West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive

 

 

Hobbit Aid
This is a special "Thank you" story for some very special friends, who went above and beyond for us during Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath, in which Merry must deal with a serious flood in Buckland...
Author: Dreamflower
Rating: G
Category: Canon-Angst/Drama

 

When I wrote my drabble Lesson Learned: Spring Flood S.R. 1433, I had no idea of the fact that it would someday be so applicable to myself. But due to current events, I recently decided to expand on that drabble. This fic is a work of love and gratitude to a number of my very dear online hobbity friends, who worried so much, and cared so deeply during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath...

HOBBIT AID

Merry took another deep breath, to still the pounding of his heart and calm the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was not going to weep. The Master of Buckland had no time for tears, and moreover, had an example to set for others.

The dirty water lapped around his ankles, and he looked at the barricaded door with distaste. More than thirty years ago, his grandfather Rory had begun the process of filling in these back tunnels, a process continued by his father until his death last year. But they were far too extensive to fill in completely. And now, as they had always feared would happen, they had once more flooded, not merely the old tunnels, but clearly the water was seeping into the smial proper. This room, one of the last entries back there on the lowest level, was awash.

Once more he fought down the wave of sickness that threatened to overcome him. This was only a minor problem in the larger disaster that had overwhelmed Buckland. An unusual winter, followed by a rainy spring had the Brandywine flowing far higher than usual. And then a few days ago, a vicious storm had dumped even more water--more than any had seen in living memory.

The Brandywine had overflowed its banks, and more than overflowed. The waters ran swift and dangerous, and had badly damaged the Stonebow Bridge, and destroyed Bucklebury Ferry.

Brandy Hall was packed to the roof beams with hobbit families that had been evacuated there as the water began to rise. Merry didn't even want to think of the many stubborn hobbits who had proclaimed the water would never reach them, and had refused to leave their cottages or holes. More than a dozen bodies had been reclaimed already, and he feared more would soon follow.

"Cousin?" Ilberic touched his arm in concern.

Sick at heart, Merry turned. "We have to find a way to seal this off immediately, lest the living quarters become inundated." He licked his lips, and allowed his younger cousin to lead him off. He wished desperately for Pippin's presence, and at the same time was grateful he was not there. But Pippin and Diamond and family were in Tookland. Paladin's health had begun to deteriorate, and Pippin was making plans to finally move back to the Great Smials, after all these years at Crickhollow.

He spared a moment's gratitude as well for Estella and the children, safe on a visit to her family in Budgeford. Yet he knew that she, as well as Pippin and the others, was probably frantic with fear for him. He hoped that Berilac would soon return with good news...

"I'll send some hobbits down with sandbags. That is the quickest and most immediate solution I can think of. But Merry, you have to come and rest just a bit. You've been going without rest for three days."

"Time enough to rest when I know that everyone is safe. How are the stores?"

"We're low, Merry. Winter's store is gone, and even if all the crops had not been washed away, it's too early for anything yet."

"Pippin will see that we get what we need. Once Berilac can get word to him, he'll send everything he can." Merry tried to keep his voice confident and steady.

Ilberic nodded. Berilac had gone down to Newbridge, where Sarn Ford had been, to send word to the rest of the Shire about the disaster in Buckland. With the Stonebow Bridge unsafe and the ferry gone, the new bridge which gave the budding village its name would be the only way to get any kind of word to the Shire. The River was still flowing too fast and too deep for any to attempt to cross by boat.

Merry advanced to the upper levels of the Hall, pausing from time to time to grasp a hand and offer a word of assurance to the many hobbits crowding the floors. He finally made his way to the Master's study; it was free of hobbits seeking shelter, but his desk was covered in papers, maps and messages. He stood behind the desk, and put his hand on the spyglass that lay there, a gift from him to his father, one he had purchased in Minas Tirith. Once more the tears stung his eyes and he blinked them away. For the first time since he had become Master, he was glad his father was not there, to see this devastation of his beloved Buckland. It was eerily reminiscent of Isengard after the Ents had flooded it, save for the steams. He glanced out the window for an instant, and then just as quickly glanced away. So hard, so hard to look at the flooded land, to know of the newly planted fields, ruined, the homes washed out...

Still, he had hope. Surely Berilac would get the word out, and help would come soon. It galled him to think of how Buckland would need the help of the rest of the Shire, but it was good to know that he could depend on Pippin and Sam, once they knew what had happened.

He felt dizzy for a moment, and then realized he had taken nothing to eat since a sparse first breakfast, and it was long past luncheon. A headache was coming on as well. But right now he could not bring himself to eat. The thought of food turned his stomach. And he had gone longer on shorter rations before. But you're not thirty-six anymore either, a part of his mind said treacherously.

He heard a shout, and glanced once more at the window. Here came Beri. Hobbits were hurrying out to hear his news, but he swung down from his pony and waved them away; they knew he needed to report to the Master first. Merry took a deep breath and seated himself behind his desk, still something new to him, even after nearly a year. What a relief to know that Pippin and Sam would soon be here with help!

Berilac came in and seated himself, and Merry sat forward. Surely he should be more cheerful than this.

"Merry, I don't know how to tell you this, but--the bridge is out there too. And the Ford is impassible.

Merry swallowed, stood up. "No way, then, no way for anyone to get across..." The room seemed to spin around him, and the floor rose up to meet him...
___________________________________________________

Sam shook his head, as he watched Pippin's efforts to convince the hobbits at the western side of the Bridge that there must be some way to get across.

"I'm going across to Buckland," he was saying between clenched teeth. "If I have to swim the River myself, I am going to Buckland..."

"But Captain Pippin, you can't. The Bridge is out. And the River is far too dangerous to swim in--"

Sam moved to interrupt the conversation before it got out of hand, and thought back to three days before, when Pippin had come knocking at the door of Bag End at three o'clock in the morning.

"Sam, something's not right with Merry. I have to get to him. Will you come with me?" Pippin was taut and frantic, and looked a bit wild about the eyes.

Sam had shaken his head, but in resignation, not denial. "Pippin, if you think that something is wrong with Merry, you know I'll come, but please come in for now. Get some rest and we'll head out in the morning." Sam had no intention of dismissing Pippin's concerns. He'd known the cousins too long for that. All of them had ever been aware of one another for as long as he could remember. He himself had come to be aware of Mr. Frodo that way by the time the Quest was over, though he never had quite the same connection to the other two. Now that Frodo was gone, Merry's and Pippin's bond was stronger than ever. And though Sam might not feel a connection to them in the same way, they were still his best friends and his link to Frodo.

Pippin had heaved a great sigh, and his wild-eyed look had faded. "Early, though, early in the morning."

"I promise," said Sam. "We'll head out right after first breakfast."

Pippin had nodded, and Sam had seen him to the guest room that was always his to use. It even had a bed specially made; Mr. Frodo had seen to that in both Merry's and
Pippin's guest rooms not long after they'd returned from the Quest.

The next morning, Pippin was a bit less agitated, though still eager to go, and Sam finished his own breakfast quickly. Rose was understanding, and had packed for him as he ate, letting the children sleep longer for once.

But as they prepared to leave, a Quick Post rider came pounding up to the gate, and they soon learned what was wrong in Buckland.

"Mayor Gardner," said the rider, "I've come from the Marish. Bucklebury Ferry has been destroyed in a flood; we've had word that the Bridge may be out, too. The Brandywine has overflowed its banks. The Marish is flooded as well; we can't tell for certain but just from looking across the River, Buckland seems much worse. Mr. Maggot sent me to you, says to let the Thain know, too."

Sam nodded. "You do that, go right on to the Great Smials, and tell Thain Paladin that Captain Pippin and I are already on our way to Buckland."

They had ridden flat out, pausing only briefly at Budgeford, in spite of Pippin's urgency, so that Estella could get the news from them instead of from gossip. She was determined to follow as quickly as she could, but she was expecting their third child, and it was not wise for her to travel ponyback...


And now they were at one end of the Bridge, and Buckland might as well be the other side of the Sundering Sea, the way the River raged...
______________________________________________

Merry felt a warm hand chaffing his icy cold right one, and smelled the smell of athelas "Pippin?" he murmured "Pip? Is the Battle over? Did you die?"

But it was a feminine voice that answered. "Merry, it's not Pippin, and you're not in the White City. You're home in Buckland."

He opened his eyes slowly, feeling as though someone were trying to trick him. How could he be home? Yet--

He gazed up at the face above him. "Viola? What happened? Why am I lying on the settee?"

Berilac's wife Viola, the resident healer at Brandy Hall shook her head. "You collapsed, Meriadoc Brandybuck. No rest, no food, stress and worry and grief for three days running, of course you collapsed. And your arm grew cold, so I got out the kingsfoil."

The confusion drained from his eyes, and his expression went flat. "The flood."

"Yes, the flood. We left you in here to recover, since we didn't think we needed the panic that might have been caused by carrying the Master of Buckland unconscious to his bed."

He started to sit up and was hit by a wave of dizziness. She glared at him.

"You are not going anywhere until you drink some broth, eat some fruit, and drink some well-honeyed tea laced with willow-bark. Then you are going directly to your bed. No arguments."

"I don't--"

"I wouldn't cousin," said Berilac, who entered the room with a laden tray. "When my wife says 'no arguments' in that tone of voice it is not wise to cross her." He set the tray down on the tea table, and gave his wife a brief peck on the forehead.

"Now, the news is not *all* bad. We were able to call across a message to the other half of the village, and they will notify the Thain. We also had a few words with the King's Rangers there on the east side." For Newbridge was a mixed village. It stood upon both banks of the Brandywine, but unlike Bree, the hobbits and Men were not completely mixed. On the western bank, only hobbits lived, though both Men and hobbits lived on the eastern bank. "They seem to think they can be of use, and have sent some messages to their comrades."

Merry was halfway through the tea, when he began to feel drowsy. "No wonder you put so much honey in the tea," he said, glaring accusingly at Viola. "There's more than willow-bark in that! What? Valerian?"

She nodded, "And chamomile. And some other things. I suggest we head to your apartment now before it hits you. Your mother is waiting for you. If you fall asleep quickly enough, perhaps you can escape her scolding."

Moving carefully and with great dignity, to hide his increasing sleepiness, and with Berilac and Viola at his elbows if needed, but not touching him, he made his way through the sloped upper passages to his apartment.

Esmeralda had been forewarned by Beri, and she waited there for Merry.

"Young hobbit, I don't know what you think you're playing at, wearing yourself out like this when you know that your people need you. I'll not have it! Now into your room with you. Berilac, please help him into his nightshirt. I'll be in to tuck him up in a few minutes."

"Mum!" But Merry's protest was half-hearted. The medication was beginning to take effect. He allowed Berilac to assist him to undress and put on his nightshirt, and he clambered between the cool sheets. He reached over drowsily, and took Estella's pillow, and embracing it in her absence, he relaxed and drifted off.

Esmeralda and Viola came in just as sleep was claiming him. His mother looked at him sadly. "What a thing to happen, the first year he's Master." Tears stung her eyes. She found herself weeping far too often these days. She had never thought Saradoc would go before her, and so young. She was after all older than he had been. And now he'd left Merry to cope alone with this horrible catastrophe.

She reached down and placed her hand on his right arm, as he gripped the pillow. "It's chilly, but not cold."

"It was cold before. I already used some kingsfoil, and we'll prepare a bit more. We'll lave his arm as he sleeps. Thank goodness the King sent some more at Yule."

"I know," said Esmeralda. "What we grow here is much less effective than what he harvests for us in the South."

Viola nodded. " 'The hands of the King' you know, it makes a good deal of difference."

The evening drew on, and as he continued to sleep peacefully, Berilac and Viola withdrew, leaving his mother to keep watch over him.
___________________________________________

In the Great Smials, Eglantine drew the curtains open in the dim room, and allowed the light in. Paladin stirred, and she went over to him and sat down on the bed beside him as he sat up.

He studied her face. "Any news?" he asked.

She nodded. Pippin had been very agitated a few days ago, and then suddenly left in the middle of the night, merely telling Diamond that Merry needed him badly. His parents knew that it must be something dire for him to have reacted that way, and had been waiting anxiously to hear.

"There is news. But not from Pippin. A message from Newbridge. Remember the storm that passed through a few days ago?"

Paladin nodded. It had been a very severe storm for spring, and they had lost many of the newly planted crops to its deluge.

"Apparently it was worse in Buckland. Buckland is badly flooded, and both bridges, as well as the ferry, are unusable. We know that Merry is alive and safe, but not any more than that. Berilac Brandybuck had to shout the message across the River."

"I shall have to get up and deal with this, my dear. I know that you and Reggie are capable, but an emergency of this sort needs authority to direct it. If Pippin were here he could deal with it as the Heir, but in his absence, I shall have to do so." He spoke almost apologetically. He seldom rose from his bed anymore, and his reserves of strength were small. He expected his wife to argue.

She did not. "I understand, my love. I spoke to Opal, and though she was at first inclined to argue, she has agreed. But you must spend as little of your energy as possible. Let your presence be enough. Reggie and I will deal with the details. Opal has prepared a draught for you that will give you a little energy and stimulate you a bit. But it will wear off, and you will have to return to bed."

He nodded. "Help me dress." As she did so, he began to tell her, "We'll need to make up some supply wains. Have Reggie check the inventory of what food is still in store, and how much we may supply to Buckland without starving ourselves..."
___________________________________________________

Estella huddled next to her brother in the pony trap, as they drove along the East-West Road.

"I should never have come away," she said.

"It's as well you did, kitten," responded her brother, using her old baby name. "He would be so worried about you, if you and the children were there. And you certainly did not know when you came to visit that the River was going to act up so."

"No, no, I didn't. But Fatty, all I want to do now is get home to him."

"We'll find a way, little sister. You know Pippin will probably already be across the water before we ever get there, even if he has to swim."
_______________________________________________________

Sam looked at Pippin in consternation. "You can't do that. It's too far."

"That's not what everyone told me in Moria, and it's not much wider a gap than that one was. There's no abyss below, only the River, and I'll have a rope around me in case I fall in, you can haul me out of the water. It's the only way over that I can see. I am going across."

Sam shook his head. "You were fifteen years younger then, and didn't have a bad knee, Pippin."

"Ah, but I was a good deal shorter then as well. I daresay my extra inches and longer legs will do the trick, Sam."

Sam shook his head. "It's too dangerous. What would Mr. Frodo say if I let you do such a thing?"

"Frodo would understand. If he were here, true, he'd probably try to talk me out of it. But that would be because he'd be getting ready to try it himself--you know as well as I do that he'd be just as anxious to get to Merry. And I also know that the next thing you're going to say is that you'll try it first, and to *that* I definitely say no. I don't think you have even swum one stroke since you first learned how. And you are also fifteen years older, and don't have the extra inches. Now let's stop talking and get on with it. Merry needs me."
______________________________________________

"Mellor!" The Ranger turned from his efforts to remove the flood driven debris from the path and saw his partner, Eradan.

"You've returned?"

"Yes, I left word at Tharbad, and help will be coming soon. How are things here?"

"The homes of Men were not so thoroughly ruined," he said. "since many of them had second stories, and higher ceilings. Most of the hobbits have lost everything. But the families of Men have taken them in, and are helping to care for them until they are able to rebuild."

"Well, as soon as they can get here, we shall have all the help we need to rebuild the bridge. And word has been sent to King Elessar; he will soon know of the tragedy that has stricken Buckland."

Mellor nodded. "In that case, give me a hand with this branch. It's very awkward..."
__________________________________________________

Merry awakened, at first feeling the morning quiet of his bed, missing Estella, but not remembering the past few days. Turning his head to see his mother dozing in the chair next to him reminded him very quickly. He sat up, and Esmeralda stirred.

"Mum, did you sit there all night?" he asked reproachfully.

"Of course I did, son. How are you feeling?"

"I feel almost like a hobbit again. I need to be up and seeing to things."

Esmeralda nodded and rose stiffly from her chair. "I will see you in a few moments, dear. I'll have a tray with breakfast sent up."

Now that he was up and moving, he wanted to say that he would see to breakfast later, but knew that would only agitate his mother, so he nodded.

Thirty minutes later, after dressing and bolting his breakfast, he went in search of his cousins. He found Berilac and Doderic supervising the removal of what was left of the ferry dock. The rubble resembled nothing so much as a pile of toothpicks. Tears pricked his eyes, and he blinked them away. He would *not* weep.

"Well, cousins, what is there to report this morning?" he asked, hoping perhaps for some news from beyond the Brandywine. He was dismayed to see them exchange a serious look.

"What is wrong now?" he asked.

Berilac swallowed. "They found some more--victims."

Merry paled. "Drowned?"

They nodded sadly.

"How many? And who?"

"Old Mr. and Mrs. Boffin, from near Crickhollow. And Gaffer Noakes, his son, daughter and son-in-law..." responded Berilac.

"The Boffins were trapped in their attic. They could not get out." said Ilberic.

Merry made a little choked noise. "The Noakes? What about the children?"

"The four children were rescued from the roof of the cottage. Their parents had managed to break a small hole in the ceiling large enough for the little ones to go through, but the adults..." Ilberic's voice trailed off.

Merry took a deep breath to calm himself. The death toll now was nearly twenty, and he felt responsible. After all, he was the Master, he should have seen to their protection.

"Merry, you can't take this onto yourself! There is nothing that anyone could have done after they refused to come to Brandy Hall!" Berilac feared another collapse like yesterday. Merry's face was all but grey.

In a flat voice Merry said "The Noakes children have relations in Michel Delving. Once we have a way across, they can be sent there. Now, how soon do you think the water will go down enough to rebuild the ferry dock? And how soon do you think we will be able to get a small boat across?"

As the morning passed, he went from place to place, giving directions in a perfectly efficient and completely detached manner. The stables were filled with soggy fodder, which had to be cleared out. Finding any that was clean and dry would be a problem. He went into the kitchens and the larders, inspecting the stores. In one of the larders, some of the seepage from the lower tunnels had caused several of the lowest shelves of food to get wet. Angrily, he told the cooks that the food could not simply be dried out and used, for it had been in contact with the dirty flood water and would cause illness. It must be discarded right away.

Finally he went back down to the lower levels. The sandbags had kept more water from leaking into the main tunnels of Brandy Hall.

He shook his head. "I do not care how long it takes or how difficult the task. These tunnels are to be completely filled in and sealed off. As soon as those who have been brought in here have been resettled in their own homes, this job is to begin, and not stop until finished!"

Berilac, Doderic and Ilberic followed him, watching this grim-faced hobbit who did not in the least resemble Merry Brandybuck. They dared not say much more than "Yes, cousin," as he marched about giving orders, his grey eyes flat, and his face as pale as his cousin Frodo's had ever been.

Finally they headed back outside, for he wanted to check the progress of clearing the roads. The ditches were as full as small streams.

He stood there, water lapping his calves. He had not put on boots, though normally in such conditions he would have. He stared across the River, as though willing the distance to shrink, the way his heart seemed to have since he heard the news this morning. No one, especially hobbits, should ever have to die that way, trapped, unable to help themselves. He thought of the desperate parents, making a hole to push their children through.

His ears were pounding, and his headache was returning. Pounding--pounding--

"Merry! Look!" Berilac grabbed his arm and pointed.

Galloping up the road toward them was--not a pony, but a horse! Two figures in black and silver were astride, one much smaller--barely had the animal halted before the smaller one flew from its back--

"Merry!"

"Pippin! How?" In astonishment, Merry's arms went around his cousin as Pippin barreled into him.

After a moment of back pounding and the breathless laughter of sheer relief, Pippin pulled back. "Poor old Merry! You look dreadful!"

"Well, you look a sight for sore eyes!" He looked up at the tall Man who still sat upon the horse, and then his gaze flicked back down to his cousin. "How?"

"How did I get across the River?" Pippin laughed and looked up at the Man. "Good old Beleg! The Messenger House was flooded out; one of the Messengers stationed there had gone up to Annúminas to alert the Steward of Arnor, the other had headed for Bree to bring back some help." The Messenger House had been built six years ago, just to the east of the Bridge, after the King's edict regarding Men in the Shire became permanent. "But Beleg had remained on the off chance that the Shire might need a message sent. When he spotted us at the Bridge trying to figure the best way across, he tore a plank from the ruined house, and laid it across the gap in the Bridge so that I could walk across!"

The Man blushed, but spoke up. "Sir Meriadoc, do not let Sir Peregrin fool you. He was going to leap the span of the broken bridge--a matter of eight feet across at the very least--when I was able to offer my assistance!"

Merry stared at Pippin in alarm. "Pippin! You wouldn't have!"

"Merry, you needed me. I had to come. Now, the first thing we have to do is go to your study and have you add your name to this paper. Sam and I have already signed, so we need your name as well. Then the Men will be able to come in and help with the recovery."

Merry, still looking a bit stunned, allowed Pippin to steer him into the smial and into his study, where he quickly added his name to the bottom of the document. For it took the signatures of the Thain, the Master and the Mayor to allow Men to enter the Shire. Pippin had signed as his father's representative.

Merry's other cousins had followed them in, so Pippin turned to them.

"Here, Beri," said Pippin, "would you please give this to the Messenger? It will keep him out of trouble and allow us to have a bit of help here."

Berilac nodded, and hurried out, to where the Man still sat on his tall horse.

Now Pippin turned to the other two. "Doderic, would you please let Aunt Esme know I am here. And very soon, Sam will be here as well. Estella is also on her way back, though she has left the children in Freddy's and Angelica's care."

Merry gaped at Pippin, speechless.

"And Ilberic?" Pippin continued, "Would you be so kind as to see if we could have a bit of second breakfast? My stomach thinks my throat's been cut!"

Ilberic winced at this brutal expression, but nodded and hurried off, finally leaving Merry and Pippin alone in the study.

"Oh, Pip!" Merry said quietly, "I knew you'd come if you could. But I really didn't think there was any way you could get here."

"Merry, all the hosts of Mordor couldn't keep us apart. Do you really think I'd let a river stand in my way of getting to you?"

Merry swallowed. "Pippin, so many are lost, nearly twenty dead--I--I--" Suddenly his grief poured forth, and the tears he'd been holding at bay for days finally came.

Gently, Pippin wrapped his arms around his beloved cousin, and wept with him. This--this was what Merry had truly needed him for.
___________________________________________

Months later Pippin wiped the sweat from his brow, and looked around at the mountains of boxes and bundles waiting to be loaded onto a cart for transport to the Great Smials. Crickhollow looked strangely bare; the furniture remained, but all the things that had shown a family lived there--the pictures and cushions and books and toys and other mathoms were gone. He suppressed a small feeling of guilt; even after all these weeks of effort, and all that had been done to restore Buckland, he sometimes felt guilty that Crickhollow had suffered so little damage: a tree down, some need of re-thatching, a bit of water in the root cellar. So many hobbits of Buckland had lost everything.

But he had seen Merry through with the restoration, and now Buckland was beginning to get back to normal. Too many of the buildings still looked brand new, and the harvest was not going to be as abundant, but the recovery was well underway. The help sent by King Elessar and by Éomer of Rohan had made certain that none would go hungry, nor remain homeless. And now Pippin needed to return to the Great Smials and prepare to take up the Thainship, for his cousin Opal had said that Paladin would be fortunate to live until the next Spring.

"Pippin!" Merry's voice called from the front.

"I'm coming, Merry!" he called. Diamond and the children were already on their way.

They would cross the newly re-built Bridge and await him at the Inn there.
Merry stood there with their ponies; he'd ride with Pippin as far as the bridge. Pippin locked the door to the little house and handed Merry the key. "I'm going to miss all the good times we had here."

"I know." Merry's eyes roved over the small house, where they had both lived for so many years after their return. "Did you leave the axe?" Merry's voice was grave. The crisis of the flood had left its mark on him as much as had the Quest, and he was solemn more than he used to be.

Pippin nodded. "It's in the rafters of the attic."

"Good."

For one edict that the Master of Buckland had made, as each new cot was built or smial dug out, as each old one was repaired and re-thatched: every dwelling was to have an ax in the attic or under the rafters.
________________________________________________

AUTHOR'S NOTES: There are any number of references to some of my previous stories here, and I have not tried to footnote them at all. Please feel free to ask if something puzzles you.

The axe in the attic relates to something my husband told me after Hurricane Katrina. One of his elderly patients had been a contractor who had helped rebuild the Coast after the devastation of Hurricane Camille. He told my husband some stories about it. Because of the fact that so many had died in that manner--trapped in attics--just as they did with this storm--he insisted that any home or building that he helped to build or restore be furnished with an axe in the attic, so that at least someone forced to take refuge that way would have a way to chop themselves an escape to the rooftop.

In my story, it only takes a few months for Buckland to begin its recovery. In reality, it is going to take years for the Gulf Coast to recover from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.
But to even begin to recover would not be possible without all the help being given by kind friends like all of you.

I thank you so very, very much. More than any material assistance, just the knowledge that you were caring and thinking of us made the world of difference.

I want to give extra special thanks to Llinos, Marigold, Budgielover, Pippinfan, Grey Wonderer, and Anso the Hobbit for the reminders sent to me by snail mail and for the help and support over the phone when it finally came up. But to everyone on my friends list, and to everyone who took part in Hobbit Aid, my thanks as well.

I love you all.

 

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