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THE KINGS' BLESSINGS
"I will take your gift, O Bilbo the Magnificent!" said the king gravely. "And I name you elf-friend and blessed. May your shadow never grow less (or stealing would be too easy)! Farewell!"
Then the elves turned towards the Forest, and Bilbo started on his long road home.
‘The Return Journey’, The Hobbit
“My goodness, has it truly been a year already?” Bilbo asked. “I believe I may have lost track of the time.”
“As have I,” Frodo said, smiling up at Gandalf. As the wizard dismounted, Frodo caught a glimpse of shimmering silver paper and deep blue ribbon in their friend’s hand. “What have you got there, Gandalf? It’s not the custom of hobbits to receive presents on their birthdays, you know.”
“This was entrusted to me before we left Rohan,” the wizard explained, joining them on the wide porch. “Men receive gifts on their birthdays, and Aragorn hoped you would forgive the disregard for hobbit custom. Bilbo, there is also a letter.” He produced a folded note, sealed in wax showing a tree with seven stars.
“For me, from the Dúnadan?” Bilbo asked, as excited as a child. “Read it to me, would you, Frodo?”
Frodo nodded, taking the letter from Gandalf. He carefully broke the seal, unfolded the note, and began to read:
Before Frodo left Mina Tirith, I gifted him as richly as he would accept, but had we showered him with a dragon-hoard of silver and gold it would not have been enough. I cannot even now bear to imagine the fate of Middle-earth had he not endured and overcome tests that would have broken many an elf, dwarf, or man. If Frodo is beside you now, as my queen foresees will be so, know that his humility, courage, strength of will, and love for his home will be sung forth by minstrels for a thousand years. Thank you for raising such a fine lad.
Frodo blushed with embarrassment, but Bilbo’s eyes were filled with pride.
“Go on,” he urged.
May you and Frodo find in the Blessed Realm all that you could wish for, and may you look back on your lives with pride and no regrets. You set forth willingly to broach mighty mountains within which deadly danger awaited, and saw your tasks through to the end. It is an honor to have known you both.
The box containing your gift comes to you from Gimli, Legolas and myself, and we hope it will remind you always of three kings with whom your life has been woven. Legolas did the carving, and sends greetings and respect from his father, who first named you elf-friend. The banding was wrought by Gimli, in remembrance of the King under the Mountain. And the jewel comes to you from me, in honor of our friendship.
My old friend, I regret not being able to see you again before you sail with my foster father. We shared many secrets and much laughter over the years, and when next we meet beyond the bounds of Arda, we will have a great deal about which to speak. I hope to once more enjoy your poetry, and perhaps you will wish to hear tales of the southern realms you were not able to visit… and the beautiful elf-maiden you knew who became its beloved queen.
For now it is namárië, ‘fare well’. I trust that we will meet again.
With respect and love,
“Oh my,” Bilbo said softly. He looked up, his vision blurred, to see tears also in Frodo’s eyes, and they embraced. Frodo once again peeked at the parcel in Gandalf’s hand, and pulled gently on one of the ribbons.
“Aren’t you going to open it, uncle?”
Bilbo laughed as Gandalf handed him the small package. How Frodo had always loved gift giving! He wiped his face with a handkerchief and slowly undid the ribbon. When he parted the silver paper, he gasped and held up a cunningly wrought box, rounded and meticulously carved.
“Look, Frodo!” he cried out excitedly. “It is a barrel, exactly as the dwarves and I rode all the way down Long Lake.” The barrel was banded with fine gold and delicate mithril, and its clasp was inlaid with a single green gem. On an impulse, Frodo drew out the star glass gifted to him by the Lady of Lórien, and its gentle shimmer was caught by the perfectly-faceted emerald, radiating beams of green and gold and silver all about them. Elves passing by stopped to gaze at the sight in wonder.
Bilbo slowly opened the catch and raised the lid of the box, and for a long moment he said nothing, but just looked, and tears once again misted his vision. Then he reached into the box and pulled out a key, intricately wrought and obviously very old.
“What is it?” Frodo asked in a hushed voice.
“That, my lad, is the key to Erebor,” Bilbo said quietly.
“You mean the key to the secret door in the Lonely Mountain?” Frodo asked in amazement. “The very same one? Wasn’t it buried with Thorin Oakenshield?”
“I never saw it again after Thorin opened the door for the first time,” Bilbo said. “I always assumed it stayed with him, but apparently someone – possibly his cousin Balin – took it as a memento. Perhaps Balin left it behind when he traveled to reopen Moria, and it came to Gimli as an heirloom.”
He looked up at Gandalf. “This is a wonderful gift, Gandalf. But… did Aragorn forget that it’s also Frodo’s birthday?”
“Uncle, I don’t need any-- ” Frodo began.
“He did not forget,” Gandalf said. “Would you both come with me? I have something else to show you.” Taking the box from Bilbo, he slipped it into his pocket, rose to his feet, and led the hobbits to Shadowfax. He lifted them onto the great steed’s broad, smooth back, then mounted lightly behind them. Shadowfax seemed to know exactly where to go, and cantered smoothly about a mile through the flower-carpeted valley, towards the base of a low, broad hill that overlooked the Sea. There he stopped and whinnied excitedly as Gandalf helped the hobbits to the ground.
“Look,” he said softly, pointing out a newly-cleared path paved with white slabs of smooth stone that led up the hill. “And can you see what’s there, through the trees?”
“It’s a hobbit hole!” Frodo exclaimed. “With a green door! Oh, Bilbo, aren’t those gardens lovely?” He looked up at Gandalf in wonder, his eyes shining. “The Elves made a home just for us?”
“They did indeed.” Gandalf retrieved the ornate box from his pocket and opened it, then handed it to Bilbo. “The smiths who crafted the door’s lock assured me that this key will fit.”
“Imagine opening our door with the key to Erebor!” Bilbo marveled.
“I see something sparkling above the door,” Frodo said, eagerly peering ahead. “Are those strips of glass, hanging there?”
“Ah, you’ve discovered Aragorn’s birthday gift for you, Frodo,” Gandalf said. “Those sheer crystals were mined and shaped by Gimli’s hand. Embedded at the top, where the fastening strings come together, is an ancient, very rare gem from the treasury of Gondor that will catch and hold the Sun’s radiance long after twilight. Should you return home after sunset, the gem will glow brightly enough to light your path.”
“How splendid!” Bilbo said with delight.
“Gandalf smiled down at the hobbits. “I hope you have enjoyed this birthday, my friends. All who had a hand in planning it wish both of you health and happiness. Your possessions, household goods, and ample foodstuffs will be delivered within the hour. And now… Frodo, will you escort your uncle home?”
“Gladly,” Frodo said softly. “Thank you so much, Gandalf, for everything.”
As Frodo and Bilbo walked up the path, hand in hand, the Sea-breezes caressed the delicate crystals of the wind-chime, filling the air with the sweet music of tiny bells.
“Welcome home, my dear friends,” Gandalf murmured with quiet joy. “Welcome home.”
** END **
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