I usually post my chapters on SoA now (see link in my profile) but finished this story here because unfinished stories just make me go mad :) Please visit me on SoA where you will find some new stories.
Chapter Eleven: Farewells and Revelations
8. Forelithe 1374
He was sitting on Bilbo's lap, head resting against his uncle's breast, warm arms wrapped about him, holding him, protecting him. The fire was glowing in the hearth plunging the room into a comforting shimmer of red and yellow. The light was reflected by the blade of his uncle's sword hanging above the mantelpiece. It was silent in the parlour for neither Gandalf nor Bilbo spoke. Apparently they had run out of topics. He was silent as well, for he was too tired to speak, though he would never admit it.
Gandalf sat in an armchair beside them smoking his pipe, obviously deep in thought. Frodo could see his eyes shimmer under his bushy eyebrows. The wizard was blowing smoke-rings absentmindedly and so was his uncle, but Gandalf's smoke-rings were special. They were of different colours - one blue and the next green - and of different sizes. Small smoke-rings were chasing bigger ones and went right through them before coming back to hover over the wizard's head.
Frodo was enchanted by the presentation, stunned eyes resting on the green smoke, looking like a thundercloud, above the wizard's head. Yet, in the dim light of the parlour and with eerie shadows dancing on the walls - especially those behind Gandalf and the cloud of green smoke - the lad was not only amazed but frightened as well and snuggled closer to his uncle, reaching out for the old hobbit's hand so that he would have a tighter hold on him.
His lids grew heavy and soon his eyes closed despite his efforts to keep them open. He knew Bilbo was smiling when he felt his hands caressing his cheeks and he snuggled even closer finally giving in to his body's yearnings and drifting away from the fireside, the parlour and Bag End landing in the warm comfort of his dreams.
But now he was back from the land of dreams and only his mind was still holding on to the former evening when Bilbo had fulfilled his promise and had allowed him to stay up long. Frodo blinked and pulled the blanket over his head. Right at the moment it was far more comfortable to lie in the warm softness of his bed than to get up and greet the new day.
Sunlight streamed into the bedroom, illuminating the shelf with Bilbo's books and rolls. A mop of dark brown curls looked forth from underneath the blanket as Bilbo entered the room. "Good morning," the old hobbit announced when he heard a grumbling from the bed.
The blanket was thrown back and Frodo sat up. The child looked as if he had made very close contact with lightening. If Bilbo could tell Frodo's dark mop looked worse than on any other day. Primula was right: the little one's hair was all but easy to tame. Frodo did not answer but tilted his head and stretched out his arms waiting for his uncle to hug him. Bilbo obediently went over to the bed to pull his nephew into a strong hug, stroking his back and combing his finger through the obstinate dark curls.
Frodo buried his face in his uncle's arms and heaved a content sigh. It was almost the same like at home though he was missing his mother terribly. Were she and his father well again? What about his tadpoles? Had his parents looked after them? He heaved another sigh, deeper this time and filled with longing.
Bilbo noticed it immediately. "What is it, my boy? Are you feeling unwell?"
Slowly turning his head Frodo looked into his uncle's eyes. The night had left some traces on him and his left cheek where he had lain on the cushion was wrinkled. The child blinked, sea blue eyes still glimmering with sleep, and shook his head. "I thought about mommy and dad," he admitted a whiff of sadness in his voice. "Do you think they are well again?"
"Maybe," Bilbo answered his heart aching with the longing he saw in Frodo's eyes. The poor child was still too young to be parted for long from his parents. "I'm sure they will come soon. Once they are feeling up to it they'll be standing in front of the door eager to see you again."
Frodo nodded and nestled into his uncle's arms, eyes closed. "Where's Gandalf?" he mumbled after a long silence.
"He's outside discussing the planting of cauliflower with Hamfast, I think."
"Is Master Hamfast here already?" the child asked, lifting his head.
Bilbo nodded. "It's almost time for elevenses. Gandalf will be leaving soon but he wanted to wait until a certain sleepyhead got out of his bed as well." He winked.
"He's leaving?" Frodo pulled himself up to a sitting position, looking sad and confused. "Why? He said he liked it here, so why does he go?" He looked at his uncle with a bewildered expression.
"Gandalf never stays in one place for a long time, my lad," Bilbo told him. "He is travelling Middle-earth from north to south to east and west. Whenever he is near the Shire he drops by but seldom longer than for a few days."
"He only arrived the day before yesterday," Frodo observed seeing no reason for Gandalf leaving so soon.
"Well, I fear, Gandalf has already decided."
Frodo got to his feet. "Do you think I can convince him to stay?"
"You may try," Bilbo answered, seeing hope glimmer within Frodo's eyes. He was unwilling to spoil those hopes though he knew Frodo would probably not succeed in winning Gandalf over. "Yet, I doubt that you can change his mind."
"We shall see!" Frodo called and dashed out of the room, his heart full of hope. He ran out of the smial and almost bumped into Gandalf who was on his way back inside after a long conversation with Bag End's gardener. "Good morning, Gandalf! Will you not stay a bit longer?" That was rather direct but Frodo could think of nothing better in a hurry.
"Careful, lad!" Gandalf admonished. "You can't catch up with the hours you have slept away like this."
The sun was shining brightly and Frodo was dazzled by its light. The garden sparkled in all colours and in the midst of a sea of flowers Frodo could see Hamfast picking some limp leaves and blossoms. He waved at him and the gardener waved back with a cheerful "Good morning, little master!" But Frodo's attention was back on Gandalf immediately, eyes resting huge and pleading on the wizard's face.
Gandalf looked at him for a moment, brow creased as if pondering the child's words, but then he shook his head. "I fear I can't accept your offer, Frodo. I have some things to do outside the Shire."
"Can't they wait until…," Frodo hesitated looking hopefully at Gandalf, head tilted to one side, "…tomorrow?" Gandalf chuckled and tousled his hair, but unfortunately he shook his head. Bilbo had been right: it was not easy to convince Gandalf. Yet Frodo did not want to give up and opened his mouth to have another try but the words that came out were utterly different. "Do you have to learn things about something magical? Will you have to use magic?"
Frodo frowned, being for the moment totally stunned by his own words. Gandalf laughed out loud and that was enough for Frodo's curiosity to defeat his bewilderment. "I don't know if there is anything magical about it, but I shall not learn it if I stay at Bag End, will I? So, I fear, I have to leave."
The child did not answer, but allowed Gandalf to lead him back into the smial. When they arrived in the kitchen and sat down Frodo glanced at the fire in the hearth and sighed. "You will come back and tell me about whatever magic you may find? Will you?"
Gandalf smiled and nodded. Jumping down from his chair Frodo walked over to Gandalf and sat down on the wizards lap, hugging him tightly. The child knew now that he could not convince Gandalf to stay longer but the fact that the reason for his departure might be something magical made it somewhat easier for him, though he was sad that he had to say farewell after such a short time. "Please come back soon," he whispered as he nestled his face into Gandalf's beard."
"I will return as soon as I can," Gandalf promised and stroked the child's dark curls. He smiled wondering at how fast he had grown attached to the lad despite his inquisitive and talkative nature or maybe because of it? He could not tell. He only knew that Frodo was special and he was sure they would meet again whether by accident or not.
The fire crackled and Gandalf lifted his head to see Bilbo standing in the doorway. He smiled broadly and his eyes spoke volumes. Gandalf knew the old hobbit was thinking the same as he did. This was not their last meeting.
There were no clouds in the sky. The smell of hay lingered in the air and bees buzzed merrily across Bag End's garden. Three young boys, one taller and older than the other two ran across the meadow playing tag, when Bilbo stepped out of the smial carrying a tray with a mug of elder juice and five glasses on it. "Careful!" he called out when all three hobbits dashed passed him, Halfred rebuking his older brother of running too fast for his short legs to keep up.
Their play of tag, however, quickly came to an end when the young hobbits noticed the juice and they came running to Bilbo's side everyone of them picking a glass from the tray and bidding Bilbo to fill it. Hamfast had just finished planting the cauliflower in the kitchen garden and joined them, taking a glass of juice himself, when Frodo suddenly jumped up, his bright blue eyes shining with joy, and dashed to the garden door.
Primula and Drogo came walking up the hill both of them smiling broadly when they saw their son. Primula reached out her hands to catch him and lift him up. "Oh, my dear boy! My Frodo! Has your uncle looked after you well? Have you missed your mommy?" she bubbled between endless kisses on Frodo's forehead, cheeks, nose, chin and entire face. There was no doubt where Frodo's talkative nature came from. Primula hugged her child and kissed him over and over again, unwilling to ever let go of him. Even Drogo who was eager to greet his son as well had no chance of separating the mother from her child again.
"Hello Drogo!" Bilbo called out coming over to join them. Drogo answered the greeting but a moment later his impatient eyes were back on Primula, or rather, his son but the two of them were still unwilling to part, though Frodo, who at first had kissed his mother as well, looked now rather unpleased with the many kisses his mother was giving him. Finally the child reached out his hands to be taken into his fathers arms - with hope of thus escaping the kisses - but unfortunately his father flooded him with kisses as well, though with less than his mother had done.
"I hope he has behaved well," Primula said after she had greeted Bilbo and they walked over to the bench, Frodo walking between her and her husband holding each by the hand.
"That he did!" Bilbo assured with a chuckle.
Primula eyed the old hobbit suspiciously. She had not yet abandoned all her doubts about Bilbo's qualities in childminding even though Frodo did look no worse than a mother could wish. She tousled her son's curls as she sat down on the bench.
Hamfast in the meantime had gotten up from the bench and greeted Frodo's parents. "Me sons and I will leave you, Master Bilbo," he said already heading for the garden door.
"You can stay," Bilbo and Drogo assured simultaneously making Frodo and Hamfast's younger son Halfred giggle.
"Nay," he answered. "We shall go home. You've guests and I don't wanna bother you with me children. Besides, Bell will already be waitin' for us to come home. Need to repair a chair that broke down yestereve. Don't know how he did it but Hamson here managed to break it." The young hobbit standing beside his father blushed to a deep red, his younger brother giggling.
Bilbo nodded. He could understand his gardener's arguments though he was sure that would stay a little longer if Primula and Drogo had not come - broken down chair or no. Thus the four of them sat down on the bench. Bilbo had also taken three chairs from the kitchen - two to sit upon and one for the tray.
Frodo was sitting on the bench between his parents, leaning against his mother's arm in this moment and against his father's in the next. His bright eyes were sparkling with joy of finally being with his parents again.
"So, what have the two of you done all week?" Primula asked looking first at Frodo then at Bilbo.
The old hobbit chuckled again. "We had a quite adventurous week, hadn't we, my lad?" He winked and Frodo giggled again nodding vigorously.
Primula frowned. She was not yet sure if she liked the word 'adventurous' especially in combination with Bilbo and her son. Casting an unsure look at her husband she raised an eyebrow wondering if maybe he knew the answer to the riddle the two other Bagginses seemed to share. But Drogo looked innocent - like her son would look innocent when she had watched him stealing Mr. Proudfoot's plums and approached him about it. She did not trust that look.
"First there was Balin," that was Frodo who began with his first, rather short account of the events of the past week. "He is huge, mommy, but not half as tall as Gandalf. Anyway, Uncle Bilbo and I accompanied him to Waymoot. My very first adventure - going on a journey with a dwarf! And when we returned home the other day I met Gandalf who was--"
"You did what!" Primula called out being utterly perplex. She had needed some time to order the words that flooded out from her son's mouth. "You walked all the way to Waymoot with a dwarf as companion!" She could only just keep herself from asking Bilbo if he had gone mad.
"Dad allowed it!" Frodo announced hoping to thus calm his mother's sudden belligerent mood.
Drogo bit his lip and shot both Bilbo and his son a glance looking innocently at his furious wife. Had he perhaps forgotten to tell her about it? Well, he had all reasons to, seeing her eyes now. If Frodo had not been with them right then he guessed, she would burst into an angry bubble of words telling him how care- and witless he had acted in allowing Frodo to accompany a dwarf. A dwarf! Drogo could almost hear her voice though Primula remained silent her eyes piercing him and speaking volumes. He managed a weak smile. "Balin looked really nice and after all, Frodo was not alone with him but had Bilbo as well and I didn't see any harm coming from it."
Primula's eyes told him that she had supposed he had not seen any harm coming from it. But she did! Involuntary she pulled her child closer to her, shooting Bilbo a glance that made the old hobbit shrink on his chair, but still said nothing.
"Balin is really nice, mommy," Frodo assured her, eyes sparkling at the memory of his journey with the dwarf. "He knows wonderful stories." He sighed leaning against his mother's arm.
Drogo smiled winking at Bilbo and looked at his wife and son from the corner of his eyes. That content, dreamy look on Frodo's face would melt away Primula's anger and she would see not only the frightening aspects of such a journey but also the beautiful ones - like he had done when he had allowed Frodo to accompany the dwarf. Primula sighed and stroked her son's cheeks. At least he seemed to be happy about the journey and if Bilbo - or Balin - had managed to make him walk as far as Waymoot then there had to be something about it. She would very much like to get to know that Balin herself. Maybe he wasn't that bad a fellow after all. "What else did you do?"
Frodo's eyes lit up and he sat up straight again a smile brightening his face. "When we arrived at home Gandalf was sitting on the bench right where we are sitting now."
"Gandalf?" Primula raised an eyebrow and so did Drogo. "Gandalf, the wizard?" Both parents cast a questioning look at Bilbo who proudly nodded, though the old hobbit feared Primula's wrath. Hopefully Frodo's account of the past week would not infuriate her any more.
Frodo nodded vigorously again. "Exactly! But he isn't very magical, except for his hat that was…"
"… pointy!" Bilbo finished the sentence and shot Frodo a look telling the child to be silent. Frodo understood though he seemed confused why his uncle was unhappy with him telling of what he had experienced in the past week. "Anyone wants more elder juice? Or some tea maybe? Biscuits?"
"Biscuits!" Frodo popped up grinning from one ear to the other. The mere mention of food made him forget about what he had wanted to talk about.
Primula frowned. "You're hiding something, Bilbo Baggins! And I shall learn what it is. If anything has happened to my dear you shall never be happy in your life again."
Bilbo grinned innocently as he stood up and fetched the tray, though he knew very well that Primula would hunt him if anything had happened to Frodo. But Frodo was all right, wasn't he? So, there was no need to worry.
Drogo watched Bilbo disappear in the smial before facing his son. "Did you enjoy your stay at Bag End?"
"Yes, very much," Frodo answered, eyes sparkling. "Can I come again soon?"
Drogo smiled contently, looking at his wife. "See, I told you that there was nothing to worry about when he is with Bilbo. The old hobbit loves him and looks after him as well as we would - even if there are dwarves and wizards."
He did not say those words out loud but Primula understood them anyhow. "Maybe you're right," she answered and kissed him. Frodo smiled at them with a knowing glance. Primula ruffled his curls making him giggle. "My little rascal!" she laughed.
Yes, with Bilbo her child was in good hands.