Co-conspirators (i.e. Betas and plot advice): Ariel and Celendine Goodbody
Warnings: AU, violence, very heavy angst
Here Begins the Sequel to Ring Around the Merry - "The Redemption of Meriadoc"
You need not have read Part One to enjoy this one. In fact- people who could not handle RATM because they hated the idea of the corrupted Merry might like to see his redemption. This a dark fic, BUT I promise that I will NOT kill off any hobbits, and will not end this tragically!!
Summary of Part One for Newcomers
In Ring around the Merry, Meriadoc becomes fascinated and ultimately obsessed with the Ring of Power in his cousin's keeping over the course of the 16 years. When the time comes to set off with Frodo and Sam, Merry, under the malevolent influence of the Ring, decides that Frodo must be kept in the Shire to safeguard the world of hobbits. So Merry, working from good intentions, proceeds to keep Frodo and Sam captive at Crickhollow with the help of a very conflicted Pippin) until he can be brought to see reason.
Frodo, however, does not agree with Merry's plan. Over the course of several weeks, there is a battle of wills in which Frodo is slowly but surely mentally broken by Merry until he recedes into his own mind.
Sam meanwhile, is a constant thorn in Merry's side, trying increasingly desperate escape attempts, and, all the while, pressuring Pippin into seeing past his love for Merry and doing right by his Ringbearer cousin. As his master becomes less and less capable of defending himself, Sam is forced to act on his own initiative and-ultimately, to do something totally against his grain – to leave his Frodo and escape with the Ring.
Pippin is torn. He loves Merry, but has been dragged into what in effect is a very abusive relationship in which Merry steals his sense of worth in exchange for absolute obedience. But Sam understands that Pip may be Frodo's last hope.
Merry has the darkest journey. Corrupted by the Ring, he is willing to commit great cruelties on his cousin in order to "save" him and the Shire. He considers Frodo and the Ring as one, so he takes complete control of the Frodo until he is insensible and pliant. Merry's plans seem to go well, until he betrays his onetime allies, and mysterious ruffians come to claim their due.
So Part one ends when Ruffians kidnap Frodo and Merry – not knowing the Ring is now with Sam. Sam and Pippin are left with the wreckage of Merry's plans. Now they must find a way to save Frodo and Merry and decide what to do about the Ring now in their charge. Meanwhile, Frodo will come back to himself and Merry will no longer be corrupted by the Ring. However, these former rivals will both find themselves dragged into captivity by a power greater than either have ever faced.
Chapter 1: Many Partings
Sam plucked himself up from the dirt, sobbing, bruised, and much worse for the wear. He immediately took off the Ring and jammed it into his pocket. The world snapped back into living color and the pain in his head redoubled.
What to do? What on earth to do?
He needed help, and no mistake, but who could give Frodo the manner of help he needed?
Sam stood at the center of the road for several minutes looking very stupid and dying inside.
Go on, said a voice in his head. You must take It and go on.
Give up, you ninny! You're in over your head! said another decidedly less encouraging voice.
"Right," said Sam to himself. "My giving up won't Frodo none. Beyond all hope, I'll go on."
Sam wiped his eyes with dirt-encrusted fingers and stared back up into the sun.
Sam felt his insides chill. Pippin.
He turned. Pippin stood behind him, balanced precariously on wobbly legs. He leaned heavily against the gateposts almost in shock, his face white as a sheet and beaded with sweat. Pippin gasped with exhaustion, looking as though he might faint at any time.
"Where," Pippin breathed, "Where is Frodo?" He coughed deeply, then continued. "Where…is..Merry?"
Sam's face fell. This was going to be terrible.
"Pippin," he said gently. "Let's get inside and shut the gate."
"No." said Pippin "First," another breath, "things…first."
"By the stars, Pip," sighed Sam. "Sit down at least, or you'll topple where you stand! You shouldn't ought to have come out here, not as you are. Sit, will you!"
Whether by Sam's admonition or not, Pippin collapsed ungracefully into a sit that was more than half a fall. His eyes seemed to roll up in his head a moment before Pippin regained himself, took a steadying breath, and plowed on.
"You were crying, Sam," said Pippin flatly as he gazed beyond Sam down the deserted road, still swirling with dust. "Something's happened, something's happened to them!"
Sam opened his mouth, then closed it again, his face very much like a child trying to explain how the pie went missing except for the berry stains on his shirtfront. He began again.
"I," he stammered, "there was nothing…" Sam stopped.
The fear in Pippin's eyes was growing as he looked up and down the road.
"Now, Pip," Sam tried to steady his voice. "You are ill and..."
Pippin sighed, his voice no longer the compliant, soft tone that Merry had depended upon for so long. "I did not walk all the way out here to be lied to," he said firmly with just a hint of command.
Sam sighed patiently as he walked over to Pippin, his feet dragging in the rocky dirt of the road. He leaned down and offered his hand.
"Come inside, Mr. Peregrin," he said with another long sigh. "And we'll talk."
Pippin pulled his hand obstinately away. "No," he said defiantly. "Now!"
Sam huffed but did not otherwise object. He turned back and closed the gate, concealing themselves just behind it.
"Would you like a spot of water, Pip?" asked Sam, with forced lightness.
Pippin shot an impatient gaze, his eyes narrowed, brooking no argument. Sam nodded and plopped down next to Pippin's side so that eye contact, for the most part, might be avoided. He sat with his knees bent and then leaned his head down onto them before looking up again and staring straight ahead at nothing.
"Where, Samwise?" demanded Pippin.
"Big folk," said Sam. He took a deep breath. "All right, here it is. Three big folk stole Frodo and Merry. I tried to stop them, Pip, but they was just too big and too many. They had horses…so big. And where they've gone to, I do not know."
Pippin closed his eyes, his face a mask of pain that did not all come from his abused back. "I blacked out," he admitted regretfully. "Just for a while, I think. Not long. But long enough. Frodo walked out, I suppose. I awoke and he was gone."
"Yes," said Sam. "It weren't your fault."
Sam felt his heartbeat quicken - its pounding reverberating against the oppressive silence. It was wrong to let Pippin shoulder the blame. But to take it on himself would lead to….
"Sam," continued Pippin too thoughtfully, staring up at the sky. "Sam, how did the men find Merry if he was inside the gate? I thought you were going to bring him back to the house. How did Frodo get outside?"
Sam felt himself holding his breath and he did not speak. Pippin noticed.
"Sam?" repeated Pippin, his voice harsh again.
"I had no time!" blurted Sam defensively. "They came on too fast!"
Pippin did not look at Sam and Sam did not look at Pippin, preferring to stare sullenly at his feet.
"What?" asked Sam more harshly than he'd intended.
"I didn't loose consciousness immediately," said Pippin. "I stood by Frodo for a few minutes. Long enough to have heard if riders had come into the yard then. I heard nothing."
"You were injured," offered Sam quietly, delaying the inevitable. "In a daze. It weren't no surprise you did not hear the men."
Another stony silence. Sam fingered a long, supple blade of grass putting all his focus on pulling it apart--precisely down the center.
"You left him out there for the men to find, didn't you, Sam?" said Pippin matter-of-factly, staring at the closed gate. He turned his head to look Sam dead in the eye. "On purpose, didn't you?"
"I had no choice, Pippin!" snarled Sam, still focused on his blade of grass. "You don't understand!"
"I understand," said Pippin. "I understand that you wanted to be rid of my cousin and saw this as the perfect chance to get that done."
"You could have saved him. He was right outside the gate. You had time to get him inside had you wanted to."
"You. Had. Time."
"It was the only way!" cried Sam abruptly. "It was him or Frodo! Can't you see, lad? Have you no memory of what he did to dear Frodo? Or to you? Your back is in shreds! Your mind ain't much better! And Frodo's mind is well nigh gone! I weren't going to let them take Frodo!"
More silence. The blade of grass stretched but did not break. Sam had never seen such a captivating plant.
"But" said Pippin coldly. "They did take Frodo."
"You think I don't know that?" cried Sam, his voice breaking. "You think I wanted that to happen? But I thought I might lure them--"
"You thought you might hand them Merry," said Pippin, his voice now like ice.
"And why shouldn't I, Pip?" Sam growled back. "I had so little time, and I had to choose one to save. Shouldn't I have chosen the one who most deserved to be saved?"
"Did you?" said Pip scathingly.
"Why must you torment me with your questions?" cried Sam. "Why do you suppose I ought to have saved Merry?"
"Because," said Pippin forcefully, staring at Sam's lowered head. "You. Promised."
Sam felt all the color drain from his face. He knew the lad was right.
"I only promised to put Merry where he belonged!"
"You knew well enough what I meant!" cried Pippin. "You knew. You knew I knocked Merry out to save Frodo, not to doom Merry!"
"I -!" began Sam, but had nothing planned to follow.
"You knew, damn you! And you knew I would have dragged Merry in with the very last of my strength if I thought in a million years that you would not! Then p'raps we'd have both here with us now! Perhaps we'd have BOTH!"
"Or," countered Sam, "got us all taken!"
"You might have at least tried!" repeated Pippin, now thoroughly distraught and paying little head to Sam's flawed defense. "We might have saved them both!"
"My loyalty is to FRODO," cried Sam. "Not to that devil of a Brandybuck!"
Pippin countered this unsatisfactory answer with an animalistic snarl.
"You gave me your word, Sam, and I took it! You wanted to save your treasure, but at the cost of mine!"
"Treasure!" hissed Sam derisively. "Merry ain't nobody's treasure!"
"He was MINE!" shouted Pippin. "He's been mean and cruel, but it was that Thing that changed him and made him terrible! Perhaps I'll never ever forgive him- BUT he is my cousin, and I do love him, whether or NO!"
"How can you?" asked Sam.
"Not the point, Sam!" cried Pippin. "He wasn't yours to sacrifice!"
Sam fell silent. He had nothing to say to this. He had nothing to make Pippin's statement untrue. But Pippin's worst indictment was yet to come.
"Tell me," Pippin mumbled. "Were you so intent on getting Merry taken, that you didn't even see Frodo walk out here?"
Sam snapped his head to face Pippin, his thoughts in disarray, a sinking feeling accompanying the scuttling of his story. His eyes were moist with unshed tears, his conscience at its lowest ebb.
"How much," muttered Sam, finally meeting the other hobbit's eyes, "did you see, Pippin?"
Pippin cast his head down again. "I saw enough."
Sam's heart deflated and he wondered briefly if it would stop of its own accord and put him out of his misery.
"I woke," explained Pippin. "and saw Frodo had gone, so I stumbled out the open door. Frodo was well on his way to this gate by that time. I saw it was open and wondered at that. I tried to call, but I was so weak, and no sound came. I couldn't stay on my feet, and I fell. Then I looked up, and the next thing I saw was Merry grappling with an invisible foe." He looked up at Sam accusingly. "Then he rolled past my sight, and Frodo stepped through the break in the gate unnoticed, save by me. I was so dizzy, and yet I crawled out. And I found you here. And them gone."
Pippin took a moment to catch his breath, then asked, 'Did I miss anything?"
Sam dropped his face in his palms and exploded into such a piteous flood of tears that even Pippin, in his quiet rage, did not have the heart to push on. Pippin pulled his knees up and rested his forehead on them.
Sam cried until he had no more tears and until he felt utterly hollowed. When he looked up, to his surprise, Pippin's eyes were also streaming with tears. They sat silently for a few moments, both staring blankly ahead of them, neither speaking. Pippin was the first to speak.
"Well. Sam," said Pippin softly and without malice, 'what do we do now?"
"This mess is beyond us to fix," said Sam at last as he wiped his eyes. "It's beyond a whole mess of hobbits to fix, matter of fact. I may die trying, but I must find help. Big help. Help, like the sort Gandalf could give."
"You're right," agreed Pippin. "We do need to find help."
"You," ordered Sam, "are to stay put. You're too weak to travel. You'd only slow me down."
"I'll heal," answered Pippin. "And faster, knowing I'm doing something useful. You'll need help, Sam."
Sam jerked his head up in shock.
"You? And how do you spose--?"
"You are strong, Sam, but you'll also need someone with intelligence on this journey," said Pippin. "You aren't thinking straight. For one, you ran off without any weapon to speak of."
Sam blushed, remembering the painful jolt when he'd grasped for a weapon and came up empty.
"I was in the worst sort of panic," countered Sam. "I'll prepare this time. But you won't be safe with the likes of me, Pip."
"And would I be safe here?"?!" cried Pippin.
Sam raised his head again, a question in his eyes.
"Think Sam!" said Pippin. "You know what they want. Now what will happen when they find out that neither Frodo nor Merry have It?"
"I'm the one person in the Shire that has all the information they need – all wrapped up in the easily recognizable package of the future Thain. I'd be easy pickings, Sam! And I'd either give them what they wanted or be tormented to death."
Sam shuddered, no less because what Pippin had said was true.
"I'm weak now--but we both must to go. You need me and I need you, and you owe me something, and this is the least you can do," the young hobbit blurted it out all at once, sounding for the first time like the old Pippin.
Sam rose to unsteady feet and reached down to grasp Pippin's hand. This time, he readily took it and let himself be lifted to his feet.
Sam crossed his arms over his chest.
"Well, I suppose we need to let the ponies out to graze," said Sam.
Pippin threw him a poisonous look.
"Or take them with," began Sam, and under his breath, mumbled, "us."
Pippin twisted his face into what might have been a grin, were it not mingled with a manifest pain that even his stubborn hobbit courage could not hide.
"We'll, get the ponies, Pip," ordered Sam, now sounding more like his master than himself. "And any weapons we can lay hands on."
Sam pushed the gate open and stared up the deserted road where he had last seen his master. His love for Frodo rose above all other thoughts and forgetting his peril, he cried aloud, "We're coming Mr. Frodo! Do you hear that, you filth? We're coming!"
Merry was not an easy prisoner.
They had ridden for what seemed like hours without stopping, hugging the banks of the Brandywine, moving ever southward. Merry had not ceased to thrash and call out the entire ride, causing his stocky captor to swing down with one-armed clouts and spit out idle threats as they rode. Frodo, however, had not caused his rider a single problem. He sat, placid as a sack of grain, staring straight ahead and lolling to one side or the other with the motion of their mount.
The three horses broke through the trees into a wide clearing and Merry's keeper sidled up to the man carrying Frodo. He did not note that Merry twisted his head, desperate to catch Frodo's gaze.
"Trade ye imps, Scur," Merry's rider said to the other hopefully. "Mine's a right pain in the arse."
Merry kicked out his bound feet and made as if to roll over and attack.
"I'll give you more pain than you can handle vermin!" cried Merry desperately, "If you don't cut us loose!"
"Shaddup!" The man gave a rough tug to Merry's hair until the hobbit squeaked with pain.
"Can't ye make a gag outta nothing, Broga?" said Frodo's guard. "Don't he know yet that he's a coney in a trap about to be skinned?"
Merry growled and again attempted to roll of his mount, a move that had little effect other than to earn him another slap on the back of the head.
"I got nothing!" moaned Broga. "Can't take much more afore I really will skin him, orders be damned!"
"That won't sit too hot with Grimbold," Scur said in a low voice, gesturing towards the lead rider with a bony finger. "Real stickler for rules, that one!"
Grimbold, who had remained several dozen yards ahead of his two fellows suddenly wheeled his mount to a halt before them, causing both men to quickly draw their horses up short and trade apprehensive looks over each other's shoulders.
"We'll stop a mile or so down the road," said Grimbold abruptly. "I think we're past the point of habitation and such, but I want to be sure. We can water the horses at the river, make some adjustments so that the rest of our ride is more pleasant," the boss indicated Merry's struggling form with his eyes, "and quieter."
The men nodded and urged their horses back into motion at Grimbold's heels. Broga dug his fingers into Merry's scalp and glared menacingly down at his struggling burden. "I'll adjust you, little Rat," he muttered to the hobbit's forcibly upturned face. "Mark that well."
At last the riders came into a copse of trees huddled tight along the river's edge. The riders followed their leader into the knot of young willows which concealed them from all sides save the one from which they had entered.
Grimbold dismounted and, without waiting for the others, lead his weary horse to the slate-grey waters to drink. Broga jumped down and threw Merry unceremoniously into the mud.
"Be right back," he snarled as he led his horse away. "Don't go missing me too bad!"
Scur did not dismount, but rode his horse through the short line of cattails to the water's edge. He left Frodo sitting serenely on the animal as he swung himself cautiously off the saddle. His boots sank deep into the yielding soil but his eyes were fixed on Frodo's vacant stare. The horse reached down to drink, his withers dropping from beneath the hobbit and Frodo instantly slumped forward, making no attempt to steady himself. Scur caught him as he began to slide to the ground, a nerveless heap.
"Something's not right with this one," Scur mumbled.
Grimbold looked up, studying the two men shrewdly. "Bind the quiet one whenever he's off the horse," he ordered. "Even if he doesn't look like he needs it. We can't risk losing him."
Scur hoisted Frodo over his shoulder like a lumpy sack and, removing a leather thong from his saddlebag, bound Frodo's ankles loosely. Frodo did not so much as twitch.
"Just not right," he muttered as he turned and carried Frodo up the embankment.
"And Broga," said Grimbold sharply. "Where's your imp? You haven't lost him already, have you?"
"He's bound hand and foot," said Broga defensively. "I needed a break from his carrying on, and he ain't going nowhere."
"Isn't he, then?" replied Grimbold with a hint of a smirk. Their leader raised his eyes to the spot up the embankment where Merry had lain. Broga snapped his head around.
"Son of a -- !"
Merry, though bound at the wrists, thighs and ankles, was shimmying his way inch by inch toward the direction they had come. A shadow darkened the ground before him and an enormous booted foot crashed down upon his back knocking his breath from him.
"Going somewhere, Rat?" snarled Broga.
The stocky man seized Merry by the back of the collar and drew him writhing and defiant up to his reddened face. Merry's bound legs kicked wildly even as they dangled far above the ground.
"Let--us go, you vermin!" cried Merry.
"Shut up, runtling!" Broga bellowed. "Can you not see we are twice your size? And, little Master of Buckland," he added with a laugh, "you are in no position to dole out orders!"
Merry drew back a breath and spit in the man's face. The ruffian snarled ferociously and threw Merry down.
Merry grunted in pain. "Let us go!" he screamed in a fury, "My cousin and I are powerful hobbits with even more powerful friends! You will be sorry you ever touched us!"
"I'm ALREADY sorry, piglet!" yelled Broga, punctuating his sentiments with a savage kick to Merry's side.
"Shut him up!" called Scur as he lay Frodo carefully down in the tall grass. "My head is pounding from listening to his gibberish! I don't care if you spin a gag by hand or stuff your shirt in his mouth, just shut him up!"
Frodo stared glassy eyed into the sky and Scur watched him a minute, a shiver leaving gooseflesh in its wake. "Just shut yours up, alright?" he continued absently, unable to avoid Frodo's eerie stare.
"Let us go!" cried Merry again. "You have no idea who you are dealing with! Untie us now and you might never regret finding out!"
"Clamp it!" cried Broga, and kicked the offending hobbit once again. "My hand's still sore where you bit me you little rat! And you'll want to save your breath for your reward."
Broga shook his injured finger at Merry, to which the hobbit responded by snapping his teeth threateningly at the scolding digit.
"That's it!" Broga cried, drawing up a coil whip from his belt. "Why put off what—"
A firm hand clapped on his shoulder.
"Not here. Not now." Grimbold had returned from the riverside unnoticed.
"It's not safe yet."
Broga leaned down toward Merry. "Yet..." he snarled with unconcealed delight.
Merry spit at him again, earning him yet another solid kick.
"Don't damage it beyond repair," said Grimbold sharply. "You'll get your fun once we get on the Greenway. But under," he smiled horribly, "controlled circumstances. Remember--we are to bring them alive and unspoilt."
"He's spoilt enough already!" grumbled Broga as he wiped saliva from his cheek and onto his grimy tunic. He scowled at Merry and lowered his whip, but before he turned away, he placed his boot on Merry's back and pressed the hobbit into the mud. Glancing over Scur, he asked aloud, "How'd he get so lucky. That one don't make a sound."
"If luck is what you can call it," answered Scur. He peered down into Frodo's unblinking eyes and waved his hand back and forth in front of them. Frodo gave no indication that he even saw the motion.
"Well, said Broga, his boot still jammed into the small of Merry's back. "He don't struggle, he don't scream none, and he certainly don't spit. That seems a pot of luck to me!"
"That's just it," said Scur. "He's not right," the man pointed to his forehead. "I think he's tetched!"
The ruffian shivered again and looked around fearfully, as if disconcerted by something he could not see. "Not right in the head. Or a halfwit or something, I don't know. And who's to know what got him that way?" He shuddered again. "It's unnatural, it is. Look!" The thin man gave Frodo a small kick with his boot. Frodo continued to stare, oblivious, at the sky.
"Leave him alone!" screamed Merry, red-faced, struggling with his bonds and even angrier than before. "Don't…don't…you TOUCH HIM, or--!"
"Or what?" sneered Broga. "Just remember, you're mine, sweetheart." Again, he emphasized his point by shaking his whip. "Keep up your squawking and you and my friend here will have a rendezvous tonight! A romantic meeting under the stars with Lady Scourge. And the more trouble you cause, the longer your 'courtship' will be."
"Maybe," continued Scur as if he had not heard his partner speak, "this quiet one is bespelled?"
He drew his foot back again, but Grimbold raised his palm in warning.
"Don't," he said curtly. "We don't know why he's wanted and he's not worth getting in trouble over. Besides, it's never good to mess with the messed or to touch the tetched." He raised his eyebrows. "Understand?"
"What if," asked Scur, "I mean, do you suppose the curse that's on him could lay hold of us too? Make us drooling halfwits like him?"
"Too late for you," Broga chided.
Scur threw him a venomous look.
"Lads!" warned their boss. He stared at Frodo long and hard. "Likely he's the victim of something not the cause…but no matter. He's not making any trouble so leave him be. And if he is enchanted, well, don't tempt fate, I say. Besides, we were given particular instructions not to hurt the captive one."
"Captive?" said Broga incredulously. "The tetched rat was actually was the prisoner of the spitting rat?"
"You knew that."
"I thought it were just a manner of speech, so to speak." Broga snickered and smirked down at Merry.
"Well then, the little idiot might enjoy tonight after all!"
"He's not an idiot, you filth!" cried Merry against all good judgment, his voice stifled by the long grass against his face. "And he's not 'touched'!"
The boss looked down dismissively at Merry.
"Gag him," he said curtly. "Then let's get on."
The men grabbed up their prisoners and carried them to the horses, Frodo silently, Merry spouting threats and curses. He continued to thrash as he was flopped over the pommel of the saddle and Broga searched for something that would silence him. At last he sliced a piece off a tattered garment, and mindful of Merry's snapping teeth, pulled it tightly over the hobbit's complaining mouth.
Merry called out through the gag and his thrashing and struggling redoubled.
"Here," said Grimbold, throwing down a coil of rope to Broga. "Wind it under the horse. "It'll keep him still."
Without further ado, the man wound the rope around Merry's wrists, ran the rope under the horse's belly, to attach to Merry's ankles, just as Merry had once done to Frodo. He growled his complaints, but had no option but to be still.
Scur, meanwhile, had set Frodo carefully on his horse before climbing up behind him. A passing observer might have thought it was a father riding a horse with his child, so carefully did the man handle the oblivious hobbit.
As the horse galloped off, a starling fluttered from a treetop overhead and glided across the water. Frodo blinked, lifted his head ever so slightly, and for a split second, glanced at the bird with his own eyes.
The elves gathered around the small figure slumbering quietly on the oversized bed, the small creature nearly swallowed up by the deep, feather-filled mattress. Its plump face was once again ruddy and a near picture of health.
One elf broke the uncomfortable silence.
"Fairer than most?" he asked in a low voice.
The others again looked at the double-chinned creature with its doughy arms and wide set eyes bridged by an expanding colony of freckles that swarmed on either side of his nose.
"Perhaps," offered another, "halfling standards of beauty are quite different from our own."
A circle of elves nodded in agreement.
'Certainly," ventured a third elf, "his looks have improved since he was brought hither weeks ago, when he was verily at death's door."
From down the arching halls a bustle sounded – a fussy, flustered, distinctly non-elvish voice muttering "Where is he?"
Suddenly a short figure, bent with age, but otherwise hale and feisty, burst through the door.
"He is here, Master Bilbo," answered one of the elves. "Lord Elrond did not wish you to see him until the danger was past and he was likely to survive."
"Yes, yes, fair enough, lads!" shouted the halfling, a little too loud. "But I'm here now, so let's have a look!"
Bilbo Baggins marched imperiously to the head of the bed, and inserting himself between two lithe elves, stood on the tips of his toes and stared down at the sleeping hobbit.
The elves parted gracefully, giving him room amid expectant smiles. Bilbo glanced down, blinked several times and pulled out his spectacles. These he shoved hurriedly on his nose and peered down again. He then removed the spectacles, breathed on them, wiped them clean with the hem of his shirt, and replaced them. At last, he raised his head to face the elves.
With manifest irritation, Bilbo pointed a hobbled forefinger down at the sleeping figure of Fatty Bolger.
"Who in the world," asked Bilbo, "is this?"
If you are new to the story, know that I always answer my reviewers and that I try to update every two weeks at least.
First, I must make some recommendations! If you like expertly crafted Frodo angst, you can absolutely do no better than Aratlithiel (aratlithiel1 on ffnet) who has done beta work and guest chapters for RATM. Ariel, (Ariel3 on ffnet) another of my betas, has written some of the very best non-Mary Sue het you will read, as well as a gorgeous general young Frodo piece called "Fear." Celandine Goodbody has stories ranging from general to slash, and has guest alternate chapters that will knock your socks off. All are linked through my official web page (see author profile) along with many other deserving writers whose works I know you will enjoy!
To the Reviewers!!
Flick Chan- You have helped so much ! I am sorry you are busy- I hope it is a good kind of busy! Can't wait to hear your thought when you have time to write!
Breon Briarwood – don't faint- nothing is for naught! Remember- There are no useless actions, not in the RATM universe. I have some surprises in part two- stay tuned!
Frodo Baggins 1982- Nice speaking with you, and thanks for your "Shooting from the hip" feedback!!! I have a monster plot bunny I think you may like- or that wills et your mind to rolling if you want a spoiler! And sorry to have Frodo cut on his palm! Heheheh.
Rebecca Starflower- so glad you are getting enjoyment form my tale- though Merry's grudging respect, like so many good ideas, came from one of my dear betas' Ariel. I loved it too! And we will see more of a maturing pippin in part two!
Fairyland "BEST FAN FICTION EVER WRITTEN" (blushes) why thank you! You know I have a lot of help from my betas and readers to keep the ideas coming, and the reviews, like yours, that keep me writing! Many thanks!!!
"And, will Celandine write anymore slash chapters?
Hm...could be." (Emma Jumps up and down squealing!) Well- thank you SO MUCH for your support moral and otherwise for this story! Did you check out the hit count on the alt chapters! Getting close to 1000 mark! Squeeee!!!!
Pipwisebrandygin "It was really interesting that all the hobbits except Frodo had different ideas of what the 'right thing' was and that to do the right thing they had to decide which one of them to hurt in the process, and I think Pippin was wonderful here because he was the only one who really managed to do the right thing" Wow- thank you- In fact, you make me sound much smarter than I am- but this is so very well put!!!
Uchiha Itachi – thank you! And it is strange-people either hate or love line insertion. Yes- in merry mouth it was a mockery- and purposefully so! I will be aware these lines are sacred to many-including myself! Thank you for all your honest feedback, and I hope you like the adventure ahead!
Amethyst- Chloe cues the band Ta-da, ta-da-ta, ta-da-ta...Congratulations
on finishing Part 1! To mark this momentous occasion, I'm working on an itty
bitty present for you.
(Jumps up and flails) A prezzie! A prezzzie! We wants it now, precioussssses!!! NOOOOOWWWWW!!!!!!!!!! Though your support has been so very nice! The floggettes bow to you!!!
Leia Wood "No, No, NO! You can't stop there! ;)" But I can! I CAN!!!!!!! But hope you likes this new chapter- complete with yet MORE CLIFFHANGERS!!!!
Freya-" it is the relationship between Merry and Sam that most profoundly affects the story." Very observant! It is the tension between the desires of Merry and Sam that is really the engine that drove part one of the story! Now in part two we will see Frodo return, and Pippin come into his own. And the relationships again will be changed.
Ariel- Well without you and Cele, the readers would get a real taste of how bad my spelling is, and how very little I know about horses!!! LOL! But I am glad to plug your fics and cele's and Aratlithiels, not the least because I am so sure readers will enjoy them!!!
Aratlithiel –" Congratulations on this milestone, Emma. You have given many fans entertainment, even under the worst of circumstances" Thank you, carole! Well, I could not have done it without you, and I am so glad that you are sharing your gift of writing top quality Frodo angst with the world at large! But you really should stop making us cry on such an alarmingly regular basis!! Heheheh (hugs)
Tialys - The end of all things', and one I really gasped at 'Frodo was alive but taken by the enemy.' etc.) Thank you- I was worried about that last insertion, but it really seemed to work as this part was curiously parallel with how TTT ended. Thank you!
Wilwarin - Yay! Sequel! I bet it'll be even better than this one, and this one was outstanding! Thank you so much! I hope you like the sequel too!!!
Areada- you are now on my update list! So glad you thought it worthy to be on it! And now I present- more cliffies!!!
Heartofahobbit- well- I am honored that such a good writer thinks my writing is good too! will Gandalf and Aragorn become involved now? Well, you may find out very very soon! Be prepared for more familiar faces to enter!
Endymion- and just for you- I am bringing Frodo back- bit by bit! And it will be very full of angst- so I know you will like it! Go Fro!!!
CPSings for him- To say I am proud of Pippin just doesn't cover it. I very much wanted to give him a huge hug for finally growing a pair and doing what was right! I know it had to hurt him to do what he did, but I know in the end, he'll be so glad that he did it." I know you have a soft spot for Pip and he will shine through in part two as well! Frodo, as you know, will come back to us as well! I have a few plot issues I must map out- and I will let you know very soon where the dream sequence will go! Cant wait!
Last but not least- Iorhael- my original inspiration and my lodestar from Indonesia (smooch!) Wow-look at all those fics you now have to your name! A really astonishing achievement!!!! ;)