"It is too early yet to answer the questions you doubtless have. There are others we must wait for. You shall stay here as the guest of Elrond. Anything you require, simply ask."

It was a generous offer, truly. Boromir had no doubt he was lucky to be invited to a place so few but Elves ever entered.

Yet he wasn't happy. Far from it.

Boromir was not a man made for waiting and biding his time. After riding at a bruising pace for hundreds of miles to answer the summons of Elrond, and the questions in his own mind, he did not like being told to sit by and wait.

It went against his nature and conditioning. To be still and at peace, to wait for the decisions of others, it wasn't in his blood. He was a man of action; born into a land at war, raised by a father who commanded armies. He was a leader of soldiers, a defender of borders. He was used to the blood and pain of the world, not the quiet and peace and lush life of Rivendell.

It was a beautiful place, there was no doubt. But that may have been part of the difficulty Boromir was struggling with. He was himself abrasive and hard. The borders of Gondor, the land that molded him, were worn down. The ground was soaked with blood from thousands of battles. The air smelled of death and war. Of fear and lost hope. Of a hundred evil things that seemed far removed from Rivendell.

But such was his home and the land he loved; it was what he was accustomed to and comfortable in. He wasn't at all sure how to handle himself in the peaceful green of an Elf kingdom.

Such were the thoughts in his mind. He was discontented. Impatient and not at all at peace.

But, despite his basic, blunt nature, Boromir did not argue. He did not speak out against Elrond's wishes, or complain about his situation.

Because as troubled as he was, he could sense even more trouble in those around him. In the grim, solemn face of Elrond, who had seen far more troubles in his thousands of years than Boromir had in his almost forty.

There was tension in the air, and in the land of Elves that was a thing to make note of.

Gandalf the Grey was said to be in Rivendell, and others of importance were on their way. That, plus Boromir's own discontented dreams, led him to believe that something was happening there that was bigger than his complaints.

Bigger than the complaints of Gondor itself? That had yet to be determined. And Boromir highly doubted such a thing was possible.

Still. He would act with all the dignity and pride his people would hope for from their representative. He would bide his time and wait to be summoned to council, and hope that something important was in the making.

In the meantime, though. He was at a loose end. He knew no one, knew nothing of the ways of Elves. He wasn't sure what to do with himself in Rivendell. Everything was quiet, solemn. Everyone was earthy and graceful and.

Well. He wasn't used to the air there.

He spent his time wandering the trees, reflecting on his hardships and wondering what was happening in his land while he was away. Those thoughts led to even more unrest, but they weren't to be escaped.

It was on his second full day at Rivendell, during a rambling walk through the woods, when the first laughter he had heard in.months, probably.reached his ears and pulled him from his thoughts.

So strange was the sound, so foreign to his ears, that he turned and found himself heading towards it.

It rang out again, this time in two voices. High and clear and genuinely happy. These were not elf voices, though. They were more earthy, free from elvish dignity.

There was a muted sound in front of him, like a rock striking a tree. He slowed his steps and perked his ears, listening.

The voices were as high as the laughter. "Were you trying to hit me that time? You should know by now I look nothing like an oak."

"Your head is as thick as one, you addle-brained Took." Another thunk somewhere in the distance, and more breathless laughter. "And now, I think you're the one off on your aim. That tree was nowhere near me."

"I'm simply trying to spare myself the trouble of explaining to your mother why her son has one more hole in his head."

Boromir almost smiled - children. He could see a small, curly-topped head sticking up from the underbrush. No wonder the sound had seemed strange - the children of Gondor did not laugh this freely.

Whose children did, then? That was the next question. Curly-topped heads like those didn't belong to Elves or Dwarves. These were the children of men. But who? If not men of Gondor, than of Rohan. Those were the only groups of men important enough to be summoned to Rivendell. The Rangers would not have children like these.

But why would the men of Rohan not contact him if they knew he was there? Rohan and Gondor were allied.

He moved forward, curious.

"It wouldn't do for the Master Thain to have the aim of a drunken Bramblebush. I should let you practice more-"

A softer thunk and a burst of laughter from the higher voice.

"Alright, Took! This means war!"

Boromir smiled to himself. He missed the sounds of laughter. "Ho there, children!"

He barely got the last word out when two greenish red blurs flew at his face, thunking him in the forehead and over his ear almost at the same time. Boromir stumbled back and lost his footing on a bundle of branches, falling ungracefully on his back.

"Oh!" The higher voice exclaimed loud enough for Boromir to hear, and footsteps came bounding towards him.

And the small figure burst through the underbrush and into sight, just as Boromir had lifted himself up onto his elbows. "Oh! Ho there. You look even less like Merry than an oak."

Boromir blinked up into laughing green eyes. He frowned, bringing a hand up to rub his temple. There was something odd about this child.

The second appeared over the shoulder of the first. "Well. Your aim improves just in time to make a new friend. Sorry about the apples, master.hoy. You're no elf."

Boromir frowned at the two small hands that immediately stretched out to assist him to his feet. "And you're no children."

The second nudged the arm of the first. "Depends on which of us you're talking about."

The first nudged back with a smile, hand still held out. "Right. Up you come."

Boromir eyed the offered assistance dubiously, and sat up on his own. "I'm quite capable of standing, thank you."

Both hands dropped, and the first, slightly shorter.creature.gave a good- natured shrug. "Suit yourself."

Boromir rose to his feet, scraping together some sense of dignity that vanished again when he prodded at the bruise that was no doubt forming on his temple. "You have quite a mean aim, both of." He trailed off, looking down at his strange companions.

His eyes went wide as the difference in height was brought home to him. "You're halflings!"

The second halfling smiled. "We're not half anythings. We're full hobbits. And you.are you a Ranger?"

Boromir instantly straightened, proud. "I am Boromir, son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor. I am a soldier. I'm no Ranger." He let the contempt show in his voice.

"Aha." The first halfling stuck out his hand again, not at all deterred by the coolness in Boromir's voice. "Peregrin Took, but you can call me Pippin."

Boromir regarded him for a moment, but shook the small hand firmly.

"And this is Meriadoc Brandybuck, but you can call him Bramblebush."

Meriadoc was putting his hand out, but averted the gesture to crouch quickly and grab one of the apples that had fallen at Boromir's feet. "I'll show you who's a Bramblebush."

Pippin took off running, laughing all the way.

But Meriadoc held on to the weapon and turned back to Boromir. "Merry. Sorry about before. You took us by surprise."

"As did you. You're the first halflings I've seen. Or.hobbits, was it?"

"Hobbits, yes."

Boromir studied the small form. Merry. Halfling or no, he could easily be mistaken for a child, a boy maybe nine years old. He had to be less than four feet tall, but wasn't stout like the Dwarves. He and Pippin both seemed normally proportioned men, just smaller. Maybe with rounder cheeks, and mops of curly hair blowing everywhere in the wind. Not too different after all.

He thought about this sighting, though, and what it meant. "This council must be important indeed if Elrond has summoned such distant folk as hobbits."

"Distant? Well, yes, though probably not as far as you think. We simply like to keep to ourselves, and so you men tend to forget we're around. But I don't know anything about any council. We were brought here by our own unique circumstances, no mistake about that."

"Still. Strange summons, and now sightings of a strange race? Pardon, of course -- merely strange because I haven't seen you before, or even heard tale of you except in legend. But still, I don't doubt you're connected in some way."

Merry smiled sunnily. "Of course not. We're much too unimportant to be connected to anything in a place like this. Probably Frodo is, though I wouldn't know anything about it if he was."

"Another hobbit?"

"Aye. He seems to have a knack for attracting attention."

"Merry!" The small form of Pippin came charging back. "You're not playing!"

Merry eyed the other hobbit. "You're a rude young lunkhead. You haven't even asked if our new friend wants to play."

Pippin's wide eyes swung to Boromir. "Yes! Play! Gives you a chance to make up for that first hit, and then you won't hold it against us."

Boromir nearly laughed out loud at the circumstance of anyone asking him to play at something. He came so close he actually smiled at them.

The strangeness of that expression on his face took him aback, though, and steered his thoughts back where they belonged. Which was certainly not on playing games in the trees. He looked from one face to the other, feeling the beginnings of disapproval for the lackadaisical spirits of this new race of creatures. "Whether this council involves you or no, it is a serious and important affair, and should be treated as such. We none of us have time for such foolish things as playing with apples."

Pippin just shook his head, looking slightly exasperated. "Spoken just like a Man. That sentence could have come straight from Strider's mouth."

Merry laughed. "No doubt followed by some stern command to stop talking or get to sleep or pick up our feet or something of the sort."

Boromir bristled at the tone, the lack of respect, the complete disregard of his words. "Are all halflings such flighty creatures?"

Merry looked up at him sharply, eyes wide as if taken aback. "Flighty? Why, no, of course not. Pippin here is the only one."

Pippin barely had time to register that before he was off, chasing the retreating Merry away from Boromir, back to the trees that were their playground.

Boromir listened to the jingle of laughter and shouts that carried on now as if he'd never been there.

He frowned sharply, hoping that these little creatures were right about not being involved in this council.

Whatever reason hobbits kept to themselves, it seemed best if it stayed that way. They cared little for the problems affecting Middle Earth, so it seemed Middle Earth should go right on forgetting about them.