Nov 3 2021, 12:13pm
Today in Middle-earth
TIME - November 3
November 3, 3019 (S.R. 1419)
1. Battle of Bywater, and Passing of Saruman. End of the War of the Ring.
(from the appendices)
..."...a messenger from the Tookland rode in. He was in high spirits. 'The Thain has raised all our country,' he said, 'and the news is going like fire all ways. The ruffians that were watching our land have fled off south... ...The Thain has gone after them, to hold off the big gang down that way; but he's sent Mr. Peregrin back with all the other folk he can spare.'
...The next news was less good. Merry, who had been out all night, came riding in about ten o'clock. 'There's a big band about four miles away... ...They're coming along the road from Waymeet, but a good many stray ruffians have joined up with them. There must be close on a hundred of them; and they're fire-raising as they come. Curse them...!'
......The ruffians came tramping along the East Road, and without halting turned up the Bywater Road... ...they met a stout barrier of old farm-carts upturned. That halted them. At the same moment they became aware that the hedges on both sides, just above their heads, were all lined with hobbits. Behind them other hobbits now pushed out some more waggons that had been hidden in a field, and so blocked the way back. A voice spoke to them from above.
...'Well, you have walked into a trap,' said Merry. 'Your fellows from Hobbiton did the same, and one is dead and the rest are prisoners. Lay down your weapons! Then go back twenty paces and sit down. Any who try to break out will be shot.'
...But the ruffians could not now be cowed so easily.... ...A score or more broke back and charged the waggons. Six were shot, but the remainder burst out, killing two hobbits, and then scattering across country in the direction of the Woody End. Two more fell as they ran. Merry blew a loud horn-call, and there were answering calls from a distance.
......At last all was over. Nearly seventy of the ruffians lay dead on the field, and a dozen were prisoners. Nineteen hobbits were killed, and some thirty were wounded.... ...The fallen hobbits were laid together in a grave on the hill-side, where later a great stone was set up with a garden about it. So ended the Battle of Bywater, 1419, the last battle fought in the Shire, and the only battle since the Greenfields, 1147, away up in the Northfarthing....
......When the fighting was over, and the later labours were ordered, Merry, Pippin, and Sam joined him [Frodo], and they rode back with the Cottons. They at a late midday meal, and then Frodo said with a sigh: 'Well, I suppose it is time now that we dealt with the "Chief"...'
......At the top of the lane the party halted, and Frodo and his friends went on; and they came at last to the once beloved place. The garden was full of huts and sheds, some so near the old westward windows that they cut off all their light. There were piles of refuse everywhere. [Bag End's] door was scarred; the bell-chain was dangling loose... ...At length they pushed and the door yielded. They went in. The place stank and was full of filth and disorder: it did not appear to have been used for some time....
...'...This is worse than Mordor!' said Sam. 'Much worse in a way. It comes home to you, as they say; because it is home, and you remember it before it was all ruined.'
...'Yes, this is Mordor,' said Frodo. 'Just one of its works. Saruman was doing its work all the time...'
......Merry looked round in dismay and disgust.... '...If I had known all the mischief he had caused, I should have stuffed my pouch down Saruman's throat.'
...'No doubt, no doubt! But you did not, and so I am able to welcome you home.' There standing at the door was Saruman himself, looking well-fed and well-pleased; his eyes gleamed with malice and amusement.
...A sudden light broke on Frodo. 'Sharkey!' he cried.
...Saruman laughed. 'So you have heard the name, have you? All my people used to call me that in Isengard... ...But evidently you did not expect to see me here.'
...'I did not,' said Frodo. 'But I might have guessed. A little mischief in a mean way: Gandalf warned me that you were still capable of it.'
...'Quite capable... ...and more than a little. You made me laugh, you hobbit-lordlings, riding along with all those great people, so secure and so pleased with your little selves.... ...you must go dangling after [Gandalf], dawdling and talking, and riding round twice as far as you needed. "Well," thought I, "if they're such fools, I will get ahead of them and teach them a lesson. One ill turn deserves another." It would have been a sharper lesson, if only you had given me a little more time and more Men. Still I have already done much that you will find it hard to mend or undo in your lives. And it will be pleasant to think of that and set it against my injuries.'
...'Well, if that is what you find pleasure in,' said Frodo. 'I pity you. It will be a pleasure of memory only, I fear. Go at once and never return!'
...The hobbits of the villages... ...heard Frodo's command, they murmured angrily:
...'Don't let him go! Kill him! He's a villain and a murderer. Kill him!'
...Saruman looked round at their hostile faces and smiled. 'Kill him!' he mocked. 'Kill him, if you think there are enough of you, my brave hobbits!' He drew himself up... '... Whoever strikes me shall be accursed. And if my blood stains the Shire, it shall wither and never again be healed.'
...The hobbits recoiled. But Frodo said: 'Do not believe him! He has lost all power, save his voice that can still daunt you and deceive you, if you let it. But I will not have him slain. It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing. Go, Saruman, by the speediest way!'
...'Worm! Worm!' Saruman called; and out of a nearby hut came Wormtongue, crawling, almost like a dog. 'To the road again, Worm!' said Saruman.... ...But even as Saruman passed close to Frodo a knife flashed in his hand, and he stabbed swiftly. The blade turned on the mail-coat and snapped. A dozen hobbits, led by Sam, leaped forward with a cry and flung the villain to the ground. Sam drew his sword.
...'No, Sam!' said Frodo. 'Do not kill him even now. For he has not hurt me. And in any case I do not wish him to be slain in this evil mood. He was great once, of a noble kind that we should not dare to raise our hands against. He is fallen, and his cure is beyond us; but I would still spare him, in the hope that he may find it.'
...Saruman rose to his feet, and stared at Frodo. There was a strange look in his eyes of mingled wonder and respect and hatred. 'You have grown, Halfling... ...Yes, you have grown very much. You are wise, and cruel. You have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy. I hate it and you! Well, I go and I will trouble you no more. But do not expect me to wish you health and long life. You will have neither. But that is not my doing. I merely foretell....'
...'...Worm killed your Chief, poor little fellow, your nice little Boss. Didn't you, Worm? Stabbed him in his sleep, I believe. Buried him, I hope; though Worm has been very hungry lately. No, Worm is not really nice. You had better leave him to me.'
...A look of wild hatred came into Wormtongue's red eyes. 'You told me to; you made me do it,' he hissed.
...Saruman laughed. 'You do what Sharkey says, always, don't you, Worm? Well, now he says: follow!' He kicked Wormtongue in the face as he grovelled, and turned and made off... ...suddenly Wormtongue rose up, drawing a hidden knife, and then with a snarl like a dog he sprang on Saruman's back, jerked his head back, cut his throat, and with a yell ran off down the lane. Before Frodo could recover or speak a word, three hobbit-bows twanged and Wormtongue fell dead.
...To the dismay of those that stood by, about the body of Saruman a grey mist gathered, and rising slowly to a great height like smoke from a fire, as a pale shrouded figure it loomed over the Hill. For a moment it wavered, looking to the West; but out of the West came a cold wind, and it bent away, and with a sigh dissolved into nothing....
...'And that's the end of that,' said Sam. 'A nasty end, and I wish I needn't have seen it; but it's a good riddance.'
...'And the very last end of the War, I hope,' said Merry.
...'I hope so,' said Frodo and sighed. 'The very last stroke. But to think that is should fall here, at the very door of Bag End! Among all my hopes and fears at least I never expected that....'"
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