2. Dragons and Muddy Cousins
"Now, Bilbo, what does this mean to you? Not to anyone else…just you."
He stared in consternation at the little dragon sitting in the bottom of his cup. It was harmless-looking, made of water and tealeaves; but, curiously, it's small head seemed curved to peer up at him. A burst of laughter and cheering made him look up.
Frodo was carrying Pippin pig-a-back down the hill with Merry and Sam easily outdistancing him. Bilbo paled.
"Not them," he whispered. "Don't send my lads after dragons."
But then, before he could lose his nerve and toss out the dregs of his cup, he thought for a moment. Gandalf had said that all the dragons were gone. Surely it was a wizard's business to know such things. And, after all, the brown-green dragon sitting in his cup was just a symbol. Perfectly safe. Furrowing his brow, Bilbo cast about as to what a dragon would mean to him.
"Greed, strength, cunning…and change," he breathed the last word in sudden recognition. Smaug had brought change to all of Middle-Earth. The dragon had suppressed trade routes, slaughtered men and their livestock, destroyed towns and set the work of the dwarves back countless years. Even after his death Smaug's treasure had brought about the worst battle of Bilbo's time.
However, Bilbo also recognized the fact that Smaug had played an important part in changing him. His journeys held him apart from any other hobbit in the Shire…a distance he had felt growing year by year as young hobbits grew and taught their own children the tales of Mad Baggins. Bilbo embraced new ways and had contacts with such "queer" folk as elves, men, dwarves and wizards.
"The reputation of Baggins' has never recovered." He chuckled. Bilbo prided himself on his freedom from tradition.
"So, these four will bring about change in the Shire. Well, a dragon, I suppose means great change. Hmph. The Shire could certainly use it. A hobbit doesn't know how entangled he is in foolish routines until he's cut free."
Bilbo watched Merry, now carrying a giggling Pippin, splashing through the shallows of the Water. Frodo and Sam were sitting on grass watching, now and then their heads bending together in conversation or laughter. He wondered in amusement how long it would be before Merry lost his footing and dumped himself and his passenger into the calm water.
It turned out not long at all. The resulting screeches and thrashings of the soaked hobbits made Bilbo laugh out loud. To his mutual delight and irritation the water was shallow and both Merry and Pippin were smeared with mud and weeds. They trudged up the hill toward Frodo and Sam, and nearing the older lads, began to grin wickedly. Bilbo shook with great outbursts of laughter as Frodo and Sam attempted to fend off the mud-plastered duo without actually touching them.
As he calmed, Bilbo looked down into his cup and was surprised to see his little dragon was gone. In its place was another shape.
"Hmm, now what's this? Have you got more to tell me? If you do, you certainly picked a difficult thing to identify."
Bilbo turned the cup this way and that and even tilted it. Still he couldn't make out the form outlined in the tealeaves. Frowning, he tapped the side of the mug with his fingers.
"A most puzzling shape," He muttered, glancing down again at his young cousins and Sam. They had moved further away, across the long, cool grass to the base of the Party Tree. Bilbo frowned, then something seemed to click inside and he looked back down into his teacup in delight.
"Ahh! That's it!"
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.