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Through Other Eyes, by Rhymer

Author: Rhymer
Title: Through Other Eyes
Rating: G
Theme: One picture is worth a thousand words
Elements: Picture posted at end of story
Author's Notes: Notes at end
Summary: Bilbo was never seen in the Shire again, but with Aragorn’s help, he can still see the Shire.
Word Count: 1000 exactly

The city was drawn in charcoal and pastel, as faint as a distant dream. "I wonder where it is," Bilbo murmured, as his fingers ghosted over the pale towers. "No," he breathed in sudden understanding, for the sense of loss in those lines was palpable. "I wonder where it was."

He laid the book down on his lap, and sat awhile, thoughts wandering. Above him, carved traceries made shadow-patterns in the sunlight. Flowers twined through the railings, and the wall behind him was smooth and cool.

Footsteps sounded on the stairs, and Bilbo half started up, then settled back down with a laugh of delight. "Dunadan! You're back!" But Aragorn's eyes were shadowed and his face was etched with lines. Bilbo's smile faltered. "You've been..."

"In the north and in the east," Aragorn said, "in the wilds, and beyond them. But it is over now." He smiled, but the lines did not soften, or not by much.

Bilbo patted the stone bench. "Sit down, sit down."

Aragorn did so wearily, and for a while they sat side by side in silence. A tiny spider wove gossamer threads upon the petals. Not far away, an elf was singing, her voice like sunlight on running water. Bilbo watched as Aragorn listened.

"Did you...?" he asked, when he could keep it in no longer. "Have you been...?"

"Oh yes," said Aragorn. "At the first turning of spring."

Leaves skittered across the terrace, golden in the autumn breeze. "Tell me," Bilbo breathed.

"It was in the Southfarthing," Aragorn said. "I had come up in haste from Sarn Ford."

"In haste?" Bilbo's hand fluttered to his breast. "Is the Shire in danger?"

Perhaps unconsciously, Aragorn’s fingers brushed his sword. "It was," he said, "but it was a small danger, and it is past."

"Good. Good." Bilbo let out a breath. "I often walked in the Southfarthing before..." He closed his eyes; opened them again. "Tell me what you saw."

It was an old game, and Aragorn knew the rules. "I saw a tree. It was still bare, still clinging to winter, but in the distance and all around, the other trees were clad in the first fresh leaves of spring."

"Oh yes," sighed Bilbo. "I remember spring time in the Shire. The trees here are more beautiful, of course, but I have never known a dearer green."

"There were no buildings," said Aragorn, "but there was nothing wild about it, not at all. There were fields and trees, but nearer than that, stretching away from the path, were long lines of well-tended vines, just beginning to sprout new leaves."

"Old Winyards!" Bilbo gave a shuddering laugh. "A flask of Old Winyards at the fireside after a long day's walk." He sighed. Strange birds were singing and strange butterflies flew. "But you haven't finished the game, Dunadan. The sky! Tell me about the sky."

"It was sunset," said Aragorn. "There were low clouds at the horizon, and the sun itself was hidden, but the entire western sky was… not aflame, for it was softer than that, but the colour of a ripe peach."

"I have never seen a peach," said Bilbo.

"A rose, then." Aragorn’s voice was smiling, but Bilbo could not see him; his eyes saw other places, far away. "The colour of a hobbit maiden’s blushes, but fading at the edge to gold and then to cream."

"I see it," Bilbo breathed. "I see it."

Aragorn said nothing for long while. "You miss the Shire," he said at last, and his voice was gentle.

"Of course I do." He had not meant to say it. It was impossible to feel discontent in the House of Elrond, everybody knew that; but Bilbo was still half dazed with sunset. "Of course I do."

But there was no leaving Rivendell now, not for him. He had tried, in those early days; so often had he tried. He had tried to journey to brave new lands, but always his feet betrayed him, and he found himself heading the same way. I’ve just popped back for that ring of mine, Frodo, my lad. Can I see it again, just once?

Can I touch it?

Can I hold it?

Give it to me!

Bilbo wiped his eyes with the heel of his hand. "But you can never feel discontent in the House of Elrond, or not for long." He forced a smile, and a moment later it became a real one, meant from the heart. "And why should I need to see it again, when I have friends who paint such pictures with their words? It is enough, my friend. It is more than enough."

"I’m glad," said Aragorn, but although his voice was gentle, it was grave.

Bilbo blinked, clearing memories from his eyes. "Oh dear. Here you are indulging an old hobbit’s fancy, when you’ve been enduring who knows what hardships out in the wilds."

"Nay," said Aragorn, "it is always a balm to me to remember it." He stood up, and Bilbo saw that the lines on his face were indeed eased, and his eyes were less shadowed, and sunlight danced on his head like a crown. "But other tasks await me, and I must take my leave."

His hand rested for a moment on Bilbo’s hair. It smelled of earth and stone and great open spaces. Bilbo shifted, and the book almost slid from his lip. He grabbed it by its edges, careful not to touch the fragile picture.

"It is called Annuminas," said Aragorn quietly.

"What is?" Bilbo asked.

"The city in the picture," Aragorn said. "The capital of the Kings of Arnor, drawn long ago by one of my fathers, after the fall."

He walked away. Nearby, and suddenly, a voice rose up, singing of Valinor, so far beyond the reaches of the sea.

Bilbo gazed at the picture, until the pastel towers blurred and trembled with his slow tears.

Not all exiles had friends who could paint them pictures of their lost home.




Notes: This is my first ever challenge response, and - despite the fact that I've loved Tolkien for over 30 years and have been writing fanfic for 18 - only my second story in this fandom, so I hope I've not committed any hideous faux pas. I'm feeling quite pleased about hitting the 1000 words target, since I'm not generally good at reining the words in.

I'm now fighting the urge, not to expand this story, per se, but to write a longer story dealing with similar themes, describing Bilbo's time in Rivendell in a series of snapshots. I'm trying to fight this urge and let this story stand on its own. I'm not sure if I'm winning.

I considered not posting the picture that inspired the story, since the theme of the story was that sometimes you don't need to see a scene with your own eyes, but it's a nice picture, so here it is.

field at sunset


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 16th, 2013 02:09 pm (UTC)
Don't fight it, Hon! Write the stories. You're a wonderful writer, and I, for one, would love to see more stuff from you.
Oct. 16th, 2013 04:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you! My fighting is becoming a limp and feeble thing, and I will probably succumb. I don't want to undermine this little story by incorporating it into a longer tale, but I think I can be happy writing a story that doesn't include this scene, but merely deals with similar themes. We'll see. :-D
Oct. 16th, 2013 02:42 pm (UTC)
He closed his eyes; opened them again. "Tell me what you saw."

It was an old game, and Aragorn knew the rules.

What a heartbreaking, yet loving and tender bond these two have. Your story is wonderful, and I hope you'll let your Muse take you where she will. My current story takes place in newly-rebuilt Annuminas, so this struck a special chord with me. Bilbo counting himself among the 'exiles' is very poignant.
Oct. 16th, 2013 04:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm thrilled to hear that you enjoyed it. It's always scary venturing into a new fandom. I hadn't really thought much about the old lost ruins of Arnor, but am becoming quite intrigued by them. There's something very powerful about the ruins of long-lost glories.
Oct. 16th, 2013 02:54 pm (UTC)
Oh how I love this one! I can never get enough of stories that explore the friendship of Bilbo and Aragorn while Bilbo dwells in Rivendell!

We tend to forget, in this age of instant images and picture sharing, that there was a time when that wasn't possible. I love Aragorn's thoughtfulness here, and Bilbo's enjoyment.
Oct. 16th, 2013 04:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I was quite ridiculously nervous about my first post to this community, so I'm thrilled to hear that you enjoyed it. re. images: It did occur to me after I'd written it that I'd actually written "a thousand words paints a picture" - i.e. precisely the opposite of what I was supposed to do. :-D I then proceeded to get entirely sidetracked by trying to track down canon references to paintings, portraits or landscape art in Middle Earth, as opposed to statues, decorative carvings, banners etc. I now have horrible doubts about the canonical nature of a book full of pastel landscapes. :-)

Thanks for helping this newbie get started in this fandom. :-D
Oct. 16th, 2013 11:08 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed this very much.It is a lovely glimpse of the friendship between Bilbo and Aragorn and a great use of the prompt. Welcome to this group. I would love to read more LOTR stories from you.
Oct. 17th, 2013 07:32 am (UTC)
Thank you! I definitely hope to write more. I've already got one other story posted, one more unposted, and loads of random notes scrawled on the "to do" list. :-D
Oct. 17th, 2013 07:16 am (UTC)
I really like this. The way Aragorn describes the Shire and really brings it to life. By the time I came to the picture I could already see it from Aragorn's description.

I liked as well the comparison with Annuminas, which no one can describe for Aragorn quite in that way.
Oct. 17th, 2013 07:34 am (UTC)
Thanks! I almost didn't post the picture at all, since my aim was to have readers (like Bilbo) seeing it in their minds just from the words. But it's a nice picture, and it seemed worth sharing. :-D
Oct. 17th, 2013 06:11 pm (UTC)
Well done! I really enjoyed this story, Rhymer :) Please post more, I'd be ever so glad to see what else you have written! It's a lovely picture, too, though Bilbo and Aragorn's words painted vivid pictures for me as well!

Kaylee (Arafinwiel)
Oct. 18th, 2013 07:33 am (UTC)
Thank you! I seem to have given up fighting my Muse, since I spent half of last night lying awake in bed, hearing lines of dialogue in my head. My notes are still pretty vague, but I have fragments of scenes covering some 20 years. I plan to plunge in this weekend, and see what emerges. :-D
Oct. 18th, 2013 07:58 am (UTC)
Hurray! :) I can't wait to find out!

Kaylee Arafinwiel
Oct. 17th, 2013 07:49 pm (UTC)
This is just lovely and walks the pathway marked by your picture beautifully. This small little two sentence vignette was expanded and colored in by your words. What a pleasure to read.

- Erulisse (one L)
Oct. 18th, 2013 07:22 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! I was really quite nervous about posting this (new fandom, and all) so it's great to hear that you enjoyed it.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 18th, 2013 07:29 am (UTC)
Thanks! I think it's safe to say that I will definitely be writing more in this vein. I haven't got as far as actually starting something, but I've got several pages of notes, and lay awake half of last night hearing stray lines of dialogue. I'm working on Bilbo and Aragorn's first meeting at the moment, but have stray ideas covering 20 years. :-)
Oct. 18th, 2013 03:27 am (UTC)
Beautiful writing. Poor Bilbo, missing the Shire so much, and how kind of Aragorn to bring the memory back for him.
Oct. 18th, 2013 07:27 am (UTC)
Thanks! I have to admit that in previous rereadings, I hadn't really spared much thought to wondering what Bilbo was thinking and feeling while at Rivendell. I was just beginning to think about it when this picture turned up in my inbox as my challenge, and this story came to me in an instant, pretty much whole and complete. :-)
Oct. 18th, 2013 10:43 pm (UTC)
What a temptation--to go back and take the Ring, perhaps by force, from Frodo! Shuddery and beautiful at the same time!
Oct. 19th, 2013 08:41 am (UTC)
Thanks! The more I think about it, the more unanswered questions I have about Bilbo in Rivendell, and his feelings about the Ring. I'm now in the process of exploring some of my questions via a longer story. I'll probably end up with absolutely none of them answered, just more questions. :-D
Oct. 23rd, 2013 10:43 pm (UTC)
Poor Bilbo! But he has a good friend in Aragorn. Well done!
Oct. 25th, 2013 06:49 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it. I've worked like a frenzied mad thing this last week, and have just finished the first draft of a longer (16,000 word) story further exploring some of these themes, especially Bilbo and Aragorn's developing friendship. It's been interesting to write.
Oct. 26th, 2013 02:18 pm (UTC)
Ah, I see you've just posted the longer story to MPTT now!
Oct. 26th, 2013 04:57 pm (UTC)
Yup! :-) I'm posting it serially there, but I got impatient so have just posted the whole thing to my LJ, here.
Nov. 1st, 2013 10:46 pm (UTC)
This was absolutely lovely. You pulled in so many great themes--especially Bilbo's wistful homesickness and the enduring temptation of the ring. Setting up his self-imposed exile as a counterpoint to Aragorn's was a particularly smart move. You have great economy of words here--everything is introduced so subtly and naturally that it doesn't feel rushed or crammed in, but there's still a lot to chew on. And to say so much about the characters in a story based around something as simple as describing a picture . . . wow.
Nov. 2nd, 2013 09:00 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! "Economy of words" is not something that can normally said about my writing - I am perfectly capable of taking 500 words to describe someone opening a door! - so I'm particularly happy about that. It was quite a hard challenge to say everything I wanted to say in such a short space, while still including descriptions of the setting. I'm thrilled to hear that it worked for you.
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )


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