"Three cheers for Master Bilbo!"
""Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!"
These were the cheerful greetings that accompanied old Bilbo Baggins as he crossed the path back to Bag End, with old Gaffer Gamgee seemingly trying to lift the mood for the elder Baggins's birthday. As much as he was a respected hobbit in the Shire, not everyone was going to be cheering for him as he went by. Take the Sackville-Bagginses for example, who gave him sour looks everytime he met them.
But this was not what troubled old Bilbo as he headed up the path to Bag End. It was an interesting feeling, yet a depressing one at the most. Bilbo watched the young hobbit children playing, and didn't notice how his hand by it's own will slipped into his pocket and grasped a small metal object in it's depths.
Bilbo gently drew it up to his face, and stroked it with his finger. It was beautiful, so beautiful. The old hobbit grasped it in his fist and suddenly felt his strentgh returning to him. He just had a bad day, that's all. A bad day, the next morning he would wake up and all would be well.
As Bilbo slipped the ring back into his pocket, he saw something lying wrapped up just near his doorway. By the way it had been clumsily placed, Bilbo guessed that someone had left it there in a hurry, without bothering to place it properly. It was a letter. The old hobbit picked it up and gently pushed the door to Bag End open. Throwing it onto a nearby table he sighed happily and sat down, hoping to get some rest.
Young Frodo appeared in the hallway. He was almost fifty, Frodo, a respectable age for a young hobbit like him. He was smiling, but something on Bilbo's face troubled him, as the smile slowly wore away, replaced by concern.
"Uncle Bilbo, is everything alright?"
Bilbo smiled wearily.
"Of course Frodo. Just a hard day that's all. Old age is catching up to me, it seems......"
Frodo nodded, his smile coming back to his face.
"Is there anything I can do for you?"
"No, no, I'll be fine. Go and enjoy yourself. Today is a fine day, if I say so myself." Bilbo cackled.
The young hobbit quietly exited, leaving Bilbo to hi thoughts. As he circled the room with his gaze, he suddenly noticed the letter which he had so promptly chucked on the table. He reached forward and snatched it. Then he gasped with surprise.
Written on the front of the letter in big elvish letters was Bilbo's name. But that wasn't what made him gasp. It was the smaller elvish letters in the bottom right corner that read the words.
Bilbo froze. He had not seen the wizard for over a decade, having heard little of him. He had thought Gandalf had forgotten all about him, and had other important things to do besides meeting him, yet there his name was, clear as clear could be, written on the letter.
Without a second thought, Bilbo opened the letter and started reading it.
Dear Bilbo. I realise I had not had much contact with you for the last ten years, for much more important things demanded my attention. But times change, and I imagine you would be surprised to read this now, when so much time has passed. But that does not matter. What matters is that great changes are coming in the world and I require that we meet urgently, for I do not have much time, and the subject of our discussion is important. The Necromancer has already set his minions to track me, and I fear that he may have found out. Gandalf.
Bilbo was puzzled. Meet urgently? The Necromancer? Subject of discussion important? Many questions were now forming in Bilbo's mind, but the elder hobbit had learned long ago that by meddling in the affairs of wizards, there is always a chance you won't understand everything. But this seemed......strange somehow.
It was then he noticed a small scribble at the bottom of the letter.
Burn the letter after you have read it. Do be hasty about it.
Bilbo headed over to the fireplace and flung the letter in there. He would have to be prepared for Gandalf's arrival, for the wizard had a habit of gatecrashing when you would least expect it.
Frodo quickly headed down the path to the Green Dragon. Bypassing Sandyman's mill, he noticed that Sandyman himself seemed to be absent, which was not like him. Probably busy off somewhere in Bywater.
"Oy! Mr. Frodo! Over here!"
Samwise Gamgee was running up behind him, seemingly puffed out and red in the face. Frodo slowed down to let Sam catch up to him, and as the younger hobbit made it to him, he blurted out words in an almost uncomprehensible language.
"Where are you going Mr. Frodo? Not with Pippin and Merry again, are you, raiding the farm? They won't pass trouble if they keep it up, mark my words."
"Indeed. And why are you here, Sam? I do hope Master Gamgee hasn't thrown you out again."
Sam went red.
"No, no, Mr. Frodo, me ol' Gaffer just let me off today for a rest, unusually kind of him today, he isn't usually like that. I think he's been a little worried about poor old Mr. Bilbo, he hasn't been well today."
"Yes, indeed." Frodo went silent. Sam caught onto the tense atmosphere and added "Well I'll be going now. Ol' Gaffer will kill me if I am late."
As he turned away and began walking, Frodo suddenly spoke up.
"Listen, Sam, why don't you come with me, Merry and Pippin? Have a break, eh?"
Sam turned red "No, sir, I really should be going......"
Sam was reluctant. Then he said "Very well."
As they headed down the path to the Green Dragon, nobody who would ever look in their direction, see a master and servant. They would see two friends, walking confidently side by side on the road to see Merry and Pippin.
Frodo wondered about Bilbo, passing a group of young ones playing.
Bilbo gazed outside. Clouds were gathering quickly, and he wondered whether Gandalf would make it at all. The weather almost stank of some greater evil and sent a shiver down the elder Baggins's spine.
He tried to relax himself and sat down in his favourite chair in front of the fireplace. His hand once again delved into the depths of his pocket and he pulled out the ring.
Bilbo looked at it.
For a moment a golden flame seemed to rush across it's surface.
The hobbit blinked. He must have been imagining it. He put the ring back in his pocket and rested back in his chair.
A knock on the door.
Bilbo jumped up from the chair and stared out the window.
It was Gandalf.
The wizard seemed incredibly weary.