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Keep the Home Fires Burning
“Very well, very well, Master Elrond!” said Bilbo suddenly. “Say no more! It is plain enough what you are pointing at. Bilbo the silly hobbit started this affair, and Bilbo had better finish it, or himself. I was very comfortable here, and getting on with my book. If you want to know, I am just writing an ending for it. I had thought of putting: ‘and he lived happily ever afterwards to the end of his days’. It is a good ending, and none the worse for having been used before. Now I shall have to alter that: it does not look like coming true; and anyway there will evidently have to be several more chapters, if I live to write them. It is a frightful nuisance. When ought I to start?”
Boromir looked in surprise at Bilbo, but the laughter died on his lips when he saw that all the others regarded the old hobbit with grave respect. Only Glóin smiled, but his smile came from old memories.
‘The Council of Elrond’, The Fellowship of the Ring
Gloín had planned to leave Rivendell several times after Gimli and the Company of the Ring departed, but each time changed his mind. He was now of advanced years, and sensed rightly that he would not be undertaking any long journeys again once he and his small escort returned to the Lonely Mountain. He would not be coming back to this valley, and his King would wish to know all he could relate -- not just of the Council, but of Elrond’s folk and how Bilbo was faring -- and so he had stayed, and explored, and spoken with Bilbo and as many Elves as would share speech with him. But one morning he awoke with the sound of eagles in his ears and the smell of good, sun-baked stone in his nostrils, and knew that it was time to go home.
After alerting his companions to make their preparations, he packed his belongings, as well as those items Gimli had of necessity chosen not to take with him. He said his farewells to those in the House whom he had learned to call friend, and then sought out Elrond in the Great Hall, who seemed to be expecting him. Out of respect, he requested leave to depart the valley.
“Go with our blessings,” Elrond said kindly. “It has been our pleasure to welcome you here once again. May your road home bear you swiftly and without incident.”
“I thank you,” Gloín said gratefully.
“Please take my greetings to your king and kin, and... try not to worry overmuch,” Elrond advised him. “If your son has learned well from you and is true to his heart, his courage will not falter when the road grows dark. When I agreed to his request to accompany the Ringbearer, I sensed that the quest would benefit by his presence.”
“I appreciate your words, and your hospitality,” Gloín said, and he bowed. He then gifted Elrond with an intricately-wrought display of the Hall of Fire he had crafted out of fine wood, which the Master of Imladris accepted graciously.
Finally, he went in search of Bilbo.
“Gloín!” The Dwarf heard his name being called out, somewhere behind a thicket, and followed a cleared path around the foliage.
“Your ears are still as sharp as ever, Master Burglar,” Gloín chuckled, coming around to where a bench had been placed next to a clear pool. Although the air was chill, he had learned that this was one of Bilbo’s favorite spots “for sitting and thinking”.
“Oh, forgive me, Lady,” he said hurriedly. The Elf lord’s daughter was seated on the bench next to Bilbo. “I did not know you were here.”
“You do not disturb us,” Arwen assured him. She motioned for him to join them.
Bilbo’s smile faded when he noticed that Gloín was dressed in his old tunic and traveling cloak. “You're not leaving us already?”
“It is time, Bilbo,” Gloín said regretfully. “My lord awaits news, and I should not linger here any longer.”
“You will find that food has been prepared for your journey, although we have no Dwarvish waybread to offer,” Arwen told him.
Gloín chuckled appreciatively. “Thank you, Lady. Frankly, I never was very fond of cram. But how did you know I was leaving?”
“I am the daughter of Elrond, and mistress of this House,” Arwen said with a smile, and then her eyes kindled with a quiet joy. “Hold to hope, my friends. We have each sent off someone dear to us, and must trust that they who walk into darkness will never lack for the light, nor cease to feel our love wherever this quest takes them. Master Dwarf, I wish you safe travel to your home, and a peaceful heart for all of your days.” She rose to her feet and smiled warmly at Bilbo. “I will see you at supper.”
After she left them, Gloín and Bilbo sat in companionable silence.
“Bilbo,” Gloín said after awhile, “if Elrond and Gandalf had permitted you to go South, as you requested, I would have gone with you.”
Greatly moved, Bilbo reached over to pat the Dwarf’s hand.
“Although what use an old Dwarf could have been on such a desperate journey, I cannot imagine!” Gloín said with a grin.
“Or an old hobbit!” Bilbo chuckled.
“Your nephew does you credit,” Gloín said. “His courage and strength honor you.”
“And your son honors you. Perhaps they are our greatest contribution to what is yet to come.”
“Perhaps.” Gloín looked about him. “Are you happy here, Bilbo? Truly?”
“Exceedingly so. Why do you ask?”
“It is just that I never felt entirely... anchored in this place,” Gloín said. “It is as if the stars above this valley pull one upward with more force than the earth is able to pull one downward. Something about this land feels adrift, as a boat on a river, rather than fully a part of solid ground.” He shook his head. “Forgive me, I do not know how to explain it.”
“But you have,” Bilbo assured him. “Perhaps I’m more at peace adrift with the Elves, and wherever their river may take me, than I would be elsewhere, however solid the ground beneath my feet.” He grinned suddenly. “And the food is very good here.”
Gloín laughed. “It is good, isn’t it?”
They embraced, and Gloín got to his feet.
“May the river bear you gently, Bilbo.”
“And may the stones bear you firmly,” Bilbo responded with a smile.
“I do not suppose we will meet again, my old companion,” Gloín said softly. “We have seen quite a bit more of the world than many, and lived to see our young ones off on adventures of their own.” He reached into a pouch that hung at his waist, and placed a small gem in Bilbo’s palm. “Take this as a reminder of the Mountain, and the new life you helped us begin. I found this near where Thorin and his nephews lay in honored rest. Remember us, Bilbo, as we will always remember you.” He bowed low, then turned and swiftly walked away.
His eyes filled with tears, Bilbo gazed in wonder at the polished opal. The sunlight ignited brilliant sparks of red, yellow, and orange. The fire of a dragon... No, not that. The fire of a warm and welcoming hearth at the end of a long day, or a long and full life.
This is my home, and my lad will soon return, Bilbo thought happily. He wiped his eyes, and tucked the gem securely in the pocket of his vest. Now for a nice second breakfast, and a nap before luncheon. There will be singing tonight, I believe, and I have a poem to finish.
He stretched his arms wide, breathing deeply of the scent of pine, before strolling slowly and contentedly back to the House.
** END **
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