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There and Back Again, Part 1
This two-part ficlet takes place not long after Frodo and Bilbo arrive in the West.
Then through the Calacirya, the Pass of Light, the radiance of the Blessed Realm streamed forth, kindling the dark waves to silver and gold, and it touched the Lonely Isle, and its western shore grew green and fair. There bloomed the first flowers that ever were east of the Mountains of Aman. 'Of Eldamar', The Silmarillion
Encouraged by the smiling faces around him, Frodo dipped the forkful of white meat into a bowl of hot, melted butter, and studied it closely. The morsel didn’t smell like fish, nor did it look like any meat he was used to. Closing his eyes, he put it into his mouth and started chewing. Celebrían and Eärwen, Galadriel’s mother, began to laugh as the hobbit’s eyes flew open in surprise, and Elrond smiled knowingly.
Frodo swallowed, and reached eagerly for another forkful. “What is this?”
“Lobster,” Eärwen told him. “This meat is from the tail, and is particularly succulent.”
This time Frodo boldly dipped a piece into the tart juice of lemon, one of his new favorite fruits, and then the butter. He almost moaned with ecstasy at the blend of exquisite tastes.
“This is wonderfully sweet,” he enthused. “Is ‘lobster’ a fish?”
“It is a hard-shelled, rather dangerous-looking creature from the Sea,” Celebrían said, pushing the bowl of melted butter closer to Frodo’s plate. The afternoon sun splashed patterns on the lawn-table at which they sat outside the home she and Elrond shared.
“A small group of mariners enjoy the challenge of diving for these,” Eärwen said. “Only lobsters of a certain size are caught, and only at certain seasons.”
“Delicious,” Frodo proclaimed, dipping another piece. “And I’m delighted to hear that you have seasons.”
Celebrían smiled gently. “They are subtle, but we sense changes in the air and water. Animals and birds – even creatures of the Sea – teach us many things by the rhythm of their lives.”
“I was also happy to see so many animals and familiar plants,” Frodo continued. “Bilbo and I were quite relieved to find butter available here, and tea. And sweet cream and cheeses, honey, and--”
“From what I have seen thus far, the island is quite large enough for farmsteads and orchards,” Elrond said, spearing a piece of lobster for himself. “My wife tells me that it is home to quite a few animals and plants with which we are familiar; indeed, many originated here in the West, and were introduced to Middle-earth long ago.”
“I wish to learn more,” Frodo said. “How does everyone occupy their time?”
“I was curious about that, as well,” Elrond told him. “Nearly everyone has become extremely specialized in what they do. There are farmers, fisherfolk, sculptors, glassmakers, jewelers, potters, herders, instrument makers, those who build and repair docks, boats, homes...”
“Of course, as time is not an issue,” Eärwen added, “crafts take many years to create and deliver. However, fisherfolk, chefs, farmers, and herders work with more haste to utilize what the earth, sky, and sea provide.”
“From what I remember of Middle-earth,” Celebrían said, “our marketplaces are not unlike those of Men, or even hobbits.” She looked with pleasure at Frodo’s nearly-empty plate. “I am delighted you enjoyed this dish, Frodo. I apprenticed to one of the master-chefs, and was hoping this would please you.”
Frodo offered her the last piece of lobster, but was not unwilling to be urged to take it himself. He sat back on his chair, piled high with cushions, and licked his lips free of butter and lemon.
“I’ve been eager to explore the island, now that Bilbo is settled,” Frodo said, accepting a hot cup of tea. “Are there maps?”
“Not of the island itself,” Eärwen said. “We are well familiar with our home, and Elves do not forget a path once trod.”
“There were maps in Rivendell,” Frodo said.
“Yes, many,” Elrond agreed. “However, they were drawn for the use of the Dúnedain.”
“Many of us choose to sail from one place to another, rather than walk – or ride – directly,” Celebrían added. “Mariners have mapped the coastline, which changes subtly over time, as well as the reefs and other areas of interest – such as where lobster can often be found.”
“Bilbo and I will have to draw our own maps of the land, then.” Frodo looked from Eärwen to Celebrían. “I wish to explore the trails and forests, of course, but also the coast – all the way around. Do you suppose the mariners would agree to let hobbits sail with them? I am especially curious to see the western side of the island, where the first flowers bloomed so long ago.”
Eärwen laughed merrily. “I am astonished to hear your words, Frodo. Your knowledge of ancient lore is vast, and your willingness to sail once again most surprising, after such a long voyage.”
“My experience with boats has not always been the most pleasant,” Frodo said, “but I do not fear them. We would hope not to be a bother to a ship’s crew if permitted to accompany them around the coastline.”
Celebrían looked at him thoughtfully. “Perhaps that can be arranged. You said ‘we’; would Bilbo enjoy such a trip?”
Frodo smiled happily. “He wouldn’t miss it, I’m certain of that.”
“As am I,” Elrond chuckled. “As a matter of fact, I can think of several people who might wish to accompany you, Frodo... including myself.”
** TBC **
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