ESCAPE THE DARKNESS

By JULES

Author Notes – This story was begun a very long time ago, and it was never my intentions to leave it unfinished. This first was first published in 2003. I have twelve (12) chapters written – but want to add more to them and edit where necessary.

I will be going back through and editing a few scenes and adding to a few and fixing errors, now that I hopefully understand the Middle Earth world a little better since I first began. I hope to add a sprinkling of “The Hobbit” details in certain places where is needed. There will be a heavier saturation of this time period during the Rivendell scenes.

Real life just got in the way for a very long time and still is to a large extent.

I was going to add more to the synopsis, but for now I will leave you to read along and find out what happens along with Frodo and the rest of the cast as I take them out of the box. I promise to put them back when I am finished. If you think you know what might happen throughout and the ending, hopefully I have created enough twist plots and changes.

Strong friendship only – no slash. Very little romance (I am no good at writing that) – And plenty of angst, hurt/comfort. For those don’t know my previous work – this won’t be the Disney version.

This will be a very very long story, with many chapters, and many of those being long as well – just the way I write. And I usually try and describe from the viewpoint of multiple characters for any one scene. As well as describe every rock, tree branch and blade of grass along the way.

I have a very complicated plot planned, and some may not agree how I have altered the course of things, or that I introduce them and Frodo differently than the books or films. Hopefully you will continue to follow and read as the story progresses. If it hasn’t happened yet, or there isn’t enough information about something yet, that is usually deliberate on my part. Sometimes there are subtle clues that I put in chapters, other times I don’t.

This story explores the idea about what might have happened if Strider had come to the Shire to forewarn Bilbo Baggins about the Ring Wraiths that would soon come hunting for the One Ring. Commences a few days before Bilbo’s Birthday party and before Gandalf returns to the shire as well.

There are other changes that I will deliberately make to the story at a later date to explore how the journey may have changed as a result. “Hint Hint – some big changes that were the whole reason for starting this series”.

Strider had vowed to protect Bilbo when the Ring Wraiths are sent by the Dark Lord but he is unaware that the legacy of who is to carry the Ring to be destroyed falls upon a totally different Baggins hobbit.

In this story the corn fields in the shire are a little further away and I have added a lot extra between then and when the hobbit’s arrive at the Prancing Pony in Bree.

Hoping to add a few funny, light hearted moments in this one in between the serious stuff.

All mention of herbs or treatments used in this story or others come about from a little research I did into some and what their effects were. Some of them have been around since ancient times so I have no problem using in this time frame but still am not sure if they would have been grown near Rivendell.

Disclaimer -I do not own any of the characters I write about. I write about those created by J.J.R. Tolkien and marvel at such a story-tellers ability to enthral us all. There are occasional quotes from the movie in this story, just to keep the continuity going strong and to add just at the appropriate time.

Chapter Three: Gandalf’s Arrival

this new chapter follows on from the last:

“Who does Frodo seek at such a pace?” Strider asked as he and Sam did their best to catch up with the more agile hobbit.

“I don’t rightly know for sure, but I be thinking that it might be somebody coming along the road in a wagon,” Sam said, trying to talk and keep up with the Ranger’s longer strides at the same time.

“For one so small, your master is swift on his feet,” Strider commented.

The Ranger and Samwise lost sight of Frodo for a short time as the terrain dipped into a grass covered gully. The grass was very tall and often reached high enough to tickle Sam’s nose. The fragrance was sweet though and the day was beginning to warm gently.

As Strider and his hobbit companion came out of the dip, they ascended a small grass covered hill where they saw Frodo standing. The grass on this embankment was an emerald shade of green and a little shorter than they had just run through.

Frodo stood beside the roadway, still listening for the approaching wagon. He could now hear distinct singing coming from the man driving the wagon. The language used would be indecipherable to most of the Shire, even Frodo himself could not translate every verse he heard.

Strider and Sam were standing only a short distance away from Frodo but did not disturb him. The Ranger could now see the wagon and its driver. The man was dressed in a long grey cloak that fell in deep folds about his body. His hands were visible beneath the long sleeves gently guiding the horse as they went.

The man’s face was one of somebody who had seen much in his lifetime but had become stronger because of it. The lines on his face were softened by his kind eyes and gentle outer expression. The man’s beard was a multitude of grey and white tones that were scarcely distinguishable from each other but blended together to match the man’s long hair.

The man wore a large, over-sized pointy hat that was made of the same hard-wearing fabric as his cloak and shimmered slightly in the dappled sunlight.

Frodo still had the smile on his face as he watched the wagon grow nearer. He now tried to change his facial expression and stood in an almost demanding pose. His arms were folded in front of him as if waiting for an explanation and there was an expectant look about him.

“You are late!” Frodo accused. The man was now pulling the wagon to a halt, still avoiding eye contact with the young hobbit.

“A wizard is never late Frodo Baggins…. nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to,” came the confident reply.

Sam seemed to be holding his breath at the moment as he watched his master and the wizard. Both of them were now intently staring at each other, neither one willing to give in first.

Strider found it most interesting that the young hobbit could show an almost defiant attitude upon will. When he had met the lad earlier he would have been mistaken to think the same thing back then.

The wizard found the corners of his mouth twitching first into a vague smile. His efforts to make Frodo waver first were mostly in vain, though it did not appear that way for long.

Both wizard and hobbit now gave each other a genuine smile of friendship before laughing heartily at each others stubbornness. Sam silently released the breath he had been holding and couldn’t help but have a grin of his own to see such pleasure on his masters face.

“It’s wonderful to see you again Gandalf,” Frodo exclaimed happily.

Before Sam could prevent it, with one leap, Frodo threw himself towards the wizard. Gandalf had no trouble catching the hobbit with his free hand, the other still holding onto the horse’s reins. The wizard now cast the leather straps to one side and returned Frodo’s show of affection with enthusiasm. Both of them were wrapped in an heart-felt embrace, and for the briefest of moments neither wanted to let go.

“And you too, Frodo, my dear lad,” the wizard replied as he pulled away slightly from the hobbit and tried to look at how much he had changed since last they had spoken to each other. It had been far too long indeed since their last face to face meeting.

“I was beginning to think you weren’t going to be here until after Uncle Bilbo’s birthday party,” Frodo said. The hobbit now sat on the bench-seat beside Gandalf ready to travel together to Bag End.

Until now, Sam and Strider had remained in silence, not wanting to disturb the rekindling of friendship. Frodo looked behind him and was some what surprised to see the two standing there. He had not noticed them before now. His brow wrinkled slightly as he tried to ask himself how Sam had come to find him.

Frodo could see a smile on each of their faces and he knew that they had taken quiet, reserved pleasure in seeing him happy.

“Have you two been following me?” he asked, directing his question more at Sam, than the Ranger. Frodo knew that Sam would not be able to look him in the eye and give him a false answer. There was an honesty about Samwise that Frodo had come to know a long time ago and trusted until this very minute.

“Sam was merely giving me a tour of your Shire, Frodo,” Ranger said, seeing the conflicting emotions within the hobbit that stood beside him. “We have seen many things this morning. Our paths cross again by chance and no other reason.”

“Rangers I have been told, Mr Strider are very resourceful people when they want to,” Gandalf said addressing the big person. “You are no exception to that rule and I suspect you have other motives for allowing our ‘paths cross’ as you say.”

“I am humbled by your knowledge, Gandalf the Grey,” Strider replied, a smile in his eyes as he bowed towards the wizard.

“You two know each other, Gandalf?” Frodo asked with genuine surprise, seeing the same question on Sam’s face. Up until just now, they had no indication that the wizard and the Ranger had come across each other before.

“I have travelled many places in my time, Frodo and so has Strider. While I have not known him as long as your dear Uncle Bilbo, his friendship has always been most welcomed. It is truly a surprise to see him here now I must say.” the wizard added, but the look on Gandalf’s face towards the Ranger said otherwise.

“Begging your pardon, Mister Frodo sir, but are you planning to travel back to Bag End in that wagon with, Mister Gandalf,” Sam asked nervously. He didn’t quite know how to come out and tell his master how uneasy the man made him feel at times.

Sam had only come to know of Gandalf during his infrequent visits to Bilbo and Frodo. The man had always seemed to have an air of mystery about him that the gardener could never explain in plain words.

“Would it be alright for Strider and Sam to travel back with us in your wagon Gandalf?” Frodo queried.

“Yes of course it would be alright, though I think Strider might find it a bit cramped for room with his longer legs,” Gandalf pointed out.

“Your horse travels at a very slow pace Gandalf, Sam would probably benefit from the wagon rather than I,” the Ranger said. Strider now helped Samwise into the back of the wagon.

Sam worked his way to the front of the wagon, careful not to trod on any of the crates or other cargo that seemed to cover the entire floor. There were a great many long poles poking out from underneath sheets of canvas. All of the strange looking shaped items only seemed to make the hobbit more uneasy towards the wizard.

Despite Strider’s comments, Gandalf kept the horse’s gait at a sluggish rate so that the Ranger would not have to keep to a faster pace. From where Sam stood in the wagon he was directly behind his master Frodo, just where he preferred it. At least he could keep a good eye on him from where he was positioned.

“You didn’t really think I would miss your Uncle Bilbo’s birthday party did you, Frodo?” Gandalf asked, keeping the topic of conversation casual.

“So how is the old rascal Bilbo? I hear the party its going to be a party of special magnificence.”

“You know Bilbo…. he’s got the whole place in an uproar. Half of the Shire has been invited,” Frodo informed Gandalf.

“Don’t be forgetting Mister Gandalf, Sir that it is Mister Frodo’s birthday party too,” Sam said proudly. He knew that most of the gossip about the Shire folk had been about how old Master Bilbo was going to turn. Sam was determined to make sure that Frodo’s special day was not forgotten in all of the chaos and atmosphere.

“True Samwise, I had not forgotten our young Frodo’s birthday. A special day indeed, coming of age at last,” Gandalf said, giving Frodo’s shoulder a light pat.

“With all that has been happening lately, I wish it would just come and go without any fuss,” Frodo admitted openly.

“Uncle Bilbo has had nothing but visitors for the past two weeks since he sent out the invitations. Some of them are telling him of coming to the party. Others are those folk who were either deliberately or mistakenly forgotten of the guest list.”

“I take it then that Bag End has not been quiet of late,” Gandalf commented, puffing away with his long pipe as they travelled.

“Uncle Bilbo is getting more fidgety by the day. Most of them have been decent enough to come at a suitable hour to utter their congratulations. Then there are those directly involved with the preparations and cooking, telling Uncle what dishes he should be serving and what not to have. But others who are a little upset at their being left out that they have little regard and often interrupt Bilbo’s writing or studying,” Frodo informed the wizard.

Although Gandalf grinned slightly at the image formed in his mind of how Bilbo would be reacting to his quiet time being disturbed, he could see that Frodo cared enough for the old hobbit that he too would be a little stressed about the party preparations.

Strider remained silent during the trip to Bag End although Frodo had not tried to put any other meaning into his words, the Ranger couldn’t help but think that he had only recently become one of those uninvited guests that turned up at odd hours.

“I hope your Uncle will invite me in once we arrive there.”

“Oh you don’t have to worry about that Gandalf, Uncle Bilbo has been looking forward to you coming for weeks now. What he needs to worry about later on today is the arrival of my younger cousins, Merry and Pippin. Uncle has agreed to let them stay with me at Bag End until after the party.”

“The appearance of those two should certainly be eventful,” Gandalf said. He had met Frodo’s cousins many times before, but because of their age and immaturity, together they had a tendency to cause trouble whether they were to blame or not. They usually took to playing practical jokes on unsuspecting folk which would backfire and only leave a mess to clean up or an explanation to be forthcoming.

“I am looking forward to them coming,” Frodo said as he thought about his cousins. He knew what the wizard was terming as ‘eventful’ but nevertheless at least they would someone familiar to him at the party. Frodo was a little nervous about the sheer number of relations that Bilbo had invited that he had never met before.

“Let’s talk about something else, Gandalf,” Frodo suggested. “I want to get away from all this chatter about parties and birthdays. It gives me a headache at times just thinking about what has to be done today and tomorrow.”

Sam now looked intently at his master, to see any signs of the headache that Frodo spoke about. He promised himself that he would make sure that Mister Frodo was relaxed a little by tomorrow.

“What news have you from the outside world?” Frodo asked with anticipation clearly in his words. The young hobbit was happy with his life in the Shire but often wondered what other places and peoples he would meet if he travelled outside it’s boundaries.

Whilst Sam had noted on a number of occasions his desire to stay in the Shire for what he perceived the foreseeable future, Frodo could not deny that often he had dreams about leaving for a time in search of a purpose in life.

“What do you wish to hear about, Frodo?”

“Tell me everything!” Frodo stated matter-of-factly, his eyes lighting up with a rare display of unbridled excitement.

Everything….. you become too curious for your own good my boy. It is an unnatural trait for a hobbit such as yourself be so eager to know,” Gandalf said with a light-hearted chuckle. The wizard had always known Frodo to convey a thirst for knowledge and learning. He would promote such a fine characteristic in one so eager, not thwart it for the sake of what others considered unusual or strange.

“What can I tell you my young friend, is that life in the wide world goes on much as it has this past age, full of its own comings and goings, scarcely aware of the existence of hobbits and the Shire, for which I am very thankful.”

Gandalf couldn’t how thankful he was that it was the case. In the past couple of weeks he had become increasingly concerned with matters that were beginning to appear that were best left alone and untouched. The appearance of the Ranger here today in the Hobbiton only seemed to add to his concern that such matters would not remain hidden for very much longer.

Frodo now looked back towards Sam and smiled at his friend. His eyes drifted towards the large amount of stuff that was laying in the wagon. Curiosity got the better of him as well, but he was confident enough to voice this to the wizard.

“What are you planning to do with all that you have brought, Gandalf?” Frodo enquired.

“Nothing to worry about Frodo, just a little entertainment for the Shire folk as I promised your, Uncle Bilbo.” Gandalf promised, giving the hobbit a sly wink.

“Why do I get the feeling that Merry and Pippin are not the only ones to be planning something? Seeing as you and Uncle Bilbo have been down that path before, Gandalf,” Frodo said with an knowing grin.

“Before your last ‘little bit of entertainment’, Uncle Bilbo and I were very well thought of in the Shire,” Frodo said, knowing that such a statement wasn’t entirely true. “We Bagginses never had any adventures or did anything unexpected.”

Unfortunately for Frodo, being heir to Bilbo Baggins left him with not only the older hobbit’s possessions, but also labels of stranger and unusual even before the Shire folk had gotten a chance to meet him and make a judgment themselves.

Shire folk were inclined to talk amongst themselves about matters that didn’t concern them or they had very little information about. The appearance of strangers like dwarves and Gandalf to Bag End over the years had continued to fuel the gossip and only confirmed to the folk what they had been told by others.

“If you are referring to the incident with the Dragon, I was barely involved. All I did was give your uncle a little nudge….” Gandalf began explained, not wanting to go back over the details of that most memorable of visits at this time.

“And as for adventures my dear boy, your Uncle Bilbo might have led a quieter existence for the best part of forty years, but there was a time when that hobbit could never stay in one place for his feet to take root,” Gandalf said.

“Whatever you did, you have been officially labelled a disturber of the peace,” Frodo remarked, trying his hardest to keep a straight and serious face, but soon failing and giving a little smile at the memory.

Frodo thought for a few seconds, not really confident about how to approach the next topic of conversation, and the happiness on his face disappearing to be replaced by an expression bordering on concern.

“I think Bilbo is up to something as well,” Frodo said, the words sounding more like a question to the wizard rather than a statement.

The hobbit knew that his Uncle and Gandalf had spoken often and in great detail about the comings and goings of each other by letter. Maybe Frodo couldn’t talk to Bilbo about what he had over heard the night before with Strider, but he might be able to gain some clues as to the truth through Gandalf.

Strider listened to the tone of Frodo’s words with interest. He could hear an almost underlying air of suspicion from the young hobbit. For not only the first or second time today, the Ranger found himself wondering about what thoughts.

“Really?” Gandalf replied in mock surprise. It was obvious to the wizard that Frodo knew much more about his Uncle than Bilbo realized. He would have to have a quiet word to his old friend before the party began tomorrow.

“Keep your secrets then.” Frodo answered, a little disappointment in his voice that Gandalf was unwilling to shed any light on the subject.

“I will see you back at Bag End soon,” Frodo said as he readied himself to climb down from the wagon and continue on his own way. “I will meet you and Sam back at Bag End before lunch,” he added, trying to hide the weight that his thoughts were putting upon his heart.

“But Mister Frodo you can’t… ” Sam wanted to protest.

To his dismay though his master was already heading through the trees on the other side before anybody could stop his progress. From where he sat in the wagon, he was unable to get down quickly enough to join Frodo.

“I think Frodo would rather think on his own for a while Sam,” Gandalf said, placing a reassuring hand on the hobbit’s shoulder, urging him to remain in the wagon until they reached Bilbo’s home.

Bilbo is going to have to tell him…,” Gandalf said to himself, barely audible enough for Sam and Strider to overhear.

Frodo had walked away from Gandalf’s wagon, but as soon as he was out of sight, the hobbit found himself running through the long grass and the trees. He felt slightly cross with himself for leaving so abruptly and silently berated himself for doing so, hoping that the wizard would understand and Sam wouldn’t be too upset.

His thoughts about the conversation he had overheard the night before between the Ranger Strider and his Uncle had re-ignite his fears about Bilbo leaving Bag End and the Shire.

The sudden reappearance of Gandalf to the area only made Frodo more unsettled about what the next few days would bring. Maybe Bilbo planned to leave after his birthday with the wizard.

Frodo could scarcely bare the ache in his heart if his Uncle did intend to leave. Tears had begun welling in his eyes about being left alone once more, but he refused to let them fall. Although it had been some years since his parents had left him, the feeling of abandonment didn’t take long to renew the seed of doubt in his mind.

Running prevented the unshed tears from being noticed by anybody else. There was a sense of freedom that couldn’t be ignored. Before he even realized it, Frodo had run the better of half a mile. He came to a halt and forced himself to take slow deep breaths in order to try and quell both the negative feelings he was experiencing as well as the exertion that the fast running had placed upon his body.

Frodo waited until he felt calm enough again and more composed. Putting away the fears that had resurfaced, he started to make his way back towards Bag End. If he delayed his return any longer, Sam would surely worry unnecessarily and come looking.


back at Bag End….

Gandalf, Strider and Sam were now arriving at Bag End. Sam got down from the wagon and offered to help unhitch the horse and put both the horse and wagon away safely until they were needed further.

While Sam went about these tasks, Strider and Gandalf approached the gateway to Bilbo’s home. The wizard observed the sign-age on the gate that Strider had seen the night before and chuckled to himself that the old hobbit’s personality seemed unchanged despite his age.

Gandalf proceeded to knock on the door using the bottom end of the staff he carried with him. He noticed that the dwarvish symbol that he had etched into the wood of the door a long time ago, was unnoticeable in the bright sunlight.

“No thank you…. we don’t want any more visitors, well-wishers or distant relations,” came a voice from inside. The wizard chuckled slightly as he heard the statement, assuming that Bilbo was speaking on Frodo’s behalf a little when he mentioned ‘we’.

“What about very old friends?” Gandalf asked through the closed door.

There was a distinct silence for a few seconds before the rounded doorway slowly opened. Bilbo walked forward to make sure that the sun wasn’t deceiving his eyes.

“Gandalf?” the elderly hobbit greeted cautiously, scarcely able to believe who he saw standing before him.

Until today there had been the smallest notion that the wizard would have more prevailing matters to attend to than a birthday party, even one celebrating one hundred and eleven years.

“Bilbo Baggins….” Gandalf said as he greeted his long-time friend with a warm and heart-felt embrace. The wizard could not have expressed in the words of any tongue he knew, how dear his friendship with this hobbit had become over many decades.

“You haven’t aged a day…..,” he added, noting that the hobbit carried his years excessively better than others. The old hobbit’s eyes had a gentle and kind appearance about them and his genuine smile shone through at meeting his old friend once more.

“Oh, I see you have met up with Strider,” Bilbo said as he saw the Ranger standing nearby. Bilbo now looked around for any sign of the younger companions that had journeyed out earlier that morning.

“Where is Frodo and Sam?” Bilbo enquired.

“Frodo and I have already spoken. I must say that he has matured much since I had the pleasure of talking to him. He informed me that he would be along shortly. Samwise has kindly offered to attend to my wagon and horse to aid a weary traveller,” Gandalf explained.

“Come in, come in…. where are my manners? Welcome, welcome. Can I offer you some tea, Gandalf, or something a little stronger?” Bilbo asked. “Would you join us as well Strider? It is almost time for elevensies.”

“Tea thank you,” Gandalf responded as he ducked his head and entered the smial.

The Ranger noted that the wizard had to show just as much caution as he, when walking through the lower ceilings. He had already avoided a few nasty knocks to the head by mere fractions of an inch and quick reflexes.

“I would prefer tea as well, Bilbo,” Strider said, answering the hobbit’s question.

“I’ve got a few bottles of the Old Winyards left…. 1296, a very good year. Almost as old as I am. It was laid down by my father,” Bilbo said as his two guests disappeared from sight temporarily as they took a different route to the kitchen.

“Just tea thank you,” Gandalf repeated as he and the Ranger sat down and waited patiently as Bilbo bustled about his kitchen, pouring hot water from a kettle into the teapot positioned on the table.

Gandalf noted that due to the fact that Frodo and his companion Sam had yet to return, now might be a good time to approach the subject about Bilbo’s intentions to leave the Shire. It had caused him a much concern to see the flickering emotions on Frodo’s face just a short time ago.

Before Gandalf had a chance to mention any concerns, there was another loud knock at the door. Bilbo up until then had been standing near a window, but upon hearing the knock at the front door, shrunk back from the glass panels, into the shadows that the walls provided, hoping that he wouldn’t be spotted.

“I am not at home,” Bilbo proclaimed out loud, forgetting that he had just alerted to person outside that he was indeed at home.

“I have got to get away from these confounded relatives. Hanging on the bell all day, never giving me a moment’s peace,” once again confirming some of the comments Frodo had mentioned earlier about the steady stream of unwanted visitors to Bag End recently.

The tea was now poured and Strider and the wizard remained silent as they watched the old hobbit move back and forth from the window, almost nervous as he spoke. Bilbo knew that this was the conversation that he had meant to continue with the Ranger from the previous night, as so continued.

“I want to see mountains again… mountains, Gandalf, and then find somewhere quiet where I can finish my book,” Bilbo declared, now ceasing his pacing back and forth and forcing himself to remain still by sitting on a chair at the table and facing the truth he had been trying to avoid for some time.

“So you mean to go through with your plans then?” the wizard asked cautiously, not wanting to put words into the hobbit’s mouth if he had not yet come to such a decision.

“Yes, yes, it’s all in hand. All of the arrangements have been made. I was only telling Strider the same thing only late last night,” Bilbo replied, but there was a air of uncertainty in his voice and an air of sadness as he came to realization of what he had decided to do.

“Frodo suspects something…..,” Gandalf brought up, trying to put the subject as delicately as possible to his long-time friend.

“He does?” Bilbo responded, already suspecting such to be the case. “Yes I suppose he might think something is going on the way I have been acting lately. He probably feels like I have been trying to avoid him.”

“You will tell him soon won’t you, before it’s too late,” Gandalf prompted, hoping the hobbit understood how urgent it was becoming.

“Yes, ….. I will,” Bilbo responded hesitantly, pausing a little as he answered.

“How do I do that Gandalf, without hurting him? Frodo has got such a gentle nature about him. Kindest lad I have ever come across. What will it do to him to learn that I am leaving?”

“It would hurt him more if it is your intention to leave without telling him first, Bilbo,” Gandalf said, seeing the emotions play out across the hobbit’s face like a clearly visible stain. “He is very fond of you.”

“As I am of him, Gandalf, as I am of him. I cannot put into words what that lad has come to mean to me over the years. For years and years all I did was sit here in my study writing about my travels, without anybody to share them with other than my ink and paper.”

“He would probably come with me if I asked him.”

“Do you think that is what Frodo wants to do with his life?” Gandalf asked, genuinely interested in Frodo’s future well being.

“I think, in his heart, Frodo is still in love with the Shire, the woods, the fields, little rivers…..,” Bilbo replied without finishing the sentence.

“I have no right to do that to Frodo, Gandalf. The lad came here with only sadness and uncertainty after his parents death. Living here at Bag End, I tried to change all that by trying to give him all the love, understanding and patience I could find. I wanted to give him all the love that his parents would have shed upon him, as well as my own.”

“Frodo is older now and more confident in his own self. He has friends that think the world of him, especially Samwise. He now has familiarity and firm connections with the Shire and those in it. I wouldn’t feel right asking him to give all of that up just for me and my wandering ways. It wouldn’t be fair to Frodo.”

“I am old Gandalf. I know you think I don’t look it but I am beginning to feel it in my heart,” Bilbo said feeling a little daunted by his own admission.

“I need a holiday, a very long holiday. I don’t expect I shall return, in fact I mean not to,” Bilbo uttered with an unmistakable tone of finality about the trip he was preparing to take.

The conversation did not continue much further as the three of them pondered on all that had been said. Both Strider and Gandalf couldn’t help but think of what mixed emotions Frodo might experience over the next couple of days.


Samwise had just been making his way back from finishing stabling the horse and putting away the wagon until the next day, when he saw Frodo approaching from the opposite direction.

To his surprise, Frodo looked as though he had been running. His master sounded a little out of breath and looked a little tired. “Hello, Mister Frodo, are you alright?”

“Yes Sam, thank you,” Frodo said as he forced his breathing to be deeper and slower. The brisk run had been invigorating and helped him over come some of the fears he held about his uncle’s possible impending departure. “I was running through the trees,” he admitted to his friend, who looked a little worried about him.

“Let’s go inside and get something to drink and eat then, Mister Frodo,” Sam suggested, a little perplexed as to why his master would be running in the first place. Sam knew that Frodo enjoyed daily walks and exercise but he couldn’t see a purpose to making himself out of breath unless there was a reason to.

Frodo and Sam opened the door and walked inside to the kitchen where Gandalf and the others were still drinking their tea.

“We are back, Uncle Bilbo,” Frodo announced as he reached the kitchen.

“Did you enjoy the weather outside, Frodo, my dear boy?” Bilbo asked with interest, trying to push aside any of his earlier thoughts.

“Yes uncle, but I feel as though I might have spent too much time out there this day,” Frodo admitted, putting his hand to his temple and rubbing slightly at a headache that was beginning to form.

“Why is that, Frodo?” Bilbo queried, noting his nephew’s actions and the small grimace on his face.

“I did a lot of running back to here just now and I have a headache beginning. Maybe that or it is from too much sunshine overhead whilst I was reading earlier,” Frodo stated.

“Well running is good for you, but I hope you have not over done things. Why don’t you go and sit on the comfortable settee and I will bring your cup of tea when I have made a fresh pot. Sam can help me and I will put a few herbal leaves in it to help ease your headache,” Bilbo offered gently, putting a hand on the lad’s shoulder in an affectionate and comforting gesture.

“If is alright with you Uncle, I might have the tea in my room whilst I do some quiet study. I really think it was the running and not the reading that is the cause of the problem. It might help relax me along with the tea and go away,” Frodo countered in negotiation.

“Alright Frodo, let me know if you need anything else. Once I have finished with this tea, Sam and I can start on luncheon. Your cousins are due to arrive very shortly and the first thing they will be looking for apart from you is food,” Bilbo said.

“Let me know when Merry and Pippin arrive will you please Sam. Please excuse me Gandalf and Strider,” Frodo said as he turned towards his room and a little quiet time.

“Of course Mister Frodo,” Sam answered immediately, only to happy to help out as requested.

Strider and Gandalf both responded to the boy’s beautiful manners and hoped that his headache would not last too long. There was something about the lad that just made others warm up to him immediately and his honesty and sincerity were charms that he certainly possessed in abundance.


“You can take his tea in to him in a minute, Sam,” Bilbo said to the younger hobbit, seeing the frown of his face. Sam was being pulled in opposite directions at the moment, wanting to be with his master when he wasn’t feeling one hundred percent and the other direction because of his respect of Frodo’s privacy and need for solitude when studying.

Studying was something that Bilbo had never had to press on the lad, even from the very beginning of his stay at Bag End. Frodo seemed to drink up every book that the older hobbit had in his library and had a thirst for knowledge to match. Bilbo had taught Frodo to speak a limited amount of Elvish language and how to form the various symbol representations in writings and songs.

Once Frodo had a grasp of the subject material, he had taken it upon himself to further his own education through self-teaching methods. The lad preferred to do this alone for varying amounts of time, some days for hours on end, on other days, all but a few minutes before going to sleep at night to help him relax after a long day outside.

After a few minutes, Bilbo announced that Frodo’s tea was ready and Sam was more than willing to take it to his master if only to use it as an alibi to see if he still suffered from the headache.

Sam knocked respectfully on the door before hearing a quiet “Come In” from the other side and entering Frodo’s bedroom.

Frodo was seated at his study desk, with a large book open in front of him and another standing up leaning against the window. He seemed to be practising his writing skills and master the fine strokes needed to form the letters and symbols.

Sam put his master’s cup of tea down close enough for him to reach but far enough away to prevent it accidentally spilling on Frodo’s hard work. Sam couldn’t help but watch his master write with a slight twinge of envy. Frodo’s small hand made his grip on the quill quite tight to allow more control. The strokes were small but accurate and the page itself was very neat indeed.

Frodo now looked up from his work briefly and smiled at his friend, then reaching for the tea with his still bandaged hand.

“You have beautiful writing if you don’t mind me saying so, Mister Frodo,” Sam said honestly. “My fingers could never hold still long enough without smudging what I have already done,” he added, thinking back to past efforts when Frodo had been more than willing to be Sam’s tutor.

“Thank you, Sam, although I am grateful that my writing hand wasn’t the one that was scalded by the hot water or I fear that I would not be able to write at all today.”

“Does your headache still give you pain, Mister Frodo?” Sam found himself asking.

“Actually Sam, it has eased considerably even after only such a brief time. Maybe it is the tea that is helping me relax after all.”

“Would you like something to eat? Sam asked, hoping Frodo would accept. “Luncheon should be ready very shortly.”

Frodo could see the hopefulness in Sam’s eyes that he would agree to something to eat. He found himself not being able to refuse the offer. “I am getting a little hungry Sam, lunch would be nice as soon as it’s ready.”

Sam smiled broadly and went off to make sure that everything was just right for his master. Frodo watched his friend leave and then turned back to his books for a little while longer. He doubted that he would have much time tomorrow or the day after to indulge in such personal escapes.

Strider and Gandalf engaged in quiet, non-committal conversation as Bilbo and Sam went about preparing lunch for all.

Just before it was ready, there was a knock at the door, which Bilbo went to answer, muttering as he went, hoping it was not yet another visitor.

When he opened the door, he was somewhat delighted and relieved at who was present. He was met by the smiling faces of Meriadoc and Peregrin, bursting full of energy and barely able to keep still even as they waited to be invited in.

“Merry and Pippin, my dear lads, how are you and won’t you come in,” Bilbo said allowing them entry to Bag End. The two hobbits had a small suitcase each as they entered, taking in the sights and smells of Bilbo’s home.

Sam came forth and greeted Mr Frodo’s cousins. “How was your trip little masters? I will see to your bags and put them in the guest rooms,” he said, remembering duty had to come before enjoying their company.

“Hello Sam, we are fine thanks and hello to you too Uncle,” Merry said in a loud voice, speaking for his younger cousin Pippin as well.

“Lunch is almost ready, you can join us in a minute,” Bilbo said, already noting the delight that came to the youngest cousin’s face at such a statement. It was no secret that Peregrin was always hungry and ready to eat, no matter how long ago the last meal had been. There was always room for more Pippin had told his Uncle once.

“Where is Frodo?” Merry now asked, eager to see his older cousin again as he looked about the rooms for any sign of the dark-haired hobbit.

“He’s in his room studying a little before lunch. He said he had a slight headache and wished to relax a little before you arrived,” Bilbo said, hoping that would be enough of a deterrent for the two younger cousins to wait patiently until Frodo appeared on his own accord.

Merry and Pippin weren’t to be discouraged though, and both looked at each other and grinned devilishly that they knew of an alternative way to get Frodo’s attention without going to knock on his bedroom door.

“Come on Pip,” Merry said as the two left Sam holding their luggage and dashing back out the front door and around the side of the smial.

“They won’t do anything too terrible to Mr Frodo will they Master Bilbo?” Sam asked, a little worried about the two cousins who always seemed to have too much energy for their own good. They were always up to something.

“I shouldn’t think so Sam,” Bilbo said, putting a reassuring hand on the lad’s shoulder. “Frodo has been looking forward to them coming. He will put them straight if they look like getting out of control,” he added, knowing that Frodo often took on responsibility for his younger cousins whenever they visited.

In the past such loyalty had often landed Frodo in as much trouble as Merry and Pippin, but the happiness and laughter that the two cousins brought to Frodo couldn’t be replaced and Bilbo was often most grateful for that.

“Studying!” Merry said as he and Pippin moved around the side of the dwelling. Sometimes Frodo was too studious for his own good. Time to break that habit and get his cousin having some fun again.

Merry and Pippin could now see the window that belonged to Frodo’s bedroom. They could see a book of some description leaning up the bottom half of the glass and the older cousin immediately had a giggle of an idea about how to alert Frodo to his presence. No doubt they would scare him senseless, but they would have fun nevertheless.

Merry motioned for Pippin to sneak up beside the window frame like he and peer secretly through the glass. Both of them could see Frodo’s dark head bent forward as he continued what he was doing.

It took a few more minutes than Merry would have liked, but eventually they were rewarded with Frodo’s casual glance towards his book and spotting two faces leering back at him through the glass.

Frodo had been concentrating on the book but was startled by the faces at his window and tried to jump backwards away from the window. Unfortunately for Frodo, his chair was behind him and now both he and the chair fell backwards, knocking the cup of tea from the desk as well as the ink pot. It wasn’t until after this that he recognized who the faces belonged to.

“Merry and Pippin!” Frodo said in a mock annoyed voice as he surveyed the image of himself sprawled on the floor and the congealing mess not to far away on the rug of the ink and tea mixing together.

The two cousins had seen Frodo tumble backwards but knew he wasn’t hurt. They now made their way back around to the front door, hoping that neither Bilbo or Frodo would be too upset at their antics.

Sam had overheard his master’s startled cry as he fell backwards and couldn’t help but open the door to see if everything was alright. He immediately went to Frodo’s aid of helping him stand, he too concerned about the now black stain marring the rug.

“Are you alright Mister Frodo?” Sam said, seeing that the bandage on Frodo’s hand had also been stained by the ink. Looking upon his master’s clothes, they hadn’t faired much better and there was now a soaking blackened mark across the front of Frodo’s vest and trousers.

“Yes I am fine thank you, Sam,” Frodo said, trying hard not to laugh at how he must look at the moment. “Those two cousins of mine….,” he said, a smile creeping across his face.

“Frodo,” Merry said in a quiet voice behind Sam, the two cousins standing just outside the doorway, hoping to apologize for their behaviour.

“Just look at this mess you too created,” Frodo said sternly, the corners of his mouth twitching with a grin. Sam was sighing in relief that Frodo’s writing had not been spoilt by the ink. It seemed that the floor and Frodo himself wore most of what was spilt.

“We will clean it up cousin, promise,” Pippin said, feeling a little guilty as he looked at the spreading stain on Frodo’s clothes.

“Offering to do manual work now are you Pip, that’s certainly good to hear. Though I don’t think you sound like my cousin Peregrin Took,” Frodo said already seeing that they were remorseful for their childish actions.

“It’s great to see you Merry and Pip,” Frodo added and gave his cousins a warm greeting. “I really wanted that cup of tea though,” he poked in fun.

“I’ll get you another cup Mister Frodo,” Sam offered.

“That’s alright Sam, just let me get into some clean clothes and clear a bit of this mess on the floor and then we can go and see if lunch is ready,” knowing that Pip wouldn’t be needing a second invitation.

“I will get a little sugar from Master Bilbo to sprinkle over that stain. The sugar crystals should soak up most of the ink and then it can just be swept into pile and thrown away,” Sam said, explaining a little about what his mother had taught him about how to remove difficult stains from things.

“What about my clothes Sam, you don’t expect to sprinkle sugar over me to get the ink out do you?” Frodo said with a laugh.

“Oh no sir,” Sam said returning the grin to his master as such an idea. “But I can put it into a bucket of water laced with lemon and vinegar and that will certainly have your clothes looking nice again.”

“Dear Sam, you always have a solution for me when I am in need,” Frodo said.

“I hope so, Mister Frodo,” Sam said proudly that his master thought so highly of him.


Half an hour after Merry and Pippin announced their arrival to Frodo and everyone else, all were seated at the table now enjoying a leisurely lunch and gentle conversation.

Introductions had been made of Strider, though Merry seemed to be a little wary of the Ranger at first. Pip had been awed by the man’s height but gave a small smile and made sure that he sat safely on the other side of his cousin Frodo.

Sam had been about to excuse himself when Frodo asked that he stay and join them. Bilbo had also voiced that he wished for Samwise to join them at the table as had the two cousins. Sam felt himself out numbered and although he had been taught to mind his betters and remember his place, he had also been taught to be there as often as Frodo wanted him to be.

Sam couldn’t put into words how good he felt when Mister Frodo treated him no differently to other adults around him or indeed his own relatives such as Merry and Pippin.

Strider had not wanted to add to any fear that the two cousins might have over his presence but marvelled at how quickly the two seemed to forget their apprehensions and include him in their conversations around the table.

Pippin had gone into great detail about the scare that he and Merry had given Frodo a short time before and how his cousin had fallen off his chair and been smeared in ink and warm tea.

After hearing about this, Gandalf promised himself that he would need to keep a closer eye on the two mischief’s and keep them out of trouble as much as possible before the party.

“You should have seen your face, Frodo,” Pippin said with a giggle, remembering the startled look his older cousin had moments before toppling backwards.

“Don’t worry Pippin, my revenge will be swift and silent but most of all unexpected,” Frodo said in a voice so low that the younger hobbit believed every word. He couldn’t help but bait them a little and keep them guessing about what he might do to get back at them.

“You wouldn’t…..,” Pippin said in shock. In all the time he had known Frodo, he had never seen his dark-haired cousin retaliate for any of the mischief that they had caused.

“He wouldn’t do anything would he, Merry?” he now asked, seeking a little confirmation from his partner in crime.

Merry too was a little surprised at Frodo’s statement, and both had an ominous feeling as they watched their secretive cousin smile sweetly back at them. They would have thought Frodo’s comments to be baseless except for the gleam that they saw in his blue eyes.

Strider and Gandalf laughed at the sight of the two now uneasy and nervous cousins that kept looking back and forth between themselves and Frodo. He certainly knew had to get them on edge without any effort at all.

Merry had already asked why the Ranger was present, before receiving a painful kick to his shin under the table for not remembering his manners in somebody else’s house.

Bilbo had not been concerned over what he saw was Merry’s natural curiosity and gave him the same explanation as that to Sam earlier at breakfast about possible trouble presenting itself at the party.

Lunch had then continued for a time. Gandalf had asked that Strider and Bilbo assist him to unload his wagon of surprises after they had eaten and was pleased that his friends had readily agreed.

That would leave the four hobbits on their own but that didn’t present itself as such a problem. Sam had already offered to clear the lunch dishes so that Bilbo could go with Gandalf.

Bilbo had gotten up from the table towards the end of the meal and begun pouring milk into glasses for the four hobbits. He had been thinking of something else at the time and before realizing it, had half-filled Frodo’s glass with the white liquid.

Frodo’s displeasure was clearly evident on his face as he scowled at the substance in the glass as though it were a vile medicine he was being asked to drink.

“You don’t expect me to drink that stuff do you, Uncle Bilbo?” Frodo asked still eyeing the milk with disdain.

“Oh, I am sorry Frodo, I wasn’t thinking. No of course not. I know you don’t like milk. I will get you a fresh glass of juice or tea if you would prefer?” Bilbo said apologetically.

“I’ll drink it, Frodo,” Pippin said and grabbed at the glass before any reply could be given.

Sam glared at the hobbit a little, thinking that he was being very rude, but then relenting a little at Pippin’s enthusiasm. He knew that Frodo wouldn’t drink the milk anyway but he could have been more polite about it.

“I take it you do not like to drink milk, Frodo,” Strider said, noting the hobbit’s obvious dislike.

“No, Strider, there isn’t any threat that anyone could make that would force me to drink that stuff,” Frodo affirmed.

It was about now that Frodo noted how tired he was suddenly becoming. The headache that had eased earlier was beginning to resurface and he no longer had an appetite for his remaining lunch.

“I think it’s about time we headed out to help Gandalf,” Bilbo now stated. “How about you go and have a little lay down inside Frodo,” he suggested, noting his nephew grimacing slightly from the headache again.

“I might just do that, Uncle Bilbo,” Frodo agreed, thinking that a nice soft pillow would be more than welcome at this point in time.

“What are we going to do if you are going to be boring and rest?” Merry said, not knowing about Frodo’s headache. Staying still for too long didn’t appeal to either Merry or Pippin.

“I think you and Pippin would be best suited to helping young Sam here clean up the dishes don’t you?” Bilbo said, not accepting no for an answer. “You can go out and play later on after your lunch has settled some.”

Merry and Pippin were not entirely happy with this idea, but though they had little choice since they would be staying under Bilbo’s roof for the next few days.

Sam was happy to see Bilbo take a little control of the situation and vowed that the two hobbits would keep their voices and games to a minimum if Mister Frodo was going to try and rest to ease his headache.

“We shan’t be long,” Bilbo said, noting the slightly disappointed looks on his visitors. “By the time you finish helping Sam we should have returned. Sam asked, hoping Frodo would accept. “Frodo can choose if he feels like going out or not later.”

Gandalf, Strider and Bilbo now prepared to leave and go to the wagon. Frodo had gotten up from the table and retrieved a pillow from his own bed before settling onto the settee in the sitting room. Somehow he didn’t like the idea of leaving Merry and Pippin unsupervised despite Sam being present.

Bilbo went to check on his nephew before walking out the door but was relieved to see Frodo already stretched out with his eyes closed attempting to doze off. He brushed a stray curl away from the lad’s forehead and smiled.

Frodo smiled at the gentle touch but didn’t open his eyes. Seeing his nephew’s face relaxed and carefree in sleep was something he could never tire of.

“Keep an eye on him for me Sam won’t you,” Bilbo said to Sam who saw them off at the door, out of earshot from Frodo.

“Don’t worry Master Bilbo, I’ll make sure he’s not disturbed,” Sam promised. Little did Sam know that his best efforts would not prove enough against Merry and Pippin.

After the others had left, Merry and Pippin had did as they were asked and for a time went about helping Sam as best they could. Their interest quickly waned though and the two hobbits soon found it more fun to play games with the plates and cutlery rather than drying then and putting them back in their rightful places.

Merry and Pippin were unaware that their game was beginning to get a little loud until they were harshly chastised by Sam to keep quiet. The sitting room was only a short distance away and Sam could see his master stirring slightly from the noise.

Merry and Pip put the dishes away as requested but although one game was quickly at an end, there was always another around the corner. Sam had now decorated the table with a large bowl of fruit. Apples and oranges, pears and grapes.

Pippin was most impressed and would have tucked in if he hadn’t been so full after lunch. He took two apples from the bowl and started to play around with them, tossing them into the air and catching them again.

It didn’t take much encouragement for Merry to join in and soon instead of throwing them up and catching them, they were tossing them backwards and forwards between each other.

Pippin had now taken a few steps away from his cousin to increase the distance of the throws, not taking any notice of which room he was standing in. The lack of walls in Bilbo’s home often made it difficult to tell which room was which.

Pippin was now standing directly in front of his slumbering cousin Frodo on the settee. He wasn’t making any excessive noise at present and Sam was forced to hold back any scathing words he might have had on the tip on his tongue.

Merry tossed a large apple at his younger cousin, but his throw was not as accurate as he hoped. A little too high and it sailed over Pippin’s head.

Merry and Pippin both cringed as they heard the unmistakable sound of the apple hitting Frodo.

Frodo woke with a fright and immediately sat up rubbing the his forehead. There was no mark but he looked at his two cousins, demanding to know why they were throwing pieces of fruit at him while he was trying to sleep.

If Merry and Pippin thought they could get any sympathy out of Samwise, they were gravely mistaken as they heard his shocked intake of breath as he watched the apple strike his sleeping master and then see Frodo sitting up with a frown on his face.

It was about this time that Gandalf and the others proceeded to walk through the front door. They heard Sam’s angry outburst and wondered what had happened to rile the normally gentle tempered hobbit.

When they entered the sitting room where the noise was ensuing from, they were greeted with Merry and Pippin looking very guilty about something and Sam threatening to do them bodily harm.

Frodo was by now wide awake again and trying not to laugh at Sam’s serious face. His headache seemed to have eased to a barely noticeable level once again but he was not impressed by the way he had been woken.

“Run!” was the suggestion that the two cousins said to each other with their eyes, a little afraid of being in the middle of both an angry Sam and a cross looking Frodo.

To be continued……..

Author Notes: This story was started a long time ago (over fourteen 17 years ago), but I felt there were parts that needed more, and I wanted some more scenes in certain areas and include some of my new arcs.

I apologize for any mistakes I may have made about Lord Of The Rings history or any names I may have mis-spelled. I also hope that I have not wavered too far from people’s takes on the individual personalities of each character.

I don’t mean to make Strider and Bilbo out as so secretive. I just want to keep the idea about the Wraiths coming until later in the story. The fact that Bilbo knows that danger is coming and doesn’t do anything straight away is also not intentional and I humbly ask for readers to believe that’s what happened.

Any medicinal information is only from my own sources and not meant as true procedure to any injury or treatment that I may have used in my story so far or will in the future.

As you have probably guessed, I leave this chapter at the place where Gandalf arrives in the movie and hope that the sequence of events that I have included is at least logical.

Not much has happened yet. More to come. In next chapter, the party preparations take place that I envisaged happened prior in the movie. A few little incidents to come involving Lotho.

I know the appearance of a big person in the Shire would be out of place too, but I need that to make the story work. I just need both people, elves, dwarves and hobbits everywhere to suspend what they know to be true for a while and take what I write as happening.

I have also referred to Frodo as a boy in many parts – not intending for him to be called a human “boy” – just makes the story flow a little easier at times instead of constantly using “the hobbit” and similar descriptions.

Any information that I write in my Lord Of The Rings stories about eating flows on that in the two other fandoms I write – the main characters in each all are finicky eaters and just push the food around on a plate or go for long lengths without anything to eat or refuse to do so. The other two are like this in all stories that I know about them as well.

One other character also dislikes milk to the point of refusing to drink it – I am going to include this for Frodo later on – just something I dreamed up – nothing from the book or the movie. I wanted to write a close relationship between Bilbo and Frodo as well as friendship Frodo and Aragorn and Sam too.

Please review and let me know what you think. I will try and update as soon as I can, but please be patient as time is often not on my side.

Jules6

ESCAPE THE DARKNESS

By JULES

Author Notes – This story was begun a very long time ago, and it was never my intentions to leave it unfinished. This first was first published in 2003. I have twelve (12) chapters written – but want to add more to them and edit where necessary.

I will be going back through and editing a few scenes and adding to a few and fixing errors, now that I hopefully understand the Middle Earth world a little better since I first began. I hope to add a sprinkling of “The Hobbit” details in certain places where is needed. There will be a heavier saturation of this time period during the Rivendell scenes.

Real life just got in the way for a very long time and still is to a large extent.

I was going to add more to the synopsis, but for now I will leave you to read along and find out what happens along with Frodo and the rest of the cast as I take them out of the box. I promise to put them back when I am finished. If you think you know what might happen throughout and the ending, hopefully I have created enough twist plots and changes.

Strong friendship only – no slash. Very little romance (I am no good at writing that) – And plenty of angst, hurt/comfort. For those don’t know my previous work – this won’t be the Disney version.

This will be a very very long story, with many chapters, and many of those being long as well – just the way I write. And I usually try and describe from the viewpoint of multiple characters for any one scene. As well as describe every rock, tree branch and blade of grass along the way.

I have a very complicated plot planned, and some may not agree how I have altered the course of things, or that I introduce them and Frodo differently than the books or films. Hopefully you will continue to follow and read as the story progresses. If it hasn’t happened yet, or there isn’t enough information about something yet, that is usually deliberate on my part. Sometimes there are subtle clues that I put in chapters, other times I don’t.

This story explores the idea about what might have happened if Strider had come to the Shire to forewarn Bilbo Baggins about the Ring Wraiths that would soon come hunting for the One Ring. Commences a few days before Bilbo’s Birthday party and before Gandalf returns to the shire as well.

There are other changes that I will deliberately make to the story at a later date to explore how the journey may have changed as a result. “Hint Hint – some big changes that were the whole reason for starting this series”.

Strider had vowed to protect Bilbo when the Ring Wraiths are sent by the Dark Lord but he is unaware that the legacy of who is to carry the Ring to be destroyed falls upon a totally different Baggins hobbit.

In this story the corn fields in the shire are a little further away and I have added a lot extra between then and when the hobbit’s arrive at the Prancing Pony in Bree.

Hoping to add a few funny, light hearted moments in this one in between the serious stuff.

All mention of herbs or treatments used in this story or others come about from a little research I did into some and what their effects were. Some of them have been around since ancient times so I have no problem using in this time frame but still am not sure if they would have been grown near Rivendell.

Disclaimer -I do not own any of the characters I write about. I write about those created by J.J.R. Tolkien and marvel at such a story-tellers ability to enthral us all. There are occasional quotes from the movie in this story, just to keep the continuity going strong and to add just at the appropriate time.

Chapter Three: Gandalf’s Arrival

this new chapter follows on from the last:

“Who does Frodo seek at such a pace?” Strider asked as he and Sam did their best to catch up with the more agile hobbit.

“I don’t rightly know for sure, but I be thinking that it might be somebody coming along the road in a wagon,” Sam said, trying to talk and keep up with the Ranger’s longer strides at the same time.

“For one so small, your master is swift on his feet,” Strider commented.

The Ranger and Samwise lost sight of Frodo for a short time as the terrain dipped into a grass covered gully. The grass was very tall and often reached high enough to tickle Sam’s nose. The fragrance was sweet though and the day was beginning to warm gently.

As Strider and his hobbit companion came out of the dip, they ascended a small grass covered hill where they saw Frodo standing. The grass on this embankment

was an emerald shade of green and a little shorter than they had just run through.

Frodo stood beside the roadway, still listening for the approaching wagon. He could now hear distinct singing coming from the man driving the wagon. The language used would be indecipherable to most of the Shire, even Frodo himself could not translate every verse he heard.

Strider and Sam were standing only a short distance away from Frodo but did not disturb him. The Ranger could now see the wagon and its driver. The man was dressed in a long grey cloak that fell in deep folds about his body. His hands were visible beneath the long sleeves gently guiding the horse as they went.

The man’s face was one of somebody who had seen much in his lifetime but had become stronger because of it. The lines on his face were softened by his kind eyes and gentle outer expression. The man’s beard was a multitude of grey and white tones that were scarcely distinguishable from each other but blended together to match the man’s long hair.

The man wore a large, over-sized pointy hat that was made of the same hard-wearing fabric as his cloak and shimmered slightly in the dappled sunlight.

Frodo still had the smile on his face as he watched the wagon grow nearer. He now tried to change his facial expression and stood in an almost demanding pose. His arms were folded in front of him as if waiting for an explanation and there was an expectant look about him.

“You are late!” Frodo accused. The man was now pulling the wagon to a halt, still avoiding eye contact with the young hobbit.

“A wizard is never late Frodo Baggins…. nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to,” came the confident reply.

Sam seemed to be holding his breath at the moment as he watched his master and the wizard. Both of them were now intently staring at each other, neither one willing to give in first.

Strider found it most interesting that the young hobbit could show an almost defiant attitude upon will. When he had met the lad earlier he would have been mistaken to think the same thing back then.

The wizard found the corners of his mouth twitching first into a vague smile. His efforts to make Frodo waver first were mostly in vain, though it did not appear that way for long.

Both wizard and hobbit now gave each other a genuine smile of friendship before laughing heartily at each others stubbornness. Sam silently released the breath he had been holding and couldn’t help but have a grin of his own to see such pleasure on his masters face.

“It’s wonderful to see you again Gandalf,” Frodo exclaimed happily.

Before Sam could prevent it, with one leap, Frodo threw himself towards the wizard. Gandalf had no trouble catching the hobbit with his free hand, the other still holding onto the horse’s reins. The wizard now cast the leather straps to one side and returned Frodo’s show of affection with enthusiasm. Both of them were wrapped in an heart-felt embrace, and for the briefest of moments neither wanted to let go.

“And you too, Frodo, my dear lad,” the wizard replied as he pulled away slightly from the hobbit and tried to look at how much he had changed since last they had spoken to each other. It had been far too long indeed since their last face to face meeting.

“I was beginning to think you weren’t going to be here until after Uncle Bilbo’s birthday party,” Frodo said. The hobbit now sat on the bench-seat beside Gandalf ready to travel together to Bag End.

Until now, Sam and Strider had remained in silence, not wanting to disturb the rekindling of friendship. Frodo looked behind him and was some what surprised to see the two standing there. He had not noticed them before now. His brow wrinkled slightly as he tried to ask himself how Sam had come to find him.

Frodo could see a smile on each of their faces and he knew that they had taken quiet, reserved pleasure in seeing him happy.

“Have you two been following me?” he asked, directing his question more at Sam, than the Ranger. Frodo knew that Sam would not be able to look him in the eye and give him a false answer. There was an honesty about Samwise that Frodo had come to know a long time ago and trusted until this very minute.

“Sam was merely giving me a tour of your Shire, Frodo,” Ranger said, seeing the conflicting emotions within the hobbit that stood beside him. “We have seen many things this morning. Our paths cross again by chance and no other reason.”

“Rangers I have been told, Mr Strider are very resourceful people when they want to,” Gandalf said addressing the big person. “You are no exception to that rule and I suspect you have other motives for allowing our ‘paths cross’ as you say.”

“I am humbled by your knowledge, Gandalf the Grey,” Strider replied, a smile in his eyes as he bowed towards the wizard.

“You two know each other, Gandalf?” Frodo asked with genuine surprise, seeing the same question on Sam’s face. Up until just now, they had no indication that the wizard and the Ranger had come across each other before.

“I have travelled many places in my time, Frodo and so has Strider. While I have not known him as long as your dear Uncle Bilbo, his friendship has always been most welcomed. It is truly a surprise to see him here now I must say.” the wizard added, but the look on Gandalf’s face towards the Ranger said otherwise.

“Begging your pardon, Mister Frodo sir, but are you planning to travel back to Bag End in that wagon with, Mister Gandalf,” Sam asked nervously. He didn’t quite know how to come out and tell his master how uneasy the man made him feel at times.

Sam had only come to know of Gandalf during his infrequent visits to Bilbo and Frodo. The man had always seemed to have an air of mystery about him that the gardener could never explain in plain words.

“Would it be alright for Strider and Sam to travel back with us in your wagon Gandalf?” Frodo queried.

“Yes of course it would be alright, though I think Strider might find it a bit cramped for room with his longer legs,” Gandalf pointed out.

“Your horse travels at a very slow pace Gandalf, Sam would probably benefit from the wagon rather than I,” the Ranger said. Strider now helped Samwise into the back of the wagon.

Sam worked his way to the front of the wagon, careful not to trod on any of the crates or other cargo that seemed to cover the entire floor. There were a great many long poles poking out from underneath sheets of canvas. All of the strange looking shaped items only seemed to make the hobbit more uneasy towards the wizard.

Despite Strider’s comments, Gandalf kept the horse’s gait at a sluggish rate so that the Ranger would not have to keep to a faster pace. From where Sam stood in the wagon he was directly behind his master Frodo, just where he preferred it. At least he could keep a good eye on him from where he was positioned.

“You didn’t really think I would miss your Uncle Bilbo’s birthday party did you, Frodo?” Gandalf asked, keeping the topic of conversation casual.

“So how is the old rascal Bilbo? I hear the party its going to be a party of special magnificence.”

“You know Bilbo…. he’s got the whole place in an uproar. Half of the Shire has been invited,” Frodo informed Gandalf.

“Don’t be forgetting Mister Gandalf, Sir that it is Mister Frodo’s birthday party too,” Sam said proudly. He knew that most of the gossip about the Shire folk had been about how old Master Bilbo was going to turn. Sam was determined to make sure that Frodo’s special day was not forgotten in all of the chaos and atmosphere.

“True Samwise, I had not forgotten our young Frodo’s birthday. A special day indeed, coming of age at last,” Gandalf said, giving Frodo’s shoulder a light pat.

“With all that has been happening lately, I wish it would just come and go without any fuss,” Frodo admitted openly.

“Uncle Bilbo has had nothing but visitors for the past two weeks since he sent out the invitations. Some of them are telling him of coming to the party. Others are those folk who were either deliberately or mistakenly forgotten of the guest list.”

“I take it then that Bag End has not been quiet of late,” Gandalf commented, puffing away with his long pipe as they travelled.

“Uncle Bilbo is getting more fidgety by the day. Most of them have been decent enough to come at a suitable hour to utter their congratulations. Then there are those directly involved with the preparations and cooking, telling Uncle what dishes he should be serving and what not to have. But others who are a little upset at their being left out that they have little regard and often interrupt Bilbo’s writing or studying,” Frodo informed the wizard.

Although Gandalf grinned slightly at the image formed in his mind of how Bilbo would be reacting to his quiet time being disturbed, he could see that Frodo cared enough for the old hobbit that he too would be a little stressed about the party preparations.

Strider remained silent during the trip to Bag End although Frodo had not tried to put any other meaning into his words, the Ranger couldn’t help but think that he had only recently become one of those uninvited guests that turned up at odd hours.

“I hope your Uncle will invite me in once we arrive there.”

“Oh you don’t have to worry about that Gandalf, Uncle Bilbo has been looking forward to you coming for weeks now. What he needs to worry about later on today is the arrival of my younger cousins, Merry and Pippin. Uncle has agreed to let them stay with me at Bag End until after the party.”

“The appearance of those two should certainly be eventful,” Gandalf said. He had met Frodo’s cousins many times before, but because of their age and immaturity, together they had a tendency to cause trouble whether they were to blame or not. They usually took to playing practical jokes on unsuspecting folk which would backfire and only leave a mess to clean up or an explanation to be forthcoming.

“I am looking forward to them coming,” Frodo said as he thought about his cousins. He knew what the wizard was terming as ‘eventful’ but nevertheless at least they would someone familiar to him at the party. Frodo was a little nervous about the sheer number of relations that Bilbo had invited that he had never met before.

“Let’s talk about something else, Gandalf,” Frodo suggested. “I want to get away from all this chatter about parties and birthdays. It gives me a headache at times just thinking about what has to be done today and tomorrow.”

Sam now looked intently at his master, to see any signs of the headache that Frodo spoke about. He promised himself that he would make sure that Mister Frodo was relaxed a little by tomorrow.

“What news have you from the outside world?” Frodo asked with anticipation clearly in his words. The young hobbit was happy with his life in the Shire but often wondered what other places and peoples he would meet if he travelled outside it’s boundaries.

Whilst Sam had noted on a number of occasions his desire to stay in the Shire for what he perceived the foreseeable future, Frodo could not deny that often he had dreams about leaving for a time in search of a purpose in life.

“What do you wish to hear about, Frodo?”

“Tell me everything!” Frodo stated matter-of-factly, his eyes lighting up with a rare display of unbridled excitement.

“Everything….. you become too curious for your own good my boy. It is an unnatural trait for a hobbit such as yourself be so eager to know,” Gandalf said with a light-hearted chuckle. The wizard had always known Frodo to convey a thirst for knowledge and learning. He would promote such a fine characteristic in one so eager, not thwart it for the sake of what others considered unusual or strange.

“What can I tell you my young friend, is that life in the wide world goes on much as it has this past age, full of its own comings and goings, scarcely aware of the existence of hobbits and the Shire, for which I am very thankful.”

Gandalf couldn’t how thankful he was that it was the case. In the past couple of weeks he had become increasingly concerned with matters that were beginning to appear that were best left alone and untouched. The appearance of the Ranger here today in the Hobbiton only seemed to add to his concern that such matters would not remain hidden for very much longer.

Frodo now looked back towards Sam and smiled at his friend. His eyes drifted towards the large amount of stuff that was laying in the wagon. Curiosity got the better of him as well, but he was confident enough to voice this to the wizard.

“What are you planning to do with all that you have brought, Gandalf?” Frodo enquired.

“Nothing to worry about Frodo, just a little entertainment for the Shire folk as I promised your, Uncle Bilbo.” Gandalf promised, giving the hobbit a sly wink.

“Why do I get the feeling that Merry and Pippin are not the only ones to be planning something? Seeing as you and Uncle Bilbo have been down that path before, Gandalf,” Frodo said with an knowing grin.

“Before your last ‘little bit of entertainment’, Uncle Bilbo and I were very well thought of in the Shire,” Frodo said, knowing that such a statement wasn’t entirely true. “We Bagginses never had any adventures or did anything unexpected.”

Unfortunately for Frodo, being heir to Bilbo Baggins left him with not only the older hobbit’s possessions, but also labels of stranger and unusual even before the Shire folk had gotten a chance to meet him and make a judgment themselves.

Shire folk were inclined to talk amongst themselves about matters that didn’t concern them or they had very little information about. The appearance of strangers like dwarves and Gandalf to Bag End over the years had continued to fuel the gossip and only confirmed to the folk what they had been told by others.

“If you are referring to the incident with the Dragon, I was barely involved. All I did was give your uncle a little nudge….” Gandalf began explained, not wanting to go back over the details of that most memorable of visits at this time.

“And as for adventures my dear boy, your Uncle Bilbo might have led a quieter existence for the best part of forty years, but there was a time when that hobbit could never stay in one place for his feet to take root,” Gandalf said.

“Whatever you did, you have been officially labelled a disturber of the peace,” Frodo remarked, trying his hardest to keep a straight and serious face, but soon failing and giving a little smile at the memory.

Frodo thought for a few seconds, not really confident about how to approach the next topic of conversation, and the happiness on his face disappearing to be replaced by an expression bordering on concern.

“I think Bilbo is up to something as well,” Frodo said, the words sounding more like a question to the wizard rather than a statement.

The hobbit knew that his Uncle and Gandalf had spoken often and in great detail about the comings and goings of each other by letter. Maybe Frodo couldn’t talk to Bilbo about what he had over heard the night before with Strider, but he might be able to gain some clues as to the truth through Gandalf.

Strider listened to the tone of Frodo’s words with interest. He could hear an almost underlying air of suspicion from the young hobbit. For not only the first or second time today, the Ranger found himself wondering about what thoughts.

“Really?” Gandalf replied in mock surprise. It was obvious to the wizard that Frodo knew much more about his Uncle than Bilbo realized. He would have to have a quiet word to his old friend before the party began tomorrow.

“Keep your secrets then.” Frodo answered, a little disappointment in his voice that Gandalf was unwilling to shed any light on the subject.

“I will see you back at Bag End soon,” Frodo said as he readied himself to climb down from the wagon and continue on his own way. “I will meet you and Sam back at Bag End before lunch,” he added, trying to hide the weight that his thoughts were putting upon his heart.

“But Mister Frodo you can’t… ” Sam wanted to protest.

To his dismay though his master was already heading through the trees on the other side before anybody could stop his progress. From where he sat in the wagon, he was unable to get down quickly enough to join Frodo.

“I think Frodo would rather think on his own for a while Sam,” Gandalf said, placing a reassuring hand on the hobbit’s shoulder, urging him to remain in the wagon until they reached Bilbo’s home.

Bilbo is going to have to tell him…,” Gandalf said to himself, barely audible enough for Sam and Strider to overhear.

Frodo had walked away from Gandalf’s wagon, but as soon as he was out of sight, the hobbit found himself running through the long grass and the trees. He felt slightly cross with himself for leaving so abruptly and silently berated himself for doing so, hoping that the wizard would understand and Sam wouldn’t be too upset.

His thoughts about the conversation he had overheard the night before between the Ranger Strider and his Uncle had re-ignite his fears about Bilbo leaving Bag End and the Shire.

The sudden reappearance of Gandalf to the area only made Frodo more unsettled about what the next few days would bring. Maybe Bilbo planned to leave after his birthday with the wizard.

Frodo could scarcely bare the ache in his heart if his Uncle did intend to leave. Tears had begun welling in his eyes about being left alone once more, but he refused to let them fall. Although it had been some years since his parents had left him, the feeling of abandonment didn’t take long to renew the seed of doubt in his mind.

Running prevented the unshed tears from being noticed by anybody else. There was a sense of freedom that couldn’t be ignored. Before he even realized it, Frodo had run the better of half a mile. He came to a halt and forced himself to take slow deep breaths in order to try and quell both the negative feelings he was experiencing as well as the exertion that the fast running had placed upon his body.

Frodo waited until he felt calm enough again and more composed. Putting away the fears that had resurfaced, he started to make his way back towards Bag End. If he delayed his return any longer, Sam would surely worry unnecessarily and come looking.

________________________________________________________________

back at Bag End….

Gandalf, Strider and Sam were now arriving at Bag End. Sam got down from the wagon and offered to help unhitch the horse and put both the horse and wagon away safely until they were needed further.

While Sam went about these tasks, Strider and Gandalf approached the gateway to Bilbo’s home. The wizard observed the sign-age on the gate that Strider had seen the night before and chuckled to himself that the old hobbit’s personality seemed unchanged despite his age.

Gandalf proceeded to knock on the door using the bottom end of the staff he carried with him. He noticed that the dwarvish symbol that he had etched into the wood of the door a long time ago, was unnoticeable in the bright sunlight.

“No thank you…. we don’t want any more visitors, well-wishers or distant relations,” came a voice from inside. The wizard chuckled slightly as he heard the statement, assuming that Bilbo was speaking on Frodo’s behalf a little when he mentioned ‘we’.

“What about very old friends?” Gandalf asked through the closed door.

There was a distinct silence for a few seconds before the rounded doorway slowly opened. Bilbo walked forward to make sure that the sun wasn’t deceiving his eyes.

“Gandalf?” the elderly hobbit greeted cautiously, scarcely able to believe who he saw standing before him.

Until today there had been the smallest notion that the wizard would have more prevailing matters to attend to than a birthday party, even one celebrating one hundred and eleven years.

“Bilbo Baggins….” Gandalf said as he greeted his long-time friend with a warm and heart-felt embrace. The wizard could not have expressed in the words of any tongue he knew, how dear his friendship with this hobbit had become over many decades.

“You haven’t aged a day…..,” he added, noting that the hobbit carried his years excessively better than others. The old hobbit’s eyes had a gentle and kind appearance about them and his genuine smile shone through at meeting his old friend once more.

“Oh, I see you have met up with Strider,” Bilbo said as he saw the Ranger standing nearby. Bilbo now looked around for any sign of the younger companions that had journeyed out earlier that morning.

“Where is Frodo and Sam?” Bilbo enquired.

“Frodo and I have already spoken. I must say that he has matured much since I had the pleasure of talking to him. He informed me that he would be along shortly. Samwise has kindly offered to attend to my wagon and horse to aid a weary traveller,” Gandalf explained.

“Come in, come in…. where are my manners? Welcome, welcome. Can I offer you some tea, Gandalf, or something a little stronger?” Bilbo asked. “Would you join us as well Strider? It is almost time for elevensies.”

“Tea thank you,” Gandalf responded as he ducked his head and entered the smial.

The Ranger noted that the wizard had to show just as much caution as he, when walking through the lower ceilings. He had already avoided a few nasty knocks to the head by mere fractions of an inch and quick reflexes.

“I would prefer tea as well, Bilbo,” Strider said, answering the hobbit’s question.

“I’ve got a few bottles of the Old Winyards left…. 1296, a very good year. Almost as old as I am. It was laid down by my father,” Bilbo said as his two guests disappeared from sight temporarily as they took a different route to the kitchen.

“Just tea thank you” Gandalf repeated as he and the Ranger sat down and waited patiently as Bilbo bustled about his kitchen, pouring hot water from a kettle into the teapot positioned on the table.

Gandalf noted that due to the fact that Frodo and his companion Sam had yet to return, now might be a good time to approach the subject about Bilbo’s intentions to leave the Shire. It had caused him a much concern to see the flickering emotions on Frodo’s face just a short time ago.

Before Gandalf had a chance to mention any concerns, there was another loud knock at the door. Bilbo up until then had been standing near a window, but upon hearing the knock at the front door, shrunk back from the glass panels, into the shadows that the walls provided, hoping that he wouldn’t be spotted.

“I am not at home,” Bilbo proclaimed out loud, forgetting that he had just alerted to person outside that he was indeed at home. “I have got to get away from these confounded relatives. Hanging on the bell all day, never giving me a moment’s peace,” once again confirming some of the comments Frodo had mentioned earlier about the steady stream of unwanted visitors to Bag End recently.

The tea was now poured and Strider and the wizard remained silent as they watched the old hobbit move back and forth from the window, almost nervous as he spoke. Bilbo knew that this was the conversation that he had meant to continue with the Ranger from the previous night, as so continued.

“I want to see mountains again… mountains, Gandalf, and then find somewhere quiet where I can finish my book,” Bilbo declared, now ceasing his pacing back and forth and forcing himself to remain still by sitting on a chair at the table and facing the truth he had been trying to avoid for some time.

“So you mean to go through with your plans then?” the wizard asked cautiously, not wanting to put words into the hobbit’s mouth if he had not yet come to such a decision.

“Yes, yes, it’s all in hand. All of the arrangements have been made. I was only telling Strider the same thing only late last night,” Bilbo replied, but there was a air of uncertainty in his voice and an air of sadness as he came to realization of what he had decided to do.

“Frodo suspects something…..,” Gandalf brought up, trying to put the subject as delicately as possible to his long-time friend.

“He does?” Bilbo responded, already suspecting such to be the case. “Yes I suppose he might think something is going on the way I have been acting lately. He probably feels like I have been trying to avoid him.”

“You will tell him soon won’t you, before it’s too late,” Gandalf prompted, hoping the hobbit understood how urgent it was becoming.

“Yes, ….. I will,” Bilbo responded hesitantly, pausing a little as he answered.

“How do I do that Gandalf, without hurting him? Frodo has got such a gentle nature about him. Kindest lad I have ever come across. What will it do to him to learn that I am leaving?”

“It would hurt him more if it is your intention to leave without telling him first, Bilbo,” Gandalf said, seeing the emotions play out across the hobbit’s face like a clearly visible stain. “He is very fond of you.”

“As I am of him, Gandalf, as I am of him. I cannot put into words what that lad has come to mean to me over the years. For years and years all I did was sit here in my study writing about my travels, without anybody to share them with other than my ink and paper.”

“He would probably come with me if I asked him.”

“Do you think that is what Frodo wants to do with his life?” Gandalf asked, genuinely interested in Frodo’s future well being.

“I think, in his heart, Frodo is still in love with the Shire, the woods, the fields, little rivers…..,” Bilbo replied without finishing the sentence.

“I have no right to do that to Frodo, Gandalf. The lad came here with only sadness and uncertainty after his parents death. Living here at Bag End, I tried to change all that by trying to give him all the love, understanding and patience I could find. I wanted to give him all the love that his parents would have shed upon him, as well as my own.”

“Frodo is older now and more confident in his own self. He has friends that think the world of him, especially Samwise. He now has familiarity and firm connections with the Shire and those in it. I wouldn’t feel right asking him to give all of that up just for me and my wandering ways. It wouldn’t be fair to Frodo.”

“I am old Gandalf. I know you think I don’t look it but I am beginning to feel it in my heart,” Bilbo said feeling a little daunted by his own admission.

“I need a holiday, a very long holiday. I don’t expect I shall return, in fact I mean not to,” Bilbo uttered with an unmistakable tone of finality about the trip he was preparing to take.

The conversation did not continue much further as the three of them pondered on all that had been said. Both Strider and Gandalf couldn’t help but think of what mixed emotions Frodo might experience over the next couple of days.

_______________________________________________________________

Samwise had just been making his way back from finishing stabling the horse and putting away the wagon until the next day, when he saw Frodo approaching from the opposite direction.

To his surprise, Frodo looked as though he had been running. His master sounded a little out of breath and looked a little tired. “Hello, Mister Frodo, are you alright?”

“Yes Sam, thank you,” Frodo said as he forced his breathing to be deeper and slower. The brisk run had been invigorating and helped him over come some of the fears he held about his uncle’s possible impending departure. “I was running through the trees,” he admitted to his friend, who looked a little worried about him.

“Let’s go inside and get something to drink and eat then, Mister Frodo,” Sam suggested, a little perplexed as to why his master would be running in the first place. Sam knew that Frodo enjoyed daily walks and exercise but he couldn’t see a purpose to making himself out of breath unless there was a reason to.

Frodo and Sam opened the door and walked inside to the kitchen where Gandalf and the others were still drinking their tea.

“We are back, Uncle Bilbo,” Frodo announced as he reached the kitchen.

“Did you enjoy the weather outside, Frodo, my dear boy?” Bilbo asked with interest, trying to push aside any of his earlier thoughts.

“Yes uncle, but I feel as though I might have spent too much time out there this day,” Frodo admitted, putting his hand to his temple and rubbing slightly at a headache that was beginning to form.

“Why is that, Frodo?” Bilbo queried, noting his nephew’s actions and the small grimace on his face.

“I did a lot of running back to here just now and I have a headache beginning. Maybe that or it is from too much sunshine overhead whilst I was reading earlier,” Frodo stated.

“Well running is good for you, but I hope you have not over done things. Why don’t you go and sit on the comfortable settee and I will bring your cup of tea when I have made a fresh pot. Sam can help me and I will put a few herbal leaves in it to help ease your headache,” Bilbo offered gently, putting a hand on the lad’s shoulder in an affectionate and comforting gesture.

“If is alright with you Uncle, I might have the tea in my room whilst I do some quiet study. I really think it was the running and not the reading that is the cause of the problem. It might help relax me along with the tea and go away,” Frodo countered in negotiation.

“Alright Frodo, let me know if you need anything else. Once I have finished with this tea, Sam and I can start on luncheon. Your cousins are due to arrive very shortly and the first thing they will be looking for apart from you is food,” Bilbo said.

“Let me know when Merry and Pippin arrive will you please Sam. Please excuse me Gandalf and Strider,” Frodo said as he turned towards his room and a little quiet time.

“Of course Mister Frodo,” Sam answered immediately, only to happy to help out as requested.

Strider and Gandalf both responded to the boy’s beautiful manners and hoped that his headache would not last too long. There was something about the lad that just made others warm up to him immediately and his honesty and sincerity were charms that he certainly possessed in abundance.

______________________________________________________________

“You can take his tea in to him in a minute, Sam,” Bilbo said to the younger hobbit, seeing the frown of his face. Sam was being pulled in opposite directions at the moment, wanting to be with his master when he wasn’t feeling one hundred percent and the other direction because of his respect of Frodo’s privacy and need for solitude when studying.

Studying was something that Bilbo had never had to press on the lad, even from the very beginning of his stay at Bag End. Frodo seemed to drink up every book that the older hobbit had in his library and had a thirst for knowledge to match. Bilbo had taught Frodo to speak a limited amount of Elvish language and how to form the various symbol representations in writings and songs.

Once Frodo had a grasp of the subject material, he had taken it upon himself to further his own education through self-teaching methods. The lad preferred to do this alone for varying amounts of time, some days for hours on end, on other days, all but a few minutes before going to sleep at night to help him relax after a long day outside.

After a few minutes, Bilbo announced that Frodo’s tea was ready and Sam was more than willing to take it to his master if only to use it as an alibi to see if he still suffered from the headache.

Sam knocked respectfully on the door before hearing a quiet “Come In” from the other side and entering Frodo’s bedroom.

Frodo was seated at his study desk, with a large book open in front of him and another standing up leaning against the window. He seemed to be practising his writing skills and master the fine strokes needed to form the letters and symbols.

Sam put his master’s cup of tea down close enough for him to reach but far enough away to prevent it accidentally spilling on Frodo’s hard work. Sam couldn’t help but watch his master write with a slight twinge of envy. Frodo’s small hand made his grip on the quill quite tight to allow more control. The strokes were small but accurate and the page itself was very neat indeed.

Frodo now looked up from his work briefly and smiled at his friend, then reaching for the tea with his still bandaged hand.

“You have beautiful writing if you don’t mind me saying so, Mister Frodo,” Sam said honestly. “My fingers could never hold still long enough without smudging what I have already done,” he added, thinking back to past efforts when Frodo had been more than willing to be Sam’s tutor.

“Thank you, Sam, although I am grateful that my writing hand wasn’t the one that was scalded by the hot water or I fear that I would not be able to write at all today.”

“Does your headache still give you pain, Mister Frodo?” Sam found himself asking.

“Actually Sam, it has eased considerably even after only such a brief time. Maybe it is the tea that is helping me relax after all.”

“Would you like something to eat? Sam asked, hoping Frodo would accept. “Luncheon should be ready very shortly.”

Frodo could see the hopefulness in Sam’s eyes that he would agree to something to eat. He found himself not being able to refuse the offer. “I am getting a little hungry Sam, lunch would be nice as soon as it’s ready.”

Sam smiled broadly and went off to make sure that everything was just right for his master. Frodo watched his friend leave and then turned back to his books for a little while longer. He doubted that he would have much time tomorrow or the day after to indulge in such personal escapes.

Strider and Gandalf engaged in quiet, non-committal conversation as Bilbo and Sam went about preparing lunch for all.

Just before it was ready, there was a knock at the door, which Bilbo went to answer, muttering as he went, hoping it was not yet another visitor.

When he opened the door, he was somewhat delighted and relieved at who was present. He was met by the smiling faces of Meriadoc and Peregrin, bursting full of energy and barely able to keep still even as they waited to be invited in.

“Merry and Pippin, my dear lads, how are you and won’t you come in,” Bilbo said allowing them entry to Bag End. The two hobbits had a small suitcase each as they entered, taking in the sights and smells of Bilbo’s home.

Sam came forth and greeted Mr Frodo’s cousins. “How was your trip little masters? I will see to your bags and put them in the guest rooms,” he said, remembering duty had to come before enjoying their company.

“Hello Sam, we are fine thanks and hello to you too Uncle,” Merry said in a loud voice, speaking for his younger cousin Pippin as well.

“Lunch is almost ready, you can join us in a minute,” Bilbo said, already noting the delight that came to the youngest cousin’s face at such a statement. It was no secret that Peregrin was always hungry and ready to eat, no matter how long ago the last meal had been. There was always room for more Pippin had told his Uncle once.

“Where is Frodo?” Merry now asked, eager to see his older cousin again as he looked about the rooms for any sign of the dark-haired hobbit.

“He’s in his room studying a little before lunch. He said he had a slight headache and wished to relax a little before you arrived,” Bilbo said, hoping that would be enough of a deterrent for the two younger cousins to wait patiently until Frodo appeared on his own accord.

Merry and Pippin weren’t to be discouraged though, and both looked at each other and grinned devilishly that they knew of an alternative way to get Frodo’s attention without going to knock on his bedroom door.

“Come on Pip,” Merry said as the two left Sam holding their luggage and dashing back out the front door and around the side of the smial.

“They won’t do anything too terrible to Mr Frodo will they Master Bilbo?” Sam asked, a little worried about the two cousins who always seemed to have too much energy for their own good. They were always up to something.

“I shouldn’t think so Sam,” Bilbo said, putting a reassuring hand on the lad’s shoulder. “Frodo has been looking forward to them coming. He will put them straight if they look like getting out of control,” he added, knowing that Frodo often took on responsibility for his younger cousins whenever they visited.

In the past such loyalty had often landed Frodo in as much trouble as Merry and Pippin, but the happiness and laughter that the two cousins brought to Frodo couldn’t be replaced and Bilbo was often most grateful for that.

“Studying!” Merry said as he and Pippin moved around the side of the dwelling. Sometimes Frodo was too studious for his own good. Time to break that habit and get his cousin having some fun again.

Merry and Pippin could now see the window that belonged to Frodo’s bedroom. They could see a book of some description leaning up the bottom half of the glass and the older cousin immediately had a giggle of an idea about how to alert Frodo to his presence. No doubt they would scare him senseless, but they would have fun nevertheless.

Merry motioned for Pippin to sneak up beside the window frame like he and peer secretly through the glass. Both of them could see Frodo’s dark head bent forward as he continued what he was doing.

It took a few more minutes than Merry would have liked, but eventually they were rewarded with Frodo’s casual glance towards his book and spotting two faces leering back at him through the glass.

Frodo had been concentrating on the book but was startled by the faces at his window and tried to jump backwards away from the window. Unfortunately for Frodo, his chair was behind him and now both he and the chair fell backwards, knocking the cup of tea from the desk as well as the ink pot. It wasn’t until after this that he recognized who the faces belonged to.

“Merry and Pippin!” Frodo said in a mock annoyed voice as he surveyed the image of himself sprawled on the floor and the congealing mess not to far away on the rug of the ink and tea mixing together.

The two cousins had seen Frodo tumble backwards but knew he wasn’t hurt. They now made their way back around to the front door, hoping that neither Bilbo or Frodo would be too upset at their antics.

Sam had overheard his master’s startled cry as he fell backwards and couldn’t help but open the door to see if everything was alright. He immediately went to Frodo’s aid of helping him stand, he too concerned about the now black stain marring the rug.

“Are you alright Mister Frodo?” Sam said, seeing that the bandage on Frodo’s hand had also been stained by the ink. Looking upon his master’s clothes, they hadn’t faired much better and there was now a soaking blackened mark across the front of Frodo’s vest and trousers.

“Yes I am fine thank you, Sam,” Frodo said, trying hard not to laugh at how he must look at the moment. “Those two cousins of mine….,” he said, a smile creeping across his face.

“Frodo,” Merry said in a quiet voice behind Sam, the two cousins standing just outside the doorway, hoping to apologize for their behaviour.

“Just look at this mess you too created,” Frodo said sternly, the corners of his mouth twitching with a grin. Sam was sighing in relief that Frodo’s writing had not been spoilt by the ink. It seemed that the floor and Frodo himself wore most of what was spilt.

“We will clean it up cousin, promise,” Pippin said, feeling a little guilty as he looked at the spreading stain on Frodo’s clothes.

“Offering to do manual work now are you Pip, that’s certainly good to hear. Though I don’t think you sound like my cousin Peregrin Took,” Frodo said already seeing that they were remorseful for their childish actions.

“It’s great to see you Merry and Pip,” Frodo added and gave his cousins a warm greeting. “I really wanted that cup of tea though,” he poked in fun.

“I’ll get you another cup Mister Frodo,” Sam offered.

“That’s alright Sam, just let me get into some clean clothes and clear a bit of this mess on the floor and then we can go and see if lunch is ready,” knowing that Pip wouldn’t be needing a second invitation.

“I will get a little sugar from Master Bilbo to sprinkle over that stain. The sugar crystals should soak up most of the ink and then it can just be swept into pile and thrown away,” Sam said, explaining a little about what his mother had taught him about how to remove difficult stains from things.

“What about my clothes Sam, you don’t expect to sprinkle sugar over me to get the ink out do you?” Frodo said with a laugh.

“Oh no sir,” Sam said returning the grin to his master as such an idea. “But I can put it into a bucket of water laced with lemon and vinegar and that will certainly

have your clothes looking nice again.”

“Dear Sam, you always have a solution for me when I am in need,” Frodo said.

“I hope so, Mister Frodo,” Sam said proudly that his master thought so highly of him.

________________________________________________________________________

Half an hour after Merry and Pippin announced their arrival to Frodo and everyone else, all were seated at the table now enjoying a leisurely lunch and gentle conversation.

Introductions had been made of Strider, though Merry seemed to be a little wary of the Ranger at first. Pip had been awed by the man’s height but gave a small smile and made sure that he sat safely on the other side of his cousin Frodo.

Sam had been about to excuse himself when Frodo asked that he stay and join them. Bilbo had also voiced that he wished for Samwise to join them at the table as had the two cousins. Sam felt himself out numbered and although he had been taught to mind his betters and remember his place, he had also been taught to be there as often as Frodo

wanted him to be.

Sam couldn’t put into words how good he felt when Mister Frodo treated him no differently to other adults around him or indeed his own relatives such as Merry and Pippin.

Strider had not wanted to add to any fear that the two cousins might have over his presence but marvelled at how quickly the two seemed to forget their apprehensions and include him in their conversations around the table.

Pippin had gone into great detail about the scare that he and Merry had given Frodo a short time before and how his cousin had fallen off his chair and been smeared in ink and warm tea.

After hearing about this, Gandalf promised himself that he would need to keep a closer eye on the two mischief’s and keep them out of trouble as much as possible before the party.

“You should have seen your face, Frodo,” Pippin said with a giggle, remembering the startled look his older cousin had moments before toppling backwards.

“Don’t worry Pippin, my revenge will be swift and silent but most of all unexpected,” Frodo said in a voice so low that the younger hobbit believed every word. He couldn’t help but bait them a little and keep them guessing about what he might do to get back at them.

“You wouldn’t…..,” Pippin said in shock. In all the time he had known Frodo, he had never seen his dark-haired cousin retaliate for any of the mischief that they had caused.

“He wouldn’t do anything would he, Merry?” he now asked, seeking a little confirmation from his partner in crime.

Merry too was a little surprised at Frodo’s statement, and both had an ominous feeling as they watched their secretive cousin smile sweetly back at them. They would have thought Frodo’s comments to be baseless except for the gleam that they saw in his blue eyes.

Strider and Gandalf laughed at the sight of the two now uneasy and nervous cousins that kept looking back and forth between themselves and Frodo. He certainly knew had to get them on edge without any effort at all.

Merry had already asked why the Ranger was present, before receiving a painful kick to his shin under the table for not remembering his manners in somebody else’s house.

Bilbo had not been concerned over what he saw was Merry’s natural curiosity and gave him the same explanation as that to Sam earlier at breakfast about possible trouble presenting itself at the party.

Lunch had then continued for a time. Gandalf had asked that Strider and Bilbo assist him to unload his wagon of surprises after they had eaten and was pleased that his friends had readily agreed.

That would leave the four hobbits on their own but that didn’t present itself as such a problem. Sam had already offered to clear the lunch dishes so that Bilbo could go with Gandalf.

Bilbo had gotten up from the table towards the end of the meal and begun pouring milk into glasses for the four hobbits. He had been thinking of something else at the time and before realizing it, had half-filled Frodo’s glass with the white liquid.

Frodo’s displeasure was clearly evident on his face as he scowled at the substance in the glass as though it were a vile medicine he was being asked to drink.

“You don’t expect me to drink that stuff do you, Uncle Bilbo?” Frodo asked still eyeing the milk with disdain.

“Oh, I am sorry Frodo, I wasn’t thinking. No of course not. I know you don’t like milk. I will get you a fresh glass of juice or tea if you would prefer?” Bilbo said

apologetically.

“I’ll drink it, Frodo,” Pippin said and grabbed at the glass before any reply could be given.

Sam glared at the hobbit a little, thinking that he was being very rude, but then relenting a little at Pippin’s enthusiasm. He knew that Frodo wouldn’t drink the milk anyway but he could have been more polite about it.

“I take it you do not like to drink milk, Frodo,” Strider said, noting the hobbit’s obvious dislike.

“No, Strider, there isn’t any threat that anyone could make that would force me to drink that stuff,” Frodo affirmed.

It was about now that Frodo noted how tired he was suddenly becoming. The headache that had eased earlier was beginning to resurface and he no longer had an appetite for his remaining lunch.

“I think it’s about time we headed out to help Gandalf,” Bilbo now stated. “How about you go and have a little lay down inside Frodo,” he suggested, noting his nephew grimacing slightly from the headache again.

“I might just do that, Uncle Bilbo,” Frodo agreed, thinking that a nice soft pillow would be more than welcome at this point in time.

“What are we going to do if you are going to be boring and rest?” Merry said, not knowing about Frodo’s headache. Staying still for too long didn’t appeal to either

Merry or Pippin.

“I think you and Pippin would be best suited to helping young Sam here clean up the dishes don’t you?” Bilbo said, not accepting no for an answer. “You can go out and play later on after your lunch has settled some.”

Merry and Pippin were not entirely happy with this idea, but though they had little choice since they would be staying under Bilbo’s roof for the next few days.

Sam was happy to see Bilbo take a little control of the situation and vowed that the two hobbits would keep their voices and games to a minimum if Mister Frodo was going to try and rest to ease his headache.

“We shan’t be long,” Bilbo said, noting the slightly disappointed looks on his visitors. “By the time you finish helping Sam we should have returned. Sam asked, hoping Frodo would accept. “Frodo can choose if he feels like going out or not later.”

Gandalf, Strider and Bilbo now prepared to leave and go to the wagon. Frodo had gotten up from the table and retrieved a pillow from his own bed before settling onto the settee in the sitting room. Somehow he didn’t like the idea of leaving Merry and Pippin unsupervised despite Sam being present.

Bilbo went to check on his nephew before walking out the door but was relieved to see Frodo already stretched out with his eyes closed attempting to doze off. He brushed a stray curl away from the lad’s forehead and smiled.

Frodo smiled at the gentle touch but didn’t open his eyes. Seeing his nephew’s face relaxed and carefree in sleep was something he could never tire of.

“Keep an eye on him for me Sam won’t you,” Bilbo said to Sam who saw them off at the door, out of earshot from Frodo.

“Don’t worry Master Bilbo, I’ll make sure he’s not disturbed,” Sam promised. Little did Sam know that his best efforts would not prove enough against Merry and Pippin.

After the others had left, Merry and Pippin had did as they were asked and for a time went about helping Sam as best they could. Their interest quickly waned though and the two hobbits soon found it more fun to play games with the plates and cutlery rather than drying then and putting them back in their rightful places.

Merry and Pippin were unaware that their game was beginning to get a little loud until they were harshly chastised by Sam to keep quiet. The sitting room was only a short distance away and Sam could see his master stirring slightly from the noise.

Merry and Pip put the dishes away as requested but although one game was quickly at an end, there was always another around the corner. Sam had now decorated the table with a large bowl of fruit. Apples and oranges, pears and grapes.

Pippin was most impressed and would have tucked in if he hadn’t been so full after lunch. He took two apples from the bowl and started to play around with them, tossing them into the air and catching them again.

It didn’t take much encouragement for Merry to join in and soon instead of throwing them up and catching them, they were tossing them backwards and forwards between each other.

Pippin had now taken a few steps away from his cousin to increase the distance of the throws, not taking any notice of which room he was standing in. The lack of walls in Bilbo’s home often made it difficult to tell which room was which.

Pippin was now standing directly in front of his slumbering cousin Frodo on the settee. He wasn’t making any excessive noise at present and Sam was forced to hold back any scathing words he might have had on the tip on his tongue.

Merry tossed a large apple at his younger cousin, but his throw was not as accurate as he hoped. A little too high and it sailed over Pippin’s head.

Merry and Pippin both cringed as they heard the unmistakable sound of the apple hitting Frodo.

Frodo woke with a fright and immediately sat up rubbing the his forehead. There was no mark but he looked at his two cousins, demanding to know why they were throwing pieces of fruit at him while he was trying to sleep.

If Merry and Pippin thought they could get any sympathy out of Samwise, they were gravely mistaken as they heard his shocked intake of breath as he watched the apple strike his sleeping master and then see Frodo sitting up with a frown on his face.

It was about this time that Gandalf and the others proceeded to walk through the front door. They heard Sam’s angry outburst and wondered what had happened to rile the normally gentle tempered hobbit.

When they entered the sitting room where the noise was ensuing from, they were greeted with Merry and Pippin looking very guilty about something and Sam threatening to do them bodily harm.

Frodo was by now wide awake again and trying not to laugh at Sam’s serious face. His headache seemed to have eased to a barely noticeable level once again but he was not impressed by the way he had been woken.

“Run!” was the suggestion that the two cousins said to each other with their eyes, a little afraid of being in the middle of both an angry Sam and a cross looking Frodo.

To be continued……..

Author Notes: This story was started a long time ago (over fourteen 17 years ago), but I felt there were parts that needed more, and I wanted some more scenes in certain areas and include some of my new arcs.

I apologize for any mistakes I may have made about Lord Of The Rings history or any names I may have mis-spelled. I also hope that I have not wavered too far from people’s takes on the individual personalities of each character.

I don’t mean to make Strider and Bilbo out as so secretive. I just want to keep the idea about the Wraiths coming until later in the story. The fact that Bilbo knows that danger is coming and doesn’t do anything straight away is also not intentional and I humbly ask for readers to believe that’s what happened.

Any medicinal information is only from my own sources and not meant as true procedure to any injury or treatment that I may have used in my story so far or will in the future.

As you have probably guessed, I leave this chapter at the place where Gandalf arrives in the movie and hope that the sequence of events that I have included is at least logical.

Not much has happened yet. More to come. In next chapter, the party preparations take place that I envisaged happened prior in the movie. A few little incidents to come involving Lotho.

I know the appearance of a big person in the Shire would be out of place too, but I need that to make the story work. I just need both people, elves, dwarves and hobbits everywhere to suspend what they know to be true for a while and take what I write as happening.

I have also referred to Frodo as a boy in many parts – not intending for him to be called a human “boy” – just makes the story flow a little easier at times instead of constantly using “the hobbit” and similar descriptions.

Any information that I write in my Lord Of The Rings stories about eating flows on that in the two other fandoms I write – the main characters in each all are finicky eaters and just push the food around on a plate or go for long lengths without anything to eat or refuse to do so. The other two are like this in all stories that I know about them as well.

One other character also dislikes milk to the point of refusing to drink it – I am going to include this for Frodo later on – just something I dreamed up – nothing from the book or the movie. I wanted to write a close relationship between Bilbo and Frodo as well as friendship Frodo and Aragorn and Sam too.

Please review and let me know what you think. I will try and update as soon as I can, but please be patient as time is often not on my side.

Jules6