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2
2: Interviews with Rangers

2: Interview with Rangers

One table capable of handling Men had been built for the Bridge Inn before word came that the King had issued a temporary edict barring Men from entering the Shire without special permission from King, Master, Thain, and Mayor. At it now sat three of these creatures, and abnormally tall ones at that, thought Nilo Bridgemaster, the inn’s keeper. He looked at them with mixed curiosity and concern, and then gave an eye to the dog who sat by the chair of the youngest of the three. The hound appeared well behaved, and had only sought to sniff at one individual, but had stopped at a word from his master. Now, if only all the dogs brought into the Inn were as well trained, he thought, giving an eye to Nod Bank’s terrier, crouching under Nod’s chair with his whole attention given to the much larger dog across the room. Ratter had yapped extensively when the Men entered, and was kept from running forward to challenge the great hound only by the string attached to his collar. He was now straining against the string, and Nilo had no idea what would happen if the small dog were to escape and actually face the larger one. Probably just be so surprised he’d just stand there and look over his shoulder at Nod to see if it was true, he thought, and chuckled a bit.

It had been almost three years since the mysterious Rangers had last ridden through the Shire on their great horses, since about the time the four Travelers left the Shire. Those who lived by the Brandywine Bridge and along the West Road had, for the most part, forgotten how tall they were, save for those who served at the gates and took part in the exchange of mail and dispatches. To again see Men in the Bridge Inn was, therefore, a shock. Many of the patrons were looking at the three and the dog with interest, curiosity, and in a few cases, some fear, waiting to see them prove themselves.

The stir at the door when the Master entered caught the attention of many, and even more so when it was realized Mistress Esmeralda accompanied him as well as Merimac Brandybuck. It took several moments, however, before their two companions were identified, for it wasn’t common for Paladin and Eglantine Took to be seen in the Bridge Inn. By that time the Master’s party was already joining the three Men, who had stood courteously, looming over all. Mistress Eglantine stopped dead at the sight of them standing, and had to be physically led forward by her husband, his arms about her shoulder. And then the three Men were sitting again, and Saradoc Brandybuck was gesturing for tall stools to be brought so that his party could see over the top of the table.

Many nearby were going silent as the Master introduced those with him and the chief of the three Men did the same for himself and his companions, hoping to learn what brought about this unprecedented situation in which five of the greatest of their own were meeting with Men, here in the Bridge Inn. Nilo realized this was happening and was becoming concerned himself, for no one should be listening in on such talk. However he was reckoning without the nature of Hobbits.

Realizing how so many were seeking to listen to the talk at the large table, Merimac Brandybuck rose and approached the bar, then turned and faced the room. “Well, my fellow Hobbits,” he proclaimed, “it’s a proud day today for us Brandybucks, for word has come that Belinda Took has agreed to marry our own Bormac Brandybuck of Buckleberry. Who’ll join me in a toast to their happiness?” He turned to the bar and proclaimed, “I’m standing the entire house to two drinks!”

The business that might be being discussed at the tall table for Men was forgotten almost immediately.

“Now,” Lord Halladan was saying, watching Mac’s performance with approval, “that was clever enough, I must say.”

“You have to know your Hobbits,” Saradoc commented, “and Mac’s been managing our folk for me now for decades, you must understand.”

Halladan laughed. “Certainly Aragorn and my older brother Halbarad could work similarly, as he does with Hardorn, our younger one who is head of his personal guard.” They turned back to one another. “I came to let you know that the Lord Frodo Baggins has elected to leave Middle Earth in search of the healing which cannot come to him here. Considering his secretive nature and his discomfort at speaking of his personal condition and at making proper farewells it was recognized that he was unlikely to warn the folk of the Shire that he was leaving, much less tell any where it is he goes or why.”

“He sent letters to our sons speaking fairly plainly as to his intentions,” Sara explained, “although those he sent to the rest appear to simply be notifications that he was leaving the Shire and wishes for a pleasant future.”

“He sent letters to Captain Peregrin and Sir Meriadoc?” Halladan asked. “He didn’t tell them directly?”

“Apparently not. From what we can tell someone came to warn them and they filled their saddlebags, took their ponies, and rode off in haste. Pal and I...” He described the scene found at Crickhollow, at last bringing out the evidence of the leaf and bread found on the floor in the entrance. At that all three Men straightened with what the Hobbits realized was mingled surprise and respect.

“Lembas!” the one with the black glove said, almost awestruck. “The Elves will share lembas with these?”

“Well,” Saradoc said almost defensively, “it’s not like they hadn’t had it before. Pippin said they were given a store of it as they left Lorien, and that Frodo and Sam were living almost entirely on it during the last two weeks or so of their journey.”

The Men traded shocked glances. “Hallowing them to their task?” Lord Halladan asked the one with the black glove.

“Apparently,” came the response. Again the Men traded glances before Lord Gilfileg explained. “Lembas is almost sacred to the Elves, you see. They rarely share it with mortals, telling us it is perilous for us. Only with those who are plainly dying will they ordinarily do so, to help in easing the way, we are told. Elves themselves may eat it basically when they wish; but in Mortals it tends to awaken cravings and desires which we cannot assuage, such as the Sea Longing. We cannot sail to the Elven lands--indeed we are told that if we were to enter Aman proper we would probably not live long at all, for so strong is the Light of the Valar and so clearly is it woven into the air of the land it would cause our mortal lives to burn more swiftly than our bodies could bear. Lord Frodo will therefore not be permitted to go beyond the isle of Tol Eressëa, for it was once part of Middle Earth and the influence of the air and Light there is more mingled and less perilous to his nature as a mortal. It is for this reason that few ships sail directly to the mainland of Aman from Middle Earth, for those who have lived long ages here in the mortal lands must ordinarily accustom themselves to the changed nature of those lands before they move on and approach the abodes of the Highest Elves and the Valar.”

The young one, who’d been introduced as Eregiel, elaborated. “We of the Northern Dúnedain have often ridden alongside and even with the patrols sent out from Imladris, and Lords Elladan and Elrohir, the twin sons of Lord Elrond, have ever joined our own patrols from time to time. When they do so, they usually will bring with them the lembas for their own use; but as Gilfileg has said, they have ever shared them only with the dying or those most sorely hurt but whose loss would be most deeply felt. Many of those who have received lembas who recovered afterward have been more attuned to the music of Elves, have spoken of hearing the songs of the stars and the wild places, and have been drawn ever Westward to the shores of the Sundering Sea. This has been told among us ever as a warning. Lembas cannot extend life, but it can strengthen will and ease deep hurts. We must assume that it was solely for this reason that the Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn chose to share it with the Fellowship. The Sea Longing must be extraordinarily strong in both the Lords Frodo and Samwise if they lived primarily on it for the last weeks of their great journey.”

Halladan was now nodding, his own expression most solemn. “Ever has our cousin Aragorn moved freely among the Elven peoples. Indeed, when he returned to us from Rivendell when he was a young Man newly advised of his birth, lineage, and possible destiny, he was very like to an Elf himself. He wore his hair long and straight, with the warrior’s braids for his temple locks and the often elaborate beading of them; his beard didn’t begin to grow until he was in his mid-twenties; he thought in Sindarin and Quenya rather than in Adunaic or Westron as do we raised among our own people. Many of our young Men, not realizing who he was indeed, referred to him as the Elf princeling and taunted him for his Elvish ways. But although he passed freely into and out of Imladris, Mithlond, Mirkwood, and Lorien and he was welcomed ever to sojourn among the wandering tribes, yet he told us never had he been granted the right to eat the lembas.”

“How did you come to know this?” asked Mac, who’d rejoined them, bringing with him drinks for the entire party.

Eregiel gave a smile and an expressive shrug. “When I was on my first patrol under Berenion, Aragorn and the sons of Elrond joined us. The Elves carried a packet of the lembas with them, and several of us younger ones were curious about them and thought to steal some and try them for ourselves. Aragorn saw the theft and took us aside, explained why we were so foolish, and made us return them and apologize. When I asked him if he knew what they tasted of, he said that no, he did not, for he didn’t wish to waken any more Elvish cravings in himself than he already entertained.”

Now it was the turn of the Hobbits at the table to share looks among themselves. Paladin asked, “Then, Pippin and Merry might one day find themselves facing this--Sea Longing?”

Gilfileg answered, “It is always possible, Thain Paladin. However, considering what all of the Fellowship underwent, and particularly the four of your people who bore much of the worst of it, they undoubtedly needed the strengthening offered by the lembas. Only the journey of the Paths of the Dead were they spared, although the journey across Mordor and up the sides of Mount Doom made by Lords Frodo and Samwise was even worse than that, I think.”

Halladan nodded, then turned back to the Hobbits. “I was one of those who followed Aragorn on that dread path; but it could not be anywhere as evil as what those two faced. We could not tell they were even alive when they were brought out to us, once all was over. Only the healing hands of the King could call them back again and restore them to us.”

Esmeralda asked, her voice tight, “If the King’s hands are so healing, why is it that Frodo’s done all but die since he returned?”

“None has before done what Lord Frodo has achieved, Mistress, and he suffered far deeper hurts than did any others in the Fellowship, even those suffered by your sons. Only two have survived a Morgul wound in the history of Middle Earth, Lord Frodo being the later of those. If you had seen the creature called Gollum who carried the Ring for much of five hundred years, you would know what the Ring was capable of doing to its bearers. We are told he began as one of your people, one of those who lingered in the valley of the Anduin near the Gladden Fields. He had changed completely, looking more like to a frog at the end according to what both Aragorn and Lord Frodo have told us, his skin growing pallid, his fingers and feet webbed, his eyes gone large to see in the dark places he haunted for so very long. What changes it had wrought deep in the heart of your kinsman while he must carry it, who can say?

“Nay, Aragorn has said that the wounds the Ringbearer endured were there too long and too deep for full healing, and Lord Elrond and the Lady Galadriel have said the same. It was for this reason the Lady Arwen sought this grace for him, that Lord Frodo might become able to once more appreciate joy and beauty unhampered ere he must in the end accept the Gift of Iluvatar.”

“Which is what?” the Thain asked.

“The Gift of Iluvatar?” Halladan queried. “Death, small master. Elves consider death to be a special gift offered to mortals.” Seeing the surprise in their eyes, he continued to explain. “Do you truly think those who must remain for the life of Arda cannot know great weariness of spirit, particularly those who have lost many and much they once treasured?”

It was a sobering idea for all of them. “I see,” the Thain said, his eyes thoughtful. After a moment, he asked, “Who was it that told you Frodo was leaving?”

“Our patrols near the borders of the valley of Imladris told us when Lord Elrond’s party left it to head West, bringing with them Master Bilbo. I was officially advised Lord Frodo had chosen three days ago, while I was traveling between Annúminas and Bree. The Elves and Master Bilbo entered the Shire on the twentieth, and we were advised they were to meet with Lord Frodo on the twenty-second. It was expected he would be accompanied to the Havens by Lord Samwise, Sir Meriadoc, and Captain Peregrin. That he would not tell you and would forbid the others to tell you until after he’d left was considered probable.”

“Could we catch up with them now?” asked Eglantine.

“Not only is it not likely, it is also unlikely you would find their camps, even were you to pass these in the broad daylight only feet from the Lord Frodo himself. This is a native power to most Elves, the ability to cause the eyes of mortals to pass over them unseeing; if the Lord Frodo does not wish you to find him, they will hide him from you until he comes to the Havens themselves. Nay, I suspect they are already beyond the Western borders of your land by this time. Could you cross the Shire and the Western Marches beyond and reach the quays of Mithlond in four days? I doubt they will remain in Middle Earth that long.”

The eight of them remained quiet for some time, thinking. Finally Paladin asked them, “Will you tell us of--of what our sons did, out there?”

Lord Halladan smiled broadly. “They achieved marvelous feats. They carried with them blades wrought by our own people, blades which Captain Peregrin told us were taken from one of the barrows from the Barrowdowns east of your land, between the Old Forest and the road to Bree. According to Captain Peregrin these were given into their hands by Master Tom Bombadil himself after the Lord Frodo saved the others from a most evil death at the hands of a barrow wight. Lord Frodo carried his until they reached the Ford of Bruinen where the blade broke as he fell from the back of Lord Glorfindel’s horse Asfaloth.”

“Why did he fall?” asked Esmeralda. “Bilbo had him taught to ride after he came to Bag End, and Frodo was always an accomplished rider.”

“I have seen Lord Frodo ride several times, and rode back North in his company. I know he was a fine rider indeed, even when he was weary. Yet at the time he fell he was coming close to succumbing to the effects of the Morgul wound, for he’d carried the splinter of the cursed blade for two weeks. None other has lasted even half that long, my lady. He could no longer endure after he saw the Enemy’s slaves caught in the flood and washed away. And the fall from the back of Asfaloth is far greater than any he might have thought to endure from one of your people’s ponies.”

Halladan straightened and shook his head. “Aragorn tells of the great courage Lord Frodo showed at that time, seeking to draw his own blade on the Black Riders there at Weathertop. He knew little of them and their nature, yet he defied him as he could. His courage was great, just to remain facing them when five faced him together, seeking to overwhelm his will with theirs combined; it was even greater at the Fords where all of the Nine were ranged against him, and he defied them all. That tale will long be told among us, for most of us couldn’t bear to remain facing one alone, much less five or all nine.

“Aragorn sought to teach all four Hobbits how to hold their blades, but had little real time for instruction as they sought to come as swiftly as they could to Rivendell. While in Rivendell they were shown the rudiments of the usage of their blades, even Lord Frodo, who had been given the Elven blade Sting by Master Bilbo. Of the four, however, only Captain Peregrin and Sir Meriadoc seriously tried to learn to master their blades--which they managed in the end. In Rivendell they were schooled by the Elven warriors of that place, and then by Captain Boromir of Gondor, who arrived just in time to take part in the Council of Elrond where the Ring was first officially recognized and debate was taken as to how It should be dealt with.

“Again all four displayed far greater courage and perseverance than any looked to see. When Lord Frodo offered to take the Ring to Mordor all were amazed save, I think, Elrond and Gandalf, although it caused the Wizard great grief to know Frodo had taken such a task to himself. Lord Samwise refused to allow Frodo to go without his support, and told others afterwards he simply felt he had a task to accomplish, and would learn what that task was and see it through. Your sons refused to be parted from their cousin, and threatened to run after the party if they were not allowed. They recognized that Lord Frodo needed their presence to remain grounded.

“During the journey Captain Boromir, Aragorn, and Prince Legolas continued to work with the four, but especially Sir Meriadoc and Captain Peregrin, on the handling of their swords. Lord Samwise came to be able to guard himself; but the other two became increasingly competent, and acquitted themselves well in Moria and later at Amon Hen, although there they were overwhelmed by the number of the enemy and were borne away back Westward to Fangorn Forest. Along the way Captain Peregrin’s courage and cleverness served them well, assisting the two of them to escape in the end, or so I’m told.”

And so he told the story much as Frodo had read it from that book of his the last time they were with him, speaking of the courage of each, the intelligence displayed, the strength of character. As he spoke of how Merry and the Lady Éowyn had between them destroyed the Chieftain of the Nazgul his voice softened in the awe he still felt at the audacity of the deed. “To convey the terror that the Nazgul wore about them as a Man or Elf wears a cloak is, I fear, impossible, which makes the defense the Lord Frodo made to them and the attack by Sir Meriadoc and the Lady Éowyn that much more the remarkable. We have faced that one before here in Eriador, although he never regained the power in the North he once held when he was absolute ruler of Angmar. The horror of his presence was a matter of legend, as he so terrified the steed of Eärnur that it bore him from the field of combat and all who heard his cries or beheld his visage were overwhelmed, their bowels turning to water within them. Wherever he or his fellows came upon the Pelennor the forces of the West quailed and fell back, even if the moment before they were driving their enemies before them across the battlefield. They stooped upon the city, and the defenders on the walls would cower down, their hands over their ears, their hearts near stilled with the terror of it.

“Yet Sir Meriadoc rose from having been stunned by his fall, and dared to set blade to the invisible flesh, and so paralyzed him that the Lady Éowyn, even with her shield arm broken, was able to destroy him at the last. Both blades burned away, and the hilts were taken into the Citadel of Minas Tirith where they are displayed now with full honor.

“Sir Meriadoc and the Lady Éowyn were both overwhelmed by the Black Breath, and needed the intervention of Aragorn to bring them back and break the spell of the malady. Few can break the hold of this condition on its victims, but Aragorn, the sons of Elrond, Elrond himself, and the Lady Arwen can do so as the descendants of Eärendil. Those who suffer from it find themselves wandering in a bleak landscape where they lose their way, falling into nightmares and delusion, then going still, and finally losing their hold on life itself. Aragorn was able to call both back to themselves, and then others besides. How he did all he did that night after the days we spent on the Paths of the Dead, the battle of the Pelargir, the ordering of the reinforcements, and the desperate journey up the River Anduin to the city to join in the battle of the Pelennor I cannot say, save that he is the heir of Isildur. I am not certain which showed the greater will at the end--my Lord Cousin, Lord Frodo Baggins, or Lord Samwise Gamgee. All I can say is that we honor all three equally now, and Sir Meriadoc Brandybuck and Captain Peregrin Took but little less.”

He went on to tell of Pippin’s decision to go with the Army of the West to the assault on the Black Gate to draw Sauron’s attention out of Mordor to allow Frodo and Sam time to get to the Mountain. “He chose to fight among the Guards of the Citadel and the Men of the City, near to his friend Beregond of the Guard. Had he not, Beregond and several others would have died. They stood on the other hill on which our forces fought, and together he and Beregond stood in the front ranks, facing the fiercest of the Enemy’s assault. I saw him defending himself from the orcs who led the troops attacking their position, and he fought well indeed, particularly for one his size. He’d learned well to make his stature an advantage instead of a hazard, and he was able to slip under the guard of the great troll that sought to kill Captain Beregond and slew it, although he was not able to get out of the way before it fell upon him.

“Three were caught beneath the troll in its fall, and all survived due to his courage and skill--and luck. Yet it nearly cost him all, for he was horribly crushed. He was yet standing when the troll hit him, and so his ribs were cracked and broken, and his hip disjointed and a leg bone cracked. He was concussed as well, and bruised over much of his body. Again Aragorn was needed to call him back from the brink of death, and he was placed in healing sleep for days. Yet he awoke with his cheerful nature intact, and recovered swiftly.

“Captain Peregrin rose from his bed but the day before Lords Frodo and Samwise awoke. Their bones were not broken, although both were weak from their privation and from a fortnight in healing sleep. Sir Meriadoc was summoned to the Field of Cormallen where the army rested while those who were wounded who could recovered. He sat by all three as they lay in healing sleep, and did much in the nursing of Captain Peregrin as he recovered.

“Both of the younger Hobbits insisted on attending on their kings at the feast given when Lords Frodo and Samwise awoke, each giving them honor as he could; and they ratified the ennoblement of those two recognized there on the part of the folk of the Shire.

“The sacrifices offered by each were great; the honor we hold for them is beyond measure. You have every right to be proud of the sons of your houses, Masters, Mistresses. You have every reason to rejoice that each was granted the grace to return to you. We will all grieve that Lord Frodo was not able to fully recover here in Middle Earth, while we rejoice he was granted the right to go there for his easing at last, that he might be surrounded ever by the beauty of the Undying Lands ere he accepts the Gift when it is proper to him. And I believe that when that time comes he will accept it with the remarkable grace he has shown throughout.”

“How was Pippin made a captain of the Guard?” the Thain asked.

“Captain Gilmaros, the proper Captain of the Guard of the Citadel, asked this for him. Never had he seen one so newly come to arms so swiftly develop the skill he came to show; and he felt your son’s courage and willingness to spend himself that others might be defended deserved the greatest of honor. Captain Peregrin had become one of the instructors of new recruits before he left the city to return to your people, and all are impressed by both his skill and his patience in teaching.”

The tall Man smiled. “In the days after the coronation of Aragorn as the King Elessar many were called before him to reward their courage and show them honor before all. Captain Peregrin and Sir Meriadoc were both brought before the court for this purpose, and none deserved it more. I rejoice to have sat in the chair of the Steward of Arnor to witness this, and it was honor indeed for those of us who traveled with the four Periannath as they came North to return here to your land.”

“Why did it take so long for them to return to us?” Saradoc asked. “I understand that the day when the Ring was destroyed was in March, yet they didn’t return to us until the end of October.”

“First there was the need for recovery for the wounded before they could travel between the camp in Ithilien and Minas Tirith. It was two full weeks that Lords Samwise and Frodo lay in healing sleep, and they had more recovery to undergo before they were able to travel. Yet there were others who had more obvious wounds who had even more recovery needed. Most left the camp East of the River at the end of April that we might camp one last night on the Pelennor before the city of Minas Tirith the night before the first of May. Aragorn was crowned the morning of the first.

“Then Aragorn wished for the Hobbits to remain in Minas Tirith with him until the Lady Arwen came for their marriage. It was no swift journey for those coming from Rivendell and Lothlorien. They arrived on the eve of Midsummer, and at that time Elrond surrendered the Sceptre of Annúminas to Aragorn as the sign there is again a King in the North kingdom as there is in the South. The next day was the marriage celebrated before the White Tree of Gondor, and Lords Frodo and Samwise attended on the King for that, as did I and my brother Hardorn, Lords Elladan and Elrohir, and Prince Faramir of Ithilien in Gondor.

“Not long after, the Rohirrim returned to fetch the body of Théoden King back to their land for proper burial in keeping with their ways, and at that time we went to travel with them. It was slow traveling with the great wain on which the bier rested, and the trip was slowed also, perhaps, in deference to the comfort of Lord Frodo. He tended to tire easily, we found, although he was able to do better as long as Aragorn was beside him. A few days we spent in Edoras after the funeral and the kingmaking of Éomer as new King of Rohan and the handfasting of Prince Faramir to the Lady Éowyn; then at last we continued the journey. We took leave of Aragorn this side of the Vale of Isengard. We found all did best if we did not ride long hours during the day, so again we perhaps traveled less swiftly than we might have. Then we camped for some days while Gandalf, the Lady Galadriel, Lord Celeborn, and Lord Elrond held a last council with one another near the pass of the Redhorn Gate. Lord Frodo appeared to strengthen over that time. At last the folk of Lorien took their leave and turned to the pass, and the remainder of us continued North.

“We didn’t arrive near Rivendell until the third week of September, at which time the four Hobbits turned East to accompany the Elves to Elrond’s house to see Master Bilbo. They were seen near Amon Sul a month later, and they reached Bree where we’re told they stayed two nights a few days after that.”

“Did Frodo have difficulty riding?” asked Esme.

“No, although there were days when he tired easily. It was not an easy journey for him at times.”

The Hobbits again looked to one another.

Lord Halladan was examining Saradoc’s brother. “You are the one known as Merimac?” he asked.

“Yes. Why?”

“Lord Frodo was speaking of you during his stay. He held much respect for you and spoke of his gladness for the teaching you offered him when he was a youth.”

Mac raised his eyebrows with surprise.

Paladin and Eglantine were looking at one another thoughtfully. Lanti at last gave a sigh. “Well, it appears that we can’t consider Pippin just a lad any more, Pal.”

Slowly Pal nodded thoughtfully. “That’s obvious enough,” he said. “I’m shamed I’ve tried to do just that. Ferdi is right as to how I ought to give him more responsibility, you know.”

“We certainly found he handled responsibility well,” Lord Halladan assured him.

“And to find that Pippin is a good influence on Merry was quite a shock for us,” Sara added.

Esme asked, “Was Frodo often ill, there in Gondor?”

The tall Man answered carefully, “It is hard to say, Mistress. He never recovered, apparently, as he did after the attack at Weathertop. He would have good days and bad ones, and often had difficulty with his digestion. But, considering what he’d endured that was perhaps to be expected. Aragorn listed several things which could each in itself harm his digestion, from the great stress and fear of his journey, the lack of proper food and water along the way, the having to drink polluted water from the cisterns along the orc roads, having to breathe in the fumes and ash from the mountain and to swallow them, the poison of the great spider--he had to always watch what he ate and amounts, which tended to drive him to distraction for as a Hobbit this was most unnatural for him.”

“So, the inability to eat properly wasn’t something that started here when he returned,” the Thain’s wife commented sadly.

“That is true, Mistress,” Halladan assured her. Eglantine took a deep breath and looked aside, her mouth working. She looked at her husband’s sister, whose face was also pale and full of grief. The Mannish Lord looked from one to the other, his face full of compassion. “I am sorry--you obviously care deeply for him.”

Eglantine nodded while Esmeralda glanced at her husband, then back at Halladan. “Frodo,” Esme explained, “lived with Sara and me after his parents died, as if he were our older son. He was there when Merry was born. But we all have always loved him--our Frodo. To think we will never see him again for as long as we live tears us apart.”

Halladan sighed, his own expression solemn. “It will be very difficult for our Lord Cousin as well. Many are those he has over the years come to think of as if they were brothers to him, but none so swiftly or as deeply as the Lords Frodo and Samwise. For all that he added his own prayers to those of his wife and the Elves for this grace to be granted to Frodo, still his own heart will hold ever an empty place now until he in his turn accepts the Gift and can come at the last to Frodo’s side--at which time he will undoubtedly seek out my own brother Halbarad to introduce the one to the other.”

Suddenly all at the table found themselves sharing a gentle laugh with one another as each found tears falling.

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