About Year 1000 Fourth Age
Ælfwine groaned at the pile of dusty tomes, strewn with cobwebs and the debris of centuries. He reached out one dry, blue-veined hand—and sneezed. Recovering himself, he blinked aged eyes at the heap of books and manuscripts before him.
Restoring order to the King's Archives was going to be more difficult than he had hoped. He carefully moved one ancient tome and began to clean it with a soft cloth, pausing now and then to wipe his rheumy eyes.
The door burst open and a rosy, plump, young face broke into the subdued gloom of the room. "Master Ælfwine," his apprentice cried, "I found it! I found the fabled Blue Book of Bilbo Baggins!"
His hands clutched a small volume, its soft leather blackened with age.
A deep sigh escaped Ælfwine's wrinkled lips. "Give it here, at once." He stabbed his finger at the desk before him.
With trembling hands the apprentice lay the book before him. Faded gold edged the borders; a few pages appeared frayed or torn; but otherwise it was intact. Ælfwine opened it. The spidery writing on the opening page began, "My dear Aragorn…."
"This is it," Ælfwine said reverently. "Now we will discover all the secrets of the ancient Elves, of their virtue and wisdom."
He rubbed his hands in anticipation and turned the page.
He turned another page and his jaw dropped. His fingers shook as he touched a colored engraving in disbelief.
"My boy," he said sharply, "make me some tea."
His face falling, the apprentice scuttled out the door.
"Who would have thought it?" Ælfwine muttered. As he leafed through the book, the villainy grew even worse. He was still reading when the boy returned with the steeping pot and a heavy cup.
"This is not the Blue Book, you fool," he said furiously. "This is the raving of a diseased mind. How could you mistake it for a record of virtuous conduct?"
The boy peered over his shoulder. Hastily Ælfwine slammed the book shut. "It's time to feed the hens. Be gone."
Alone, Ælfwine opened the book again and gaped at a picture of Lúthien and Beren doing unspeakable things. Perhaps he should destroy it. Then again, his scholarly side objected to the spoilage of a relic of the Elder Days. Because there was no denying that handwriting: it exactly matched the thin scratches in the Red Book. Pity. Bilbo Baggins had not, after all, been the proper Hobbit gentleman portrayed in the legends.
He would put it aside for his own personal study. No one else need know.
As for the King's request for the edification of the court—well, there was the usual solution. He would bow before the King's majesty and say, "I fear, your grace, that the original was damaged beyond repair. I have here a fair copy."
He drew out a fresh sheet of parchment, dipped his quill into a small pot of black ink, and drew in large, ornate letters: Of the Laws and Customs Among the Eldar Pertaining to Marriage and Other Matters Related Thereto.