2. Wasted Words
As it happened, Radagast was wrong. They had been riding half the morning and were well beyond the Forest, cutting across the northern edge of the Downs, when there came a whir of wings and Cuina alighted on Frodo's head. Her presence lightened his mood, which had been somber, and he reached up to caress her satiny feathers with one finger.
In a few minutes she leaped into the air again, her song following them as they rode. But now and again she would drop to Frodo's head and tug at his hair, before she took flight once more.
The wizard chuckled. "Your friends are very faithful, even among the beasts. There is some blessing on you, I think."
"I had thought it was a curse!" Frodo snapped. Then he reddened with shame. "No, forgive me. My friends are a blessing, of course. And they have been faithful."
Radagast seemed unruffled. "There is a curse, Donkey, but not on you, though you felt the heaviness of it. The curse was on the Ring and its Maker, for pride and malice. But the Ring is gone now, and its Maker also."
"So the curse is gone as well?"
"Ah no, not while pride and malice remain. But there is no malice in you, Donkey, and only a little pride."
"I thought you accused me of great pride, a while back." He sounded sulky even to himself, and he bit his tongue.
Radagast laughed at him, as at a child. "You have let much of it go since then, however. You have remembered who you really are – only a little fellow in the wide world after all, as I believe someone told Bilbo on one occasion."
"Gandalf did," Frodo admitted, smiling in spite of himself. "Bilbo was insulted at first, but he got over it. How did you know?"
"Oh, word gets around. A very famous personage, your uncle."
"Yes. Brave and resourceful. A pity he was too old to take the Ring to Mordor."
"You would not wish that on him, Donkey."
"No, of course not – only, he would have done better than I did."
Radagast pulled at his lip thoughtfully. "He had great success in the affair of the Dragon, but that was a different kind of problem, you know. In all his adventures, Bilbo faced dangers that could be confronted directly, by battle or by escape. But you carried your enemy on your own person, and there was no escape. I am not sure he could have done what you did."
"What did I do, Radagast? I got it to the Mountain – nearly killing Sam and my cousins along the way, and leaving Boromir dead behind me – and when the moment came to fulfill my task, I refused! If Smeagol had not been there, Sauron would have the Ring at this moment!"
The wizard's voice was quiet. "And why was Smeagol there, Frodo? Why was he not dead back in the Emyn Muil, or shot by Faramir's archers?"
Frodo said nothing and Radagast answered himself. "Because you had pity on him. Because you would not have him killed."
"Bilbo would not kill him either," Frodo said stubbornly.
"Not when he had the chance," Radagast agreed, pulling up. "Time for lunch. I should know better than to let a hobbit skip meals." He swung down from his horse. "Don't wander far, Smoky," he said absently, "it's only a short stop."
He pulled bread and meat out of his sack and passed a share to Frodo. "We won't bother with a fire. I think Goldberry sent some buttermilk with us. Yes, here it is." He handed a stoppered earthenware jug to the hobbit. "Eat up, lad; you'll feel better for it."
Frodo ate, staring into the middle distance without interest, his shoulders hunched up. Radagast ate standing, leaning against a tree, watching the sky.
"Here comes your foster child," he said presently, and Frodo looked up just a Cuina landed on his shoulder.
"Will you eat beef?' he asked her. She took a morsel from his fingers, but dropped it at once.
"Not to her taste – no more than what I tell you is to yours," said Radagast. He whistled for Smoky and Strider, and they mounted up and went on.
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.