Nothing of Note

by Primula

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?"

"Some..."

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."

"Did I?"

"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 you?"

"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?"

"You do?"

"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 Brandywine. 

"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 me?"

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."

"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 dark..."

"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 stouter hobbits.

"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 open."

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 opened it.

"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?"

"Haven't any."

"None?"

"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 their friend."

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.