Young Baggins- Part 4 - Coming of Age

Frodo returned to Brandy Hall to pack his things as Bilbo had the papers for Frodo inheritance drawn up. A good many of Frodo's cousins were sorrowful that Frodo was leaving, but none more than six-year-old Merry Brandybuck. Merry had stayed rather quiet as Frodo went about packing and sending off his things to Bag End, until the night before Frodo had planned to leave.

Frodo lay on his back, his mind wandering from thoughts of a grand inheritance, to a quiet home, and occasionally to Daisy Gamgee and Sam. As he lay there, he felt a small hand on his shoulder. He looked over and up at Merry's little silohuette.

"What are you doing up?" Frodo asked.

"Do you have to go?" Merry asked, sounding choked up.

"Now, Merry, it's not about having to. I want to," Frodo replied.

"Why?" Merry asked, his voice trembling, "Why do you want to leave us?" Frodo sat up and set a hand on Merry's shoulder.

"Merry," he said, "It has nothing to do with you," but Merry put his little arms around Frodo's neck. Frodo could feel hot tears seeping through the shoulder of his nightshirt.

"Yes, it does," Merry sobbed, in his small, pitiful voice, "I'm loud and smelly."

"Who said that?" Frodo asked, pulling Merry away and wiping his cheeks.

"Your aunt Asphodel," Merry said. Frodo nodded, knowingly. His mother's sister was loud herself, and often voiced her opinions on the state of the children.

"And you believed her?" Frodo asked. Merry nodded.

"Because it's true!" he exclaimed, "I am loud and Mum don't wash me enough. That's why you're leaving. It's me, you don't like me. But, Frodo you're my favorite!" Merry hugged Frodo tightly as he began to cry again.

"Merry, you've been my favorite, too," Frodo said, attempting to soothe his cousin, "We've had such jolly times together, and nothing says that that's got to stop. You can come and see me on weekends. Bilbo shan't mind at all, and there's a boy nearby who's near your age. Wouldn't you like that now?"

"I suppose," Merry said, curling up on Frodo's bed.

"Why don't you get on back to bed?" Frodo suggested.

"I can't sleep," Merry said, "Cousin Berilac is snoring again." Frodo could hardly hold back a chuckle, thinking of the unusually pudgy first cousin of Merry.

"Very well," Frodo said, lying down again and turning his back on Merry.

"I'll miss you, Frodo," Merry whispered. Frodo smiled to himself.

"I'll miss you too, Merry," he whispered back, but a moment's pause led him to realize that Merry had dozed off.

******

And so, Frodo, Drogo's son, came to live with Bilbo Baggins of Bag End. Frodo was visited quite often by Merry and, eventually, Merry's cousin, Peregirn, or Pippin, as Merry and Frodo decidedly dubbed the young ruffian. Pippin Took was a good 22 years younger than Frodo, but Frodo was still very fond of him and his mischievious ways.

The years passed in a whirlwind and, almost surprisingly, Frodo was fast-approaching thirty-three. Thirty-three is a special number among hobbits, for it is then that they "come of age", so it's rather like turning eighteen for you or me. It was also to be a special year, for Bilbo was turning 111, a rather curious number in itself. Their combined birthday party was to be the grandest one the Shire had seen in years.

It was Bilbo that kept everything running around and coming in, while Frodo followed what he was told. It was utter bedlam at Bag End, while Frodo and Bilbo packaged presents and invitations for nearly half the Shire. It was in those hours that Bilbo revealed his plans. *(contrary to the movie, in the book, Frodo was "in the know" about Bilbo's plan to leave.)*

"You will be coming of age soon, Frodo," Bilbo said, "and I do mean for you to come into your inheritance as well." Frodo stopped sealing the envelope in his hand and looked at Bilbo.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Frodo, I am old," Bilbo said, "Eleventy-one and I can feel it taking it's toll upon me. I know I don't look it, but I get so tired, Frodo. I want to get away and see things again. Perhaps the mountains or the forests, and find some place quiet to finish my book."

"I think it's rather quiet here," Frodo said, but he was interrupted by a loud knock and an all-too familiar voice.

"Bilbo! Frodo! I know you're at home!" It was Lotho Sackville-Baggins, Frodo sworn arch-rival. Frodo threw at paper weight at the door, shouting:

"No, thank you! We are taking no visitors!"

"My mother wishes to speak to you!" Lotho cried.

"I said, `No, thank you'!" Frodo replied. There was an utterance of "I never..." from Lobelia, then silence. Frodo looked back at Bilbo, meaning to apologize, but saw Bilbo's smug look, like a hobbit who had just made his point in a debate.

"Completely coinsidental," Frodo said, turning back to the invitations. Bilbo said nothing concerning their disturbance.

"It is all in hand, Frodo," Bilbo said, "Gandalf is coming, and he knows too. I shall leave after the party." Frodo perked up at the mention of the wizard's name, but kept silent as he made out another envelope. This would definetly be a party to remember.

******

While the days passed slowly for the youth of the Shire, there never seemed to be enough hours in a day for the Bagginses of Bag End. Carts of fireworks began to arrive at Bag End, which made Frodo and his neighbors uneasy to harbor explosives in their sheds. Gandalf arrived, which sent a spectacular wave of rumors through the Shire. The children were ecstatic, though the elders frowned upon the idea of fireworks. All the while, Frodo kept busy with the great number of orders coming in and out and the arrangements for the Party were enough to make any sensible hobbit lose his mind. The Gamgees helped some, but, on the whole, the two Bagginses really kept all the loose ends together.

The day before the Party dawned, and the sky became overcast. Frodo glanced out the kitchen window of Bag End at the progress near Bywater Pool, though he could see very little. He was uneasy about the weather, hoping that it would clear up by the next day. Bilbo had gone off with Gandalf somewhere, most likely on Party Business, though Bilbo had left a breakfast meal for Frodo. Bilbo was an excellent cook, although this particular meal was something new and it stuck to Frodo's teeth. He saw no way to get it out of his teeth, other than to wash and spit it out. Grabbing a cup of cold tea, Frodo took a great gulp, gargled a bit(that was always the fun part), and spit a clever wad of saliva out the kitchen window.

"Oh, now, that's unique," Frodo heard a familiar voice say, from out the window, "I don't think I've ever been greeted that way before." Frodo stuck his head out the kitchen window.

"Meli! Melilot Moss! I don't believe it!"

"Believe it, alright, and do be a gentlman and let me in. There's a drizzle and I'm wet." Frodo pulled his head inside, banging it on the shutter as he went, and rushed to the front door. He threw it open and Melilot, now a lovely, grown hobbit, stepped in on the mat, laughing.

"`Your head all right?" she asked, handing Frodo her cloak. Frodo shrugged.

"I'm fine," he said, "but you! When did you get here?"

"This morning," Melilot said, "You don't honestly think I'd miss my favorite cousin's coming of age, do you?"

"I feel terrible," Frodo said, "I forgot your's." Melilot shrugged, as if to dismiss the guilt Frodo felt.

"I came of age last year," Melilot said, "and I'm to be married next year."

"You have been busy!" Frodo exclaimed, "but do step into the sitting room. We can talk better in there. Excuse the mess." Melilot looked about at the papers and parcels strewn about.

"I like a house that looks lived in," she said. Frodo smiled. She hadn't changed a bit.

"Bilbo ran out of room for his book in his study, so he moved a good deal of his notes into the parlor," Frodo explained.

"That doesn't explain the breakfast dishes still out on the table," Melilot said, quietly. Frodo crimsoned.

"Er, that's my fault..." But Melilot only laughed.

"I don't care! You're bachelors, live as you please!" she said.

"Speaking of bachelors, what's this about you getting married?" Frodo asked, allowing her to sit.

"I'll be brief, since I know you're being polite and don't enjoy such subjects," Melilot said, "He's a Hornblower from Frogmorton. He's called Tolman, and I believe that he's related to your Gamgees, only I don't remember how."

"You met the Gamgees?" Frodo asked.

"I met Daisy Gamgee in Hobbiton this morning," Melilot eyed Frodo, "She's a lovely girl." Melilot could already read Frodo's thoughts concerning Miss Gamgee, and, for Frodo's sake, changed the subject.

"You haven't changed at all, Frodo," she said.

"But you have!" Frodo said, "Except your voice, I'd know that anywhere. I simply can't believe that you actually remembered my birthday all these years."

"It's become quite famous, Frodo," Melilot said, "with your uncle turning 111 and all. And I did get an invitation afterall."

"Did you? Bilbo must have sent it out," Frodo said, "Or I forgot I sent one. These past few weeks have been rather muddled." He stood up at this point, "There is a great deal of work to be done today, Meli, but you may stay as long as you like. The Party is tomorrow."

"I plan to be there."

******

When all the days chores had been accomplished and evening came with rain, Frodo and Melilot sat out on the doorstep of Bag End, under the overhang, and caught up with each other while Frodo smoked his pipe.

After a long pause in their conversation, Melilot looked inquisitively at Frodo's pipe and asked:

"May I try it?" Frodo looked at his pipe and back at his cousin.

"Are you sure? I don't think you'd like it," he said.

"Oh, please," Melilot pleaded, "I've watched Tolman do it and it looks so dignified. May I?" Frodo quirked an amused smile and handed the clay pipe to Melilot.

"I don't think you'll like it," he repeated. Melilot inhaled a deep breath and broke out into a coughing fit. With a trembling hand, she gave the pipe back to Frodo.

"You're right," she said, though a series of hackings and coughs, "It must be an aquired thing." Frodo only laughed and then blew an artful smoke ring. Somewhat comforted by the smoke ring, Melilot stopped coughing and laughed a bit herself.

"You know, Frodo," she said, "it's a tradition in my family to give out advice when one comes of age. I've only been of age a year, but since you are family, I'd like to attempt to give advice to you." Frodo sat back and looked at Melilot.

"I'm listening," he said. Melilot paused, thinking, and turned to face Frodo.

"The morning of my birthday, I wondered if I should have felt some change," she began, "I had, afterall, just reached some great milestone of the life of a hobbit, so I should have felt different. Was I leaving behind something? Was I starting something new? Not really. Our lives are journeys, Frodo, taking us to queer places we didn't think we'd see. Each hobbit's journey is different. Some may see queerer things than others. But each is the same in one thing."

"What's that?" Frodo asked.

"We all see changes," Melilot said, "and we all see an end, but only one, mind you. So, in a sense, coming of age isn't leaving behind anything or starting something new. It's just taking a different turn. It's rather comforting to know that things haven't changed; you're just looking at them differently. But do this much: never take for granted the journey that you've been given. Even at times it may seem like your journey is the worst that anyone could ever have, it's better than not ever having one at all." Melilot took hold of Frodo's face in her hands, "Follow your journey with all your heart. Look to the present as though there's no tomorrow. And never give up the chance to help someone else, even if it may seem like you will not receive anything in return."

"Rather reminds me of a song Bilbo wrote," Frodo said, starting to hum to himself.

"I'd like to hear it sometime," Melilot said, "but right now, I need to head into Hobbiton for some last minute Party Business your uncle wanted me to take care of." She stood and headed down the Hill, calling, "I shan't be long!"

Frodo stood, thinking about what Melilot said. She was right: to say that his journey had ended would be untrue, and to say that rather it had begun would be, on the whole, sappy and false. His journey only continued ever one, yes, that was it: ever on. The Road goes ever on and on...

Frodo looked back, but Melilot had disappeared down the Hill. Frodo smiled to himself as he looked around at how far his journey had brought him. Indeed, he had come a long way from being a young Baggins.

------The End!

Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed these short posts on young Frodo Baggins. From the comments I've gotten, Frodo's tales have gone over quite well, so I'll be writing on Merry next. Please, in your comments, include questions you would like answered about Merry. I'll be taking suggestions, because I don't know quite enough about Merry! Look for the "Young Brandybuck" posts coming soon! Long life to the Halflings! ~Ainariel~

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