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Note: Written for Marigold's challenge 6 which can be found here: www.livejournal.com/users/talechallenge06
It was nice to know that some things didn’t change, Frodo thought idly as he reached up and trailed his fingers along the dust covered scrolls. At least after everything, he could still find his way to the nearest collection of books without needing any help. It was something of a sixth sense that he had picked up from Bilbo. No matter where he ended up, Frodo could always find the library.
“You there! What are you doing here?” a rough, gravelly voice suddenly demanded, “This is no place for your children’s tricks.”
Frodo turned to see an old man peering at him from under bushy eyebrows. He was hunched over with age, but Frodo could see that he had been tall in his youth. Frodo recognized him from the feast at Cormallen, where he had been seated at the high table not too far from Sam. As far as he could remember, the man was an important advisor to the king and in charge of keeping the cities oldest scrolls.
“I am not a child, Sir,” he said politely.
“What?” the old man fairly yelled, “Speak up lad, I’m not as young as I once was!”
“I said I’m not a child, Sir,” Frodo repeated loudly, “I’m a hobbit.”
“Hobbit?” the man repeated, as if stretching his memory to find the word, “Ah yes, you mean a Halfling! Are you really?” Frodo nodded, amused. “What’s that? Speak up, boy!”
Hard of hearing and bat blind to boot, Frodo thought with a smile.
“Yes, I am,” he said loudly, “But we call ourselves hobbits.”
“No need to get uppity, boy,” the man scolded, “Now, we had another Halfling running around the city recently in guards clothes. Quite a little prince, he was, but a fierce one, despite his size.”
That would be Pippin. Frodo felt his chest swell with pride for his younger cousin.
“Well,” the old man continued, “You just keep your fingers out of the oldest scrolls and holler if you need anything.”
Frodo jumped and immediately hid his hands behind his back, blocking his missing finger from view. He would have thought that the man was mocking him, had he not already discovered that age had made him nearly blind.
“Yes Sir,” he acknowledged, rubbing his thumb gently over his bandaged hand behind his back.
“What did you say your name was?”
“Frodo Baggins, my lord, a Halfling from the Shire.”
“A Halfling? Really?” he asked again, despite the fact that they had just finished this conversation not a minute ago, “What an extreme coincidence. You folk keep popping up everywhere, when you least expect it. Why just the other day I met one of you in the gardens.”
Frodo smiled to himself. That would have been Sam. After the desolation of Mordor, the young gardener spent his days surrounding himself with growing things.
“You had something to do with the war, didn’t you? Now what was it that you did again?”
Frodo blinked owlishly at him, at a complete loss for words. What did he say to that? I crawled to the steps of Mount Doom, claimed the one source of ultimate evil in Middle Earth for myself and the only reason that you’re alive today is because a traitor stole it from me and fell off a cliff? He cringed away from the words in his head.
“I…I did my best,” he stammered at last. The old man smiled and patted him heavily on the head, as if he wasn’t sure where Frodo’s head was and wanted to be sure he reached it.
“Well, that’s all we could ask of you, isn’t it?” He turned and shuffled away, humming absentmindedly. Frodo gawked at him, his mind reeling.
“But…but what if your best isn’t good enough?” he called after the man. The old one turned to look back over his shoulder.
“Your best is all you can give. It is always good enough,” he said and then disappeared among the stacks of dusty scrolls, leaving Frodo staring at his hands with the old man’s words still ringing in his ears.
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