1. Chapter 1
"Hullo," said Bilbo, surprised. "I didn't know there were Elf-children here. You're the first I've seen in Rivendell."
The boy closed the book and slid off the limb, landing on his feet and facing Bilbo. "I am no Elf, though the Elves have allowed me and my mother to live among them. I am a Dúnadan, a Man of the West. My name is Estel." He bowed in greeting.
Bilbo returned the bow. "Bilbo Baggins at your service, Master Estel." He could see now that the boy was not an Elf, though he wore the green clothes favored by Elrond's people. Estel stood at least a head taller than Bilbo. His long dark hair was bound at the temple with a linen cord, and his eyes were silver. Bilbo could not guess his age, for he had no experience of the children of Men, but the lad's voice was still the high voice of a child.
"Forgive me," said Estel, "but I do not know of what race you may be. I thought, when I first saw you arrive with the wizard Mithrandir and the great Thorin Oakenshield, that you might be a Dwarf, though you have no beard. Perhaps you were a Dwarf woman, I thought. But I see now that is not so."
"No indeed!" said Bilbo with a chuckle. "For the Dwarf women do have beards, you know."
Estel stared at him, and then laughed aloud. "No, you are teasing me, as the Elves do."
"Certainly not. It's quite true. At least--" Bilbo paused, as a doubt swept over him. "That's what the Dwarves told me. It's possible they were teasing me. I know little of Dwarves after all, though I have traveled with them for many weeks. I am a Hobbit, and my home is in the Shire, far to the West."
"A halfling!" Estel exclaimed. "I have heard tell of them, though never before have I seen one with my own eyes."
Bilbo bowed again.
"The Rangers guard those land from evil," Estel went on, "and bring back many tales. When I am a man, I shall be a Ranger too, and go hunting Orcs like my father, and avenge his death."
"Who was your father?" said Bilbo.
"A Ranger, as I said. They are the Dúnedain, who live in the Wild and try to make the lands safe. I do not know my father's name; there is some secret about him that my mother says it is not safe yet for me to know. But it cannot be anything shameful, for she says he was an honorable man. He was killed by an Orc arrow eight years ago, when I was still a baby. I wish I could remember him."
Without either of them suggesting it, they began walking along the path. Bilbo eyed the boy surreptitiously. "What of the other Rangers' children? Do they also live in Rivendell? I haven't seen them."
Estel sighed. "No. The Rangers' wives and children live in camps in the Wild, like Wood Elves. I do not know why we are not with them. I guess it is because I have no father to protect my mother and me. But Elrond Halfelven has been good to us, though I know not why he should be."
Bilbo's kindly heart grieved for the lonely child. "What is that book you were reading?" he asked, to change the subject.
Estel brightened. "The tale of Beren One-Handed and the Great Jewel, and Lúthien the Fair, who rescued him from Sauron's dungeon." He held up the book, beautifully bound in green linen, titled with Elvish lettering in red and gold. "It has always been my favorite tale. I copied it in my best hand, and the Elves helped me bind it. Do you know the story?"
"I heard it sung in the Hall of Fire for the first time last night," said Bilbo. "We do not have such tales in the Shire, except in garbled nursery stories. If only we were staying longer! I would love to write down some Elvish tales and bring them back home. They would be a far greater treasure than anything the Dwarves hope to find." He glanced at Estel. "The Elves have many tales. Why is this your favorite?"
The boy clutched the book. "Oh, Beren is so strong and brave and clever! When he tells King Thingol, 'The Silmaril is even now in my hand'--" He stopped and laughed. "Thingol never guessed where Beren's hand was. And Lúthien Tinúviel was strong and brave and clever as well."
"And beautiful, too," Bilbo added with a smile.
Estel shrugged. "Yes--"
Bilbo reached up and clapped him on the back. "When you're older, you'll say that with more enthusiasm, my boy."
Estel stopped walking. "Perhaps." He had a strange look on his face.
"What is it?" said Bilbo. "I--hope you didn't mind me slapping you on the back. It's a thing we hobbits do with our friends. I know nothing of the customs of Men."
"No. No, I do not mind. It is a thing the Dúnedain do as well, I am told, among their friends. But the Elves do not, unless they are looking for a fight." Tentatively, he slapped Bilbo's back. Then he laughed. "I have never done that before. Silly, is it not?"
"Not so silly," Bilbo said gently.
Estel blushed, and said quickly, "Tell me about the knife you carry. It is clearly Elven-made, and very old."
Bilbo drew the knife and handed it to Estel. "It came from a troll hoard. I use it for a sword--or I will if I have to. I've had no use for it yet, I'm glad to say."
The boy studied the blade and whistled softly. "It was made in Gondolin! Gondolin fell 6000 years ago, when Earendil was a child, before his star was set in the heavens. This blade was made for the Goblin wars; it will glow when Goblins are near. Very useful." He handed the knife back to Bilbo.
"I hope not!" Bilbo exclaimed, sheathing it. "I don't know anything about fighting Goblins. Or about swords either, for that matter. The only blades I really know about are kitchen knives. I have quite a collection of cutlery in my kitchen at home."
Estel laughed merrily at that. "You must learn how to wield a sword before you go further East. I could teach you what I know." He paused, and added wistfully, "I wish I were going with you. How I would love to see more of the world than this valley!"
"Have a care with your wishes!" Bilbo said darkly. "I used to wish for adventure, before I embarked on this one. Many times since then I've longed for my snug hobbit hole, with the kettle singing on the fire. Though now I feel I could happily stay here in Rivendell the rest of my days."
"You see?" Estel argued. "If you had never set out on your adventure, you would never have seen Rivendell."
"Clever lad. But just wait and see. There may come a day, years from now, when you weary of adventures and long for Rivendell."
The boy looked thoughtful. "It may be. Beren never had a home, and I think he longed for one sometimes. Still, why could I not return here, any time I wished it?"
Again, without a word, they began walking again. The path turned away from the river and led back toward the house. Between two wings of the house was a grassy courtyard. "Here," said Estel. "This is where Glorfindel trains me in swordplay."
"Who is Glorfindel?" Bilbo asked. He thought he might have met an Elf with that name, but he'd met so many Elves in the past few days that he couldn't be sure.
"A great Elf-lord, though not so great as Elrond. He fought the Witch King of Angmar a thousand years ago. And long before that, some say, he died defending Gondolin. But he will never tell me if it is true."
Bilbo's scalp shrank. "He died? What do you mean? How could he be teaching you swordplay if he died?"
"That's a difficult question." Estel sprawled on the soft grass, leaning back on his elbows, his long legs stretched out before him.
Bilbo sat beside him. He took his pipe, pouch and tinderbox from his pocket.
Estel sat up and stared. "What is that?"
"Pipeweed," said Bilbo, filling his pipe and lighting it. "Not a thing for boys."
"I have seen Mithrandir use such a thing, but he will not tell me what it is for."
"For?" said Bilbo. "For relaxation. Boys don't need it; they already know how to relax." To Estel's delight, Bilbo blew three smoke rings that sailed away over the high carved gables of the Last Homely House. "Now," he added, "I'm not letting you off the hook. How can a dead Elf be teaching you swordplay?"
"He's not dead! I never said that. You see, Elves live long ages, unless they are slain in battle or by mischance. But even then, they say, their spirits do not leave the world. They linger in the West, and if they choose, they may be reborn in Middle Earth."
He leaned back and went on. "Now when Men die, their spirits leave the world indeed, and go to another place the Elves know nothing of. They call death 'The Gift of Illuvatar to Men,' and they say that Men are foolish to envy the Elves their long lives. For when the world ends, ages hence, the Elves will perish utterly, while the spirits of Men will continue." He plucked a blade of grass and tasted it. "So the Elves say that Men are the true immortals. It makes the choice of Lúthien seem less sad, I think."
Bilbo whistled. "Well, that's an eye-opener! I've never heard anything like that."
"What of Hobbits?" Estel asked. "What does your lore tell you about death?"
"Nothing," said Bilbo. "Hobbits are notoriously incurious. A few like myself may wonder, but we have no lore on the subject. We say that the way to achieve immortality is to have children, and hope that they remember you. That's why we keep such careful genealogies, and chart our family trees in our books of lore."
"Do you have children?"
Bilbo sighed. "No. Nor wife nor brother nor sister." Then he laughed. "Plenty of cousins, though. Too many cousins."
"Did your wife die?" said Estel softly.
"No, I never married. Goodness knows I'm old enough to marry, and I've thought of it from time to time, but--"
"Why didn't you?" said Estel. Then he blushed. "Forgive me. I ask too many questions."
"Not at all. I've been asking questions of you from the moment we met. It's only fair to give you a turn. Why didn't I marry? I've never met quite the right one yet, I suppose. There aren't many hobbits who share my passion for Elvish tales and Dwarvish adventures." He puffed his pipe in silence for a moment, and then added, "How I envy you, learning so much Elvish lore: reading their old stories, and in their own tongue too, swordplay--"
"Oh!" Estel jumped up. "I was going to teach you swordplay. Shall I fetch the practice swords?"
"One moment," said Bilbo, laughing at the boy's enthusiasm. "Let me finish my pipe first. You can indulge me in another question while we wait."
Estel turned a handspring and lay on the grass again. "Very well. What is it?"
"What other Elvish arts are you learning here? Tumbling, I see."
Estel grinned. "Yes. That's part of swordplay, you know. Well, I go riding with Elladan and Elrohir from time to time. They're Elrond's sons. They ride often on errantry, and travel sometimes with the Rangers. But when I am with them we never go further than the Ford of Bruinen. They teach me woodcraft: how to find food and shelter in the Wild."
"That would be useful to know," said Bilbo. "The Dwarves bring food with them, and when it runs low, then we go hungry. Though I suppose there is enough cram to last a while yet."
"What is cram?"
Bilbo made a face. "Dwarvish waybread. It sustains the limbs, but is not at all satisfying to either the mouth or the stomach."
Estel laughed. "You should try lembas. The Elves' waybread satisfies the mouth--and the spirit as well, if not the stomach. I have a little in my pocket." He pulled out a small bundle, opened the leaf wrapping, broke off a flaky bit of flatbread, and handed it to Bilbo.
Bilbo nibbled a corner. The taste filled him with the pleasure of a golden summer afternoon, bees humming in fragrant blossoms, and honey from the comb, and a cool breeze blowing through it all. He savored another bite, and finished the morsel in a third bite. "Incomparable!" he said. "Certainly not comparable to cram. Do you know the recipe?"
"Yes, and I will gladly share it with you. Flour and honey are the chief ingredients. But it will not be like this if you make it, I fear. Its potency comes from the Elves themselves, and the songs they sing as they knead the dough and tend the fires. I'm learning the songs, but I have not quite the Elven touch. The Dúnedain have a bit of Elvish blood, for we are descended from Elrond's brother Elros. But it is not enough to enable us to make real lembas."
Bilbo nodded his approval. "So, baking is another Elvish art you are learning."
"I suppose so. I spend more time learning herblore and healing. Elrond himself is teaching me, and he is the greatest healer in Middle Earth." Estel paused and looked thoughtful. "I cannot understand why such great Lords as Elrond and Glorfindel would trouble themselves with a nameless orphan like me. I'm grateful that they do. I asked Elrond once-- " He paused and broke off some more bread, handing part of it to Bilbo and nibbling thoughtfully at the rest.
"What did he say?"
"He said he felt some responsibility to me, since his brother was my ancestor. But he was teasing me, I think. More than sixty generations have passed since then; we cannot be much akin now. But he also said I was born to be a great warrior and healer. I know not how he could know that, but he has foresight sometimes."
"Warrior and healer, eh?" said Bilbo. "An odd combination."
The boy blushed again. "Yes, so I thought as well. But Beren was a great warrior, and Lúthien a great healer, so I decided I could aspire to both."
"Which do you like better?"
Estel raised his eyebrows. "I've never thought about it. Learning herb-lore is so interesting, especially gathering healing herbs in the wild. The swordplay is exciting, and I like the thought of protecting travelers in the wild places. Still, I've never been in a real battle, so I cannot say how that would be. I've never fought with anything more deadly than the willow-wands we use for sparring." He laughed. "After practice, it's glad I am that I know how to make a poultice. We use willow-wands because the blows from them cause no more injury than welts and bruises, but sometimes I am covered with those."
Bilbo frowned. "I don't think I like your Glorfindel so well after all."
"Oh, no," Estel protested, "you must understand. He is very kind to me. Someday I will fight orcs in the mountains. If an orc attacked me with a sword, and I did not know how to parry the blow, it would be the end of me. Glorfindel is teaching me to survive. If I fail to parry a blow from his staff, all I get is a momentary sting. It teaches me to be alert and vigilant." He smiled. "Lately, I have been parrying more successfully. And last week--" His smile broadened and his silver eyes narrowed. "Last week, for the first time, I got past his defenses and landed a blow on his ribs. I was horrified to have struck the great Glorfindel, but he told me he was proud of me." He jumped up again. "Your pipe is out. Shall we begin?"
Reluctantly, Bilbo stood up. He put his pipe, pouch and tinderbox back in his pocket, and took off his jacket. "Should we, so soon after eating?"
Estel chuckled. "Don't worry. Sparring comes later, after you have learned the foundations."
Bilbo felt himself blushing. "I'll never be much of a warrior. But I should learn something before going further East. Thank you for undertaking my education."
Still smiling, Estel went to a stone chest in the corner of the courtyard, and came back with a long bundle wrapped in green cloth. When he unrolled it, Bilbo saw two slender wooden swords. They had hilts and quillions like real swords but the blades were only whip-like willow withes. Beside them lay a short sword in a sheath that was covered in green cloth.
Estel drew the sword; it rang like a distant bell, and shone in the midsummer sun. "For solitary practice, we use real swords, to get the feel of their balance."
Something Tookish stirred in Bilbo's heart, and he drew his long knife. "Then I should practice with this."
Estel nodded. "This is the first stance."
For an hour he showed Bilbo how to place his feet, how to cut and thrust and parry. Then they paused for a dipper of water from a spring that welled up in another corner of the yard.
Bilbo mopped his face with a pocket handkerchief.
"You learn quickly," said Estel. "Shall we try sparring? We will go slowly, and not put force behind the blows until you've mastered the basic parries."
"Very well," said Bilbo. Again he felt reluctant, but this time it was not because he was afraid; he didn't want to sheath his bright knife, and take up the homely stick. For another hour he learned to parry blows from whatever direction they should come, and to cut and thrust past attempted parries.
Gradually they began to move faster, and strike harder. Now and then a blow whistled past Bilbo's defenses and stung his arm or shoulder or ribs. But the blood of the Bullroarer was surging through his veins, and he scarely felt the blows. Once, to his surprised and mingled delight and regret, he managed to land a blow on Estel's shield arm.
The boy never even winced. "Good!" he cried. "Well done! You are very nimble."
They paused a moment and Bilbo wiped his forehead again. He glowed at the praise, but tried not to show it. "Am I? No more than any other Hobbit. I learned to wrestle as a lad, and hit a target with a thrown stone, and shoot with a bow, but I was no better than the other Hobbit lads. The Dwarves seem slow and clumsy to me," he went on, "but you are as nimble as a Hobbit lad yourself. I must say, though, I'm feeling my age. If I were nine years old like you, my arm would not ache the way it does."
A bell sounded in the high bell tower. "There is the noon meal bell," said Estel. "But we have had lembas, so we need not go, unless you wish it."
"Lembas or no," said Bilbo, "a Hobbit does not willingly miss a meal."
"Very well." Estel wrapped his sword and the sparring sticks into the cloth and returned the bundle to the stone chest. "I'm so glad you came to visit us, Bilbo Baggins. It's like having another boy to play with at last. 'Feeling your age', you said. How old are you, anyway?"
Bilbo laughed. "I'm fifty years old, Master Estel, though I haven't yet quite lost my taste for play. They think me odd at home, for a Hobbit that should be well into a sensible adult life."
Estel whistled. "Fifty! Why, you are older than my mother. Forgive my impertinence in speaking to you as an equal. I thought you might be twenty perhaps, but no more."
Bilbo laughed. "I am so much younger than the Dwarves that I have quite taken to thinking of myself as something of a child. I don't think I ever was your equal, lad; you really are quite remarkable, you know."
"Me?" said Estel, astonished. "No, I'm nobody." He led Bilbo into the house. As they went along the corridors to the dining hall, the boy said, "Would you sit with my mother and me at our table? Unless you'd rather sit with your Dwarven companions."
"Not at all. I'd be delighted to meet your mother, and sit with you."
Estel eyed him. "After the meal, I'll make a poultice for your aching arm. It's not your age that makes it ache; mine did too after my first session with Glorfindel. And you must have bruises too; I didn't mean to strike so hard during your first lesson, but you were so good I forgot myself."
Again Bilbo took pleasure in the praise. He was a good swordsman--for a beginner. He wondered what the Bullroarer would think of him. "Perhaps I will let you do that. I'd like to learn that art from you as well."
They entered the long dining hall and found most of the Elves already eating. Estel showed Bilbo to a small table near the hearth. Three Elf women sat there, talking together in the Elf tongue. A young woman sat a little apart, eating silently.
"Mother," said Estel, "this is my friend Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit from the Shire in the West. Bilbo, this is my mother Gilraen, and with her are Firien, Melia, and Nuriel."
The Elf women nodded to Bilbo, but Gilraen rose and bowed. Like Estel, she was tall and dark-haired, and her eyes might once have been silver, though now they were grey. Young as she was, she looked sad. And no wonder, Bilbo thought: a young widow alone in the world with her son, living away from her people, with Elves who might try to be kind, but who could never really understand her.
"Welcome, Bilbo Baggins," she said, sitting and gesturing for Bilbo to sit as well. "Thank you for the time you have spent with my son. I watched you both from my window. It was good for him to have a companion near his own age, even for an hour."
Bilbo laughed. "The pleasure was mine, Lady, but I'm not near his own age. I'm older than you are, I'd venture, for I'm fifty."
Gilraen smiled gently. "You are right, I am not yet forty. And yet you are much nearer his age than any of the Elves here. The youngest of them is older than Thorin Oakenshield, and many have seen the passing of more than one age."
Again Bilbo felt the loneliness of these two humans, living a life in exile. He wanted to ask the woman why; surely she knew. But if she would not tell her son, she would not tell a stranger. He sighed.
At that moment he felt a hand on his shoulder, and looked up to see Gandalf smiling down at him. "So, Bilbo Baggins," he said, "you have met the Dúnadan."
"Yes. He's been teaching me how to use my sword--er, knife. The one from the trolls, you know."
"Indeed!" Gandalf looked thoughtful. "I've neglected your education, Mr. Baggins. I see that now. I hadn't foreseen you fighting; you are a burglar, after all."
"Burglar!" exclaimed Estel.
"Er, yes," said Bilbo, "well, I've never really understood that. Somehow Gandalf and the Dwarves expect me to burgle something from the dragon's hoard, I think. But I assure you I am not a professional; I've never stolen anything in my life, except a troll's purse, and that turned out to be disastrous."
"But this is wonderful!" said Estel, his eyes shining. "You rode off on errantry, not because you were a 'professional', as you say, but simply because Gandalf asked you to."
Bilbo bowed his head modestly, trying not to be too glad that Gandalf was hearing the boy's praise.
To his surprise, Gandalf replied softly, "Yes, Bilbo is really remarkable. One day the Dwarves will appreciate that fact. Thank you, Dúnadan, for teaching him to use his sword. I had not foreseen the need, but I think it is wise."
"He's going to teach me a little about healing as well," said Bilbo.
"Yes," said Estel. "I thought that this afternoon Bilbo and I might go up into the pine woods on the north side of the valley, and I could show him some wild herbs that grow there." He turned to Bilbo. "That is, if you would like to go. Some of the herbs are useful for healing, some as food. It would serve you well on your journey East to know how to find food in the Wild."
"I'd be delighted," said Bilbo, "if it wouldn't be taking you from your studies."
Estel shrugged. "I'll ask Elrond. I think he would approve. I would be practicing my own skills as well as teaching you."
Gandalf chuckled. "I'm glad to see this friendship forming. I think it will prove fruitful--for both of you." He left them and returned to the table with the Dwarves.
When the meal was ended, Estel went to Elrond to ask his permission for the outing. Elrond gave his consent gladly. "Only remember," he said, "you are not to leave the valley. My power and protection do not extend beyond its borders. And stay with Bilbo; you are still too young to wander so far alone."
Estel bowed. "Thank you, my Lord."
He took Bilbo first to his room, where he showed him how to make a poultice of herbs and grain. After heating it on his small hearth, he made Bilbo take off his shirt, and spread the mixture on Bilbo's sore arm and shoulder.
At first Bilbo felt like an old uncle entertaining a child who was playing at being a physician. But after a few moments he ceased to doubt the boy's skill. The ache left him as the warmth soaked into his muscles. He watched as Estel brewed up another mixture, in cold water this time. "This will help your bruises. I am sorry I struck so hard."
"Nonsense," said Bilbo stoutly. "I don't feel any bruises." But he let Estel paint the mixture onto his left arm and side. "How long must I sit like this?" he said, feeling a little foolish despite the comfort of the cool herbs.
"Not long. By the time I have washed the bowls and put them away, you will be ready to wash off the mash. There's a little washroom through that door."
A few minutes later Bilbo came out of the washroom, dressed once more and ready for their expedition. He flapped his arms and found that the ache had left them completely. "Good as new. Much obliged, Master Estel. I shall recommend your healing skills to any who need them."
Estel beamed. "The Elves do not need them; they have Elrond. Until now I had practiced my skills only upon myself and my mother, when she had some small hurt." He laughed. "I wanted to give a physic to my pony when he had the colic, but Elrond said the beast was too valuable, and tended it himself."
Bilbo joined in the laugh. "Luckily, I'm not so valuable. And I wouldn't have troubled Elrond with my little aches. But I am grateful to you, for I feel fit for anything now. Shall we walk or ride?"
"The path is too steep for ponies, and it is easier to find herbs on foot anyway."
"Very well," said Bilbo, taking the walking stick Estel handed him. "Lead on!"
Estel strapped a short sword and a knife to his waist, and slung a small bow and a quiver of arrows over his shoulder.
Bilbo stared. "Is it so dangerous? I thought Elrond's power protected the valley."
"It keeps out evil things," said the boy, "trolls and goblins and wargs and so on. But now and then an ordinary wolf or bear may wander into the valley. They are mostly shy of Men and Elves, but it is best to be wary. Can you shoot?"
"Yes," said Bilbo, "but I've never shot a living thing. Only straw targets."
Estel wordlessly handed him a bow and arrows.
"Are you sure we should go?" Bilbo said, eyeing the bow. "I'm not a woodsman, and you are only nine, after all."
Estel's silver eyes were wide and innocent as a baby's. "Elrond said we might. Come on."
They left the house on the south side, by the river. The path circled around the great porch on the east side, and came to a sloping grassy meadow to the north. Beyond the meadow the side of the ravine rose up and up to the dark blue sky. From this distance the pine forest on the steep slope looked like crumpled green velvet.
They passed the stables, and beyond them the smithy. They stopped a few moments to watch the Elven smith making horseshoes. The Elf said something in his own tongue and Estel laughed.
"What did he say?" asked Bilbo.
"That someday, when I am a man, he will forge me a real sword, much better than the 'toy' I carry. The Elves are always teasing me." He turned and replied in Elvish, and the Elven smith laughed in turn.
"I told him he made this sword himself," Estel explained, "and so the quality must be of the highest."
Bilbo smiled and ruffled the boy's dark hair. "You give as good as you get, lad. Good for you."
They followed the path across the meadow. As it entered the forest, it faded to a faint deer trail through the lacy white hemlocks. Bilbo was soon breathing hard, for the trail was very steep. But Estel stopped often to show him the leaves of herbs, and to explain which might be used to cure dysentery, which to ease sore muscles, which to staunch a wound, which to boil in a savory stew.
Bilbo took notes in a little sheaf of paper that he'd begged from the Elves and stitched together into a primitive book. At home he'd always been accustomed to keep a daily diary, but of course he'd left it behind when he'd run out of Bag End so precipitously, without even a pocket handkerchief. Since coming to Rivendell, he'd written a sketchy account of his travels so far, and resolved to make daily notes in the future. When he got home he would write them up properly.
He was deeply absorbed in drawing the leaf of the athelas plant when he suddenly realized that Estel had gone very still and quiet. Bilbo's scalp prickled. He looked up to see Estel standing with his arm outstretched, his palm outward. Bilbo followed his gaze. In a thicket not twenty yards away was a great grey bear, sitting up on its haunches and looking at them.
"Draw your bow, very slowly," said Estel softly, "but do not shoot unless it attacks."
Bilbo's hands shook as he took his bow from his shoulder and fitted an arrow to it.
Estel said something in Elvish. His voice was low and gentle, but commanding. The bear blinked and put its front paws down on the ground. Again Estel spoke, so sweetly he was almost singing. The bear shook its ears, and then turned and lumbered away.
Bilbo lowered his trembling hands. "You should not rely on me to shoot, Master Estel, not when I'm as frightened as I am."
"There is no need to be afraid. I asked the bear to leave and it agreed."
Bilbo took a deep breath. "If you have that kind of power, why are we armed?"
Estel looked at him silently for a moment. "They do not always agree," he said at last. "It is rare that they attack, but it is safest to be ready." He looked at the sun. "We should be returning, if we want to have supper in the hall."
"Yes," said Bilbo, glad of the excuse and suddenly very hungry. "Let us return."
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.