Strider, Watching

by Firiel

The evening shadows fell over the warm earth in brilliant streamers of purple and orange. The crickets chirped their evening song, and a whippoorwill called from a stand of trees near the river. There was a sudden crackling - a small campfire was nearby, just inside a small clearing of oaks. A man was there, deftly feeding wood to the ever hungry fire. With a sigh, he sat down by one of the massive trees and leaned against it. He tugged a travel-worn pack closer to him, and pulled a pipe and a pouch of tobacco out of it. As he smoked, he couldn't help but notice the perfect evening.

A sudden distant sound of laughter caught his ear. Rising, he slipped from tree to tree until he could see who it was that had come to the far edges of the Shire.

Walking down a wooded lane were two hobbits, talking and singing together. They were apparently heedless of the surrounding countryside, merely enjoying the evening together in a companionable stroll.

Aragorn smiled to himself. Bilbo and his young cousin Frodo were out for a rendezvous with the Elves, it appeared. He watched silently for a moment more, then slipped back through the trees to his campsite. Leaning back against his oak tree in the clearing, he drew in a deep breath of the sweet air. It was moments like this that made guarding the Shire so rewarding....