1. The Seeds of Danger
So was Lily Maggot, the farmer's youngest daughter. She was proud of the fact that where ever she went, she turned the heads of young hobbits. She was not pretty like her eldest sister Rose, not golden-haired like the middle sister Daisy, not delicate like Bluebell, her sister-in-law. She had large bones that made her figure broad and her face full of angles. But she walked in an enticing way, and she wore red. Red is not a traditional hobbit colour, and Lily had made many experiments with dyes before managing to colour her best dress red as blood. Her mother shook her head in dissaproval, her brothers taunted her, her sisters gossiped about her and her father never mentioned the matter, which was worst. And yet Lily Maggot wore her red dress in every possible occasion, stunning many a young heart.
A maggot is an inhabitant of the earth, a digger of roots, a companion of death. So were the Maggots. They were a respectable family, but farmers nonetheless. They knew the fields and lived close to the ground, despite the fact that they dwelt in a house, not in a traditional hobbit-hole. Yet of such simple folk there were strange rumours about: whispers that old Farmer Maggot sometimes went to the Old Forest, and stayed there even overnight. And came back. He always came back.
There was one moment that Lily would afterwards remember as the starting point of all the big troubles. One meeting that brought the shadow upon her life. The day was like any other day, and Lily was feeding the hens, when she heard the hooves on the road. Galloping hooves, nearing, nearing fast. She ran to the gate and peered over.
And saw a black rider on a black horse. Coming closer. From the road that led nowhere but the fields.
'Who is he?', she thought while running to find her father. 'The sound of the hooves is like Death himself riding wild, bringing pestilence over our fertile land. I do not want to see this rider any closer. But I will watch nonetheless, because I must know. Not knowing in matters like this just makes things all the more scary.' She ran around the yard only to find him inside the house, and told him about the stranger, panting like one of father's dogs.
Then they heard the steps of the horse. Lily had left the gate open and the man had ridden almost right to the doorstep!
Trembling herself, Lily lifted her head to face the stranger. This turned out to be impossible, since the man's face was hidden by a hooded robe. Instantly the maiden imagined all kinds of horrors watching her from the shadow of that black garment.
She lowered her head, but remained beside her father, listening.
Farmer Maggot stepped out and greeted the stranger. He told him the road went nowhere, in his special tone of voice held in store for unwanted visitors and mushroom-thieving children. From behind her Lily heard one of the dogs step out, howl and run away. She dared not turn to look which one it was.
'I come from over there'. Lily did not look up to see which way the man pointed: she knew already he must have ridden over their fields.
'Have you seen Bagginss?' There was a noticeable hiss in the voice.
Lily heard her father tell him that the Bagginses lived west to Hobbiton and that this was not the road to get there. What the dark stranger replied made Lily shudder.
'The Baggins has left. He is coming. He is not far. I want to meet him. If he goes this way, will you tell me? I will come back and bring gold.'
'No you won't', said Maggot, threating to set the dogs on him.
The stranger hissed, and rode his horse almost over poor Maggot, who stepped aside just in time. Lily screamed. Her father called the dogs, but the man was out the gate and on his way to the highway. And the dogs did not come.
'Why did you tell him, father?'
'Tell him what?'
'Where the Bagginses live!'
'Because he looked nasty! The dog feared him!'
'You are making hasty conclusions, Lily. The dog was just surprised about the horse, they've never seen one before.'
'But what if he hurts the Bagginses? It's your fault then, for telling him.'
'What would you have done, daughter?'
'Sent him to Bree!'
'And when he'd find no Bagginses in Bree, wouldn't he come back and hurt us for telling lies? If he's so bad, I mean.'
'But... but... father, I was so scared of him.'
'I was a bit scared too. Thank goodness he is not our trouble anymore.'
'He's the Bagginses' trouble. And nobody deserves that kind of guests, even in the West Farthing.'
'My darling Lily, you just can't worry all the world's worries. Sadness doesn't become you.'
Lily wanted to say a lot more. She wanted to say she was unbecoming with a smile, too. She wanted to say the man had been in such a hurry he would not bother to come back for such a petty thing as revenge, had he been given wrong directions. She wanted to say this rider was no ordinary man. But before she could arrange her thoughts the dogs ran to the gate, barking furiously. Was the rider back?
But the visitors turned out to be three hobbits. Lily made her way behind the rosebush, where she could listen without being seen. She did not want to be seen by strangers the way she was: her second-best skirt was dusty, and her hair was a mess after she had run around looking for her father.
Peering between rose-branches, Lily heard her father recognize the shortest of the hobbits as one other than Peregrin Took, son of the Thain. Lily instantly decided she would wear the red dress for supper - oh please, let them stay for supper! A round-featured lad glaring suspiciously around himself was named Sam Gamgee, a name Lily had never heard before. But the third one's name she had heard, for he was Frodo Baggins.
Soon Farmer Maggot was telling them about the stranger. Lily peered between rose-branches and saw that Mr Baggins seemed alarmed. He also seemed to be in a hurry.
Nonetheless he accepted Farmer Maggot's invitation for beer and conversation.
After they had gone inside, Lily slipped indoors too and made for her room. She took of the dirty skirt, washed her face, put on the famous red dress, brushed her hair hastily and decorated it with a red ribbon. Feeling she had done all she could, Lily Maggot entered the kitchen. At the one end of it her father was busy telling the visitors about the year's crops - crops of all things, while there were black men on black horses to discuss! The look on Peregrin Took's face told Lily he felt the same way. At the stove Mrs Maggot was busy preparing the supper with Bluebell. Lily offered her help.
'No way in those clothes, girl!' was her mother's reply. What a stupid miscalculation, Lily scolded herself, leaving the room.
Time went on slowly as Lily sat in the garden. She ought to have been doing something useful, having changed her clothes. But she wouldn't miss the visitors' departure for anything, nor would she change out her pretty dress. To her surprise, the sunset found her seated on the bench by the door, the visitors still inside. The members of the family were coming in for supper. The guests would have supper too! A blazing joy filled Lily's heart as she entered the house. She was soon busy kindling candles and setting the table.
When Lily sat down, she did not take her ordinary place beside her mother, but sat right next to Peregrin Took. She saw her sisters exchange a knowing look, but took no notice. The heir of the Thain gave many a compliment to the golden ale her brother Tommy brewed. Lily noticed how very young he looked, and how innocent. His friends called him Pippin, which was a funny name, but Lily would sooner die than laugh at him.
Then Lily saw an opportunity. Pippin Took was well down his third pint of ale, and becoming rather merry. Nobody was looking at them. Lily leaned closer and whispered a few chosen words in his ear. These were the words:
'I have something to tell you. About the rider that was here. The black man. I felt he was no ordinary man. The dogs felt it, too. Be careful. Please.'
Nothing disgraceful there. Nothing personal ecxept the 'please' - oh, let him notice the tone! - and yet the youth reacted as if he had heard a direct proposal. His eyes widened, he gulped so hard he almost suffocated with whatever he was eating, and started coughing. When he had cleared his throat, his face was red all over. Lily turned red too, when she saw that everyone in their end of the table was looking at her, except Frodo Baggins, who winked at Pippin.
The guests left after supper, Farmer Maggot driving them in his cart to the ferry. It would be a long time before Lily saw them again.
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.