West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
The Making of Samwise
A history of Samwise Gamgee's life as he grows into his destiny.
Author: Bill The Pony
Sam balanced the heavy wicker basket against his
hip, tucking a loaf of Daisy's best light-flour bread swirled with almond paste
into the end with the fragile items Mr. Frodo had already bought. The morning
was warm and the air was heavy and wet, mists still clearing from around the
hollows, and every leaf and blade of grass still wet from a soaking rain. There
wasn't even any dust in the market, though Sam's feet were dirty from the wet
He hadn't never felt no finer, following along after Mr. Frodo as he went darting through the crowd. Frodo liked getting out to talk with people and buy things, but he weren't stout enough to carry everything Bag End needed, not all by himself in just one trip. So Sam had been dispatched to help, which meant getting to watch Mr. Frodo haggle and listening to him chatter with friends and even getting to share an opinion or two of his own on which were the best produce to buy to meet Mr. Bilbo's exacting standard, and how much it was rightly worth.
It was good having the chance to look at Mr. Frodo and be near enough to hear him talk and see the light catch the fine down on his cheek-- all the while knowing his Gaffer wouldn't haul him up by an ear. And Mr. Frodo seemed to be enjoying himself too, which was even better. Usually he kept most of the market's width between himself and Sam and kept his head down and his eyes on whatever he was buying, always staying a fair piece from the Gamgees' stall unless he had strictly proper business there. Not today, though. Today he was chewing a ripe pear and wandering about freely, laughing.
Sam could see tendrils of hair curling wet at Mr. Frodo's neck, and that made his hands itch to brush them free, but he knew enough not to-- his Gaffer was right; a new position up at the smial didn't change his place enough for him to offer that sort of sauce, even if he wanted.
He contented himself with carrying his burden until Marigold appeared out of the crowd and set herself in front of him, all wild-flying curls and cheek. "Gaffer said if you hadn't forgot who you was, seeing as how it's too wet to work the garden today, he was going to see if Tom Cotton needed you to help them move some of those rocks out of that hill-field he plowed for the first time this past spring."
Sam nodded, ignoring her sauce; he'd seen Jolly and his brothers going off to work with spades and mattocks slung over their shoulders as he come down. "I reckon they will; I'll take a spade or a pick out of the tool-shed up at Bag End and go straight over."
Mr. Frodo stood nearby, fingering some nice heavy cloth, maybe thinking of winter breeches or a coat. It was of good quality, spun fine and even, and the weave was tight, though it was Shire-stuff and not fancy brocades or velvets such as him and Mr. Bilbo often favored.
"Will you be needing me after we carry the parcels up the Hill, sir?"
Frodo's head came up quickly. He blinked as his face moved into the sun. "Not if you have something else to do."
"I reckon Farmer Cotton needs all the strong backs he can get up in that new field." Sam shrugged.
"I was finished here anyway," Frodo told Sam, smiling a little. "We'll head up now."
The mistress of the fabric stall scowled at Sam for distracting Mr. Frodo, but Sam couldn't care, not with Mr. Frodo's lips curved so soft and shy with pleasure. Mr. Frodo hardly remembered to nod at her as he began to walk away with Sam. Sam could have told her it weren't good enough for a Baggins to wear, but she'd not listen, so he kept his peace and reckoned he'd have to take a scolding later.
"There's no hurry if you have more marketing to do." Sam marveled at how easily the words flowed between them. Only a week or two ago, clouds and despair would have hung over them too thick to permit any such exchange, but now... so long as they kept to discussing Sam's work, it all seemed as easy as it had before the Gaffer ever sent Sam off to Tighfield.
"No, I'd finished," Frodo admitted. "I'm just taking the air." There was still just a flicker of nervousness about him, showing mainly in his eyes, which didn't laugh as much as they used to. Nowadays, he always looked grave at Sam, as though to make sure nothing was amiss-- or mayhap to be sure that nobody saw nothing amiss in his look, if they were watching.
Sam nodded. "If it's no trouble, I thought I might pick up a mattock or a spade out of the shed up on the Hill to use moving rocks." Frodo began walking out of the market and Sam followed.
Frodo nodded at him absently, swinging his arms and stretching. "Of course. You don't have to ask." A flash of warmth from his eyes made Sam feel like singing.
"They plowed up that bit of field on the steep, you know the one. I don't hold with them doing it; the rain washes all the dirt away and they won't grow naught there in a year or two, not even hay, but Farmer Cotton wanted to try a thing he calls 'terraces' and that were the only part of his land that seemed to suit," Sam explained. "Most of what they grew there this summer seems to be rocks, if you ask me." He pointed up to the field as they rounded a bend; Jolly and his brothers were toiling in the sun, piling up stacks of rocks, with Nibs and Farmer Cotton himself loading them and carting them off in a waggon for all the world like huge heavy taters.
Mr. Frodo laughed to see it, and Sam found himself chuckling along, enjoying the easy thrill of it. So Mr. Frodo would laugh for him, if they were alone! This was easier than he'd thought; why, he'd even forgot to touch his cap this morning, and yet Mr. Frodo didn't seem to miss it none! He'd have to thump Jolly for being so shrewd-- and then thank him.
He was looking forward to a pleasant stroll up the Hill with his master when around the corner came none other than Mr. Frodo's cousin, Angelica Burrowes. She held a dainty parasol held over her head, with frills attached, and she wore skirts that were hemmed short enough to show her slender ankles in their fussy leather buttoned-up shoes. Altogether she looked a rare foolish sight. Frodo made a small sound in the back of his throat that might have been a throttled laugh.
"Sam, you'll have to go on without me," Frodo murmured, and plastered on his best 'company smile' as he stepped forward to take Angelica's hand. "So good to see you," he said to her smoothly enough to let Sam know his good temper lingered. Sam knew he'd best not dawdle, though-- it was one thing for him to take up part of Mr. Frodo's load, but it would be quite another for him to stay like he thought he'd a right to pass the time of day with Angelica himself, just to be sure of walking on up the road at Mr. Frodo's side.
He shifted the basket to his right arm and kept walking, humming to himself and glancing up at the Sun to judge the time. Still half the morning left; plenty of time for him to go help Jolly and still come about Bag End later when things dried out, to tend to trimming the grass and making sure the hedge didn't need clipping already, and to harvest a few taters and carrots out of the garden.
He could see Jolly and the lads working just the hill; they were laughing and joking to make the job go faster. Spending his morning with Frodo had been pleasant, but spending some time with them would go down well, Sam judged. His old dad might think he'd got above himself, but he didn't mind hard work.
Sam was just passing by Daddy Twofoot's garden gate when he heard a clatter from inside, paired with glass breaking and a scream.
He paused, hoping nothing was untoward, and so he was watching when Violet Twofoot flung herself out through the front door even though she was barely old enough to reach the knob, screaming like she was being murdered. Alarmed, Sam set Mr. Frodo's basket down out of the road and hurried to let himself in to the yard and go to her.
"Now Violet, what--"
"Pansy went to light the lamp like she wasn't supposed to, and it fell over and it's on fire!" She flung herself at Sam and latched onto his knee; her petticoat was smudged with a burn mark.
Sam jerked his head up, alarmed; he could see flames flickering and groaned; his family was friendly with the Twofoots, and he'd spent many an evening inside their smial. There was a rug in the parlor, and the smial had a wood floor and all manner of drapes and wood lining the walls, and clothes hung everywhere such as would burn. "Who's still inside?"
"Just Pansy; she run back to fetch the babe--"
Pansy was older than Violet, but not by much more than a year, and Sam didn't stop to hear no more. "You stay here. Stay out, mind!" He darted inside, taking stock. The lamp oil had gone everywhere, and the whole carpet was a lake of flame. It had spattered on to the walls and furnishings, too, and curtains and chairs were kindling as he watched.
Sam snatched his shirt up over his mouth, blinking furiously against stinging smoke. "Pansy?!" There weren't no answer.
He darted forwards before the flames could go any higher, feeling his shins tighten in the heat as he took two quick steps over the flaming carpet. Smoke was pooling on the ceiling and pouring back into the rear of the smial, drawn down the hall by a draught, maybe from a chimney somewhere. Sam folded his shirt as best he could to shield his mouth. Smoke could overcome you before you knew and choke the breath out of you; he'd heard tell of it a dozen times or more, and even seen the evidence of it once, when he was just a lad.
Falling to his knees to avoid the worst of it, Sam crawled hastily back into the hall, pushing open doors and shouting, his throat turning raw in the bad air. "Pansy? Give a shout!" She weren't hardly eight, Pansy weren't, and she wouldn't know what to do nohow. He didn't know where the cradle was, and he was half turned around in the dark of the hole. He could hear the fire starting to roar in earnest behind him, and of a sudden he heard the baby's cry.
That guided him; he scampered down the hall on hands and knees, choking, listening till he judged it was loudest. Sam pushed the door open and crawled inside. "Pansy Twofoot?"
A low wail answered-- Sam stood up in the dark and stumbled forward. It wasn't so smoky in here, so he could still breathe standing up, stubbing his toes and hands on scattered furniture.
By touch in the pitch-black room, he found the wooden wardrobe where they'd huddled. "You can't hide from it," he reached in, prying Pansy out. She was sobbing with the baby clasped in her arms, though she couldn't hardly lift her little sister, she was so young. "We've got to get out. Come on, Pansy. No, crawl on the floor." Sam remembered where he'd hit the bed and rushed over to it, snatching off blankets. "You do just what I say." He rushed back to the door-- it was hot, but the Twofoots didn't have no back door and this was an inside room, dug back deep in the hill, and there wasn't naught for it but to try to get back out the way he'd come.
"Hang back just a bit, then come when I shout," Sam told her, trying to sound reassuring as he swathed the babe in a blanket to protect her and folded another around his head and shoulders. That fire would have taken the whole parlour by now, or he was a Took. There'd be nothing for it but to clasp the girls to his breast and run, and hope he made it out before he fell.
"Come here, Pansy!" He pulled her against his side under the blanket and flung the door open, ignoring the burn the knob left on his palm, before scooping her up and making ready to plunge out.
Flame roared, a solid wall cutting the hall off from the parlor. The tongue-and-groove boards that lined the hole were already ablaze overhead. Heat staggered Sam to his knees, and he knew the blanket wouldn't be enough protection. Not nearly enough. He threw the door shut again to give them a second. "Pansy, is there a window anywhere farther down the hall? Don't cry, child, tell me!"
She didn't answer, clinging to him and sobbing. He couldn't remember ever seeing none on the bank, and staying here wasn't helping naught. Every second he delayed, the fire worsened.
Sam took a deep choking breath and snatched Pansy up, curling her under the pitiful protection of the blanket next to her sister, steeling himself to run, and snatched the knob open, feeling it near brand his palm. This time flames licked the back of the door and the sides of the frame; runnels of fire tracing down the hall as he watched, lurching towards--
"SAM!" Frodo's voice pierced the roar of the flames, full of desperate terror. Faint, then louder-- farther down the hall and into the hill. Impossible, but he'd never disobeyed that voice, and he weren't about to start now. If Frodo had followed him--! Sam turned, nearly falling, feeling the vicious heat envelop him as the blanket kindled. Again, that voice-- and he staggered towards it, flinging himself through a set of doorposts with no door between them. He tumbled on to the floor inside the room, lungs screaming for air, and batted the smoldering blanket off his head-- and there was sunlight, a crumbled hole in the wall through a splayed bulge in the boards. Boards splintered as he watched, and Frodo was silhouetted there, alongside Jolly, reaching desperately through for him.
Sam leaped up and plunged for it, snatching at the boards with his free hand and jerking them down. He realized dimly that Pansy was shrieking, and ignored it.
"It's like a chimney," Frodo snapped, snatching the baby as Sam fumbled her over. "The draught's drawing the fire. Jolly, the hole's not big enough!" He vanished, and Sam looked back-- the fire roared like a murdering demon, licking fingers around the doorframe and sucking right into the room, coarse black smoke billowing.
There was a thud and crack and Sam heard earth fall; the hole widened another hand's breadth. He shoved Pansy through it and into Frodo's arms, with her squalling so loud she near drowned out the flames. Fire was licking along the walls now, and the floor, and he could feel his skin singeing as it drew near.
"Hurry, Jolly," he rasped, watching Pansy's heels vanish through the hole. Another swing of the mattock widened the hole, and another. He tore at the wall, trying to pull enough boards down that he might fit through when the digging was widened, not caring when nails and splinters made gouges in his hands and arms.
Sam's shirt kindled and he smacked at its stinging bite; his eyes were streaming so bad he couldn't hardly see the hole. "Now!" he croaked, and flung himself at the light; hands caught him, dragging at him, the fire searing at his very heels. He nearly hung halfway through, but then Jolly heaved and he popped out like a cork from a bottle, tumbling over and over in the grass with hands slapping at his clothes to put them out.
"Get back!" an unfamiliar voice called; flame roared angrily out at the hole. Hands tugged at him; he couldn't even see whose. His eyes were streaming and choked with cinders.
"Sam!" That voice he knew, and those hands were cool on him. "Sam, Sam...." Those gentle hands kept touching him, pulling off shards of splintered wood and brushing off dirt, careful and soothing.
"I heard you," he managed to whisper, his lungs burning like they were on fire. "I heard you calling."
"Get Widow Rumble." Frodo snapped to someone else, voice tight and frantic.
"She's off at a birthing."
"Then get someone else!" Distress and anger filled Frodo's voice that Sam knew he didn't mean. "And get a cart. We'll take him up to Bag End."
"I'm all right," Sam tried to croak, but he couldn't force air through his raw throat, and he let his eyes close, resting safe in Frodo's arms.
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