Where Many Paths and Errands Meet
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 2 Part 2
(September 22, 1451)
The morning dawned into an
autumn day as crisp and fine as a draught of good
cold cider, with the frost turning the cobwebs on the
hedge into diamond-dusted lace, and every tree ablaze.
Frodo took a deep breath of that intoxicating,
leaf-scented air, and then set off for the garden with
his little sister, May, paddling along behind him, even
as he himself used to paddle along behind the Gaffer
while they still had the dear old curmudgeon with them.
May loved nothing better than to watch when Frodo let the
chickens into the midden. She laughed and clapped her
hands as the birds tore in through the gate like eager
children converging on a pile of birthday presents,
clawing through the straw and leaves like ripping through
the wrappings, in search of bugs, weed-seeds, or tasty
kitchen tidbits, flapping their wings and bobbing their
eager little heads for joy, cackling in their pleasure.
Wild birds wore poker faces all the time, but chickens
revealed their every mood with comical intensity. Once
the hens flattened the heap completely, Frodo and May
would chase them back to the chicken-yard and rake the
whole thing up again, but Frodo liked to let the chickens
do half the work for him--he'd learned that trick from
"That dirty bird!" May cried.
"Why? What's wrong?"
"She just pooped all over everything."
"She's supposed to, May. Chickens make the best
manure, and the best gardeners own chickens." But
just then Frodo noticed a post-rider hastening up to Bag End,
as fast as his pony could trot.
"So...we like chicken poop?"
"In its proper place, I suppose," he said
distractedly. "Sure." Frodo's heart sank when
he recognized Bleoboris Brandybuck, of the Shire/Bree
Post. A nice enough fellow in his way, Frodo supposed,
but Bleo Bore Us could jabber you to tears about his
"exciting" job riding back and forth across the
same bridge. As a very distant cousin of Meriadoc the
Magnificent, Bleo had to work hard to find occasions for
"Come on, May" said Frodo, "Time to herd
the hens back into their yard." And that bit of
excitement kept the little hobbit-lass giggling and
preoccupied among the squawks and flying feathers as they
ran this way and that, slipping and scrambling, till they
chased the last hysterical chicken back into her place.
The hobbits laughed and caught their breath against the
gate, the autumn breezes already cooling their sweat,
though Frodo kept watching to see what Bleoboris might do
next. May had feathers in her hair and compost in her
toes, and didn't look the least bit ladylike, and that
suited her brother just fine. He flicked half-decomposed
vegetable matter off his sleeve where he'd taken a fall,
and they both laughed again.
Then he glanced up and saw Bleo leaving Bag End and
heading their way. Frodo grabbed up his pitchfork in
self-defense; if Bleo insisted on hanging around for a
chat, Frodo could invite him to rebuild the heap with
him, which should end the conversation nicely. Bleoboris
did not like any task involving perspiration--especially
when he wore his finest clothes for "important
business with the Mayor." But why did the hobbit
wear all black today? And what did he have pinned to his
shoulder, glinting in the sun?
Bleo dismounted and turned his shoulder just a little to
make sure that the silver star caught the light. "Hullo
Frodo," he said as he came up (tiptoeing around the
compost clumps with nervous bare feet.) "I've come
as a Messenger from the King, as I hope you'll
notice." That star would open all gates and melt all
obstacles--not that Bleo would encounter much opposition
riding over the Buckland Bridge, but if enemies
stood in his path he knew exactly what to say.
"A message for us? From Strider? That's great
news!" Frodo clapped Bleo on the shoulder with a
muddy hand as the posthobbit flinched.
"King Elessar," Bleo said pointedly, "has
a messenger at the Prancing Pony waiting for your father
at Bree." Naturally, since the king had banned human
beings from entering the Shire. "He gave me
this." Bleo touched the silver star with
"Gave, loaned, what's the difference? Today I am a
Messenger of the King!" he said proudly, then
frowned as fingers closed on the badge.
"I'll take that, lad," said Mayor Sam Gamgee.
As usual when he wore his elven-cloak, they'd quite
overlooked his approach. "We'll bring it back with
us on our way to Bree. There's beer in the cellar for
your trouble, Bleo-- go help yourself." Sam turned
to his son. "Change your clothes and saddle up,
Frodo. Your brothers will finish the heap. We've got
business out of town."
As Sam and his puzzled son headed for the house, May
looked up at Bleoboris and said solemnly, "We like