Petunia and Begonia begged permission to spend the day with the Sandheavers, and Enrico was to spend much of the day with the other lads. Relieved to find herself free to please herself for the day, Delphinium first arranged to take a rather long and hot bath laced with rose oil, then after eating a filling elevenses she took a nap, then after lunch found her way to the house of Denra Gorse where she spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the woman’s stillroom and talking about whatever crossed the minds of each.
Begonia was relieved when her mother granted her permission to visit Agatha Sandheaver, for she’d been afraid that after this morning she’d be made to stay close and have no pleasure in the day at all. To find herself able to spend the day with someone else who shared her major interests in life was a boon she’d not thought herself likely to know for the next few days.
Ronica had her morning chores to complete, and Petunia found herself enjoying helping her. There was a feeling of normalcy she’d not known since they left Garden Place to helping with the breakfast dishes, helping sweep the kitchen and the front walk, and kneeling to help weed the small floral border each side of the stoop and walkway before they were free to call the next few hours their own. She noted that Rikky was assisting Bedlo to fill the woodboxes and carry out yesterday’s peelings and crusts to the compost pile, and even Gonya was helping sweep out the hearths and lay the day’s fires without complaint, contrary to the grousing she commonly indulged in when she performed this duty at home.
Once Ronica’s chores were finished she explained, “I’m plannin’ to go see my Uncle Ned today. Want to come?”
“He’s the one as has the scroll about the Bagginses and the Sackvilles?” Petunia asked. “Do you think as he’d let me see it?”
“Probably him would. Course, I don’t know as how much as ye’d be able to read it. Uncle Ned can’t read it at all, he can’t, but then he never rightly learned how to read anyways.”
“It would be interesting to look at it, I’d think.”
“Well, ye can ask.”
A time later, having let Ronica’s mum know where they were going, they set off for Uncle Ned’s hole. “Uncle Ned, him lives around the hill from us, like, in a sort o’ hollow. Lives alone. It’s not a big place, mind, but him likes it fine.”
No, it wasn’t a large smial, as smials go. The parlor was small and spare; the kitchen neat and well appointed--the largest room in the place, Pet decided; the two bedrooms large enough to hold a bed and wardrobe and small chest and not much more other than a cushioned chair in one and pegs to hang things on in the other; the bathing room and privy each barely large enough to qualify as rooms at all. But all was clean and well ordered.
“So,” he said thoughtfully once they’d been introduced, “you’re from the Shire, are you? And how do you like Bree?”
“It’s very nice, although I’ll be glad to return home now. It seems as we’ve been gone for quite a long time.”
“I suppose as it does seem that way,” he agreed. “I member when we come here from Archet, my sister ’n’ me. Seemed powerful strange for a time, it did. But it’s our home now. Found herself a good family to marry into, and they treat her well. Would you like some cardamom buns? My neighbor’s wife--she makes some for me each week--I’m rather partial to them, you see. Sweet lass he married--most willin’ to aid a body as she can. So I grow the cardamom and keep her supplied with flour ’n’ eggs--keep some hens, I do, and they keep me well supplied with eggs.
“So,” he continued as he placed some buns and a pot of herb butter in front of his guests, along with some shelled, boiled eggs and mugs of apple juice, “your dad’s been sent out to speak with this lawyer fellow from the new King, is he?”
“Yes, Master Alvric. He’s very nice, and my brother says as he’s taught them a good deal as they’d not known before.”
“So I’ve been told. When the Travelers--you know, the Hobbits what went down south-aways with that Strider--come back through they said as they’d seen the King crowned.”
“So they say in the Shire as well. They all say as he’s a wonderful person.”
Uncle Ned smiled. “Hard to think as a king’s but a person like any other,” he said, cocking an eyebrow, “although when you think on it you realize as it must be so.”
“We were talking with Master Erengil the other night, my brother Persi and me. He’s the King’s Messenger as came here a few days ago. Guess as he’d been to the Brandywine Bridge to deliver messages there. He said as it was a bit strange at first, them having a King again after not having one for so very long, either, but now it’s hard to think of them not having one. He says as the King insists everyone be polite to one another, even to the servants as work in the Citadel--I guess as that’s what they call the King’s house there, where he gets to be the King and all. He says as he’s very polite and thoughtful, but you don’t want to try to lie to him. He says as those what try to lie to the King tend to come off very bad. Doesn’t put them in prison or anything like that--just looks at them until they tell the truth. Master Erengil liked our Travelers, he did, although he allows as he got to know Peregrin Took the best, as Captain Pippin got to be one of their guards when he was there. He says as Captain Pippin’s an excellent swordsman now, and a good soldier. He says as Captain Merry’s a good swordsman as well. It’s odd to think of Hobbits being good with swords, though.”
“Then, those swords as they carried--they’re not just for show, then?”
Petunia shook her head. “Oh, no--not at all. Destria’s dad says as they knew just what to do when they raised the Shire and threw Lotho’s Big Men out.”
“They’d growed so much--wouldn’t of believed it if I’d not seen them both afore and after they come back again. You know if Mr. Underhill ever writ his book?”
“Mr. Underhill?” Petunia asked, uncertain as to what she should say. Should she tell him that the one who called himself Mr. Underhill was really her family’s cousin? “I’m afraid I don’t know. I understand that our cousin writes a good bit, but he’s not been able to do a great deal of writing since they got back, for he’s deputy Mayor now and has to work a good deal in Michel Delving. My dad says as most folks just don’t appreciate just how much work the Mayor really does, since most of what he does when he’s mayoring has to do with documents and all, when he’s not performing marriages or hosting banquets. But Dad allows as our cousin does a good job as deputy Mayor--even Uncle Rico agrees, and Cousin Benlo.”
“Was it bad when the Big Men was in charge?” Uncle Ned asked.
Petunia felt herself shuddering as she nodded. “They was--were very nasty, and those Hobbits as helped Cousin Lotho--they got to be almost as bad. Was it bad here, too?”
Uncle Ned’s expression grew more solemn. “Yes,” he admitted, “when they tried to take over. Fell Gorse--he got in to spread the alarm, and we all went to face them. After he saw his sister Miss Denra to the Prancing Pony he went back out to keep an eye on things, he did--understand as he died out there, toward Combe or some such. Sad thing for Miss Denra, although she’s able to take care of herself, she is.”
“Oh, we met her--Mistress Denra Gorse. She lets rooms to Master Alvric. She’s ever so nice.”
He smiled. “A good woman, she is, and a good one with that stillroom of hers. Makes some wonderful liquors, and brews tinctures for the healers and all.”
They went quiet for a time, then Ronica asked, “Uncle Ned, Pet here was wonderin’ if’n ye’d let her see the Scroll o’ the Baggers. Seems as she’s related to both the Bagginses and the Sackvilles.”
“Of course you might, Miss Pet,” he smiled. “Soon as you lasses help me get these cleaned I’ll bring it out, if you’d like.”
Within a quarter hour the table was clean and the few dishes used washed and back on the small dresser in the kitchen, and he went into a storeroom she’d not noticed behind the kitchen and brought back out a very old chest of wood that appeared almost black with age. He carefully opened it and brought out a large, shining tube of a silvery metal decorated with a pattern of silver leaves. “It’s said,” he explained as he carefully removed the end cap for the tube, “as this was a gift from Elves, a long, long time ago. Don’t know about that, o’ course, but it never seems to need much in the way o’ polishin’, and it’s certainly not the work of Hobbits. And I’ve never seen nothin’ like it amongst what the Dwarves ever bring to sell at the markets or to the merchants.”
He carefully slipped a large wooden spool with a roll of parchment about it out of the tube and laid it on the table. “Your hands clean?” he asked, although he knew they’d only just finished washing the dishes and the table. They displayed them, and after he was assured they had no hidden grime he finally began unrolling the parchment from the spool. “Perhaps this is one o’ the oldest things as you’ve ever seen,” he said quietly. “My mum, she learned to read it from her mum, and her from her dad. Mum, she taught my younger sister, but she died years ago and somehow I ended up with it. The first part’s supposed to tell as how the first of the Baggers was Hobbits what come from over mountains far away to the east. Mum says as they lived by a big river over there, most of those as come in that group. Settled down near a river called the Mitheithel or some such name this side of those mountains. Don’t know as there’s any such river called that now. I’ve heard Rangers speak of the Greyflood and the Brandywine, although sometimes they speak of the Hoarwell and Loudwater and Lhun as well. They appear to of traded some with Men and some even with Elves--maybe that’s when our ancestor got the silver tube to put this in.
“Over time there was more as come over the mountains and joined them, and they had childern ’n’ all, so there was more still. They had too many now for one village, so some went further west down the river to where they could set up a new village, and they changed their names from Baggers to Sackins. One of the Baggers married a Hobbitess from the village of the Weavers, and that’s supposed to be when this was first writ. No one can read this part here, for it’s not in any writin’ as we know at all. Suppose as it might be Elvish writin’, if’n it’s true as the earliest Baggers traded with Elves.” He carefully rolled a good deal of the first part up until he could get to another part where the script was more familiar.
“I can read that,” Petunia said, smiling, “although the spelling’s queer and all. And it doesn’t sound like we speak now. ‘Mor hav coom oop the Grene Way, langside Menne of the Dun Landes, wanting lande to farme and calle thir oon. Meny stoppe here in the Bree Landes, yet others passe alang oeste to the landes given to the brethers Tûk for the settlinge of Hobbittes, there aver the River Baranduin.’ This must have been written after the Baggers and the Sackinses came here.”
He nodded. “I guess as there was dread battles further east, and the King had all as couldn’t fight move this way where the armies didn’t come much. So this is where we settled first. Many of the Baggers and the Sackinses ended up livin’ near Archet and Combe, although those as moved into the Shire appear to of changed their names. Many of the Sackinses what went settled in a village I’m told they called Sackville, and I suppose as that was when they changed their names from Sackins to Sackvilles. A few eventually moved back out here, and that was what they called themselves once they come back to the Breelands. You’ll find a few Sackvilles here in Bree itself, and they tend to look down on the Sackinses as if they wasn’t related at all.
“Some of the Baggers and the Sackinses as went into the Shire settled down together, first near the Tooks in the Green Hills country, and they all seem to of decided to change back to the same family name--the Bagginses--or that’s what’s supposed to be writ in the scroll. But they moved back east after a time, and founded what’s now Hobbiton. I don’t know as there’s any village what’s called Sackville left now--never heard of it from none of them as have been here to Bree from the Shire since we moved here; but I hear tell the Sackvilles still live there.”
“Some--not many now,” Petunia admitted. “And there’s not a lot of Bagginses, either.”
“My younger sister ’n’ me, we’d listen to our mum tell the old tales and read from the scroll. Suppose as that’s why I ended up with it, then, for Mum knew as I loved hearin’ the story of how the Baggers come over the mountains.”
“Could she read the first part?”
“Well, she said as she could, but I don’t know as she truly understood it or if she was just memberin’ it as she’d been told it when it was read or told to her.” He kept rolling the loose end and unrolling from the spool until he got near the end, where the writing stopped. “Here’s our family,” he said. “There--our mum Platina and Dad Bando, and my brother Ed, and me and ....” He might not read, but clearly recognized the names he’d known so well. “So now the scroll of the Baggers is in the hands of the Underhills,” he finished.
He allowed Pet to roll it all back onto the spool, and she paused. “There’s a family of Sackinses, and here’s some of the Sackvilles, and here’s a Baggins. And here--” she stopped, then looked up into his face, her eyes alight, “here’s a Bracegirdle! You mean we’re related, too?”
He looked closely. “That’s what that says?” he asked. “I can recognize Bagger, of course, but don’t know the rest, although I’ve found my own name a few times.” He examined the scroll and found a portion he’d obviously looked through several times. “Here--that’s Ned, ain’t it?”
“Yes, Ned Bagger, who married Fern Fiddlehead. They had three children--Tolman, Cotman, and Pansy.”
He smiled broadly. “So--must be my great, great, great grandfather Ned, then.”
“My Cousin Benlo would love to see this, I’m certain, and Roto Sackville, too. Maybe even our Cousin Frodo. He’s family head for the Bagginses, you see. And Dad says he studies Elvish.”
“You mean you might know someone as could translate that first bit?”
“Well, I don’t really know him myself--he’s a third cousin of my mum’s, you see. But I’m certain as I’ll see him at the Free Fair at Michel Delving--we always go.”
Ned Underhill looked intrigued. “I’d love to have this translated so as we know exactly what it says.”
“I can talk to him at the Free Fair and see if he’d agree to translate it, or maybe he’d know as who could translate it for you, someone outside. He knows Elves.”
“A Hobbit what knows Elves?” Ned looked a bit disbelieving.
“Yes, he knows Elves. We met an Elf as knows him when we were coming here. Mr. Glorinlas Gildorion says as Cousin Frodo’s an--an Elf friend. There’s an Elvish word for it, but I’ve forgot it.”
“Well, why don’t you ask him when you see him, and mayhaps he’ll translate it for me. This one can read--I could have her read the letter to me if you’ll send it to her.”
By the time her father and brother returned that night she was rather excited and felt she had a good deal to tell Persi. They didn’t return until quite late, and as she, Rikky, and Gonya had been sent to bed an hour before she’d had to pinch herself quite a bit to keep herself awake till she heard them down the hallway in the private parlor. She quickly rose and pulled a dressing gown about herself, and sat in the chair near the door until her brother came in.
“Persi,” she hissed. “I’ve seen it--the scroll of the Baggers! Ronica’s Uncle Ned does have it, and it’s ever so old, it is. Has it in a special tube as it’s said the Elves made. And he wants to see it properly translated, ’cause some of the writing appears to be Elvish and he wants to be able to really have someone read it to him. And our family name’s in it, too! Isn’t that interesting?”
He sat down on his bed, the one nearest the door, and looked at her. “Ooh, that is interesting, Pet. But I found out--I found out why----” Then he paused. He wanted so much to tell her, but his father’s oath held him, too. But he knew she had the same information he did, and could figure it out herself if she’d just get that last little nudge such as he’d had. But could he give her even that nudge? He wasn’t certain.
“You found out what?” And when he shook his head, she sighed. “Oh, something more about Cousin Frodo Baggins, then?” At his nod, she shrugged. “And you can’t tell ’cause of the oath. I see. Is it why he’s a lord now?”
“Was it interesting, going to this farm as these folks have?”
“Oh, yes--very interesting. Two of the marker stones are ancient standing stones, and one has what appear to be barrows near it so you could either stand on them and see the Sun rise over the stone on special days, or you can tell when those days come when the shadow of it hits them. They have a sword like the one it’s said the Master has as was given Bucca of the Marish by Arvedui Last-king’s son what he found as he was digging the smial out; and a beautiful pot, and a comb they say as is made of the shell of a great beast they call a tortoise as lives far away. It’s inlaid with what Mr. Hedges thought was silver, only Master Faradir says as it’s not, but it’s a different metal what’s called mithril instead. He says as it’s very precious, mithril is. He thinks as the comb was made by the Elves. He says the mithril comes from a Dwarf kingdom what’s been empty a long time save for goblins--he calls them yrch or orcs, same as Mr. Glorinlas Gildorion. He says the Elves and the Dwarves have always traded for mithril with one another, and both love to make things from it. He says as it’s stronger’n steel, and it won’t tarnish like silver will. The Dwarves as are going to go to the King’s city to help fix it after the war plan to sheathe the gates they’re going to make with it, even--the ones as are needed to replace the ones broken by the one they call the Witch-king. I guess as he was a terrible one as was captain of the army from--from Mordor.”
“Their gates was broken?”
“Yes--broken into pieces. He said when they got there the pieces had all been swept away, but was being all kept so as those as would help make new ones could see how they’d been made and all, and so they could maybe save the statues as were on them. Can you imagine--gates with statues on them?” When Petunia shook her head, he continued, “He says the same as what Master Alvric and Master Erengil said--that you can see the black mountains from the King’s city, and that all told him as the sky over them always used to have dark clouds of brown and grey ash over them, and you could see a red glow under them at night, from the mountain of fire as they used to have there. Only the mountain’s gone now--it tore itself up at the end when the Enemy’s Ring was thrown into it. There’s a cup they found in Mr. Hedge’s hole, one what was painted with a scene as he says is of that mountain was when it was still there. He says as it must of come from Gondor or maybe from some of the Elves as fought in the Last Alliance. He says as most of the great Elves as still live in Middle Earth fought in that battle, even though it was three thousand years ago. He says as the Elves didn’t forget, or forget as the North Kingdom was founded by Elendil himself, as died there to help bring Sauron down the last time. The new King--he’s Elendil’s descendant, father to son, for three thousand years. He’s through Elendil’s older son Isildur, and the old kings of Gondor, they’re through the younger son Anárion. Only the King Elessar, he’s through Anárion, too, because Arvedui Last-king married the daughter of King Ondoher of Gondor, and all his descendants are her descendants, too.”
“Oh--so that’s how he got to be King to both us and them?” At his nod, she paused thoughtfully. “So maybe that cup was so as them as used to live there on the farm could remember that battle as Elendil fought in, there in Mordor.”
“That’s what Master Faradir thinks. He said the last battle was fought right at the foot of the mountain, even, and that Elendil and a great Elf king both died there to help defeat Sauron, and after Sauron fell down Elendil’s remaining son Isildur used the blade of his father’s broken sword to cut the Enemy’s great Ring of Power from Sauron’s own hand so he couldn’t use It to blast everyone to pieces once he woke up again. It’s only because he couldn’t find that Ring as he couldn’t come back to full power before now. Isildur took It away with him, only he got killed when he lost It in a river. Only something else found that Ring and took It away from the river to under the mountains, and then he seems to have dropped It, and someone else still found It and brought It back out from under the mountains again. Only no one could tell as what Ring It was because the signs on It as told only showed when It was hot. Once old Gandalf the Wizard realized how he could test It he managed to throw It in a parlor fire, and sure enough the fire writing showed on It when It was hot enough, so they knew they had to get It out--get It out of there and go think on what to do with It.”
Petunia’s cheeks were getting pink with excitement. “I see,” she said. “And they couldn’t tell as what Ring it was until then?”
He nodded and she started to ask another question, then stopped as if something had hit her in the chest. Even in the dim light from the rushlight and the windows it was plain she’d lost all her color. “So--so that’s it!” she whispered, finally. “That’s why they call Cousin Frodo Baggins the Ringbearer, and why Lotho’s Big Men was--was taking rings! Mad old Bilbo Baggins found It! He found It when he was on his adventure, there in Gollum’s cave--and that’s not just a story he made up!”
She took a deep breath and examined her brother’s face. “And he never knew? He left that--that thing--here in the Shire when he went away--left It to Cousin Frodo?” When he made no gesture she took another deep breath and then let it go in a loud whoosh. “And you can’t even say yes or no, can you?”
“No, I can’t.”
“So--so that’s why he sold Bag End to Cousin Lotho, and why he left the Shire--once they knew they had to get It away from us. He wanted to keep us safe. Only he didn’t know as what Cousin Lotho was going to do, and that that Sharkey’d send ruffians to look for It. No wonder--no wonder he was so upset when he got back, Persivo Bracegirdle! I’d of been upset, too!”
Persivo looked down thoughtfully, then back at her. “I’d never thought of that, Pet.”
“And he took It--he took It all the way to Mordor--to get rid of It.”
“Master Faradir says as the only place as It could be destroyed was where It was made--there in the fire mountain.”
“No wonder the King made him a lord!” She turned away, toward the window, seeing where the reflection of the rushlight shone on it. “And he didn’t fight with a sword like Captain Merry and Captain Pippin did. He fought--he fought by--by being a Hobbit, by finding a way in and going all the way to the mountain itself and not being seen.” She suddenly looked sideways at him. “And did Sam Gamgee go with him--all the way?” When he didn’t answer she gave a single, thoughtful nod. “So he’s a lord, too, then. He’s the other lord.” Suddenly she started to giggle. “Dad must be fit to be tied--knowing a gardener’s a lord of the King’s lands! Bet he’s ever so upset.”
Persivo was beginning to grin. “You ought to of seen him when he realized!”
They smiled at one another with a degree of satisfaction, then Petunia’s expression grew pensive again. “And I can’t talk about it, either, can I? Not without risking Dad’s oath?”
He nodded. “Lyssa was furious when she realized as she couldn’t even tell you.”
“But we all were likely to figure it out, anyway.” She sighed. “I’m sorry, for I’d have loved to tell Ronica, but I can’t. Too bad, really.” She rose and, removing her dressing gown, went to her bed and sat upon it, looking across the gap where he was now working at the buttons for the placket of his shirt. “I’m going to ask Cousin Frodo Baggins at the Free Fair if he’d be willing to translate the Scroll of the Baggers for Ronica’s Uncle Ned.”
“You don’t have to wait that long. Ask one of the Rangers--many of them know Elvish, you see.”
“Yes--some of the deeds, they’re in an Elvish they say is called Sindarin, and the rest is in an old Man’s language called Adunaic. That’s why Dad’s so tired today--he was up late translating the deeds for these properties near here with one of the Rangers as knew both--Master Gilfileg, the one who wears the black glove.”
“Well, if he’s still here, I’ll ask him, then.” She stretched as she swiveled to get under her covers. “Just think--we’re probably related to Ronica’s family, too.”