The Star Catcher - 1 - A Three Part Story Set in Middle-Earth
The young hobbit smiled. Once a day, and often more than that if he could manage it, he had come quick as his feet would bear him to the secret place. For two whole weeks he had laboured in search of what he then grasped between his fingers. Alas the day had come, and as he held up the small note and grinned, his story began.
On that early summer morning he had set out like any other. After a quite splendid breakfast of which seconds and thirds were of absolute necessity (of course)he grabbed his school tablet, a rather thick sugar stick, and darted across the polished main hall of his hole. Just as he reached the rounded doorway his name rang out from the parlor. He grimaced for a second, straightened his shirt collar a bit, then slowly took a step backwards as he peered in. "And where pray tell might one Ian Oldenbuck be tramping off to at this early hour," said the voice. Ian spoke softly, "Mum remember I have the elf scrolls to study with Doric today." His mother spoke not as soft, "ah yes today being the day of the end exam at Brandyhall...correct?" She was sitting backturned to Ian as she knitted one of his fathers winter coats. The fireplace behind her glowed across her face as she turned. Ian looked at the ground. She gazed sternly at him for only a moment until a smile, soft and sweet, came across her face as she seemed to sigh. "Very well make haste if you must, but study hard for when your father returns from Hobbiton ere tomorrow eve, he shall like to know that his son hasn’t been idle from his studies."
Slowly Ian put his hands awkwardly in his pockets. "Yes I mean, I will mum, he said with a bit of a laugh then turned down the hall again. His mother looked down at her knitting as she whispered to herself, "school work aye, and I’m the dragon Smaug from that shiner Bilbos story." Even as she spoke he was already far from his hole.
Ian fled quickly through the small lanes that ran across his fathers estate. Row upon row of tilled land he passed. Carrot and onion being of the most abundant. He knew the route well and took scarce notice of anything save the dirt path that fell below his feet. For ten generations his lineage had dwelled on the southern reaches of Buckland. It was there on his fathers modest farm that he had lived the whole of his twenty five summers. And quite the ambitious tween to his parents grievment he had become.
You see ever since he was a mere child he always found himself tracing the horizons as hobbits call it. "Where can the great sea be found?" he often demanded of his older brother as they worked the field. Terriac would only laugh until at last at wits end one day he replied that he would throw him square in the Brandywine if he, "so desired the answer." Strangely Ian never asked his brother many questions of that sort again. But that didn’t stop his curiosity. Quite the contrary it seemed to others.
His father for instance would often bear his constant inquisitiveness. "Tell me," Ian was apt to say at the supper table. "What do you know of dwarves and there caverns of gold, or perhaps of the big folk from the south? Please do tell of the mountains of lore where terrible dragons lay nest in fire and ash. What do you say, shall we go see them one day?"
His father would usually answer in something that sounded like, "Oh Ian my son,places as those aren’t for hobbit eyes to behold if they do at all exist anymore. Listen here, tarry not in such affairs but do, pass another cream cake if you would!" Yet Ian never stopped meddling as it were, even as he grew of age. And every so often, usually perhaps on a party day, when father was known to be generous with his wine cup he would hear tales, beautiful tales, spun of those far off places he so sought.
The words that came from his father dry voice those times made him very nearly swoon in delight. He would speak of many things, long frogotten kingdoms of men and elves, mighty deeds of valor won on distant battlefield, countless upon countless towers, cities, and valleys all with strange names in strange tongues that rang like a bell in his hobbit ears. All these he would listen to with such intent and desire that often he would have to pulled to bed quite unhappily by Terriac.
It was with this love for the unknown, the unseen, that burned in his heart as he neared the southern most edge of his fathers land that day. He came now trotting slowly and breathing hard from his dash through the fields. Before him lay a little hedge that marked the edge of there farm. He stopped there for a moment as he gazed forward. A league or so behind the boundary several small downs rose upwards to the wide and open marches that fell to the west and south of Buckland.
The sun was beating down hard now, even for the early morning hour, as he hopped over the little hedge and made his way for a line of dark green that lay at the foot of the nearest mound. He whistled softly as he once again picked up his pace on the grassy slope. Quite suddenly a swift brush of wind from the west blew across the quite plain. It fell cool and refreshing, and for a moment seemed to carry a distant tune on its heels. He closed his eyed for a bit then laughed as he opened them and looked around.
The Shire was looking even more ordinary that usual or so he thought. The green of the downs before him, the yellow tipped butterflies that swam in the air above, his fathers farm that fell back as far as the eye could see with its never ending lines stretching into the hazy morning. Ordinariness, yes now that was a word or rather thing of mind that he come to fear as much as maybe anything he had ever known. What force, brought this yearning? This desire in him that gripped him but left nearly every other hobbit, save maybe a few others, (of whom you might have heard) content at a life of ease. He himself could not explain this even after much thought and as he took his small pipe out for a moment then placed it away he rather thought he didn’t care.
The first mound now drew near now. There at its level base a small arc of Dewberry bushes grew tightly together. Here he paused and stood on his toes as he spied all around him. His eyes were keen and though he was confident he had never been seen entering the secret place he took no comfort nonetheless when enter it he did in the broad light of day. Crouching down to his knees he then pushed aside a hidden cut out section and climbed quickly within. Inside there was a small hollow space from which all sides including the sky was seethed neatly by the thorny arms of the bush.
As he turned he immedadlty froze. There on the floor behind him lay a small pile of wood tucked neatly in a corner. But it was one rather long and odd shaped piece on top that caught his eye. For that it was in that very piece he had told Juliana to leave it, her reply, of which he had waited two weeks. And there it was finally, on that very top rift of wood he could now clearly see a piece of brown parchment slipped in a crack.
She was a friend of Ian’s, Juliana that is. She was also of the high and proud Brandybuck family of which all in that land knew quite well of course. They had met there in fact, at Brandyhall, while at the party of her great uncle the old tubbard Resell Brandbuck last summer. Being of much the same age as himself and holding a ceartain charm to her he had grown somewhat fond of her company though he led or at least tried to lead himself to belief otherwise.
Hastily he grabbed the note and paused, looking around senselessly. He then tore it open at last and began reading.
I have spent much thought and finally decided against my better sense and judgment I believe that yes, I will go with you on this adventure as you call it, if for no other reason than to keep you from being devoured needlessly from some wild beast that you would try to pet or tame for your own rabid curiosity. I shall
meet you at the lone oak at dusk tonight, the 23 of Thrimidge. I must go this night for reasons I shall speak of later.
Your protector, Juliana
Ian held up the note and smiled though after a moment it faltered as he spoke aloud. "But the twenty third, wait that is today, and I have the final exam, and all the precautions, we shall need proper clothes, water, and food. Oh yes, pastries, bread and fruits but what about." It was at that very moment a voice rang so clear and sharp that Ian fell backwards and cried out in pain as he brushed his arm on the thorny wall behind.
A laugh came from the entrance as the fair face of a girl looked in at the rather amusing sight. "Well I see you are in dire need of rescue already" said the girl. Ian got up quite embarrassed as he noticed the two bundles that Juliana bore behind her. "I thought you wanted to meet tonight at the..." She grabbed his hand and pulled him out as she spoke, "well the plans changed a little and anyhow when I stopped by your house your mother said that you had gone to study so I of course knew you came here!"
Ian looked down at the bundle she had hastily thrust in his arms. "Of course" he declared solemnly as he went on, "yes well if that isn’t quite the wise reckoning of a wizard then..." Her grin grew wide as she waited for Ian who was now fumbling furiously to strap his bundle as he grew even louder and more impatient in speech. "And I should hope that before night fall wherever we are in the vast unknown of middle earth you shall find me so fit, yes so fit mind you, to bestow upon my ears even a little of this immeasurable wit you attain," he said. Julia walked halfway up the little mound and gazed down, "Anything else" she yelled back. Ian glared at the ground pouting, "yes and I have an end exam in elven runes today so I cant very well leave until I take..."
But before he had finished Juliana had already reached the top of the ridge and was pointing out to the distant southern skies as she yelled, "Look yonder I see the flight of...an eagle I believe, tis a good omen." Ian hearing this quickly ran up the green hill as he himself began to scream wildly, "An eagle where? where? Let us set off at once...for the world unseen that awaits!" And with that the two hobbits left all worry behind and soon broke into merry song that carried them far away.
(to be continued...)