Only a Bit of a Song
. . .
Winter was beginning to make itself known with the turning of the seasons; the sun had become milder and lower with each passing day. This particular day's afternoon had warmed up nicely enough that many of the inhabitants were out wandering the gardens and paths, wanting to enjoy it as long as it lasted, knowing there were yet many grey days and colder hours ahead.
A tall man paused in one of the delicate archways for a long moment, scanning the paths and balconies about him with a smooth glance that missed no detail. All was still. He finally stepped out into the watery sunlight, smooth gravel crunching lightly under his boots.
Boromir was restless in this calm time, though resigned to the waiting as any man of military background so often had to be. Timing was always of import in any undertaking and he knew the scouting reports would be invaluable for their planning. Wait they must, and plan. Not that he was included in that planning often enough for his liking - being subordinate to the wishes of these mysterious Elven lords rankled him when he allowed it to, necessity or not. It was this rankling that had drawn him out in to the morning, a half-thought notion that he might find Aragorn somewhere about, or perhaps even Mithrandir. In this land of strangeness and strangers, he was naturally drawn to the at least passingly familiar face of the wizard, and to the only other Man who would be a part of their effort. Besides, they were also the only ones who had professed a familiarity with his own land; the hidden part of his heart that in the quiet of the evenings he would only briefly admit to himself found his homesickness alleved by that small thread of camaraderie, however tenuous.
He had already wandered the halls of the Last Homely House for a good hour or more after breaking his fast but he had yet to see anyone he felt he knew. Not a man to be easily discouraged, his feet led him on, then out into one of the lower gardens, knowing that those he sought were as at home outdoors as in. He hadn't gone far before coming to a bend in the path where he found before him the older Hobbit…what was his name… Bilbo.
Boromir found he still had a great curiosity about the Halflings and what they were like, especially the one in the rhyme that had come with that dream. That dream…. Ill-fated perhaps and still puzzling: why had such a small people been a part of an omen sent to the descendants of Númenor? Why not one of their own great Men of might?
It was an odd thing. He gave some consideration to what he had learned; that this Bilbo had been the one who had originally found that strange token, that perfect golden circle that he had so briefly seen at the Council in the hand of the old one's own nephew. He remembered the great respect the others had shown to this tiny person when he piped up about going forward on that quest himself and it piqued his interest, trying to imagine courage or strength in so small and frail a package.
Bilbo was alone, sitting on one of the sheltered benches in the wintering sun, writing.
After a moment's hesitation, Boromir decided he would take the opportunity to speak with this member of the Halfling race one on one, especially as he would soon be traveling with some of their kind. Aside from his mild curiosity about Bilbo's own past, it might be useful to know more about them in general, he rationalized. Besides, this particular one might have information about that token seeing as the others hadn't been too helpful.
That lack of helpfulness also rankled. He was not used to being put off.
He had attempted briefly to speak of it with the others, but the younger ones seemed unsure - though they would speak with him readily enough on other topics. He found them easily distracted and their talk of little interest. They didn't seem to know much that was of practical use, preferring instead to go off into light stories or jests. And that other one, Frodo, he who had been given the title of Ringbearer by the Elves, he and his servant were not inclined to share their conversings with him at all. He had no idea why, as it had always been easy to draw men to himself. Respect and liking were his for the taking without effort in his own land, why should it be so difficult here?
Even so, in spite of his trying to become more familiar with them, they had politely excused themselves when he had gently pressed the conversation towards that which they were all, himself included, expected to be risking their lives for. It made no sense. He was a master of tactical planning, a tried and true military strategist. A Man of Gondor, and the Steward's son besides. He had strength and expertise that he was sure they would have to be relying on. Why did he so often feel left out of what mattered the most?
All of this and more flickered through his mind and feelings in a mere moment. He strode forward in what he hoped was a friendly manner and bowed politely to the elderly Halfling on the bench.
Bilbo held up a finger. "Just a moment. Just a moment. I need to get this down." He scratched his pen across the paper, which Boromir could now see was nearly covered in fine, spidery writing all the way down and then turning to be written up along the margins.
"Almost….there!" He sat back and scrutinized the paper with doubt. "Well, it will have to do. I'll check the translation when I get back to my rooms, I'm sure that last bit is much too blunt. Now…"
The hobbit looked up at the man before him and seemed surprised, as if he had expected it to be someone else. "Oh I say! You're that fellow from the South, aren't you? My apologies to have kept you waiting, I'm sure." He blew on the ink and waved the paper to dry it before tucking it into the cover of his book. "There we go. Keeps things from blowing away, you know; I've had that happen before. So. What can I do for you?"
Boromir stood for a moment unsure, and feeling very, very tall. He finally hunkered down near the bench to bring their eye-level closer as he might with a child, though the eyes that met his were anything but childish.
"What was your name again?" asked Bilbo when the man didn't speak.
"Boromir," Boromir faltered, feeling unaccountably foolish. "Of Gondor. I was at the Council…"
"Interminable, wasn't it? Elves are marvelous story-tellers, but they do have little thought for the passage of time to us mere mortals. I nigh on perished for lack of supper. I say, you're one of the ones going along aren't you?"
"Yes, I am."
He lifted two fingers and considered them. "I wonder why they needed two Men. Only one Dwarf, one Elf. Two Men." He smiled and changed it to four. "But then again, it appears we have four Hobbits, and that's even more, eh? Who would've thought it? Quite unaccountable."
"Um, yes," Boromir replied, somewhat at a loss at this.
"The whole thing is something of a nuisance of course." The hobbit snorted lightly and seemed to turn his attention back to his book.
"You offered to go too," Boromir said tentatively, hoping to draw him out a little.
Bilbo's eyes went back to him in a snap, surprising him with their sharpness. "Of course I did! It's my fault it's all happening, you know."
Boromir took the plunge. "But you gave it to someone else… passed it on. Why did you? Wasn't it hard to give up such a treasure?"
Bilbo looked at him closely again. Boromir did his level best to seem charming and friendly, something he was very good at, and after a moment the old hobbit seemed to relax a bit. "We didn't know about that then. I mean, I knew it was a magical thing of some kind, but the world seems sprinkled all about with magical things. More than we realize." He paused and fiddled with his pen. "I still think it a bit odd, all this fuss over my old ring."
Boromir shifted his weight to keep his feet from falling asleep. "It has great power."
"I suppose, or they wouldn't say so. Always wise to listen when the likes of Master Elrond and Gandalf tell you a tale. They're more likely to be right than the average fellow and know far more about such things that I ever will…where did you say you were from again?"
"Gondor," said Boromir, assuming that would speak for itself.
The hobbit considered. "Is that a village or a farthing or a country?"
"A…a country… a kingdom," Boromir said, trying not to splutter.
Bilbo tilted his head at the man beside him. "Can't say I ever saw it. I do say, though, it is refreshing to know there are not only villages and paths in this land I haven't seen, there are apparently entire countries! I've read of some others, though most of them are in histories, quite dead and gone. The few I've seen were quite interesting, different and all the same at once, there's always trees, people, even gardens of some sort. Your Gondor sounds familiar, I've probably seen it on maps."
"You traveled…" started Boromir, trying to remember what had been mentioned at the Council.
Bilbo straightened up and seemed delighted at the attention, swinging his legs as he talked. "Myself? Oh, quite a lot! Especially for a hobbit, we are not the travelling type. Mostly to Erebor, the Lonely Mountain as some say. Mirkwood. Dwarves. Did you meet Glóin at the council? Fine fellow. Travelled with him years ago. His son is going along with all of you lot and my Frodo and his friends, isn't he? They're not such bad fellows as they sometimes seem to be once you get to know them. The dwarves I mean, not Frodo of course. Mirkwood's not too bad once you know it, certainly better than it was when we got lost there, years ago. I should hope you and your group won't be meeting up with giant spiders and such, like we did. Nasty business, that. Oh, of course you won't, you're going somewhere else, right? No spiders where you're going?"
He paused in swinging his legs over the edge of the bench and Boromir was unsure how to respond to this rather unusual small person. He wondered if they were all as chatty as this one was, and what it was going to be like with not one but four of them along on their journey.
"We're going south, and I'll be going down through the plains to my own homeland. I've been there before…"
Boromir smiled, though there was a touch of grimness to it at the memory of the orcs and other perils he had overcome on his way. "No, no spiders."
Bilbo suddenly began again, as if he hadn't stopped. "That's good. Take my advice and don't seek them out. Here I thought I had gotten around a bit, but you remind me how it seems there's a lot more to be seen still. I've been trying to write down only what I've seen, and it's taken years to do it properly. No wonder some of the ancient Epics are so brief, the details can take an entire afternoon, each. Hard to write down all the small things when one is running from assorted nastiness as they so often seem to be in the tales. Surprising, isn't it, that we find the sorrowful tales the best to listen to? I suppose if I ever get the chance, I might travel down your way and write something on that too. Didn't the Dunedain say something about his having been in your town before?"
Boromir sifted through this list of questions and was amused at the small sound of this label. "My town? Minas Tirith?"
"Yes, that was it. Minas Tirith. I picture it as a mountain-town, am I right? I can see I am. You know I've seen a fair number of towns. I've seen them on lakes and in forests and even a town right inside of a mountain; here we are in one that's down at the bottom of a valley right now, so it's no stretch of the imagination to picture one up along a mountainside. Must be charming, and with a fine view no doubt. I understand you Men like views. We hobbits prefer to keep a bit lower to the ground ourselves, my Hill back home was quite all the altitude I should want. I shouldn't care to be so far up every day, I don't think. But that's all well, isn't it? It's your home and you're proud of it, now don't say you aren't."
Boromir blinked. "I never did!"
Bilbo nodded. "There, see? That's the right attitude. Everyone should be proud of their own home, no matter how far flung or out-of-the-way it may be. Home is where the heart is and all that. The Dunedain has been all over Middle-earth, if his tales are anything to go by. Fine fellow, not many to be found like him, don't you think?"
Boromir shifted uncomfortably at this. He was still getting used to Aragorn and all that he represented. He turned the subject. "Minas Tirith is hardly 'far-flung' to my thinking, Master Hobbit. If anything I would think of Imladris, or your own land even further north as 'far-flung.'"
Bilbo pursed his lips to think on this for a moment. "No offence intended of course. I am sure it is quite at the crossroads of the beaten path. It just isn't along any of my own beaten paths, you understand? Of course you do. It's south, isn't it?"
Boromir blinked a little at this, then nodded in consideration of the hobbit's age and possible forgetfulness. "Yes, south of here. Minas Tirith."
"I haven't forgotten what it's called," Bilbo said a little peevishly. "Minas Tirith. That would be 'Tower of the Guard,' then. Is there an actual tower or is that poetic license on the part of the builders? And what are they guarding?"
"There is a tower," said Boromir. His thoughts went to that tower, to the many towers and ramparts of his brave city… "And the guards are brave and strong…"
"Is it along the Misty Mountains then, or beyond them?"
"Beyond them," said Boromir. "We are at the base of Mount Mindolluin, if that means anything to you."
"Hm," Bilbo seemed to be staring at a nearby plant with concentration. He furrowed his brow and then murmured
A tower tall, a city steep,
Brave men within a mountain keep,
Who…. hrm. Who….
I'll have to work on that one later," he said and absently reached down to scratch his foot.
"That's quite good," said Boromir, who had never been one to be able to write verses or songs. He left that sort of thing to his younger brother.
"Hardly," snorted Bilbo. "It's a mere snippet, and will need a lot of work to make it all come out as it ought. I'll see if Master Elrond has anything on your… Gandar…? Forgive me, I remember the town but not the country."
"Yes, that's it exactly. I'll have to write it down. He's got the most wonderful library, I'm sure he'll have something. Maps too. The world is such a big place, you know. Now if you'll excuse me, Mr. Borramur, you see I remembered your name, I promised my nephew I would meet him for a bit of talk this morning and I must be on my way. No offence intended, of course."
"Oh, of course. No offence at all. Here," Boromir decided to overlook the issue of his name and helpfully handed the book to the old hobbit as he slid down from the bench and gathered his shawl about him.
Bilbo took the book and gave him a small bow. "May all your travels be as enlightening as my own were. As Gandalf once told me, the world is quite a big place and I am only a very little fellow, after all. I think it's good advice, even for those who are not so small as myself. Don't you agree?"
"I suppose so…" Boromir said, not sure if he was being lectured in some way or not.
"I'll see if I can write up a little bit of a song for your Gondor, we wouldn't want it to be forgotten after all, and songs are so often remembered when everything else is gone. You'd be surprised. I'm sure the Dunedain will have much to tell me about it, he's mentioned it before. Good day."
He smiled at Boromir with a twinkle that made the man wonder if there were a jest in what had been said that he had missed, and then left the Man standing there in the garden.
. . .