1. Saradoc Brandybuck
A pale moon was rising radiating a dim light through the small window in the Master's study. Saradoc Brandybuck sat at his desk, a lamp casting a golden glow on his face which was ashen with worry. His cold, trembling fingers clung desperately to a piece of parchment. His eyes were fixed on the smooth letters that filled the paper - letters he had read many times this evening.
A letter hidden underneath some sheets of my own letter paper; a letter you knew I would not find before today; nothing but a letter telling me not to worry too much.
"We are off with cousin Frodo. We do not know where we are going or when we will be back, but you do not need to worry about us. "
I needn't worry when my only son is off to an unknown place and will return at an unknown time? How am I supposed to do that? You only left me a letter, Meriadoc! And one you knew I wouldn't find until you were gone! Why haven't you talked to me? No need to worry indeed!
"Frodo has some business to do. I am afraid I can not tell you what about, but I can assure you I will take good care of him and Pippin."
You will take good care of Frodo? O my dear Meriadoc, he is the one who should take care of you. What is he up to anyway? I thought he was only going to move to Crickhollow with you, Peregrin and Samwise taking care of him until he has settled in. No one ever talked of leaving, though it was strange that he sold Bag End, which he loved more than anything, to none other than the Sackville-Bagginses.
Merry, what is going on? You only hint at what is happening but do not tell me anything explicit.
"Do not blame Frodo. He knows nothing about our plans. I guess he still believes he is going alone. But you know me, father, I wouldn't let him be off anywhere on his own. Not if he is in need of good friends and I have no doubt this is exactly what he will need sooner or later."
You were never one to leave Frodo's side and neither was Pippin. Since the very day you finally managed to crawl, you were ever on Frodo's heels no matter where he was going to. How grieved you were, when he told you he was going to stay with Bilbo. Your Frodo was leaving you behind. I remember you crying for days, sitting around with nothing to do because your beloved cousin was not here to entertain you. Frodo did a good job looking after you and cared for you well enough. He was as much a rascal as any young lad, nothing better in his mind than stealing Farmer Maggot's mushrooms and annoying the lasses, but he was ever so gentle when you were around and I trusted him.
But can I trust him now? Where will he lead you? If he has business of his own to mind, will he have enough time to take care of you and your rascally cousin? How am I to explain to Paladin that his youngest is off on some adventure with his cousins? You bid me tell him but what shall I say? He will be sick with worry and anger, just like I am, and I will be his target, for neither Peregrin nor you are around. I can understand that you didn't want to leave Frodo's side, but why take young Pippin? I know he loves you and Frodo dearly, but he is too young to be off - Took or not!
I can't think of any other word but 'foolish' when I read your letter. Foolish, because you shouldn't have been off without as much as a word where you are going to. Foolish, because you allowed Pippin to come with you. I know he might not have asked you, but still you should know that he is too young for anything like this.
Yet Frodo is the one who is the most foolish of the lot of you. You are off, which means he made no attempt to stop you. As soon as I get to speak to him about that matter I shall give him a word or two about what I think of taking the two of you with him. And believe me, if he cannot offer a very good excuse he will wish he never had told you as much as what his business is let alone allowed you to follow him! I know you probably never asked for his permission, just as you haven't asked mine or Paladin's for that matter, and just stuck to the plan your thoughtless minds hatched, but he should have stopped you using all possible means.
Believe me, Meriadoc, if I knew where you are I would take Paladin and follow your trail and bring the three of you back by your ears! Samwise may follow us home, for what he does is none of my business, but you and your cousins are, no matter how old and sensible they think themselves.
Saradoc gritted his teeth and clenched his hands at the thought of the lads' stupidity crumpling the piece of parchment slightly as he did so. His eyes glistened in the warm light of the lamp. He didn't know who he was more cross with, his own son or Frodo, though he cast less of his anger on the young Took. Paladin could deal with Peregrin while he took care of Frodo and Merry though he was sure Paladin would want to have his share of conversation with Frodo as well.
As his eyes wandered across the letter yet another time, a new thought struck him. Two days ago he had found that the keys to the Hay were missing, and now his heart was pierced with new worry.
You took the keys, did you not, Meriadoc? Your journey led you into the Old Forest and maybe even through it. If so I can only hope that you had fortune on your side. I know you have been in there, once even with me, but I would not dare to go in too deep, let alone walk right through it. How could you be so stupid and use the way through the Forest? What is it that kept you away from the road? What is this business of Frodo's you cannot tell me of?
Saradoc took a deep breath and swallowed hard. He was back at the point where he had begun, realising suddenly that he would not find an answer to his questions, not until the lads were back to answer them. Again his hands clenched and crumpled the letter until he finally let it drop on the table. He stood up his hands supporting his tired body as he leaned against the desk. His fingers were still cold but his face was less pale now. He was worried and angry but he had made up his mind. There were things he could not change - Master of Buckland or no - and this was one of them. Frodo and Merry could look after themselves and he was sure they would do for Pippin, should the lad be in any trouble - or cause any for that matter. There was nothing else he could do.
Sighing deeply Saradoc stretched his back. The moon had climbed high in the sky already as he walked over to the window gazing thoughtfully into the darkness beyond.
Take good care of yourself and the lads, Frodo, and bring them home safely.
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.