7. Gandalf Talks Much and Says Nothing
Frodo considered Merry Brandybuck to be his closest friend. Let the rest of the Shire be fools and hicks – at least Merry could keep composed. And Frodo needed someone composed. The Shire had discovered during the night that the party-food had been induced with an emetic, and everyone agreed it to be a "poor joke". In demand of answers and apologies they stormed Bad End. All the security and traps Bilbo had set for such occasions had been exhausted. There were just too many of them, and Flópi had gone, Kuhn and Gandalf had fled, and Sam had not been seen – probably dead somewhere, Frodo guessed.
"Merry, stack more mummies over the door." Frodo watched the progress of the barricade when suddenly Flabby Bolger walked out of a room, sucking on a slug.
"Hey Frodo, will there be more food?"
Flabby processed this for a minute. "Oh. Okay."
"BILBO BAGGINS!" shrilled Lobelia, all too nearby.
"BILBO! Where are you?" came also Otho's foul sneer.
"Whadja do, leave the passage open?"
While Frodo throttled Flabby, Merry proceeded to retard the S-Bs.
"You dare hinder us, you Br-r-randybuck?" The clanging of a scuffle ensued and after the shatter of what must have been the Venetian vase collection emerged Otho with beauty mark smudged, Lobelia with hair bent, and Merry with black leather slightly dusty. (The emetic was later pinned to the gravy, and Lotho, who had been particularly greedy with it, was currently bed ridden, and remained so for five weeks).
"Frodo! I should have known! What's all this outlandish 'disappeared forever' nonsense? I demand an explanation! I demand an --" He threw a hand to his mouth. "Lobelia! The bucket, quick!" Otho completed his retch with a dainty sniff.
"Bilbo's gone, gone with the wind."
"Gone! Gone, has he? Where, then?"
"I don't know," Frodo's eyes fogged over. "Somewhere… over the rainbow…"
"Enough! I demand all title documents be handed over now! We'll see who is master of the Hill!"
Frodo smirked and snapped his fingers. Merry wheelbarrowed in a awe-inspiring paper heap, together with the dozen some copies of the will, endorsed by no less than 30 witnesses, including Flópi, Kei Kuhn, Gandalf, and the Gaffer (signed "X"). Otho examined each minutely, with magnifying glass, tongue, and nostrils, pausing now and then to retch. Merry kept close watch on the expensive clutter in the room lest they find their way into Lobelia's umbrella, which was not an uncommon phenomenon.
Finally, as the sun struck three, Otho snapped his fingers in constipated rage. "Blast! Foiled again!" The S-Bs sunk their glares into Frodo's flesh. "Someday, someday soon, this hole will come to its true owners! Mark me, boy, someday. You don't have Bilbo now. Only a Brandybuck and a handful of card-nicking outlandish friends."
"Hey, Gandalf is not my friend. I won't have you insult me under my own roof… Well, the Master of Bad End sends his unwell-wishes."
He waved while Merry plungered them into a fireplace and pulled a lever.
Frodo sat down on a mummified goat in utter exhaustion. Flabby passed on through again, saying between bites of Yavanna Granola®, "Hey, Frodo, that old guy wanted in through the window, so I…"
"You let Gandalf in?"
Flabby was saved from a severe throttling by the appearance of Gandalf knocking his head on the lintel. "Mules are in the shop… they should put a sign on that curve… I need to stay a day or three, Frodo, I knew you wouldn't mind."
Frodo got up and locked the silverware drawer, swallowing the key. He washed it down with Jawa juice.
"By the by," Gandalf stuck his nose into the kitchen, pretending not to be jingling jewels out of the picture frames. "Where's the Ring?"
"The Ring," Frodo repeated. "The Ring… right. I had it last night. I put it on the table."
"Then I ate it," offered Flabby from the pantry.
"And he choked!" squealed Pippin from the trap door over the stove. "He choked everywhere! It was kooool!"
"Oh yeah," said Flabby slowly.
"And Merry performed the Heimlich with his boot!"
"The Ring hit Falco's eye."
"And it's right here!"
"Gimme that!" Gandalf snatched it from Pippin and Frodo from Gandalf.
Thus Frodo Baggins settled comfortably into the position of The Baggins, or Money Bags, as the simpler folk called him. He had never been worried about being broke with Bilbo gone; his uncle had so much money stuffed in every cranny, it was impossible that he could have remembered to bring half of it with him.
Years dripped by. Life was dull and Frodo appeared fine by that. He took to having loud parties and watching game shows. Merry often came around; Pippin every other week ran away 4ever and was picked up by an ever-patient Paladin; Sam he verbally abused; Flabby and the rest he ignored. Flópi and Kei Kuhn he never saw, and neither did he see Gandalf, save once, and he did not let him in the house. The S-Bs, as though seeking revenge for Bilbo's slight (or literally trying to annoy him to death) bombarded his round door 7 to 10, Monday through Friday. Frodo wondered what they did 11 to 6, and weekends.
A relief to drudgery came one morning, seven years after The Party. F. Baggins was sitting at Bilbo's old bamboo desk, writing a cruel letter-to-the-editor for the Hobbiton Gazette. He heard a squelch of leather and turned to face Merry.
"Hey Frodo, man, did you hear?" Merry was slightly flushed as though he had run all the way up the Hill.
"Tell me tomorrow."
"It's sad, man, but… Otho's croaked."
"What?!" Frodo leaped up, spilling ink on his brutal letter. "Finally!" He rubbed his hands together. "What should I wear, what should I wear?" Humming, he decked on a pinstripe suit, Bilbo's red turban, a faded travel cloak, and mauve sunglasses.
He hired a unicorn-drawn limousine to take him to Sackville, arriving just in time for the burial. Lobelia inhaled a sniff that echoed over the hills. And what happened next was called The Scandal for generations of Hobbits. Frodo gleefully wrung Lobelia's hand, thumped Lotho's back, and skipped to the casket. "Otho! How's the health?" he asked, among other crass pleasantries, causing nearby Hobbitesses to choke on their mourning-cupcakes. Then, twirling his walking stick, Frodo danced around the coffin. This was his song:
Death goes ever on and on.
Dead as dead could be
Now on a head death has gone
And now you got it, sucker- not I – heehee!
It went on much longer, but you get the idea. The coffin was unsettled by a rowdy kick ere the final chorus. This event Lobelia tried to hush up, however, most agreed that the fact was that Otho slipped into a pond and Frodo began handing out balloon animals and throwing confetti.
Even Merry (uninvited - crashing funerals was his thing) rose an eyebrow. The dude can't be blamed in a way, but man, he needs another hobby. Something more philanthropic.
^ - ^ - ^ - ^ - ^
Far over the flattened hills and raised valleys, to the far east where dark stuck to the atmosphere like tar and the earth shook, as though trying to relieve itself of an itch, voices all at once cried in terror, and just as soon silenced. It was happening. What only happened in the deepest closets of black nightmares. They had awakened. They were coming. Faintly at first, then louder and louder, rumbled a low sound, a sound mysteriously like… chainsaws…
Bzzzzzzzz sputter Bzzzzzzzzzzz…
^ - ^ - ^ - ^ - ^
Frodo woke with his face plastered to his bamboo desk. Rubbing his head and grumbling, he walked to the window. "Sam! Sam! Sam, you stupid stool!"
The assistant gardener, a smile plastered on his face, continued to trim the hedges with his motorized saw. A paperweight hit his head. "What?" He saw Frodo angrily gesturing. "Oh! Sorry, sorry, Mr. Frodo!" He fumbled with the switch, not before falling forwards onto a bush, slicing it neatly in two.
"Try trimming at decent hours!"
"I know, Mr. Frodo! I mean, I ought to have known… but you know how stupid I am!" Another paperweight hit his head, and Frodo closed the window.
He turned and yawned – to pause, mouth still wide. Something clattered in the kitchen. Frodo cocked Bilbo's pistol and crept into the hall. He heard still more clattering, quicker now, and some crashing. It sounded almost as though someone were searching for something…
Frodo pressed his back to the kitchen door, taking a deep breath. Glass crashed on the other side, followed by some sort of snuffling. Whatever It was, It was going to get it. Frodo kicked the door open and charged; he looked down the gun's barrel to an old man in rags once multi-colored, now aged to grey – Gandalf.
"Frodo! I-I've been looking everywhere for you!" The magician slipped on a grin and straitened his bowtie (which was beard-hidden, just so you know).
It had been years since F. Baggins had the displeasure of seeing the ancient fraud. Certainly time had been hard on his patched and repatched beard.
"There is a time for everything: A time to sow and a time to reap, a time to…"
"Die?" Frodo caressed the trigger.
The con-artist cleared his throat. "That brings me to my next point. The end of all we know draws nigh. Rumors of a dark shadow grows in the East… In-laws turn against in-laws… And in the free-lands nary a clean restroom is to be found."
"Pity." Frodo retired to the parlor, Gandalf hunching after.
"The worst is still to come!"
Frodo took up The South Farthing Times.
Gandalf paced the room. "And the worst will come, then creditors will give no more loans… and then? No more happiness, fuzzy-feelings, or free-samples! But maybe… there is hope! Frodo! I have come with a purpose! Bring it forth! Let the truth set us free!"
"I never dreamt it in my darkest dreams! I had daren't! Yet here it is. Now comes the final test, the test that will save us or destroy us. Put it to the test of Fire – that is what the gypsy woman said, and by the Tissue of Nienna, so I shall do it. Haven't you been listening, boy, bring forth the Ring!"
Gandalf's staff poked through the sports section. Frodo resisted the urge to not hit him.
Rubbing his bruised eye, Gandalf again lacerated the newspaper. "Bring it forth!"
Rolling his eyes, Frodo tucked away his hair to reveal the gold ring dangling from his lobe. Gandalf did not hesitate before tearing it from its perch.
… Distancing out from Bad End: AHHHHHH!…
"This is the One Ring. It'll have to be destroyed."
"Not Precious!" Pain was forgotten in concern.
"It'll need to be taken away, far away, before the Enemy discovers it. Luckily all his dread servants were destroyed in the War, so we may yet have time."
"Stop calling Presh It, he's He."
"I was about to say, someone will need to take it away and that someone is…" Gandalf cleared his throat.
Frodo snatched the Ring back and scrutinized it. "Wait… how do you know this is – what was it? – the Rum Ring?"
"A wizard knows."
"What about the test of fire?"
"No time for that now!"
"Let me get this straight. Presh must be hidden, go incognito, sent far, far away?"
"Yes and no."
They both heard a chainsaw being dropped. Gandalf rushed to the window to see what was the matter. He reached out his paddle and caught him a Sam.
"Traitor," hissed Frodo.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, Mr. Frodo! I could not help it! I – I mean…"
"What do you know?" shrieked Gandalf. "Speak, or I'll turn you into a frog!"
"Don't let him do it, Mr. Frodo!"
"Ah, go ahead," Frodo waved his hand, curious.
Gandalf coughed something about not having time or enough spell points… "I have a solution, but first you must promise to tell no one about it."
"Under pain of a sadistic death," added Frodo.
"I promise, sirs!"
"You… Will go with Frodo!"
"Yay! To where?"
The Baggins shrugged.
Notes: Apologies for Frodo's behavior.
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.