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4
Surprise

Surprise

He sat across from Lord Elrond in the library of Rivendell, scrolls of prophecy laid out between them, sipping from a goblet of wine. Gandalf felt frustrated, for even with the aid of Lord Glorfindel they’d not found any hint of where the other children of the Hope might be born, what guidance they might need.

Glorfindel had risen not long before, shaking his head. “I know not why this concerns you so strongly,” he had said. “When it is time, you may be certain that they will be revealed. It appears you have more faith in your own strength of wisdom than in that of the Creator. I will go out and rejoice in Varda’s stars.”

After the leaving of the golden-haired warrior, Wizard and Lord of Imladris had sat looking at one another. Elrond sighed and leaned back in his chair, rubbing at his chin. “He is right, Gandalf,” he said.

“Perhaps,” Gandalf answered grudgingly. “Certainly I’ve found no hint of them in my travels.”

“Where all have you sought? It is long since you were here in Imladris.”

“I come last from Far Harad.”

“Do you truly think that they might be born in lands under the rule of Sauron himself?”

“Do you think he will look too closely at those in those lands he feels he controls, Elrond? Yet, I do not truly think they would be born there, either. However, sometimes a thing is best hidden in what one might think is in plain sight. And there are pockets where Sauron does not hold sway, where the old ways hold. He does not admit this, but Sauron is not as all powerful as he would have us believe.”

Elrond leaned forward to take up his goblet, drank deeply, set it down again with a decisive click. “We are obviously going to have to wait for the time set by the Creator Himself. Iluvatar will see the need met when the time is right--we know this.”

The Wizard nodded, and drained his own cup, then turned the goblet between his fingers. “It does appear that we will learn what must be in the appointed time.” He sighed and set his own goblet down between that of Elrond and the one left by Glorfindel. He looked up with a resigned expression into the Elven Lord’s face. “Yet I do not believe all my journeying has been in vain. I have seen that the support for Sauron’s aims is not universal, and that even such support as he will receive will be far more questionable than he thinks. Even if he is unaware of it, Aragorn has left questions in the minds of many as to the rightness of the claims of Sauron, and an example of decency that the Enemy may well rue.”

Elrond straightened. “Will you stay long?”

Gandalf shook his head. “No, I think I will leave tomorrow. I have a mind to take some rest in the Shire.”

“You visit Master Bilbo?”

“Yes, for it is several years since I last saw him. The last time I was able to visit the Shire he was not there at Bag End--was visiting his younger cousins in Buckland.”

Elrond gave a short laugh. “Yes, he seems to be much taken with the one named Frodo. I’m not certain why he never married, for his caring for his younger cousins is certainly exemplary. He’d have made an excellent father. Well, as you go there already, I will send some books to him by you. He’s seeking to study Quenya more deeply.”

Gandalf shook his head, smiling. “Never underestimate the curiosity of Hobbits, Elrond. I’ll take them gladly.”

By the time he reached the Brandywine Bridge, Gandalf was regretting the offer to bring the books, for they weighed down the satchel he carried over his shoulder. As one of the Borderers who watched at the Bridge admitted he’d come from Brandy Hall that morning, and that Master Bilbo had not been there when he left and had no plans to come to visit that he knew of, it appeared Gandalf would indeed find him in Hobbiton. Sighing, he changed shoulders with his satchel, made certain his hat was well seated, and headed West.

A day later he walked up the lane to Bag End, and decided to enter via the garden gate. It was restful, Bilbo’s garden--the flowers, the green hedges, the lilac bushes with their heart-shaped leaves. He smiled as he breathed in the scents of growing things.

From the study window he could hear the soft sound of voices, then cries of astonishment. A small face peered at him from the casement, then pulled back with cries of fear. A second face, a familiar one this time, looked out, and he heard Bilbo call out in gladness, heard his voice as he disappeared back into the hole, heading for the front door. Smiling, the Wizard himself headed that way. So, Bilbo is entertaining young Hobbits, is he? Well, it will be refreshing and amusing to add to the entertainment, he thought.

Then he was being brought in and drawn down the corridor to the study. “You are in good time,” Bilbo was saying. “I have a surprise for you.”

“Are you indeed teaching some of your younger cousins?”

“Oh, indeed! But, you will see in a moment....”

And then he entered the study and saw the two Hobbit lads facing him, one almost an adult and the other yet a child, both faces somewhat alarmed, and he found himself wanting to laugh aloud, though he didn’t dare. Then he saw another detail, one which perhaps Bilbo himself did not see----

Olórin seemed to stand beside his terrestrial form, the Light of his Being flaring brightly in response to what he saw before him, the mithril-pure Light that was twin to one other he knew, and the golden Light he’d sought throughout Middle Earth, and he rejoiced, his song of praise offered up unheard by those who stood before him. Meanwhile his terrestrial form took a deep breath, joy filling him along with the air that entered his lungs. And he wanted to laugh with joy and the delight of it. The Enemy, in his self-centeredness, would expect those who came against him to be great warriors as was Aragorn. Never in his wildest dreams would he expect this!

O Eru, Iluvatar, Master, Creator--how my scrambled journey throughout Middle Earth must have amused you! All praise to your planning, humor, and understanding of our foolishness!

And he could swear he heard delighted laughter in his heart, and feel the divine Hand on his shoulder as he found himself trying to reassure two Hobbit lads.

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