1. Risto Vae
They had been a gift from Gilraen on Bilbo’s last visit to Rivendell. She had used them for embroidery, but loaned them to him willingly and then laughingly refused to take them back. She seemed delighted that he found them so fascinating.
And they were. They had fine gold handles which were moulded and cunningly engraved into the likeness of a bird’s legs and body. The sharp silvery blades formed a long pointed beak and where the blades joined sparkled a tiny blue eye. Engraved on the handles and down the side of the blades were Sindarin runes. They were indeed fascinating and undoubtedly ages old, but Gilraen had refused to hear of Bilbo returning them. She had acted as if they were just a pair of embroidery scissors to her, although he knew better.
The scissors were exquisite, as she had been when she had laughed and joked with him about why he had needed her sewing skills and her scissors -- a long torturous story involving an inebriated and rather amorous dwarf. As he picked the scissors out of their nest of raw wool, he wondered for a moment how Gilraen fared. When he had last visited with her, she had finally shared with him the burden that shadowed her grey eyes with concern and care. Her thoughts were always on her only son who had left her in Rivendell while he went off to find his destiny beyond that safe haven.
Bilbo looked the scissors over. Still sharp and rust free. He laid them on the table and rubbed his hands together, looking around for the comb that had just been in his hand and now was nowhere to be seen. Frodo had mentioned more than once that the kitchen was getting rather cluttered and Bilbo guiltily realized that his own books and papers were beginning to take over in here.
“Frodo? We don’t have all day to do this, lad. You are going to be late!”
He glanced out the window at the waning afternoon. He could hear the Gaffer clipping away at something in the garden and smell the pungent scent of fresh-cut greenery. Off in the distance, the red road climbed up through rolling green hills. It was a beautiful day for a ramble, and his thoughts wandered inevitably up that road, wondering what the view back into the valley of the Water was like today. Likely all hazy green and gold--
“I don’t know that we have to do it at all,” came the cheery voice of Bilbo’s young cousin and heir from the kitchen doorway. “I think it is fine just the...length it...” The voice trembled to a halt.
Bilbo shook off his reverie and turned to find Frodo standing there clad only in dove grey breeches, a towel clutched over dark wet hair, gazing out at the view that had captivated Bilbo -- the road twisting away like a ribbon of rust in the sunlight slanting on the distant hills. For a moment Bilbo thought the expression on Frodo’s face looked apprehensive and uneasy. Just as quickly, the expression was gone and Frodo smiled.
Bilbo cleared his throat, uncertain of what he thought he had just seen on Frodo’s face and heard in his voice. “It will be a perfect night for a party, Frodo. A perfect night,” he said quickly. “Not too warm to dance, and just chilly enough later to offer your coat to a lass in need of it.”
Frodo’s eyes were on him, twinkling as if the moment before had never been, his expression incredulous. “Offer my coat,” Frodo peered at him as if he had grown two heads. “Why would I do that?”
Bilbo frowned. “Well, lad, so that you can... forget that she has it--”
“Forget she has it!” Frodo interrupted, dropping his hands, apparently heedless of the sodden curls now dripping on his shoulders and the floor and everything else. “My new coat? That matches my new vest?”
“So you will have an excuse to see her the next day!” Bilbo finished, exasperated with attempting to give advice to a tweenager about courting. “Heavens, Frodo, I know those Brandybuck cousins of mine are somewhat--” he broke off at the strange look on Frodo’s face. The lad looked as if he were in pain.
When the laugh Frodo had apparently been struggling to hold back finally escaped him, it was more of a strangled snort. But it certainly explained the agonized expression. Frodo reached out and put one hand on Bilbo’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Uncle Bilbo, but the look on your face.”
Bilbo’s frown turned into an affectionate grimace, “Lad, you will be the end of me. Now, get that mop of yours dry enough for me to trim up for you. Hurry up, now!”
The bright face disappeared behind the fluffy towel once again as Frodo scrubbed away at the unruly mass of curls.
Bilbo shook his head and smiled. “How did we let your hair get into this state, I want to know?” he said aloud, more to himself than Frodo.
“Impossible to get me to sit still long enough, you said. Might end up sideways, you said. The length suits you, you said. I am tempted to cut it all off, you said,” came the muffled voice. The sparsely freckled face suddenly appeared surrounded by towel, looking uncertain. “You won’t cut it too short will you?”
“Of course not,” Bilbo sputtered. “But I distinctly remember getting my hair cut a while back. Didn’t I cut yours?”
The towel’s motion didn’t stop. “Remember at the Great Smials? When Aunt Eg cut mine after Freddy had to have his shorn completely off when he managed to get into that glue in the stables? She was so upset that I couldn’t keep him from sticking his head where it didn’t belong, that she punished me by cutting mine too short as well. Everyone ribbed me about it, asked if I had gotten into the glue myself. I had to hide out in the old study with Freddy for the whole visit. It was humiliating. Even when we came back here it was too short. Then we were back at Brandy Hall for some important meeting you had. Uncle Rory cut yours. Mine was still short enough. Don’t you remember? Uncle Rory threatened to take off the tips of your ears when you told him that story about the dwarf--”
“Frodo, don’t call your Aunt Eglantine ‘Eg’, it isn’t polite.” Bilbo grasped one slender shoulder and guided Frodo to a chair in front of him.
“She never seems bothered by me calling her Aunt Eg. She seems to like it, as a matter of fact. And you and Uncle Paladin and Uncle Mac call her Eg. I remember that she laughed at that story about the dwarf. What was his name? He went to Rivendell with you that time and did something to embarrass you -- something to do with a drinking contest with some elves and--”
“Frodo!” It appeared to Bilbo that the lad wasn’t going to stop talking until he ran out of air. “What’s gotten into you? You sound like some twitterpatted tweener lass, chattering on like a magpie.”
There was no response and the towel kept moving.
“Yes, sir?” came the muffled, shaky response.
Bilbo grabbed at the flailing towel and gently tugged it out of Frodo’s hands.
“What is it, Frodo?” The sudden babbling was unlike Frodo. Bilbo knew it wasn’t the party. Hobbiton tweener social occasions would never undermine Frodo’s hard-won poise, but obviously something was bothering him. Bilbo wondered again if he had imagined the look on Frodo’s face and the tremble in his voice earlier, if Frodo was worried about Bilbo’s yen for that road shimmering in the distance. “What’s wrong, lad?” The dark head turned and Bilbo suddenly dreaded the question he saw in those eyes.
“You want to leave, don’t you.” It was more a statement of fact than a question, delivered in a sad, resigned voice.
The timid knock on the front door was clearly audible in the sudden quiet. Bilbo hesitated just long enough for Frodo to launch himself out of the kitchen and pad quickly through the parlour to the entry hall in spite of his state of undress. Bilbo frowned thoughtfully as he listened to the click of the latch and the hinges on the front door creak slightly as it opened.
“Sam!” Bilbo was further dismayed at the relief in Frodo’s voice. Was the lad so very terrified of hearing the response to his pronouncement? Did Frodo really think that Bilbo would disappear down that road in the night and leave him, once again, alone?
The young Gamgee’s end of the conversation was nearly inaudible.
“I am sure that he is. We are just cutting my hair and then he’ll be free to look at your lesson for today.” The cheery voice did not sound at all as if Frodo felt the foundations of his entire world shifting beneath his feet.
Bilbo’s frown deepened and he stared unseeing at the scissors on the table in front of him.
“...well, the Gaffer said I wasn’t ta disturb you nor Mister Bilbo if you was still about, seeing as you’d both likely be busy with getting you ready for the party tonight and all. He didn’t want me getting underfoot if you were busy.” Sam’s childish voice floated through the parlour. “And, begging your pardon, Master Frodo, but I can see that you’re not yet...ready.”
“My apologies, Sam! I don’t usually go to the door half dressed. I am indeed nearly ready. Uncle Bilbo just has to snip off a bit of this unruly mop of mine and I am off!”
Frodo marched into the kitchen, nearly dragging a reluctant Samwise Gamgee in his wake.
“Right, Uncle Bilbo?”
Bilbo managed to wipe the frown from his brow before he met Sam’s uncertain gaze. “Indeed, I insist that you stay and make yourself some of that milky tea you favour, Master Gamgee, and if you don’t mind, you can make Master Frodo and I some tea as well.” He leaned forward and looked toward the sideboard. “I’ve got some nice scones all baked up and ready for you and I to eat during our lesson, eh? In the meanwhile, we will see if I can make this young hooligan presentable for polite society once more.”
Frodo slid into the chair, carefully avoiding meeting Bilbo’s questioning look. Bilbo watched as Sam went to stand uncertainly by the table, gazing over at the covered plate on the sideboard and biting his lip. He gripped his treasured copybook before him as if it were a shield, apparently not quite sure how the Gaffer would tell him to handle this particular turn of events.
With a sigh, Bilbo placed the towel around Frodo and laid his hands on the slender shoulders for a long moment. The dark head before him seemed to sag downward ever so slightly. He glanced at Sam and wondered if the youngster, so sensitive to Frodo’s moods, was picking up on the tension in the room.
“Well, Master Gamgee?” Bilbo looked meaningfully at the teapot.
“Yessir.” Sam placed his copybook carefully on the table and went off to the fireplace to check the kettle.
“All right then, let’s see if we can get a comb through this tangle.” Bilbo fished the comb out of his vest pocket where it had been hiding all along.
“I could do it.” There was only the slightest note of uncertainty in the voice as Frodo held up his hand for the comb.
“Oh yes, and then we would end up with quite the mess I believe. Just buck up lad, this could be a trifle painful.”
Indeed, Bilbo’s first attempt to pull the comb through the unruly locks brought a stifled yelp from Frodo. But he clamped his jaw shut and didn’t utter another sound while Bilbo struggled with the tangles.
The kitchen was quiet, except for the crackle of the fire and the soothing sounds of young Sam going about making a pot of tea and carefully pouring two cups. Sam carefully doctored them to the specifications he knew so well, then set them carefully within reach of Bilbo and Frodo.
“Thank you, Samwise.”
“Yer welcome, Mister Bilbo, sir.”
Bilbo stared at the damp, nearly black curls twining around his fingers as he concentrated on detangling a particularly large snarl. Certainly, he would love to hie off down that road -- to see exotic places and have thrilling adventures once more. But just to leave? No doubt he was selfish. There were moments when he regretted adopting Frodo as his heir, regretted that commitment, regretted tying himself to Bag End, to the Shire, to the agonies and ecstasies of a tweenager’s life. But there were moments that he would not trade having Frodo in his life like this for his youth fully returned and the open road warm under his feet. Yet he found it so hard to just tell him, and Frodo, in turn, apparently found it equally hard to ask. He cursed the Baggins’ stubbornness yet again as he yanked fruitlessly at one particular knot in Frodo’s hair.
There was a muffled yip from Frodo and an answering squeak of empathy from Sam.
“Sorry, lad.” Bilbo wasn’t certain who he was apologizing to.
Sam had made his own cup of very milky, very sweet tea and now stood beside the table cradling his cup carefully, his large hazel eyes on Frodo’s face. Bilbo realized that he could almost see the expression on Frodo’s face just by looking at Sam’s. The young Gamgee’s face was a study at the moment and he almost laughed at his expression of dismay and empathy.
Then Sam was gazing at his feet, as he was wont to do. The lad never met the gaze of anyone he considered his “better” for more than a moment before he was diffidently looking down, the Gaffer’s training holding true. If young Sam had a hat, it would have been clutched in his hands in a respectful imitation of his father. Then Sam’s eyes locked on the scissors lying on the table and his cup lowered slowly. Bilbo watched as the blond head leaned forward and knew that the scissors had fascinated the young Gamgee enough to make him forget his father’s dictates about proper behaviour. Bilbo smiled.
“They are quite lovely aren’t they?”
“Yessir. They look like a bird.” Sam breathed, setting his cup down carefully.
Bilbo moved the comb just in time to avoid a painful loss of hair as Frodo turned his head to see what had elicited such delight in Sam’s voice. As Bilbo slowly and thoughtfully took up combing again, he wondered if the story of the scissors might just be what was needed here.
“Indeed -- they were made by the elves you know, ” Bilbo began.
The huge eyes, gold with wonder, turned up to Bilbo’s then back down to the scissors, now a treasure beyond price as far as the young gardener was concerned. “Really?”
“Really.” Bilbo grinned back, relieved. “Like my sword.”
“The one over the fireplace?” Sam breathed.
Bilbo nodded. “They even have Sindarin runes engraved on them, just like Sting.”
“Sindarin.” Sam moved around the table to lean closer to the object of his attention. “What do they say?”
“Frodo, practice your Sindarin and translate quickly for our Samwise so I can get on with this before the party is over.” Bilbo combed on, smiling to himself.
He watched as Frodo reached for the scissors, but they were just beyond his reach on the table, unless he chanced a worse injury to his already tender scalp.
Sam’s fingers moved toward the scissors, then he looked up questioningly.
“Go ahead, pick them up! They aren’t fragile. They will likely outlast all of us,” Bilbo assured him.
Sam gingerly picked up the scissors, a solemn look on his face, and handed them to Frodo who reverently turned them around to view the delicate runes engraved on the handle and down the blade. Sam came around the table. Bilbo watched as Frodo pulled Sam close and carefully held the scissors in front of both of them, the gold and dark head bent together.
Bilbo continued to comb carefully even as the dark head bent over the scissors, working out the last of the snarls in the quickly drying hair.
“Risto vae, hebel vanias pant an-uir,” Frodo pronounced carefully.
“Good, good,” Bilbo encouraged.
“‘Cut’,” Frodo began, his finger tracing the word. “‘Good’. No. ‘Cut well’?”
“That’s right, or ‘cut with care’, either will do,” Bilbo encouraged.
“‘Kept’?” Frodo queried.
“‘Keeping’, see the ending? That means -ing, ‘keeping’.
“‘Cut well, keeping’,” Frodo stopped, his finger on the next word, Sam leaning almost in front of him.
Bilbo worked quietly, imagining the furrow between Frodo’s brows that appeared whenever his young cousin was confronted with a particularly enjoyable puzzle. Bilbo smiled to himself.
“‘Vanias’ ?” Frodo sounded out carefully, “I don’t know this one, Bilbo.”
“‘Beauty’,” Bilbo answered with assurance, “or ‘loveliness’, whichever.”
“‘Cut well, keeping beauty...’ ” Frodo frowned. “‘Full’ ?”
“‘Whole’ or ‘full’ or ‘intact’. Any of those will do.”
“‘Cut well, keeping beauty intact forever’. ” Frodo pointed to each word as he translated for Sam.
“Very well done!! I prefer ‘Cut with care, keeping loveliness intact forever’, but you know there are different translations possible of anything of this sort. That was quite good, Frodo, quite good!” Bilbo answered, watching Sam’s tanned face turn up to his. He hoped the tentative smile there was a reflection of the expression on Frodo’s face.
“Mister Bilbo sir, beggin’ your pardon, sir. But how can you cut a thing and keep it...” Sam began, then hesitated over the word.
“Intact,” came Frodo’s barely audible prompt.
“That is good question, and I shall answer it while I proceed to cut this scruffy mane. With care, of course.” Bilbo’s lips quirked into a smile as he held out his hand expectantly over Frodo’s shoulder.
The scissors were held up obediently and Bilbo grasped the handles. “Now, perhaps I can answer that question, Master Gamgee, by telling you the story of how I came by these scissors. Would you like to hear that?”
Sam’s answer was to sit down on the floor next to Frodo’s chair, not moving his eyes from Bilbo.
“Well, I take that for a 'yes'.” Bilbo cleared his throat. “On my last trip to Rivendell -- you’ve heard me speak of Rivendell?”
Sam nodded, eyes wide. He recognized the name well.
“On my last trip to Rivendell, I got involved in a bit of a tussle with a dw--” He felt Frodo’s shoulders tense and saw him turn toward Sam. “--thorn bush and ripped my best trousers.” He began to cut the dark locks before him quickly, in his element at last.
“I went searching for some scissors and a needle and thread, being a bit embarrassed to ask someone else to repair them for me but needing them fixed quickly so I could recite a poem I had written in the Hall of Fire that night.”
“The Hall of Fire,” Sam repeated reverently.
“Yes. Well, I found someone plying needle and thread in the gardens, doing embroidery, and she kindly volunteered her sewing tools in my time of need.”
“An elf lady?” Sam queried dreamily.
“No, a human lady, and a very lovely one at that.”
Frodo turned his head at that. “A big person? In Rivendell?”
“Watch it, lad, or I will make a mess of this!” Bilbo sputtered then smiled. “Indeed, a big person, in Rivendell.”
It seemed Sam’s eyes could not get any bigger, but they did. The combination of elves and humans in Rivendell was obviously overwhelming.
“Well, where was I?” Bilbo paused in mid snip. “Oh yes. So Gilraen, that is her name, Gilraen, offered to mend my trousers right there in the gardens. And let me tell you, Master Gamgee, the gardens of Rivendell are not to be believed. I hope someday you can see them for yourself.”
“Yes sir,” Sam breathed.
“So, Gilraen brings out these lovely scissors and proceeds to trim the tear and cut her thread...”
“How did Gilraen come to be in Rivendell? Was she visiting there?” Frodo asked quietly.
“She is the guest of Elrond Half-Elven.” Bilbo kept clipping carefully, the dark shiny locks sliding and curling around his fingers as though alive. “And very dear to him and his kin. You’ve heard me speak of Elrond, have you not, Samwise?”
“Yessir,” Sam crossed his arms on Frodo’s thigh and rested his chin there, never taking his eyes off of Bilbo. Frodo’s slender fingers threaded absently through Sam’s gold locks.
“So, Gilraen brings out these lovely scissors and I must admit, I reacted to them much as you did today,” Bilbo went on. “I was fascinated by them. She found it difficult to work with me leaning in to get a look at the runes myself.” Bilbo paused for a moment, remembering the sweet scent of the lovely lady of the Dunedain -- that memory remained with him more clearly than even the smell of the gorgeous blooms in the Rivendell gardens.
“Finally she held them out to me and I took them without even realizing what I was doing. She pulled another pair out of her basket--”
“Another pair?” Frodo breathed.
“No, not exactly like these, but the same exquisite workmanship. It was almost as if she knew she would need another pair that day,” Bilbo broke off, thinking suddenly of the foresight of the Numenoreans and wondering--
“And she gave you this pair?” Sam finished.
Bilbo paused and picked up his cup of tea to take a long slow sip, then focused once more on the task at hand. Frodo took advantage of the break to reach for his own cup and gulp it down before it was filled with hair clippings. Bilbo moved to the side and began cutting carefully near Frodo’s ear. Dark curls lay scattered on the stone tiles around his feet.
“Yes, she did. She laughed when I told her I could not possibly use them for sewing as she did. They were far too big,” he smiled. “She told me that I should find something useful to do with them, and she forbade me to put them into a glass case to admire.”
“Forbade you?” Frodo questioned.
“Yes. She said they were meant to be used and they were inscribed with instructions as to their use,” Bilbo went on, “I read the runes and had about the same reaction as you did, Samwise. So she explained to me what they meant.” His expression softened.
“She recited it as if someone else had told it to her, over and over, like an ancient tale. ‘When you cut anything, cut it thoughtfully and with care, for things were made whole by the Valar and should remain so. But, if the time has come for cutting, for trimming, for separating,” he paused over that word, only for a moment. “Then it must be done with love of the whole’.” Bilbo saw the subtle change in Frodo’s demeanour -- in the way he held his head -- in the way his hand lay on Sam’s hair.
“Like pruning.” Sam’s expression was awed. He lifted his head from Frodo’s knee, his face rapt. “You must be careful, but you have ta cut away dead wood an’ open up the plant for light an’ water. An’ you have ta separate the irises--”
“Exactly!” Bilbo exclaimed. “Like pruning.”
Sam suddenly realized he had spoken out of turn and his face reddened. Frodo reached out and tweaked the tip of one ear and Sam’s embarrassed look quickly melted into one of delight. Bilbo rejoiced once more at the close friendship that had developed between the two so quickly, despite the difference in age.
“Gilraen told me that all growing things, all beautiful things have right times and right places to be cut. And if you study carefully, you can see it -- the scissors will find it.” Bilbo continued to cut as he spoke. “Even cloth has a life that you must respect when you cut it to make clothing.”
“Cloth has a life?” Sam exclaimed.
“Certainly, my dear boy.” Bilbo delighted in his audience. Sam was asking all the right questions. “For it is made from something that once grew and lived -- wool from sheep, linen from flax. Gilraen told me that she learned this lesson all too well in her sewing, when she cut one piece too short and left another too long.”
“Just as I could cut Frodo’s hair too short.” Bilbo wisely pulled back the scissors, expecting Frodo to do exactly what he did -- stiffen and start to turn. “But of course I won’t.” Frodo relaxed again and Bilbo smiled conspiratorially at Sam, who grinned back. “But, then again, if we let it grow too long, Frodo here might trip over it or run into a tree or be mistaken for one of the Wild Men.” Bilbo smirked as he moved to the other side to continue his work and Frodo made an undecipherable sound under his breath.
“And Gilraen had learned this lesson with her son as well,” Bilbo continued.
“Her son?” Frodo queried.
“Yes indeed, a young man named Estel, whom I had met many years before. Gilraen and Estel had lived at Rivendell for a long time, safe and happy,” Bilbo responded. “In fact, Elrond is Estel’s foster father. Estel grew up in Rivendell learning both elven and human lore. But he is destined for greater things than a life confined in the safe haven of Rivendell, as worthy and lovely as it is. So when he reached maturity, he left Rivendell to seek his way in the wide world.”
“He left his mum?” Sam breathed, sitting up straight suddenly.
Bilbo stopped clipping just as Frodo turned his head. Bilbo watched as the two motherless boys gazed for a moment into each other’s eyes and Sam began worrying his lower lip with his teeth. It hadn’t been a year yet since they had lost Bell; Bilbo chided himself for not realizing this story was bound to remind Sam of his mother.
“Yes, he left his mother,” Bilbo continued softly, watching as Frodo reached out to touch Sam’s shoulder and Sam’s brown hand reached up to clasp Frodo’s wrist. “And he left Rivendell.”
“Of course, his mother didn’t want him to leave.” Bilbo continued to clip as Sam lowered his head. Frodo’s hand remained on Sam’s shoulder. “She wanted to keep him safe and happy in Rivendell forever. She wanted him to stay her little boy -- forever.” Bilbo cleared his throat uncomfortably, watching his own lad carefully.
There was a long moment with only the sound of the fire and the kettle, and in the distance, the Gaffer, spading the earth in slow, measured strokes. Then, Bilbo began clipping again, carefully, near Frodo’s ear.
“Gilraen told me that children are growing things too,” Bilbo went on, finding that his hands were a bit shaky as he cut. “Just like your irises, Samwise. Or Frodo’s hair. And,” Bilbo took a breath, “just like any growing thing, there is a right time and a wrong time for them to become separate from you. Otherwise, just like those irises of yours, if you don’t separate them at the right time--”
“They don’t bloom right.” The gold head lifted, and despite the pain on that young face and the hint of tears that Bilbo could see in his eyes, there was a growing understanding on those features.
“Exactly, my boy, exactly,” Bilbo almost sighed with relief. “And, if you separate them too soon, they won’t bloom well either. Right Samwise?”
“Yessir, that’s right!” Sam breathed.
Bilbo moved around the two to work, at last, on the wayward curls that straggled into Frodo’s eyes -- eyes that were watching Sam anxiously and avoiding his gaze. “It is that way with children too. Like Estel and you, Samwise, and Frodo here -- you all have things to do and to be in the wide world. Important things. We have to know when the time is right to keep you safe and make sure you grow up sure and strong, and when the time is right for you to go out into the world and do those important things. It is a hard decision sometimes, to let you go or to keep you safe. But we know. A time comes when we know. As Gilraen said, you know instinctively when and where to cut, if you let your heart tell you. Just like Gilraen knew when she needed to let Estel go. Just like we know that Frodo here might trip over his own hair if we don’t cut it now.”
Sam smiled tentatively and Frodo’s mouth quirked.
“But, my young gardener, you tell us, even though those irises you separate have been pulled away from the parent plant, even though they are divided and may even be on the other side of the hill--” Bilbo prompted.
“They’re still the same. They’re the same colour an’ all. They even bloom better and bigger, just in a different place.” Sam continued, really smiling now, his hand moving away from Frodo’s wrist to move descriptively as he spoke.
“Precisely.” Bilbo watched as Frodo smiled at Sam and Sam smiled back. He continued to trim the ragged locks. “Children are like that too. One day you have to let them go. One day, they have to be on their own and do what they need to do in the world, but they are always a part of you.” He pointed with the scissors at all the dark curls lying on the floor. “Just as Frodo’s hair is still Frodo’s hair, even though it is messing up our kitchen floor at the moment.”
Those unfathomable blue eyes finally lifted to meet his. There was just the tiniest glint of humour in their depths.
“So, if you ‘Cut well, keeping beauty intact forever’ as the scissors say you should, then you will have a whole, and separate parts as well,” Bilbo went on, his eyes locked on Frodo’s as he continued to cut.
“An’ so what happened to Gilraen’s son?” Sam asked.
“Estel,” Bilbo reminded him. “Gilraen let Estel go to make his way in the world and to learn all the things he needs to learn. He left with her blessing -- and her love.”
“Is Gilraen lonely?” Frodo asked quietly.
“I imagine she misses Estel terribly, my boy, just as I would miss you if we had to part.” Bilbo reached out one hand to run his fingers down the side of Frodo’s face and Frodo reached up to pull the soft fingers close to his cheek. They remained that way for a long moment.
Sam watched the exchange with wide eyes.
“But she knows that his story is her story too, just as his destiny is hers. They are one whole, together or separate.” Frodo released Bilbo’s hand and Bilbo finished his work on the now-dry hair with a flourish of the comb.
“There now, that wasn’t so bad, was it lad?”
Frodo smiled into his older cousin’s eyes for a moment, answering a different question, then both hands reached up and touched his hair gingerly and the smile turned impish.
“I don’t know Bilbo. It feels too short to me.”
“Get off with you scamp!” Bilbo pulled the towel off of Frodo’s shoulders with a flourish and a grimace. “Wasting my time and fine hair cutting skills!”
Frodo stood up, running his hands through his hair and dusting off his breeches quickly. Then he turned to look at Bilbo for a long moment.
Bilbo reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. “I am good with scissors, my boy. I know when to cut...and when not to. As our young gardener here knows, there are some things you just don’t take a chance with separating until the time is right.”
Frodo’s hand reached up to grip his lightly, his eyes conveying something that the two of them rarely seemed to manage to say aloud.
“Now get!” Bilbo waved his hand.
Frodo scampered off toward his room.
Bilbo turned to smile at Sam, realizing the youngster had sensed something else was being said, but certain that the young Gamgee was not sure what it was. For a moment Sam smiled back at him, then, just as quickly, Sam realized what he was doing and lowered his eyes deferentially. Bilbo followed his gaze, noting the silky curls darkening the floor beneath their feet. “Quite a bit of our Frodo left scattered about on the kitchen floor, eh Samwise?”
“I’ll clean it up, Mister Bilbo!” Sam scampered off to get the broom and dustpan.
“Thank you, my lad.”
“That Estel sir, is he all right? Does he write to his mum an’ all?” Sam asked seriously as he came back into the kitchen.
“Well, my boy, the post in the wide world is not quite what it is in the Shire, but Gandalf tells me that he has heard of the deeds of Estel now and again and that he is living up to his mother’s hopes for him. He keeps in touch with his mother as best he can.”
“Gandalf?” Sam breathed, his eyes wide. “Gandalf knows Estel too?”
“Yes indeed, lad.” Bilbo drank down his cold tea and went to put more water on. He watched as Sam carefully loaded the dustpan with hair clippings and looked about.
“What do you need, lad? The dust bin is over there, as always.”
“No sir. I mean to keep these, Mister Bilbo, if you don’t mind.”
“Keep them? Whyever for?”
“Well sir, me mum, she always saved our clippings in a little pillow to keep her needles free o’ rust. And now...now I’m feeling that it might’ve been to keep a bit of us near by her too, if you take my meaning.” Sam responded, blushing, “I would like to keep these meself, sir, if’n you don’t mind.”
“I see.” Bilbo nodded knowingly. He ploughed through the stacks of paper and found a likely cast off. “Here, fold them up in that to carry them home with you.”
“Thank you, sir.” Sam folded the paper carefully and dropped the precious clippings in.
“Now, would you like to see the Sindarin runes on Sting as well?” Bilbo said quickly, brushing his hands with one eye on the kettle.
Sam’s face brightened. “Yes sir!”
They moved into the parlour where Bilbo pointed out the runes engraved down the length of his sword. “This word here, this is ‘Maegnas’. That is Sting’s name in Sindarin.” Bilbo looked down at the bright face, filled with wonder. “This word here--”
Frodo slid into the room. “So, do I meet with approval? Sam, look at these new clothes Uncle Bilbo had made for me. What do you think?”
They both turned. Frodo now wore a dove grey jacket that matched his breeches and was trimmed in deep blue velvet. Under the jacket was a brocade vest stitched with shimmering deep blue and silver thread over a crisp white shirt. With the sun glinting his hair with auburn, his face flushed with exertion, and his eyes burning that exact shade of deep blue, there was only one word that Sam could find to describe what he saw.
“Vanias,” he breathed.
Both Bilbo and Frodo stared at him in disbelief, and then Frodo laughed. “I’ll take that as a compliment to Bilbo’s taste in clothes.”
“Well, I think we can skip our lesson for today, if you pick up vocabulary that quickly!” Bilbo joined in. “But I will have to agree with Samwise, Frodo. Just try to remember which of the many young lasses you lend your jacket to.” He winked broadly at Frodo. Sam looked from one to the other as if wondering why Frodo would lend his lovely jacket to some silly tweenaged lass.
“I don’t know when I’ll be back, Bilbo,” Frodo started for the door.
“Don’t worry, Frodo, my boy, I’ll be here whenever you get home.”
Frodo turned at those words, saw the meaningful look on Bilbo’s face, and smiled.
This tale is finished, but the story of this very special pair of scissors goes on.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.