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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}.

Revelation and Reaction

From the edge of the cliff, Sauron looked out over the plain of Gorgoroth, baking in bright sunlight.  The slopes of the Morgai were awash with crimson from the wild roses that bloomed in the glens.  Vapor trailed lazily from Orodruin's summit, less imposing than it had been during the latter years of his reign, but now a perfect cone.  It was Mordor much as he remembered it when he first set foot in these lands so long ago, before he had laid the foundations of the Barad-dûr and before the mountain had belched forth fumes and ash.  He turned his back on the panorama and retreated to the shade where he flung himself into the empty chair that faced Olórin.  

"So this is what the heart of my kingdom — what was my kingdom — is like now?"

"It is. Based on all reports, Mordor is healing."

"If your vision is true, then the land is remarkably resilient."

"What you see is true," Olórin replied.

"I wonder if I am as resilient?"

"I have no doubt about that, should you choose to take that path."  

"You're quite confident about that, aren't you?"

Olórin gave no audible reply but raised those bushy white brows.  He glanced again at his counselor's hands, which held two envelopes and something else, an intriguing thing — a device of some sort. "May I?"  He scooted forward in the chair and took the letters from the wizard.

The spidery script on one envelope confirmed that Mr. Baggins had responded.  Sauron considered opening it at once, but decided to wait.  He had to admit that Mr. Baggin's letters had become a highlight of his life now, so he wanted to savor the pleasure of reading it. Save the best for last.  He carefully balanced that on his knee while he opened the other missive.  He scanned the unfamiliar script that listed measurements of arms, legs and torsos, even feet beneath each Baggins' name.

"Excellent.  Elrond's tailor pays attention to the smallest detail.  This will help me immensely.  But have you received a response from..."

"You'll find that here."  Olórin leaned forward to give him the curious device.  Sauron was too intrigued to snap at his counselor for interrupting him.

"What is this thing?  It looks like my reading tablet."  It was almost identical to that but had a larger face and was framed in a sleek black material.

"It's much like your tablet, but with more capabilities, as Aulë says.  The letter is in it."

"A letter?  In it?"

"Yes.  Press the little button there at the bottom of the frame."  Sauron did so, and the face of the device came to life.  Neatly arrayed against a soft grey background were a dozen symbols. One of them looked like an envelope of a letter.

"Press the..."

"The envelope?"  

Olórin grinned. "Yes."

With one touch, the face of the tablet brightened to show a plain background the color of bleached linen with Tengwar typeface marching across it:  a letter, captured in this tablet.    At the heading was a familiar name:  Istyar Sámaril Orontion, Brotherhood of Smiths, The House of Aulë.  

Sauron stared at the name and title.  More than seventeen hundred years had passed since he last had any kind of contact with his former protégé, and now here was what might be a chink in the barrier between them.   But if there was a such a chink, it was not to be found in Sámaril's tone, which was appropriately professional and detached.  Sauron could hope for no more than that, all things considered.  It was enough of a relief that Sámaril even accepted the project, and here he outlined the first steps that he would take, once Sauron sent the first set of designs to him.  The end of the missive, however, was more personal:

Please understand that I do this behalf of Maireä and those hobbits, not for you.

Any glimmer of hope that he might have harbored for reconciliation was dashed.  Why should he have expected otherwise after using Sámaril as he had and then destroying his life?  Still, he was disappointed. 

At least he will work with me on the gifts for the Bagginses.  There is that.

He turned his attention to the other symbols of the strange device to discover new marvels:  moving pictures, music, and what appeared to be several games.

"This is incredible."  He started to hand the amazing tablet back to Olórin who waved him away.  

"It's yours.  It is Aulë's express wish that you have it."

"Will this hold my books, too?"

"Indeed it will!  They are already there, in fact.  Press the symbol that looks like an open book."

He did, and all the volumes on his other tablet appeared on the face of the tablet.  He had to fight to keep his jaw from dropping.   He lifted his eyes to stare at Olórin.

"I never thought I would see such marvels again.  Do you remember when the Guardians first brought us to Ellor Eshúrizel?  What we saw?"

Olórin puffed on his pipe and sent forth a flock of birds into the hot afternoon breeze. "Yes.  Yes, I remember.  We were all so young and impressionable."

Sauron felt a wistful smile creep across his lips.  "It all seemed like magic then, didn't it?  I imagine something like this would be magic in the eyes of Mr. Baggins or anyone of Middle-earth.  It would be convenient to write to him if he had one of these things but..."

"But?"

"It would be too much for him, I think."

"You are right.  He has finally become accustomed to the 'elvish lights.'  They discombobulated him a great deal at first, although Frodo adapted to their use quickly.  Besides, Bilbo loves the very act of writing."

"I have to admit I enjoy it, too, with pen and paper.  Still..." Sauron lifted the new tablet. "This ought to be extraordinarily efficient.  I will be able to communicate with Sámaril with this?"

"Yes.  As fast as thought.  Likewise, you and I will be able to send notes to one another, should you wish."

"You have one of these?"  Now that was astonishing.  Olórin tended to be quite old-fashioned.

"Yes.  Aulë gave one to me, too.   Mine has a white frame though."

Sauron chuckled.  "Of course, it does."  Then a more serious thought came to him, one that had been growing on him for some weeks.  "Well, it shall be very convenient, seeing as how difficult it is for me to touch others' thoughts these days.  Do you have any idea of why the Guardians are doing this?  Allowing me to have access to such devices and all the books and now moving pictures?"

"Frankly, I am not altogether sure because they have inundated me with the same."

"Why do you suppose they are so intent on educating us about the Other Time and Place?"

"I honestly don't know.  The Valar are as mysterious to me as they are to you."

Sauron said nothing in return.  Inscrutable as the Valar's actions might be, he felt a spark of hope catch hold.  He doubted that the Guardians would be educating him like this if their ultimate plan was to toss him into the Void to join Melkor.  But what were their intentions toward him?  

He ran his fingers along the black frame before he set it down at his side.   And now, what do you have to say, Mr. Baggins?  He unfolded the old hobbit's letter and read the now familiar, spidery script.

"'All are distant kindred of one sort or another.'  He speaks the truth there!"  he said aloud as he read.  "Fascinating, what he says about this Adamanta.  Twelve children!  Is that so?"

Olórin nodded and puffed on his pipe.

"Astonishing.  I didn't think we had it in us to be so prolific.  My hat's off to her."   He read on.  "Ha!  Bombadil!  Has anyone figured out just what kind of creature he is?"

"No, he's as peculiar and enigmatic as ever."

Sauron continued to read.  "Humph.  So Laurefin's prophecy was fulfilled, although strictly speaking, Meriadoc Brandybuck is a man, just a man of a nominally different race than Men."

"You're being pedantic."

"You'd expect otherwise?"  

Sauron lingered over Bilbo's response to his leading question:  had he meet any of the smiths in Rivendell?  He already knew the answer to that, but he had not known how exactly the old hobbit would respond.

He raised his eyes from the letter to look at Olórin.  "He remembers her.  He speaks well of her, too."

"Why wouldn't he?  The Istyanis made a favorable impression on him, and the feeling was mutual.  He noticed her accent straightaway."

"Stands to reason.  She was in the East for so long that I am not surprised her pronunciations were affected."

"No, not just that accent.  He also noticed the way she speaks the High-Elven tongue:  that she uses the thorn.  Stubbornly adheres to it, I might add.  I am certain he guessed that she descends from the House of Fëanáro."

"Astute of him.   She doesn't make a secret of that.  She slaps the Fëanorian star on all her work, after all, and still wears the circlet that Tyelperinquar made for her.  I would assume he guessed no more?"

"He had no reason to do so, and I do not think such a thing would ever occur to him.  During the Third Age, you were seen as something quite inhuman."

"Believe me, I took great pains to foster than image, and the fact is, the consequences of necromancy do not contribute to humane characteristics."

Olórin visibly shuddered.  Sauron guessed that he was recalling his foray into Dol Guldur when he had been in search of Thrain.   For a moment, he gloated, recalling the White Council's attack on his old stronghold and his clever feint to take up residence in Mordor.   Ah, yes, that had been a triumph!

His counselor visibly shook off what must have been a dark memory, and then lit his pipe again.  "You must have mentioned something to Bilbo that made him recall her."

"I did."

"Why?"

Sauron said nothing, but Olórin did not allow the silence to linger.

"Is it because you want to tell him about her and Culinen?  About that part of your life?"

May as well be frank with him...and myself.  "Yes."

"And why would you wish to tell him?"

"So that he — and perhaps his kinsman — will see that there's more to me than a tyrant with ambitions to be the god-king of Middle-earth."

"Good heavens!  You don't still harbor those ambitions, do you?"

"No, not precisely," he replied all too quickly. Go on.  Be honest with him.  "But, yes, I do think about it now and again. Not much I can do about it though!   But yes, I would like to tell him about the better part of my nature.  Perhaps it will crack open the door that remains shut between us."

"Telling him may have the opposite effect."

"It might.  That's a risk, I suppose."  The wizard's dark eyes took an unfocused cast, as if he were looking back into another time.  "The thing about Bilbo Baggins is that he has a great capacity for pity."

"I do not want his pity!" 

Sauron would not have been surprised to see stones split at the sharpness in his response.  Olórin's brows bristled, and his dark eyes smoldered.  The arid air between them nearly crackled until Sauron took a deep breath and relented.

"I'm sorry, Olórin.  This is such a painful subject."  He looked away before the old wizard could see that his eyes threatened to tear up.  He gritted his teeth and swiftly regained control of his grief.  "I do not suppose you have heard anything of Culinen?  If there's any chance that she might reincarnate?"

"I have heard nothing.  I am sorry..."

Sauron lifted his hand before Olórin could say any more. "Yes, thank you.  Well, then.  I'd best get to work on my projects.  'Books on Golf.'  So, I assume he has questioned you about this?"

"Persistently!  It was not at all easy to explain, and he is a shrewd as ever, but I think he is quite taken with the idea that hobbits continue to exert such a powerful influence."

"Yes," replied Sauron dryly.  "A most powerful influence."

Later, Sauron sat at his desk in his cell, pen in hand, paper laid out before him, and a cup of black coffee steaming nearby.

{Dear Mr. Baggins,

Thank you very much for such a splendid wealth of tales in your latest letter.  There is so much for me to respond to, from Adamanta to old Tom Bombadil to the shieldmaiden of the Rohirrim and to that mysterious but intriguing word:  smial.

First, yes, there are indeed Books on Golf.  If you are interested, I will happily translate not only the tales by P.G. Wodehouse, but also another called Green Memories.  I think you (and your kinsman) might enjoy it.  As to the author of that work (a fellow named Bernard Darwin), I can only tell you that he, like Mr. Wodehouse, does not live in the here and now, but will live in a place you might find very familiar and yet different, too.  How the Guardians obtain such books for me, I cannot tell you.  Please just accept this as one of the Valar's many mysteries.

I must say, your remark on our distant kinship moved me — that all of us come from common roots, although we might debate how those roots came to be.  Your assessment that not all branches of the family are as congenial as others made me laugh.  Can you imagine if I had appeared at one of your hobbit teas in the Shire as a long-lost cousin, many times removed from your Adamanta?  The very idea makes me laugh aloud.  Never mind me.  Of late, I find amusement in the most absurd things.

"Gob-smacked."  What a wonderful expression!  Likewise, I was thoroughly gob-smacked when I read that your Adamanta had twelve children.  As I told Olórin, it's remarkable that one of us, meaning the Maiar, was so very prolific.  I daresay she is the most prolific of our people.  This is not the usual case.

I am not at all surprised, however, that she often takes the form of a hobbitess, for she most likely experienced her happiest moments in that guise.  Contrary to the misinformed writings of Middle-earth historians (Ælfwine, Rúmil, or Pengolodh, I forget which), the Maiar do not become locked into a form when we beget children.   Rather, we beget children through a form that we favor.   I suspect that you and your kinsman remind her so strongly of a part of her life that gave her such joy, however brief, that she is not only doing this to honor you (although that likely is true) but because she genuinely likes being a hobbitess.}

[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 biased.]

Sauron lifted the pen and considered Bilbo's remarks about Frodo.  He tried to summon a similar kind of charitable feeling — or, dare he say it, affection — for Frodo Baggins that he felt for the elder hobbit.   It was impossible.   True, Frodo's role in destruction of the Ring had freed him of the vicious cycle of grasping for power, doubt, fear, and yet more grasping.  Nonetheless, he could not forget that the younger Baggins was responsible for the annihilation of all he had achieved in Middle-earth.

"Finest hobbit the Shire ever produced," he said aloud.  Now that left a bitter taste in his mouth.   However, Sauron considered that Bilbo viewed Frodo as a proud father might.  He did call him the son-of-his-heart.  I can respect that.  He set pen to paper again.

{I cannot speak to the characteristics of the tribe of hobbits you name "Fallohides."  Remind me, have you elaborated on these?  I remain ignorant of the subtleties of hobbit ancestries and their divergence, for I made no in-depth study of your folk, in contrast to Men and Elves.  So I will take your word that these Fallohide traits have been distilled into your beloved cousin, and yes, your bias shows.  I would imagine there might very well be other hobbits who might say the same about their offspring.  Based on your descriptions of Frodo's companion (and briefly, a Ringbearer), Master Hamfast would be justified in such a claim.  Then again, so might the parents of the insatiably curious Peregrin and the courageous Meriadoc (who I venture to say was truly responsible for Angmar's demise).

It is curious, is it not, how traits become diluted over the generations and then emerge to become concentrated in one individual?   That would seem to have happened to your cousin.   And why "Fallohide?"  Are these hobbits an equivalent of the Mannish House of Hador or the Vanyarin Elves with their abundance of golden hair?   Your kinsman's dark locks do not fit the bill here.

My revelations of Angmar are only a drop in the bucket, to use the colloquialism, of the things I knew and did that you would find highly disturbing.  Angmar's predilections were, to be sure, vile, but not speaking of such things or pretending they do not exist does not necessarily serve others well.   Think of the dark faerie tales children are told.   The purpose of these might warn young ones away from the very real perils (orcs, trolls, wights and the like) in the Wide World, but they also warn of human predators who prowl within their own town, village or tribe.   It may be that hobbits are a notable exception among the Eruhíni and do not harbor any such deviations, but among Men?  Well, it is different for them.}

Sauron once again set his pen down.  He rubbed his eyes and tried to wipe away the mounting wave of guilt when he remembered how he rewarded Angmar in those early days when the Man who became the Witch-king was still human, before he faded to a true wraith.  He knew now how abominable it was to send those young slaves to Angmar. He could still see the faces of those boys, dirty, hungry, yet still pretty, and hopeful from the lies told to them, that they were plucked from the mines to be sent to a better place.  In part, that was true. They'd be fed well and no longer suffer the foul airs of the mines.  That was sufficient to ease his conscience just a little.  After all, the gifts of these pets had served his purpose in further locking his hold on the Man who became the Lord of the Nazgûl.   

Yet more transgressions for which I can never atone. Well, no point in feeling sorry for myself.  Forge on… He picked up the pen.

{I suppose the Shire records are accurate enough.  The Witch-king was villainous, but he was also an extremely capable captain.  However, I would challenge the contention that he was a villain of the worst sort.  I claim that distinction, for I knowingly engaged in many terrible deeds myself, or ordered them to take place, and ignored my conscience when it stood in the way of my ambition.  I might tell you of my many heinous deeds, for example, the precise means I used to incinerate Gil-galad (although I might note that was an act of war, always a very brutal business), the techniques I applied to torture Maedhros, my deception of Gorlim, how I extracted information from Gollum, how I drove Denethor of Gondor to despair, and the list goes on and on.   Simply put, there were many times that I realized what I did was wrong, but I invariably found justification for my actions.

But on to something less onerous than my endless list of evil deeds — the subject of Iarwain Ben Adar, although I must say, 'Tom Bombadil" has a more charming ring to it.   Old Bombadil is an enigma, not only to the Eruhíni, but to the Ainur as well.   Curiously, he is not one of my folk.  When we (meaning the Ainur) opened the Gates of Arda and settled on Imbar, we found this fellow already here before us, tramping about the forests and hills in the west of Endórë.   I think Oromë stumbled upon him first.   Couldn't get a coherent word out of the creature, but presumably, Iarwain learned to speak to the Quendi and the Followers.  Bombadil has never been forthcoming with regard to his origins, if he even remembers them, but there's something to be said for mysteries, don't you think?

So the hobbit walking party encountered a barrow-wight and lived to tell the tale?  Obviously, they did.  They were fortunate, for the wights are very dangerous beings, again apt for evil purposes but not so easy to control.   With the proper spells, they may be repelled, and evidently Bombadil knew just what to do.

That your friends also stumbled across those blades is all the more remarkable, for the spells embedded in them were the only things that could have brought down Angmar, short of the Ring's destruction.  That makes me curious about the daggers.   Who forged them and who laid those spells into their steel?  I suppose I will never know the answers to those questions.

Thank you for recounting the tale of Éowyn of Rohan and Meriadoc of the Shire.  If I had considered how the Witch-king might fall (indeed I did not think it possible), I could not have conceived of a more unlikely pair to accomplish the task.   I am sure their deeds have been put to the harp among the bards in the mead halls up and down the Anduin Valley.   I have to say that found myself chuckling at Peregrin Took's impish sense of humor directed toward a dark subject.  That is something I can appreciate.  

As to the trials and mishaps of the Company that set out from Imladris, I know of these in general, thanks to Olórin who gave me an account when I had plenty of time to listen to him as I shall explain.  I know that Meriadoc recovered and returned to the Shire, but what happened to Éowyn of Rohan?  Obviously, she survived the effects of the Black Breath.  That's an odd name for the effects of the enchantments that knitted the Nazgûl together.  Makes one think that the Ringwraiths might have ingested too much garlic, that is, if they could ingest!  

Also, thank you for telling me of Glorfindel's tale of his encounter with the balrog.  Perhaps I shall ask him about this face-to-face someday, although I cannot foresee such a meeting in the very near future. I can well understand his reluctance to delve into detail of his encounter with the balrog.   A balrog at close quarters invariably results in horrific (and often fatal) injury for an incarnate of the Eruhíni, not quite as awful as falling into the fires of Orodruin but close enough.   From what I understand, Glorfindel has a good deal to accomplish in Middle-earth before he can take his leave, and I expect it will be extremely difficult for him to let go of Endórë.   It was for many of us, but it is clear that the World of Men has arrived.

Now, with regard to the Istyanis, I can confidently assure you that by now she has put your kind gift of the pepper-pot to good use, because she is utterly enamored of spicy food, thanks to her long sojourn in the East — Bharat, specifically, although I understand she journeyed to Kitai and the Lands of the Dawn under the tutelage of Alatar and Pallando, whom you call "the Blue Wizards."   If she did not commandeer a spice-grinder from the kitchens of the House of Elrond to grind the peppercorns for said pepper-pot, she would have made one herself.  I would venture to say that she did not know what a smial was, and I also venture to say that you explained it to her in great detail.  Might I ask that you do the same for me?  How do you pronounce it?  Smee-yal?  

Now, I could leave it at that, and let you wonder why I am so confident that the Istyanis not only appreciated, but also actually used your gift, and likely continues to use it.  However, rather than teasing you, I think it is time for me to open up to you once again, to use Olórin's vernacular.  I have alluded to this subject previously when I mentioned that the human form I now inhabit is very much like (if not identical to) the one with which I made my best creation.  Likely, you took that to mean the Ring.  That is not what I meant.  The Istyanis is my best creation, for she is my daughter.

I imagine that if there are any feathers nearby as you read this revelation, they will have knocked you over by now.  Although the knowledge of your Maiarin ancestress might allow for the plausibility that I might be a father and husband, I expect what you and many others knew of me in the Third Age makes wholly improbable the very idea that I might harbor such human qualities.  I am well aware that recorded histories proclaim this unlikelihood, too.  But there it is.

I did not create the Istyanis from some arcane spell, but rather through a time-honored and quite pleasurable means.    That bears some discussion (not prurient, I assure you).  I suspect that the Valar are too far removed from the Eruhíni to beget children on them, although again, the Valar retain their mysteries, so who knows?  But we Maiar are more closely related to you, the Eruhíni.   To the best of my knowledge, Olórin, Curumo and Aiwendil managed to resist love affairs and marriage.  Of Alatar and Pallando, I have no idea.  I did ask Olórin once if he had enjoyed the pleasures of incarnate love during his sojourn in Endórë.  Oh, the look he gave me!  I never asked again.  

I expect this challenges how you (and others) conceive of me as the Great Enemy. Of course, I fostered a larger-than-life image of the remote, untouchable Dark Lord, seeing all with his Great Eye from the mighty heights of the Barad-dûr.  Exposing my more human aspects would have weakened my aura and called into question the extent of my powers.   Conversely, when leaders rouse others to fight against an enemy, acknowledgment of the opponent's humanity is not helpful to the cause.  Best to keep him dark, terrible and monstrous.  The latter is not far from the truth, especially with regard to my aspect of the Third Age, but it is not the whole truth.

The Istyanis' mother, Culinen, is the very reason that I linger here in Mandos.  My wife died in my arms during the fall of Ost-in-Edhil.  Although it was not I who killed her, I am ultimately responsible for her death, and to say that haunts me is quite an understatement.  Every day, I seek hints of her presence here in Námo's halls.   I would give anything to see her once more and tell her how very sorry I am and to tell her that I truly loved her, still love her, and always will. Then the Valar may toss me willy-nilly into the Void.}

His script, always so decisive yet graceful, now wavered.  He stopped writing to wipe away the tears that blurred his otherwise keen vision.  The memory of the light leaving Culinen's eyes was all too vivid.  But he had a task at hand here, and somehow, putting all this to paper relieved a tension within him, like releasing a tight knot in a straining rope.  He gathered himself and set pen to paper again.

{In a nutshell, as they say, I met Culinen in Ost-in-Edhil almost as soon as I set foot in the city.  She was the only child of Caranthir (Carnistir's name rendered in Sindarin, but you, who translated The Shibboleth of Fëanor, ought to know that) and was born in Thargelion by the shores of Lake Helevorn, where her father built his fortress.  That made her Celebrimbor's cousin, and they became close, being the only survivors of their clan after the War of Wrath, save for Maglor, who allegedly yet lives.   

Wedding Culinen was much to my advantage.   Our marriage strengthened my ties to Celebrimbor, gave me even more credibility among the smiths, and most importantly, connected me to the royal House of Finwë, which neatly played into my regal ambitions.

Those motivations for marrying her must seem cold and calculating.  I do not deny that, for "cold and calculating" are true to my nature, but they do not tell the whole story.  As I said (and say again and again), I loved her, Mr. Baggins, and I still do.   I could wax poetic about her beauty (and I thought her very beautiful, as beautiful as Adamanta must have been in the eyes of your forefather), but it was her mind more than anything that attracted me.  Such a brilliant woman, and truly my equal in that regard.   In keeping with her Fëanorian heritage, she searched for the answers to the most fundamental of questions.  She puzzled over the very roots of our existence, and tried to connect things so small they cannot be seen to the larger world.  So we had that in common.  She was also just as proud and opinionated as I am, so our discussions were invigorating, and our arguments?  Well, they were spectacular.   

We had been married for a little over a yén when she expressed longing for a child.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to give her one.  Although we Fays may be attracted to the Eruhíni, we are not exceptionally fertile with your kind, or so I believed until your latest missive!   I remain gob-smacked — absolutely gob-smacked — by the notion of twelve children.

I gave her desire careful consideration.  If I begat a child, I would achieve what Melkor never could — creation of a new life — and in that, I could surpass him. Furthermore, I told myself, I could groom such a child to be my lieutenant, just as I had been Melkor's, but the child would cleave to me fully out of loyalty and love.   

All of these were self-serving motivations yet again, but what parent who chooses to have a child does not have selfish reasons?  But there was something else, too, something wholly unconditional:  Culinen greatly desired a son or a daughter.  Because I loved her, I did my best to give her one.  I began the meditations that Elf-men must use to prepare their bodies for begetting children.  And it worked. I named our baby Naryen shortly after she was born, and Culinen called her Mélamírë (also very appropriate) only a few months later.

Those days were the best of my long, eventful life, but it was a life lived in deceit, and ultimately, I squandered what I loved in exchange for power.  I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I had turned from my quest to become the supreme ruler of Middle-earth?  If I had been content to live in Ost-in-Edhil as the respected Istyar, married to a wonderful woman and father of a daughter of whom I am immensely proud?  How different the world would have been.

You may see now why I am so curious about Glorfindel, and at the same time, so vexed.  Yes, Sauron the Terrible is no different than a fussy old man whose darling daughter has married a man of Whom He Does Not Approve (but probably ought to).  I am ridiculously overprotective, although Naryen would call me horrendously controlling.  She would be right, too.  After my wife's death, I could not bear the thought of Naryen being out of my sphere of influence.  So my soldiers captured her and bore her away to Mordor while I wreaked havoc throughout Eriador.  Much to my astonishment, she managed to escape the Barad-dûr.  That is a tale unto itself.

Another tale of note might be how I came to be trapped in a mithril ring that I made for Naryen. When the One Ring was destroyed, my hold on my then less-than-adequate body (always tenuous) disintegrated.  I recall rising high above the crumbling Barad-dûr and directing one last threat toward the Army of the West.  Then the winds came.  I thought Manwë would blow me to shards and send my spirit off to gnaw and claw at itself in the Wilderness (as Olórin had predicted), but the core of myself — that which makes me, well, me — coalesced, defied the winds and shot straight toward the West.  I had no idea of what was happening until I became aware I was streaking toward Minas Tirith, where Naryen stood near the wall on the upper level of the city.   I found myself drawn up into her ring, a failsafe I had crafted to ensure my own survival (the curwë behind the One was imperfect, as I have noted), but also ensnared in a prison of my own devising.

Naryen gave the ring to Olórin, and he bore me here to face judgment in the Máhaxanar — the Ring of Doom.  While we were on the voyage, he told me much of what had transpired, but did not have the time or inclination to go into great detail.  For that, I rely on you, or, if I may say so, your kinsman, if he is inclined to elaborate.

So there you have it, Mr. Baggins.   My greatest regrets are the events that led to my wife's death and the estrangement of my daughter.  I know there are those who say I deserve every dram of pain inflicted upon me.  They may be right, but I do not think that Culinen and Naryen deserved the loss of husband and father. That is the greatest cost of my many betrayals.   The very greatest cost.  No less of a cost is that I will never dandle my little grandsons on my knee like a grandfather ought.   

Bauglir's black blood, but I am a sentimental old fool!   Forgive me.  I told Olórin that I wished to tell you of my most human qualities so that you will not see me as an absolute monster.  But I strongly suspect this makes it all the worse.   I do not seek your pity by way of this lengthy outpouring, but instead tell you this so that you may come to know me a bit better.  I will conclude by saying that I am glad to know that you had interesting conversations with the Istyanis, and that you think her husband is a decent fellow.   You have eased a father's worry, and I thank you for that.

Sincerely yours,

D.L. Sauron}

He set the pen down and took a gulp of coffee, now cold and bitter.  He picked up the pages of the letter to Mr. Baggins.

I could, and probably should, tear this to shreds and start over. I could say nothing of this to him.  Nothing of Culinen or Naryen. 

He held the letter in his hands for a good long while before he made his decision. Then he folded the pages into precise thirds, stood, and knocked on the door. He smelled iron; the tray in the door formed and slid open.  He placed the letter on the tray and watched it disappear.   Then he picked up the new tablet and lay down on his bed.   He pressed the symbol that opened up a realm of moving pictures.  He scanned them and settled on one.  Grim, dramatic music played, perfect for his mood, and the title formed against a dark, brooding sky:  King Lear.

~~~~~~~~~~~

"My dear Bilbo!  Are you all right?"

Indeed, Bilbo did not feel at all "all right".  He could feel the blood drain from his face, his hands trembled as he held the letter tightly, his old heart was racing.  He forced himself to take a deep breath and a sip of his tea — his mouth was dry — he took another sip.  He drew another breath.

"I am fine, Gandalf," he said, forcing lightness into his tone.  "Just somewhat — startled."

Keen black eyes snapped beneath the bushy brows.  "Do not presume to lie to me, Bilbo Baggins!  I thought for a moment there you were about to swoon."  The gaze sharpened, and then relented.  "Please do not frighten me so, old friend, or I shall regret ever allowing this correspondence."

"I just —" Bilbo looked back at the letter.  "I just had no idea. No idea at all.  I think this is even more startling than learning about Adamanta."  

Gandalf shook his head, and gave a rueful chuckle.  "Startling?  Hobbitish understatement if ever I heard it."

Now Bilbo was able to manage a smile, if a brief one.  "This news is interesting, to say the least.  I shall have to think about it."  Filled with a sudden burst of energy, he rose to his feet and paced back and forth.  "I am sorry, Gandalf!  I really am!"

"Good heavens, Bilbo, do not apologize to me.  You have done nothing to be sorry for."

"I do not know how to answer this!" He began to pace back and forth, "I never thought — his revelations are so — personal!  He doesn't ask me to feel sorry for him.  I don't want to feel sorry for him!"

"Then don't.  He would not welcome Pity, for he does not understand its uses."

Bilbo stopped, and stared at Gandalf.  "Uses?  I am afraid I don't understand what you mean."

Gandalf smiled, and he seemed somehow brighter as he spoke.  "Yes, you do.  But you understand it here…" he reached out a hand and touched Bilbo on the chest where his heart was beating, "…and not in your head.  Pity, also known as mercy or compassion, is one of the most useful things that any of the Children possess, and you as a hobbit, are gifted with a greater amount than most races.  And you, yourself, are gifted with more than most other hobbits.  Perhaps even more than Frodo, who learned it from you and from sad experience, you know how important it is."

Bilbo blushed, and sat down again.  "You mean Gollum?" he asked.

"Among other things," he said.  "At any rate, Sauron is a different matter altogether.  He does not understand pity's importance in the same way you or I do — because he does not wish to.  And right now, he does not especially need it, although the day may come when he does."

"But how am I to answer this?" Bilbo asked plaintively.

"My good hobbit, you do not need to put pen to paper immediately.  Not even in three days, despite your Cousin Dora's admonitions.  He is not going anywhere.  And even when you do answer it, you do not need to address those revelations in detail."

Bilbo looked up at him with one arched brow and said wryly, "You told me you do not read what he writes."

"Nor do I.  But he as much as told me what he was going to write this time; and it was clear from your face as you read that he told you more than the mere facts of the matter."

Bilbo sighed and shook his head.  "I will answer it."

"I know you will, old friend.  You are Bilbo Baggins, and you do what you set out to do."

"I'm very tired, Gandalf."

Gandalf did not speak, but allowed the elderly hobbit to lean into his side for a while, and they sat in companionable silence.  Gandalf soon felt his friend slip into sleep, and he sat quietly and meditated on the qualities of mercy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was, indeed, a good many more days than three before Bilbo could get up the nerve to read the letter once more and consider setting pen to paper.  He found he was able to read it this time with a bit more equanimity than the first.  

He pursed his lips and thought on the matter.  He could easily answer the first part of the letter.  He would try to get that far, and then decide how to deal with the revelations of the second half.  They still disturbed him on some visceral level in a way that he could not quite understand.

{Dear Mr. Sauron,

I apologise for taking so long to answer your last missive.  I am afraid I was rather taken aback by some of what you had to tell me, and needed to think over my response.  

Then too, I have been away from my home for some days.  Elrond and his family took a brief sea voyage along the coast and invited Frodo and myself to join them.  It was quite a pleasant experience, and much different than our voyage here to the Blessed Isle.  On that voyage I cannot recall being so aware of the Sea itself.  For much of the journey here was more like a dream than an actual experience, and it was not until we neared our destination that I have any clear memories of that trip.

I shall look forward very much to your translations of those books.  Gandalf remains very cagey about them.  Close as an oyster he can be sometimes.  (That's an expression I never heard and a delicacy I never had before coming here!  The Elves seem to like them baked or stewed or even raw, but Frodo and I discovered that they are delicious breaded and fried in the same way as other fishes.)  At any rate, it does seem to be a mystery on which he refuses to enlighten me.  Not that I have given up trying.

You ask about "Fallohides", and I cannot recall if I had mentioned them before.  It is hard for me to  understand sometimes that you do not know what seems to me to be common knowledge—it makes me realise that I myself am subject to a good deal of the Shire insularity which afflicts most hobbits.  Why, indeed, should anyone outside the Shire (or possibly Bree) have any knowledge at all of the origins of such an obscure race as hobbits?

According to the historical records of the Shire, there were originally three clans of hobbits: the Harfoots (acknowledged as the predominant hobbit-type) who were the first to take up farming and gardening; the Stoors (alleged by some malicious gossips to have had a petty Dwarf among their ancestors); and the Fallohides (who tended to be hunters and gatherers, and whose skin tended to be more fair; their hair, on the other hand, was usually darker than average, though there were some who also had fair hair, or amongst the Tookish branch, the reddish tinge of chestnut).  It was also thought that Fallohides tended to lighter eyes, as well, but it was from Adamanta that I learned the blue, grey and green eyes found in Fallohide clans came from her side of the family.  The majority of hobbits have brown eyes.  Adamanta's beloved husband Tûk was among the early Fallohides.

The Harfoots preferred to settle where the soil was fertile, among gentle lands easily tilled and planted, and with low hills into which their holes could be easily dug.  The Stoors seemed to like riverbanks and the areas around lakes or marshes, and were keen anglers.  But the Fallohides made their holes among the higher hills, where they kept flocks of sheep and goats, and from which they would venture to explore and to hunt.  Fallohides also tended towards more boldness and curiosity, and were far less timid than the other clans.

Over the centuries the blood of the three clans has mingled freely.  But in what are sometimes called in the Shire, the Great Families, there has always seemed to be more Fallohide blood, most especially in the very oldest known of Shire hobbit families: the Tooks, the Brandybucks, the Bolgers, the Boffins, the Proudfoots and the Bagginses.  Most of the families of the gentry have kin among those six clans, who are the oldest known clans.  The name of "Fallohide" has faded from use; the brothers Marcho and Blanco who founded the Shire used the Fallohide name, but their descendants did not.  Nor will the name of "Stoor" be found in any of the families who settled the Shire.  There linger some few families with the surname of "Harfoot".}

Bilbo paused, and looked at the next part.  The Witch-king of Angmar featured more prominently than most non-hobbit names in histories of the Shire, since his actions in the wars in the North had impinged upon hobbits, if only briefly.  He even found his way into some of the darker "scary stories" young hobbits were so fond of around a bonfire during Harvest festivals.  Most more scholarly hobbits had dismissed the worst stories about him as exaggerations or fabrications, but now Bilbo realised that they had probably been toned down to make them more suitable — much in the same way as he had done when telling the story of his own Adventure.  He smiled ruefully when he recalled young Peregrin's shock at discovering how much worse trolls were in real life than they had been in his tales.

[Think of the dark faerie tales children are told.   The purpose of these might warn young ones away from the very real perils (orcs, trolls, wights and the like) in the Wide World, but they also warn of human predators who prowl within their own town, village or tribe.   It may be that hobbits are a notable exception among the Eruhíni and do not harbor any such deviations… ]

Were hobbits an exception?  It was not that he did not know that some hobbits could be extraordinarily selfish and nasty—he could remember how unkind his Uncle Longo had always been to his father, recall the greed and ambition of the Sackville-Bagginses, the grasping nature of Lalia Clayhanger Took, and Frodo had told him some of what had occurred in the Shire during those two years between his arrival back there and his departure from the Grey Havens left no doubt that Lotho had given some orders that had resulted in violence or even death to other hobbits — that the actions were done by Men did not take away from the evil of those orders.  

And though it was often said with no little pride that the murder of one hobbit by another on purpose had never taken place in the Shire, well, who could say what "on purpose" was?  He recalled the gossip about Frodo's parents, and of what he had been told about the aftermath of Lalia's death by Frodo and the others.  Clearly thoughts of murder could cross hobbit minds, even if the action did not follow.

These were troubling thoughts, very troubling indeed.  Perhaps at some time he could discuss them with Gandalf; he was unsure about the wisdom of discussing them with Frodo.  Frodo's healing was proceeding apace, but there was nothing that could heal lost innocence, and Bilbo had no intention of poking at his cousin's sore spots, even if they were barely scars.

Obviously, however, he kept poking inadvertently at his correspondent's sore spots, as a letter did not seem to go by without Sauron talking of how heinous his own deeds were, and how he had suppressed any tendencies that lay in the way of his ambition…

Tom Bombadil was not a Maia?  That was a surprise.  He had always assumed that he was, once he'd discovered the fellow was real, and not simply a Bucklandish legend.  He knew Gandalf counted him a friend; perhaps the wizard would know; perhaps not.

[That your friends also stumbled across those blades is all the more remarkable, for the spells embedded in them were the only things that could have brought down Angmar, short of the Ring's destruction.  That makes me curious about the daggers.   Who forged them and who laid those spells into their steel?  I suppose I will never know the answers to those questions.]

Bilbo smiled.  He knew what Gandalf thought.  He also knew that his correspondent did not agree, but he had learned enough to have faith that Gandalf was right and that there was Someone who saw to the ordering of such matters.  After all, his presence here, and Frodo's, was more than evidence enough for him.  But this was a highly subjective matter, and truthfully not something he felt comfortable discussing even in a letter.  He dipped his quill and began to write once more.

{You asked about the fate of Lady Éowyn of Rohan.  As it so happens, after the end of the War, she wed the younger son of Lord Denethor, Faramir.  He too had suffered from the Black Breath and recovered (Your description of the malady made me laugh aloud, but reminds me that I have a question for you.)  By all accounts the two are very much in love and very happy.  Merry and Pippin were filled with glee with the match, I know, for of course Merry accounted the lady a dear friend after all they had been through, while Pippin had a great admiration of Lord Faramir, who subsequently became Aragorn's Steward when the Kingdom was renewed.  Frodo also admires and respects him, most especially for his kindness in sending him and Sam on their way when they encountered him in Ithilien}

Bilbo paused, and toyed with the idea of mentioning that Lord Faramir had also refused the lure of the Ring.  He decided not to, as he found that his correspondent had rather volatile reactions to mentions of it.  Best not to twist the knife in the wound.  He would instead ask something that might be provoking or might not, but was something he'd often wondered about, and knew that Frodo had as well.

{Here are a couple of questions I have often wondered about: once the Nazgûl actually had become wraiths and were under your domination, how much free will did they have left?  I wonder, because the story as I was told by Frodo and the others of their pursuit from the Shire seemed to me to show a certain lack of initiative on their part.  There were occasions when those Black Riders (as my young friends called them) could have easily captured them all if they had only done something slightly different.

I have also wondered about the effects of their "Black Breath", which from all accounts they seemed to spread fairly widely-- and yet in the Shire, they are able to talk to hobbits during their search without said hobbits falling over in a fatal swoon at their presence.  Could they control the intensity of their influence of fear?}

He looked at the letter again.  He was approaching the part of Sauron's revelations that he found disturbing.  The Istyanis, that very nice and kind smith, and gracious lady, was…his…daughter.  He put the quill down, and got up.  A cup of tea. That was what he needed, a cup of tea in the garden, perhaps with a couple of sugar biscuits…

After a brief repast, in which the sugar biscuits were also joined by a peach and some creamy soft cheese, he took his walking stick and walked down to the beach.  He was not so fond of walking upon the shifting sands as his younger cousin was, but there was also a boardwalk that paralleled the beach for a short way, and then led down to a small pier.  The brisk sea air helped clear his thoughts, and it was not long before he was spotted by Frodo who joined him and walked back up to the house with him.  

The two were soon engaged in preparing supper, and Bilbo decided to put finishing the letter off until the next day.

{You mentioned that the Istyanis lived in the far lands of the East—Bharat  and Kitai, lands of which I have never even heard, and you mentioned the Blue Wizards — of whom I have only heard but little, very little.  I certainly never heard even their names before; Gandalf had only told me once on the voyage over that there had once been five wizards, and that two of them were Blue and he did not know what had come of them.  I believe he had hoped Radagast the Brown would come back with him.

 [I would venture to say that she did not know what a smial was, and I also venture to say that you explained it to her in great detail.  Might I ask that you do the same for me?  How do you pronounce it?  Smee-yal?]

Smial.  Yes, that is how it is pronounced; a very old Shire word, and all that it means is that is what we mostly call the holes we live in.  I did not realise I had not used the word before in my letters.  "Smial" and "hole" are pretty much interchangeable in the Shire, although "hole" has its other more common meanings, and "smial" does not.  The pepper-pot I gave her was shaped rather like a miniature hill dotted with flowers, and showed the doors, windows and chimney of the smial.  If I remember correctly, it had a red door.  The upper part of the hill lifted off so that it could be filled.}

Bilbo stopped again.  Now they came to the meat of the letter.  The part that had filled him with such turmoil.

{You are quite right. I could have been knocked over by a feather.  I was quite stunned by your revelation!

The Istyanis was a very kind and gracious lady.  I recall that she had a lovely smile, and I enjoyed seeing how happy she and Glorfindel were.  To learn that she is actually your daughter is un-nerving to say the least.

Certainly, after learning of Adamanta, I do not doubt that such a thing is feasible.  But I would have put the probability of it at, well, at none at all.

That you married during that time when you were in disguise in Ost-in-Edhil and then that you had a child seems less unlikely when I consider what you tell me of your motives in making your place in that society.  

But all that followed after I find confusing.  If, as you tell me you did (and this I am sure you mean) you loved your family, I simply cannot understand how you were able to follow through with what came after.  I find that very baffling.  But I do realise that probably has much to do with my own race, for there is much among the history of Elves and Men that I find confusing as well.

I do understand now your curiosity about Glorfindel; your questions make a good deal of sense, and I am glad that I was able to reassure you that he is making a good husband for the Istyanis.

I cannot begin to imagine how deep your regrets may be, nor how you could have brought yourself to betray your family, but perhaps there will come a time when you might be reunited with your wife, if only briefly.

Sincerely yours,

Bilbo Baggins, Esq.}

Bilbo looked at his letter, somewhat dissatisfied.  There was much he had not said.  But if he was to continue this correspondence it would hardly be wise to tell Sauron that he was getting only what he deserved and had brought upon himself, nor to speculate on what his wife's reactions might be if they were reunited.

And dash it all!  He did NOT want to feel sorry for him.

But he did. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~  



Chapter End Notes:

Dreamflower's notes:  

Most of the information about the history of the hobbits was gleaned from canon, but there are quite a few of my own fanon ideas mingled in with it.  That Marcho and Blanco actually used "Fallohide" as a surname, and the part about petty Dwarves and the Stoors are definitely my own head-canon.

Lalia Took is "quasi-canonical", and her story features in JRRT's Letters, #214.

There is also a brief reference to my story "A Question of Trolls".

The "pepper-pot" I describe is based on a piece of fanart I once saw, though I seem to have lost the link to the image.  It was a little polymer sculpture, and I admired it a lot.

Pandemonium's notes: 

Ellor Eshúrizel  is mentioned in The History of Middle-earth, Vol. IX, Sauron Defeated, "The Notion Club Papers."  Ramer describes it as one of the "places off Earth, other heavenly bodies…" that he has visited in a dream-state.  In the Pandë!verse, this is where many of the Valar (and not only those concerned with Arda) dwell and where the proto-Maiar were taken to be taught and nurtured.

Those unfamiliar with the Pandë!verse may find the more human side of Sauron to be as shocking as Bilbo does, and those who prefer to see Evil as an external agency may outright reject the idea.   For my part, I am addressing Tolkien's world with the view of a humanist while still acknowledging aspects of Tolkien's legendarium.   From my humanistic stance, it is not Satan (or a Morgoth) who has fundamentally corrupted the world and mankind:  it is us — humans — who, by our very nature, are capable of such harm.  Yet also, by our very nature, we are capable of great good.  

In my vision of Middle-earth, if one has a human form, then human qualities, with all their complexities and foibles, even if overlaid with that of what we would call "magic," are an inevitable consequence.  The good and bad qualities are mixed and fall along a spectrum from one extreme to another, but with no absolutes, which really is not so different from Tolkien's vision. The addition of a family is meant to emphasize the terrible personal consequences of betrayal, not only to the betrayed, but also to the betrayer.

 





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