My Favorite Aragorn Stories
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Haven of Rivendell, The: 5. Gold Rings and Trout
The brown spotted trout leaped high into the white rushing water above the second falls of Rivendell. The dark-haired boy cheered gallantly as his guest, shorter than he was but clearly an adult, hooked the large fish and reeled him to the bank. Estel had the honor, commissioned by Erestor, seneschal of the hall, to see to it that the guest was entertained and spending time with an acquaintance with whom he had struck up a friendship on one meeting and had not seen for a year, appealed to the boy's heart. Mr. Baggins was a hobbit and this particular hobbit was on his way home after a grand adventure; the kind near and dear to any ten-year-old boy's heart: fighting dragons, battling orcs, and finding treasure.
Accompanied by Estel, Bilbo spent the morning unproductively at fishing in the fast moving streams up from Rivendell's main hall. The exception was this one large trout. The beast finally subdued and ensconced in the kreel Bilbo suggested it was lunchtime. As they ate, the hobbit regaled the boy with stories of his journey. The afternoon was pleasantly warm, the two sat on the bank munching cold chicken, cheese, and bread, and Bilbo relived his adventures: the goblins of the mountains, spiders in Mirkwood, and best of all, the great red-gold dragon Smaug, the terrible. Estel was dazzled by the picture of the dragon curled on his huge pile of stolen treasure.
"Actually, my boy," said Bilbo, patting his pocket, "you helped me collect a bit of my reward."
"How, sir?" Estel asked, still dreaming of the smoke swirling from Smaug's snout, imagining he was the one to bandy words with the worm.
"Remember when I was here last year and we were sharing riddles? I used some you shared with me to –er--win a magic ring."
"May I see it?" the boy asked innocently. "I've never seen a magic ring before." Bilbo reached into his pocket and then hesitated perceptibly as if changing his mind about showing Estel his prize. "I won't keep it!" Estel promised. The hobbit looked into the boy's clear, honest eyes. Bilbo seemed to struggle with himself, but finally he dug into his pocket and pulled out a gold ring. He stared at it almost mesmerized, stroking it between his thumb and forefinger. Finally, with exaggerated casualness, he tossed it to Estel.
Somehow, the pitch was off and Estel had to lean out over the fast-running stream to catch it, almost off-balance, in danger of plummeting over the waterfall to the jagged rocks below. The world lurched as he clutched the circle tightly in his hand. Estel was suddenly aware of the south wind soughing through the pines. It sounded almost but not quite, like voices whispering. He opened his hand and looked at the ring carefully. The sunlight glinted off the gold band and he suddenly felt the familiar, piercing pain behind his left eye. He shook his head, eyes closed, and then looked again.
The plain band he held was disappointing. Estel had hoped for sparkling jewels at the very least in a magic ring. Though the ring felt curiously heavy for its size, it held no interest for the boy. He flipped it back to Bilbo who was watching him intently, almost suspiciously. The hobbit deftly caught it and quickly tucked it back into his pocket.
"What's the matter, my boy?" Bilbo asked all kindness once again. He looked concerned at Estel's sudden paleness.
"It's just these headaches I get." Estel shook his head again, trying to divert the pain. The nightmares would follow tonight: they always did.
"Please tell me more about Smaug!" Willingly, Bilbo continued the tale and Estel's eyes shone as he imagined himself as the archer sending a perfectly aimed arrow into the unprotected spot on the dragon's breast. Bilbo regaled the boy again with a description of the dragon's destruction of Laketown.
"Next there was the Battle of Five Armies," Bilbo was saying, "when Thranduil, the Elf-king, marched up to the cave to confront the dwarves." Estel knew all about the almost-battle between Elves and dwarves. Somehow, these grand adventures got all twisted up in politics, a subject dear to adults but boring to ten year olds. But Estel clearly remembered the herald from Thranduil of Mirkwood, accompanied by trumpeting as he rode into Rivendell. He stood in the gallery and read the elf-king's proclamation demanding help from his suddenly acknowledged, good and close cousin, Elrond, and promising great reward for anyone who marched to the Lonely Mountain.
That day Estel had been sitting in the corner of his father's study, half forgotten, working on lessons and listening to the debate between Ada, Elrohir, and Glorfindel, his heroes, whether to answer Thranduil's request. Elrond finally, firmly announced he would lose no Elven-kin for a war of greed and his decree ended the debate.
Estel, for one, was disappointed. He had no idea why Elves should want to fight such wondrous creatures as dwarves. But he had hoped his daydream of being page to Elrohir in battle would come true. It turned out the armies never did fight each other because they were forced to join ranks and fight the orcs instead, and Ada's reluctance had caused them to miss it!
"Oh, I wish I would have been there, Mr. Baggins! I want so much to do something heroic and I fear I never will!" Estel exclaimed.
Bilbo contemplated the young boy. "My lad, adventures can leave you hungry and damp, and battles are frightening and grievous. Good friends are lost." He looked off into the distance and Estel caught the mist in his brown eyes. He was a sensitive boy and keenly felt he'd caused Bilbo's sadness.
"Oh, sir. I am sorry! I didn't think. I know Thorin and your other friends died there."
"Tut, my boy. It's alright. All things must change. It's the way of our world." The hobbit stood and stretched. "Come, let's see if there isn't a brother to this big trout still swimming about." Bilbo slapped Estel's shoulder and they headed back to the stream for an afternoon of fishing.
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