14. Secrets, Secrets, Secrets
Scaldo had to feel his jaw to make sure it had not fallen off. What a hobbit, the most decent of folks, was doing on the Edge of the Earth, gave him more curiosity than even what was bubbling in the pot behind the hobbit.
The old hobbit gave him no time for pondering, and shoved them both into chairs and flung steaming bowels on the table. Though he was not bony and frail, his middle was not so fitted out as it ought to be for someone with so grey toe-hairs; perhaps he was muscular and had been more so in the past.
"I am very confused," said Scaldo.
"That is just as well," said the old one. His accent was less clipped than a lower South Farthing voice, and so far as it can in the Shire, it sounded aristocratic.
The three of them ate through a pot of fabulously foreign fish stew in under two minutes. Scaldo's once immense belly felt happy, but his once sleepy brain did not.
"I want some answers."
"Bla, bla, bla!" said the Dwarf with a sneer (beard hidden).
"I am tired of this!" Scaldo stood and almost overturned the table.
The Dwarf stood too. "I'll tell yeh what I want, when I want."
"No, I want to know now!"
The Dwarf's protruding nose turned pink. "Shurrup."
"No!" And Scaldo dared do what he never would have dared before: he sat on the Dwarf.
"Not till you agree to answer my questions."
"Wha' ever. Gerroff!"
Scaldo's nerves were at an end anyway, so he heaved up but that was always a messy process, and the Dwarf must have become much flatter and none much happier.
The old hobbit watched the whole conflict with a totally impassive eye that was almost glazed. Maybe he just had fallen asleep with his eyes open.
At the same time, something seemed to change in the Dwarf; why, he seemed almost impressed.
"Well?" said the Dwarf. Scaldo scratched his flat face; now that he had the chance, he knew not what to say. The old hobbit then snorted and jerked his head up.
"Now what? Eh? You know, we have not been properly introduced. I am Hildifons Took."
Scaldo fell over with such a crash that the room palpitated.
"But-but-but- you went on a journey and never returned!"
"Too true, too true."
Scaldo was upset. His Granddad Chubb's sister had married the Old Took (as he was now called since he simply would not die). A Took! The queerest of queer hobbits! The connection had been scarcely discussed in the Chubb household, for hobbits learned their family trees before they were knee high, and whenever Scaldo so naively asked about that side, his mother admonished him with a hush child! and a smaller thirds on dessert. However, he knew well the Old Took had at least twelve children, all wild. Hildifons had been the wildest, and "spilt his plate" at last by running off for adventures, which was discussed for a year and a day behind cupped hands. The affair had occurred before Scaldo had been born. It was an icky thing to come out here, to be no better than a Took.
He did not say this all to Hildifons, although he did peep "icky" before his cousin-removed-how-many-times pulled him upright.
"What is this place, then?" asked Scaldo as Hildifons thrust pastries into the oven, to calm the fraying nerves. In lethargy, the Dwarf picked his teeth.
"It was built by dwarves," said Hildifons, "They have a name for it but it is in dwarvish and no on except dwarves are allowed to speak dwarvish."
"Don't they live here now?"
"'Course not. It's mine, yeh idjit."
"Oh... you are the last of a long line of dwarf lords!"
"Na, I just took it."
Hildifons broke back in. "This place is as old as the hills. Most of it has been claimed by the sea; still, much remains. I don't even know it all. The way you came in is one of the few remaining entrances of what was a grand city long, long ago."
Scaldo became bored about half way through this speech, and his yawn seemed to have been registered by the Took because he changed the subject.
"I knew Faldo and Dandelion Chubb and was sad when I heard of their deaths. I thought they would go after you eventually too."
"What now! Faldo died in a cart mishap, and Dandelion from over-eating. What does that have to do with anything?"
"Did you never wonder, Scaldo Chubb, where your father got it all? His weed fortune?"
"Well, yes. But no! He bought it, or should I say, productive means to grow it from a high-priced seller. These secrets unknown in the Shire gave him a boost over the other weed farmers. He grew rich, but never paid back what he owed to the seller."
Hildifons kept talking. "Not that Faldo had no reason to not pay. Dandelion Chubb was a spender and food bills became as immense as herself. No offense, lad. Anyway, they, the ones who believed that these secrets sold to Faldo should not have been sold at all, decided it was their duty to righten this wrong." Here the Dwarf laughed. "The cart drivers were never caught, were they? And has a Chubb ever eaten too much? You, Scaldo, can only be thankful your Grandma Chubb took you to the South Farthing and left you in seclusion with her generous wealth."
"Why only now?"
"Oh, hmm, they were satisfied for a while, but recently their flame for revenge has been relit, with a very big lighter, I may say." Now the Dwarf laughed an uproar. "They became sore and they found out a blood relation of Faldo still lived. When I learned of this, I knew there was nothing else to do except frustrate them even more."
"Who?!" yelped Scaldo.
"That's so." Hildifons nodded.
"Do they have knives, perchance?"
"Oh, dumplings. Where does he come into all this?"
"Watch where yer pointing."
"Everywhere." Hildifons threw up his hands. "He sold the secrets to Faldo in the first place."
"What's wrong with that? Anyway, I sent him to bring you here. Aren't you glad?" Hildifons's many wrinkles creased into a smile.
"Goodness! You need to stop being so glum. Worry not about a thing. I have the most wonderful plan. Nothing will go wrong," said Hildifons.
"Nothing wrong! Anything can be wrong! I don't even know who it is I should worry about! Anything could be waiting out there in the dark, and..."
"No one can get in here. Most of the doors only open outwards and the doors that open only inwards have just three keys. I have one, he has one, and that mustached lad what's-his-name has one. Nope. Unless an entrance wasn't shut, we are completely inaccessible."
"Oops," said Scaldo.
A blade appeared in the wooden door, followed by thudding and banging.
"Someone's at the door." Hildifons bent over the oven to check on the pastries.
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.