Awhile ago I mentioned a challenge I was going to take part in this month, and 6 days in, I’m done! woo, nice to have it out of the way so that I can get back to TCM and Birth Rights.
So, here goes nothing 🙂 It’s rough, but hey, it was written quickly and just for fun!
NOTE: WordPress messed with my formatting, I’m currently holding sleeping babe and am not up to fixing it. So there, Tama 😛
The group sat around a table dressed in rich red, the walls of the room draped in the same velvet. Clouds of smoke filled the air as the trio indulged in glasses of red.
‘I have heard there will be tarot card readers and one of those pipes from the orient, you know, for smoking hashish,’ Charles Vanderpole said in hushed tones, puffing on his own pipe.
‘Tarot? Is that not illegal?’ Penelope Long commented, leaning in with a gleam in her eye. ‘I’ve heard that there will be magic, and speaking with the dead.’ She raised an eyebrow archly.
‘There are only a few days to go now,’ Hamner Gamgee added, ‘and if you really want to know you should just ask my boy Samuel. He’s been up there day and night this last week helping to set things in place.’
‘Has he said anything about the arrangements?’ Penelope asked, ever the gossip.
‘Not to me he hasn’t,’ Hamner replied with a sniff. ‘He’s a good boy, loyal to his friends.’
‘You’re speaking of young Froderick, aren’t you?’ Charles asked. ‘I’ve heard that he’s not really Bill’s nephew at all, rather his young lover.’ He pressed his lips together in a tight smile.
‘Lovers? Why, I’d never heard that before!’ Penelope declared. ‘But they are close, and… they don’t share the same name, perhaps there is something to it. Hamner?’
‘Don’t look at me, I’ve been Bill’s Doctor for years now, but I wouldn’t like to lay any claims to knowing anything about that.’ He shook his head firmly. ‘They are family though, I know that much.’
‘Incest then, it’s not unheard of,’ Charles said offhandedly.
‘I think it unwise to jump to such conclusions,’ Hamner cut in. ‘If we’re to get anything out of this little party, you’ll want Bill onside. There are many treasures hidden away within the bowels of his mansion, and he’s not likely to welcome you into his home if he thinks you’ve been gossiping.’
‘Gossip? Hardly,’ Charles said disdainfully. ‘Merely a little chatter between friends. Right?’ He looked pointedly at the Doctor.
‘Yes, yes, friends,’ Hamner said quickly. He didn’t like the way that Charles was looking at him, but he was in too deep now, there was no going back. He felt sick to his stomach that he had revealed so much about Bill already, but he had heard him telling Froderick that he was going away, so surely there was no harm in using this as a way to step up the social, and economic ladder?
The three continued to converse, Hamner’s worries slipping away with the last dregs of wine in his glass.
The town was abuzz with talk of the party, though the only one who didn’t seem to want to talk about it was Bill himself. He was far older than he looked and he could feel those years weighing down on him. He wanted nothing more than to be free of this place, now, but the arrangements had all been made, all he had to do was hold fast until tomorrow.
Presently he was waiting on his doorstep for the great Gandalphini to arrive. They had long been friends, though it had been a year or more since the last time his foreign companion had visited. He hoped that Gandalphini would arrive soon, it seemed only when he was surrounded by those with many years behind them that he felt anything like normal these days.
A carriage rattled up the drive, and Bill raised his head from his thoughts and smiled. Only Gandalphini would arrive in a contraption with multi coloured ribbons streaming from every possible place, they waved frantically behind the carriage, settling gently as it rolled to a stop. The driver jumped down from his seat and rushed around to open the carriage door, where Gandalphini stepped gracefully out from, his white robes shimmering in the dawn light.
‘Ah Bill, my dear friend. I hope I haven’t kept you long,’ Gandalphini said softly, a wry smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eye.
‘No, no, of course not my friend,’ Bill replied, also with a smile, standing to embrace Gandalphini. ‘I’m glad you’ve arrived safely, I trust you had no trouble?’
‘Oh who would trouble the great Gandalphini? Really, I’m well known in these parts you should be aware by now, no one would dare trouble me.’ The tall man shook his head, his long grey hair swinging side to side as he did so. ‘Are we all ready for tomorrow then?’ He raised an eyebrow.
‘Yes, yes, as much as we can be,’ he paused. ‘Do you think I’m doing the right thing?’
‘Of course I do, in fact if you hadn’t thought of the idea yourself I would have prompted you to follow the same course. Your true life is waiting for you, has been for all these years you’ve kept yourself cooped up here.’
‘As long as I have your confidence good friend, I’ll not need to fear my actions.’ Bill nodded and turned towards the door. ‘Tea then? And some bread, I’ve had some freshly made, it should still be hot.’
‘It sounds delightful,’ Gandalphini agreed, and followed Bill inside. As they made their way through the mansion to the kitchen, it was obvious that things had gone missing. ‘Have you been robbed or something dear friend?’
‘No, no, I’m giving things away. You’ve always said to me that it was better to be free of goods than tied down. I have always admired the way you live – a bag over your shoulder and little else to tie you down.’
‘Ah but even I have some things of value stashed away,’ Gandalphini commented. ‘Surely you don’t mean to keep nothing?’
‘I have a few things hidden for safe keeping my friend, never you mind, and most of this will be left to Froderick. That boy is going to need all the help he can get.’ Bill sighed as they entered the kitchen, and set to work making the tea, preferring to do it himself than have their conversation interrupted by a servant. ‘I worry about him. It’s not that he is too young to be left alone, but he is so used to my company. You will check in on him, won’t you?’
‘Don’t you worry about that now Bill, I’ll make sure to drop by as often as I can.’ Gandalphini accepted the tea that was offered and sipped of it. ‘And the ring? You’ll leave that behind?’
‘You and your worry about the ring. It is mine, and if I want to take it I will.’
‘We’ve been over this Bill – you’ve kept it safe for many years now and it’s time to pass it on. I can see how tired you are getting, and it’s not just from the weight of these four walls and your riches.’
‘We shall see,’ Bill replied stiffly.
‘Yes, I guess we shall.’ Silence fell between them as they drank their tea, neither wishing to press the other further. Eventually Gandalphini took his leave, promising to return in the morning to go over the plans.
The party began with a boom, a great gush of flame shot into the night and burst, sprinkling the sky with a glittering rain which hissed as it fell back to earth. A cheer erupted from the crowd gathered on the lawn in front of the mansion as everyone raised their glasses and saluted the sky. Exotic women on stilts wove their way through the crowd, spidery tendrils of fabric draped from their arms, brushing the faces of those below, while a group of men in white robes chanted to the beat of a drum.
‘My, this is certainly something different,’ Penelope said, eyes wide as she glanced around, trying to take everything in.
‘Indeed, this party will be the talk of the town for months to come. I dare say it will be nigh on impossible for anyone to top this – though it wouldn’t surprise me if the police arrived to shut it down,’ Charles sniffed.
‘We had better hope not, for police intervention will do nothing to help our cause,’ Penelope replied sharply. ‘Now stop being so pessimistic and lets enjoy ourselves while we wait for the right time to approach Bill.’ With a smile, she placed a hand on his arm and drew him into the crowd.
Elsewhere, Bill pulled Gandalphini aside. ‘I’m not going to wait until the end, I can’t,’ he said, almost having to shout to get himself heard. His face twitched as he spoke, a small shudder running down his spine.
‘No? When then?’ Gandalphini asked.
‘Now! Get their attention, it’s time for the final act!’
There was a fervor in his eyes which Gandalphini had to respect. This man was burning to be rid of this place and off into the wilderness where truth and purity awaited. ‘Alright then friend, give me but a moment,’ he said the words softly, placing a reassuring arm on his friends shoulder before leading them up the steps to the platform that had been built for this purpose.
He paused for a moment before gathering his magic and speaking to the crowd. ‘Here me!’ And they did, for there was no ignoring the call. ‘On behalf of my very good friend Bill Baggins, I would like to thank you all for coming and ask that you gather near for the wonderful gentleman himself to give a small speech.’
The crowd hooted and cheered as Gandalphini stepped aside to let Bill move to the front of the stage.
‘Friends and family, some of whom I know well, and others who I do not. I would like to thank you all for coming to share in my birthday celebrations, along with my dear nephew Froderick’s as well, we are both very lucky to have so many gather for the occasion.’ Bill paused in his speech as he tried to find Froderick in the crowd, but the young man was nowhere to be seen. ‘I’ll keep this short, for I have other things to attend to – drink and be merry! May life treat you kindly, and may you all enjoy longevity and prosperity.’ He slipped his hand into his pocket then, seeking the warmth of his ring and glanced back towards Gandalphini to give him a short nod. The old man winked and caused a poof of smoke to appear in front of Bill who took the opportunity to slide the ring onto his finger and disappear from sight.
When he had made his way across the lawn and up into the house, Bill slid the ring back off his finger and looked at it fondly. It had served him well all these years and he was loathe to part with it now. Surely there was no real need to….
‘There you are Uncle,’ Froderick said, entering the room. ‘I’ve been looking for you.’ The young man approached with a smile on his face and clapped Bill on his shoulder.
‘You missed my speech young one, where have you been?’
‘I didn’t want to miss you before you parted. Gandalphini said that you had something for me?’
‘Oh he did, did he.’ Bill’s voiced tightened, his chest too. He suddenly felt more constricted than ever before.
‘Yes old friend, I thought it a wise course of action,’ Gandalphini’s voice filled the room and Bill turned to find him entering.
‘You don’t trust me at all, do you,’ Bill spat out, mistrust lacing his words.
‘It is not you I do not trust Bill, it’s the ring.’ Gandalphini lowered his gaze to Bill’s hand. ‘Where is it then?’
‘I’m going to take it with me, it’s not a burden that Froderick needs to bear.’
‘Ah but it is. It’s time to pass it on Bill, go on, you’ll feel better for it in the end and just think of what is waiting for you, out there beyond these walls, this town.’
Bill’s shoulders slumped forward and he sighed then slipped his hand back into his pocket to find the ring. He very nearly put it back on his finger, tempted to disappear and take it with him, but before he could follow through on that thought he brought his hand back out and tossed the ring towards Froderick. The young man fumbled but managed to catch it before it hit the ground.
‘Don’t wear it, unless you have to,’ Bill warned him. ‘Now come here and give me a hug. I should leave now before I change my mind.’
Froderick approached him slowly, then wrapped his arms around his uncle. ‘Take care Bill, I’ll look after everything here for you.’
‘I know you will boy, I know you will.’ Bill nodded, then turned to grab his pack. ‘Enjoy!’ He declared, with a flourish of his hand, before heading towards the door.
‘Do you think I’ll ever see him again?’ Froderick asked Gandalphini.
‘Oh, I have no doubt about that lad. No doubt at all.’