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46
New Roads and Secret Gates

Written for the third anniversary of the Many Paths to Tread archive. For Raksha the Demon, who has always loved to see Faramir interacting with the Hobbits.


~~~

New Roads and Secret Gates




Sam was whistling as he knelt in the herb garden outside the Houses of Healing, thinning the comfrey. Faramir, newly named Prince of Ithilien as well as the Steward of Gondor, smiled to hear the Hobbit. It was good to know that this worthy soul had also survived the horrors of his recent past and was now able to rejoice by producing such music. To the gardener he said, “And you find both the day and your activity pleasing, Master Samwise?”

Sam looked up, a smile of pleasure on his face to see Faramir standing there. “Oh, but both are true, Captain Faramir, sir,” he responded. “Been the first as I’ve found myself whistlin’ in quite a while, it is. It’s a right pleasant day, Lord Strider’s provin’ a good king and a discernin’ one as well, and most as I’ve worried over along the way are doin’ well enough today. Mr. Frodo was smilin’ this mornin’ as he sung a song as we’ve heard the neighbor singin’ to her bairns, and neither his hand nor his shoulder seems to be painin’ him for a wonder. As for the others, they was all smilin’ as they come back from their weapons practice, so I suspect as they all did right well. And I’ll tell you as it’s a joy to find somethin’ both useful and pleasant to do today in such a pleasant place.”

“And what song is that you were whistling? I don’t recognize it, so I gather that it is a song of your people. The tune is delightful—I suspect that I’ll find myself humming it frequently.”

Sam flushed. “Oh, and your brother liked it well enough, too. He was hummin’ it often enough as we walked along, headin’ south from Rivendell.” He brushed the loose earth from his fingers and leaned back to sit upon his heels. “You’re right—it’s a song from the Shire. Old Mr. Bilbo wrote it, and it’s always been a favorite of my Master’s and his kin, and especial those as is closest to Mr. Frodo. It’s a walkin’ song.”

Faramir found himself chuckling. “Yes, it sounds perfect for walking, I admit. We have plenty of marching songs here in Gondor, and many sea shanties for sailors to time their pulling on ropes, lines, and nets to, as well as a goodly selection of songs, many from Rohan originally, fit for riding. But we of Gondor have rather lost the art of enjoying a simple walk, I fear. And, yes, I do suspect that my brother would have been as drawn to the tune as I find myself. And you say that the Ringbearer’s kinsman wrote this song?”

Sam nodded. “That he did. Mr. Bilbo was always writin’ poetry, and set a good deal of it to music over the years. And for all so many Hobbits said as they was sure as him was cracked, still they’d all sing his songs. Suspect as many didn’t realize he’d written those songs they liked.” His smile was crooked as he shook his head at the wonder of it. “We taught that one to your brother as we was walkin’ along. Pippin would usually start it, singing soft-like as we’d walk, and then the rest of us would join in, and then old Strider and often Gandalf as well. Of course, Gandalf has been a friend of Mr. Bilbo’s for years and years, so he knows most of the Shire walkin’ songs and all anyways. Suspect as Mr. Bilbo and maybe the Old Took afore him taught him lots of songs from the Shire long afore Mr. Frodo and I met him. Wasn’t too long once we was on our way afore your brother and Gimli was singin’ with us as well.”

“What is the song about? Would you sing it for me?”

Sam flushed, but began to sing:

“Upon the hearth the fire is red,
Beneath the roof there is a bed,
But not yet weary are our feet,
Still round the corner we may meet:
A sudden tree or standing stone
That none have seen but we alone.

”Tree and flower and leaf and grass,
Let them pass! Let them pass!
Hill and water under sky,
Pass them by! Pass them by!

”Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though we pass them by today
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.

”Apple, thorn, and nut and sloe,
Let them go! Let them go!
Sand and stone and pool and dell,
Fare you well! Fare you well!

”Home is behind, the world ahead
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead
We'll wander back to home and bed.

”Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
Fire and lamp, and meat and bread,
And then to bed! And then to bed!”


Faramir laughed in delight. “You have a fine singing voice, Master Samwise,” he complimented the Hobbit. “Oh, yes, my brother would have loved such a song. Always he loved to take new roads, I found. I doubt we took the same road twice in traveling to our uncle’s home in Dol Amroth once we were able to go there on our own, for example. It drove his aides to distraction, his tendency to examine the new roads and secret gates. The most common complaint was that should he be injured along the way, it would be difficult to find him if those who sought to aid him could not determine which route he might have taken. Of course, he would offer this as a justification for his tendency to explore—that if his friends could not predict which route he might take, the same was true also of his enemies.”

Sam nodded. “Yes, he said as much to us as well. But I noted as him appeared to prefer real roads to the deer paths and such as we took south, although he’d keep his complaints to hisself for the most part save when him was tired.”

He shifted his position a bit. “But as for new roads and secret gates—well, that’s always how my Mr. Frodo’s been. Most folk of the Shire would think as him was far, far too curious for a proper Hobbit when he was younger, don’t you know. Afore Mr. Bilbo left Bag End when my Master come of age, the old fellow told me that in spite of only bein’ free to ramble about the Shire for eleven years, Mr. Frodo already seemed to know more about the Shire’s lesser ways than even he did. And since my Master become the Baggins and the Master of the Hill, he’s probably walked every inch of the Westfarthing, Eastfarthing and Buckland, and most of the larger villages in the North and Southfarthings as well. He’s spoke of visitin’ villages I’d not known was there in the Shire at all, and even has explored the Binbole Forest. His maps never meant a lot to me when I was younger, but now as I have my own journeys under my belt, I’ll be payin’ far more mind to them once we’re back home again. Just seems odd to think as I’ve seen far more of the outer world than most folks have, but have seen so very little of our own Shire.”

“Your Master truly loves your land and people, or so I understand it, even as my brother loved Gondor. Both of them appear to have sought to know as much of their homelands as they could. At least Master Frodo has the chance to continue to explore your country once he returns home.”

“If’n he will,” Sam said in softer tones, then continued on more confidingly, “He’s getting’ better, no question of that. But he’s that upset when he gets out of breath just walking the length of the way along the Sixth Circle from the Houses of Healin’ to the barracks at the north end. We walked all the way from Bag End in Hobbiton to the Marish and he wasn’t nowhere as tired as the rest of us, for all of him teasin’ us as him’s so much older’n Pippin and me. He’s gone east to Brandy Hall, a good forty miles each way, comin’ back with Merry and them plannin’ on goin’ to the Great Smial next. And Mr. Merry’ll be complainin’ as how tired he is after walkin’ all that way from Buckland, and Mr. Frodo will be sayin’ as how soft as he’s gettin’. And then, with Mr. Merry and young Pippin barely gone back home he’ll be growin’ restless again and be speakin’ of checkin’ out a different walk to Michel Delving or Westhall or Budgeford or somethin’ like. Has kin down in the Southfarthing and north in Long Cleeve, and has seen most of them at least three times each in the last five years alone, usually goin’ on foot. It’s hard on him, not bein’ able to walk less’n a mile on a smooth way now.”

“I see,” Faramir said gently. “Yes, I can appreciate it must be difficult for him.”

*******


An hour later he entered the archives for the White City, and found Frodo Baggins sitting at a low table provided for those children who would visit the place on occasion, deep in study of a volume Faramir recognized as being a history of the war between Angmar and Arnor as told by one of Eärnur’s aides. It was one of the few documents the Man was aware of to be found in the collections that held what was said to be a valid description of Pheriannath, although most scholars tended to discount the reports he gave. In most of the tales for children in which Halflings appeared they were depicted as magical, mischievous creatures who were often a bit foolish but usually sufficiently sly as to leave those intending to take advantage of them sitting in the dust, uncertain as to how their intended actions had managed to backfire upon them. The aide had indicated that he’d been told that originally there were many Halflings in Arvedui’s army, but that by the time Eärnur’s armada arrived there were but four left, and that two of those died fighting trolls. He also described going through what was said to be their land and having the Men of Arnor indicating that they were surrounded by the homes of the Pheriannath, but that he saw only low ridges and hills and ruined fields of vegetables and grain. Never did he recognize villages or barns, although now and then he would see ancient ruins and standing stones indicating that Men had once dwelt there. Where those who tended those fields might live he could not say.

Faramir approached the table and pulled over to it a low stool. “You find this volume interesting, Master Frodo?” he asked.

The Hobbit looked up at him. His cheeks were slightly flushed, which the Man had learned indicated that he was fascinated by what he’d been reading. “Indeed, my lord. The description the author gives of Bucca of the Marish is so similar to my Uncle Rory that I find myself picturing him standing before someone who resembles Aragorn, receiving the Sword.”

“The Sword?”

“Yes. There aren’t many weapons within the Shire, you must understand, beyond slings and hand catapults and bows, and those are used almost exclusively for hunting or for chasing off animals and birds from our fields. The King’s son is said to have given Bucca the Sword, and it hangs now in Brandy Hall in the office of the Master. When I was a child that was my Uncle Rory, my mother’s older brother and Merry’s grandfather. No one is allowed to touch it usually, although the Master always carries it when he is about one of his duties as one of the representatives of the King. It’s carried when he officiates at weddings and funerals mostly. And here the giving of the Sword is told, too. So, that was witnessed by someone from Gondor!

“In Long Cleeve the cradle for the children of the family head is said to have been made of a shield given to one of the Tooks by a soldier he led through the Shire to safety. Having seen the shields used here, I’m now certain that it must have come from Gondor originally. It has the White Tree upon it, you see. And another shield, a round one, is used in the main kitchen of the Great Smial to cover the kettle in which soup for the main dining room is prepared. It resembles one of the shields the Southrons your men ambushed in Ithilien carried. And here it tells that there were Southrons who accompanied Angmar’s army. Imagine traveling so far to fight in a war in a land you probably never heard of as a child! And then to have your shield ending up used as a pot cover!” Frodo shook his head. “I wonder what Aunt Eglantine would say if I were to tell her that really is a shield in the kitchen? She loves the story, but doesn’t really believe it, I fear.”

As he returned to his quarters in the Citadel that night, Faramir found himself smiling to remember the interest and excitement Frodo Baggins had exhibited that day. Perhaps he might not now feel up to searching out the new roads and secret gates of the Shire, but with his new knowledge of the outer world he had found perhaps roads and secret gates that few of his people had ever imagined existed. “I believe,” the Man murmured to himself, “that the Ringbearer will always follow new roads and secret gates within his heart, and I pray he always knows the pleasure of discovery I saw in him today!”

And that night he dreamed of his brother walking in company with the rest of the Fellowship, singing along with the Hobbits of many paths to tread.

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