Parts of this chapter are taken directly from 'Fog on the Barrow-downs' from The Fellowship of the Ring.

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

SPELLBOUND

Chapter 6
Behold the King

But before all went Aragorn with the Flame of the West, Andúril like a new fire kindled, Narsil re-forged as deadly as of old; and upon his brow was the Star of Elendil. The Return of the King, 'The Battle of the Pelennor Fields'

xxxx

Of all the sounds to echo through the Barrow-downs over the years - grief and despair, fear or defiance - surely this was the strangest. Tom appeared over the crest of the hill, leading the hobbits' five ponies and his own - and smiled as he was enveloped in laughter. The hobbits lay in the soft grass, talking softly and sharing jests, and their resilience warmed his heart. As he approached, his shrewd eyes saw that no gems or gold had been gathered by the hobbits, nor had they apparently even approached the pile of glittering treasure atop the Barrow. Greed did not rule them, and he recognized anew that the Ringbearer was accompanied by worthy companions.

The hobbits greeted Tom joyfully; they had feared they would never find their ponies, and marveled that their gear had been returned to them. The unexpected news that Tom planned to ride with them to the Road delighted them, and they thanked him many times.

"I'm starving," Pippin declared. "We haven't eaten since luncheon yesterday!"

"We're fortunate to be eating again at all," Frodo said. Seeing Pippin look back soberly at the gaping Barrow, Frodo laughed and pushed his young cousin toward his pony. "Get dressed," he advised, "and we'll see what food is left."

Pippin pulled a spare shirt and extra breeches out of his pack - heavy woolens, thick and well made. Sam and Merry were likewise forced to don the spare clothes they had packed against the crisper days that would soon be upon them, and the three hobbits soon felt too warm as the sun rose higher in the sky.

"Come, eat with us," Frodo urged Tom as he took provisions from the saddlebags. "It is the least we can offer for all you've done for us."

Tom had brought bread, cheese, and sweet fruits with him, and - added to the hobbits' remaining provisions - the five had a merry meal. While the hobbits were still eating, he climbed back atop the mound and surveyed the weapons, priceless jewels, and gold that he had placed there, "free to all finders, birds, beasts, Elves, or Men, and all kindly creatures" - for so the spell of the mound should be broken and scattered, and no wight return to it. One beautiful and ancient brooch he took, for his lady, but nothing for himself.

When Tom returned, the hobbits were startled when their friend knelt before them, four leaf-shaped daggers in his hands. They were beautiful - light and strong, and set with fiery gems - and seemingly untouched by time. Pulled from their black sheaths, they were sharp and glittered in the sun, and Frodo and Sam looked at one another uneasily. Fighting - especially with blade or bow - had not occurred to any of them until this moment. But Pippin felt quite adult with a weapon at his side, and Merry took his dagger - long enough for a hobbit's sword - with grim face, his dream still clear in his mind.

As Tom spoke to the hobbits of the blades that now hung on their belts under their jackets, and the Men who had forged them, he realized that all four had ceased to hear him. They were staring, spellbound, at something over his shoulder that only they could see.

"Do you see that?" Sam asked, wonderstruck, and his companions nodded wordlessly.

At last they set off. They led their ponies down the hill; and then mounting they trotted quickly along the valley. The looked back and saw the top of the old mound on the hill, and from it the sunlight on the gold went up like a yellow flame. Then they turned a shoulder of the Downs and it was hidden from view.

xxxx

Mid-year's Day, S.R. 1419

The wedding banquet was well underway when King Elessar approached the table where the hobbits sat, laughing and feasting. The four friends raised their goblets in salute as the King approached.

"To your health, Strider!" Pippin declared.

"Thank you," Aragorn smiled. "And now, my friends, you must satisfy my curiosity. I noticed, just before the ceremony, that several of you were pointing at me, and whispering together. May I ask what drew your attention so raptly?"

"That," Merry replied, motioning to the diamond Aragorn wore at his brow. "We've seen it before, Strider. You were wearing... I mean, it didn't look like you, exactly, but it could have been you. Or someone who..."

"What he's trying to say is, all four of us saw something of a... vision, back before we met you in Bree," Frodo explained. "It was at the Barrow, where we got our swords. Tom Bombadil was telling us about the Men of Westernesse, and..."

"Aye, it was strange," Sam agreed. "There was a line of Men... ever so many, Strider. And the last wore a star, just as you do now."

"Did he?" Aragorn asked softly. He knelt and looked at the hobbits, each in turn. "You didn't happen to see any further, did you? Children, perhaps, to carry on the line?"

"No," Pippin said. "But of course there will be children!" He blushed suddenly.

"I hope you are correct," Aragorn laughed. "And someday perhaps they will meet the brave hobbits who helped win peace for the West."

"Will you name them after us?" Pippin asked.

"Good heavens, Pip, of course he won't," Merry declared, horrified.

"Meriadoc Telcontar," Aragorn mused.

"Don't you dare burden a helpless child with such a name," Merry groaned. "Promise?"

"If you insist, we will choose something else." Aragorn smiled and rose to his feet, bowing slightly. "I must return to my queen. Enjoy the feast, my friends; we will speak again tomorrow."

Frodo watched Aragorn walk back to where Arwen sat with her father and brothers.

"Sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness," he murmured. "Remember what Tom said? He was talking about the Rangers, but we didn't know what he meant at the time."

"Strider won't be lonely any longer," Merry said with satisfaction.

"Do you suppose Tom knows all that's happened?" Sam asked.

"Yes," Frodo replied softly, "I have no doubt of it. He knew then, Sam. When he gave us the swords, he said we might go walking 'far away into dark and danger'.

"And that's just what we did," Sam marveled.

"And soon we'll be able to tell Cousin Bilbo all about it," Pippin grinned at Frodo. "And wait until old Butterbur finds out who the king is! He won't believe it!"

A sudden burst of laughter from the hobbits' table brought smiles to all who heard it. And the King's joy shone as brightly as the gem he wore, as he drank a silent toast to his friends.

END -

Andrea: Frodo, as the elder cousin, would naturally fall into a 'protector' role with Merry, I think.

aprilkat: When I started this story, I never thought about what Tom might be thinking about! It's been fascinating to try to get into his head.

Ariel: I find the vague and mysterious characters (Tom, Celeborn, Goldberry, and others) the most tantalizing!

Auntiemeesh: I'm honored to be weaving any threads within the Professor's tapestry, and thrilled that they don't seem to clash with his pattern. What a compliment.

Connie B.: One of the themes I tried to bring out in "Mind to Mind" (especially in chapters 8-10), was how the hobbits had unique abilities (including Merry). I'd love to see other authors further explore these things at which Prof. Tolkien only hinted.

cpsings4him: You rascal. But it's my hope (as always) that others will write about these scenes as they interpret them, with different explanations and points of view.

cuthalion: I love writing "strong and loving Frodo"!

Dreamflower: Thank you so much! I love "filling in the corners" of the Professor's amazing world.

Elven Kitten: Thank you!

Elwen: Writing Tom Bombadil is nearly as difficult as writing Barrow wights! If he's as old as Elrond says he is, he must have great wisdom and perception.

Eruanna: I think Merry endured (emotionally) more than a lot of authors give him credit for. He spent a lot of the Quest alone (in Rohan, and in Minas Tirith), and had a lot of time to think and reflect on things that the others didn't.

Gentle Hobbit: "Only you can turn lingering horror into instant fluff and hobbity challenges and races on the grass." May it always be so:D

Illyria: I couldn't imagine hobbits being downhearted for long, even after such a harrowing experience. They really have quite a bit in common with seemingly-carefree Tom Bombadil -- more than I even realized before I started writing this.

Larner: Thank you. I wasn't sure what would come of my attempts to "fill in the gaps" for this chapter of the Tale, but it's been fascinating (and challenging).

Lily the Hobbit: One of the things I most love to write about is seeing Frodo through the eyes and perceptions of others -- especially those who respect and honor him.

lindahoyland: I've been looking forward to writing about that 'vision of the true King'!

lovethosehobbits: I had to do a bit of thinking about Tom, and whether his thoughts were as (seemingly) lighthearted as his words. Others will write him differently, but I like to think that there's more to him -- and all these characters -- than meets the eye.

Pearl Took: Thank you, my friend! (And I ADORE my new wallpaper.)

Pipwise Brandygin: I wasn't sure how to approach Tom in this story (or any story!), and am quite relieved that he seems to be coming across well. What a truly enigmatic and mysterious figure he is.

Scifirogue Kane: I never used to love Tom, but he's starting to grow on me.

SlightlyTookish: Frodo spent most of his journey in a humble manner, deflecting praise and seemingly unaware of his own strength and worth. What a joy to show it through the eyes of other characters (like Tom). And Pippin going back inside the Barrow -- there's a plot bunny for someone!

smalldiver: I'm always relieved when a fic emerges from darkness back into the sunshine!

Tathar: We need more Frodo-praise! Much more! What could be better?

tiggi: Tiggi! (waves hello) It's so challenging to try to bring this part of the Tale to life; I've really worked hard on this story.