Journey of the Mapmaker - Chapter V


The large crowd of hobbits quickly departed to their homes as Ultho bade them enter in. Some of them muttered to themselves as they left things like, "those Sackville-Bagginses, those troublemakers". As they bowed their heads to enter into the little hobbit hole, Milrog examined many things of an ancient world. On the wall to their left, down the long tunnel, there were old pictures of things like dragons or white ships sailing into the sunset. But the plaster on them was peeling away, the metal lining of the frames were rusty and the wooden frames themselves seemed to be plagued by termites.
On the other side of the wall, trinkets of old were held in mantelpieces: swords with words on them of all kinds, wooden bows tied with very strange string, curiously carved smoking pipes and boxes of for pipeweed. They saw rusted chains of armor and several delicate rings on pegs. But as the old hobbit hobbled forward on his crutch, his boy helping him along, Milrog and Tom had plenty of time to study all of it. Though it wasn't until they came to the last frame on each wall that Tom stopped to ask a question. Opposite from a painting of a giant, white tower with a glistening spike, surrounded by a courtyard with a white, blooming tree, Tom spotted a very curious hunting knife, with an elvish curve. It bore on it two words in elvish writing, Gud Daedheloth.
"Where did you get this?" Tom asked. "It seems very familiar."
"A token from the king himself," replied the old hobbit. "It was given into my stead to take care of it, as a sign of peace and prosperity for our people. He promised us protection from those accursed orcs in return for a supply of our crops every month, by our reckoning.
"Don't care much for it anymore, seems he forgot. Besides, why would orcs be up here?"
"The village of Bree was ravaged by orcs several days ago," Milrog answered. "From what I know, they just did it for the blood of men."
"Aih," Tom answered, "orcs will do much for their bloodthirsty lust to be fulfilled. They tore down the trio town and everything in it. Bree, Staddle, and Combe."
"But in the wreckage of Combe," Milrog continued, "I found a knife in a murdered skeleton. And it was identical to that one which now hangs on your wall."
Milrog took out the knife he had plucked from the skeleton's mess, and as he held it up to the displayed knife, it proved to be perfectly identical.
"I brought you in here to listen to tales of elfinesse," said the old hobbit, "but it appears that your coming has brought dark deeds upon us. You must leave then, as soon as possible, take both those knives with you, and my grandson must accompany you also. You will have until tomorrow morning, then you must leave to never return, unless your mission is fulfilled."
"We are but a humble company and have no mission," said Tom.
"No," replied the old hobbit, "you do have a mission, and soon you will find out what it is."
Nothing more could be said, so after the old hobbit turned them out of his hole, they picked a spot under a willow tree in the middle of the village, and slept to morning break.
In the morning, they were each given a loaf of cram each and an apple, and were sent on their way. Little Ultho Sackville-Baggins looked like a horse as he was saddled up, a huge pack on his back and a rope in his head with which he led his own pony. Ultho had named his beast of burden Ferny, and Ferny was a pony who Ultho loved like a brother. As they passed out of the gate, a word of caution followed them by the aged hobbit.
"Our world is in deterioration," he said, "the other folk you meet, even hobbit folk, may not be quite so generous as we. May the blessing of the Valar be in your steps."
And so the three travelers and the pony departed into the west from the land sketched in Milrog's map as Tookland. They intended to head for Emyn Beraid, the Tower Hills, where the three White Towers once stood as a mark of Shire Territory. Milrog and Tom expected at most to find only more ruins, but Ultho was foolishly hopeful and optimistic about the journeys to come.
"These days will be ours," he said, about an hour down the Great East Road from Tookland. It was slightly raining and the travelers could scarcely see eachother through the rough lighting of the lantern held in Milrog's hand. "These days will end in our favor, when we give arms to the needy and hope to the hopeless." His high-pitched voice reminded Milrog of his son, back home. Broglir, the burning was the name his mother had given him. Fiery in mood and quick to joy, and always, always, always, prevailed in everything he set his mind to. Though no one could see it for the rain, Milrog began to weep.
Two more days passed like that, slow and hard they continued, and for Ultho the worst. His short and stubby legs could hardly keep up with the two outcasts, no matter how he tried. But they tried not to hold him against it, and pretended to wait for the pony more than anything else, and searched for the day when Ultho would show his talented hobbit qualities.
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