The Dwarves' Secret by Shirebound

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The Dwarves’ Secret

None saw her last meeting with Elrond her father, for they went up into the hills and there spoke long together, and bitter was their parting that should endure beyond the ends of the world.  ‘Many Partings’, The Return of the King



“Come in, Frodo.”  Elrond turned away from the window and waved the hobbit into his room, a spacious one Faramir had given to him during his duration in Minas Tirith.  The windows in this chamber looked south, for which he was grateful.  Not east, to the crumbling remains of the mountain where Isildur had claimed the Ring in front of him; nor West, from whence he would soon depart forever from Middle-earth; nor to the north, where his daughter would never again live and dance and fill the air with her sweet musical laugh.  His heart was heavy during these days, but this time with the Ring-bearer each morning brought his mind and fëa into focus as he aided the hobbit in his healing.

As the Elf lord’s attention shifted to him, Frodo caught the easing of sorrow in Elrond’s eyes and manner and was glad to see a genuinely pleased smile grace his ageless face.  I was right to ask Aragorn for advice, Frodo thought, as he approached Elrond and took a seat next to him.  He’s sad.  I hope this works.

“You’re looking fine, my friend,” Elrond said, reaching out to take Frodo’s small hands in his own.  “These garments fit well.”

Frodo wore a tunic of light blue over soft tan breeches.  They were not new, but were clean and in good repair.  

“Aragorn said he wants to array us as princes, but these clothes suit us better,” Frodo said.  “I suspect that all the Guards of this place were asked to ransack their homes for whatever small items of clothing they could spare!  Everyone’s been so good to us.”

“And so they should be,” Elrond said gravely, but the smile didn’t leave his eyes.  “Are you ready to get to work?”

“Yes,” Frodo said, eyeing the box of polished sticks, flexible bands, smooth pebbles, and other items Elrond had gathered to help him regain dexterity in his right hand.  He opened and closed his maimed hand several times, then wriggled all four fingers.  “I thank you for helping me; it’s so much easier now to write, and just this morning I was able to fasten buttons without Sam’s assistance.”

“You’ve worked hard,” Elrond said approvingly.  “We will not need to meet much longer.  Should we start with--”

“How about those balls?” Frodo asked quickly.  “We haven’t worked with them yet.”

“If you like,” Elrond said, removing a small wooden sphere from the box.  It was painted red with white stripes, and fit nicely into Frodo’s hand, having been crafted for a child.

“The green one as well,” Frodo said, peering into the box.  “And the yellow.”

“Three?” Elrond asked, puzzled.  He handed Frodo two more of the balls.  “You will only need one for the exercises I have in mind.”

Frodo grinned up at him.  “One ball is hardly a challenge.”  Using his right hand, he casually tossed the yellow ball straight up into the air, catching it neatly as it fell.  “Two are less easy.”  He tossed the yellow ball gently into the air again, then threw the green one upwards as well.  He caught the first ball and sent it aloft immediately before the green one fell.  Finding a smooth rhythm, he was soon tossing both balls upwards with his injured hand alone, one after another, catching each singly as it fell and hurling it aloft again, over and over.

Elrond smiled and clapped.  “That is marvellous, Frodo!  Where did you learn this juggler’s skill?”

“Just a moment,” Frodo said, concentrating hard. “Three balls are quite tricky.”  Up went the red ball as well.  Now using both hands, Frodo sent the three balls into a continuous arc, catching and tossing them so quickly, even the Elf’s sharp eyes had trouble discerning exactly how the exchange was being done.  Finally, Frodo let all three balls fall into his hands, where he held them fast.  

“Honestly,” he admitted, “I wasn’t sure I could do that again so soon.”

Elrond stared at him in amazement, and his eyes shone with a quiet joy.

“Frodo, I have not seen such a thing since I was a child, long, long ago,” he said quietly.  “Two  Dwarves on a journey came to the place where my brother and I were dwelling with our foster-father; they earned food and supplies in exchange for the entertainment they provided with balls such as these, and weighted sticks.  I was absolutely fascinated by their skill, and spoke of little else until long after they had departed.”

Frodo shook out his right hand, aching from the unusual exertion, and Elrond took it and began to massage the palm and fingers. 

“Thank you, that’s wonderful,” Frodo said gratefully.  “Many Dwarves must know how to do this, then!  Gimli taught me how to juggle during our long travels together.  He used rounded river stones.  I practiced and practiced, and finally one day it all made sense, and my hands understood what to do.  He said he could show me a great deal more, but we ran out of time.  But it’s a long way home from here, isn’t it?  Maybe he won’t mind resuming the lessons.  Perhaps he can teach you, as well!  Would you like that?”

Elrond laughed then, a true, hearty laugh that brought joy to Frodo’s heart.  “A Dwarf, an Elf, and a hobbit juggling together, now that would indeed be a sight!”  His eyes soft and appreciative.  “Such a diverting activity to help pass the time as we journey north would be welcome.  That is, if Master Gimli can be persuaded to divulge his people’s secrets to an Elf.”

“Anything’s possible,” Frodo said with a grin.  “He’s much jollier than he used to be.”  He hopped off the chair.  “Perhaps that’s enough for today.  Shall I see you again tomorrow?”

“Frodo, as long as you wish to meet with me, I will be pleased to do so.  I am truly impressed with your progress.  And I thank you for restoring to me such a delightful memory.”

Frodo bowed, then walked sedately to the doorway.  When he looked back, Elrond was tossing the yellow ball experimentally into the air.  He was still smiling.  

Only when Frodo was well down the corridor did he give out a whoop, then dashed off to find Aragorn, whom he found sitting in the courtyard of the beautiful new White Tree.  When Aragorn called out a greeting, Frodo was so excited he ran straight for the King, startling the members of the Royal Guard by leaping into their sovereign’s outstretched arms.

“You were right!” Frodo cried out happily.  “It was a good memory for Master Elrond, just as you said it would be.  You should have seen him!  He was laughing!”

“That’s wonderful, Frodo, well done,” Aragorn said.  “Adatold me many tales about his childhood, and that chance encounter with the journeying Dwarves always made him smile.”

“What other good memories of his can you share?” Frodo asked eagerly.  “We’ll be traveling a long way together.”

“I will consult with Arwen; I have no doubt that, together, we can recall many things that will cheer him at need.”

“Good,” Frodo said, greatly pleased.  “Now, please excuse me, but I have to attend to something.”

“Where are you off to?  Second breakfast?”

“Soon.  But first, I need to find Gimli.  There’s something very important I want to ask him.”  

"I can guess what it is," the King said with a laugh.  “By the way, Frodo, your new garments suit you.”

Frodo looked his friend up and down, and grinned.  “So do yours.”

** END **    

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