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“Uncle! Uncle! Happy birthday to us!”
Bilbo Baggins bent down to grab the wee lad who hurtled himself toward him and returned his tight hug. “Yes, indeed, happy birthday to us, my dear lad. How old are you now?”
“Five! How old are you?”
“Well, if you are five, that must make me eighty-three.”
Frodo’s eyes widened. “Eighty-three! That’s old.”
Bilbo laughed and ruffled the curls of his favorite relation. “Yes, ’tis quite old.”
“But not as old as the Old Took. He was really old. Do you think you’ll be that old one day, Uncle?”
“Mayhap, if I am spared. I hope I am. I want to see you all grown up, my lad.”
Frodo squirmed out of his uncle’s arms and went to his mother and father who stood with twin smiles behind him. The lad carefully took a large piece of parchment from his mother and presented it to Bilbo.
“I made this for you, Uncle. Da helped me with the dragon, but I did the rest. I hope you like it.”
Just as carefully as Frodo gave the gift, Bilbo accepted it and looked upon it with many oooh’s and ahhh’s. “Frodo, my lad, this is just beautiful. Look there’s your name and bless me, in three different tongues! And mine too just the same and these two lovely little figures..."
“That’s us, Uncle! I wrote our names very carefully just as you taught me.”
“And there’s the dragon, yes, that is a green great dragon indeed, and those flames coming out of its mouth...did you do that part?" Frodo nodded enthusiastically. "You are quite the artist. And what’s this...” Bilbo did not know why he felt a shiver of fear as his eye fixed on something at the bottom of the page. He knew quite well it could only be one thing.
“That’s your ring, Uncle. I wanted to make sure you brought it when we go on our ’venture in case we need to disappear while we hunt for dragons.”
“Yes, my lad, that would be very useful. That was quite thoughtful of you to remember to include it. We must never leave without it.” Why a sliver of a shadow passed between himself and his beloved lad, Bilbo could not tell.
“Do you think we could go an ’venture truly, Uncle?”
Bilbo tore his eyes away from that simple black circle on the parchment and looked up into Frodo’s shining face. “We shall go on many, my lad, just like we always have.”
“I mean like you had, to see mountains and Elves and dragons. There aren’t any dragons in the Shire.”
“But there are Elves at times. Don’t be too disappointed, my lad. It is a terrifying marvel to see a dragon up close.”
“I wouldn’t be scared, because I would be with you, and Ma and Da.”
Bilbo smiled at Frodo and his parents. “I am sure we will find enough adventures here at home.”
“But one day, Uncle, one day, I hope Gandalf comes to take me on an adventure just like yours.”
“Mayhap one day he will. And you must answer the call.”
“I will, Uncle! I can’t wait!”
Uncomfortable dreams troubled Bilbo that night, but they turned out well. For at their end, he dreamt of the Sea and his lad was with him and all was well, or would be.
And in Frodo’s peaceful slumbers, there too came the sound of the Sea which often entered his imaginings of adventure, and this time brought a smile to his face, for his uncle was with him. His great adventure had begun.
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