4. Spiders, Lunch and the End
The greens, yellows and browns of the season had all been reduced to a washed-out grey. Bilbo's mouth hung open, astonished by the change. Staring, his gaze went to the hobbits that were coming towards him. Incredibly, they were still walking, as though unable to observe a change. As Bilbo watched, frozen, the grey ground began to darken to black, plants withering and drying to twisted stalks. The fence, only a few inches in front of his toes, spontaneously disintegrated-- boards dissolving into dust, splintering and cracking. Bilbo instantly jerked his hand from his pocket to cover his face.
The horrible vision was gone, but he was sweating and breathing as fast as though he'd run from one end of the Shire to another. Bilbo's hand trembled as he reached out to touch the perfectly normal, solid fence.
"Wh…What happened?" he asked, eyes wide as he stared at the familiar abundance of the Shire, landmarks that a moment ago had looked utterly foreign and inhospitable.
Bilbo, not without a bit of trepidation, peered into his cup. The shape that met his gaze made him suck in a sharp breath. It was a spider. Bilbo knew what spiders meant, and none of the associations were particularly good. Although he had purposely ignored the death/destruction possibility with the dragon and the "needing rescue" thought with the tree—could he ignore what this meant? Bilbo didn't think so. He loved these four; he wasn't sure he had the courage to think of them facing danger.
"The best I could hope for is that it ends well," he sighed. "My own adventure did."
Bilbo took a moment to watch Frodo wave to Sam as the young gardener walked off the road and into Hamfast's yard. Most likely the lad was going to get a bit of luncheon before coming back to finish up in the garden. Frodo and Merry, who was, naturally, still toting Pippin, labored on up the hill. Bilbo smiled fondly at the three as they approached, a worn-out Pippin sucking his grubby thumb, a filthy Merry panting under his load, yet still joking with his older cousin, and Frodo, comparatively clean, asking what was for lunch.
"Nothing until you get yourself cleaned up!" Bilbo said this briskly, as though he hadn't just been scared half to death, " Muddier than pigs you are! And wake Pippin long enough to clean him too! Don't touch anything!" Bilbo shouted this lastly as Merry carried Pippin through the open door.
Bilbo waited until he was certain they would be occupied with washing up to look into his teacup again. Still a spider. He thought fretfully about all the good things a spider could mean: song (Attercop, attercop, tomnoddy!), appreciation (the dwarves certainly respected him after he'd defeated those spiders in Mirkwood), and…what?
"Danger, danger, danger," Bilbo groaned. He thought of fierce battles, being outnumbered by foes, starvation, and other such hardships. Shaking his head at his own foolishness, his mother had warned him, after all, Bilbo turned and walked to the door of Bag End. Inside he could hear splashing and the sounds of exuberant singing—a sure sign something would be either soaked or broken within minutes.
As he listened, a sudden smile came to his face. He couldn't protect his lads, but he could hope for the best.
Before Bilbo stepped inside the door he tipped the teacup and watched what remained inside fall to the ground. He used his toes to cover it with dirt.
"They'll be all right. You see, I believe in them."
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.