Snow Games by Lbilover

Written for B2MeM 2014, for the prompt: 'staying warm against the wintry weather'. Inspired by this passage in FOTR: Except on the high moors of the Northfarthing a heavy fall was rare in the Shire, and was regarded as a pleasant event a chance for fun. Includes, of course, actual quotes from the chapter 'The Ring Goes South'.

Laughter rang out across the Party Field, mingling in joyful harmony with the singing of those gathered around a large bonfire. The scents of burning wood, roasting chestnuts and apple cider swam beguilingly on the air. Vivid splashes of colour dotted the Hill as gaily clad hobbits toiled up to the top, pulling sleds behind them, and then streaked down to the bottom again with shrieks of delight.

The entire village of Hobbiton had declared a holiday, the better to enjoy the rare heavy snowfall that had transformed their home into a winter wonderland. Walks had been shovelled and lanes cleared, and now it was time for fun. From the youngest child to the eldest gaffer, no one wanted to be left out of the merriment, even if it meant bundling up so that only the tip of a pink-tinged nose or a pair of rosy cheeks could be seen.

Rosie Gamgee and her daughter Elanor supervised the food, handing out mug after mug of mulled cider and cloth-wrapped bundles of hot chestnuts along with thick slices of iced spice cake. Mayor Gamgee kept a weather eye on the sledders, picking up and dusting off little ones who tumbled from their sleds, or giving them pig-a-back rides back up the Hill with limitless patience and endurance.

Behind them Bag End stood like a proud grandparent, observing the play with its snow-rimed windows, whilst the smoke from its chimneys, climbing in lazy white wizard-curls to the sky, served as a gentle reminder that a warm refuge from the cold was ready and waiting when the festivities were over.

At a little distance from the mallorn-tree, nine children were playing a game of their own invention in the company of a shaggy chestnut pony.

'I'll be Aragorn,' said Frodo Gamgee. 'You can be Boromir, Merry.' Frodo-lad, who looked rather astonishingly like a younger version of his father, thoughtfully contemplated the other children, who waited eagerly for his verdict. 'You'll be Legolas, Rose, and Pippin, you can be Gandalf. Goldilocks will be Gimli, Hamfast is Frodo, Daisy is Merry, Primrose is Pippin, and Bilbo is Sam-dad.'

'Samwise,' corrected Rose, who was a stickler for precision, especially in any matters relating to the Red Book. 'He wasn't Sam-dad on Caradhras, Frodo.'

'Very true,' Frodo said. 'Then Bilbo, you'll be Samwise. And Bill the Second will be Bill the First.' He clapped his mittened hands. 'All right, everyone get ready.'

Pippin picked up a tall wooden staff and put a wide brimmed pointy grey felt hat on his curly head. It was a little on the large side and had a tendency to slide down over his eyes. Rose-lass strapped a pair of wicker snowshoes to her feet. Goldilocks scrambled onto broad back of the placid Bill, who took after his sire in more than looks.

They knew their dialogue verbatim, for their father had read it to them many times, gathered round the sitting room fire after supper. It was by no means the first time they had re-enacted a scene from the Red Book, but the first time the escape from Caradhras was possible, for such a large amount of snow had never fallen in their lifetimes. Frodo was, as usual, their leader and organiser, Elanor being now old enough to take on more adult responsibilities, such as helping their mother with the food and drink.

'Well, when heads are at a loss bodies must serve, as we say in my country. The strongest of us must seek a way,' 'Boromir' declaimed.

'Then let us force a path thither, you and I!' 'Aragorn' replied.

Together the two boys, on their knees so that the snow was breast-high, began to push their way toward the mallorn, forging a path through the snow with their arms. Rose watched them with a smile and then she said, 'The strongest must seek a way, say you? But I say: let a ploughman plough, but choose an otter for swimming, and for running light over grass and leaf, or over snow - an Elf.'

With not perhaps quite the lightness of an Elf, Rose set out, the snowshoes holding her up on the snow. 'Farewell!' she cried dramatically. 'I go to find the Sun!' And off she sped, easily outstripping her brothers, as once a Woodland Elf had done to two stalwart Men.

In truth, she did not go far, just behind the tree, whose girth was more than sufficient to hide her from sight, as well as Frodo and Merry when they reached the spot where she'd halted. They didn't remain long, a few minutes only, for they knew that their siblings were anxious to play their parts in the snowy drama, too, and an hour was far too long to keep them waiting.

Feeling very much like their human counterparts on the mountain, Frodo-lad and Merry toiled in Rose's wake, widening the path they'd created. But the exertion kept them warm; indeed, by the time they returned to the waiting Hobbits, Wizard and Dwarf, they were sweating.

'Well,' 'Legolas' cried, rather out of breath herself if truth be told even though she walked on top of the snow. 'I have not brought the Sun. She is walking in the blue fields of the South, and a little wreath of snow on this Redhorn hillock troubles her not at all. But I have brought back a gleam of good hope for those who are doomed to go on feet. There is the greatest wind-drift of all just beyond the turn, and there our Strong Men were almost buried. They despaired, until I returned and told them that the drift was little wider than a wall. And on the other side the snow suddenly grows less, while further down it is no more than a white coverlet to cool a hobbit's toes.'

'Ah, it is as I said,' Goldilocks said in her best Dwarvish growl. 'It was no ordinary storm. It is the ill will of Caradhras. He does not love Elves and Dwarves, and that drift was laid to cut off our escape.'

'But happily your Caradhras has forgotten that you have Men with you,' panted 'Boromir', coming up. 'And doughty Men too, if I may say it; though lesser men with spades might have served you better. Still, we have thrust a lane through the drift; and for that all here may be grateful who cannot run as light as Elves.'

'But how are we to get down there, even if you have cut through the drift?' said 'Pippin' in a childish treble.

'Have hope!' said 'Boromir' stoutly. 'I am weary, but I still have some strength left, and Aragorn too. We will bear the little folk. The others no doubt will make shift to tread the path behind us. Come, Master Peregrin! I will begin with you.' Merry lifted his little sister. 'Cling to my back! I shall need my arms.'

Frodo-lad picked up Daisy, and the boys set out again, huffing and puffing but determined, with Rose walking alongside, giving them encouragement. They set 'Merry' and 'Pippin' down, and the children waited with 'Legolas' whilst Merry and Frodo-lad went back and fetched 'Sam' and 'Frodo', accompanied by 'Gandalf' leading Bill, on whose back perched a most adorable, if un-Dwarf-like, 'Gimli'.

It was, alas, impossible for them to replicate Caradhras's last rumbling assault as 'Frodo' was set down, but Rose did her best, scooping up several armfuls of snow and flinging it at the others.

'Enough, enough!' cried 'Gimli', blinking and brushing at the snow on her face. 'We are departing as quickly as we may!'

'Does that mean we can go by the bonfire now? I'm cold,' 'Frodo' complained.

'Frodo of the Ring never complained,' Rose said severely, but she lifted Hamfast gently and carried him over to Bill. Her voice softened as she said, 'Up you get, Ham. You ride with Goldi. Now come on, everyone, it's time for cider and cake and a fire to warm our hands!'

'Hip hip hooray!' the children cheered, and Bill the Second whinnied.

And right then, as if playing its role in the game, the grey clouds parted and a ray of sunlight broke through, falling directly on the youthful Company and their faithful beast of burden.

Sam Gamgee, seated on a sled at the top of the Hill, preparing to take a final ride in the company of his eldest daughter, whom he'd spirited away from her duties, saw the westering sun shine on the procession of brightly dressed children and their pony crossing the snowy field. A shaft of memory, piercing and pure, touched him and a tender smile quirked his lips as he thought that they looked for all the world like the Fellowship climbing Caradhras, in days long gone but never forgotten.