King Comes Home, The
10. On the Baranduin
Rosie almost changed her mind about going to
Annuminas when she learned the final leg of the
journey would be by boat up the Brandywine river - and
who was supplying the boats.
"The King of the Lake? You mean the Lake in the
Haunted Wood?" she exclaimed, memories of a hundred
frightening fireside tales setting her heart
Even Sam looked nonplussed when she turned to him
for help. "I supose you know what you're doing,
Strider." he said doubtfully to the King. "But the
Forest and Lake of Evendim have an evil name in the
"Lorien too had an evil name." Elessar reminded
him. "The King of the Lake, Celebros, is grandson to
Celeborn and Galadriel."
"Oh!" Sam relaxed at once. "The Lady's own
grandson? Well then he must be all right." Turned to
Rosie. "You remember, sweetheart, I told you how kind
Queen Galadriel was to us."
She nodded, still a little dubious.
The King of the Lake arrived, with his boats, at
twilight. He was very tall with long silver hair and
clad all in white and grey bedewed with crystal beads
and freshwater pearls. Yet for all his eldritch looks
he had a brisk, practical way to him that seemed
almost Hobbit-like and put Rosie at her ease almost in
spite of herself.
"I am told Hobbits are none too fond of boats -" he
began, then interupted himself to smile at Mr. Merry
and the Master as they opened their mouths to object;
"excepting of course for Bucklanders!" before
continuing: "But I think you'll find our barges as
steady underfoot as dry land. And far more comfortable
than five or six days hard riding."
The boats themselves proved much larger than
Rosie'd expected, with high swan's head prows and
stern cabins screened by silken curtains and made
comfortable with cushions and carpets. And they were
indeed steady underfoot as promised, not jigging or
bobbing or cutting any of the other capers she'd heard
tell of. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.
They left from the Bridge of Stonbows just after
first breakfast. There were six other Hobbits sharing
a boat with herself and Sam and the baby: Mr. Pippin,
the Took and his Lady; and Mr. Merry and the Master
and Mistress of Buckland. There were also a score of
fair haired Elvish rowers in silvery grey and green,
and three pretty Elf ladies to look after the
Rosie wasn't used to being waited on and wasn't
quite sure she liked it. It was a bit of a nuisance to
have to constantly ask for what she wanted instead of
doing for herself. But Elves or no she was sure the
serving women wouldn't appreciate her doing their work
for them any more than she would have liked customers
drawing their own half-pints back when she was a
barmaid at the Green Dragon.
At first she worried a little about the rowers, it
looked like such hard work. But they didn't seem to
find it so, singing cheerfully in their strange but
beautiful language as they rowed. And then Rosie
noticed that only about half of them were working at
any one time - the others resting on their oars - and
stopped troubling herself.
Little Elanor ranged the boat at will on her
unsteady baby feet. Rosie soon saw there was no danger
of her falling overboard, the sides were high and
there were always at least half a dozen sets of eyes
on her. Elanor was fascinated by the Elves and they
didn't seem to mind her crawling into their laps or
tangling their long hair around her little fingers any
more than the Big Folk had minded her getting
underfoot on the trip to the river.
Sam and Merry and Pippin sat in front of the cabin
smoking and reminiscing about a river journey they'd
taken during the War while the Master listened
interestedly, the Thain dozed, and Lady Took and the
Mistress gossiped about family matters.
Rosie watched the riverbanks go by. Through the
screen of reeds and willows to the west she saw a
patchwork of fields and little woods, farmhouses, (no
holes because the land near the river was low and
marshy) the occasional hamlet and sometimes small
groups of Hobbits come to gape at the King and his
company. But on the east bank there was nothing but
tall grass, scrub and stands of tangled trees, deary
They stopped at nightfall and made camp on the
western bank. A delegation came out from the nearby
village of Dwaling to make the usual speeches and with
the usual small girl to give a bouquet to the Queen.
Afterwards the local Hobbits hovered curiously at the
edges of the encampment watching the goings on, and no
doubt wondering what Rosie was doing among all the
great folk - as did she.
She'd have expected the Thain and the Master to
feel home, being pretty grand folk themselves in their
way, but her Sam was just as easy which surprised her
until she remembered he'd spent months living among
Men and Elves after he and Mr. Frodo came back from
the Dark Land. Seemed like she was the only one
feeling like a fish out of water.
They had dinner in the great tent with King Elessar
and Queen Undomiel. The King of the Lake was the only
non-Hobbit guest. "And how do you like boating now,
Mistress Rose?" he asked her with a smile.
"It was very pleasant." she answered politely. "But
my little Elanor is in a fair way to be spoiled by
your folk, m'Lord, what with the sweets and the
baubles and being let to do exactly as she pleases."
"Elves always indulge children shamelessly - as I
know from personal experience." said King Elessar.
"Let us hope your little flower inherits her father's
"She has his stubborness anyway." said Rosie.
Sam, sputtered, nearly choking on a mouthful. "And
what about her mother?" he demanded when he could
talk. "It's not me who's had her own way in everything
from the day we married!"
"Which is exactly as it should be." the Queen told
him. Then: "I hear Sam made you wait long and weary
years for him, Rosie. Just as my husband did to me."
"Well he certainly took his time about asking,"
Rosie admitted, "and me doing everything but hang a
sign around my neck to show I was willing!" curiously.
"Was King Elessar as bad?"
"Worse." said the Queen, with a sly, sidelong look
at her husband. "I had to ask him. *And* he turned me
"I humbly confess to having been a sore trial to
Arwen before our marriage." said the King with a dry,
sideways glance of his own. "And she means to see that
I pay for it!"
"Rosie too." said Sam ruefully.
"And serves you both right it does!" said his wife.
They were off again just after sunup. Gradually the
fields and farmhouses on the west bank petered out,
giving way to heathland and The Hobbits had just
finished lunch when the boat passed a stone marking
the northern limit of the Shire. Now they were truly
in the Wild.
The land rose steadily after that and the river
narrowed, becoming a deep channel between high banks
topped by stands of huge old oaks and hemlocks.
Looking idly up at the east bank Rosie suddenly saw
what seemed to be a tall figure, hooded and cloaked in
green, standing among the trees, leaning forward
slightly to look down on them.
Her heart gave a little jump of surprise and she
told herself not to be silly, it was probably just a
trick of the light on a broken stump or some such. But
still she strained her neck to keep it in sight as
long as she could - but couldn't make up her mind.
There was a jut of something dark over the figure's
shoulder that might have been a bow, but surely a Man
would have moved - at least turned his head!
She watched the riverside carefully after that. If
she hadn't she'd never have seen the Woman. this time
she was certain it was no trick of the light or odd
shaped stump. She could see the delicate pale oval of
the Woman's face and the flutter of her long dark
hair. She too wore a green cloak, a white hand holding
it at her throat.
"Sam." she tugged at his sleeve. "Sam, I just saw a
Woman on the bank watching us go by, and before that I
think I saw a Man."
Her husband didn't seem surprised. "Rangers most
likely. Strider's folk, the people of the Old Kings.
They live in the Wild."
She blinked. "They do? I didn't know that."
"You weren't meant to." said the Thain. "They've
been in hiding ever since the end the the Witch Wars."
"But that's all changed now." said Mr. Pippin.
Just before sundown they came to a great stone
bridge spanning the river in a single arch, lined with
broken pillars that must have once supported a roof,
and with crumbling towers at either end.
A landing place had been cut out of the steep bank
on the eastern side with a stone stair climbing up to
the roofless ruin of a big stone building on the high
There were four Men dressed in worn green leather,
armed with swords and bows waiting for them in the
ruin's courtyard. Men with the same dark hair and
clear cut features as the Gondorim but a bit taller.
In fact their leader was the tallest Man Rosie had
ever seen, topping the King by nearly a head, taller
even then the Elvenking.
"Belegon!" Elessar exclaimed as he embraced him
"Well met, Nephew, but what are you doing here?"
"Waiting to meet your baggage train and guide them
through the Gates." the Man replied.
The King's eyes glinted. "Surely too simple a
matter to require the personal attention of the
Captain of the South."
The Man smiled, transforming his grim, rather sad
face. "I wanted to see you and it made a good excuse.
We've missed you, Uncle."
The four Rangers joined the company in the Royal
tent for dinner. And afterwards sat with the King, Sam
and the other Hobbit men, smoking and talking about
affairs here in the North.
The Hobbit ladies remained inside, entertained by
the Queen and the Elvenking. But Rosie overheard
enough of what the men were saying to be more than a
little disturbed. The Wild it seemed was an even more
dangerous place than she'd been always thought.
The gentlemen in attendance and the Queen's ladies
seemed bothered by what they were hearing as well. And
by the look of the Rangers, even by the ruin they were
"They are seeing now at first hand what Gondor's
stubborn pride did to their kin in the North." the
Queen explained quietly.
Mistress Esmeralda and Lady Took seemed to
understand that but Rosie didn't. "What did they do?"
"They refused to accept Aragorn's ancestor Arvedui
as their King and so kept the Dunedain realms
divided." Arwen answered. "Which caused Isildur's
Heirs and their people to go into hiding, to ward off
further attacks from the Dark Lord, and let their
cities and monuments fall into ruin - like this
"But - all that happened long ago." Rosie argued.
"It's not fair to blame folk for what their ancestors
did once upon a time."
The Queen smiled. "I agree with you, Rosie. The
Gondorim have suffered terribly themselves, and born
their troubles as bravely as their kin here in the
North. But now the Realms are reunited and a new Age
is begun. Time for old griefs and old feuds be laid to
"I doubt it'll be that simple, Ma'am," said the
Mistress, speaking from her own immense experience of
family quarrels and grudges.
"I fear you're right, Esmeralda." sighed the Queen.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.