Disclaimer: I don't own Lord of the Rings or any of it's characters and I cannot claim to hope to do justice to the genius of Tolkien with any of my writing- yet I do it respectfully as an ardent admirer of Middle Earth with it's evils and innocence alike. Thus my story is humbly submitted.

A FIVE SCORE PRELUDE

1368-1418

Drogo

September 23, 1368 S.R.

Drogo considered the dreary horizon with a frustrated sigh as he walked down the well-trodden path through the trees. His shoulders were slouched, hands resigned to his breech pockets, a melancholy expression on his face.

He hadn't been down this way for months, he mused. Of course, there really hadn't been reason to. She was the one who really enjoyed the trip. And she was stuck inside, much to her dislike one might add. Keeping Prim indoors was like caging up a wild animal.

Ahh, there it was. A little bush grew into the path and it curved- just so- then one more corner and…

There it was.

The sight was a bit anti-climatic for the old hobbit. He paused as he surveyed the wide river, its swellings and breakings humming softly as they labored slowly onward toward what end Drogo did not know, nor did he care… his mind was elsewhere.

He walked to the edge of the bank and looked out across the water. A mist hung in the air, but he could see something… oh… it was nothing but a sparrow darting through the trees on the western shore.

Primula loved this river. She used to spend hours on its banks, though what she did there, Drogo could not say; daydreaming or making up snatches of poetry more than likely. Yes, that's what she would do. Still- he could not understand what she found so fascinating about the place.

She was just like that.

He wondered suddenly if she was still sleeping. Perhaps she'd woken up. Maybe he should go back and check and… no. Rory had all but pushed him out the door to make him leave her for even this short a time- said he fussed too much over her and needed some time to himself.

'I don't think I fuss too much over her," he mumbled to himself. But there it was. It wasn't as though he had anything else to do.

He caught himself gazing at his flicking reflection- his thinning hair and expanding waistline. This certainly wasn't the hobbit that had married his beautiful bride some thirteen years ago. And neither pride nor the best intended assurances that his face really wasn't that wrinkled or that his hair really wasn't that white could deny the fact.

He was old.

But it wasn't that bad, really. After all, his father had lived nearly a century. Yes, he had at least a good thirty years to go. But that wasn't what bothered him… no.

His son did.

Drogo's father had been only forty; Drogo was sixty. Long familiar doubts began again to fill his mind, visions of a boy looking up at his invalid father.

'Why won't you chase me, daddy?'

No! He would not… could not… dwell on them now. It wouldn't change anything, and worry never helped anyone. Besides there was too much to be done. It was getting colder. The trip back to Hobbiton wasn't all that long, but with a baby in tow…

Of course Rory had offered to let them stay through the winter. They would be more than well provided for and Bingo would have plenty of willing babysitters in Brandy Hall…

There! He had done it again. It was Frodo now, wasn't it? Frodo. Who needs a memory, anyway? He chuckled despite himself, but then he shivered suddenly.

The breeze had picked up a bit.

Yes, it was time to go back and check on Prim, whatever Rory thought!

He smiled… Rory was a good brother-in-law and a better friend- a bit queer he had once thought (he was a Brandybuck after all!), but a kinder, more hospitable hobbit he had yet to find.

But thinking of hospitality, Drogo's mind began to wander to the dinner he'd had earlier that day. Were there any of those mince pies left?

Perhaps he would spend just a little more time to himself. Perhaps in the pantry?

And with that thought, Drogo struck back down the path with a little more conviction in his step than he'd had when he came.