She sighed leaning her head against the glass. Fredegar Bolger had been too terrified to make much sense. All that was clear was that her dear son, Merry, Frodo and Pippin were gone, along with Samwise Gamgee, that they hadn't been there when the . . . the . . . the beings had attacked the house at Crickhollow that Frodo had bought. She shivered. Her dreams had been troubled that night and had awakened her several times.
No! Her head came up off the window pane, and her clear green Took eyes flashed. No. She had actually been troubled for longer than that. Her brows drew together as she reckoned the time. It had been after old Bilbo's birthday when her Merry was supposed to be helping Frodo move. Her Merry and . . . her Pippin.
It was nothing sure in her mind, just feelings. A sudden shiver with a prickling of the hairs on the back of her neck told Esme that something wasn't quite right but she did not know what or where. Several times over the past six days the unease had risen in her. Then there had come this dreadful morning.
Merry had told Saradoc, and he had told her, that Merry and Fatty Bolger would be driving a cart carrying the last of the things Frodo was moving to Crickhollow. Then Frodo, Pippin and Sam were going to make a walking trip of it and hike from Hobbiton to the new house in Buckland. Several pieces of furniture were to be left at Bag End. Left for the Sackville-Bagginses. Esmeralda shivered again. That was another thing that troubled her. Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and her disturbing son, Lotho, now owned Bag End. But there, the odd sensation was gone again and she wouldn't have been able to explain to anyone exactly why this information bothered her. It would have been after the lads had left to start their walking that Esmeralda's sleep had begun to be troubled, and, even in the bold light of day since, a shadow would occasionally flit across her mind.
This night she had dreamed about hazy black shapes and screeching cries. Just a glimpse, a flash, the merest of pictures in her mind was enough that she awakened clammy and chilled. Odder still was the feeling that what she had seen in her dream had happened somewhere other than the house at Crickhollow.
And now she had been told that her dear ones were gone. Frodo was a young cousin who had grown up at Brandy Hall and been a friend to Merry, even though there lay fourteen years between them. Merry had been seven and Frodo twenty-one when Frodo went to live with old Bilbo at Bag End. Frodo and Bilbo had visited Brandy Hall often, and Merry had gone to Bag End to visit when he grew old enough. So the cousins had remained close. Merry, her own dear Meriadoc, was her only child, she and Saradoc's joy, her own flesh and blood. So like his Father, she sometimes wondered where her part in him lay. Then the mischievous glint would come into his deep blue eyes, his slightly crooked grin would appear and the Took in him would be off with Pippin on a lads' adventure.
Pippin, dear little Pippin, her nephew, her brother's boy and a joy to both the Brandybucks and the Tooks had also gone with Merry and Frodo. Eight years Merry's junior and a full twenty-two years younger than Frodo, yet somehow they were all close. Merry and Pippin, together as much and as often as had been possible, bonded to each other from the first time Merry had held his infant cousin. It was so hard to think of one without thinking of the other as well. And then there was Sam, friend to the three cousins and Frodo's gardener. He was nearest in age to her Merry, being just two years older. Dear loyal Sam would keep an eye on the others, especially his Mr. Frodo.
They had gone into the Old Forest, Fatty had said. But they were alive. She knew this beyond doubt. Call it gift or curse but she was one of those more Tookish Tooks to be found in each generation of that large family. Peculiar, adventurous, eccentric, unhobbitlike; and she knew why. She also knew, Peregrin, whose name, oddly enough meant "foreign and beyond the borders of home, a wanderer", was one of those Tooks as well.
Esmeralda shook herself out of her reverie as the thought suddenly came to her that she needed to get word to Eglantine and Paladin, Pippin's parents, and to the Gamgee lad's parents as well. They needed to know. To know not just that their sons were not at the house when it was attacked and not only that they were gone from the Shire, but also that they were alive. She only hoped she wouldn't sound too odd, or mad, since there was no proof to show this, only her knowing it in her heart.
She left the window seat and sat at her writing desk. After pulling out a sheet of paper and a quill and dipping the quill in the ink she sat there and stared at the blank page before her. To whom should she write first? The Gamgees or her brother and his wife? And if the Gamgees, then what does one say in such a circumstance to people you barely know?
"Do I even know their names?" Esmeralda said aloud to herself. She pondered the question and suddenly their names were in her mind, well, at least Sam's Mother's name: Bell. She smiled at the memory. She had taken Merry to visit Frodo at Bag End, and because of a rainy day the lads were playing in the parlor. Sam was there playing as well, the rain prohibiting garden work for the day. He was more usually helping his Father than playing. The front door bell had sounded, and Sam's head had come up quickly from the fortress he Frodo and Merry were building. His smile lit his young face, as he said, "Always makes me think of my Mother that. A bell ringin' that is, as her name is Bell. Her voice is real pretty as a bell ringin', too." Then he became suddenly bashful, turned red to his ear tips and became quite intent on the wooden blocks he was stacking.
Esmeralda's smile faded. She hoped the lads were alright. She shook her head a bit to clear it. Bell. Bell and . . . and . . .the Gaffer! She frowned. That was not his proper name she knew, but it was all she could remember: Gaffer Gamgee. She thought about it for a few more minutes then decided it would have to do as it was the only name she could remember. She set her pen to the paper.
Dear Gaffer and Bell Gamgee,
To begin, I am Esmeralda Brandybuck. My husband is Saradoc Brandybuck, Master of Buckland. I am also sister to Thain Paladin II.
I am aware that your son, Samwise, had moved with Frodo Baggins to his new residence at Crickhollow in Buckland to work as his gardener as he had at Bag End.
I am writing to tell you of distressing news. The house at Crickhollow was attacked before sunrise this morning, the 30th of Halimath. Fredegar Bolger was able only to say some sort of black cloaked figures had advanced upon the house. He had barely managed to flee before the house was broken into and furnishings overturned. The alarm was sounded, and many ran to answer the call. But the black cloaked beings were gone, and the house empty.
Fredegar was eventually calmed enough to say that your son, Frodo, Pippin Took, who is my nephew, and my son, Merry Brandybuck had left the house some five days before and so were not there when the attack occurred. He did, however, say they had gone into the Old Forest.
I am confident that your son and mine, my nephew and Frodo are alive and well. How I come by this confidence, I will not say. Be certain, however, that I would in no way mislead you nor seek to give a false hope. Again, our dearest ones are alive and well.
Esmeralda (Took) Brandybuck
P.S. It would be best if you tell no one that they have gone into the Old Forest and left the Shire.
Esmeralda placed the letter into an envelope and addressed it to "Gaffer" and Mrs. Gamgee, Hobbiton, West Farthing, The Shire. She melted and dropped the sealing wax onto the flap and pressed her seal into the warm wax. That letter was finished. She started to take another piece of paper from the shelf but stopped. She could not send a letter to her brother and his wife. She rose and, taking the letter to the Gamgees with her, went to find her husband.
To the east, in the village of Bree that morning a small unofficial parade went on it's way out of town, heading east on the Great East Road. The people gawked and waved. " 'Tis a shame, a right shame them nice hobbits of the Shire took up with that Ranger!" the folk of Bree were saying behind their hands as the Ranger, four hobbits and a pack pony passed by. But along with those whispers were the ones spoken in fear about an attack on the Prancing Pony in the pre-dawn dark by Big Folk garbed in black.
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.