9. The Gift
After several days of scouting the borders, it became apparent that the Men who had accosted Frodo and Sam had been alone, and had fled; no others could be found. The incident bothered Arnen greatly, as it seemed a poor memory for Frodo and Samwise to carry with them to their home.
"There must be something we can do, Mithrandir. I would not want the Ringbearers' final memories of Imladris to be of something so distasteful." Arnen and Gandalf walked slowly through one of the corridors of the House, the wizard calmly listening, Arnen quite agitated (for an Elf). "There must be something they would enjoy, something we can do for them. Did Frodo share any desire or longing in your journey back here? Is there no way we can show our appreciation for his sacrifice?"
"I know what Frodo wants," said a small voice. Arnen and Gandalf turned and looked down to see Pippin standing behind them, the young hobbit having appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
"I didn't mean to eavesdrop, you know," said Pippin. "This *is* the way to the dining hall, and it's nearly time for---"
Arnen knelt down and smiled. "I would be grateful to hear what you have to say, Peregrin."
Pippin grinned. "I know what Frodo would like, he told me in Minas Tirith."
Arnen listened, fascinated, as Pippin spoke further, then shook his head. "A worthy gift that would be Peregrin, but I have not the power to grant it."
"Perhaps I can be of assistance," said Gandalf thoughtfully. "Say nothing to Frodo, Pippin."
"I won't. Now if you'll excuse me, Merry and Sam will have eaten every sweet roll, *again*, if I'm late."
On the morning of October 4 the hobbits were in the stables, readying their ponies for a ride.
"Arnen's late," said Frodo, giving Strider a few gentle pats. "He said he would join us right after breakfast."
"Forgive me for keeping you waiting, Frodo." At that moment Arnen strode into the stables looking pleased with himself. "Some guests would like to join us on our ride, if you will permit it." He motioned behind him to where Gandalf was entering with a young man the hobbits had never seen before. He was dressed in a flowing brown robe, with dark hair and seemingly ageless eyes. Frodo watched in amazement as he walked directly up to him and bowed. He then bowed to Sam and, to their surprise, to Merry and Pippin.
"Frodo," Gandalf was saying, "At the Council last year you heard me speak of Radagast, another of my Order. This is he. There is something we would like to show you this morning, if we may join you on your ride."
"Of course, Gandalf." Frodo couldn't stop staring at Radagast. "We would be honored." He bowed. "Frodo Baggins, at your service, sir."
Radagast laughed delightedly. "My appearance startles you, Ringbearer?"
"You.." Frodo flushed. "I just assumed all wizards were very.. I mean, would look the same as---"
"What he is trying to say, Radagast, is that you appear too dreadfully young." Gandalf smiled at his companion. "Don't you know that all wizards are ancient, withered and bearded? You should be ashamed of yourself."
Radagast laughed again, in a low musical voice that the hobbits found fascinating.
"Forgive me, Frodo, if my appearance is a disappointment!" He grew more serious. "I am honored to meet all of you. May we accompany you this morning?"
"Of course!" Frodo could hardly believe this was happening. Sam appeared to be struck speechless at meeting a second wizard, and Merry and Pippin just looked excited.
Led by Arnen, the companions rode out on a trail that was unfamiliar to the hobbits. The trail climbed up, and up, through trees and hills, in a northeasterly direction. Just as Pippin was contemplating suggesting a stop for a light, strengthening "something" out of the food packs, they crested a final hill and found themselves out atop a large, nearly flat plateau. The view of the surrounding countryside was breathtaking. Everyone dismounted and looked around.
"This is wonderful, Arnen," said Frodo, breathing in the fresh, crisp autumn air. "But I think we'd better feed Pippin before---"
"Frodo," said Radagast softly. "Look."
Frodo suddenly realized that everyone was staring at something in the northeast sky. He raised his head and watched, dumbfounded, as two gigantic birds circled, drifted, and circled again, coming closer and closer. The closer they flew, the larger they seemed, until Frodo thought he must be imagining things. No birds could possibly be this enormous.
"Gandalf," he whispered. "Gandalf, are those...."
Gandalf stepped behind Frodo and lay his hands gently on the hobbit's shoulders. "Gwaihir and Landroval, Frodo. Middle-earth will not see their like again."
The plateau and all who stood upon it were cast into shadow as the eagles flew low, circled again, and then landed near the group. They were impossibly, unimaginably huge. Sam fell to his knees, and Gandalf could feel Frodo trembling. No one spoke.
"Arnen wanted to gift you with something to remember Rivendell with fondness, Frodo," Gandalf said. "We were at a loss until Pippin told us how much you regretted having no memory of the eagles." He gripped Frodo's shoulders tighter as the hobbit started to sob. "I was able to send word to Radagast, who in turn sent messengers to the eagles' eyrie." He knelt down between Frodo and Sam and took them both by the hand. "They would very much like to meet you properly." The wizard grinned. "On your feet, Sam."
Gandalf gently guided the two entranced hobbits forward, until they stood within a few feet of the eagles. The larger of the two dipped his head. "An honor, Ringbearers, to see you again." Landroval then spoke. "All are in your debt."
The voices were screeched and tight, but perfectly understandable. Frodo finally recovered enough to bow low before the eagles. He raised his tear- stained face, his heart bursting with joy. "The honor is ours. You saved our lives at risk of your own in that poisoned land." He reached out and gently touched the massive, softly feathered head. "Thank you," he whispered.
Sam, who felt he might never again recover the power of speech, abruptly felt himself lifted off the ground by Radagast at the same time Gandalf pulled Frodo into his arms. Gwaihir and Landroval lowered their massive wings to the ground and the wizards simply walked up them onto their backs. Gandalf and Radagast settled themselves securely on the eagles' backs, and before the astonished hobbits even fully grasped what was happening, powerful muscles bunched under them and the birds left the ground.
Far below, Pippin and Merry were both weeping in joy for their comrades' experience. They craned their heads to watch the slow, gentle flight above them. Arnen kneeled in front of them, smiling broadly.
"You rejoice that the Ringbearers are gifted so, and I rejoice that we have helped bring it to pass."
"Oh yes," breathed Pippin. "This is more wonderful than I could ever have imagined."
"Imagine further, then, little one," smiled Arnen. "For you shall be next."
"Next what?" asked Merry.
"I do not think the eagles will mind," Arnen said softly. "Taking one more flight."
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.