2. From Light to Shadow
Five days earlier
It was a bright and sunny October day. But already a cool wind was blowing and the Buckland-hobbits were wearing some of their warmer clothes. Children were fooling about, some of them running around between the many trees of the forest playing tag. Merry laughter filled the afternoon breeze.
"Frodo, stop teasing Daisy!"
A young lad, who was waving a twig, shouting and running after one of the lasses, stopped abruptly. "I'm not teasing her," he declared. "She is teasing me!" He looked at the girl angrily, then turned to his mother again. "She is a nuisance!"
Daisy Brandybuck, a twelve year old girl of Buckland planted herself before the boy putting her hands to her hips and shouted: "I'm what?!"
Frodo stood on his tiptoes to be face to face with her waving threateningly with the twig in his hands. "You're a nuisance," he said in a dry tone. "A pest, if that pleases you more."
"I'm no more a pest than you are," she snorted taking the stick from his hands breaking it in two.
Frodo ran after her, as she turned and dashed off.
Esmeralda chuckled as she stepped beside Primula."Your son is such a sweetheart."
Primula rose from the ground she was searching for mushrooms, watching the children and shaking her head. "He is indeed," she said with the hint of a smile on her face. "At least he knows how to deal with 'annoying lasses' as he calls almost every girl who is not yet in her tweens."
They both laughed turning their attention again to the search of mushrooms.
Primula liked Esmeralda (who was the wife of her nephew Saradoc) a lot. She moved to Buckland three years ago, when the two of them married and Primula had grown attached to her, although she didn't see her very often, for Primula herself lived in the Westfarthing not very far from Hobbiton. But she and her husband Drogo regularly came to Buckland, her home, paying her relatives a visit and it was not unusual that they stayed for more than four weeks. This time there was no difference. They had spent almost the whole summer in Buckland, but now that the days grew shorter and the weather cooler Drogo urged her to think about returning to Hobbiton again. She knew he was right and, although it grieved her to leave behind her family again, they had decided to depart at the end of the month. Esmeralda knew about that, as did her brother, the Master of Buckland.
It had only been the evening before when Primula had a long talk with Esmeralda concerning her return to Hobbiton. She also mentioned that it would be good for Frodo to be at home again. "It's not good for a boy of his age to be away from home too long. He needs to know where he belongs, although it certainly does no harm that he has friends here in Buckland too," she had said. Esmie had agreed with this, but Primula had also felt that it grieved her. Esmeralda was very fond of children, especially Frodo, but she didn't have any of her own yet. "Don't worry," Primula had said placing a hand on her friend's shoulder. "He'll miss you too. And maybe you'll have children of your own when we meet again."
"There will be rain this night."
Primula, who was totally lost in thought, looked up, seeing her husband standing beside her gazing thoughtfully at the sky. Some clouds were passing by, casting shadows on the ground. Also the wind had grown a little stronger. "We'll be going soon," she said and stood up stretching her back.
Drogo called for his son. "You'll help your mother," he told him, as he came running towards him.
Frodo groaned but knelled down obediently to aid his mother in picking mushrooms.
It was evening in the Shire. Most of the mushrooms the hobbits had collected in the afternoon had already been eaten up. The Brandybucks and their guests sat by the fireside talking merrily to each other, smoking their pipes and some of them were telling stories to the children, while red flames were dancing in the hearth.
Frodo, who had listened to a story Old Rory was telling, stood up and came to where his parents sat, nestling in between them.
"Don't you like Rory's story?" Drogo asked, amazed that his son had come to sit with them while somebody was telling a story. That was rather uncommon.
"It's not bad," Frodo explained, "but it's nothing to the stories Bilbo tells. There are no dragons, trolls or elves in this story."
"Bilbo certainly puts too many ideas into your head," Primula said, rustling her son's dark curls.
"These are not just ideas," Frodo told her determinately, his eyes shinning. "This is an adventure. Bilbo's adventure. He has seen all these things. The dragon, the trolls and… and the Elves."
Primula chuckled and shook her head at the dreamy look in her son's eyes.
"You should listen to his tale more closely to understand its meaning!" Frodo said.
"I see. And you, of course, understand everything Bilbo tells you," she said and looked at her son sceptically.
"'Course I do," he told her proudly. "I'm a Baggins!"
"A Baggins indeed!" Drogo laughed putting an arm about his son and ruffling his hair. Frodo giggled.
Drogo lit his pipe again. Blowing small smoke-rings he watched the fire crackling in the hearth.
"What about boating?" he heard his son's voice.
"Boating?" he asked furrowing his brow.
Frodo nodded. "I like being on the river and we could go boating tomorrow or the day after, couldn't we?"
"I don't think that will be possible. It's already quite cold for being on the river and it doesn't seem to be the weather for boating either," Primula explained, but seeing the sad expression on her son's face she added, "But maybe we can decide that tomorrow."
Frodo smiled broadly. "So you mean we can go boating again?"
Primula eyed him suspiciously. "Since when have you been so fond of boating?"
"I'm not that fond, but you are. I know you are. And since this will be the last month in Buckland for a very long time, which means none of us can go boating, it is clear that we have to go now, if we wish to. And I, for my part do wish to go boating once again," Frodo declared matter-of-factly.
"You're cunning, Frodo Baggins. That's very dangerous," Primula told him. Frodo grinned innocently. She pondered for a moment. Frodo watched her excitedly, curious for her answer. "I think we could go boating one last time tomorrow if the weather is well and your father agrees," she said finally.
Frodo instantly turned towards his father looking at him pleadingly. Drogo shrugged but smiled at the two of them, for Primula was eyeing him with the same pleading look as Frodo did. "It can't be that bad to be on the river once again."
Frodo cheered and hugged his father tightly.
"You want to go boating again?" Rory stepped towards them, his pipe in his hands. "It can be very dangerous in this season."
Primula nodded. "I know. But I can handle a boat very well and Drogo also has some skill in boating, since I taught him last summer." She looked fondly at her husband smiling a little as she did so.
"That I know very well", Rory laughed taking a seat beside her. "You've always been better than me in fact. But still I advise you not to go too far down. There are some dangerous currents down by the hills."
"I'll watch out," she said. "We won't go that far."
Rory was satisfied and they soon changed the topic.
All the next day Frodo was on tenterhooks. On the first light of morning he had run into the garden observing the sky. To his relief the weather had been fine. It had been partly cloudy and he had felt a light but fresh autumn breeze swirling his hair.
Now it was early afternoon and the weather still hadn't changed. A delighted Frodo hopped beside his parents as they went down to the riverbank of the Brandywine. He jumped into one of the boats while Drogo and Primula pushed it into the water. The two of them paddled to the middle of the stream before finally they let the boat drift southwards.
The river sparkled in the light of the sun. It was a beautiful day for a boating tour. They could hear the wind rustling in the leaves of the riverbank. The constant gurgling of the stream was somehow comforting. Drogo watched his son with a content smile on his face and put an arm around Primula. They exchanged loving looks. Meanwhile Frodo was grinning broadly as he looked into the water observing the fishes. He put forth his hand and touched the water leaning out dangerously far.
"Careful, Frodo," Drogo exhorted. "We don't want you to topple into the river."
"I won't," Frodo reassured him, but sat back into the boat again.
Time passed. Primula, who was leaning against her husband's shoulder, had closed her eyes for a moment. She was pleased. It had been a wonderful idea to spend the afternoon on the river. Frodo had been right. She was fond of boating and had always been fond of it. She liked to listen to the sound of the water, to feel the wind blowing into her face playing with her hair. Sighing contently, she half opened her eyes to see Frodo, who was kneeling at the front of the boat looking curiously into the water. She smiled.
"What's that?" Frodo suddenly asked pointing towards something in the distance.