Notes to Readers:
Please be sure to leave a review! They are very motivating, and each review you leave entitles you to a free cup of cyber-tea in the parlour (The Muse and I do try to make our guests feel welcome). What you are seeing here is the edited draft. (Thanks to my editor—you know who you are!)
Here is the first chapter of the sequel to "The Rebel". It is sixty-some chapters long and will take several months to get through, at the rate of a chapter every other day, but it ties up lots of loose ends left in the previous story. You will notice some duplication between the end of "The Rebel" and the beginning of this story, since it is written to stand alone without having to go back and read the previous tale. Hope you don't mind too much.
"Runaway" will be updated with a new chapter on Monday. Another chapter after that is in the works and you'll see it as soon as we can get it finished (Thanks, Jodancingtree!). Thank you for your patience.
Bookworm, Xena, Aemilia Rose, Hai, and FantasyFan, thanks for reviewing the final chapter of "The Rebel". I appreciated the input on what you'd like to see next—if you were tired of Freddy, I'd hold off on this story awhile, but here goes...
Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. -- Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Land of the Shadow"
After the Fairbairns had properly greeted Samwise, taking from him his soaking cloak, showing him to the best chair in the parlour, propping his feet before the fire and giving him a cup of tea fixed to his taste (after each grandchild had taken a turn bestowing a hug and a kiss, of course), the whole family settled down about him, the littlest ones on the hearthrug, the biggest ones scattered about on chairs, with little Rose on the footstool at her grandfather's feet, playing with the snowy curls atop his toes.
'Minds me of how you used to read to us after supper, Dad,' Elanor said, picking up some small breeches with a tear in one knee and applying her needle to their repair. 'Do you remember how we'd gather round, all who were old enough to sit up, and hear the tales from the Red Book?'
'Indeed I do, Ellie,' Sam replied, a twinkle in his eye. 'Would you like to hear more tales from the Red Book?'
'More tales?' she said, puzzled. 'I thought we'd heard all there was to hear... have you written more, Dad, on those blank pages Mr Frodo left for you?'
'No, Ellie,' Sam said, 'at least, not any more than you've already seen. But Ruby was doing some clearing out in the study the other day and ran acrost some papers fallen behind some books. You know how Mr Frodo would just lay a sheaf of papers on top of the books on a shelf when unexpected visitors came...'
'Yes,' Ellie laughed. 'You told me how it used to drive Rose-mum to distraction, when he'd lose a page and ask her if she'd moved it when she was dusting!' Sobering, she wiped away a tear at the thought of her mother, gone now, though it hardly seemed possible.
'Well, evidently he wrote these in the Spring before he went away, just before he had his bad spell in March, and so when he misplaced them, he didn't even miss them, later,' Sam said soberly. 'At least, that is what I think happened.'
'What papers, Dad?' Fastred said, drawing on his pipe.
'Elfstan,' Sam said to the tallest lad, two years short of coming of age!—how quickly they grew up, he thought. 'You go get that package you took off the pack-pony when you unloaded him for me, and bring it here.'
'Yes, Grandad,' Elfstan answered, disappearing out of the parlour, going to the guest room and finding the wanted item in the baggage laid neatly in the corner. It was large and bulky, wrapped in oiled cloth and tied about with twine. Elanor obligingly supplied her scissors, and soon the curious children were helping Samwise unwrap the treasure from its layers of oiled cloth and thin paper wrappings.
'The Red Book!' Elanor breathed when the object came to light. 'Dad, you brought it from Bag End? You risked it, in this weather, taking it here and back again?'
'Not back again, Ellie,' Sam said calmly. 'It's here to stay. I want you to keep it for me.'
Ellie sat in shock, while Fastred gave his father-in-love a sharp glance, nodding at what he read in the creases of the old face.
'I suppose it is a boon for the grandchildren to hear the stories,' Ellie said. 'But the book is so big, you'll have to make it an awfully long visit, Dad!'
'I'll stay as long as need be,' Sam said with a smile. 'As long as need be,' he repeated softly, caressing the fine leather of the binding, then he opened the book up. 'Come here, Ellie, look at this!'
Putting down her mending, she got up from her chair and came over. Carefully glued in after the last pages written by Mr Frodo, more pages had been added. She saw, written in Frodo's firm flowing script:
The Greening of the Shire
What Happened after the Scouring of the Shire
An Account of the Shire-folk after the War of the Ring
The Healing of the Shire
...all crossed out, followed by what Mr Frodo might have intended for the title after all:
A Small and Passing Thing
'How curious!' Elanor exclaimed. 'It sounds... familiar somehow, as if I'd heard it before.'
'What's it about, Grandad?' Ten-year-old Frodo-lad piped up. 'Can we hear the story?'
A chorus of eager agreement met this statement, and Elanor pretended to sigh in exasperation. She put her hands on her hips and said, 'You know I'll never get them off to bed, now, unless you read the story...'
'Well, then,' Sam said with equanimity. 'I suppose we had better get started...'
Note to readers: As this story overlaps "The Rebel", there will be some material in common in early chapters.
Chapter 1. Every Ruffian's Worst Nightmare
The day that the ruffians hauled Lobelia Sackville-Baggins off to the Lockholes is a day that will live long in infamy. In disreputable public houses, deep in the shadowy corners where Men speak in whispers and bags of coins change hands under the table, her name is whispered even now, and Men shudder and fall silent.
You would not think a dozen ruffians would be needed to escort an elderly—nay, ancient!—hobbit matron from Hobbiton to Michel Delving in fine autumnal weather, but in truth, the dozen were nearly not enough.
'Lo, she's a tough old bird,' one ruffian whispered to another as they traipsed along in the dust, Mistress Lobelia walking briskly, swinging her umbrella, muttering threats and imprecations.
She might be old, but she was not deaf. Indeed, she possessed hearing of unusual sharpness and clarity.
'Young MAN!' she screeched, and the ruffians fought the impulse to cover their ears. 'Young MAN! Show more RESPECT towards your ELDERS!' She went back to muttering, saying indignantly, 'Old bird, indeed! HAH!'
They stopped often along the way, to allow Mistress Lobelia to take refreshment, or take care of, er, necessities. If not for the sheepish Men following her with whips and clubs dangling from their hands, the old hobbit might have been on a rest-day stroll. When they stopped overnight at the Shirriff's house in Waymeet, the chief Shirriff himself gave up his bed, with more bowing and scraping than he ever showed the ruffians. However, no ruffian dared comment on the fact.
At the Lockholes, the scribe taking the names of arriving prisoners looked up. 'What's this?' he asked boredly.
'SHOW some RESPECT, young MAN!' Lobelia said in piercing tones.
'New prisoner,' the head of the ruffian escort replied wearily. He was thankful to be turning his charge over to others, to go back to the mundane tasks of bullying the hobbits of Bywater and Hobbiton.
'Name?' the scribe said, only to have the very sharp end of an irate hobbit matron's umbrella poked painfully into his chest.
'Were you addressing ME, you SCOUNDREL?' Lobelia shrieked. 'Is THAT any way to address your BETTERS?'
'No ma'am,' the scribe said hastily. 'If you please, ma'am,' he said, fearing she might spit him on her improvised sword, 'What is your name?'
'If you had any brains at all, which I rather doubt,' she said scathingly, withdrawing her umbrella and straightening to her full diminutive height, 'you'd know who I am.'
'For the record, ma'am,' he said, but did not question further, simply began to write on the next numbered line, "Lobelia Sackville-Ba..."
'Abominable!' she frothed. 'Your handwriting is absolutely appalling! Wherever did you learn your craft? You have the temerity to call yourself a scribe?'
So quickly that he didn't quite know how it all happened, she snatched the quill from him, dipped it in the ink, and wrote with a flourish, in beautiful copperplate, "Lobelia Sackville-Baggins". Her large, handsome script took up four of the numbered lines, but looking into the stern face, the scribe decided it was not worth mentioning as she threw down the quill and stared him down.
'You're Number ninety-seven,' he said in a placating voice, but it wasn't placating enough. The umbrella came up menacingly.
'WHAT did you say?' she hissed.
'That—that's what they'll call you, here, Number ninety-seven,' he stammered. 'That's your number.'
'They will call me "Mistress Sackville-Baggins", or "Mistress Lobelia", or simply "Mistress" if they know what's good for them,' she snapped.
'Yes'm,' the scribe said meekly, eyes on the umbrella. He wondered why none of the other ruffians had tried to take the umbrella away from the old biddy, and why they were allowing her to menace him with the sharp tip.
'Very well!' Mistress Lobelia said imperiously, turning to the chief of the ruffians here in the Lockholes. She knew he was the chief because of the armband he wore, a convenience adopted by the ruffians to let the halflings know which ruffians were more in charge than others. 'Let us proceed! It is nearly teatime, and I would like to refresh myself before taking tea!'
'Yes, Mistress,' the chief said, eyeing the umbrella. 'Right this way.' He gestured towards the open doorway. As they proceeded, he made a grab for the umbrella, but Lobelia was faster. Whack! the umbrella struck sharply against a tender part of the ruffian's anatomy, and he yelped in pain.
'Let that be a lesson to you,' Lobelia said sternly. When the ruffian was stupid enough to try the trick again, there was another whack with its accompanying yelp, and a scolding in piercing tones in the bargain.
Desperate, the ruffian grabbed at Lobelia's arm, intending to wrestle the dratted weapon from the irate elderly hobbit, and she screamed at the top of her lungs. 'Take your hands off me, you thieving scoundrel!' He dropped her arm to place his hands over his ears, moving on instinct alone, and the umbrella whacked him again. He yelped.
'You dare to try to touch me again, I'll serve you a double portion!' Lobelia shrieked. They had turned the corner and were walking down the main corridor, past the first few empty cells. Lobelia peered into each one, dissatisfied at having nothing to comment on. Coming to the first occupied cell, she froze. 'What's this?' she said, her voice shaking in outrage. 'Hobbits sleeping on the floor, like dogs?'
A hobbit was curled on the stone floor without even a blanket for warmth. Lobelia had a flash of memory—thus had Otho's hunting dogs curled before the hearth, when he was still courting her, before the wedding. After the wedding, she'd banished the dogs to the stables where they belonged.
'You may have your own room, all to yourself, Mistress, and we'll even bring a bed in for you,' the ruffian said in an appeasing tone.
'A bed!' Lobelia shrieked. The guard jumped in spite of himself, but the hobbit in the cell continued to lie motionless, which was worrisome. 'A bed! Why not a bed for that lad in there?'
'He's rebel scum, Mistress,' the ruffian said apologetically. 'He's being punished for being a law-breaker. Now come along, we'll see what we can do to make you comfortable—' Whack! The ruffian yelped again, wondering if perhaps there might be a better job somewhere else in this land. The here-to-fore easy life of a guard at the Lockholes was paling on him.
'Unhand me, you... you... what was that you called him?' Lobelia said in tones that could have shattered glass.
'Scum, Mistress?' the ruffian said, trying not to sound thoroughly cowed.
'You SCUM!' Lobelia shrieked. 'A satisfying word,' she muttered to herself, then raised her voice again, like fingernails against a smooth surface, setting teeth on edge. 'If you touch me again, so help me, I'll put your eyes out with the point of this umbrella. I had it made specially sharp to drive away stray dogs, I'll have you know...'
She planted the sharp tip of the umbrella in the ruffian's midsection and pushed him back, then hobbled into the small, dark, bleak cell. She bent over the still figure, reaching out a clawlike hand to touch the skin, checking for life. The flesh was not cold with the chill of death, as she'd feared, but rather hot to the touch; he was fevered.
She creaked to the ground and took his head into her lap. This might have been her own precious Lotho, a few years back. This lad was a bit younger, perhaps a score of years. He showed no sign of recognising her presence, lying with eyes half open, unblinking, unmoving. If not for the slight rise and fall of the chest, she'd have thought him gone, the fever heat only a residue of life. 'O lad,' she crooned. 'What have those despicable ruffians done to you, I'd like to know?'
She felt the feverish hobbit's body jerk as she raised her voice again. 'I want WATER, do you hear me, you imbecile, a CLEAN bucketful of CLEAN fresh water, mind, and I want it NOW. And CLEAN cloths, if you know what such a thing is, and a loaf of BREAD.' Immediately her tone changed to softness and gentleness as she stroked the burning forehead. 'It's all right, lad, you're safe now.'
'Will there be anything else, Mistress?' the ruffian quavered.
'That'll do for starters,' she snapped. 'Some warm milk would not go amiss.'
'Warm... milk,' the ruffian stuttered.
'And a proper cup of tea. A few eggs, lightly scrambled, and…' Looking up to see the ruffian creeping away, her voice rose again to a shriek. 'Young MAN! YOUNG MAN! I haven't FINISHED with you YET!' Her hand never paused in its caresses while her voice subsided into a grumble.
She surveyed the hobbit she cradled more carefully. He was dirty—filthy, rather, and he stank, but she shouldn't expect lilies and rosewater, now, should she? She sniffed at her own fastidiousness. Young Lobelia hadn't been one afraid to get her hands dirty, though she hadn't had to do so in quite awhile. He needed a bath, she thought, but he wasn't going to get one, not in this chilly place. Ideally, there should be a roaring fire on the hearth, a large copper tub standing nearby, filled with steaming water, soft towels at the ready, pleasantly-scented soap... She sniffed again. She'd make do.
Boots sounded in the corridor and she took a deep breath, ready to launch into another tirade, but the ruffian who stopped in the doorway, staring at the sight of the old crony cradling the young rebel, was not the one she'd sent to fetch and carry for her. He had a bucket, indeed, but when he set it down she saw a swirl of oil on top of the liquid, and he carried a whip in his other hand.
'What's this?' he asked, his eyebrows going up.
'I might ask you the same question!' she snapped.
'Why have you left your assigned cell?' he said menacingly. 'Which cell is yours?' he added. He'd enjoy administering her punishment, beating the hobbits in the cells to either side of hers. It made the little rats feel so bad, knowing they'd caused such pain to others of their kind.
'CELL?' she shrieked, but feeling the hobbit in her lap twitch, she lowered her voice to a bad-tempered hiss. 'I have no CELL, young MAN, and have no intention of being CONFINED to one. My SON happens to be your BOSS, and if you know what's good for you, you'll be properly RESPECTFUL to your BETTERS!'
He stepped back, uncertain, lowering the whip. 'Sorry, ma'am,' he stammered.
'Now, what is that... swill? I ordered clean, fresh water!' Lobelia said testily.
'It's soup, Mistress, for the prisoners' supper.'
'There's a prisoner here,' she said as he picked up the bucket and started to turn away. 'Why doesn't he get any soup?'
He pointed to the battered man-sized cup lying on the floor beside what looked to be a discarded crust of bread, hard and stale. 'He ain't et his breakfast, ma'am. He don't need no supper.'
'Fill up that CUP, young MAN, and no more nonsense!' she said, menace in her tone.
He dipped the cup into the bucket and handed it to her with a bow. Seconds later, he was wearing the soup upon his face, for Lobelia had flung the cup at him as soon as she'd got a closer look at the stuff.
'You call this SOUP?' she raged. 'Why, it's not even WARM!' As he stood blinking at her, she ordered, 'You take that SWILL back wherever it was you got it and make it properly HOT, at the very LEAST!'
'Yes'm,' the ruffian said, picking up the bucket and hastily exiting the room, his ears ringing from her strident tones.
Two ruffians appeared some time later, one bearing a steaming bucket, and the other a bucket of clear, cold water and some reasonably clean rags. There was no loaf of bread, but she'd take up that matter a little later. At the moment, she thought she had enough to work with. The ruffian with the soup bucket dipped the prisoner's cup into the hot liquid, then pulled another cup from a bag and dipped that, setting both on the floor before Lobelia.
'You could have a cell of your own with a little table and chair, Mistress,' he said. 'No need to sit on the cold floor.'
'I'm fine!' she snapped. He nodded, then took another piece of bread from his pocket and balanced it atop the second cup. 'Your dinner, ma'am,' he said politely.
'Thank you,' she grumbled. Her mother had raised her to mind her manners, after all.