Once there was a gardener who lived near the Hill, at the southern border of the Bindbole Wood. He had a huge garden of vegetables which he tended with care. He was known for his pumpkins which always won prizes at Harvest Faires. Luckily, he also had a wife who was a very talented in turning the veggies into tasty meals. Then came a summer, a very chilly one. The pumpkins could also feel the cold, and they decided not to grow that much. The gardener was horrified. "What about the Harvest prizes?" he thought. "I won't win a thing with these little droppings!" He fought the coldness in any way he could think of. He asked her wife to knit woolly caps and scarves for the veggies. He poured warm tea on them and even served them some brandy. But it was all for nought: the veggies didn't grow. The gardener felt forlorn. One day he was so grumpy, he stormed out from his garden and trotted into the Bindbole Wood. Finally, he reached a stream and decided to wash his feet in the fresh water. As he did it, he thought of his veggies and shed a tear which dropped into the streaming water. Then, he heard a strange, distant voice. "Oh, little one, what is your sorrow? What is making you weep?" The gardener jumped up. "Who is speaking? S-show yourself, rascal!" "It is me, the Spirit of the Stream, ancient as the Mother Earth," the voice replied. "Tell me what troubles you so, and I will offer my help." The gardener looked into the flowing waters, still confused. When he was sure that it wasn't just a silly prank, he cleared his throat and answered: "My harvest is threatened by this cold summer. I... Could you please help, er, dear Spirit?" "With pleasure", the Spirit replied merrily. "Just take water from the stream and give it to your plants. It will help them grow." Then the voice was gone and spoke no more. Later that day, the forest creatures watched with amazement as the gardener hopped through the forest carrying large water barrels. He poured all the water over one of his pumpkins. Then he waited. And waited. And... One morning, he woke up to the sound of a loud scream. He jumped out of his bed and ran into his garden from where the screaming had come from. "I hope it's not one of them tweens, trying to steal my veggies," he muttered as he entered the garden. Then he saw it and let out a loud scream himself! Her wife was standing there, right in front of a pumpkin which was was big as a standard burrow! Needless to say, the pumpkin won all the prizes at that year's Faire. The gardener was quite proud of himself, but he didn't tell anything about the Spirit's help. "If I tell anyone, they will use the same trick too," he thought. "Can't have that!" Next year, the summer was awfully hot. The veggies were in agony again (so to say). "No matter," the gardener thought, "I will just go and fetch some water from that stream." And so he did. In the middle of the night, he sneaked to the stream. But when he tried to fill his barrel, the voice spoke. "Are you asking for my help again, little one?" it asked. "Oh, well... It has been a very ho-hot s-summer," the gardener explained. "I know," the Spirit said. "I will help you, but this time, it has a price." "I... I understand. What is it?" the gardener asked. "Three years from now, you will bring me your most precious harvest of all time." The gardener was revealed. "Sounds like a Faire Prize... A fair price, I mean!" Trying to keep himself from saying more stupidities, he filled his barrel and trotted away. The stream watched him go, patient as ever. Back in his garden, the gardener watered ALL his plants. When the harvest came, the garden was bursting with giant-sized veggies. The folks got suspicious. "What on Middle-earth is he feeding those veggies?" "Maybe he purchased fertilizer from the wizard, what was his name..." Well, the gardener won each and every prize at the Faire and sold the veggies to the hungry mayor, earning a lot of coins. Then, the sweetest thing happened: the gardener became a father. When he held the baby girl in his lap for the first time, his wife said: "You have won many prizes at the Harvest Faire, but isn't this the most precious harvest of all time?" The gardener's eyes widened, as he remembered the Spirit's words: "Three years from now, you will bring me your most precious harvest of all time." He was horrorstruck. Did the stream want to have his little baby girl? "I won't let anyone take her!" he thought. "I will make sure that the girl never enters that forest and never goes to that cursed stream!" Years passed, and the father kept an eye or two on the little girl. But as you know, sometimes even the sharpest of eyes cannot catch a little hasty hobbit lass when she's up to no good. One day, the gardener was too focused on his plantings, and the little girl got away. "The stream!" the gardener shouted and dashed into the forest, and to the stream, still holding a pitchfork in his hand. There, by the stream, a terrible sight awaited. Her little baby was sitting there on the ground, and a huge wolf was facing her! Given that the wolf looked rather hungry, there was no time to waste. The gardener dashed forward, screaming as loud and fierce as he could. The wolf growled, but not for long, as the gardener smacked its mouth with his pitchfork. The wolf backed up and spit some pieces of teeth out of his mouth. Then it ran away, looking slightly embarrassed. The gardener took the crying baby into his arms and looked at the stream. "Take what you will, but leave my baby in peace!" he shouted, still trembling. "Little one," the stream replied with a calm voice. "I see many things, ancient as I am." "A few years ago, you only cared about your precious plants and trivial prizes." "But in the end, all the success and rewards mean nothing." "True happiness comes from other things, little one." The gardener looked baffled. "So this was just a lesson? Didn't you want my baby at all?" "As I said," the stream replied, "I see many things." "I also foresaw this: the wolf, your child and you." "But... How?" This was too much to comprehend for the simple gardener. "I only wanted you to take care of your dearest," the Spirit said. "May your days be full of joy," it said and spoke no more. Alas, the gardener continued his happy family life. No longer he did he care about the Harvest Faire prizes. For his most precious harvest was growing fairer each year... Which was quite magical. The end.