There always seemed to be more charming little nooks of Rivendell to discover. Bilbo Baggins, formerly of Bag End, had already been a resident of the Last Homely House for many years, and here he came upon the loveliest terrace that he had never seen before – or at least that he did not remember seeing before – overlooking the river, with little trees in intricately decorated pots lending just the right amount of dappled shade, and with beautiful stone benches looking warm and inviting in the afternoon sun. It was simply the perfect place to work on his book.
Except that it was already occupied.
A dark-haired Elf sat, intent on her sewing, but she lifted her head at his approach, her ears catching even the soft tread of his feet. Tucking a strand of raven hair behind her ear, the daughter of Elrond, having recently arrived from one of many stays in Lorien, smiled pleasantly at Rivendell's oddest little resident. Bilbo returned her smile, struck anew by the glowing beauty and the gentle sweetness of her countenance.
"Forgive my intrusion, Lady Arwen," he greeted with a bow.
"Don't be silly, good Master Baggins. There is room enough here for both of us to work. Come and sit with me," she bade.
"Very kind of you, lady," Bilbo replied, hurrying over to her bench, where she moved her sewing aside to make enough room for a hobbit to sit.
Bilbo hoisted himself onto the bench, feet dangling. He reached into his jacket to pull out his pipe and pipeweed, but paused.
"Er… do you mind, my lady?" he asked hopefully, indicating the pipe.
Arwen smiled. "I do not. It will make me think of Mithrandir."
Bilbo contentedly filled the bowl of his pipe, and lit it with one of Gandalf's little fire-sticks, which were possibly as good an invention as his fireworks. Taking a puff, Bilbo sighed contentedly and sent a ring of bluish smoke dancing up towards the sunny heavens.
Arwen, though, had seen enough of Gandalf's smoke rings to be unimpressed, and turned back to her sewing. Bilbo, clenching his pipe in his teeth, opened his bottle of ink and placed it on the bench beside him. When he opened his book, however, a glint from Arwen's hand in the corner of his eye drew his attention. A heavy signet ring, with thread wrapped around the band to make it small enough for her slender, delicate fingers, caught the sunlight in its green gems.
"Your ring, Lady Arwen," the old hobbit began hesitantly. "May I see it more closely?"
The elf-maiden smiled at him, and laid her sewing aside. He eagerly closed his book, put down his quill, and grasped her white hand as she extended it to him.
"Emerald-eyed serpents, and a crown of golden leaves…" he murmured to himself. "Tell me, my lady… is this meant to be a likeness of the ring of Felagund, as is spoken of in the Lay of Leithian?"
"Indeed it is not, dear Bilbo," she answered with a smile, taking up her sewing again. "It is the selfsame ring that Finrod, my mother's uncle, gave to Barahir in the First Age."
Bilbo's excited expression told her plainly that he'd hoped as much.
"Then it was given to your father by Elwing the White, when he was but a lad?" he assumed, wondering that one of the sons of Elrond did not bear it now.
Arwen shook her head. "My father's brother Elros wore it to Númenor with him. It became an heirloom of the royal house, in remembrance of their descent from Beren and Lúthien. Elendil wore it when he fled from the island, and Isildur passed it on to the line of kings of Arnor in the North."
Bilbo dropped his pipe, and hurriedly put out the ashes that spilled out onto his lap while he looked at the elf-maid in disbelief.
"Then… then you… you and the Dúnadan…" he stuttered, eyes wide.
"Yes," Arwen replied a little wistfully, "the Dúnadan and I."
Bilbo put his pipe down, and folded his hands, looking thoughtful. "That will be a match for the minstrels to sing of."
"No doubt," Arwen agreed. "But bear in mind, my dear hobbit-scholar, that a happy ending is not necessary for fame in song. The minstrels sing of Túrin and Finduilas just the same as they do of Beren and Lúthien."
"True enough. But that is not the sort of thing one expects to hear from the heroine of an epic romance," he chided her.
Arwen looked down at the folds of cloth in her lap. "I think sometimes that I should prepare myself for the worst," she said softly. When she looked up, it was with a smile. "My heart will not let me, though – not really. I cannot help but have faith in my Estel."
"When?" Bilbo asked, eagerness lighting in his eyes to see an Elven wedding. "Should not you wed soon, and be sure that the line of Isildur's heir continues? Aragorn may have the life of the race of Númenor, but he isn't getting any younger, dear girl."
Arwen's smile turned a little sad. "We shall be wed when he comes into his rightful inheritance, and reclaims both the thrones of Gondor and Arnor, and the Enemy is cast down forever."
Bilbo raised his grey eyebrows at her. "And he steals a Silmaril from the Iron Crown of Morgoth?" he suggested.
Arwen shushed him disapprovingly. "It isn't like that at all. And a good thing too," she remarked, reaching into her basket for another skein of silvery thread. "Though many say that I bear her likeness, I have not the strength of Lúthien."
"You must not belittle yourself, Lady Arwen. Surely you could do as much as she - her strength was born of love!" Bilbo exclaimed.
"And the fact that she was half Maia," Arwen retorted, arching a smooth dark eyebrow at him.
"Ah yes," Bilbo agreed after a short pause, reaching for his pipe again. "No doubt that helped."
"Besides," Arwen continued, "Lúthien did not have two brothers who regarded Beren as their own baby brother."
Bilbo laughed. "And my kind host is no Thingol Grey-cloak."
Arwen smiled wryly at him. "I'm certain he'd be flattered to hear you say that."
Taking a quick, furtive look around for Elrond, Bilbo reached for his book again. "And since I am not a flatterer, he shall not hear it from me," Bilbo told her smoothly.
Arwen laughed one of her rare, silvery laughs, and Bilbo joined her in one of his much more common chuckles.
"Truly, Bilbo," she went on after a moment, her eyes serious again. "I know my place cannot be at my Aragorn's side – however I might wish it otherwise at times. My gifts are not the gifts of Lúthien, and I would only cause him pain by pretending that they were." Seriousness had turned to sadness, and she dropped her eyes to the cloth once more.
"Forgive me, sweet Lady Arwen," Bilbo beseeched her, reaching out a gnarled old hand to pat her smooth, ancient ones.
"There is nothing to forgive, Bilbo," she assured him, squeezing his hand.
"I'm sure that my friend the Dúnadan could not wish you to be any different than you are."
"Of that, at least," Arwen replied with her beautiful smile, "I am sure."
"Your patience is no less remarkable than her valor," Bilbo asserted, closing his book once again.
"Our situation is not the same as the plight of Beren and Lúthien," Arwen explained, "and I pray that it shall never even be close."
"And if it was?" Bilbo pressed.
Arwen closed her eyes tightly, and turned the ring of Barahir around her finger.
Aragorn captured by Sauron? Tortured, maimed, and finally cold and dead on the battlefield…
"Please do not speak of it," she whispered.
"You too would brave danger, darkness, and death for him," Bilbo stated with confidence. "You would rend heaven and earth for the sake of his safety."
"We shall hope…" she replied slowly, opening her eyes, and letting the words I would have the strength hang unsaid in the cool spring air.
"…that I won't have to," she finished, a twinkle of light and laughter through the sadness in her starry eyes.
[My first posted work that ventures as far as the Third Age – and my first after a great deal of silence. I'm not sure what to say about what brought this on… Perhaps images that have been floating around in my head since I first read the Appendices to The Return of the King… Perhaps my profound dislike for the portrayal of Arwen in the Two Towers film, and particularly of the turn that the Aragorn and Arwen romance took. Combination of factors, I suppose.
Thanks as usual to Annie for providing the title. Without you, I'd…. have a bunch of stories with no titles. Or just a lot of really dumb titles. Either way, the situation would be decidedly inferior to the current one.
For some reason, I just noticed my Word Spell-check approves of "Bilbo," "Aragorn," "Gandalf," "Elrond," and even "Mithrandir," but does not recognized either "Arwen," or "Sauron," among other things. Bit weird if you ask me.
This is written with the usual apologies towards and deep love of Professor Tolkien's world and characters. And incidentally, Spell-check doesn't care for "Tolkien" either.]
 about 7 years. Bilbo became a resident of Rivendell in 3002, and Elrond sent for Arwen in 3009. (Appendix B, The Tale of Years, The Return of the King.)