PART TWO: THE SEARCH BEGINS….
Frodo, Sam and Rosie sat around the mahogany table of Bag End, eating in silence. At least, Sam and Rosie were eating. Frodo appeared to have lost his appetite (which was almost unheard of for a hobbit!) Husband and wife exchanged worried glances.
“Mr Frodo?” Sam’s voice brought the hobbit out of his musings. “Is there somethin’ wrong?
“What?” He replied, only half-listening. Raising his eyes, he saw the anxious expression that crossed his friends’ faces, before dropping his gaze to the untouched plate of food. The scent of steak pie, normally so appetising, made his stomach churn. Even the aroma of fresh baking made him feel nauseous. It was a tragic day indeed when food made a hobbit feel ill!
Frodo rose from his seat. “Sorry, Rosie. I’m just… Not hungry. The food looks delicious, though,” he added, seeing her crestfallen expression. “Save me some for later?” She nodded. “Well!” He yawned. “I’m off to bed. See you in the morning.”
“He’s hardly eating!” Sam said when Frodo was out of earshot. “And he’s always sleeping! What’ll we do?”
“This party will cheer him up!” Rosie replied, although in her heart she wasn’t entirely sure whether she believed herself. Still, she had to be strong. For Sam.
“You’re right!” Her husband declared. You have to be, he thought. For Mr Frodo’s sake, you HAVE to be!
Old Took’s study was a place of intrigue to young hobbits. All the Took children were enchanted by tales of their famous ancestor, and his friendship with Gandalf, the wizard. They had grown up, surrounded by tales of adventure, and of course, Gandalf’s fireworks. For some, however, this fascination was more than a childhood whim.
“Are you really sure this is gonna work?” Pippin whispered, as he and Merry crept through the darkened hall.
“Peregrin Took!” Merry replied with mock sincerity. “Are you abandoning me now? After all we’ve been through? The Orcs, the Uruk-Hai, the battles, the adventures! You’re just gonna abandon your best friend in the world!”
“Shut up!” Pippin hissed, his eyes darting furtively from side to side. “Of course I’m not abandoning you. Who d’you think I am; a Sackville-Baggins?”
“Good!” He patted the hobbit’s back encouragingly. “That’s the spirit! Now, onwards!”
Slinking through the shadows of Old Took’s private hobbit hole, the two companions tiptoed across the hall, until they reached their destination. Merry cautiously placed his hand on the door handle. Inhaling a sharp breath, he gingerly opened the pine door.
“This place obviously hasn’t been cleaned in a long time!” Merry declared, brushing a cobweb away from his face. “Look at the state of it!”
Pippin wiped the dust off a portrait hanging above the fireplace, unveiling a golden frame. He blew softly on the glass, smudging away years of debris. As the picture came into view, he gasped.
“Merry, look!” He tugged on his friend’s sleeve. “It’s Old Took! It’s a portrait on Old Took! And he looks just like Bilbo!”
Merry squinted in the dark. “You’re right!” He felt unnerved by those eyes that stared sightlessly at him. The same accusing gaze that Bilbo had thrown at him many a time in his youth. Then, he shook his head. “We’re not here to look at portraits of Old Took; We’re here to look for fireworks!”
“How can we be sure Gandalf left any here in the first place?”
“Because, my dear cousin,” Merry replied condescendingly, wagging a finger at his friend. “Old Took was famous for throwing his firework parties; even when Gandalf was in foreign lands. Now, how could he possibly do that if Gandalf hadn’t left any here at Took hall? Hmm…?”
“Oh, shut up and look for the things!”