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
I've gone to the Dragon with my Dad and my
brothers and all ever since I was old enough to lift a mug of ale, and I don't
think I might have cause to regret my choice when I set out. It's a warm spring
night, with the frogs singing in the ditches. The earth smells sweet and dark,
and there's a mist rising in the new-plowed fields.
I've got a day's worth of ache and hard work across my shoulders. All I've thought of all day is how a mug of beer would go down well, but in spite of that it ain't long till I wish I'd never set out to Bywater for a sup. I start to wish I'd stayed home the minute I walk in, and that's a fact.
"There's no tellin,' lads, but I'll warrant--" the talk falls low as I walk into the Dragon, which is enough on its own to tell me what's being talked about, I reckon. I pretend I don't hear it and raise a hand to Rosie at the bar. She looks pale, her face all pinched, which would tell me what was being noised about even if I hadn't heard for myself.
I look about the room, trying to get a feel for the crowd. I shouldn't have come tonight, and that's clear. There's an uneasy mood hereabouts, and too many shifty eyes. Too many things have happened where those with eyes can see, and too many tongues have wagged spreading them about, with every tale running wild in the telling.
There's been a rumbling and a speculation about Mr. Frodo's gardner lad all about Hobbiton and Bywater ever since last autumn, and I can see what's coming just as plain as the nose on my face. I've seen it coming a long time. That business with the bees, now, it weren't no more or no less than some of the other, but it just takes one more brick to break a cart, if the load's already that heavy.
I sigh, wishing it didn't have to be so, but it does, I reckon. Folk don't like when someone gets above himself, not at all, and that's just what they think Sam's done with Mr. Frodo. Most of the time that just means nasty gossip, but get just the right crowd together and give them enough ale to set their tongues loose, and it just takes one spark to make trouble. It looks like we've got the right crowd here, and conditions are tinder-dry-- all we need is the spark.
Talk or no, that spark ain't going to come from me. I always say there ain't no sense in starting a fight-- seems to me it's better to finish them. Still, I reckon this one will come to me in its own time, judging by the mutter, and I'm just the lad to finish it, too.
"If this isn't a stroke of luck!" That's Mr. Lotho Sackville-Baggins's voice, which means things is worse than I'd counted on. He's just fool enough that if nobody gives him a spark, he'll make one of his own. "I reckon he can answer us right enough, lads!" He's got that Ted Sandyman with him, and a few other lads too, all younger than him, some of them ruffians, and some of them as ought to know better. The chuckle that follows his talk is ugly.
"Rose, you run and fetch out the Shirriffs," I murmur into the ale she's just set in front of me, trying not to move my mouth. "If you can get them back here fast enough, there won't be no fight, I reckon."
She acts like she don't hear me, but I know she'll dart off as soon as I turn around, so I do, looking at Mr. Lotho mild-like. He's left his table and come up to face me with that Ted in tow, and they're both smirking wide as coal-scuttles.
"Wilcome Cotton." Mr. Lotho manages to make my name sound like something he'd scrape off his foot before he went indoors, but that don't bother me none. It's what else he might say as worries me.
"Evening, Mr. Lotho." I lift my ale to him, peaceable-like. "It's an honour to have you in the company, sir." Those are the proper words, for all they taste like curdled milk in my mouth. I stretch comfortable-like, reminding him how strong I am-- that Mr. Lotho's not one for working, and I reckon he wouldn't make much of a show in a fight. Not even as much as Himself up the Hill would. He knows it, what's more-- he's a coward, and won't make no trouble unless he's got a lot of ruffians at his back.
Which he does, as Ted's smirk reminds me.
"We'd like your opinion to settle a gentlehobbit's wager." I can smell ale on Mr. Lotho's breath, which ain't unexpected. Here it comes, and Rosie ain't even had time to get to the Smallburrows's yet, much less roust Robin out! At least she won't be here to get hurt, and that's a comfort.
"Seein' as I ain't no gentlehobbit, I don't know how I could help you." I turn about to the bar, but he puts his hand on my arm and pulls me around again sharp.
That's stepping outside polite talk, and it's enough to make most of the lads in the common room fall still. If it were anybody but Mr. Lotho Sackville-Baggins with a hand on me, I know I'd have a number of lads getting up and heading our way, ready to fall in at my back... but nobody stirs, and it's his name as has them hiding their faces in their beer again.
That makes Mr. Lotho feel like he's too big for his breeches, I reckon, for he smiles and sneers all at once. "Well, this question, see, you know all about."
"Do I?" Friendly as the day is long, I answer him, and I put down my mug. I'm ready to thump his head, Baggins or no. "Then mayhap it ain't a gentlehobbit's question."
That hits him where he lives, and he goes white in the face with anger. After a moment of groping for an answer, he finds one. "It's my business nonetheless; as the lawful heir to Bag End when Bilbo passes, I've a right to know." The sneer grows stronger. He looks over his shoulder and gathers his lads with a nod. "We're all curious, you see. Your friend Half-wit, now, he's been making quite a show up on the Hill with that Brandybuck lout who fancies himself my cousin--"
That's more than enough for me to drop my friendly air, but I smile hard-like, and I wait for it.
"--and seeing as how you've been mighty tight with Half-wit on your own account, we wondered if you'd tell us: is he taking his wages up the arse, or does he take out his pay in trade by tupping that fey fool of a Brandybuck himself?" His sneer stretches wide.
There's a stir at the doorway, and I look over Mr. Lotho's shoulder-- and it's Sam standing there, with our Rosie fluttering anxious-like behind him. Mr. Lotho don't see; he thinks I'm counting his ruffians over his shoulder, I reckon. Sam steps up, his hands clutched into fists.
"Well, Mr. Lotho," the words taste fine in my mouth, for I ain't alone in this fight no more. Sam's a-boiling; I ain't never seen such a look on his face. "I reckon you may as well ask him yourself, seeing as he's right behind you."
That makes him blanch, sure enough, but he turns slow-like, trying to put on a regal air that don't go too well with the quaking of the yellow streak down his spine.
Sam don't give him no time to repeat the question. "That would be 'neither,' sir." His hands are white-knuckled fists, but he's in control of himself. His voice is hard, but his words are polite. "Begging your pardon, but I think you've had a few too many mugs of the Dragon's good ale."
"And you think you can order me home?" Mr. Lotho's voice goes right shrill. Ted bullies right up to his shoulder, reckoning on that Baggins name for protection, too much a fool to know he's about to be thrashed.
"No, sir, but I reckon you'd just as soon walk as be carried." Sam shoulders out of his weskit careful like, and tosses it behind the bar. "I ain't got no thought for myself, you understand, but I won't hear you say such words against Mr. Frodo, and that's flat."
"And I won't have them said about my friend," I back him up. "And there's lads in here who'd agree with me." I sweep a hard look around the inn and stir several sheepish nods. They'll fight, if it comes to that-- fight Ted and his lot, anyway.
"He threatened me." Lotho's voice is even shriller; he don't take his eyes off Sam, backing up a step or two. "Ted, you won't let him get away with that!"
Ted swallows hard and gathers the ruffians with a look. He already knows enough about the flat side of Sam Gamgee's fists for him not to be eager about taking Sam on alone, I reckon. They've tangled a time or two before, when we was all younger. Still, the memory of a drubbing ain't enough to turn him aside, not with a half-dozen ruffians at his back and Mr. Lotho at his shoulder.
"Come on, lads!" He gives a shout and with that, they go for Sam, Ted in the lead. The second he lets fly a punch, I grab his arm to stop the blow. It drags me forward a foot or more, Ted swung that hard.
He curses and flings an elbow in my direction, then someone grabs me and hauls me back. I hear a fist hit flesh, and Sam gives a grunt. Then someone grabs my arms from behind, pinning me tight. All of a sudden I've got my hands full with Ted, who lets fly a laugh at the same time he winds up another punch, which lands right on the point of my jaw.
My head swims and I'm just recovering at about the time I see one of the Sandheaver twins from Tunnelly go flying in to have a go at Sam. I duck a second blow from Ted and see Sam turn and lay Ned Sandheaver flat on the floor with a haymaker. I reckon I can't let Sam show me up like that, so I decide it's time to see about getting loose.
I drive my heels flat against the floor and crack my head back against the nose of whoever's got me. He gives a howl, and I kick out and catch Ted right in the stomach, doubling him over. I follow it up now that I'm free, catching Ted's ankle with mine and thumping him right onto the floor.
Sam's fist does nicely for Raf Banks, who topples like a felled tree, and he dives a shoulder for another of the ruffians, catching him right in his belly and driving the breath out of him. With that Sam breaks free of the ruffians gathered around him and has a second to breathe, looking about for more fight, finding me, and starting forwards.
I can see Mr. Lotho for just a split second; he's scuttling under a table off towards the back door, which ain't no surprise. There won't be hair nor hide of him to be seen, if Sam and me win-- which we look like doing, except Ned is up again, and this time he's got a chair in his hands, and he's sneaking up behind Sam's back.
"Sam, look out!" Ted's scrambled up off his knees, and I ram my fist right between his eyes before he can do the same to me. The lad who had me around the ribs is one of them Bracegirdles, Lotho's poorer kin, and he's heavy but he's slow. His nose is bloody, though-- I reckon I've stirred the fury in him, and I'll have to lay him out proper if I want him to quit coming.
I hear wood splintering, and Sam makes a sound halfway between a yelp and a snarl-- that chair, I reckon. Rosie screams, and I know Sam's been hit, so I have to turn my back on that Bracegirdle to see if he's all right.
He's standing, but the chair ain't, and I reckon it got broke over his back. Now him and Ned each have a hold of one of the legs, and whoever gets it away from the other bids fair to crack the other one's skull, seemingly-- but I'll tell you straight: my money's on Sam.
Something hits me in the back and whuffs all the air out of me-- that Bracegirdle lad, with a punch at the small of my back that leaves me knowing I'll piss blood for a day or two. I act like he's folded me up, and I fall back, but when I do I catch his legs and I twist, and he goes down hard. Ted's just barely made it back to his hands and knees; he's holding his face and there's blood on his hand, and I wish for a second I'd managed to do the same to that Mr. Lotho.
Then wood splinters prickle all over me, and I dash them away-- and when I can look up again, it's Rosie who's holding the remains of a chair, and I won't have to worry none about that Bracegirdle no more, for he's down and don't look like he wants aught more of the fight any time soon.
I jump up and go after Sam, who's got the chair leg and is holding off half a dozen of the ruffians now. At last there's more lads joining in, good lads who've decided to come in on mine and Sam's side, now that Mr. Lotho ain't nowhere to be found. Half the place is struggling and wrestling, and even as I glance about, a whole counter full of tables and crocks gets overturned with an awful shatter.
There's no helping it, so I get in behind Sam and keep guard at his back; between my fists and that chair leg in his fist nobody seems too eager to come in after us, not now that Mr. Lotho's gone and Ted's nursing what looks to be a broken nose.
That seems to be the end of things, but for a bit of bluster as the ruffians back off and go about tending to their hurts. Sam drops the piece of chair and winces, rolling his shoulder, which has to be where that chair landed and broke in the first place.
"You didn't have to stand up for me, Jolly." He rubs his cheek, where at least one solid blow took him. "But I'm glad you did."
"That's what friends do, Sam." Our eyes lock, and just that easy, the pain and the resentment that set us apart is shredding and fading inside me, and I know we're friends again, no matter what-- just like we always was, if I hadn't let foolish hurt and pride get in my way.
"There's them ruffians that set about me and my lads!" Mr. Lotho's shrill voice breaks the momentary calm, and wouldn't you know he's found the Shirriffs and brought them back? Our word won't go far against his, and that's a fact. I reckon they'll cart us off to Michel Delving and keep us overnight, and have Mayor Whitfoot decide what to do with us in the morning. I wince a bit. This will kill my old Dad, and Mam too, not to speak of Sam's gaffer.
"They didn't!" Rosie's voice is even shriller than Mr. Lotho's. "It was Ted Sandyman as threw the first punch, and it wasn't till after him and Mr. Lotho gave up on provoking Jolly to hit first, for Jolly wouldn't!"
The Shirriffs look at one another, and I reckon they figure she's got the right of it, but then, that's Mr. Sackville-Baggins glaring at them, and there ain't none of us in here whose word weighs more than his, not even if we all said the same thing at once.
"Go up the Hill and fetch back Mr. Frodo!" Rosie's that determined. "You go on, Robin Smallburrow!"
Sam and I both wince, but Robin's shaking his head. "That won't do any good, Rosie. He didn't see what happened any more than I did."
Mr. Lotho stands there looking smug, his arms folded, not paying no mind to his friends bleeding on the floor. His sneering looks are all for me and Sam; I reckon he figures he's won the fight and made his point, both. It won't be no easier for Sam and Mr. Frodo now, and that's a fact. I hate to think what Mr. Bilbo will make of all this, and as for the Gaffer, well, that don't bear thinking.
"Well," Robin sighs. "We'd best take you off to the Mayor's Office as soon as I make sure there ain't nobody who's too bad hurt. I reckon you won't be in too much trouble, not from the Mayor anyhow, seeing as how Mr. Lotho weren't touched." Robin looks rueful. He's smart enough to know the Gaffer will raise all the trouble Sam can stand, and probably my Dad will do the same for me, too.
Well, there's nothing for it but to face up to what we've done. I know for a fact Sam would gladly suffer his Dad's sharp tongue for a year rather than have Mr. Frodo know what was said here tonight-- though I don't reckon that's something as can be hid even if we try.
Robin goes to pick up the Bracegirdle lad Rosie cracked with the chair-- he still ain't up, and that's worrisome, but I'm relieved to see him start stirring. While the Shirriff's busy checking those as is hurt and taking stories from those as ain't, Mr. Lotho walks forward, kicking idly through shattered dishes and avoiding overturned tables for all the world like he's tallying up the damage, except he looks down at Sam as he passes us by. His lips don't hardly move, and I reckon I'm the only one as hears what he's got to say:
"Does he squeal when you put it to him?" There's both lust and loathing in the look he flashes towards Sam. "You like it that way, don't you."
Sam lunges, snarling, and I barely catch him in time, straining with all my might to hold him back. Mr. Lotho steps away quick and sharp, a little cruel smile playing on his mouth for just a moment before he puts on his dramatic face and pretends like he's took a fright.
"Look at him; he's like a rabid animal!" Mr. Lotho draws himself up with distaste, making an exaggerated shudder as he steps away-- with such a dainty air about him and such a little simper that he looks almost like his mother, and would look just like her if he had on an umbrella and a skirt, to my way of thinking.
"Sam, you know better than that." Robin looks sick, but he takes out some leather straps and ties up Sam's hands, knotting them right up tight behind his back. Sam don't fight him none, his eyes hard on Mr. Lotho with a stare so cold and level Mr. Lotho swallows hard and don't say no more-- I reckon he's afraid Sam could thrash him, bound or no.
I look around for our Rosie, but she ain't nowhere to be seen, and I reckon she's gone after help-- Gaffer or our Dad or Mr. Frodo himself, I don't know which.
I find out soon enough. We ain't hardly got to the town hall at Michel Delving before I hear a clatter of hooves-- it's Mr. Frodo on a pony, with Rosie behind him, hanging on tight with her skirts rucked all the way up to her thighs. I give her a frown for not acting proper, but she snubs me as cool as you please and jumps off the pony as soon as it stops, so Mr. Frodo can climb down too.
He's carrying a real glassed-in lantern and his look is calm, though his quick side-trip to check Sam's face and his frown at the leather on Sam's wrists lets me know he's not near so easy in his mind as all that.
Sam bends his head to study his toes, a perfect picture of wretched shame.
"Why did you bind him?" Mr. Frodo directs that at Robin, cool and quick.
"He took a pass at Mr. Lotho, sir, after I stopped the fight," Robin touches his cap. "I thought it best to make sure he couldn't do no damage if he couldn't keep his temper."
"Is this the sort of ruffian you keep in your hire, cousin?" Mr. Lotho comes on bold. "In Hardbottle, we'd have him flogged and set him out without a job!"
"Would you?" On the surface, Mr. Frodo is all polite interest. "Perhaps that is why your mother can't keep the roses blooming in her garden."
Mr. Lotho's mouth works at that, and he scowls at Sam-- it's true the Sackville-Bagginses can't keep no help. Not that they flog the servants regular; that's all boast and nonsense. But I've heard a tale or two saying they don't pay 'em regular, neither.
Mr. Frodo continues, icy-calm. "Perhaps you should tell me what happened at the Dragon."
"Those two ruffians picked a fight with my lads--"
"That's very interesting." Mr. Frodo interrupts him, without raising his voice none. "Miss Cotton tells a different tale, and speaks of a dozen witnesses who would confirm it."
"And you'd listen to a barmaid's tale over the word of your own family." Mr. Lotho don't quite manage to make it a question. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut, recalling all his talk about 'that Brandybuck lad' who 'fancies himself' a cousin, but I keep my mouth shut, and for a wonder, so does Sam.
"I am assured, in fact, that the fight started over the matter of a slur you made against myself and my gardener." Mr. Frodo never falters. "Perhaps if you have questions involving my business affairs, you would be wise to consult me personally rather than opening the matter to public speculation in the common room of a tavern."
"You don't deny it, then," Mr. Lotho sneers, and he's so proud of himself for scoring a shot that he don't even see Robin's eyes narrow in thought. Sam just stands with his head down, staring at Mr. Frodo worried-like out of the corner of his eye.
"I was not under the impression that I had an obligation either to confirm or deny any of my private business to you." Mr. Frodo is done dealing with Mr. Lotho, and he makes that right plain, turning to Robin.
"Release Sam to me, and Jolly, too. They won't make any more trouble tonight, and I will ensure they return here tomorrow to speak with the Mayor regarding their punishment." His voice is clipped and precise. "Untie those leathers at once."
Robin hurries to do it, not meeting Mr. Lotho's eye.
"Mr. Frodo--" Sam lifts his head at last when he's unbound, wringing his hands, misery and shame fair making him cringe.
Mr. Frodo interrupts him with a single shake of his head. "That's enough, Sam." Gentle, his voice is, but still calm.
Mr. Lotho makes a chuff of annoyance. "I'll have you know I'm not satisfied, cousin!"
"I couldn't possibly care less." Before, Mr. Frodo's tone to Mr. Lotho could have put a skim of ice over a puddle; this time it would have frozen the Brandywine right through. "You came here looking for trouble, and you found it. Take your ruffians back to Hardbottle with you, and see to it they don't darken the doors of the Green Dragon again."
Mr. Lotho looks to Robin, who don't say naught to contradict Mr. Frodo, and that's enough. Mr. Lotho stumps off into the night muttering to himself, and I for one am right glad to see him go.
Robin hangs his keys back on his belt, and he sighs a bit. "Well, you two lads come back tomorrow morning, right sharp at nine. Mayor Whitfoot will want a word with you, sure enough."
"I'll be here," I tell him, and Sam does too.
"And what's more, I'm payin' my share of the damages," Sam says, stout and stubborn, with a glance at Mr. Frodo out of the tail of his eye.
Mr. Frodo just stands still, composed, letting his silence do for agreement.
"I am too," I say right stout, but it ain't so easy for me, seeing as how I'm even younger than Sam and don't earn no proper wage. I reckon my Dad will have to pay, and he'll work it out of my hide. Rosie's eyes go wide, and I reckon she's thinking the same.
Mr. Frodo takes a deep breath and shakes his head with frustration. "Have it the way you will." He looks towards Sam, and his eyes seem to snag there, reluctant to pull away. Sam drops his gaze to study his toes. After an awkward pause Robin finally touches his cap one last time and heads off back towards Bywater.
"Jolly, you should probably walk Rosie home," Mr. Frodo says, absent-like. "I'll call for you at half-past eight tomorrow."
I nod and touch my own cap. "Come on, Rosie. You've a job of cleaning to do at the inn, and that's a fact. I reckon I wouldn't be a good brother if I didn't help to clear up my own mess." As we start off towards Bywater, I glance over my shoulder to where Mr. Frodo and Sam are still standing, plain as day to see within the soft circle of lantern-light.
They don't touch each other, but Mr. Frodo stands still, patiently looking at Sam, till Sam lifts his head ever-so-slow and looks back. Even from twenty ells down the Road, I can see how the three-foot gap between them is as wide as a mile, and I can see from the way they're standing how much it hurts them both to stay on either end of it rather than meeting in the middle.
Mr. Frodo reaches for the reins of the pony as we pass beyond the corner of the town hall, and they vanish from my sight. In another minute I can hear the pony's hooves thumping softly behind me and Rosie as he and Sam mount up to ride along in our wake. When they catch us up, Mr. Frodo has Sam before him in the saddle, and they're pressed tight together with Mr. Frodo's cheek against Sam's and his arm around Sam's middle. They've snuffed the lantern so nobody can see who they are or how they're sitting unless they come right up close.
The mist is gathering in about the town, but it catches the light of the waxing moon, spreading it about, and the glow is just bright enough that I can see Sam's eyes are closed, and his hands are tight on the pommel-- tight and trembling, if I don't miss my guess.
I know Sam well enough to read the tension and the nervousness and the longing written deep into every line of him, and that's enough for me to be sure they haven't lain together yet, for all they're suffering like they have. They might as well just go ahead and have the sweet along with the bitter, if you ask me-- which nobody is nohow.
"Good evening, Jolly. Thank you. And thank you, Rosie." Mr. Frodo's voice is firm; his one free hand tugs lightly on the reins to slow the pony, and the other don't let go of Sam. "You let me know if there's any more trouble."
"Yes, sir," we chorus, and they ride on, vanishing away into the deep grey night.
Rosie's hand reaches for mine, hesitant and cold and shaking, and we watch as they ride off. I reckon if there's a tear on her cheek, then there's one on mine as well, but we don't say naught about it. We just walk back to the Dragon to clean up before heading home.
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