Master Samwise
by Nightbird

"And then he bent his own neck and put the chain upon it, and at once his head was bowed to the ground with the weight of the Ring, as if a great stone had been strung on him." - The Two Towers, The Choices of Master Samwise.

The whispers in the village were of the mind that all who lived in Bag End were queer folk. Baggins first and now, Gamgee. They were always off on quests, very unhobbit-like creatures and it was a view privately held that quests were what killed them. From old Bilbo Baggins - the oldest hobbit who ever lived - and his vanishing act at his one hundred and eleventh birthday to his nephew, Frodo Baggins, who at fifty had sold Bag End and was never seen in the Shire again. Of course, other hobbits had gone on quests but Tooks and Brandybucks were queer families too, closely related to the Bagginses of course. The only surprising family was the Gamgees. Now there was a solid hobbit family, not one that the village had thought would get involved in these quests but young Samwise, in the words of Bilbo, had been there and back again.

He was the queerest of the lot.

The older hobbits could remember with startling clarity, the day that Samwise Gamgee came back. He along with Pippin Took and Merry Brandybuck arrived back in the Shire on white horses that carried the mark of Gondor, horses of a type that had never been seen in the Shire before. They were dressed in fine materials, black and silver and rode their horses like they were men. Of Frodo Baggins, very little was said. The grief evident on their faces, it was too near for any of the three to dwell on.

Life in the Shire returned to normal. Sam, after a period of mourning, married Rose Cotton, as he had been expected to and they purchased and settled down in Bag End because as Sam said, as he paid the Sackville-Baggins an amount of money that had made Lotho do a little jig, Frodo would have wanted them too. Pippin and Merry remained unmarried for several years, choosing to keep travelling around the Shire and further out before finally settling down and marrying Diamond of Long Cleeve and Estella Bolger within two days of each other. And when Mayor Will Whitfoot retired, Samwise was the obvious choice.

Rosie and Sam's children were the talk of the surrounding Shire. The eldest, Elanor was said to be more elf than hobbit and it was of no surprise when she left the Shire to go be the Elven Queen of Gondor's handmaiden. The garden at Bag End bloomed, the flowers seeming more brightly coloured and bigger every year and the Shire itself bloomed too, under Mayor Samwise. But there were still things that disturbed the surface peace.

As her namesake flowers bloomed and spread around Bag End, Rose dimmed and drooped, becoming a shadow of her former self. Merry and Pippin took to travelling again, coming and going as they pleased, cocky smiles on their faces as they paraded their horses through the countryside. They often spent hours locked in the study of Bag End with Samwise, emerging only to order more pipeweed and ale.

A darkness seemed to fall on the Shire.

Winters seemed harsher and strange men were often spotted on the borders of the Shire. Whispers soon spread that Mayor Samwise had dealings with the men of Bree, dealings that no Hobbit should have. And following those whispers came others about the fate of Frodo Baggins. Some said he died a hero, battling to save the Shire and others said that he died at the hand of a traitor - that Sam had killed him and left his body somewhere far away. But no one could think of why Samwise Gamgee, loyalist of the loyal would have turned on his master.

Sam just smiled when he heard these whispers. Smiled a grim and terrible smile as the gold band on his finger gleamed in the light of the fire.


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