The Heir of the Hill

by Lothithil

Chapter 4
Part 1
: An afternoon in Bag End

Frodo turned the last page of the book, his eager eyes bright as they flicked over the page.  As the tale wound to its sad ending, as most of the Elven tales do, he expelled a long sigh and closed the volume softly.  So much sadness and dispair filled the long history of the Elves, and yet they were still so merry, so full of light and joy.  Frodo closed his eyes and remembered with delight his first real encounter with the Fair Folk.  As clear and sharp as the afternoon sunlight through the garden window the memories came to him...

After the disasterous trip that they had taken the first year of Frodo's habitation in Bag End, Bilbo was far more careful, and the next time they went out, the weather was very fine, and they had all the provisions and comforts that could be carried on a pony.  Frodo had sat up with his Uncle Bilbo and watched the stars spring out of the velvet sky.  They spoke little, listening hopefully for the bell-like laughter on the night wind.

Fortune smiled upon the Hobbits that night, and a group of Folk appeared just as Menelvagor was creeping up the horizon to stalk across the sky on his nightly visitation.  They did not seem suprised to find Bilbo sitting there, and they jested with the old Hobbit as though they were long friends, gathering around the campfire and sitting cross-legged on the grass.  They offered fair words to Frodo, and laughed good-naturedly at his stumbling elvish greetings.  They bowed to him amyway, and their laughter entranced him.  He sat quietly and listened to their speech, his eyes full of their fair faces and the music of their voices.  They sang songs that night that drifted still through his mind, and though the words were then strange to him, he seemed to 'feel' their meaning; pictures came into his head as he listened, and very quickly he was dozing at his Uncle's feet.  But the songs were complete and uninterrupted, like vivid dreams upon first waking.

Frodo lifted his head with a jerk!  He had fallen asleep sitting up at his desk.  He stood and stretched, and his thought was that, by the slant of the sunlight and the growling in his stomache, perhaps a spot of tea might be just the thing to perk him up.  He wandered down the hall toward the kitchen.

His feet stalled just outside Bilbo's study.  His Uncle had gone to Michael Delving earlier that day, but Frodo had heard, or thought that he had heard a sound coming from Bilbo's room.  The door was ajar, so he pushed it slowly open and called hesitantly, "Bilbo?  Are you here, sir?"

There was no answer, and the room appeared to be empty.  The window was open and golden sunlight was spilling into the cluttered room.  Many piles of books lay around, stacked in precarious towers and slotted into the over-full bookcase in every imaginable way.  Maps lay half finished, and Bilbo's favourite quill lay upon the desk next to an open ink-bottle.  Frodo *tisked* at the sight and capped the bottle tightly, and placed the quill carefully in the cork block.  Bilbo's penknife lay open there, and so Frodo placed it next to the quill, then stepped back.  He knew his uncle hated to have his room tidied after him; he claimed that he could never find anything.  It had taken many outbursts to encourage the well-meaning Samwise to avoid the task, but Bilbo had finally impressed on everyone that "his study was 'out-of-bounds' and welcome to remain cluttered and undusted".

Frodo was going to retreat at once, but something caught his eye: a letter half finished lay on the floor.  He politely averted his eyes from the text, and bent and picked it up, placing it on the desk and weighting it with the polished stone that he had once given his uncle as a birthday present.  He walked out of the room with one last longing glance at the bookshelf.  He would have to wait until Bilbo returned to exchange the volume he had just finished reading for a new one.

Frodo arrived in the kitchen to find Samwise busily preparing tea.  There were three cups on the board, along with a fresh blackberry tart that made Frodo's mouth water by the very sight.  "Is the Gaffer joining us, today, Sam?" asked Frodo, noting the extra cup.
Sam looked up at his master with a queer glance.  "No, sir.  Is Mr Bilbo not here?  I thought I heard him in his study just now."
"That was just me, Sam.  I went in to cap his ink-bottle."

Sam widened his eyes in alarm at the thought of entering the forbidden room.  "He's let more dry out than he's emptied, so he has, sir, if you don't mind my saying so."  He filled the teapot with steaming water, then spooned fresh leaves into a square of cheesecloth, which he tied deftly with a thread and dropped into the water.  Frodo watched him with a smile.

"I wish you would let me tell folks about your clever ideas, Sam.  That cheesecloth tea-pouch is a marvelous thing."
"Clever ideas? Me, sir?  No... that there is my mother's habit, for she doesn't care to get tea-leaves on her tongue, so she says.  I always fix it for her this way, I do, sir, and it saves time cleaning up, too."  Sam's face was tinged with red, and Frodo let him be, sipping his tea to hide his smile.

They both heard the front door open and close, and Bilbo himself walked into the kitchen, leaning his walking stick against the wall and shedding his cloak.  Samwise filled the third cup with tea as Frodo took his uncle's cloak and stick and placed them in the hall.  When he returned to the kitchen,  Bilbo was complimenting Sam on his blackberry tart.

        "I could smell the thing all the way to Bywater, and I hopped straight past the Green Dragon to have some while it was still hot!"  Sam flushed with pleasure, and they all enjoyed a delightful meal.

After helping Sam clean up ("No, Mr Frodo, you needn't bother yourelf, sir...") Frodo came into Bilbo's study with the book he had finished.  Bilbo was at his desk, scratching away on the parchment with his sharpened quill.  Frodo placed the book in an empty slot, then pondered his next choice.

"Try the 'Lays of Beleriand', lad.  It's on the top shelf... no, there it is on the floor, next to the Valaquenta.  I haven't translated that one yet, but I will, someday.  Now, off you go, lad.  I'm too busy today for any lessons."

"Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir."  Frodo moved to leave the room, but Bilbo's voice stopped him before he pulled the door shut.

"And Frodo... thank you for capping my ink.  You are a good lad."

"You are welcome, Bilbo."


Part 2 : Frodo goes for a walk

The air was clean and soft, and the early evening was claiming colour from the verdant hills around Hobbiton, leeching the light slowly as the early stars trembled meekly in the velvet air. Frodo drew a deep breath of it, as he paused outside the door debating on whether or not his coat would be warm enough for a long walk. As he pondered this, Samwise came out of the Bag End, a green cloak in his hands.

"You'll be wanting this if you're going out tonight, Mr Frodo." Sam exclaimed, draping the cloth over Frodo's shoulders. "It is wee soft now, but the vinefloweres are twisted tight shut, and the Gaffer says that means it'll turn chill ere middle-night. Do you want me to walk with you, sir?"

Frodo smiled and slapped Sam on the back in a friendly fashion. "No, thank you Sam. I have an itch to walk alone tonight, if you don't mind. I won't go too far. Good bye!" He set off down the path, leaping the little gate rather than opening it, and walked purposefuly down the Road, swinging his arms and singing softly.

Sam watched him until he disappeared into the gathering darkness. Such a dear hobbit was Frodo Baggins, he thought. Sam did not care to listen to what the other folk around Hobbiton sometimes said. He never failed to correct any speaker who suggested that Mr Frodo (or Mr Bilbo) was odd or out-of-the-way. He'd heard plenty of talk, down in Bywater and up in Tighfield, and it seemed some folk were not completely comfortable with the 'goings-on at the Bag End'.

"Folk got no claim to be mindin' another's business, Sam," his Gaffer said, when Sam had reported the slanders to him. "And that goes for you, too, thickwit!" the Gaffer affectionately ruffled his son's sandy hair. "Now give me a hand with these 'taters..."

Still Sam bristled whenever he heard such talk. Bilbo was amused when he heard about it, and Frodo seemed oblivious to jape or slight. He was unfailingly polite to everyone, even those Sackville-Bagginses who were so terribly rude to him and his uncle. Frodo did not have an un-kind bone in his body, as far as Sam was concerned.

At last, when Frodo was out of sight by twilight and hill, Sam turned back to the Bag End. He planned to get a few chores done while Mr Frodo was out of the hole.

Mr Bilbo was still in his study, the door firmly closed. Sam walked softly past, and tidied up the supper dishes and repaired the fire, making sure the kettle was full of water. He brought in more wood for the hearth, and scooped out the old ashes. He went into Frodo's room, knocking even though he knew the young master was out, and he stacked wood in the small grate carefully, ready to light when Frodo returned home that evening. If he returned before morning, Sam reflected with a sigh. Sometimes he would stay out all night, returning in the grey dawn with leaves stuck to his clothes and grass stains on his trousers. Sam wondered where he went on those long walks, and what he might be doing. Behaviour like this is what set folks talking, so it did!

Sam stripped the linen from the feather bed and replaced it with fresh sheets, laundered just that day. They still smelled of the sun, and of blooming flowers he had planted near the clothes-line last season. He tucked the corners down neatly and fluffed the pillows. Something dropped to the floor. He stooped and picked it up, examining the item closely.

It was a flower, dried and pressed and closed carefully in an envelope of transparent waxed paper. It was very old, and it's colour had faded, but it's fragrance could still be smelt; a primrose. Frodo had kept it under his pillow. Sam carefully replaced it, wondering what it meant, and who had given it to him.

"None of your business, Samwise Gamgee!" he said to himself, but he could not put it out of his mind.

Soon all the chores were done, and the night fire was banked. Sam grabbed up his cloak and the bag of laundry that he would take home for his sister to clean and mend. Bilbo came out of his study just as Sam was closing the door behind himself.

"Samwise?" Sam paused, poking his head back inside.

"Yes, Mr Bilbo, sir?"

"Did Frodo go out? I thought he was going to join me tonight for a smoke, but he has not appeared."

"Yes, sir. He went out for a walk at twilight. About went off without his cloak, he did."

Bilbo chuckled. "Gone off to see them again, has he?"

Sam could not control his curiosity. "Gone to see who, sir, if you don't mind my asking?"

Bilbo handed Sam his velvet smoking jacket. The young hobbit helped him slip it on. "The Elves, of course! The lad has gone Elf-crazy!" Bilbo did not sound displeased.

Sam looked at Bilbo, wondering if the old hobbit was jesting with him. "Elves, sir? Here in Hobbiton?"

"Well, no, not here," Bilbo selected a pipe from the rack, then stepped outside as Sam held open the door. He seated himself on the bench, and lit the pipe. Sam set aside his burden and sat down on the stones at Bilbo's feet.

"Elves, you said, sir?" prompted Sam eagerly, as Bilbo puffed his pipe and sent a great ring of smoke rolling expertly over the hedge.

"Oh, yes," murmured Bilbo. "They can be found sometimes, walking through the Shire, in the Spring or Autumn. I have taken Frodo to see them a few times, but he always wants more."

"I do love tales about Elves, Mr Bilbo. The Gaffer, he don't tell such tales." Sam looked at Bilbo so appealingly that the old hobbit laughed, and he spoke to the eager young gardner of the Valley of Rivendell, and the Elves he met there.

It was deep evening before Samwise finally walked into Bagshot Row #3, and the Gaffer had a solemn look on his face when his youngest son confessed that he had been listening to Mr Baggins' stories.

"It is not the place of a Gamgee to be giving ear to tales of Elves and Dragons! Cabbages and potatoes are better for you and me. Don't go getting mixed up in the business of your betters, or you'll land in trouble too big for you. Now, go and clean up for supper! You're luck we saved you any, as late as you are!"

Sam obeyed, and while the Gaffer was out talking to Daddy Two-foot, he told his sisters in a whisper the tales Mr Bilbo had shared with him.

Dasiy pursed her lips at her brother, and shook her head. "You are out of your place, Sam Gamgee!" She sat down next to the lantern to sew the button back on Mr Bilbo's waistcoat.

May sat quietly as Sam told his tale. When he finished speaking, she asked softly, "Where does he go? To see these Elves?" She kept her face turned away from her siblings, washing the dishes in the basin.

"I don't know. Off in the woods of Tuckburough, I imagine, or perhaps in the Bindbale Wood up north." Sam yawned like a cavern; he needed to get some sleep if he was going to get up early enough to cut the grass on the Hill tomorrow and still have time to make a fishing trip. He kissed his sisters goodnight, tweaking Marigold's chin. She hugged her brother with a giggle.

Sam prepared for bed, but sleep would not come. He tossed and turned, imagining sounds in the night, and chasing around phantoms of light in his half-awake mind.

He thought he heard singing. Elves, he thought, and he smiled. But the singing continued, and he woke up fully when he recognised Frodo's voice.

He grabbed his robe and crept out of the hole. The night had gone chilly, indeed. His breath plumed before him, and through the cloud of it he saw frost on the garden, shimmering in the starlight.

The singing was soft, and he followed the sound of it to the end of the row, and saw Mr Frodo himself walking slowly up the road toward home.

Sam stared in disbelief, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Master Frodo was glowing! Or seemed to be to Sam, with his mind foggy with fatigue. A light like soft moonlight was laid upon him, and he was quietly singing a song in a language Sam could not understand as he strolled home in the deep evening. As he drew close to where Sam stood, he halted.

"Whatever are you doing up at this hour, Sam?" Frodo asked.

Sam blinked, and he saw Frodo standing there quite normal-looking, with an expression of curious amusement on his face.

"I think I am walking in my sleep, Mr Frodo. I am seeing dreams!"
"Back to bed with you then, Samwise, or we'll never get the lawn done before sunset. I have a craving for fresh fish for dinner tomorrow, and I am not as good a fisherman as you! Get some sleep!" He took the befuddled Sam by the shoulders and turned him gently, pushing him back inside the hole.

Frodo continued up the Hill, the song of the Elves still sweet on his lips.
- Lothithil