Aug 17 2013, 6:19pm
Post #1 of 1
The Witch of Angmar
LOTR Fan Fiction: The Witch of Angmar #3
Legacy of the Fellowship
The Red Book
As Rose caught sight of the soft, green outline of the Tower Hills ahead she felt her spirits lift. Today’s reaction to arriving home was vastly different to how she usually felt after a day of freedom in Hobbiton. In the past, a weight would settle upon her as she crossed the border into Westmarch; a heaviness that steadily increased during the last part of the journey home. It was not that she disliked her life in the Tower Hills; it was that she sometimes felt extraneous to her parents’ life. She did not adore the fields and the vegetable growing as they did. Rowan and Ruby Fairbairn had not left Westmarch in years – and neither of them could have cared less if they never saw beyond the lush fields and rolling hills of their home ever again.
Rose was different. She had an adventurous and enquiring spirit – only last night’s encounter with Salrean had unnerved her. For the first time in years, she rode up the incline to her parents’ hobbit hole with eagerness and a sense of relief. She was glad to be home.
It was nearing noon. Her mother was baking bread when Rose entered the kitchen, and had recently put in the first batch of bread to bake. The aroma wafted through the Fairbairns’ spacious hobbit hole, making Rose’s mouth water.
“You’re back early,” Ruby greeted her daughter with a warm smile, wiping her floury hands on her apron. “We didn’t expect you back until after lunch. How were the fireworks?”
“Beautiful,” Rose placed the pouch containing her takings from yesterday’s market on the sideboard. “You and papa would have enjoyed the spectacle.”
Ruby shrugged before turning back to where she had been shaping mounds of dough into loaves. “Tell me of it then.”
Rose launched into a detailed description of the festivities, the actors, the food and drink and – of course – the fireworks. Naturally, she left out the part where a ranger of the north paid her and Peri a visit and frightened the wits out of them. Peri might not have appeared scared but she had sensed his anger was to cover up his fear. Even now, Salrean’s words echoed like the fading chimes of a bell in her head.
The Shire must fall.
Morwyn’s servant will take it from you.
Rose shook her head, in an attempt to clear it. But still, Salrean’s words niggled at her, destroying her peace.
“Are you well Rose?” Ruby had turned from preparing the loaves, her gaze resting on her daughter’s face. “Look very pale for a bright summer’s day.”
Rose shook her head. “I’m just a little tired, ‘tis all ma. I might go and rest for a bit before I help papa with his afternoon chores.”
“Off you go then,” Ruby waved Rose away. “I’ll put a bit of lunch aside. You’ll be hungry when you wake up.”
Inside her bedroom, Rose opened her window slightly to let a breeze in, and sank down on her bed. Like all hobbits, she had no shoes to kick off. Unlike her mother, who worked day-in and out in a smock-like house dress, Rose dressed in breeches, shirt and waist coat, like a male hobbit. She had drawn a few comments, mostly disapproving, when she had begun dressing this way, but these days her family and friends accepted that it was merely ‘Rose’s way’ and let her be. The interior of Rose’s bedroom reflected her non-conformist character. She had plastered old maps of Middle Earth across the walls. Some of the maps she had drawn herself, copied from her father’s Red Book. Next to her bed were piles of leather bound books, full of stories of adventure, magic and romance – most of which had been passed down from Bilbo Baggins himself. The only feminine touch in the bedroom were flowers, both dried and fresh, in pots and hanging in bunches from the walls and ceiling. Rose loved flowers, especially her namesake – roses.
Rose lay on her bed, her hands clasped behind her head, and mulled over the events of the previous night. She was still undecided what to do. It was not a case of deciding whether to take the Red Book and meet Salrean the following night – for she had already decided against that – but whether to share what had happened with her parents. She immediately discounted saying anything to her mother; Ruby Fairbairn would merely discount the whole tale as nonsense. Yet, Rose’s father, Rowan Fairbairn, was deeper-thinking than his wife. He would not be so quick to dismiss Salrean’s warning. Should she tell him?
Rose did not want to worry her father; he was an affable hobbit with a straight-forward manner that made him easy to like. He treasured the Red Book that had been passed down to him from Samwise Gamgee, and would often spend evenings poring over its stories. He would be concerned to hear that someone was after his precious family heirloom.
After wrestling with the dilemma for a while, Rose decided not to tell him. She did not want to cause her father unnecessary worry when the whole story was probably a tall tale anyway. Rose drifted off to sleep to the smell of wafting rose scent from the garden beyond her bedroom window, and the bleating of sheep in the distance.
It was mid-afternoon by the time Rose struggled from her bed. She had overslept and her head felt as if it were filled with wool. She stretched languorously before making her way through to the kitchen. Her mother had gone outside to help Rowan with the afternoon chores; she had left Rose a large cheese and pickled onion sandwich on the kitchen table, covered by a tea-towel to keep flies off. Rose sat down and started to eat her late lunch, which she washed down with some elderflower cordial. Eventually, as the fog of sleep receded, Rose allowed her thoughts to drift back to last night’s encounter. She did not think that Salrean meant her any harm – but all the same, Rose decided to put the whole business behind her and pretend they had never met. She was sure that Peri was taking the same approach. Salrean was wrong. The nasty goings-on in the world of men had nothing to do with hobbits.
It was warm and breezy when Rose stepped outside and wandered down the fields to where her parents were weeding an onion bed. “There you are Rose!” her mother called out. “I was beginning to think you’d sleep the day away!”
“I hear that last night’s fireworks were a success,” her father boomed, straightening up and wiping sweat off his brow. “It appears one young hobbit didn’t get any sleep!”
“I didn’t get to sleep until late,” Rose admitted, “although it didn’t help that my bed was a hard piece of wood.”
Ruby Fairbairn snorted at this. “It won’t do you any harm sleeping in the cart occasionally. The Green Dragon may be comfortable but their rooms are far too expensive!”
Rose shrugged, not wanting to launch into the same hackneyed debate with her mother, and took her place next to her father. She weeded the onion bed with efficient dexterity – born from years of practice. Her parents had brought her out to the fields to help them as soon as she was able to walk.
Despite the breeze, which caused billowing clouds to scud across the sky, it was a warm afternoon. The sun beat down on Rose’s back and after a short while she could feel her clothing sticking to her skin. Once the onions were weeded, the Fairbairns moved across to the potato bed and began harvesting a patch. They worked solidly until the light turned a deep gold and the shadows grew long. Eventually, they trudged single file back up the hill to their hobbit hole. Above, ribbons of pink and mauve laced the sky.
As the last of the daylight faded, Rose helped her mother prepare dinner while her father rested on a stool on the front step with his pipe. She could hear him greet passers-by and share news with his neighbours. This was his favourite time of day.
A short while later, a great spread of food lay upon the kitchen table: fresh bread, quiche, baked ham, fresh salad from the garden and boiled potatoes, washed down with the apple cider that Ruby Fairbairn was renowned for locally.
“You’re quiet this eve Rose,” Rowan Fairbairn, a squat, stout hobbit with bushy grey eyebrows and a kind, weathered face, regarded his daughter across the table. “I think you overdid it last night.”
“If I did, it was Peri’s fault,” Rose responded, helping herself to a slice of bacon, egg and leek quiche. “He kept plying me with ale.”
Her father’s gaze grew dark at this. “Pericles Took is a layabout. I don’t know why you insist on spending time with him – he’s a bad influence.”
Rose resisted rolling her eyes. If her mother was always going on about money, then her father’s disapproval of her friendship with Peri was another well-worn topic in their household.
“He’s not that bad papa,” Rose responded, wondering why she always felt compelled to defend Peri when they often did not even get on. “He means well.”
Rowan’s frown darkened. “He’s spoilt. He should be behind the bar every night at the Green Dragon helping his parents, instead he does what he wants when he wants.”
“Leave the lad alone Rowan,” Ruby interrupted. “You were young once.”
“Aye, and I worked then too,” Rowan growled.
“Don’t worry papa,” Rose soothed, placing her hand over his work-worn one. “I have a strong mind of my own. Peri and I argue too much for him to ever have a chance to influence me.”
Rowan’s expression softened, as it always did eventually. “That’s my daughter. He’s no match for you.”
Rose grinned in response. “I think Peri realised that a while ago.”
Once the Fairbairns had finished dinner, they cleared up the kitchen together before Ruby Fairbairn sank down into her rocking chair near the kitchen window and her husband went to his study. It was their usual routine. For an hour or two, Ruby would put her feet up on a settle and do some knitting – she was currently making a throw for the threadbare armchair in the lounge – while Rowan spent some time poring over the Red Book, maps and history books in his study.
Leaving them to it, Rose went to her room. It was now dark outside, so Rose shut her bedroom window to prevent moths from flying in and lit the lantern next to her bed. Like her father, she liked to read in the evening. She was currently half-way through a book of old Elvish tales. She had never seen an elf, for the last had left Middle Earth and sailed west over a century earlier, but she enjoyed reading about their wisdom, beauty and strength. Propped up against her pillow, Rose opened her book where she had left off the night before and began to read.
She was in the midst of a tale about an Elvish warrior who had fallen in love with a daughter of a king of men, when a thud, followed by a strangled cry caused her to start.
The noise had come from her father’s study next door.
Rose snapped the book shut, leapt off her bed and rushed from the room. She flung open the door to her father’s study and froze.
A caped form crouched over her father’s prone body on the floor. When the intruder straightened up, Rose saw he grasped a dagger in his right hand. Blood dripped from the blade. At that moment, the intruder’s hood fell back and Rose saw she was staring into the face of a man – a terrifying one. He was tall and whip-thin; with a sharp-featured face and chilling, pale blue eyes. His skin was milk-white and pock-marked. As Rose watched, he slid the dagger into his robes.
“Get out!” Rose screamed. “What have you done to my father?”
The intruder smiled coldly and stepped back from Rowan Fairbairn. Rose’s father remained, unmoving, face-down on the floor. Behind the intruder, the Red Book sat upon a stand. It was open near the beginning, as Rowan had been re-reading the tale of how Bilbo Baggins found the one ring of power. In one deft movement, the intruder swiped the book, pinning it under his arm, before he moved swiftly towards the open window behind him.
Rose had only moments to act.
She rushed to where Sting, the sword both Bilbo and Frodo had carried on their adventures, hung, and ripped it off the wall. Then she rushed at the intruder and swung the sword at him. He ducked easily and, with terrifying swiftness, lashed out at her with his free arm. His fist caught Rose on the side of her head. She flew back against the wall, still grasping Sting. Her head ringing, she struggled to her feet. Rose caught one last glimpse of flapping black robes as the intruder dove through the window. Then he was gone.
Rose fell to her knees and crawled across to where Rowan Fairbairn lay. Why did he lie so still?
She rolled him over and gasped to see the blood that was pooling under him. The intruder had stabbed him in the chest.
“Papa no!” Tears blinded Rose. She reached to feel for his pulse but, although his skin was still warm, she could feel nothing.
Ruby Fairbairn burst into the study. She halted abruptly when she saw her husband lying on the floor in a pool of blood, with their daughter bent over him.
“Rose, what has happened?” Ruby’s voice was shrill, rising to a scream. “What’s wrong with your father?”
“I heard a noise,” Rose choked the words out, “and I found a stranger in here – a cloaked man – he stabbed papa and took the Red Book. I tried to stop him but… he…” Rose faltered as the tears came. “Papa’s dead!”
Ruby sank to her knees beside her husband, her face ashen. “He can’t be dead,” she whispered. “He can’t!” With shaking hands, Ruby Fairbairn reached out and touched her husband’s neck. Then she brought her face close to his to check his breathing.
“Rowan please, wake up.”
Nothing but silence followed her plea.
Rowan Fairbairn was lost, and no force in this world could bring him back.
End of Part #3