Mapmaker's Quest - Chapter II
A long two hours was spent on Milrog's bended knees. As he gazed from cottage to cottage, and finally to the old, broken down in with the sign of the prancing pony, he was lost for words. But huge, boiling tears welled in his eyes, for great tales had he heard of this place, and as a child always had he desired to go there. It was here, in Bree, that the most traditional songs had begun and ended. It was the only town that was in the least bit conservative, for it was greatly secluded from the rest of Middle Earth. Here men had supposedly lived in peace with little half-men, as the ancient stories said. The Halflings they were called, but they named themselves Hobbits. And the Bree Hobbits had been the kindest and most mischievous of them all.
As he began to run out of tears, he found himself rising to his aching legs. He shook his fist at the sun and cursed the great King of Gondor thrice. Clearly if anyone had been in power to prevent this, it was the King. For this would the King pay. For this and for taking his children from him, along with his wife, would the King be beaten to his knees before the might of Milrog the Mighty, Lord of the North!
He began to stumble forward, only to realize that these thoughts were truly meaningless. Never would he regain the ancient freedom with this king on the throne.
"Curse his name and all who praise it!" Cried he finally from the top of his lungs, breaking the silence like a wave upon rock. "Curse this unhappy day that he lives and breathes and yet lets his people die. Curse the stone city upon which he broods! Curse the Jeweled Kingdom of Minas Tirith and the White Tower of Ecthelion!"
"Aih," a soft voice from behind replied to the cry. "I know what this plea be, pure, unconditional, and not for you but for others."
Looking behind him, Milrog saw with his blood-red eyes, the figure of a strong man; old but strong. His gray beard was tucked into his yellow belt, which matched his bright yellow boots and weather-worn blue jacket. His hand was coarse, and his eye was keen, and his marvelous voice struck through the arid desert into the broken heart of Milrog.
"Aih," he repeated. "Tom knows what ails you, for also is it in his own thoughts. Though I be eldest, I'll not yield from admitting that there are some things in which we two are not so unalike."
Even through his wavering lips, Milrog managed to mutter, "Who be you?"
"A song, a joy, a mystery," replied the eldest; "this is what I once was. But who I am now, I do not know." A look of awe appeared in his eyes, as he raised his unblinking blue pupils to the sky. "I do not know," he repeated, "I do not know."
"What eh? Don't you know my name?" His attention was no refocused on Milrog. "That's the only answer. For who are you without your name?" As he said these words a new light appeared in his eyes, a younger light if just by a bit.
"That was what I once claimed," he said after a long pause. "But even Tom doesn't know who Tom is anymore. For who are ye without yer life-long companion? But who am I? Where be you a-treading my fair River Daughter? Where now blows your golden hair in the breeze?"
These were two men, the saddest combination I ever have come by. But the second wasn't exactly a man. For he was eldest. Nor was he an elf either, but the eldest. And certainly nothing of the like to the dwarves, for he was eldest.
Had Milrog searched his childhood, he might have found memories of the old tales. The ones that had at one time been constantly told from nurse to boy, the stories about a jolly old saint, who lived in the woods with his fair wife, Goldberry. His name was Tom Bombadil, but even if Milrog had remembered these tales, hardly would Tom resemble what he truly appeared to be.
Then the eldest spoke.
"Bless this power that has come to take from me my pains! Bless this man who will one day find the strength to bring down the wicked king! Bless this earth on which I stand, for it is the creation of Illuvatar, and bless this earth while it lasts under the protection of the Valar, even while they grow wearier each day. Bless this shambled appearance that takes away that which once shown true. Bless this disguise through which I am portrayed. Bless this helplessness of us all, for only by such designs as that of Illuvatar will we rescue this world from condemnation!"
With these thoughts Milrog was lifted to his feet again, for he had fallen to his knees, by Tom Bombadil himself, who meanwhile had a smile in his eyes, but no expression on his lips. And was led by the arm to a thatch-roofed cottage, though lonely, very humble and satisfactory. And here Tom and Milrog wept and laughed together for many long days. And here Tom showed Milrog that in truth, "There is always hope left".
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