3003, Third Age – Rivendell
Life had been good in the year and a bit since he'd come to Rivendell, Bilbo thought. He'd settled in well. He'd made a start on familiarising himself with the library. He'd met many of the Elves who lived here and had also started exploring the valley. He did miss the Shire and the company of hobbits, though not as much as he'd thought he might, and he had made sure that if there was any news from there he would hear it. Bilbo also missed his ring, which Master Elrond seemed to think was cause for concern and had told Gandalf about when the wizard came through Rivendell. The wizard had not said anything, but merely gave him a long and searching look. The hobbit did not mention it to either Elrond or Gandalf after that; he found that the feeling wore off the less he thought about it, even if the ring was still often on his mind.
Bilbo wondered when his friend Aragorn would return. It was by now almost a year since the Ranger had gone off to look for Gollum, and for a long time there had been no news of him at all. Bilbo would have been worried, except that no one else seemed to think that there was anything exceptional about the length of his absence. A month ago another Ranger had brought word to Master Elrond that Aragorn had returned from his journey, but would only come to visit Rivendell once he'd found Gandalf and spoken to him.
Gandalf had, of course, been the one who introduced them to each other. It had been not long after Bilbo's arrival in Rivendell, and with his usual penchant for mystery, the wizard had said no more to either Bilbo or the Dúnadan than that they shared an interest in Gollum, and that they ought to talk to each other. Bilbo had studied the stranger curiously, reckoning that even if Gandalf's surprises didn't always end in being dragged off on an unexpected journey into the Wild, they were usually not without interest. So it had proven indeed, especially when he realised that the other knew about his ring. Though Bilbo still didn't truly believe it was much more than a useful trinket, he knew Gandalf thought otherwise. It was obvious that for the wizard to have told this Man of the ring, Gandalf must put a lot of trust in him.
"What has you so pensive?"
Bilbo looked up in surprise.
"Dúnadan, you're back! Did you find Gollum?" Bilbo almost hoped not; he did not remember the creature with any fondness, but he knew both Gandalf and Elrond thought it important that he be found.
Well... that was certainly a clear answer, even if it was a bit more curt than he'd expected, Bilbo thought.
"I'm sorry, Bilbo. I'm weary, and it's been a long chase after nothing. The few trails I found led to dead ends, and I cannot now spend more time on this hunt. I will tell you about it though, once I've rested." Aragorn poured himself a glass of water from a jug on a nearby table and sat down with a sigh.
Bilbo rolled his eyes at the glare Lindir gave him as he walked by with his pipe and pouch of pipeweed in his hand. He knew most Elves didn't like it if he smoked indoors, and he was in fact on his way outside. All in all, his stay in the Last Homely House was more than pleasant; going into the gardens to smoke was no hardship, and no more than courtesy demanded from him as a guest in this place.
After walking around for a while, the hobbit headed for where he usually went to enjoy his pipe. He'd found a walled-off corner near the kitchen gardens; it had some benches and offered shelter against rain or summer heat. It would be nice just to sit outside for some time; no one would mind if he left his work on the tale of his journey for later. It was unlikely anyone would ever read the book anyway, he thought, a bit glumly. No, that wasn't true, he immediately corrected himself. There had been some people who had shown an interest, although they were mostly the ones who already knew the tale.
To Bilbo's surprise someone was already sitting on the bench he thought of as his. He wondered who it was until he realised it was Aragorn, smoking a pipe.
"I didn't know you smoked," Bilbo said.
"More than a few Rangers do," the Dúnadan replied.
"Really?" Bilbo asked. "I'm afraid I still know very little about the Rangers, other than that you are one, and that I saw some in Bree on my way here. The innkeeper warned me against them and said to be careful on the Road in case they took an interest in me."
"I'm sure he did. 'Them Rangers? No better than vagabonds or ruffians, always wandering about who knows why or where to'," Aragorn said, perfectly catching the slightly supercilious tone Butterbur had assumed.
Bilbo laughed at the imitation. "Exactly like that, yes." Then, as it struck him that it probably wasn't so funny for his friend to be talked about like that, he changed the subject to something he'd wanted to ask for a while now. "How did you end up in Rivendell? I know you are a friend of Gandalf's, but you seem to know your way around here very well."
A brief hesitation and a weighing look from those unnervingly keen eyes. "I was raised here."
"I didn't know Men live in the valley."
"But you just ... Oh, wait; you grew up here, but you were born somewhere else?" The other gave him a nod and a quick grin, but said nothing.
"Is it some great secret that you can't speak of?" Bilbo asked. While he was, of course, curious, and getting more and more intrigued by the hints Aragorn gave, he would not want him to break a confidence.
Aragorn at first remained silent, then seemed to reach a sudden decision, and turning slightly so he faced Bilbo, asked, "Tell me, what do you know of the end of the North Kingdom?"
The hobbit thought hard, trying to remember. "I know some archers from the Shire were sent to one of the battles at Norbury, and that the last King was shipwrecked in the Ice Bay way up north, but not much more than that, I'm afraid."
"Have you ever heard what happened to the King's heirs or his people?"
Bilbo shook his head. "Only that the first Thain was appointed to his position by the King's son."
At that, it was the Dúnadan's turn to look intrigued. "I didn't know that was remembered in the Shire."
"It's not something that's well-known, but I've been in the library at the Great Smials, and many old scrolls and books are kept there," Bilbo explained. He'd even seen the original parchment, which was kept under glass now as it was too old and fragile to be handled. Even so, though it was rarely shown to anyone, it was starting to fade into illegibility.
Aragorn nodded before continuing, "The last King's son did not try to re-establish Norbury, or Fornost as we call it, when he retook it from the Witch-King of Angmar. Instead, Aranarth decided to move those of his people who had survived the long years of the war to safer lands. Nor, with the loss of the last part of the kingdom did he claim the title of King at that time, but rather became Chieftain of the Dúnedain of the North. And because he was descended, through Elendil, High King of Arnor and Gondor, from Elros, King of Númenor, and brother of Elrond Half-Elven; and because of the friendship there had always been between Imladris and the North Kingdom, the Chieftain's son, and all his heirs after, have been fostered here."
The hobbit understood well what he had just been told, and though he had many questions he now wanted to ask, he didn't break the silence until Aragorn finished his pipe and made ready to stand up.
"Should I call you 'my lord'?" Bilbo asked, only half-joking.
"No. The only title I can lay claim to now is that of Lord of the Dúnedain, though perhaps the kingdom may yet be restored one day," the other responded, an oddly forlorn expression flitting across his face, before he walked off towards the house.
In his room, later that night, Bilbo sat staring at a blank sheet of paper. He'd had the idea to write a poem for his friend for a while now, and now he knew what it had to be; it should be something worthy of him, that spoke of hidden strength and high worth under a lowly-seeming appearance.
But how to begin... when he sat down he'd had the whole poem in his head, every word perfectly placed, yet now that he actually tried to start, nothing remained but a few paltry fragments. He sighed and put pen to paper. Nothing would get written if he didn't begin.
Not everything shiny is
... No, that wasn't right...
All gold does not shine
... No! Frustrated he crumpled up his first sheet of paper and started again.
Not all gold...
All that is gold shines not...
All that is gold glitters not...
All that is gold does not glitter
YES! That was it. Now for the rest...