a hobbit now that the burden of secrecy has been lifted.  Personally I believe she is doing it simply to honour Frodo and to some extent, myself. 

We have heard some of her story, of how she met and married Tûk-the name of our distant ancestor-and of their children.  They had twelve, she tells us, six sons and six daughters.  That's quite a family, even for hobbits, although my grandfather also had twelve children.  And she has told us a little about each of  them, though mostly she encourages Frodo and myself to talk of the Shire and our family there.

As for the Maiarin blood, she claims that Tûk already possessed many of the qualities of boldness and curiosity and steadfastly claims that it is his nature her children have inherited.  She clearly loved him very much.  She says that save for the colour of his eyes, Frodo resembles her lost love in an uncanny fashion.

Gandalf seems of the opinion that the several strains of Fallohide blood scattered among the Tooks, Brandybucks, Bagginses, Bolgers, Boffins and some of the other gentry all came together in Frodo, to once more produce a true Fallohide.  I would not dispute that.  I have always maintained that Frodo was the finest hobbit the Shire ever produced.  But of course, I may be more than slightly biaised.

I must say, your revelations about Angmar are disturbing but not surprising.  Shire history records him as a villain of the worst sort, though I do not believe that his disgusting perversions were mentioned-most hobbits have never heard of such things, and even if our scholars knew of them, they would not think them fit to record.  The majority of hobbits do not even believe he existed, although the more educated realize that he did.

[ So it was this woman of Rohan, you say, and Meriadoc Brandybuck who brought him down?   I would know more of what happened, if you do not mind.   One of them surely must have wielded an ensorcelled blade to accomplish this.]

Indeed, you are right about the ensorcelled blade.  When Frodo and his friends left the Shire, they took a shortcut through the Old Forest, which lies upon the Eastern border of Buckland.  This was not an action taken lightly, as the Old Forest has a bad reputation.  But they felt it was preferable to risk the possibly mythical dangers there than the very real dangers of your Ringwraiths who were pursuing them.  They did indeed find danger there, and were rescued by a strange person called "Tom Bombadil".  (I learned later that Elves call him "Iarwain Ben Adar", and I get the impression that he might be one of your people.)  There are songs and legends of this "Tom Bombadil" in Buckland, though not being a Bucklander, I was only familiar with a couple of them.

After the four lads left him, they fell into trouble once more.  This time they found themselves captured by a barrow-wight, and they were in dire trouble indeed!  But Frodo called for Bombadil as he had been told, and they were rescued again.

Within the barrow was a store of treasure and weapons, which Bombadil insisted needed to be scattered in order to break the spell.  He insisted that each of the lads take a large knife, one that could serve a hobbit as a sword.  It was later revealed that these weapons had been forged during those wars with Angmar and were enspelled to work particular harm to the enemies of those days.

Frodo's was lost at the ford, when his pursuers caused it to break, but the other three carried theirs on their quest.  (I later supplied Frodo with my own old sword, Sting, which I had from my Adventure.)

The Company that set out from Rivendell had a number of mishaps and trials along the way as you might know, and at one point young Meriadoc found himself alone in Rohan, entrusted to the King of that land to keep him safe.  When Merry learned that the Rohirrim were to ride to battle and would leave him behind, he was in despair.  He was determined to follow after them, though he knew very well that he would be too late to be of any use.

However, he was surprised when one of the Riders offered to take him along.  To his eyes, it appeared to be a very young rider, no more than a boy.  They went along in secret, hidden among the rest of the Riders.  They saw battle there at the Pelennor before the gates of Minas Tirith, and when the leader of your Nazgûl bore down upon the King of Rohan, they were nearby.

From what I learned from Frodo and from Pippin and from Merry himself, the event transpired as follows: the King's horse was slain, and in its death throes it landed upon its rider, crushing him.  The Nazgûl bore down upon them, and it was the Witch-king's threat to allow the fell beast he rode to feed upon the body of his enemy that caused the young rider to come between them.  The Nazgûl mocked this new foe, and boasted "No living man may hinder me!"  

Merry was cowering in terror, unnoticed behind him, but he was shocked when his companion revealed herself.  It was the Lady Éowyn, the King's own neice, who had disguised herself to ride among the men.  She told him "No living man am I!"

And she beheaded the fell beast.

Of course, she had not the strength to overbear the Witch-king himself, and he struck out at her with his mace, breaking her shield arm.  Still she remained defiant, and her courage bolstered Merry, gallant lad that he is, to his own defiance, and before the Nazgûl could strike another blow, he used his small sword and thrust it into the back of the creature's knee.  All he had hoped to accomplish was to distract their enemy, perhaps long enough for Lady Éowyn to escape, or to at least not die alone.  But apparently Merry's weapon broke the spell preserving his life, and she used her own sword to kill the Witch-king.

Both the Lady and Merry were in sore straits afterward, laid low by something called the Black Breath, and it was only through the ministrations of my friend Aragorn that they were able to survive.

By the time I heard the story, of course, all was over.  Frodo and Merry were quite solemn about it, but Pippin (since he was over the fright his cousin had given him by nearly dying) was downright gleeful, declaring that the Witch-king was remarkably stupid to think that "no living man" was any guarantee of invulnerability.  After all, he said,  not only could he be felled by a woman or a hobbit, but it could have been an Elf or a Dwarf or an Ent, or he could even have been stepped upon by an Oliphaunt!  I must say he put an end to the haunted look in both his cousins' eyes, and soon had us all laughing as he imagined all the possible ways that the sorceror could have been killed without it being brought about by any "living man".

I spoke later with Glorfindel about that event, and he told me that he had only a flash of foresight, seeing what appeared to be a woman and a child upon a battlefield.  He could tell, somehow, that this was far in the future-but he saw them slay Angmar.  It was not until he met my lads in the Wilds to guide and guard them into Rivendell that he realised what it meant-especially once he saw the blades they bore.  But he had no idea of specifics, nor did he know which of the four would do the deed, and so he did not say anything.  Yet, he told me, he had been quite relieved when Master Elrond agreed to allow Merry and Pippin to be part of the company, for he had begun to believe that the hobbit he saw on the battlefield might have been Merry.}

Bilbo looked at the next part of the letter.  What was the obsession with Glorfindel?  From what his correspondent revealed, the two had never had that much contact-yet his ire seemed out of proportion?   And on the one hand he said he did not approve of Glorfindel, yet on the other there were the persistent questions, as though there were some yet unrevealed connection between them. How odd!  He wondered if Gandalf could (or would) shed any light on it.  Probably not-Gandalf was  still as close as ever about some things.

But it couldn't hurt to ask.

Bilbo put down the quill and stretched his fingers, and then picked up the other letter again.  There were a lot of things he wished to ask about.  Which ones, he wondered, did he stand the best chance of getting answered?  He chuckled and thought once more of Pippin and his insatiable curiosity-perhaps if he threw enough questions out quickly enough, he'd get some of them answered.  Time for a break, he thought.  Were there any of Frodo's currant scones left?

As it was, he did not return to the letter.  After finishing off the scones, he thought it only fair to do some baking.  He made bread and seedcakes and ginger biscuits, and while things were baking he did some cleaning as well.  Supper, a thick vegetable soup made to a recipe he had learned in Rivendell from Master Elrond's irascible head cook, simmered at the back of the stove.  Frodo came in when it was nearly finished and after they had supped, they decided to go to the Hall of Fire for the evening.  It was in many ways similar to the one in Rivendell, but it was different in subtle ways as well.  The wood used to build it was lighter in colour, and there were wide shuttered windows that remained fully open in all but the most severely inclement of weather-a rarity on this Blessed Isle, but not totally unheard of.  At any rate, there had been none since his and Frodo's arrival, but they had been assured that such did occur once in awhile.

When he fell asleep he had a most confusing dream of playing golf at the links in Tuckborough, only he was playing with Glorfindel, Aragorn and  Frodo, and their balls continuously landed in the rough, which looked, oddly enough, like the mountainous country he had passed through on his Adventure.  It did not seem at all strange or frightening that his caddy was Gollum, until he awoke suddenly, confused and thirsty...

{He did speak a little of his encounter with the Balrog.  I have noticed a thing with most warriors, that there are some fights which they will recount with relish, describing their own blows and those of their opponents in great detail and wide gestures-and yet for the most part those are fights which ended with their opponent yielding, or perhaps for fights that were for sport or sparring.  The more serious ones are mentioned much more briefly and with reluctance.  Glorfindel showed no relish for that fight, speaking more of his fear that he would be unable to buy enough time for Idril and the others to escape from that dreadful pass of Cirith Thoronath, for he knew he could not survive it himself.  He said he did not recall the end of the fight.  I am not sure that was completely true-he had a look in his eyes that indicated he did not wish to recall the ending, and I did not press him.

Glorfindel was among those who were most welcoming of me from the beginning.  A few seemed to hold themselves aloof for a time, but most of them came to accept me after a few years.  One however, an Elf named Lindir, seemed to resent my presence, and was sometimes cutting in his remarks about mortals-though never in the presence of the Master of the House!  I never really knew why, and we came to a truce, more or less, before I left.  He did not sail when Master Elrond did, but remained behind with Elladan and Elrohir.

Interesting that you should ask about smiths.  I had only a passing acquaintance with most of them, but one of them, an Elf-woman called "the Istyanis" was Glorfindel's wife!  I did have some very fascinating conversations with her, and she was also very kind to Merry and Pippin while they were there.  She had been absent in exile for many years, it seems, but she and Glorfindel had known one another long ago and when she returned (shortly before the Company left Rivendell) they married! A most romantic story!  I recall giving them a pottery pepper-pot in the form of a hobbit-smial (a trinket given me as a gift by that self-same cousin Dora before my departure and brought along with me when I retired from Bag End) as a wedding gift when I learned of their nuptials.  I thought it would amuse them, and it did, though I doubt they ever put it to its intended use.

[Let's just say that my defeat at Lúthien's hands and the loss of the fortress did not please my master, so I laid low for a good long while after that.   I'll never forget Huan's hot (and very smelly) breath right in my face, his fangs within a hair's breadth of my life's blood, and Lúthien's song.] 

I had quite forgotten that part of your history!  What an amazing thing!  Not my forgetting-at my age, very natural to forget things-but such a legendary encounter!  I am always astounded that I have been so blessed as to "rub elbows" so to speak, with so many legends of old!

[The valaraucar are fierce, wild creatures, and difficult to control.  Although they are counted among the Ainur, they are not of the same kind as Olórin, Melyanna, Eönwë and myself.   The Valar collected them from a surpassingly strange place:  the outer layers of a star where these beings swam about in unimaginably hot fires like whales and dolphins swim in our seas.] 

How intriguing!  I wish I were a talented artist like Frodo, that I could depict the images that puts into my head!  The idea of creatures that could swim in fire as though it were water makes me almost giddy!  I would love to see such a sight, even if the creatures were fierce and wild!  (But not close up, thank you!  I have engaged a dragon in conversation, and that was enough for me!)

 I'm glad you liked the fish recipe.  [Do hobbits often steal mushrooms?]  As tweens, quite often, and it's boasted of.  Adult hobbits do not admit to doing such a thing-but I know from my own experience that it happens more often than anyone cares to say.}

Bilbo looked again at what his correspondent had revealed.  There were BOOKS about GOLF, a sport hitherto known ONLY to hobbits!  And how, he wondered, did anyone outside the Shire know enough about golf to write a book about it?  Or even humorous stories about it?  Clearly Gandalf had access to a most unusual library.  Questions, questions, questions!  The first being: could he expect an answer to any of them?  He tapped a finger on the letter impatiently. 

{There are BOOKS about GOLF?  And I trust from your description they are not written by hobbits!  I am flabbergasted!  I will most eagerly read any such translations as you care to send me!

Now, as to your revelations, while they are hard to read, I do not say that I am unwilling to read them.  I too value honesty in our correspondence, and you may write to me what you will.  There may be times when I do not respond to specific revelations, but rest assured that will not be for any other reason than that I may not know of anything useful to say, and not because of my distaste for the subject matter.  It is not a burden-or better to say, it is a bearable burden, as I know all of these things are past and done and cannot be changed now, and it will harm no one else in the future.  I am sorry to hear that replying to me has dampened your spirits-if that has set back your progress, Gandalf won't thank me!  I hope that it won't affect our correspondence, which I am quite enjoying. 

But rest assured I shall ask him about smoke rings (among other things)!

Sam?  I am not really being cagey about him.  He's very dear to my heart, though, and it is difficult to know where to begin explaining why such a very ordinary person is actually so extraordinary, especially since he is so close.  It can be difficult sometimes to distance oneself enough for observation.

Samwise was the fifth child of my gardener.  He had two older brothers and two older sisters, and one sister younger than himself.  He had no sooner learned to toddle than he would follow his "Gaffer" (as everyone called his father Hamfast) about everywhere-including up to the gardens at Bag End anytime he could.  He was always a gentle-hearted child who had more of an imagination than his father thought was proper.

Hamfast loved all of his children dearly, but he never thought it proper to encourage fancy, which he thought of as something only to be indulged in by gentlehobbits who had the time for it.  Still he never had the heart to suppress Sam completely, and though he was reluctant, he did allow me to teach the child to read and write.  That was after Frodo had come to stay, and Sam was thrilled with any activity that would allow him to be near Frodo, whom he idolised from the first.  And the adoration was mutual.  I think Frodo originally befriended such a young child because little Sam reminded him of young Merry, but he soon grew to love him for his own sweet sake.

Sam was a quick and clever pupil, learning his letters and his sums very quickly.  He also had a knack for recitation, although it was hard sometimes to get him to overcome his shyness.  But once he was fairly begun he would throw himself utterly into the part, to the great joy of his listeners.

Ham was also reluctant to allow Sam's friendship with Merry.  Merry used to make extended visits to Bag End every Spring, and as Sam was the only lad of the neighbourhood anywhere near Merry's age (Sam was only two years older) I managed to prevail upon Master Hamfast to allow them to be playmates during those visits.  I know that he feared that Sam would learn to get ideas "above himself", but that never happened-Sam was far too modest a soul for that!  I think he also feared that Merry's family would disapprove, but Brandybucks are much less bound to propriety than the folk of Hobbiton.  Bucklanders make much less of station than the hobbits West of the River.  There was no chance that Saradoc Brandybuck would disapprove of Merry having any friend of good character, no matter what station in life he might have.

However, once Sam neared his tweens, Hamfast did clamp down on his son, who now had to refer to his playmates as "Master" or "Mister".  He was also his father's apprentice by then, and had much less free time.  His father kept him very busy in the garden, turning almost all the flowers over to Sam's capable hands, while he concentrated on the kitchen garden and orchard.

Sam's mother Bell was a delightful hobbitess, but she died suddenly a few months prior to my own departure from the Shire, and I think that Frodo's consolation of him at the time cemented their devotion even more.  At that time Sam was still a youngster, barely in his tweens.  I left that autumn.

I did not see him again until he showed up in Rivendell, cloven to Frodo's side along with Merry and Pippin.  There was never any doubt that he would accompany Frodo on his mission!

Of what occurred during that time, of course, I have no personal knowledge, only what has been told me.  Sam stuck to Frodo like glue, and when my cousin decided to strike out on his own rather than risk his companions any further, Sam guessed his mind and followed after, so that Frodo was compelled to accept his company.  Frodo says it was a good thing, too, as he could never have reached his intended destination alone.

It was difficult to get any details out of the two of them, but it seems that when Frodo was attacked and paralysed by a giant spider on the borders of Mordor (and the one who attacked them sounds much nastier than any I encountered in Mirkwood, I must say!) Sam thought that his master was dead and that he was the only one left to carry on their mission, so he took the Ring with that intent.  But then he learned Frodo was alive, and went to rescue him from his captivity by the orcs who guarded that way.  Again, as I say, I do not know all the details, though I am sure Gandalf does.  But Sam returned the Ring to Frodo once they were reunited, and then they made their way towards Mount Doom.

I know that Frodo says at one point he was so weak that Sam had to actually carry him.  But when they reached the mountain, Gollum caught up with them and attacked them.  Sam was knocked unconscious by the wretched creature, and by the time he woke up, Frodo had been overcome by the Ring.  He woke up in time to see that final struggle and Gollum's fall into the Fire.  It was only at his insistance that they went back out and away from the eruptions caused by the Ring's destruction, where they were then rescued from the destruction by Gandalf and the Eagles.

At Frodo's insistence, Sam was honoured equally with him by the renewed kingdom, something to which Aragorn needed little persuasion.

Sam's back in the Shire now, and happily married with a baby daughter.  Frodo gave Bag End to them, and there they live.  But he knows that if he wants to, when the time comes he can join Frodo here.  I doubt I will still be here by then, but who knows?

I do hope that you can persuade your captors to allow you fish and chips, though I don't suppose they will anywhere near as good as Sam's! 

I had some wonderful stuffed mushrooms at Master Elrond's table just a few days ago!  The varieties of mushrooms to be found here are most delicious, and none are unwholesome, so gathering them in the wild is quite delightful.

I see how long my reply has become!  I shall close now.

Sincerely yours,

Bilbo Baggins, Esq.}

Bilbo capped the ink, put his quill in the stand, and carefully sanded the last page of the letter. 

He looked forward to the reply, and to the promised translations.  And he also looked forward to his next encounter with Gandalf.

He had Questions!

  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Author's notes from Dreamflower: 

There are references in Bilbo's letter to several of my stories, especially in the account of Sam's backstory.  The account of his friendship with Frodo and Merry during his childhood and the date of his mother's death are all strictly speculation on my part.  Some of the stories referenced are: "A Place for Gandalf", "Ho, Ho, My Lads!" (co-written with Marigold), and "Memory and Sorrow". (All can be found here at SoA.  "Memory and Sorrow" is in my "Dreamflower's Mathoms I".

Author's notes from pandemonium:

The Tatyar were the second clan of the Elves who awoke in Cuiviénen, and from whom the Noldor were descended.

valaraucar (valarauca, s.): balrogs

Bernard Darwin, a famed golf writer and grandson of Charles Darwin, was a member of the idyllic Aberdovey Golf Club, located on the west coast of Wales

Darwen Toanehtë appears in Chronicles of the Fifth Voyage of the Númerrámar: The Loremaster Arrives, and her works on the natural history of Middle-earth are referenced here and there in The Elendilmir.

Sauron's near-encounter with Durin's Bane is described in The Elendilmir, Chapter 28: A Shadow Dreaming.

The smith in Aulë's train whom Sauron wishes to enlist for the project has seen considerable coverage in the aforementioned The Elendilmir (a WIP;  I haven't forgotten about it!) and The Apprentice. Similarly, the encounters with the exiled prince of Númenor who eventually becomes the Witch-king of Angmar is addressed in The Apprentice; although that particular chapter (Heart of Darkness) is not explicit in content, it puts the novel in a solid adult rating due to the highly disturbing tendencies of the prince.

Sauron's fishing expeditions with Ar-Pharazôn are referenced in Into This Wild Abyss.

Bilbo gives nods to both Abundance and Inner Light (the thick vegetable soup, an impulsive marriage after a long separation, and an elven-smith's curiosity pertaining to idiomatic Westron and hobbits as a whole) as well as to Surgical Steel's OC, the irascible chef of Rivendell, Haldanar, who makes his first appearance in The King's Surgeon, both in the Original Timeline and the Happy AU

And the pepper-pot?  I'll bet Bilbo has a story behind that!





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