The Lord of the... whatever, Book VI, Chapter 8:
The Scorching Of The Shire
Not more than a mile had passed when Pipsqueak, still musing over
the dull future which awaited him, wrinkled his nose.
"What's up, Pipsqueak?" laughed Frodo. "Trying a new facial
expression? Think that'll help?" And he and Morrie laughed, though Sam
just looked at Frodo's bare throat menacingly and did not join in.
"No," Pipsqueak replied, "I smell smoke."
And sure enough, as the wind slowly changed they all noticed it: a
faint whiff of burning, coming from somewhere within the Old Forest. Apart
from a slight darkening of the sky to their right, however, they could see
nothing amiss; though Pipsqueak thought he could see, for the briefest
moment, a small glowing creature like a flying coal flitting dangerously
behind the first layer of trees.
Darkness was descending as the four hobbits, nearing the old
Bucklebelt Bridge, began to notice the red glow from the depths of the
Forest and hear the crackle and roaring. The smoke was now growing acrid
in their nostrils. "Still forest, and it comes right up to both sides of
the road," Morrie observed grimly. "And we've still got two miles to go!"
"Burn baby burn," Sam muttered under his breath.
"If we hurry," Pipsqueak gasped, "we could try leaving the path and
making directly for the River. We might get there ahead of the flames, and
"No! I'm not gonna ruin my new shoes!" Frodo hollered.
"No chance," Morrie observed, ignoring Frodo as usual. "Wind's
freshening. Flames are moving faster. We'd better just run like hell and
hope the flames don't burn the whole Shire to the ground."
With that Morrie threw his pack to the ground and began running, and
Frodo and Pipsqueak did likewise. Only Sam, long used to carrying the
heavy burdens of his employers, kept his provisions with him as he ran.
The flames were soon visible. Fire began encroaching upon the Road as
they ran, choking and scared, toward the Bridge. They managed to stay
ahead of the blaze in spite of the wind, but as they rounded the final
bend Morrie swore in amazement.
"A gate!" he yelled. "They've put up an Erudamned gate!"
And no ordinary gate blocked their way. Made of plate iron and solid
steel, it stretched across the Road and was anchored to two great walls of
brick which blocked all access to the River in both directions. Fully
twelve feet high it loomed, and was surmounted by a series of nasty
eight-inch spikes and a thick generous topping of razor wire. Morrie
quickly checked the impregnable lock, then he threw the huge doormat
(inexplicably marked Keep The Shire Clean!) aside to dig his way under
the door, only to find that the roadway under the gate had been resurfaced
with huge slabs of freshly-quarried granite. "What the hell is this?" he
shouted at the world in general.
"Hey! Hey! Open the gate!" Pipsqueak shouted, banging his fists on
The wind carried a huge blast of heat towards the hobbits, and an
ancient oak crashed across the roadway some fifteen feet behind them, all
its branches raging with flame. The travellers sputtered in the sparks and
heat, and watched in horror as the dry grass ignited on both sides of the
road. Above the hiss and crackling a voice could be heard through the
gate. "Shire's closed," the voice said easily. "Visiting hours are between
eight and five. Try us again tomorrow."
Morrie and Frodo joined Pipsqueak at the door, pounding their fists
on the metal. "Let us in! Let us in!" they shouted. "There's fire out
here! We'll burn!"
"The Chief said that sort o' thing was likely t' happen," the voice
"Open the gate or we'll die!" Pipsqueak yelled.
The flames approached closer. The iron plating of the door began to
heat. For a moment the sweltering hobbits heard no reply save the blaze.
Finally the voice answered. "Should've thought o' that beforehand," it
said, almost nonchalantly. "Now mind you, in the Shire things is
different. We've made preparations. Set matters to hand beforehand, you
might say. And if you die, well, that's tragic, I suppose, but if you'd
prepared yourselves a bit like we did you might not be in such a fix now.
Maybe next time 'round you'll be luckier. Have a nice day."
The hobbits looked at each other in breathless panic, then redoubled
their pounding on the iron gate. Pipsqueak's fists were starting to get
burned by the heating metal. "Let us in! Let us in!" they cried, choking
and sweating in the heat.
"Nope," the voice finished. "No visitors at night. Go away."
"But we aren't visitors," Frodo gasped. "We live here!"
"You what?" the voice said suddenly. "You live here? Did ye sign
out? D'ye have a travel pass?"
In the thickening smoke Sam drew upon some hidden reserve, and a
memory of the voice. "Look here, Hobbie Haywain," he shouted. "If you
don't let us in right this minute ye'll find my fist'll be giving ye some
o' that dental work ye so desperately need!"
"Bless me!" the voice replied, and from deep within the gate there
came a long series of metallic thung noises. Half of the great gate
began to creak, and the four hobbits threw their weight against the
now-searing metal. They cried and gasped with effort but the door refused
to move until they noticed the gate opened outwards and tried pulling on
"Get in here! Get in here!" Hobbie yelled, and as the four hobbits
stumbled through the opening he grasped the door with his great oven-mitts
(garishly embroidered Property Of The Shire), swung it shut, and
relatched the twenty-three mighty latches. As he set the last latch he
turned around, and was astonished to find the four hobbits had already
begun to run towards Hobbiton. "Hey, there, wait!" he shouted. "Ho! Wait!
Ye're breakin' Rule Twelve!"
After a short distance the hobbits ran behind a short brick building
and stopped, gasping.
"What the hell was old Hobbie on about?" Sam choked, wiping the soot
from his eyes.
"Who knows," Morrie coughed, spitting some ash out of his throat.
"He's never exactly been the smartest bread in the sandwich."
"Well, at least he stopped chasing us," Pipsqueak wheezed. "Good
thing. The concrete was really beginning to hurt my feet."
With a sudden horrible realization the four hobbits stopped and
looked at the ground. The area surrounding the small building was paved
with concrete. They looked out towards the road into town and saw lines of
neat, ordered cobblestones. "Where's all the peat moss?" Frodo said in
astonishment. "What happened to the bark paths? The mud-and-dirt roads?
The fast-food wrappers?"
"This is unnatural," Sam had to agree.
Night had begun, yet the red glow of the burning Forest could be seen
clearly over the Wall. By that glow the hobbits could see their
sometimes-beloved, sometimes-despised Shire had changed. Ugly buildings of
stone and mortar stood in rows where they remembered seeing ugly buildings
of mud and thatch before. Wastebaskets and the occasional spitoon stood in
ordered pairs beside the paving of the roadways. Their sticky dirty little
Shire had become a place of harsh right angles. "Something horrible is
happening here," Frodo whispered. "This place is all sculleyed and
muldered. It's making my head hurt."
"Mine too," agreed Morrie. "But right now we need to get under cover.
We'll wait till tomorrow to wreak unholy revenge."
They snuck towards an ugly new brick building with a very
un-Shire-like slate roof, jimmied the door and slunk within. Inside they
found only some wrought-iron patio furniture and a huge store of canned
foods. They selected some cans of corned beef and Eastfarthing Canned
Broccoli, but realizing they had no can openers they were forced to hack
at the cans with their swords. Then Pipsqueak noticed there was no
cook-pot, no firewood and indeed no hearth. After six unsuccessful
attempts to set fire to Frodo the hobbits sat down in the dark, and
cheerlessly ate cold corned beef before lying down for an uncomfortable
At dawn they were awakened by a furious pounding at the door. "Open
up, in the name of the Chief!" came the cry from outside. "You're all
"No!" Frodo screamed back angrily. "I'm under a duvet!"
Morrie rose swiftly and kicked open the door, confronting the six
Shrrrfffs standing outside with brandished steel. "Arrest, huh?" he
sneered angrily. "On what charge?"
"On these charges," the lead Shrrrfff answered, bravely backing up a
step. "On charges of Gate-breaking, and Not Signing Out, and Muddying the
Roadways, and Breaking and Entering, and Stealing Food, and Carrying
Unregistered Swords, and Attempting To Start A Fire, and Improper Handling
of Canned Foods."
"And what else?"
"That'll do for a start."
"I can think of a few others," Moribund Brandybuck said coldly. "Like
Running a Drug Cartel, or Conspiracy and Racketeering, or maybe Murdering
Five Shrrrfffs In Cold Blood And Then Taking The Sixth Hostage."
"You've done all that?" the lead Shrrrfff garbled.
"I certainly plan to," replied Morrie, and pulling a deadly rapier he
had stolen from Rohan he set upon the Shrrrfffs. Of the five that died
only two of them found time to scream.
"Here, now, Robin Wheelburrow!" Sam said, looking at the bound and
gagged Shrrrfff. "You'd better tell us what the hell has been happening
around here! And be quick about it, because these exposition scenes are
always way too slow."
"Mmmmmmph mmmpppmph mmh mmppppphh!" the young hobbit replied.
Morrie cut the gag from his mouth with a dagger. "No yelling," he
growled. "I don't have time to make a proper Bywater Grin, but I can
always give you the old traditional Grin by carving a smile across your
"yes, sir," Robin whispered inaudibly.
"Now what happened?" Sam snapped. "We heard tell of some kind of
Collage, or somethin' just as foul, like Decoupage maybe."
"That's College, not Collage," Robin replied, putting the
emphasis on the correct syllables. "That was the Perfesser's doing. But
that's all gone now."
"The what?" Sam demanded.
"The Perfesser," Robin replied. "You know..." His voice dropped to a
whisper. "Lotho," he muttered subaudibly.
"Lotho?" Frodo and Morrie gasped loudly. "Lotho Bagg-"
"Quiet! Don't say it so loud!" Robin cringed. "It's Bad Luck, saying
the Name. It's accursed. He's responsible for everything!"
"So these ugly brick buildings an' slate roofs, that's his fault?"
Sam cried. "That ugly little bastard!"
"No, no," Robin stammered. "You've got it all wrong. The slate's
good! Really good! Look, look, you don't get it, I'll explain it to
"Some long exposition's coming, I just knew it," Sam grumbled.
"Y'see," Robin Wheelburrow began, as his audience pulled up chairs
and settled in for a long dull speech, "a while back some ugly squint-eyed
Men came up from the South, selling magazine subscriptions to make their
way through some College called Eyesore, or so they said. And most people
turned 'em away and slammed doors in their faces. But old L-" he stopped,
and then whispered the name " - old Lotho wanted folk to think he was
educated, as if anyone would believe that, and so he took 'em in. And he
fed 'em breakfast cereal an' bran flakes and in exchange they told him all
about College. And so old - " again Robin whispered the name " - old Lotho
decides he's gonna start a College of his own, here in the Shire. So he
starts using his money to build these big gothic buildings, and a lot of
books and suchlike, and starts to call himself the Perfesser. Put a lot of
money into it, too. Started by getting a lot of cash from Bree, where he
said it was an invest-mint, by which he meant he was putting a mint o'
money into his vest, I guess. Anyway, then the economy starts going
haywire, so he gets everybody to take out these student loans, only
there's lots o' students and not much loaned, or so it seems to us. But he
just keeps sayin' things like, If you think Edjucation is expensive, try
Ignorance, an' A Mind is more terrible than a Waist, an' stuff like
that, which sounded like some pretty meaningless platitudes from an ad
agency if you ask me but people seemed to buy it, an' before long
everybody's signing up to be a Student."
"You mean Lotho was teaching people things?" Frodo asked, having a
hard time getting the gist of the conversation over the voice shouting
angrily in his head.
"Well, he tried to, at first," Robin continued, as everyone settled
back in for another trying bout of exposition. "But being a Baggins he
didn't know very much to start with - begging your pardon, Mr. Frodo," he
added hastily, remembering he was bound and Frodo was holding a sword,
though admittedly holding it at the wrong end. "So he started saying,
What College really is about, is Football, and he has this big wood
Stadium built. An' that's really when the trouble started.
"Y'see, the Chief - " here Robin smiled, saying the name with pride -
"the Chief, see, he didn't hold with building with wood. An' every day as
the Perfesser had people bringing in wood an' putting up supports for the
Stadium, that night the Chief would sneak in under cover of dark an' chop
the Stadium to pieces. An' after a month or two of this the Perfesser sets
guards all around the Stadium, and two nights later they manage to capture
the Chief, and the Perfesser says they're gonna hang him the very next
night, big public hanging, lots o' celebration and refreshments an'
everything, just like the old-fashioned Shire lynchings Grampa used t'
"And true to his word next day there's lots of parties and
celebrations, and the Perfesser's got lots of gin and brandies he's
serving to everyone, an' as dusk comes he sets off all these fireworks to
keep people entertained, like Gandalf used to: the big Wheel o' Fortune,
an' the Jeopardy, an' one of those SurPrise is Right ones; with the
little Bob Barkers, always been kind o' scared o' those myself, but some
people seem to like 'em.
"And right at midnight, just as tradition calls for, right at
midnight the Perfesser looks at the gallows and says: Do you have
anything to say before I pass sentence? And the Chief, he just looks down
from the trapdoor, and he smiles, and in a big booming voice he says this:
"I have only this to say, says he. No Stadium shall stand in the
Shire. The wood is your enemy, not I! Get rid of it, and quickly! You do
not know your peril.
"And the Perfesser just laughs, and a bunch of his cronies - the ones
with tenure, anyway - laughs along with him, and he raises his hand to
pull the lever, when the smile just sort of dies on his lips and the
Perfessor just stands there staring at the sky.
"And then we saw these things. Don't know what you'd call 'em,
really; folk now call 'em the fire-flies, on account of they look like
little moths that carry their own lanterns along with 'em. Damndest
things. Nobody's really quite sure where they came from, but most think
they were attracted to the fireworks the Perfesser'd been setting off. And
one of 'em lands right on top of the gallows, and in a few seconds the
noose-rope catches fire and burns right through and the Chief's free. And
two or three others alight on the Stadium, and within minutes the whole
thing's burning. Others started landing on homes, sheds, gardens, you name
it; and before you know it the whole Shire is ablaze! The Perfesser, he
tried to run, but before he could get more'n fifty feet a huge blazing
piece of the Stadium tore loose an' landed on him an' crushed him an' set
fire to him an' broke his back an' lit him on fire an'-"
"We get the idea," Pipsqueak yawned.
"Well, anyway," Robin went on, "the Chief gets down, and just as if
he knew all along what was going to happen he calls everyone together an'
forms squads, and he sends people to get buckets, an' forms one line down
to the River an' another to the Lake, an' sends people to the areas
downwind to evacuate and sound the alarm, like he'd been preparing for
this day all his life. An' after the fires are put under control he calls
a big meeting, and he says This is the way things are going to be from
now on, an' he says what to do, an' everyone just ups and does what he
says. And he got rid of all the wood everywhere, and nationalized all the
student loans, and redistributed the sources of private fortunes, and had
us rebuild everything proper, and gave us the new Rules to live by. And
now all's well as ends better!"
"Rules?" Morrie snapped. "What rules?"
"Didn't you see them?" Robin replied, proudly gesturing with his nose
towards one wall. "The Rules. There's copies everywhere."
The four hobbits turned to look, and saw a document carefully
embroidered into a non-flammable fabric hung upon one wall:
--- The Rules ---
1. There shall be NO MORE WOOD. We shall build a mighty Wall to
keep it out.
2. Any individual who hoards wealth greater than 0.25% of the
total Shire economy shall either redistribute it for the
common good or be put to quick and painful death.
3. All food, supplies and drinks shall be shared equitably by all
people, as moderated by the People's Board of Sharing.
4. Due to unacceptable health and social risks, beer, alcohol and
pipe-weed are hereby banned from the Shire forever.
5. Except in times of civil emergency, only Shrrrfffs are allowed
to carry weapons. Sword-control laws shall henceforth be
6. All new buildings must be constructed of non-flammable materials
in accordance with the new SNSI building codes.
7. The use of fireworks within the Shire is absolutely and expressly
forbidden for all time.
8. Spitting within the Shire will no longer be tolerated.
9. Never, EVER, speak of He Who Must Not Be Named.
10. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
11. Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
12. Please wipe your feet before entering or leaving the Shire.
There was a long silence as the travellers contemplated all they had
heard. Finally Sam spoke. "Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute,"
he growled, disbelief twisting in the pit of his stomach. "Are you
saying," he gargled, "are you saying the Revolution's already come, and
I've missed it?"
"Yeah," Robin said cheerfully. "Isn't it great?"
Sam turned away in astonishment, too amazed to even attempt dialect.
Morrie gathered the others together. "This is ludicrous," he snapped. "We
didn't explore smuggling and business opportunities throughout Gondor
and Rohan just so we could find ourselves demoted to peasant laborers when
we got back. We represent the three richest dynasties in our countryside.
We've got to do something."
"Like what?" Pipsqueak said obediently.
"Raise the Shire!" Morrie answered overdramatically. "You can see
that everyone hates this - everyone who's important, anyway," he added,
with a disparaging glance towards the bound Shrrrfff - "and they'll all be
eager to see these grubby little peasants set back to rights. We'll get
the Families. Tonight we'll sneak out under cover of darkness and get our
clans together, and tomorrow we'll have a secret meeting to plot
counterrevolutionary terror. With good planning we'll be back at the top
of our ivory towers within a week and this 'Chief' will be a beggar in the
wilderness. Or better still a beggar in the Brandywine with fancy new
"What about Sam?" Frodo asked in a rare display of cognizant
"Sam," Morrie snapped. "Stupid leftist bastard. We'd better eliminate
him." And in a flash he drew steel and whipped around, only to find the
door open and Gamgee gone. "Damn him!" Morrie shouted. "He's escaped!
We'll have to start moving now, before he can raise the cry against us. To
the Families! Steal ponies and ride, ride hard! Bring all the forces you
can muster to the Three-Farthing Stone by midday. The Counterrevolution
With that the three ran enthusiastically to the door, Morrie only
hesitating long enough to put a sword-point through Robin Wheelburrow's
Frodo, after stealing a pony but accidentally drowning it in the
River, snuck through the grass on foot near the Sackville-Baggins estate.
What he had seen of this part of the Shire was striking: instead of living
in holes in the ground hobbits were now living in charming aboveground
homes of stucco and stone, with little balconies and modest terrazzo
sunrooms, and everyone seemed happy and well-fed. Even people he
recognized as being his former wage-slaves seemed as content as he'd ever
seen them. He withheld a shudder and continued on.
At last he neared the Sackville-Baggins mansion, and was surprised to
see it partially burned, since he hadn't paid much attention to the story;
but workmen were rebuilding the walls with stately brick, and keeping what
they could of the elegant windows, and new marble stairs led up to the
porch. But Frodo was unprepared for the sign: where originally Lobelia had
a sign which read PRIVATE PROPERTY: STAY OUT OR BE SHOT, now there was a
stone marker which read simply, SACKVILLE-BAGGINS CHARITY HOSPITAL - ALL
What the hell? echoed Bilbo's angry voice in Frodo's head. Charity
my eye. Probably steals their wallets or something. Ugly old pincushion.
Get up there! Ring the bell, you knock-kneed little twerp.
Frodo, fearing to get too close to the happy workmen, who might be
somewhat less happy if they recognized him, fought down Bilbo's mutterings
and instead went towards the back of the property, where he wormed his way
in through a half-burned back door. In a moment or two he found himself
face-to-face with Mumbo Sackville, a third cousin twice removed, once via
the front door and once through a plate-glass window.
"Frodo?" Mumbo said in astonishment, lifting his reading glasses. "We
hoped - well, that is, we thought you were dead."
Book-learned and about as useful as a drugged wombat, Bilbo's voice
"Mumbo!" Frodo answered, feigning affection. "Is Lobelia here? And
the rest of the clan? It's business, important business, and I'm in a
hurry, so no gumbo."
"We were just heatin' up a pot," Mumbo said sadly. "But if you
insist. Grandma's downstairs, in the fruit cellar. I'll just go upstairs
and get Norman. And the rest; most of the family's here these days.
Tendin' to patients, they are. Though Grundy's tryin' to tow a carriage
out o' the swamp." And with that Mumbo departed, leaving Frodo alone to
some inexplicable dread and the sound of squealing violins echoing in his
mind. He slowly descended to the fruit cellar, and there, in the glow of a
single bare lantern, he found Lobelia, sitting in a swivel chair facing
away from him.
"Lobelia?" Frodo asked cautiously.
The chair swung around, slowly, ominously. The face of Lobelia looked
at him. Her eyes seemed, to him, to be deep and empty, but suddenly the
flash of recognition shot through them, and slowly she rose to face him.
"Lobelia," he said softly, "it's Frodo. Frodo Baggins. I need your
"I'll give ye help, ye dirty thieving ruffian!" Lobelia screamed, and
suddenly began hammering at Frodo with her heavy iron umbrella. When the
other Sackville-Bagginses arrived, it took five of them to drag her off
"Wait, wait, Nibs!" old Tom Cotton shouted. "It's Sam, Sam Gamgee by
the look of him. Though he don't look like he's changed clothes in about a
year." Nibs lifted his pitchfork and cautiously stepped off of Sam's
chest, and Farmer Cotton helped him up. "Hullo, Sam!" he said eagerly,
pumping Sam's hand in a piston-like handshake. "We'd heard you were dead,
or selling aluminum siding, which pretty much amounts to the same thing."
"I'm fine," Sam gasped. "Except for my chest. And my hand. Look. Mr.
Frodo's back, and Mr. Morrie and Mr. Pipsqueak as well, and they're
planning to seize power. They're gathering their forces or somesuch. We've
got to be ready to put the screws to them and step on 'em like last week's
"Can't say it doesn't sound like fun," Farmer Cotton opined. "Though
the Revolution was surprisingly bloodless, y'know, and folks here mostly
just wants t' live in peace with dignity and reasonably favorable economic
circumstance. Once the gap between the rich an' poor was leveled off, most
people realized they really wasn't in the mood for bloodshed. When
everybody had enough to eat, and a warm place to stay and some
opportunities for bettering themselves in different ways, people got more
peace-loving and really weren't all that interested in class warfare any
more. That's called non-hoarded prosperity giving dignity to all, that
is. The Chief taught us that."
"But they're out to ransack the Shire and take back control of
everything," Sam garbled.
"Well, that won't do, I suppose," Farmer Cotton replied. "Though a
little bit of capitalism and potential for profit isn't necessarily a bad
thing. Fosters thriftiness and innovation. It's just when wealth gets all
centralized and you get a class of have-nots that it starts runnin' into
trouble. But if you say they're plannin' to take over the whole Shire,
well, then I suppose I could call a few o' the boys an' put the word out.
Shoudn't take more'n, oh, about a week. Then we can discuss the possible
social and political ramifications of such an attack at next month's
potluck. Hey, d'you still make that potato salad you used t' make?"
Sam choked on his answer when he saw Rosie - lithe, riveting Rosie -
come out of the farmhouse wearing a striking red dress. She had been
listening at the window. "I think you look fine, Sam!" she yelled. "But if
you'd been so interested in killing Mr. Frodo, why didn't you do it months
This was too much for Sam. It required either a weak answer, or none.
Pipsqueak rode his stolen pony out towards the northeast of the
Shire, towards the Great Smials of Tuckborough, with a heavy heart. He
didn't know how the Old Took was going to react. While the Tooks had
always run their country with a deadly singlemindedness of purpose, they
were never as mercenary nor as obviously greedy as the Bagginses or
Brandybucks. Pipsqueak couldn't guess what the Old Took would think of the
Counterrevolution, or how he would react to Pipsqueak for suggesting it.
In honesty Pipsqueak didn't know what he thought of it himself. He
missed the old Shire, it was true; but the new Shire was neat, and clean,
and orderly, and all the hobbits he had seen seemed happy, with the
exception of the one whose pony he had stolen. "Sorry, sorry," he had
mumbled apologetically. "Really very sorry. I'll bring it back when I'm
done. Here's a receipt." And after finishing the paperwork he rode off
with a curious guilty feeling. Where did that come from, he wondered? In
his childhood stealing ponies was as common as singing songs, or beating
up peasant children.
At last the gateway to the Great Smials, a stone archway erected long
ago by the Keebler Elves to guard their ancient ovens, came into sight.
Pipsqueak dashed through it, tethered his pony, put a coin in the meter
and ran up to the ancient ancestral door. Half a dozen arrow-tips appeared
at tiny holes around the edge of the doorway, a time-honored ritual dating
back to Goribund Took the Solicitor-Free. "What d'ye want?" said the deep
menacing voice of the door-ward within.
"I am Paragraph Took, son of Palatine Took and Macy Loosemoral,"
Pipsqueak answered. "I seek an audience with the Old Took."
"Paragraph Took? We'd heard young Paragraph was dead. Prove your
Pipsqueak nodded. So it was to be the Trial. He understood. "I stand
ready," he replied, as was the ancient custom, "and on afterburners."
"Who delved the Great Smials?"
"Isengrim it was, Isengrim the Mighty, maker of the Forge, Digger of
the Great Doorsill, and - " he stood on one leg " - Wielder of the
The voice sounded pleased. "Why are the Smials underground?"
Pipsqueak recited the ancient linnod by rote. "Why shouldn't they
be? Everything's gotta be somewhere. Mind your own business!"
Again the voice was satisfied. "Can you produce the Ancient Key?"
"C-flat," Pipsqueak replied obediently, humming one scale. "It's kept
under the Mat."
"Well, then, use it and come in."
Pipsqueak flipped up the mat, grabbed the rusty key, and let himself
in. Inside the Great Hall things had not been changed, and he was
reassured to see his coat-hanger was still empty. "Good to see you,
Pipsqueak," the doorward, Fahrenheit Took, said. "We'd heard you were
dead, or maybe selling aluminum siding, which amounts to the same thing."
"I don't know how these rumors get started," Pipsqueak muttered.
"You made it in time for breakfast," Farrie continued, gesturing up
the Central Stair. "It's the Count today, you know, chocolaty
marshmallows? Most have already finished, but everybody's still there,
awaitin' the High One. Hasn't eaten yet."
"Good, that's good," Pipsqueak answered. "I need to talk to
everybody, and I haven't much time." With that he darted up the stairs,
and burst into the Great Hall of Breakfast set in its mighty chamber.
The sun shone through the high eastern windows, reflecting down upon
the great velvet curtains, red and electric blue, which always used to
give him a nosebleed when he looked too hard at them. Forsaking his usual
spot he went directly to the Adults' Table, without permission, a thing
only done by three Tooks in all of history, and two of them were still to
this day stuck downstairs doing dishes. "Hear me!" he shouted, and the
table gave way to consternation then fell silent. "There is a rebellion
planned against the Chief. It is taking place today! I must know if Tooks
will support it or not. I must have an audience with the Old Took!"
There was a hush. The High One's seat at the head of the table was
empty. Everyone else seemed a little stunned. "Paragraph," old Adalgrime
finally said quietly, "the Old Took is dead."
Pipsqueak stood long in stunned silence. "Dead?" he whispered.
"Yes," Adalgrime replied. "Didn't you see the new polo mallet's been
added? Happened when the College burned down. The Old Took fell
alongside..." here a venomous contempt crept into Adalgrime's voice
"...the Perfesser. He thought he'd get tenure, and a wing named after him,
but instead he got the Ash and the Fire."
"Oh, my Eru," Pipsqueak gasped. This was too much. The Old Took was
the only leader Pipsqueak, and most other Tooks, had ever known. "But...
if he's dead..."
"No leader can stand forever," said a new voice, ringing from the
shadows. All heads turned to the darkened entranceway at the high end of
the table. "Even the Old Took could not prevail against Time. But a new
leader of the Tooks has been chosen." A figure could be faintly seen
approaching the table, walking slowly but with great strength and dignity
out of the shadows.
"Paragraph," the figure continued, "you are welcome. You have brought
us news, and have even come to the Adults' Table, risking infinite washing
and dishpan hands, to do so. I appreciate your sacrifice. But now, you
must keep silent. It is my job to decide how the Tooks shall proceed in
this crisis." And with that the High One entered the light, and cast back
the hood of the cloak.
Pipsqueak swallowed. "...c..." he stammered. "...Cassie?"
The paths to Brandy Hall had changed. The main road was still in its
normal place, of course, though it had been repaved with beautiful new
fishscale stones, and the slums had all been burned and then elegantly
rebuilt. But Morrie, who never took the main road because he knew it was
full of potential witnesses, took his usual back-way through the trees and
under Deadman's Hollow.
The trees were gone. The back-way road was now an amiable brick
thoroughfare, and where he expected the entrance to the Hollow he instead
found, to his horror, a double row of gift shops and small restaurants and
a couple of bed-and-breakfasts. A short pier at the River where Morrie had
more than once dropped off business associates attached to large rocks now
stood host to a large tour-boat, its sign touting SCENIC RIVER TOURS OF
THE BRANDYWINE - THREE TIMES A DAY! He stared in amazement and then rode
on, two or three couples in a sidewalk cafe idly looking up to watch him
Even the Hollow was paved! Only a few ashes remained of the scrubland
which used to provide cover from prying eyes. Morrie felt like he was in
an alien world. Even the scrubbed and disinfected land of Gondor felt
more slippery and dishonest than this - this, the very place where he had
first learned his craft! Whoever this Chief was, he was going to pay for
all this with his life.
At last he reached the stables of Brandy Hall. He breathed a sigh of
relief; here, at least, things didn't look as wholesome. Mordred
Brandybuck was still there, and still cursing his horses as usual. "You
foul useless nag!" he was shouting at one sweaty, exhausted horse. "Get
the hell back onto that track or I'll fill a glue bottle out o' ye!"
Morrie greeted him in the traditional Brandybuck way. "Get the hell
out my way, you ugly mangy old bastard! Or I'll ride you down."
Mordred looked up him, and squinted. "Who the hell are you?" he
sneered. "This is still private property, y'know, whatever the so-called
Chief might say. We don't hold with all these so-called 'community
property laws' out here."
Morrie smiled. This was more to his liking. "Glad to hear it," he
replied. "Go wake the Family! There's business to discuss. I want to put
out a hit. A big hit. There's a so-called Chief I want to take and put
in an all-wood box."
The older man regarded the younger in amazement. "An' what name shall
I give the Family?" he asked.
Morrie smiled. "Moribund Brandybuck," he grinned intimidatingly.
Morrie was amazed to find the older man staring at him in disbelief.
"Mor-i-bund Brand-y-buck!" he enunciated. "You know? Morrie? The Mobster?
Moribund son of Sorrowduck? The four-year-old kid who stabbed your
favorite horse in the fetlock and got away with it because you were
scared of him? You know damned well who I am, old man. I'm your worst
The older man's eyes betrayed fear, but he was still defiant. "I
don't know who the hell you are, you foul-tempered little whelp," he
snapped, "but you sure as hell ain't Morrie Brandybuck. I know Morrie.
I've worked with Morrie. Kid," he continued with a sneer, "you're no
Morrie was beside himself. He pushed himself out of the way. "Ain't
I?" he shouted, drawing steel. "Ain't I? Where do you think I am, then?
Missing? Dead? Selling aluminum siding? Listen, stable boy," he sneered,
holding his sword-point at Mordred's throat, "you tell the Family I'm here
or you'll be in a glue bottle yourself faster than you can say Elmer."
Mordred stared back angrily, and with more defiance than Morrie was
accustomed to seeing from anyone, but at length he turned on his heel and
walked towards the back entry of the Hall. Bucklebelt Hall! It was good to
see it again. Morrie noted there was fire damage here, too, but not too
extensive. Having the River close by the house probably made the
"Hey," he heard the old man call inside. "There's someone out here
demanding to see the Family... That's right... And he claims he's Morrie
Morrie let his gaze wander. Even here there were stacks of fresh-cut
granite blocks, over by the fieldhands' entrance, awaiting the renovation
of the Hall. Might not be such a bad idea, he had to admit. More secure
in case of siege. Extra stones could be handy for drowning difficulties.
He was considering how to pave over some old burial sites when the Family
began filing out.
There was Mordred again, stupid old fool. There were Gorbadass and
Marmadoc, who started the Insurance; they'd be with him. There was Rorimac
- Old Rory, 'The Goldfather'. He knew a good thing when he'd seen it. He'd
go with the plan. There was Madoc, the proud-necked fool, and that ugly
old Hanna; they'd protest, but it'd need more than them to vote him down.
There was Gorbulas, and Mentha; they could be swayed. And there was...
It couldn't be.
"This absolutely can not be happening," Morrie said in a dangerous
"Oh, ho, it can," the figure answered happily. "Ja, ja! A long trip
it was, ho ja, yet here I am, back in the embrace uf my luffing Family.
Happy am I to be here! And who are you, there, stranger?"
"You know damned well who I am," Morrie shouted. "You know damned
well why I'm here! What I can't figure out is what you're doing here.
What'd you do, Otto? Sweep the floors? Offer to dust their countertops?
Did you bring your cleaning supplies with you, you filthy Nordic bastard?"
Otto grinned. "'Otto'?" he asked happily, stroking his beard. "Nope.
Must be someone else you've been thinking of there. My name ist Morrie
Brandybuck, und this is my home, ant these people are my luffing Family!
We are all very happy together, ja! But perhaps you are mistaken.
Perhaps you are gone to the wrong House?"
Morrie allowed himself one brief moment of shock and disorientation,
then put it aside and jumped off his pony with steel in hand and fire in
his eyes. "I should have killed you in the White Tower, janitor," he
sneered. "But I'll have more fun doing it here at home, slowly." He
stepped forward, and was stopped dead by the sound of ten cutlasses
appearing in the hands of his family members.
They were all pointing at him.
"You even think it," Old Rory said slowly but with great presence,
"and you'll be dead before you hit the River. Or you'll wish you were."
"I can't believe this," Morrie expostulated. "Look at me! This is
what I look like! Now look at him! The beard! The bushy eyebrows! The
hands calloused from scrubbing bathrooms! Does he even look like me? Did
you recognize him when he came home to Mother? Did you?"
"Well, no," old Rory admitted. "But that's to be expected. He was
much changed, you know, due to his travels and all."
"That's lunacy!" Morrie shouted. "He was much changed because he's an
impostor! A badly-dressed, short, ugly, lice-infested bleach-drinking
impostor with an impossible dialect! Now look at me! Look: the dueling
scar! The knife-cut over the ear! The beady, glinting eyes! Look," he
said, reaching into a pocket for his greatest personal treasure, "my old
brass knuckles with 'Punched By Morrie Brandybuck' engraved on the front
surface in relief! They were a gift from you, Rory-"
"Ja, ja," Otto cut in quickly. "I lost those! You must've found
"-so why don't you admit that you made a mistake, throw this guy into
the rendering vat and welcome me home?"
The Family looked at him indecisively, then turned to Old Rory. The
old man regarded him slowly for a long moment. "Well, there is a
resemblance," Rory owned. "You do look and sound a fair lot like him.
Though the real Morrie didn't float two inches off the ground like
Morrie looked. He was floating. Stupid Ment-draughts!
"I'll give you one chance," Rory continued. "Prove to us that you
are Morrie Brandybuck. I'll ask each of you one question. The one of you
that gets the answer right can stay. The one that gets it wrong will be
banished. If he's lucky.
"Seven years ago," Old Rory continued, "Gorbadass and Marmadoc were
collecting insurance from the Hardgirdles. Fiona Hardgirdle refused to pay
the premium. What happened three nights later? Stranger?" His level gaze
fell on Morrie.
"That's easy," Morrie smiled grimly. "Marmadoc took Fiona's son
Finkle for a ride. He took him on the Mild Swamp Run, extra-slow. Next
morning Fink was found half-drowned in a peanut-butter truck. He kept
shouting something about 'worms, worms in the deep'. Fiona paid Gorbadass
the protection money promptly that afternoon along with a 15% gratuity."
Old Rory nodded once, slowly. He turned to Otto. "Morrie," he
proceeded, "seven years ago Gorbadass and Marmadoc were collecting
insurance from the Hardgirdles. Fiona Hardgirdle refused to pay the
premium. What happened three nights later?"
"I don't know. What?" Otto answered genuinely.
"Fiona's son Finkle was found half-drowned in a peanut butter truck
the next morning," Rory continued. "They say he was found shouting 'worms,
worms in the deep'. Fiona paid her insurance premium that afternoon and it
never happened again."
"Really? Gosh!" Otto replied automatically. "First I'd ever heard uf
that kind uf story. What an amazing, um, thing! Nope, completely news to
me. First I'd ever heard uf any such story like that one there."
"Ah-HA!" Morrie shouted. "See? See? Ha ha ha haa! That settles it,
Old Rory looked at him slowly. "That's right," he answered quietly,
"it does." He stepped slowly up alongside Otto. Morrie could see fire
burning in his eyes. "A lot of people in the Shire have heard all the
rumors about old Fiona. But a Brandybuck..."
Here his eyes lifted, and fell full on Morrie.
He put his arm around Otto. Morrie felt a cold nausea stirring in the
pit of his soul.
"A true Brandybuck," Rory continued, "would never admit to knowing
anything about it."
It was three hours past midday, and Frodo was getting worried. He was
at the Three-Farthing Stone, a handful of Bagginses and Sackvilles
accompanying him, and there had been no sign of Morrie or of Pipsqueak.
Okay, Pipsqueak was unreliable. He probably got lost or went into an
amusement park or something. But Morrie was as punctual as Death. What
could be delaying him? Had Sam caught him?
He looked around again. The Three-Farthing Stone used to be such a
joke. Legend had it that old Jatuzik Oldbuck had planted the stone at the
exact center of the Shire's main road-crossing as a traffic obstacle, then
offered to remove it for the sum of three farthings. Absolutely no one
would pay him, though, and everyone just got into the habit of going
around it. Now, Mumbo Sackville had explained to him, it had become
revered. "During the night of the Fire, six fire-flies landed on it," he
explained. "Three of them got squashed under the Chief's Axe, and young
Odo Bigfoot rolled the stone over onto the other three to crush 'em. It
helped turn the tide that night. Now everybody's saying the Stone's a
national treasure, and old Jatuzik put it there by divine inspiration.
Might even be true, for all I know," Mumbo had added, having the decency
to look slightly embarassed.
And now there was this Park. They'd repaved the roads, moving them
several yards off to the side as they did so, and now the area of mud and
dried twigs had been cleared and neatly landscaped, picnic tables put in,
and fresh green grass planted and generously watered. A small fountain had
been built around the Stone, and the water tinkled merrily over the
soaking obelisk. When had this happened? It couldn't have been very long;
yet the fifteen or twenty Sackville-Bagginses there were eating and
playing lawn darts as though they'd been doing it there for years. Frodo
had even watched a little child from a peasant family, not more than three
or four, walk up to the Three-Farthing Stone, touch it gently like a holy
talisman, then blush and run away. What the hell had become of the Shire?
Where the hell was Morrie?
At last he heard a sound: the sound of ponies, and a disheartening
little honk, honk which he recognized as a cheap souvenir Horn of Rohan.
He stood. From eastward came the trudging of ponies, not more than fifteen
or twenty, with Morrie riding slowly in the lead. He looked like he'd been
dragged through a swamp, and maybe a river and some gravel as well.
"Morrie!" Frodo shouted. "Morrie! Thank Eru! I thought you'd never
Morrie looked pained. "Otto," he whispered. "Call me Otto."
"What? But, Morrie, you-"
"Otto! Look, just shut up, I'm in no mood to explain. This it?"
Morrie asked, gesturing to the fifteen or so disgruntled relatives Frodo
had brought with him.
"Uh, yeah," Frodo admitted. "This is what I could find. Most of the
family..." He swallowed. This was hard to admit. "Most of the family seems
to like things now." Frodo saw the look in Morrie's eyes and swallowed.
"Maybe it's because Lotho was-"
"Don't say the Name!" a chorus of nearby Sackvilles hissed.
"-was responsible for all this," Frodo continued. "They seem to
feel... guilty," he ended, the very concept of the word feeling alien
and unfamiliar in his mouth. A Baggins, feel guilty? It was like saying
they were made of cream cheese. "But what about you? Where's the rest of
"Not coming," Morrie said shortly.
"Not coming!" Frodo said in amazement. "But you said you'd bring an
army. You said almost everyone in the Hall would support you."
"I did," Morrie replied in a monotone. "These are the Brandybucks who
don't support Morrie."
Frodo just stared. The Brandybucks dismounted, and began mixing with
the Sackvilles and Bagginses. They had brought some provisions, including
fresh Kool-Aid and more potato salad, which they proceeded to share.
"Unbelievable," Morrie grumbled to himself. "About as rebellious as a
plate of cheese fries. Pipsqueak been here yet?"
"No," Frodo replied, nursing an umbrella bruise. "He's probably out
eating cotton candy or something."
"Well, maybe this'll do," Morrie muttered to himself. "We use a few
to create a distraction, maybe start a fire if anyone in this rabble still
knows how to light one. That ought to bring this Chief and his ilk, and if
this pile of apes can make a clear path to him you and I can move in for
the kill. No, maybe I'll go in by myself," he added, looking again at
Frodo. "We'll set up in Bywater; Bywater's good ambush country. With a few
more people we'd have better odds of doing it and staying alive
afterwards, but if we can retreat quickly-"
"Look!" Frodo gasped in amazement.
Along the northeast road they could see troops - troops, a hundred
strong already visible in the distance and more appearing, the sun
glinting off their many swords wielded proudly in direct defiance of Rule
Five. A familiar figure strode proudly at their head. "I'll be damned,"
Morrie said in amazement. "Pipsqueak! Pipsqueak Took! Who would ever
believe he could do anything right? And he's got at least a hundred Tooks
In fact it was fully three hundred; all of Took-land had emptied with
the news, and Pipsqueak had been put in charge of them all. Onward they
came: Fahrenheit, and Faraslax, and Roquamunda Took, and Pancho and
Sancho, and Adalgrime, and Torquamanda, and fiery Tabasco, and even
Oleomargarine Took sitting straight and proud in his wheelchair. They
filled the picnic benches and overflowed them, spilling out everywhere
onto the grass. At last Frodo saw the one Took he was especially hoping to
"Cassiopeia!" he blurbled, going up to the beautiful young Took. "Oh,
I can't tell you how many times I've thought about you!"
"Paragraph told me you were here," Cassiopeia replied sweetly.
"Oh, it's gonna be grrreat," Frodo said stupidly, like a half-witted
breakfast cereal ad. "We're going to kill the Chief and his men and
restore the old socioeconomic order and reestablish an unfavorably
weighted capitalist economic system. After that, mmmaybe..." He paused. He
swallowed. "...mmmmmmaybe I could take you for a milkshake?"
"Hmm," Cassiopeia answered noncommittally, though she was still
smiling. "I admit I'm very interested in what you're planning. So tell me:
what kind of scheme do you have for dealing with the Chief?"
Frodo told her, making sure it sounded like his idea and not
Morrie's. "Now that we've got more people, we might make some changes," he
added. "But I'm sure it'll be Bywater, tonight. Afterwards maybe we can
get together and celebrate."
Cassiopeia smiled brightly. "Oh," she said simply, "after tonight
there'll be a celebration, all right. You can count on it." And with that
she shot him one final mysterious grin and vanished back into the crowds.
Frodo felt very pleased with himself. I wish I still had the Ring,
he thought to himself.
I wish I did, too, Bilbo thought angrily back. And we'd have it
now, if you didn't have clam chowder for brains. This place is a damnable
mess! How can you even think in here?
That night their plans were made. On the Hobbiton Road in Bywater,
not far from Bagshot Row and the dwellings of the Chief, the mutineers
brought cartloads of wood which had been hoarded by the Brandybucks in
direct violation of Rule One. At dusk they set the wood up for a huge
bonfire in the middle of the road; and the rebels, three hundred thirty
strong, took their positions in hiding at Pipsqueak's command as Morrie
and Frodo went ahead to light the bonfire. "I'm looking forward to finding
out who this so-called 'Chief' is," Morrie sneered. "I'm going to make him
suffer for what he's done to the Shire. And after he's dead," he added
malevolently, "I'm going to go after that bastard Otto."
"I thought you said you were Otto," Frodo frowned.
"Skip it," Morrie grumbled. "Do you have a tinderbox? Or a match?"
"Nope," Frodo replied.
"No?" Morrie snapped, furious.
"No!" Frodo replied. "I dropped my pack when we were running from the
"That was back at the beginning of the chapter," Morrie sneered.
"Nobody can remember back that far."
Certainly not the readers, Bilbo echoed.
"Well, can't you light it?" asked Frodo.
"You can't guess?" Morrie snapped. "I can't believe you even had to
ask. You brainless antelope."
You'd resent that, Bilbo added, if you weren't so damned stupid.
"Look, just shut up! -No, not you, Morrie. Otto. Whatever,"
blundered Frodo. "Look, I've just never lit a fire before, okay? That's
menials' work. It's beneath me! Look," he continued, recoiling under
Morrie's deadly gaze, "what do you expect me to do, anyway? Catch a
Rogling? Steal some fresh fire from the Gods? Ask Sam to drop by and-"
"Oh, I'm already here," Sam replied.
"-light it for us? No, Morrie, Otto, whatever, if you're so damn
smart, you'd..." Frodo continued, finally trailing off into a stupefied
silence. He and Morrie turned. Sam was standing a short distance away,
along with Rosie and a handful of stout peasants carrying a dangerous
array of sharpened farm implements. In the shadows behind them Frodo could
make out a small line of bowmen.
"Well, the worm has turned," Sam Gamgee announced. "I warn ye: you
are standing in the light, directly under a streetlight actually which was
very bad planning if I may say so, and ye are covered by archers. If you
two do so much as sing a song with conservative lyrics I'll have ye both
shot. Drop y'r unregistered illegal weapons and step back five paces!
O'course ye don't have to if ye don't want to," he added maliciously.
Frodo dropped his sword, only to be kicked by Morrie. Morrie began
laughing derisively. "Sooo! You think we're trapped? You think we're
caught? Not likely, you sniping proletariat bastard. I think I've been
looking forward to this moment even more than Frodo. Mutineers!" he
cried in a great voice. "Attack!"
There was a great cry, and out of the darkness came Pipsqueak and his
army of three hundred thirty armed rebels. They ran forward, with Morrie
and Frodo quickly joining them. Sam and his small group drew their weapons
and prepared to make a last stand worthy of a highly liberal song when a
new cry, deep within the mutineers' ranks, rang out in a woman's piercing
Tooks! Follow my command!
And the Tooks, three hundred strong, followed the ingenious and
secret plans of Cassiopeia, High Thain of the Smials, and turned at once
upon the mutinous Brandybucks and Sackvilles and Bagginses, whom they
outnumbered ten to one, and tore their weapons away, and took all captive;
and Paragraph their captain won renown by dashing forward and hewing
Morrie's sword-hand from his arm before that chief of mutineers could harm
the noble Sam Gamgee, icon of the proletariat; and Cassiopeia Took herself
dashed fearlessly through the ranks of her people in time to deliver a
devastating right-hand blow to Frodo Baggins' unresisting glass jaw.
Thus ended the Battle of Bywater, before it really began, and even
before anybody could light the bonfire. It was accounted by many the last
battle of the Revolution; though some contend the final battle came not
then but later, in a land well outside the Shire, and a chapter or so
further along. The names of all the mutineers were made into a List, and
were carefully memorized by Shire law enforcement officers and immigration
officials thereafter. Those named upon it were never cut any slack by
anyone ever again; and at the top of the List in all accounts stand the
despised names of Otto Who Claims He's Morrie Brandybuck and Frodo
Morning came, though little light came through the bars into their
cell. For some time Frodo and Morrie had slept fitfully, awakened at
whiles by their injuries and the crowds chanting, "Kill! Them! Kill!
Them!" rhythmically in the music-filled streets outside. The guards had
put a makeshift bandage onto the stub of Morrie's wrist, and there was a
chance he might survive, but the odds were against it, and he was weak
from loss of blood; and Frodo, though better off, still had a stinging
pain in his jaw and the irate voice of Bilbo screaming epithets and
one-liners in the darkened corridors of his mind.
After a sullen meal of gruel and soggy breakfast cereal, the two were
dragged outside by grim Shrrrfffs. "Come on, you two," the lead Shrrrfff
growled, "your lawyer is here."
"Lawyer?" Morrie slurred. "We don't have no lawyer. We don't need no
steenking lawyer!" And he would have continued ranting in that vein if he
hadn't felt Frodo's hand gripping his injured arm in terror.
"You're our lawyer?" Frodo whispered in horror.
Sam Gamgee grinned. "Court-appointed," he replied cheerfully, "by the
local magistrate. You've heard of her, maybe? The Honorable Lobelia
Sackville-Baggins? Seems she's become quite civic-minded since the
Revolution, helpin' the poor an' runnin' that hospital an' all; positively
respectable now, if y' ask me. But, here, now; we need t' get back t'
business." He cleared his throat, and took out a short roll of fabric with
a long list of charges inked onto it.
"As I understands it," Sam continued, inspecting the roll, "you've
been accused of the Murder of Six Shrrrfffs, one of 'em in cold blood, an'
Smuggling Wood, an' Preparin' a Bonfire - shame ye didn't get that lit,
y'know, because there's a hell of mandatory sentence for that one, an'
it looks extreme even to me - an' Gate-breaking, and Breakin' and
Enterin', an' Impersonatin' Respected Shire-folk, an' Rebellin' Against
the Proper Order of Things - kind of ironic, that one; I always thought
I'd be the one arrested for that - and Sayin' the Name, several counts
there, an' Spittin' Inside the Shire, an' Unregistered Sword-Handlin', and
Stealin' Ponies, an' Drownin' Ponies, that pony belonged to me Uncle
Hamlong by the way-"
"It won't stick," Morrie cut in weakly. "Nobody read us our rights."
"Bein' just come from foreign parts, an' not having signed in, ye
don't have any," Sam snapped. "Now there's a lot more here, but it's not
relevant, you're both obviously guilty, so you may as well decide how ye
want to handle it. What'll it be, then? Admit You're Guilty? Then ye'd
go into work-release, outside the Wall, at the Quarries; there's a few
other prisoners there, an' a surprisin' number of hobbits who are just
civic-minded, too. O'course, since everybody remembers you, there's a big
chance ye'd 'accidentally' get pushed under a slab-"
"Doesn't sound good," Frodo opined.
"Aye, ye're right," Sam agreed. "Much too quick. How about, Appeal
Before The People? In that, ye get up on a big platform and explain to
the whole Shire your side of things, and then they decide your fate. Now
there's a possibility."
"I'd like that better," Morrie noted tiredly, "if it weren't for all
those people over there chanting 'Kill The Interlopers, Kill The Firebugs'
and waving all those kitchen utensils."
"Hm, well, it's your business," Sam said sadly. "Well, there's only
one other option open."
"Everyone Forgets The Whole Thing?" Frodo cried hopefully.
"Give Us Swords And Let Us Hack Our Way Out?" Morrie suggested.
"Nope, it's Appeal To The High Authority," Sam said levelly, but
with a kind of grim smile. He turned to the lead Shrrrfff. "Take 'em to
There was an odd holiday sensation - half harvest festival, half
public lynching - in the air as the crowds jostled Frodo and the weakening
Morrie over The Bridge and towards The Hill. Frodo could just get glimpses
of the territory through the thronging, singing people. It looked like
most of Hobbiton had been destroyed by the fires, and now had been mostly
rebuilt, in a beautiful style that he would have described as Italian or
Mediterranian if he knew what "Italian" or "Mediterranian" meant. The ugly
Quonset hut that Bilbo had built for the Party was completely destroyed,
and a public library and open school now stood in its place. Inside his
head he could hear Bilbo howling.
At last the crowds pushed them up The Hill. Here he got his first
look at Bagshot Row, many of its mighty houses destroyed or standing as
unstable structures of charcoal and ash. Then at the top of the Hill the
crowd parted, and he saw Bag End once more, and for a brief moment
rejoiced to see it was still standing. But a moment later Frodo found
himself squinting in amazement.
All the wood was gone. The wooden windowsills and beams had been
replaced by rows of brick, intricate tilework and elegant steel trusses.
The round green door was now replaced by a bright red one, with a sort of
flower-shaped shield inscribed upon it with four red petals, inscribed
with the letters I A F F and the legend "Local 94 - Uniformed Fire
The door opened, to a rousing cheer from the populace, and four
hobbits came out wearing odd swept-back helmets and thick heavy coats -
black coats on the east side of the door, yellow coats on the west - with
strips of some Elvish material that took the sunlight and sent it back
glowing like a beautiful sunrise back to the eyes. The four came to
attention, revealing small argent shields each with a band of sable to
remember the fallen, and then the Chief came forth.
The people cheered. The Chief stepped out of the doorway, gestured to
his men indicating that they should receive the people's praise before
himself, bowed only once (and with, it seemed, embarassment), and then
turned towards Morrie and Frodo. In his hands was a large, steel-handled
Axe which seemed vaguely, hauntingly familiar, like a childhood memory. To
Frodo's surprise the Chief did not look much like Aruman at all, though
somehow he had half-expected him to. In fact, though, he looked like...
"Fredegar Bolger?" Frodo whispered in amazement.
The Chief looked full upon him. "I can't believe you actually came
back!" he shouted, half torn between amazement and anger. "I can't believe
you bothered, after all that trouble you went through to leave. And to
leave me behind, too, all the way back in the middle of Book One, making
sure you'd be going through a forest just so you could get rid of scared
old Fatty Bolger! Well, it seems I wasn't needed on your so-called
'Quest', so I made one of my own. And while you were out blundering
around, visiting amusement parks and listening to grand opera and
investing in Mordor real estate and pharmaceutical industries, I went
ahead and saved the Shire and made it into something decent with my
"Oh yeah?" Frodo said, sounding surprisingly juvenile. "Oh yeah? Look,
we just got back from a great Quest! We threw the Ring into the Fire and
put a King in Gondor and defeated the evil Gandalf and-"
"Not what I heard," the Chief replied. "I heard some weird creature
named Gullible destroyed the Ring, and that the King took the throne
because his father-in-law the loremaster used ancient Brandybuck lore to
murder the former Queen, and that Gandalf was actually defeated by some
Earthsea dragons and an enraged Elf-lord. I've also heard," he growled,
looking at their surprised faces, "that you were working for Sauron,
that he'd promised you a large slave-plantation in his Eastern lands, that
your friend here was planning to start a major drug trade in Gondor
"Not true! Not true!" they both cried out.
"Is that a Deed sticking out of your shirt pocket?" he demanded of
Frodo. "Is this the pipe-weed distribution network you drew up to show
Pipsqueak last week?" he continued to Morrie. "And I also hear," Chief
Bolger continued in the stunned silence which followed, "that you were
planning to kill me last night and make the Shire an economically-divided
"I wish we'd succeeded," Morrie hissed.
"Not me!" Frodo shouted, quickly putting some space between him and
Morrie. "Not me! It was him! It was his idea! Not mine! I had nothing to
do with it! I'm an innocent victim who just happened to be walking by at
To his surprise he saw Cassiopeia, High Thain of the Tooks, step out
of the crowd just off to the right. "Frodo," she said levelly, "you told
me it was all your idea. That you thought of everything all by yourself."
Nice move, idiot, noted Bilbo.
Frodo gulped. The weakened Morrie shot him a glance like a fistful of
daggers. "Um, uhm, uh," Frodo began articulately, "that was just, uhm, an
exaggeration, well, a bald-faced lie actually-"
"You lied to the High Thain of the Tooks?" Fredegar roared.
"Wha, ah, whah, wall, I know it looks like that, but, uh, I, uh-"
Shut up, boy! Bilbo roared in his ears. You're digging the grave
deeper every time you open your mouth. Why don't you just slip into a coma
and let me take over?
"Enough!" commanded the Chief, and with that one word all of Hobbiton
fell into silence. For a long moment the Chief paced back and forth,
musing on all that had been said. "Neither of you can be trusted," he
finally said quietly. "Not now, not ever. A treacherous blade is dangerous
even to its owner. Therefore I pronounce you exiled: you shall leave the
Shire forever, and never be allowed to return. The West-gate is just
A murmur went through the crowd. "Don't let them go. Kill them!
They're a pair of villainous murderers. Kill them!"
"Kill them?" the Chief asked the crowd. "Kill them? What would that
serve? Would it brighten the sky, or improve the harvest, or bring the
Shrrrfffs back to life? Or would it just make villainous murderers out of
us as well? No, you can't fight evil by doing evil yourselves. You can't
fight fire with fire. If you try, you just end up with a bigger fire."
The crowd fell into a hush, a quiet hubbub going from hobbit to
hobbit as this idea was discussed. When the hubbub stopped Morrie and
Frodo could see the people looking at the Chief with, if such a thing was
possible, still greater respect. The Thain's voice suddenly lifted up with
a cry of, "All hail the wisdom of the Chief!" And the cry was repeated by
all, who then fell to cheering and sobbing for joy.
This outburst of good feeling, however, did not stop the crowd from
hustling Frodo and the wounded Morrie straight to the West-gate. At the
Gate they gave each of them a small bag with three turkey sandwiches, a
bottle of Tang, and a map of the area with a marked path leading as far
away as possible. Then, as the door-ward pulled back the twenty-three
bolts and opened the Gate, Samwise Gamgee appeared with a slight smile on
"I'll probably never see you again, Mr. Frodo," he said quietly. "And
that's a shame, because if I ever saw you again I'd almost certainly end
up gettin' to kill ye." And with that he drew out a pen and made two
entries in the Gate-log:
NAME PURPOSE TIME OUT TIME BACK
O. Ex-Brandybuck Wander, suffer & die 8:43 AM Never
F. Baggins Suffer, suffer, suffer, etc. 8:43 AM Even longer
The crowd surged forward. Frodo and the wounded Morrie were shoved
outside. The gate closed with a CLANG and a series of twenty-three heavy
thungs. Cheers and a song were heard from inside the Gate, gradually
receding into the distance as the Shire returned to its many joyful tasks.
Morrie and Frodo looked around at the lifeless desolation around them and
the half-burned trees stretching off into the distance. A quiet wind,
blowing dust, began to rise.
This is one hell of a fine mess you've gotten us into, Bilbo
This chapter of this epic work is presented through the courtesy of
O. Sharp <ohh-aaaaaaat-drizzle-dawt-com>.
Copyright © 2002 by the author. All rights reserved. Some variance between this
e-text and the original printed material by Professor Tolkien is inevitable. Using this
as an electronic resource for scholarly or research purposes may lead to a certain
degree of academic embarassment. All agree that the printed version of the text,
available from respectable publishers such as Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine Books,
is to be preferred.
Gondor is a trademark of Saul Zaentz and Tolkien Enterprises, who hold all merchandising rights to Gondor and its subsidiaries.
This chapter is dedicated to Ken Sharp, fireman, and Tim Sharp, fireman, along with all those other pesky fire fighters out there.