It was my hundred and eleventh birthday, the last birthday I would celebrate, and night had cast its shroud over the Shire. I’d been walking for only a few hours before I heard a single blood chilling shriek. I reached for Sting out of habit, not that I could actually put up much of a fight in my old age, but the reflex was still there. I cursed when I then reached into my pocket as I scurried down the road toward the woman who had cried out. There was another cry from the woman, this one choking off mid way through.
Without thinking I ran around the bend looking frantically for any sign of the woman. Finally my eyes caught a glimmer of something dark on the ground, as I drew nearer the familiar smell of copper made itself at home in my mind. I followed the blood off the road just inside of a cluster of trees where a Hobbit woman sat slumped against a tree. She raised her head with a fierce look about her until she saw that I was an old man, “Thank the Gods,” she breathed out weakly, “Please, you must, you must help.”
As I drew near I could make out that she was very clearly a Took with her small mouth and the shape of her nose and jaw line, but she did not seem familiar to me. “Oh, dear!” Is all I could think to say as I step in a warm liquid I had thought myself rid of. What could I do? I crouched down beside her, only then seeing how pale she had become in the mere moments since I first saw her. “What happened?”
She fought to keep her eyes open as she held her arms out, “I-I was not strong enough after all.” In her arms I noticed a small child covered in his mother’s blood. Oh, dear indeed. Her comment had struck me as odd at the time, but it wasn’t until much later that I would gain the knowledge required to understand its true meaning. “Why isn’t it crying?” Babies are supposed to cry, even I knew that. She shook her head, “H-he’s fine, he just,” she trailed off as her eyelids became even heavier. I shook her shoulder, not entirely sure what to do. We were hours from the Bag End, I hadn’t passed a single soul on my way here, and the nearest town was Bree. Her eyes opened slowly, but they seemed to be staying open, so I asked her the most obvious question, “What’s his name?” There wasn’t any sense in troubling the poor thing further. It wouldn’t be long now. She smiled weakly as she pressed her lips to his forehead, “Griffo.” It came out as a simple breath, one that seemed to take a lot of her, “his name is Griffo.”
I tried my best to return her smile as the blood at my feet and the air around us grew colder. The boy probably wouldn’t make it given that he was covered in fluids and exposed to the night air. There was a bloody knife at her side with an odd string of flesh beside it. “What a splendid name. Is there anything you would like me to do? Is there someone I can bring him to?”
She looked up from Griffo with pain in her eyes, “D-don’t take him to the Tooks.” The request puzzled me, and it must have shone for she shook her head with all her energy, “Not the Tooks. You can’t.” She was breathing heavily, her arms shaking under the weight of Griffo’s small body. “Are you sure? The Shire is just a few ho-” she cut me off with a ferocious glare and the knife that was at her side only moments ago was then shaking between us, “Not the Tooks. Not the Shire.” I raised my hands in surrender, “Do you have any other family then? Somoene in Buckland?” She dropped her arm to the ground with a sickening splash in exhaustion. “J-just...just keep him, keep him s-safe.” Her eyes began to close once more as her head swayed. I quickly shed my coat before snatching up Griffo before her arms went limp and her head fell forward.
The night air easily tore through my shirt embedding itself in my old bones as I wondered aloud, “How are you not screaming?” Griffo’s eyes were wide open staring up at me with his mouth hanging open taking in air before releasing it in a little puff of vapor. My first instinct was to return to the Shire in secret and have Frodo help me take care of him at Bag End, but then the woman’s voice rang in my head, Not the Shire. I cursed as I made my way back to the road, “What in blazes are we to do, hm?” Griffo, the poor conversationalist he is, remained silent. “That’s what I thought.” I took off walking hastily in the direction of Bree. Without making any stops, other than to get my jug of milk and dropper out to feed him every few hours, we made it to Bree by the following night. Once there, I rented a room at the Prancing Pony, got new clothes for myself, found some diapers for Griffo, and I bought a goat. For free. Okay, so I burgled. It’s not important. We made our way to Rivendell after that. I think it may actually have been an easier journey to make with thirteen Dwarves and a wizard than a single Hobbit newborn and a goat. By the time we made it to the gates of Rivendell, I’d had to do laundry more than one hundred times and my bag permanently wreaked of...stained diapers. Needless to say, it was disposed of within the hour.
“After that, we were shown to our quarters, given whole new wardrobes, and Lady Andriel, the Loremaster of Rivendell, often spent time with Griffo and I reciting tales and helping me keep him entertained.” I take a sip of my tea to catch my breath. The cool breeze brushes against my aged skin as I sit with Lady Dis on the balcony looking out upon the ruins high above the valley where Thorin and Fili were lost to us.
Dis smiles at me as she lowers her own cup, “She sounds like a gift from the gods.”
I offer a derisive snort shaking my head, “I thought so too until Griffo was old enough to run. She taught him how to climb and move like an Elf, and now the boy can’t sit still for more than a few seconds.” As if to emphasize my point, a small rock lands on the table with a loud crack! “You see,” I nod up to where Griffo is climbing about just above us, “Always getting into trouble.”
Dis laughs warmly, “And does he also have a thick skull and goes off of what he feels rather than what he thinks?”
I shake my head with a soft groan, “You have no idea! It’s as though the boy just lunges right into any situation without a care in the world.”
She nods thoughtfully, “And he always knows best. There’s no way he can be wrong.”
I nod grunting in affirmation as I swallow more tea, “Oh! And I bet he says the harshest things to those he’s closest to.”
“Yes!” I practically shout as I set down my cup, “He hits in all the right places when he’s arguing.”
She shakes her head in sympathy, “But he has a good heart.”
I feel the edges of my mouth quirk into a smile, “The best. Were Kili and Fili like this when they were growing up?”
Dis smiles wickedly and I see her sympathy and platitudes for false in a moment of realization as she states, “No, but Thorin was.”
I roll my eyes, my smile broadening as I think of him, “The man was an absolute brute.”
She smirks wider, “But you loved him any way.”
I sigh looking up at Griffo with a small sigh, “That I did.” Feeling that the atmosphere was getting heavy and noting that the sun was still up, I shrug, “But I haven’t got a clue how Griffo is ending up just like him, I mean, there’s no way he could know of him or how he acted.”
Dis raises an eyebrow over her cup allowing it to serve as the question we both know it to be, “I haven’t told him any stories about Thorin yet, no. Nor has anyone else. Those who lived through it don’t wish to bring it up for fear it might hurt me, and those who know it don’t tell it because their elders don’t speak of it.”
She sighs gently as she places her cup down, “He should know,” I hold a hand to keep her from continuing, “He’s just reached his fifth year, I’m not going to tell him of trolls, mountains that fight, goblins, orcs, and wars. I will tell him when I feel he is old enough for such things.”
Dis raises her brows in challenge, “And you don’t think that he’s ever asked this Andriel to tell him a story or two with such things. As a sister and mother of such men, let me tell you, boys like Thorin and Griffo want to know the violent stories.”
I swallow thickly thinking back on all the times Griffo’d come home from Andriel and be beaming from ear to ear as though he knew something I did not. “I shall have to have a word with Andriel when we get back to Rivendell.”
Dis chuckled, “Shut up and drink your tea, Hobbit.”
I laugh shortly as I raise my cup, “After you, Hag Under the Mountain.” We both struggle to not laugh as we finish our tea.