Upon An Ocean Blue
Late September, S. R. 1381, Great Smials, Tuckborough, the Shire
Adalgrim Took stared out the open window as he pondered the sheets of paper lying before him, their creamy blankness beckoning him to fill them up. He could hear the sounds of children playing outside, as well as the drowsy hum of bees feeding on the fragrant flowers beneath the windowsill, the last remnants of summer clinging to the Shire. He chewed thoughtfully on the tip of his quill, wondering afresh if he should finally write his uncle’s whole story down for anyone to see. Even more than being the family historian, he was the keeper of the Tooks’ secrets, and Isengar’s secrets were among those he had always kept most hidden.
He laid the quill on the desk with a sigh, and picked up Esmeralda’s letter again. As he read the joyful words, he could feel the happiness filling up every corner of his being.
My beloved Father:
I am with child at last! And the midwife who examined me (I trained her, so she knows her business) is certain I will not lose this baby, not like the others . . .
Adalgrim dashed away a tear. Sentimental old fool! he told himself severely. But he knew that tears were not inappropriate, not after the long and painful battle his darling Esmie had waged to have a baby of her own. It would be a baby to inherit all the wealth and privileges of the Brandybucks, but more importantly a baby for Esmie and Sarry to lavish with all the love they had in their hearts. Of course, Esmie was lucky enough to have been raising Frodo for the past year, but while Frodo was a splendid lad, Adalgrim was acutely aware that it wasn’t quite the same thing as a baby of one’s own.
Frodo’s voice floated down the hallway, as though his elderly relative’s reflections had conjured him up from the air. “Cousin Adalgrim? Are you in your study?”
“Yes, my boy, I’m here.” The door creaked open after a few minutes, and Adalgrim turned in his chair to face it, only to find a small child rushing towards him at top speed. She leapt into his lap with a reckless disregard for his aching bones and hugged him tightly. With a laugh, Adalgrim hugged his favorite grandchild back. The six-year-old Pearl Took was often impulsive but always charming, making it hard for her one hundred and one-year-old grandfather to discipline her well.
“Grandpapa! Grandmamma Opal sent Frodo and I to fetch you for afternoon tea! Don’t you want some?” demanded Pearl. Adalgrim traded a knowing look with a grinning Frodo as the older child walked up to Adalgrim’s chair. Frodo caught sight of the quill and paper and smiled at his cousin.
“Are you writing more family history, Cousin Adalgrim?”
“Yes, I am, Frodo-lad.” Adalgrim nodded at Esmeralda’s letter. “Mostly for the baby that’s coming, I think.”
“How wonderful!” Frodo reached over and took Adalgrim’s hand, ignoring the tug on his sleeve from an impatient Pearl. “I still can’t believe it—Aunt Esmie is so happy, she’s waited for this for such a long time. And now I get a baby brother, just like she promised me the night I came to stay at Brandy Hall.”
“You’re sure it will be a boy?”
“Yes, I’m sure.” Adalgrim studied Frodo’s face, struck by the odd maturity that mingled easily with the beauty that set Frodo apart from most hobbits. It was that maturity which had caused Esmie to entrust her letter to Frodo instead of the post, with his arrival timed immediately after his birthday. He looked nothing like Adalgrim’s long-dead uncle, but there was an elven quality and restless energy about Frodo that reminded Adalgrim vividly of Isengar and sent a chill down his spine. He’s not thirteen yet, but already the Shire might be getting a bit small for him . . . oh, dear . . . Out loud, Adalgrim said, “Ask your cousin Opal to send up a tray, will you, Frodo? I want to write for a while before the light fades. You go with him, Pearl, that’s a good girl.”
“But I want you to come with me!” Pearl wailed.
“Not today, Pearl, but tomorrow, I promise. Go along now with Frodo, he’ll drink tea with you, my sweet.”
Pearl still pouted but allowed Frodo to pick her up. “I’ll tell Cousin Opal to send up that tray,” said Frodo. They walked away, Pearl beginning to chatter again, and the door clicked shut behind them.
Adalgrim turned back to his desk, stretched his gnarled fingers, and dipped the quill into the inkpot with a set jaw. Yes, it’s time to tell this story. Maybe it will be a warning to the restless ones, or at least a preparation for what’s out there in the world of the Big Folk., But he also knew that in some distant corner of his heart, he had always been a little envious of his uncle’s wild adventures, and that he wanted to inspire some of his young kin—Frodo, Pearl, above all Esmie’s unborn child—to take a chance and see more of Middle-earth that he had ever dared to. No, I was never like Uncle Izzy in that respect!
He began, the quill scratching the paper softly. As he kept writing in his neat script, the years dropped away and he could hear Uncle Izzy’s voice as he painted word pictures of the deep blue ocean, of wild pirates who feared no man and of languorously lovely women imprisoned by a cruel chieftain of the far-off desert sands. “But remember,” Uncle Izzy had always said, “the story doesn’t begin in Umbar, or Harad—it begins here, in the Shire, on the very day that Belladonna gave birth to Bilbo, the day I had the most stupid argument possible with my father . . .”
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.