I had a thought after finishing The Hobbit Trilogy... Bilbo knows most of the people in the Fellowship, at least remotely. And he was in Rivendale to talk to them. How intrigueing... So this was born. Just something I could see the Bilbo we know from The Hobbit doing. After all, he just got older. He's still Bilbo. :)
"Excuse me Master Gimli?"
The Dwarf grumbled to himself as her turned around to face the polite and blank faced elf. "Yes?" he growled.
"There is one who would like to speak with you. Will you come?"
Gimli almost bit out that if they wanted to talk to him, they could dam well come to his quarters, and that he did not take direction from elves, if it was all the same- but then curiousity got to him. Why ask for Gimli, and not an older member of his party? Maybe it was that he'd just volunteered for a dangerous quest to Mordor, but then why not ask the pointy eared bastard behind him along as well? Finally, he nodded. "Lead on," he told the elf, and followed him to a chamber near the south gardens. There the elf left him, and Gimli opened the door to find something he did not expect.
"Gimli my lad! So glad to finally meet you in person! Come in, come in."
Gimli entered, studying his host with puzzled eyes. It was yet another Halfling. Only this one was old- very old, if he guessed right. He didn't know how Halflings aged, he'd never met one before the meeting he'd just come from. He could not even begin to fathom why one would wish to talk to him.
"Pardon, Master Hobbit, but have we met? How do you know me?"
"No, I can't say we have, though I knew your father very well. Very well indeed. Come come, sit down, sit down," he said, placeing a hand on Gimli's broad back and leading him to a chair as he might a young relative. He sat with a sigh in the only other chair in the room. "He spoke of you almost every day I knew him," the hobbit continued with a smile, "Never knew a creature to speak so much of his son and wife. Been years since then, but what I know about you as a young dwarf could fill a book all by it's self." The old hobbit chuckled, and Gimli's eyes widened with recognition. He stood up again in excitement.
"You must be Master Baggins!" he cried cheerfully, "An honor it is to meet the shield brother of the Company of Oakinshield, the shield brother of my own father and uncle!" Master Baggins studied Gimli with a small smile.
"So they still remember me on the old mountain, do they?"
"Remember you?" Gimli cried incredulously, "They say you turned trolls to stone, stole a company of dwarves from the dungeons of the Wood King himself, and stood face to face with the dread Dragon Smaug- and lived! You are a most beloved character of legend, Master Baggins."
"Am I? Wouldn't that be something to tell the neighbors, hmm? They barely believe I got as far as Rivendale as it is," the old Hobbit said with a chuckle. "Sit down, do please, sit down," he said, and Gimli eased back into his chair.
"It was really Gandalf who dealt with the trolls, you know, with some help from the sun of course," Master Baggins continued, "I mostly stalled for time. Although, I do suppose I did the rest of it, didn't I? Nice to know the lads didn't leave me out of the old tales. Tell me, how is the company these days? How is your father?"
Gimli smiled at the quiery. "Most live in Ereborn still, though some left for Moria. Balin and the Ori brothers live there. My Uncle Oin, I am sorry to say, passed on some time ago, deaf as a door-post he was. Father is well, though he rarely travels anymore. He was offered a place on this journey as it was, but as he told me- 'Gimli my Lad, I've reclaimed Ereborn once, and Moria twice. I've earned the right to sit in comfort with me wife and leave the important matters to those with younger bones.' Ha! So I came in his place. He'll be disappointed to hear he missed you, though glad to hear you're well. He has spoken of you often. Very high opinion. Very High."
"Very glad to hear it," Master Baggins said quietly, "Very glad. You'll give my regards, if you should see any of them in your travels, won't you? I'm a might too old to be out on journeys myself."
"It would be my honor, Master Baggins," Gimli assured him, placing a hand to his heart in pledge.
"Good. Good." Master Baggins drifted off for a moment, seeming to be lost in thought as he turned to look out the window. Gimli waited patiently. He remembered his Uncle doing this often in his last days, and had some experience waiting for ancient minds to come around again. Finally, the old hobbit spoke.
"I have heard you will be traveling with my Nephew, Frodo, and some of his friends," he said quietly.
"Aye," Gimli answered simply.
It was clear the hobbit knew the nature of their quest and was pondering it's dangers. Gimli had not known the dark haired one to be THE Baggins' nephew, but he supposed it made sense. It took courage, standing up in the hall like the little Halfling had. Now Gimli understood where it had come from. How had his father put it? "He was not a warrior, not like the rest of us. More a gentleman of comfort then anything else. Yet he stood his ground, even against Oakinshield, even against a Dragon. He was braver then the rest of us put together, and bold as brass…"
"When I left Erebor, I was granted a boon by Dain himself," Master Baggins said, turning to look Gimli in the eye with a firm will, "Ask anything of the dwarves, he said, and it will be granted, be it aid, or gold, or a home with the people of the rock and fire. I've never had reason to ask anything of the Dwarves since then, nor to I expect I ever shall, seeing as I'm not likely to travel beyond Rivendale before my time is up. But I ask you now, Gimli son of Gloin, to stand good on a promise made to an old Hobbit, a long time ago."
"Name it," Gimli replied easily, "If it is in my power, it shall be done."
"Keep my Nephew alive," he said. "I know nothing of the men who travel in your company, and elves of Mirkwood often have their own aims, as, sadly, does Gandalf. Dwarves I know, and I know them to be honest. If Gimli, son of Gloin, is half the dwarf his father was, I know where his loyalties lie, and I know what metal he is made of. You are one I might trust."
Gimli's eyes softened as he realized what was being asked of him. An old father was simply looking out for his son. "If young Master Baggins is half the hobbit the elder Master Baggins is, I doubt he will need much help from me," Gimli replied, "But you have my word. My ax will ever stand at his defense. It will be an honor, to stand beside the ward of my shielduncle, against all foes."
Bilbo smiled at the old dwarfish honor. To an old honorable dwarf, a shield brother was good as family. Gimli was pledgeing to stand with Frodo as he would his own blood.
"Thank you," the old hobbit said, standing to clasp forearms with the dwarf in front of him, "Thank you."
"The honor is mine, Master Burglar. The honor is mine."
"Legolas." The elf prince turned at the call to find the old hobbit standing down the hall, crooking a finger at him. Legolas smiled the way most elves did upon the sight of Master Baggins, and quickly moved in his direction.
"Master Baggins," Legolas greeted, "To what do I owe the honor?"
"I'd like to speak with you, if you'd follow me to the gardens," the old hobbit said, turning to step out a doorway into a walkway lined with greenery. "Rather something of a personal nature, not something to be whispered in halls where anyone can hear."
Legolas followed him into the garden, his steps paced so as not to move to fast for the aged Hobbit. While his face remained nutural as ever, inside he was deeply curious. While he respected the hobbit for his wit and his surprising bravery, and even a little for his love of common sense and good growing things, Legolas could not say he and the old hobbit had ever been friends. What could the elderly hobbit ask of him now?
"Of course with those ears of yours, it's almost not worth the effort to try and stay out of hearing range," Master Baggins continued to ramble as they moved further in amongst a grove of trees, "But then again, the idea of privacy is better then none at all," he said with a good natured chuckle. Finding a fountain, the old hobbit eased himself down onto the lip of it, and Legolas noted with a quick glance around that if there was to be a place to talk without other parties accidently overhearing, this would be it. It would not stop someone who was truly interested in eavesdropping, but that was against the codes of hospitality in this place. Legolas smiled inwardly. Still as clever as ever.
"It's been a long time, Prince," Bilbo stated, "Perhaps not to a growing elf, yes, but to someone like me," he said with a laugh, "Well, it has been long enough. How is your father, my boy? Still grumbling with the dwarves over white jewels? Or did they settle that? So hard to remember these days…"
"I have not seen my father in many years," Legolas said, a little uncomfortably, "but I have been told he is well. No longer greedy for what isn't his."
Bilbo's sharp eyes suddenly pierced his. "Is that bitterness I hear? From a Prince of Mirkwood, no less. Careful there, my boy. That is how your father was started, after all. Although," he added softly, with some compassion, "Even as I was leaving, he seemed to be changing his ways. No easy thing for an immortal Elf King, after all."
Legolas did not show emotion. He had learned long ago what that got you. His father's bitterness and greed, Tauriel's justice filled anger and heartbreaking love- emotion on an elf lead to a dangerous end. And yet… he too lived in this world, and this little hobbit could seem to cut into his core where emotions still remained. No wonder he was marveled at by Elvin Kings and Wizards alike. The Elvin Prince nodded weakly. "So I am told."
"We never really had time to get to know one another, did we, my boy?" Bilbo said, a little fondly, "For all that, you never seemed a bad sort to me. Tracked those globins far beyond your territory, against your father's wishes, no doubt as well. Quite a noble thing to do, all considered. I'm sure you saved our lives in many ways that day." The old Hobbit looked down at his bare toes swinging against the stone for a moment before looking up to study Legolas critcally.
"You already agreed to join the Fellowship, which speaks well of you. I have a favor to ask, Prince of Mirkwood, as an elf-friend to your father. If you are the elf you seem to be, you might even honor it," he said with a sly smile.
Legolas looked at him curiously, his head tilted to the side as if the study the elderly hobbit right back. Somehow, even with his elf eyes, Legolas knew that Master Baggins, with his piercing gaze, was learning far more about the Elf Prince then the elf prince could even hope to know about him. "And what may a Prince of the woodland elves do for you, Master Hobbit?" he asked.
"Keep my kin safe," Master Baggins answered bluntly, "All of them, if you can, but certainly Frodo, if you can't. He's all this old hobbit has left you know. I'd like to see him return to the Shire, and find peaceful days after it's all said and done, if he can."
Legolas blinked, then smiled kindly. He knelt before the elderly hobbit and spoke to him in elvish. "I have already pledged my bow, old elf-friend, but I swear now, I will do all I can to return your hobbits safe to you."
"Knowing precisely what that entails, I thank you," The Hobbit said, placing a hand on the Prince's shoulder, "I would not ask it lightly." He smiled, then shuffled his weary frame to hop off the fountain.
"Come," he said, turn towards the hall, "Walk an old hobbit to his room. Even here the cool of the evening settles in my bones."
Legolas gave the hobbit a wary look before placing a hand beneath the elder's eldbow. He was not sure if the hobbit was playing him to add guilt to his pledge, or perhaps simply to seem less threatening now that their business was ended, but he walked him to his room, none-the-less.
Later, Legolas quietly wondered if the hobbits would need much protecting, if they were anything like Master Baggins…
"Ah, Master Boromire, there you are."
The Lord of men turned to find himself being address by an elderly hobbit, of all things. He smiled, a little bemused.
"And who might be looking for me, Master Hobbit?" he asked, not unkindly.
"Bilbo Baggins, at your service," the old hobbit said with a small bow, "I believe you have met my nephew, Frodo Baggins."
"Young Master Baggins?" Boromire said with pleasant surprise, "Aye, we have met. He has offered his assistance to a task of no little danger," he added, "You should be proud to have such a ward as him."
"Oh that I am," he said, "Very proud. Pluck like that, runs in the family you know. Very plucky, the Tooks are, not a little rash as well. Still, a Baggins you know, tough as dragon hide that one, and I would know." He ended his small ramble with a chuckle, then smiled up at the man before him. "It actually is about your task I wish to discuss," he said, "would you walk with me?"
"Certainly, Master Baggins," Boromire replied, a confused and bewildered smile still on his face.
"Excellent, excellent," the hobbit murmered before leading the taller man down the hallway to what seemed to be a private chamber, "Can't be too careful with elves you know. Very polite, very gracious hosts, very little understanding of privacy. Well they wouldn't, would they, with those ears on them? Never can get them to understand why family matters are one's own business, but I find, they respect your wishes if one closes the door," he said, ushering Boromire into what must be the elderly hobbit's rooms, complete with bed chamber and private study, which made the man wonder how long the hobbit had been a guest of Lord Elrond to receive such lodging.
"Sit, sit," the hobbit gesturing to chair obviously meant for larger people, "Let us speak of this quest my nephew has found himself on."
"I find myself curious to know," Boromire said cautiously, "How an elderly relative came to know of these matters."
"Oh no need to worry about me," Master Baggins assured him, waving a hand about, "I know about the whole business. I was the one to find the thing you know, not that I had any idea what it was, at the time. I simply thought it some trinket that could make you invisible. By the time Gandalf found me with it though, I was more then aware of how dangerous it must be. It has drained me badly. Even now, when I have not seen it in almost a year, it calls to me as gold might call to a gold sick dwarf," he admitted quietly, surprising Boromire slightly. Not many did he know would admit to a weakness like that. He supposed it came from being so small- if one does not admit when one is weak, a hobbit might not be able to secure enough help to get anything done.
"What would you like to know?" Boromire found himself asking honestly.
"I would like to know what sort of man is marching to Mordor with Frodo and my other relatives," the elder hobbit stated bluntly, "And why. Gandalf is an old friend, and he has vouched for Arogorn. The Prince of Mirkwood and I have had dealings in the past, so I know his make, and the dwarves and I go far back. The only member I do not know of this fellowship is yourself. Tell me honestly, why do you travel to the darkest regions of the world?"
Boromire blinked, taken aback. He thought for a moment, and supposed he was so used to people knowing who he was by reputation that he was unused to such quieries. He could understand the elderly hobbit being concerned for his relative, but for him to speak so boldly- perhaps the hobbit had raised Frodo? And asked as a father? Even then, Boromire suspected there was more to this hobbit then met the eye. His rooms alone told Boromire that the old Halfling was a perminant resident in Lord Elrond's home. Not just anyone was granted that. Perhaps it was best to tread carefully…
"My Father is the Steward of Gondor, as such I am responsible to the protection of it's people," he replied, honestly. Master Baggins nodded.
"So close to the dark lands, that must be a task indeed," the hobbit offered. Boromire raised an eyebrow.
"Indeed," Boromire replied. "The council believes this is the best way to ensure the end of the dark one's reign, and so, for my people, I would see it done."
"Good, good," murmured the hobbit, "Fighting for one's home and people, no stronger motive for bravery. Very good indeed. I imagine you are also something of a warrior, then?"
"Yes," Boromire said, trying not to laugh at being asked such a question, "It has been said."
"And a very good one, judging by that smirk," the hobbit commented, causing Boromire to flush. "No need to gloss over matters, I know how it is," the hobbit assured him, "On to the matter at hand then."
"About the hobbits, Halflings, as you big folk say, who will be joining you," the elderly hobbit continued, "Frodo is a good lad. Just enough adventure in him to keep going, just enough Baggins in him to endure, and cleverer then I am, especially when it comes to people. As the ringbearer, everyone in the company shall be watching him as well. No, Frodo will do as well as needs be, probably better, I wouldn't wonder, he's surprisingly stubborn and that comes in handy on treks like these. Samwise has enough common sense to ground a starling. He'll have trouble keeping up at first, but as long as he's got Frodo to fuss over, he'll pick up the pace well enough. To be honest, I do believe I worry about him least of all. No, it's Merridoc and Perigrin that concern me. Not that I think they should be left behind!" he added quickly, seeing the look on Boromire's face, "Braver, more willing lads you'll never meet, and they're terribly loyal and quick on their feet. And they could pull a smile out of a thundercloud, which is perhaps a great deal more important to a long quest into the dark places of the world."
Boromire considered this. Many a mission or battle had been lost due to poor moral in his own lands, so he knew the importance of it, often relying on his younger brother Faramire for such tasks. Valar knows he could always make Boromire smile. Still, to send two young small persons into the wilds of Moria on such grounds… he did not know. He would have to wait and see if the hobbit's words proved true.
"Still," Master Baggins continued, breaking the Man of Gondor from his musings, "They are prone to be rather reckless, and they have no preparation for this sort of thing. The farthest Merridoc ever needed to go was Bree, and the farthest Perigrin ever needed to go was wherever Merridoc went," he said with a chuckle. Then he sighed. "Perigrin isn't even of age, you know. Not by Hobbit reconing anyways, and Merridocs not much older then he. They may be valuable, but they are certainly not ready. Still, neither was I when I first went out into the wide world, and I learned. Perhaps they will as well."
The hobbit looked over the young Lord of Gondor with a calculating eye, and Boromire had the feeling as if he were being weighed and measured. He wondered how it was that such a small creature could make him shift uneasily in his seat.
"I have a favor to ask of you Boromire, protector of Gondor. Might you help ease an old Halfling's mind?"
"In any way I may be of service, Master Baggins," Boromire answered politely.
"If you could keep an eye on Merry and Pippin," the old hobbit said, "See they don't run head long into trouble, I would be most appreciative. Got to look out for one's relatives you know, and Merridoc Brandybuck and Perrigrin Took are the kind of hobbit lads that need eyes on them. I would ask Gandalf, but he's prone to wander off, you know, and the rest of the fellowship I suspect will be looking after Frodo too often to notice when those two are about to pull something foolish. As it should be. Still, at least one person, who knows to keep an eye out…"
Boromire tried hard not to laugh. As it was, he was sure his less then subtle smile was too large to be polite. "I will do my best, Master Baggins."
"I'm quite serious you know," the elder hobbit said, staring him down, "I do not want to have to be the one to make the long trek back to the Shire to tell my relations that their sons are dead because they were loud when they should have been quiet, or hid when they should have run. Their parents will not understand a noble death. They will only understand that they aren't coming home."
That sobered Boromire quicker then ice water. He was suddenly reminded of the faces of young recruits the first time they faced orc packs on the borders, and he understood what this was. This was the older brother asking the Captain of his little brother's company to keep a watchful eye out. Because the older brother knew exactly what was lurking out there in the world, and younger brother did not. Again, Boromire found himself wondering who this Halfling was, and what exactly he had done with his long life.
"I swear to you Master Baggins," Bormormire said, with all seriousness this time, "I will keep your relatives from harm. If it is in my power, I will not let the young Halflings fall."
"Thank you," the elder hobbit said gratefully, "Thank you. That's all one can ask. Oh, and it'd probably best you don't tell them about this, hmm?" he said with a smile and a wink, "You know how young folk are, want to make it on their own. Always worried they're being mothered."
"Of course," Boromire replied with a smile, "Of course."
As he left the elderly hobbit quarters to head to dinner, the young Lord of Gondor found himself looking forward to getting to know this Merry and Pippin. If they were anything like Master Baggins, at least Boromire could be sure the trip wouldn't be boring.
I know. Not much of an ending. Might have to come back and add to it. Still... it was interesting to me enough that I wanted to stick it up here. Let me know if you have any thoughts. And as always, I hoped you enjoyed the story!