Frodo Duggins the mouse sat by a tree, on a hot summer’s day. The young one was about twenty years old, and his fur was a chocolate brown. He was waiting for someone. Frodo put down his book and sighed in frustration.

Finally, he heard him. It was Gandalf! He jumped up and rushed towards the dirt road that led into the Shire. There he was! The mouse ran and jumped into the cart. “Gandalf! You’re late,” he reprimanded the old badger.

They looked at each other for a few seconds, each with a completely straight face. Then Frodo smiled, and Gandalf laughed out loud. “Hohoho!” he chuckled. “How’s your uncle, young one?”

“He’s well enough,” Frodo replied. “There’s to be a big party tonight. He knows how to celebrate.” The pair continued to talk, and rode into the village together. Gandalf stopped at a hill with a door in the side. Frodo jumped off, and the badger waved as he got off. Frodo ran off, and Gandalf stooped to knock on the smaller door.

((ooc  Not my best.

“Frodo! Sticklebacks, where is that boy? Frodo!”

Bilbo Duggins, Frodo’s aforementioned uncle, scampered around his Hobbit-hole looking for his nephew. Then he remembered that Frodo had gone out to the forest, doing whatever young twenty-year old mice did in the summer. Bilbo began another path of scampering, cleaning up things and hanging up stray clothes, among other tasks.

His paws strayed to his pockets.

Oh, thank goodness. There it is.

A knock at the hole-door interrupted him, and Bilbo, stuffing his fist back into his pocket, made his way towards it.

“No, thank you! We don’t want any more visitors, well-wishers or distant relations!” He opened the door, and the mouse’s face brightened up like the light of the sun.

“Gandalf? My dear Gandalf!”

Gandalf found himself grinning uncontrollably. “Bilbo, my old friend!” the ancient badger exclaimed. “How are you?” He squeezed through the door when invited, and hit his head on the chandelier. “Ow,” he muttered.

“Do you have any tea?” he asked. Gandalf ducked through another doorway and saw something on a table. It was an old map, one that he’d seen long ago. One that lead to a mountain, full of gold, protected by a huge creature of death . . . he shivered.

He turned around and promptly hit his head on the chandelier again.

Bilbo took Gandalf’s pointy hat and wizard’s staff, laying it against the hat stand at the other end of the hall.

“Tea? Or maybe something a little stronger? I’ve got a few bottles of the Old Winyard left. 1296, very good year! Almost as old as I am!” Bilbo laughed proudly at the fact, then took off down the other hall.

“It was laid down by my father! What say we open one, eh?”

His voice could be heard throughout the house, appearing the pantry and then in the kitchen, looking around for some food he could serve to Gandalf.

“I was expecting you sometime last week. Not that it matters; you come and go as you please. Always have done and always will. You’ve caught me a bit unprepared, I’m afraid! Umm…we’ve only got cold chicken and a bit of pickle. And there’s some cheese here! Oh, no, that won’t do. Raspberry jam, an apple tart, but we’ve not much for afters, unfortunately. Oh, no, we’re all right!” Excited and relieved laughter again. “I’ve just found some sponge cake!”

Bilbo reappeared in his cozy parlor, not finding Gandalf there.

“I can make you some eggs if you’d like? Oh. Huh? Gandalf?”

Gandalf appeared next to the old mouse. “Just tea, thank you,” he said with a smile on his face. The old badger sat down at a table as Bilbo scurried around. Gandalf chuckled. He actually found these mice very considerate, but somewhat amusing because of it.

He listened closely as Bilbo spoke to him.

((ooc When’s the party? Next few posts?

“Just tea? Oh, right!” Bilbo stuffed a chunk of the sponge cake in his mouth. “You don’t mind if I eat, do you?”

A loud furious knock at the door surprised him, nearly choking on his cake, but managing to free himself and properly swallow. Bilbo looked out the nearby window at who knocked at the door.

“Bilbo! Bilbo Duggins!”

“I’m not at home!” Bilbo glanced astonished at Gandalf, turning back to the window again. “It’s the Tuckville-Dugginses! They’re after the house, never forgiven me for living this long!”

Bilbo hurried to the counter, putting the sponge cake aside and facing Gandalf. “I’ve got to get away from these confounded relatives, hanging on the bell all day and never giving me a moment’s peace! I want to see mountains again. Mountains, Gandalf! And then find somewhere quiet where I can finish my book.” The mouse’s eyes fell on the tea kettle hanging from a hook atop the burning fire in the hearth.

“Oh, tea! And all the arrangements are made.” He waited till Gandalf had lifted the lid of the teacup for him, then carefully poured in the aforementioned tea.

“I don’t doubt that Frodo suspects something. Of course he does, he’s a Duggins, not some blockheaded Brycegridle from Hardbottle! And I will tell him, very fond of me, he is.” He returned the kettle to the fireplace, then returned to the counter.

“I know Frodo would probably come with me if I asked him to. But I think in his heart he is still in love with the Shire; the woods, the fields, and the little rivers.” A certain unseen pain entered his eyes, facing away from Gandalf, but his paws straying to a pocket in his jacket.

“I’m old, Gandalf. I know I don’t look it, but I’m beginning to feel it in my heart.” His paws fell into his waistcoat pocket, wrapping his fingers around something there. He came over and sat at the table opposite Gandalf. “I feel…thin, sort of stretched…like butter scraped over too much bread. I need a holiday, a very long holiday. And I don’t expect that I shall return.

“In fact, I mean not to.”

Gandalf nodded to Bilbo.

Later that night, the whole Shire was in an uproar. Banners and food were everywhere, and tents with special surprises were set up. Frodo laughed as he watched all the mouse couples dance to music from fiddles and other instruments. However, the real attraction was yet to come. Gandalf, the old badger, made the best fireworks in all of the Middle Lands.

Frodo waited with a mischievous look on his face for Sam, his friend, to come near, then pushed him into the dancers. “Ask her!” he yelled. “Go on!”

Gandalf quietly listened as Bilbo sat and told little mice about an encounter he’d had with a group of nasty foxes on a previous adventure. The mouse was a master storyteller, with many flourishes of the hand and wonderful imagery.

“So, there I was, at the mercy of three monstrous foxes! And they were all arguing amongst themselves, about how they were going to cook us; whether we be turned on a spit, or if they should sit on us one by one, squash us into jelly!”

Here Bilbo pulled a painful grimace accompanied by a cold shudder. But his face brightened up again, assuring the children that everything was all right with the old Duggins mouse. He turned his head slightly to the right to watch Gandalf hopping and dancing along with the other Hobbits, and an amused smile spread across his face while directing his eyes back on the lovely and adorable children.

“Anyway, they were all too busy arguing about the ‘witherto’s’ and ‘whyfors’, that the sun’s first light cracked open over the top of the trees…Poof!”

His paws made the motion of an explosion, causing the children to jump in surprise and laughter.

“And turned them all to stone!”

They applauded and laughed at the wonderful victorious tale, and Bilbo thankfully and lovingly kissed each and every one of them on the head.

Samwise Gimgee shot a fearful glance at Frodo and made to get up off his bench to get away.

“I think I’ll just go have another ale.”

Next thing he knew, however, Frodo was seizing him by the shoulders, and pushing him right into the welcoming and cordial arms of Rosie Cotton, and dancing a fast spinning waltz. Sam swore he could hear Frodo having an uncontrollable laugh at his expense.

Heck with it. Might as well enjoy the moment. If Frodo had enjoyed dancing with Rosie, why couldn’t he? The ribbons in her curly blonde headfur presented a beautiful touch, and the young Gimgee found himself genuinely smiling and following her movements with the music as best as possible.

After letting the Hobbit children loose to go enjoy Gandalf’s fireworks, Bilbo took to wandering around the party area to greet more mice.

“Mrs. Brycegridle, how nice to see you. Welcome, welcome! Are all these children yours?” He took a quick mental count of them all, a perfect round dozen, the thirteenth infant in the mousemaid’s arms.

“My goodness, you have been productive.” Bilbo commented. Mrs. Brycgridle merely laughed proudly and followed her children inside.

Suddenly, his ears began to twitch. He turned on his heel quickly and worriedly, bumping straight into Frodo.

“Tuckville-Dugginses! Quickly, hide!”

The two hid by a tent out of sight of the Tuckville-Dugginses, successfully concealed from the hostile relatives.

Bilbo breathed a huge sigh of relief. “Oh! Thank you, my boy. You’re a good lad, Frodo.” He looked Frodo in the eyes, taking his paw while the other one held a mug of beer.

“I’m very selfish, you know. Yes, I am. Very selfish. I don’t know why I took you in after your mother and father died, but it wasn’t out of charity. I think it was because, of all my numerous relations, you were the one Duggins that showed real spirit. Now, you might think this is all a result of my constant visits to the Gaffer’s homebrew. I have been visiting quite frequently, maybe too much so. But that’s not the point, Frodo! You’ll be all right. I promise.”

He went to his beer and said no more.

Gandalf laughed as he heard Bilbo finish the tale, spinning a gloriously victorious ending for the little mice, then kissing them all on the head. The old badger went back to dancing with agility that was rare in one his age.

Frodo felt himself pulled into hiding. “Tuckville-Dugginses!” he heard his uncle say. Frodo’s ears twitched as well, and he heard the relatives passing by the tent where they were. His uncle let loose a sigh of relief.

Frodo listened as Bilbo talked. “You’re a good lad, Frodo,” the ancient mouse began. He then started to talk of his selfishness, and a few other little things, drinking from his mug of beer. The younger Hobbit listened somewhat, but he’d heard all this before. Actually, just two days ago. Never mind that, though. He was willing to hear it again.

When the older mouse finished, Frodo thought for a moment before leaving the shelter of the tent.

As he walked back towards the dancing, he noticed Pippin and Merry, the two most notorious mice in all of the Shire, sneaking towards Gandalf’s fireworks. He rolled his eyes. The pair was bound to get in trouble again.

As Frodo had correctly observed, Meriadoc Brundyback and Peregrin Rook (nicknamed the aforementioned troublesome “Merry” and “Pippin”) hopped sneakily into the fireworks cart, left unattended by Gandalf.

“Hurry!"

Pippin scavenged around for a firework while Merry stood watch, the latter munching at an apple pilfered from a food table. He saw Gandalf setting off a whirlwind of shimmering butterflies for the delighted Hobbit children. Looking over at Pippin, he noticed a thin straight-backed unremarkable and shapeless missile in his hand.

“No, no, Pip! A huge one!”

Another bout of rummaging later and Pippin withdrew a bright orange winged dragon. Both mice grinned and retreated into a nearby supply tent. They set the winged beast upright, then Pippin struck a match and lit the firework’s fuse.

“Done!”

“You’re supposed to stick it in the ground.”

“It is in the ground!”

“Outside!”

“This was your idea!

The beast launched into the air, bringing the tent with it and knocking the poor pair of Hobbits to the ground, the latter’s reactions being boisterous shrieks of surprise and astonishment.

The tent blazed and tore away by the fire from the rocket, and easily morphed into its proper shape: a golden orange dragon, bearing fiery golden teeth and wide pointed wings. It flew a long round arc then dove downward, heading for the party of Hobbits. They fled screaming in terror and fright, knocking over tables and chairs…and each other.

Bilbo did not notice the dragon or the insane chaos of the crowd of his partygoers. The only real noise he heard came from Frodo warning him to “watch out for the dragon”.

“Dragon?! Nonsense, Frodo! There hasn’t been a dragon in these parts for over 1,000 years!”

Bilbo felt himself pushed to the ground on his stomach, probably by Frodo, hiding themselves behind a pair of upturned round tables. The mass of Hobbits looked on as the dragon swooped over from the party area over the tall trees and lake, almost out of sight…

…until it erupted, exploding into a great number of magnificent colorful fireworks. All fear forgotten, the Hobbits stood back up again on their feet, cheering and applauding for the glorious display. Bilbo and Frodo joined in on this standing ovation.

Merry and Pippin had also come back on their feet, their faces covered in soot and headfur standing on end, though smiling with grand pride.

“That was good!”

“Let’s get another one!”

They made way to do so. A pair of badger paws appeared behind them, painfully pulling at their mouse ears. The owner of these paws revealed itself as none other than the badger Gandalf, smirking victoriously.

Frodo rolled his eyes and walked away . . . or ran away, to be more exact. A firework burst into the sky, causing a lot of Hobbit mice to panic and scatter in frenzied distress, away from the noise. Frodo didn’t move until he saw the firework explode into a fiery dragon, swooping down towards the tents and festivities. The young mouse spotted his uncle. “Bilbo! Watch out for the dragon!” he yelled at the top of his voice.

“Nonsense. There hasn’t been a dragon in these parts for over a thousand years!” Bilbo answered matter-of-factly. Frodo dashed towards the older mouse and tackled him, pushing him behind some tables. They stayed down until the dragon passed overhead, flying off into the night sky . . . and finally erupting into a blaze of sparks, making a spectacular show.

All the mice jumped up and cheered, forgetting about the dragon for the time being. Bilbo stood and brushed himself off, and Frodo did the same.

Gandalf stood smirking, as he held the two troublemakers by the ears. He dragged them off, paying no mind to their shrieks of pain. Presumably to find adamant punishment.

Back at the tents, Frodo yelled for Bilbo to make a speech. He and the mice around him cheered as the ancient Hobbit stood on a table, fingering his pocket as he often did.

Bilbo did as Frodo bade him do, and stood strong and tall upon said table to make his discourse, beside the enormous cake lit with precisely 111 candles. Several meters away, Merry and Pippin, as punishment for their foolish antics with the dragon firework, were condemned by Gandalf to wash all the party dishes: plates, cups, silverware, and all related such things. Bilbo was forced to pinch himself to keep from laughing out loud. He turned his attention back to the crowd of Hobbit mice seated or standing before him.

“Can everybody see and hear me? Hobbits in the back, am I loud enough?” They answered affirmatively in unison. Bilbo clapped his paws together thankfully, and began his speech, calling out the names of the families of the Shire, each respective one clapping and cheering at their prompts.

“My dear Dugginsins and Doffins! Rooks and Brundybacks! Grubbs, Chubbs, Hornblowers, Bralgars, Brycegriddles, and Proudfoots!”

“Proud**FEET**!” The fat smoking Hobbit alluded to corrected Bilbo strongly, his feet resting on a barrel. To the amusement of the Hobbits, Bilbo shook his head and merely waved it off, clearing his throat again.

“Today is my 111th birthday!”

Yet another cheer praising and congratulating Bilbo arose from the Hobbits, many raising their glasses of ale and beer.

“But alas, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to live among some excellent and admirable Hobbits. I don’t know half of you half as well I should like; and I like less than half as of you, half as well as you deserve.”

A confounded hush fell over the area, everybeast wondering as to whether or not they’d been complimented or insulted. The main special case of this was obviously Frodo who clearly understood his uncle’s clever play on words. Bilbo shot a clever smirk at Gandalf.

“I…I have things to do.” The elder Hobbit reached for his pocket, pulling some unseen object out of it and holding it behind his back. His voice turned gravelly serious, whispering to himself.

“I’ve put this off for far too long.”

He addressed the Hobbits again. “I regret to announce that this is the end. I’m going now. I bid you all a very fond farewell.”

“Goodbye.”

And in that same instant, Bilbo Duggins vanished.

The invisible Bilbo ran in a hurry, through his gate and up and through the front door. Laughing, he slipped his magic object off his paw, flicking it playfully in the air and returning it to his pocket. Taking up a walking stick, he strolled into the parlor of Bag End…

“Aaah! Gandalf!” Bilbo clutched a paw to his heart to guarantee that it still beat within his body, then looked the wizard unflinchingly, an innocent and amused smile pulling at the mouse’s lips. “I know what you’re thinking, but come on, it’s just a bit of fun! I mean, did you see their faces?!”

The mouse could not help but break out into full-blown unrestrained laughter heartily and unashamedly, holding his sides and dropping his walking stick on the floor.

((ooc  Sorry about the wait.  😮

Frodo clapped with everyone when Bilbo assented to give a speech. The old mouse stood up on a tall table and began to talk. When he said the name "Dugginses", Frodo cheered with the rest of his clan.

As the mouse neared the end of his monologue, Frodo noticed something odd. Bilbo was fingering an item in his pocket, then brought it out and moved it behind his back. The younger mouse quietly waited for something to happen. Bilbo muttered something that Frodo couldn't make out. "I bid you all a fond farewell," the Hobbit finished. He whispered something again, and this time, Frodo realized that he was saying, "Goodbye."

Then, Bilbo disappeared.

In the back, Gandalf supervised the chore-doings of Pippin and Merry. When he heard cries and exclamations of surprise, he turned to see Bilbo gone and Frodo looking around in confusement. He guessed what was going on, and walked quickly up to Bilbo's house just in time to see the door swing open and shut of its own accord. "Bilbo, Bilbo," he muttered. He opened the door quietly, and the badger walked inside.

"I suppose you think that was terribly clever?" he asked, startling Bilbo. The mouse had a walking stick in his hand, and he laughed so hard that he dropped it.

Gandalf quickly curbed the merriment. "There are many magic rings in the world, Bilbo Duggins, and none of them should be used lightly." He continued on a different note, taking off his pointed hat. "What about this ring? Is it staying behind too?"

Full of Hobbit optimism and cheeriness, Bilbo ignored Gandalf, picked up his walking stick again, and laid it against the wall; then worked on packing his travel backpack with several of his much-needed oddities. However, when Gandalf posed his questions, Bilbo could refuse him no longer.

“Oh, you’re probably right as usual.” Bilbo fetched his pipe and two separate packs of Old Toby and Longbottom Leaf pipeweed.

“Listen, you will keep an eye on Frodo, won’t you? Yes, you will. Two eyes, as often as you can spare them. I’m leaving everything to him. And the ring, it’s over there in an envelope on the mantelpiece.”

But none of that statement was true. The mantelpiece held no such article. Bilbo’s paw strayed to his waistcoat pocket.

“No! Wait…it’s here in my pocket! Isn’t that rather odd now?” He removed the magical golden ring and began caressing it, turning it over and over between his fingers.

“Yet, after all, why not? Why shouldn’t I keep it?” The last questions came in a doubtful whisper, nearly resistant and somewhat possessive.

“Is it so hard to leave it behind, you would ask, Gandalf? No…and yes. I should not leave it behind. Now that it comes to it…I don’t feel like parting with it!” The old Duggins mouse had suddenly become extremely cross. “What business is it of yours anyway, what I do with my own things? I found it, it came to me! It’s mine!”

Then came a whisper, one that did not belong to Bilbo, coming from a voice not his own.

“It’s mine, my only, my own. My Precious!”

Gandalf listened in slight horror. "I think you should leave the ring behind, Bilbo. Is that so hard?" He heard the response, then said sternly, "There's no need to get angry!"

Then he heard something disturbing. “It’s mine, my only, my own. My Precious!”

"Precious . . . it's been called that before, but never by you," he replied softly.

“What business is it of yours anyway, what I do with my own things? I found it, it came to me! It’s mine!"

"I think you've had that ring long enough," Gandalf began.

"You want it for yourself!" the changed Bilbo interrupted.

"Bilbo Duggins!" Gandalf exploded. He felt power going out from him. "Don't take me for some cheap conjurer who practices in tricks!" His shadow filled the room as he seemed to grow slightly taller. "I am not trying to rob you, but only to help you," he said gently, his face softening. He hugged the smaller mouse instantly. "As long as we've been friends . . . trust me, Bilbo, as you once did. The ring must stay." He let the mouse go.

The badger stopped Bilbo at the door. "Bilbo? The ring is still in your pocket."

"I'm late! The road is long! Yes, it is time!"

But Bilbo stopped short of going out the door, hearing Gandalf’s reminder, as little as he accepted it.

“The ring? Oh, good gracious!” The old Hobbit mouse reached into his waistcoat pocket yet again, and withdrew the ring.

“So it is.”

Slowly, little by little, Bilbo tipped his paw downwards; from his paw fell the golden ring, not bouncing but hitting the floor flat with a noisy thump. Bilbo hurried swiftly out the door, looking back to make sure Gandalf was following behind him, and deeply breathing the night air.

“I’ve thought up an ending for my book. ‘And he lived happily ever after, till the end of his days.’” Bilbo turned to Gandalf, sharing his hopeful smile.

“Goodbye, Gandalf.”

And with that, Bilbo Duggins left Bag End and walked away down the road, singing as he went.

“The road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone.
And I must follow if I can.”

Gandalf hugged the mouse one last time, then watched him go out of the door. The old badger looked down. He was standing above the ring. Slowly, the mage bent down to pick it up.

As soon as his paws came close to touching it, he saw a fiery eye, spitting venomous words into his mind. Gandalf whipped his paws away and moved to sit by the fire, thinking. “Precious . . .” he muttered.

A few minutes later, the door creaked open. “Bilbo!” Frodo called hurriedly. He looked around, and saw Gandalf. “He’s gone, isn’t he?” the mouse asked. He paused. “He talked for so long about leaving, I thought he’d never really do it.” He looked at the floor, and saw the gold ring. He picked it up and walked over to Gandalf.

“Gandalf?”

The big badger turned. Frodo was holding his paw open, with the ring sitting inside it. “Ah,” Gandalf mused. “Bilbo’s ring. He’s left everything to you. The ring is yours, now.” He held out an open envelope for the ring, and Frodo tipped his paw, letting it slide inside. “Keep it out of sight.” He stood up. “I have to go. Things to do.”

“What? Why? You only just arrived?” Frodo protested.

Gandalf turned and put his paws on the young Hobbit’s shoulders. “Keep it secret. Keep it safe,” he whispered, then rushed out the door.

In the far distant land of Mordor, where the shadows lay, the reconstruction of a building of ultimate evil was underway. Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower. Somewhere, in an overhead high chamber of unspeakable detail, a single screeching voice could be heard.

"Shire! Duggins!"

Smoke, fire, ash, and lava erupted from Mount Doom in response to the tortured cries. From the fortress of Minas Morgul, nine fox riders on nine black horses emerged, exiting the gates at a furious, desperate, and hurried gallop.

–-
Meanwhile, the gates of Minas Tirith, the capital of the realm of Gondor, were open to Gandalf. The Grey Wizard walked around with a guide heading to the city’s libraries. Removing his hat and lighting his pipe, he sifted through sheaths and piles of old papers. The guide later returned with a mug of tea. At last, came what Gandalf had been searching for.

_"The year 3434 of the Second Age. Here follows the Account of Isildur, the High King of Gondor, and the finding of the Ring of Power.

It has come to me, the One Ring, and it shall be an heirloom of my Kingdom. All those who will follow in my bloodline shall be bound to its fate, for I shall risk no hurt to the Ring. It is precious to me. Though I buy it with great pain. The markings upon the band begin to fade. The writing, which at first was as clear as red flame, has all but disappeared.

A secret now that only fire can tell."_

–-
Back in the Shire, Farmer Maggot chopped up firewood in the evening light. Something approached, and Maggot’s dog barked, to which his owner looked up frightened. His dog backed up and disappeared into the Hobbit hole, in reaction to a black muddled red-eyed horse. Upon it sat a fox wearing metal gauntlets, spiked boots, and a flowing robe and hood in black. One of the Nine Riders from Minas Morgul: Khamûl the Easterling.

"Shire! Duggins!"

"There’s no Dugginses ‘round here. They’re up in Hobbiton! That way!"

The fox rode off in haste whilst Maggot retreated, but not before seeing eight others like it follow after.

–-
In Hobbiton, Frodo took up four mugs of ale from Rosie Cotton, and danced over to Merry and Pippin, who were standing on a table and singing.

_"Hey, ho, to the bottle I go!
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall and wind may blow.
But there still be…
Many miles to go!

Sweet is the sound of the pouring rain,
And the stream that falls from hill to plain.
Better than rain or rippling brook –!"_

"There’s a mug of beer inside this Took!" Pippin proudly interjected.

Cheers and laughs exploded from the proud Hobbits, and Merry and Pippin climbed off the table, continuing to drink. A table away, Sam and a crowd of other Hobbits sat discussing current events.

"There’s been some strange folk crossing the Shire." The Gaffer began. "Dwarves, others of a less than savory nature.”

"War’s brewing.” Noakes agreed. "The mountains are fair teeming with goblins."

"Wives' tales and children’s stories, that’s all that is!” objected Sandyman. “You’re beginning to sound like that old Bilbo Duggins. Cracked, he was!"

Gaffer simply laughed, taking no offense and looking over at Frodo bringing the ale. "Young Mr. Frodo here, he’s cracking! And proud of it! Cheers, Frodo and all!"

"Well, it’s none of our concern what goes on beyond our borders." Sandyman settled the discussion, then turned to Frodo. "Keep your nose out of trouble, and no trouble will come to you!"

The night wore on, and the Green Dragon emptied. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin were one of the last out the door. One of the other mice knelt down before Rosie Cotton as she bid them goodnight.

"Good night, sweet maiden of the golden ale!"

"Oi, mind who you're sweet-talking!" Sam said under his breath.

"Don't worry, Sam!" Frodo reassured him. "Rosie knows an idiot when she sees one!"

Sam smiled uncertainly. "Does she?"

((ooc Sorry if I skipped a few parts.

((bic

Frodo said goodbye to Sam, then walked up the steps to his front porch. The door was still shut, so he walked inside. Strangely enough, it was dark, and papers fluttered about in a draft from the window.

He walked into the living room, where there was no fire. “Hello?” the mouse asked.

Suddenly, a big paw clamped down on his shoulder and turned him around. The Hobbit found himself looking into the face of Gandalf the Grey. The disheveled badger stared at the mouse. “Is it secret? Is it safe?” Frodo nodded and led the badger to a chest. He opened the chest and rummaged about for a bit, finally coming up with the envelope given to him earlier. He turned and handed it to Gandalf.

The badger immediately threw it into the recently started fire. “What are you doing?” Frodo asked in alarm. Gandalf sat back and waited for the paper to burn away, revealing the gold ring. The mage leaned forward and gripped the ring with a pair of iron tongs. He turned to Frodo.

“It’s quite cool,” he reassured the mouse as he dropped it into the waiting paw. Frodo looked at it.

Gandalf turned away. “Can you see anything? Is there anything on the ring?” he asked worriedly.

“No, there’s nothing.” The wizard sighed slightly in relief. “Wait.” The badger turned. “There is something. It’s some form of Elvish, I can’t read it.”

“It is the language of Mordor, which I dare not utter here,” Gandalf said. “In the common tongue, it means:

One Ring to rule them all
One Ring to find them
One Ring to gather them
And in the darkness bind them!”


Gandalf sat with his pipe with Frodo across from him. The badger spoke. "This is the One Ring, forged in Mordor by the fires of Mount Doom, taken from the hand of Sauron himself by Isildur. Bilbo found it . . . in Gollum's cave. For sixty years, it has remained asleep. But now . . . it has heard its master's call."

At that moment, both badger and mouse heard horrible whispers in their ears. They looked at each other. "But Sauron was destroyed!" Frodo protested.

"No, Frodo. The spirit of the Dark One survived. He can't take physical form yet, but he survives in the form of a great eye. His life force is bound to the Ring, and the Ring survived. He is bending all his will towards it, seeking it with all his strength."


Frodo packed quickly as Gandalf spoke to him. “You’ll have to leave the name Duggins behind. It isn’t safe here. You need to take the Ring as far away from here as possible.” The badger heard a noise outside the window. The pair froze.

Gandalf crept over to the opening, reached out with his staff, and promptly smacked someone over the head. Frodo heard a cry of alarm. Gandalf reached over, yanked out a mouse, and slammed him into the table. “Samwise Gimgee!” the badger wizard exploded. “Were you eavesdropping?!”

“Gandalf! I haven’t been dropping no eaves, sir, honest! I was just cutting the grass under the window there, if you follow me! I heard raised voices, nothing important! Just something about a ring, and a Dark Lord, and something about the end of the world. Please, Mr. Gandalf, sir, don’t hurt me! Don’t turn me into anything unnatural!”

Sam eventually found himself hurrying after a rushing Gandalf and Frodo, the wizard leading them and a horse out of the borders of the Shire. They reached a woodland and took a temporary stop. Gandalf gave some cautionary advice to Frodo about not putting on the mysterious Ring, or else some terrible thing would happen. And just like that, in half the blink of an eye, the Grey Wizard was gone on the horse. The two nervous and concerned Hobbits set off at a brisk walk to the calling of birds. They walked through a field, a farmhouse, a waterfall, then another field decorated with a scarecrow.

Sam stopped in his tracks, with Frodo turning back to look at him.

“This is it. If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”

Frodo patted Sam on the back, urging him to take another step and remembering the words of Bilbo concerning great adventures, words of great encouragement and excitement.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you’ll be swept off to.”

Reaching another woodland, dinner and pipeweed were set up. Frodo relaxed in a tree, lifting up his head. They ran up a hill and peered over a fallen tree trunk, to see a procession of Wood Elves, both on horse and on foot.

_“O Elbereth Starkindler, white-glittering slanting down
Sparkling like a jewel, the glory of the starry host!
Having gazed far away from the tree-woven lands of Middle-Earth,
To thee, Everwhite, I will sing, on this side of the Sea,
Here on this side of the Ocean!

O Elbereth Starkindler, from heaven gazing afar!
To thee I cry now beneath the shadow of death!
O look towards me, Everwhite!”_

“They’re going to the harbor beyond the White Towers,” Frodo explained. “To the Grey Havens.”

“They’re leaving Middle-Earth,” Sam commented. “Never to return. I don’t know why…it makes me sad.”

That night, back at camp…

“Everywhere I lie, there’s a dirty great root sticking into my back!”

“Just shut your eyes and imagine you’re back in your own bed, with a soft mattress and a lovely feather pillow.”

“It’s not working, Mr. Frodo! I’m never going to be able to sleep out here!”

“Me, neither, Sam.”

Dawn rose over the fields. A black horse trotted over the hills, ridden by a Black Rider.

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