Bend In the Road, A
3. A Mysterious Ring
Soon, however, October came, bringing with it the first frost, and the frantic pace of harvest season slowed. One fine, brisk morning, I wrapped a thick shawl around my shoulders and made my way to Bag End to begin helping Frodo with his book.
When I arrived at the generous house, Frodo himself opened the door with a glad smile which turned into a mock-stern frown. "You've certainly waited long enough to begin helping me, Miss Lily!" Even as he pretended to growl, there was no mistaking the excited gleam in his eyes.
"I am sorry, Mister Frodo, truly I am, but you know how immense the harvest was this year!" I put on my best pleading face. "I have hardly had a moment to call my own."
He laughed at me in a friendly, merry fashion. "Yes, I do understand your dilemma. Even I have had to help pick apples this year, and I have not done such a thing since I was ten summers old. This old hobbit body was not made for a task that involves scrambling up so many trees!" Showing me into the house, Frodo took my shawl and hung it on a hook next to the door. A fire burned merrily in the fireplace, and I was heartened to see that he had put the kettle on. Writing could be thirsty work, and nothing cured a thirst in this weather quite like hearty hobbit tea.
"Come, Lily, I'd like to show you my study." Frodo led me down the hall and into a spacious, well-furnished room piled high with books. He took one notebook down from a shelf and handed it to me. "This is one of the journals King Elessar kept, back when we of the Fellowship had just left Rivendell, and we still called him Strider betimes." His eyes took on that old distant look, and it seemed to take him a great deal of effort to force them back to reality. "It is a good account, but roughly written. I would be much obliged if you would copy it out again for me, and refine the grammar and spelling where you can. We were on the road, after all, and it was so hard even to scribble out those few notes…" His voice trailed off uncertainly, but he soon resumed.
"You may work in here at the desk, for the light is good, and I shall do my part at the kitchen table. My pens and ink are at hand, and if you need anything you cannot find in the desk, you have only to ask me." He smiled and bowed, leaving me staring at his retreating back and at the journal in my hands. I could hardly believe that I was actually handling something that had been written by the King, and not just any king, but the Great King of prophecy, the one we hobbits had always hoped for. How strange that Frodo had been a personal friend of King Elessar's, and yet the Shire scorned him for an insignificant do-nothing!
Being a practical hobbit for the most part, I soon recovered from my surprise and began the work of copying the journals. It was not hard, but Frodo's tale was much deeper and more momentous than I had imagined. The journal did not quite begin at the beginning, which was confusing for me. The King sometimes mentioned a Ring in his writings, and the word was always capitalized and given a sinister tone. I made a mental note to ask Frodo about it when we took our noon meal.
I tried not to put too many fancy touches on my copy, for I knew Frodo would want to compile the story himself later on. However, I did take the liberty of "refining" the writing in the journal, so to speak. For example, the King might have an entry like this written:
"Tried to make it through the pass of Caradhras today. Snow fell heavily, and we were hindered by the storm. Boromir and I tried to push a way through and Legolas tried to scout another route, but no success. We returned to the foot of the mountain and held a council. Voted to attempt the way through Moria. I fear for the Fellowship in the blackness of that land."
And I would write something like, "On the third of January, the Fellowship attempted the pass of Caradhras. The cruel mountain set its face against us travelers; snow fell in great torrents, and the storm proved an insurmountable obstacle. Boromir and I tried to use our strength to plow a path through the great white drifts and the light-footed Legolas ran over the snow to try to scout a less dangerous path. But the pass of Caradhras was a stumbling block that neither the strength of Men or the nimbleness of Elves could conquer. In defeat, we returned to the foot of the mountain and held a council there. The Fellowship elected to attempt to pass through the gates of Moria. I fear greatly for our fellowship in the blackness of that land."
When noontime came and I showed Frodo what I had done, he was elated. "That is excellent!" he cried as he finished reading the journal excerpt I had edited. "I hardly expected you to do so well. If you can keep going in that fashion, it will be perfect!"
I blushed deeply. "Really, Frodo, you can't mean that. I am no writer. I just put in the words that I thought best, that's all."
Frodo laughed and patted my shoulder. "And what else would you call that but true writing? Come and have some lunch. Rose has made some very nice meat pies."
We broke our noon bread with Rose and Sam, and a merry meal it was. Sam and Rose and I talked on and on of the doings of all the folk in Hobbiton and the Shire. Frodo didn't seem to have much to say about local gossip, but he did seem to enjoy listening to us talk. Several times during lulls in the conversation, I made to ask him about the Ring, but something stopped me. Somehow I didn't want to talk about it before Rose and Sam. They were very good and dear, but I had a feeling only Frodo would be able to tell me the whole story of the Ring.
Finally, Rose cleared the table and Sam went reluctantly back to the garden. I was left alone with Frodo, and I turned to him shyly. "Mr. Frodo," I said in a low voice, "I have been meaning to ask you…what is this Ring that the journals speak of? I can't make head or tail of it." He did not respond, and at first I thought that I had offended him. "I'm sorry that I'm such an ignorant country girl, but surely you could explain to me, just a little…"
Frodo smiled and shook his head, the old absent look in his eyes. "You are not ignorant, Lily, and there's no reason you should know anything of the Ring. It was," he hesitated uncertainly, "the reason behind my whole quest. The reason I left the Shire." He fell silent again, and I feared once more that I had given offense. However, I felt a need to know about this mysterious object.
"What was it, Frodo? Obviously not some ordinary bauble, for nothing so simple could have..."
Suddenly, Frodo jumped to his feet and flung his chair aside. "Don't ask about it any more!" he cried, but his voice held a tone of frightened desperation and not anger. "Please, Lily, if you value the health of my mind, you will not ask about that dreadful thing!"
I was on the verge of tears. Like the clumsy backwoods hobbit I was, I'd gone and put my foot in it. Not only had I offended Frodo, I might have caused his mysterious malady to return. "I'm sorry," I said in a choked voice, trying to keep the sobs out of my voice as I rose from my chair. "I'm sorry if I hurt you…please don't be angry…"
Frodo's face softened suddenly, and he was his old self again. "I am not angry, Lily," he said gently. "Far from it." He moved toward me as I stood stiffly in the middle of the room and took my hands. "Dear heart…my friend, I could not be angry with you. I have trusted you with my story, and you have a right to know. But give me time! I am not yet strong enough to tell you all of what happened on my travels." His face contorted with pain. "And I would not burden you with my own anguish."
Impulsively, I embraced him, and he clung to me as I stroked his head tenderly. "There, Mr. Frodo! Don't tell if it hurts, I'm just a silly girl and I'll do without hearing the story…" I was suddenly aware of his racing pulse next to mine, and I blushed as I abruptly let go. "Well, if I haven't done it again! I've presumed too much, and you must scold me for a bold and forward girl."
Frodo squeezed my hands warmly. "No, it's all right. I needed that." His blue eyes were somehow very sad and lonely at the moment. "It's good to be with someone who doesn't treat me like I'm made of glass or sick with some contagious disease."
I blushed even more deeply. "I, er, I think I'll go copy the rest of that journal. That is, if you don't mind, Frodo."
He smiled at me, an expression that was somehow wise and amused at the same time. "Well, only if you must, Lily." I mumbled something polite and scurried off to his study, leaving him standing there in the middle of the kitchen.
The next few months passed in similar fashion. I continued to help Frodo with his book, and the two of us became fast friends. Soon, I was up at Bag End every moment I could spare from my practice, and the folk of Hobbiton soon knew where to look for me when I was not at home. Tongues wagged in the Shire about Frodo and me, but I paid no heed to idle gossip. Folk were so ignorant—how could they think that a simple girl such as me could raise her eyes to someone like Frodo? But of course, they were blind to all but outward appearances, oblivious to the fact that he had gained a wisdom on his journeys that was beyond their comprehension.
As for myself, I tried not to think about Frodo the way the gossipers thought I did. There was nothing of romance in our talks and walks, and there probably never would be. Hobbit courtship is a highly dramatic and sometimes oversentimental process, and I could hardly picture Frodo singing love songs outside my window by night, or bringing me a dozen baskets of flowers on Midsummer Day. Sometimes, though, when I lay awake at night and watched the wintry moon gleam in my window…I did allow myself just the tiniest thought of what life might be like if Frodo and I were married.
That tiny seed of a thought would bloom into gardens of dreams as I secretly imagined myself the mistress of Bag End, with a dozen hobbit children clinging to my skirts. My imaginings went far deeper than that, though. I would finally have someone to share my life with, someone who would be part of my very soul. Maybe, just maybe, I could help Frodo be happy and whole once more. With that thought, however, the dream castles always came tumbling down. Who was I that I could give him back the happiness he had lost? I would cry quietly as I went to sleep, believing that I could never really do anything to help Frodo…believing he would never love me the way I loved him.
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.