The Forgotten Hobbit by Happy_Hobbit
The Forgotten Hobbit
A tale of a young Hobbit woman’s misadventures. Part 1/?
Rated PG-13 – Note: British spellings used in this story
This story never would have been told in the early days. Girls seldom became heroes in adventures long ago. Lost in the past, her existence has continued as a secret. Untold among the legends of the One Ring, the account of a small girl child, ‘lucky’ enough to always remain unnoticed. Despite this, her tale needs telling too. The one of how she played a part in the greatest adventure ever known.
Flight from the Shire
Even by Hobbit standards, Estella Hardbottle had been considered small. She stood but two feet in height and Hobbit portliness in her had made for rounded, feminine curves. But her bright brown eyes, set in a jolly face and crowned with a mass of curly cinnamon hair, caught the attention of those who met her. Her family, while well-established farmers who held a place of respect in the Shire, never owned a great deal of wealth. Despite their previous closeness, she could not confide in her younger sister, Buttercup, although she desperately desired to share her secret.
She wrapped her blue cloak about, and then set off down the road towards the Shire’s boundaries. Five hours earlier she had begun feeling restless as the babe moved within her and she knew the time had come to leave. Fleeing a deep shame, Estella had borne the secret as long as she could. For Estella had no husband, a condition unknown in the Shire. If Buttercup had not begun teasing her, not unkindly, but persistently, about her increasing girth, Estella might have put off her decision. However, Estella knew her appetite did not explain how large she had grown and soon she would no longer be able to hide her pregnancy.
So, she determined she would seek out the babe’s father, far away from the Shire and all she had ever known. As she trudged along, her thoughts dwelled on what she had left behind. How she wished she could return to her happy home. To be free from care, a normal Hobbit child, not yet out of her tweens, that awkward age before adulthood. Only the belief that the child’s father would take her and the babe in kept her going. For what father would not want his own child? That alone kept a Hobbit’s natural fear of leaving home from consuming her.
She hitched her pack into a more comfortable position and thought with regret of the things she had left behind besides her family and home. No treasures from her childhood, but only food for several days, her best cream-colored dress, and a few clean underclothes had gone into the sack. Enough, she hoped, to last her the trip to Orthanc, the place she hoped to find her child’s father. At least there she might inquire about his location, even if he no longer lived there.
Not far from her home, two of her sisters’ friends hailed her. Merry and Pippin, ever ready to join in a prank, ran over and asked where she headed. Her heart pumped and her face grew hot as she struggled to find a reason they would believe.
“I want to see the old forest,” she told them. “To see if it’s as scary as Buttercup says it is,” she added.
To her delight, the two young Hobbits seemed to believe her. Then, to her horror, they offered to show her the way and go with her, in case she became too frightened. She couldn’t tell them she didn’t want them along without arousing their curiosity. Reluctantly, she accepted the offer.
On the Road to the Ferry
All the way along the road toward Buckleberry ferry her two companions had chatted and sung. Estella remained quiet and thought, desperately trying to figure out a way to shake off her unwanted companions. She didn’t want to seem rude, or worse yet, mysterious, but nothing came to her.
After about an hour and following several renditions of “The road goes ever one and on,” a favourite walking song Bilbo Baggins himself had written, the two lads decided they should all stop for a bite to eat. They never missed an opportunity for a good meal and talk about their friend Frodo’s uncle. Her heart sank at the pronouncement of the meal, for she had packed barely enough to last her a five-day, not wanting to take more than her family could afford. To share it with the two scamps for the frivolous romp they considered it dismayed her.
As they searched for an appropriate place to eat, Estella spied a fine crop of mushrooms growing in a dell just off the road. Mushrooms remain the one thing Hobbits enjoy eating above all else and she rejoiced in finding them. The lads set up the food while she carefully moved down the dell’s slope. She felt terribly ungainly as she bent over to pick the delicacies and place them into a fold of her dress’ hem. Rejoining Merry and Pippin, the three enjoyed a very pleasant meal. They had brown bread, cheese, and a handful of ripe tomatoes from Merry’s stash, while Pippin contributed a freshly baked apple pie and ale, and Estella offered her newly picked mushrooms.
The food made her terribly thirsty and while Hobbit women seldom drank it, she gladly accepted a small glass of ale. Merry made a small fire, cooking the tomatoes and mushrooms and topping them with melted cheese, than adding a large hunk of crusty bread. In usual Hobbit fashion, the three of them tucked into the fine feast, concentrating solely on dining, without conversation. Once they finished, the two lads took out their pipes and began to fill them with pipeweed. Estella would have remarked on their being to young to smoke, but after considering her own state of affairs, kept quiet on the subject.
She began to worry again as she had planned on being away from the Shire by nightfall. It dismayed her that she had only come less than three hours from her home. Standing, she looked down at the prone Hobbit males stretched out below her.
“Tired?” she teased. “Poor things. Surely you won’t admit this wee lass’s stamina’s better than two fine Hobbit lads?”
That did it for Merry and Pippin scrambled to their feet, knocking out their pipes and hastily stowing them away in their pockets and hefting their packs.
“No stamina!” Pippin rejoined and set off, Merry following closely. “We’ll show you.”
From then on Estella found herself hard pressed to keep up with her swift-footed companions. Her taunt had made them determined to show just how much stamina they possessed. No way would they let a mere girl beat them. In the beginning, Estella had no trouble keeping up, but the lads had upped the pace and soon out-strode Estella’s short legs. All too quickly evening began drawing in, the air cool and pleasant. A little breeze stirred the green leaves adorning the trees on either side of the narrow road. When Estella finally caught up with Merry and Pippin, the grass began to take its nighttime hue. She came upon them lying on their backs on a little knoll, just off the beaten track. They already had a good fire going, a pot hanging over it, the mouth-watering smell of stewing rabbit emanating from it. Pippin grinned and called her over.
“Come on, slowcoach,” he teased. “We saved some for the poor tired old girl.”
“Um, what was that about stamina?” Merry mused, his eyes twinkling as he looked over at Pippin’s happy face.
Estella flopped down beside them. Leaving home, fighting back her fear of the unknown, and keeping her secret had taken their toll and drained her usual energy. Her head sought the relative softness of her pack, and before the others could say another word, she fell asleep. Even the food’s aroma couldn’t keep her awake.
Merry gave her a concerned look, fearing their prank had worn her out. He gently covered her with his cloak, and then returned to his seat beside Pippin. The two drew out their pipes once again and began smoking them.
“Perhaps we shouldn’t have pressed her so hard,” Merry remarked.
Pippin shrugged and smiled. “She lay down the challenge.”
“I know, but she’s only a little Hobbit,” continued Merry, glancing over at Estella. “We did say we’d look after her.”
When she awoke, the lads had already been up and busy. Merry warmed the stew’s remains, whilst Pippin had gone to fetch water from the rill running alongside the road, only a few short strides away.
“Morning, Esta!” Merry greeted her with the nickname he and Pippin had come up with during the night. “I thought you might like the rabbit you missed out on last night. It’s pretty tasty.”
Estella yawned and stretched, then sat up to receive the plate Merry offered. He sat beside, watching thoughtfully as she ate.
“Esta,” he began, “why are you leaving the Shire?”
Poor Estella nearly choked as she looked between Merry and Pippin, who had just returned with the water. She wanted so to tell them and enlist their help, but she knew they would try persuading her to return home. She couldn’t lie to a direct question. What could she say?
“I… I’m not…” she began. One look at their faces told her they already know or at least suspected part of the truth. “I can’t tell you. Not yet, anyhow.”
“It’s a secret, then.” Merry’s bright eyes searched her worried face. “All right… But soon you must tell us, if you want it to stay that way.”
If Estella’s plight hadn’t been so dire, she would have realised Merry had spoken thusly only out of concern. However, because of her fears, she felt his words portended something dark and threatening. Her thoughts grew more troubled as she considered just how she would shake off her two guards, for she had come to consider them that way.
“We can still go to the forest, can’t we?” Pippin asked. “We’re not far from the ferry and I looked forward to spending the night in the forest. You do still want to see it, don’t you?” He looked at her pleadingly.
“Yes, I still want to got there, but to stay the night… I’m not sure that I do,” she replied.
“You’re not afraid of a few silly trees, are you?” Pippin laid down the challenge.
Merry’s cold stare beat on Pippin’s back at his words. Estella noted Merry’s glare at his friend, but in true Hobbit fashion she could not reject the challenge.
“Of course not!” she responded.
With a sigh, Merry tried to argue for them to turn back home. Estella feared he would attempt to get her to unburden her troubles to them, aware his Hobbit sense probably told him the further from the Shire they got, the more desperate she would become and the harder for her to tell her secret. Still, she couldn’t back out from the challenge Pippin had laid on them. She shook her head and insisted they travel on. Merry finally gave up with a shrug. They began collecting their things, then put out their fire, and set off again for the ferry.
Estella found the morning pleasant, and since they had decided to journey together, the other two slowed their pace to allow her to keep up easily. With time, they began chatting comfortably, happily recalling stories heard, mostly from Bilbo, whilst curled before their cozy Hobbit home fire, of adventures and places from folk tales. Time passed quickly and midmorning found them stopping for second breakfast near the Buckleberry ferry.
Estella stared out at the dark water. She had seen small rivers before, but to her, the Brandywine looked large and daunting. She reached a hand down into the water, finding the shallows warm. Despite its surging power, her fear lessened. Both Merry and Pippin had used the old ferry many times. They found it a convenient shortcut from their homes in Tuckborough and Buckland, on the far side of the Brandywine River.
They helped her board the raft, which in essence made up the ferry. Rather old, but well made, the raft used poles to cross the river and a strong cable stretched between the two banks to guide it. For the most part, Estella kept her eye shut, choosing not to look at the water swirling around them. She recalled that Frodo’s parents had been believed drowned in this very river. Of course, she could still hear and smell the water. Later, she would recall this and smile, wishing a swift return to its flowing waters. However, at the moment she felt overjoyed to reach the far bank safely.
From the bank the road climbed gently. The warming sun stood well overhead and the Hobbits thoughts turned once more to food. Pippin looked into the bag he carried.
“There’s not much left,” he muttered.
“Mine’s not much better,” answered Merry, glumly.
“I have a pie we can share,” Estella offered, felling more than a little guilty at failing to share her food with them yet.
They settled by the roadside, eager to ease their growing hunger. To be honest, the small pie did little to fill them up, though the lads did their best to seem grateful. In fact, Merry’s expression told Estella he could have finished the whole thing himself. Fresh water, they had in abundance, as the Shire’s lands and rivers remained naturally pure and fertile. Once finished, they walked for another hour or so, happening upon a small apple orchard at the outskirts of the forest. Each one of them took a small ripe apple hanging there as dessert. This lifted their spirits as they journeyed to the wood’s edge.
Merry took an old important-looking key from his pocket, then led them along the hedge surrounding the forest. At last they reached an opening, which delved into the ground. He took them down this to the end, where a large impressively wrought iron gate of some antiquity barred their way. Carved into its face, the likenesses of great trees could be seen and high at the top, words none of them could read. Merry put the key in the lock and turned it with some difficulty. Both he and Pippin put their weight against the heavy door and strained against it. Finally, it groaned and began to open. Thus, the three Hobbits entered the Old Forest. As they moved forward, Estella had the first inklings of a plan.
“Um… Do you know where we might get something to eat?” she asked them.
“Of course,” Merry answered. “So, you’re going back then? This old wood too scary for you, eh?”
“Nnno… No, I don’t want to go back straight away, but we will need supplies, won’t we?” Estella looked between the two friends.
“Right enough,” Pippin agreed.
“Okay, then. Here’s what to do. I shall go to Bamfurlong to see a friend of mine, old Farmer Maggot. He’ll be kind enough to spare some food for three hungry Hobbits,” Merry offered. “I’ll be back in a couple of days.”
“I think it had better be two Hobbits needing food,” Estella suggested.
“Oh… Yes… Two very hungry hobbits then,” replied Merry.
He took Pippin aside, whispering quietly to him. Estella couldn’t hear their words, but she guessed Merry had instructed him to keep a close eye on her. Pippin nodded vigorously, then Merry clapped him on the back and turned to leave. Estella stood and moved to Merry’s side. She stood on tiptoe, reached up, and kissed him on the cheek.
“Thank you,” she said. In her heart she added, I’m sorry. For she had decided she must go on alone now.
He didn’t look as if he liked leaving her with Pippin, but he needed to get some food and surely even Pippin could follow his instructions.
“Watch her like a hawk, my lad. If ever she had a chance to slip off unseen, it’ll be whilst I’m gone. Don’t leave her alone. Understand?” he whispered, but this time Estella heard him.
He looked uneasy, but he still hitched his bag over his shoulder and strode off toward Farmer Maggot’s place. Estella got the impression he believed she couldn’t outrun Pippin on her short legs. She watched him leave, and then returned to sit beside Pippin, staring at him intently. He gradually became aware of her study and shifted uncomfortably.
“What’s wrong?” he asked hesitantly.
“You look all hot and bothered,” Estella answered. “Come. Take off that shirt and lie here on your tummy.”
She patted the grass before her. Pippin considered her request a bit, then shrugged and did as she bid. Estella knelt astride his thighs and began rubbing his shoulders.
“This will ease all that tension out,” she whispered gently. “My dad loves having a massage when he gets in tired from work.”
Slowly, she worked her hands across his shoulders and down his back, smoothing and stretching out the tension. Pippin began to relax and between the warm evening and the day’s walking, his snores soon accompanied her gentle rubbing. As she had planned, he had fallen fast asleep. She carefully rose and gave him a kiss.
“I’m really sorry, Pip,” she told him. “I hope Merry won’t be too hard on you.” She picked up her bag, stepped onto the path, and vanished into the forest.
Estella already knew she could not outrun Pippin, so she planned to hide her trail. Being so small had its advantages as she could go where taller folk could not. In the Old Forest, she could tuck herself under the lowest branches without needing to crawl. Like all Hobbits, she made very little sound and the trail she left would daunt even the most skilled tracker. For at this point, not only her size, but also the need to deliberately conceal her trail worked to her benefit.
Later in the evening, she paused, listening for sounds of pursuit. By now Pippin would have awoken, found her gone, and begun looking for her. The Old Forest lay silent. No bird song, no small rustle of woodland animals came to her ears. It seemed as if the whole wood held its breath. Now that she had stopped, the whole feel of the wood had changed. She told herself that the darkness had unnerved her, but she did not relax.
Pippin had awoken two hours before, cursing himself for letting Estella trick him into relaxing into sleep. For a while he called her name as he searched, thinking perhaps she had gotten lost. Eventually, he realised she had left him deliberately and he began running frantically along the woodland path. He scoured the track’s edges for where she must have left it, but whether the Old Forest’s malice or her cunning had caused it, he could find nothing. The Old Forest’s hostility beat at him and at last he returned to the place they had rested. Miserable, he knew Merry would have him for it when he admitted he’d failed at the task set him. Night drew in and the unhappy Hobbit fell into a restless sleep.
In Hobbiton, the Hardbottle family shared his wretched state. They had become desperate to hear news of their missing daughter. When she did not return home, they had visited all her known friends without success. The following day they searched all the lanes and fields, enlisting all their own friends as they went. Soon her absence became general knowledge and the town mayor, Mr. Will Whitefoot instructed the Hobbiton sheriffs to investigate her disappearance. When even they returned empty-handed, the family began to despair. For her to be gone so long seemed unlike Estella. Only once before had she failed to return as expected. Eight months before she had been out overnight, without an explanation offered, but she had come back the next morning. Despite days of questions about it, which she refused to answer, they had put aside the incident and life had returned to normal. This seemed very different for two whole days had passed and no one had any idea of her whereabouts.
Merry settled by the roadside on his way to Bamfurlong and also had a restless night. Though he could not know of Estella’s departure from Pippin to travel through the Old Forest alone, his heart told of something not right. Morning found him up and off to Farmer Maggot’s, for even if Estella had become lost in the forest, he and Pippin would need food as they hunted for her. He hurried back to the ferry, taking it across the Brandywine once again, then running as fast as he could to the farm. Despite this, noon approached when he reached the Maggot farm. Out in a nearby field, Farmer Maggot worked as a hot and bothered Merry frantically banged on his door, calling his name.
“‘Ere lad, have a care there. That’s a new door you’re trying to knock down,” scolded the flustered farmer. “What’s up, young Meriadoc?”
“I need your help,” panted Merry. “Pippin an me are out on an adventure and we’ve run out of food.”
“Well, now,” Farm Maggot answered with a grin. “Now I can understand the panic. We can’t have young Hobbits going hungry, can we?”
“We are very hungry,” exclaimed Merry, looking pleadingly at the farmer.
“Well, now… Come on into the farmhouse. Let’s see what we can rustle up then.” Farmer Maggot led the way. He opened the cottage’s door and the delicious aroma of fresh baked bread greeted Merry.
“Cor!” exclaimed Merry. “Can we have some of that?” He pointed to one of the large loaves sitting on the table, cooling.
The farmer nodded and reached for a wicker basket. He placed the loaf in it, and then went to the pantry to add a fine cured ham, some apples, and a good-sized pat of butter. He looked around at Merry’s happy face with a chuckle and included a large apple cake freshly purchased that morning.
“Now,” he said as he turned back to Merry. “Do you think this will satisfy two hungry Hobbits?”
“I’d say there’s enough for three,” Merry replied with wide smile, then added quickly. “If they weren’t so very hungry.”
“Well, then we’d better add a bottle of ale, just to make certain.” The old farmer was more than generous, but Merry and Pippin had been good friends and between friends, kindness flowed as deep as the Brandywine.
“Will you stay for a bite with me?” asked the happy farmer, eager to have the company of a young Hobbit. But the impatient look on Merry’s face told Farmer Maggot the youngster wished to leave. “Perhaps you shouldn’t. I expect Pippin’s desperately waiting for you.”
“Oh, yes,” agreed Merry, glad not to have to explain further.
With a final wave to Farm Maggot, Merry set off towards the Old Forest. Looking over his shoulder he called a last thanks, then hurried down the path. Things had gone better than planned or expected with Farmer Maggot’s generosity. Merry felt certain with the help of a good meal they would find out Estella’s secret. Then they could help her return home to tell her parents what troubled her. Without stopping, Merry felt compelled to rush back to where he had left his friends. That something that had troubled him still did, but he couldn’t decide on what exactly that might be.
Pippin, on the other hand, knew exactly the trouble. He had fallen asleep and allowed Estella to leave unseen. All his searching had been in vain for he had turned up no sign of Estella anywhere. It seemed almost as if the Forest had hidden her trail. Deeply worried, he sat huddled on the grass beneath the Old Forest trees and waited anxiously for Merry’s return. Very late that evening, he heard his friend’s unmistakable voice and hurried toward the gate to wait for him.
Merry guessed as soon as he saw Pippin. “Where’s Esta?” he demanded.
“I’m sorry. I’ve really made a muddle of it.” Pippin’s face filled with sadness and shame.
Merry drew a breath, then seeing his friend so upset, he sat him down.
“Very well,” he said gently. “Begin at the beginning.”
Gradually, the entire story came out, punctuated frequently with “I’m sorry” and “I should have guessed.” When Pippin had finished, Merry sat silent for a moment. Then he got up and moved to the edge of the trees, slowly searching the verge and path. He found no trace of Esta, and he returned to Pippin with a sigh.
“Never mind, Pip,” he said softly. “We must decide what to do now.” Then he sat down and became lost in thought again.
Pippin watched him for a while, and then overcome with weariness, he fell into a troubled sleep. Finally, Merry came to a decision. He looked over at his friend with a shake of his head, then lay down beside him and soon dropped off to sleep as well.
A Friend in Deed
Estella spent a very uncomfortable night in the forest, unable to sleep except in tiny snatches. Tired, sore, and aching, her heart felt heavy and her stomach hurt. She peeped out between the bush’s leaves where she hid and saw the small track of some woodland creature. Perhaps a fox or badger had passed there during the night. Intently, she listened, but only the sound of the wind through the trees reached her ears.
Withdrawing back into the bush, she undid her bag and peered in. She had just selected what to eat when the pain in her tummy struck again. Not a constant pain, it seemed to throb, reaching a crescendo, and then dying away. I must have eaten something bad, she mused. Tears threatened, but she still felt determined not to turn back. He said he was going to Orthanc, so that’s where I’m going. Even if I do have a stomachache.
She pulled out a small canteen of water and took a few small sips, stowing it beneath her cloak when she finished. Pulling the cloak closer, she set off down the little track she had spotted earlier. The trail did not lead onto the main path through the Old Forest, but it did follow in the same general direction. It lead downwards, although Estella could not see where it would take her. She felt her progress slow and she painfully tried to put more distance between her and her friends she had left behind. They would be searching for her, but she could not return yet.
After about two hours of toiling down the path, Estella happened upon a small rill. It bubbled happily amongst its pebbly course as it sped down the valley towards the river. The ground grew boggy, though with her lightness of foot, it did not trouble Estella. However, she found it hard to continue as she struggled on between bouts of pain, trying to hold back her tears. She felt more desperate now. Lost and alone, she didn’t have the strength to go back. So she kept on the downward track, hoping beyond hope that either the pain would stop or she would find help. At this point, she did not care whether she went on to Orthanc or returned home.
A little while later, Estella reached a flatter place where the trees withdrew and the sky opened up to allow the gentle sun to shine down on the little Hobbit. The rill had joined a larger river and sturdy willow and tall reeds lined the path. She felt she could go no further and sank to the ground. In pain and afraid, she softly began to weep. The hours passed and still the pains did not stop. If anything, they grew more intense and frequent. The hours passed, but Estella’s condition prevented her from moving on. As she lay there in dismay, she began hearing the strangest sounds from a little way off. As they drew nearer she recognized singing.
She raised her head a little. “Help me,” she called weakly. Then, she managed to gather her strength. “Please, I think I’m dying,” she cried out.
The sound of hurrying feet moved toward her and Estella could see a blurred outline of yellow and blue. At first, she thought it might be Merry and Pippin, but when she wiped her eyes she saw instead a tall Man standing before her. Estella had heard of Men, the big people. Indeed, she knew some lived in Bree, a small village near the Shire and coexisted with Hobbits quite happily.
“Please… Help me,” she whispered.
“Let old Tom Bombadil take a look a look at you.” The stranger spoke with a deep, kindly voice. He knelt beside her, felt her stomach gently, then smiled. “Looks like your baby’s on the way.”
Estella just looked at him and began to cry again.
“There now.” Tom’s voice remained calm, though he seemed surprised to find her so distraught. “Don’t be afraid. Old Tom and his wife will help you.” He gently lifted her and cradling her in his arms, strode off towards his home. It seemed to Estella that in no time he had laid her in a soft bed and Goldberry, Tom’s wife, busied herself preparing for the baby’s arrival. Tom held Estella’s hand, talking lightly and singing gently to calm the frightened Hobbit woman child.
It did not take Estella long to deliver her child. Hobbits give birth easily and Estella proved no exception to this. Once she relaxed, the whole process took twenty minutes and saw the babe born on the 22nd day of September, 3001 (2401 in Shire reckoning). Tom scooped up the newborn, took her to the window, then lifted her up so the first rays of moonlight fell upon her. After a moment, he gently handed her to Goldberry, who bathed the child with sweet scented water, dried her, and laid her on Estella’s stomach.
“You have a precious daughter,” Tom told her, beaming down at Estella. She smiled weakly, nodded, and then slipped into a deep, peaceful sleep.
When she awoke, late morning sunlight streamed through the window. Goldberry sat beside her and noticed her stirring. She called to Tom, who came in bearing a tray laden with a sumptuous meal. Estella sat up and reached for the tray when she suddenly remembered.
“She’s right here beside you.” Goldberry pointed to a tiny wooden crib beside Estella’s bed. Within it, the tiniest of Hobbit babies slept peacefully.
“She’s beautiful,” Tom commented.
Estella looked at the newborn child. She had a mass of dark, curly hair, a podgy face, and deep, night blue eyes. Truly, the child appeared as pretty a Hobbit child as any mother could want. However, one small difference remained. Upon her brow she bore a star-like mark so pale as to be called white. Not a scar, but a birthmark, such a thing no Hobbit child displayed yet Estella found her the most beautiful of Hobbit children. As the baby lay quietly, Estella turned her thoughts to the breakfast tray. Accepting it from Tom, she began to eat.
After waiting for her to quell some of her hunger, Tom began questioning his guest. He knew she had travelled alone through the Forest, so he surmised she had not merely become lost. His questions remained gentle and subtle, so even though Estella told him very little, he learned a great deal more than she intended.
He went outside, leaving Estella to feed her baby, and stood awhile in deep thought. It seemed obvious to him that Estella was still very young and that she had just borne her first child. It also seemed obvious neither of the two young Hobbits who had entered the Forest with her had fathered the babe. From what he had gleaned, he felt certain she sought the father, most likely of another race than her. What then should he do? She would not agree to return home, becoming adamant when he had suggested such to her. He felt he must aid her in her search for the child’s father, yet this posed a difficulty, for it lead her farther from her home and family. Still, if he did not help her, she would surely continue on alone and possibly into terrible danger. He decided he must assist the little Hobbit mum along her way, but not just yet. He would try to persuade her to stay a bit and perhaps she just might have a change of heart. Or perhaps those who sought her might come to his knowledge and he could arrange for them to ‘find’ their missing kinswoman. He pulled himself from his thoughts and returned inside. He looked down at the little bundle in Estella’s arms.
“What name have you given this little one?”
“It is not decided yet,” Goldberry answered, who had obviously asked the same question.
“I want the father to name her,” Estella replied, blushing. “For now we can call her Babe.”
After that pronouncement, Tom Bombadil persuaded Estella and Babe to stay with him and his wife, Goldberry for a bit. Under their care, Babe flourished and Estella regained her strength.
When Merry awoke, he found Pippin already busy. He had packed up all their supplies and prepared a cold breakfast.
“Well, Pip, we are going home,” he told his friend in a strained voice. “We can do no more here. It’s best if we return home and tell what we know to Estella’s family.”
“We are just going to leave… Esta?” Pippin seemed almost in tears.
“It’s better to have the whole Shire looking,” answered Merry. He laid a hand on Pip’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Pip, my lad. Esta’s a lot stronger than we gave her credit for.”
Both Hobbits returned home with heavy hearts. They knew, of course, of Bilbo’s great birthday party on the 22nd of September and that all Hobbits in the Shire would come, whether or not they had been invited. With this in mind, they headed to the party field to meet up with their own families, calm their own parents’ fears, and then to the Hardbottles’ to explain what they knew of Estella’s disappearance.
With the party in full swing, they found it hard to explain amongst all the laughter and fun. However, when Bilbo made his farewell speech and then vanished, the Hobbits’ stunned silence made it easier for Merry and Pippin to be heard. Their fears of being blamed for leading Estella astray proved unfounded, as the Hardbottles’ knew their daughter well enough to realize she had left the two lads deliberately. Why she had gone off and planned to leave the Shire remained a mystery and didn’t stop them continuing their search. With so many Hobbits gathered together, the details soon became known and the whole Shire turned out to look for the missing Estella.
They searched in groups, each with a sheriff. Pippin, Merry, Frodo, and his friend, Sam, searched with Tom and Lily Hardbottle, Estella’s parents. They hunted for her the longest, but in the end, their efforts turned up nothing. Estella remained lost and they could do no more. Of course, they had gone into the Old Forest, but with its forbidding aura, they failed to look far from the path. Even if they had done so, they most likely would not have found any trace. They reckoned she had left the Forest and thought, most likely she had been lost to the Brandywine River.
Four months passed since Estella had given birth to her daughter. Four months spent with Tom Bombadil and his wife, Goldberry. Happy months spent with her baby, learning the joys of motherhood. But now the need to find her child’s father began to press on her mind. Goldberry first noticed Estella’s withdrawal from her usual chirpy self. Gently, she questioned Estella about what troubled her, hoping the Hobbit had decided to return home. However, when she discovered Estella’s thoughts, she found it difficult not to agree with her.
By then, late January had arrived and winter had wrapped itself around the West. Because of this, Tom managed to persuade Estella to wait for warmer weather as many long miles stretched between the Old Forest and the Gap of Rohan, where Isenguard and the Tower of Orthanc lay. Estella agreed to remain, but the desire to move on grew daily until she felt more than ready to leave when April heralded a new spring.
Estella’s decision to leave left Tom with a problem. He did not wish to leave Goldberry alone, yet it worried him that Estella and her baby would travel alone if he did not accompany them. He contemplated his choices and in the end lent her every aid he could but his presence. He gave her a small goat and cart with a considerable load of food and supplies and a padded basket for Babe. Though he had considered giving her a pony, he realised such a small Hobbit would most likely have trouble handling such a beast. The goat, on the other hand, would prove easy to lead and required much less grass. In addition to this, she would also give fresh milk to the pair.
Goldberry and Estella had not been idle through the winter months. They had fashioned many clothes for the baby, which they added to the cart. Finally, with great sadness, Tom and Goldberry said a fond farewell to the Hobbits who had arrived so unexpectedly the previous autumn. Many a day would pass when they would wonder how Estella and Babe fared.
For the most part, Estella travelled close to the Greenway road, which led in a Southeasterly direction and in those days, had become little used. With the shadow growing in Mordor, most common folks preferred to stay at home or if they did venture out, often went no further than the nearest town. A lonely journey she undertook, yet Estella remained content to be on her way. Although memories of the Shire and her family troubled her, she stayed determined to reach Orthanc. Little can be told of this first portion of their journey. Estella walked and occasionally Babe toddled beside her. The days remained mostly fair, the nights bright and starlit, and to Estella, the world’s troubles seemed far away.
As they approached the last days of August, this seeming peace would soon change as the neared the Greyflood River. When Estella drew near the old bridge spanning the Greyflood River, early evening had fallen. The river flowed angrily, days of endless rain in the mountains swelling it. Estella grew nervous about crossing it. She stood, hesitating, and then summoned her courage and began across. Before she could set foot on it, a group of three Orcs assailed her from behind. They had been fleeing Rivendell Elves that had tracked them along the Misty Mountains’ flanks. The way West had been blocked, so they had turned east, straight into Estella’s path.
Estella, not understanding their nature, smiled sweetly in hope that despite their grotesque appearance they might not harm her. As they made a grab for her, she realised her error, snatched Babe from her basket and fled their claws. She dashed away from the little cart. Only one Orc pursued her, the others falling upon the goat and cart. Soon the air behind her filled with snarling as they fought over the spoils.
Meanwhile, Estella ran for her and Babe’s lives. Fleet as she might be, the Orc would soon catch her unless she found a place to hide or someone to protect her. A group of rocky outcrops appeared, a number of caves among them. She dived into the smallest, crawling as far back into it as she could, and clutching Babe close in the darkness. Trembling, she lay waiting until the sound of deep rasping breath came to her from outside the cave. Fear gripped her as it sought her scent, but she refused to give in. She would fight if necessary. Still the snuffling outside continued and she began to relax. An overpowering smell, rather like wet dog, made her realise she had sought refuge in some sort of den. The occupant’s scent, rank and menacing, must have hidden her own. The Orc had lost her trail and was zigzagged between different caves. Estella allowed herself to breathe and think. Outside, the sounds of ripping and tearing grew louder, and the Orc searching for her turned and loped away toward his companions.
The Orc had also heard the ripping and suspected his two companions had decided to dine without him. The goat provided such a small morsel that if he didn’t hurry he would get none. The thing he had sought before would be only a bare mouthful and it had vanished. The goat seemed a better option. He hurried to plunge into the fray, stretching his sinewy arm out to grab the smallest Orc, who held the goat’s hindquarters. Tearing with his knife-like fangs, the larger Orc wrenched off the smaller one’s left arm. The smaller one lay whimpering at the larger one’s feet until he received a swift kick in the head and whined no more. Its still body became a second meal for the large Orc. When the two remaining Orcs had finished eating, they began smashing and tearing the remains of the little cart and its contents. Finally bored, they turned East and set off towards Mordor.
The scout Elf who had been sent to ensure the Orcs continued on their way Southeastward watched from a distance. He had seen the melee and though Elves did not meddle in the affairs of mortal folks, he could not help but be dismayed at the loss of life. Drawing nearer, he could make out from the tattered clothes lying scattered about that no Man’s cart had been smashed. Sadness filled him as he saw the small garments that must have belonged to a child and the smaller ones that perhaps had adorned a toy. He slowly began searching, starting at the clearest tracks before the bridge, and fought back the thought she had most likely provided the Orcs with an easy meal. Lindir, as his kind called him, felt his heart become more troubled as he discovered not one, but two sets of tracks. He crouched, peering at them closely. One walked steadily while the other, smaller set skipped about and finally disappeared, obviously lifted into the cart. As he prepared to rise and cross the bridge again, a small movement caught his eye and he remained still, his cloak drawn around him, blending with the surroundings.
Estella crept from the cave and looked in dismay at the wreckage about her. With no fresh clothing to change into from the filthy ones she and Babe wore, she decided they should wash in the Greyflood. She first undressed Babe and lowered her into the water, gently washing her precious child clean. Once finished, she prepared to bathe herself. She glanced toward Babe, who ran happily in the warm autumn sun filling the glade. Babe waved at someone, but when Estella sheltered her eyes she saw no one. Estella smiled, thinking Babe must have an imaginary friend, and sank into the water.
Lindir smiled as well, his heart filled with joy at the sight of the little one frolicking in the sunshine. Long ago memories of his own childhood, running through green fields, played in his mind. Finding these little people here surprised him. He knew of Hobbits, but had never seen any personally and had not truly studied much about them. If he had, he would have been concerned that only a mother and child travelled so far from others of their kind. Still, the loss of their belongings to Orcs troubled him. His natural protective instincts prodded to provide them with an unseen escort.
Estella and Babe continued on their journey through winter and into spring with their guardian of whom Estella remained unaware. Babe would wave to him occasionally when her eyes picked him out, watching among the trees. Usually Lindir would follow on higher ground as this afforded him a better view of what lay ahead. He also relied on the sun to keep him hidden from the little woman’s eyes. The child though… Her eyesight seemed much keener and even his Elvish cloak, spun from materials that reflected the colours of his surroundings, did not hide him from her gaze.
Some evenings, Lindir would creep closer to listen to the stories the little woman would tell her child, Babe, before she fell asleep. At times, the woman would sing and his heart would lighten as he recalled the songs his mother sang to him. One night, when the woman had surrendered to sleep, Babe awoke and crept silently over to where Lindir lay, deep in thought. She reached out and gently touched his face. Startled, he leapt to his feet, alarming the child and causing her to shriek and flee back to her mother. Estella, waking from a deep sleep, thought a bad dream had frightened Babe, so she held her and quieted her sobs. In the shadows, Linder regained his compose and regretted his reaction, for he longed to learn more of these little people. From the stories he heard the woman tell, they possessed a love of the earth and of music and words such as only his own people knew. He shook his head, knowing the right time had not yet come to approach, but hoping a chance would come when he could speak to them and gain more knowledge about them.
They stayed on the old South road, as Estella feared what might lay hidden in the scrubby brush lands lining both sides of it. Still, she had to hunt for food and during these times she would find a dense bush or sward to hide Babe behind. She carried no weapon except a small knife she had recovered from the cart’s debris, but she used her stealth and surprising accuracy with a stone with fair success and modicum of luck. However, if those did not favor her, she would at times find a freshly dead rabbit nearby. Though cautious, she never found the hunter. Estella would carry the gift back to Babe, thanking luck and whatever had caught, but not eaten, the prey. Fortunately, water hardly ever proved a problem with the pure, sweet streams that flowed around the area. Despite the goat and little cart’s loss, Estella and Babe made good progress.
The weather grew warmer as summer began to make its presence felt as early June arrived. The green meadows filled with many hued, sweet scented flowers over which bees buzzed happily from blossom to blossom. Babe passed her ninth month in Middle Earth and Estella and she managed to cover between five to eight miles a day. One late morning, Estella looked up and saw the southern end of the Misty Mountains in the distance. They reached high into the sky and despite how far away they stood from them she still could not see their tops. Her necked ached from looking up so much and she laughed in delight. She had never seen mountains before in her short life.
As they approached the mountains, it became harder to find food. Though she still found an occasional rabbit, often Estella went hungry, giving any food she found to Babe. Thus, when she came across a small hollow, where strawberries grew, she nearly leapt in joy before rushing off to pick the fresh, ripe fruit. She gestured for Babe to join her and together they began gathering the berries, though Babe often squished more between her chubby little fingers before stuffing them in her mouth. Soon both face and hands bore the distinctive red hue. Estella laughed and shook her head, then tore a small portion from her dress hem to carry what she could along with them. Once she felt she had all she could take, she ate some herself, soon joining her daughter in licking the sticky juice from her fingers. The day passed happily, their stomachs filled and the warm air soothing them. That evening Estella decided they would remain in the glade for the night.
That evening Lindir also spent his last near them. He had been long away from home and duty and heart called him back to Rivendell, to patrol the borders of the valley and ensure the place remained free from marauding Orcs. As a last gift to the little people, he caught and left two fine rabbits as well as a full water skin, hoping they would aid the travellers. Babe saw the Elf leaving the gifts, but this time he did not startle her. She came closer as he bent down to lay the rabbits on a rock. Slowly, she held out her hand, touching his face again. Lindir could feel the love in it, and for him, it gave him all the thanks he needed. With a warm smile, he saluted the tiny girl child, then turned and disappeared into the trees.
Two more weeks passed before Estella and Babe reached the Gap of Rohan, a natural gateway between Eriador in the West and Rhovanion in the East. The Gap, situated between the Southern most ends of the Misty Mountains and the Northwestern end of the White Mountains, marked the end of nearly two years of travel for the Hobbit woman and her child. At last she could see the end of her journey from the Shire and the fulfillment of her hopes.
A Bitter Blow
From here, near the mountains, she could see their tops as they swooped down to dive into the soil at their feet. Estella followed the Northerly slopes, for they lead round to Isenguard, Orthanc’s location. Though the mountains dipped to their lowest point, to Estella they still provided a towering wonder as she followed the curving path toward the inner sanctum that housed Orthanc. Along a great avenue of fine old trees, a road ran wide and grand, ending in steps that rose up through the tower doorway. The trees, older than the ancient Tower, had watched the ages turn and now watched the young Hobbit mum and her little daughter approach the forbidding black tower of Orthanc.
The place spoke to Estella of a great power, seeming to have grown from the bones of the earth itself. No stonemasons’ tool mark lay upon its walls as they rose cold, sheer, and unblemished. It stood tall and proud, daring time or foe to try to lay it low, defying harm of any sort. Estella felt Orthanc’s might and trembled at its majesty. As she moved along the final few yards of road, she saw a tall, lean man emerge from the door. His stature and robe bespoke a power rivaling the tower’s and Estella froze in awe. He approached, his face cold and stern, in many ways mirroring the tower from which he had come forward. Finally, he stood over her, and as she looked up she caught the cruel, hard stare he laid upon her and Babe. The little one clung to her mother’s tattered dress, and then tucked herself behind her and out of sight.
The tall man before them, called Saruman, was in truth not a man, but a great and powerful wizard. Not the sort of magician that provides tricks for small children’s amusement, but a being of great power and the leader of the White Council. Saruman, a member of the Maiar, had been sent to Middle Earth to guard it against Sauron’s evil forces, but as time passed, not all Maiar had stayed true to their purpose.
Saruman, while studying the evil ways in order to thwart them had become just such a one. He had begun with a desire to bring order from chaos in Middle Earth, but as he studied he fell into the Ring of power’s trap. Sauron’s ring, lost in the First Age, had been found and at first Saruman thought he could find it and destroy it. However, over the long years he began to desire the Ring, believing he could master it. Slowly, he began to turn from his good intentions to greed and lust for the power it could give him. At this time, he had not become entirely evil, but his actions concerning the Hobbit woman before him would spell the irrevocable change toward darkness.
Eight months before he had gone to the Shire, something there drawing him to a place he had never had a desire to visit before. Perhaps only a suspicion or an unguarded whisper had called him, but he had heard that Hobbits might know of the Ring’s whereabouts. He sought news of Gollum, the creature who had been a Hobbit once, for he had heard rumors the thing had come in contact with the Ring. Saruman did not know most Shire Hobbits had no knowledge of Gollum. Only two or three at most knew of him, and from that, knowledge of the One Ring. He had noticed the Shire’s guards and knew Gandalf the Grey, another Maia and White Council member, had organised such a watch upon the Hobbits. Saruman believed Gandalf desired the Ring for himself and hurried to the Shire, where fate brought Estella into his grasp.
Estella had been walking in the meadows near dusk. She had thought to turn towards her home, but Saruman had approached and his tall, lordly, and grand form had overawed her. The Maia had seen his chance to learn all she knew of Gollum and the One Ring through befriending her. With soft voice and kindly manner he persuaded Estella to his side, carefully questioning her. However, Estella knew nothing of Gollum, or Smeagol as he had once been known. Though once of the Hobbit race, his kin had remained on the East side of the Misty Mountains and had not journeyed West to settle in Eriador. Hence, long years had seen the gradual loss of knowledge about the Eastern group of Hobbits. Only a very few, old or well-travelled Shire Hobbits still retained a memory of them or Gollum so that the stories seemed mostly folklore and legends.
Saruman had no idea Hobbits did not value their history and felt convinced Estella lied in her denial of Gollum’s whereabouts. In order to persuade her to tell all, he declared his love, saying that to him she appeared more beautiful than the stars above. Estella, young and naïve, naturally felt flattered at such attentions from a fair and lofty Lord. Any uneasiness that she had she attributed to her unworthiness for such esteem and love. Still, she could not disclose what she did not know and soon Saruman tired of his kind words. One last ploy he used, that of sex, believing in the heat of passion she would reveal all. When this did not occur, he dropped his disguise, stated he found her no better than a rat child, and that he would return to Orthanc. A comment he deeply regretted now as he glared down at the Hobbit woman. He had glimpsed what appeared as a girl child behind her and his face grew grimmer.
A Step into Evil
Saruman had not considered the possibility his actions in the Shire would result in the birth of his child. Not only did he not consider it, the thought disgusted him, for she not only represented the result of his failed ploy, but a crossbreed, neither Maiar nor Hobbit. The loathing soon turned to hatred and hurried him along his path from wickedness to true evil. For the moment he needed to think and time to decide on what course to take. Not wishing to frighten her away and allow others to see the result of his mistakes, he softened his countenance and spoke quietly.
“My dear child, what has brought you so far from the Shire?” he managed with such concern in his voice Estella never suspected his true feelings.
Still, his obvious earlier anger and disapproval had frightened her and she struggled to speak instead of run, as her instincts bade her do. She fought them and finally replied to his question.
“I’ve brought your daughter, to have you name her, if you will,” she faltered. “We have travelled many months to get here, through many perils. I hoped you would take us in.”
“Well, my child, I think it fortunate you have come here at this time,” Saruman replied with unexpected warmth and gestured toward the tower for them to enter.
The kind tone convinced Estella, building a trust impossible to deny, winning her over, and allowing her the mistaken impression Babe’s appearance had softened him. The power of his voice had once again made her ready to trust him.
Thus, she willingly entered Orthanc, yet the steep stairs seemed to hinder her as if they knew what lay ahead for her and wanted to dissuade her and turn her back to safety. But Estella struggled gamely on until she and Babe reached the topmost step. From there they approached what seemed a wall, yet when Saruman placed his hand upon it, it yawned open. He stepped aside and allowed Estella and Babe to enter. Once inside, the door slid shut, seemingly made of the very same stone as the tower without visible seam. An almost silent click told Babe it had locked behind them. She followed Saruman down the long, narrow, and dark passage and into a great room. He bid them sit on the cold metal seats provided and Estella could only compare them to the comfy soft cushioned ones at her home. She barely managed to reach the high seat, however Babe could not and plopped down beneath one instead. As Estella waited, she began to hum a small, light ditty she had often sung in the Shire. Her legs swung in time to the tune as she waited for Saruman to speak. He stood with his back to her, and still ensnared in his voice’s power, she did not register the change in atmosphere. Babe however, noticed it at once and lay trembling in a small heap on the floor.
Saruman swung around suddenly, his hand reaching out to grab Estella by the throat. He lifted her in the air until her face came level with his. Now Estella could read the true malice in his mind and heart, but although she struggled, she had no hope of freeing herself from his grip.
“So,” his powerful voice began, stinging her ears until she winced with pain. A cruel smile played across his lips and then he spoke again. “So, you through to bring me this half-breed ratling?” His voice thrilled with powerful malice and hate. “You come to claim a name for it. I will give it no name. Nor, my dear, shall you.”
At this, Estella felt a deep crushing pressure on her throat. She could not breathe and at first thought Saruman would throttle her. When he dropped her from his grasp to the floor, she realised the truth. Gradually, the tightness eased, a bitter, burning sensation replacing it. As she came around she struggled to ask “Why?” but no sound emerged from her mouth. She had lost her voice and would speak no more.
Despite this horror, it proved not the last of Saruman’s descent into evil. He had yet one more to take, which he now left them to plan. Estella lay stricken on the floor, watching as he moved toward a small side room. She could not see his actions, though perhaps that would prove better for her.
The Maia stood before the large stone obelisk, topped with a round magical stone, one of the Palantir. Through this stone Saruman could see the distant realm of Mordor and communicate with the dark power residing there. One did not speak into the Palantir. Instead, the power of one’s mind controlled it. Through the Palantir the Dark Lord Sauron learned of the Hobbits’ existence and that these same Hobbits knew of the One Ring’s whereabouts.
“I have secured for you one of these Hobbits, my Lord. She has refused to tell me of the Ring’s whereabouts. I believe you have methods to prise this information from her.” He paused as if listening, then responded. “Yes, m’Lord. I will have her ready for your servant.” With these exact words, he stepped forever from the light and sealed Estella’s fate.
He returned to the outer room where the stricken Estella still lay, failing to notice Babe had crawled to her mother and lay hidden beneath her mother’s faded blue cloak. Saruman scooped up a large sack from one corner. Then, he bundled Estella and unbeknownst to him, Babe, into it and carried it to the tower’s roof.
To Estella and Babe the wait within the sack seemed endless. No light entered the heavy material, although Estella strained her eyes until she felt certain she would go blind as well as mute. Only through touch did she know Babe remained with her. Tears ran down her face as she waited for the final blow to fall. Babe lay quietly beside her mother, remaining silent as well, and therefore remained overlooked and undetected. By Estella’s reckoning, today marked Babe’s second birthday, the 22nd of September. She grieved that her daughter would mostly likely not see another.
Nightfall brought a dark shadow to Orthanc, though none would have thought to ask its mission. From the tower, the being took one sack and returned with great speed to Mordor’s darkness, to Sauron, the great evil it called Master.
Warning! This section contains extremely graphic depictions of torture and mutilation. Not for the faint of heart! If this sort of thing bothers you, don’t read this section.
Beyond the Gate
The last hours tied in a sack passed as the fleeting life of a sun kissed snowflake, gone forever lost in the blackness of Mordor. Estella had no idea what carried her nor to where she headed. As a prisoner in the dark rough sack, she felt the oppressive evil that bore down upon her soul, crushing the very essence of life within her. Holding tightly to Babe, she fought its numbness, struggling to deliver herself from its torturous grasp. She plunged down the deep caverns of her mind, as her soul screamed to be released. Suddenly it stopped, a brief pause, then the ground hit her and she lay silent in the confines of the sack that held her. They lay together mother and daughter, Estella encircling Babe, protecting her as she had when Babe lay within her womb. The horror of the journey seared her mind. She felt no pain from the heavy landing. Indeed, save for some bruises, she remained unharmed, saved by her compact and robust Hobbit nature. Time passed in the outside world, but within Mordor time lay dead. Days and nights blended into a singular pulse of despair.
Finally, Estella regained consciousness and became aware of the small form lying still within the protection of her body. She fought her fear and her very senses, until at last she mastered them. She determined that Babe still breathed and lived. As she sought to discover any hurts on her child, she became aware of Babe’s singing. Almost inaudibly, but singing, and for a moment hope sprang anew in Estella’s heart. She struggled to resist the urge to lie dormant. Instead, she reached under the tattered cloak she wore and freed the small knife she concealed there. With deft strokes, she freed Babe and herself from the confining sack and soon they sat staring at the dark world about them. Estella first noticed the light, or rather the lack of it,. The very sky itself brooded in a deep dirty red glow, echoed in the lands about them. While not in Barad-dûr itself, they had come upon the barren and tortured wastes of the surrounding lands, a place known as the Plateau of Gorgoroth. Here lay the scarred lands over which the Dark Lord Sauron held sway. Here the slag and spoils from the scouring of the lands, the delving and the mining, produced piles of wastes that now smouldered and added their own reek to the foul airs. Here dwelled the servants of evil, the prisons of the slave labour, the pits of despair of the lost.
Estella gazed about her, drinking in the almost palatable pain of the ground they sat on. They had dropped into one of the larger craters honeycombing the broken surface of this forsaken land. To her left loomed the large mass of Orodruin, the volcanic mountain more commonly known as Mount Doom. From this belched the stench and foul, ash laden fumes that lay as a coating on the surfaces of the surrounding pits. The deep evil glow of its fires rent the air in occasional fits of furious temper-filled malice. Into the darkness, the sounds of its foul, tempestuous ranting spilled and numbed the ears and the heart.
To Estella’s right, emerged the dark and brooding evil of Barad-dûr itself. Despite the constant scouring, the lands here did not appear totally barren. Scattered about the plains, thickets of thorns and brambles grew, but they would not offer any safety to the little Hobbits nor bear fruit that might stem their growing hunger. Nor did they see any water to drink, save the foul reeking pools of wastewaters and rains that lay in mires in the bottoms of the pits. Estella’s gaze returned to Babe, who like her mother, looked out at the world they had dropped into. Her childish face reflected the land’s agony.
Estella drew Babe back into her arms and silently tried to relieve the sorrow in her child’s eyes. As she watched, Estella became aware of movement around her. Out from the deep caves poured streams of the same foul beasts that had attacked her and destroyed the little goat cart. From the bowels of the earth streamed Orcs, but not only Orcs began to people this land. Others, groups of tattered peoples of different races, Men, Dwarves and Elves, joined the exodus. The slaves of Mordor, each face telling its own sorrow, and in none shone the light of hope. The Orc hordes drove the slaves, but even among them also the Orcs had ranks. Some bore whips and cruel blades, which they brought to bear on the lesser Orcs of their companies. Even among their own kind they exercised cruelty. Trembling, Estella watched from the edge of the pit where they sat as the masses spread out. Slowly, she came to understand they searched for something and to her deepening horror, she realised they sought her.
Panic filled her and she grasped Babe to her, desperately looking for a place to hide. Her gaze alighted on a spoil heap, rising some five feet away. She held Babe’s hand and as stealthily as she could, she drew Babe after her. Placing the slagheap between the hordes and herself, she began frantically to dig in the cruel soil. Shavings and splinters of metals wrought in the fires below the Plateau soon bloodied Estella’s hands. Undeterred, she dug on and slowly fashioned a small cave into which she pulled herself and Babe. With careful hands, she sealed the entrance, effectively hiding two Hobbits from the searching masses.
Had Estella known more of those that sought her she would have known her attempt to hide would not deter them from their hunt. Their Master had ordered them to find the missing Hobbit. Most did so now under pain of death should she not be found. Such dread of displeasing him did they have, each became desperate to fulfill the request of their master. Of the others, the high-ranking Orc masters, they contested with each other to find her, each desiring to receive their master’s praise. Each aware his own success would allow the pleasure of brutalising those that did not find the Hobbit. Yet none among the masses knew of what Hobbits looked like. It did not matter, greed, lust of power or fear of torture at their masters hands drove each one to the utmost efforts.
Slowly, the agonising wait drew on. Though Estella and Babe remained hidden, they had neither food nor water to sustain them. Their Hobbit bellies cried out to be filled, but they could find nothing to stem the hunger pangs that wracked their small bodies. Estella had unfastened the tattered cloak and attempted to line the floor of their hiding place. The thin layer of material proved useless against the shards of metal that poked and pierced through it to prick their skins. Estella could not cry out, and with the threat of discovery, neither did Babe. Finally, overcome with thirst and weariness, they fell into a pitiful semblance of sleep, more nightmare than restful repose.
Outside, the hordes searched on, ignoring hunger, thirst or weariness. They knew only a successful hunt would bring relief and that only for the band finding her. Despite the rivalry, they sought the Hobbit with great skill, combing each area of the vast land forming the Gorgoroth Plateau so that none remained unsearched. At last, after many long hours, they came upon the Hobbits’ hiding place.
The Orc master Kurtrak eagerly snatched up Estella, ready to claim his reward, and completely overlooking Babe, that had lain beside her. With a howl of triumph, he slew several of his pack in celebration of his victory. Old scores settled he marched off towards Barad-dûr, dangling the feebly struggling Hobbit in his left hand. Defeated and knowing punishments would soon be visited upon them; the losing gangs slunk away into their caves and burrows, seeking refuge from the might of Kurtrak.
Undiscovered, Babe crawled from the spoil heap. Hunger and thirst wracked her tiny form. She needed both food and water for without them she would not live to see her third birthday. Upon reaching the dead Orc bodies, she carefully searched them, turning over their heavy armoured hands until she found a crudely fashioned bottle. Once she opened it, she found it contained a thick grey liquid. She poured a little into the palm of her hand and then tasted it. It burnt her mouth, causing tears to run down her face. Yet once the shock of its foul flavour had passed a little, she determined it some kind of Orc draught she could drink. She need only take a little of the liquid, for it seemed a kind of stimulant, used to strengthen the body, to allow it to keep working when otherwise it might fail. In this way, the Orcs ensured they could hold mastery over the Middle Earth’s races. Whilst the slaves suffered from their toils, the Orcs’ liquor relieved their own fatigue and hurts. The concoction revived Babe and since she still needed her Mother’s comforting hands, she started out after the band of Orcs, following them at an ever-increasing distance.
It would have been impossible for Babe to reach them had it not been for the events that unfolded in Kurtrak’s camp. He had tired of Estella’s struggles and had stopped to bind her. However, when he lay her down, she had at once attempted to flee. Quick hands had grabbed her and one of the smaller Orcs held her as a prize. Kurtrak did not want to become the cause of his master’s prize’s death, which could have happened if he took her through force. He felt obliged to bargain with the smaller Orc, though he intended to gain as much as he could from the situation. The smaller Orc knew Kurtrak would kill him if he released his grip on Estella, so he sought to become the one to carry her to Barad-dûr. Kurtrak saw this as a challenge to his authority and argued against it. This delay allowed Babe to slowly gain on the Orc band. The following she had reached their camp.
Fate here played its hand again, for amongst the slaves there abided a recently captured Elven lord. He still fought the overwhelming dread, for the moment he still dared to hope. Manthalath, a fair elf from Lorien, had spent many long ages with his family in Rivendell, the home of his late wife, Arnorwiel. Whilst searching for Arnorwiel, an Orc raiding party had caught him. He still bore the wounds of their whips about him as Orcs especially hated Elves and singled them out for the worst of the daily beatings. The only hope he held came from that of praying his daughter, Nillaniel, had escaped. During the first hours in Mordor, Manthalath had found his wife’s body lying in the open, ravaged by the wild beasts housed in the nearby caverns. The Orcs had greatly enjoyed watching his pain as they decapitated her head and proceeded to kick it across the barren land. Only when the call to search had come did they finally cease in their sadistic game.
Manthalath sat a little apart from the others, still in the deep throws of grief. Suddenly, he became aware of the softest of touches against his cheek. He barely stifled a cry of surprise, though he quickly regained his senses and drew his cloak about him, shielding the little Hobbit child from the enemies’ eyes nearby. Once he made certain none had noticed, he returned his gaze beneath his cloak, believing for a moment it had been part of some long lost dream. Instead, he found the tiny form sitting beneath his cloak, head bowed. As if called, she raised her head to gaze into his eyes. Though they did not speak openly, he understood her and she him. From even the shortest distance, those watching Manthalath would believe that he slept as all Elves, with open eyes. However, in truth he spoke in the Elven way with the small scrap of life that had fallen unwitnessed into the darkness. So powerful her presence Manthalath felt a new sense of strength and purpose. With this exchange he accepted the charge lain upon him, to guard this frail star that had settled before him in the darkness of Mordor.
Orc Holes and Hell Pits
During the night, Estella had been loosened from the grasp of the small Orc holding her as ransom against Kurtrak’s wrath. She took her chance and fled, seeking a place to hide. Many Orc holes pocked the sheer mountain walls upon which Barad-dûr sat. Estella fled into one of the smaller holes. Orc slaves used it as a communal dwelling. Large Orcs lived singly as they tolerated no competition. The smaller Orcs used weapons and rudimentary tools to dig out their roost, this one scraped with hand and fang from the very mountain. Lesser Orcs seldom had weapons except when they went to war. The smell nearly overcame Estella at first, for though Orcs did not foul in their holes, the reek of the nearby spoil heaps seemed to thicken the very air, making breathing difficult. Slowly, Estella became used to the dim interior. Not entirely dark, a lantern hung in the corner, out of reach of the wind. She looked about her, fearing she had stumbled into more danger.
As she surveyed her hiding place, Estella could see the great gouge marks that fashioned the cave. Sticking out at an angle, the shaft of a long bone made a hook from which the lantern hung. As she studied it, she realised the lantern had been fashioned from the skull of some poor victim, human maybe, definitely too big for a Hobbit. Estella recoiled at the sight, but her gaze returned. With renewed horror, she realised the rope the skull hung from had come from the skin of the same poor creature that had been slaughtered there. Within the skull burned a thick oil, smelling of rancid butter, Estella feared it had been rendered from the slain. To the left of this grisly light, a shoulder blade shelf sat, a rarity in small Orc holes. Orc masters prized these and often took them. Had Estella been able to see high enough, she would have found the bone knives fashioned from hip and breastbone lying there amidst scraps of human hide, nail, hair and the long forgotten eye that now lay dehydrating against the wall. Backing away, Estella’s foot stepped on something sharp, piercing her skin. Instinctively, she reached and grasped the offending item. She examined it, discovering a fragment of bone, and as she looked down she saw many of these scattered in this one corner of the cave. Among the fragments she found arrowheads, some already bound to metal shafts with skin bindings. Only small Orcs possessed this skill, for they alone had the dexterity of hand to fashion such things.
Reeling away, Estella fell into a recess. Her hands found the stored skins of slain Orc victims. The Orcs slept upon these very hides as they gave protection from the piercing bone and ravages of maggots. Lice and fleas covered the skins so that they seemed to move. Fleeing this sight, Estella ran into a deeper alcove, hidden from the door. She discovered within a greater horror… the Orc larder. The red glow of another skull lamp lit the place, illuminating hooks of bone, hung with carcasses. Before her a ripe horse, perhaps hanging for weeks, dripped maggots, masses of mating flies buzzed in foul testament of their passion. A far worse horror hung on the second hook. The partially skinned body of an Elf dangled from its own skin like a grotesque puppet. Silent wails of horror issued from Estella as she fought the paralysis of shocked limbs. Desperate to wrest her eyes from the sight, she threw herself backwards. Her head hit something hard and unconsciousness overcame her.
Out side the night waned, though none could tell as the deep pall of smoke and Orodruin’s belching obscured the slight lightening of the sky above Mordor. The Orc hordes sensed daybreak’s arrival and began to stir. Not long after, the terrified screams of a small Orc rent the air. Kurtrak had discovered the small Orc’s loss and now exacted his revenge. Held above Kurtrak’s head, the small Orc squirmed in terrible agony as Kurtrak feasted on his entrails. Chewing slowly each mouthful, he let the wretched creature view his own body being devoured. The other Orcs stood around, some larger ones cheering in their own cruel language, the smaller ones cringing in absolute submission fearing to anger the Orc master.
The slaves feared the worst; the death of the small Orc would not sate Kurtrak’s anger. He turned his wrath upon them, wielding his whip without regard. Upon the body of Manthalath fell the most blows. Staggering, the Elf still shielded the small life beneath his cloak. Desperate she should not be harmed, he sought shelter in the very same Orc hole where Estella’s unconscious body lay. Soon he became aware of the mother Hobbit’s presence, for Babe wrestled from his grasp and ran to her. Desperately, she tried to pull Estella to the back of the Orc hole. Following her lead, Manthalath lifted Estella and carried her to the back wall. He sat cradling the Hobbit in gentle arms, whilst Babe sat on his cloak’s edge beside him.
They had moved Estella only just in time, for from outside came Kurtrak’s bellow. The Orc master thrust his huge arm in, grasping the air over the very spot Estella had laid. Lying on the ground outside, Kurtrak attempted again to reach those within the Orc hole. His large arms flailed about the floor of the hole, but the trio remained just out of reach. Although in dire straits, Manthalath sought to rouse Estella from her unconscious state. From his pockets, he took a few dried leaves of Athelas, chewing them slowly until their juice released. He then placed the fragrant leaves in Estella’s mouth until she began to move. Her fear apparent in her face, she struggled at first, but Manthalath held her firmly until it passed. Estella looked around and with wide eyes, full of tears, she beheld her little child’s form. Overcome with emotion, she grabbed Manthalath and kissed him, then kissed and hugged her daughter, and finally returned to hug her child’s saviour. Never in Mordor had there been such joy as at that meeting. Bright eyes shining, Babe joined in the hugging and for a few brief moments the three transported from the cruel world into one of love.
Soon reality returned as Kurtrak, in his temper, began assailing the Orc Hole’s walls until the walls gradually began crumble under his sheer brute strength. Moments later, he beheld Estella and Manthalath. Sneering, he reached in and roughly grabbed Estella, his prize once more. As he turned to leave he remembered the Elf and reaching in, he sought to remove him from the hole. Instead, an Orc arrow plunged into his hand. Yowling, he withdrew it, although small the arrow had struck true. Shocked to feel pain, Kurtrak passed the problem to his minions, seeking instead to bear Estella to Barad-dûr without further delay. Wincing, he snapped the arrow shaft, leaving the embedded head to trouble him ever after. Manthalath fought bravely within the Orc hole, killing several small Orcs with their own arrows. Numbers told though and finally they overcame him. As punishment, they broke his hands. Placing them upon the ground, they brought down a large club, repeatedly smashing the Elf’s delicate hand bones until they no longer resembled hands at all. Taking up the whip, they beat him into a forced run. So focused on their torment, they did not see the small Hobbit beneath his cloak, clinging for her life. Such an injury as Manthalath received would never heal and in normal circumstances would have resulted in a slow lingering death by starvation. Babe however tended well her Elven hero, seeing he took a little of the Orc draught she still carried. In this way, the three entered the tower of Barad-dûr.
The dark door of the tower swung slowly open. From within the pain and suffering swept out to beat down upon the souls of those outside. The smaller Orcs did not enter here often and those that did never returned. For the slaves too, no hope of return presented itself. Driven inside by cruel whips, they stood on the very brink of death. Very few here would survive longer than a pain and despair filled year. The tower consumed them as a man might consume corn. Beneath Manthalath’s cloak Babe trembled as the despair of those imprisoned in the tower washed over her, but his cloak at least spared her the sight that met the Elf lord and her mother’s eyes. The Pits of Hell resided here, in the very bowels of the tower. Into these pits servants poured the remains of the victims the dark lord had finished with, each tortured and twisted soul testament to his cruelty. These living souls, divested of limb or skin, lay or sat upon the layers of the dead or dying beneath them. Upon occasion, an Orc master would come to a pit, scoop out the contents and throw it into a large vat where fire would consume those that still lived along with the dead, their flesh rendered into oil for the lamps and from their bones glue for the fashioning of weapons. At meal times the Orc lords would feast here, selecting those that still lived, for Orcs preferred to dine on living flesh. When Manthalath and Estella arrived in the tower, such a mealtime had arrived.
Around the Pits the Orcs sat. Estella watched as a nearby Orc dipped his large hand in to pull a young man from the pit. She saw the marks of torture across his naked body, but unlike most his limbs remained still sound. The passage of fire had blackened almost all of his face and Estella could see he had been blinded. The Orc that held him placed him in the space between his tree-trunk like legs, then took from its garb a fine stiletto knife and proceeded to torment his meal, much as a cat would tease a mouse. Each time he would stick the wretched creature it would lurch away, only to fall blindly against the surrounding limbs. Finally, consumed with hopelessness, it sat in a heap and even the hardest jab failed to bring any reaction. Displeased at his meals uncooperativeness in continuing the game, the Orc swept the man up and to the screams of pure agony, skinned him and devoured him.
This would be the fate awaiting Estella and Manthalath, but first they would see the dark lord himself. With the other captives, the Orcs drove them up long flights of stairs. The steps themselves proved difficult for Estella’s short legs and when whip and blow failed to make her progress faster, the Orc lord had given her to another captive to carry. Reluctantly, he bore her upwards. Though he dared not refuse, still he felt aggrieved to have this extra burden and so he dragged Estella, battered and bruised, up the long flights of stairs. When finally they reached the top, the Orcs threw them into a cell to await their fate. The dark lord felt no pleasure in seeing them die of starvation, for he desired to use and experiment with his own devices. Because of this, he made certain the Orcs fed and watered the prisoners, yet they received only the barest amount to sustain them. However, between Manthalath and Estella, they managed to find food for Babe. They waited as each day saw a new victim from their cell selected and tortured to the edge of endurance, and then lost to the hell pits below.
Months passed and the cell became a cesspit as no provision for waste removal had been provided. Slowly, those within began to fall ill. At this time Manthalath alone stood, for he could rest without needing to lie down. In his arms he held Babe, she then continued in relative good health. Estella, however, became very sick, and soon Manthalath and Babe feared she might die as some of the others did. Not long after this, the Orcs moved the remaining prisoners to a large side room. From its appearance, it seemed this room held facilities for living. Manthalath felt it only proved Sauron would not tolerate the loss of even one life at anything but his own hand, determined he would be their ultimate end. Orcs forced Estella to drink a foul liquid, which after a week had restored her enough that she would survive for her meeting with the dark lord. Whilst they waited, Babe learned of Manthalath’s search for his lost daughter. He had feared, like her mother, she had been captured and held within the tower.
He could not know it, but his daughter had escaped the attack and now hunted with Elves and Rangers for the creature Gollum, the very same creature Saruman had sought, the former possessor of the One Ring. Rumors placed the creature, drawn by its evil heart, made its way to Mordor. So Nillaniel headed for that dark land, too.
A Deeper Darkness
After many months, when numbers had dwindled to a very few, Manthalath’s turn arrived. He still held Babe as they dragged him from the prison room into the large adjoining hall. Around the room lay many devices that Sauron used to extract the information he required. Yet not all his victims had any information. For many, they came before him and endured torture only because of his desire to bring them to total and utter hopelessness. At last, Manthalath stood before the Dark Lord. Of all the peoples of Middle Earth, the Elven race provided his favourite target. Perhaps he once envied their immortality, believing them lesser beings and therefore undeserving of it, or perhaps that they still dared to challenge him, keeping hidden the three Elven rings of power. Whatever the reason, he delighted most in their torture, personally overseeing each grim task.
First, he demanded Manthalath strip. Manthalath carefully laid aside his cape, placing it at the side of the great hall where dark shadows lay. Within it, he laid Babe unseen. He returned to stand before the brooding evil, but proceeded to strip no further. Glad to have reason, the Dark Lord commanded his minions to the task. Soon the naked Elf stood before Sauron, awaiting the cruelty he knew would follow. Blood dripped from new wounds received during the enforced strip. It seemed a long age before the Sauron moved, instead piercing the Elf lord’s mind, seeking his deepest thoughts. Manthalath fought back, trying to close his mind to the dark will that assailed every nerve in his body. The Dark Lord laughed. Seemingly, he had obtained the information he needed. Turning to an Orc, he summoned a red-hot brand. This he placed upon Manthalath’s abdomen, the burning iron sinking through the soft tissues and searing the abdominal contents below. Though the pain filled him, Manthalas did not cry out. Falling to his knees, he still stared defiantly at Sauron. The Elven lord’s refusal to utter his pain angered Sauron more than his refusal to speak and he ordered Manthalath chained to the wall. With salt and acid they filled the still smouldering vent in the Elf’s body. His pain kept all but a single word from the Elven lord’s lips.
“Nillaniel!” he cried out, then passed into unconsciousness.
Inside the cape, Babe lay silent witness to the great evil that occurring. From there, she watched as Sauron gloated at his handiwork. In time he would return to Manthalath, for now he would turn to a new victim. As Babe watched, she saw her mother brought before Sauron.
Where is the One Ring? his thought demanded of Estella, then again in words cold and cruel.
But Estella could not tell. She had no voice and she did not know.
“Saruman told me of your stubbornness. It will avail you not, for I am the Dark Lord. You will obey my will.” The very words seemed to ooze menace.
Still Estella could not answer. She shook her head, trying to plead with her mind. If Sauron heard her, he showed no sign. Instead, he turned her to face Manthalath. Kurtrak came then from behind the Dark Lord’s throne.
“Refuse me the information and your friend will suffer.”
Poor Estella put every ounce of strength she had into making a sound, but try as she might none came. For Saruman had been thorough in silencing her. He forced Estella to stand and watch as Kurtrak slowly peeled the skin from the Elf lord’s back. Finally, in triumph, he held his prize before the Dark Lord, then sniggering he stripped the clothes from Estella and laid the Elven hide about her. Estella fainted then; unable to bear the sight she beheld. For writhing in agony upon the floor, Manthalath’s form still lived, its agony evident in the tortured twisting of limbs and face as he screamed for release. In the Dark Lord’s presence this would not come, for he held the spirit as captive as the body.
Sauron retreated to the darkness behind the throne while large Orcs picked up Estella and bore her to the torture rack. Whilst they remained occupied, a small form moved unseen to the twitching wreck of her friend Manthalath. Babe stretched out her hands and gently cradled his face. As she held him, he gazed with pain-filled eyes into the deep night blue eyes of Babe. Slowly, a vision appeared there, a vision neither he nor Babe had ever seen. But Manthalas knew at once that he saw Eldamar, the home of the Elves away beyond sight in the very West, the tall peaks of the Pelori Mountains. The beauty of Aqualonde by the sea called to him, and then the Valar swept up his spirit and took it to the halls of Mandos, to wait the summoning of Iluvatar. At last, the Elven lord’s body found peace. For a while, Babe sat transfixed as the beauty she had just witnessed washed over her mind like fresh mountain spring water over a new river bed.
Gradually, the horror of Barad-dûr replaced it and she became aware of great suffering, her own mother’s, beyond sight in the far corner of the room. She crept along the wall in the deep shadow until she beheld her mother’s small body lying on the torture rack. She watched as the Orcs used hot brands. The smell of burnt flesh filled her nostrils, the very reek of evil laying siege to her mind.
Estella had moved beyond pain now, her body so tortured it no longer responded to the torments being laid upon it. Neither whip, brand or knife brought anything from her. Nor would it ever. But Sauron grew wearied of trying to prise from her his lost treasure’s whereabouts and bestowed one final act of evil upon Estella. Angered, he sought only to wipe Estella from the face of Middle Earth. Calling two large trolls to him, he had them each grip an arm and a leg, then with a single gesture, bid them rip the little Hobbit body into four. In the end, they severed Estella’s head. At this sight, Babe lost control and ran screaming from the shadows. She burst in, toward Sauron. He held up a single hand to stay her. At full charge, Babe ran onto it. The cruel hand, filled with the heat of hatred, burned deeply into Babe’s shoulder for a minute. She pressed forward till pain swept through her and she passed into unconsciousness.
As with some of the dead, these bodies would be used to bait cages to trap wolves. The animals did not come willingly to Mordor, though they made good allies once ensnared and subjected to the will of Sauron. Thus these bodies from the day’s torture session, the Orcs loaded onto a cart. Upon this cart lay Manthalath, Estella, and the smallest Hobbit, Babe. The Orcs slowly pushed and dragged the cart from the great Tower, across the Gorgoroth plateau, and out of the gates of Morânnon. Out of Mordor, the cart journeyed. It rocked gently and Babe awoke, for a moment certain her mother cradled her once more in her arms. All too swiftly, the pain returned to her, but she did not cry out. She sought the comfort of her mother’s hand. Her seeking hand felt beside her, coming in contact with it, but it did not respond. The cold, damp, sticky flesh returned the horror of what Babe had witnessed. As the cart trundled on, it suddenly lurched sideways as one wheel jammed against some object on the road. Cursing at his bad luck, the Orc pulling the cart hauled it sharply forward. It moved with such a jolt that it threw Babe from it. She instinctively curled herself into a ball and rolled down a small embankment.
She came to lie beneath a thick thorn bush that defied Mordor and still grew. Its tangled mass pushed up as Babe rolled under it, then pierced her flesh as it closed over her. Once more Babe became overlooked, for the Orc did not notice the loss of one so small. He continued on his way, labouring under the burden of the cart. Babe lay undiscovered in the thick briar. This sad day had marked Babe’s third birthday.
As the weak light of dawn broke on the 23rd September 3004, Babe awoke and for a few brief moments, wondered at her situation. All too soon, the horror of her birthday fell upon her and she shrank into total despair. She lay awash with the pain of the burning until she heard the soft call of her friend Manthalath’s voice.
You are free child. Awaken.
Her mind stirred and she rose to climb from under the thorns. Ss she raised her eyes above the level of the ground, she spied the reason for the jolt that had thrown her from the cart. There, crushed into the dirt, bearing the cruel marks of the wheel, her own mother’s head lay. Estella’s last act had spared her child that last journey.
The sight appalled Babe, and frightened by her dire situation, she stumbled from the claws of the thorn bush and fled towards Minus Tirith. She did not get far, for the frailness of her little abused body, drained by the hideous burn of her shoulder, sapped even the strength fear had instilled in her. She collapsed into a deep pit and laid in a dark nightmare, alone and unnamed, the forgotten hobbit.