13. Frodo's Letter
Niphredil met Galadrella at the well. She watched the girl break the ice in the well by means of dropping a stone on a rope, and then haul up the first bucket of a winter day.
‘Good morning, Drella!’
‘And a good morning to you! Where did you sleep, did you forget you had a bed right beside mine?’
‘I forgot indeed. I was drunk and found myself in the stable when I woke - I’m lucky I chose to fall down in a clean pile of hay and not get my new jacket soiled!’
‘A woman ought not to drink that much, you know.’
‘Nobody ought to drink that much. Can I have some water?’
Niphredil drank and washed her face.
‘You know, Galadrella Maggot, I think I’ll drink nothing but water from this day on until I get my life in order!’
‘Not ever tea?’
‘Some people put brandy in tea, and I could mistake wine for juice. No, plain water for me, from now on!’
Those guests who had stayed the night were coming to seek breakfast one by one. It was a quiet meal because so many were asleep even in the very room and headache was not a rare condition among those who were awake. Niphredil put half the athelas she had into a bowl of warm water on the table and soon received a bunch of thanks. Then Eowyn appeared and sat down beside her.
‘Well?’ Niphredil asked.
‘What?’ Eowyn was still sleepy.
‘Is that any way to greet a bride?’ Someone asked and got a tired laugh from the menfolk.
‘My letter from Frodo.’
‘Oh! Here it is, in my pocket.’
Niphredil silently read these words:
I have heard from a reliable person the name of the man, who is no true man, who stole from you something that cannot be restored to you, and broke something that cannot be repaired. Since he also broke your heart and stole your spirit, which can be restored, I will attempt to restore these to you by making him confess his crime and seek your forgiveness. I attempt to put him at your mercy, for if it were known what he has done, he could have no high position and would lose, if not the friendship of kings, at least that of queens and all womankind.
All this I will do out of love. Forgive me that I have departed so suddenly, but I hope to return as soon as I can.
With me goes a trusty friend, Samkin by name, and thus are we Frodo and Sam.
If it suits you, you may of course follow us. We take the shortest road south, along Brandywide to the old green road, and past Isengard to Gondor, where we hope to find the one we seek. Our route you may tell to my father, as I forgot to tell it in the letter I sent home, but your secret is safe with me and I don’t think anyone needs to know it. I’ve told them I went to see the world.
After I return, seek me in my father’s house whenever you need anything that I can give you, be it my heart, be it my inheritance, or be it just friendship and a place to spend the night when you pass through the Shire where ever the road takes you.
Niphredil folded the letter. She wondered if the Samkin was named Smallburrows, and if he was the ‘reliable person’ mentioned - but he could not be, as he knew nothing about Nár son of Bárin. Who knew? Merry, who was good at keeping secrets, and who had known nothing about Frodo’s departure. Legolas, but would he have visited Shire in secret? And why would he tell Frodo something like that? It couldn’t be him, either. Snaga had heard a lot, but no names, and also was extremely unlikely to come north. Elanor? Niphredil had not told her, and yet she had seemed to know... Reliable person, it could be man or woman, hobbit or elf... or dwarf! What if Nár had told someone? And that someone had passed through the Shire?
‘Eowyn? Is there anyone named Smallburrows here?’
‘That’s our neighbour’s name! They were here yesterday, but now they are home, of course.’
And so Niphredil ended up knocking on a stranger’s door at an early hour.
‘Yes? How can I help you? A bald hobbit who looked like he had just woken asked her.
‘Excuse me? Are you master Smallburrows?’
‘No, I’m just a visitor here. Came for that Maggot party yesterday. My sister’s husband, the master of this house, went milking the cows and will be back any moment now.’ Indeed, a younger hobbit was soon seen carrying buckets of milk to a side entrance, where a woman took them, and then going back towards the cowshed.
‘Excuse me, master farmer! Could I ask you something?’
‘Why, good morning! Aren’t you the Baggins lass who gave us a wedding! I mean, we had a birthday party and then it wasn't!’
‘That’s me. Niphredil Baggins, yes. Are you related to a Samkin Smallburrows? Young fellow, dark hair, about your height?’
‘That’d be my nephew. Funny you should ask...’
‘Well, his father Robin is here, still asleep I’m afraid, and Samkin was supposed to come too, he’s been doing a lot of guarding at that new gate of theirs, not far from here, only he didn’t come, and Robin says the lad’s left Shire altogether, only he can’t say why or where to, and that’s no way of taking leave of one’s father, if you ask me.’
‘Well, thank you. I think I can give him the where to, and something of a why as well.’
‘In that case I’ll wake him at once!’
‘At once’ seemed to mean in this house after waking a lot of other people and explaining them a lot of things, many not related to the matter at hand at all, such as ordering a son to go see a cow’s leg and a daughter to clean a table. Finally Robin Smallburrows was found and roused, and Niphredil was introduced to him, as they had not met at the party.
‘Your son has gone to Gondor!’ Niphredil announced, and that opened Robin’s eyes quite wide. Suddenly they were surrounded by eager listeners all over.
‘But that’s at the other end of the world!’
‘Not quite. I’ve been there and it’s a good way away, I admit, but not too long to walk, although the way does take time.’
‘How do you know where he is?’
‘Because he left with a friend of mine. My friend, Frodo Gardner, wrote letters to me and to his father, and told us that he has gone to see the world with his friend Samkin. He also told they will go to Gondor and be back as soon as possible. But I was not sure if it was your Samkin he meant, but since he was the only Samkin I know of I thought to come and ask. But did he not write you a letter?’
‘Our Samkin? He never learned to write, and if he had, it wouldn’t be much use as neither me nor the missus never learned to read!’
‘So we only heard from the other guards he was gone. But how do you know our Samkin, Miss Baggins?’
‘I told you I was to Gondor once. Well, I came to Shire by the new gate and stayed the night at the guardhouse, and talked a lot with him and the other guards, and then I saw him when I went to get master Marron from Bree, but we didn’t talk much as I was in a hurry.’
‘Indeed! Quite a surprise you had for us yesterday! Are all your friends as adventurous?’
‘Well, I think Marron and Eowyn will settle down now, and the rest of Frodo’s family are quite peaceful too.’
‘I’ve never heard of the Gardner family, nor of this Frodo. He must be a new friend to my son.’
‘His family is named Gamgee. He took himself a new name because his grand-dad told him ‘It ain’t the business of Gamgees to inherit Bag End, it’s our job to gardener there.’ And so he said: ‘then I shall be called Gardner’, and he is, although he hasn’t inherited yet, of course. And he does tend the garden more than anyone else.’
‘What! You’re telling me he’s the Mayor’s heir?’
‘Strange days indeed. Yesterday that wedding, and the Bombadil fellow, and now this. Gondor and the Mayor’s heir! Next you’ll be telling me you are the daughter of Mad Baggins and that hobbits can fly!’
‘Not unless you call Frodo Baggins mad.’
‘Frodo? But he’s another one who disappeared! You must be joking.’
‘My father is alive and well, or was when I last saw him. I cannot tell where he is, nor do I claim any property in the Shire but what I brought with me.’
‘Well, at least hobbits can’t fly!’ Remarked a girl, who held a wet drag of cloth in her lap because she had forgotten all about cleaning tables for the moment.
‘Don’t be too sure about that. My Uncle Bilbo, or Mad Baggins to you, flew astride a great Eagle once, as did my father and Sam Gamgee later. Ask the Mayor the next time you meet him, and he’ll be glad to tell you all about it.’
And with that, Niphredil took her leave of this talkative family.
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.