9. A Great Deal of Discussion
A fire was crackling in the hearth of Rorimac's study. The flames glimmered uneasily. A heavy silence filled the room oppressing the hearts of the attendant hobbits. Rain pattered against the window, which shut out the freezing cold of the dreary lands outside.
Rory sighed and stood up from his seat, looking at each of the members of the Baggins and the Brandybuck families which were gathered in his study."I thank you all that you have come," he said, his voice again the respectful voice of the head of the Brandybuck family. Still there were dark rings under his eyes, revealing that he hadn't had much sleep the last three days. "I wish we could have met under different circumstances. The loss of Drogo and Primula is hard to bear for all of us, but the hardest lot has fallen to Frodo. He is the reason why I called you to this meeting. What is to become of him now that he is orphaned? Where shall he live from now on? Who will look after him?"
There was a short pause. Various hobbits exchanged quick glances, but no one spoke.
Rory continued: "As he is my youngest nephew and the only child of my sister I thought he could stay here in Buckland. He has friends here and many children who may distract him from his grief. Still this is not only my decision. He has friends and relatives in the Wesfarthing too. Dora, you were Drogo's sister, may I ask you what you think about it?"
Dora Baggins, an old and frail-looking hobbit woman got to her feet. She nodded at Rorimac, who sat down again. Her eyes wandered from one to the other. Dudo and Bilbo Baggins, who were sitting on the chairs beside her, Rorimac and Menegilda with their sons Merimac and Saradoc, who was holding his wife's hand tightly. All of Primula's brothers and sisters were also present, together with some other Brandybuck folk.
"I may look older than I am," she finally began, "but in fact I am old. I love the boy and I would gladly adopt him, but he is a very bright child. Too bright for an old woman like me, I daresay. I for my part would leave him in Buckland as well. In Brandy Hall are many women who may keep a tight reign on a boy his age." Dora sat down again, waiting for someone other to speak.
The fire crackled, as Saradas Brandybuck stood up. "Rory and Dora are right," he declared."There are many people to care for the boy, young and old ones. Furthermore in Brandy Hall he finds the best conditions to learn whatever he wants to learn. We have books of all kinds and all of us are skilled in reading and writing and he will not be the only child who has to practice this." Sitting down again, Saradas earned many approval nods.
Bilbo Baggins shook his head. "I don't agree." Being the oldest hobbit in the room, he had the privilege of staying in a sitting position. All eyes turned to him.
"What do you mean?" Rory asked.
"I mean," Bilbo began in a calm tone, "that Frodo really can find everything in Brandy Hall he may looks for, concerning books, friends and things like this. But what he really needs, especially now, are parents, or people who try to be like parents to him."
Rory raised an eyebrow. "And you don't think we could be this for him?"
"I haven't said that," Bilbo said. "I know you all love the boy and I have no doubt you all will care for him." "Where is the problem then?" Saradas asked slightly angrily.
"The problem is that you will care for him now that your wounds are fresh too. But those wounds will heal; yours and his as well, though his probably will take longer. But what then? Will you forget about the son of your sister, seeing in him only a child like every other child in Brandy Hall? Or will you go on caring for him, like every parent would do?"
Several Brandybucks looked at Bilbo furiously. Hushed murmurs filled the room. Dora looked at him in astonishment. Also Esmeralda's angry eyes rested on Bilbo, observing every movement of his. But Bilbo did not move. He sat calmly, waiting for an answer.
"Do you want to say that you wish to adopt the child?" Dora asked, looking at him, as if she was rebuking a young hobbit-lad.
Bilbo shook his head and wanted to answer back, but she continued talking.
"You're crazy if you wish to do so. You're twelve years older than I am and though you seem to have perpetual youth even you will die one day. And what's even more, you're a bachelor! You don't know anything about raising children. Do you think Frodo will find things any easier living in Bag End?"
Bilbo said nothing. Dora's words had shut him up. She was right and he knew that all too well. What would he do with a twelve-year-old child running about in Bag End? Having Frodo for a day or two to stay with him was no problem. But adopting him would mean, having him around all day. That would be the end of his travels around the Shire and of the peaceful quietness at home. And what if the boy fell ill? He knew barely anything about how he could help him. Dora was right. Just the thought of adopting Frodo was foolish.
"Dora's right, Bilbo," Rory said, getting up from his chair once more. "What would you do with the lad in Bag End? But concerning your question, at least I would not abandon Frodo."
"You're as foolish as Bilbo," Dora told him, finally lifting from her chair. She shook her head. If those Brandybucks and Bagginses didn't come to their senses on their own, she had to bring them there. Rory looked at her stunned. "Don't look at me like this," she said. "Don't you see it yourself? You can't truly act as a parent for him. You're as old as I am and you don't have the time for a child as young as he is. You're the Master of Buckland. You've other responsibilities, many responsibilities I daresay. Too many to accept an obligation towards Frodo."
Rory looked at her disbelievingly. "I may have many responsibilities, but there is also Menegilda who will support me with the lad. And there are others "
"And that's exactly the problem!" Bilbo interrupted. "Frodo doesn't need others! Of course it's good that there are others he may turn to, but what he needs is one or maybe two parental figures."
A sudden, discomforting silence filled the room. The fire crackled uneasily. The very air seemed to vibrate with suspense. Meaningful and astonished glances were exchanged, but no one said anything. Rory and Bilbo stared at each other, their eyes full of stubbornness. None of them would back down.
Esmeralda, who had listened to the discussion intently, sat quietly, fumbling with her fingers uneasily, staring blankly into the dancing flames. All of them were right. Brandy Hall was the best place for Frodo to stay, but Rory had too many other responsibilities to adopt him. Still Frodo needed one particular person to care for him and not many. So why should not she ? Saradoc stared at her in amazement, as she suddenly got to her feet.
"Bilbo is right. He needs one person to look after him, one family. Why not Saradoc and I? He would stay in Brandy Hall. And " she turned towards Dora "I'm young enough for a boy of his age."
Dora nodded, a smile playing in the corner of her lips. Satisfied she sat down again. Rory and Bilbo (and many Brandybucks) stared at her, their mouths open.
Saradoc sat utterly amazed. He was not quite sure if he had understood everything that was just said. He stood up and looked into his wife's eyes. "Esmie, do you know what you're saying?" he asked.
Esmeralda nodded. "Yes, darling. I wish Frodo to be our foster son."
"But but, do you know what this means?" he stammered, still unable to believe his ears.
She nodded again. Her eyes were sad and pleading at the same time. "You know I love him. I have spent so many sleepless hours the last few days, just to be with him, to make sure he is alright. He needs someone like us. And we, we want to have children, so why not him? He could be our son; he just would be a little bit older."
Saradoc swallowed, pondering her words for a moment. The fire cast shadows on his face. Esmeralda watched him intently. She thought she would burst, if he didn't answer soon. But finally he nodded. "You're probably right. He needs someone, someone like you. Maybe we should be his foster parents and he shall be like our own son to us."
She smiled, tears of joy glistening in her eyes as she kissed him.
Rorimac smiled too. He turned his gaze towards Bilbo expectantly. The old hobbit sat quietly for a moment, his face showing nothing of what he might be thinking. Suddenly he spoke again.
"I think the two of them will look after him well enough. But if you don't, you'll have to fear the wrath of Bilbo Baggins."
Esmeralda laughed. "I hope it will never come to that."
A smile crept over Bilbo's face, as he looked at Rory. The Master of Buckland nodded, knowing what he wanted to say.
"It may be our decision that Frodo should stay with my son and Esmeralda, but still we should not ignore the boy's opinion."
The crowd nodded in approval.
"May someone go and get Frodo?" Rormiac asked.
After they had returned to Brandy Hall Bilbo had led Frodo into his room, where he had changed his clothes. Afterwards the two of them went into the living room, where they sat by the tiled stove, talking to each other. That meant Bilbo did most of the talking, Frodo just sat and listened.
It was not long until Rorimac came towards them and told Bilbo that it was time to join the others.
"We will meet in my study," Rory said.
Frodo looked at Bilbo curiously, after Rory had gone again. "What will you talk about?"
Bilbo smiled, happy that the lad showed some sign of interest again. "You'll hear that soon enough," he said, tousling the boy's curls. Be that as it may, soon enough was too long a time to wait for Frodo. Curious as he was, he followed Bilbo. Many of his aunts and uncles were going into Rory's study too. As he peeked around the corner, he wondered what could be so important that all of them met in the Master's study.
"What are you up to?"
Startled Frodo turned around to see Marmeric standing behind him, eating some bread with honey and grinning broadly.
"Don't scare me like this!" Frodo told him, taking a deep breath and sighing in relief.
Marmeric smiled innocently.
"They are discussing something," he explained, "but Bilbo won't tell me what about, so I'll go and find out myself."
"Great, I'll join you!" Marmeric exclaimed delightedly.
"Hush," whispered Frodo, putting a finger to his lip.
Marmeric winced, nodding his head and eating the last bit of his bread.
Together the two of them tiptoed towards the study. Leaning his head at the door, Frodo listened intently. "I wish we could have met under different circumstances. The loss of Drogo and Primula is hard to bear for all of us, but the hardest lot has fallen to Frodo," he heard Rory saying. Frodo bit his lip.
"They are talking about you!" Marmeric exclaimed. "Have you done some mischief?
Putting his finger to his lip, Frodo shook his head. Marmeric fell silent again.
"But why should they talk about you then?" the boy suddenly asked.
Frodo shrugged and was just about to tell him again that they need to be quiet, when Daisy called for them. Frodo rolled his eyes back. If she joined them, they would soon be caught.
"What are you boys doing here?" she asked.
"Nothing," Frodo whispered angrily.
"We are eavesdropping on a conversation between Rorimac and some other hobbits. They're talking about Frodo," Marmeric helpfully explained.
"How boring!" she proclaimed "I'm sure you'll get into some trouble as soon as they're finished. If you have not done some mischief before, they will punish you for eavesdropping on their conversation."
Frodo shot her a glance, sighing dramatically. "They wouldn't catch me if you could afford being quiet for a little while," he whispered.
"I'm sorry Mr. if-they-catch-me-it's-your-fault," she snorted and turned around. "Come, Marmeric, I'm sure Master Pest will do better if we leave him alone."
Marmeric got to his feet and followed her. Frodo groaned in frustration. For a moment he was tempted to follow them, but then he heard Bilbo saying his name and something about Brandy Hall, so he stayed and listened, hoping that no one would catch him there.
Frodo listened to every word of the conversation in Rorimac's study, sometimes biting his lip, sometimes swallowing hard. They seemed to be discussing his future and not just discussing it, but quarrelling about it. He didn't want them to quarrel because of him.
His future. They talked about it, because he did not belong anywhere. Without his parents he was orphaned. He did not know exactly what this word meant, but he had heard other hobbits use it, when they talked about him. Orphaned; the word had a bitter taste for him. It made him feel lost, more lost than he already felt. Why could not his parents help him?
'Because they're dead', one part of his mind called.
Death, sudden darkness; blackness.
Frodo could almost feel the black pool of darkness moving towards him again. Tears stung in his eyes and he tried to blink them away.
Then he heard Esmeralda talking. "I wish Frodo to be our foster son."
He, foster son of Saradoc and Esmeralda? Could that really be possible? What was it like to be a foster child? Was it different from being a 'normal' child? Could foster parents be the same as real parents? More tears burned in his eyes as his thought returned to his parents.
Their faces were pale, their eyes hollow and their lips were of a bluish colour.
He shook his head violently in order to banish the horrible image.
"It may be our decision that Frodo should stay with my son and Esmeralda, but still we should not ignore the boy's opinion. May someone go and get Frodo?"
Frodo's eyes grew wide. With a dart he jumped away form the door and dashed along the corridor towards the living room, wiping his eyes with his sleeve. They mustn't find him eavesdropping.
When Saradas, who was in charge of finding Frodo, returned into the study, the young lad followed him. He was staring on the ground, but ever and anon his eyes peered at the present hobbits nervously.
"Come, Frodo, take a seat beside me," Rorimac offered with a smile, pointing at a chair by his side.
The young hobbit did as he was asked, looking shyly at his uncle, fumbling with his fingers awkwardly.
"Don't be afraid," Rory said.
"I'm not afraid," Frodo told him, looking at all the faces around him apprehensively. It was true, he was not scared, but he felt small, so terribly small with all those eyes observing him.
Rory took a deep breath and cleared his throat. "We just talked about you, Frodo," he stammered, trying feverishly to find the right words.
Frodo looked at him with a puzzled expression, as if he hadn't known that already.
"In fact we were talking about where you should live from now on. We've pondered a long while and finally we agreed that it is probably best if you stay in Brandy Hall, with Esmeralda and Saradoc as your foster parents. Still we wish to know if that is alright for you or if you're not pleased with our decision."
Frodo frowned, looking first at Rorimac, then at Esmeralda and finally his gaze wandered through the crowd of hobbits. He swallowed. They were all waiting for him to make a decision? The boy seemed to shrink in his chair. Why did they want him to decide? How should he know what would be best, as Rory called it? They wished to know if it was alright for him to stay in Brandy Hall with Esmie and Sara as his foster parents? It was not! He didn't want to have foster parents. He wanted his parents. If only they could be with him now and help him.
He shifted uncomfortably. Why did he have to decide something as serious as this?
'Mama, Papa, help me!' his mind cried desperately.But there was no answer. No one was there to help him. He was alone.His body tensed. He felt his fingers trembling. "You can't ask for something like this," he whispered hesitantly, his face a mask of desperation, fear and angriness.
"What do you mean, my lad?" Rory asked placing a comforting hand on the boy's shoulder.
Frodo glared at him and pushed his arm away. "I don't want to decide this! I don't want foster parents, but my parents! And I don't want to be here with people like you, deciding things I don't even know what they bring about."
He looked at each of them, his eyes resting a little longer on Esmeralda than on the others. She looked, as if he had just beaten her. Her eyes, full of pity and sadness were wide open. Frodo jumped from his chair and tramped out of the room.
"Frodo!" Rory called and was about to follow the boy, but Menegilda stopped him.
"Leave him. Give him some time. He will soon understand."
Esmeralda looked at her mother-in-law sadly, hot tears stinging in her eyes, her lower lip trembling slightly. Saradoc laid his arms about her.
"Give him some time," he said repeating his mother's words, "just a little time."
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.