Life in the Shire - Episode 1 - by Cara Took
By Cara Took
Based on the world and characters discovered by J.R.R. Tolkien
(This story takes place after the events of "The Hobbit," but before "The Fellowship of the Ring.")
`My dear Bilbo, it is so good to see you again,' said Gandalf, stepping through the round door of Bag End. There was a kettle of tea boiling over the fire, and Bilbo rushed to take it off and set it on the cluttered table, nearly tripping in the process. Gandalf stepped through the low archway into the kitchen, leaving his hat and staff by the door.
`I'm very glad you could stop in! It's wonderful to see you, and under more favorable conditions, as well,' said Bilbo, who looked just a little worried that Gandalf would want to run off somewhere, rather than enjoy the "favorable conditions."
Gandalf sipped his tea while Bilbo put some mutton in the oven. `You're the son of Belladonna Took, and you still insist on your Hobbit-like pretensions.'
`My mother knew how to enjoy a good meal.'
Gandalf replied, `A trait I suspect she gained from old Bungo Baggins, when he married her.'
They continued to talk about inconsequential things throughout the meal, and enjoyed the view out the window of the garden, and beyond that, the rolling green of meadows and hills, the Brandywine river a sparkling clear-blue curving stripe across the landscape. On a clear day, you could walk down to the riverbed and see as far down as the Buckleberry Ferry.
Later, as the sun was setting, and the Brandywine was a glowing orange swath snaking across the shire, Bilbo and Gandalf sat together under a twisted old Oak tree by the shore of the river, blowing smoke rings. Gandalf's floated about in a sort of dance, and then blew away.
Bilbo seemed to barely notice them, though. `How are things with the Elves, Gandalf? In Rivendell.'
Gandalf answered, `Much as they have been for the last age. Lord Elrond has been concerned of the whereabouts of the Necromancer, but I do not believe it is yet time for his move, and we cannot see him until he begins, if his plans are indeed to move against us. The Elves are much the same as always, though their rule in middle-earth may soon end. Some of Elrond's people have left these shores, and though it is merely a few, I feel more will follow.'
Bilbo frowned. `Oh, I do hope that the Elves don't leave us, Gandalf! I would very much like to visit Rivendell again.'
`You shall, I think. But enough of this. You've heard for too more than a Hobbit should care to: tell me what you have been doing.'
`My ninety-ninth birthday is coming soon, and I plan to throw a grand party. And do you know old Gamgee? His boy Samwise is a delightful young Hobbit! Has a lot of sense and such. I've employed him to take care of the garden and trim the grass. Delightful boy. I think he would get along well with . . .' Bilbo trailed off.
`Yes?' Gandalf prompted.
`Nothing,' said Bilbo. `Nothing at all. I was just thinking of my nephew, Frodo.'
`Bilbo Baggins, in all the years I've known you, you've not been known to feel uncomfortable talking. Now what is wrong?'
Bilbo exhaled loudly. `His parents have died, and I'm afraid the boy is far too young to take care of himself. Barely into his tweens! He's been staying with the Brandybucks, but he isn't happy there, I think. I've asked him to come stay with me, but I don't rightly know how to bring up a hobbit right.'
`Dear Bilbo, you claim to have Hobbit sense, yet you run off and do something far more adventurous than any of that business with the dragon!'
`Surely it won't be all that bad, will it Gandalf?' Bilbo scoffed.
Gandalf reached down to put his hand on Bilbo's shoulder, `Of course not.'
`You now I've got a reputation for being very queer for a Hobbit. Ever since the adventure with the Elves.'
`Which convinced me you're the finest Hobbit I've known since old Took,' Gandalf reassured him. `You needn't worry that your reputation will hurt the boy. I should very much like to meet him when he arrives!"
`Yes, yes,' said Bilbo, `I'd like that. He's coming tomorrow.'
* * *
Samwise Gamgee was trimming the hedges when he saw a lone, forlorn Hobbit - a rare site in the Shire - walking up the lane to Bag End. The Hobbit was carrying a bag, bulging with his possessions. He quietly walked up to the door and knocked.
For a moment, there was no answer, and Samwise thought he should go and talk to the sad young Hobbit, who looked about his own age. But then, the door opened. Bilbo was smiling, but it was a sad smile. Then he saw his nephew standing in his doorway, and the smile became real.
`Good morning! Said the young Hobbit.
`Good morning, Frodo Baggins!' Bilbo replied, `Welcome to Bag End.'
Samwise kept trimming the bushes, but made his way closer to the window so he could hear the voices inside.
`You remember Gandalf, don't you?' Bilbo was asking.
`Yes, I think so. He was here when we visited when I was little.'
Gandalf said, `And I remember you, young Master Baggins.'
Bilbo said, `Well, let's get you settled in, and then we shall have second breakfast!'
Bilbo gestured to the room that would be Frodo's. Frodo stepped through the door and into his bedroom. He sat his bag down. Outside in the kitchen, he could see his uncle, Bilbo, preparing ham and eggs and pouring glasses of fresh milk. Bilbo's face carried a kind, but weary expression. And somehow sad, even through his cheerful manner.
`They're gone forever, aren't they Uncle?'
Bilbo jerked his head up, startled, to see Frodo standing in the doorway to the kitchen. A single tear fell down his smooth face. `Frodo. Frodo, my dear lad.'
Frodo ran to Bilbo, and they held each other for a moment in a tender embrace.
`I miss them too,' said Bilbo.
Gandalf stepped over to the two Hobbits, half his size, and put his hands on them and wrapped his grey cloak around them as they wept together.
After a moment, the old wizard said, `Why don't you go outside and meet the gardener. I think the two of you would get along well.'
Frodo looked up at Gandalf's face. Then he nodded, and ran outside.
Gandalf the Grey turned to the elder Hobbit and said, `It was good of you to take the boy. I must be off. I shall be back to check on you both as often as I can.'
* * *
Samwise had seen all this unfold, and when Frodo stepped out the door, he was waiting nearby, trying to look busy cutting grass. Frodo watched him for a moment, then called out to him. `Good morning!'
`Good morning Mister Baggins!'
rodo laughed, `Just Frodo.'
Samwise said, `Oh! Of course, Mister Frodo. I'm Samwise Gamgee.'
`Hello Sam,' came the reply.
Episode 2 coming soon