Nothing of Note
13: No Mystery
Bilbo woke before dawn, stiff and cold. The heavy coastal dew had
blanket while he slept, and low clouds wisped past like a fog in the
predawn twilight chilling him even further. He was sore from climbing,
aching, hungry and thirsty. It was times like this that
adventuring didn't seem so pleasant at all, he reflected wryly, this is
the part they never sing about. Shifting on the ground he tried
in vain to sleep again. It was
useless. He sat up, chafed his hands to get them working and felt about
in the wet grass for his pack. After tending to his thirst and
of his hunger, he was feeling a little more ready to face the
day. He considered trying to start a fire, but the lack of
good fuel and the now steady breeze made it seem unlikely to succeed so
rather than wasting tinder he got up and stamped and flapped his arms,
beating at his chest trying to warm up. It helped.
The sun had begun to light the eastern sky with grey and lavender
the last of the stars slowly giving way to the coming dawn. Low
clouds lifted to reveal the Elven tower looking grey-white, cold and
somehow lonely. Off in the distance he could see the second one,
and even further off a small part of the third. He drew out his
and penned a few lines about the journey over the downs and his first
impressions of the tower, strangely reluctant to approach it after all
the traveling to get there. He wasn't sure if it was a shying
away from something that was somehow "above" him, or if it was the
reluctance to have the mystery of it end. He had learned long ago
that many fabled and fantastic things and people were terribly mundane
and uninteresting once you got to know them well. Now that it
came to it, he wasn't sure he wanted the mystery of these ancient
towers to be revealed. Revelations weren't all they were cracked
up to be.
The light grew stronger and the cold breeze thankfully died away.
Bundled in his dew-damp coat and cloak, he walked away from the tower
until he could peer westward over the far side of the rounded
ridge. It went gently for a time, then fell away steeply to the
west. In the distance he could now see an immense body of water,
grey-green and dull in shadow of the hills, sparkling farther out. The
land curved around a distant bay, but beyond it.... Ah...It shifted and
twinkled, with thin threads of white drawn across it as with a
comb. It was his first glimpse of the Sea; it quite took his
away. Never ending! How could anyone fathom such huge amount
of water with no land? It stretched clear from the horizon, as
far as could be seen.
Wisps of cloud were caught in the trees of the far bay like wool in
carding comb, not seeming to move. Far, far below there were
great grey rocks and a strip of pale beach with the occasional stream
running over it into the water. It all looked very small at the base
of such cliffs though he knew the distance was great and those tiny
rocks must be quite impressive. Tiny white flecks of seabirds
circled below. He
knew there was some sort of Elven settlement down there, someplace, or
at least there had been at one time. He couldn't see any trace of such
a thing from where he was, but hoped it remained. It would be
comforting to think that it remained and was not all hollow and
as the towers seemed to be. He knew that Elves sometimes went
west, leaving Middle-earth, never to return; but he had never imagined
the Sea they were crossing.
How long he stood there gazing out towards the Sea he couldn't say. The
sun had fully risen behind him now, lending a slight warmth to his
shoulders and the light was bright. He finally stirred as if
coming out of a dream, then turned and walked towards the waiting
It was very tall, and seemed to grow as he approached it. The base
mossy and webbed with the roots of tenacious grasses, orange and yellow
lichen edged the lower stones, yet above it was surprisingly clean.
Bilbo reached out his hand and ran it over the cold stone, brushing
away flakes of lichen and plucking out a clump of dead grass to clear a
small space. While not truly white up close, it was pale and
veined with light grey. Some of the stone had a sheen to it that
reminded him of mica. No wonder they shone in the light! Bilbo
had spent enough time around Dwarves to recognize and appreciate good
stonework when he saw it. They were well-made, works of art.
It was no wonder that they yet stood after all these years, he thought,
it would take an army to bring them down. And who would ever want to
harm them? They were beautiful. He got out his notebook and did a
quick sketch of the stone with a description of its colors and what it
felt like under his hand. Moving around the base of it, he began
looking for a door. He found it opposite where he had slept, a
beautifully graceful arch with time-worn carvings that had lost their
detail. He could see where a stout wooden door must have once hung,
though there was none there now. With no trees nearby, there was
no litter of autumn leaves to accumulate, so aside from the encroaching
grasses, it appeared fairly clear inside.
He peered into the open doorway and found it led into a sort of hallway
with single openings on either side. Entering, he found them to be
empty rooms. One had shelving and places that must have held
of some sort. A storage room, then. Elaborate hooks were set into
the curving wall, and an
empty torch bracket. The other room showed no clue as to its
purpose other than the marks of what may have been a table in the
center. An elaborate mural gave one wall a fanciful look
into an Elvish-looking golden forest. A small fireplace, its
frame carved to resemble two twining trees was built near the far wall,
apparently using one of the window slots for a chimney.
Passing these rooms, the hallway ended and opened up into a larger room
that made up the rest of the tower's floor space. Another fireplace was
here, backing to its neighbor on the opposite side of the wall.The
unshuttered windows let in a little light, and he could see a stone
staircase lifting upwards, curving with the wall. There was
little in the room: two stone benches, a shelf and the remains of
another. Over by the hearth there was a pile of debris, a heap of grass
grown over something...
The grass moved.
Bilbo about jumped out of his skin as the heap inside the tower sat up,
rubbing its eyes and peering at him.
It was a hobbit!
His heart was pounding from the surprise, and he gasped before he could
make his voice work. He gripped his notebook in front of him and wished
he had his stick. "Hullo! Who are you? What are you doing
The hobbit sat the rest of the way up. The blanket heaped with grasses
for warmth slipped off of his shoulders. Bilbo relaxed slightly
as he saw it was only a small one, not yet a tweenager and apparently
He looked young, bewildered and apologetic.
"I...I'm sorry, sir. I'm Finch. Finch Cornfield, sir. I'm didn't
mean to startle you, I slept longer than I thought..."
Bilbo relaxed his hold on his notebook and breathed more easily.
"I see. How did you come to be here? I thought no one came out here.
alone? You don't live around here, do you?"
Finch stood up, rubbing his hand over his nutbrown hair so it stood out
in curly clumps. "Nossir, I mean, Yessir, I'm alone. No one would
ever come out here with me. I...well, I saw you go past yesterday, and
you were going up the west path. No one goes west, sir." He
offered this with an embarrassed look. "I... well, I followed
just to see where you were going, not for any mischief sir, and then I
heard you singing about Elves sir...!"
Bilbo nodded. He had. And loudly too, as he now recalled. The youngster
must have been somewhere near the ruined sheepfold then. No doubt
he was the 'neighbor-boy' that the Brockhouse's had referred to.
"You're from around Undertowers, then?" A nod. "Why did you wait
so long to make yourself known to me? I would have enjoyed a little
company seeing as you were going my way."
Finch scuffed at the limp grasses with his toes. "I was afraid you'd
send me back, sir. And I wanted to come out here again, but I didn't
want to be doing it alone. No one else would come out here with me... I
don't even tell the others, of course, they'd never understand. I
hope you aren't too angry with
me, sir?" he glanced at up at Bilbo, then looked at his feet.
"No, not angry at all. Not at all. But I must admit the last
thing I expected to find in an Elven tower was a hobbit! Have you come
here often, then? How did you come to find them?"
Finch smiled, glad to be accepted. "Oh, I've only been here twice
before, sir. It's a long ways, of course. The first time I was
quite a lot younger. I heard some of the...Elves...singing, sir. They
were going past, not on the path but up behind the land where my da
farms. I was scared at first, but I wanted to know where they were
going, and the music was so..." he faded off for a moment. Bilbo
smiled slightly, remembering their haunting and lovely music himself.
"And...?" he prompted.
"Oh. I followed 'em right up to here sir, except they didn't stop. They
just kept right on. I didn't dare go any further than this. Not
that, then. I came back once more, to see the tower in the
daylight sir, up close. But I never saw any more Elves. Fell on
the way back and busted up my arm pretty bad. My folks said it was the
bad luck, from following them. My mum said
I wasn't to speak of it, nor to come here again, but...sir..," his
hazel eyes seemed to plead for understanding. "When I saw you going
past, I just had to..."
Bilbo found a pity for this young hobbit welling up in his breast. Yes,
he knew what it was to be surrounded with folk that were deaf and blind
to anything beyond their own noses. He smiled for him. "I
understand. And I know exactly what you mean."
straightened up and the fearfulness left his eyes.
"But." said Bilbo. Finch sagged slightly, knowing what was coming.
Bilbo nodded. "Yes, but. I am going to be continuing on, and
not be able to follow any further. Your family will be looking for you,
no doubt, and it sounds like you will be in enough trouble as it
is." Bilbo spoke firmly, leaving no room for arguments.
Finch nodded a bit miserably.
"Now!" said Bilbo, catching his eye and lifting his chin. "Show me this
tower of yours, young Master Cornfield. What have you found?"
Finch grinned at this, then turned more serious about his charge. "Not
much, really Mr..." he paused as he realized he didn't know his
"Mr. Baggins. Bilbo Baggins, at your service," offered Bilbo to set him
at ease. Right after this came out of his mouth he wondered if he
oughtn't to have used a false name again. He hoped the youth had not
had his ears filled with tales as his neighbors apparently had.
He didn't want the poor lad frightened away.
Finch showed no reaction to it except to nod and smile. "Mr. Baggins
then. There's not much here 'cept the tower itself, but it's a rare
sight anyway. I suppose the fireplace works, but haven't used
it." He gestured upwards. "The windows almost all face west, so it's
brighter in the afternoon."
"Have you been up the steps?" asked Bilbo, whose feet were itching to
try them himself.
"Not really. I felt too afraid... But now that you're here with me, I'd
be willing to try again."
"Let's do that, then. Up the steps we shall venture, lad. Together! I
don't care much for heights either." He crossed the room to the
base of the steps and looked up them. They seemed very,very high and
curved around into shadow so it was difficult to see what lay
above. "Never could see what they find so appealing about
heights. Why live anyplace you have to climb to reach one of
rooms? Well, I suppose they didn't really live here, at least I
should think not. More of an outpost sort of thing." This said he
lifted a foot and stepped onto the stairway. Finch stepped up beside
him. They both stopped.
Bilbo smiled at their mutual hesitation. "Not much of a start, was it?
Let's try again, with a good heart. Up now, up we go! One and two, one