All That Is Gold by elwen of the hidden valley

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Story Notes:

Frodo and all the other admirable hobbits do not belong to me but to JRR Tolkien.  I am only borrowing them temporarily.  Many thanks to the equally admirable Baranduin for her beta.

 

 All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter.

 All that is gold does not glitter,

 Not all those who wander are lost;

 The old that is strong does not wither,

 Deep roots are not touched by the frost.

 From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

 A light from the shadows shall spring;

 Renewed shall be blade that was broken,

 The crownless again shall be king.

 
 JRR Tolkien – The Fellowship Of The Ring

 


Frodo settled his knees upon the cool tiled floor of Bag End’s hallway.  For a long time he simply looked at the large chest before him.  Its wood was darkened to a warm honeyed treacle colour, paler at the edges of the lid where generations of hands had lifted.  Bilbo said it had belonged to his mother, Belladonna Took, and had pointed out to him the cleverly carved initials, almost lost among the twining flowers and leaves of the front panel.  It had been a wedding present from her eleven siblings.

When Bilbo left the Shire, Belladonna’s Glory Box had come to Frodo as an integral part of Bag End.  When he moved to Crickhollow, it was one of the few items of furniture that travelled with him and when Bag End was restored the Glory Box had returnedAlthough Frodo had made his decision to leave, Bag End would not be Bag End without it so the Glory Box would remain for Sam and Rose. Not that they were aware of that yet.  To them Frodo was just going to spend the morning sorting through the contents of his old chest.

As a youngster Frodo had been disappointed the first time he saw those contents.  Bilbo called it his Glory Box after all.  He had expected it to be filled with precious gold and silver from Smaug’s hoard or even the troll hoard.  When he had admitted as much Bilbo had only grinned, saying, “All that is gold does not glitter, lad.  There’s treasure in here more precious to me and, eventually to you, than can be found in any dragon’s bed.  And I gave away most of that other stuff years ago.  It wasn’t really mine to begin with so it didn’t seem right, keeping it.”

Still Frodo knelt before his great aunt’s box, as though at some sacred altar.  Somehow, to open the lid was to make a final acknowledgment of his decision to leave Middle-earth.  Closing his eyes Frodo curled his palms about the front edge of the lid and pushed upward.  It lifted easily and silently on its hinges, as though eager to reveal the contents.  Still with his eyes closed he inhaled deeply of dust, metal, ancient paper and ink.  Strangely, they did not remind him of the Shire, but rather of Rivendell.  It was the smell of memories reverenced.

Frodo opened his eyes, bringing them to focus on a copy of the family tree that Bilbo had pinned to the inside of the lid some years earlier.  Now Frodo followed a tracing finger from Balbo Baggins, left to Mungo and then down through Bungo and Belladonna to Bilbo.  There the line ended and he had to move back to the top and then right to follow the line through Largo, Fosco, Drogo and Primula to Frodo.  He felt a tug of regret that his name too would be the final one on his line of the Baggins family tree. 

There would not now be any little Baggins bairns born of his loins, sliding up and down this hall and shining the tiles with their breeches bottoms.  Then Frodo smiled as he remembered Bilbo telling him that he used to be sent to stand on the top of this very box as punishment for that game.  When he arrived, as a tween, Frodo had been too old to attempt sliding, even if the floor had been cleared of the books and maps that seemed to have escaped Bilbo’s study to gather in drifts and heaps along the walls, forming teetering towers in the corners.  Frodo glanced aside for a moment to appreciate the glowing tiles, the polished wainscoting and the brightly patterned rug that now ran down the centre of the hall.  Despite having a babe to care for Rose Gamgee kept Bag End spotless and it had a cared-for look that the bachelor Frodo had never managed to create in his eighteen year tenure.

That thought drew his gaze back to the contents of the chest and he used both hands to lift out a heavy, black painted, metal box.  Using a small key from the chain attached to his belt he opened the lid before, one by one, searching the carefully folded documents within.  This was Bag End’s strong box and it held not money but history.

The largest packet of papers consisted of the combined documents of Bungo and Belladonna’s wedding certificate and Bilbo’s birth registration.  Frodo ran his fingers over the smooth, almost oily texture of calf’s vellum, covered with flowery writing and many signatures.  Below that were his own parents’ wedding certificate and Frodo’s birth registration.  Unlike those of Bilbo’s family these were written in a plain hand upon paper, although they also ended with a long list of witness signatures, their red ink already beginning to fade.  Beneath them was Frodo’s adoption paper.  He stroked it for a moment, feeling both love and regret, before setting it aside too.

At the very bottom was the document he was searching for.  Written upon fine vellum and containing many addendums, the deeds to Bag End were much folded and now showed more than a few non-specific stains on their outer edges.  Sam had discovered them when he had been helping to clear out Bag End and returned them to his master.  Lobelia had been more than willing to sign Bag End back into Frodo’s care, just as Frodo was now willing to sign Bag End into Sam and Rose’s hands.  He would be going to Michel Delving tomorrow, ostensibly to see Mayor Whitfoot on some matter. 

Putting the other documents back into the strongbox Frodo locked and replaced it, intending to close Belladonna’s Box.  But a sudden thought gave him pause.  This may be the last time that he would be able to savour the contents of this chest.  He would be taking little with him on his next journey.  So he lifted the strongbox out once more and set it upon the floor by his knees.

A small black leather bound box lay on top of everything else and Frodo lifted the sprung lid to reveal a shiny silver medal on a green ribbon.  It had been engraved by The Shire’s finest jeweller with, “Master Frodo Baggins, Deputy Mayor 1490 to 1491.”  The reverse showed a simple circle of ivy leaves.  Frodo had been embarrassed to receive it.  In his eyes the only important task he had performed was to preside over the wedding of Sam and Rose.  Others held a different view it seemed; insisting that Frodo had been a calming influence when most of the rest of The Shire felt only vengeful or terrified.  Frodo could not tell them that it was only his own distaste for any more killing that had prompted his efforts.  He closed the lid, laying it atop the strongbox.  Maybe it would find its way to the Mathom House one day.

Smiling softly he lifted Sting.  It still had its ancient shabby leather scabbard but the pearl and crystal studded elven belt was long gone, looted in Mordor and probably buried under some lava flow.  The King had gifted him with a new belt of plain leather, embossed with a repeating pattern of Gondor’s White Tree.   A king and yet still the sensible ranger, Aragorn had provided him with something practical on which to hang the scabbard.  He knew too well the value of practicality over decoration when it came to weapons.

Frodo took hold of the smooth hilt and drew Sting silently from its casing.  Its blue steel glittered coldly in the morning light and he ran a finger along the tang, tracing the letters.  “Maegnas aen estar nin dagnir in yngylim.”  The translation fell easily into his mind.  ‘Sting is my name.  I am the spider’s bane.’  Sam could attest to the truth of that statement.  As he rubbed finger and thumb together, feeling the thin film of fine oil that protected the lethal blade, Frodo wondered what had happened to Shelob.  Had she died or did she lurk still in the dark passes?  Now that Sauron’s minions were decimated what would she feed on?  Frodo replaced the blade, hearing a faint snick as it met the metal cuff of the scabbard, and set it aside, along with his darkening line of thought.  

Sting had rested upon a cloth wrapped bundle.  Frodo lifted aside the folds to reveal Bilbo’s chain shirt.  At that moment a finger of late summer sunlight poked through one of the little round windows by the front door and landed upon the close woven mithril rings with their edging of white gems.   For a few glorious moments stars danced and shimmered over walls and ceiling, then the sunbeam moved on.  As supple as fine linen, yet Frodo had to use two hands to lift it, so close woven were the metal rings.  Had Shelob aimed her sting for his chest, rather than his exposed neck, Frodo reckoned he would have been unharmed by her attack.   That shirt had been the price of his entry to Mordor.  Without it there would have been no rebellion amongst the orcs and Sam would never have been able to rescue him from so many.  Frodo laid it and its covering on the tiles next to Sting and rubbed his shoulder absently as it protested even that much weight.  No doubt it would be consigned to the Mathom House in due course.  Or perhaps Sam would want to keep it close to show his children.

Tucked into a corner of the box was another cloth bundle.  Frodo set it on his thighs to unwrap it carefully.  Then he lifted out the small crystal phial, holding it easily, even in his three fingered grasp.  He tilted the ornately carved vessel, watching light splinter off the carved facets.  No sound was heard but he knew that water swirled within.  For a brief moment he considered summoning the brilliance he knew would spring forth at his command, but he needed no magical elven light now.  Good old fashioned sunshine and moonlight were all The Shire needed.  He rubbed his shoulder once more and, instead of setting it aside, slipped the phial into his pocket.

Now came another layer of family history.  It took almost all Frodo’s strength to hoist Bilbo’s battered dwarf helm from the box.  It slipped from his weakened grasp and dropped on the tiles with a loud clang.

“You alright, Mr Frodo?”  Rose stuck her head around the kitchen door to enquire.

"I’m fine, Rose.  I’d forgotten how heavy this was.  Goodness knows how Bilbo wore it.”  Frodo grinned.

“As long as you’re alright I’ll get back to Eli.  You just shout if you need anythin’.”

“Thank you, Rose.  I will,” Frodo assured her as she disappeared into her domain, closing the door on a waft of roast beef.

Rolling the helmet onto its crown Frodo discovered some of the answer to his musing.  The inside had been skillfully lined with fine tooled leather but showed some additional and less carefully applied padding to the crown and back.  It had obviously been hastily adjusted to fit a smaller hobbit head and yet Frodo could not imagine wearing such a weight for any length of time.  Perhaps that was why Bilbo had been knocked unconscious in the battle outside the Lonely Mountain.  Frodo had never thought to ask his uncle.  Maybe he would when they met again.

A yellowed cardboard box was next to yield to his examination.  Large and square it was only a few inches deep and bore the legend, “Bressingbard Bentwhistle, Outfitter To The Discerning Gentlehobbit.  Michel Delving, The Shire.”  Opening it, Frodo drew aside the white tissue paper to reveal a layer of sumptuous paisley woven silk.  The deep ruby ground of the shimmering fabric glowed warmly in the sunlight.  Here was Bilbo’s party waistcoat, packed away so carefully by the owner himself before leaving The Shire for the last time.  Aside from a couple of little wine stains down the front it was pristine, having been ordered specifically for their joint party and never worn again.  Frodo had placed it in Belladonna’s box himself.  Running a palm over the figured silk Frodo smiled again as he recalled all the preparations and excitement.

Perhaps Bilbo would like to see this again.  Then Frodo folded the tissue back into place.  Bilbo had become thin and frail with advancing age.  It would be too big for him now.  His gaze dropped to his own tummy.  No.  It would be too big for him too.  Frodo had never been a particularly round hobbit.  Now he was ashamed to confess that food no longer held the charm for him that it once had.  He knew that Rose despaired of ever “rounding out his hollows,” as she had once put it to Sam.  He put the lid back on the box.  Perhaps Merry or Pippin could make use of it.

Beneath the box, sitting atop a brown paper parcel, was a long stemmed pipe; the bowl carved with tiny primroses and ivy.  Frodo had all but forgotten it was in there.  For many years it hung on a loop of string on his bedroom wall and had been transferred hurriedly to Belladonna’s box during the move to Crickhollow, from whence it had never emerged again until now.

Pippin had once asked why he never used it to smoke and Frodo showed him the split in the bowl.  The pipe had belonged to Drogo Baggins and had washed up on the shores of the Brandywine months after his death.  Long immersion in the river had rendered it unusable.  It was his uncle Saradoc who had returned it to the orphaned Frodo and for many years it was his most treasured possession; a last memento of his father.  He hung it about his neck by the string for ease, intending to add it to his luggage later.

The brown paper parcel beneath was tied tightly with string and for a moment he considered leaving it alone.  Then sentiment got the better of him and he set to unfastening the many bows and knots.  Despite the loss of one finger his hands were still the nimble appendages of any hobbit and soon he was unfolding the paper, which crackled with age.  Nestled inside was Primula Baggins fine silk wedding dress.  Bilbo had made certain that it came with Frodo from Brandy Hall. 

At first glance it was cream but a twitch of the hem revealed that it had once been a beautiful sky blue . . . almost the same colour as her eyes.  Frodo brushed away a stray tear as memories of family picnics crowded in for his attention.  His mother had loved the dress so much that she had worn it often and it figured in many of those memories.  There would be no room in his luggage for such a large item but just as he was beginning to wrap it again a small bow dropped off the neckline.  Mama obviously wanted him to have something to remember her by and he slipped it into his pocket before retying the parcel.

Right at the bottom of the box were the twin portraits of Bungo and Belladonna Baggins in their matching oval frames.  Sam had rescued them from a rubbish heap in the garden when laying out a vegetable patch and Frodo had intended to get the battered frames restored.  He grinned at Grand Uncle Bungo’s slightly cross-eyed expression and Aunt Belladonna’s lopsided smile.  Bilbo once told him that the portraits had been a wedding present to the pair from Linda Proudfoot, Bungo’s sister, who considered herself a bit of an artist.

Right up to his vacating of Bag End the portraits had hung over the fire in the parlour.  It seemed that Lobelia Sackville-Baggins did not hold Linda in such loving esteem as Bungo, Bilbo or even Frodo for that matter and had consigned them to the rubbish.  Perhaps Bilbo would like them.  There would be no time now to have them repaired but maybe the elves would be able to do something with them.  They were small enough to slip into his saddlebag so Frodo put them on the floor behind him.

Leaning back on his heels Frodo looked around him at the evidence of his life.  There was little that glittered here and some of the memories they inspired were dark or, at best, bittersweet.  His eyes fell upon the family tree once more.  The Shire had given him deep roots and dear, dear Sam had kept him from getting lost.  He drew in a deep breath and began to pack away the old life.  It was time to see if he could reawaken his fire, mend the blade and find, at last, his crown of peace.

END

 

 

 

 




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