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Ancestress  by Dreamflower

Prologue: Behind the Rumour

Far back in time, at the beginning of the Third Age, a new race awakens. They are among the Secondborn, their fëar mortal. Akin to Men, each of them one day will accept the Gift of Ilúvatar and journey beyond the Circles of Arda. But though they are closer kin to Men than to the immortal Firstborn, they are not Men.

They are small, smaller even than the Dwarves. Their ears are pointed like those of Elves, for they will need keen hearing. Their feet are tough and covered with warm curly hair, so that they may go about the earth unshod. They are meant to be attuned to nature, and keeping their contact with the earth will help.

The Creator keeps this young race secret from all save two: He asks Nienna to bless them with compassion. They are not to be a warrior race, bloodthirsty, greedy and ambitious. They may grow fierce in defense of those they love, but it will take much to rouse that fierceness. They will not love violence, and the spilling of blood will not be a sport for them--though they will hunt for food. To Nienna, He confides that compassion and Pity will be their biggest weapon.

And he asks Yavanna to watch over them. She alone observes them as they waken to the world: so small and childlike, with a sense of joy and wonder that captivates her. She sees that they love nature and growing things, and she intensifies that love, so that the plants they nurture and the fields they till will thrive. And she sees that they will be vulnerable to the bigger and more warlike folk who are already in the world. Already they move quietly and quickly; this ability she also increases, so that they may hide easily.

She can give them no protection from those who are already under the sway of Darkness, but to them she grants something a little extra: a bit of charisma, so that they will be easily beloved when they are encountered by Free Folk. When Man or Elf or Dwarf encounter one of these little people, they will find their hearts stirred to protect them and will easily befriend them. This will be an advantage to them when they must deal with bigger folk.

And she notices one among them one who seems taller and fairer than his companions, and to him, she grants even more of this extra charisma, for she knows that from him will spring the leaders of this small people. His clan are called “Fallohide”, for their fairness.

And she sets one of her people, Mirimë, her handmaiden and a Maia, to watch over this small people and see that they thrive.

They call themselves "hole-builders", soon to become "hobbits".

Mirimë watches as they begin to form communities, building their homes by burrowing in the earth. They are not given to governance, but instead form family units, with the oldest couple being the patriarch and matriarch of their clan. And one clan (the Fallohides) are the chief family--though they do not rule the others, but are simply looked to for advice during times of difficulty. In time, she finds herself becoming enamoured of one of those Fallohides, Tûk, who will one day be the chief of the Fallohide clan. Much like Melian, she encounters him in a form similar to his own (though far more beautiful than any maiden of his own kind) and he is smitten with her immediately. However, they do not spend years standing in a trance staring at one another--Tûk is only mortal, after all. Still, she takes him as her husband, and she becomes the mother of his children. She remains with him as long as he lives, but after his death she returns to her true form. This is the truth behind the "fairy-wife" mentioned in The Hobbit.

The little hole-builders make their first tentative contacts among the Big Folk in Rhovanion, (giving rise to later legends of holbytlan long years later in another land) but they remain shy for the most part. A little over a thousand years from their first awakening, some of the Fallohides who are more adventurous than others, begin to migrate to the West, journeying into Eriador. And a family of Stoors, from a family somewhat *less* gifted with charisma than the others and also somewhat less hobbity in nature--for they have a tendency to quarrelsomeness, also begin to journey to the West. The Fallohides' trek leads them to Eriador, but the Stoors take a more southerly route and many of them end up in Dunland.

In time, some Stoor and Harfoot families join the Fallohides who have begun to make friends with both Men and Elves. The hobbits end up in Bree, where they are welcomed. A few generations later a family of Stoors quarrels with the other hobbits. They pack up and return in the direction of the Wilderland.

In TA 1599, two Fallohide brothers, Marcho and Blanco, render a service to King Argeleb II. The King is quite taken with them, and in 1601, as a reward he grants them the lands beyond the Baranduin which will become the Shire.

Many hobbits accompany them to their new home, and gradually the Shire is settled.


A Meeting on Tol Eressëa

Frodo and Bilbo were enjoying elevenses on the terrace of their little apartment in Elrond’s new home.

Frodo poured out more tea for Bilbo, and leaned back to take a sip of his own. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply of the sea-tangy air, and felt the Sun on his face. He was on the verge of dozing off, when a voice jerked him awake.

“My dear Bagginses!”


The two hobbits turned in delight to see their old friend, a frequent visitor to their little home, and were startled into silence at the sight of the one who accompanied him.

She was lovely, of course, more beautiful than any Elven maid, tall and radiant.

Gandalf gestured. “Frodo, Bilbo, my ‘sister’ Mirimë.”

She took one step towards Frodo, staring at him in astonishment, and said: “Tûk? But his eyes were brown.”

Frodo had risen without knowing it, and now felt his breath catch. He had not noticed Bilbo struggle to his feet, and was surprised to hear him speak.

“My lady, we are of Tookish descent. How do you know this?”

She gave a blinding smile, and then she grew smaller and smaller. Without losing any of her beauty, she grew rounder, her glistening dark copper hair grew curlier, and Frodo noticed that her feet were those of a hobbit.

He watched in speechless astonishment, as her curls became shot with silver, and lines of laughter appeared on her face, and those of sorrow as well. Her eyes were changing as the sea, turning from grey, to green, to blue. There was something very familiar in her face.

She took a second step, and held out her hands to them both.

“My name is Mirimë. Tûk called me ’Adamanta’; but you may call me ‘Grandmother’.”

Gandalf’s laughter rang out.


Tea with Grandmother

Somehow it seemed the most natural thing in the world, that all of them would sit down together to have tea.

Frodo gazed at Mirimë, perplexed. Who did she remind him of, he wondered? When she laughed, he thought perhaps it was his mother, for his clearest memory of his mother was her laugh, high and light and warm. But when her eyes seemed to take a greenish cast, he thought she was like his Aunt Esmeralda, who had always seemed to study his face as though she were looking for something there. And then, a stray curl blew down into her eyes, and she blew it away with a little puff from the side of her mouth, just the way Pervinca Took had always done. And the arch of her brow made him think of his Aunt Dora…

“Who are you, really?” Frodo asked, not actually knowing himself what he meant by the question.

“Frodo!” exclaimed Bilbo, as though he were a youngster who had committed some breach of manners.

She smiled, and the dimple that appeared reminded Frodo of Pippin’s Diamond. “Once, I was the handmaiden of Yavanna Kementári. She gave me the task of watching over a young race of small people when they first awoke.”

“Hobbits,” Bilbo said, leaning his elbows on the table and cupping his chin in his hands.

“And so I watched them, and none knew I was there, until one day I noticed a comely young Fallohide, fair of face, with dark curls and laughing brown eyes, clever and proud, and like my sister Melian, I found myself enspelled by one of the Children of Ilúvatar.”

“But Melian loved Thingol, a King of Elves, beautiful and immortal!” Frodo exclaimed.

“And I loved a hobbit, my Tûk, beautiful and mortal,” she said proudly.


The Tookish Inquisition

Bilbo offered Adamanta (as Frodo had decided to call her, for he could not think of her as Mirimë in this form, and he was blessed if he could think of her as Grandmother!) more tea and cakes. She sipped her tea with a sigh of contentment.

"Tell me of Tûk's people. Olórin-- Gandalf-- told me some things about what hobbits did over the years, yet I would know what family think, and how my children turned out. Tell me of the Shire."

Frodo wanted to ask his own questions. Was she really the mother of all Tooks? He could tell Bilbo felt the same, yet both of them were constrained by courtesy to answer her questions first.

And questions she had. She wanted to know the Took family tree, and all its branches among the Brandybucks, Bagginses, Boffins, Bolgers, Chubbs, Grubbs and Proudfeet. She smiled smugly when Bilbo told her that his grandmother was named Adamanta, and chuckled when Frodo added that his cousin Peregrin was as good as betrothed to a lass named Diamond.

Frodo soon found his own well of genealogical knowledge running dry when he had scarcely gone back to Isumbras IV. Bilbo however was made of sterner stuff, and was able to go all the way back to Marcho and Blanco and the beginning of the Shire. Sometimes she would turn her gaze upon Gandalf, and ask "Why did you not tell me of that?"

By the time tea was finished, Frodo felt exhausted, and hoped to ask her a few questions.

She put her teacup down at last, saying, "This has been delightful. I look forward to visiting again soon." She rose, putting her hand on Gandalf's shoulder. "Thank you," she murmured, and then she left.

Frodo and Bilbo exchanged a look of stunned dismay.


The Wizard's Confession, part 1

Frodo noticed that Gandalf looked just as surprised as he and Bilbo felt at the abrupt departure of their guest. He gave Gandalf a rather annoyed glance. "Well, now I know what you meant when you said that you knew more about hobbits' origins than hobbits did themselves! Were you ever planning on telling us any of this?"

Gandalf chuckled, and shook his head. "It was not quite like that, my friends. When I came to Middle-earth, I lost much of my knowledge and memories. When it was necessary for my task, I would remember and know what it was I needed. But often the knowledge was no more than a feeling.

But Mirimë had called me aside, after I had finally been persuaded to my task, when I had assumed this form. She told me much the same tale as she told you two this very day."

The first time I encountered hobbits, I had a feeling of kinship to them, to their Pity, and their love for the land and for all that is green and growing. But I did not remember Mirimë. Yet when I met Gerontius and heard for the first time the tale of the 'Took fairy wife', it had a ring of truth to me. I then spent much time looking into the history of your people."

"But you remember now?" asked Bilbo, pausing to fill and light his pipe. He offered his pouch first to Gandalf and then to Frodo, and soon the three were puffing away together.

"I am grateful to Samwise for his gift of seeds," said Gandalf. "I never thought I would have a supply of Longbottom Leaf after we sailed."

"Nevermind that," said Frodo, blowing a smoke-ring. "What did Mirimë say of hobbits before you came to Middle-earth?"


The Wizard's Confession, part 2

Gandalf gave Frodo a wry look, and blew his own smoke ring.

"I went to the garden of Lórien, to farewell my Master and my Lady. There I saw Mirimë. Once she had been Yavanna Kementári's handmaiden, often gone to Ennor on errands for her Mistress. She had returned long ago, much saddened in her demeanor. It was then she changed her allegiance, at Yavanna's urging, to my Lady of Sorrows, Nienna.

'Ólorin, May I speak with you? I know of your errand to the East.'

I nodded. So we spoke, and she told me her story, how she had watched over a small group of mortals and fallen in love with one of them. I suppose I should have been shocked, for only Melian had made a match with one of the Children of Ilúvatar, so far as I knew. And opinion was yet divided over whether that had been a good thing or a bad.

Yet I was not surprised. The Mirimë I had known of old had been merry and generous of heart, and I could understand how she could love one who was of like nature. When she spoke of him, her voice was tender, and I knew she loved him still.

'I may have family there, Ólorin. We had children. I bore my Tûk six sturdy sons and six bonnie daughters. I know in my heart that some of their descendants must still live. If you can learn what has become of them, I will forever be grateful.'

This did shock me. Even Melian had but one child!

Although I was stunned, I promised to learn what I could, should my own task allow me the chance. I reckoned not that I would forget much of what I knew when I arrived in the West."


Chip the Glasses and Smash the Plates!

Their guests gone, Frodo and Bilbo gathered up the tea things for washing up, and carried them into the small kitchen which was a part of their rooms.

Bilbo was smiling. He seemed very pleased with himself. Frodo glanced at his cousin, and shook his head. He was more perplexed than pleased, himself. He still had a great many questions he would have liked to have had answered.

Bilbo washed the dishes and handed them to Frodo for drying.

"What did you think of what Lady Mirimë told us?" Frodo asked, for Bilbo had not yet said anything of their guest at all.

Bilbo turned and grinned at him. "She's a very attractive hobbitess, don't you think? Did you notice her eyes?"

A saucer slipped from Frodo's grasp and smashed upon the floor as he gaped at Bilbo, dismayed.

Bilbo laughed heartily. "Oh blessed stars, Frodo! You should have seen your face. I was only pulling your foot hair-- she's our great-grandmother, for goodness' sake!"

Frodo stared for an instant, and then laughed ruefully, as he looked down at the smashed crockery. "I'm sorry, Uncle, but you quite startled me!"

"So I see. Go fetch the broom, Frodo, and we'll see to cleaning this up. Thank goodness these dishes are not family heirlooms."

Chagrined at having been cozened by Bilbo, Frodo came back and carefully swept up the shards into a dustpan and binned them. "Uncle Bilbo, what do you really think of her story?"

"I think, my lad, that we have not heard the end of it-- or her-- yet. My own Tookish curiousity is quite as roused as yours, but I have a feeling we will speak to Grandmother Adamanta again soon."

Frodo wished he could be as patient as his cousin. There was much to learn still.


Putting Off the Widow's Weeds

Mirimë resumed the form of the elleth which she had worn after returning to the West when she lost Tûk. It had felt so right and so natural to become Adamanta again when she met Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

She had been Adamanta the Bright, wife of Tûk, for scarcely threescore years and ten. It was barely a blink in all the long ages of Arda. Yet somehow that brief span, lived among mortals, had somehow come to be the most important part of her existence. She had returned to the Lady Yavanna, wretched and broken in her grief, for even Melian's sundering from Elwë Singollo was brief compared to the sundering which she would have from her hobbit.

The pain of their separation was compounded by the burning agony of fleeing West to her Lady, formless and undone in her grief. When she had arrived, she had collapsed at Yavanna's feet, returning without her will to her hobbit form, weeping incoherently. "What have you done, my child?" Mirimë had no answer but more tears.

She felt a cool hand upon her cheek, and looked up into eyes that read her story. "Ah! Mirimë, had I foreseen this I do not know if I could have had the heart to set you to your task. Yet Eru's will be done. None must see you this way."

She had been borne to Lórien, and there she was given over to Nienna. And over the course of the age, she had painfully learned to refrain from being Adamanta. But to stay long without physical form was still agonizing, and so she had become accustomed to walking as an Elf-maiden. None in the West save Lady Yavanna and Lady Nienna had ever seen her as Adamanta.

Until now.

Now she was free

Where Mercy, Love and Pity Dwell

Gandalf-- he still thought of himself more as Gandalf than Ólorin or any of his other names; would do so as long as his small friends remained in Arda-- strode off. He retained the form in which he spent so many years walking the length and breadth of Ennor. He had eaten and drunk, slept, sweated and smoked, been injured and been healed, in that form for so long. He died and was reborn in it. It was part of him. He was not constrained to it forever; he had accomplished his task. He still felt more comfortable this way.

He was unsurprised when Mirimë approached him, asking for an introduction to the hobbits. He had known she would seek him out once she heard of his return and of those who accompanied him. His memories of his life in the West, which had faded as he journeyed East, became clearer on the voyage home; he remembered his conversation with her. He had been disapproving, though he tried not to show her his reservations, he was certain that she had been perceptive enough to know his thoughts.

That was before he came to know hobbits himself. He recalled his first encounter with them, during the Long Winter. Perhaps it should have seem odd to him that in nearly a millenium-and-a-half of wandering, he had no more than brief encounters with this shy, elusive race. When he heard about them, it had seemed important for some reason, but the time had never seemed right to seek them out.

And then he had found them, three of them, half-starved, perishing with cold, yet they offered to share what meagre rations they had with him. His own heart had been lost then and there.

And when he returned, he understood Mirimë much better.


A/N: Title of this chapter taken from "The Divine Image", a poem by William Blake


Adamanta Calls Again

Bilbo had their rooms to himself this morning. Gandalf had taken Frodo to the Tower of Avallonë, where the Elendil Stone now was kept, alongside the Master-stone. Formerly it had been in the Tower of Elostirion and looked ever Westward. But now it afforded those who had come to the West from Middle-earth the solace of an occasional glimpse of their homes and loved ones. Bilbo had declined to go this time. The first time they went, shortly after their arrival, he became so winded, not even halfway up, that Gandalf had needed to carry him the rest of the way. He was of no mind to repeat the experience. As he had told Frodo afterward, "I may feel twenty years younger since we arrived here, but that still makes me old!"

Still he was glad Frodo went, especially since Gandalf told them it was Yuletide in the Shire. Time passed so strangely here that he and Frodo soon gave up trying to keep track of the days. "It's like Lothlórien," said Frodo, "only more so."

Now he wondered what to do with his unexpected solitude. Perhaps a bit of baking, to celebrate Yule? Or he could go to the family quarters and visit with Elrond and Celebrian for a while. As he pondered the question, there came a tap upon the door.

"Now who could that be? Not the S.-B.s, at any rate," he chuckled to himself, as he padded to answer it.

"Adamanta!" he exclaimed, smiling broadly. "What a pleasant surprise!"

"It is good to see you again. I hope you do not mind that I am paying a call?"

"Not at all! But I am afraid that Frodo is not here."

"I know; I saw him leave. But it is of him that I wished to speak."


A Walk in the Garden

Adamanta declined refreshment. Instead they walked in the gardens. They were still new to Bilbo; lush plants with large, brightly coloured blooms grew in abundance. He wondered what Samwise would make of this: the day would come when the gardener would have just such an opportunity. Bilbo smiled, imagining his face.

The two walked in silence, then Bilbo paused to breathe in the scent of a huge blossom in a shade of pink he had never thought possible in nature, then turned to face Adamanta. "What did you wish to say about Frodo?"

"Ólorin told me of Frodo's quest, and of his wounding, and that it was for his healing that he was brought here. I sense that he has already begun to heal, that he is losing his despair and gaining hope. But there is still something sorrowing him, and I do not believe it has to do with the Ring. He seems at a loss."

Bilbo nodded. "Frodo lost his parents when he was very young, and something went out of him then. Ever since, he found his own joy in the joy of others. His heart is large, and he loves deeply. He is moved by their happiness, not by his own. He loves me, of course-- I'm the closest thing to a father he has, but it's not enough. He loves Gandalf-- but Gandalf's joys are beyond a hobbit's comprehension. Most of all he misses those he thought of as younger brothers. He knows he won't be contributing to their happiness any longer, and he's found no one here to fill that void for him."

"I think he has felt the lack of a mother in his life."

Bilbo sighed. "His aunts tried their best, but..."

"It was too soon."

"It was."

"Perhaps I can help."


Chapter Eleven: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Frodo was so full of news and excitement when he arrived at home, talking of what he had seen going on in the Shire during his visit to the Stone, that it was some time before he finally came to a breathless stop.

Bilbo chuckled. "I swear, Frodo, you sounded almost like Pippin!"

Frodo blushed. "It was wonderful to see them," was the response. A hint of wistfulness touched his voice, now that the news had been shared he felt the sting again of not actually having been there with his cousins and Sam. He blinked at Bilbo and chuckled ruefully. "I suppose you had a nice quiet day then, Uncle?"

Bilbo raised one eyebrow, and smiled. "I had company. Adamanta called on me."

Frodo's jaw dropped. "Mirimë? And I missed seeing her!"

"If you had been here, you would have missed your chance to see the others at Yule. Besides, she was not here long-- but she invited herself to supper tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" Frodo leaned forward in dismay. "We will have to work quickly to--"

Bilbo interrupted him with a wave of his hand. "Actually, she proposes to cook for us. She says that it is something she has missed doing for a very long time. I believe she has in mind something with mushrooms. I told her if she wished to do so, we would be honoured, but that we would provide the bread and a salad course, and naturally the sweet for afters."

"Good heavens! That still leaves us with a good deal to do!" Frodo gave Bilbo a very sharp look. "Is there something going on I ought to know about, Uncle Bilbo?"

Bilbo laughed. "No, Frodo. But I do think that we will, at last, get a chance to ask some of our own questions."

 Chapter Twelve: Home Cooking

The meal had been wonderful. There had been Bilbo's marvelous bread and a trifle for afters. Frodo had made a salad of young spinach, with pears, dried berries, and nuts. But the crowning touch had been Adamanta's mushroom stew. Bilbo and Frodo had watched with pleasure as she bustled about, clearly knowing her way around a hobbit kitchen. The stew had been rich and savoury and most satisfying.

Bilbo leaned back and patted his stomach. "Adamanta, that was truly wonderful! I liked the addition of rosemary as well as thyme and parsley."

Frodo gave a smile of dreamy contentment. "I don't think I've had mushroom stew like that since I was a small child. My mother used to make it like that." He put his elbows on the table and his chin in his hands as he studied her. "You certainly cook like a hobbit."

She sat down and poured herself another cup of tea from the pot which still stood upon the table. "Tûk taught me how to cook."

Bilbo smiled. "He must have been a very good teacher."

"He was. He taught me all I needed to know about being a hobbit." Her smile grew distant, and her eyes for the moment were grey as she remembered. "I learned to appreciate the gifts of my mistress in a way I had never appreciated them before. Smell and taste, colour and life, food and drink, the joys of the hroa. My children were his gift to me." She paused and looked at Frodo intently. "Save for the eyes, you are very like him, Frodo."

Frodo ducked his head, abashed at her scrutiny. He felt as though she knew him rather more than their brief acquaintance would account for.

Then he looked up. "Mirimë, did he know who you were?"


Author's Note: 

Grandmother Adamanta's Mushroom Stew

1 large sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
½ stick of butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound of mushrooms (I use a mixture of common white button mushrooms and portobellas, but other varieties or even wild ones if available, would be good)
2 Tablespoons finely snipped fresh herbs* (Parsley, thyme, chives and rosemary are good, but you can combine them as you wish, or just use one. If you don't have fresh, just use a smaller quantity of dried.)
¼ cup of beef or vegetable broth or red wine
1 Tablespoon of flour
1 ½ cups of sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter and cook the onion. Clean the mushrooms, and then cut them into quarters if they are medium sized. (Cut smaller ones in half, and slice larger ones. The main thing is for all the pieces to be of a similar size so that they will cook evenly.) When the onion begins to turn golden, add the garlic and the mushrooms. Continue cooking over medium heat until mushrooms soften and begin to sweat their liquid. Then add the herbs. Slowly stir in the flour, and then the broth or wine. Turn the heat to low, and continue to keep warm until almost ready to serve. Just before serving, stir in the sour cream and raise the heat to medium. Once the sour cream is heated through, remove from heat and serve immediately.

*In order to snip fresh herbs, I put a quantity of washed and dried fresh herbs in a very small condiment bowl, and use the tips of my kitchen scissors to snip them up finely. Start with about twice as much as you mean to end up with, as the snipping reduces the volume.


And So It Begins...

"Yes," she said, sipping her tea. "But not from the beginning, although he was far too clever to believe I was just any hobbit lass."

Frodo and Bilbo both leaned forward. Perhaps they would finally begin to learn some of the answers to their own questions.

"My watch over the first few generations of hobbits gave me to understand some of their ways; the land in which they wakened was green and cool; gentle foothills that stood between the Great River, and the Great Greenwood, to the south of the Grey Mountains. There were few Men there, and the Elves of the Greenwood had their own business to be about. The hills were perfect for them to construct their holes-- warrens which each family made their own, presided over by the family head and his wife. Some there were, who preferred their holes near the Great River; they were fishers of skill, and alone among the hobbit-folk, they learned to swim and to paddle about in boats. Another clan, slighter than the others, but with remarkably large and well-furred feet preferred the gentler and lower slopes, where they planted orchards and gardens.

And then there were the Fallohides--fair of skin, dark of hair. They claimed one of the highest of the hills, and their burrows fairly filled it. But their skills were those of hunters and gatherers; though some among them kept small gardens, or tended flocks of sheep and goats. They would go out in small groups or even alone, armed with nothing but stones and sometimes slings. And they would return, not only with game, but with the bounty of their foraging: nuts, berries, roots, greens, and most prized of all--mushrooms. The boldest among them would even venture into the Greenwood. Tûk was the boldest of them all."


Encounter Among the Trees (part 1)

"I do not think I knew myself when my watching of his clan and his people turned to watching him; I often observed his little group of hunters when they set out on their quests to provide for their family-- I noted that they always returned with a bounty. They were never empty-handed. One day they had ventured beneath the eaves of the Greenwood. Five young hobbits, skilled with sling and stone, as well as sharp-eyed. Tûk set two of them gathering chestnuts, while the other two accompanied him with their slings, and they ventured a bit further into the forest.

I was aware that Tûk and his friends were being watched, by other eyes than mine: there were Elves in the trees above, observing the small intruders.

I watched the Elves. The Elves watched them. They were three, in Silvan garb, and they whispered among themselves. It was no effort to hear what they were saying.

"These halflings have come further into the wood than before."

"It is but a minor intrusion. They harm nothing; even when they hunt they use only stones and slings, and take no more than they must to feed their families. And they never take the larger game."

"Yet still it is a trespass. And they will continue to come further into our lands."

I still wonder what spirit of mischief moved me, but it was only a moment's thought to cause an Elven foot to slip-- just enough to make a sound.

Tûk's head snapped up, as did those of his companions. His hand went instantly to snatch a stone from his pouch.

"A squirrel?" asked one of his friends.

Tûk shook his head slightly, but continued to stare intently at the branches above him.

He raised his hand with the stone.


Encounter Among the Trees (part 2)

 “Daro! Stop!”

Tûk lowered his hand, but keeping the stone ready, as he searched the branches. His companions seemed fearful, but he seemed only wary.

One Elf dropped from the tree. The others remained above, but revealed themselves. Both of them had notched arrows to their bows, and I began to regret my interference. What if I had endangered the very folk I was supposed to protect?

“Who are you?” Tûk asked boldly. “Why are you watching us?”

“We are Elves of Greenwood the Great; we watch all who enter our realm.”

“My name is Tûk! My cousins and I did not know this forest belonged to anyone. We are simply foraging to feed our families.”

“I am Durdir. We are wardens of King Thranduil, whose forest this is. We have watched you, and I believe you meant no harm. You hunt only the small game and take only a little of the bounty the forest provides. I have the authority to give you leave to continue, though I warn you, there are other dangers than Elves beneath these trees! Do not venture too far into this wood, lest you encounter them.”

“Thank you for your warning, Durdir. We will keep it in mind! But I do not fear the forest.”

“No, I do not believe that you do. Still, be wary!” He launched himself back into the tree, where he and the others quickly vanished from the hobbits’ sight.

“Well, Cousin Tûk, that was interesting!” exclaimed one of the other hobbits.

Tûk smiled. “It was, Gamba. I wonder shall we see them again!”

I still watched the Elves. I could see they were as intrigued by the small folk as the small folk had been by the Elves. Perhaps my interference had worked out for the best after all.


I watched the Elves move away, as the hobbits decided they had done enough for one day, and started for home.  There was one thing that I must do, most especially now that the Elves knew of the hobbits’ existence and had spoken with them.

For one thing my Lady had stressed to me when she gave me the task of watching over the small people: they were by nature shy and modest, so that they would not seek out notoriety or fame or glory.  They were to be a race that flourished in obscurity, and most especially in these early days when they were still few in number.  For the skill of going unnoticed was to be their greatest asset.

When the Elves had gone some leagues back into the forest, I placed myself in their path, clothed in the form of the elleth that I used when first I was introduced to you.  But I allowed the light of my true nature to shine through, for I had a message that I wished them to take seriously.

They stopped, of course, astonished.  “My Lady!” they exclaimed, and began to kneel.

“Do not kneel,” I said, “for I am but a messenger and a guardian for my own Lady.  Today you have met and spoken with the periain who were in the wood.  I tell you that these little ones are under my protection for now.  But if knowledge of them becomes widespread too soon, they will be in danger.  Report them, as is your duty, to your King.  Aid them or not, as it pleases him.  But do not speak of them lightly among others, nor spread news of them abroad.”

Durdir and his companions nodded, and I vanished, knowing that the hobbits would now have extra protection.



Troubling Questions

Mirimë paused in her tale, and poured another cup of tea. “I have missed tea,” she said.

She glanced at the other two hobbits, who were gazing at her with rapt attention. Bilbo simply looked as though he wished her to continue, but Frodo had a little furrow in his brow, and his lips were pursed in thought.

“What troubles you so, Frodo?”

“You were set to guard hobbits, to watch over us.”

Mirimë nodded. “Yes, I was. It was my task to see that your people flourished and grew.”


“Because that was the task my Lady set for me.”

“And why did she set you that task?”

“She did not tell me that. Your people were small and defenseless; to me that was enough.”

“But why were we to be kept a secret?”

“Frodo!” Bilbo interrupted. “Frodo, it is scarcely polite to interrogate a guest so!”

Frodo glanced over at his cousin, and shook his head. “I do not mean to be impolite, Uncle Bilbo, but these are questions that need to be answered. What was so important about the hobbit race that they needed guardians? And why was there a need for secrecy?”

He looked once more at Mirimë’s changing eyes. She might look like an ordinary hobbit matron at the moment, but he could not quite forget that she was not any such thing.

“I think you already know the answer to those questions in your heart, Frodo. Why does it distress you so?”

Frodo gazed at her again, and then dropped his eyes. He sat there silent for a moment, and then rose from his chair. “Excuse me, Mirimë. Thank you for an excellent meal. Uncle Bilbo, I think I will retire now.”

He abruptly left the room, and Bilbo stared at him in dismay.

Chapter Eighteen: Memory

Frodo went into his room, throwing himself upon his bed.  Somewhere at the back of his mind, a voice chided him for his shocking breach of manners and lack of hospitality—it sounded rather like old Aunt Dora—but he pushed it away.  More than anything else at the moment he needed to think!

He was rather surprised at his strong reaction.  He thought he had come to terms with the notion that for some inexplicable reason, he and not another, had been chosen to bear the Ring.  But now many of those feelings he thought were gone came flooding back, along with memories…

…Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker.  In which case you were also meant to have it…Why was I chosen?...Such questions cannot be answered. You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess…but you have been chosen and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have…

His own voice seeming to come from far away >”I will take the Ring though I do not know the way.”

...this task is appointed for you, Frodo, and if you do not find a way, no one will…this is the hour of the Shire-folk…

…I fear the burden is laid upon you…

…It is a hard doom and a hopeless errand…

…Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still!

The same long tale, from before the First Age, from the singing of the world into being.  The Children of Ilúvatar, the Elves, and Men were in the Great Music, and the Dwarves were adopted as Children after Aulë created them; but what were hobbits but afterthoughts? 

The Shire-folk, his people, hobbits.  Had they never been anything more than pawns?




Chapter Nineteen: Time Out

Adamanta apologised and left soon after Frodo’s abrupt departure. “I am sorry that I distressed him.”

Bilbo shook his head. “I know what troubles him, though I do not know what I can say to make a difference.”

“Perhaps I may speak to him later, and set his mind at ease. Now that I have the company of other—of hobbits—once more, I do not wish to lose that again.”

After she left, Bilbo did the washing up. Frodo was no longer a tween, to need his chivvying and chiding. While he knew what questions were giving his younger cousin to think, those same questions did not disturb him in the way they disturbed Frodo. Bilbo knew he was less introspective than Frodo was.

Frodo did not emerge from his room that night, and the next morning, by mutual unspoken consent, the topic of Adamanta’s revelations was avoided. Instead, they spoke of visiting with Elrond and Celebrian in the family wing, and of taking a ramble along the shore later in the day. But neither of them believed the subject was closed.

When, a few days later, Gandalf arrived for a visit, Frodo was not home, having decided to spend his afternoon in Elrond’s library.

“Mirimë told me of Frodo’s reaction to her tale, “ said Gandalf, as the two old friends enjoyed a pipe in the back garden, where Bilbo and Frodo had first met Mirimë.

“He was very nearly rude to Adamanta.”

“You have not been here long. Frodo is healing, but his healing is not yet complete, and some things still disturb him because he understands them not.”

“I do not understand them,” said Bilbo, "and they do not disturb me!”

Gandalf chuckled. “You are a jewel among hobbits! I will have words with Frodo soon.”


Chapter Twenty: Gandalf Considers

Gandalf thought over his conversations with Mirimë and with Bilbo. He knew very well the sorts of questions Frodo would have; indeed, it was no surprise that they had occurred to a hobbit like Frodo.

Bilbo, of course, was as learned as his younger cousin—perhaps even more so, as he had studied the Elven tales far longer, both in the Shire and in Rivendell. But Bilbo was more accepting of things as they are, rather than as they could have been. The older Baggins seldom second-guessed his own decisions or regretted his past. His was a cheerful and optimistic nature, very Tookish, in fact. But he did worry about Frodo, perhaps because though he knew why Frodo’s temperament tended to melancholy and thoughtfulness, he did not really understand what to make of it.

Frodo was half Brandybuck, for one thing. And while Brandybucks were a practical clan, they also tended more than most hobbits to look to the future. Gandalf chuckled to remember Merry’s long watch over his older cousin—all to insure that in the event Frodo ever left the Shire, he could not give Merry the slip. Frodo’s loss of his parents at a young age had also had an effect, for it made Frodo only too aware of how easily life could drastically change in circumstances. Add to that his Tookish prescience, and the suffering and hard-won wisdom of the Quest to destroy the Ring. Frodo was in every way not only a remarkable hobbit, but a remarkable person altogether.

But the questions Frodo would have now, as he pondered on the history of his people were the very questions that needed to be asked if Frodo were to heal.

And Gandalf hoped that he could provide the answers his young friend needed to hear.


Chapter Twenty-One: Frodo Takes a Walk

Frodo had done his best to put aside his questions. He knew Bilbo was concerned, and he feared his abruptness might have offended Mirimë. Yet though his distress over his doubts lessened, the doubts themselves did not. He needed answers.

He had searched through volumes of Elven lore in Elrond and Celebrian’s library. It had been interesting, and it had helped improve his language skills, but there were no answers among them to his questions about hobbits.

He decided to put his thoughts aside, and take a solitary walk. Perhaps the beauty of the Blessed Isle could soothe him. There were places he had yet to explore in the few months since their arrival. He packed up some food and drink, and told Bilbo he was going for a ramble.

He wandered inland for some distance, and by mid-morning found himself in a pleasant grove of slender, pale-barked trees, whose variegated leaves left a dappled shade on the cool grass below. It seemed to him it might be midmorning and time to stop. It was early for elevenses, but he had missed second breakfast. He sat with his back against one of the trees, and drew out his flask, filled with a light Elven mead, a pear, some flatbread and cheese.

“Is there enough for two?” asked a familiar voice.

“Gandalf! Yes, sit down and join me.”

“Bilbo told me you’d gone walking.”

Frodo shot his old friend a look.

“I thought you might have some questions for me,” Gandalf said.

Frodo realised he could unburden himself now. “Gandalf, tell me truly: why were hobbits not included in the Great Music? Were we just a hasty solution, brought about when Isildur did not destroy the Ring?”

Gandalf laughed. “Not included in the Great Music? Whatever makes you think that, Frodo?” 


Chapter Twenty-two: A Logical Conclusion

Gandalf looked at Frodo’s surprised and slightly offended face, and shook his head. “My dear fellow! I laugh only because I find your question delightful. But I meant my question quite seriously: why do you think that?”

Frodo appeared to be mollified, furrowing his brow in thought, “I read Bilbo’s translation of The Ainulindalë long ago, and more recently I attempted the original in Elrond’s library here. I saw nothing about hobbits, or halflings, or even periannath. There was mention of the Children of Ilúvatar, of the Firstborn, Elves, and of the Secondborn, Men. And I know the tale of how Aulë made the Dwarves, who were adopted by the One. But there is no mention of hobbits at all.”

“I see.”

“When I look at the history, it’s clear. No one ever heard of hobbits before the beginning of the Third Age.”

Gandalf nodded. “And what conclusion did you draw from this?”

“It seems obvious, Gandalf. Isildur failed to destroy the Ring! Sauron was not completely defeated by the Last Alliance, so a plan was needed to deal with his return. Who found the Ring in the Gladden Fields? A hobbit, Sméagol! And who found it in the Misty Mountains? Bilbo! You yourself told me that his finding it was ‘meant, and not by its Maker’!”

“I did.”

“And then there was you. You were sent to deal with the matter of the Ring, and even without your knowing why, you were drawn to the Shire! You took an interest in Gerontius’ line.”

“Gerontius was a dear friend,” Gandalf replied reproachfully.

“You chose Bilbo for your Burglar. And then, well…” Frodo’s voice trailed off, he flushed and looked aside.

“You wonder at the solitary circumstances of your own life.”

Frodo cast a look of silent plea at his friend.


Chapter Twenty-three: Origin of the Species

Gandalf leaned back, silently studying Frodo. Once the wizard’s scrutiny would have discomfited him, but no longer. Frodo returned the gaze with his own.

“Tell me, Frodo, what do most hobbits believe about their own origins?”

Frodo blinked. He started to answer, then stopped. He was silent a moment, then in a small voice said, “I do not think most of them ever give it a second thought.”

“Do you know what any hobbits believe on the matter?”

Frodo was silent again, then said “I’ve only heard one serious discussion about it. Uncle Bilbo and Uncle Dinodas, one night in Uncle Dinny’s study at Brandy Hall. Lingering over snifters of brandy they had quite forgot that I was there. Uncle Dinny told Uncle Bilbo the story of the world being created by music was a ‘pretty Elven fancy’, while Uncle Bilbo asserted its truth. Then Uncle Dinny said, ‘Where are hobbits, then, in that tale?’ and Uncle Bilbo had to admit there were none. Uncle Dinny seemed to think that hobbits must have somehow descended from the other three: Men, Elves and Dwarves. Uncle Bilbo disagreed, but could not come up with a better idea. I think I fell asleep before they finished talking.” Frodo stopped and chuckled. “And then there was the time Uncle Bilbo tried to convince a visiting Dwarf we descended from rabbits. He was joking, of course, but he made it sound quite possible.”

Gandalf laughed. “That sounds like Bilbo!”

“But what is the truth, Gandalf?”

“The truth? Why, hobbits are among the Secondborn, of course, for they are mortal as are Men. You are close kin to Men. Your fate like theirs, lies beyond the circles of Arda. Your music was part of theirs, for I remember your theme: sprightly and lively and altogether delightful.”


Chapter Twenty-four: The Truth Shall Set You Free

Frodo looked at Gandalf, feeling as though a weight had been lifted from him. “Truly?” he asked, though he did not doubt Gandalf’s word. But it did seem almost too good to be true.

The wizard nodded. “Truly, my friend. Hobbits were never an ‘afterthought’ nor created as no more than a solution to a problem. That they turned out to be such a solution, however, is no wonder.”

Frodo furrowed his brow. “But why did they not come about until the end of the Second Age?” This question had fretted him more than any of the others.

“It was long after the first Singing that Elves awakened at Cuiviénen, and long years passed again ere Men came into the world. Hobbits came when it was their time to come.” Gandalf smiled. “Is it not true among hobbits that the youngest children are the most delightful and the most cherished?”

Frodo smiled. “It’s often the case. I know Paladin and Tina did not love Pippin more than his sisters, but they certainly spoiled him more, and his sisters doted on him! And he responded by being a cheerful and happy child.”

“There, you see.”

“I was an only child though,” said Frodo. “And so was Bilbo. And we never wed. Was—“ he hesitated. This was a fear he’d often had since he’d discovered what the Ring meant. “was that the Ring’s doing? Or was it fate?”

“I do not think it was the Ring. Bilbo, after all, was still a bachelor when I first met him—before he ever found the Ring. And Baggins was already a dwindling name. Your cousin Porto never wed either, nor did Lotho.” Gandalf paused a moment. “As for your other question, it may have been destiny— I do not believe it was fate.”


Chapter Twenty-five: On the Sea-Strand

Mirimë walked along the sea-strand, enjoying the feel of the cool sand between her bare toes, the wind playing through her curls, the scents of the sea-breeze. 

She had nearly forgotten just how much more real the world seemed when she wore the hröa of a hobbit.  Colours were sharper, sounds clearer, the smell, taste and feel of things far richer when she was clothed thus.  Even when she wore the guise of an Elven-maid, the world did not have the same immediacy that it did when she was in this form.  As a hobbit, she felt a part of Arda, of the very earth she walked upon.  How glad she was to have the freedom to walk this way once more! 

It had been several days since she had visited Frodo and Bilbo.  She had been sorry to realize that her story had distressed Frodo, but Bilbo assured her Frodo would come to understand soon enough.

The questions he had asked, though she understood what prompted them, had not occurred to her before.  Of course such a delightful, yet defenseless race as hobbits deserved to be guarded from danger and protected from those who were larger and more dangerous. 

And yet, now that she thought about it, his questions were only natural.  She knew there was far more to it than Frodo seemed to understand.  But for all his experiences, and all of his wisdom, he was young yet. 

As if her very thoughts of him had brought him (and she was not foolish enough to believe that, charming as the notion was) she sensed his approach.

She turned to see him, clad in loose white breeches and a shirt of finest lawn, windblown and wistful.  He did look so very young!

“Mirimë—Adamanta—I owe you an apology.”


Chapter Twenty-six: On the Sea-strand, (part two)

Frodo stood there, hands in his pockets.  He was reminded vividly of a day long past, when he had let out all of his anger and frustration at his Uncle Saradoc and Aunt Esmeralda, only to feel foolish afterwards when he discovered that what had triggered his fury was all a misunderstanding on his part.  He hoped Mirimë would be as understanding of his rudeness as they had been.

She turned to him, her expression surprised.  “Apologise?”

“For being so abrupt with you the other day; it wasn’t your fault that I had so many questions.”

Mirimë’s laughter went straight to his heart.  She sounded so much like his mother.  “Questions are your heritage.  You would not be the long-son of my Tûk if you were not filled with questions!  But some of them I cannot answer, for I was not there to see all that transpired for my children.”

Frodo nodded.  “I realise that now.” 

The wind freshened, bringing to them the sound of seagulls, and they looked up to see the seabirds dancing upon the breeze.  They stood companionably and watched the antics of the gulls.  Frodo cast a sideways look at her, seeing the delight on her face.  He tried to reconcile this appearance, a matronly hobbit in her later years—plump, strands of silver in her dark hair, lines of laughter about her lips and eyes—with what she really was. 

She turned a fond smile on him, and something in her expression reminded him of Gandalf.  It broke upon him like the dawn, the realization that she was very like Gandalf—that they were akin in ways he could not fathom, but that there was one way in which he could understand.

“You really do like being a hobbit, don’t you?”

“Of course I do.”


Chapter Twenty-seven: An Eye-opener and No Mistake

Gandalf leaned back with a certain amount of satisfaction. In all their long years of acquaintance, he did not believe that he had ever before seen such an expression of open astonishment on the face of his host. The closest was when he had given Elrond the news that Bilbo had outwitted Smaug, seen to the dragon’s destruction (if not personally), and forged an alliance between Men, Elves and Dwarves. And even then it was but a shadow of the amazement that had now briefly rendered his old friend speechless.

Finally Elrond shook his head, and gave a rueful chuckle. “Do you mean to tell me,” he said, “that the mother of the hobbit race is also…” his voice trailed off.

Gandalf took a sip of his wine, and smiled smugly. “Indeed, I suppose you could say that she was the mother of the hobbit race, given the number of her progeny.” He frowned slightly. “Perhaps there might be some few who bear little or none of her blood, but given the number of generations involved, I find it doubtful. But yes, Melian was not the only one of my race to wed with one of the Children, though the only one to wed one of the Eldar. Yet so far as I know, Mirimë was the only one who wed one of the Secondborn.”

“A hobbit.” Elrond sighed. “So much for the pride of the peredhil.” He laughed. “And none knew this until now?”

“My Lady Nienna, my Lady Yavanna, and He who made us all,” said Gandalf, solemn once more. “I was told, yet I remembered it not, until I returned West of the Sea. But there is no reason now to keep it secret.”

“I would meet with her.”

“There is no reason why you should not.”


Chapter Twenty-eight: In the Beginning

Mirimë had enjoyed her time on the beach with Frodo. They had spoken lightly, Frodo for the most part relating anecdotes of his early childhood, in the long past days before he lost his parents. He had seemed wistful at first, but became more lively as he spoke and the sadness that seemed always to lurk behind his gaze gave way to a sparkle of joy. That he still missed his parents after all this time was clear, yet now it seemed he could recall them without pain. Perhaps she had in some small measure contributed to that.

And she too found herself feeling joy once more. For most of an Age, she had remembered only the grief and pain of the ending of her life with Tûk, and how it had felt to realise how final was their parting. Now she was recalling those early days, the days of the beginning of their love and of the good life they had together.

She supposed the encounter with the Elves was when she began to realise that for her Tûk was no common hobbit. There was something about him that tugged at her heart more than other hobbits did. Perhaps it was his open curiosity; perhaps it was his fearlessness—for he was far less timid than other hobbits even within his own fair clan. Perhaps it was the lightness of his spirit, which refused to be quenched by adversity.

More than once she observed him, sometimes with his cousins, sometimes alone, venture into the edges of the vast forest. There he would encounter Durdir and his fellows, and hobbits and Elves would sit and speak together, the hobbits learning much from the Elves.

She found herself envious of that conversation. How she would like to speak with them herself!


Chapter Twenty-nine: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

It had seemed a harmless enough idea. Why should she not speak to those over whom she watched? Why should she not learn about those whom she protected? Surely it would make her a better guardian? The answers seemed self-evident to her that of course she should get to know the hobbits better.

Now she could see that her questions had little to do with duty, and more to do with her wish to become better acquainted with, not hobbits, but one hobbit.

But how? If she appeared as an Elf-maiden, she would overawe them. Yet there were not yet so many hobbits that the sudden appearance of an unknown would go unnoticed. Still, it seemed to her a risk worth taking.

It was near Midsummer’s Day when she watched Tûk going forth on his own, down the hills and over the downs. This was her first, best,

Near a copse in a meadow, she waited, clothed in the form of a hobbit-maiden. She wore the sort of garb she had seen on Tûk’s sisters and cousins’ scarlet flowers bound her dark hair. She sat beside a streamlet.

The sensations of scent and sound and sight nearly overwhelmed her. She closed her eyes against the brightness of Anor’s light, turning her face to her sister’s warmth, feeling the heat and the cooling sensation of the breeze mingle against her skin. The scent of trees and grass, the music of birdsong and of the flowing water was sharp in her ears. Her bare feet, with their covering of dark curls felt the tickle of soft grass and the living earth beneath them. She sat upon a rock and simply enjoyed being! She had nearly forgotten her purpose in taking this form.

Until a voice startled her. “What have we here?”


Chapter Thirty: Mark’d I Where the Bolt of Cupid Fell

Mirimë looked up into a pair of intelligent brown eyes, twinkling with curiosity and good humor, at a loss as to how to respond. For some reason she had not planned ahead of time what story to tell him.

As she stared, his gaze turned to one of concern. “Are you well? What Is a lass such as you doing out here” he waved a hand about him, “in the middle of nowhere?”

She was embarrassed to confess she meant to waylay him. The sensation of embarrassment was a new one, and it took her an instant to understand what she was feeling. And underneath the embarrassment was another feeling altogether—a desire that this hobbit think well of her. If only she knew what to say!

He bent, taking both her hands, raising her to her feet. “You are as beautiful as a precious jewel, and as silent. I wish that you would speak to me!”

Jewel? That put an idea into her head. “You may call me Adamanta,” she said, finally finding her voice.

“Adamanta? Yes, that’s fitting. Your eyes sparkle like diamonds.” He gazed into her face, his eyes locked on hers, and he kept her hands. “You are no ordinary hobbit lass. Why are you here alone? Who is your family?”

Adamanta, for she was determined to think of herself in that way, shook her head sadly. “I cannot say. I do not think that I have a family.”

“Come with me,” he said, “and I shall give you my family.” He laughed. “I would apologise for being so bold on a first meeting, but I do not feel at all sorry! I have not even told you my own name: it is Tûk of the Fallohides.”

“I will come with you, Tûk of the Fallohides.”

A/N: The title to this chapter is from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream


Chapter Thirty-one: An Invitation

Bilbo was pleased when Frodo told him of his talks with Gandalf and Adamanta. Frodo’s doubts and fears were eased.

From the time they had come in view of the Blessed Isle, Bilbo noticed the changes in Frodo. He smiled with his eyes as well as his lips, and for more than a brief instant. He now realised his failure to resist the Ring at the end did not mean he failed in his mission. Yet Bilbo had not understood some of Frodo’s other doubts until he had seen Frodo react to Mirimë’s story.

This morning as Bilbo prepared elevenses, Frodo was on the terrace feeding the birds.

Bilbo was happy with their home. It reminded him of his rooms Rivendell, though larger, meant for two hobbits. They had their own exit, own terrace, a small patch of garden for their own use. Yet it was part of Elrond’s home as well. With Frodo for company, Bilbo spent less time among the Elves than before. Still, they were free to join their Elven friends in the dining hall, make free of Elrond’s library, and walk in Elrond’s grounds.

Gandalf made himself at home here, and while Elrond’s household was smaller, it was lightened by the presence of his wife Celebrian. She had become a friend to Frodo, understanding that which made it impossible for him to remain in Middle-earth. And Galadriel lingered here for a while, glad to be reunited with her daughter, in no hurry to pass further West until she was rejoined with her Lord, who had remained behind for Arwen’s sake.

The two hobbits were sitting down to tea and seedcakes, when there was a knock upon their door. It was Elrond himself.

“My friends, I came to ask if you would join us today for luncheon?”


Chapter Thirty-two: Over Hill, Over Dale

Tûk had been as good as his word, and immediately began to lead her back the way he had come. When he took her by the hand, a warm delightful sensation filled her being. Who knew that simply having one's hand enveloped by another could be so delightful?

As they walked, he told her of his family, parents, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. She knew who they were. She had been watching and observing hobbits for four generations-- but it was altogether different to hear of them in his voice, filtered through his love and his humour and his exasperation. She laughed when he laughed, and smiled when he smiled, simply because she could not help herself.

When he halted, pointing some sight: a colourful butterfly, two birds in playful flight, a hare shooting through the grass, each seemed some thing never considered before, a special thing because she was seeing it in his company.

Suddenly she was stopped in her tracks by something else new: a feeling of hollowness and the sound of rumbling coming from within her. She blinked in surprise. Was something wrong with her?

Tûk looked at her in dismay. "I'm sorry! You are hungry.”

She blinked at him. Hungry? Of course. She had noticed that hobbits seemed perpetually hungry. But she had never wondered what it felt like to be so.

He dropped the satchel he carried slung over his shoulder, bending to rummage in it. He drew forth some apples and handed one of them to her. He took the other and bit into it.

She bit into hers; the sweetness and crispness was a revelation...


She jumped, startled out of her reverie.

"Yes, Olórin?" she asked, wondering what had brought him to her.

"I bear an invitation for you from Elrond Peredhil."


Chapter Thirty-three: An Introduction

Elrond’s home had been prepared by Celebrian his wife, as she awaited his arrival in the West. It was somewhat like the Last Homely House of Imladris, and yet also quite different. Rather than a feasting hall within the house, the dining hall was on a wide veranda leading out to a series of terraces. It had a magnificent view of the strand, the sea, and of the shores of Aman beyond.

Galadriel stood by the wide columns, gazing not to sea, but to the door through which others were arriving: there was Mithrandir (for so she still thought of him), and at his side the beloved figures of Frodo and Bilbo—and with them what appeared to be an elderly hobbit matron. Mithrandir led her to be introduced.

Galadriel saw clearly through the hröa to the remarkable fëa within. She had been told. And yet she had not understood. Mirimë was Mirimë, and yet she was wholly Adamanta as well. As Olórin had done when he had taken the guise of an Istari, and become in truth the Grey Pilgrim, an old man subject to all of the ails of Men, Mirimë was fully Adamanta, and seemed even more tightly bound to her hröa than he.

She returned Galadriel's scrutiny with aplomb. "It is good to see you again, Artanis," she said. "You have both remained the same and yet changed a great deal since last we met."

The Lady nodded, an amused smile on her face. "You have changed a good deal," she said, “and are not at all the same.”

Adamanta laughed at this, which drew both Bilbo and Frodo-- who had been conversing with Elrond-- to her side. She turned to them with a smile, and then back to Galadriel. "Of course, you know my great-grandsons."


Chapter Thirty-four: A Mother is a Mother Still

Frodo found himself rather abruptly drawn into the circle of conversation between the Lady Galadriel and Adamanta. And she was being very much Adamanta at this point in time. Right at the moment she reminded him more than anyone else of his Aunt Dora at her best.

Lady Galadriel smiled and said, "I do indeed know Frodo and Bilbo; they are good friends. I was more than a little surprised to learn of your relationship to them, however."

"I was surprised myself," said Adamanta. "I had no idea that I should ever have the opportunity to meet the descendants of Tûk and myself after all this time. I must say, however, that I am unsurprised to learn of the great deeds which they accomplished."

Frodo found himself blushing, but his embarrassment was only the normal embarrassment of one praised in public, and not the shameful feeling that he was an imposter who never did what he'd been extolled for. It was a pleasant and warm feeling to realise that, yes, he had accomplished something worthwhile even though he had not done it in the way he had imagined it ought to be done.

He glanced over and met the gazes of both ladies, and found in them warm approval, mild amusement, fondness and pride. He blushed a second time, and for an instant he remembered his mother.

"Mama! See what I made!" He'd thrust the drawing at her eagerly, and she'd plucked it from his nine-year-old hands.

The drawing, done in charcoal and coloured chalks had been more than a little smudged, but there was no mistaking the pride in his mother's voice.

"Oh Frodo! It's primulas! How lovely! Thank you, my chicklet!" She had gathered him into her arms.

Frodo blinked. He'd not thought of that memory in years.


Chapter Thirty-five: Luncheon Conversation, part one

Adamanta noticed Frodo seemed lost in thought, and wondered what had made him so pensive. But the arrival of the servants bringing the food drew everyone's attention away from conversation.

A long table was placed to one side of the veranda next to a low wall on which the guests could seat themselves. One section of the wall was higher and built like a set of steps, and it was there that the places had been set for Frodo, Bilbo and Adamanta. They could sit on the top step and be comfortable, without their toes dangling.

The food was varied and delicious; there were soups of clear broths, salads of young vegetables, cheeses, stuffed eggs, and yeasty smelling breads of many shapes and hues and in honor of the hobbit guests, a huge platter of mushrooms, all of it served with a pale golden mead that tasted of heather. Frodo and Bilbo were in earnest conversation with their hostess Celebrian, who sat to their other side, and Adamanta found she was speaking once more with Galadriel.

"I am glad you were able to help Frodo and the others in their time of great need. It seems to me that without your help all would have been lost."

"I did little enough; I would that I could have done more."

Adamanta shook her head, "I think what you did was just what was needed. He told me how desperately he wished for light in the Dark Land; you granted him that."

"Light is always needed when times are dark. But I think he also owed much of his success to you, now that I know of your part in his heritage."

"Me?" Adamanta laughed. "There are more generations between myself and Frodo than even the most eager of hobbits could count."


Chapter Thirty-six: Luncheon Conversation, part two

"And yet the hobbits bear much of your heritage about them still; not only Frodo, but the others who were with him, his cousins Meriadoc and Peregrin and his friend Samwise. I put them to the test. Their hearts were true. The Ring might in time have overwhelmed them, as it finally did Frodo in its place of greatest strength, but it never could have succeeded in seducing any of them. None of them had any greater ambition than to find peace and safety for those whom they loved."

"I do not know that could be attributed to me. For Tûk was true and brave long before I met him, and it there was always something special about him. Our children owed far more of their heritage to their father than to me."

"I believe you omitted a few 'greats' when you spoke of us, Adamanta," said Bilbo, raising his eyebrow.

Adamanta laughed and said "I have no idea how many 'greats' I omitted, but it comes down to the same thing in the end."

"Does it?" asked Galadriel.

"They are my children all the same," was the reply. "I am more than glad to know that Tûk's blood still runs strong among the hobbits."

"It does," said Bilbo. "The Tooks are the pre-eminent family of the Shire, and there are Tookish connexions among all of the Shire's Great Families, and I daresay some among the Lesser Families on the Roll as well."

"Tell us about your children," Frodo asked. Indeed, it was something he had wished to ask for some time.

"It would take some time to tell you of them all," Adamanta said with a smile, "though I am not at all averse to talking about them. What proud mother does not delight in speaking of her children?"


Adamanta's Children: Briar Rose

The three hobbits (for so Adamanta was) and the Ladies Galadriel and Celebrian slipped away from the table. Bilbo dropped a handful of grapes into his pocket for the filling up of corners.

Celebrian led them from the terrace into an enclosed garden. Espaliered fruit trees grew against the stone walls, and beds of herbs and roses formed patterns in the green sward.

Galadriel indicated a nearby marble bench-- there was room for all of them to be seated without discomfort, and they could see the sea. As they sat, she waved over a servant who was carrying a tray of wine goblets. Soon all were served, and Bilbo and Frodo turned to Adamanta with expectant faces.

"Tell us of your children, Mirimë," said Lady Celebrian, her tone warm and encouraging.

Adamanta took a sip of the wine, and smiled. "My firstborn was a daughter. I had no idea that the travail of giving birth would be so difficult, and swore I would never do it again. But once I held her in my arms, I knew it was worth it all. We named her Briar Rose, after Tûk's mother. Her eyes were blue, an unusual thing among the brown-eyed hobbits, her hair as dark as Tûk's own. She was a delight to us, smiling and gurgling far more often than she cried. As she grew old enough to toddle about, she followed her father everywhere she could. And he never went away even the shortest distance, without returning with some small token for her: a pretty feather, a shiny stone, sometimes a wild fruit or mushroom just for her. She learned to speak early, but she was not talkative-- she much preferred to listen, but would often ask me questions later about the things she had heard others saying."


Chapter Thirty-eight: Adamanta's Children: Raz

"When Briar Rose was three and entering into faunthood, her first brother was born. Raz was also a happy babe, but as he grew older, he was much more difficult to manage.

He was often into mischief and had frequent mishaps caused by his insatiable curiousity. He would pepper his father with questions that he was hard put to answer. His grandmother found this quite amusing, for she said she was being revenged for Tûk's own childhood.

Tûk's mother spoiled her grandchildren, but though she loved them all the same, little Raz could shamelessly wheedle her out of anything with the pleading expression of his green eyes, something his older sister had never been given to doing.

One day when he was about four, he toddled into the kitchen where his grandmother was baking sweet biscuits on the hearth. He saw the treats there, and I suppose the smell of them was too enticing. When his gammer's back was turned, he tried to reach for them. His shrieks caught her attention at once. She snatched him away from the fire and quickly ministered to his poor little burned fingers.

By the time I discovered what happened—for I had been busy with his older sister—she had consoled him for his mishap with as many biscuits as he could eat. That evening, he had not only the injuries to his fingers to deal with, but an upset tummy as well!

Yet he remained a cheerful and affectionate child, in spite of the spoiling. He never failed to share with his siblings, often without even having to be asked. And as soon as he was old enough, he followed his father everywhere—in fact, many of our friends and kin began to call him 'Little Tûk' instead of his given name."


Chapter Thirty-nine, Adamanta's Children: Addie

It was two years after Raz's birth that I bore another daughter. Her father named her after me— but she was called 'Addie'. Tûk never shortened my name; I always was Adamanta among them.

Addie was a less compliant babe than her sister. She cried throughout the night for the first several months of her life. Her sister was thrilled with having another maid-child in the family, keeping by my side whenever I attended to Addie. Young as she was, Briar Rose loved to feed her little sister and change her nappies.

Once Addie entered faunthood, her disposition improved. She soon learned to talk and sing. Even as a tiny child, she hummed melodies, and made up nonsense songs. As she grew older, she made sense of them; at festivals and parties her singing was much in demand.

When she was ten, a Wood-elf came to our village. They were rare visitors since Tûk first encountered them. Galasgil was his name, and hearing Addie sing one of her songs, he was charmed, and made her shepherd's pipes which he taught her to play.

He also decided to teach her letters. Writing of any kind was unknown among hobbits at that time. Her grandparents thought no good could come of learning such an Elvish skill. Tûk overruled them. She learned quickly, and her brothers and sisters joined her lessons. Galasgil stayed among us a year and a half-- a brief time for him, but long enough to became a familiar sight. When he left many of the children, and not a few of the adults had learned to read and write.

Addie was heartbroken when he left, though I know he was dismayed at how quickly the children grew older. But Addie had pleasure ever after in writing down her songs.


Chapter Forty, Adamanta's Children: Kali and Ban

It was less than two years later that I quickened once more. This time Tûk and I were blessed with twins: two healthy lads, Kali and Ban...

I thought having three young ones already, two more would be simple. But it was quite different having two lads who were the exact same age! They were hungry at the same time, needed their nappies changed at the same time, teethed at the same time. Yet they were different as well.

Kali talked first, but Ban crawled and walked first. I learned that Ban was the quieter; he thought carefully before he spoke. Most thought he was the more clever of the two, but they were wrong. Kali was as clever, and often came up with plots and plans. Most of the time, his twin was perfectly happy to go along with him, but if Ban thought it was a bad idea, he said so. And Kali could not move him. After a few occasions when Kali went ahead with a scheme which Ban said was a bad idea, and it was a disaster, he learned to listen to his brother.

They adored Raz, and followed everywhere. Many of Kali's plans involved following Raz when he preferred not to be encumbered with younger brothers. But it was hard to stay angry with them when they so clearly adored him.

I learned that younger brothers could drive their sisters to distraction. Briar Rose was firm and she knew how to distract them from their mischief. But I soon learned to dread it when Addie would call "Mother!" in a certain tone of voice-- I knew that meant the twins had done something else to vex her.

But they also loved their sisters, and often begged Briar Rose for stories or Addie for songs.


Chapter Forty-one, Adamanta's Children: Buttercup

It was four years before Buttercup joined the family. Her disposition was as bright and sunny as her nameflower. She became the pet of the family. Kali and Ban were too young to try to carry her about, but they tried anyway, and frequently hung over her cradle making silly faces and watching her laugh.

Briar Rose was now old enough to be a real help to me. She watched the baby for me when I needed to be about other tasks. And Addie would make up lullabies for Buttercup, and sing them for hours. Her grandfather and grandmother doted upon her, and when her father was at home, I scarcely had a chance to hold her.

You might think with so much attention she would become spoiled, but she never did. Instead she absorbed it all and gave it back. I never had to teach her the lessons of sharing as I had with the older children. As she grew, she expected everyone to like her, and she liked everyone.

This included Great-aunt Gerda, Tûk's aunt on his mother's side. She was a spinster with a sour disposition and an exaggerated notion of her own importance. She had never cared much for me-- considering me still a stranger, in spite of how long I had been wed to her nephew. She had shown disdain for all his children, until Buttercup.

Buttercup would go to her with a smile, holding out her little arms to be picked up and coddled, with every expectation that she would be. The first time it happened you could actually see the sour expression fade to be replaced by surprise and a shy smile. That opened the gate to the garden, and as time passed, Gerda became a much more pleasant person to be around.


Chapter Forty-two, Adamanta's Children: Bûk

The day Buttercup became a faunt was the day I realised I was with child again. It was another lad-- we named him Bûk, after his grandfather. Perhaps that was why he and his grandfather got on particularly well.

Compared to his brothers and sisters, Bûk was a silent child. In fact, he did not speak until he was nearly three-- but when he did speak, he spoke clearly and in complete phrases. He never babbled as a babe; he pronounced his words well. The only time he ever lisped was when he began to lose his baby teeth. Like Ban he learned early to crawl and walk. He did not seek us out to be cuddled, yet he was very content to be so, if any of us called him to us. Tûk used to jest that he was as independent as a cat.

His favourite pastime was to go to the village pond with his grandfather and fish. By the time he was twelve, he was quite an accomplished little angler, and frequently brought home perch or trout for the family's supper. He was about that age when he made friends with a lad of his age, a child whose father was a Stoor who had married one of Tûk's cousins. He spent a good deal of time with them, and we were all shocked when it came out that his friend had taught him to swim!

When he was almost twenty, he persuaded us to allow him to apprentice with his "Uncle" Gamba, who was actually Tûk's first cousin on his mother's side. He was an accomplished smial builder, and Bûk soon learned all Gamba could teach him. He went on to surpass him, and was much in demand among all the clans as a hole builder.


Chapter Forty-three, Adamanta's Children: Aster and Rowan

I was quite surprised to learn that twin daughters were different than twin sons. Aster and Rowan were born only a year and a half after Bûk. And while some things were the same-- they did cry and hunger and need to be changed at the same time-- some things were different. They were much more alike in disposition than their older brothers. As babies, when they were happy they would spend hours gurgling at one another in a strange tongue that was theirs alone. Yet they had times when one would strike out at the other-- sometimes it was Aster, sometimes Rowan, and we had to separate them. Then they would mourn until they could be together once more.

As they grew older most of the time they were content with one another, yet sometimes quarreled harshly over what seemed to me to be the most trivial of things, not speaking to one another for hours on end. Yet they could not sleep apart from one another, no matter how they had fought during the day.
This came to a head when they reached their tweens. For once they did not do things at the same time-- Rowan was the first to discover lads, and Aster did not understand. Yet Aster first attracted a lad-- a youth from a Harfoot village who had come to visit our village. His name was Herugar. It was he whom Aster eventually wed.

Rowan was dreadfully jealous of their courtship, and for a while Tûk and I feared the breach between them could not be healed. It was not until the day of the wedding that Rowan came to her senses, as she realised her sister was about to move away for good. There was weeping and embracing then, and all was well.


  Adamanta's Children: Bildad

Bildad came two years, almost to the day, after his twin sisters-- he was born the day before their birthday! For the first time since I had begun to bear Tûk's children I was ill. He was born nearly a month early, and I labored long with him. I remember little of those early days after his birth, but I was told afterwards that at one point Tûk feared he would lose us both. He was the first of my children whom I did not nurse. I was far too sick to do so. I had never ever experienced sickness since I had taken my hobbit form. I still do not know why it happened or how, though I wonder if it did not happen because I had begun to forget myself, to forget who I was, to lose sight of my nature, to think I truly was a hobbit in all ways.

One night, when they feared that Bildad would die, they brought him and placed him in my arms. I was at first scarcely aware of him. Only Tûk sat by me. Yet as I began to realise this was my babe and that he might leave me before I could know him, my heart and mind reached out to my innermost self. I drew upon my powers, and called upon my Lady. I felt a warmth move through me, and through my child. Tûk told me we were both filled with a great light. The next day, both of us were as well as if we had never been ill.

Bildad was as loving as Buttercup, as curious as Raz, as fond of songs and tales as Addie, as adventurous as Kali and Ban. And, perhaps because they had come so close to losing him, he was the pet of the family.


Chapter Forty-five, Adamanta's Children: Beryl

Tûk was at first determined that we would not have another child. Ten, he said, were enough for anyone. I knew that he feared what had happened with Bildad would happen again, and that he would lose me and our child. I knew that would not happen again-- I had found that part of myself I had nearly forgotten after years of living in the hröa of a hobbit, that part of my spirit that would not allow me to come to harm.

By the time Bildad became a faunt, my arms were aching again for the joy of holding a new babe. One day in the spring of the year that he turned three, Tûk and I took an afternoon alone, wandering the fields together with a basket of food. It was not hard to overcome his reluctance that day, and I quickened.

Beryl was born at the turning of the year, in the dead of a cold winter. The snow was swirling against the windows of the smial when she was placed into my arms.

If Addie had loved singing, Beryl loved to dance. She barely went through the crawling stage, quickly learning to run and to skip and to dance with a grace that was nearly Elven. Her sisters and brothers encouraged her, and as she grew older she was in demand at festivals as a dancer. As a youngster she loved the sprightly circle dances which were nearly games, and when she grew older, the lads vied for her attention when it came time for those dances that were done in pairs.

It came as no surprise then, to any of our family, when she celebrated her thirtieth birthday by announcing her betrothal to the lad who was the second finest dancer in the village.


Chapter Forty-six, Adamanta's Children: Maura

For ten years, we thought our family complete; our oldest children were courting and we thought ourselves ready to be content as grandparents. Briar Rose wed at thirty-two, and the whole village celebrated the wedding. The feasting and merriment went on far into the night and nigh to morning.

Tûk and I retired after seeing the bridal couple to their new home, a smial built into our hill by her Uncle Gamba and her brother Bûk.

That night I dreamt my Lady Yavanna spoke to me: "Little mother, the time has come for you and your beloved to bring forth one more child. Do not regret the loss of your freedom, but rejoice in the blessing it will bring to all."

I wakened Tûk gently. That night I quickened for the last time. A son.

He was born in the autumn at dawn. He had such a wise look in his infant eyes that we named him Maura. Fair of skin with dark chestnut hair like his oldest brother Raz, he resembled his father greatly. His eyes were deep blue when he was born, but settled into a calm blue-grey.

Like Buttercup and Bildad, he had a generous and loving spirit, but he was more solemn than they, often moved to tears by the plight of others. And he loved learning greatly; he could never get enough of stories and songs and lore.

He was twenty-one when Galasgil returned. They became fast friends. When the Elf decided after a time to return to the Greenwood, Maura asked to go with him. We agreed, on the condition he return before he came of age.

And so he did, learned and wise beyond the ken of most hobbits; but he was greatly respected and became his father's greatest councilor in time.


Chapter Forty-seven: Understanding

A silence fell as Adamanta finished. Her expression was distant, glowing with the memories of her beloved children. Tears had gathered in the corners of her eyes, but they did not fall.

Frodo turned to gaze at her, concern on his face. Bilbo had taken her hand and was patting it absently, but she did not seem to notice. Frodo breathed in deeply, and said "It must have hurt very much to leave them."

She startled, and looked at him in surprise, as if she had forgotten that he was there. "No, not when I left. At the time I was hurting far too much from the loss of their father. And they were no longer young; I was already a great-grandmother. Yet after I came here, the loss of my children hit me as well. I grieved that I had left them without word or care for their own grief. And I grieved that I would never see them again, nor know what came of their families."

The Lady Celebrian came and knelt before Adamanta. "I too left my family behind. I was fleeing the pain and grief of Ennor. And I, too, came to regret leaving my children behind once it was too late to change my mind. While I hope that I may yet see my sons, I know that I will never see my daughter again in all the long years of Arda. Arwen is lost to me."

Adamanta looked at her. "Yes, I think that you understand. Yet you know that your daughter has found her happiness, and you may yet have word of her life-- as I, beyond all expectation have finally had word of how well my own children fared." She placed her other hand atop Bilbo's and turned to smile at Frodo.


Chapter Forty-eight: Life By the Sea

Frodo and Bilbo found a quiet and pleasant rhythm to their new life in the West. For Bilbo it was much like the life he'd led in Rivendell, living under the roof of Elrond Half-elven; he spent his days at home in his quarters for the most part, and his evenings in the Hall of Fire. But it had changed in other ways. Elrond's household was quite different now that he had been reunited with Lady Celebrian, and Bilbo was delighted to see how his old friend's whole mien had become brighter since his reunion with his beloved. Also Bilbo had more correspondence than he had in Rivendell. A few who had met him had found it delightful to exchange letters with him, and he was pleased to increase his knowledge of Arda's history while satisfying their curiosity about his life as a mortal in Middle-earth.

Frodo, too, found the time for scholarly pursuits and writing; he was surprised to discover that he had his uncle's gift for poetry after all. Most mornings though, and some afternoons, he spent walking by the Sea. It fascinated him, and the music of the waves soothed him like nothing else. He loved to find shells and other things washed up on the shore, and occasionally even went to swim in the salty waves, an experience that was nothing like swimming in the rivers or ponds of the Shire. Sometimes afterwards he imagined he still felt the motion of the waves when he would lay down at night to his rest.

Adamanta and the Lady Celebrian often joined him in his walks, sometimes one or the other, sometimes both. He enjoyed his talks with Adamanta, especially, but when both the women walked with him, he preferred to listen to their speech to one another.


Chapter Forty-nine: Adamanta's Announcement

It had become commonplace for Adamanta to join Bilbo and Frodo for tea three or four times a week, sometimes alone or sometimes accompanying Gandalf, as well as her walks on the beach with Frodo every two or three days.

So when she missed coming around for several days, both hobbits missed her. Yet they were reluctant to question the reason she was not coming.

"We should ask Gandalf," Frodo said one morning. "I am sure he would know."

"Perhaps he would," said Bilbo, "but would he tell us?"

And they put the subject aside. Truthfully, each secretly feared that they had in some way offended her; or worse, that she had tired of them and decided to put off her hobbit form once more. These were things they did not wish to speak aloud even to one another, for fear they might be true. They resigned themselves to her absence, and pretended they did not really miss her.

So they were very surprised one afternoon at teatime to find her at their doorstep, after she had been absent for a good two weeks, smiling and bearing a basket that smelled of cinnamon and honey.

They had her cakes with their tea; she asked them about what they had been doing since she had seen them last. They patiently answered, suppressing their own questions.

"You must have wondered about my absence," she said.

Both hobbits blushed, and Frodo ducked his head. "We did," said Frodo, "but we didn't think we ought to pry."

She smiled at them in a way that implied she knew exactly why they hadn't asked, saying "I was quite busy making plans for a new venture."

"What venture is that?" asked Frodo.

"I have made plans to have my own smial built on the island."


Chapter Fifty: Hole is Where the Heart Is

"Would you like to see where it will be?" she asked them, as she sipped her tea.

And so after tea, they found themselves riding south of Avallónë. Elrond had provided both hobbits with sturdy ponies for the times when they might need to journey further than feet could conveniently carry them. Bilbo had ridden his only once since they arrived, but Frodo had taken a few rides on his. Somehow Adamanta had also acquired a pony, a lovely dappled mare.

In the late afternoon, they rode beyond the edges of the city, and over a grassy down for about a league.

Frodo stared at the vista that greeted him as they came over the crest of a hill. The country before them reminded him achingly of the Shire. He could tell by Bilbo's gasp that the old hobbit saw the resemblance as well.

A small river ran through a pleasant valley. There were several copses of trees scattered about that ran down to the banks of the water. And just on the other side rose a hill. It reminded Frodo so strongly of The Hill that it seemed strange not to see Bag End there, with all Hobbiton laid out before it. But the land was pristine and uninhabited.

"This must have been much like the Shire looked before it was settled," said Bilbo quietly.

Adamanta looked at them. "Do you really think so? I think it is like the Vale-- which is what we called the place where our village was beyond the Anduin." She pointed at the hill. "I have been granted that spot to make a smial of my own. Lord Elrond has kindly offered me the services of his household to do the building. And I was hoping for your advice about it as well."

  I'm sorry I forgot to update on Tuesday!

Chapter Fifty-one: Hole Sweet Hole

For several months Adamanta's visits were scarce as she oversaw the building of her hole.

Frodo made frequent rides out to see her progress, but Bilbo had found riding was a little more difficult for his old bones than it used to be. He was surprised by Elrond one day with a little pony-trap to make the visits easier for him, and after that he came more often.

Still, as the hole neared completion, Adamanta asked them not to come, as she wanted to surprise them with the final result.

One day she came to tell them she had finished. "I will be having a party tomorrow to celebrate! Of course you are invited!"

The party that rode out to the Vale (for she had decided to name the new home after her old one) was a merry one: Frodo and Bilbo in the pony-trap, Gandalf on Shadowfax, Elrond and his household on horses with bells on their headstalls. The Elves sang merrily as they rode.

Once more they crested the hill that led down to the Vale, and Frodo laughed in sheer delight to behold in the distance familiar round doors and windows and a chimney pot, surrounded by flowers, and topped by an ancient oiolairë that made a perfect rooftree.

On closer inspection, the new hole did not so much resemble Bag End, however. It seemed more rustic in many ways, and Frodo realised she must have patterned it after the holes of her old home. The doors and windows were much larger-- the better to convenience Elven guests; for the same reason the ceilings were higher. And the furnishings were a mixture of large and small. In many ways it reminded him of their own quarters at Elrond's home.

But it was, without a doubt, a smial.
(A/N: The oiolairë, according to Wikipedia list of Middle-earth plants, was a tree of Tol Eressëa; "It had "ever-green, glossy and fragrant" leaves and throve upon sea-air")


Chapter Fifty-two: Good Things Come to Those Who Bait

Now in addition to walks on the beach, rides to the Vale were added to Frodo's and Bilbo's routine. Frodo rode there on his pony about once a week; less often he and Bilbo would take the trap.

One morning Frodo rose before Bilbo (which happened more frequently than it used to) and went to prepare first breakfast. It was a lovely morning, so he set it out on the terrace. Bilbo woke to join him; the smell of breakfast cooking had roused him, as Frodo knew it would.

As the two of them tucked into their toast and eggs and fruit, accompanied by fragrant tea, Frodo said, "It's a nice day, Uncle Bilbo! Do you fancy a ride out to the Vale?"

"No, I don't think so, lad. I've a letter to write. But certainly go if you wish! I am sure you will enjoy the ride."

"Do you mind if I take the trap instead of my pony today?"

"Of course not, Frodo!"

After they had done the washing up after breakfast, he shoved some fruit and bread into a cloth sack, fetched his fishing gear, and harnessed the pony.

Frodo had come to think of the little river that ran through the Vale as "the Water", such as the one which ran through Hobbiton and Bywater, and now he wanted to try his luck. He arrived mid-morning, and choosing his flies carefully, he waded out to cast his line. He soon had a strike, and not long after that he had a nice string of brown trout. He had been so absorbed in his sport that he'd not realised he'd missed elevenses.

No matter. He took his gear back to the trap, and drove on up the Hill to Adamanta's smial. Fish for lunch sounded quite tasty.


Chapter Fifty-three: Lunch at Adamanta's Hole

Adamanta opened the door. "Frodo, how lovely! I have yet to prepare lunch though..."

"I promise to clean them for you, Adamanta."

"You wonderful lad! I will certainly cook them if you do!"

Frodo carried his catch to the well, and drew water to clean the fish. He filleted them deftly, then he buried the remains in the garden. He carried them to the kitchen, where Adamanta took them to the large worktable in the middle of the room. Frodo sat down and Adamanta offered him a goblet of perry. "A hole-warming gift from Celebrian and Elrond," she said.

Frodo sipped his perry, watching as she expertly battered the fillets for frying, and chopped up potatoes and onions for the skillet as well. She cooked on the wide hearth. The Elves would have provided her with a stove, but she remembered cooking on a hearth in her old home in the Vale. Soon, two steaming hot plates sat before them, and they busied themselves with enjoying fresh trout and fried potatoes. A bowl of fruit and a slab of creamy white cheese provided for the filling up of corners.

"This fish is every bit as good as Sam's, I think," said Frodo.

"Thank you," said Adamanta with a chuckle. "I am flattered, for I have heard you and Bilbo discussing Samwise's cooking. I think that would be a very high standard to live up to!"

"I think you've succeeded. You are a very good cook! My mouth still waters at the thought of your mushroom stew!"

She laughed again, this time heartily. "I think you would have been shocked at my first attempts at cooking!"

Frodo cocked his head and looked at her, trying for the same expression Pippin had once used when begging for stories. "Tell me about it."


Chapter Fifty-four: A Lesson for Adamanta, (part 1)

I never made a secret of the fact that I was different than other hobbits, and that I had no family. Of course, I had no story, but I never contradicted assumptions. Tûk suspected there was more to my story than he imagined-- but he never questioned me. He accepted me as I was, and so his family did also. It helped that I knew much of hobbit life from observation, and so had an idea of how to behave. But
in one thing I was ignorant, yet did not even know it until I tried.

I could not cook.

I thought I could. I had, after all, been observing generations of hobbits. How hard could it be to imitate the way they prepared their food? But my confidence was shaken when I turned out ash cakes as hard as rocks and stew that was little more than lumps of meat and vegetables floating in a tasteless watery broth. I tried adding salt. That just made it worse. I could not face my new family with this failure of a meal. Tuk and his parents had been looking forward to trying my food. In my despair, I tried something I did only once, but never again. I cheated. I called upon my power to improve the appearance and smell and texture of the food.

With a sense of triumph I served it forth. It was edible, it was not bad. But it was not hobbit food. It lacked something, I could not say what-- just that it did not delight the senses in the way every meal I had among hobbits always had. No one said an unkind word, and I even had compliments on how light the ash cakes were. But I knew. I fled the room in tears.


Chapter Fifty-five: A Lesson for Adamanta, (part 2)

Of course, Tûk had followed me to discover the source of my sorrow. He asked me nothing at first, merely held me while I wept and wailed upon his shoulder, offering me his kerchief when I began to sniffle. Finally the storm had passed, and for a while he rocked me back and forth in his embrace, and then he placed a kiss on my brow, and tilted my chin up to look into his eyes.

"Now, my heart, tell me why you were so upset."

He took the confession of my ignorance of cooking well. "For someone who has never cooked, but only observed, you did well. But cooking must be taught and you never had a teacher. I will be your teacher." He grinned. "It will be fun."

After that, at least twice a week and sometimes more often, the two of us would cook for the family. Only Tûk and I were in the kitchen, so no one knew what role I actually played in preparing the meal. At first, Tûk gave me simple tasks: cutting vegetables, paring potatoes, slicing bread, measuring out flour. But I also watched him as he explained what he was doing and why he was doing it; very gradually I began to take on the tasks which he had been doing one by one, until our roles were reversed and I was doing most of the cooking and he sat by cutting vegetables, paring potatoes, slicing bread and measuring out flour— talking as he worked, and passing on advice to me as I worked.

Soon I was able to cook meals on my own, and as the children arrived, was able to teach them in turn. But always my greatest delight was when the two of us could cook together once more.


Chapter Fifty-six: Early Memories

Frodo smiled at her story. "Tûk sounds like an amazing hobbit. Learning to cook is so important to hobbits; I am glad he understood the best way to teach you."

She nodded. "He was amazing. His way of teaching was so patient. I tried to emulate his methods with my children, and mostly they worked. However, I had to let him teach Rowan and Aster! Their bickering nearly drove me to distraction."

Frodo laughed. "One of my earliest memories is of helping my mother cook. She used to let me turn the griddlecakes over. And I was barely out of faunthood when she taught me to scramble eggs." His smile grew distant. "Of course, there was the disaster when I spilled honey all over myself just as she was getting ready to take scones from the oven, and the distraction made her forget about them as she tried to clean me up. They were very sad looking charcoal lumps by the time she smelled them burning. We all three went down to the main dining room of Brandy Hall for our supper that night."

"You have such fond memories of your mother. You must have found much comfort in them."

"I'm afraid I found much pain in them. They were golden memories of something that had been torn from me untimely, and all I could feel was the loss; especially at first. I was a sore trial to Aunt Esmeralda and Uncle Saradoc, for I feared getting too close to them, afraid it would be disloyalty to my parents. I grew to love them very much, but never as much as they deserved."

"You find comfort in those memories now, though?"

"Yes," said Frodo, looking at her. "I do now. Do you know, your laugh reminds me of my mother?"


Chapter Fifty-seven: The Voice of the Ring

"Thank you, Frodo." Adamanta sat down next to him. "That was a lovely thing to hear."

"Sometimes I do feel as though you truly are my grandmother."

She smiled. "You miss your parents very much, even now."

He nodded. "They were wrenched from me so suddenly; and too," he shuddered, "I had the unfortunate experience of seeing them when they were raised from the River."

"Oh, my dear lad!" Her eyes sparked with tears.

"Can I tell you something I have never told anyone? Not even Gandalf; though he may have seen it in my thoughts when I was ill. But if he did, he never said anything about it."

"Of course you can!"

"When I left the Shire with the Ring," he hesitated briefly, and then said in surprise, "that's interesting!"

"Always before, when I spoke of the Ring, I felt as though I was worrying at a sore tooth. Now it feels like the sore tooth is gone!" He laughed. "Ah, well! That's good, I suppose. As I was saying when I first left the Shire, I was not especially aware of the Ring's 'voice'. A few times I felt an urge at odds with my own sense to put it on, but I wasn't sure I could blame that on the Ring. After we left the Barrow and Tom Bombadil, I thought I could detect a whispering, only I could not tell what it was trying to say. It faded in and out.

It was not until we met Strider, actually, it was the moment we read Bilbo's poem in the letter, that I heard it distinctly: 'NO'. I was startled to suddenly realise that it was the Ring's voice, and from that time on, I began to hear what it was saying to me more clearly."


Chapter Fifty-eight: The Strength of Love


I tried to shut it out, but it did not go away; it kept on whispering at me. It offered me a chance to return home if I'd give it to Strider, it offered me all sorts of things."

"Then one night shortly before Weathertop, it offered to return my parents to me. I had never believed its promises before; I did not really believe this one-- yet it hurt. I could sense a feeling of triumph. I fell into an uneasy sleep. It kept whispering at me, and I didn't know if I was asleep or awake...'YOU KNOW THE POWER I HAVE; TAKE ME TO MY MASTER, AND I WILL BRING YOUR PARENTS BACK; I WILL TAKE YOU BACK TO THE CHILDHOOD YOU NEVER HAD; YOU WILL NEVER KNOW SORROW OR GRIEF...'

It was so painful. And then I heard a gentle voice, one I had not heard since I was twelve. She said 'Stop it. You have no such power.' And then I heard another voice, and he said 'You will not tell him that again. We know we can't quiet you for once and all, but you will never tell him that again.'

I looked at my parent's faces, and they smiled. My father placed a hand on my shoulder. 'Stay strong, son, hold fast.' My mother placed a kiss upon my brow, and I fell deeply asleep, dreaming of fishing with Merry along the Brandywine.

The Ring subsided for a day or two, then tried something new: it tried to whisper at Sam, Merry and Pippin. For the first time, I used my own will to wall it off from them."

  Chapter Fifty-nine: Watched Over

"I soon found I could focus my will enough to wall the Ring away from my friends. It took an effort, and the Ring did not like it. After a while it stopped trying to bother Merry, Pippin and Sam directly-- though it made all sorts of threats about what was going to happen to them when the Dark Lord finally got his hands on it. I learned to simply tell it firmly and sharply "No!" whenever it got too insistent; then it would subside to a muttering and mumbling whisper again.

I could tell sometimes that it was whispering at Strider as well, but he did not seem to react to it. I think he must have heard it though I never dared ask him if he did. But he held strong."

Then after Weathertop, just knowing that I could protect my cousins and Sam helped me to hold strong.

And the Ring never once repeated its temptation of pretending it could restore my parents."

Frodo looked at Adamanta. "Do you think it was truly them, watching over me?"

She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. "That is not a question I can answer with any certainty, but I have a feeling that it very well might have been. Or perhaps it was that Lorien was watching over your dreams that night. Yet somehow I do not believe that the Ring would have cowered from a mere dream."

"It's a nice thought, that they were watching over me."

"Yes, it is. And it wakened the strength you needed, I believe, to protect your friends and to continue your journey."

Frodo nodded. "I think so, too. They never came to me in the same way again. Yet sometimes when things were getting dark and difficult, I'd waken from a pleasant dream and feel they'd been with me."

Adamanta leaned over and embraced him for the first time, placing a kiss on top of his head.


Chapter Sixty: The Upward Path

Bilbo looked out from their terrace towards the beach below, watching Frodo and Adamanta walking arm-in-arm. There was a new ease in Frodo's manner he hadn't seen for a long time. To be truthful, it wasn't an ease he'd ever seen in his beloved cousin before. He smiled when Frodo looked down attentively at something Adamanta said, and then threw his head back and laughed. The sound carried on the breeze  to where Bilbo stood, and it lifted his heart and brought tears of joy to his eyes. His lad was healing, not only of the wounds that the Ring had inflicted on him, but of older and deeper wounds. Frodo's eyes now gleamed with joy, and though there was still wisdom in them and the memory of sorrow, there was no longer the pain that had always been hidden in their depths.

Bilbo credited Adamanta for much of the change; yes, the Blessed Isle, and the proximity of Aman made some difference. And he knew Gandalf's talks with Frodo had helped.

But it was clear that Frodo had found in Adamanta what she had wished to become to him: a mother, or a grandmother in truth. He should be jealous that she could draw Frodo out in a way he never had, but he couldn't. His relationship with Frodo was long-standing, and their old patterns of behaving with one another would never change. They'd spent too many years respecting one another's privacy to suddenly begin confessing to one another now. That was as it should be; he'd always been like a father to Frodo-- and a father's role was different.

Ah! They had turned on to the upward path. Time to put the kettle on for tea, and fetch out the seedcake he'd baked while they were walking.


Chapter Sixty-one: The Sketchbook, part 1

Frodo sat with his sketchpad on his knee, his charcoal flying over the page as he drew rapidly the scene before him. It was some minutes before his subjects noticed his activity.

They were in the front garden of Adamanta's smial in the Vale. Frodo was beneath a tree, his back against the mighty trunk, as he did his best to capture the three of them: Bilbo, Adamanta and Gandalf, admiring a bed of riotous colors-- lilies in shades that Frodo had never seen back in the Shire: rich reds, glorious golden yellows and outrageous oranges. He wished he had some colours with him-- he knew his memory could never capture the scene so well. Still, perhaps one day when they visited, he could bring his paints and the easel one of Elrond's household had built for him. But he wasn't sure that the colours he had could capture those vibrant shades anyway.

Still, he could capture the expressions on the faces of the three whom he loved. Gandalf was looking at the two hobbits more than the flowers--his eyes twinkling, and a fond proud smile twitching at his lips. Bilbo was clearly enjoying the flowers--Frodo heard him invoke Sam's name and laugh. Frodo was sure he was wondering how Sam would react to these new flowers. Adamanta seemed very pleased with herself, and Frodo knew that she was glad she could tend her garden as a hobbit should, with toes in the grass and fingers in the soil.

But now they had spotted him, and turned.

"You can't draw the flowers from over there, Frodo!" Bilbo admonished him. "Why I know you cannot see them properly from there!"

Frodo laughed. "And what makes you think I am drawing the flowers, Bilbo? I have much more interesting subjects than flowers."


Chapter Sixty-two: The Sketchbook, part 2 

Sometime during his second year on the Isle, Frodo had taken up his art once more. First he simply found himself illuminating his writings--borders of flowers or knots, or tiny ink drawings of scenes began to adorn his words. One day he took up a blank journal and a charcoal stick, and went out to sketch--trees, the sea, shells, scenes or people. It had been some while before he showed anyone save Bilbo what he'd done. But one day he asked Adamanta if he could draw her, and then he began to share his work with others.

Now after a few years, he'd lost his self-consciousness. He'd never minded people watching him work in the Shire, but here he felt he could not reach the standard of Elven perfection around him. But he soon learned that the Elves loved the differences in his work, seeing in it those things which were the gifts of mortals.

As the four friends took tea in Adamanta's kitchen, she asked to look at this new sketchbook. She turned the pages back, commenting on sketches of her smial, and an intricate drawing of her rooftree.

"Ah! This is your cousin Pippin!" she exclaimed. "And who is the hobbitess with him?"

Frodo chuckled. "During my last visit to the Tower, I saw Pip's wedding in the palantír. It was much more elaborate than Merry's! This is his bride, Diamond North-took."

He turned back another page and showed Bilbo and Gandalf as well. "Look who was at the wedding!" There was a sketch of Legolas and Gimli. "I'm glad they could be there!"

Adamanta placed a finger on a sketch of Merry and Pippin, their arms slung around one another, and Sam laughing by their side, a mug in his hand. "Kali, Raz and Ban," she said.


Chapter Sixty-three: A Drop of Fancy in the Blood

Frodo and Bilbo stared in astonishment at the sketch. Frodo placed a finger on Sam's picture. "Ban?"

Adamanta nodded. "You can see it around the eyes and the chin--and the ears."

Frodo grinned, chuckled, and laughed aloud. "Won't Sam be astonished to discover he's a Took as well! I think he always had a certain pride in the thought that he came of solid Harfoot stock--as I once heard the Gaffer say 'without a drop o' fancy or moonlight in the blood'."

Bilbo was also laughing. "Although it seems natural to me--Sam was always full of curiosity and questions."

Gandalf took a puff on his pipe. "I can probably explain that. As you know, I studied hobbit history, and though I never traced hobbits all the way back to Tûk and Adamanta," here he gave a polite nod to their hostess, "I do know that one family of Harfoots was descended from a Fallohide who left his own clan and never returned. They were among the earliest to migrate West, and it was several generations before they had contact with those whom they had left behind. I suspect that Fallohide was one of Ban's own
descendants--there was no fresh infusion of Fallohide blood among them as there was in those who remained in the East."

Adamanta nodded. "I can understand that. I had many grandchildren and great-grand-children by the time I left. Some moved away and married into other clans, seldom visiting. If their new clan moved far away, it would have been difficult--perhaps close to impossible--to keep in touch."

Frodo chuckled again. "I do so look forward to the look on Sam's face when he meets you, Adamanta! He'll probably be even more astonished to learn your identity than Bilbo and I were!"

  Chapter Sixty-four--Conversations About the Past, Part One

Time passed like a dream. Weeks, months and years blurred together, but memorable days stood out like vivid paintings in a frame. Though Gandalf continued to remind them of their birthday, they lost track of their ages, and Yule was marked only by a visit to the Tower by Frodo to look at his friends in the palantír. Bilbo never went, but Adamanta spent the day with him.

Frodo began to write more, usually poetry, and Bilbo wrote less, often sleeping entire days away. Yet when awake, he was as sharp of mind as ever, though he preferred to talk more of his memories of the past. Frodo learned much of Bilbo's youth, stories his older cousin had never shared with him before.

One day, after Frodo had spoken of the news of Pippin's family, Bilbo said, "Pippin wed a healer, didn't he?"

"Yes, Uncle Bilbo. Her name is Diamond. She was distant kin, a North-took, and was apprenticed when Pippin met her. I met her a few times--they had just begun a courtship before I left. I know they were very much in love. Cousin Berilac also was courting a young healer at the time."

Bilbo sighed. "Things were different when I was young. I recall so well my regard for a young lass who became a healer. Back then it was nearly unheard of for a healer to wed, especially the young ones, and when I learned that she was apprenticed to become a healer, my heart was broken. I don't know if she even knew of my feelings towards her, or if it would have made any difference if she had. Our lives took very different paths."

Frodo was surprised. He had often wondered why his Uncle Bilbo never wed. "Who was she?"

"Her name was Pomona."


Conversations About the Past, Part 2

 "Pomona?" asked Frodo.

 "Pomona Goldworthy. She was Pippin's great-aunt, sister of his grandmother Periwinkle. I met her at Adalgrim's wedding when I was a young tween. She wore a scarlet ribbon around her ankle and we danced at the party." He sighed. "I harboured all sorts of fantasies about her--we were only young tweens at the time. I'd made up my mind to court her when we were of the proper age to do so, but just as I'd gathered the courage to speak, I learned of her apprenticeship. Afterwards, no other lass ever took my fancy in the same way, and after several years on my own, I became content with my bachelorhood. If I'd had a wife, I'd certainly never had any adventures. I don't know if that was a good thing or a bad."

"I've always wondered, Bilbo, if it was the Ring that kept me from ever finding a wife. Certainly it was jealous enough once it awakened. Do you think the Ring kept you from looking for someone else?"

Bilbo was silent for a moment, thinking and blowing smoke-rings. Then he answered, "No, I don't. I've no idea if Pomona would ever have returned my regard, but she was the one for me. As to yourself, ask yourself these questions, my lad: first, was there ever a lass who made you think of settling down before the Ring came to you? and second, were you happy enough without a wife? I mean, of course, before you knew what the Ring was."

Now Frodo was silent. Finally he shook his head. "No, there were lasses whose company I found pleasant enough, but none who stole my heart. And yes, I enjoyed being on my own most of the time. Still, I suppose we'll never know for certain."

Author's Note: I tell more about Bilbo's feelings for Pomona Goldworthy in my story "Eleventy-one Years: Too Short a Time".


Chapter Sixty-six: Conversations About the Present, Part 1


The soft swishing of the waves and the cries of the gulls punctuated the morning as Frodo and the Lady Celebrian strolled upon the sand. Both of them were barefoot, and the hem of her gown and the cuffs of his breeches were soaked with the salt water. The breezes played with her pale tresses and his dark curls, and the tang of the ocean was in the air.

The two often walked without speaking, but Celebrian knew her small friend's moods. "What troubles you, Frodo?"

"It's Bilbo. I'm worried. He sleeps so much now, but when he is awake, he is not truly present." 

"He is very ancient for one of your kind, my friend."

"He was that before we arrived here, and has lived far longer now than any hobbit in history. I think he is longing now for that last and most mysterious of adventures." 

"That grieves you."

"I'll miss him dreadfully. But I have no doubt that we'll be reunited. I fear that he only lingers for my sake. I don't wish to tie him down, yet I don't know what to say." Frodo stopped walking and gazed out over the sea. "We parted once before, long ago, and I still remember my heartache as I saw him vanish. Yet I knew it was what was best for him and I found the strength to let him go with my blessing. But this is different, it's no mere jaunt. How can I possibly tell him that it is all right with me if he dies? The words seem wrong for what I feel." 

"Do not fear to speak to him. He knows your heart better than anyone else. He will not mistake your blessing for callousness."

Frodo drew a deep breath. "You are right, my lady."



Chapter Sixty-seven: Conversations About the Present, Part 2

Gandalf sat in the corner watching as Elrond sat next to Bilbo and placed his fingers upon the pulse at the old hobbit's wrist, then taking from his robes a small vial. Bilbo obediently opened his mouth for three drops of the elixir. He swallowed and sighed, looking up at his Elven friend he said, "Gandalf shouldn't have bothered you with my small trouble." 

Elrond shook his head. "It is never a bother to attend to you, my old friend. I am very glad that Mithrandir summoned me when you had such a turn."

"I'm old, Elrond. Gandalf knows exactly how old, even if I don't. It's no surprise that I have a turn once in a while. It's going to be time soon, to let go and move on."

"You are ready to accept the Gift of Ilúvatar?" Elrond felt his own heart constrict at the thought of losing this dear friend.

"Once I told Gandalf that I felt like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. But now I feel like the bread, rather than the butter, if you see what I mean." 

Gandalf chuckled, and Elrond patted the hobbit's hand fondly. "What holds you back, mellon nin? I know you better than to think it is fear of what awaits you."

"No, I don't fear what's to be. But I dread abandoning my lad once more. I did that once before, and hurt him far more than I intended."

Gandalf rose and went over to him. "Frodo has grown far wiser and stronger than the youth you left in charge of Bag End." 

Bilbo nodded. "Yes, he is. I will talk to him" His eyelids drooped as he drifted into slumber.

Elrond's eyes filled. "Not yet, but very soon." 

"We shall mourn him," Gandalf whispered.



Chapter Sixty-eight: Conversations About the Future, Part 1

Frodo returned to the hobbits' quarters as Gandalf and Elrond were leaving. They bid him farewell rather gravely as he passed into the parlour. Bilbo was ensconced in his armchair by the hearth with a blanket over his lap, dozing and snoring softly, but he opened his eyes with a smile for Frodo.

"Hullo, Frodo! Did you have a pleasant walk?" he asked. 

"Yes, Uncle. I brought you a mathom." Frodo reached in his pocket and drew forth the tiny dried form of a starfish, and held it out for inspection.

"Ah! A star of the Sea!" Bilbo gazed at it on his palm, and together the two of them marvelled over it much as they had when Frodo as a small child had shared such treasures. 

"We need to talk," said Frodo. "Why don't I bring us some lunch?"

He brought a tray with tea, a light broth, some toast and a bowl of grapes, and together they shared the light repast. Then they looked at one another, a strange shyness between them, for neither wished to speak first. 

Finally Bilbo said, "You know Frodo, while I have never called myself your father, I have always thought of you as the son of my heart. I could not be prouder of you if I tried. You brought so much delight and joy to my life."

"Oh, Uncle!" Frodo's eyes filled with tears. "I was lost without a place in the world until you brought me to Bag End." He reached forward and took Bilbo's hands between his own. "I know what is coming. I cannot be so selfish as to beg you to stay when your heart is ready to go." 

"Never doubt that we will be together again. And wait for Sam before you join me."

"Yes, Uncle."



Chapter Sixty-nine: Conversations About the Future, Part 2

Gandalf smiled at the scene: Adamanta in her hobbit form looked quite incongruous in the company she now sat among. There on the terrace overlooking the Sea were Elrond, the Lady Celebrian and the Lady Galadriel and one Maia still clad as an Istari. She did not look in the least abashed, for she was, after all, not only a hobbit, but one of the Maiar herself. She sipped from the small goblet of wine she held, and looked up to catch Gandalf's eye. They were much alike: both of them clung to their forms out of love for their friends. Gandalf held his own goblet up in a silent toast, and she nodded and took another sip.

"Yes," said Elrond, in answer to a question from the Lady Galadriel, "it is quite evident that Bilbo will accept the Gift very soon. He worries, of course, about the grief he will cause Frodo."

"Frodo is strong," said Galadriel. "He has borne much, and he can bear this. But I fear for his loneliness after. Even on his difficult Quest he had with him always at least one of his own kind."

Adamanta looked up sharply, but before she could speak, Celebrian did so. "Do not think he will be without one of his own kind even after Bilbo departs. After all, for what other reason was Adamanta sent among us?"

Galadriel looked at Adamanta, who smiled with one eyebrow raised. "I know, Artanis, that you still think of me as Mirimё. And so I am. But I am also truly Adamanta, and I am a hobbit now. And Frodo is one of my children, however many 'greats' fall between. He will grieve, and he will be lonely for Bilbo. But he will not lack for another hobbit to comfort him.


Chapter Seventy: The Burglar Steals Away

For a few days Bilbo dwelt in a calm and cheerful lassitude, eating little but tea and toast, mostly sleeping. Frodo spent most of that time sitting by his beloved cousin's bedside, studying Bilbo's face, holding his hand, and remembering the times they'd had together.

When visitors arrived, Bilbo would rouse, sending Frodo away to spend time closeted alone with Adamanta, or Elrond, or Celebrian or Galadriel, but most of all Gandalf. Frodo suspected he was the subject of conversation and that in spite of their talk, that Bilbo still worried about what would come of him once he was alone. Truthfully, Frodo knew it would be difficult.

When Bilbo sent him off, he would wander down to the shore and stare out over the changing Sea. More than any time since his earliest habitation on the Blessed Isle, he missed the Shire. Most of all he missed his friends, and longed for Merry's stout protectiveness, Pippin's indomitable optimism, Rose's gentle care, Elanor's bright smile--and most of all, for Sam's loyal and sturdy understanding.

He returned one day to find all their closest friends gathered. "How old am I, Gandalf?" Bilbo whispered.

"It was exactly one-hundred years ago today that you ran out of Bag End's door without so much as a handkerchief." Gandalf's smile was sad.

Frodo went over and clambered onto the bed at Bilbo's side, and put his arm around the frail shoulders, and drew him into his embrace.

Bilbo looked into Frodo's face. "I'm uncommonly proud of you, my child," he whispered. He closed his eyes, and leaned against Frodo. Frodo brushed back the wispy white curls from his brow.

Suddenly, Bilbo opened his eyes and smiling, clearly said: "I think I'm ready for another adventure!" His breathing slowed, his eyes closed, and he was gone.

  Chapter 71: The Funeral

Bilbo had chosen, with her permission, to be laid beneath the rooftree of Adamanta's smial at The Vale, for he said it was quite the most Shire-like place on the island. Frodo and Adamanta stood at Gandalf's side. Nearly all the Elves of Elrond's household, and also Elves of the town who had come to know the hobbits over the time they had been there were in attendance.

The Elven-women raised their voices in song, a lament in Quenya. Frodo understood the words, which were beautiful and ethereal, but somehow they did not seem quite right for Bilbo, who had been a very earthy and solid person. Still, he allowed the music to carry him along, as Elven music usually did, until the end.

When it ended, the Elves drifted away silently, though some of them pressed small gifts upon Frodo, little things they had made in memory of their small mortal friend: a tiny bound book with one of Bilbo's poems, exquisitely illuminated; a sketch of his cousin sitting on Elrond's terrace, smoking his pipe; a little bag of sweet biscuits, made by Elrond's baker from one of Bilbo's own recipes; a wooden carving of a squirrel Bilbo had been fond of feeding, and other such tokens.

Adamanta had invited him to stay with her for as long as he wished, and he took her up on her offer. He was not sure he could yet face the empty rooms under Elrond's roof.

Gandalf remained as well. Frodo could see the pain in the wizard's eyes. In a few decades more or less, he'd be reunited with Bilbo. It would be a lot longer for Gandalf.

The three of them quietly kept one another company in the cosy rooms of Adamanta's hole, taking great comfort from simply being together.


Mourning: Frodo

It was quiet in Adamanta's smial, quiet, cool, and peaceful. His guest room reminded him of his old room at Brandy Hall in his youth. It was small, an inner room without windows, though not as lightless as his room there: it boasted a clever skylight over the bed with shutters operated by a cord, so that if he wished he could keep out the morning light. Frodo preferred to leave it open to the stars at night. He would lay there at night and gaze at the distant, familiar lights, not so different from the stars at home, though they seemed brighter and clearer here West of the Sundering Sea.

He missed Bilbo with a deep ache of longing; he missed sharing with his cousin the new things he discovered, the events of his day. He missed their frequent reminiscences of their long years together, their history of friendship and kinship that went as far back as Frodo could recall. And for the first time in a long time, he wished he could be back in the Shire, where Sam and Rose, Merry and Pippin would know what to say and do to assuage his grief.

Yet Adamanta was the kindest of hosts. She did not press him to do anything at all, but meals were always there, all six of them at appropriate intervals. As time passed he attended them more often than not. He would sometimes join her to work in her garden, or go fishing in the river below the hill.

And Gandalf was there, his own sorrow plain to see. Somehow knowing how deeply Gandalf missed Bilbo as well seemed to help. They could talk about him or not as the mood took them, and sometimes they could smile or even laugh at the memories.


Mourning: Gandalf

It always caught him by surprise by how different it was each time. Grief never hit the same way twice, for each person mourned was different, each loss unique. He had learned much of grief from the Lady Nienna, who had taught him compassion; it was after all, she who had first told him, "Do not fear to weep! Not all tears are an evil." Parting was painful, whether or not one was assured of eventual reunion, and joy postponed was...postponed.

Before he had been an Istar, before he had become, in every way save his life span, a very mortal old Man, he had known grief. He had mourned the downfall of Melkor, the marring of Arda, and all the pains the world had known because of that marring. He had been sad, but he knew now, he had never felt bereft, not in the way he had felt the first time he'd lost a mortal friend. The seeming he had sometimes worn before did not register joy or grief with the same sharpness and clarity: that sinking feeling in the gut, that twisting of the heart, that catching of the breath, that knowing that someone was gone, that needed a true body, real blood and bone, not illusion.

Hardest of all had been losing his hobbits. In his very first encounter with them he had one die in his arms. They were such a special people, kind and dignified and cheerful, and mindful of the true treasures of life. But a few had been very close friends, and among them Bilbo and Frodo had been his closest and best. Now Bilbo was gone; and yes, there would be a reunion, joyful beyond any imagining. But for him, that joy was...postponed and in the meanwhile he must endure the missing.

Mourning: Adamanta

She missed Bilbo. They had become great friends in the years since they met. He had accepted her quickly as being who and what she claimed to be; had been delighted to discover a kinswoman on this side of the Sundering Sea. Unlike Frodo, he had not questioned the purpose of her existence but made her acquaintance swiftly into a family tie.

Yet they'd felt more like peers, cousins perhaps, rather than a distant many times great-grandmother and her descendant. That might have been due to the fact that they appeared to be the same age, at least at first, for by the time Bilbo left them he'd seemed far older. Now he was gone, and she felt much older than she now appeared. Grief, as she knew only too well, was draining.

She had never finished her grieving over Tûk;  even now, after the healing she'd found by being with hobbits again, she sometimes had sharp pangs of intense sorrow for her beloved. There was never a moment since she lost him that she did not know they were severed, that Tûk was gone.

But the absence of Bilbo was different, an ache in knowing he was gone. Sometimes she would forget it, think of something amusing that she wished to share, only to be brought up short by the fact that she'd not be able to do so.

She mourned for Frodo as well. He seemed so lost at times. How hard it must be for him to lose one who had been guardian, mentor and friend, a father truly, though Frodo never called him that.

She had promised Bilbo she would help Frodo, that she would be there for him in his grief. This would be a promise she would keep; after all, grandmothers are for comforting.

Mourning: Elrond

"I thought I would find you here," said Celebrian.

Elrond turned, waiting for her to join him as they strolled through the abandoned golf course. "I miss having hobbits about, my love. I wonder shall Frodo return, or will it be too painful for him to dwell here without another of his kind?"

"You do miss having hobbits about, but I think also you miss one particular hobbit. Bilbo had a special place in your heart."

"He did. He was a good friend. He had a generous and compassionate heart as well as that sturdy and steadfast courage that dwells deep within each hobbit breast. Do you know, Arwen loved him well? It was a grief to her that he could not come with us to her wedding. Even in his own sorrow and fear for his kin during the Quest to destroy Sauron's Ring, he did what he could to keep up her hopes and mine." Elrond stopped, espying a small object in the grass. He bent to pick it up, and showed it to his wife with a sad smile: it was a hand-carved wooden tee.

"I remember watching Mithrandir carving those with his own two hands."

Elrond nodded, putting his arm around her shoulders as they walked on. "At least Frodo has Adamanta," he said.

"He does, and he has Mithrandir as well. And I am sure, very sure, that he will return to us. When he does, he will have you and me, and my mother and all the others who have come to know and love him as we do. And he will be happy again before he too must accept the gift and leave us."

She sounded very sure. But, as Elrond knew, she was Galadriel's daughter and not lacking in her own foresight.

I'm dedicating this chapter to Fiondil. The last communication I had from him was a very kind and lovely review of this story.    

There is a Time

Frodo remained with Gandalf and Adamanta throughout the summer and beyond. He helped harvest the bounty of her garden, and visited the river below to fish. He listened to Adamanta's tales of Tuk and of her family as he worked by her side in the kitchen or the garden; he would sit by Gandalf as his old friend spun tales of days gone by. He spoke only to encourage the others to continue talking. The sounds of their voices were soothing, keeping his mind from straying to his loss. Sometimes he would soothe himself with his sketchbook, spending hours making meaningless, yet beautiful, patterns.

But at night in bed, as he stared at the stars through the skylight, he saw years of loneliness stretching ahead of him. Loneliness had been an old acquaintance since he lost his parents long ago.

One morning, he and Gandalf went to the Water, fishing poles in hand. Casting his line, Gandalf said, "Did you know that your birthday is next week?"

Frodo felt a sharp pang of grief. There had never been a birthday without Bilbo. "I can't," he said, the lump in his throat silencing him abruptly.

"It will happen, nonetheless. You will be seventy-three." He drew the lure through the water, eyeing the fly and noting the shadowy shapes of the trout moving below the surface. He said nothing more, but waited.

Frodo silently tried to think. Finally he said, "So, it's 1441 now?"

"It is. You have been gone for twenty years." There was a pull on his line. He pulled in a shiny brown trout, and held it up. "A bit young. Back you go!" He slipped the fish back into the water.

Frodo drew in a deep breath. "I think it's time for another glimpse of the Shire."

Returning Home

Not wanting a lot of "fuss and bother", Frodo decided to wait until after his birthday had passed before returning to Elrond's home, and going to the Tower to view the palantír. He knew the Elves would want to celebrate, but any reminder of the birthdays he had shared with Bilbo would be unbearably painful. Perhaps he could think of some new tradition, or ignore the passing years.

And so he spent a few more days in Adamanta's hole, and when it came down to it, he could not completely ignore the significance of his birthday. So he quietly gifted Gandalf with a sketch of the old grey wizard driving his cart over the Bywater Bridge. And for Adamanta, he had drawn the front of her smial. Adamanta made Frodo's favorite dishes for supper, but there were no toasts nor mentions of the day.

The next day after elevenses, Gandalf on Shadowfax and Frodo upon his little silver-grey pony, Lindefalmë rode back, stopping on the way in a meadow to enjoy a leisurely picnic, packed for them by Adamanta. There was dark brown bread, mild white cheese, strawberry tarts and a bottle of elderberry wine. They removed the bags from Shadowfax and Lindefalmë, and allowed their mounts to run about the meadow unencumbered graze as they would. 

They arrived home in time to join the Elves at the evening meal; they sat in their usual places near the family, Frodo to the right of Celebrian. He was glad that Gandalf was next to Elrond on the other side, for Bilbo's place had been there; he did not need to face his cousin's absence. He and Celebrian spoke mostly of Adamanta and how her garden and hole were doing.

The next morning, he rose early for the trek to the Tower.
Author's Note:: According to the Quenya Name Generator Lindefalmë means "wave singer". Since I could not find a Quenya word for "dolphin", that's what Frodo has named his pony for.

The Tower

The two of them left as the dawn was touching the East and the stars still lingered far beyond the Pelori to the West. The two of them always walked to the Tower, rather than riding. They passed silently through the streets; many Elves were already about the business of the day, and smiled and waved to the two familiar figures, but did not seek conversation. They continued on, pausing briefly to eat and drink their provisions at the side of the road. The Sun was high in her journey when they arrived at the Tower.

As always, Frodo was awed by its pearly gleam even in broad daylight, and its deceptive simplicity. The tower was smooth as glass. They faced an arched door of finely grained wood, the grain matched to create a pattern. The lintels of the door were carven in an intricate design of twining vines and leaves. At the very top, the tower was pierced by four arched windows--each facing a different direction. Other than that, it was completely smooth and featureless. It was a marvel of Elven design, and though he had been here before, it still amazed him 

He entered behind Gandalf, following him up the spiraling staircase that led to the top, where were kept both the Seeing Stones on this side of the Sea. The one he viewed was the one that had come back on the same grey ship as he.

Twenty years had passed since he had left the Shire and come to these shores. He had come to love his life here, but the Shire would never completely leave his heart. Now he missed it badly. 

He stood before the palantír with Gandalf's hand upon his shoulder, and readied himself for the sensation of flying across the Sundering Sea.

Across the Sundering Sea, part 1

In between his times visiting the palantír, Frodo thought he'd grown used to the sensation of flying above the clouds and over the Sea. But every time he was as surprised and exhilarated as he'd been the first time. Below him were wheeling gulls, foamy waves, and the occasional splashes of great whales. Soon enough he saw the wharves of Mithlond, then the Towers, then the Downs.

As sometimes happened, he bypassed Bag End. Usually that meant Sam and his family were elsewhere. His vision continued West, so the Gamgees were not at the Great Smials now; perhaps they were visiting Buckland? He thought his guess was correct as he went lower, catching sight of a group of hobbits approaching the Stonebow Bridge. But what was going on there? For on the western bank were bright pavilions with banners, among them the great standard of the White Tree!

He saw now the small figures crossing the bridge were his Gamgees! There was Sam, astride a pony, with Rose riding likewise at his side, a babe in a sling across her breast. Frodo thought for a moment for the insight that sometimes visited him. Ah! They called this little one Robin. Elanor, who had grown into a lovely tween also rode a pony alongside her mother. A waggon followed, driven by his young namesake, and carrying the other little Gamgees.

The family rode across the bridge, and were met by Merry and Pippin, their own families ranged behind them. Then all turned to face the largest pavilion. Sam, Merry and Pippin stood side by side; as the King and Queen came out, all save those three bowed deeply, while the three of them simply gave an incline of their head. Frodo smiled, as he felt himself come to stand alongside them.

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