1. One for Sorrow, the EE
Sam’s response was automatic, even as he struggled from despair to steady his mount, for Bill had shied at the flash of black and white across the path. Sam found a murmur of comfort for the pony, though there was none for him. He turned to check that Strider, on the lead rein behind, had not startled at the sudden flicker through the shade under the trees. A mistake, for sight of the empty saddle clutched at his heart, and released the sob that he had fought so hard to retain within his breast. A single magpie…
His words echoed forward along the track, catching up with Merry and Pippin, their ponies drawn ahead of Bill. Pippin caught the words, but not the meaning. “What was that about?” he mouthed across to Merry, riding at his side.
Merry slowed his pony, and motioned to Pippin to move a little closer alongside. “It was a superstition that Bilbo always held to be true – you must have heard it from him? Or from Frodo,” he added quietly. When Pippin shook his head, Merry checked that Sam was not close enough to hear, and went on, “When you see a magpie alone, you have to tell it to ”Seek thy mate” as fast as you can.”
“Why?” Pippin frowned. “Magpies are a blight, and the more of them there are to mate, the more damage they cause; it’s not for nothing that the shepherds keep a wary eye for them at lambing, and they’re death to a lot of the smaller birds. They are terrible thieves, too – leave anything bright and shiny lying around and it’s gone for good!”
“I know all that,” Merry said, “but Bilbo always had a soft spot for magpies. He read in one of the elves’ books, that they mate for life, and that if you see a single magpie it is probably mourning, bereft of its partner for ever. So Bilbo said, you have to tell it to go and seek its mate, and then, if you see the pair together, it means good luck in love for you, too.”
“Oh,” said Pippin. The track turned suddenly from the shadow of the trees into brilliant sunshine, and both hobbits blinked. The air was warm now, and scudding clouds chased each other cheerfully across the sky.
When they turned to look back along the track, Sam was just a darker shape in the shadows; a dark shape on a pony, with an unridden mount beside him. Bill had stopped and Sam was hunched forward over his neck. There was no sound, but his shoulders were heaving.
Pippin turned to his cousin. “What do we do?”
“I don’t think that anyone can do anything. We just wait for him. Stay with him.”
Their ponies moved restlessly, tails swishing in the heat, unusual for late Halimath. Merry sipped from his water skin, then offered it to Pippin. A raucous call made both of them jump. They watched as Sam’s magpie reappeared, sliding low over the berry-laden elder by the track, then soaring upward, elegant in flight, gliding joyously with its mate beside it. Two swoops of black and white, and the pair vanished behind the hill.
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.