Nothing of Note

by Primula

16: Room With a View

Clearing his head of Elven dreams always took a while. Bilbo found himself just sitting, wrapped in his blanket for longer than usual before his mind could begin to find the true day.  Turning to more mundane matters he looked for something to assauge his growling stomach.  After breakfasting on the last of his jam and griddlecakes from his pack, he finally brushed his hands on his breeches and went to the doorway to have a look outside.

The tenacious fog had finally lifted and a spring wind pinked his cheeks and stirred his hair as he gazed out. It looked to be a nice, clear day.  The grasses waved green and golden. To the east he could see the distant Shire laid out like a map. It was beautiful.  Now that it was clear, he could also see where the stream ran that he had crossed in the fog and how very much he had wandered. He was glad all over again that he hadn't missed the tower entirely!  He walked to the stream to rinse and fill his water bottle and to wash up a bit, then headed back for one last exploration before moving on.

Up the first set of steps one more time - he still didn't care for it, but it wasn't nearly as frightening as it had been at first. He wondered if he was capable of ever "getting used to" such a thing.  The window gave him his view of the Sea this time, and also the sheltered bay far below where great quantities of tiny white seabirds flocked over the waters. He gazed for many minutes to memorize the view.  The sunshine and sea air lent him a certain amount of courage, so carefully stepping over the shattered carving on the floor he started up the second flight of steps.

As he emerged into the third level of rooms he was glad to see it had fared better than the first tower's had. The flooring was intact and in spite of evidence of various bird-nestings, it was much cleaner. He hesistantly stepped off the steps, and went as far as the center of the room shying away from the window.  He wasn't sure he really wanted to see the view from this high up, it made him all fluttery inside just thinking about it. It felt strange enough just knowing he was at the top of a tower and the comforting ground was so very far away.  The wind gusted a little outside and his imagination made the whole room seem to sway with it, the tower seem to tilt slightly. Some distance above his head a looped metal lamp hung from a wooden beam, dusty but sound. Yet another small fireplace was found along the wall, and the breeze could be felt coming from its chimney slot as much as from the window. He looked down at his feet and suddenly let out a "ahhh!"

Hunkering down, he ran his hands over the flooring.  Thin pieces of different kinds of wood and stone lay joined in an elaborate pattern. The wood had worn, but was in surprisingly good shape.  Each shade of brown, gold or red brightened under his hand as he cleared away dust and grime.  His hands were soon black with dirt.  When he had cleared a goodly portion of it, he got out his notebook and sketched, making notations of what each color was, though the dirt from his hands smudged the page. It would have to do.  Star patterns, moon patterns and tree-branch patterns, the occasional flower. It must have taken some craftsman years to do this... He shook his head.  No, some craftself, and an Elf wouldn't mind so much spending years of his life on a thing of beauty as a mortal would. Perhaps even several craftselves.

When he had all he reasonably could written down, he stood and took a good look at the next set of steps.  They were narrower than the previous ones had been, and curled more tightly as the tower went upward. Did he want to go even further up?  He put one foot on the step and then took it back down. He repeated this exercise twice more. Maybe later.  Going back to the lower set, he prepared to descend the steps again, then hesistated, looking at the window once more.  Would he regret it if he did not look? Yes, he decided, he would. Well then...

Before he could think about it too much and scare himself out of it, he crossed to the window, grasped the sill and stood tiptoe to look out, remembering to keep his eyes on the horizon.

The day was as clear to the West as it had been eastward, and the additional height made more of a difference in what he could see than he had thought it would. There was the sunlit Sea, the ridge around the bay, the tiny seabirds and dark trees upon the cliffs. But now he could also see down into the bay, and could see some of the Elf-built structures there.  The top of a couple buildings, rounded and shining faintly.  Part of a walkway, a smaller tower-like structure, a dock.  A bit of tiny stairs.  He watched long, but saw no movement on them, so intent that he forgot to be frightened of the height.  It wasn't until he looked a notch farther down and saw the grassy edge of the ridge that he suddenly remembered and almost felt he would swoon. There was a strange sensation of falling, though he hadn't moved.  He backed away from the window and just stood in the center of the room again until that unnerving feeling stopped.

He reached for his notebook again, but noticing his own blackened hands changed his mind. Back to the upper steps. He steeled himself.

In a sudden rush he ran about a third of the way up the flight of them looking straight ahead.  He paused and glanced to the side, realizing he was now level with the ceiling lamp.  This was a mistake.  He much more slowly made his way up until his head came out in the uppermost chamber, which was smaller and musty with old bird-nestings. He didn't go up into it, but glanced around. A single chamber, with small windows and to his great surprise a ladder going even further up. It ended in darkness.  He could only assume it went up to the roof of the tower, a thought that was out of his reckoning when it came down to it.  With no one to witness this small cowardice, he allowed himself to edge back down.

 He worked his way back down to the main floor.  After washing up at the little stream once more, he filled another page in his book then gathered his things to head to the last tower.  The sight of the Elven buildings and the improvements between this tower and the last had buoyed his hopes that there might be something worth seeing there after all.

Bidding farewell to the "star tower," he walked north along the ridge. The weather started off spring-warm and clear, but as the day wore on a wind came up, blowing in off the sea.  It strongly bore the scent of the waves and the chill of them also.  In the late afternoon he finally began to approach the third tower, but by then the wind had become so strong and gusty it was occasionally knocking him off balance.  Off towards the sea dark violet-grey and yellow clouds had formed and the sun began to sink into them, bringing a premature shadow to a bright day. He struggled along through the grasses that now whipped him painfully with their leaves and stalks and was glad to see a bit of trees in the distance, where the ridge began its long slope down towards the distant road. The more wood, the better.

It appeared he was in for a bit of a storm.  Grateful once again for their enduring shelter, he staggered out of the force of the wind into the now-familar doorway of the Elven tower, and just leaned against the wall there for a couple minutes to catch his breath. He knew from the blackness of the rapidly approaching stormfront that he only had a short time before rains began and he better stock up on dry firewood while he could.  Who knows how long it would take to blow itself out?

Glancing all-too-briefly into the rooms, he dropped his pack and stick by the cold fireplace in the largest room and headed out towards the relatively nearby wood.  The trees creaked and waved alarmingly over his head, but the wind was proving useful in bringing deadwood down from their boughs.  He rapidly gathered as much as he could carry and waded back through the grasses, puffing.  He dropped his burden down by the fireplace, pivoted on his heel and went straight back out, brushing away bits of bark and dirt as he went.  No time to stop now.  Another load of sticks, the fattest ones he could find.  Back to the tower.  Drop it.  Back to the wood. He pulled up an entire dry branch, too hefty to break easily, but it he could work on that inside later. Tugging its length behind him he dragged it over the grasses and down the hall.  I spite of the chill, he wiped sweat from his eyes as he went out a fourth time.

He was almost knocked down by the wind as he crossed to the wood, spinning like a dancer to regain his footing. The first few drops of rain struck him, fat and hard. Another big armload of wood, large twigs stuck under his arms as he struggled to carry all he could. Using his chin as a hook, he managed to keep the stack in place long enough to reach the doorway, put spilled over half of it in the hall.  Time enough to pick it up later.  He dropped the rest clattering among their companions and went out once more.  By the time he made his sixth round, the rain was coming down.  By the seventh it was coming in sheets and after he had briefly become airborne he had to admit defeat, hoping it would be better later on.  The Shire rarely saw weather like this.  He suddenly realized it must be because these very hills sheltered it from the worst of such blows.

Where he had been hot before, now that he stopped moving the chill of the wind and rain began to catch up with him and he shivered.  At least it was short work to choose a handful of the dry twigs he had first gathered and to start a fire going. 

There was a banging sound. Startled, he looked up from the fireplace to the window that the sound came from. It banged again: thump, thump, THUMP.

He picked up his walking stick and carefully approached the sound, mystified at first and then suddenly smiling.  Shutters! This tower had shutters! Where the others had only been able to offer empty brackets, there they were. He found it a very welcome improvement indeed, and was quick to climb the bench and stretch out to grab at them the next time the rising wind swung them back and forth.  He pulled them closed and fastened them.  The room immediately felt warmer, even if it did lower the light considerably.  He went back to his little fire to tend it lest it die, feeding in slightly larger wood.  Now if there were only a door.  He blinked, realizing that he had simply assumed there wasn't one, and hadn't given it a good look with all the hurry. Somewhere in the corner of his mind, he thought he has seen a door.

He pattered down the tall hallway to the entrance. Sure enough, the door!  How had he missed it? There was that clever recess in the wall that it just fit into, so it did not block the entrance at all when opened, almost as if it were just another large shutter. It was all of a weathered, thick wood and he had to tug on it with all his might willing it to move. It didn't budge. He pried at it in futility. Sitting down, he leaned his back against the wall and fitted his feet along the edge to push at it with all the strength of his legs. It moved slightly. A couple more hard kicks and it suddenly scraped free of an unevenness in the flooring to swing away from the wall. Quickly getting up, he barely managed to push it shut against the wind and dropped the bar into place. The tower was suddenly dark and quiet compared to what it had been a short time before.  He didn't mind the dark at all though, it felt homelike and cozy somehow.  Even though he was far from home, alone and beset by a storm, he was content.