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Chance Encounter  by Dreamflower


His first gift to his friends was going to be a spectacular first breakfast.
But before he started, he thought he would give the first of his gifts.
Climbing the ingenious stepladder that had been placed in the kitchen for
the hobbits--it had wheels to roll about, and a handbrake, so that it would
be safe to climb--he opened the cabinet and selected one of the small sacks he had secreted there the day before.

He took it out, and carefully clambered down. Even this small climb made his heart go pit-a-pat. But he had done this several times since they moved in, and so far it had proven safe; he was beginning to get used to it--more or less.

He padded out to the courtyard where a tree had a small bench beneath it. But the person he sought would not be on the bench. He looked up into the branches.

"Mr. Legolas, sir!" he called softly.

"Yes, Sam. I am here," the Elf replied. There was the very slightest
movement of the branches, and Legolas landed gracefully before him.

"Did you want something?"

Sam blushed. "Erm--not really, that is to say, it's my birthday, and I've a
gift for you. It's not much, but, here--" he held the sack out.

Legolas took it, and gave him a smile. "Why, thank you, Sam! Let me see what I have here--"

He opened the sack and looked within. "Ah, these smell wonderful! What are they called?"

"Those are gingersnaps, Mr. Legolas. And I know you don't usually, but if
you come to breakfast this morning, I'm making griddlecakes and sausage and bacon and eggs and we've some of those lovely orange fruits they grow down here."

"You tempt me, Sam. I may very well join your birthday breakfast feast."

Sam grinned, and returned to the kitchen. The smells soon began to permeate the house, especially after he brewed some coffee. That was bound to even waken Mr. Gimli, who usually slept until elevenses. Merry and Pippin came into the kitchen almost immediately. The smell of food was as good as an alarm clock for Mr. Pippin. They assisted him with some of the breakfast preparations, setting out the dishes and cutting the fruit. Mr. Frodo came in next, looking almost chipper. They had all been sleeping much better since moving into the house.

Gandalf was not much behind Frodo. "Ah, Samwise," he said, with a twinkle in his eye, "you have certainly been making good use of this kitchen."

"It's right nice to have a real kitchen to cook in again, sir. I mean
campfires is all very well, but there's a lot to be said for a real oven."

"Indeed there is."

"Do I smell coffee?" rumbled the voice of the Dwarf, as Gimli also made his way into the kitchen.

Legolas entered through the outside door. "I do think that I shall join you
this fine morning," he said, much to Sam's delight. The Elf almost never
took first breakfast, though he sometimes took second.

Legolas placed a hand in front of his mouth, as if to suppress a yawn.
Gandalf looked at him sharply, and this time the Elf flushed.

"Before we sit down, I have somewhat for you all." Sam started to push the ladder back to the cabinet, but Gandalf forestalled him.

"I will reach it down for you, Sam," he offered, opening the cupboard door.

"Thank you, Mr. Gandalf! It's them little sacks."

Everyone was most appreciative of the gingersnaps. The Wizard looked at Sam. "There are several more sacks here," he said.

"Those is for Strider and some of the others as is up to the Citadel. I plan to take them up there after we eat."

"Then, let us by no means delay this excellent meal any longer."

Pippin's mind was working furiously. Frodo and Merry and he had counted on Sam's errand to deliver his gifts to keep Sam away until nearly noon, when they would have the party preparations finished. They had decided to surprise him right before the stroke of noon, so that technically his gift would still be in order by Shire etiquette--though they were cutting it very fine indeed--but he knew that the King did not want any of the hobbits unaccompanied until after the morrow, when they planned to spring their trap on the scoundrels. He was afraid he might have to somehow confide in one of his companions, when a knocking came at the door.
He leaped up to answer.

It was Bergil.

"Hullo, Bergil," Pippin said in surprise. The lad was on page duty, so he
had not expected him to be paying a visit.

"Sir Pippin," he whispered, "I am supposed to be giving you a message from Targon, but really it's so I can walk back up to the Citadel with Lord Sam. The King thought he might need to go up there this morning, and for some reason he doesn't want him to go alone."

Pippin grinned. Trust Strider to have the problem all figured out already. He gave a glance out of the courtyard gate. There were two of the Tower Guards, but not dressed in livery. Clearly they were there to keep an eye on things. He felt a wash of relief. Out loud he said, "Thanks for the message, Bergil. Join us for a little bit of breakfast before you go back."

Bergil grinned. "That sounds nice, Sir Pippin, thank you!" he said as Pippin
took his hand and led him into the kitchen.

When the breakfast was finished the other hobbits insisted on doing the
washing up. "It's your birthday, Sam! Let us do that much for you! You have gifts to yet deliver," said Frodo emphatically.

"Yes," said Pippin. "Why don't you walk back up to the Citadel with Bergil
and keep him company on the way?" Pippin mentally crossed his fingers.

"Well, if you are sure--" Sam hesitated. Even after all else had happened,
it still didn't feel right to be leaving the washing up to the gentlehobbits.

"We are absolutely sure," said Merry. Would he never leave? They had dozens of things to do to get ready for the party.

"Go." Frodo sounded amused but firm, so Sam finally relented. He took the remaining sacks, and left the guesthouse with Bergil at his side.

"May I help you carry those, Lord Sam?" asked Bergil politely.

Sam rolled his eyes. Bergil ducked his head, embarrassed. "I'm sorry, I mean 'Mr.' Sam?" Bergil was still a bit uncertain about the hobbity form of address.

"Well, seeing as one of them's for you, and one is for your dad, I don't see why you shouldn't take those. And I suppose you can handle a couple more as well."

"Oh, thank you!" He gave Sam a questioning look, and Sam nodded, so he
opened one and peeked in. The smell of ginger and cinnamon wafted out.

"It's gingersnaps," said Sam. "How is your father doing, by the way?" The
hobbits, especially Pippin, were very worried about Beregond's possible fate, though they trusted Strider to see the right thing done. Frodo was positive that somehow King Elessar and the Steward Faramir between them would find a good solution.

A cloud passed over Bergil's face briefly, but he said lightly enough, "Oh,
he's all right. He said he trusts Lord Faramir, and Lord Faramir trusts the King. But
I keep thinking I know what the old Steward would have done."

I'm sure you do, thought Sam, though he didn't say it. He'd heard enough from Mr. Pippin that he was not favorably impressed by Denethor. It was probably his father's fault as much as the Ring's that poor old Mr. Boromir had gone off his head like that--probably worrying about letting his father down on top of all the Ring's constant nattering. Out loud he merely said "Well, I'd trust Strider any day to put things right, lad."

Bergil laughed. He always thought it funny when the hobbits called the King "Strider", though he knew they had leave to do so. Sir Pippin had told him of their first encounter with the King, and he had trouble imagining their handsome and majestic King all "scruffy" as he had been described.

The two soon came to the Citadel, and were passed in immediately. Sam had brought gingersnaps for the King, Lord Faramir, Elladan and Elrohir, King Éomer and Lady Éowyn, and Menelcar, as well as for Lord Ondahil, who had done what he could to see to the hobbit's comfort while they were there, and Mistress Firiel, the head cook in the kitchens, who had been kind enough to let Sam fix up a tray or two for his Master. He also had a sack for Mistress Ioreth in the Houses of Healing, for having been so kind to Mr. Merry when he was there and so ill and lonely.

Bergil left Sam at that point, giving him back most of the gifts, for he had to report to Lord Ondahil to see if he had any other errands to run. Sam gave him the gingersnaps for that worthy as well. "You be certain to tell him my thanks now, lad."

"I will, Lor--I mean, Mr., Sam." He gave an engaging grin and headed off.
He also had to let it be known Sam was there, for Frodo's instructions to
the King had been to keep Sam at the Citadel until half past eleven. There
were any number of conspirators about to help in that task.

Sam spoke to one of the Guardsmen, and was told that he might find the King in his private chambers. Since all four of the hobbits had leave to see the King whensoever they wished, Sam headed in that direction. The servant showed him right in.

The King was at breakfast with Faramir, Éomer and Éowyn, as well as Elladan and Elrohir, who had returned the previous afternoon. “Why Sam! It's good to see you! I am sure you have already broken your fast, but if I recall correctly, a hobbit can always use a second one. Please join us!"

Sam looked at the table, surprised as always, with the paucity of the meals Men considered adequate: some kind of sweet roll, coffee, juice made from those orange fruits, and sliced melon. It did look good.

"Well, I don't mind if I do, but first--" he blushed a bit. He was not shy of giving gifts out the way Mr. Pippin was, but it was strange having to explain it. "It's my birthday--"

"Fancy that!" said the King with a straight face. "Is it really?" He did not ever lie straight out, but decades among the Elves had taught him the subtleties of omission. But he was careful not to catch the eye of either of his foster brothers, lest he spoil it by laughing.

"Er, yes, and hobbits give gifts to their friends on their birthdays. It's not much, but--" he brought forward the sacks and passed them out, glad that Mr. Pippin had told him Lord Elrond's sons would be back. "Here Mr. Elladan and Mr. Elrohir. Mr. Pippin said as you would be back in time." He blushed as he handed them their gifts. Elves, except for Legolas, still made him a bit shy.

There were exclamations of appreciation, which gratified Sam no end. Aragorn ordered another place set for the table, and Faramir brought out a thick cushion for the chair.

"This custom of your people is very interesting, Master Samwise," said Éomer. "Meriadoc and I have talked much about some of the things my people and yours seem to have in common. Did you know that among the Rohirrim, very young children always give their mothers a gift of flowers on their birthdays?"

Sam's face lit up in surprise. "Why, that is just how it begins with us hobbits! A little faunt's first birthday gift is flowers for his parents!" He was delighted with this small revelation, and soon was involved in explaining the intricacies of hobbit gift-giving customs, which to his listeners began to sound every bit as complicated as hobbit genealogy.

"--and so it's awful bad luck to take a gift to the wedding. It's said sometimes an ill-wisher will do just that, to get back at the bride and groom, though in all my life I've only heard of it actually happening once, when old Missus Lobelia gave a gift to Mr. Frodo's mum at her wedding, on account of she had once been sweet on Mr. Drogo herself. But that's old gossip, that is. Listen at me natter on! Would you excuse me, Strider? I still have some more gingersnaps to deliver."

At Aragorn's assent, Sam slid off his cushion. Faramir rose. "I have some things to attend to, I will walk out with you."

As arranged, when Faramir and Sam had gone only a short way down the corridor, they encountered Menelcar, who affected great surprise.

"Greetings, my Lord Steward. And Master Samwise, what a pleasant surprise it is to see you! I had no idea you would be here today," he lied. "Where are the others?"

Sam explained his errand to the minstrel, as Faramir took his leave, amused. Menelcar would take it from here.

"I will walk with you down to the kitchens, Sam," said Menelcar. "I usually visit there at least once a day, you know," and he winked at Sam, who grinned.

"Like to stay on the good side of the cook, do you, Mr. Menelcar?" he asked

"Well, that's never a bad idea, as I am sure you know."

Sam laughed. "I think Mr. Pippin would definitely agree with you."

Mistress Firiel was delighted with the gift of gingersnaps, and after trying one, insisted on having the recipe from Sam. She fetched him paper and stylus, and as he wrote it down, she offered him and Menelcar slices of the still warm crumb cake she had just taken from the oven. Since second breakfast among the Men had been so small, Sam did not say 'no'. Menelcar took some as well, though he asked for a very small slice, thinking about
the feast that was sure to come.

After they had finished, Menelcar offered to sing for the kitchen staff, something he had made a habit of doing most days since coming to the Citadel.

He sang a pleasant and rather jolly song about the courtship of a frog and a bumblebee. It was a silly song, often relegated to the nursery in Gondor, but Sam had never heard it before, and found it thoroughly delightful. He hummed along, trying to remember the words.

When he had finished singing, Menelcar looked askance at Sam. "Perhaps I should have asked for you as my apprentice, when I could not get Pippin."

Sam blushed. "I don't think as I'm cut out for that kind of life, Mr. Menelcar. But I thank you kindly for the thought--I'm not nearly the singer Mr. Pippin is, and I don't play nothing."

"You underestimate yourself, Samwise," replied the minstrel. All of the hobbits tended to do that, but Sam was particularly self-effacing.

"Well, Mr. Menelcar, I need to get to the Houses of Healing before I go back to the house and see to fixing lunch."

"I will come with you, Sam. I've no pressing duties elsewhere, if you would not mind waiting while I fetch my harp."

Sam agreed, and while he waited for Menelcar to return, he accepted another piece of crumb cake and a cup of tea from Mistress Firiel. Just before they left the kitchens, Menelcar whispered to the cook: "Let them know we've left."

She nodded and winked.

At the Houses of Healing, Sam had no trouble finding Mistress Ioreth. He had only met her once, but he knew from what Mr. Pippin had said how kind she had been to poor Mr. Merry when he'd been left here all alone. And that made her a friend in Sam's eyes.

She was voluble in her thanks, eating two of the gingersnaps immediately, and praising them to the skies. Talking a mile a minute, she walked along with them. "Master Menelcar, I know that you are the Court Bard, and thus very important, but it would cheer some of the patients no end to have a bit of song."

Menelcar agreed readily, and once more Sam found himself standing by, this time as the Man sang to a roomful of still recovering patients. Most of them had been injured either on the Pelennor or before the Black Gates, and it wrung Sam's heart to see them so. How lucky Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin were to be hobbits and to have had that stuff from the Ents; according to Strider that's all that enabled them to heal so well as they had. It had been a near thing for the both of them, by all accounts. And they had all their limbs, too. He saw one poor young fellow who had no legs at all. After Menelcar sang, Sam was persuaded to give them a bit of comic verse, so he recited that one of Mr. Bilbo's about the cat. He did not think any of these poor lads would find either trolls or oliphaunts funny right now. He remembered Mr. Pippin saying he couldn't find "Perry-the-Winkle" at all amusing anymore, now he knew the truth about trolls.

Afterwards he glanced out a window. "Why, Mr. Menelcar! The Sun's made her way and it's very nearly noon! I must hurry if I'm to get lunch ready on time!"

So Man and hobbit hurried in the direction of the guesthouse, one not noticing and the other paying no mind to the two Guardsmen dressed in everyday clothing who trailed behind them.

The two figures who had been surreptitiously watching the guesthouse drew back. "Min," said a whiny voice, "today's not going to work. There's been a steady stream of folk going in there—including the King himself and the Steward."

"I think you're right," said Min. "We'll try again tomorrow to see if we can talk to one of them alone.

They crept off, also failing to notice they were being followed.

If Sam was surprised that Menelcar wanted to come down to the guesthouse with him, he did not say so. They walked in companionable silence, and Sam led him through the courtyard to the front door. He went in--

"SURPRISE!" The clamor of voices nearly made Sam jump out of his skin. He looked about wide-eyed. There was Mr. Frodo, and Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin, grinning at him like no tomorrow. And there were Gandalf and Legolas and Gimli--and Strider, and Faramir, and the King of Rohan and his sister, and Beregond and Bergil, and Elladan and Elrohir and several of the soldiers from Pippin's company, and a few of the Riders of the Rohirrim that he knew by face if not all by name. His jaw dropped. He tried to say something, but no words would come out. He thought for a moment as though he might swoon.

But Frodo and Merry took him laughingly by each arm and pulled him into the room, and Pippin slid a hobbit-sized stool behind his knees. He sat down, and finally said, "Glory and trumpets, Mr. Frodo! Why did you do it?"

Frodo grinned. "Because we all love you, Sam, you goose, and because we thought it was time for a hobbit-style party!"

Sam looked at his master with tears of joy in his eyes. "Oh, Mr. Frodo!" was all he could manage.

He was completely flummoxed. This was the *last* thing he had expected. He knew he ought to be saying, "You shouldn't've," because the Gaffer would never have thought it proper to have the gentlehobbits, and especially Mr. Frodo, attending on him and throwing him a party, but he just couldn't. It felt so good to see everyone in such good spirits, and to see how much they cared.

And there sat the King--Strider, grinning at him like the cat that's got into the cream. And the King of Rohan and his sister, who would probably be leaving tomorrow or the next day to get things ready for their uncle's funeral, poor things. How could he grudge them anything that would put a smile on their faces? Gandalf was chuckling at him, as if he knew just what was passing through his head--and he probably did, not even from being a Wizard, but just from knowing hobbits so well as he did. All of them and the others as well were regarding him with amusement. He supposed he ought to be saying *something*. He wished he had Mr. Bilbo's gift for speechifying.

Mr. Frodo was standing there, with his hand on Sam's shoulder. Sam looked back and up at him.

Frodo chortled. "Sam, don't you dare say 'you shouldn't have'; we've had entirely too much fun planning this. Since it seems it will be a while until we see home, we thought a Shire style party would be welcome."

Sam nodded, eyes shining. Seemed he wouldn't have to say anything yet after all.

He looked up to see Merry, Pippin and Gimli bringing in the low table from
the kitchen, with a lovely cake on it. Another table nearby was laden with
other treats, and--was that a beer keg in the corner?

Menelcar took his harp and went to stand on the stair landing, and started to play a Shire air. Pippin--why where in the world had Mr. Pippin got a fiddle? went to join him. And one of the Rohirrim added a flute --and good heavens! Strider took a drum, a tall thing with a slight hourglass shape to it, and went and sat alongside them, keeping the time with his fingers. Sam's jaw dropped, and some of the others looked surprised as well to see that.

Gandalf smiled. "That is a drum such as the Easterlings use. It is something
he picked up on his many travels in his youth."

By now, toes were tapping. The musicians had begun to play the air known as
Southfarthing Brawl, a dance done in a circle that didn't need partners. Merry and Frodo grabbed Sam and pulled him up, and they began to show the others how it was done. First Gandalf, and then Legolas, and then Éowyn and Faramir came to join in, and soon everyone did, as the music grew faster and faster.

Everyone was puffing hard when it finished.

The musicians played several more toe-tapping Shire melodies, and then Menelcar and Pippin sang. They sang some old Shire songs and some of Mr. Bilbo's songs, and Sam found himself missing old Mr. Bilbo something fierce. Oh, wouldn't he love to hear about this!

Menelcar and Pippin finished the song about "Princess Mee" and then Pippin
spoke up.

"Sam, Merry and I have a song we made just for the party. Merry made up most of the words, and it is set to the tune of 'Down the Green Hills'."

He played just a bit of that sentimental air, a favorite in the Shire with fiddlers and pipers alike, and then he stopped and began to sing, his voice so clear and sweet.

"The Road has brought us ever on
A long and winding way,
And step by step it led us on
Through fire and flood and dark and dawn
Further from home each day.

Of the world's beauty and sorrow
There is much we can tell,
And through darkness and through shadow,
We have fought to find tomorrow,
And hoped all would be well.

No matter how far we would roam,
Together or apart,
When we struggled on all alone,
Our dreams were always of home,
For there we kept our heart.

Where the Brandywine meanders
Down through the rushes green,
In rills and ripples wanders
On past all the gentle splendors
Of every rustic scene.

Where the scent of summer clover
So sweetly fills the air,
And the bees through fields of heather
Over open blossoms hover
On warm mornings so fair.

Oh, there is much we can admire
Here in this world of Men,
But we will find our heart's desire
On down the Green Hills of the Shire;
We will be home again."

Pippin's green eyes glistened when he finished, and Sam found himself sniffling. Oh, he did so want to go home soon. He missed his Gaffer and his sisters and his dearest Rosie. He felt a hand tighten on his shoulder, and looked up to see that tears were running down Mr. Frodo's cheeks. And Mr. Merry was impatiently dashing away tears as well. But as he looked about the room, he realized even the Big Folk seemed to have been affected by the
song. The hobbits were not the only ones with tears in their eyes.

Menelcar waited for a moment, and then to lighten the mood, began another song, a comic song about a young Man trying to court a farmer's daughter, while all along the lass saucily denied him. Soon there were chuckles and tapping toes once more.

Sam was glad. Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin's song was beautiful, and he was glad
to have heard it, but there was still a lot more party to go.

While the musicians took a break, Legolas took out his shepherd's pipes, that he had made in the Golden Wood, and began to play a lovely Elven melody.

The twins went up to the landing, and one took over Strider's drum, and the other borrowed Menelcar's harp. Pippin put his fiddle aside, and came down to get
some refreshment.

He came over to Sam. "Happy birthday, Sam! Were you surprised?"

Sam chuckled ruefully. "I can't think when I've been more surprised, Mr. Pippin! And that was a right pretty song you and Mr. Merry made."

"Thank you, Sam. Merry wrote the words, I just helped him fit his words to the tune." He glanced over at the table where the cake stood. Frodo was standing nearby talking to Merry, and Sam could just see the thought passing through the youngster’s head. The lad was wondering what his chances were of getting two pieces with both of his elder cousins there.

Sam laughed. "Mr. Pippin, I'm the byrding! You just tell Mr. Frodo and Mr. Merry I said you can have two pieces--two mind you, not three!"

Pippin grinned delightedly. "Sam, you are a capital fellow!" He leaned over and put a very noisy kiss on Sam's forehead, making the gardener blush furiously, and went over to claim his bounty.

Near the ale cask, Gimli stood with Éomer and Éowyn. "This is a lively gathering," said the King of Rohan.

Gimli chuckled. "Hobbits really know how to throw a party! Even when taken unawares, they are first-rate hosts, and when they have time to plan, they excel at it. Old Bilbo was famous for his parties." *

Legolas started in on a lively Shire tune that Pippin had taught him, and the twins followed his lead. Laughing, Merry pulled Sam into the Tangle Dance. Pippin grabbed Faramir, and Frodo grabbed Strider. Soon they had most of the folk in the room joining in. Sam was glad to see Mr. Pippin's knee didn't seem to be bothering him today, though he hoped he wouldn't overdo it. He glanced past Lady Éowyn on his right, and down the circle. Frodo dropped Strider's hand with a laugh. Oh, joy! Mr. Frodo was going to lead the tangle! Mr. Merry looked across at Sam from between Gandalf and one of the Rohirrim, and tipped him a wink.

Everyone was breathless when the Tangle broke apart, and there was a general movement towards the ale table, amid much laughter.

All too soon, it seemed, the guests began to take their leave. The Rohirrim were the first to go, for as Sam had thought, they would begin their solemn journey to Edoras on the morrow. Faramir also left, for he wished to spend a bit of time with Éowyn before she departed. Lord Elrond's sons came over and gave Sam a courteous bow before they left. They would be leaving along with the party from Rohan.

The others stayed a bit longer, but eventually, only Strider was left, and then he, too, reluctantly took his leave, giving Sam a fond embrace as he did so.

"Now, Sam," said Pippin, "you just hie yourself off and take your ease. This was your Party, and you are not to do any of the cleaning up."

So Sam went off to the little room that was used for a study, and attempted to write a letter to Rosie. He never seemed to get anywhere with one, but it made him feel closer to her to try.

Legolas, Gimli and even Gandalf helped the other three hobbits with the
washing up, and then the happy, weary hobbits made their way to bed.

About an hour after they had retired, Legolas crept down to the ground floor room the hobbits shared. He put his hand to the doorknob.


He turned. "Mithrandir. How is it that I did not hear you?"

"I can be astonishingly quiet when I wish to be, Master Elf. And what are you doing?" But it was very clear from his tone of voice that he knew quite well already.

"They are resting quietly these nights. If I am there, I can stave off the ill dreams."

"And do they *know* you are doing this for them?"

He flushed. "No. I did not wish them to feel under obligation or to thank me."

"I thought as much. It is one thing to give them occasional respite--*with* their permission. It is quite another to be doing this night after night, every night."

Legolas shrugged. "I would do it for them the rest of their lives if necessary to spare their suffering." He looked up with a glint of defiance. "They have suffered enough already, I think."

"It is not so simple a matter as that, Master Greenleaf," the wizard said, shaking his head. "Go you on your way and rest this eve. *I* will watch over them tonight; but on the morrow, we will be having a talk with Frodo and the others. I think you may find that meaning well does not always provide a solution."

Legolas sighed, but one did not argue with this White Wizard. Gandalf watched Legolas go and then quietly entered the hobbits' chamber.

* Gimli attended one of Bilbo’s parties himself, in Rivendell. “A Convivial Evening” Marigold suggested I put in a link:

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