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The stories featured in this collection all take place on Tol Eressëa, and are gapfillers for my longer stories "Ancestress" or my collaborative AU story with Pandemonium_213, "The Prisoner and the Hobbit".
My story "Comfort and Joy" would also fit in here. It is already posted in my "Shire Yule" collection.
Due to various happenings in RL, I did not get the chance to finish and post this on July 1, so consider it a belated birthday mathom to all my friends!
"And so what year is it in the Shire?" Frodo was not concerned when he heard Bilbo asking Gandalf that question; it was not like he could keep track of the time either. For years they had counted on their old friend to remind them of special occasions. He would always alert them when their Birthday or Yule was coming up.
"It is the Year of Shire Reckoning 1429 across the Sea, and the two of you have been here nearly eight years now."
Frodo thought for a moment. "I'm to be sixty-one, then..." How odd. While it seemed to him they had been on Tol Eressëa much longer than that, he did not feel as though he had aged eight years.
Bilbo gave a smug grin. "I will have left the Old Took in the dust!" he said proudly. Frodo rolled his eyes. His cousin had long ago convinced himself that even if the Ring had not "interfered", as he put it, he would still have equaled or bested Gerontius Took in years lived. "I'll be one-hundred-and-thirty-nine!"
"How much notice are you giving us, Gandalf?" Frodo asked. The first year Gandalf had told them only the day before, and was berated soundly for not giving them time to prepare; the following year he'd told them almost a month in advance, and Bilbo had nearly worn himself and Frodo to a frazzle making elaborate party plans. After that he had usually given them two or three days to plan, and it seemed to work well.
"You have today and tomorrow; the twenty-second of Halimath in the Shire calendar will be the day after tomorrow."
The two hobbits exchanged a look. "Well," said Frodo, "I suppose we shall spend tomorrow cooking and receiving guests.
After Gandalf had left Frodo said, "At least there will be no mad scramble for gifts this year."
Bilbo nodded with satisfaction. They'd dealt with that at the height of summer after a visit to the countryside hole of their distant kinswoman Adamanta. There they'd gone a-berrying, and harvested such a bounty that Bilbo and Frodo had filled nearly half their larder with preserves: bramble, strawberry, blueberry and raspberry. There were many jars left, some of which would make their gifts to their friends.
After a check of the rest of the larder's contents, the two began to plan the menu for the party: a salad of chopped vegetables, blanched and dressed with raspberry vinegar; roasted potatoes; fresh hot bread with butter and honey..."We'll need to go to the poulterer's," said Bilbo. "I think some small game hens, spit-roasted and basted with that honey and tomato sauce..."
Frodo nodded. "We can take some of that seedcake down. Master Amaldon does love it."
The hobbits had discovered not long after arrival that the Elves of the Blessed Isle did not use money. They instead used an odd form of barter, more like an exchange of favours than of items of equal value. Gandalf had explained that living forever in a place of prosperity meant that the Elves valued things more for the pleasure they gave or for personal taste than any intrinsic value of the things themselves. And very frequently they simply gave things away, especially many of the artisans--it was considered that the pleasure lay in the creating rather than the possessing ("and," Gandalf added, "it is believed that is the way to avoid the pride that led to Fëanor's downfall.").
"Well, we will see how many game hens four seedcakes will bring us," said Bilbo.
As it turned out, while Master Amaldon did take the seedcake (for that delicacy had become highly popular among the Elves of Bilbo and Frodo's acquaintance, the reciept for which they still guarded zealously) he offered them nine or twelve birds, dressed and ready for the spit, "in honour of your special day! I will bring them up that morning. I have only nine on hand, but I may get more tomorrow."
A few visits to other Elves, and the two of them felt their party would have adequate food and drink. "Mind you," said Bilbo, "it wouldn't do in the Shire. But these Elves simply don't eat enough to be interesting to a good cook!"
Frodo smiled, and remembered the first time the two of them had entertained their friends here; they'd had leftovers for days. "You lived in Rivendell for seventeen years, Uncle. I would think you had noticed before now."
"I did notice that they only seem to pick at their food; but I'd rarely had occasion to entertain them except to tea sometimes."
They made their way back to the House of Elrond, and their own little home within it, well satisfied with their plans.
The next morning, after a simple breakfast of tea, toast spread with soft cheese, and fruit compote, the two of them began to clean the already pristine apartment in preparation for a steady stream of guests. Over the years, Elrond's household had become intimately familiar with hobbit birthday customs. Today they would bring gifts to Bilbo and Frodo. Tomorrow they would arrive for the party, and receive their own gifts.
Lord Elrond, Lady Celebrian and Lady Galadriel were, of course, the first to arrive. Elrond and his wife presented them with a book of some lesser known tales of the First Age.
Lady Galadriel had for them a wooden box with the Baggins monogram engraved on the lid. Her smile was both mysterious and mischievous. Bilbo gestured for Frodo to open it. Frodo burst out laughing. "See how you have corrupted the Elves, Uncle?" He tilted the box so Bilbo could see.
Inside were the cards and markers needed to play the Shire game named for its creator, Bilbo's Uncle Bingo! "Well, I suppose we know how we'll be entertaining our guests at the party!"
"You've only yourself to blame, old friend," said Elrond, a twinkle in his eyes. "You should never have taught it to my household in the first place!"
"Had I known it would follow me across the Sundering Sea, I don't suppose I would have." But there was a twinkle in his own eye. He still enjoyed the old game as much as ever.
"But it is so amusing, Bilbo," the Lady Galadriel said. "One learns much by observing the players at the height of the game. And it is something only hobbits would have thought of; Elves could never have invented such a thing."
After tea and biscuits (which served their guests as refreshment and themselves as second breakfast) the three took their leave.
The next to arrive was Lord Elrond's friend Lord Gilfanon, who happened to be visiting at the time. He had made the acquaintance of the two hobbits a few birthdays back, when several of their friends conspired to gift them with a small golf course and the equipment they needed to play the sport. Lord Gilfanon was fascinated by the sport, and soon had clubs made to his size. He and Frodo frequently played a round or two whenever the Elf came to visit Lord Elrond.
He brought Bilbo a box of sweets; he knew the older hobbit was fond of them, and also that Bilbo did not entirely approve of his influence on Frodo. ("He brings out too much of the Brandybuck in you, lad!" he'd told his cousin after a match in which Frodo was very nearly defeated by the Elf early on in their acquaintance, and had come home quite cross over his near miss.) Since then the Elf had defeated Frodo several times, and it always made Frodo cross afterwards. Frodo rarely cared much about winning or losing—except when Gilfanon was his opponent.
But he brought Frodo what looked like a mere coil of wire. "One of the smiths at my House of a Hundred Chimneys came up with this on a whim." He placed the coil on the edge of the table and flicked the top of it. The upper part of the coil bent over and slowly it dropped from the tabletop to the empty chair in front of it, and then without further prompting, to the floor below. "You should see it descend a staircase!"
Frodo was thrilled with the novel device, and Bilbo was intrigued enough to forgive the Elf-lord. Neither hobbit had ever seen such a thing before.
When Gandalf arrived a few minutes later, Lord Gilfanon left, avoiding the Maia's gaze. The hobbits invited him to join them for elevenses, and he quickly accepted. The three of them went out on the terrace with their tea and scones and boiled eggs and a bowl of apples.
He held a package out to Bilbo. "This isn't from me. It's from your…correspondent."
Bilbo felt of it. "It's a book," he said, and he opened it. The Princess and the Shoe?" He looked puzzled. "That's an old Shire children's tale. I shouldn't think it would interest him."
Frodo looked surprised as well. "I shouldn't think he'd know anything about it," he said.
"You would both be wrong, and on more than one account. First of all, the tale did not originate in the Shire. No one knows where it originated. He's collected a dozen different versions of the story from various countries and times and translated them. Each one is quite different than all the others, and yet is still recognizable as the same story. He thought as a linguist you might find the differences interesting, Bilbo. He chose the tale because he knew it was one that you had in the Shire."
"How did he know that?" asked Frodo skeptically.
"I told him, of course. It was the version I'd heard Gerontius tell his own children."
Bilbo nodded. "Thank you for bringing it, Gandalf. I shall write my thanks to him as well, if you will, as usual, carry it to him."
Their old friend nodded, and pulled two long and smallish packages from the pocket of his robe, and handed one to each of them. "This is simply an earnest of the rest of my gift, which I shall present tomorrow evening."
"Squibs and crackers!" said Frodo.
"Which means," added Bilbo, "that you have fireworks for us?"
Gandalf nodded, and pulled out his pipe, incentive for his hosts to do the same. The miniature fireworks were simply a way of satisfying hobbit etiquette, so that the gift was presented the day before the actual birthday celebration. The three sat back in contented silence, puffing on their pipes and blowing smoke rings. Other than changing the colour, Gandalf did not try anything fancy; this was simply a time to relax.
"Well," said a familiar feminine voice from the direction of the gate to the terrace, "I see I have come just in time!"
"Adamanta! How delightful!" Bilbo exclaimed. All three of them smiled to see her—the Maia named Mirimë, who had transformed herself into a hobbit to wed her true love an Age ago.
Frodo rose to open the gate and let her in for her hands were full. She was carrying a large basket covered with a linen cloth, and Frodo's nose twitched. "These are for the both of you," she said, "and they were freshly harvested this morning."
She placed them on the table and twitched the cloth aside: in the basket was a bounty of beautiful honey mushrooms.
"Ah! Adamanta! These are wonderful! And so many of them!" Bilbo was overjoyed. There were enough for him and Frodo to have some at their supper tonight, and yet leave plenty to make a dish for tomorrow's party.
Gandalf smiled to watch his friends respond to Adamanta. Truth to tell, it was how he thought of her these days. She almost never took on any other form now than that of the elderly hobbitess she wore for her distant descendants. After seeing her this way, he had occasionally thought of taking on hobbit form himself for a while; but he knew that however much he loved being around them, he was not himself a hobbit and he was of much more use and comfort to Frodo and Bilbo in the guise in which they had always known him. He finished his pipe and excused himself. "I will see you both tomorrow just before luncheon," he said. He rose, and exited by the gate through which Adamanta had come.
Adamanta invited herself to stay and help them with the party preparations and for luncheon, which consisted of bread, cheese, pickles and cold sliced meats. After the meal she assisted with the washing up, and then giving her "grandsons" a kiss on their cheek, she saw herself out the same way she had come in.
After she left, the two realised they had finished everything that they could do ahead of time. Frodo took the book that Elrond had given them, and Bilbo took The Princess and the Shoe, and they both settled into their armchairs in the front room to read. Bilbo dozed off first, and his gentle snores soon lured Frodo into slumber as well.
They were startled awake by the sound of knocking. "Frodo-lad, get the door," said Bilbo, sounding so much like he had when they both lived in Bag End that it made Frodo smile.
Several Elves stood in the corridor, the one in front with his hands upon a rolling cart, on which stood an immense birthday cake, a true work of art. Elrond's head cook and head baker were on either side of the cake and behind them were the entire staff of the kitchens.
"Master Bilbo and Master Frodo," said the head cook, "We hope that you will accept this gift in the honour of your birthing day." He'd been getting it wrong for eight years now; Frodo was of the opinion he did it on purpose, but it was funny. He ignored that and gestured for them to come in.
The hobbits admired the cake. "Even Lily Cotton could not have done a better job," said Frodo. In truth, it was far above Mrs. Cotton's abilities, but just as the head cook feigned that he did not know the word "birthday" Frodo pretended that he thought Sam's mother-in-law the finest baker ever. And after all, she was the finest baker in the Shire.
They invited the Elves in to take refreshment, but their visitors demurred, saying they had to get back to their work.
Bilbo glanced at the mantel clock. "Shall we have late tea or early supper? And should we eat here or go down to the dining hall and then the Hall of Fire?"
"I'm for early supper here, and an early night as well. We have a very busy day tomorrow."
They made omelets with some of the mushrooms, and while Bilbo did the washing up, Frodo set a pot of porridge in the embers for their breakfast in the morning. Then they went off to their evening ablutions, and their beds.
They sat at their table after first breakfast the following morning, ready for their birthday tradition of exchanging their gifts to one another; since both of them were giving a gift, and both of them were the byrdings, they were able to do this on the day, rather than the day before.
Since coming to Tol Erressëa, the gifts they exchanged with one another were sentimental tokens, rather than the sorts of elaborate gifts of the past; mathoms that recalled to them their lives together in the Shire.
Frodo took from his pocket an irregular shaped-object, draped in a handkerchief, put it down and slid it across the table to Bilbo. Bilbo lifted up the handkerchief, and his face lit up.
"I found it on the beach a few weeks ago!" said Frodo, pleased with the expression on his beloved uncle's face.
It was a large seashell, creamy white with some bands of golden brown on the outside, and rosy pink within. "As soon as I saw it, I knew you had to have it," Frodo added.
"It looks just like the one I had from Uncle Isengar! Thank you, my lad! It's wonderful to be reminded of it!"
"I gave the original to Fredegar for my birthday one year. He seemed to love it so. And Lord Faramir gave one to Merry just like it; Merry gave it to me after the Quest. I left that one behind. I can't believe I found another so like it!"
Bilbo placed his own offering on the table. It too was irregularly shaped, but it had been wrapped up in paper and tied with a string. "Be careful opening it, Frodo! It's breakable."
Frodo untied the string and pulled away the paper. Then he burst into laughter. It looked much like a dried blob of mud with a hole in the top. "It's a good thing Merry's not here—he'd be burning up with embarrassment! It's always amazed me that you'd been able to keep yours. Mine crumbled to dust many years ago."
The object was seven-year-old Merry's attempt at pottery. That year he had created a number of "vases", all of them rather misshapen. He was quite proud of them at the time—none of them had cracked in the firing and they all held water. He gave them as his gifts to all and sundry, but Bilbo's was the only one which had survived. He'd even taken it to Rivendell with him, along with a few other mementos, and then brought them West when he came.
The two of them embraced briefly, and then scurried to begin their final preparations. Some of the food had been prepared the day before, but other things had to be cooked today. The jars of preserves were put into large baskets by the door to the apartment, chairs and tables were re-arranged slightly to accommodate the number of guests, and a final tidying up was done. Second breakfast consisted of the rest of the porridge, and elevenses were eaten on the fly as they worked on luncheon. The birds roasted on the spit, lending a toothsome smell to the kitchen.
Bilbo left Frodo to tend the kitchen while he went to bathe and change his clothing; then Frodo went to do the same while Bilbo saw to the setting of the large table where they would entertain their guests. The weather was mild, and a couple of Lord Elrond's servants had seen to setting it up on the terrace the day before, along with some large folding chairs. At each end of the table was a taller chair, where the hosts would sit; a third taller chair had been placed next to Bilbo's seat.
Only a few guests were expected for the luncheon: Of course Gandalf and Adamanta would be there; Elrond, Lady Celebrian and Lady Galadriel; Lady Galadriel's brother Lord Finrod and his wife Lady Amarië (who had arrived only that morning); since Lord Gilfanon was guesting at the House, he too, had been invited to the luncheon.
The other guests would arrive a few at a time, coming and going throughout the afternoon and evening, until the party ended. These would be Elves of Elrond's household, some Elves they had met since arriving, artisans of the city, a scholar with whom Bilbo had made acquaintance at the archives, a minstrel whom Frodo had met one day singing upon the shore…
The meal was, as meals prepared by hobbits are, quite incomparable. Bilbo and Frodo basked in the compliments of their guests. Afterwards, Frodo showed off his gift from Gilfanon to the fascination of the rest, while Lady Galadriel persuaded Bilbo to set up his new game, for of course her sister-in-law had never played it.
Master Naliendil, the minstrel, was persuaded to play and sing; as teatime approached, the large table was filled again, this time with breads and fruit and cheeses and cold meats and other foods that could be eaten while walking about and talking. As the Sun went down to her rest, the cake was brought out, and Gandalf himself raised the toast. "To the byrdings! To Bilbo Baggins, one-hundred-and-thirty-nine years; and to Frodo Baggins, sixty-one years! May they have many more blessed returns of the day!"
Amarië leaned her head against the shoulder of her husband. "They are such delightful small creatures; but it seems such a brief time to be celebrating, husband."
He smiled. "It is a brief time to us, but it is quite a long time for their kind. They live so fully and burn so brightly because their lives are brief. Mortals dare much, for they know they will leave the world behind before they have done most of what they would do."
As the indigo curtain of night spread itself across the sky all gathered to watch as Gandalf displayed the skill that gave him his greatest delight, and the skies were lit by the bursts of red and gold and blue and green. These were not the fanciful shapes he had often displayed in Middle-earth; but as the colourful sparks rained down with a burst of fragrance, like the scent of niphredil, the sounds of "Ooh!" and "Ah!" were music to his ears.
Bilbo turned to Frodo. "I'd say this party has been a delightful success,"
Frodo just smiled at him and draped an arm around his shoulder. Life was good.
Ever Ever On
Where was he? And more importantly, who was he? His name was just beyond his recollection; he had a name, he was certain of that. And of course he knew just what it was. Still, he did not find it as disturbing as perhaps he should have. He was still himself, he knew that. The gnarled walking stick held in his equally gnarled hand looked familiar, as did the white curls upon his toes, so he had not been mistaken about his age.
He looked about himself briefly; he was travelling down a shady lane; along one side, a white fence and a flowering hedge, along the other trees grew, casting cool dappled shadows on the dirt of the road. There was something very familiar about the flowers and the trees, and especially about the scents which filled the air. And yet though familiar, it seemed to him that this was not the sort of place from which his journey began--he'd left from some other sort of place altogether, he thought. Still, it was a very pleasant walk; though he moved slowly, he moved without pain or weariness, and he wondered where he was going. Ahead he could see that the lane was intersecting with another similar road. Perhaps he'd find some answers at the cross-road.
As he came up, he was surprised to find a Man there, with a hoe, grubbing up a stone in the road. It seemed to him odd to find anyone but a hobbit in this place--this (oh dear! the name of the place had just escaped him)...still, it seemed strange to see a Man.
The Man stopped his work, and gave a small bow. "Good day, small sir."
The hobbit bowed. "Good day," he replied politely. "I do apologize, I would put myself at your service, but my name seems to have escaped me for the moment, Mr., er..."
"Parish, at your service."
"Thank you, Mr. Parish. And though I have no name to give you, I am at your service as well." He looked from side to side. "I find myself at a loss as to which way I should go," he said.
Mr. Parish smiled, and pointed to the hobbit's left. "That way, should you go far enough, will lead you to forests and mountains and trees such as you have never seen before. The country there is tended and kept up by my friend Mr. Niggle, and is a very exciting and interesting place."
The hobbit smiled. Mountains and forests and trees sounded quite familiar. Perhaps he might like to go that way.
Mr. Parish pointed to the hobbit's right. "That way leads to a more homely land, of fields and gardens and comfortable homes." Then he chuckled. "Either way you go, you will find Great Adventure."
"I suppose I must choose," said the hobbit thoughtfully.
"Yes, but that does not mean you cannot choose again later."
The hobbit looked in both directions; so far as he could see the road did not change much from the one he had just been walking on, and it appeared the same both ways as far as he could see. Yes, mountains and forests and trees were appealing, but right now his heart was drawn to the idea of comfort. And if Mr. Parish was right, he could also go the other way another time. "Thank you, Mr. Parish," he said politely. "I shall take the right-hand way today then. Farewell!" He went on his way, just a little more briskly than he had been...
He felt remarkably well. Better in fact than he'd felt in a long while. But how did he know that when he did not yet know who he was, beyond a rather elderly hobbit? He glanced down at his toes, and was surprised that they were no longer white, but were grey with some brown hairs sprinkled among the silver. And when had he lost his walking stick?
"Hullo," said a voice at his side.
He gave a start, and looked to his left, and realised that another hobbit was walking beside him. When did the fellow come upon him? Why had he not noticed?
"Hullo," he replied. "Do I know you?" For the fellow looked quite familiar, though he could not place him.
"No, we have never met, though we are distant kin. You may call me 'Tucker'." He smiled slyly as he said this, and the hobbit felt that he was being made sport of in some vague way. Perhaps it was the claim of kinship, which seemed odd, since he'd no idea that he was kin to anyone, being nameless as he was. He did not answer, for he could not think of an honest reply that would not also have been a rude one.
"You must be going up The Hill," said Tucker. "I suppose you will be glad to see the old place once more."
This sent a thrill up the hobbit's spine. The Hill. He had not heard that in a very long time, he knew. But up The Hill sounded just right to his ears. Something was drawing him, and he picked up his pace. Tucker kept pace with him.
They were definitely going uphill. The road ahead felt very familiar. To his right he saw a fence, a gate, a postbox, and a round green door in The Hill.
Bilbo took a deep breath and ran up the path, not even wondering how it was that he could run, when he had not done so in ever so many years. He paused on the front step, but as he reached out a hesitant hand, the door opened for him. Two hobbits stood there whom he had never expected to see again.
"Mama! Papa!" He raced into their arms with a sound that was half sob and half laughter. Suddenly he remembered it all, all of his life and all he'd left behind, and he understood what this meant. Frodo! Gandalf, Adamanta, all of his Elven friends, all left behind on the Blessed Isle.
His parents drew him in, and 'Tucker' followed, grinning. Bilbo suddenly understood who he was, that most distant of Tookish ancestors, the founder of the Took family line.
He was led into a familiar parlour, and his mother had laid on a fine tea. There was a fire crackling in the hearth, and he looked at Belladonna and Bungo, and saw that they appeared to be in perfect health, in the bloom of life as they had been before the Fell Winter had changed everything.
"You are beyond the Circles of Arda, son," said Bungo. "This is the place of our people here, though we are free to go anywhere we wish, this is where most of our kind come to begin with."
He blinked and saw there were other guests there. He saw his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. The parlour did not seem at all crowded. His eyes fell on two figures who looked at him eagerly. "Drogo! Primula!"
They leaned forward. "Thank you, Bilbo," Primula said. "Thank you for taking such good care of our Frodo."
"Bilbo," said Tucker, "you may stay here as long as you wish, or go on, further up and further in, even to the mountains, or on to those places set aside for Men or Dwarves. But if you wait here, you can be here to greet the others when they arrive."
Bilbo thought of Frodo, who doubtless would miss him dreadfully, and of Sam who would be coming to the West someday, and of others who were not yet here but would be sometime soon.
"I'll wait," he said. "The Road will always be there, and travelling is better when shared."
(Written in 2011 for great_tales community's Challenge 012: The villain shocks everybody by doing one completely selfless thing.)
Title: An Unexpected Gift
"Gandalf!" Bilbo exclaimed. "You are just in time for tea!"
"Are there honeycakes?" His old friend asked, a twinkle of anticipation in his eye.
"Indeed there are!"
"In that case, I would be glad to stay for tea! Where is Frodo?"
"He has gone down to the beach with Elrond, and with Lady Celebrian and Lady Galadriel. I do not expect him to keep close track of the time."
Gandalf nodded; Frodo loved the beach and spent at least a part of most of his days since their arrival in the West on the beach, alone or in company. "I have brought something for you," he said starting to reach into his robes.
"Another letter already? I have not even begun my reply to the last one!"
"No, not a letter," Gandalf answered. He laid a package upon the table. It was flattish and rectangular, and Bilbo thought it was perhaps too large for Gandalf to have been carrying about in his breast pocket, but he had learned much about his old friend in the time since they had arrived in Tol Eressëa. He carefully did not remark upon his observation, but picked the package up. From the heft of it, it could only be one thing.
Gandalf chuckled and sat down, taking out his pipe. "Open it and see."
Bilbo drew off the string and the paper. It was a good-sized book, bound in blue leather. Embossed in gold around the edges of the front cover were strange letters—at least that is what he took them for, though he'd never seen any like them before. In the center, also in gold embossing, were letters in Westron: "Tales from the East". Tucked into the front corner was a folded paper. He opened it and read:
"My Dear Mr. Baggins,
End Notes: The Prisoner and the Hobbit is a WIP collaboration between pandemonium_213.
Written for Nilmandra's birthday, June 2015!
Bilbo glanced at Frodo, and as their eyes met it was clear that both of them were feeling out of place. Had coming here been a mistake after all? They gazed about the quay, as the companions of their voyage were engulfed by the embraces of their long-sundered kin. Bilbo felt small, as he had not done in all his long years in Rivendell. Dismay and regret filled his heart, as he realised there was no going back. But before he could say anything, he felt a familiar and comforting large hand upon his shoulder. Gandalf; they were with Gandalf and all would be well. Both hobbits looked up to see the wizard's reassuring smile and the familiar twinkle in his eye. Bilbo took a deep breath of relief; he had feared his old friend would change upon arrival at these shores, but Gandalf had assured him he would do no such thing, not while the hobbits were with him.
When he turned his head back, he saw Elrond and the Lady Galadriel approaching. Between them was another Elf-woman, her silver hair gleaming in the sunlight and a smile of heart-breaking beauty on her face, she was as lovely as Arwen Undomiel, and by the way her hand was entwined with that of Elrond's, Bilbo knew at once who this must be: Lady Celebrían , his wife, clearly now healed of the hurts that had sent her over the Sundering Sea.
Bilbo bowed his head courteously, as did Frodo, and as he was the senior, he introduced the both of them. "Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, my lady, at your service."
"Be welcome, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins! News of your coming was given us, so that we might prepare a proper place for you. I already know that you spent many years in the household of my beloved husband, Bilbo, and unless you choose otherwise, I have made a place where both of you may dwell in his household once more."
At a gesture, the two hobbits followed the Elves, with Gandalf behind them. Also following were the few Elves of Rivendell and Lothlorien who had also accompanied the Ring-bearers aboard the ship. They were led to the head of the quay, where a white road glittered. Bilbo saw that the road was made of crushed seashells.
A fanciful carriage, harnessed to a pair of white horses, awaited the party. Behind it, two other carriages stood. Into the first, Elrond and Gandalf handed the two ladies, and then Gandalf lifted Bilbo up, to sit next to the Lady Galadriel, and Elrond lifted Frodo in next to Lady Celebrían . Then Gandalf and Elrond himself also climbed in. Bilbo heard the Elven driver speak to the horses, and they started off.
Seated in the middle as he was, Bilbo could see very little of the surrounding countryside: mostly the tops of trees and the occasional flash of a rooftop. Without realising it, he leaned into Gandalf and soon found himself nodding off. He was sleepy, and he did not even try to resist it.
He was gently shaken awake by Gandalf when the carriage stopped, and two Elves stood by the carriage door to hand down each of the passengers. When Bilbo and Frodo stood once more on solid ground they looked up, as the Lady Celebrían said, "Welcome! Welcome to the First Homely House West of the Sea!"
There were many similarities to Rivendell. Wide steps led up to terraces and the buildings were very similar in style. But the steps were not so high, and there appeared to be even more open spaces and porches. There was a distinct lack of surrounding cliffs and mountains. In fact, this place appeared to be the highest point of the area. And instead of the distant roar of waterfalls, the sound of the Sea could be heard.
The Lady Celebrían and Lord Elrond (for once more their hands were entwined) led the way, first up the wide, shallow stairs, and to the right and around to what they had thought was the back of the house. There they saw just how high up they were, for they had a view of the Sea and the strand below. There was a low wall, or low for the Big Folk. It was about shoulder height for the hobbits, and they followed the curving line of it around to a small gate of wrought iron in a motif of vines and leaves. Lady Celebrían pushed it open to reveal a round terrace set apart from the others by the stone wall.
Bilbo gasped, and Frodo's eyes widened in surprise as they took it in. Built against the wall were stone planters, filled with herbs and vegetables. To one side, there was a low round table, set between two small chairs and two large ones. Into the wall of the house opposite the gate was a beautiful round door; it was somewhat larger than a door would have been in the Shire, but even so an Elf would have to duck slightly to enter. It was made of some highly polished and beautifully grained wood, and the silver hinges extended into a vinelike design, and set off a golden door knob in the center and a golden keyhole on one side. The lintels were carven with leaves and vines in the same glowing wood as the door. On either side of the door were wide arched windows set above overflowing flower-boxes, and pots of flowers in brilliant colours never seen in the Shire bloomed around the terrace.
The hobbits were not the only ones to be stunned into speechlessness by the sight, and Elrond turned to gaze at his wife in pleased astonishment. She grinned, and then laughed, and then she drew forth from the purse that hung upon her girdle two small keys. She handed one to Bilbo and one to Frodo.
"Here are the keys to your new home, if you are pleased to accept it. Go, look. We will follow." She laughed once more, and gave the two hobbits a gentle push towards the door. With that encouragement, they hurried over to it. There was a brief pause.
"You open it, Uncle Bilbo," Frodo said, and he dropped his key into his pocket, and grinned at his older cousin.
With a feeling of awe, Bilbo did so and they entered. The quarters were spacious: a large sitting room was furnished with seating sized for hobbits, but there was seating clearly designed with Elves in mind as well. The kitchen was very nearly as large as the one in Bag End. There were two spacious and airy bedrooms, a bathing room and a water-closet. Between the kitchen and the sitting room was another larger round door, leading into a corridor of the house.
The Elves and Gandalf had followed them and watched in amusement as the two hobbits went about, opening doors and cupboards, exclaiming over every new discovery.
Finally, Elrond asked, "Do you like it, my friends?"
Nearly overwhelmed, Bilbo sank into a nearby chair. "Do we like it? Do we like it! Oh my! Oh bless me!" He scrambled in his pocket, and pulled forth a handkerchief and blew his nose loudly. "Oh my!"
Frodo placed a hand on Bilbo's back and patted it. "I think I can safely say we like it! My Lady," he said to Celebrían , "How is it you knew so well what would suit us?"
She smiled graciously and said, "We were given word of your coming. I must say most of our information came from Lord Ulmo. One of his River-daughters is a friend of your people, and she revealed much to him of your likes."
Frodo gaped. "Goldberry!"
Gandalf laughed. "Even so, it seems, Frodo!"
Bilbo gathered his composure, wiped his eyes, and stood to bow once more to Lady Celebrían . "My Lady, this is such generous hospitality. How can we ever repay you?"
She knelt gracefully before him and took one of his withered hands in her own "I know that you have both been dear friends to my Lord and husband, and have been of much comfort to him. Let there be no talk of repayment between friends, but you both may bless us by healing and thriving and being happy among us."
She stood, and her smile this time reminded Bilbo much of her daughter. "We shall leave you for now. Rest now from your journey, and we shall see you this evening for a feast of welcoming. I am glad you like it here." She bent and kissed each of them on top of the head, and then led her husband, her mother and Gandalf out through the door to the corridor. Gandalf turned and winked at them, before shutting the door behind him.
Bilbo and Frodo stared at one another, and then Frodo threw back his head and laughed. "Uncle Bilbo, as Sam would say, 'That's an eye-opener, and no mistake!'"
*** *** ***
Happy Birthday, Nilmandra! I hope you are having a good day. I have another mathom on it's way to you now, with Daw's help. But here is a preview of it:
Frodo sat on a weathered log of driftwood, his arms wrapped around his left knee which was drawn up beneath his chin. It was unusual for him to be on the beach before sunrise, but he found he did not sleep so soundly as he once had now that he no longer had Bilbo's presence sharing their home. His cousin had been ready to leave the circles of the world, but he had exacted a promise from Frodo to wait for Sam.
Yet Frodo would still have waited; it would be too cruel for his friend to arrive on the Blessed Isle and find him already gone. Yet, these days he was filled with a yearning for Sam's company, and for that of Merry and Pippin and many of those he loved who were across the Sundering Sea, but Sam most of all. There was so much he wanted to share.
Gazing East, he watched as the indigo sky began to lighten and the twinkling stars began to fade. The rosy fingers of dawn heralded Anor's rising, plumes of lavender clouds streaked across bands of pink and pale yellow. She rode slowly higher, and soon it was full day. He supposed he should go back to the house and have a bit of tea and toast for first breakfast, but he did not fancy eating alone. He missed Bilbo's morning chatter.
He heard the swish of bare feet in the sand and turned to see Lady Celebrian standing behind him with a tray in her hands and a smile in her eyes. "Good morning, Frodo. I thought perhaps you could use some tea and company?"
He breathed in the scent of mint tea and honeycakes and smiled. The friends of now were beloved, too. He could wait. Sam was coming.
(Written in 2016 for the yuletide4frodo challenge.)
Prompt: "When his eyes were in turn uncovered, Frodo looked up and caught his breath."
Frodo and Bilbo were entertaining Gandalf and Adamanta to a Yuletide tea in the cozy kitchen of their quarters in Elrond's house on Tol Eressëa. They were finishing when there came a tap on the door.
Frodo answered, his face lighting up when he saw Elrond and Celebrian. "Welcome!" he said, "will you join us for tea?"
Celebrian laughed. "No, my friend," said the Lady. "We have come to fetch you away to the Hall of Fire, for we have a surprise for you and Bilbo."
They were quickly joined by Bilbo, Gandalf and Adamanta. Frodo noticed that the latter two seemed unsurprised by the summons; clearly they were in on the secret.
Before they left, Elrond and his Lady took out two long silky scarves to bind their eyes. Frodo felt himself relax as Celebrian gently tied the scarf about his head. For some reason, he always had a good feeling about being blindfolded. Perhaps it was because of surprises as a young child. But even on the journey to Mordor, two of his better memories were of being blindfolded in Lothlorien and in Ithilien. Each time he had opened his eyes on unexpected beauty, at Cerin Amroth, and then at the Window on the West, Henneth Annûn.
The Lady led him expertly by the hand to their destination, and he heard Bilbo's delighted "Oh my!" as his cousin's eyes were unbound.
When his eyes were in turn uncovered, Frodo looked up and caught his breath.
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