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Frodo's Return to the Shire

6

Sitting up on the slope in the morning, Frodo watched birds flit in and out of the great Tree that sheltered him. They seem frantic, sometimes, rushing from branch to branch then off again to find food or a drink. He wondered if they even slept fast. They spent their lives hurrying from one task to the next without stopping to enjoy anything. Well, perhaps some did; robins seem to enjoy singing. Crows even seem to play with each other, now that he thought about it. He'd seen them many a time in a field or in a tree diving at each other then veering away. It did resemble children playing. A wind came through the branches, sending the little birds into chittering. One fluttered clumsily to the ground and sat there, peeping loudly.

"Lost your grip?" Frodo said to it. It seemed to look at him and peeped again. From the branches came stronger peeping. The little one flapped a few times then flew back up. "Good for you! Now hold on tight." Frodo shook his head, wondering why he was talking to birds. He sighed and looked out over the country. It gradually fell away toward Hobbiton and Bywater, sitting comfortably in the arms of the land. That bird is home, where it should be. It didn't worry about where to go. Its family is here to take care of it until it could do so itself, but even then it wouldn't stray far from where it was born. Then there were the ones who flew away every fall and came back every spring. Where they went no one knew but they always came back.

'I've gone far and come back, but I can't continue from where I used to be. Everything looks the same but feels different. I want to be myself again. I want to do the things I used to, I want to *feel* like I used to! Sam seems to be getting along well. He's not showing any ill effects. Maybe because he's got Rosie with him every day. He seems happier since they married. I can't help but think there is some way for me to recover at least in part, if I just find it and accept it.'

He stood and stretched. Strider his pony lifted his head and neighed loudly, looking across the hill behind them. Frodo didn't see or hear anything. He walked up to the pony and stroked his mane. An answering call came on the breeze. Over the hill came a tall figure in white on a majestic silvery-grey horse. Strider called again and again was answered. Frodo smiled and walked toward Gandalf.

"I thought you were off on your own business," he said as the wizard approached.

Gandalf dismounted. "I have been having this feeling, dear Frodo, that you are not at ease. When you are not at ease I am concerned."

"You are the best of friends!"

They walked a little ways, horse and pony following at a distance. "It's Bilbo," Frodo began. "He is the one aspect I can't settle. Sam, Merry and Pippin are continuing along wonderfully. I'm no longer worried about how they'll get on whether I leave or stay. But Bilbo, if I stay here, I will miss more. And how can I stay behind, knowing he'll worry about me?"

Frodo stopped to watch another young bird in the grass, flapping its wings. Its parents were in a bush close by, calling. It made an attempt to fly but only got an inch or so above the grass and landed again with much beating of wings. The parents continued to call. The young bird tried again, at last gaining enough altitude and speed to reach the bush. The calls changed to chirping.

"I wish I could talk to Bilbo, but there isn't much time before he'll be leaving Rivendell. I would rather not surprise him with this on his way to the Havens."

Gandalf had been watching the birds as well. "Frodo, I think I have an answer." Frodo couldn't believe his ears. Not only did Gandalf speak bluntly but he might be able to help! "You must understand, I cannot promise this, for I must appeal to Gwaihir."

"Oh.... the Great Eagles! Gandalf, if only I could see Bilbo and explain to him, and ask him! I am already indebted to the Eagles but this one last favour I would ask!"

"The Eagles do not grant boons lightly, even for the Ringbearer. Come back to this place tomorrow and you will know."

"Thank you for trying, Gandalf! And please tell the Eagle thank you, too, even for listening to the request."

"You may be certain that I shall. Now go home, and rest. Prepare for whatever answer you will receive."

Frodo smiled brightly and called Strider. The pony came at once. Frodo got on and gripped Gandalf's hand in gratitude before riding away. The wizard smiled too.