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The Way West


Rivendell

After the great doings in Minas Tirith, Aragorn's coronation and then his and Arwen's wedding, the journey north to Rivendell went in easy stages. Frodo was oddly glad to be travelling again, with his friends, and also with Elrond. There was no particular hurry, nor was there any need for secrecy or more than ordinary care on the road. They had tents, and outriders, and all manner of Elven comforts. Merry and Pippin were enjoying comparing how the various companies they had traveled with did things, adding the elegant efficiency of how Elrond's camp-steward kept everything going smoothly without any apparent effort to their comparisons. Of course, thousands of years of experience no doubt helped with that. Sam tended to gravitate to the kitchen-crew, where he was taking note of the clever gear and the even more interesting ways the food was packed and how it had been prepared for the journey. Frodo was content to ride, or walk, or occasionally have a seat in one of the wagons, letting the scenery pass by and enjoying the undemanding companionship of the Elves, most often Elrond.

He knew that every one of Elrond's household was a hero, that some of them had been fighting and guarding and holding fast in the lands East of the Sea since the First Age, but they were remarkably calm and quiet company.

Still, it was a great relief when they reached Rivendell. Private guest rooms. Baths. Roofs and windows and doors. A kind of stillness and quiet that Frodo had not been in a position to notice when he was here before. And of course, Bilbo.

Interestingly, while Bilbo looked even older than when they had left so many months ago, he was somehow more present, no longer seeming as if an errant breeze could pick him up and carry him off. Frodo still sometimes felt transparent himself, and to see Bilbo having regained a sturdier grip on the world was a gift unlooked for, and very welcome.

They stayed a little more than a fortnight, resting, talking, enjoying the warmth of the early autumn days and the cool evenings. Frodo spent quite a lot of time in the library, reading whatever his fancy chose.

When they left, Frodo had the oddest impression that while he would not see this Homely House again, he would see its like one day.

Making Lists

For all he had read and translated the old stories in Elrond's library, discussed, questioned, even argued over the various figures -- more than once brought up short by one or more of the members of the household having known the person, been present at the storied event, and having a very different take on things -- Bilbo had never imagined meeting the heroes of the First and Second Ages. The ones he had not already met, at any rate. He'd made lists of the songs he would like to hear properly sung, the stories that were only referenced but not written down, the tales that had to exist, but were not even referenced, but he'd not gotten so far as to imagine from whom he might hear those great and small works.

Elrond had taken note of those lists, and had most definitely taken thought as to who might be sources. When the end of the War of the Ring had been accomplished, and the inevitable journey West beckoned, as busy as he was, Elrond made sure to have Bilbo's notes and lists (and every one of his translations and poems and stories) packed up safely along with the part of the library he was not leaving for those staying. There would be those in the West whom he was certain would benefit from acquaintance with Bilbo's works, and hopefully with Bilbo himself. Indeed, he was quite looking forward to meeting a number of them on his own account.

Sailing

Bilbo had boarded the ship very frail and forgetful, though strong enough to cross the gangplank with no more assistance than the Dwarf-made walking stick that had been a gift sent from Erebor some years before. Gandalf (of course) had been right beside him. Elrond had walked with Frodo, neither looking back after making their farewells to the three remaining hobbits and the harbor-elves seeing them off. Elrond did look north for a long moment, and Frodo was quite sure than no one else heard him sigh before turning to the business of getting both Frodo and Bilbo comfortably settled. (Thinking about Maedhros, probably, since Maglor was with them.) They were under weigh before Frodo even properly noticed, which was just as well, really.

Bilbo did not notice at all, having nodded off in the sheltered corner arranged for them, but Frodo took longer to settle. He had never been on a ship before, and used the novelty of it to focus on the present. The sailor-elves were happy to explain things to him, and Frodo was quite pleased to discover that this ship and crew had made the crossing several times, and so knew what they were about. There was some question still as to whether this would be the final journey-over-sea for them or not, which Frodo understood to be a fraught subject, and did not press, though he would have liked more information about how they managed it, since all the stories said the journey went only one way, ever since the Drowning of Numenor. But story and practical matters were not always congruent, even when both were true.

As the voyage progressed, and the leagues fell away, Bilbo began to sleep less (and with apparently much more pleasant dreams than he had of late) and be more present when he was awake. None of the Elves seemed to sleep at all. Frodo himself did not notice any difference, but he was continuing to keep his attention outward, enjoying the moments as they came, and they did seem easier to enjoy. Of course, there was very little he was responsible for, and the crew as well as their friends were determined that they should be comfortable and entertained in as much as possible.

For Bilbo, that was no difficulty at all, for he had discovered the crew (who, of course, looked as ageless and unmarked by time as any Elf) were veterans of several Ages of the world, and had the stories to prove it. They, delighted to have such an appreciative audience, would sit at Bilbo's feet where he sat (well wrapped and cushioned) and regale him with song and story, riddle and jest. Frodo found he did not have the patience for tales of storm and sea-creatures, not while on the sea at any rate. But he had made the acquaintance of one of the crew who had also lost a finger, and was the principal rigger and line-keeper of the ship. After watching her lay and splice and knot ropes several days in a row, she offered to teach him how it was done.

Frodo thought fondly of Sam, and how he might not entirely approve of the sailing part, but he would certainly appreciate the rope and knots part.

Arrival

As it happened, neither Finrod nor Fingon were there to meet the Ringbearer's ship. (It was just as well, neither Bilbo nor Frodo were in particularly good trim after the voyage, but a quiet day or two in Celebrian's calm house settled them nicely.)

Galadriel's parents were, High King Arafinwe and Queen Earwen, Glorfindel's kin, and numerous others. There was quite the colorful and enthusiastic bustle on the quay. But Bilbo could see that the only one Elrond saw was the calm, silver-haired lady standing quietly in the midst of the crowd, a little island of calm that never-the-less sparkled like moonlight on a gently bubbling fountain pool. The Lady Celebrian, of course. There was no one else she could possibly be. There was a meeting of heroes if you like, and it made Bilbo's heart very glad to see them come together as two parts of a whole made one again.

Pengolodh

Elrond made sure that he was present for Bilbo’s first (and indeed subsequent ) meeting with Pengolodh . He had wanted himself to meet the historian, long before Bilbo (or even Hobbits as a people) came into his life, if only for an explanation of why he had chosen to depict certain events the way that he had, and most especially he wanted to know precisely who had written the description of the Fifth Battle, and Fingon's death. Bilbo, he knew, because they had discussed it, wanted answers to those questions as well. In some ways, Bilbo was even more exercised at the notion of a slanted -- deliberately slanted, not just the unavoidable narrative result of a limited point of view -- account. His memory would not hold the words he read or the tales he heard unaltered and able to be perfectly recalled. He could not effortlessly compare different tellings as he heard or read them. The book was the resource, and for that to be unreliable was downright offensive to him. (Bilbo also did not like to think of Elves being unfair or biased, even though he knew Elves were no more perfect in their thoughts and feelings, deeds and telling of those deeds than any Hobbit, Man or Dwarf.)

Still, Pengolodh.

The Princess Faniel

When Frodo and Bilbo were introduced to the Princess Faniel, Frodo was reminded somehow of Bell Gamgee, Esmeralda Brandybuck, even Lobelia, only a few of the mothers and grandmothers, aunts and sisters and daughters who had sturdily kept on keeping on, doing what they could to ease hardship and sooth hurts, standing up to Sharkey's Men in small (but so important) ways when they could not resist in large. He remembered the women of Minas Tirith, the wives of the tower guard, the shopkeepers and weavers and crafters picking up the pieces of their city and their lives. He imagined the ladies of Dale, the Dwarves of Erebor, the Elves of Rivendell and Lorien left to hold the hall, the house, forest-heart that there be a place for those who fought to return to. They were heroes too. A different kind of hero, but worthy of notice, respect, honor all the same.

When they met Nerdanel (who, having claimed Elrond and Celebrian as grandchildren upon meeting Celebrian shortly after she had arrived, was quite willing to claim the Hobbits as family, especially on discovering how very fond of Maglor they were, and he of them) Bilbo was seized with an idea for a poem. The first four lines came quickly, the rest took rather longer, but the best part was that it happened at all, for it had been some time since Bilbo had felt that upwelling of spontaneous verse, and everyone was glad to see it.

I tell now the tale of the tall ones, the stalwart
Who fought against foes, fell fire and fear
Seven strong sons, shining and steadfast
Of Nerdanel, ner-shaper, doughty and dear


Elsewhere, In Aman


News From Afar

Even the West had heard of the deeds of Master Bilbo Baggins of the Shire, of Erebor, and of Rivendell. Not that all the tales told were true, or flattering, or both or neither. (Bilbo himself would have been astonished were the situation otherwise, and said so, when eventually someone asked him what he thought.)

There had been those who traveled from Middle Earth to Aman, Sailing West from the Havens, throughout the Third Age. Those who went from Rivendell (or by way of, as did most of the -- relatively small number to start, but increasing as the Age progressed -- Woodland Elves, and nearly all from Lothlorien) usually stopped for a while, enjoying Elrond's hospitality, and collecting news and letters and sometimes crates and companions. After the 'Affair of the Dragon', as many called it, news of the Battle of Five Armies, the re-establishment of Erebor and Dale, the demise of the Dragon and the various involvements of Elves and Men, Dwarves, and one "Hobbit" were certainly conveyed West.

Some in the West were very eager to hear such news.

Finrod Felagund, Dwarf-Friend, discoverer-of-Men (one discoverer at any rate), eager student of new peoples, new places, things interesting and decorative and thought-provoking, (Truly one of his names should have been The Inveterately Curious), was most definitely among that company.

Somewhat later, though but a short span as the elves reckon time (it was less than a yen, hardly an eye-blink in the West, though those who had lived in Ennor, Middle-Earth, were not quite so unaware of what could happen in a season, a month, a day) more news made its way West. Sauron was defeated finally and decisively, largely at the hand of another of the "Hobbits", and indeed several of them had been involved in the great doings that had culminated in that momentous event. But no word was yet known of any details, nor when more might arrive. Various persons, Finrod among them, waited only a little impatiently for more news.

In the event, the ships that had sailed with the Ringbearers arrived, not at the great harbor of Alqualonde, where many of the ships put in, but at Avallone on Tol Eressea, to little fanfare.

Finrod

Finrod was away down in the South, looking at caverns on the seaward side of the Pelori. But he had people in Alqualonde and Avallone who would let him know of any ships arriving from the East, and most particularly were they asked to send if there was news of his sister. Any Exile returning was of interest, but this one had caused several of his friends to send all at once.

The bird and the breeze arrived first, and at the same time, both chattering away at speed, and it took Finrod a moment to understand that they were in fact speaking to him, much less what it was they were saying.

"Ship! Wind-in-sails! Come come come, flying in, arriving! Gold hair in the breeze, niphredil, elanor, mallorn-scent, tree-light! Mighty ones! Small ones! Star-son and Fire-Gold-Singer!"

"What?" Finrod withdrew his thought from the interestingly striated stone, that could easily have caverns in it, though much deeper than the surface would indicate, and put out a hand for the bird that was fluttering in his face. The breeze was tugging at his tunics and the ends of his braids. "Say again?"

The water-borne message came a little later, but with much more information.

His sister was on the approaching ship, finally, after nearly seven thousand coronar of the Sun had passed since the Exile was pronounced. Olorin and Aiwendil (though there was some confusion about that -- quite how many Maiar were on board was not clear, even to the wave-sprite), and no word of the other three sent with them and Glorfindel. Glorfindel himself, who Finrod would be very glad to see. Elrond Earendilion (and, to hear Celebrian speak of it, a son to Maglor and Maedhros as well, which Finrod would very much like to know more of, from the principals and not just rumor and song and Pengolodh's somewhat ... limited ... account) but not his children, though the sons might sail anon. Maglor was there by leave of the Valar even as Galadriel was (so, indeed he might get that account of Elrond and Elros' adoption from two of the principals). And more remarkable than even the last of the Feanorions to leave Ennor (by whatever method), there were Mortals aboard, very small, hairy-footed, curly-headed Mortals of some relation to the Edain, though quite what that relation might be was unclear. They had played heroic, essential parts in the late War, apparently, and the same Song that gave Galadriel and Maglor leave to take the Straight Road, invited them as well. Oh, and there were horses and other people Finrod might or might not know, and a great many books. The wave-sprite was a little puzzled by the fact that apparently Elrond had brought his library with him. Finrod was not at all surprised, being very fond of his niece and happy to listen to her speak of her family and home-that-was (not to mention the home-to-be once Elrond arrived. That Finrod would most definitely have a part in building.)

Well. That was a great deal of news indeed. Finrod thanked the wave-sprite, who dashed back down the stream to the Sea, splashing merrily, and sat down on the bank to think.

Of course he was going to Avallone, where Celebrian lived, and Finrod understood the ship to be making landfall. That only made sense, whatever people might assume: Galadriel would want to see her daughter, reunite Elrond with his wife, and no matter what her feelings about Maglor, she would not subject him to Alqualonde, first thing, nor Alqualonde to him. Though things were much better in that regard now. There had been time for healing, repair, restitution by those Returned.

But he would not be there when the ship came in. Not even did one of Manwe's Eagles deign to fly him there, for it must have already come to shore. But there was no point in tarrying. Amarie knew to expect him when she saw him, and would be glad to meet him in Avallone, and he did not imagine that anyone he particularly wanted to see would be going further than Tirion before he could get there. They were in Aman now, no longer sundered by the Sea.

Of course, if he were to make proper acquaintance of the small mortals, which he most certainly did, it would not do to dally.

Fingon

Fingon was away up North, where he had built himself a tower-keep which bore no resemblance to Barad Eithel, or Himring, or any of the other defensive structures of which Beleriand had many, and yet too few, and yet was entirely Noldor-exilic from foundation to the highest turret. Some people considered that he had chosen to build unreasonably far North, unreasonably (uncomfortably) too near where Formenos once had stood. (Where Nerdanel's Cír Formenos did stand.) Is it not dark? they said. Is it not cold? Fingon would reply that the Sun shone on all the world impartially, that the North was no darker than Tirion. He did not tell his critics that the distance, the coolth, the dissimilarity to Tirion were positives, not drawbacks. And if it took long for news to reach him, well, they had time, did they not? (And did the Ainur have anything to say to him, well, they knew where he was, and could come to him. Not that he expected any such visit.)

"Have you heard? Two of the Istari are returned! And they have brought with them any number of people quite unlooked for! Including, most astonishing, two 'Periannath' who are granted leave to come by who knows what means or intercession, for they are most assuredly Mortal! Can you imagine!" And not only that, but it seems the Exile is entirely revoked, and the Princess Artanis Nerwen is among the company, and -- but I am sure this is but a tale, it *cannot* be true, even if the Mortals are (and that I heard from unimpeachable sources, more than one) -- but it is said that Kanafinwe Makalaure was on that ship! I trust he was in chains if it is true! They say, and I can hardly countenance ..."

At that point the animated elf lowered his voice, or the errant breeze that was carrying the conversation shifted, so Fingon was not made privy to whatever it was that people might 'say' about Maglor. He had heard a great deal of people's opinions of Feanorians in general, and Maglor and Maedhros in specific. Very little of it was anything he wanted to hear. What he wanted was to hear from Maglor himself what had happened.

And, if there were small (what else could 'peri' mean, in context?) mortals arrived on the shores of Aman (or Tol Eressea, which had partaken of both Aman and Ennor, before the seas were bent and the World made round, but now was almost entirely of Aman) then Finrod would most surely be making his way thither. Fingon discovered he would quite like to meet them as well. He was very tired of hearing his own story filtered through time and distance and other people's words and opinions. He could only imagine what Galadriel or Maglor would think of how the tales had grown and changed in the intervening ages.

Tomorrow should be soon enough to think of how to arrange meeting them. The journey was not short, even from this market-town (well south of his tower, to be sure, but still significantly north of Tirion) to the shore, but there was no point in rushing either. And with a little luck, or planning, he could avoid Alqualonde. More information was needed, before anything else.

And if he was going South, then it behooved him to plan to visit his parents, and he could take his notes and the news (such as it was) from the North to the court and the Halls of Learning himself, rather than send it by someone traveling south from the market, as was his usual habit. He might actually want the tent and small camping setup he had been looking at, before he was distracted by the gossiping, opinionated Elf.

Very briefly, Fingon thought of thanking the fellow, but he dismissed the idea as being of far more effort than worth. Especially if they recognized him.


Many Meetings


Dwarf-Friends

"Master Bilbo, a letter for you!" Teithar enjoyed managing the household messages, particularly Bilbo's correspondence, though at present the task was far smaller than it had been in Rivendell. He had every expectation that it would soon regain volume and interest, and once they had properly established New Rivendell, it would only grow the greater, and he would be delightfully busy. Ceremoniously, he handed the intricately folded leaf-green paper inscribed in sun-yellow ink to Bilbo. There was no obvious sender indicated, except for the color-scheme and the handwriting, but that was part of what made the task a challenge and delight. And here in Aman, there was time for proper calligraphy and and paper arts. And Bilbo always enjoyed getting letters. "From Lord Finrod, I believe."

Finrod! Bilbo felt his heart speed a little, his breath catch. He was suddenly glad they had had a little time to settle in, adjust to the wonders and strangenesses of this peculiar land a little. Finrod! A legend among legends, a hero of so many tales.

(He was very glad he no longer felt like butter scraped over too much bread, but more like a nice sound loaf, perhaps not quite fresh out of the oven, but near enough. It stretched the metaphor somewhat, but he rather thought it was allowed, under the circumstances.)

And it was a delightfully Elvish sort of calling-card/letter/notice of arrival too. Carefully, he untucked the fold at the center of the flower, and the petals fanned open, leaving the outer salutation visible, and revealing the inner message.

To Master Bilbo Baggins, Elf-Friend, Dwarf-Friend, Confounder of Dragons and most Excellent of that race I am told are Named Hobbits in your own Tongue, once of Ennor, now resident on these Shores of Aman in the House of Celebrian ~ Greetings from one known as Felak-Gundu, and a friend to Dwarves.

There. Formalities accomplished. I would be delighted to make your acquaintance, and have been told by sundry persons -- including my sister, whom you know -- that you have some interest in hearing the songs and stories of the First Age in full, and from those who were part of them. I will be pleased to give you my perspective (in prose or verse, as you like) on those events.

I in turn would like to hear your own stories, riddles (some inkling of your Adventure has made it to these lands already), verse and observations, in whatever manner you choose. I am to be found resident at Laicaronda, where I would be happy to receive a message or yourself, or we may meet wherever you please.

With the greatest esteem and anticipated pleasure,

Finrod Felagund

Under one of the folds was a line of Cirth, perfectly readable though in a very ancient mode, "As one Dwarf-Friend to another, let us speak of our friends together, taking joy in their memories."

"Gracious me!" said Bilbo to himself, "He writes as though I am as much a hero as he is himself. But I shall most certainly take him up on the invitation! I shall write directly. That nice grove we had the picnic in last week will do nicely, I think, for a first meeting."

And so it was that on the very next day, Bilbo dressed in his finest waistcoat (a lovely red silk woven in a subtle pattern of dragons and mountains, given him by Elwing, and an astonishment of its own), quite sturdy and sure in his progress, and met with Finrod Felagund in Avallone by the Sea, where they instantly became great friends, trading tales of Dwarves and adventures, comparing original and translated verse, happily one-upping each other with riddles, and generally enjoying each other's company immensely.

Absolutely no one was surprised; Elrond was very pleased indeed.


Finrod and Bilbo


Valor

If Bilbo rejoiced in the energetic and wide-ranging company of Finrod, Frodo found surprising comfort in Fingon’s somehow less demanding presence. It was not that Fingon was any less brilliant (in a way that glimmered in the mind’s eye rather than the body’s, more Moon than Sun, more breeze than whirlwind -- Aredhel was the whirlwind, apparent to one on first encounter), but there was a patience, a quiet restfullness, a quality of listening and of stillness to him that soothed rather than excited. Not that Fingon lacked energy, or interest, or invention — far from it! But then, neither did Frodo, now that he had become accustomed to the rarified and invigorating air of Valinor. And it certainly was not the case that he in any way disliked or was uncomfortable with Finrod, just, he was more comfortable with Fingon.

Frodo of course knew the great tales of Fingon the Valiant, and a few glimpses of the person behind/within the Hero -- there had been a book in Elrond's library, one of the very oldest, with a lovely inscription on the front flyleaf, and a set of astonishing scribbles on the once-blank end pages, snippets and lines written in at least three hands, only one of them quite sure of itself. Simple sentences, lists of names, alternating questions and answers. The book itself had something to do with properties of materials, a reference, though of things Frodo did not recognize more than one in seven. It had taken Frodo much longer than he thought it should have to realize that the pages at the back were the reason Elrond had put it in his way. The sure hand was Fingon's writing-hand, the somewhat less sure his [gripping] hand, and the initially nigh illegible hand, growing more sure over time was Maedhros learning to write with his remaining, non-dominant hand.

Frodo had not added his own efforts to those ancient, carefully kept pages, but he had used their example to teach himself to write again, answering the same questions, practicing the letters. He learned a surprising number of Quenya words not found in the history books, and it stuck in his head that Fingon was fond of a four-petalled golden flower he called Laurehúmella, but was not fond of rose-hip tea, or indeed, rose water.

Fingon's arrival in Avallone-by-the-Sea was quite a contrast to Finrod's. He came alone, riding a fine and even-tempered mare, with no fanfare at all. There were gold beads tipping his braids, but the ribbons were absent. Celebrian welcomed him warmly, as did Elrond. Frodo, watching them both, could see Elrond's healer's instincts engage almost instantly, and was unaccountably relieved to discover that Fingon would be staying with them for a time.

It seemed that Fingon felt some kinship with Frodo as well, and over the course of that winter -- for after the Autumn balance, he was persuaded to stay until the Spring, very welcome, his company entirely wanted, no obligation whatsoever, said often enough and variously enough that he finally believed it -- they became fast friends, confiding in each other things they could not speak to others.

Just before Fingon left to travel North again, now much lighter of heart and with a much easier line to his shoulders and spine, he sat with Frodo in the corner of Celebrian's seaward garden, among the rockflowers and fragrant mosses, under the tenacious, windblown pines, looking out at the light glittering on the sea.

"Thank you," Frodo said, after a long moment, "for what you wrote in that book." Fingon raised an eyebrow inquiringly. "The blank pages at the end, writing exercises." Frodo spread his hands wide on his knees, the empty place where the one finger had been obvious. "They helped."

"I am glad," Fingon said gravely, reaching out. "May I?"

Frodo nodded, and Fingon took his hand between his own, humming a low note. There was a tingle and a warmth, and the tiniest twist of something sharp let go. His hand looked no different when Fingon laid it gently back on his knee, but it was, somehow, easier. "One does what one can with what one has. Thank you, for reminding me of what true valor is. The going on anyway."

They did not speak of those things again. They did not need to. Instead they talked of Sam, and his stubborn kindness, and all manner of other things until it was time for Fingon to take his leave from that house.

Sky-Sailor

Earendil, who knew more about the deeds, doings and general goings-on of both Middle-Earth and Aman than Bilbo had ever imagined -- as observed from the deck of Vingilot, in the light of the Silmaril with which he sailed the skies -- was delighted to meet both Hobbits, clapping them on the back in a fashion more mannish than elvish, grinning widely.

"So," he said, seated comfortably in the Hall of Fire in New Imladris, "sing me this 'Earendil was a Mariner' song I'm told so much about. I'd like to hear it properly."

Bilbo blushed, and gamely stood up to sing.


Cîr Imladris


Comfortably Ensconced

After Bilbo had been in Aman for some time, and met many of the people he had long been curious about, he realized that his idea of 'hero' had been broadened substantially. Just for one (entirely not random) example, He had not realized quite what a remarkable feat Elrond's library had been (and was still, really, as it had come to Aman as well). There were books written in the First Age, every volume, scroll, tablet, birch bark slips, and less common things, from widely disparate locations, in more languages and scripts than a sensible person could wrap their tongue around. There were books that had crossed the Helcaraxe, that had come from the days before the moon or sun had risen. Maedhros would be a hero to Bilbo for that alone. For saving all the books and knowledge that he gave Elrond, sent to Balar before the War of Wrath had even quite begun.

He had hoped to meet Maedhros, but alas, he had not yet been Returned from the Halls. Interestingly, most of his brothers had been, and Maglor had not been refused return, but quite gladly welcomed, at least by some people, so, despite what certain tales said, they were not all condemned to languish until the Dagor Dagorath, (and certainly they were not out in the Void - horrid thought.) And that just meant he would have to wait. Which was not a hardship, certainly.

And now that he had thought of it, there was no reason he could not find out how Maglor was doing. He would write him, and the Lady Nerdanel as well. After all, she had a family quite as large as a Hobbit family, if rather more spread out than was typical for the Shire. That was more than heroic, given the usual size of Elven families. Though given how few of them she currently had available to her, that might be a sore subject. But there were plenty of other things they might talk about! He would write them both, and see what they had to say.

My dear Maglor,

I hope this finds you in good spirits, and better trim than when last I saw you. I have been enjoying Celebrian's hospitality (And Elrond's, of course) and find myself in rapidly improving health myself. Something about the air no doubt.

Elrond and Celebrian are building a New Rivendell (they are already calling it Cîr Imladris). It is to the North, not far from your New Formenos. Of course, you may already know of it. I expect you do.

Frodo tells me that our own small dwelling, modelled after Bag End of course, though with rather taller ceilings in the main rooms -- some of you are very tall indeed, and it would not do to have you knocking your heads on the doorframes and roof-beams! That would hardly be polite, nor encouraging to visitors -- is ready for occupancy, if not precisely finished, so I shall be travelling up soon.

I would be most delighted if you, and your most excellent Mother, would come to see our new home. You are welcome any time. Tea is generally at four, but until I get there, I cannot say for sure how the arrangements will go.

Bilbo

P.S. Your brothers are welcome too of course, any anyone else of the family who might happen to be there. Please do come. I have a new riddle for you.

P.P.S. You may discover Finrod here when you come. He, as you may recall, is likely to appear much like Gandalf, whenever he pleases, and nearly always to the delight of those present. These days at least! He has new riddles too.

New Growth

Frodo quickly became fond of walking -- wandering really -- in the countryside near Cîr Imladris, especially while it was still being built. (Of course, in some ways it would be 'being built' for far longer than Frodo or Bilbo could possibly be alive, even here in Valinor, what he meant was built to the point that people could live there.) The initial work of Singing the foundations in place had been fascinating, Finrod and Turgon, Fingon and Nerdanel and numerous others singing and shaping together. Seeing the start of the way Elves actually built a structure was interesting, but there was little he or Bilbo could do to assist, so once their own snug dwelling had been delved and finished to a livable state -- very like a Hobbit hole, and Finrod had been more than delighted to take charge of the project, Bilbo advising, by letter and occasionally in person, every step of the way -- Frodo had taken to exploring the nearby meadows and woods. Sometimes people went with him, but often he went by himself. Sometimes he was out for several days at a stretch, sleeping under the stars. It was summer, and there was nothing that would harm him, beyond the minor hazards of rabbit-holes or slippery stream-banks, and those could be avoided by paying attention. This time he had taken supplies for a week, and was vaguely aiming to see if the spike of rock visible through the gap in the hills was the tower it looked like, or an interesting natural feature.

He was approaching the second range of hills, the tower-spike hidden from view by the nearness of them, the occasional tree beginning to grow closer together until they merged into a leafy canopy at the base of the hills, when he came upon the first other person he had seen for several days.

A silver-haired elf in clearly intentional forest-grassland colored cloths of practical cut was tucked behind a tussock that was surely too small to hide him, but seemed to Frodo to be doing the job anyway. He padded up as quietly and unobtrusively as he could, enjoying the exercise far more than he would have thought he would -- after all, the last time he had be intentionally this quiet and careful the stakes had been unthinkably high, and here there were no stakes at all -- and grinned at the nod of respect he received on reaching the tiny hollow behind the screen of grass. There was more grass than it looked like from where he had first seen it, but not a great deal more. He tucked himself down beside the elf's shoulder. Not someone he knew, or recognized from what he could see, but that did not matter in the least.

"What are we looking at?" Frodo asked, barely a breath of sound.

"There," a small motion of chin and ears, and Frodo followed the direction the elf was looking. "Edge of that elder-clump." The elf's voice was low and smooth, hardly more audible than the breeze, but still quite clear to Frodo's ears.

Frodo looked. There was a white-spotted fawn curled in the grass, the leaf-shadow in the breeze making it blend into the landscape very effectively. It was beautiful in a very uncomplicated way.

"If we stay very still, we should see the doe presently. And the fawn's twin." There was the faintest lilt of familiarity to the elf's accent, though Frodo was sure he had never before seen this particular elf. Not that it mattered. Frodo crouched down in the hollow, and they watched companionably from behind the screen of grass, as the breeze danced among the small flowers dotting the slope, and rustled the thin branches of the elder clumps, the leaves of the taller trees at the edge of the more densely wooded valley.

Presently the doe stepped delicately from the wood behind where the fawn was curled, a second fawn following. Frodo held his breath. The elf beside him was utterly still, like he was part of the ground, his hair a silvered patch of grass. Frodo knew that if he had come upon the scene at this point, he would never have seen the elf at all. Hobbits could hide in plain sight, and Frodo had had more practice than many, but this was extraordinary.

The doe nosed gently at the fawn on the ground, who was clearly very glad to see them. With an endearingly awkward scramble, the fawn stood up, and both fawns gamboled about for a bit as the doe looked on. If deer could smile, Frodo rather thought she would have been. He could not tell if she knew they were there or not. Certainly if she did, she was not worried about them.

After a time, the doe made some signal to the playing fawns, and they came to her, tucking themselves close, and the little family vanished back into the woods. Frodo let out a long, quiet breath, and sat up, brushing idly at the grass-stems and tiny petals that had stuck to his waistcoat. "Thank you. That was lovely."

"Quite welcome," the elf rolled over onto his back, silver plaits fanning about his head. There were flowers and bits of grass and greenery all over the front of his tunic, even in his braids, but it all looked entirely natural on him. Rather more astonishing was the fact that he had answered in perfectly understandable Westron, though Frodo had been speaking in Quenya. A broad and mischievous grin answered Frodo's surprise.

There was of course no reason Westron would not be known to any particular elf, especially given the number of Elves who had Sailed over the course of the Third Age, especially as the years wore on, but equally, no reason any particular elf would speak it, especially when the conversation had begun in Quenya, and the elf in question had eyes gleaming with the particularly light that Frodo had quickly understood was Treelight. Now it occurred to Frodo to wonder who it was he had encountered in this fairly out of the way place. And that thought reminded him --

"Oh!, where are my manners I shouldn't assume you know who I am just because there are only two of us Hobbits, Periannath, and most people do seem to know who both of us are. Frodo Baggins, also called [Elf-Friend] and various other names, once of the Shire, in Eriador, at your service!"

The mischievous smile was broadening to a positive grin of delight as the elf sat up, "Finrod's Hobbit! Or," he looked searchingly at Frodo, reminding him forcibly of Aunt Menegilda surveying the Brandybuck Hall youngsters for signs of guilt or tomfoolery, only without the attendant threat of chastisement, "are you Fingon's Hobbit instead? Neither of them got so far as names that I heard. Delighted to make your acquaintance! Turkafinwe Tyelcormo Nerdanelion Feanorion, called Celegorm." He tilted his head in a formal motion of respect and acknowledgement.

Fingon's Hobbit? Not how Frodo would have thought to be categorized -- Olorin's Periannath, or Lord Elrond's guests (Lady Celebrian's guests nearly as often), or occasionally (and not meant to be heard) 'those odd creatures from over the sea, quite the oddest passengers on a ship full of oddities and amazements' perhaps, but not as Fingon's. Though, really, it wasn't an inaccurate description, merely unexpected. And the name: Celegorm. He really ought to know who this was, but the knowledge was refusing to come to mind.

When Frodo did not reply, he went on, "Or Maglor's, though he considers both of you his, or he yours." Abruptly, he was serious, kneeling back on his heels, taking Frodo's hands in his, "Thank you. Thank you for bringing him back to us. Thank you for being his friend. Thank you," here he pressed his forehead into Frodo's hands in another surprisingly archaic gesture, "for seeing to the destruction of the Enemy's chief-most minion and the ill-wrought perversion of my nephew's Art. I, we, owe you a debt which cannot be paid."

Oh. That's who this was. Maglor's brother, the hunter. Aredhel's friend. *Huan's* friend. A hero in his own right, by Frodo's reckoning, even with the nasty parts at the end. For which he must have done penance and been forgiven, or he would not now be here. "There is no debt," Frodo said, firmly, urging Celegorm's head up so he could look him in the eye, "But I will be happy to be your friend."

Celegorm's smile was not so much like sunrise as like a fire catching light. "Thank you again, then. But if there is anything at all we can do for you, know you have our hands and hearts and skills as yours."

Frodo would never be entirely used to the depth of feeling (especially the feeling of obligation) he apparently inspired in people. He felt he'd gotten off lightly here. Not everyone would take his absolution from debt so straightforwardly. But then, Celegorm was accounted the most straightforward of the Feanorions.

Celegorm glanced around the quiet meadow. "What are you doing here? Particularly, not generally, though I would like to hear your version of the story of how you came to Aman, if only to compare it to my brother's version," he asked, letting go of Frodo's hands.

Frodo told him about the construction project, and his curiosity about the rock-spire/tower, whereupon Celegorm instantly invited him to come see it properly, for it was in fact both, a rock spire in which a tower had been built, part of what was fast becoming Cîr Formenos, as people slowly Returned from Mandos. Frodo was happy to accept.

Celegorm stood up and shook himself rather like a dog, and the bits of greenery obligingly flew off him, and the bits on Frodo flew off too, seemingly in sympathy. Much more surprising, as if that had been a signal, a giant hound bounded up from behind Frodo, and proceeded to knock Celegorm right back down on the grass and vigorously wash his face with his tongue. Belatedly, Frodo recognized Huan.

Well, that was all right then. More than all right.

Maedhros

Both Frodo and Bilbo were there, when Fingon and Finrod brought Maedhros from the Gate of Awakening to the greeter's hall in Lorien, and thence to New Imladris, where Nerdanel, Maglor, Celegorm and both Ambarussa were waiting for him also. Caranthir was on his way.

Maedhros looked at them, small, stout, undoubtably Mannish, yet equally undoubtably touched by other things as well. Even in Mandos, there had been news of the Ringbearers. And it was further obvious that Finrod and Fingon both respected them and genuinely enjoyed their company, and that friendship was enthusiastically returned.

It dawned on Maedhros that they were very likely to extend that friendship to him, and oddly, pleasantly, he could look forward to that, just as he could look forward to reforging relationships with his brothers, his mother, Elrond, so many others, and this unlikely quartet of his loved-and-beloved, his golden and irrepressible cousin, and two hobbits would be there with and for him, cheering him on.