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....