Down from the Door

"Now this is an important quest, so I want you all to be sensible and not wander off in search of mushrooms or anything like that," announced Sam Gamgee to the five young hobbits ranged in front of him in their finest outdoor clothing.

A quest! Five pairs of bright eyes danced with excitement at the word.

In truth the overnight journey was hardly to be perilous, or else the three King's Officers of the Shire would not be sending their children on the errand. All three fathers had agreed that it would do the youngsters good to enjoy the spring weather with a long walk, while they themselves discussed important Shire business that evening. Thus it was decided that Merry, Pippin and Goldie Gamgee, Faramir Took and Theo Brandybuck should walk to Michel Delving, stopping overnight with the Brankins, good friends of Mrs Took's family, who kept a farm on the edge of the town.

"This," said Sam, holding up a long package, "is to be delivered safely to Mr Ramsden at the Mathom House in Michel Delving tomorrow morning."

"What is it Dad?" asked Pippin.

"It's copies of some of Mr Bilbo's old maps. They ought to be where other hobbits can take a look at them," said Sam, carefully handing the package to Merry while staring down his two younger children who had reached out to carry the package. Merry was a sensible and responsible lad, Sam thought. The maps might be purely an excuse for the walk, but he'd still rather they were looked after properly.

"But that's not a proper quest," said Theo, his face screwed up with disappointment. The voice of the youngest adventurer took on a slightly babyish whine as he went on. "Not like Bilbo's quest. You're sending us to get rid of the things. We ought to have to find something, like a mighty sword." Despite his best efforts to remind himself that Theo was only a child, Sam felt his jaw tighten slightly at the words. He glanced sidelong at his two friends and noted their faces whitening slightly with suppressed anger and thoughts of things long past.

Faramir leaned down to his little second cousin's ear and hissed in a loud stage whisper. "Of course it's a proper quest Theo, Uncle Frodo's journey with our Dads was to get rid of something wasn't it?"

The littlest hobbit's eyes widened in surprise and his lower lip wobbled. Just as Sam thought the lad was about to burst into tears at the realisation of what he had said, Theo's father leapt in with a distraction pretty well guaranteed to work with young hobbits.

"Well, we must arrange the provisions for this quest."

Cold sausages, pickles, apples, fruit cakes and bread rolls were soon being stuffed into the hobbits' knapsacks.

While the other four tried to squeeze just one more seed cake into Pippin Gamgee's pack, Sam drew his son to one side. "Now listen Merry," he said. "I know there's not much danger out there and you're a sensible lad who can look after himself, but Theo's only a tiny thing and Farry's not long back on his feet. You be sure an' take good care of them."

"Of course I will Dad," said the youngster, glowing a little with pride at the responsibility. Sam threw his arms around the lad for a rough cuddle and laughed. "Looks like marvellous weather for a walk, I almost wish I was coming too."

Their packs readied, the five adventurers lined up on the doorstep of Great Smials. Their foreheads were duly kissed, their hair ruffled and then they turned their feet towards the road. Sam watched them fondly.

Pippin and Theo set off almost at a run, with Goldie skipping along behind them making up an adventuring song largely consisting of nonsense words. Merry was about to launch into his own typical swinging stride when he spotted the small frown on Farry's face.

"Don't worry, they'll soon wear themselves out at that pace," he said.

Farry blushed bright crimson. "I'm afraid it will be a slow walk with me holding you all up," he said, pouting as he stared down at his twisted foot.

Merry stopped and swung off his small pack. "Can you fit this on your back?" he asked. The smaller hobbit nodded, puzzled but took the pack and fitted it over his own. "Jump on!" said Merry, turning his back to offer a piggy-back ride.

With Faramir and two packs upon his back, Merry staggered obviously trying to find his balance, then broke into a trot. Both he and his rider laughed aloud as they wobbled their way through the garden gate and set off along the road in a hobbley-de-hoy fashion.

The last thing the three fathers heard as their children disappeared out of sight was Goldie's voice pleading with Pippin that she might also be allowed a ride.

The elder Pippin, Thain Peregrin Took, gazed after them wistfully. "He's a lucky lad my Faramir," he said. "He's got a Merry and a Gamgee all rolled into one."

Sam smiled proudly, pleased with his son's loyalty and kindness. Merry Brandybuck put a reassuring hand on Pippin's shoulder. "He's a determined lad too," he said. "He's walking better and better. He'll be alright once the younger ones tire enough to drop off their speed."