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The First Snowfall of the Season
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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The First Snowfall of the Season

With thanks to RiverOtter for the beta, this is dedicated to all who have read and loved my stories. A joyful holiday season. Thank you all!


~~~

The First Snowfall of the Season


It was the Yule after Samwise Gamgee, the Mayor of the Shire, returned from a year’s visit to Minas Tirith with his wife and oldest daughter--and youngest son. They had returned north with the King’s party, who were to spend a year in Annúminas. For the two weeks surrounding Yule the King’s Companions from the Shire came out of their homeland to attend on him and their Queen in the northern capital, staying in the quarters prepared for Hobbits in the south wing of the King’s Retreat, Lord Aragorn’s personal estate on the edge of the city and the shores of Lake Evendim.

The children were excited as they prepared for bed, for it had begun snowing during late supper, and all were eager for the morning to come so that they might go out and play in it, their parents insisting there would be no frolicking in it this night.

“But we’ve had no Yule bonfire!” protested Merry-lad.

“And it’s far too cold, and the wind too sharp for such a thing,” Mother Rosie instructed him. “And here half of you are a-fightin’ colds from the ride here and bein’ caught out in a rainstorm. It’s enough, it is, that we’re here and warm, and havin’ such a feast as we had with Lord Strider and the Lady Arwen, and seein’ the Yule log lit in such splendor as happened. Nay--I’ll not be treatin’ feet for blistered toes and seein’ half of you all not willin’ t’rise from your beds in the mornin’. The wind should be blown out by sunrise, and the snow won’t be gone when all of us get up.”

“When you’re all ready for bed,” Uncle Pippin said, “if you’ll come to the main parlor, we’ll have some stories and punch before you all go to be tucked in.”

“Will Fari be there?”

“Yes, and Wynnie as well, not to mention your Uncle Merry’s brood. They’re hurrying so as to try to beat you all to the parlor.”

Suddenly all of the Gamgee children were hurrying to complete their ablutions and to pull on nightclothes and dressing gowns. Once all were settled near the blazing fireplace and the adults were seated in the comfortable chairs provided, there was a knock at the door. Frodo-lad went to open it.

“Uncle Strider! Aunt Arwen!” He bowed neatly, admitting their Lord and Lady into the room, their Queen carrying her younger daughter Idril, who wasn’t two yet, in her arms. The two came and settled on low cushions left for them in the midst of the children.

“Well, you come in good time,” Sam commented. “We was about to start a-tellin’ stories, you see.”

“Ah--then we arrived precisely at the right moment,” their King assured them. “There is nothing better for Yule than stories!”

“Except for a Yule bonfire,” Merry-lad commented in low tones.

Aragorn gave him a sympathetic smile. “I’m so sorry, young Merry, but the way the snowstorm is going outside, it would be rather dangerous to light one tonight. However, I suspect that the wind will die down by morning and the clouds clear. We will have a marvelous Second Yule tomorrow--wait and see!”

“And what stories do you want tonight?” Sam asked the children.

There were several competing suggestions, but it was Elanor’s that the rest agreed to. “Tell us what it was like when you were lads in the winter when it snowed, and when Uncle Frodo was with you.”

Melody Brandybuck crept closer to the Mayor’s oldest daughter, and Elanor put her arm around the lass. The three Hobbit fathers were exchanging glances, obviously wondering which tales to tell. Merry told his tale first, of getting lost in the snow and Frodo finding him, taking shelter beneath the roots of a fallen tree, and keeping him warm until morning when at last the storm died down and a search party could get to them.

Pippin told a favorite of his Aunt Esmeralda’s, of when there had been a terrible snowstorm in late November followed by thawing. A bank had collapsed and thrown Gomez Brandybuck, who’d never really liked Frodo, into the Brandywine while he’d been on flood watch along with Uncle Dinodas and Frodo and a few others. Frodo had saved this cousin and turned him from an enemy to a friend. “I wasn’t born yet, but she told it so many times. She was so very proud of him!”

Merry was nodding, remembering the incident. “I was six, I think. Both of them were so cold when they got them back to Brandy Hall, and they were taken right to the infirmary. Mum and Dad could hardly pry me away from Frodo’s side, I was so worried about him.”

“I member old Mr. Bilbo tellin’ the Gaffer about that, and me but a lad of seven or eight at the time,” Sam said. “Missus Esmeralda wasn’t the only one what was proud of my Mr. Frodo about that one. I member my dad after tellin’ us of how Mr. Frodo’s dad and mum had drownded in the river, and about how dangerous rivers can be. Give me a powerful respect for water, let me tell you!”

“Is that why you were afraid when you were in the Elven boat coming down the Anduin, Sam-dad?” asked Hamfast.

“I suppose so, son. But then, it’s just not natural for most Hobbits to mess about with water and boats, you know. That Gomez Brandybuck was powerful lucky as Mr. Frodo wasn’t afraid of water like me and knew what he was doin’.”

“They were luckier that they had others with them who thought fast and could pull them from the water and get them to shelter. Had they stayed in the water much longer they would have died of the cold, probably,” Merry pointed out. “It’s very dangerous to get cold and wet in the wintertime when there’s sleet and wind the way there was that night. Isn’t that so, Strider?”

“Indeed,” Aragorn answered. He’d not heard that tale before, and his estimation of his absent friend rose yet again, not that it wasn’t unusually high to begin with. There was a soft knock at the door, and Eldarion peered in, and at his father’s nod entered, followed by his older sister Melian, both tiptoeing over to sit on the edge of the group of Hobbit children.

Sam looked at the others. “I can’t tell tales of him savin’ folks like you can,” he said. “But I can tell of him as the best snowball thrower in all of Hobbiton.” He began smiling at the memory. “He loved it when there was snow, and the very first snow of a year, he’d be out there, makin’ snowballs and gettin’ ready, first thing as it was light. Now, he wasn’t a big one for wakin’ up early, you see. My Frodo--he was one for stayin’ comfortable and warm, snug in his bed if’n he didn’t have aught else as needed doin’. But the first snowfall, he’d be as giddy as any of you lot.” He smiled benignly around the group of children, big and small. “It was as if he weren’t a great tween, but as young as any of us, once there was that first snow.

“There he’d be, his warmest mittens on and a scarf as Missus Eglantine made for him about his neck, just rollin’ up snowballs and then lyin’ in wait. I never got the drop on him, that first snowfall of the year--never! Always, he’d be waitin’ behind the hedge up on the hill, waitin’ for any sign as any of us down on the Row was stirrin’, and first one outside would get a snowball right on the back of the head! And usually that was me, there at Number Three! One time I set myself to wake up early--had vowed to get him that year, I had; got up about an hour afore sunrise and sneaked up the back way into the garden and was waitin’ for him to come out the front door. Only he didn’t--came out the back door and saw me a-waitin’ for him, and----

“Well, let’s just say as Elves aren’t any more devious than Mr. Frodo Baggins could be! He slipped up on me and I never dreamed as he was behind me! Got me right square, same as usual, right in the back of the head!” He laughed at the memory. “Yes, he got me, there on the back of the head, same as always, and then slipped away fast as could be, his laughter on the air like silver bells ringin’! Oh, we fought it out then, each of us rollin’ up snowballs fast as we could; but I never got him first!”

Soon afterwards the children were being shepherded to their beds, all first giving their bows and curtseys to King and Queen, then hugging and kissing them good night. Sam paused for a moment by his mannish friend, watching as Rosie carried Tolman over her shoulder and led little Robin by the hand. “They’re a good lot, all of our children,” he said. “It’s only too bad as the only one as he ever got to hold was our Elanor. I sometimes think as he was lovin’ her as much as he did so as she could share all that love with the rest for him.”

Aragorn nodded, smiling sadly. “Certainly she has love and to spare, and often she reminds me of him, although she’s so small while he was tall for a Hobbit.”

“He would of loved this, you know, Lord Strider. He’d of loved the house here, and the lake and trees and the sight of the city growin’ up out of the ruins again. And the snow--he’d of loved the snow especial!”

For a moment the Man let his hand lie on the Hobbit’s shoulder, until at last Sam looked up to indicate he knew he ought to be helping his wife put the children to bed. Aragorn was left at last alone in the parlor, looking out the great, round glass door onto what could be seen through the thickly swirling snow of the laid stone pavement and the hedges and trees that encircled it, imagining how Frodo might have acted had he visited the place. Well, from what he remembered of his friend, Frodo would have been delighted, and probably would have turned slowly to examine it, burning the image of it into his remarkable memory.

It was with that thought shining in his imagination that he turned to blowing out the lights in the room. “I wish you could be here, Frodo Baggins,” he murmured as he looked about the large, empty chamber, lit now only by the fire on the hearth, “to share such a beautiful Yule with us.” Finally he closed the door behind him as he headed for his own quarters.

*******


Ah, Gandalf, Frodo commented to his friend as they approached the great Garden where he dwelt, it was a wonderful celebration. And, back in Middle Earth it’s Yule, isn’t it?

“Yes, Iorhael,” Olórin answered him, “it is indeed Yule. In fact, I suspect that Arien is just preparing to sail her bark up over the horizon to shine down on the Shire, heralding Second Yule right about now. Will you spend the night in the summer house?”

But Frodo was shaking his head. No--I rather miss Bilbo at the moment. I think I will go to the garden of the White Tree and spend what is left of the night there, there where we buried him.

The Hobbit sighed. It is so odd to be here where it is so warm most of the time. Perhaps that’s a good part of why I have so much difficulty keeping track of time here, because the weather is so mild throughout the year. I fear I’ve seen a snowfall on the island only two or three times in as long as I’ve dwelt here. He looked up to meet the Maia’s gaze. I miss the snow. I love it so--or I did until we saw how it greeted us on Caradhras.

“You are feeling homesick, perhaps?”

No, not homesick for the Shire so much as for those I love tonight. I would love to see them again, if only briefly--Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn.

“Then perhaps Lord Irmo will take thought to giving you a solstice gift of dreams of them.”

Frodo laughed. From your lips to his ears! he responded. He reached up to press Olórin’s hand, then impulsively hugged the Maia’s knees before turning away toward the White Tree, pulling the cloak the Lady Galadriel had given him so long ago closer about him. It was not cold here as it would be in the Shire, but it was cool enough.

He reached the garden of the White Tree and spent some time near Bilbo’s grave, quietly communing with his memories of the old Hobbit. From afar the former Wizard watched him, noting the particular transparency there was to his mortal friend this night. Those dreams he’d mentioned would be well appreciated tonight, he thought. With decision he threw off his hröa and took himself to the garden of Lórien to approach its Lord.

The former Frodo Baggins, unaware of the watch kept on him by the Maia, remained some time further beside Bilbo’s grave, then moved to the bole of the White Tree itself. The ground beneath the Tree was pale, for when blossoms and leaves fell from it all were palest white and silver. It looks almost like snow here, he thought as he sat and leaned back against the tree’s trunk. I could almost be back in the Shire itself at the first snowfall. He smiled at the image of his former life, and slid gratefully into a doze, eventually slipping sideways to lie on the ground, hugging the Elven cloak more closely to him as he curled on his side. He smiled as he burrowed into the fragrant litter of blossoms and leaves, and it pleased a small breeze to sprinkle some of the now dried blossoms throughout his curls and over the silver-green cloak hugged so tightly about him.

*******


Lord Irmo listened to Olórin’s request, touched and amused. You would wish such a thing for him?

“He grows lonely, my lord. He brightens the isle of Eressëa with his presence; but now and then he requires reassurance he remains yet a Hobbit of the Shire, a mortal who has the right to go beyond the Bounds of Arda when his time comes, one who yet has ties of the spirit to others also bound to mortality. He has the need to delight in the knowledge he is still remembered, that he has the promise of reunion with those he loves when each one’s time comes.”

Irmo’s smile grew wide and brilliant. You will watch over this dream for him, then, Faithful One?

Olórin bowed deeply. “It would be my honor, my Lord Irmo.”

Irmo bent his head over the pond by him. I will consult with the others to see how deeply we may immerse him in this dream. Indeed, it is not fair that in offering him healing he should have still suffered a hurt that proves nearly mortal in itself. There was a brightening of the flowered glade, and the Maia was aware of the attention of the rest of the Valar. Estë appeared by her spouse’s side; Ulmo’s image could be seen within the pool, the wild visage of Ossë on one side of him, the calm features of Uinen on the other. Manwë appeared with his winds lifting his robes; Varda’s circlet of stars heartened him. Vairë, weaving shuttle in hand, appeared on the arm of Námo.

Nienna? asked Tulkas as he appeared with Vána and Nessa.

She keeps watch by the Ringbearer, Aulë and Yavanna with her, while Oromë sees to it no evil approaches him.

How deeply would you send him into this proposed dream? asked Varda.

Irmo searched her eyes, then smiled. Very deeply indeed. Let them know a moment of true communion--after all, each of these has given greatly to the needs of others.

They looked one to another, and at last to the Elder King, who had gone quiet. With a last glance at the Doomsman as if for confirmation, Manwë inclined his head in assent. So let it be, then. Let him briefly pass through the dream to the joy of all.

Olórin bowed deeply to express his thanksgiving for this boon granted to these who had been his friends....

*******


It grew colder, and Frodo found himself drawing his Elven cloak even closer about him, then waking completely. White litter piled up about him, but no longer was it fragrant--instead, it was chilling--a once familiar chill he’d not felt for a very, very long time. He sat up, confused, and looked about him. He sat upon snow--was surrounded by it! Snow--truly snow such as he’d not seen since the winter before he’d left Middle Earth! How--how was this possible?

He shivered, but was thrilled by the cold, much as he’d been thrilled by it when he’d wake as a young Hobbit within Bag End and know that he could play at battles of snowballs with no restrictions save for those imposed by his own good sense. He rose and looked about him. He appeared to have awakened in the center of some kind of garden--no, not a garden; there was stone under the thick layer of snow. No, it was a pavement, and for a moment he thought himself back in Minas Tirith where most of the area before the Citadel, there on the Seventh Level, was floored with white marble blocks or the black keel of stone that halved the city.

No--no, this was not Minas Tirith, although it must be a place wrought by Men, or so he realized. There was fall of land down to a lake to one side of him, and a building with two wings thrust out from it on the other. A great court, then, lying within the embrace of the building? Yes, that made sense. He’d never been here, though, not in life, at least. What place was this?

He walked across the pavement and rejoiced in the crisp air stinging his face. It made him feel so alive! Near the steps down to the sloping land leading down to the lake was a row of benches, and he could see some were lower and some higher, as if some were designed for Men and Elves, and others for children and Dwarves--and Hobbits!

“Annúminas!” he said aloud. This must be Annúminas--it has been rebuilt! This is Aragorn’s place--his private home--within Annúminas! With that thought he turned to examine the structure. The central portion was three stories high, the northern wing two, and the southern wing decidedly lower, almost rounded, with a familiar feel to it....

Hobbits! It was constructed for Hobbits! Certainly the windows were round, and even the great glassed door in the center of the wing was round--cleverly constructed, he realized, to split in the center to open in two leaves! “Bless him!” he whispered.

The eastern sky was growing lighter, and he saw that in that direction were great massed clouds growing brighter as the Sun prepared to rise. Overhead the lingering half moon gave more than sufficient illumination to examine the design of the place. Below the row of windows marking the second story of the central portion of the building were a number of balconies, and in the very center a small tower rose at least two more stories to a total of at least five, the highest window of which was surrounded by stonework in the shape of an eight-pointed star. The Star of Elendil! Yes, Aragorn’s own house.

Automatically he began constructing shapes in the snow on the closest bench, starting with large balls of snow piled together and then filled in with snow packed and smoothed by hand, until he’d shaped first a monkey, then a bottle shape, and finally a loaf. It was a series of shapes Bilbo had taught him during visits at Brandy Hall, there after his parents had died. “My Uncle Isengar got me started doing it--such shapes are constructed, he told me when I was a child, in Harad during the first rain of the season, that first rain marking the first of the year in their reckoning. They are sculpted from mixed mud and sand, and are intended to bring luck to the households where they are constructed. The longer they last during the time of rains, the more luck it is believed the householder will know.

“The first is a monkey--yes, like the toy I gave you when you were a faunt. The monkey is curious and sometimes destructive; but will lead folks true to pure water and edible fruit, they believe. The second is a bottle, that the family never know thirst. The third is a loaf of bread, that the family never know hunger. He felt such a custom was a wonderful one, and one particularly in tune with our natures as Hobbits. As I said, he taught me this when I was a child, so I’d always sculpt such a series, the first snowfall of the year.”


Yes, Frodo, too, had found such a custom somehow delightful and well in keeping with the sensibilities of Hobbits, and he’d always gone out to do this construction at dawn after the first snowfall of the season. And then he’d rolled snowballs and laid in wait, rejoicing to share the delight of the first snow with those he loved--Bilbo, Merry, Uncle Sara, whatever cousins might be about, the Gaffer, and--and Sam! Oh, how he’d loved to greet Sam to the first snow with a well-placed snowball!

It was years since he’d constructed his snow-monkey; but he found he had it shaped quickly enough. The bottle and loaf followed, and at last he was pleased with his efforts.

Now--now to see if his last custom associated with the first snowfall could be achieved. He rolled a series of goodly shaped snowballs and thought where he might lie in wait for his intended victims! Oh, that bench, there, near the place where the Hobbit wing jutted out from the main body of the house. Oh, yes! Perfect!

*******


Sam woke not long before dawn and made his way to the great parlor, and set about awakening the fire from the embers of the night before, those embers having been lit from a torch brought from the King’s own Yule Log. He had just managed to get the new logs to catch when the door opened, admitting Merry and Pippin.

“I told you we wouldn’t have to mind the fire this morning,” Pippin said after seeing Sam kneeling before the hearth.

“Yes, but you were hinting we should leave it to the housekeeper for this wing--or for the page assigned us,” Merry returned.

Sam sniffed, “Don’t think as they’ve looked in on us yet. Probably still sleepin’ off last night--Strider made it plain as we’re capable of seein’ to ourselves at least today of all days. So, how is it as you two’s up already?”

The Thain shrugged. “It appears that our wives decided that we should fix first breakfast this morning and fetch it to them before the children wake up to insist on their gifts.”

Sam gave the two of them a jaded look. “You two lived so long in the bigger smials you’ve forgot how to do for yourselves?” he asked, shaking his head.

But in moments the three of them were in the kitchen provided for the Hobbit wing, preparing a swift bite for their ladies; and after delivering their trays they returned to the parlor to watch the growing light of dawn.

“It’s beautiful,” Pippin said, pulling his cloak from Lothlórien from the coat tree by the door. “Let’s go out and have a pipe before we eat our own first breakfasts.”

Sam and Merry gladly followed him out of doors, all three pausing to listen with delight as the twin brothers of King and Queen raised their songs to greet the dawn. They heard another door close, and looked up to see Aragorn, wrapped in his own dressing gown, stepping out onto the balcony outside the room he shared with his wife. His head was also raised as he listened, his smile of deep delight clear to be seen. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back slightly--when----

Thwack!

A snowball hit him squarely on the ear! His look of consternation was almost funny--if he hadn’t immediately glared down at the three of them, all looking up at him in confusion. “If you can’t stop being Hobbits for----” he began, but stopped in awe as each of the three Hobbits was hit precisely on the side of the head by an unexpected snowball from the corner between them. They heard familiar, delighted laughter and felt a thrill of recognition!

“Frodo--he did it again!” Sam said in confusion.

“I did what?” asked Frodo-lad from behind them, coming out the door to join them, dressed in his page’s livery, as he was to serve as such this day.

“Not you, child--your namefather!” Pippin said, wiping snow from his hair.

Aragorn had disappeared back into his room, and in moments both he and his wife, followed by their older two children, were spilling out the doorway into the courtyard from the central portion of the building. Aragorn was springing for the corner from which the snowballs had come; but although he could see where the snow had been scooped, there was no one hidden there now. He held out his hands to stop his family from approaching more closely. “No,” he said. “I need to follow the tracks.”

Merry, Pippin, and Sam had hurried toward him, but stopped short at his words. Frodo-lad came even with them. “No one went past me, I’ll swear, Uncle Strider!” he said.

“I believe you, Frodo-lad. But someone was here. See?”

All came closer. They could see the line of footprints coming across the flat expanse from the edge of the court where the stone steps led down to the sloping lawn to the lake. They were not particularly deep, and were mostly well defined.

“An elegant foot, that one,” Aragorn murmured.

“Not theirs, though,” Eldarion said, comparing what could be seen of this unknown Hobbit’s footprint with those of the four who’d come out of the Hobbit wing. Pippin’s was as narrow, but considerably longer. Merry’s was both longer and somewhat broader, and his second toe was longer than his great one, if not as wide. Sam’s were shorter than these, and nowhere as elegant. Frodo-lad’s resembled his father’s, although they were a bit narrower than Sam’s.

Aragorn began to follow the tracks, and the rest trailed after him as he went the full span of the stone court, then turned back toward where the tracks started, there in the very center of the square of pavement.

Now they spread out, looking down at the evidence someone had lain, curled up on his side here. “He started on his right side, his right arm somewhat stretched out,” Aragorn noted.

“Yes,” Merry said, and such was his tone of voice that all looked to him, seeing the unshed tears of delight and awe in his eyes. “He used to sleep that way, you know. Certainly he always did when I was a little one, and I’d sleep on his arm and put it to sleep!”

Arwen leaned over and picked up something from the disturbed snow where obviously a Hobbit had lain, then rose and turned. “Here, melleth nín--how is it the leaves from the White Tree lie here?”

She handed it to her husband, and he turned it in his fingers before gesturing Sam and Frodo-lad to come forward.

“It’s not from your White Tree, though,” Sam said, shaking his head. “It’s larger’n any leaf as I’ve seen on the tree in the White City.”

“And it’s--it’s purer, if you take my meaning,” added his son.

The others crowded closer, although they avoided the place where someone had apparently lain in the snow. Pippin reached out to gently stroke it. “But how could it have come here?” he asked.

Melian had reached to pick up two more leaves, and Eldarion crouched down to carefully lift a dried blossom, rising to show them to the others.

“He was sleeping beneath the White Tree--there--there on Tol Eressëa!” murmured Merry, his voice tight with emotion.

Aragorn swept the courtyard with his gaze. “There are no footprints leading here, and none would have come here during the storm last night,” he commented, looking at how the snow had drifted high against the building.

“What are the shapes on the bench?” asked Melian, indicating the one to which the footprints led.

Again avoiding the footprints of the now-missing visitor, they returned to the bench. None touched it. They could easily see where the snow had been scooped from to form the three shapes.

“He used to do this, back at Bag End,” Sam said, his brow furrowed. “Every year, the first snowfall, he’d make shapes like these on the garden bench, and would be ever so disappointed-like if’n anyone disturbed them.”

“He did them at Brandy Hall, too,” Merry agreed. “First snowfall. Always. Never told me why--only it was something Bilbo told him about.”

Aragorn nodded at the information. The shapes seemed familiar, somehow. He’d seen something like the central one.

“That one’s definitely a bottle, and I’d say that one’s a loaf of bread,” Frodo-lad said. “But that one in the middle----”

But the identity of the two side figures had sparked the memory in the Man. “Haradri!” he said. “It’s Haradri! There’s a custom when the rains begin to fall! They do three mud figures--a monkey, a bottle, and a loaf of bread, although in Haradri tradition they are usually round, not a loaf-shape such as we use. They symbolize the hope for prosperity--or at least freedom from want for food and drink--for the coming year. I saw them during my last trip to Harad, and An’Ankhrabi made his own figures in the garden of the Farozi’s house. The longer they last in the rains, the more luck the house is supposed to garner, although they are not to be protected from the weather in any way.”

“But what would Mr. Frodo know of the ways of those folk from Harad afore we left the Shire, even?” asked Sam, clearly bewildered.

But Pippin was starting to smile lopsidedly as he worked it out. “No--Merry said Frodo told him Bilbo taught him.”

“But how would Old Mr. Bilbo know nothin’ about what Southrons do?” persisted Sam.

Pippin raised his eyes from the figures to meet those of the gardener. “He would have been told by someone who had the chance to know! And I’d place my money on that someone being Isengar Took!” He wiped more moisture from his hair, smiling as he found a white petal adhering to the back of his hand. He immediately determined to preserve it if he could.

Sam looked at him blankly for a moment. “Isengar Took? Who’s--wait! You mean the old mad Took what went off to sail the seas?”

Pippin smiled more broadly. “Oh, yes--that one. It’s said he served as cabin boy on at least one ship--maybe two! He used to tell my grandda about such things as monkeys and all! And Grandda loved the tales, not that he necessarily believed them.”

“Well,” said Sam. “Who’d of thunk?”

Indeed, who would have thought of such a custom, there in the Shire?

But it was Frodo-lad who found the handprint where the sculptor of snow had steadied himself when he started to slip--the print of the right hand, with one finger clearly missing!

*******


He woke beneath the White Tree, sitting up in confusion. Nearby he smelled the odor of pipe smoke. Olórin had taken on the Wizard’s shape he’d worn for so long, and he was puffing at his pipe, his head wreathed in smoke rings. He laughed at the sight, and Gandalf paused in his smoking, taking the pipe from his mouth,

“Well--awake at last! And did you enjoy your dreams?”

Very much so! Frodo started to smile and rubbed absently at his head, then stopped, looking in surprise first at his hand and then at his feet. His hand was cold, cold and damp; and in the hair atop his feet could be clearly seen melting snow.

[Index]

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