Notes: For the 2012 B2MeM Bingo prompt Crossover: War Movie. This is a crossover with the movie (not the book) War Horse. Definitely helps to have seen the movie first. Warning: contains rampant Disney-style sentimentality, a ridiculous story line filled with cliches, over the top romance, etc. I make no apologies!
Samwise Gamgee cried bitterly the day his Gaffer sold his beloved Bill to the Brandybucks as a war pony. Sam had raised the chestnut with the broad white blaze and four white socks from the time he was a foal, and they shared a unique bond. Sam taught him tricks and to come at a whistle like the hoot of an owl, and together they roamed free over the countryside - until the Goblin-war and his father's greed tore them apart.
'Let me go with him,' Sam begged, but he was told that he was too young to enlist.
'I promise you, Samwise, that I will take as good care of him as you would,' said Captain Meriadoc Brandybuck, who had purchased Bill to be his mount. 'If fortune blesses us, I will return him to you when the war is over.'
'Bye-bye, Bill,' Sam whispered, his tears dripping onto Bill's flaxen mane. 'Take care of yourself now. I'll be waiting for you when you get home.'
But instead of Bill, a letter arrived at the village some months later. It contained a drawing of Bill done by Captain Brandybuck, along with the sad news that the Captain had been slain by a Goblin's arrow. As soon as he read the letter, Sam decided that, too young or no, he was going to join the hobbit-army and find Bill and bring him home where he belonged. He would simply lie about his age, and so he did.
Sam's mother wept the day he left Hobbiton, with just a pack slung over his shoulders and an old sword in a battered scabbard that had been his father's hanging from his belt. The Gaffer, though secretly proud of his son, only grunted, and said that Samwise would undoubtedly live up to his name and come to a bad end.
After completing basic training in Tuckborough, Private Sam Gamgee was sent with other new recruits to the front lines down at the southern border of the Shire, where the great Goblin army was entrenched. It was a terrible place after the months of war, all muck and mire, and the ferocious Goblin and warg attacks went on seemingly night and day. Everywhere Sam went he looked for Bill, but he didn't find him. Often he took out the drawing that Captain Brandybuck had done, and wondered if he would ever set eyes on his beloved pony again. Yet somehow he knew, with a certainty that passed all knowledge, that Bill was still alive.
Sam's steadiness in battle and his skill with cooking and herbs soon brought him to the notice of his superiors. One day he was summoned to the tent of his Sergeant, Tolman Cotton. 'Private,' the Sergeant said, 'you're being reassigned to serve as Batman to a Captain Baggins of the Thain's Guards. Please report for duty immediately.'
Sam reported for duty, and one look into Captain Baggins's blue eyes inspired a devotion quite equal to that Sam felt for Bill. His heart, Sam discovered, had room for another.
Captain Frodo Baggins was not only handsome, but smart, kind and brave, with a nobility of spirit that shone like a candle in the darkness. He gave no thought to himself or his safety, and so Sam made it his business to care for and protect him. Sometimes, when Captain Baggins thanked him in his gentle voice and smiled at him, Sam felt dizzy. Before many days had passed, Sam realised that he had fallen deeply and irrevocably in love with Frodo Baggins.But he never forgot for a moment his beloved Bill, or his hope of being reunited with him. Every chestnut-coloured officer's mount or pony pulling a cart filled with supplies or wounded hobbits that Sam saw caused his heart to leap with hope, only to be disappointed.
'Don't give up hope, Sam,' said Frodo, to whom Sam had confided his story. 'You'll find your Bill, I'm sure of it.'
Time wore on, and the war with it. Frodo barely slept, feeling it was his duty, as he told Sam, to set an example for the hobbits under his command. He was worn almost to skin and bone, but his blue eyes blazed in his thin face, and everywhere he went, hobbits were inspired to continue the fight.
The deciding battle was fought on a grey, dreary day in March. One last, coordinated assault on the Goblin hosts was planned, and every hobbit involved understood that if they failed, it could mean the downfall and conquering of the Shire by the enemy. As they prepared to charge, their thoughts turned to their loved ones - wives, children, parents - and what would befall them should the Goblins triumph. Grim indeed were their faces and fell the look in their eyes as they gripped their weapons.
Frodo led the assault, his sword Sting raised in his outthrust arm, and Sam was at his back. Straight into the Goblin ranks they charged, and the fighting was fast and furious. At first the Goblins seemed to be prevailing, but then slowly they began to fall back and retreat before the rain of arrows and the fierce swordplay of the courageous hobbitry, until at last the leaders turned tail and ran.
'We've done it, Sam,' said Frodo breathlessly, wiping his brow with his sleeve, and then suddenly out of the gloom a hideous snarling face appeared behind him: a Goblin with arm upraised. A glint of sharp knife edge gleamed as its arm slashed downward, but before the knife could complete its deadly arc, with a desperate shout of 'Frodo!' Sam threw himself at his captain, pushing him out of the way. An excruciating pain exploded in Sam's head, and he knew no more.
The healers assured Sam that he would regain his sight in time, but Sam found it difficult to care. The great victory over the Goblin army meant little to him, for Bill was still unaccounted for, and as for Frodo... They'd broken the news to him as gently as they could, but gentleness counted for naught before the terrible truth that his captain was dead. A blackness came over him then, and he descended into delirium that nearly cost him his life.
Eventually he began to recover, and one day Sam's old Sergeant Tolman Cotton and his brother Jolly came to visit. They pushed him in a wheeled chair outside the hospital tent into the spring sunshine, and though he still couldn't see, Sam couldn't help but feel a surge of hope at the touch of the warm sun on his face.
'Poor creature,' remarked Tom, and Sam thought for a moment he meant him, but then Jolly added, 'I reckon they'll have to put him down. He's naught but skin and bones, and look at his legs - all cut up. Too bad he fell into the clutches of the Goblins. 'Tis a miracle he survived, pulling their nasty unnatural machinery through the mud.'
'What are you talking about?' asked Sam. For some odd reason, his heart was beating faster.
'That pony over there,' said Tom. 'They found him collapsed in the traces and thought he must be dead, but he raised his head and whinnied and they got him to his feet and brought him to the camp. But he doesn't look like lasting long,' he added with a note of deep pity in his voice.
'Describe him for me,' Sam begged.
'He's chestnut with a broad white blaze and four white stockings,' said Jolly.
'The off-hind stocking,' Sam said, beginning to tremble, 'is it... is it higher on the outside and are there two red dots in the white just above the hoof?'
'I can't tell, Sam,' replied Jolly. 'There's mud up to his fetlocks.'
Sam raised his shaking hands to his mouth, set his thumbs to his lips and blew a whistle like the hoot of an owl. He was trembling all over now, as if seized by an ague, and his heart nearly failed him when there was no response. Then he heard it: a familiar answering whinny. Tears began soaking the bandages around his eyes. He blew again, and again he was answered by a joyful whinny. Someone exclaimed, 'He's broken loose!' and the next moment a soft whiskery muzzle touched Sam's face.
'Bill,' Sam said, cradling the pony's bony head in his arms, 'oh Bill-lad, I've found you at last!'
Sam regained his sight the very next day after being reunited with his Bill, and from that time on, he devoted himself body and soul to Bill. The pony soon grew strong again, and it was love more than any food or medicine that was responsible for his recovery.
They returned home together on a bright summer day, and Bell Gamgee, who had thought never to see her son again, swept him into her arms and wept. The Gaffer allowed gruffly as how he was right glad to see that Sam hadn't come to a bad end after all, though his looks hadn't improved any, and then he snuffled, blew his nose noisily and complained of ragweed.
It should have been the happiest time of Sam's life. The Goblins had been defeated, the Shire was at peace, and Bill was glossy and round once more. But Sam was aware of an oppression of his spirits that nothing could alleviate. His mind dwelled often on a pair of bright blue eyes in a thin pale face, and how many tears he wept into his pillow each night was a secret he told only to his faithful Bill.
Autumn arrived in a blaze of scarlet and gold, and Sam was kept busy in the fields with the harvest. He welcomed the physical labour, for it helped him to sleep. One evening, as the sun was setting over the western hills, Sam was working in the potato patch when he experienced a sudden strange compunction to look up, as if at the command of some unheard voice. He straightened and shielded his eyes with his hand, and there at the top of the hill, silhouetted against the sun, was the figure of a hobbit: slender and holding a walking stick in one hand.Though he couldn't make out the stranger's face, Sam recognised him at once. It was Frodo Baggins. Even as his mind told him it was impossible, that he had to be mistaken or hallucinating, his heart said otherwise. Yet he remained immobile, like one struck by some spell.
'Sam!' Frodo yelled, waving his arm over his head and starting to walk towards him.
Sam dropped his fork and ran.
As he drew near, Sam saw that Frodo was leaning on his walking stick and limping. But he was alive. Incredibly, Frodo was alive! In the delirium of joy that knowledge brought, all thought of rank, propriety and station flew straight out of Sam's mind.
'Oh Frodo!' he exclaimed jubilantly when he reached him, and threw his arms around him, lifting him quite off his feet in his exuberance.
If Frodo minded, he certainly didn't show it. He dropped his stick and wrapped his arms tightly around Sam's neck and so they remained for a very long time.
'They told me you were dead,' Sam said when at last they separated, but only to hands' length.
'My poor Sam,' Frodo said, understanding, and stroked his cheek. 'But they thought I was dead at first. After you fell unconscious, that goblin came after me. He managed to stab me in the leg before I slew him, and there must have been some poison on the knife blade for I fell into a coma so deep that when we were found, they assumed I had been killed.' He shuddered. 'I wandered a long time in darkness and evil dreams, Sam.'
'And without your Sam beside you.' Sam blinked back hot tears. 'But why did they let me go on thinking you were dead?'
'They sent me home, as they thought, to be buried. It wasn't until I was back in Bag End that I woke up, and then I was ill for a very long time.' Frodo smiled at him, the same gentle, loving smile that had won Sam's heart in the midst of battle. 'I came to find you as soon as I was able.'
'You came to find me. Will wonders ever cease?'
'Here is something else for you to wonder at,' said Frodo, and pulled Sam into his arms and kissed him.
Later, Frodo asked Sam if he had ever found out what happened to Bill. For answer, Sam raised his cupped hands to his mouth, set his thumbs against his lips and blew a whistle like the hoot of an owl. A loud whinny rang out, and Bill came running across the fields, his flaxen mane and tail streaming in the wind.
And so Sam Gamgee stood on the hill in the sunset, with Bill on one side and Frodo on the other, and knew his life complete.