The Heir of the Hill

by Lothithil

Chapter 5, Fireside Tales Prelude:
Bilbo and Greenleaf

A prelude to a new tale, beginning in Bag End, The Hill, Hobbiton, Westfarthing, The Shire

Frodo as at his uncle’s knee, his eyes large with wonder as he listened to Bilbo read from his book. The leather on the binding gleamed red as dragon’s fire, and Frodo fancied he could hear the roar of the great beast in the crackle of the hearthfire. He shivered with delighted terror.

This was his favourite of all his Uncle’s stories. The strange Dwarves, and the Wizard who came and went at will, magical rings and riddles in dark places, eagles and man-bears and goblins; every chapter held him entralled and he would listen spellbound.

Outside the wind howled in a February storm, whipping snow and freezing rain against he thin windows of Bag End. All of the Shire was hunkered down in their holes and houses, staying warm and waiting out the weather.

Frodo heard the wind and his eyes were filled with fire; Bilbo’s voice seemed also to fade beyond the sound of his own thinking. Something was missing from the story, he realized as he listened. Puzzles formed in his head. He sat up and touched his Uncle’s sleeve.

"I have a question, Uncle Bilbo," he said.

"Only one question, Frodo?" Bilbo laughed. He could recognize that tone in the young Hobbit’s voice, that something was rattling around in his head. When Frodo was in a question mood, Bilbo could expect an interesting debate. He turned the thick page to the next chapter, but Frodo would not be put off.

"One question to begin, Uncle," Frodo said, and he ran his finger across the map he had been looking at as he listened to the story. He pointed to the dark tangle of ink that depicted Mirkwood Forest. Tiny webs and wicked-looking spiders had been cleverly wrought in the slashes that represented trees. "You have always said that Elves are good folk, and the few I have met are very pleasant and fair indeed. Why then did the Elf-King lock Thorin and the Dwarves in the dungeons? That in not a nice thing to do."

Bilbo looked at his nephew over the top of the book, then lowered it to his lap when he saw the look of conflict on the young one’s face. "They are, Frodo my lad! They certainly are! But it was a sticky situation, in Mirkwood at that time, and Elves and Dwarves have not been friends for a very long while. Ages indeed, back when the great smiths worked in the Dwarf cities, and when Menegroth and Nogothrond were built, they were friendly then, but alas! Much fighting has come between them, even war."

"War between Elves and Dwarves?" Frodo was astonished by the idea. "I would not want to see that! They should not fight each other!"

"Aye, my lad, they should not, nor should they fight Men. There are enemies enough without looking for more amoung those who should be allied." Bilbo’s face was sad suddenly, and Frodo noted with surprise that he could see lines and shadows in his Uncle’s face that he had not noticed before. He rolled to his feet and stoked the fire, making the room seem brighter. The lines disappeared as Bilbo smiled at his energetic nephew.

"Tell me what happened in the Elf-king’s palace," asked Frodo, settling again against Bilbo’s knee. Bilbo turned the pages forward to that part if the story, but before he could begin to read, Frodo stopped him. "Not the book, Uncle. Tell me what happened to you, when you were living in the palace before you helped Thorin escape. You were there for a long time, but hardly anything is said in the story about that. You must have had some adventures with the Elves, even if they could not see you."

Bilbo laughed and closed the book. He laid it aside gently, and picked up his pipe, loading it as he chuckled. "Adventures with the Elves, eh? Well, well, now that you say, there is a couple of things I left out of the story, ’cause it wasn’t really part of that story and also, because I was rather unkind to one particular Elf, and I do not wish to compound my crime nor his embarassment. If he ever learned that I was the one responsible for his misfortune... well! I would hate to have to explain to his face."

Frodo fetched a burning straw to light his uncle’s pipe. He blew it out and let his head tilt to one side, grinning at Bilbo with his eyes glinting. "You once said that we would have no secrets between us, Uncle."

"So I did! What a memory you have, my lad! Well, put the kettle on, this is a long tale. But you must swear, you will never repeat this tale to anyone! Our secret, Frodo, just like before..." and he patted his waistcoat pocket. Frodo nodded eagerly, and fetched the water swiftly, settling again at Bilbo’s knee to listen as the tale unfolded.

~~~to be continued~~~