3. Why, indeed?
T. A. 3007
Elrond sat in the Hobbit's small room, looking at nothing in particular, in a manner indicating he was at least half asleep. Bilbo could not quite figure out a polite way to ask the question which had burned lately in his mind, but he could not be sure of ever having a chance to ask in private again.
"For once, I think I have caught you napping, old friend!"
Elrond startled and looked surprised. "So you have."
"I have won the wager, then!" Bilbo replied with glee.
The Peredhel inclined his head, wondering what impertinent question the old Halfling would ask - he had foolishly promised to answer anything if Bilbo ever caught him napping. And now, a year later, he had been foolish enough to remain seated in Bilbo's room when the latter began a long tale of the doings of the Bolgers.
"Very well. What would you know of me?"
"Why are you the Lord of Imladris?"
"Ah. Why, indeed? I am not the most impressive of its dwellers?" The Eyebrow raised menacingly.
Bilbo did not flinch. "I meant no insult, Master, but don't forget I once insulted a live dragon, and lived to tell of it! I won the bet fairly, did I not?"
Elrond laughed. "Very well...."
"I think you mean to ask, why am I lord here, when I am not a born king, and what put or puts me above the others?"
At the Hobbit's eager nod, the Peredhel continued.
"Master of lore I am called, but I am not the mightiest in Imladris. I need consult the records from time to time. Erestor, however, has never forgotten a single thing. Any problem that can be solved by reason, he can solve thrice faster than I."
"Nor, though I once stood against Sauron, am I the mightiest in arms. Glorfindel far surpasses me, and always has. Had he chanced to stand with Gil-galad, Cirdan, Elendil and his sons at that famed contest, perhaps we would still have a King. But unfortunately, he had been drawn off by the Nazgul."
"Nor, though it counts for little in these days, am I the fairest, or the mightiest in song, or any of those things which the Elves are said in tales to hold dear."
"Yet I am Lord here, nonetheless. Initially, I admit, because Gil-galad made me so. But this past Age and more, it has been because those who dwell in the valley wish none other."
"Perhaps you know that there are others here who might have some claim to lordship, did they press it. Erestor is the heir of Celebrimbor, and senior to me in the House of Finwë. But he does not inspire. His tongue is too sharp. Moreover, he has deeds behind him which many here are unwilling to forget or forgive."
"I am not among those, mind you, for I understand what drove him in the dark days, and that darkness is long past. He is the perfect counsellor and second, and content enough to remain so."
He mused for a long moment before continuing.
"Glorfindel is a different story. He is as the Elf-Lords of the Elder Days. Unless you chance to meet Galadriel, you will see none other like him. But, though lordship is his right, he does not desire it. If he did, many would follow him to whatever new realm he chose to establish."
"Yet not as many as one might think, for I seem to have been gifted with a power over Elvish hearts. Also, I hold that of which we may not speak. I know you know of it, though I do not understand how. So, I am the protector of this valley. That counts for much. In truth, that is the deciding factor, even above my personal qualities."
"Yet even that object, I received from Gil-galad, who was under no obligation to give it to me. I was never his legal heir. He had none."
Elrond fell silent again, remembering. Had he either been Gil-galad's heir outright, or, even better, had that King actually troubled to produce a son and that son had survived the War, his own troubles over the past Age would have been far fewer.
The Lord of Imladris rose. "I hope that will suffice, Master Hobbit."
But as he exited the room, his back to the Hobbit, the words came, quiet but distinct. "Mention the Bolgers again and you will be escorted to the nearest Warg den."
It did not sound like he was joking, and eleven years later, when his young cousins chanced to visit, they found it odd that their uncle did not inquire after Fatty.
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