5. Many Meetings
pillared banquet hall of Rivendell. One side of the
great room was open to the starry sky and scented
breezes. And it was crowded with Elves, tall and fair,
clad in flowing richly hued robes who parted with
bows and smiles to make way for the two Hobbits.
Frodo spotted Merry, Pippin and Sam all sitting
together and started towards them only to be
tugged back by Bilbo.
"No, my boy, we belong up there." his uncle pointed
with his cane to the high table on the dais at the
head of the hall.
Oh dear, he was hardly dressed for such company.
Elrond was already seated in his great chair at the
center of the table, a beautiful Elven lady with black
hair rippling over glistening white robes beside him.
To Frodo's confusion the lady started to her feet
with a glad cry and swept around the table to kiss and
embrace him. "I am glad to see you well and sound,
Frodo, you frightened me badly at the end."
"I - uh.." face lambent he could only stammer.
She smiled. "You don't remember me?"
Then it came back to him, fragmentary images out of
troubled dreams. "You're Arwen, you took me on your
horse." his eyes widened with remembered horror. "The
Riders almost caught us!"
"But they did not." She kissed him again, on the
forhead. "All is well now."
"Lady Arwen is Lord Elrond's daughter." Bilbo told
him casually. "And you did look more than three
quarters dead when she brought you in. Frightened me
half out of my wits, my boy."
"Come sit beside me." Arwen invited and he could
hardly refuse though he felt very out of place in the
tall chair at her right hand. He had a golden haired
Elf on his other side and Bilbo in the chair opposite.
But no sooner had he taken his seat than Bilbo was
out of it, delightedly pumping the hand of a heavily
bearded Dwarf. "My dear Gloin! what brings you to
"King Dain had messages for Lord Elrond, and I
wasn't about to miss a chance to visit my old
companion." the Dwarf smiled. "How are you Bilbo?"
"Oh, well enough, well enough, feeling my age a bit
but then I've a right to don't I? And who would this
be?" he continued, beaming at a younger Dwarf standing
behind Gloin, "as if I couldn't guess!"
"My son Gimli." Gloin confirmed. "He is very eager
to meet the famous Burglar Baggins."
"At your service, Master Baggins." the younger
Dwarf bowed. "And I mean that. I owe you my father's
life several times over, thank you."
"Oh I'd say we're about even in that department."
Bilbo replied. "Sit down, my friends, sit down." the
two Dwarves took the chairs on either side of the old
Hobbit. "My nephew Frodo," he introduced, "and this
next to him is Legolas, son of our old friend the
Elven King of Mirkwood."
"Friend?" Gloin asked, bushy eyebrows rising.
"Yes friend! Remember the Battle of Five Armies? As
for our earlier misunderstandings - well the fault
wasn't all on his side you know."
The two Dwarves clearly didn't quite agree, but
nodded politely enough to the Elf next to Frodo, who
made them a slight bow in return.
Gloin and Bilbo were soon lost in mutual reminisces
with Gimli listening interestedly. But Frodo was
quickly distracted by the fixed and rather unnerving gaze
of a very tall fair haired Man seated next to Gloin.
Their eyes met and the Man rose and bowed. "Forgive
me, Little Master, my people have fireside tales of
Halflings but I never thought to see one."
"We don't often leave the bounds of our own country."
Frodo replied. "Frodo Baggins of the Shire, at your
"Boromir son of Denethor of Gondor, at yours and
"Gondor, eh?" Bilbo peered curiously around Gloin.
"And what brings you so far north, Master Boromir? Or
shouldn't I ask?"
The Man smiled wryly. "A dream brings me." he
shrugged, a little embarrassed. "Normally I do not
heed such things but this was unlike any I've had
before, and it came to my brother as well." He
hesitated, seemingly lost in troubled thought.
"And what was this dream?" Bilbo asked bright eyed
"I saw the eastern sky grow dark," Boromir said
softly, "but in the west, a pale light lingered. And a
voice was crying: 'Your doom is at hand; Isildur's
Bane is found!'"
Frodo was suddenly acutely aware of the weight of
the ring, lying cool against his skin under his shirt.
"And that brought you to Rivendell?" Bilbo
"Yes. The Lord Elrond is the only one now living
who remembers the Last Battle at the foot of Orodruin.
If anyone can interpret the dream it is he."
"What is this 'Isildur's Bane'?" Gimli wanted to
"The One Ring, the Enemy's chief weapon." Boromir
answered. "Isildur took it as a prize of war but it
betrayed him to his death. It has been lost all this
Age of the World but if Sauron has found it...." the
Man shook his head, eyes haunted. "Then our doom is
indeed at hand."
Gloin was looking at Bilbo, with horror and
surmise. He knew about the Hobbit's magic ring and
Frodo realized he had guessed the truth. "Sauron has
not got it yet," the Dwarf said, "but he is seeking
it. His messengers have come to Dale and the Mountain
asking questions. King Dain and King Brand sent us to
ask Elrond's advice."
"We are troubled in Mirkwood as well" the Elf
Legolas said suddenly. "Sauron sends us no emissaries
but his creatures haunt the forest, Orcs and the Great
Both Gloin and Bilbo shuddered, they remembered the
"It would seem all lands have felt the Dark Hand."
Boromir looked questioningly at Frodo. "Including your
He could only nod and look to Bilbo for help. But
his uncle wouldn't meet his eye, staring past him face
set and grim.
"All lands have been troubled." Elrond said quietly
from his place beyond Arwen, "And by fate or fortune
all have been moved to send emissaries here to
Rivendell. Tomorrow we will meet in council and your
questions will be answered - but tonight let us
forget our troubles and fears, and enjoy the company
of old friends," with a smile at Bilbo and Gloin, "and
After the meal the assembled company left the
banquet hall, crossing a courtyard to a second, even
larger hall open to the night on all sides with a
bright fire burning on the hearth at the center of the
sunken floor. A number of Elven musicians began to
play and sing.
"I can't believe it," Gloin muttered to Bilbo under
cover of the music. "That little ring of yours that we
handled so carelessly!"
"How do you think *I* feel?" the old Hobbit
answered as softly. "Just popping it on any time I
wanted to hide from unwelcome callers! If I'd only
"Well you didn't." that was Gandalf, suddenly
appearing behind them. "And there was no reason why
you should have. I on the other hand -" he stopped,
sighed. "Well there's no use repining. Come, Gloin, I
want to hear about these messengers from Mordor."
Wizard and Dwarves moved quietly away leaving Frodo
alone with his uncle. Bilbo shook himself and smiled
determinedly at his nephew. "Gandalf's right as usual,
what's done is done. The Ring's safe here in Rivendell
and all these great folk will know what to do about
Frodo nodded agreement. As Sam'd said, they'd done
their bit. Well almost, he still had to turn over the
Ring to - well whoever was to take charge of it.
Presumably that's what the council tomorrow would
His eye wandered over the assembly and caught a
familiar/unfamiliar figure standing between two
pillars. Strider, looking astonishingly presentable in
grey velvet glimmering with silver. Frodo nearly stood
up and called but caught himself in time. It wasn't
necessary anyway. Strider had seen him and came down
to join the two Hobbits.
"Where have you been?" Frodo demanded softly, so as
not to interupt the music. "I was begining to think
you'd gone off without even a good-bye."
The Ranger sat cross-legged on the floor next to their
stools and smiled at him. "I had business to attend
Bilbo snorted. "You mean you've been hiding from
that Man Boromir." gave him a stern look. "You're
going to have to face him sometime, Lord Elrond will
see to that."
Strider shook his head. "The Ring must be our chief
concern. This is not the time for side issues."
"Side issues? My dear Estel you are not a 'side
"Estel?" Frodo interupted, "I thought your name was
"So it is." Bilbo answered. "Estel is what they
called him as a boy, which is when I first met him
on my way to the Lonely Mountain. Just a bit of a
lad no taller than you he was."
Frodo blinked. Bilbo's great adventure had been
over sixty years ago. If Strider been a boy back then
he must be at least seventy now.
"I'm older than I look." Strider smiled, correctly
interpreting Frodo's startled glance.
"He's Numenorean, my boy." Bilbo explained. "They
live a very long time - and they don't show their age
until near the end - and Estel is still a century or so
away from that."
"Will you be at the council tomorrow?" Frodo asked.
Strider nodded. "I'll be there," glanced sidelong
at Bilbo, "as will Boromir of Gondor, a Man of the
Beornings, another from Dale, your Dwarf friends, my
friend Legolas and Galdor from the Havens. All the
Free Peoples will be represented, including Hobbits."
"Just Frodo." said Bilbo, adding as his nephew
looked at him in surprise: "I'm sorry, my boy, but I'm
sure to doze off and we wouldn't want that. Not in
front of all those grand people." he struggled to his
feet with the help of his stick and Strider's hand.
"In fact I think I'll be off to bed before I fall
asleep right here."
"I'll go with you." Frodo said quickly.
"No, no, my boy, stay and enjoy yourself."
"Really I'd rather. It's been a long day, Bilbo."
"And his first day up." the Man agreed.
"Oh very well, if that's what you want."
"Good night." said Strider.
Turning to go Bilbo shot a mischievious look over
his shoulder at him. "By the way, Arwen's been trying
to catch your eye for the last five minutes. Don't
keep the lady waiting." and led Frodo off chuckling to
His nephew didn't quite see the joke. Nor did he
understand when Bilbo sighed and said quietly. "Being
who he is that boy's bound to have a hard life, but
sometimes he seems to go out of his way to make it
Frodo decided not to ask. He'd had enough of
mysteries and other people's problems for one night.
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