7. Evening in the Hall of Fire
“Pip, will you stop that? You’re making me dizzy.” Frodo signaled a halt by squeezing Sam’s arm, and Sam and Merry eased him up against a wall, urging him to lean on them to catch his breath. Sam looked up the long hallway, but there were no chairs in sight along the polished walls. Frodo leaned against the wall, half-crouching, his breathing heavy and strenuous. His face was very pale yet shimmered with perspiration, making his dark curls stand out in stark contrast against his white face.
Merry met Sam’s eyes over Frodo’s bowed head and both grimaced. Frodo shuddered between them, then straightened. Drawing a single deep breath, he started walking again then his feet treacherously tangled with each other and he stumbled. Pippin yelped and darted in close, sliding an arm around Frodo’s waist. Sam could bear it no longer.
“Now that’s enough, Mr. Frodo! We’re not going no further. Turn ‘im around, Mr. Merry, he’s going back to bed.”
“Sam, no. I’m tired of lying in bed,” Frodo protested, gasping as he struggled to pull himself upright. Pippin released his hold and stepped back again, his green-gold eyes darting anxiously between his elders. Merry and Sam tightened their grasp as Frodo swayed. “I want to go to the Hall of Fire.”
“Well, you’re not going to make it,” said Merry bluntly. “We’re not even halfway there, Frodo, and you’re about finished. You’ve already had a long day. Sam’s right – we’re taking you back to your room.”
To Merry’s dismay, his cousin’s dark brows quirked then drew down. “I am going to the Hall of Fire,” Frodo replied with great dignity, if not great judgment. “You may help me or not, but I am going.”
“No,” Merry replied. “You are not.”
“Yes, I am.
“No, you’re not.”
“Gentlemen, may I be of assistance?” Aragorn stood before them, smiling slightly. Pippin heaved a noisy sigh of relief and Frodo glared at him.
“Good evening, Aragorn,” Frodo ignored his escorts and tried to unobtrusively support himself against the wall. “We are going to hear the singing and tale-spinning in the Hall of Fire tonight. Would you care to join us?”
Safely behind his master, Sam looked up at the Ranger and rolled his eyes. Aragorn smiled again and addressed Frodo. “I would, indeed. But perhaps I can offer you some help, Frodo. You look a little unsteady yet.”
“I am fine, Aragorn, thank you.” Merry scowled at him but Frodo refused to budge. He pushed himself away from the wall and almost lost his balance. Quickly, Aragorn reached out and caught an arm.
“I can see you are much recovered,” said the Ranger neutrally. “However, my lord Elrond would not be pleased with me if I allowed you to overtax yourself so soon after your illness. Will you let me carry you to the Hall?” When the hobbit hesitated, Aragorn continued, “I will set you down before we enter the doors.”
Frodo eyed him narrowly. Aragorn kept his expression polite and noncommittal. “All right,” the hobbit agreed. Then more graciously, he added. “Thank you for your help.”
Aragorn stooped and lifted him carefully, cradling Frodo’s right side against his body. Frodo’s eyes closed momentarily in relief before he forced them open again. Aragorn pretended not to notice, but nodded in reply to the quick smile Merry had sent him while his cousin’s eyes were shut.
The traverse to the Hall was now completed in short order. As he had promised, the Ranger set the hobbit down gently before the doors of the Hall, holding him cautiously until he was sure Frodo had his feet under him. Keeping one steadying hand on the small shoulder, Aragorn entered after the hobbit and the other three trailed behind.
None of them were prepared for the reception that greeted them. As Frodo entered, every seated Elf and guest of Rivendell in attendance rose to his or her feet. Every face turned towards him, then every person in the Hall bowed.
“Ring-bearer.” The Master of Rivendell came forward, his long copper-colored mantel billowing as he strode gracefully to stand before the astonished hobbit. Then slowly, Elrond inclined his elegant head, and bowed deeply before Frodo.
Frodo blushed scarlet and his enormous blue eyes widened impossibly. He took a half-step back, but Aragorn did not allow him to retreat. Behind them, Merry was grinning hugely, Pippin looked intimidated and Sam merely nodded, finding the acclaim being awarded his master simply what Sam felt was due him.
The Elf-lord straightened from his bow and regarded the flustered hobbit. “Ring-bearer,” he said gently, “will you sit by my side this evening?”
Too disconcerted to reply, Frodo merely nodded, and his cheeks flamed again as Elrond led him slowly through the ranks of Elves and Men and Dwarves, who again bowed as he walked past them. He looked back desperately over his shoulder at the other hobbits, but they were being guided to seats of honor elsewhere. Merry glanced over his shoulder at him, delight at his cousin’s predicament dancing in his blue eyes. Feeling alone and very small next to the tall Elf-lord, the Ring-bearer allowed himself to be seated in a small but gorgeously carved chair hastily set on a small platform next to Elrond’s.
That was the signal for those in the Hall to resume their seats and their conversations. As the volume rose, soft words and gentle laughter, Elrond inclined himself towards the hobbit. “I am pleased you are able to join us this eve, Master Baggins.” Meeting Elrond’s ageless gaze, Frodo felt that the Elf-lord was noting every tremble of his limbs that he was trying to hide. The Elf’s eyes darkened as another shiver went through the small form. “But are you well enough?” he said softly.
“I am much better, my lord,” replied the hobbit, equally softly. “Thanks to you and the care of your good people.”
Dark eyes still searching the halfling’s face, Elrond nodded graciously. The little one did not look good, he thought. Had he known that Frodo intended to attend this eve, he would have forbade it. But by not asking his permission, the Ring-bearer had circumvented his denial. ‘Clever hobbit,’ he thought with a half-smile. ‘I hope he does not pay too dearly for his stubbornness.’
Unaware of Elrond’s continued scrutiny, Frodo was looking about the Hall with pleasure. The Hall was warm and firelight flickered on the beautifully carved walls and furnishings, lending the wood a living warmth of its own. Arrayed in silk and fine clothes, gems shining in their hair, Elrond’s folk moved among their guests serving wine and sweet liqueurs, their graceful forms and clear voices a delight to the eyes and ears. The hobbit drank in the sight with shining eyes, his whole face alight and glowing in the reflection of the great fire.
Frodo had been hoping that Aragorn would be seated close by, and indeed, there was a chair for him. It was empty, though. Looking for the Ranger, Frodo spied his broad back in the shadows, talking to someone in the corner. The fire popped just then, throwing a brief flare into the huge room. Over Aragorn’s shoulder, the hobbit saw the breathtakingly lovely features of Arwen Evenstar, daughter of Elrond. The two leaned close together, and as Frodo watched, Aragorn raised a hand and gently traced the line of her pointed, shell-like ear. She smiled, her beautiful eyes shining into his. Frodo felt a quick surge of joy for them run through him.
His attention was returned to the Hall when conversation stilled as the musicians assumed their places, positioning harps and lutes, drums, flutes, pipes and other woodwinds and strings. Some of the musical instruments were completely unknown to the hobbits and they watched eagerly. A graceful Elf came to stand before Elrond and bowed. Then he bowed to the Ring-bearer, noting with amusement the little one’s embarrassed flush. At his lord’s nod, the minstrel gently stroked the ornate lute he carried and in a sweet, carefully-modulated voice as pure as the waters of Imladris, began to sing.
Frodo heard many songs that evening, sung by one or in chorus; each more lyrical and beautiful than the last. After a while, he stopped translating them in his mind, content to listen only to the melodies and the music. They blended in his brain and swirled around his soul and filled him with warmth and peace.
When a lovely Elf-woman curtsied before him and offered him a glass of wine, Frodo took it with an automatic smile of thanks, his eyes and mind still on the music. He drank it, and the one after that, reveling in its sweet crispness, and the one offered him after that. Sitting relaxed by the Ring-bearer’s side, the Elf-lord motioned for another glass for the Ring-bearer. In his weakened condition, perhaps one more might do it, Elrond thought, as he watched the little one start to slide down into his seat.
Frodo smiled dreamily, waving his fingers gently with the music. There was another glass of wine in his hand, and he drank it without wondering where it came from. He seemed to see everything through a fine haze, and even the pain in his shoulder and arm seemed oddly remote. He felt warm and very comfortable.
After many songs, the tale-spinner replaced the minstrels, bowing again before the Master of Rivendell and the Ring-bearer. He spoke in Westron out of deference to the many guests. Though the tale-spinner spoke, his speaking voice sounded much like singing, rhymes and lays recounted in a clear voice like summer starlight. Frodo found his attention drifting and Elrond smiled as he saw the Ring-bearer sink into a doze in his chair. Without interrupting the story, he motioned for Aragorn to attend him.
“Estel,” Elrond whispered, his voice soft and monotone, “will you bear him back to bed? He knows your touch and you will not disturb him.”
“Of course, Elrond. I saw what you were doing. He will likely have a headache on the morrow.”
“Better a headache than a relapse brought about by overreaching his strength. I will visit him in the morning and see how he fares.”
The Ranger gently slid his arms under the Ring-bearer’s body and lifted him, turning Frodo so that the hobbit lay with his wounded left side out. Frodo murmured some inarticulate protest then snuggled into Aragorn’s chest and began to snore softly. Elrond’s dark eyebrows lifted and the immortal Elf smiled at the small form. “What an astonishing folk they are,” he remarked softly, lifting a dark curl out of the closed eyes. “That this small one could have carried such evil through pursuit and overwhelming darkness is an amazement to me.”
Cradling the hobbit against him, Aragorn smiled into his foster father’s dark eyes. “I have guarded the Shire for many years, as you know, my lord. An unremarkable race they seem, these hobbits. Yet beneath the surface, often buried deeply, is a greatness of spirit that rivals the heroes of old.” He looked down at the sleeping halfling. “And how quickly one learns to love them.”
* * * * *
Aragorn was not surprised when a small shadow attached itself to him as he left the Hall. “Sam,” said the Ranger softly. “Go back and enjoy the Hall with Merry and Pippin. I’ll see him to bed.”
“Thank you, sir, but that’s me job,” the shadow replied. “I’ve enough of all that singing an’ story-telling for the night, anyway.” See the Ranger’s look of disbelief, Sam flushed and continued, “It’s like too much fine wine, it is. It makes me head spin. An’ I won’t sleep unless I know he’s settled in proper.”
Sam held the door for Aragorn to bring his sleeping master into his rooms and together they undressed him and clad him in his nightshirt. Frodo yawned then curled up on his right side, never waking.
“With that much wine in him, he should sleep peacefully, without dreams.” Aragorn pulled the bedcovers up over the still form. “Elrond said he would see him in the morning, to make sure he did not harm himself by this premature excursion.”
Sam nodded, then surprised them both by yawning hugely. “Sorry, sir. Guess I’m tired, too. Odd place, this. Seems like the days pass in a flash, but the hours pass slow, each one full o’ good things.”
The Ranger smiled at him gently. “Well put, Sam. Goodnight to you.”
“Goodnight, sir.” Stifling another yawn, the hobbit closed the door and went to his own rest.
* TBC *
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.