Gandalf Visits Bombadil

by Vison
Note to Readers:  This is an Unfinished Tale, as the author departed these shores before it was completed.  Please enjoy the journey, knowing in the end there will be questions left unanswered

“……..I am going to have a long talk with Bombadil: such a talk as I have not had in all my time. He is a moss-gatherer, and I have been a stone doomed to rolling………….

The first of November in the year of 3019 (1419 SR)……..Now the horse Shadowfax passed in under the eaves of the Old Forest. His grey coat gleamed softly in the dim light; his Mithril-shod hooves, as he stepped neatly and quickly, rustled in the leaves that covered the ground. For so thick were the ancient trees that few airs moved about them; their leaves drifted, spinning slowly, from branch to earth, never swept before any wind. The leaves settled on top of centuries of leaf mould, deep and black. Here was life unseen and unknown, springing from the decay of greenery. Realms of Men and Elves rose and fell, seas were emptied, stars blazed and died, and the hidden bosky life of the forest crept on uncaring.

For the Wizard was not on the path that led down to the Withywindle, the path that the Hobbits had taken the year before. Shadowfax took his own path, holding his great head high and seeming to open the road before them by his bearing only. Yet news of their passage both preceded and followed them, the trees speaking silently, a kind of shiver passing from one to the next, spiralling outward from the horse and rider, reaching every dell and rocky outcrop.

Old Man Willow stirred in his sleep down by the water, his malice and his loathing of all that went upon two legs (or four) disturbed by the very presence of Gandalf and Shadowfax in the groves that climbed the hills beyond. Old Man Willow stretched his roots and sought deep down, and across the leagues from where he stood, but then drew back, startled and made wary by the rumour of these Great Ones. Bombadil he knew, yes, Bombadil who danced unafraid along the banks of the Withywindle, Bombadil and the fair River Daughter Goldberry. Bombadil he knew and bore with grudgingly, but the black-hearted Willow man feared and hated all strangers, and sought ever to entice and then destroy any foolish enough to come within sound of his sleepy singing.

Gandalf was weary. Since he had chosen to clothe his essence in a mortal body, he had fallen prey to mortal aches and pains, and the long year of trouble had told upon him. Though he had been returned remade and renewed from his battle with the Balrog, yet was he marked all the same; there were scars upon his spirit and wounds to his heart. Bidding the Hobbits farewell he had striven to be cheerful, and he had succeeded in their eyes. Still, ever his thoughts turned to Frodo in pity and love; here was heartache for Gandalf, knowing how worn Frodo was by the Quest of the Ring.

Yet what could he do that he had not done? From the moment Frodo took the Ring, from the moment Gandalf saw it gleaming in Frodo’s palm, he had feared some sad end, maybe sadder than what had come, for the success of the Quest had not erased all pain and sorrow from the world. He had measured Frodo’s soul and strength and hoped for the best, yet the dread of failure had haunted him with every breath he drew. Dread not only for the fate of Middle Earth, but for the fate of his friend Frodo son of Drogo, Hobbit of the Shire. The Quest had not failed, but the doing of it was nearly the end of Frodo, and Gandalf knew the gentle Hobbit was weary and cold with despair, overborne in spirit by his long struggle.

The day wore on, and the trees seemed endless. Yet at last they opened to a green lawn, and there, under the lee of the hill as it had ever been, was the house of Bombadil. Light gleamed through the windows, falling in golden squares on the grass before the house, smoke curled from the chimney.

Gandalf slid to the ground. “My friend,” he said to Shadowfax, “we are come to Bombadil’s house. Here is the master to welcome us, and Fatty Lumpkin.”

Bombadil had seemed to come out of the very ground, for there he was before them. No noise did he make with his yellow boots on the evening grass, walking by the pony Lumpkin. Seeing Gandalf he swept his blue-feathered hat off and bowed. “Mithrandir! Well met my friend!”

“Greetings, Master,” said Gandalf, bowing in his turn. “I have brought a friend with me. Here is the horse Shadowfax, chief of the Mearas of Rohan.”

Bombadil bowed to Shadowfax, who lowered his proud head. “Welcome, Shadowfax,” Tom said. “Lumpkin, to the stable we shall take him while the Wizard goes to my lady.”

Stepping over the threshold Gandalf felt as though he had come home. The stone-flagged floor was covered in sweet rushes, and a fire danced merrily in the hearth. Beeswax candles burned brightly and cleanly, scenting the air with the perfume of honey. On a long, polished table stood an earthenware vase holding branches of bright leaves that flamed as if in the autumn sun.

The River-daughter Goldberry turned as he entered the house and came forward, holding out her hands. “Mithrandir,” she said in her musical voice. “Welcome, Mithrandir! The Master had news of thy coming, and we have made ready for thee. Step in, step in, and take thy seat by the fire. Take thee thy ease, let the warmth enter thy bones, for art thou not weary?”

Gandalf took her white hands in his and kissed her on each cheek. “My lady Goldberry,” he said, smiling. Slender and lovely she stood before him, clad in a gown of russet velvet trimmed with bands of leaves embroidered in gold. Her hair was bound up with vines bearing the ruby berries of Bittersweet, she wore amber drops in her ears and strings of amber beads around throat. About her waist she wore a girdle of scarlet and gold links fashioned in the shapes of Oak and Maple leaves………………

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