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8
8: Peace in the Great Smial

8: Peace in the Great Smial

As they were ready to leave, the door opened to admit one of the Bounders. Isumbard smiled. “Hello, Beligard,” he said. “Coming in after your duty?”

“Yes, Cousin Bard,” the Bounder said. “Headin’ for the Great Smial.”

“Brendi and I are going to catch a meal at the inn,” Bard said, “and then head home.”

“Then after I make my report I’ll meet you there,” Beli said. “I’ll be glad to ride home with you.”

Bard and Brendi walked first to the stable to retrieve Brendi’s box, and then went into the inn and took a table along one wall. Bobbin smiled down at them. “Good to see you again, Mr. Brendilac, Mr. Isumbard, sirs. Haven’t seen the two of you together here for some time. And where have the two of you been?”

“We were in Hobbiton with Will, Bobbin. Just finished with our business a few moments ago.”

“Did you see Mr. Frodo, then? Do you think as he’d consider comin’ here at Yule? I know as he has family and all, but, you see, Pippa’s more’n a bit sweet on him and we’re havin’ quite a celebration and all. She’s been talkin’ of how good for business as it would be if’n he was to be part of it, maybe give out the prizes for First Footin’ and all, say some words at the bonfire, help pass out the torches. Will--him’n Mina’s plannin’ to spend Yule with Mr. Bucca and Missus Aster and the childern.”

He couldn’t help but see how solemn the two of them became. Bard cleared his throat, but his voice was still a bit rough when he answered, “I’m sorry, Bobbin, but Frodo won’t be able to come.”

“That’s too bad. But, then, he has family there at the Great Smial and Brandy Hall and in Budgeford’n all. Understand as he can’t be everywhere the same evenin’. Pippa’ll be that disappointed, though. Ah well,” he continued before the two before him could say any more, “what can I get for you?”

Spared the need to explain for the moment, they considered briefly and gave their orders. They watched as Bobbin returned to the bar and spoke through the pass-through to the kitchen to young Miko who served now as cook, then shook his head with a rueful smile at Pippa, whose expression fell. Brendi sighed. “Another generation of lasses who have fallen in love with Frodo Baggins,” he said, shaking his head. “I suspect that when word gets out there are going to be heartbroken ladies all across the Shire.”

Bard gave a solemn nod of agreement, then gave his attention to the box. “What did he leave you?” he asked.

“I suppose I should open it up and find out,” Brendi said thoughtfully. “After all, that’s why I brought it in.” He set the box on the bench between them and made quick work of the toggles which held the lid fastened, lifting it off and setting it on edge between the box and the wall.

On top of the contents was a carved wooden box made of an unfamiliar wood with a glowing reddish grain. Gently Brendi lifted it out and examined it. It was carved all over with vines and blossoms, and had then been rubbed with some kind of sweet-smelling wax. He set the box between them and together they examined it.

“Beautiful!” murmured Bard. Brendi nodded his agreement.

The lid to this box was hinged. Brendi had to slip a fingernail into the crack and work at it briefly before the lid finally worked loose enough it could be opened. Inside was a sheet of Frodo’s soft golden stationery, folded atop something wrapped in a silvery blue cloth of some sort. Brendi took up the note and unfolded it.

Dearest Brendi,

I have one last request--or, at least I believe it is the last one I will ask of you. I ask you to assist in overseeing the care for my young Baggins cousins, Fosco and Forsythia of Westhall, until they are of age. They have been wonderful younglings to know over the years, and I regret I cannot be there for those times which mean most in their lives.

You already know I’ve named Fosco family head. That distinction ought to go to Ponto and Iris, of course, but Ponto can’t exercise the responsibility properly, for he’ll not recover from the ills that he suffered during the Time of Troubles, while Iris is too distracted by his illness and is totally unaccustomed to any such responsibility. She herself indicated during our last visit that she doesn’t feel competent at this time to take up the role as family head in Ponto’s stead.

The others remaining of the name are simply unsuitable, being in almost total ignorance of our proper family ties and having no true education. That doesn’t leave me with much of a choice, obviously.

I’ve followed the twins since their birth a couple years after the Party, and find they are delightful individuals, highly intelligent and capable, curious, and very responsible. I know that Fosco’s sight is impaired, but he still can read and write and knows how to keep records. With his sister’s help until the day he finally marries (and I certainly hope he will indeed marry and father children) I believe he will do well as family head.

I wish this shirt and the boxes wrapped in it given to Fosco on the morning of his twenty-fifth birthday. I’m leaving much of my mother’s jewelry as well as a few other items to Narcissa and trusting that she will choose properly from them as similar gifts for Forsythia for the same day. I’m afraid I’m rather ignorant of what precisely would be the best gift for a lass for that special birthday, better than halfway to being of age.

Please let Fosco know on that day just how much I love him and how proud I am of him, and how proud I would be to stand by him on that day. I’m sorry I will miss so much.

I wore the shirt at Aragorn’s coronation feast and again at his wedding to the Lady Arwen. The ring was a gift from Prince Imrahil--I never wore it--I can’t bear the thought of wearing any ring myself any more; I kept it because of the giver, actually. The pipe was given to me by Bilbo on my twenty-fifth birthday, and was carved by the Dwarves of Erebor. I used to smoke it when I was a tween. I’d always intended to give it to my eldest son. And I had intended to adopt the two of them, once I returned--if I returned.

Dudo never was as broad as my dad was, and I see no sign that Fosco will be any broader than his dad or me before we left the Shire. The shirt ought to fit him well enough, I think. I don’t know if he’ll grow to be as tall as me, though. I rather doubt it, actually.

Just help guide him to be the best Hobbit he can be, please, Brendi.

And remember always how very much I’ve always loved you.

Frodo


Brendi lifted out the wrapped bundle and carefully unwrapped the shirt from around the two inner boxes. The carving of the box holding the pipe was lovely, with geometric designs and a stylized hammer and anvil in the center. Brendi removed the lid to show the pipe lying nestled in the velvet-lined interior, and realized there was another gleam of golden paper carefully folded beneath it. Realizing this was intended for Fosco, he replaced the lid after Bard had briefly examined pipe and box. Then he opened the small wooden box and they looked at the ring it contained.

The shirt was unadorned, and strikingly beautiful with its soft collar and the lacing at the placket and at the cuff. Each of them handled it, feeling the softness and smoothness of its weave before finally wrapping it once more around the boxes holding pipe and ring and settling them once again into the carved wooden box.

The rest of the contents were mixed: a couple of shirts which had obviously never been worn; three books; a set of shirt studs; a silver ale mug; a pair of crystal goblets in a wooden box lined with red satin; a pair of braces which had evidently never been worn; a bag of mixed coins of the King’s coinage; a leather wallet filled with Goolden Lynch leaf; a pair of intricate wooden puzzles; and, at the bottom a small stack of papers. On top was the picture of the King and Queen together that Frodo had drawn, and under it was the draft copy of the chapter from Frodo’s book which described the coronation of the King. Brendi leafed through the pages of it and found that inserted in the midst of them was the series of studies of Narcissa Boffin Frodo had drawn the summer day he and Brendi had spoken atop the Hill. Brendi had shared the picture of King and Queen with Bard, but knew instinctively he would never show any other this sheet.

At the bottom of the stack was another piece of Frodo’s stationery, not folded this time. It read simply, Know this, cousin--I will never stop loving you and hoping for your happiness. Both Brendi and Bard read this before Brendi returned it to the bottom of the box, secreting the pictures of Narcissa beneath it while Bard was examining one of the books. Together they replaced the rest of the items, Brendi putting the chapter detailing the coronation of the King and the picture of King and Queen now on top of the box for Fosco.

Bard was smiling gently as he watched the Brandybuck replacing the lid on top. “It’s a beautiful collection of gifts by which you should remember him,” he commented. Brendi nodded solemnly.

Pippa and Bobbin were bringing their meal as Beligard entered, looked about the room, then came to join them. “Well,” he said as he sat in the chair opposite Brendi, “that’s dealt with, and now I’m free to go home for the next month.”

“Any difficulties?” asked Bard. “Any Men near the borders?”

“No problems. Did meet one Man near the borders, but he was definitely camped just off the road that now runs South of the Shire toward the West and clearly outside our bounds. Saw his camp from our side and crept close, up behind a blueberry bush, to try to determine if he offered any danger. Watched him wake up and go to the stream as runs through the glade where he camped, then he saw me.”

Bard was alarmed. “Did he offer any threat?”

Beli shook his head. “No, no threat at all. Quite a decent sort, you know. Saw me and spoke up fair, and even offered to share his breakfast. Said as he was a Ranger of Arnor.”

Brendi smiled. “I’ve met Lord Gilfileg, who is one of the King’s kinsmen remaining in the North Kingdom, and he’s definitely fair spoken and thoughtful. I can’t imagine the rest of the Northern Dúnedain as being anything but competent and courteous.”

“Well,” Beli smiled, “this one was definitely courteous.”

“Was he going East or West?” asked Bard.

“Comin from the West. Said as he was headed East to meet up with his brothers.” Beligard gave his order to Bobbin, then returned to the subject of his patrol. “There’s a settlement of Men down that way, about a mile off Southeast of our borders. Us Bounders, we keep an eye on them. They’ve built some houses and byres and a barn, none of them much. Have one field of grain and another of vegetables, and some set aside as pastureland for cattle. Don’t think they’re doin’ any too bad. They got some young’uns as come snoopin’ along the borders from time to time, but they’ve been warned off from crossin’ over. Two Men from their group tried enterin’ our lands last winter. Merry Brandybuck was there the last time they come over and took ‘em prisoner and then give ‘em to the Rangers. I think as one of them was allowed to return to his people, but the other’s not been seen again. Generally one or two of the Rangers pass that way every other week or so.

“Other than the stranger, didn’t see anythin’ unusual this time.” He gave a look at Bard. “What’s up with the Thain? Him and the missus returned home yet?”

“Yes, today.”

“Took ’em long enough,” the Bounder grunted. “What’s been keepin’ the two of ’em so long in Buckland this time?”

“Learning how to make it up with Pippin.”

“They manage it yet?”

“I think so.”

“’Bout time,” Beligard said. “For all he’s not of age as yet, still he’s a fine Hobbit and a far more thoughtful one since he come back. And he knows his business with that sword of his, I’ll have you know. Him’n Merry both do.” He smiled up as Pippa brought him an ale. “Thank you, lass. How come you don’t have you a likely lad askin’ you to step out with him yet, hmm?”

She flushed prettily and swatted playfully at his shoulder, and he grinned openly. “You’d best watch out, lass, or I’ll set my hat for you yet,” he told her. He watched after her as she returned to the bar, a smile on her face, then looked confidingly at Isumbard. “For all she’s plain lookin’ most of the time, there’s still a core o’ prettiness if’n you can get her smilin’, or so I’ve found out.”

The discussion as they spoke was of Beligard’s rounds and how he and the other Bounders handled incursions now. “Our orders from Cap’ns Merry and Pippin are pretty clear--we’re to get help if’n there’s more’n just one, isolate them from the folk as lives there near the borders, and hold ’em for whatever Rangers as we see ridin’ by next. Pippin, he’s ridden right out there on the new road to talk with groups o’ the Rangers, and we have a signal flag now. If’n we raise a red flag on it, they’ll stop and come to the border to wait and will take on any prisoner as we’ve got. If’n there’s a white they’ll just stop to talk. Green and they ride on by; yellow and they’ll melt away into the trees and we won’t see them at all after that, but they’ll scout out the area lookin’ for any dangers as we might of noticed.

“Pippin’s ordered us to build a gaol of sorts to hold any prisoners as we might take. He’s plannin’ to help with it next time as he comes down, although he’s got some steady folk workin’ on designs for it now. Says as he wants three rooms suitable for big folk to stay in as are secure, with a cot and a decent mattress and proper sheets and blankets and all, table as is fixed to the wall, stool, proper chamber pots and basins and ewers, but says as he’ll see to gettin’ those from Bree fit for Men. Got the idea as they ought to be of metal for a gaol, he does.”

And so it went. They ate quickly enough, then after Bard paid their bill they rose. “You need to get back to Buckland right away, Brendi?” he asked. “Can you stay the night with us in the Great Smial? I think the Thain would be glad to host you.”

Brendi had considered taking a room there in Michel Delving, but found he didn’t relish the idea of being alone that night. “Certainly I’ll be glad of the company,” he said, and picking up the box he started for the door.

Bobbin stopped them before they left. “Beggin’ your pardons, masters,” he said, “but there’s one thing as I almost forgot. Last time as Mr. Baggins was here he left some things as he was eatin’ his meal, he did. Missus Aster--she come and got his water bottles as he’d left here, but I didn’t realize he’d left this other until near supper time, and another patron, he found it.” He was holding a cloth-bound book in his hands, one with silver bindings. “Perhaps you could return it to him, sir,” he said to Brendi, “seein’ as you’re kin and his lawyer and all.” So saying he gave it into the lawyer’s hands, bobbed his head politely, and turned as Pippa came to him with a request from one of the other patrons.

Brendi set the box on the floor, opened the book and realized it was not in Westron at all. “It’s Frodo’s all right,” he murmured. “Elvish. Poetry, from what I can tell,” he added as he turned the pages. Then he found a small square of paper with Bilbo’s spidery writing on it, very shaky but definitely legible: I love you so, my boy. I am so proud of you. Brendi took a deep breath. “He’ll have regretted not taking this, I think,” he said softly, handing the square to Bard to read; then he took it back and replaced it where he’d found it. He took a deep breath, handed the book to Bard to carry for him, retrieved his box, and they went out to fetch their ponies. Brendi found it a bit awkward riding Thrush with the box balanced before him and held with one hand, and Thrush herself was apparently not particularly happy about it but accepted it for his sake. They rode quietly for the most part for the relatively short distance to the Tooklands and the Great Smial, and Bard led the way into the stableyard where Aldenard and his lads helped them dismount and took the ponies. Accepting the box once more from the lad who’d held it while he dismounted, Brendi followed the two Tooks into the Great Smial and to the Thain’s private parlor.

Once again Beligard gave his report, and described the tall stranger who’d camped there near the Men’s road Westward.

“I wasn’t certain as this Man was a Ranger, though, for he wasn’t wearin’ one of their type o’ cloak or no star brooch like the rest, and his horse didn’t have no tack on it.”

“No tack?” asked Bard. “He’s riding his horse bareback?”

Beligard nodded. “Great grey, this horse is, too--silvery grey. Don’t look a good deal like the horses as the Rangers usually ride. Fine animal, though. Man was kitted out much like the rest o’ the Rangers, though, I must say, in spite of the fact as he had a different cloak. Personal bags, bow, small quiver, great long sword in an inlaid sheath, several knives about him, green ridin’ leathers what was well worn. The bag as he took the bacon from was different from most of the rest--looked to be woven of grasses, strong but light. Beautiful work, that, the weavin’ and all.

“It was the cloak as took me most by surprise, you see. Grey-green, it was, and just like them the Travelers all come back with and wear so often. And its brooch was the same as theirs, too--that tinted green leaf.”

All sat up at that, looking at one another. “Did he say he knew our lads?” asked Thain Paladin.

“Yessir, he did,” Beli admitted. “Said as he’d met them and as they’d met him.”

Lanti looked from Bard to her husband. “Well,” she said, “Lord Halladan had indicated he’d ridden home from Gondor with them, up to the road to Rivendell, at least.”

“But he wasn’t wearing one of the cloaks like theirs,” Paladin commented. “His was a silvery grey, and he had that star brooch to hold it closed.” She nodded. “I wonder if this one went to say goodbye to Frodo and Bilbo?” he continued.

“Lord Halladan didn’t say anything about having sent anyone that way,” she countered.

“True,” he sighed.

Brendi asked, “Was he wearing a black glove?”

“No,” the Bounder answered, shaking his head. “Had a partial glove on his right hand with no fingers, like an archer might wear; but then he carried that bow and it looks as if it’s seen use.”

“Not Lord Gilfileg, then,” the Brandybuck said thoughtfully as he lifted his mug to take a sip of the ale that had been pressed on him on his arrival.

“Said as his name was Strider,” Beli said shrugging, then stopped, surprised as all eyes fastened on him and Brendi’s mug fell from nerveless fingers and splashed all around him. Beli looked from one to another, totally confused. “What did I say?” he asked.

“The King!” Paladin said, his voice awed. “You saw the King himself.”

“No!” Beli said, shaking his head. It had taken a time for all to realize that there was indeed a King again, but with their growing communication with the Rangers who rode the circuit of the Shire’s boundaries outside its limits he’d finally accepted that this was true. But there was no way he could imagine the King would be riding those same roads as any common Ranger and sharing his bacon and eggs with a Hobbit. “What for would the King be doin’ on that road?” he demanded.

“Hoping to say farewell to Frodo and Bilbo,” the Thain said. “He must have arrived too late, though, for the lads would have said if they’d seen him.”

Brendi was fixing the Bounder with an intense stare, ignoring the ale sinking into the carpet about his chair and the dampness of his lap, legs, and feet. “What precisely did he say?” he asked.

“Said as he’d been West but was headin’ East to find his brothers, and his adar or somethin’ like had left for him eggs and bacon, and offered to share it with me.”

Ferdibrand, who’d been sitting quietly so far, smiled at that. “Adar is Sindarin for father,” he commented. “I remember that much of what old Bilbo told us about Sindarin during my visits to Bag End when Frodo and I were still tweens. I think mother is nana or something like that. And as our Lord King was raised by Lord Elrond of Rivendell, I would think he’d been raised to call him adar.”

“What day did you meet this stranger?” Paladin asked him.

“Four days back,” Beli told him. “But he couldn’t be the King!”

“Apparently he was,” Pal answered absently as he turned toward Isumbard. “Wonder if he’ll arrange to speak to the lads?”

Bard shrugged. “I suspect he will, Uncle. After all, he’s there East of the Shire right now, probably, and they’re heading for Buckland. I’m certain he’ll at least send in a messenger to ask them to come out to meet with him.”

“Sara would invite him across the Bridge Inn, same as when we met with Lord Halladan.”

Eglantine was shaking her head. “You heard what Lord Halladan told us, Pal--the King won’t break his own edict. No, Bard’s right--he’ll ask them to come out to him. Will send in a Bounder from the gate or an Elf or something.”

The Thain and his wife exchanged looks before he finally nodded reluctantly. “I suspect you are indeed right, love,” he sighed. He looked back at the Bounder. “Tell us what exactly he said.”

As closely as he could Beli complied. At last, when he was finished, Pal thanked him and turned his attention to Bard and Brendi. Brendi had accepted a napkin from Pearl and was mopping at the ale on his trousers. He paused at the Thain’s look of inquiry and said, “It certainly sounds as if this is indeed the King.” Then he paused. He looked at Beligard. “Would you recognize him if you saw a picture?” he asked. He dropped the napkin over the spilled ale on the floor, then turned to his box, opening the toggles and lifting off the lid. He brought out the picture Frodo had done of the King, then rose with it and crossed to Beligard.

The Bounder’s attention was first fixed on the woman, his eyes widening. “Well, it certainly wasn’t her!” he said with appreciation. “She’s beautiful!”

“Yes, I know. What about the Man?”

Reluctantly Beli turned his attention from the woman to her companion. “Well,” he said slowly, “certainly looks like him.” At Brendi’s triumphant nod, he turned back to the Thain. “But what’s he doin’ here about the Shire?”

“We’ve told you twice, Beligard Took,” Paladin said with some exasperation. “He apparently came hoping to bid farewell to Frodo and Bilbo.”

“Bilbo? You mean old Bilbo Baggins? But what was he doin’ here in these parts? And where would he and Frodo be goin’?”

“Away from Middle Earth,” Paladin said quietly. “Frodo’s left the Shire.”

Beli went quiet as he considered this. “He’s left the Shire? For good?”

“Yes. The Elves took him and Bilbo West with them.”

“Why?”

Paladin dropped his gaze to his lap. Raising his eyes again to meet the Bounder’s, he said, “Otherwise he would have died. We’ve--we’ve learned that what they did out there--Frodo, Pippin, Merry, and Samwise Gamgee--was far more serious and important than we could ever imagine. Frodo and Sam almost died saving us all, saving us and the rest of Middle Earth besides. The Elves felt Frodo needed this, and took Bilbo because of his service to Middle Earth as well, as a companion for Frodo on the voyage.”

“They went on a ship?” asked Beli. At Pal’s nod he looked away. “A Hobbit on a ship--and with Elves? If that don’t beat all....” After a moment of thought he commented, “He said, that Strider did, that when I got back I’d find Samwise Gamgee was now Master of Bag End. Is that right, then?” He looked at Brendi.

Brendi nodded as he finished replacing the lid on his box from Frodo. “Yes, Frodo made Sam his heir.”

Beli nodded, taking this in and thinking on it and its implications. Finally he looked about the room. “One thing--this time, at least, there’s no Sackville-Bagginses to raise a stink about it.

All were surprised when they found themselves laughing.

After Beli had gone off to his own quarters the rest sat for some time. Paladin and Eglantine had some questions for Brendi, Bard, and Ferdi about what they’d known, and listened courteously. Finally Bard brought out the book, which he’d stowed in his pocket. “Frodo left this at the inn there in Michel Delving. Bobbin asked Brendi if he would return it to him. Do you think he ought to give it to Sam?”

Pal took the silver volume in his hands and examined it, then opened it. “Elvish?” he asked, looking from Brendi to Bard and back.

Brendi nodded solemnly. “It appears to be,” he said quietly. “It appears to be poetry of some kind.”

Ferdi gave a great sigh. “If I could see, I’d love to have it. I learned a bit of the Elvish letters when I was young.”

Pimpernel looked at her husband. “I suppose that, for the moment at least, Sam’s about the only one in the entire Shire who could read it, then. He knows Sindarin, I think.”

Paladin found a piece of paper folded between leaves in the book, brought it out and opened it. It was a letter Frodo had received from Pippin, apparently just before the last meal Frodo had shared with his older cousins.

Dear Frodo, I hope you’re continuing to be well now. I got home safely, and of course Merry got here just after I did, and he was expecting me. Was surprised I’d lasted as long as I did, I think, but he’s not rubbing my nose in it or anything like that.

My da was trying so hard to be good--I suppose he must be pretty devastated now about yelling at me the way he did. I know he doesn’t want to do things like that. It’s just he wants so hard for all to not have been so hard for us.

Please don’t tell him about the troll falling on me and all--it would terrify him. He just doesn’t realize I was only doing what I had to to help you have time to get to the mountain, and to protect my friends I was with.

Merry and I don’t understand why you don’t want us there for your birthday, but know this, you stubborn Baggins--we will be there the first week of October this time. You’re not going to try to hide it this time, understand?

We love you and care for you, our most stubborn of cousins. We went across Middle Earth with you, and would do it again if we thought you needed our protection.

Pippin

Paladin took a very deep breath and held it, then read it out loud to the others. Pearl bowed her head, and Pimmie was actually crying. Their father handed the note to their mother, who read it and handed it back.

“Perhaps,” the Thain said, “we shouldn’t have read that, but I’m glad we did. To all of you who have watched Lanti and me make such fools of ourselves--please forgive us as Pippin has done. We realize now we can’t protect you from what’s already happened, and we were very wrong in our treatment of both Peregrin and Frodo.”

“You know that Frodo forgave you,” Brendi said. “He understood. May not have stopped him from being totally upset with you, but he understood.”

Paladin and Eglantine nodded.

“At least,” Lanti said, thinking, “we’ve not let the whole thing go on. As it is, we almost destroyed the trust Pippin had for us.”

Pearl rose and walked to her mother’s chair and knelt before it. “You know he’s forgiven you, Mum,” she said, taking her mother’s hands. “Shall we see what Frodo sent to us?”

The case sent to the Great Smial was larger than that Brendi received. The Thain received a silver mug Frodo had brought back from Gondor and a wooden model of a pony (or more probably a horse) from Rohan. For Eglantine there was a brooch that had been Primula’s, and for Pearl, Pervinca, and Pimpernel there were combs of mother of pearl and silver, and bolts of silk cloth. For Ferdi there was a cloak brooch of a silver ship with a swan prow. The note with it indicated, “Prince Imrahil’s youngest son Amrothos gave this to me--it was from his own cloak. It’s said that their family has Elven blood. Certainly they are as close to Elven beauty as I’ve seen among Men. The Elves travel in such ships, they tell me.” Bard received a pair of crystal goblets such as Brendi had received, and Pervinca’s husband received a fine pipe. “One of Aragorn’s Elven brothers carved this for Bilbo, but he’s given up smoking any more. Says he’d fall asleep and set fire to his chair. I don’t smoke either, and hope you will accept it.”

Pearl looked at the brief letter addressed to her. “I was sorry at the time you chose to pull away from my love, Pearl Took, and I never understood why. I suppose somehow Lobelia, may she rest now peacefully, had something to do with it. I never thought to ever say this, but I’m now glad you did; for had we ever married, the Ring would have destroyed our marriage and our love. I’m so glad you married Bard, for I can see how much he loves you and how he would never knowingly allow any to hurt you. I am so glad that you have the joy of your children and your husband. Hold them to you, Pearl, and rejoice this is so.” Pearl read this and found herself weeping softly. “I will, Frodo Baggins,” she said, remembering how gently he’d kissed her in the days when she’d thought she wanted nothing more ever than to be his wife. She looked at Bard and smiled through her tears.

All went to bed soon after, remembering Frodo’s quietness, his smile, his sly jokes that could take a few moments to sink in, his stories told, the love he’d always shown them all.

Far out upon strange seas Frodo Baggins sat in a small room on a couch of red leather, sitting by Bilbo, being coaxed to eat a bowl of brambleberries with a small amount of cream on them.

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