Nothing of Note
35. Starlit Walk
Bilbo was nearly knocked down by the enthusiastic greeting Frodo gave
him; they both spun off balance in the dark for a moment, laughing.
Regaining his footing, Bilbo said "Well, I've found you at last!"
Frodo laughed, still embracing him. "You have! I do hope you weren't out looking for long? If I'd known you were coming...."
"Then I wouldn't have had the fun of surprising you this way." Bilbo
said, brushing aside Frodo's polite concern. "I didn't get in until
dark as it was." He glanced around the darkened knoll, blue-black sky
and dark silhouettes of distant trees. "Do you come out this way often?"
He could hear a smile in the voice. "It is so pleasant to
see you again. Not that I can see you, of course - I don't need to
see you to know when you are smiling." He held the younger hobbit
out at arm's length. Now that his eyes were adjusted to the dark, he
could actually see him fairly well and yes, he was smiling.
"You got my letter."
"Yes, yes I did. But you presented such a conundrum, a terribly unjust puzzle for me in writing it."
"Yes, you asked for whatever news I had since we last wrote. And as it
would have taken me the better part of the month to write it all for
you, I had to bring it to you myself."
"Really - The better part of a month!"
"Indeed. I went for a little walk, you see. Come, let us walk a bit."
he paused. "You don't need to get back to the Hall anytime soon, do
"No. They won't miss me until breakfast, and there's always some way to
get in. I have my own room now, Bilbo! It's small, but it has a bit of
a window. There's shelves in it, because it used to be a pantry but
they're useful enough..."
"Now, that's a bit of news. You didn't mention it in your letter."
"No," Frodo laughed, "it was arranged right after I posted it to you,
just as I feared would happen. If you hadn't come, I would have put it
in the next one though. Forgive me?"
"Much. I'm glad you've a bit of space to yourself. Is there room for two?"
"Only just, but there's always room for you, dear, dear Bilbo... I just
can't tell you how pleasant it is to be here, talking to you. I
sometimes imagine you're here, did you know that?"
"Yes. I walk, and I talk to you."
Bilbo's eyebrows raised. "And do I ever say anything back?"
"Sometimes, in my mind." grinned Frodo, slightly embarrassed. "I imagine what you would say, that clearly."
"Hm! And have I been well-behaved?"
"Not always. If you were always well-behaved, I should think I wasn't talking to you at all."
Bilbo chuckled. "So I see! Well, if you can tolerate my ill-behaved
voice speaking aloud to you this time, let's walk a bit together. Show
me what it is that draws you way out here besides the obvious peace and
quiet." He turned, following Frodo's lead back up the low slope
that lay between them and the long decline toward the
"Well, there is a peacefulness, as you say. But there are also
those..." he paused at the top of the rise and tilted his head back.
Bilbo likewise raised his eyes to the stars. "Ahh.."
"And that..." said Frodo, indicating the distant river.
Bilbo looked over to the west where the waters ran. The starlight was
just visible on the surface, the palest of silver dancing slightly with
the current. Through the lace of branches, motes and streaks of silver
could be seen; a tableau of nighttime beauty. They stood together
quietly for a moment, just listening to the soft sounds of the water
and the light breeze that lifted the leaves and whispered through the
grasses, stirred its gentle fingers through their hair. There was a slightly wooden sound as some boat gently
bumped up against its docking.
Frodo stirred. "I wish I could write about it. I wish I could capture
it in words, like you can, Bilbo. I've tried but poetry eludes me." He
turned to the thoughtful hobbit at his side. "Would you catch it for
Bilbo stirred out of the dark riverside's spell. "Catch it?"
"Write it. The nighttime, the stars, the waters. Would you... paint me a
picture of your words so I can read them again someday, when I'm older,
and remember how beautiful it is..."
"Ah." Bilbo considered seriously for a moment. "Yes. That is, I can
try. It may not come to me for a while, but I can try. For you." he
smiled. "I haven't been writing too much lately, I've been translating."
"Translating?" They slowly walked along the small ridge, then down toward the river.
"From the Elvish. I've a ballad in Elvish and I'm trying to set it down
in the common tongue. It's not too bad, a fairly short one for them.
It's nearly finished. I'm hoping I can learn enough to be able to
translate some of the longer works with more confidence. It's very
difficult with poetry or songs because the meter of the words must be
right and it doesn't always translate across... There's one I would
very much like to conquer someday that has had me... ha ha, I've been
around a few too many Dwarves I guess...'pulling my beard' is the idiom
that came to mind."
"What's it called?"
"What's what called?" asked Bilbo, still thinking of Dwarves.
"The Elvish ballad that makes you want to pull the beard you are plainly lacking."
Bilbo smiled. "Oh - it's a ballad about Eärendil. See? There's his star, right up there. Look. Over there. That one."
"No, no to the left a bit. Up. Over." He reached over and adjusted Frodo's pointing arm. "There. See the bright one?"
"It's very bright in middle of all that darkness. They named a star for him? Was he a hero, or a king...?"
The moon rose up slowly, peeping its silver-white face over the eastern
forest as they walked and the evening grew late. Bilbo, all weariness
forgotten, gladly taught his willing student the legend of
Eärendil , the significance of the stars to the Elves and their
sailing on the sea. He knew there was still so much he himself did not
understand, so much history and so many stories to yet be read, but
what he did know he was glad to impart. It was such a joy to have a
kindred heart nearby, someone who was wanting to hear instead of just
humoring him. And someone who wasn't surly about Elvish, unlike his
occasional Dwarvish visitors. They made a gradual loop back toward the
Hall as they talked, but by the time it came into sight again nearly
all of its many lights were darkened in the late hour.
Bilbo paused and lowered his pack to rummage in it. "While we're on the
subject, I have something I want to show you." He pulled out a
cloth-wrapped bundle that was small but heavy.
"This is a piece, only a fragment really, of an Elven carving I found in the Elven Towers off to the West."
"The Elven Towers!"
"Yes, as I said, I've too much news to write of easily."
"You could have said something sooner."
"Perhaps, but I'm saying it now. That will have to suffice. Here, take
this." He unwrapped the stone and handed it to Frodo. "I know it's
"It's all right. I can feel it." Frodo ran his eager fingers lightly over the carving.
"It's a ship," said Bilbo. "Or a good part of one anyway, and a star.
The ship has a swan-shaped prow, like the ones I've seen in other
carvings and paintings of theirs. I've never been sure if it was some
sort of symbol or real ships, or both. The star..."
"Is Eärendil." finished Frodo.
"We'll take a look at it in the light when we get back." He glanced
ahead of them. "Are you sure we can get in? Everything looks closed up
for the night."
Frodo handed the carving back into his hands. "Oh yes. There's always a
way in." His voice held a confidence that Bilbo believed. He just hoped
it wasn't some small way that only worked for thin tweens, rather than
"Wouldn't there be someone awake, to tend the door?"
"Yes, but I don't feel like listening to her lecturing me about being out late again."
"I see." Bilbo wrapped the carving and stowed it away. Together they softly crossed the grassy lawn.
"Here," said Frodo. "Over this way." his voice dropped to a whisper as
they stole along the outer perimeter of the Hall. "The lower shutters
are all latched. But see how it slopes up? You don't really realize
you're going up when you're inside, but the upper windows are sometimes
Bilbo whispered back. "Aren't those bedrooms? What if we wake someone up?"
"We won't. Shhh." Frodo silently led the way, scaling up the steep slope of the Hall's grassy side.
Bilbo wasn't so sure, but he followed as quietly as he could which was very quietly.
Up ahead of him Frodo paused, then began to work his way across the
hill to the right. Bilbo reached the same level and followed suit. It
all seemed a bit silly somehow, climbing around on someone's house this
way. Frodo had stopped and was waiting for him to catch up.
"Here." whispered Frodo softly. "This is a storeroom. Follow me." He
hefted himself up and reaching in, pushed aside the shutters slowly and
quietly. Then he slipped over the edge and disappeared inside the room
with a slight flumping shuffling noise. His head reappeared in the opening.
"There's some sacks of flour." he whispered.
Bilbo took off his pack and handed it in to Frodo, then hefted himself
up onto the tiled sill, grateful that there was no windowbox. He
slipped over the cold edge and down into darkness, landing on the
uneven stack of fat flour sacks. He stumbled slightly finding his footing.
By the time he looked back up, Frodo was already back at the window,
swinging the shutters back where they belonged.
They went to the door. Frodo opened it just a crack and listened
carefully, then nodded and slipped out of the room, gesturing for Bilbo
to follow. Feeling strangely anxious about being caught by someone, a
feeling he hadn't had for a very long time, he followed the younger
hobbit down the hall, past several doors and shuttered windows, around
two turns and then doubled back down another hallway. He was glad he
had a guide. The hall widened out. Frodo finally stopped at a somewhat small doorway and
"My room." he whispered with a smile. "Go ahead."
Bilbo ducked slightly under the small door, followed by Frodo who shut
it behind them and in short order had a candle lit. He smiled.
"Home sweet home. What do you think?"
Bilbo turned around, catching his pack on the shelving as he did so. "Snug and cozy."
"You mean small." corrected Frodo. "At least it has a door that I can
close. Go ahead and take the bed. I'm used to sleeping on the floor."
Bilbo looked at him with an unspoken question.
"The last room I had, the bed was filled with two smaller cousins, so I
had the floor. Before that I had a bed, but half the time I had to give
it up for visitors."
Bilbo's eyebrows raised slightly.
"It's all right, really! You don't need to look at me that way.We'll split the covers. It's warm enough."
Bilbo acquiesced, sitting gratefully on the bed. He didn't want to
admit it, but he was weary. Frodo still seemed fresh and ready to go.
Ah, for youth.
As they both settled down for sleep, Bilbo asked. "Who was that lad?"
"What lad?" answered Frodo from the floor. He sounded slightly sleepy.
Bilbo described his erstwhile greeter when he had arrived. "The lady who answered the door mentioned Berilac. Was that him?"
"Oh, him. No, not Beri but one of his cronies. Beri is the nephew of
the Master so he gets away with a lot but he's basically a good fellow.
That one was from his group he likes to play with. He used to follow me
everywhere but when I tried to befriend him it turned out he was just
trying to make himself feel important, trying to get someone older than
himself in trouble. Quite a little tattler, that one."
"What about your cronies?"
"Don't want to be one, either. Sounds terrible, crony, doesn't it? I
shouldn't like to be anyone's crony, ever. I should only want to be
Bilbo shifted on his pillow. "And are you?"
"A friend? I don't know. I suppose I must be, to some. It is hard to
see oneself through other's eyes. How can a person learn to be a
friend, Bilbo? Are there books for things like that?"
"No, I'm afraid not, through there are books about friends. Friends who
stuck with one another through thick and thin. Being a friend, that
is something learned from reading eyes and hearts, not books."
There was a long pause, then Frodo's sleep-laden voice came up to him softly.
"I should like that, to be able to read eyes and hearts. But I'm not sure I would want someone to read mine."
Bilbo lay in the darkness listening to Frodo's quiet, steady breathing.
I wonder what he would think to know he's already read mine... he thought as he drifted off.