Long-expected Visitor, A
1. Chap 01
Or so Merry had said last spring, but now Frodo, Merry, Sam, and Pippin were in the Old Forest. How did Fatty know they were still alive?
Three days, and no word. Who survived three days in the Old Forest? Who survived even an afternoon? No, they were gone. If Fatty was smart he'd leave Crickhollow, cross the Brandywine, forget all about golden rings, haunted forests, and anything beyond his mug of beer and his pipe. Yet he was a hobbit, and that meant loyalty; so he stayed at Crickhollow.
The first two days were bearable enough, unseasonably warm for late September, and the trees, with their red and gold leaves, shaded the walking paths. He often sat in his garden listening to hobbit-children laughing and their mothers harvesting the turnips and potatoes from their own hole-gardens. But then the third day, yesterday, dawned.
The very air seemed weighted with dread, and Fatty found he couldn't sit still. He slept in late, then scrambled some eggs for his first breakfast but only ate half before deciding he wasn't really hungry. He took his plate and scraped it out behind his garden for the wild animals, then returned to the house for his pipe and sat on a bench in his garden. Just three puffs later, though, he extinguished it; what he really needed was fresh air. He walked back inside and laid his pipe on the mantle, then walked down the path toward the Brandywine.
Not the first time he'd walked this path; he'd wandered down it for hours after Frodo left for the Old Forest, but now it felt different somehow. Fatty did not linger under the cool shadows but walked as a hobbit with a purpose (with what purpose he didn't know), until he reached the Brandywine. Usually the water was choppy, little waves rocking the Ferry as it made its way across, but not today. The boat-hobbit had discarded his shirt and was pulling hard along the tow-rope; the three hobbits on board stood in silence. No waves broke across the shores. Fatty realized that he had not heard any wind in the trees that morning, nor heard birds singing or deer running through the woods. Queer, he thought, as he turned and walked toward Crickhollow.
Half way up the path he smelled something new, an odour he had not noticed before. Did the wind bring news of a hobbit burning leaves far off? But there was no wind. Suddenly Fatty recognized it; the air all around him smelled like a graveyard: stifling, dead, decaying into nothingness. He tucked his walking stick under his arm and sprinted toward Crickhollow.
At last he reached his home. He kicked the garden door open, ran inside, and bolted the door. Yet the smell was still here, inside, so Fatty walked around shutting all the windows. He started a fire, hoping the ash smoke would drive away the death-stench, and sat in front of the fire, sweating from the heat, his mind wandering. What could this mean? But almost before he had formed the question, he answered himself: Think, my dear Fatty! Four hobbits in the Old Forest, three days with no words, and a smell of death? You know very well what this means!
The afternoon passed into evening. Fatty dusted the shelves, scrubbed the dishes, and mopped the stone floors Then he re-made the beds, added more wood to the fire, and dusted the shelves again before at last he chose a history of the Tooks from Frodo's collection and sank down into the chair by the fire. His eyes ambled down a page or two but after ten minutes he realized he couldn't remember a single word he had read.
Just as afternoon passed into evening, evening waned toward dawn. Fatty half-expected the sun to burst over the far-off hills, but it never did. At last he couldn't bear to look off toward the west any more and walked into the kitchen. He realized he hadn't eaten since his half-plate of eggs yester-morning, and he should be hungry. He wasn't, but food was something to think about, so he got out a pan and grilled some mushrooms and tomatoes.
The shutter on the kitchen window banged open, and he snapped around. What was that? He heard a click in the yard, followed by heavy footsteps. Steel-toed boots scraped the stone walk-way: three pairs. Then two of the footfalls stopped, and Fatty listened to the one remaining pair walking toward his door.
A wind blew through the leaves, and a cock crowed far away. This was the hour Fatty had been waiting for. The job he had agreed to: pretend to be Frodo, and draw these Riders toward him, away from his friends.
A dark hand knocked on the wooden door. "Open, in the name of Mordor!" a menacing voice demanded. The door did not budge. Then again: "Open!" The door burst off its hinges, falling into the hall, splintering into a hundred fragments. Three black shadows rushed into the house and looked around. They turned over tables, ripped feather mattresses, tore off pantry doors, but to no avail. Then a call from far-off Buckland:
AWAKE! FEAR! FIRE! FOES!
Three sharp intakes of breath, and a few moments later those three scraping footsteps hurried back down the stone paths. The first kicked the now re-latched gate and the three hurried out, mounted their horses and rode off towards Bree, leaving the swinging, half-unhinged gate and the wrecked hobbit-house in their wake.
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.