The Most Important Thing

by JimboBaggins

“Wake up! Wake up, Frodo my lad! Remember today we are to go for a walk to the hilltop I told you of, south of the Shire. She’s called Mission Peak in the general direction of Tuckburrow and the Green Hill country. When I was a young hobbit about your age I made this same journey with some dear friends of mine.”

“I’ve already packed us a few morsels to eat along the way. The Gaffer’s wife bake up a nice loaf of sourdough bread and I’ve made some honey butter, soft cheese and some fruit from the trees the Gaffer planted in the acreage behind Bag End. It should be sufficient for the day’s adventure. If we make good time we should be back here before the stars fill the sky. We have a harvest moon so there will be plenty of moonlight.”

“Dear Uncle, you seem to have had your share of morning tea already so let me gather my wits and I’ll be ready in no time at all. Are you sure that’s enough food? These pastries and butter you’ve set out will hardly last until second breakfast. Maybe we should throw in a few more apples or a slice or two of that leftover ham.”

Bilbo laughed and agreed seeing as the boy would be carrying his share of the load, and one item he forgot to tell Frodo is that the walk there is mostly uphill. Now the trip back was of course mostly downhill so Bilbo figured it would all even out in the end.
They set out as soon as they both had eaten and Frodo had had his share of morning tea to put a sparkle in his eyes and quicken his step to keep up with Bilbo’s longer stride, if indeed a hobbit could have a longer stride. The journey took them down a south road and through several small hobbit smials dug into the hills and banks of the outskirts of the Shire. There was a light morning fog tainted a light brownish-yellow with the smoke of hundreds of chimneys warming up all the hobbit holes on this cool Autumn day. Mid-morning they took a break to enjoy the provisions brought along. They ate the bread and some cheese and ham, thankfully recommended by Frodo, and a couple of tarts Bilbo had hidden in Frodo’s pack. He figured a little extra weight would not hurt and the payoff was most delicious.

They reached the bottom of the hill around mid-day and after a short rest Bilbo started opening up a little about the real purpose of this trip with his newly appointed nephew. “Frodo, many years ago after my great adventure with the dragon I started doing a little wandering here and there. So much to see, so close to home, that sometimes we don’t even look in our own backyards. A few years ago I took a little walk to the west to investigate the three elven towers by the coast. Meeting many people of different character, wealth and stature and found that most of the hobbits in the shire have good hearts although some have too many dogs that need a shorter leash.”

While talking they were slowly winding up the hill as the trail zigzagged back and forth to ease the climb to an acceptable degree. A few times they stopped to rub the stone bruises on the bottom of their feet caused by some of the less cared for stretches of the path. Bilbo continued to talk of his walks around the Shire and Frodo wanted to hear the story of the Trolls again since it was one of his favorites from his uncle’s amazing journey there and back.

It was late afternoon when they came over a rise and saw the crown of the hill just a short way off. There were three large oak trees standing side by side as sentinels lined up as if to block entry to the elements coming from the heavens. About the base of the trees were several large boulders and miscellaneous smaller rocks arrayed almost like a dining hall. The two tired travelers reached the area and brushing aside the many leaves, and spinners that oaks tend to drop in uncountable numbers. The sun was getting low and as they stood there thinking of what to eat first the scene before them actually managed to get not one but two hobbits to forget about food. The massive lower branches of the oaks framed the vista to the west, showing the three Elven towers in the far off distance. They were silhouetted by the lower rays of the setting sun reflecting off the sea with the rolling hills from here to there changing from detailed greens to mottled grays as they rolled closer to the sea. The sky was a watercolor of blues, yellows and pinks completing the scene. And if you were standing just behind them, you would see two very amazed hobbits enjoying this perfect moment together.

Bilbo finally gathers his wits and pointed out some landmarks to the north and south while remembering his so many adventures, finally finds his voice to say,” Frodo my dearest nephew, in a few days will be our combined birthdays. I have a small gift for you but first lets eat the last of our provisions." As they ate Bilbo talked of this and that, somewhat melancholy while Frodo listened with an eye peeled toward the setting sun, still amazed at the view. “Frodo, a man can be measured by many things but I’ve found that when the final tally is made by our creators, I think the friends a man makes and keeps are the most treasured things in this whole world. I have counted dwarves, elves, hobbits, men and one very mysterious wizard as good friends. But I don’t seem to have any one in particular that I can call a best friend. If you can find that one that you can really count on to tell your darkest secrets to and trust to the ends of the earth then you will have the greatest treasure a man can ask for. I’ve seen you become fast friends with the Gaffer’s boy Sam and those other two, Pippin and Merry. Good boys but a little off center if you know what I mean. Maybe someday you can count one of them as that friend.”

Frodo was set back by this serious side of his uncle but moved to almost tears, quickly blaming them on the harsh rays of the setting sun. “Thank you Uncle Bilbo. I will always count you as that friend until maybe someday as I grow older someone else steps into the role you’ve lain before me. “

Bilbo had one more thing to bring out, “ My lad, you know about this ring I came across on my adventure. I am going to leave it with you when I retire. Keep it close and maybe you can find a purpose for it someday. It has a few secrets that you will come to know and who knows, with it maybe you could have a grand adventure as I did.”

“Dear Uncle, I don’t think anyone could out do the one you had!”

Posted Sept. 22, '06.  Special thanks to Primula for her "Nothing of Note" story for some of the references here. Didn't have time to polish up the details and wanted to post on their birthday.