The Road goes ever On by Nereus202
There is a land, out in the open sea of Middle Earth.
It is a perfect land, of course, the homeland of the elves, those lovers of woodlands and wild.
However, the small figure sitting on the sand is not an elf, given his height, the pipe he’s smoking, and, of course, the two hairy feet poking out from beneath the cloak.
Frodo Baggins shivered.
The reason was not easy to identify. Such a feeling of mingled terror, anxiety, and, strangely, excitement, had not come over him since he left, his homeland, the Shire, years and years ago. There was no reason for it at all. He was not in any danger, the day was beautiful, and he had a pipe, an item no hobbit would be without. And yet, the knot of nervous tension in his stomach remained sullenly tied.
A crunch of footsteps on the sand made him cry out, his head whipping round to spy the intruder. Even now, despite his years in the Undying Lands, he was rather jumpy when it came to small noises.
Frodo smiled, and spread out his hands in a gesture of welcome, only to halt at the look of nervous anxiety on the wrinkled face.
“What is wrong?” the hobbit asked. Gandalf merely looked on, unanswering, seemingly preoccupied.
The wizard looked up, startled, then looked down when he realized who had called.
“Frodo Baggins,” he murmured. Frodo noticed that the expression of worry had become one of concern.
“What’s happened?” he said, although he was not sure he wanted to know the answer.
“Something I never thought I would live to see,” answered the wizard.
“The One has been found.”
Far away from that land, in the insignificant little country known as The Shire, a young hobbit was running along the road into Hobbiton. His dark curls fell in his eyes, testimony to many refused haircuts, but he didn’t stop to brush them away. The two oversized feet thudded on the dirt road, beating a staccato rhythm.
He passed the first of the branching outskirts of the village, but continued on down the darkened lane, until he reached a relatively small smial, shabby, the red paint daubed onto the door years ago peeling and faded.
Picking up a handful of pebbles from the side of the road, the hobbit crept round to the side of the hole, where a light still shone in a window. The boy drew his hand back, then let fly with the stones. A loud crash alerted him to the fact that maybe he should have used slightly fewer pebbles.
A face appeared at the cracked window. It was a rather pale face for a hobbit, but, due to the heat of the kitchen, was sporting a red flush. It was attempting to assume an expression of fury, but was failing due to the fact that it was suppressing an onslaught of laughter.
“That’ll be the third window you’ve broken this month! My mother thinks I’m doing it on purpose.”
“Just tell her that your hand slipped and the tin went flying, or something,” said Frodo Gardner. “Have you got it?”
“Yes, and I’ve just finished,” said the hobbit girl, bending down to pick something up from the table where she had been working. “I’ve iced it, too. You’re rather late, so I had time to finish up in a fine style.”
“All the more reason we should hurry now then,” said Frodo. “Open up, Mithril!”
The girl, Mithril, put down the covered basket she had picked up, and fetched a key from a cupboard and opened the window. She then heaved herself onto the table top, picked up her burden, and started to struggle through the small opening.
“Want me to hold it?” offered Frodo.
“Not on your life!”
Mithril eased herself to the ground, basket still in hand. At that moment, a light shone out of one of the back windows.
“Run!” hissed Mithril. “Mam’ll kill me if she sees me up at this hour!”
“I thought she let you go!” whispered Frodo, as they sprinted down the lane. “You come every year!”
“It’s kind of an informal agreement we have,” said Mithril, trying to hold the basket steady. “If she doesn’t catch me, I’m free to go. If she does, it’s an evening of sitting at home helping Mam with her sewing. I don’t want to stay home tonight!”
Their way took them up the Hill to New Row, otherwise known as Sharkey’s End. They paused for a rest, doubling over panting, their breath coming in short gasps. Frodo leaned against a gatepost, drinking in deep breaths of cold night air. It was then he noticed a dusky glimmer from Mithril’s neck.
“What’s that you’re wearing?” he said, reaching out. Mithril quickly backed away.
“Get off!” she cried, reaching up to the pendant she wore. It had been tucked into the collar of her blouse, but had fallen out, and now lay against the starkly white linen, darkly gleaming.
It was a ring, shining with a cold light, and yet it was made of some shadowy stone or metal, the same colour as the night that now held them in its embrace. It was strung on a glittering chain, fine but strong, the glimmer of its hooped links almost dazzling in the darkness.
“I found it in a drawer at home, in an envelope,” Mithril said quietly, stroking the circle with the tips of her fingers. “Pretty, isn’t it? Like a starless night, but shining.”
Frodo didn’t answer for a while, staring at the ring as if, instead of a band of metal, it was a snake, coiled around the girl’s neck.
“Yes,” he said finally. “But don’t show Dad that.”
“Why not?” asked Mithril, slipping the trinket back into her collar.
“Well,” said Frodo. “He’s funny about things like that. You know what happened. And if you didn’t,” He smiled suddenly. “You’ll hear it tonight.”
The hobbits ran on to the end of New Row, until they came to a halt in front of the impressive green door of Bag End.
Frodo ran up the path to the door, which he proceeded to knock on with gusto. There was no response. Frodo shrugged, then pounded on the door with both fists, yelling “Dad! Dad! We want in!”
“Enough of that, my young hobbit!” came a voice from inside the smial. The door opened to reveal a hobbit, the once-sandy locks now flecked with grey, the rounded face somewhat lined, but still healthy-looking and content-that is, if you didn’t notice a strange something in his eyes which spoke of hardships faced and friends lost. “It damages the paintwork and makes extra work for me. Honestly Frodo-lad, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times… Did you bring it, Mithril-lass?” he asked eagerly, peering into the basket Mithril carried.
“Of course, Sam,” Mithril said with a smile.
She tugged off the basket’s covering to reveal a cake, decorated with care, with the words “Happy Birthday Frodo Baggins” written in chocolate icing.