Mapmaker's Quest - Chapter IV
"So, land do we make for first?" Asked Milrog looking long at his companion. They had been walking west for several miles and the woods still looked exactly the same. The baggage pony was the only one completely free of weariness and Milrog was quite ready for a stop.
"We are presently in what was once the Green-Hill Country," replied Tom, "but the woods have overgrown the place so much I hardly recognize it."
"I don't know why I keep up mapping this forsaken place, it isn't as if the king would want to know anything of the Shire, unless it was just another people he could conquer."
"We may need such maps in the future," said Tom. "Please don't give it up. But if we go north from here, we shall hit the old Great East Road, and from there we may travel north to the land called Bywater, it is likely the first place we are to come by the Hobbits."
"Hobbits?" Asked Milrog. "I've never before heard such a thing. Please, what is a hobbit?"
"Half-grown hobbits, the hole dwellers.
That's what all is said of them now, these hard days. Rarely they allow themselves into the sight of a man, especially in the Buckland. We may have come by some already, but you and I would never have seen them. They vanish in an instant, into the thick forests. They haven't trusted any man since the Scouring of Bree-Hill."
Tom followed this with a great silence; Milrog began to wearily drag his feet on the dirt. "Everything seems so depressing now," Tom finally said. "As if morning will never come again, as if the Men and the Halflings will never again find housing together bearable. Indeed it's as if the dwarves have ceased to care of anything but gold anymore and the elves know nothing but the sanctuary of the woods, the sanctuary of their strongholds, and the sanctuary of everlasting Valinor."
"But there is hope," said Milrog, "and we few are selected to kindle it. We few who remain true to the world will revive the old alliances of elves and men and dwarves and hobbits, even if it becomes the death of us all. That's what you told me, there is always hope left."
"But the past seems so dark, and how could the future be very different?"
"But the future will only be dark if we fail, and what then? Shall Valinor be some curse we may eternally hate? But if we succeed where the others have not, if we complete the journey others have lingered on and lost, if I can complete the new Map of Middle Earth Reunited, then..."
"Then what?" asked Tom quite suspiciously.
"Then, my friend," he answered, "the will sing of this day.
"They Will Sing Of This Day."
Old Tom weakly smiled as they hit the old, worn, clearly beaten, Great East Road. It was just as Tom remembered it and Milrog mapped it down immediately.
"So we're to follow this north aye?" asked Milrog of his companion.
"That seems to be the plan," replied Tom, "stride on forth."
The clustered trees now let them out into complete open space to where they could see that they were at the top of hill. And on a nearby hill of about the same size, a large, white, wooden gate rose up and made a rectangle around a very approximate land. The entire town Milrog estimated to be about six hundred square feet, using the measurements of King Ellessar III. He was quite experienced in those areas because of his great skill at mapmaking. But the duo circled around the fence to find the door entrance, which was but four feet high but rather lengthy sideways. Tom put up his fist and softly knocked on the door.
It was opened by a very old woman, who admitted them entrance under the condition that they were to see the Mayor. And so they were received by the Mayor outside, for no inn or hole was large enough to keep them comfortable. The Mayor was a very kind fellow, who gave them leave to sleep inside what he called "steadfast walls", but in no house as no bed fit accordingly. But they would gladly stable his pony and give them what small food they had to spare.
Milrog accepted the moldy bread but Tom waved it away.
"We did not come to take food from you, but to give you back food," he said, even as Milrog began to consciously chew his bread, "for if you are willing to cooperate, we will refurnish this land to be what it was in the golden ages." Though the attempted bravery was strong, the Mayor would here none of it.
"And by cooperation I suppose you mean putting us and several others in danger just so that you can relive glory days eh? But we can live with the new times, who says we want golden ages when the Mithril age is but upon us."
"You can tear down your walls and gates, trust everyone again, repopulate this desolate land, cut down trees for lodging and timber. You will be able to grow fields of wheat without hesitation and reap the benefits for no one but themselves," suggested Tom.
"Who says we want to tear down our gates and trust everyone?" the Mayor replied, outraged. "And if we refuse to give fifty percent of our profiting wheat fields to the King he will release us from his good will and his protection from oppressors."
"Oppressors?" Snorted Milrog with his mouth half full of food. "The only ones oppressing you right now are the Gondorians and the followers of those kings."
The Mayor sighed,
"You may be completely right, and maybe I'm just been a fool for all these years. But you can't possibly think that we can undo what the mightiest king has done?"
"He is not the mightiest," said a voice from one of the smallest and dirtiest hobbit-holes in the village. An old, ragged man came out of the dense hole, assisted at the arm by a young hobbit-lad. He shook his cane threateningly at the Mayor for saying such a thing and repeated, "He is surely not the mightiest king."
"My great-grandfather speaks of Manwe, lord of the skies," spoke the boy. "And also of Mandos, the great Vala of fate. Prying into elvish things all his years, it is all he knows. But the elves know better than any of us, Eru knows that."
"What is your name boy?" Asked Milrog.
"Ultho," the boy replied, "Ultho Sackville-Baggins."
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