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72
Born to a New Age

With many thanks to RiverOtter for the beta, and dedicated to her as well, as the idea was hers!


~~~

Born to the New Age


Mr. Griffo Boffin of Hobbiton walked through the village feeling more than a little amazed and excited. Two years previous to today the Shire had been in a shambles. Griffo and his wife Daisy’s home had been all but gutted by Lotho Sackville-Baggins’s Gatherers and Sharers and his Big Men, who had also been transforming the once-glorious gardens of Bag End into a shanty-town of ramshackle sheds. What they’d done to the interior of what had been one of the most luxurious smials in the entire Shire and beyond Griffo didn’t even wish to imagine.

But that had changed when, beyond all expectations, the four Travelers had returned from the wild, rousing the Shire and ridding the land of Lotho’s ruffians and bully-boys almost overnight. Suddenly things were overturned as stolen goods were found and restored, homes dug anew or rebuilt or made snugger, inns reopened, and hope returned. And all watched after the shining forms of Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, most often referred to as the Captains (meaning nothing but good, of course), and the more prosaic figure of that gardener Samwise Gamgee with far more respect and even awe than had ever before been granted those who’d openly left the Shire. As for Frodo Baggins--well, it seemed most folks didn’t see him much, save at the renewed Shire banquets. Oh, he might be seen riding that lovely new pony of his between the Bywater-Hobbiton area and Michel Delving on the skirts of the White Downs; but he wasn’t seen to be “out there” the way the Captains and Mr. Gamgee were, putting things right. There had been talk of voting Frodo as Mayor in his own right, as Will Whitfoot said he’d been doing a marvelous job as deputy Mayor; but last summer somehow that talk had fallen to naught, and Will was facing another seven years of officiating at official banquets and overseeing the Shiriffs and the restored Quick Post. Although Griffo had the idea that Frodo had quietly done far more in the restoration of the Shire than most folks began to realize, really. Not that your average Hobbit would appreciate that there was more to seeing the business of the Shire running smoothly than one could easily see....

Today, standing where the Hobbiton Road skirted the shoulder of the Hill and looking down on the avenues of young trees that had been planted to replace those felled by Sharkey’s folks, smelling the wonderful green smell of a spring of special promise, listening to the comforting creak of the new wheel for the restored Mill and the swirl of the water through the traces, Griffo felt a special wonder. How had it all come out so right? And was it true? And after his wife’s cousin Angelica losing the last one that way.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of cheerful whistling as a solid-looking Hobbit appeared from the lane leading to the bridge that crossed the Water into Bywater. Frodo had once commented to Griffo that his gardener was capable of whistling like a whole tree full of birds, and that was certainly true of him today from what Griffo could hear. Samwise Gamgee might have been as solidly built a Hobbit as one could look to find, but at the moment he walked with a decided spring in his step, and his face was particularly shining with happiness and contentment as he turned toward the Lane up to Bag End.

Without realizing what he was planning to do, Griffo hailed the gardener. “I say--Mr. Gamgee! Samwise Gamgee!”

At the first call the Hobbit stopped, and at the second turned with surprise. He was carrying a sizable bundle wrapped in brown paper and string, and from the twist of white cloth that could be seen protruding from his pocket Griffo would guess he’d stopped at the sweet-sellers to buy some of those mints she’d just started selling the other day. Griffo hurried forward to join the gardener at the beginning of the Lane. “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it, Mr. Gamgee?” he asked.

Sam looked at him in surprise, as rarely did a gentlehobbit speak to a working class Hobbit of his own sort so courteously, as if to an equal. But he obviously agreed with Griffo’s observation as he replied, “That it is, Mr. Boffin, sir. That it is! A wonderful day it is!”

“And I hear that congratulations are in order? A daughter, isn’t it?”

“Oh, yes, sir--the most beautifullest little lass as was ever born in the Shire, too, she is!” The pride in his eyes was matched only by his obvious joy. “Born just yesterday she was.”

“And your wife--she’s doing well?”

“Oh, and then some, sir. Seems as it was a right easy birth, Mr. Boffin. She’s already up and about--nothin' can keep my Rosie down, it seems.”

“And Frodo--how is he taking things?”

Sam’s smile was gentle. “Oh, he’s that pleased, he is. Holds her and sings to her, tells her how lovely she is, tells her how lucky she is to have us for her mum and dad. Why, he must have counted all her fingers and toes fifty times at least, as if between one moment and the next one of them might just go missin', sir.”

“Like his did?”

That had just slipped out, somehow. People knew that Frodo Baggins had managed to lose a finger while he was gone from the Shire, although no one seemed to know just how or why or under what circumstances; and none of the four of them would speak of it. That closed look showed on Sam’s face. His answer was, “As you say, Mr. Boffin, sir.”

The ensuing silence became difficult to bear. At last Sam suggested, “If you really want to know as how Mr. Frodo lost his finger, you’d probably best ask him, not what he’d perhaps answer it. I’ll tell you this--he lost it fightin' a terrible battle.”

“Then he knows how to use that sword he brought back with him?”

“He wasn’t fightin' with any sword, sir--not then. He was fightin' with his sheer will, and to tell the truth he was losin' the battle. Only someone else attacked him, too, and without meanin' to save him managed to do just that. There were three folks there at the time, and one more. And the one more was winnin', until the third one took it all.

“If he was to answer you, he’d could tell you any number of things as to what happened, and they’d all be true. But what he’d probably tell you was just what happened, and it wouldn’t be the truth at all.”

“And you know the truth of what happened?”

“I was there. Although I don’t know as anyone outside the Creator Hisself truly knows all as happened. Although, if he could be coaxed to tell of it I suspect Gandalf could tell you a thing or two as approached the heart of it--Gandalf, or perhaps the King.”

“He was there?”

“No, but----” For the first time Sam looked uncertain, then gave a faint, reminiscent smile. “You meet the King, you’ll understand best, I suppose. But if a single mortal anywhere can understand what happened there when Frodo fought the Enemy, I think as he does.”

Hobbits tend to find such solemn, thoughtful discourse uncomfortable, and Griffo Boffin was no exception. He shivered, and did his best to put all that had just been said--and not said--behind him. “I see,” he said, not truly seeing at all. He forced a more cheerful tone into his voice. “And Frodo is happy about the birth, then?”

“Of course, sir. The perfect, besotted uncle he is.” The gardener’s polite deference and pleasure were back, along with the indulgent smile at the thought of how much Frodo Baggins was enchanted by the birth of Sam Gamgee’s child.

“And what did you name her?”

“He named her--and just the right name for her he chose, too. Elanor, sir. He named her Elanor. It’s the name of a beautiful, golden sunstar flower we saw on our journey, and it fits her so well, our little golden Elanor. Delicate and true, the flower and the child. I asked him, and he knew the perfect name.”

He shifted the great bundle to a more comfortable position. Griffo cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, then, to be keeping you from your errand.”

“No reason, sir. Was just over to the farm--the Cotton’s farm that is. Mum Lily--she had a great bundle of nappies gathered for us. Tried to tell us as how many nappies as we’d need, and of course we thought it was only exaggeratin'. But in just a day we’ve learned she was right. Rather like old Mr. Bilbo and what he’d say about pocket handkerchiefs, don’t you know--you can’t never have too many nappies when you have a newborn.”

His good humor was infectious, and Griffo smiled broadly in reply. He found he rather liked this perhaps not-so-simple gardener rather more than he’d ever realized. “I’ll keep that in mind, and let Daisy’s cousin Angelica know. Angelica’s very excited. She’s just learned that she’s apparently conceived, and after losing the first one the healers had warned her that she was unlikely to do so ever again.”

“Angelica Baggins as was, sir? Mr. Ponto’s daughter? Oh, but I’ll tell my Master--he’ll be that glad, you know!”

“Yes, do tell him. Of course, as head of the Baggins family he ought to be told anyway.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Boffin--you’re right there.”

“And one thing more, Mr. Gamgee....”

“And what’s that, Mr. Boffin?”

“I wanted to thank you is all. I know you helped a lot of us get our holes and houses fixed up, and there are all the groves and avenues and orchards you saw planted in place of what that Sharkey and his folk cut down. And you’re taking such good care of my wife’s cousin....” His voice dwindled as he again grew uncertain as to what he could say further.

Again Sam’s smile grew gentle and a bit sad. “It’s my honor, Mr. Griffo, sir, to be doing anythin' for my Master. He’s told me as I’m his brother now, after what we went through together; and Rosie’s the true mistress of Bag End, as he don’t plan to marry--not now. He’s made Bag End our home as much as his, and won’t allow us to think of ourselves as if we was but servants. And he won’t allow as he’s due anythin' special, no matter what he did to save us all. I’d do anythin' for him, if it made things easier for him.”

Griffo wasn’t certain quite how to think of this. “Well,” he said carefully, “do carry him my respects, won’t you? And again my congratulations on the birth of your daughter.”

“That I will, Mr. Boffin, sir. And thank you. It’s a new age now, did you realize? The greatest of evils as was lingerin' still in Middle-earth is now gone, the King’s returned and he’s a wonder, the White Tree grows now in the Courts of the King, the Shire’s well on its way to what it was when we left it, and now what children as are born to us will grow up free of a lot of the fear and danger as threatened when we was little ones.”

Unconsciously, Griffo Boffin stood straighter, responding automatically to the confidence with which Sam made this recital. “So it is, so it is,” he replied. “Well, may your new daughter bring you and your wife a world of joy.”

“She already’s done that, for us and for Mr. Frodo. And give your missus my greetings, won’t you?”

“Of course, my dear fellow!” And with no thought of how odd it was to think of bearing the good wishes of a mere gardener might seem, Griffo Boffin hurried home to do exactly that.

*******


It was October sixth, and Griffo Boffin was heading from the privy behind the Green Dragon back to the outside door to the common room when he spotted Samwise Gamgee riding up to the doors to the stable on that piebald pony he boarded at the Green Dragon, leading that lovely gelding that was Frodo’s. He felt relief wash over him. He’d been looking forward to having a word or two with his wife’s cousin, and it looked as if he’d finally have his chance.

“Mr. Gamgee! You’ve returned!”

The gardener, who was dropping from his mount, paused to look at him questioningly. “What?” he asked, as if distracted. Then he focused. “Oh, Mr. Griffo--it’s you then, sir?”

“Yes. I’d planned to stop by Bag End this evening--let Frodo know.”

“Let Mr. Frodo know? Know what, sir?”

“His cousin Angelica--she’s given birth while you two were gone from Hobbiton! And--can you believe it? She’s had twins! A lad and a lass, and both with golden hair! Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

“There’s been a fair number of lads and lasses born with golden hair since we come back,” Sam said. “But that’s nice, sir. And twins did you say?”

“Yes,” Griffo said, surprised by the lack of enthusiasm he saw in the other Hobbit. Twins were not precisely a common event amongst Hobbits, after all. “As family head....”

“Oh, yes, Mr. Frodo would have needed to know, wouldn’t he?”

Something in the way that was said gave the Boffin pause. “Is there something wrong with Frodo?” he asked, not certain what the feeling of foreboding he was experiencing might mean.

“Somethin' wrong with Mr. Frodo? Oh, but I hope not, not now.”

“Shall I stop by and tell him tonight, then?”

“Stop by? Oh, but he’s not there.”

“Not there? Not in Bag End? Did he stay in Buckland, or wherever it was the two of you went?”

Sam’s mouth worked some. “Stay in Buckland? Oh, but sir--we didn’t go to Buckland. I’d thought as perhaps we might stop there a night as we went east to Bree, but it turned out as we didn’t go that way at all.”

“Bree? But why would you be going to Bree this time of year? Or were you going to see some of those you met outside the Shire when you were gone before?” That made sense--Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took had made it plain that they all had friends among the Men who lived Outside, after all, not that the Hobbits of the Shire were willing to allow any Men to cross its borders since the last of Lotho and that Sharkey’s ruffians were chased out of it, their tails between their legs.

“See folk in Bree? Oh, no--we weren’t plannin’ on that so much as----” But Sam didn’t finish.

After a moment Griffo commented, “You appear to be saying a good deal of ?‘Oh, but’ tonight, Mr. Gamgee.”

“Am I? Yes, I suppose as I am.” Sam looked quite surprised at this. “Please, sir--I’d best get these two stabled. My Rosie and little Elanor--they’re waiting for me, I think. They said as they’d tell them.”

“Oh--I do beg your pardon, Mr. Gamgee, sir. Let me help you--to make amends, you understand.” So saying, Griffo took the reins of Frodo’s pony and led the way inside.

In minutes they had the two ponies unsaddled and the tack carefully settled where it belonged. As they efficiently curried the two animals, Griffo was describing the birth of the twins. “The children were born almost three weeks before their proper time, you must realize. Angelica and her husband had come to visit with her parents, and we were there to have dinner with them when suddenly the birth pangs began. I hurried off to fetch the midwife while Daisy and Angelica’s mother did their best to help get her calmed down and ready for the birthing. Angelica’s father was quite worried, but her husband was nothing but a mass of nerves. Finally the midwife begged Ponto and me to get him out of there. ‘He’d worrit the wings off a fly!’ she told us. ‘And don’t let him come back for at least three hours!’

“So we brought him here. By the time we got back it was almost all over--very short labor, I understand. And they are so beautiful a pair, the two of them! Angelica is most delighted, and her husband is right over the moon with pride!”

“If he’s like I was, I understand,” Sam said. “A lad and a lass, you said?”

“Oh, my, yes! And both with the most beautiful golden curls! As you said, there’s been a fair number of fair-haired children born this past year or two!”

Sam nodded, solemnly. “Seems to be the way as the new age is startin'--that’s for certain,” he said. “The Lady’s blessing, I suppose.”

“What lady?”

“The Lady Galadriel--it was her as give me a box of soil from her garden, and I used a grain for each tree as I planted, each garden as I helped start anew. And the last of the soil I give to the winds at the Three Farthing Stone, once all else was done. She was an Elf queen, she was, here in Middle-earth. Don’t know exactly how it will be with her, once she’s there, though.”

There? Where is there?”

“Where she went--with Master Elrond from Rivendell and old Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo and Gandalf and all--in Elvenhome.”

“What?”

“She’s left Middle-earth, don’t you see? Went on the Grey Ship--went to Elvenhome. It’s the end of the Elves’ time, you must understand. Those as are left in Middle Earth, they won’t stay much longer now. Oh, maybe a hundred years or so; but few longer than that. It was time for--for the Ringbearers to leave.”

Griffo was surprised to see a tear roll slowly down the gardener’s face. “You know Elves?” he asked.

“Yes--we met them when we went out of the Shire, sir. And we spent time both in Rivendell and Lórien. But now Master Elrond and Lady Galadriel, they’ve gone, and the rest of the Elves as are still in Middle Earth, they’ll be gone soon enough. It’s because it’s the new age--the Fourth Age now.”

Griffo shook his head. And then the other thing the gardener had said hit him. “Wait! You said that Frodo--he----”

“Yes, Mr. Griffo--my Master’s gone, too, and old Mr. Bilbo with them. The Ring is gone now, and so the Ringbearers, their time come to leave.”

“But when will he return?”

“You don’t understand, Mr. Boffin--those as go to Elvenhome, they can’t come back to the Mortal Lands again. Once they get there, that’s where they’ll stay, what time’s left to them.”

“But--but, who’s master of Bag End and the Hill now, then?”

Sam took the brush Griffo held from him and very carefully set it in its place, and drew the Boffin out of the stall and closed the gate behind them. “I am now, sir. He made me his heir.”

“Frodo--he made you----?”

“Yes, sir. My Master--he made me his heir. And before he left, he give me the letter from the King sayin' as he confirms it. I’m master of Bag End, now.”

Sam stood in humble pride, and didn’t seem to notice the further tears that slipped down his cheeks. He took his saddlebags and settled them over his shoulder. “Now, if you’ll excuse me--my wife and my daughter--they’re up there, on the Hill, waiting for me. And I rather think as I need to be by them, don’t you know.” He gave a nod to his head, as one gentlehobbit to another, and turned away. Just short of the door he stopped and turned back. “When were the twins borned, sir?”

“When? Oh, a week ago, not long before midnight, I’d say.”

“The twenty-ninth?”

“Yes--the twenty-ninth.”

“And what did they name them?”

“Angelica named them Drogo and Primula, after Frodo’s parents. She’d loved them so when she was small, you see.”

A slow smile spread across Samwise Gamgee’s face. “Thank you for tellin' me, Mr. Griffo, sir. It would have made him so glad to know. Well, a good evening to you, sir.”

And with another nod, Sam left the stable to walk the last mile home, alone.

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