These four ficlets have been posted separately elsewhere -- either on my LiveJournal or as entries for Marigold's "Tales of the Red Book" challenges -- and are a blend of book and movie.  "Speak Friend, and Enter" is just a bit of silliness, and "Princes of the Land" was inspired by the fancy Gondorian clothing the hobbits are briefly shown wearing in the movie "The Return of the King".

This is a companion piece to "Looking for Fun in All the Wrong Places".

DISCLAIMER:  Of course.  The characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.


* Speak Friend, and Enter *

"Speak friend, and enter."

"What do you suppose that means?"

"It either means 'speak friend, and enter', or 'enter, and friend speak."

"Gandalf, have you been at the Gaffer's home brew?"

"Impertinent..." the wizard fumed. "No, Frodo -- very often the ancient runes were written such that you need to read them backwards."

"You mean," Pippin said slowly, "that these letters can only be seen by moonlight or starlight, only when you pass your staff over them, and maybe they're also backwards?"

"Very good, Pip," Merry glowed with pride.

"Cheeky elves," Gimli glowered. "Why couldn't Balin have just changed the combination to this blasted door? He had 40 years to think of it, after all."

"You need to say goodbye to Bill, Sam," said Aragorn.

"Not on your life, Strider," Sam said defiantly. "Gandalf's never gonna get that door open."

"Why doesn't Legolas just translate it?" asked Gimli. "Why else did we bring that Elf with us, anyway?"

"I thought he came because he was being punished for losing Gollum," Boromir said.

"I thought it was because he swore to protect me with his bow," Frodo replied.

"He didn't swear to protect you, little one," Boromir said. "At the Council, he told you that you had his bow. I thought he was going to give it to you, but when we tried to take it, he wouldn't let go of it."

"I'm not little," Frodo pouted. "Hey, does that mean he didn't swear to protect me? And Gimli said I had his axe, and..." He glared at Aragorn. "You said I had your sword! Did you just say that because it was broken, you scruffy Ranger? And now that it's all reforged and everything, you won't even let us see it?"

"Frodo, that's not what I---"

"Come on, Sam," Frodo huffed. "Let's take Bill and get out of here."

"We're coming too!" Pippin cried.

* Princes of the Land *

"And if there were any gifts that I could give to match with your deeds you should have them; but whatever you desire you shall take with you, and you shall ride in honour and arrayed as princes of the land." King Elessar to Frodo, The Return of the King

"Come in."

Frodo turned around as Merry and Pippin entered his room, and his cousins halted in astonishment.

"We're sorry," Pippin said, breaking the silence, "but have you seen Frodo Baggins?"

"Well, well, well," Merry muttered, circling Frodo slowly. "You look amazing, Frodo."

"Me?" Frodo said with a smile, "Look at yourselves! When Aragorn said he wanted us 'arrayed as princes' I never dreamed he meant it. And wait until you see Sam; he can barely stand to wear such finery." He suddenly noticed his cousins' hands. "Do you have to wear those all the time?"

"Odd, aren't they?" Pippin asked. "I haven't worn mittens since I was a child."

"Gloves, Peregrin," Merry sighed. "They're called gloves." He held up his own gloved hands and flexed his fingers. "We could have used these on Caradhras, don't you think?"

"You're right," Frodo agreed.

"Don't you have any?" Pippin asked.

"They're in my trunk," Frodo replied, "and there they'll stay. Good heavens, I'm having a hard enough time grasping things with only four fingers; I don't need those constrictive, floppy, stifling things on my hands as well."

"They're not floppy," Pippin sniffed, smoothing his gloves with obvious pride. "I"ll have you know they fit perfectly."

"I can see that," Frodo smiled. "You really look wonderful, Pip. Your family will be so proud. Yours, too, Mer."

The three cousins regarded each other for a long moment, broken only when Sam knocked softly and entered the room.

"Ready, sir? Well, don't you look fine, Mr. Pippin, Mr. Merry."

"As do you, Sam," Merry replied, "as do you."

"You're right, Sam, we'd better get out there." Frodo straightened his new velvet cloak. "It isn't every day that hobbits attend the wedding of a king."

"To be more accurate," Pippin said, "it isn't every day that a king is honored to have four such distinguished hobbits at his wedding."

"Ah, yes," Frodo grinned, "that sounds more like it."

"Remember, Sam," Merry teased, "you bow to no one."

"I doubt I could bow in this get-up, Mr. Merry," Sam sighed.

Frodo held open the door. "Shall we go?"

* Mistress of Bag End * (written for Marigold's Challenge #1)

Frodo put down the quill with a frown, then rose from his desk.  He found Sam in the kitchen helping Rosie to prepare the evening meal.  Frodo sniffed the air appreciatively -- was it roast beef and herbed potatoes?  And peach pie for dessert, with fresh, sweet cream.

"Supper's near ready, Mr. Frodo," Sam said, turning to greet him.

"Everything smells wonderful," Frodo smiled.  "Sam, I had the strangest thought just now."

"About what, sir?"

"About oliphaunts."  Frodo sat at the table and Sam joined him.  "That rhyme we all heard as children… you know, Grey as a mouse, big as a house…"

"What about it?"

"Well," Frodo said, "wherever did it come from?  How would any hobbits know about oliphaunts?"

"The tales say that hobbits used to travel a far ways, Mr. Frodo," Sam replied, "all the way down south and back again, in the old days."

"Such a long way to travel," Frodo mused.  "But if they did, why didn't Faramir and his men know about hobbits?  Have they no tales of small travelers from the north?  He said, 'You are a new people and a new world to me.'"

Sam looked thoughtful.  "Maybe somewhere in that big library of theirs is an old, dusty scroll with a rhyme about hobbits!"  He grinned.  "Small as a flea, hungry enough for three…"

Frodo laughed.  "You may be right.  I suppose that, in a city at war for so long, there isn't much call for telling children fanciful tales or stories, if they're not about strong warriors or brave deeds in battle."

"But they know about hobbits now, don't they?  As strong and brave as they come."

Sam and Frodo both looked up in surprise at Rosie's words.  She came to stand behind Sam and lay a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"You're right, Rosie," Frodo agreed.  "They do, indeed."  He smiled.  "And speaking of hungry enough for three…"

"You two may be the strongest and bravest," Rose said tartly, "but if you think I'll let you sit at my supper table before washing up, first…"

"Anything you say, ma'am."  Frodo got to his feet instantly, as did Sam.  "We'll not win any battles in this home, Samwise."

"None worth winning, anyway," Sam replied with a grin.

* On the Horizon *  (written for Marigold's Challenge #2)

September 28, S.R. 1419

"Frodo?  Are you going to eat that?"

Frodo grinned fondly at his cousin.  "Peregrin, there's an entire bowl of whipped potatoes right in front of you.  Must you eye my plate so greedily if I stop for breath once in a while?"  He aimed his fork at the last mound of potatoes on his plate, but Pippin reached it first.

"Stolen food is always more fun to eat," Pippin responded, popping the forkful of creamy potatoes and savory gravy into his mouth.  "You're 51 now, Frodo.  What a shame you're too old to remember how to have fun."

Frodo had run into Pippin while seeking a little something for a late supper, and they now sat together at the small table in the dining hall.  Pippin had begun the meal sitting across from his cousin, but (as he usually did) had somehow worked his way around the table so that he was within a fork's distance of anything that suited his fancy.

Pippin, still a growing tween, had quickly discovered on their first stay in Rivendell, a year before, that food was available at all hours of the day and night.  He supposed it had something to do with the fact that Elves didn't reckon hours and days the same way as other people, and chose to take their meals at odd times, but it didn't matter.  The end result was that a hobbit would never go hungry in the Last Homely House.

Frodo downed a last bite of sweet roll before Pippin could get to it, then rubbed his arms briskly.  "It's so cold in here."

"Is it?"  Pippin grew instantly attentive as Rivendell had not changed in another way -- the air was, as always, fragrant and warm.  "Come on then," he said, masking his concern.  "Let's get a fire going in your room, and you can turn in early."

"Now I do feel old," Frodo laughed, getting to his feet.  "I…" Another, stronger chill shook him, and he frowned.  "Maybe that would be best.  Thanks, Pip."

In the library, Elrond looked up from the scroll he was studying.  Something was wrong… Prodded by instincts that had served the master healer well, he got up abruptly and hurried to Frodo's room, and was instantly glad he had done so.  Pippin had built up the hearth fire into a roaring blaze, and was in the process of wrestling a blanket off the bed when the Elf Lord entered.  Frodo sat on the rug in front of the hearth, shivering.

"I'm glad you're here, sir," Pippin said, relieved to see Elrond.  "Frodo doesn't have a fever, as far as I can tell, but he just can't get warm.  It came on suddenly."

Elrond nodded and sat down next to Frodo.  He felt the pale face, noting for himself that Pippin was correct -- there was no fever.

"Have you been eating well, Frodo?"

"Hah!"  Pippin grinned.  He dragged one of the thick blankets over and wrapped it around his cousin, before sitting down next to him.  "There's nothing wrong with his appetite, take it from me."

Elrond smiled at the youngster, then turned back to Frodo.  "Tell me how you're feeling."

"This is so strange," Frodo replied, his eyes frightened and confused.  "I'm so cold, and even the fire doesn't help.  It feels almost like…"

"Go on," Elrond urged him.

"Last year," Frodo told him, "before we met Aragorn, we were taken by Barrow-wights and imprisoned.  The one who… his touch was like ice.  I remember something freezing my very bones, then… blackness." He shivered violently, and inched closer to the fire.  "When I awoke, something was singing… chanting… I was so cold…"

"That's right," Pippin agreed.  "It was soon after we left the Shire.  I think it was… Frodo, it was a year ago today!"

"I see," Elrond said quietly, "Look into the fire, Frodo, and let your thoughts go free."  He positioned himself so that Frodo could lean against him.  "The past seeks to hold you in its cold grip," he continued, "but the future beckons.  Cold night passes, and morning comes again…."

Frodo gazed into the dancing flames, wondering what was going to happen.  Pippin sat perfectly still, watching his cousin carefully.

"A warm sun.  Can you see it, Frodo?" Elrond's voice was soft.  "It is early morning, and the rising sun brings you its warmth, birds singing and flowers opening, drenching the air with perfume.  Warmer and warmer, as the sun rises over the horizon, large and bright, you can feel its rays, hear the birds, smell the sweet flowers…"

As the Elf Lord's words wove their spell, Frodo watched the hearth's flames coalesce, brighten, fill all of his vision.  Heat radiating from the imaginary sun enveloped him and penetrated deeply, causing the shivering to grow less.  As Elrond continued to speak, slowly the scene before him grew more vivid, and Frodo could almost smell fresh, salty air, hear strange birds calling, and feel the gentle lapping of waves at his feet.  Without knowing that he had slipped from waking to dreaming, he found himself walking along a beautiful beach beside warm, clear waters, feeling calm and at peace. 

Frodo's eyes had closed, and his shivering slowed, then ceased.  Elrond touched the hobbit's brow with two fingers and concentrated, deepening the level of sleep.  When he was certain that being moved would not wake him, he gathered the blanket-wrapped hobbit into his arms, and rose effortlessly to his feet.

"Is he all right?" Pippin asked as the Elf Lord put Frodo back into bed.  "I was in that barrow, too, and I don't feel cold."

Elrond sighed.  "Since the Morgul wounding, and his long ordeal with the Ring, Frodo has become sensitive to many things that would not have affected him otherwise."  He looked up as Bilbo entered the room.

"Has something happened?" Bilbo asked anxiously, hurrying to Frodo's side as quickly as his ancient limbs would allow.

"No need for alarm," Elrond reassured him.  "A dark memory that plagued him is already fading.  He will sleep until morning, and I believe he will awaken feeling well."

Bilbo reached out and stroked Frodo's hand.  "Sleep well, dear boy," he whispered.  Frodo stirred slightly, a small smile on his lips.

Bilbo had joined him, and they stood together on the white shores.

Elrond slipped an arm under Frodo's shoulders and lifted him slightly, straightening the hobbit's blankets and tucking them securely about him.

Frodo sighed with contentment as he felt Bilbo drape an arm around his shoulders.  Both hobbits watched with joy as the Sea turned pink, then golden, and the sun rose slowly in the east, casting its warm glow over them both -- and over the Blessed Realm in which they now made their home.

"The future beckons," Elrond murmured, then ushered Pippin and Bilbo out of the room so that Frodo could rest.