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Tales of Life  by Aelaer

Prompt Three: 'Riddles'
Ficlet: Riddling Games and Riddling Wizards
Rating: G
Somewhere in Eriador, T.A. 3001

He was not surprised when a tall figure stepped out of the shadows of the wood. Nodding a greeting, he invited the man to sit with him beside the fire. The newcomer smiled, and lowered himself upon a log across from the other. He took out a wooden pipe and looked expectantly at the other.

“Well, Gandalf?” he said with a raised brow. “Will you not offer your guest some pipeweed?”

Gandalf chuckled in response. “Pipeweed? Do not tell me you have run out so soon, Aragorn! Did you not just buy some in Bree a couple weeks ago?”

Aragorn nodded. “I did, but I lost it when- wait,” he suddenly paused, “how did you know I was in Bree?”

“Butterbur’s eldest, Barliman,” replied the wizard as he handed Aragorn a small pouch of weed. “He’s quite afraid of you, you know.”

Aragorn gave a grim smile. “Many are afraid of me, Gandalf. It is unfortunately too common. But never mind that,” he said as he lit his pipe. “Tell me why you called me out here.”

“Times are changing,” Gandalf said, lowering his voice. “I was just in the Shire, at Bilbo Baggins’ eleventy-first birthday. There were events there that have made me restless and uneasy. I have suspicions that could prove fatal if they turn out to be true. I am in need of your aid.”

Aragorn nodded. “Of course. Whatever I can do, I shall do it.”

“I need help in finding the creature Gollum.”

The other frowned for a moment. “Gollum? Do you mean that creature whom Bilbo won a magic ring from?”

“Yes, him,” he replied. “That very creature who… gave that ring to Bilbo as a prize.” ‘Gave indeed,’ thought Gandalf with a slight frown. He was one of few who knew the true story of Bilbo, Gollum, and the Riddle Game. “As it is, Gollum has been missing for many a year now; he must be found. My heart tells me that he knows many things that can help answer some questions.”

Aragorn’s frown deepened as Gandalf continued. “I also need you to double your guard around the Shire’s borders. If my suspicions are correct, then all men you have to spare will be needed.”

Aragorn was still for a moment, and then nodded. “Give me a few weeks; I must go and tell Halbarad that I will be absent, and I will have him prepare men. But tell me, Gandalf, what is all this? What does Gollum have to offer, and what lies in the Shire that causes you to fear so?”

Gandalf shook his head. “All shall be revealed in due time. But for now, you must be satisfied with what information I can give you.”

They stared at one another, and finally Aragorn relented. “It shall be as you wish,” he agreed. “But oh! how I wish that you did not speak in riddles all the time!”

The wizard’s laughter broke through the silence of the dark clearing.

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