A Kingly Discussion by GamgeeFest - Marigold's Tale Challenge 37
Feb. 4th, 2007
10:24 am - A Kingly Discussion by GamgeeFest
A very pleased Gaffer holds forth at The Ivy Bush...
This is a sequel to my talechallenge36 stories “The Birthday – Minas Tirith” and “The Birthday – Hobbiton”.
Betas: Marigold and Llinos
A Kingly Discussion
Spring, 1425 SR
“Surely you can’t be serious,” said old Farmer Cotton, looking at the letter held reverently in the Gaffer’s hand. “That there letter’s from the King hisself?”
The rest of the crowd at The Ivy Bush were just as skeptical. The fair spring weather had a lot of hobbits out of their homes and enjoying the beer and good company of the inn this Hevensday evening and the Gaffer was quite pleased with the attention he commanded for this most important occasion.
“That it is,” the Gaffer said smugly. “My Sam brought it down and read it to me just this afternoon.”
He held the letter up higher so that everyone could see it. The letter was written on vellum, a fine translucent parchment considered to be quite fancy and valuable. Only the richest hobbits could afford it and even they only used it sparingly for their most important legal contracts. The Gaffer turned the letter around to stare at the strange markings that covered it, the light from the fireplace making the parchment glow from behind with a warm hue. He slid his fingers along the edge of the letter, amazed at its smoothness. To think, the King had written a letter to him.
“Well, let’s see it then,” said the smith.
The Gaffer quickly pulled the letter out of reach. He glared cautiously at the smith, looking down at his coal-stained hands. The other hobbits were no better, their hands covered with hints of their day’s labors despite much scrubbing and washing to make themselves presentable. The Gaffer was not about to relinquish this pretty vellum to just anyone, lest it be stained and ruined by grubby hands.
After a while, he turned the letter back around and held it up but kept it close to himself. Those there that knew their letters stepped closer and leaned forward to analyze the bold and curving letters drawn upon the vellum. It was a fanciful script to their way of thinking.
“Are you sure that ain’t from the Queen?” joked the new miller, a young chap from Overhill named Thatcher and distantly related to the Sandheavers of Nobottle. Thatcher had taken over the mill after the Troubles, when Sandyman was chased for a traitor.
The others laughed but the Gaffer scowled at the hobbit. “It’s from the King,” he repeats. “Sam says as he was raised by the Elves and they’re the ones as taught him his letters. It ain’t no fault of his that he writes funny for a fellow, if you ask me.”
“So what does it say?” asked young Noakes. He didn’t care much for a history lesson on the King, but if they were going to be talking about this letter, then he wanted to know what it said.
The Gaffer allowed Farmer Cotton to take the letter after the farmer thoroughly wiped his hands with a wet towel and dried them on a clean handkerchief. Cotton ran his hands along the smooth almost silk-like parchment, then squinted at the flowery handwriting. He held the letter far enough away so he could read it. He cleared his throat and the inn grew silent. Even the innkeeper stopped wiping the counter to listen.
“To Master Hamfast Gamgee, son of Hobson,” he began.
“How’s he know who your father is?” asked the miller, looking for some proof that the letter wasn’t from a king living far off in the south.
“And why’d he include him in the letter when he’s been long gone these last forty-one years?” added Farmer Goodheart.
“Sam says as the Big Folk ain’t very good at keeping track of their relations,” Gaffer said with a sad shake of his head.
“I’ve heard Captain Merry and Captain Pippin use the same such phrase when talking about the Big Folk they met on their travels,” put in the innkeeper.
“You mean as all they can remember is who their parents are?” asked Cotton.
“Well, they know their siblings too and some of their first cousins I daresay, though Sam did once tell me a story about a pair of siblings that oughtn’t be repeated in polite company,” the Gaffer said, frowning at the half-remembered tale. He scratched his head and shrugged. “That might explain why some of those ruffians as worked for old Pimple weren’t the brightest folk in the world, if you take my meaning.”
His audience shook their heads, their expressions ranging from befuddlement to outright scandal. “They ought to do somewhat about that,” said a serving lass and the others mumbled their agreement.
“Now it ain’t so widespread as all that, I don’t think,” the Gaffer said. “Sam assures me as most folk can at least go back one generation, and the King himself can trace his lineage all the way back to the First Age. That’s some seventy generations.”
Everyone was mightily impressed by this and one lass in the back all but swooned. With such a King in charge, no more such mistakes would ever take place again, they were certain.
Cotton cleared his throat and continued, stumbling now and again on the bigger words. “To Master Hamfast Gamgee, son of Hobson. I am very much obli—obliged to you for your kindness and thoug—thoughtfulness in agreeing to pose in the family portrait that Samwise sent to me in honor of Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday.”
“So that party Sam threw was for the Birthday,” said a hobbit near the back, as though this statement clarified a long-debated topic.
“Tisn’t right, throwing parties for those as are gone,” said Goodheart. “Mr. Frodo was odd for doing it all those years, when he should’ve just celebrated his own birthday and be done with it.”
The Gaffer’s hackles rose at this, as did Cotton’s. “Now see here,” began the Gaffer. “Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo did a lot for folk while they was here and if my Sam sees fit to continue to honor them, then that’s his business and none of yours.”
“And Mr. Frodo did a sight more than what we know about,” Cotton added, “if I understand a’right everything Sam and Rose has told me. I won’t be having any bad speak of Mr. Frodo or my son-in-law while I’m around to hear it. Besides, if the Tooks can go on celebrating the Bullroarer’s triumph over the goblin king every year with their tournaments, then I don’t see no reason why Sam can’t honor his master if he’s a mind to do so.”
“Peace, friends,” said Goodheart, hands raised for mercy. “None of us think any ill of Mr. Bilbo and Mr. Frodo, nor of your Sam, even if he is starting to crack what with him living up there at the Bag End and all.”
“I heard as Bag End was haunted,” said a fellow by the door.
“That were just a prank the young master played on his cousins,” said the Gaffer hotly. “There ain’t no ghost up at Bag End making anyone cracked, and those as go repeating false rumors don’t know their nose from a twig on the ground. Neither of the masters were cracked, and neither is my Sam, and I’ll crack you and anyone else as says so.”
“Here now. There ain’t no harm in being a little cracked, so long as you can keep your sense about you,” said the miller sensibly. “We all love Sam. We’d not have a Shire if it weren’t for him replanting it all. We owe him a great debt and we won’t be forgetting it soon.”
Everyone heartily agreed to this and many raised their mugs in toast and drank to Sam’s health, which appeased Cotton and the Gaffer greatly.
“What else does the letter say, Mr. Cotton?” asked young Noakes. He was getting impatient with all this talk and he had to be leaving soon if he didn’t want an earful from the missus come morning.
Farmer Cotton found his place and read some more. “Thank you also for allowing Pippin to send me a bottle of your homebrew. The beer was most delicious and hardy and every bit as strong as Merry and Pippin warned me. My wife and I were able to enjoy it over many nights.”
“Over many nights?” repeated the smith. “Your brew is hardy enough, Ham, but whoever heard of one little bottle lasting that long? A barrel, to be sure, but a bottle?”
“According to the Captains,” began the innkeeper, “them Big Folk don’t have much in the way of constitution. They reach the bottom of their mugs rather quicker than hobbits, for being so large as they are. Same thing when it comes to eating. Why, they hardly ever take thirds or fourths, and sometimes they don’t even take seconds!”
This announcement was greeted with much head shaking and muttering. The hobbit near the door said, “No wonder them ruffians always left so much food to go to ruin.”
“It’s a wonder they can keep their strength up to get aught done,” said the serving lass. “Do Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin ever say anything on the matter of them boots the Big Folk wear?”
“Sam says it’s a’cause their feet are weak and they blister just by walking on grass,” said the Gaffer.
“And these are the folk as are running things?” said the smith. “No wonder it comes to warring.”
“Now, now, don’t go getting ahead,” said the Gaffer. “My Sam says as the King and his folks are civilized and they’re not like them ruffians that were running things here. They have some sense at least, and some manners.” He indicated the letter as proof.
“Still, Men are Men and they all got the same weaknesses I suppose,” said Thatcher.
“Is that all the letter says then?” young Noakes asked Cotton.
“There’s a little more,” Cotton said and finished reading. “Let me also take this opp—or—opportunity to commend you on raising such a practical and stout-hearted son. If not for Samwise, Frodo would not have been able to complete his Quest and the Darkness would have prevailed. Samwise will be remembered and honored in Gondor and in all free lands for many years to come. With my respect and gratitude, El—Elis—Ilsar—Telc— why but he do got himself an odd name.”
“Sam pronounced it for me, but I can’t rightly recall how it goes,” the Gaffer said. “He did say as it’s an Elvish name, what with him being raised by them and all. Means something like ‘hope strides’ or some such. I reckon that’s why Sam and the Captains call him ‘Strider’.”
“Why was he raised by Elves?” asked Cotton, thinking there must have been better folk than that to raise a child, even if it was just a man-child.
“He was orphaned young and his mother had him hid with the Elves, or something along those lines,” said the Gaffer. “As he was the last King and all, and the Enemy would be a hunting him, she figured he’d be safer there. Though I don’t rightly know how that factors into him wandering about in the wilds later on like he did. Seems to me the best way to stay hid is to stay put, not go off fighting in wars and walking into the dark lands and all. But then, he was raised by Elves. He can’t be expected to be very practical I suppose.”
“And he’s the King?” said the hobbit by the door.
“Big Folk have an odd way of picking their leaders,” said young Noakes, shaking his head. “Lor’ bless us if we ever elect a Mayor as lived with Elves and wandered about in the Blue. But I guess you can’t expect much of folk who can’t keep their relations straight, not to mention can’t hold their liquor or vittles, and bruise their feet just by walking on ‘em.”
The others nodded in agreement and even the Gaffer couldn’t argue with that. He took the letter back from Cotton, folded it reverently and tucked it safely into the inner pocket of his waistcoat.
The King might be peculiar, but the man had saved Sam’s life and was kind enough to take time from his busy day to write the Gaffer a thank you letter. He was an all right fellow, as far as the Gaffer was concerned.
A/N - The ghost story referred to is from “Pimpernel, Pervinca and Pearl’s Perfectly Plotted Prank” from my “Of Merry and Pippin” series. Sam’s observation of Men feet is from “Foot Notes” from “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Hobbits”.