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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}.


An Unexpected Visitor


 

The crumpled paper sailed through the air with a perfect arc, just so, but bounced off the rim of the wastebasket and fell to the floor, joining a gaggle of its wadded fellows.  Sauron stared at the mess.

Surely there's a metaphor here.  But he couldn't think of anything clever.
He ran his fingers through his hair again, only to have the bothersome strands fall across his face again.

Blast it!  I should just ask to have it cut.

He picked up another sheet of paper from the ream stacked on his desk, and poised the pen above its eggshell-white surface.

What a muddle I have made of this.  Why did I ever tell him?  How can I possibly explain it?

He sat back in the hard chair, its rungs digging into his back.   He had to try again.   And putting pen to paper, he did.

{My dear Mister Baggins,

Rather than hemming and hawing, which would result in yet another piece of paper wasted, I shall come straight to the point:  I am sorry that my last letter troubled you so deeply.  Do not deny it:  your learned discourse on Harfoots, Stoors, and Fallohides (however intriguing that may be) nor your remarks on the gustatory pleasures of oysters (I thoroughly agree with you) cannot disguise how disturbing my revelations were to you.   Exposure of my more human side has shaken more than one person, not because it makes me more likable in any way, shape, or form.  Rather, my actions are made all that much worse, if that makes any sense to one who is already baffled.

I do not expect most, but in particular a Hobbit, to understand how I could betray my family and friends.  When I reflect back on everything I did, I am not altogether sure myself, but I will say that I am not the first man nor will I be the last to deceive loved ones for the sake of power.  Power deludes men, mortal or otherwise, and muddies the truth for those of us who justify the means to our ends.   We become oblivious to the needs of others, including those we love.  

Your friend Olórin observed how readily I became blinded when I focused my wrath on Minas Tirith rather than guarding Mordor from intruders.  "Wise fool," he called me.  And he was right.  I was blinded to the danger on my very doorstep, and so your kinsman and his boon companion slipped past my nets to the very heart of my realm.  I was likewise blinded when I sincerely believed that my wife and daughter would cleave to me, no matter what I did, for the way I saw it, they were mine.  I could not imagine otherwise, just as I could not imagine anyone destroying my Ring.   

Since sending that letter and receiving your reply, I have asked myself many times why I revealed so much to you.  I suppose I foolishly hoped we might find common ground, and perhaps then I could tell you of things that might be far more pleasant for you to hear.

I apologize again for burdening you with this knowledge of my past, more than you likely wanted to know.  It is more appropriate that Olórin bears the brunt of my confessions, for he is my counselor and, as one of my own kind, perhaps better able to understand how I think.

If you wish to cease this correspondence, I will understand, and I will trouble you no more.  To be honest, I hope that you do not, for your letters are bright spots in my long days here, and I find I am learning to look at the world a different way by reading them.  That said, I respect your decision.

Sincerely yours,
D.L. Sauron}

He waited a moment for the ink to dry and quickly folded the letter, allowing no second thoughts.   When he stood at the door, the tray did not open to receive the letter.  Instead, the scent of iron flooded his prison cell when the door opened.  

"You have a visitor," said the one of the pair of guards, cool but polite.  "Please come with us and bring your tablet."

Sauron picked up his reading tablet from the bed.  A visitor.  Now that was something unusual to be sure.  They never announced Olórin in this fashion so it must be someone else.  Finrod perhaps?  He had said he would return, much to Sauron's amazement.   He still could scarcely believe that Finrod had forgiven him.   What a conversation that had been!  Yes, he would welcome a visit from Finrod, whose remarkably generous demeanor might dispel the gloom that had settled on him.  

Sauron was not at all prepared when the doors of the counseling chamber slid open to reveal a seascape of dark waters, tinged crimson like wine, and a sky washed with violet.   A beach of silver sand stretched off on either side to disappear into grey mists.    Pale grasses waved in a gentle breeze, redolent of brine.   A knot of sorrow formed in Sauron's throat when he remembered running up and down such a beach while his parents prepared a steam-pit to roast the sea creatures they had gathered from the little tide pools, an innocent time before their lives went up in flames.

The air between him and the waves wavered then cleared to reveal a figure reclined on one of a pair of cushioned settees facing the waves.  The rarified fragrance of mountain air and lightning mingled with the scent of the sea.  The figure rose, and Sauron immediately recognized the silky white hair, bound back in a long plait interwoven with diamonds and sapphires, and a noble profile that recalled a bird of prey.  Intensely blue eyes, the color of lapis lazuli, trained themselves on him.

Sauron half-whispered in disbelief: "Eönwë…"  

"Mairon."   Manwë's herald walked barefoot in the silver sand toward him, right hand extended in greeting.  His grip on Sauron's hand was firm but cool, almost clammy, an indication that Eönwë did not fully inhabit his fana.

"Please, not 'Mairon.'  Call me 'Saur…' "

"No!  Mairon.  I will hear no more of it."  

Eönwë — as imperious as ever.  

Sauron reached back into his vast vault of memory to the last time he had seen the Herald of Manwë in this guise.  It had been after the War of Wrath, when he came to Eönwë's camp to sue for pardon.   He recalled the flash of gloating triumph that he had perceived in Eönwë's thoughts, enough for him to turn away from facing the Valar's judgment.   He saw nothing like that now.  Curiosity, yes, and perhaps pity.

The guards melted into the background, as they always did, unseen, but present.  Sauron walked alongside Eönwë, the warm sand working its way into his sandals.

"Please, sit."  Eönwë gestured toward the empty settee.  "Would you care for a drink?"

"Yes, thank you."  He eased himself onto the cushions and stretched out his legs.  The shackles of light that bound his ankles hummed faintly.

The Fay who brought the pitcher and glasses on a tray was the same fellow who had served ale at the replica of the Prancing Pony; he had once again crafted his appearance to be identical to Barliman Butterbur.   Sauron had found this to be disconcerting then and even more so now in the context of the sea and sky of his original home.  But the cool drink, a blend of dark cane liquor and fruit juices, eased his misgivings.  

"So how are you?"  The Herald offered him a courteous, if guarded, smile.  "It looks as though you are being treated well."  

"I can't complain on that front, all things considered.   The Doomsman has been more accommodating than I ever would have expected."

"Ah.  Well, he has little choice in the matter.  My master has commanded him to be merciful, and Aulë made it crystal clear that you are not to be mistreated.   Not only that, Ulmo has backed him up.  How you managed to get Ulmo to be your advocate…"

"That surprises me as much as it does you.  I have no idea of what motivates Ulmo in these matters."

"Who does?  He is as slippery as ever, but there's no question Ulmo is a force to be reckoned with.  Be grateful that he spoke for leniency.  Otherwise, you'd be keeping company with your master in the Void."

"Former master."

"Right. Former master."  Eönwë looked at the letter Sauron held.  "For Mister Baggins?"

"Yes."

"I can deliver it, if you wish."

"I would appreciate that."  

"How is the correspondence going?  You should know it is the talk of Taniquetil."

"I imagine it is!  It was going well, but I'm afraid I have been too much for Mister Baggins."

"How so?"

"I told him — how shall I put this?  I told him the details of my life in Ost-in-Edhil. That seems to have pushed him over the edge."

"Yes, I can see why he might find all that disconcerting.  Many do.  What you did to your closest friend was bad enough…" Sauron flinched, and he was certain Eönwë noticed.   He struggled to suppress the vivid memory of what he had done to Tyelperinquar.  He had used brutal techniques, crude but sufficient to break through the bulwarks of his colleague's tormented thoughts and discern images that allowed him to make an astute guess as to the fate of the Three Rings.  He may have ordered others to put Tyelpo to death, but there was no question that his friend's blood indelibly stained his hands.

Eönwë leaned back against the cushions and took a long drink.  "As for your family?  You had absolutely no business becoming so intimate with the Firstborn.  You might have spared yourself and others a good deal of trouble if you had kept your vië tucked safely away in your trousers."

"Such excellent advice, seeing as how it comes from one whom a number of eaglets in the Misty Mountains could call 'Papa.'"

The shade of red that inflamed Eönwë's pale skin could not have gratified Sauron more.  Yet instead of sputtering, as Sauron anticipated, Eönwë broke out into his characteristically grating laugh, its shrillness recalling an eagle's scream.

"Point taken!  I make no apologies."  Eönwë drained his glass and held it out.  Butterbur materialized again, poured the heady mix of liquor and fruit juice into the glass, and discreetly disappeared.  "Errámë prefers the form of an eagle to that of a woman.  Thus our children sport feathers."

"No wonder those bloodthirsty birds interfered with my plans so much.  They take after you."

"I am very proud of Gwaihir's interference, thank you." Eönwë's smug tone grated even more than his laughter.  "Rather than inventing weapons that can destroy the world, his descendants — my descendants — shall become the symbols of great empires."  

"At least one of which will live in infamy," Sauron replied, dark and smooth as the cane liquor in his drink.  "Recall the Wehrmacht eagle of the Third Reich."

"Ah, so you have studied that infamous part of history — or the future — whichever it is. Speaking of which, I have brought you more reading material from Lord Manwë's archives.  May I?"   Eönwë held up what looked like a stick of clear crystal.

Sauron leaned over to pass the tablet to him.   Eönwë stuck the crystal into the side of the tablet.  "There's a biography in here about another one of your descendants…"

"…Who does not have feathers."

"Right!  No feathers.  Rather, he has hair, a copper-top even, perhaps an inheritance from Mahtan. This fellow would seem to take more after Fëanáro than you.  He was, or will be, or is, considered a great patriot in his own country:  an inventor, an intellectual, brilliantly articulate.  He was also a Kinslayer of the first order, inciting his countrymen to rebellion against the crown.  Had his king caught him, he would have been hanged for treason.   'The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants' was one of his more famous — and disturbing — remarks."

"Sounds like a man after Fëanáro's heart."

"Indeed.  But he's like you, too."

"How so?  Other than being a brilliant and articulate inventor, that is."

"He owned slaves, and he justified this reprehensible practice.  Just as you do."

"Did.  I own no one."

"But you once owned slaves, many of them.  You allowed your minions to torment them in the worst ways.  Worked them to death in your mines and in your fields."

"Not all.  There were those I treated well.  I ensure they were fed, even educated.  They lived better lives than…"

"…And there you are, still justifying what you did.  I suppose you continue to justify your torment of Tyelperinquar and Gorlim as well.  Or of Nelyafinwë.  Isn't that how you learned so much of Fëanáro and his family?   Those means of torture that left no marks on Maedhros' body, but sifted through his mind?"

The cordial conversation had turned openly hostile.  The Herald did not attempt to contain the contempt in his voice, and Sauron felt the flame of anger ignite.  He did not try to suppress it, but offered no response.  Eönwë did not need one to continue.

"You would have tortured those hobbits, too, had you gotten your hands on them.  You would have enslaved their people.  Now you exchange cheery letters with one.   You are, as they say, a piece of work, Mairon."

The anger building within him snapped, and Sauron hurled his glass at the sea.  The sky swallowed it, muffling the sound of shattered glass against a hard wall.   White-hot pain engulfed his ankles, coursing up his legs and through his torso to erupt at the top of his skull.   He squeezed his eyes shut, drenching his anger and willing himself to remain calm and peaceful, the only thing that would stop the punishment of the shackles.

"Why are you here, Eönwë?" he gasped as he wrestled with the pain. "To gloat again?  To torment me?  Well, have at it.  I'm all yours."

"No.  I…" Eönwë abruptly sat forward, his tone now remorseful.  "No, I'm sorry, Mairon.  That is not why I came here.  I genuinely wanted to see you, to talk to you.   But again, I find you anger me beyond all reason."

"Why is that?"  The pain subsided to become a dull throb, but Sauron knew it lay in wait, ready to punish him if he had another violent outburst.

"Because of what you have done to yourself.  You could have brought so much good to the world, had you sincerely foresworn your allegiance to Moringotto."  Eönwë paused and turned to gaze out over the dark waters of the sea.  "I will confess something to you.  I am angry with myself for letting my pride get the better of me all those years ago, when you came to me and begged for pardon.   Something I did — or thought — turned you away from me.   I have thought many times since of how I could have handled it differently."

"Don't blame yourself.  It was my decision to remain in Middle-earth.   As much as I'd like to blame the bonds that Melkor set upon me, ultimately, it was my choice.  Just as it was my choice to rule by cruelty and coercion rather than wisdom."

"I'd say your assessment is wise.  Still, it is hard for me not to second-guess myself."

"I know all about second-guessing, Herald.  I'll confess something to you, although maybe it is not a confession, but rather, a statement of fact:  what I once was has not disappeared altogether. I wonder if more of that part of myself is returning."

"That is what Olórin says.  He believes that your conversation with Mister Baggins is helping you."

"Perhaps, but I'm convinced it is simply too much for the old hobbit, no matter how curious he might be.   He loves his kinsman as his son and is loyal to him.  He can never forget what my Ring did to him, or how my servants threatened Frodo and the others.  I would feel the same way in his position."

"Is this empathy  I am hearing from the dreaded Dark Lord?"   

"Please don't tell anyone.  Makes me seem weaker than I already am."

"Your secret is safe with me, Mairon.  Speaking of the hobbits, I have brought something for you from Aulë's workshop."  Eönwë reached for the canvas bag lying on the sand. "Here.   Istyar Sámaril thought you might like to have a look at the prototype."  He extracted the golf club from the bag and handed it to Sauron.

The craftsmanship was exquisite.   The heft and balance felt just right, and Sámaril had paid attention to every detail, from the leather-wrapped handle to the etchings in the metal shaft to the grooves of the head, and it was all half-scale.  

Sauron looked at the long, dark rod that lay on Eönwë's palm. "What's that?"

"This is a material that Aulë wishes you to consider for the hobbits' golf clubs."  He handed the rod to him.  Sauron examined the smooth texture and admired the color, more than a simple black with its depth and complexity.

"Carbon fiber!  I haven't seen this in…well, in a very, very long time.  I never had the means to make it in Middle-earth."

"I take it this is some esoterica that only you smiths can appreciate?"

"Just a remarkable material.  Very lightweight and with more flexibility than metal.  Yet…"

"Yes?"

"I think it is best to stick to the traditional for the hobbits.  Metal and leather.  How is Elrond proceeding with construction of the green?  Has he managed to keep it secret?"

"I have no idea!  But I can find out for you when I visit Tol Eressëa to deliver the letter."

"You'll find out for me…does that mean you will return to give me an update?"

"Yes, if that is agreeable with you."

"It is."   

Eönwë rose from his settee.  "I'll be taking my leave then."

Sauron stood alongside him and laid his hand on his arm, staying Manwë's longtime servant.   Their eyes met.

"You realize that I will never leave these halls.  I will never be free again."

"I know, Mairon.  That makes me angry, too — that you will never truly repent and so you condemn yourself to life as a prisoner.   I am angry that you will never walk among us.  You were such a generous person once, and we could all benefit from that generosity."  Eönwë turned away and stared at a horizon that looked more real than it should.  "As for being free, you and I gave up our freedom long ago on the shores of a wine-dark sea.  Until next time…"

Eönwë's form shimmered and disappeared, leaving behind the scent of lightning and mountain air.  Sauron thought he heard an eagle's cry in the distance.  He held out his glass, and the Barliman-Fay was at his side faster than thought.

"More to drink, m'lord?"

"Yes, but none of that fruity stuff.  Whisky.  Make it a double."

******

It had been the longest wait yet between letters.  Gandalf assured him that his correspondent still intended to answer his last letter-- that he had been told this more than once.  He would not say if Sauron had told him why he was taking so long to answer, but Bilbo suspected that he had allowed more of his own agitation to show through than he meant to happen.  

Yet he did not wish to end their exchange.  More and more he had begun to feel that this was important work, that it was helping Gandalf to complete a new and necessary task, perhaps just as important as the task of guiding Middle-earth through to the destruction of the Ring had been.  And it was pleasant to have someone to tell of the things important to him, to say things that he rarely discussed with Frodo simply because their new life was so different than their old one and also because these were things that Frodo already knew.  Hobbits did not discuss among themselves what it meant to be a hobbit, after all, but to explore that topic with someone who was both not a hobbit and yet was still interested in the subject was good.  He sighed.  The eyes of even the fondest of his Elven friends would begin to glaze over if he went into too much detail about hobbit genealogy.  

Of course, he could be boring his correspondent as well.  He wasn't there to see what his face looked like when he read the letters.  But he did seem to indicate amusement in his responses, so he could not be too bored.

That he became perturbed by some of what Sauron told him was undeniable — it was certainly an unpleasant sensation to read of his atrocities.  Yet at the same time, he wanted to know more.  His Tookish curiosity again, he supposed.  

Well, there would be no letter today at any rate, he thought as he poured the hot water into the teapot.  Gandalf and Adamanta had arrived for tea, and the wizard had brought no letter with him.  Perhaps tomorrow.

He glanced over at Frodo, who'd been preparing a tray full of seedcake and scones and radish sandwiches.   Frodo smiled at him, and they took the refreshments out to their guests.

Gandalf and Adamanta were waiting for them at the small table on the terrace behind Bilbo's and Frodo's quarters.  Gandalf was making Adamanta laugh by blowing smoke rings of various animal shapes.  Bilbo smiled to hear her laugh — it sounded much like the laugh of his own dear mother, gone these many years.

"Gerontius always laughed at my menagerie as well," Gandalf said.  "It was one of his favourite things, even up until the end of his days."

Bilbo and Frodo placed the trays upon the table and Bilbo asked Adamanta to pour.  They all sat down comfortably together, and Bilbo said, "I've always meant to ask you something, Gandalf."

"What is it, my old friend?"

"I used to see you often as a lad, and I know that I saw you to speak to and to see your marvelous fireworks the summer before Grandfather died.  Why was it that I did not know you at once when you came to Bag End on that spring morning?"

Gandalf pursed his lips, and appeared to be deep in thought, before he answered.  He took a puff of his pipe and blew out a normal smoke ring.  "I confess, I did muddle your memories somewhat at our last meeting when you were still a tween.  I am not quite sure why, but it seemed to me that you needed to forget such things as wizards and adventures for a while and to have a chance to settle into an ordinary life in the Shire for a while. Yet in the back of my mind was the thought that one day you would go on an adventure.  It was one of those things that I felt in my heart more than knew in my head at the time."

Bilbo nodded. "It's quite likely I would not have muddled through as well as I did with the Dwarves if I had not known I had my nice cosy smial to come back to," he said.  "And my parents needed me then, especially my father.  Their health was never the same after the Fell Winter."

"You don't speak of that time much, Uncle Bilbo," Frodo said.

Bilbo shrugged.  It was still a very painful memory.  He was ready to change the subject when he and the others heard a strange sound overhead: the harsh cry of a large bird of prey, and the rush of wings-- mighty wings!

"An Eagle is coming!" Frodo cried.  All four of them rose from the table and gazed upward.

The breeze whipped up by the Eagle's wings made the teacups rattle and the napkins blow from the table.  The Eagle was aiming for the small terrace, and Bilbo was sure that he would never have enough room, yet as he approached his form began to change, and by the time he stood upon the terrace, he was an Eagle no longer.

He was at least half a head taller than Gandalf; his hair was white and bound into a long braid entwined with gems, and his robes were of blue; his face was stern and noble.  His appearance was that of an Elf, but there was something about him that made Bilbo certain that he was no such thing.

Gandalf made a bow, and Adamanta curtsied deeply.  "My Lord Eönwë," said Gandalf.

"Olórin, Mirimë," he inclined his head slightly to each of them.  "Olórin, would you introduce me to your mortal friends?"

"My Lord Eönwë, this is Frodo Baggins, Ringbearer, and his kin Bilbo Baggins, Ringfinder and also a Ringbearer."

Eönwë gave the two hobbits more of a nod than he had to Gandalf.  "Frodo Baggins and Bilbo Baggins, it is an honour to meet you both."

Bilbo was still feeling somewhat stunned by the appearance of Manwë's Herald on his terrace, but Frodo managed to recover his equilibrium sooner.  "My Lord," Frodo said with a deep and gracious bow, "it is an honour indeed to meet you!  Your people came to my assistance when all would have been lost; they saved my life and that of my dearest friend."

Eönwë smiled and knelt down on one knee. "My people are at the call of the Lord Manwë and intervene at his command.  I am most pleased that they were of service to you."

Bilbo had finally recovered his own voice.  "Your people saved me as well on two occasions, although I suppose they were not saving me in particular-- the first time there were thirteen Dwarves and a Wizard as well, and the second time there was a mighty battle. I suppose I was simply an afterthought."

The herald smiled at him.  "Then you would suppose wrong, Bilbo Baggins."

Bilbo's eyes went wide and his jaw dropped.  He caught Frodo giving him a smug look.

Still kneeling, Eönwë reached within his robes and pulled forth a letter addressed  in a very familiar looking hand.  "I have come to bring you a message from Mairon," he said, thrusting it into Bilbo's unresisting hands.

Bilbo blinked and looked at the letter, clearly from Sauron.  "Mairon?"

The Herald's eyes, bluer and more piercing than Frodo's, looked into his.  "That was once his name."

Their guest had made an exit as spectacular as his entrance, and Bilbo and his guests had resumed their tea, though the conversation was somewhat awkward at first.  Bilbo kept thinking over the implications of the Eagles who had intervened in his own Adventure; it made him feel quite giddy.  He suddenly thought he knew how Frodo must have felt at the implications of what Mirimë had told him.  

He also wanted to think over the implications of Sauron's other name.  

Bilbo had finally excused himself and left Frodo to play host.  He wanted most dreadfully to open his letter.

["My dear Mister Baggins,

Rather than hemming and hawing, which would result in yet another piece of paper wasted, I shall come straight to the point:  I am sorry that my last letter troubled you so deeply..."]

*****

Bilbo sharpened his quill and dipped it into the inkwell.  How could he make sure that his correspondent believed his sincerity in wishing to continue?  Perhaps he should be somewhat more forthcoming about himself...

{Dear Mr. Sauron,

You certainly went straight to the main course as we say in the Shire, and so I will return the favour:  I have every intention of continuing our correspondence.  I am learning a lot about the history of Middle-earth, and I confess I look forward to your letters.

I will not deny that your last letter was both disturbing and distressing, but I hope that at my age I am able to put such things into perspective.  It would be nice if none of those dreadful things you spoke of had happened; it would be nice if the One Ring had never been forged.  It would be nice if one could go back and correct all one's mistakes and wipe out all one's regrets.  It would also be nice if all the world were apple pie, but I cannot see that happening anytime soon.

I'm a Baggins, and Gandalf can tell you that we are a remarkably stubborn lot.  Once we set our minds to something, we do it.  I have determined to carry on with writing to you, and so long as you continue to reply, I won't stop on my part.

Now that's out of the way, I shall tell you that I was most impressed with the way you chose to deliver the post this time!  What an amazing thing, to see that Great Eagle transform itself into Lord Eönwë was an incredible sight!  Thank you very much for the opportunity to witness such a thing!

Do you know, he as much as told me outright that the Eagles were sent to rescue our party from the Goblins and Wolves when were were trapped in the trees on my account?  And that it was on my account that the Eagles intervened in the Battle of Five Armies?  I found that notion quite staggering; I was used to dealing with idea that Frodo had a destiny.  I never thought of such a thing in connexion with myself!  I believe Gandalf was amused at my reaction-- and I know Frodo was!  I will have to re-think a great many of the circumstances of my life now!

Since you did not really ask about anything in your letter, and since I have been thinking about my life, perhaps I can tell you a little about it.  I think I have told you very little about myself, and you have been so very forthcoming with me.

My parents met at the wedding of my Uncle Hildigrim (on the Took side) to my cousin Rosa (on the Baggins side).  Their wedding was a scandal-- Rosa was not of age, yet the two of them, had as we say in the Shire, put the dessert before the main course, and anticipated the privileges of marriage.  Rosa was with child at the time of the wedding (my cousin Adalgrim, whom we all affectionately called "Chop").

At any rate, Bungo Baggins made the acquaintance of Belladonna Took at that time.  For some time, they carried on a warm correspondence, and only met at family gatherings.  Finally my father gathered up the nerve to ask Grandfather Gerontius' permission to court her.  Given the Old Took's blessing, their courtship began in earnest.  

My father endured what was to all accounts, a very difficult visit to the Great Smials (the Took ancestral hole).  While the Old Took approved of the match, my mother's siblings did not, finding it easy to tease my father who was not used to the free and frank ways of the Tooks.  And most of the Tooks thought my father was boring.  Still, he adored my mother and put up with it.

My mother made a visit to my father's family.  The family hole at that time was not Bag End, but a smial called Greenbriars, located lower down and behind the other side of the Hill.  My grandparents on my father's side were warm and welcoming.  My aunts and uncles were not.  They blamed Uncle Hildigrim for the scandal of Rosa's wedding and held all the Tooks guilty as well.  In addition, my Uncle Longo (my father's younger brother) disapproved out of what I think was nothing more than sheer jealousy of the Took wealth on his part.  My mother was not quite so patient and accepting as my father had been among her family.  The barbs aimed her way by my uncle and by some of my aunts angered her, and she decided to break off the courtship.

After several miserable months apart, they made up their differences.  It was then my father decided to build Bag End.  It was a most luxurious smial for Hobbiton, although nowhere near the size of the Great Smials.  They wed shortly after its completion.

I came along a few years later.  I was far too young to recall this, but years later after my retirement to Rivendell, I learned that I actually had an encounter with Elves when I was no more than an infant--- my mother sprained her ankle while walking with me in the woods, and she was found by Gildor Inglorion!  We were soon reunited with my father and Gandalf who were searching for us.

My childhood was unremarkable.  When I visited (or was visited by) my Took cousins, most especially my cousins Adalgrim (who was much older) or Sigismund (who was the same age) I would get into mischief and trouble.  Otherwise I studied with my father and played in and about Bag End, mostly alone but sometimes with my Baggins cousins. Midsummer was nearly always spent at the Great Smials when Gandalf would frequently make an appearance with his marvelous fireworks!  

The year after I became a tween, the Shire endured what came to be called the "Fell Winter".  Up until I went on my Adventure, it was the most hardship I had to endure.  The winter of 1311 (by Shire Reckoning. It was T.A. 2911) came early.  We had our first snowfall in September, a thing which had not happened since the Long Winter a century and a half before.  In most parts of the Shire, all the harvest was not in, and so our little land was ill-prepared for the very harsh winter.   Snow storms were followed by ice storms.  The Brandywine River froze over in early December, and the Shire was invaded by a  pack of white wolves.  Grandfather was ill, and so my Uncle Isengrim who at that time was the Thain's Heir was forced to call out the Shire Muster.  Tookish archers and other hobbits armed with stones were able to drive them back across the River.  Many of the wolves were slain and some hobbits lost their lives as well.

But worse than the wolves was the illness; catarrh began to spread across the Shire.  It hit the elderly and the youngest at first.  But as many of the able-bodied adults had been foregoing their own meals in order to feed their children, they also were weakened, my parents among them.  

There was no Yule in the Shire that year.  My parents fell ill of the catarrh shortly before the turning of the year.  I was just a young tween, yet it came to me to nurse my parents and to keep them and myself fed.  I could not count on my other kin; for once every family in the Shire was in the same fix or worse.  My father developed lung fever.  For several days we thought we would lose him.  But just before spring-- or the day it should have been spring if winter had loosened its grip-- he finally rallied, and he and my mother began to recover.  This was good, as no sooner were they out of their sick beds than I found myself in one.

It was nearly summer before the weather went back to normal, but it was too late for much of the planting.  Some farmers were able to get a few crops in, but not nearly enough.

I recovered well enough from my illness, but the health of my parents was never again the same.

The Shire slowly recovered.  But things were not the same.  Both my Grandmother Laura on the Baggins side and my Grandmother Adamanta on the Took side were gone, as well as two of my Baggins uncles and one of my aunts.  My cousin Fosco's wife nearly died giving birth to their third child Dudo.  He was a sickly babe, and his health was poor all his life.  Ruby's health, like that of my parents, was also permanently impaired.

Life returned to normal, but I was a much more serious youth afterward, and Tookish thoughts of adventures and wizards were the last thing on my mind.  I concentrated on my studies and in learning what I would eventually need to know about being the Head of the Baggins clan, and in following my father's footsteps as the Family tutor.  

My father died only three years after I came of age.  Mother continued as Family Head until her own passing when I was forty-four.  I led a very settled life until six years later when a wizard I had very nearly forgotten showed up on my doorstep to awaken my Tookish side and carry me off on a quest with a troupe of Dwarves.

Bless me!  I have yammered on at length about things which I have not thought of for years!  I do hope you have not found it boring.  I led for the most part a most ordinary life, nothing like the exciting lives of Elves!

I hope I have reassured you as to my willingness to continue with our letters, and that I shall not have to wait quite so long for your reply.

Sincerely yours,

Bilbo Baggins, Esquire}

Well, he chuckled, as he sanded the ink and prepared to fold and seal the letter, he will certainly think me full of myself.

AUTHOR'S NOTES FROM DREAMFLOWER:

There are several references to some of my stories.  Bungo and Belladonna's courtship is mentioned in "The Family Way" "Dream a Little Dream of Me" and "One Fine Autumn Day"; and his friendship with his cousins Adalgrim  and Sigismund are chronicled in a number  of my stories.  The encounter with Gandalf in which his memory is "muddled" is in "A Midsummer's Night Dream".  His parents' illness during the Fell Winter is briefly mentioned in "Belladonna's Gift" .  Adamanta is, of course, the title character in "Ancestress" . The encounter with Gildor is in Part Seven of my AU, "Eucatastrophe: The Return "  (while the story as a whole is AU, the flashback is part of my fanon backstory for Bilbo).

"Sauron" means "abhorred one", while Mairon means "admirable one".  Both Bilbo and Frodo know enough Quenya at this point in time so that they do not need to question the meaning of the word.

The impact of the Fell Winter on the Shire is a bit of extrapolation from studying the Family Trees.  Several members of Bilbo's extended family died in 1311 or 1312, and his parents died relatively young for hobbits.  Also, his cousin Dudo (Frodo's paternal uncle) was born in 1311.  My speculation as to why he did not take Frodo in after Drogo's death has always been that his health was poor.  Since he was born during that year of privation, when his mother was ill and food was scarce, it could account for it.


AUTHOR'S NOTES FROM PANDEMONIUM

Two of my fics are referenced in this chapter.  The "wine-dark sea and a violet sky" are referenced in my WIP  Light Over the Mountain.  Sauron recalls his meeting with Eönwë after the War of Wrath in  How the East Was Won .  

Again, I'll note that my vision of the Ainur interprets these beings as more akin to the gods and demigods of the Greek and Norse pantheons than the "angelic" sorts found in "The Ainulindale" in The Silmarillion.   My interpretation also gives a nod to Tolkien's earlier versions of the Ainur, who (in my opinion) have considerably more brio.  Thus, the interactions with the creatures of Middle-earth (human and otherwise) are closer.

In The Return of the King, it is written thusly:

"There came Gwaihir the Windlord, and Landroval his brother, greatest of all the Eagles of the North, mightiest of the descendants of old Thorondor, who built his eyries in the inaccessible peaks of the Encircling Mountains when Middle-earth was young."

Eönwë notes that his connection to Gwaihir as his descendant can be reconciled with the Windlord's descent from Thorondor:  "We're related through the maternal line."

Eönwë's reference of Sauron's torture of Maedhros is my own invention.  It strikes me as fitting that Melkor might assign his right-hand man to do this.


 





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