"I’m grateful for you inviting the lads to your place for the next two nights, Gordo," Aster Sandheaver told her cousin. "Dorno and Cando have been lookin’ forward to this for days, you know." She turned to her sons. "Now you two be good, and try not to eat more than all your cousins put together, hear?"
"Mum!" objected Cando, but he and his brother each accepted their parents’ parting hugs and kisses, shouldered their packs, waved goodbye to their sister Dianthus and Cousin Frodo who sat near the fire in the parlor, and followed Gordolac and his son Grado out into the chilly darkness.
Dianthus watched after them discontentedly as her mother came back into the room and stood near the fireplace to get warm. "I still don’t see as why I couldn’t go with them, too," she complained.
"Perhaps you might have done so if you hadn’t caught the sniffles, lass. But you’ll have to admit it wouldn’t have been a lot of fun for you bein’ the only lass in the house, for you know as your brothers and Grado would have left you out of all their plans, and would have crowded into the corners to tell stories between them and would have only barked at you any time you tried to join them. You would of come back all discontented and tellin’ tales on them, and you know it, for that’s what’s happened every time you went with them to Grado’s in living memory." Aster smiled ruefully down on Dianthus.
"And you know as that’s the honest truth of it," added her father from the doorway to the room. "Yell be havin’ a far better time stayin’ here with Mr. Frodo, and, after all, yell be a-havin’ him all to yourself, him’n his tales." Bucca Sandheaver smiled fondly down at his one daughter. He looked at where Frodo sat with a wooden tray across the arms of his chair and asked, "You’re certain as it’ll be no bother watchin’ the bairn for the evenin’, like?"
"Oh, no bother at all," Frodo said, his smile unfeigned. "We’ll toast some bread and mull some cider and keep ourselves entertained while you two, Will, and Mina enjoy yourselves at the dinner party." It was a birthday for close friends of the Whitfoots in Michel Delving, and the Mayor, his wife, daughter, and son-in-law had all been invited to dinner. Frodo, who barely knew the Cutlers, had begged off his own invitation, knowing it had only been extended to begin with out of courtesy to him as a roomer of the family and as the deputy Mayor. "Besides, it will allow me to finish up going over this contract Lotho had presented to the Hornblowers of Hardbottle." His expression as he looked back to the thick document on the tray had become stern again. "I still can’t believe all of the hidden clauses folk don’t appear to have noticed until long after they signed the contracts he and Timono presented them."
Bucca nodded his agreement, then turned as they heard the thump of Will’s crutch and the talk between Will and Mina as they came from the kitchen at the back of the low house. "Well, looks as if we’re ready to leave, too," he said, and he came over to where Dianthus sat in her swaddle of blankets, leaned over her, and kissed her gently. "You be good, lass, and don’t devil your cousin too much with questions, hear?"
"I promise, Da," she said, kissing his offered cheek.
"I left a supper for the two of you in the kitchen, and there’s soft cider in the brown jug in the cold room and bread and a knife to slice it on the dresser in the kitchen, and the toasting fork and poker are on their hooks by the hob. And certainly there’s butter and the jam as Frodo received the other night in the cold room, too." Mina Whitfoot looked at her cousin’s son and her granddaughter from the doorway. "Are you warm enough, Frodo, Dianthus?" she asked.
"The fire’s definitely warm enough," Frodo assured her, "and Bucca’s seen to it there’s plenty of wood to build it up more if it’s necessary. No, you don’t have to worry about the two of us. Dianthus and I’ll be well enough for the evening, and I can see the fires here and in the kitchen properly banked if we decide to go to bed before you get back."
Mina searched Frodo’s face, but saw no sign that anything in particular might be bothering him this evening. "All right, then," she said, smiling with relief. "You two enjoy yourselves, and we’ll be off."
Aster leaned over Dianthus and embraced her and whispered her last admonitions into her ear while Bucca stopped to lay his hand on Frodo’s shoulder. "We’ll try not to stay out too long," he said quietly. "You take care, Mr. Frodo, sir." And he hurried to the door to slip on his own cloak and to get that for Aster ready to help her into it.
Will contented himself with leaning against the archway into the parlor and giving his deputy Mayor and granddaughter a nod and wink before he accepted Mina’s assistance in wrapping his own cloak about himself. Soon the four of them were off, and the door closed firmly after them.
Dianthus picked up a fresh handkerchief and wiped her nose. "I wonder what they’ll have for supper," she said.
"Well," he answered her, "what would you like it to be if you were going?"
"Oh," she said thoughtfully, "bubble-’n’-squeak, roast lamb, mashed taters and plenty of drippings, brown bread and butter...." Her list went on for some minutes, and Frodo’s brows rose as she continued listing her favorite foods.
"Is that all?" he asked when she finally paused for breath.
"Well, it’s enough to get on with," she said, sounding at the moment just like her grandmother. They both laughed. She looked up at him, smiling fondly, for she found she quite liked him. "Are you really a cousin?" she asked.
He shrugged slightly. "Well, my mum and your gammer were first cousins, so that makes your mum and me second cousins, and you my second cousin once removed," he explained.
"Good. I like being related to you, Mr. Frodo." She stared at him thoughtfully. "What was it like when you were where the King is now?"
He looked off thoughtfully in his own turn. "Like? Oh, in some ways much like here, and in others very different."
"Do folks live in smials there?"
"Smials? Oh, no. Men don’t particularly like living underground, although I did get to see the inside of a cavern behind a waterfall in Ithilien where the Rangers of Ithilien will live for a time while they are patrolling for orcs and other enemies along the Mountains of Shadow. Men prefer to live in houses, and the folk of Gondor love tall houses, two and three stories tall, sometimes higher."
Dianthus shuddered at the thought of such things. "Why would they want houses so tall?" she asked, fascinated.
He shrugged, but smiled gently. "Perhaps because their houses must be so close together--at least there in the King’s city of Minas Tirith. In some streets the side wall of one house lies right against the side wall of the next one, making rows of houses all along the way. Some of the homes, though, do have actual grounds around them, and even gardens."
"Why didn’t you live in the house where the King lives?"
"Oh, my, but you never saw it! The Citadel is huge--perhaps larger than the ridge into which the Great Smial is dug. There is no place in the whole of the Shire as big as the Hall of Kings where Aragorn’s throne sits on its high dais. Not even the banquet chamber in the Council Hole is as large. But it’s only one part of the place.
"Off the back of it are four wings. The first one is the Steward’s Wing, in which the Steward and his family and body servants and personal guests are meant to live when they are resident in the city. The second is the Royal Wing, for the King’s family. No one lived in that at all for over a thousand years, since King Eärnur left to answer the challenge of--of Minas Morgul and never returned. The third is the guest wing. The rooms on the upper of the two stories on that wing are saved for the King of Rohan and his family and attendants when they come to Gondor. The rooms on the lower floor are offered to the most noble guests who have no place to live themselves when they must reside in the City. The King of Dale in Rhovanion stayed there with his cousin, his Seneschal, and their attendants during their visit, as did the embassy of Dwarves from the Lonely Mountain. On the lower floor of the fourth wing are the rooms for visiting minor nobles and their parties; on the upper floor are the dormitories for many of the unmarried servants who don’t live in their own homes. But then there are the kitchens, larders, cellars, laundries, dining halls, armories, offices, audience chambers, and so on. I never looked into more than the Royal Chambers and the two rooms Aragorn had prepared for Sam, Merry, Pippin, and me on the lower floor of the Royal Wing--other than the reception room at the end of the hall and a brief glimpse into the King’s kitchen. There are rooms for the servants attendant on the King near the doors from the great hallway, and stairs to the upper story--I never went there at all. Then there are other buildings that are considered part of the Citadel--barracks for unmarried guards, the glass houses, workshops, storage warehouses, the prison, the Halls of Memorial, the Feast Hall of Merethrond, the Tower of Ecthelion.... And there are the gardens, which are beautiful beyond telling.
"There are hundreds of servants--housekeepers, maids, valets, guards, groundskeepers, artisans who see to the upkeep of the place. Aragorn tells me that when he tried to meet with the staff on his second day as King, the Hall of Kings was full, and he was told a goodly portion of the staff didn’t attend even then, for too many were needed to keep working. I don’t think there is a time when there isn’t some activity going on somewhere in the place.
"Can you imagine how difficult it would be to live there? They prepared a single room for Sam and me, and a second one for Merry and Pippin, and a bathing room for each bedroom. Each of the bedrooms was larger than your grandfather’s whole house! It was totally overwhelming. When Aragorn offered us the choice to stay with him in the prepared rooms in the Citadel or in a guest house in the Sixth Circle, all of us agreed we’d take the guest house. Even Aragorn would have preferred it, had he been allowed. But he’s the King now, so he’s stuck in the Citadel, although he spends a good number of nights wandering the upper levels of the city when he can’t sleep for the sense of enormity about him."
Dianthus tried vainly to imagine such a place, and gave up with the description of the rooms prepared for the four Hobbits.
"So we stayed in the guest house. It had two stories for living quarters and a lower level beneath it with the storage rooms, cold room, and larders. There were two bathing chambers and privies, one upstairs and one on the main floor. Originally the upper floor was intended for sleeping, so that was where the proper bedrooms were. On the main floor were a large day room, dining room, kitchen, entrance hall, bathing room and privy, two smaller parlors, and a private study or library off one of the smaller parlors. I slept in the study amidst the bookcases, Sam was given the parlor one must pass through to get to the study, and Merry and Pippin shared the other smaller parlor, which was a bit larger. Upstairs at the back of the house over the day room was a large room that was sort of a sitting room with a sleeping alcove at each end of it that was given to Gandalf and Pippin to sleep in during their earlier stay, and now Gandalf had for his own; another bedroom on the front looking down on the street with a large bathing chamber and privy next to it, and large bedrooms on each end. Lasgon, the boy assigned as our page, slept in one, and Legolas had the other, while Gimli slept in the room at the front. Lasgon stayed with us six nights a week, and Mistress Loren, who was assigned to us as our housekeeper, would sleep in his room the one night a week he had free to spend with his own family. Gandalf’s room was huge, and the other three were still large ones. Perhaps Gandalf’s had been intended as a nursery, or as the private quarters for the servants--I never figured out which, I’m afraid.
"Mistress Loren was appalled when we were granted the rooms on the lower floors to sleep in--I am certain she was just as affronted by the idea anyone would sleep on the ground floor as my Aunt Dora Baggins would have been had anyone suggested bedrooms be placed on the upper story."
He paused as she laughed, and she could see his eyes were twinkling. "Should we go eat our meal now, do you think?" he asked her.
"Yes, let’s," she answered as she took another handkerchief to blow her nose.
Together they walked into the kitchen. The table was already set for the two of them, and Frodo soon had both plates filled from the pans and bowls set on the stove and kitchen dresser. Once these were on the table he paused as he usually did and looked westward for a moment, and his face went quite still. Dianthus felt a bit uncomfortable with this, for it seemed at the moment he was seeing and hearing something only he could be aware of, and it almost appeared his face was lit, as if a secret candle shone on it.
At last he came back present, more than a trace of sadness--or something like it--on his face. He sat and began eating, quiet and distracted, his thoughts too far away from this house in Michel Delving.
"Why do you do that?"
Frodo lifted his face, startled, appearing surprised to realize he wasn’t alone. "What?" he asked.
"Why do you stand for a moment before you eat, facing that way?"
He looked down at his plate and shrugged. After a moment he said quietly, "It’s called the Standing Silence. It’s what they do in Gondor before meals. They face the West, toward where Númenor was, where the Undying Lands are, in honor of the Valar and the Maiar and those beyond our world in the Presence of the Creator."
"Why does it make you sad?"
Frodo glanced at her, then away, seemingly focused on his plate as he pushed his food around it. Finally he said so softly she had to listen carefully. "I’m not sad--not really, Dianthus. It’s just that--that sometimes I feel--that----" He went quiet again, and shook his head.
"That I’m being called."
"Why?" And after getting no answer she asked, "Who’d call you?"
He looked at her sideways, then back again at the plate. He stopped pushing his food around, and instead held the fork between his hands and turned it. He gave a sigh and straightened. "I almost didn’t come back, Dianthus. I was--badly wounded--several times. Aragorn was able to call me back the last time, and sometimes--sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if I’d not turned." He looked at her directly, then gave a slight, somewhat apologetic smile.
"Let’s see--where was I? Oh, yes, I’d told you about the house and how upset Mistress Loren was to learn we Hobbits were going to sleep downstairs." He took a bite of salad and chewed it, then swallowed. His fuller smile returned.
"Mistress Loren was a young woman, not long an adult in the reckoning of Men, being in her early twenties. She was of mostly Dúnedain descent, rather tall, her hair dark, her eyes grey, her carriage tall and proud. Her family had served the Citadel for many generations, as was true also of young Lasgon, who was about fourteen, which would be similar to being a Hobbit of about eighteen to twenty.
"Mistress Loren was very attractive, and one of the first women we’d been near for some time, plus she was an accomplished cook. From her first batch of nut cakes Pippin was lost; and when she made her thin griddlecakes filled with sweetened creamed cheese and fruit and covered in syrup and clotted cream all of us found ourselves in love with her." His smile became somewhat rueful. "I found those too rich for me, and would have to ask for lighter fare for myself when she made them on the mornings after she’d stayed the night. But we all loved them. All of us were eating extravagant amounts of fruit, although I soon found I had to be more moderate than the others. She had a recipe for sweet cakes to pour fruit over that was marvelous; and what she could do with thin strips of beef, vegetables, and oil of sesame cannot be believed!
"One thing of which we remained unaware--that among Men the sharing of family recipes does not mean what it means here. It is a matter of pride there as it is here to be asked to share a recipe, and a cook may or may not choose to share one when asked. But when Pippin, joking, asked her recipe for her onion soup and she gave it to him--you can imagine how shocked he was!"
Dianthus’s mouth dropped open. "You mean that Mr. Peregrin is betrothed to her now?" she demanded, as that was the common meaning of an unmarried lass sharing family recipes with an unmarried lad within the Shire.
"Oh, you can’t imagine what confusion there was, for Pippin indeed thought she fancied him. He was immensely flattered, of course, and began bringing her small gifts--a fruit he purchased from a merchant sailor who’d brought it from a land far across the southern sea, one with a peel with thick hairs upon it and that had a green flesh and many seeds; another called a pomegranate that has a thick peel and is filled with seeds, each in its own sac of juice; the feather of a fantastic bird called a peacock--there’s a family in the Fifth Circle that’s successfully bred them; a figure of an owl carved from a clear stone crystal. It was rather sweet, actually, watching him pay court to her.
"And then Merry, meaning to tease Pippin, asked her for her recipe for ginger biscuits in front of Pippin, and she gave it to him--stood right there and wrote it out on a small card and insisted he put it into his pack so he wouldn’t forget it when we left the city, right there in front of us all. Merry had to pick his jaw right up off the floor, and Pippin went very white.
"Then one day when she made a sort of sour jam she called marmalade from the rind of the orange fruits, a jam Sam adored although I can’t abide it--how something so sweet as the orange fruit can produce something so bitter is something I can’t understand--Sam stood in the kitchen after she’d left it commenting to Pippin he’d love to have that recipe, and she overheard him, came back in, started writing it out for him and told him where he might purchase the special device for slicing the peel thin enough to make it. Sam went all kinds of red, for there’s never been any question that he and Rosie Cotton have had an understanding since their childhood. He was all but sputtering that he couldn’t accept a recipe from her, and she was totally confused as to why not!"
"She’d lead them all on?" asked Dianthus, scandalized.
"Oh, no, not that at all. Aragorn arrived just then with Gandalf--poor Aragorn, he’d slip away from the Citadel at times when he could and the protocol had become too stringent and heavy for him--and came in to find the house in confusion. Sam was terribly embarrassed and almost insulted, Pippin was stricken, and Merry was about to take up arms to protect his cousin’s feelings. ‘You can’t do this, you know, Mistress Loren,’ he was telling her as the King entered, ‘toying with a lad’s affections as you are!’ And it was obvious to me she hadn’t the slightest idea what he was talking about.
"I was beginning to realize that she’d not actually been trying to indicate she was interested in Pippin--in fact, I’d been shocked when she first gave Pippin the recipe, for both Sam and I were certain she was most fascinated by Merry of the four of us. When she gave the one for the ginger biscuits to Merry I’d figured she’d given the recipe to Pippin to make Merry jealous but was now declaring herself properly. Now I realized it was quite different, and that she wasn’t drawn to any of us at all.
"Mistress Loren was all in tears at that point and turned to the King to indicate that somehow she’d appeared to have insulted us and perhaps another should be chosen to serve us, Strider was standing there also all bewildered, and Gandalf just looked at the situation and demanded to know what precisely had happened. I started to explain, and was interrupted frequently by Sam and Merry, both of them most indignant; but it didn’t take a great deal for Gandalf to figure it out--and how he laughed!
"Sam had commented to me that since his return Gandalf had become like a fount of humor and joy, enough to set whole kingdoms laughing; and that afternoon he did just that. All of a sudden Aragorn began to laugh, and when he truly laughs it is a rolling laugh! 'Oh,' Aragorn kept repeating, 'Bilbo and Meliangiloreth! Bilbo and Meliangiloreth!' And then I began laughing as I realized I was right, and then Sam because he couldn’t help it, and then Merry and Pippin because I was laughing so hard. Only Mistress Loren wasn’t laughing at that point, being even more bewildered than any of the rest.
"Then Legolas and Gimli came in, and immediately Gimli wanted to know what was happening. Aragorn tried to explain, but was laughing so hard he was barely understandable. Both he and I were collapsed onto the floor holding our knees by that time. Gimli figured it out and then he began to chuckle, too--and his laughter is rich and full. Legolas hadn’t any more idea what was going on than Mistress Loren, so he went to her and tried to soothe her, although he was smiling because he couldn’t help doing so, as much as the rest of us were laughing.
"At last Aragorn got control of himself, although he continued grinning from ear to ear. ‘The problem, you see,’ he explained to Mistress Loren, ‘is that for a lady among Hobbits to give a recipe to a gentleman among Hobbits has a far deeper meaning than it does among Men. Shortly after he came to Rivendell to live, Frodo’s Uncle Bilbo made the comment to Meliangiloreth, one of the healers who also likes at times to help in the kitchens, that he liked her thin griddle cakes she’d roll around a cone and fill with fruit and cream. When she offered him the recipe he got all flustered and explained that, as old as he was it wouldn’t be proper to accept her regards, and we realized that the sharing of recipes between male and female is part of courtship among Hobbits.’
"‘Then, it doesn’t mean anything among Men?’ Pippin asked.
"‘Nor among Elves or Dwarves, although, Mistress Loren, I strongly advise you not to ask to borrow Master Gimli’s knife or any of his tools...’."
"I don’t think I have ever seen anyone who ever laughed as much as Legolas did at that, and next thing you know we were all roaring again."
Frodo ate, although not as well as he ought to have done, Dianthus thought. Afterwards she helped him clean the kitchen, and he put a couple extra logs onto the kitchen hearth to keep it warmer until the rest returned. Then, with mugs of cider and spices, sliced bread and cheese, the mulling poker and the toasting fork, and a couple of plates, the butter crock, jam, and a knife, they repaired to the parlor once more. As Frodo heated the poker, Dianthus carefully positioned bread on the toasting fork to heat.
Finally she asked, "What did you mean, Gandalf’s return?"
Frodo paused and straightened, then said quietly, "I know this is difficult to understand, but during our journey south Gandalf died. He fell into a deep chasm, and died. He told Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli he was sent back to finish his task, for he was intended to be the enemy of Sauron; and until Sauron was cast down forever he was needed here."
"Who sent him back?"
"The Valar and the Creator." He twisted his head to look at her. "That’s why the Wizards were sent to Middle Earth to begin with, to teach all of us who live here to oppose Sauron. That’s what made it so terrible when Saruman--Sharkey--fell and betrayed all of the Free Peoples--that he, too, was meant to oppose Sauron, but instead began helping him and apparently tried to take his place. If he’d managed to get--It--he would have been just as bad as Sauron, if not worse."
He looked away again, watching the end of the poker inside the flames. When he spoke again, once more it was as if he were explaining things more to himself than to her. "The first time we met Gandalf, Sam and me, it was just after I came to Hobbiton to live with Bilbo. He’d just come from Rivendell, and Lord Elrond had sent books with him about the first encounters the Elves of Imladris had known with Hobbits, those who came over the passes of the Misty Mountains from the valley of the Anduin into Eriador. Bilbo set me copying out one of Lord Elrond’s own journals. I didn’t begin to understand it all--I wasn’t very good with Sindarin then, much less Quenya. But the earliest part wasn’t about Periannath--about Hobbits, at all; it was about the coming of the last of the Istari, whom the wandering tribes called Gandalf, which means the Man with the Staff.
"There were five Wizards then--Saruman the White, Radagast the Brown, the two Blue Wizards who came together and disappeared into the East and were not seen again, and at last Gandalf the Grey. Saruman was the first and was acknowledged the chieftain of their order by the others. But in spite of appearing to be elderly Men, they obviously weren’t, for after several lives of Men neither Saruman nor Radagast had aged at all by the time Gandalf arrived."
"If they aren’t Men, then what are they?"
He placed the heated poker into her mug to heat the cider, shrugging as he did so. "The Elves," he said, "call them the Istari. I still don’t have a good understanding of what Istari means, but it seems to indicate a special class of servants. What Lord Elrond’s journal indicated, however, is that according to what he learned from the Elves of Lindon and Mithlond was that they all arrived in grey boats from the west, from the Sundering Sea."
He checked the temperature of the heated cider, then removed the poker and set it to heat again. As she blew her nose he accepted the toasting fork and balanced its burden over the flames by leaning it over the fender. He handed her the heated mug and turned his attention back to the toasting bread and cheese. "When mortals--Men, Dwarves, and Hobbits--die, our spirits leave the Bounds of Arda. Many among the Dúnedain believe that they can rest, at least for a time, in the Halls of Mandos before they go on if they wish. But once we’ve died our spirits go on, and don’t come back.
"Elves don’t die as mortals do. They stay in their bodies unless their bodies are killed or unless they suffer extreme grief, and then their fëar or spirits pass into the Halls of Mandos until their spirits are sufficiently recovered to be put back into bodies again--what they call being rehoused. I used to think that was just a story, until I met Lord Glorfindel. It happened to him. He died fighting a Balrog--one of the Maiar or servant spirits who followed Morgoth and took the shapes of demons of fire and shadow. He was not only rehoused, but was sent back to Middle Earth again, this time to aid in the fight against Sauron, just as was true of the five Istari."
"Then Gandalf’s an Elf spirit?" Dianthus asked.
He removed the toasted bread and placed it on one of the plates, then took the poker and held it in his own mug, shrugging. "I suspect he’s something more--that all of the Istari were something more. But he was sent back, and he was changed. He has a new staff now, a fine one of what appears to be ivory. It’s top reminds me still of a flame, but also of the arched windows of the Citadel of Minas Tirith. He is clad now in the finest white garments, far more beautiful than those worn by Saruman before his staff was broken, or so Gimli, Legolas, Aragorn, Merry, and Pippin tell me. He is filled with the greatest joy and delight, although all tell me that during the final weeks of the war he often appeared exhausted, grim, and even at times filled with grief. They said when my mithril shirt and cloak from Lorien and clothing and Sam’s sword were brought out to them by Sauron’s creature he looked stricken with grief and near despair, and all about him looked grey as ash. For an exceedingly brief time they all thought I’d been taken and was even then being tortured in the dungeons of Barad-dur. But both Aragorn and Gandalf realized that, from Sauron’s point of view, only one Hobbit had been found, not two, so they believed one of us, Sam or me, had taken the--had taken It on to the Mountain, even if one of us had been captured."
He removed the poker and set it down with a clank on the hearth, lifted the mug, and stared down into it. Dianthus could see where his finger was missing, although she didn’t like to think on how it was lost.
"But neither of you was captured," she prompted.
"Actually," he sighed, "I had been captured, but Sam had rescued me. They had no idea who we were or why we were trying to get into Mordor. But that’s how they got my clothes."
She began to giggle. "You mean you were--" she whispered, "naked--with no clothes on in Mordor?"
Suddenly he was giggling, too, and the giggle turned into a true laugh. "Yes, I started out that way, although Sam quickly found some orc clothes I could wear, at least for a bit. Then I couldn’t stand them any more, and he wrapped me in his Lorien cloak as a robe." He smiled at her fondly. "Trust you to realize how ludicrous I must have looked at the time."
She started to drink some of her cider, found herself laughing again and snorted her drink out her nose. Frodo was laughing also as he sought to help her clean herself up. At last she managed to gasp out, "He didn’t know that the one as he needed to watch out for was the Hobbit what didn’t have no clothes on, did he?"
Frodo lost it completely, and laughed helplessly, drawing his knees up to his chest. Dianthus watched, feeling triumph.
At last Frodo drew her up into his lap, forgetting the troubling contract he’d been reviewing earlier, forgetting his solemnity. "Thank you, Dianthus," he whispered to her, "for a most entertaining evening."
She smiled as she snuggled closer to his chest, and smiled as he rested his cheek against the top of her head.
When at last her parents and grandparents returned, that was how they found them, Frodo asleep with a smile on his face, holding Dianthus in his lap, snoring softly against his chest.
As her father gently disengaged his daughter so he could take her to her bed, she awoke. She looked back at the Hobbit who slept in the chair and smiled. "Look, Da," she murmured, "his secret candle is lit again."
And indeed it did appear that Frodo was somehow glowing softly in his sleep.
Afar off in Rivendell Olórin was watching over the Ringbearer’s dreams. Frodo dreamed he was at a great picnic, with his parents, and the brothers and sister who’d been lost to him around them. And if his brothers had been increased in number somewhat and resembled Aragorn, Sam, Merry, and Pippin and the sister he swung about in circles looked like Dianthus Sandheaver, no one would fault him.
The Wizard smiled as he called blessings down on his friend.