The late autumn chill frosted the windows and walkways of Imladris, but within the Hall of Fire there was warmth and merriment. One after another, the residents took turns entertaining each other and their guests with variations upon old, beloved songs, while in one corner a few gathered to hear the perian's latest piece.
Bilbo fancied himself a poet and historian, and the Elves of Imladris indulged this passion, for it was not often that ordinary mortals took an interest in such matters. He was of a cheerful and eccentric creature, and Lindir delighted in the songs and tales of the Shire he brought with him while gently teasing him for his modest Elven pretenses.
"Why, I do believe you fancy yourself a minstrel of the Otornassë Nyelloréva," he laughed. The guild had long since disbanded and fallen into history, and the halfling could scarcely pronounce the name, but he took the jest in good humor, especially when Lindir gave him a small brooch once worn by the members of that guild. Bilbo often wore the little silver harp upon his lapel, stroking it with pride whenever someone inquired after his work.
For his latest composition, a lengthy piece about Eärendil, Bilbo had had Lindir's help and, it seemed, that of Estel, who had lately returned from his wanderings with four other periannath in tow.
Lacking the vigor and training to manage a formal recital, Bilbo was not accustomed to performing before the entire household. Instead, Lindir had arranged for a small gathering of friends. They were joined at the last moment by a dark-haired halfling carrying his arm in a sling; this was Bilbo's nephew Frodo, brought in by Estel and Glorfindel some days earlier. The group formed a polite audience, smiling and applauding when it was finished.
"Now we had better have it again," Lindir said.
Smiling, Bilbo claimed it would be too tiring to repeat it all, which no doubt it would have been for him. He was rather more interested in knowing if his audience could answer the riddle of what Estel had added to the composition. Bilbo had not confided in Lindir, but the Dúnadan had been Lindir's student even as some of his ancestors had been, and Lindir knew what imagery and turns of phrase they were apt to use. The green gem had not been a product of Bilbo's rampant imagination.
However, rather than spoil Bilbo's fun by giving an immediate answer, Lindir indulged him by drawing out the game. Beside him, another Elf told the halfling that it was not easy for the Firstborn to tell the difference between two mortals, and while Bilbo fumed in mock consternation, Lindir answered that perhaps sheep could tell the difference between other sheep but mortals had not been his study. To an outsider this would have been taken as an insult, and Lindir saw the beginnings of a frown upon Frodo's face, but all others understood this remark was made in jest, for of them all Lindir had had the most dealings with mortals.
Bilbo returned the banter with gusto, but he tired easily these days and excused himself early. As always, he waved his walking stick in the air and insisted he could make it back to his bedchamber without any assistance. Nevertheless, someone usually accompanied him, most often under the pretense of continuing an earlier conversation. Lindir was about to offer his company, but saw that Bilbo was accompanied by Frodo.
Lindir noticed another halfling sitting in the corner; the young man had been asleep during Bilbo's performance but was now awake and regretting that he had missed the music. Two younger halflings were nearby, sharing a particularly lovely walking song with a group of Elves, when the other blearily joined in with a bit of verse he said he had learned from Bilbo.
Seeing Lindir standing off to the side, one of the Elves motioned to his companion and murmured something. The halfling turned and blushed, though Lindir did not understand why until Tuilinn told him.
"Um, begging your pardon, sir," the halfling stammered as Lindir came over, "but I didn't know."
"Did not know what?" asked Lindir.
"Here I was singing about an Elf-king and all and I didn't know the one as made the song was right here."
Lindir did not know what he meant until, blushing, he repeated the first verse. Though it was slightly off-key, Lindir recognized it as The Fall of Gil-galad. Although he had been told that it was quite popular in the lands beyond Imladris, he had rarely performed it for Elrond's household and was all the more surprised to hear it come from a halfling whose people, he was told, had few dealings with the outside world.
"What is your name, master halfling?" he inquired.
"I'm Samwise, sir," answered the other, "Samwise Gamgee, but I'm not a master of anything, sir. I'm just Mr. Frodo's gardener."
"Tell me, how much of this song do you know?"
Samwise looked apologetic. "Well, I only know a little of it, sir. Bilbo tried to teach me the rest, but it's all about Mordor and I was too scared to learn that part. I heard him sing it once, though. It was very dark and, well, a bit sad."
Lindir smiled at him. "Yes," he agreed softly, "it is all those things to me, and more."