Crossing Over with the HA List: An Onlist Challenge
5. Desiring Peace
“Twenty pennies, I tell you!” A querulous, reedy voice.
“Twenty pennies! You’ve never seen that much in your life.”
She sighed as she began her walk, old feet still quiet despite the staff in her hand and the weight in her heart.
“A lifetime’s savings, stolen!”
“Aye, well we know who will have taken it.”
A chorus of agreement.
“Ah but do we?” A slow insinuation, “Could have been anyone, knowing where the blame would go.”
“Oh Meadda,” the young female voice dismissive, “You always see more trouble than there is.”
Reaching the door unnoticed, she paused for a moment in the darkness of the hallway. The bright chamber was filled with family members, squalling voices raised in argument.
Peace. She longed for it, sleepy afternoons and quiet evenings.
“More trouble?! Meadda raised her voice, “that’s all there’s been. Trouble. Since….” she motioned with her eyes towards a sad-faced hobbit-woman seated by the window. “And what’s been done about it, eh?”
“Nothing! That’s what!” Auld Rem, the reedy voice’s owner, a dried-up old specimen, with hands and feet too big for him. “And nothing will be, mark me. Not to her precious Sméagol.”
She had heard enough. “Quiet!” Her voice rang with authority, and she reinforced it with the heel of her staff against the flagstones.
The bickering muted to awkward shuffling as the assembled folk made way for her.
They had all come as she had asked. Well-to-do Marshwains and affluent Paddlefoots, respectful Creelers, outspoken Duckcatchers, even some scruffy Ticklers ill-at-ease near the door. Scowls marked the faces of her once-cheerful kinfolk, suspicious eyes and furtive hands replacing open smiles and warm handshakes.
Seated in her chair she looked sternly around the room, taking in the sullen and discontented looks. “You all know why I’ve brought you here.” She began harshly, without preamble. “Of late there has been no peace in this family, no content in the village and, “ she sighed, “we all know the cause.”
Assorted mumblings of agreement and general head nodding.
“Ever since the day poor Nahald was lost…,”.
“Lost!” the sad-faced hobbit raised her voice in bitterness. “You mean murdered!”
“Now, Nerka,” she admonished, “we don’t know that’s true. His body was never found.”
“There’s one who knows where he is, my poor dead boy! But you don’t want to face the truth. That your favourite, cherished grandson Trahald is a killer.”
“Aye!” Rem added, “And a thief too.”
“Enough!” she banged her staff on the floor again, and said with quiet resignation into the following hush, “I know well enough what he is, what he has become. And I know the cause of it.”
“His precious,” sneered Nerka.
“Yes, that mysterious Thing, that he guards so carefully. Shielding it from every eye. It has wrought this change in him, though I know not how.”
“We must take it from him!”
“Yes!” Meadda’s voice resounded agreement, “Force him to give it up.”
“And become thieves ourselves,” her voice was quiet, “turn into that which we condemn?” she shook her head. “Nay, we can ask him to give it up, but we cannot force him. The choice must be his own.”
“He’ll never do it,” Nerka sniffed.
“He must be given the chance.” She nodded to two sturdy lads standing by the door. “Bring him in.”
“Stop it! You’re hurting me!” Trahald’s petulant whining was accompanied by squirming and struggling. “Let me go! I’ll tell Gra’ma!”
“Hold your peace, weasel! It’s Grandam wants to speak to you. Now get over there.” He pushed the smaller hobbit towards her.
“Gra’ma,” Trahald scurried over, rubbing his arm sulkily, “nasty boys hurt me.”
“I told them to bring you.”
“You could have asked us, we always comes to see Gra’ma. No need of horrid big hobbits.” He turned his beautiful face towards her, smiling with those great, green eyes.
She steeled her heart against them.
“I’ve called you here to ask you to do something for me,” she spoke softly, laying a gnarled hand on his thin shoulder. “Something difficult but very important.”
Suspicion twitched across his face and he edged away from her.
“What is it Gra’ma? What could poor motherless Sméagol do?”
“Trahald,” her mouth struggled to form the hard words, “I have loved you as my own, nurtured and cherished you. You took your first steps in this parlour and a place by this fire has always been yours.”
His eyes were huge in his face, bright with fear and dark with secrets.
“Now Gra’ma needs something from you.” This was it, there could be no turning back once the words were said. But maybe, just maybe, he would…. “Sméagol, I must ask you to give up your precious.”
“We knew it,” he hissed at her as he cringed away, “oh yes, knew you wanted it.”
“I don’t want it.” She spoke sternly, “I want you to cast it away, far into the river. Let it begone forever,” she smiled desperately at him, “let us be happy again.”
“No!” his screech scored her ears, “It’s mine. My birthday present, from poor lost Deagol.”
“Liar!” Nerka’s voice matched his, “Murderer! Thief!”
“No!” Trahald shrieked, “Mine! We never gives it up!”
She bowed her head, the sorrow no less heavy because it was expected.
“Then you must go.”
“Go?” a faltering squeak, “go where?”
“Away from here.” Pain made her voice harsh, “Far away, never to return.”
“Never to see Gra’ma again…”
“Unless you give up your precious.”
Tears welled in the eyes, “We can’t…..”
She could speak no further, but only nodded again to the boys.
“No,” he wailed, as they dragged him from the room, “Gra’ma! Don’t send us away. Nasty bully boys, they hurts us. Don’t send poor Smeagol away.”
The sound faded, leaving the room in stunned silence. Without speaking she hauled herself up, and leaning heavily on her staff, began the long walk back.
Only behind the closed door of her chamber, did she permit herself to weep.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.