The sun is getting low as I tread along the path, my eyes always on the Loudwater flowing gently in the riverbed beneath. I have come to like this place and the elves with their strange sense of humour. There is always a song on their lips and a smile on their ageless faces. Not that I haven't liked the elves before, but I have never been in their company for such a long time. Rivendell is a wonderful place to rest. I'm beginning to wish I could stay here forever. I'm not one for adventures. The dwarves could surely do without me.
I prick up my ears as I hear footsteps behind me. Someone approaches, but his traces are neither the heavy steps of dwarven-boots, nor the light paces of the elves. Curious who it could be, I turn around to find a young lad of about ten summers standing before me. He is smiling broadly, and his grey eyes are closely observing me. I smile in return, and as I watch him over I realise that his dark, tousled hair does not hide pointed ears but the ears of a human. He is no elf-child then, but who could his parents be? I haven't seen any Men about the Last Homely House.
"Bilbo Baggins, at your service." I introduce myself and bow, not expecting that the lad would know the proper answer. But obviously he does, and as he bows low he introduces himself as Estel.
"And what would a lad like you be doing in Rivendell?" I ask curiously.
He smiles at me and declares matter-of-factly that he has lived here for a very long time with his mother. "But I've never seen one like you," he says earnestly. "You are no dwarf because you're not very cranky and you have no beard. Besides, dwarves don't have feet like this and I have never seen a dwarf walking about barefoot. What are
I can't help chuckling at the suspicious, yet curious look he gives me when he gravely declares my feet different from those of a dwarf. Still, I am honoured that he finds me 'not very cranky' -- I begin to wonder how long this boy has followed me. He doesn't appear to have learned these things about me just now, and so I decide not to answer his question straight away. "You know how a dwarf's feet don't
look like, yet you have never seen a dwarf barefoot. Now, how can you tell that my feet are no dwarf's feet?"
He ponders that for a moment, looking thoughtfully at my feet. Then he shrugs and the cheerful smile on his face returns. "I don't know. I just think that your feet wouldn't fit into boots."
Laughing out loud at that, I approach him and tousle the boy's hair. "Why have I not seen you before?"
"I'm not supposed to bother visitors. I think I shouldn't even be here now, but," he pauses and lowers his eyes sheepishly, "you are different from anyone I've ever seen before and I was curious. Are
you a dwarf?"
With a wave of my hand I invite the young lad to accompany me on my walk around the trees and gardens of Rivendell. "I'm certainly no dwarf, as you have guessed correctly. I am a hobbit, and hobbits are meant to have big bare feet."
"I see," he answers, and nods his head thoughtfully before facing me again. "Would you like to play tag?"
"I don't think I'm the right person to play tag." I am happy at the light-hearted boy's company, but the thought of playing tag doesn't sound very inviting to me. I have never liked this kind of game even when I was a lad. Now it would be far too exhausting, especially on an empty stomach.
"Why not? You are nice and you are my size, which means I would have a chance to win," he declares grinning. "I usually play tag with Elladan, but he is much taller than I am and I don't have the slightest chance to catch him."
"You'd have more than one chance to win, as I'm hardly quick enough to catch a swift lad like you are."
"You could try," he suggests with a grin. With that, he hits me and tells me that it's my turn to catch him before he dashes off towards the trees.
Sighing and chuckling quietly to myself, I shake my head. "Bilbo Baggins, the older you get, the queerer you act. First you go off with some dwarves and a wizard to find a dragon and who-knows-what. And now you find yourself playing tag with a young lad who is at least twice as fast as you are. Who knows, after all is over and you're back in the Shire you will probably marry and have children of your own -- and that after so many years of thinking yourself incapable of having a family and raising children."
With that I run after Estel, who is already far ahead. He turns to look at me and laughs as I struggle up the road.
"You have some experiences with elves, my lad," I pant. "You should let this poor, old hobbit at least a small chance to catch up with you."
"Why old?" he asks puzzled, and takes some paces backwards to make sure he would not be caught anytime soon. "How old are you?"
"Fifty!" he exclaims and looks at me in amazement. "But you're only my size and I thought…" the lad is cut off by the voice of a woman calling his name. He takes a short breath and turns towards the direction of the voice. "That's my mother calling. I'm afraid I have to leave. I hope you will stay a little longer, Bilbo. Maybe we can play again tomorrow? You know, you are nice," he smiles at me and bows.
"So are you," I say, as I finally catch up with him and smile. "I will not be leaving within the next few days, so we'll probably meet again, Estel."
He smiles, wishes me a good night, and rushes off towards his mother. I watch him leave. A bright little child, but still I wonder why he lives in Rivendell. Gandalf told me that the Last Homely House is a place to rest for weary travellers, but he never mentioned that Men would live here too. Yet Estel is the only child I've seen here and maybe he was the only one. His name means 'hope' -- that much I have already learned of the elvish language. I can only wonder why a mother would name her child hope, and yet… the name suits him. Maybe he is the hope an old hobbit needs, to awaken his love for children? Well, we shall see.
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.