33. Heroes of a Smaller Sort
Allin- 8 year old boy from the village of Pahtoh (in Hollin), befriends Frodo
Nwahr- Allin’s dog
Erestor- Elrond’s Court Jester. …Okay, okay: so he’s really Elrond’s chief advisor.
And shame on you if you don’t know whom Merry, Bilbo, Frodo, Gandalf, and Elrond are! :)
One. Two. Three.
Four. Five. Six. Seven.
As part of his rehabilitation, Elrond had given him a long elastic vine to stretch.
Eight. Nine. Ten.
Merry was supposed to knot one end around a piece of furniture, or shut it into a doorway, and then slowly pull the free end towards his body.
When working on his leg instead of the shoulder, Merry was to tie the vine together, and again fasten it around a piece of furniture or secure it in the doorway. He then looped one foot through it, and slowly stretched his leg.
Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen.
“It will build strength and not stress your injuries as would other methods,” Elrond had said. “Pull the vine fifteen counts and then twice repeat. You must perform this exercise no less than twice daily.”
One. Two. Three.
Merry sighed again. Valar this was boring.
His mind constantly wandered—which would inadvertently cause him to lose count.
How many times had he repeated? Brow furrowing in puzzlement, Merry tried to recount. ‘Well, I think that was three.’ A quick survey of the room revealed Elrond was not around to tell him otherwise.
Merry turned his body in the opposite direction and began a different set of stretches and pulls. The trick, he had learned, was to pull as quickly as possible—when no one was watching.
‘Done with one set.’
‘And one more to go.’
Merry howled in pain as someone opened the door, causing the elastic vine end to spring back and whip across his arm.
Erestor blinked. “My apologies, Meriadoc. I was unaware you occupied this room.”
The hobbit managed a half-smile through his grimace, squeaking a tight, “That’s okay.”
Elrond’s advisor politely bobbed his head and bid the young Brandybuck farewell. Merry stared at the door for a few moments before concluding there really was no logical explanation as to what had just occurred. ‘Elves,’ he thought, giving his head a perplexed shake. He opened the door, placed the end of the vine back into it, and then securely closed it.
Erestor again opened the door. “Oh, my ap—“
“Will you stop!” Merry vigorously rubbed his stinging arm. Not one, but two red welts were beginning to spread across his bicep.
Erestor looked down his long nose at the pained hobbit. “It is unwise were you to continue making use of this door as means to secure that vine.”
Merry glared at the dark-haired Elf. “Maybe you should quit opening the door!”
“But it was necessary. How else am I to enter the room?”
Merry shrugged. “The window?”
“That is most impractical, Master Brandybuck,” Erestor responded in severe tones, “do you not think?”
“I suppose.” Merry scowled and tossed the vine aside. Erestor continued to stand in the doorway. Merry wondered if he was supposed to guess what the Elf wanted. “Are you looking for someone or something?”
“Lord Elrond,” Erestor replied.
“Ah.” Merry absently scratched his foot. “Well, he’s not here.”
Erestor nodded. “Yes, I am aware of this.”
Merry shifted uncomfortably as Erestor continued to look at him. “Yes, so, Lord Elrond is not here, as I said…”
“I thought perhaps you might know of his whereabouts?”
Merry shook his head. “No, I’m afraid not.”
Erestor pursed his lips. “Mayhap he is conversing with one of the Eagles.”
“Mayhap,” said Merry, wishing the Elf would go away. He liked Elves—they were fascinating, wise beings—but Erestor… Erestor tended to be somewhat snippety.
“Know you the whereabouts of Master Baggins?”
“No,” Merry replied. “Are you looking for him, too?”
Erestor turned abruptly on his heel, robes swirling gracefully around his ankles. “Nay, I merely wondered.”
Bilbo had done nothing but pester Erestor for the past week, regaling the frazzled Elf with tales of Mirkwood. Merry grinned. “Erestor, are you hiding from Bilbo?”
Erestor tensed. “Nay,” he tightly replied, “I am not.”
Merry watched Elrond’s chief counselor stalk lightly from the room: Elven dignity in all its glory.
“Erestor—there you are!” Bilbo’s voice echoed down the bright halls. Merry swiftly shut the door and locked it, leaving Erestor to his fate. He picked up the stretching vine and knotted it to the nearest chair. Bilbo’s pattering footfalls grew louder in the corridor.
“Erestor, where have you been? Did I mention to you that Thranduil had a staff? It was oak, as I recall. He certainly didn’t need it for walking, and I’m willing to bet it had some sort of magic to it. Erestor? Are you listening to me? Erestor, for pity’s sake, slow down! I have neither the legs nor age to keep up with you.”
Tugging at the vine, Merry snickered quietly to himself. It served Erestor right. He gave the vine a second pull, then paused. Staring thoughtfully at the detested plant, he rolled it within his hand. The plant was strangely tube-like.
‘I wonder if these come any bigger?’ Deciding he may be of some use to Rivendell’s war efforts after all, Merry unlocked the door and trotted into the sunlight, vine trailing limply after him.
* * *
‘He is an advisor,’ Elrond reminded himself, ‘of course he knows naught of stratagem and defenses.’
This was not to say Erestor’s plan a bad one. Had circumstances been different, Elrond was fairly certain it would work splendidly.
Drawing from the mindset of their woodland brethren, Erestor had opted for a strike-first approach. “Before,” the advisor had said, “the Enemy has chance to amass at our borders. Still do they reside in the mountains, but one strong push to demonstrate the might of Rivendell shall send them scurrying back to Mordor.” Elrond highly doubted the creatures would retreat all the way back to Mordor, but if there was one thing the forces of Sauron understood and respected, it was power.
Units of warriors on horseback would charge into the mountains and past Enemy encampments. Horses would give the charging parties greater mobility, allowing them to easily slip behind enemy positions. Swinging back around, they would drive the orcs down the mountain and straight into the waiting forces of warriors at Rivendell’s borders. Several young Eagles were to help herd the orcs towards Rivendell, picking off those that fled back into the mountains. At Elrond’s insistence, the Beornings in the High Pass would also join the fray, preparing a front against any dark creatures that managed to elude Eagle and Elven forces. Elrond did not wish to inadvertently send the beasts over the mountains and into Mirkwood or Lothlórien. Both realms were pressed as it was.
The Enemy would be split and flushed—left to the fate of the Beornings, or the Windlords and warriors of Elrond.
Therein lay the problem: Elrond was not sure he had enough warriors to defend the borders. If a majority of them were going to be driving the orcs towards Rivendell, who was left to defend it?
The Elf lord raised a slender hand in acknowledgement of the eagles Meneldor and Androssan circling above. He frowned. ‘We shall drive the enemy straight INTO Imladris.’
Rivendell was strong, but not invincible. ‘And we have only limited knowledge of the Enemy’s number.’ The Elf lord released a frustrated sigh. It was believed the orcs were nothing more than small pockets scattered across the Misty Mountains. Still, there was no real way of knowing. And Elrond hated not knowing; he hated moving blind. ‘I would rather have all the facts before me, that we might come up with an informed and rational decision. This is far too brash a move for my liking.’ Mayhap he ought to consider employing spies, as Thranduil was rumored to practice. The King of the Woodland Realm might not have complete control over Mirkwood, but if a thrush sneezed—he knew about it.
‘Should things turn ill, I too may be forced to exercise more reckless means of defense.’ He resisted the urge to glance at the ring upon his finger. His days on Middle-earth were numbered, was he willing to jeopardize his life to protect a land he would soon depart—a realm that would no longer be his concern?
Elrond placed his hands within the sleeves of his robe and closed his eyes. The Elf lord stood tall and silent amidst the autumn bustle of Rivendell. His stance remained unyielding, shoulders proud and head held high. Yes, he would risk himself for the sake of Imladris. If not for Imladris, then for those who would remain behind. He would do his duty as he had always done.
It was duty that bade him accept the ring from Gil-galad, and duty stayed his feet when Celebrían journeyed West. ‘For I am Elrond Peredhil,’ he wryly reminded himself, ‘“great among Elves and Men.”’
He had the oddest feeling Celebrían was somewhere smiling at him.
The two eagles were mere specks when Elrond turned and headed towards his quarters. How long had it been since he last held a sword? He chuckled quietly to himself and shook his head. Elladan and Elrohir were in the habit of casually mentioning their father’s lack of upkeep in the art, suggesting perhaps he had grown far too complacent.
‘I wonder, what would they think were they to see their sluggish father now?’
He paused his walk down the open walkway and glanced northward, past the delicately sculpted buildings and blazing autumn treetops. Elladan and Elrohir were somewhere beyond those forested hills, in lands already touched by winter’s frosty hands. If he concentrated hard enough, Elrond knew he would be able to sense the twins’ wild exuberance as they charged off to Valar knew what dangers.
‘I wish they were present,’ he thought, and then scowled affectionately. ‘After all, they do seem to enjoy killing things.’ THAT trait came from Celebrían, he was certain. Though from whether it was gift of Galadriel or Celeborn’s bloodlines Elrond could not say.
“Forgive me, Lady Galadriel,” he murmured aloud, hoping the Lady was not patrolling hearts and minds at the moment. “I meant no offense.”
A faint and silvery peal of laughter—so much like that of Celebrían and Arwen—sprang forth from some dark recess of his mind, but the Lady said nothing more.
Elrond entered the main hall, absently greeting various lords and ladies as he made his way to the stairs. He had just begun his ascent when short, pattering footfalls arrested his attention. Glancing over the railing, the Elf lord caught sight of Merry trotting into the hall. The young hobbit searched the airy room intently; holding the vine Elrond had given him two days prior.
“Meriadoc,” Elrond called, “may I be of some service to you?” The young hobbit’s countenance brightened considerably. He hastened up the stairs to the Elf lord’s side. ‘He heals swiftly,’ Elrond thought, noting how the hobbit walked without any sign of limp or pain.
“Lord Elrond!” Merry paused to catch his breath. “I’ve been looking all over for you. Oh, and so has Erestor, but Bilbo found him first.”
Elrond’s eyebrows rose in slight amusement.
“You see, I was doing my exercises like you said I should,” Merry continued as they moved up the stairway, “when I had an idea of sorts.” He took Elrond’s silence as permission to continue. “These vines are very stretchy sir, and I was wondering if they come any bigger.”
Elrond nodded. “Yes, of course they do. But you, Master Hobbit, are not yet ready to use a thicker band.”
“I don’t mean for myself,” Merry replied, taking the stairs two at a time in order to match the Elf lord’s long strides.
Elrond’s grey eyes regarded him curiously. “Then for what purpose?”
They had reached the top of the stairs. Merry chewed on his bottom lip. “Slingshots.”
Elrond blinked. “Slingshots?”
“Yes,” said Merry. “Awful big slingshots. Catapult-like slingshots, if you will.” Words bubbled forth from the hobbit in excited babble. “I have it all planned out! See, we weave these vines into long netting, and then string them all along the borders using even thicker vines. Just like giant slingshots. We can keep them pulled back with ropes, I think. Then the orcs come running down the mountainside, straight into the netting. We chop the rope, the vine snaps forward, and whoosh! the orcs go flying.”
Elrond was staring at him. Merry felt his face burn crimson. He ducked his head in embarrassment. “Though, like I said, it was only a suggestion. Never mind, I suppose…” He turned to leave, only to be stayed by Elrond’s surprisingly strong hand on his shoulder. To his utter shock, the Elf lord laughed.
“Meriadoc Brandybuck,” Elrond’s grey eyes danced with surprise and merriment, “you may be our saving grace yet!”
* * *
A solitary figure, so small and insignificant a roving eye might easily overlook it, stood amidst the bleak highlands of Pahtoh. Frigid wind blown down from the northern mountain peaks caused even the close-cropped grass blades to shiver. Frodo hung his head. He did not want to look forward—Mordor was ahead of him. He did not want to look backwards—an angry Elf lord awaited him behind. There were mountains to either side of him and terrifying winged beasts above.
It was akin to walking down an endless corridor lined with doors: each door leading to a different hall. Every time he chose a door, it locked behind him. The hallway became smaller, and the doors became less frequent. Eventually, he was going to run out of doors.
‘I keep trying to run away, and it seems I’m only getting closer to the thing I’m trying to run away from.’
The hobbit unconsciously toyed with the ring about his neck. The hills stretched out in endless waves and lumps before him. The vast sky above left him painfully exposed, snow falling from its thin grey clouds in dusty afterthought. Frodo suddenly felt overwhelmingly tiny. Hobbits were not meant to carry the weight of the world. It was too big and he was too small.
Frodo sniffled and hastily wiped his eyes. He would continue on to Mordor alone. After all, what else was there to do? Mayhap by going towards it, he would somehow end up further away. The way circumstances had played out so far, there really was no reason to think it impossible.
The hobbit took one miserable step forward—one miserable step closer to Mordor. Then he took another. ‘One step for Merry.’ And another. ‘For Pippin.’ And another, and yet still another. ‘For Sam! For Bilbo!’ He would walk for them—his dearest friends. He would walk for the Shire. He would walk for those who had hope—even though he was not one of them.
‘For Elves and Dwarves and Good Men! For Trees and Flowers, and lazy days in Bag End!’ Frodo squared his shoulders and scowled fiercely. ‘I can do this. I will do this.’
A dark shape bolted around a boulder some distance ahead and charged straight for him. Frodo turned on his heel with a terrified scream and ran back towards Pahtoh.
Panic gave his weary legs new strength, yet the creature was faster still. As he crested a hill and caught sight of Pahtoh’s thatched rooftops below, Frodo realized he would never make it. The creature’s paws drummed over the hillside, ragged pants growing louder and more terrifying. Frodo’s own lungs felt as though they would burst. Gasping and choking, he glanced over his shoulder. The shadowed blur leapt.
Frodo hit the hard-packed ground with a cry of dismay, rolling onto his back and throwing his arms up to protect his face.
And then the creature licked him.
“Frodo Hobbit… Frodo… Hobbit!” Ginger-haired Allin fell to the ground beside Frodo, who was being sat on by the cheerful sheepdog Nwahr. The boy took a moment to catch his breath. Nwahr, meanwhile, ceased licking his “prey.” Tongue lolling to the side, he happily thumped his tail against the ground and eyed Frodo proudly.
“Frodo Hobbit,” said Allin, at last finding himself fully recovered from the mad dash, “you run very fast for a… for a hobbit.” His smooth brow wrinkled in perplexity—he was still not quite sure what to make of these strange “hobbit” creatures.
Frodo gingerly pushed Nwahr off his chest and sat up. The sheepdog gave him a final triumphant lick before retreating to sit near his boy. “Allin, what are you doing? You nearly frightened me to death!”
Hair sticking out in defiant tufts, for he had forgotten to put on his woolen cap, Allin smiled cheerfully. “I wished to see you battle the Winged Beast. It was a grand battle, no?” He gazed at the pale blue sky and sighed wistfully. “I saw Sam Hobbit and Pippin Hobbit capture it. Then they rode off into the sky. Whoosh! They rode it far away. Do they ride l’wazoh back to the Home of Hobbits?”
Frodo’s shoulders sagged. “Allin,” he said quietly, “I don’t think they shall ever return.”
Allin nodded sagely. “Ah, the Home of Hobbits is very far away. It is sad they will not come back. How are they to receive their tahtowahjez—tattoos?”
Frodo swallowed painfully and fingered the slender chain around his neck. He did not have the heart to tell Allin Pippin and Sam were most likely dead. Let the boy keep his childhood dreams and heroes’ tales for now. He would lose them soon enough. “When I return to the shire,” said the hobbit, “I will tell them of their awards. Maybe then they’ll fly back for a visit.”
Allin leapt to his feet and began a peculiar half-hop half-skip of excitement. “And we will have the biggest feast ever! More dancing and singing and food!” The wiry boy stopped his odd dance and looked to Frodo in puzzlement. “Why did they not take you with them?”
Frodo pushed himself to his feet. “Because,” he slowly replied, not quite managing to mask his misery, “because we must go our separate ways. And now I must bid you farewell too, Allin.”
“Nay,” said the boy. “For I am coming with you.”
Nwahr barked. “Yes,” Allin hastily added, “and Nwahr will come too.”
“No Allin!” Frodo started in alarm. “I’m afraid that can’t happen.”
Allin drew himself to his full height. “It can. I will be your warrior! That is, unless you wish to be the warrior—though I am taller than you.”
“We will be great adventurers! We will battle many terrible beasts and face danger as warriors do.”
“That,” Frodo mumbled dispiritedly, “is what I am afraid of.”
“—And they will sing songs of us,” the boy continued in delight. “We will earn many tattoos.” He stared dreamily into the distance, no doubt imagining himself a glorious champion.
Frodo covered his face with a hand. The last thing he needed was to be responsible for the death of a child. “Allin, what about your family? Your friends? Won’t they miss you? What about your sheep?”
The young boy scowled and kicked half-heartedly at a protruding grass tuft. Frodo decided to try a new tactic. “I will make a deal with you, Allin.” He was instantly rewarded with the boy’s undivided attention. “I need someone—a warrior type, you know—to help me cross this hill.”
“Me! I can do this!”
“But,” said the hobbit, “you must go no further. If you protect me during our journey, and go no further, then I will give you my spear. It should be lying somewhere around here. Consider it my gift to you for your courage and kindness.”
Frodo nodded. “Yes, and bravery.” He hoped Allin would be so swept up by the notion, he would forget the rusty old spear belonged to his village anyways. Thankfully, it worked.
The ginger-haired boy let out a cry of delight and dashed off to find the spear. As Frodo predicted, it did not lie far.
*“Vehnay,” said Allin upon returning. Flushed with importance, he put on a grim warrior’s scowl. Frodo felt his lips tugging upward, but managed to scowl and nod fiercely in reply. Nwahr promptly sat back on his haunches and howled, shooting Frodo a toothy canine grin. Though Frodo was not particularly fond of dogs (a dislike which stemmed from the day Farmer Maggot released the hounds on him), he decided Nwahr more than agreeable.
The two trekked up and over the large, rolling hill. Nwahr darted to and fro, traveling around them in wide circles. The sun reached its zenith in the pale sky and slowly began to slide downward. Pahtoh was not more than a distant memory two hills over. Frodo hoped the occasional dusting of snow stayed as such; the night promised to be chill and bitter as it was.
Allin hiked in front, carefully leading Frodo around the odd boulder or dip in the ground. Frodo smiled to himself. Observing the gangly, ginger-haired boy, the hobbit found it difficult to believe Allin would one day grow as massive and perhaps as tattooed as his father. ‘Still, he has a strong heart, and a good one. I can see that even now.’ Frodo would walk to Mordor for Allin, too.
They reached the hill foot, and Allin lifted the ancient spear above his head in grave salute. “Frodo Hobbit, I wish you a warrior’s journey. May you honor your family and name.”
Frodo bowed. “Thank you, Allin.”
“No, no.” The boy lowered the spear and jammed it into the earth. “You are supposed to say, ‘I accept your wishes and offer you strength and courage in return.’ And then I bow, like this—“ curling his hand into a fist, he thrust it across his chest and bowed stiffly, “—and you grip my arm like this.” He grasped the hobbit’s forearm firmly and gave it one resolute shake.
“Oh,” said Frodo. “Shall we try it again?”
Allin’s nose wrinkled and his eyebrows knitted together. “I do not think we are supposed to.”
“Well then, I suppose this is farewell.” Frodo again bowed to the boy. “I will not forget you, Allin son of Atan!”
Allin nodded miserably. He was going to miss the strange little creatures with furry feet. Nwahr’s furious barking caused both to look up at the hilltop.
“FRODO BAGGINS! BY MOUNTAIN AND MOLEHILL, WHERE ARE YOU OFF TO?”
The hobbit was so shocked he nearly toppled over. The long silvery beard, billowing grey cloak, and pointed hat were as familiar to him as the sun. “Gandalf? Gandalf!” Releasing a sobbing laugh, Frodo forgot his weariness and charged straight towards the wizard and his horse.
Pulling to a halt, Gandalf leapt from the back of his mare with such youthful spring Allin could only gape. Frodo flung himself straight into the wizard’s arms. “I was sure Elrond had you!” His voice came out in muffled sobs, partially muted by the fabric of Gandalf’s robes. “And then the birds! Merry fell… the eagle… Oh Gandalf, I killed them all!”
“There now, Frodo.” Gandalf amiably patted the sobbing hobbit on his back. “It was a terrible mistake. Do not fret—Merry is quite alive.”
“Merry is alive?” Frodo pulled his tearstained face out of the wizard’s robes, which smelled distinctly of grass and pipeweed. “Truly, he is? But I saw him fall.”
A wide smile settled across the wizard’s face, eyes twinkling in merriment. “I assure you, Master Baggins, he is indeed alive. He landed in a tree—though I must admit his choice of trees left much to be desired. Mind you I speak strictly from a rescuer’s point of view. Nonetheless, Merry is alive and on the mend in Rivendell.”
Frodo blanched at mention of Elrond’s realm. “Rivendell? But Lord Elrond—“
“—is terribly embarrassed the situation grew so out of hand,” Gandalf interrupted. “It was all a dreadful mistake.” He ruffled Frodo’s hair affectionately before glancing at Allin. “I see you have made a new friend, but where are Peregrin and Samwise?”
Frodo’s entire body sagged in defeat. “A giant eagle,” he whispered. “They told me to run… and … and it carried them away…”
“An eagle? Ah, it must have been Landroval. Elrond sent him to fetch you wayward troublemakers. Masters Gamgee and Took are probably halfway to Rivendell by now.”
Frodo blinked, and suddenly discovered himself feeling light as a feather. His lungs seemed to expand in pure joy. “They are not dead?” he asked, a bit overwhelmed. Had it all been just a dream? Only a terrible nightmare?
Gandalf chuckled. “They ought to be quite well by my calculations. But come, we have tarried long enough. We must hasten to Rivendell. Though,” he added, “not too quickly. I would prefer we arrive after the fighting.”
“Fighting?” Frodo asked as Gandalf hoisted him atop the copper-colored mare. “There is going to be a battle in Rivendell?”
Gandalf’s bushy eyebrows knit together. “Is there? A battle, you say?”
Frodo twisted around to look at the wizard. “No, you say. You said there was going to be fighting in Rivendell.”
“Did I.” Frodo could not discern whether the wizard’s reply was a question or statement. He shook his head, deciding those of immortal standing spent far too much time confusing others.
“I suppose,” said Gandalf, “you wish to bid that gawking child over there farewell.” He walked the mare closer to Allin.
Frodo smiled and waved to the boy. “Farewell, Allin! Someday you will be a grand warrior!”
The ginger-haired boy and his faithful black sheepdog watched the hobbit and wizard gallop from view. Allin pulled his new spear from the ground and shook his head in awe. “They’ll never believe us,” he confided to the dog. “The hobbits defeated the winged beast, gifted me this spear, and then a funny old man—who was not really old—appeared and Frodo Hobbit rode off with him.” He hefted the spear over one shoulder and grinned. “Kell joornay!”
He began the short trek back to Pahtoh, Nwahr darting to and fro at his side. Shadows lengthened and the sun slipped even lower, but one boy’s dreams and warriors’ tales lasted yet another precious day.
Onto the French Book!
“Vehnay.” --‘Venez.’ [Come.]
“Kell joornay!” --‘Quelle journée!’ [What a day!]
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.