A series of stories where in each chapter, Frodo meets a new person. Someone that helps him along the road of life. Ch 1 – Meeting Mad Baggins
Disclaimer: I don't own Lord of the Rings and the only profit I am making out of this is the pleasure of writing it. :D
Meeting Mad Baggins
Little Frodo hid behind the skirts of his mother's best dress. He was six years old today, and really too big to be doing such a thing. But to tell the truth, he was just the teensiest bit scared.
He had heard many things about Old Cousin Bilbo – and not all of those things had been good. Some of the older lads back at Brandy Hall said that he liked to kidnap little hobbits and sell them to Dwarves for gold and jewels. When Frodo had asked Aunt Menegilda if this was true, she had only laughed and said that Bilbo only kidnapped bad little hobbits who caused mischief and didn't do as they were told. For the rest of the week leading up to the visit, Frodo had been on his absolute best behaviour. Primula had spent the entire week wondering if her son wasn't falling ill with something-or-other.
But the fact that he had been so good lately didn't seem to be bringing the little lad any ounce of comfort now. He watched in trepidation as his father knocked on the bright green door. He waited in mounting anxiety as he heard footsteps coming from within the smial. He could not bear to watch as the doorknob turned and the door opened. He did not see the hobbit that stood in the front hallway as he buried his face in his mother's skirts, clenching his eyes shut. He gave an involuntary jump as he heard the unseen hobbit greeting his parents with a rather enthusiastic yet somewhat kindly voice. Confused by this, the small lad dared a peek, and allowed one bright eye to see what it could.
Though Frodo knew that the hobbit on the doorstep was old, Bilbo was still quite sharp. He did not miss the slight movement, and he gazed down at Frodo with a warm smile and sparkling brown eyes.
"This can't possibly be Frodo!" he exclaimed. He stepped out of the doorway and knelt down so that he was eye-level with the lad. Primula gave her son a reprimand that fell on deaf ears, before moving so that the only thing between the lad and the gentlehobbit was the air they breathed.
"I'm terribly sorry, Bilbo," said Drogo quickly. "He normally isn't so shy. I don't know what's gotten into him lately – he has been acting strange all week!"
"Don't worry," Bilbo reassured. "I'm sure he'll be fine once he's a bit more familiar with his surroundings. He won't remember his last visit to Bag End after all." Catching Frodo's confused frown, Bilbo smiled reassuringly. "You were only two years old when you last visited me here, lad," he said. "And I must say you have grown a great deal more than I had thought you would. I'm sure you're going to grow up to be a fine, strong lad when you're a bit older."
This comment elicited the reaction that Bilbo had been hoping for. A small, slow smile lit up Frodo's features as he shyly diverted his gaze to the ground. He had heard his elders commenting on how small he was on several occasions, though he had not understood the reason why this was so when he heard his parents give them an explanation. But he had certainly never been told that he was one day going to be fine and strong. The older lads back at Brandy Hall made sure of it.
"Well," said Bilbo, cutting through his thoughts. "What say we go in now? Luncheon is ready and on the table. We've got rather a good spread today, if I do say so myself." Thus he led the small family into the smial and then to the dining room where there was indeed an excellent array of foods on the table. Upon being seated and being able to see the many dishes for himself, Frodo found his lower jaw slackening as he gaped in amazement at the array of delicacies. He had never seen so many yummy looking foods for so few people. But once again, his thoughts were cut short when his father gave him a poke in the back as he moved to the other side of the table to take his seat. Both of Frodo's parents had warned him to be on his best manners while visiting Cousin Bilbo. He knew this included not staring with his mouth hanging open. Aunt Amaranth had once told him that he would have flies making a home on his tongue if he left his mouth open for too long. Perhaps that was why grown-ups were always insisting that he chew with it closed? That thought aside, he hurriedly closed it, deciding that he would much prefer to have all this food in his mouth than flies.
He watched in growing joy as his mother put more and more food on his plate. Roast lamb with roasted potatoes and pumpkin, green peas and golden corn smeared with melted butter, warm, fluffy bread fresh from the oven with plenty of raspberry jam to go, mashed potato garnished with rich gravy, thick slices of honey-glazed ham with applesauce. And the best yet! A bowl of fresh strawberries sat right in front of his place, alongside some thick cream. Ever since his first taste as a growing toddler, Frodo had never once said no to strawberries and cream. His da had even planted some strawberry bushes in the garden at home because he knew Frodo loved them so. There had been times over the years when Frodo had refused to eat at all. When everything else had failed, his parents had always been able to tempt him with strawberries and cream. Or sometimes, if the strawberries weren't in season, they could entice him with strawberry jam and cream on freshly baked scones. Frodo wondered briefly if Cousin Bilbo knew all of this, and if this was not perhaps some elaborate plan to draw Frodo into a trap to at last kidnap him. But he decided that right now he did not really mind if that was so. As long as he could still eat the strawberries in front of him.
Nevertheless, he glanced up at the old hobbit and discovered that he had been watching him. Bilbo smiled, and gave the small lad a wink before returning his full attention to what Drogo was saying about the trading of pipeweed throughout the Farthings. Frodo found himself smiling in return. Really – how could he not? He was a very trusting child by nature, and so far Bilbo had done nothing that should make him think otherwise. Frodo shrugged to himself and started tucking in to the food on his plate. Perhaps the older lads back at the Hall had been wrong? Frodo decided to wait and see. After all, he would have the rest of the day and all of the next to make his final decision.
The meal had gone splendidly, with everyone having third helpings. As the afternoon continued to pass by, Frodo sat curled up on the sofa in the parlour with his head resting on his mother's lap. She gently ran her fingers through his dark curls, humming a sweet melody under her breath. Bilbo and Drogo were seated in armchairs, smoking their pipes and enjoying a good discussion about a great variety of things that little Frodo couldn't quite get a grasp of. Not that he really wanted to though. The tune his mama was humming kept seeping through his thoughts and he was content to lie and listen in peace – as only comfortably full hobbit children really can.
He was long lost to the world of slumber when his mother carried him to one of Bag End's many guestrooms and tucked him in bed.
When he at last woke up, it was to find that he was no longer in the pleasantly warm and comfortable world he had been in before. Now, a strange and rather horrid heat seemed to be radiating from his tummy and spreading all about his body. He did not like this heat at all, and restlessly kicked off the covers that had been tucked around him.
At once, he regretted the movement, as it made his tummy throb, and all of its contents seemed to churn about uneasily. He let out a soft whimper and he hugged his middle, trying to keep as still as possible.
But the throbbing would not cease. Instead, it stubbornly continued, getting just a little more intense as each moment passed. As he saw it, he had three choices. One – he could either lie here and wait for this horrible feeling to go away. Two – he could try calling for his mama. Or three – he could take his chances in getting up to look for her himself.
He was still in the process of making his decision when his tummy gave a terrible rumbling quiver. He felt all of the food he had eaten at luncheon beginning to rise up from his tummy and climb towards his mouth. Not good!
Bilbo was sitting in his study, quietly reading a rather long and dull letter from his cousin, Fortinbras Took, the current Thain of the Shire. He had made himself a nice cup of tea and was taking a sip from it when he heard the most ear-splitting cry imaginable. He instinctively jumped up from his seat, sending the chair toppling to the ground and spilling tea all down his front.
"What in the Elbereth's name-"
To his own ears even, his voice was silenced as the cry was repeated, this time sounding much more desperate. Without another thought, Bilbo had put his now empty cup and saucer on his desk and was hurriedly making his way to the source of all the commotion, stopping at the door of the bedroom Frodo had been put in. Bilbo quickly opened the door and poked his head through, just as the small lad was drawing breath for another yell.
"Frodo-lad?" said Bilbo, entering the bedroom. "What's wrong?" He made his way over to the bed and sat on the edge of the mattress. Frodo looked up at him with wide eyes.
"Where's mama?" he said, his voice carrying a hint of apprehension. Why hadn't his mama come? Or even his da? Had Mad Baggins done something to them? Had the stories about this old hobbit been true after all?
"Your parents have just gone out for a walk," said Bilbo. "They should be back soon."
The Master of Bag End was very wrong indeed if he thought these words would bring any form of reassurance to young Frodo. The small lad's bottom lip began to tremble and bright eyes became brighter with the sheen of building tears. Bilbo had never felt at such a loss. Spending his life as a bachelor did not lend itself very well to the caring of young children. "It's alright," he said quickly, looking about the room for something that could tell him what to do. The room remained silent and most unhelpful. "Er… How about I tell you a story to pass the time?"
If Frodo hadn't felt so miserable, he would have rolled his eyes in annoyance. Why could grown-ups never seem to understand little hobbitlings like himself? It should have been perfectly obvious that the last thing he wanted right now was a story from this newly acquainted old hobbit. In his mind, Bilbo should have known the cause of Frodo's misery the moment he walked through the door, and should have done something about it by now. He should have known that the young lad could even now feel the contents of his stomach bubbling dangerously.
But at that moment in time, the little hobbit's means of communication were rather limited. Some primal instinct told him that if he opened his mouth or moved overly much at this late point, he would not be liking the results one bit. So it was that he could think of no way to tell Bilbo that he did not want a story, nor could he tell him that at any moment he was about to be terribly and horribly and tremendously sick.
With Frodo remaining silent, Bilbo figured that this must be some sign of consent. "How about we sit together in that nice chair?" he said, indicating to the rocking chair sitting by the fireplace. Frodo's eyes widened in desperate alarm. He knew he would not make it so far. Bilbo stood up and moved to pick the little hobbit up into his arms. Frodo tried to protest, but did not get very far at all. As he was sat up, the delicate balance he had somehow managed to maintain for so long was disrupted. He could only give a feeble whimper as his lunch rose up within him and spilled out of his mouth… right onto the bed sheets, himself, and Bilbo's front.
"Oh dear," said Bilbo softly. As Frodo retched again, Bilbo shifted his position to the young hobbit's side. He rubbed his hand soothingly up and down Frodo's back. "Ate something that didn't agree with you, lad?" he said. "Never mind. You just let it all up."
And Frodo Baggins did just that. He continued to heave until his throat burned with an unrelenting fire, and he did not think he had anything left inside of him but his bones. Finally he sagged against the pillows behind him, feeling far too exhausted and miserable to do anything. He gave a small sniffle, wishing now more than ever that his mama was here. She would make him feel better.
"You poor lad," said Bilbo. "We'd best get you cleaned up. How about I draw you a nice bath?" Frodo felt too drained to think or say otherwise, so it was not long before he was sitting in a tub of comfortably warm water. Then Bilbo (who had, by then, acquired a new, clean set of clothes) helped him to wash before getting the young hobbit dried and into a fresh set of clothes himself.
"Well then," said Bilbo. "How are you feeling now, Frodo? Do you want to have another little rest?"
Frodo screwed up his face in thought. Now that he dwelled on it, he found that he was feeling quite a bit better than before. Especially now that he was clean and dry. He was even beginning to feel a little sleepy again. But if he was in Buckland, the older lads would be having a good laugh at him now. Being sick all over himself and Mad Baggins, the little hobbit didn't think he could stand to add to his humiliation by being treated like a baby. Only babies had extra naps. He was a big lad now. His da had told him so. So he had to start acting like a big lad. He shook his head firmly. Bilbo was mildly surprised at the determinedly stubborn glint that had suddenly appeared in the large blue eyes before him. The old hobbit smiled to himself. This lad was going to be one to reckon with when he got a little older.
"Alright," he said. "How about another drink then? Would you like some nice warm milk?" Frodo nodded at this suggestion. He had always enjoyed a glass of warm milk – especially before bedtime. He didn't know why, but he found that there was something very comforting about the drink.
So minutes later, Bilbo was standing by the stove in the kitchen, heating up some milk in a saucepan. Frodo was sitting at the table, his legs dangling far from the ground. A rather fond smile played on Bilbo's lips when he saw this. He remembered when he had been Frodo's age. He had been a rather small child also, and had thought he would never grow up to be like the other big lads around Hobbiton. He had thought that he would spend all of his life with his legs dangling from the furniture.
How Time had a way of changing things.
As Bilbo poured the warmed milk into a cup, he found himself being regarded by expectant eyes. "Where's your mug?" asked Frodo. Bilbo blinked at the question. It had been said with such candour and expectancy that for a moment, Bilbo was at a complete loss.
"My mug?" he said at last.
"Yes," said Frodo with a nod. "Whenever I have milk, mama or da always has some too. Mama says that it's very good for you, whether you're a young hobbit or an old one."
"You're mama is a very clever person," said Bilbo. "Alright then. I will get a mug for myself and we can have our milk together in the parlour. How does that sound?" Frodo nodded his assent, but refused to touch his own drink until Bilbo had gotten his own. Then the two moved to the parlour. There were plenty of comfortable armchairs, as well as a plush couch. The two sat on the couch, Bilbo unconsciously sipping at the mug in his hands as he watched the young hobbit beside him.
Frodo had to be one of the most curious hobbits he knew. Bright blue eyes darted this way and that, taking in each little detail about the room. Bilbo could almost hear the increasing number of questions buzzing about the young mind, waiting to spill out of Frodo's mouth. But instead he remained seated and silent. So Bilbo also remained seated and silent… and observant. He found that he could not tear his eyes from his (very) young cousin. Only now did it really strike him how much and how little this lad had changed over the years.
When Bilbo had first met Frodo, he had been newly born. The lad had been tiny – uncommonly tiny. Yet he had still been such a precious bundle of life that had demanded to stay in this world. It had taken but one mere heartbeat for him to hold his audience captivated. There had been something about him that had just mesmerised every onlooker. And it still seemed to be so. Now that Bilbo thought about it, there was something almost elf-like about that little face and the way the young toddler carried himself. The stubborn chin, alabaster skin, rich brown hair… and those eyes! Such a deep blue that it was as if they held the very sea itself. In those eyes one could easily believe that all the knowledge of the world was veiled behind them. Bilbo smiled to himself. He was going to enjoy watching this young cousin of his grow up.
"Why do you have so many books to yourself?" asked Frodo presently. Once more, Bilbo found himself able to do nothing but blink at the abruptness of this random question.
"What do you mean, lad?" he said when he regained the ability of speech.
"You have almost as many books as the Brandy Hall library," explained Frodo as though this was obvious. "But you don't have anyone to share them with. How can one person need so many books?"
"Er…" Bilbo's gaze turned to the subjects in question. They did not, as he had hoped they would, give him any answers. "Well… I like to read a lot."
"I like it when Mama and Da both read to me at the same time," said Frodo, fiddling distractedly with the tassel on the end of the blanket wrapped around him. "Mama tells the story and Da does the funny voices of the characters."
"Really?" said Bilbo with a smile as he sipped on his milk. "And what sort of stories do they tell you?"
"Da likes to tell me exciting stories," said Frodo, and he looked up at Bilbo with bright shining eyes. The old hobbit could tell that he had hit a soft topic of conversation. "But Mama doesn't like him telling them before bedtime. She says they excite me too much and I'll end up having nightmares if I even sleep at all." As he said this, Frodo's nose scrunched up in distaste, as though he was far beyond even the thought of such a thing occurring. "But Mama picks out nice stories too," he added as an afterthought.
"I know," said Bilbo, an idea blooming in his mind. "Why don't you tell me one of your most favouritest stories, and I'll tell you one of mine."
"Favouritest isn't a word, Cousin Bilbo," said Frodo with a light giggle. "Auntie Gilda told me so."
"Really?" said Bilbo, feigning surprise. "My but you are a clever lad! Perhaps you should tell my story too."
"Can I just spot your mistakes instead?" asked Frodo. He was feeling far too warm and comfortable to have to tell two whole stories.
"Alright," said Bilbo with a warm smile. "Shall I go first or shall you?"
"You can, Cousin Bilbo," said Frodo, carefully stifling a yawn. Strange how he always had fits of yawns whenever he had warm milk. He could never understand it. "We can get all the hard work out of the way first, like Mama says we should."
And with that decided, Bilbo began weaving an entrancing story about Elves, bright jewels and dancing and singing and adventure and all sorts of wonderful things. Just for a bit of fun, Bilbo purposefully made some mistakes with his language, wondering if the young lad beside him would pick them up. To his surprise and delight, Frodo spotted almost every one. However, as the story continued on, the hobbitling spoke out less and less until suddenly Bilbo felt a strange weight leaning on his arm. He looked down to see that his limb had been turned into a pillow for a small, dark head.
Smiling to himself, Bilbo settled deeper into the cushions of the couch and lapsed into thought. He finished off what was left of his milk just as his ears caught a soft murmuring voice. "Don't worry, Sam. Uncle Bilbo says that a dragon would never come to the Shire."
As Bilbo felt his own lids creeping shut over his eyes, he wondered idly who Sam was, and when he had been promoted to an 'uncle' from his previous position of 'cousin'. But then he found that he was asleep quite before he could give himself an answer.
And that was how Drogo and Primula found the two some twenty minutes later, both deep in sleep, each clutching an empty mug.
"Uncle Bilbo are you certain that it is absolutely necessary to name every single family that will be present at supper?"
"Of course, Frodo-lad. We don't want any of our guests feeling left out."
"I suppose… But are you completely one hundred per cent certain that you absolutely must refer to them as 'One Gross'. You know they will feel insulted. They'll probably talk about that for longer even than the – er – manner of your disappearance."
"Well at least they'll be talking. Wouldn't want my name to be forgotten too soon."
"I don't think anyone will ever forget your name, Uncle. You've left a mark on the Shire so deep that it will take at least a hundred generations before it even begins to fade out of memory."
"Only one hundred, lad?"
"If you're a good hobbit you might be able to stay for longer in our memories."
"I thought it would have been the opposite way around – the good being forgotten while the bad linger in tales used to frighten young hobbit lads and lasses into obedience."
"Hmm… perhaps you're right. But let's get back to this speech of yours… I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve? What on earth are you trying to do, Uncle? Give them all brain damage? It barely even makes sense to me!"
"You think I should change it?"
"… No… keep it like that. It'll give them something to think about for a few more years before they give up. Although…"
"… It does make me wonder which half I'm in."
"Neither. You, my lad, are in a special half all to yourself."
"Bilbo you've already mentioned two halves in your speech. Two halves make a whole. There can't be a third half."
"Ah… but I don't mention two halves. I mention one half, and less than a half. You can be the rest of that second half if you insist on being so technical."
"Indeed? And what shall this part of a half be called?"
"Hmm… How about the only half that really matters – the half that make everythings a wholes."
"Don't you mean the half that makes everything a whole?"
"Just keeping you on your toes, lad, while I still can."
"In that case, I will be's missing yous muchly, Uncle. Morest thans yous cans ever imagines."
"Frodo, with speech like that even this ridiculous old hobbit won't be able to understand you any more."
"Just thought I'd give you something to keep you on your toes, Uncle. Just in case you miss this ridiculous young nephew."
"…Just in case?"
A/N: Happy Birthday Lexi