In a lovely little hobbit hole on the hill, four people sat around a table having after dinner tea. Two of these people were very short and two of them were fairly tall. One of the short persons, who was short being a hobbit, was the owner of that particular hole, Bilbo Baggins. The other was his young nephew Frodo. Those two names would later become much more famous than there were at the moment of this visit, which took place long before the events which we all know. For this story Frodo was still quite inexperienced and never even thought of adventuring.
The older of the taller guest also was well known and would become even more so at the same time as the younger hobbit. This was of course Gandalf the gray. Though his adventures with the older Baggins had happened years and years ago, the two remained friends for all their days and he visited the old hobbit whenever the opportunity arose. Said opportunities were rarer than he'd wish, for he did like the quaintness of the hobbit hole and the company of its owner.
The fourth and final guest was one who was not and is not well known, as he did not and would not do anything so world changing as either hobbit or the older wizard at the table. I call Gandalf the older wizard because the fourth guest was a young wizard, of a sort. That being said, he was not as young as one might thing by looking at him. In fact he was only a few thousand years shy of Gandalf's own age, but that is a tale for another time. For now, know that his name is Vinn and he is having tea with hobbits. And one of them, the younger, has just asked him about his quite unique and remarkable staff.
The five true wizards, such as Gandalf, use their staffs to channel their magic, but few were as interesting as this. Some staffs, such as that of Saruman the white, are made to be ornate and evoke immediate notions of mystique and magic, and some such as Gandalf's have a much simpler appearance yet still evoke feelings of mystique and inquiry. The staff of the younger magician was similar to the latter, and resembled a simple tree branch. Yes, just a tree branch, but a tree branch in winter. For you see this staff had upon it, even though its owner had it leaning against the wall near the fire place where a fresh pot of tea was brewing, a sheen of ice coated its entire being. It glistened in the fire light, every now and then leaving a trail of frost in the air when a puff of air passed over it from the movement of the people in the room. This of course fascinated young Frodo and after a while his curiosity forced him to ask about its origin. Vinn laughed, picked up the icy staff, and held it in his hand, leaning it towards the young hobbit seated to his left.
"It seems you have a fan." He said to his staff, puzzling the lad. "here," he said addressing the hobbit this time, "touch it."
Frodo was hesitant. He had been warned against magic always by everyone, everyone that is save for Bilbo who was in fact quite fond of it, one of his dear friends being a wizard after all. But Frodo's Baggins hesitation was overridden by his Took curiosity and he assented. He slowly reached out his small hand and gingerly touched the icy surface of the staff. He felt its smooth surface for a few second before jerking it away violently.
"It-it" he didn't quite know how to say it, "your staff, it spoke to me, I think." Vinn laughed again.
"Winter does tend to do that from time to time, though it usually just likes to listen."
"But-but how can a staff speak? It is an absurd notion."
"I don't know," chimed in Gandalf, "I have heard of far more absurd things, and even spoken to some. My friend's staff is remarkable nevertheless. Would you be so kind to regal us with the tale Vinn? It should make the time pass most pleasantly."
"Yes," said Bilbo sipping his tea, "let us have a story."
Vinn nodded, and began his tale:
I displayed an aptitude for adventure an early age. When I reached adolescence I had gone as far as I could in my home town and yearned for more, to see all of Middle Earth that I could see. I yearned to taste real elven wine, see a true Dwarven smith; maybe even save the day once or twice weather permitting. So, I packed my bag, said my goodbyes, and set off to see what the world had in store for me. Would I become a great warrior? Maybe I'd become a bard and sing epic tales of epic people. I did not know, but I was itching to find out.
I traveled long and far, meeting many interesting people of each race. One day, a day like any other, for some reason I got the notion in my head that I wanted to meet a wizard. True wizards are few and far between, so I resolved to seek out one of the members of the Istari. The nearest was Gandalf who, at that time, was in a place that I could not reach without going over a vast mountain range. I did this foolishly in the dead of winter and on foot. I was very young and reckless, and I believed that that survival experience I had under my belt from a few years of adventuring would be enough to protect me. Oh, how wrong I was.
When I was nearly done climbing the first peak a blizzard began to brew. Ice filled the air and stung me with every gust. It got darker, windier, and colder with every passing step. I knew that if I did not find shelter that I would die and be left a frozen forgotten corpse.
I was despite for a sanctuary from the cold, but could find none. I had nearly give up hope, when a strong gust of wind knocked me from the cliff's ledge. I fell, and tumbled in the snow. I couldn't tell up from down, and suddenly I felt something give way, and I fell. I found a cave in the side of the mountain which looked like it had not been entered in some time. In fact, I believe that it had only then become exposed because the blizzard had dislodged its opening. It was here that I sought shelter, and it was here that I met Winter.
The cave sheltered me from the biter wind, but it was still deathly cold. It was filled with snow, and the floor had a sheen of ice upon it just as my staff does. But just as the cave was cold it was also beautiful. The icicles hanging from the cycling were as diamonds, the snow on the floor a pristine white carpet, and the icy walls glistening mirrors. And in one bank of snow I saw a branch sticking out, this staff.
I had no idea how a tree branch had gotten in a place like that, and I did not care. I was freezing. And I only wanted to break the wood into bits and use them to keep warm, if only for a while. I pulled it from the snow with this very intent, but just as I was about to bring it down over my knee…it spoke. Just as it did to you moments ago Mr. Baggins, Winter spoke to me. Not out loud, but in my head I heard it. Not with words but with emotion and intent. I felt it, I knew it, and could not harm it.
It felt so…lonely. It would not tell me the whole story then, but I could feel that it had been in that place for a very, very long time and had been very, very sad. It was like in a dream when you know something to be true, but you do not know how you know it. Winter does not like to speak of it, but I am not its first partner. That person had passed on long ago, and my friend had been morning them ever since in that cold and lonely cave. I felt this and I knew I could not harm it, even if that meant I would freeze. So I sat down in the snow, holding Winter close to me so that it could feel the warmth of a friend, if only for a short time.
I fell asleep like that, never expecting to wake. I slept and I dreamed a dream of gentle snow and moonlight. It was beautiful. And, to my surprise, I did awake. The odd thing was, I was not cold nor have I been ever since. Winter told me latter that it was because of my kindness, my refusal to harm it even to save myself, that it chose me. We became partners while I slept and I was saved. No wind however icy, no snow however harsh, nor any cold of any kind can harm me. I actually feel rather cool to the touch at all times, no matter the actually weather or condition. It comes quite in handy in the summer months.
I went into the mountains in search of great magic and I found it. Not only that, I found a friend. Winter is ancient and powerful, and to this day I do not know all of its past. I am not even sure it does itself. But during our time together it has shown me the secrets of the ice and snow, and I now have a great grasp of the more frosty aspects of magic. It's become sort of my theme. You should see me make ice sculptures for the solstice celebration, their quite impressive if I do say so myself and a riot at parties.
That was many, many years ago, and Winter and I have been together ever since. Gandalf uses his staff to channel his magical abilities. For Winter and I, it is the opposite. It uses me to channel it's abilities. We are a team. That is why, Mr. Baggins, that I keep my staff close at hand always while Gandalf puts his in your umbrella holder. It is a matter of courtesy. Winter likes to listen, so I try to get it a place at the table.