No two ways about it, it was all his fault. If only he hadn't found the the Ring! But if not him it would have been some Orc, and with Sauron practically next door in Dol Guldur he'd have had it back before you could wink and then where would they all be? Bilbo sighed and massaged his eyes wearily.
The wide world was a very complicated place, everything was connected with everything else so that if you changed just one little thing, like a Hobbit Burglar with a magic ring, it might all fall apart. Without the Ring he wouldn't have escaped the Goblin Tunnels or been able to rescue his companions time and time again. And without Thorin and Company Smaug would still be brooding over the ruins of Erebor and Dale, and the Dwarves would still be wandering homeless, and poor Bard would have died a simple bowman in Laketown. So, odd as it seemed, the Ring of the Enemy had done *some* good, at least while it was in the hands of Bilbo Baggins!
What was it Gandalf had said? Oh yes, That he, Bilbo, had been *meant* to find the Ring and to use it, and *meant* to pass it on to Frodo when it became to much for him. And it was to much for him, he'd proved that to himself, and Frodo too, the day the Fellowship left Rivendell. The Ring had him good and proper, no mistaking, why he'd probably carry it straight home to Sauron! he shuddered at the thought. No, it had to be the boy. And the quest would cost Frodo his life. Bilbo hadn't been meant to hear that but he had. His nephew was going to die and it was all his fault. His fault for finding the Ring, his fault for adopting Frodo, and most of all his fault for leaving the burden to him.
The Hobbit hastily wiped his eyes and stuffed his handkerchief back in his pocket before turning to face Elrond. The Master of Rivendell's face lookd more deeply lined than usual, grim and grieving. Bilbo's heart stopped. "Frodo?" he managed to croak.
"There has been no fresh news of the Ringbearer," Elrond assured him quickly. "But my Mortal kin tell me Rivendell itself is under threat from an army of Orcs and Trolls mustering in the Ettenmoors. I have decided to send my people to the Havens. And you, Bilbo Baggins, must decide what you are going to do."
"Do?" the Hobbit echoed blankly.
"You cannot stay here alone," the Elf lord pointed out reasonably as he knelt down to put himself on eye level. "We must pass through the Shire on our way to the Havens, you can return to your own people if you like."
Bilbo swallowed. "I don't think so. You see they'd want to know about Frodo and the others and I wouldn't know what to tell them."
Elrond nodded, understanding. "Then you must continue with us to the Havens. Cirdan would welcome your company."
"That's very kind of him." said Bilbo politely, brightened suddenly. "Why I could see the sea! I'd like that."
All of Rivendell was in a tizzy the next day as its inhabitants prepared to leave. Which in the case of the Elves seemed to involve making farewell visits to all their favorite places and walks rather than packing.
"Aren't you going to take anything with you?" Bilbo asked his friend Lindir.
The Elf smiled sadly. "Food enough for the journey to the Havens, a change of garments and perhaps a keepsake or two, no more. They say it is better so, and we shall find all that we need waiting for us in the West." his tone altered. "But that doesn't apply to you, Bilbo! You must take your books and your notes so you may continue your studies in Mithlond, and anything else you think you will need or want."
Half of Rivendell ended up helping Bilbo with his packing. The Elves in the kitchens made up packets of all his favorite things to eat, other Elves bundled up his clothes and pipes and walking sticks, carefully collected and wrapped his notes, blank paper and pens, and Elrond himself selected books from the library for him. Having something to do seemed to cheer them all up a little. Still the atmosphere was very solemn as the long procession set out that evening, crossing the bridge and winding their way up the long path out of the valley, Elf lanterns twinkling like stars in their hands.
Bilbo was perched uncomfortably atop an Elven horse rather to big for him led by Lindir and surrounded by other Elves carrying his packages and bundles. He had all he could do to keep awake and the soft Elvish singing wasnt helping one bit! Why they'd waited til nightfall to leave he couldn't imagine, nor how long it'd be before he'd be able to lie down for a proper sleep.
As it happened they stopped just before dawn at an Elven resting place off the Great Road with the swift waters of the Bruinen chuckling somewhere beyond the trees. Bilbo's Elven companions showed him to a bower woven of living trees and he crawled gratefully into heaped furs and silken coverlets.
He was just drifting off to sleep when a soft voiced "Bilbo?" jerked him awake.
"Lady Arwen?" he asked uncertainly, peering into the predawn dimness.
A pale oval of a face, framed in dark velvet, nodded. "I am not going to the Havens."
"Of course you're not." Bilbo agreed promptly. "Er - where are you going then?"
She smiled. "Where I belong." The smile faded. "But I cannot just disappear, I want my father to know I am safe. Tell him - tell him that I love him and my mother but I must follow my heart." Tears made sparkling tracks down her cheeks.
"Indeed you must." Bilbo said firmly. "All the ages of the world is much too long a time to live with a broken heart."
Arwen Undomiel smiled again. "I agree." she leaned forward to place a kiss on his brow. "Thank you, Bilbo."