. Chapter Twenty .
.. The Dream ..
The cart stopped at the entrance of the Hall, and a group of hobbits came over, including Merry's cousin Mentha. The young girl just about a year younger than her troublesome cousin looked at the cart in awe, especially when she saw Merry come around the side of it.
"What have you done now!" she asked.
"I found a wizard in the wood," he said, looking up at the cart, "an old dear friend, a young dear friend, a few ponies, a cart, and... I believe Angie found the mud."
Mentha folded her arms acrossed her chest as Merry's mother and father broke through the excited hobbits. They were just as surprised.
"What is going on here?" Saradoc asked.
Merry turned around, and the humor in his expression vanished. He stood very still as his parents looked at the cart. Mentha told his parents what he had said word for word, and he felt a little sick at what they might do with him.
"You found this in the woods?" Esmeralda asked expectantly. She looked at Angie and Frodo. "And a lot of mud, I see."
"Don't get mad, Mum!" Merry said. "It was just a game! Besides, I didn't just find the cart, I found Bilbo inside of it! And our friend Sam from Hobbiton! And a wizard!"
"Oh, enough," she said.
"But they've come for Angie's birthday!"
"All of you, inside, now. Angela, Pippin, get out of that thing."
"Do you mind if we step inside as well?" a voice asked from the cart. Esmeralda turned, and Bilbo's head popped up from over the cart's edge. She stared before walking up.
"And I have two friends accompanying me. One is quite tall, so he may need several beds pushed together in one of the social halls if he is to properly comfortable."
At this, Gandalf and Sam walked around the side of the cart and stood behind the four young hobbits with a smile. Gandalf leaned against a large wooden staff with his pointy blue hat and long beard, and the group of onlookers gasped is amazement. Frodo, Merry, Pippin, and Angie felt very amiss standing with a wizard behind them, but sam had already gotten use to him, for he did not appear shaken or worried at all.
"He's the wizard?" Esmerelda asked Bilbo weakly.
"Looks can be deceiving," Bilbo said cheerfully as he hopped out of the cart. He walked over to his cousin and steadied her as she stared on. "You look faint, dear; maybe you should lie down."
"I know my way around the Hall," Bilbo said, passing her off to Saradoc. "You just rest! You wouldn't want to miss out on tonight! We've brought fireworks!"
"Uh, Gandalf, if you put your cart over there until later, I think that will do," Bilbo instructed him. "And I will find you a room. Come along, children! Samwise needs to find a bed, too! Excuse me, everyone! Hello! How are you? Oop! Watch yourself, Frodo! You and Angela go straight to the bath house. Want to be presentable tonight."
x x x
The hobbits of Brandy Hall were all astonished at first to see that Merry had been telling the truth (especially in the company of Pippin), but as Gandalf, Bilbo, and Sam walked around more and more that afternoon, they were welcomed all the same, and preperations began for that night. Merry was very relieved and happy to accepts his mother's apology, as well; he was not in trouble (except maybe for running around out in the mud again).
Angie watched the gardens transfrom slowly as she looked out her window throughout the day periodically. Yellow, purple, and red worked their way into the foliage as day slowly made its transition into night, and thankfully, it didn't look like they were going to outdo themselves for her sake.
"Have they set out the food yet?" Merry asked.
Angie turned away from the window to look at him and Pippin seated comfortably on her bed munching on apples with a look of amused disbelief.
"Ay, I hear there's going to be a big cake," Pippin said.
"How big?" Merry asked with great interest.
"I don't know," Pippin said, looking at his apple, "but I'd imagine pretty big."
Food... Was it all they really cared about?
"My deepest sympathies, Merry, but I see no cake," she laughed. She walked passed Sam who was seated at the writing desk and stopped at the dressing table, which Frodo was gently leaning against. As she gathered half of her hair, tied it up, and turned to Frodo. "What do you think?" she asked. "I'm not one to usually wear ribbons or bows."
"You look better than you did earlier," Pippin said before he and Merry broke into laughter together. From the desk, Sam started to chuckle, and when Angie looked at Frodo, his lips were raised in a smile. She looked at him in surprise.
"I'd think you'd be the last to laugh!" she said, starting to laugh herself.
"But I was!" Frodo said. Then he forced a straight face and said, "I'm sorry. But it is funny when you think back on it now."
Suddenly, a bell sounded from the gardens steadily, and cheers followed. Each of them became alert, and Angie looked over at Merry who was already fumbling with his pocket watch. He opened it, and immediately jumped up.
"We're late!" he said to confirm their fears.
Collectively, they ran through the Hall down to the gardens where most everyone was waiting. They stumbled in, receiving everyone's attention, and the five of them straightened up slowly. Bilbo walked up to them.
"Our guest of honor has finally arrived!" he said, motioning Angie forward. The gardens filled with cheers again as her cheeks went rosy, and sudden burst of green and gold appeared in the sky. Angie looked up after being startled, and she smiled as it diminished into the treetops.
"So that is a firework," she said with wonder.
"Not just any!" Bilbo said. "It's one of Gandalf's! Come on everyone! Let's begin!"
x x x
"I cannot dance with you when you are holding a cake, Pippin!" He and Angie spun around in sloppy circles while he concentrated on not dropping his cake, but it was only making her laugh. Suddenly, Merry grabbed her arm, and they began to swing around together. Then, the music ended for a moment, and she sat down with him at their table. Pippin was standing in the middle of the garden finishing his cake.
"Well, you sort of got to dance with him," Merry said. "Right now, I think he likes the cake better, though."
Angie smiled. The night was almost over, and she had danced with almost everyone.
Angie spun around, putting her knees up on the seat of the picnic table and looking Frodo squarely in the face. He gave her a smile, not knowing what else to do.
"What?" he asked slowly.
"I haven't danced with you yet."
Frodo, very well aware of the tradition, knew excuses would not work. "You haven't?" he tried instead.
"No. I had to dance with the wizard and Pippin while he was holding a cake, but I do not remember sharing a dance with you tonight."
He got up, walked around the table, and extended his hand to her which she accepted readily. Out on the field, a simple tune started, and they began hesitantly, not sure of the level at which the other could dance. Surprisingly, they were both intermediate at it. It was if hobbits had the natural ability to dance born with them. Even the worst dancer could move his feet, but Angie and Frodo were doing quite well together as the song progressed.
Soon (almost too soon), the song ended. Everyone was told to find a good view of the sky for the fireworks display, and Merry quickly gathered Pippin, Angie, Frodo, and Sam. "Come on! I've got the perfect spot!"
"Inside the Hall?" Sam asked as they entered it. "There's no high sky to be seen in here!"
Merry ignored the confusion and questions of his friends and plowed forward through the dark halls, intriguing their curiosity so that they would continue to follow him. They turned corners, hit a wall or two, went up some stairs, and entered a room of decent size. Ten beds occupied the room, five evenly spaced on each side of the room. Little night tables were beside each one, and a large arch with light drapes was at the end of the room.
"What is this room used for?" Sam asked as they made for the arched opening.
"Larger families that share hospitality with us," Merry said. "Mainly used for weddings, big parties, Lithe, Yule..." Suddenly, they heard the burst of a firework. "Come on! Out here!" Merry shouted, running towards the drapes.
He parted them furiously and passed through them, the others in his stead. Angie nad sam were expecting another part of the room, but a dark sky with shimmering blue reminents of Gandalf's latest firework came instead. They were out on a large stone balcony to the left of the gardens. Trees were around them, but the view proved perfect when another firework shot shot into the air and burst into red and gold right before them.
Angie looked on in amazement and wonder. It was gorgeous from up here! She walked up to the edge of the balcony slowly and sat on its thick ledge. The others were at first hesitant about it, but then they approached. Merry had come through for his birthday surprise (and his happened to be a lot cleaner than Pippin and Frodo's).
Frodo sat up beside her with a thoughtful look at the bright colors while Pippin took a seat on her right, and Sam and Merry stood.
"I told you I had the best view," Merry said.
"This is truly wonderful, Merry," Angie said with a melted smile of peace. "I wish I could stay here all night, and I think I will."
.. x x x ..
For the rest of the day after the Council had been dissmissed and passed its ruling, Frodo had made plenty of attempts to talk with Angie about her decision, but all were futile. She sat at the other end of the table during lunch with Sam and with Pippin at supper, and she had gone for a walk with Merry and Pippin around the valley in between that span of time. And now, it was getting late, and his shoulder began to ache; he had nothing much to do but hold his tongue and save his thoughts until morning. Maybe he could try to meet her in the morning outside of her door before breakfast...
x x x
It was very late into the dark night, but Angie hadn't a blink of rest yet. Her decision still plagued her thoughts.
Was it a good decision to make? Of course it was when it came to helping her friend; maybe not when it meant leaving the Shire behind for an unknown amount of time, possibly to never return.
She tried to shove that aspect out of her mind.
Would Frodo be able to handle such a task? If his shoulder and the Fellowship held together through their journey, then yes; but seeing as she didn't have a clear thought on what the level of the risks would be, small bits of doubt crept in to weigh the question down.
How serious was this?
She didn't have an answer to that, but her insides squirmed uncomfortablly when she thought about it.
And she couldn't stop thinking about it. The room was getting stuffy despite its spacious interior, and the insomnia was giving her a headache. It was a perfect time in her past to get out and see Bilbo, enjoing the nighttime along her way to Bag End.
Why couldn't she do it now?
Lifelessly, Angie rose from her bed and exited the room into the large empty hall just outside her door. Wind floated through it freely, and she followed the gentle air with her feet falling on the cool stone. The moonlight provided all the light needed to guide her passed open pillars overlooking the north of the river and trees swaying in the breeze as they sent sweet scents into the House. Suddenly, the wind around her died down though, and she stopped to look around. On her right were the doors to Frodo's room.
With a strange impulse, she opened a door and looked in; Gandalf was absent from his rocking chair, and no one was there. She wondered if Frodo had even still been there as she walked in and came up to the grand bed, and his dark hair contrasted with the cream blankets surrounding him to ease her suspicions. The ends of his locks curled in the soft moving air, and his shirt sleeves ruffled lightly. Angie smiled at his peaceful aura, glad that he had found some amidst the restlessness of the night.
Then, Frodo's eyes opened. For a moment, it did not register with Angie that this was out of the ordinary, but she quickly got wide-eyed and turned to go. She had woken him up in the daed of night, and he just saw her watching him. It was awkward, so she was leaving.
"Wait," Frodo said, sitting up on his elbows. She stopped reluctantly. "I want to talk to you."
"I'm sorry," she said. "I just didn't see anyone with you and came in to see if you were still in bed."
"Nothing is troubling me," Frodo said. "But I have been wanting an audience with you all day." Angie came back towards the bed as he looked at her meaningfully. "Lie down."
Angie gave an unsure look at his request. He moved down and pushed the blanket down however, and as in the past, she climbed in without a sound, keeping the blanket close to her in the chilled wind. Her head rested onto half of Frodo's pillow, and they faced each other, Frodo with the same expression as before. Angie could sense something wrong with him.
"What is troubling you, Frodo?" she asked almost sadly as she looked his face over. He looked very tired and calm, but his eyes were alert and aware.
"Why did you agree to go to Mordor?"
This is what she was expecting to hear from him. Not that Sam, Merry, Pippin, Elrond, Gandalf, the elf, the dwarf, the warrior from the distant land, Strider, and Bilbo had already asked him...
"Our journey's not finished yet," she reasoned. "Gandalf is about to send me back to the Shire, but he's still trying to figure out how I met with you and Sam after he left Hobbiton."
Frodo stopped talking of the subject there; he had promised before not to ask her to turn back while she came on her own will. They both had enough to prepare for.
"Do you know," he said, "the night on Weathertop before the Riders came, I had a dream."
Angie looked at him in thought. "Of what nature?"
"I'm not sure."
"What was it about?" Angie asked.
Frodo took his time to reply, but there seemed no way to put other than, "I lost the Ring." Angie looked at him with concern, and he finally met her eyes briefly and continued. "There was fire and molten rock. I stood on the very edge of a stone cliff above it all deluded with the heat," he said with a fear growing in his eye. "The Ring was there, but the ledge fell from beneath me. I fell."
He was almost shuddering, and Angie felt herself choking on the taut emotions in her throat. This could very well be his fate, ro the fate of someone else. It now felt so real. She swallowed with no avail in relieving the sting she felt, but she smiled all the same with a small sniff as she found his hand and touched it.
"Come now, Frodo," she said with some difficulty. "Every dream has some good in it." It was more of a plead than a statement, but Frodo relaxed slightly, still staring at the foot of the bed.
"There was good," he said in a dreamlike sense. "I was in Bag End again before the fire."
Angie smiled and shut her eyes at its simple mention, travelling back to laying in front of the fireplace during their afternoon naps on rainy days after lunch. Full, content, peaceful, and warm. She was all of these things here as well, but the feeling was much different. Frodo's voice crept into her memory, bringing her back to Rivendell and all that had been done since one of their afternoon naps in Bilbo's large living room.
"Bilbo was there," he said slowly in recollecting, "and Sam."
The picture was easily shown to her.
"There were looking at maps, and I had just got done writing something... Bilbo mentioned a book, but I don't know what he meant. It was only a dream after all."
"A pleasant one in the beginning it sounds," Angie replied at length. "You see? There is good in everything, even our nightmares."
"It was better than that even."
"You were there."
Angie looked up, amused by this. "I was? What could I possibly be doing in your dream?" she asked.
"Serving carrot cake oddly enough," he said with a smile, looking back up at her. Angie allowed a laugh to pass.
"I suppose cake would make a nightmare better than it seems."
x x x
Two weeks into November, skies were streaked with thin whisps of gray clouds, and nearly all of the golden leaves had met the ground in the cold winds of Rivendell. Light seemed dim and faded even during the afternoon, but it was on one afternoon such as this that Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Angie sat with Bilbo in his room of the House. It had been so long since their last sitting together, and so they devoted another dreary day to the company of Bilbo as they had so many times before.
Frodo sat next to his uncle looking through his completed book with the red binding. He was amazed at Bilbo's accomplishment over the passed few years since his disappearance from the Farewell Party. The whole of Middle Earth he had travelled was documented in a little more than two hundred pages, and there was still a good deal of pages left blank behind it all.
"I spent hours and days and months and years on that dratted book," Bilbo said as he rose from the bench and walked over to his desk where Merry was looking through old notes. "But now, it's finally finished," he sighed. "I spend most of my time with poetry now."
Angie and Pippin were seated on the bed with drawings and sketches scattered around them. They read the notes next to the various Samugs with interest, and Pippin pointed out his favorite - the one he had always imagined as a child when they played out in the green of the Shire.
"Now that you've finished that, Mr. Bilbo, you'll have to have a book of your poems," Sam said. "Including your songs, too."
"Maybe I shall," Bilbo said in thought.
"Have you had any inspiration lately?" Angie asked as Bilbo walked over to them. "To write?"
"Oh, I'm always writing, dear," he said, looking at a picture of Rivendell he had drawn long ago. "My mind has not paused in the longest time unless it is to comtemplate a rhyme or riddle." Bilbo sat his drawing of the Elf haven down and suddenly looked weary as he drifted toward the window, watching the rain fall.
"But I am slowing down ever more," he said sadly with regret. "I am still very witty, but things have not been coming as quickly as they used to. I feel dry and tired."
Frodo kept his eyes in the book as Sam and Angie exchanged glances with Merry and Pippin of concern. Bilbo was aging quickly now that the Ring was out of his posession as much as they did not want to admit, and they knew he felt hands on a clock spinning dreadfully faster everyday. The young hobbits only wished it were true for them as well; all the sooner to get back home and rid of this miserable Ring.
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