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Chapter 10: The Hall of Fire
At length the feast came to an end. Elrond and Arwen rose and went down the hall, and the company followed them in due order. The doors were thrown open, and they went across a wide passage through other doors, and came into a further hall. In it were no tables, but a bright fire was burning in a great hearth between the carven pillars on either side.Frodo found himself walking with Gandalf.
"This is the Hall of Fire." Said the wizard. "Here you will hear many songs and tales—if you can keep awake. But except on high days it usually stands empty and quiet, and people come here who wish for peace, and thought. There is always a fire here, all the year round, but there is little other light."
As Elrond entered and went towards the seat prepared for him, Elvish minstrels began to make sweet music. Slowly the hall filled, and Frodo looked with delight upon the many faces that were gathered together; the golden firelight played upon them and shimmered in their hair. Suddenly he noticed, not far from the further end of the fire, a small dark figure seated on a stool with his back propped against a pillar. Beside him on the ground was a drinking-cup and some bread. Frodo wondered whether he was ill (if people were ever ill in Rivendell), and had been unable to come to the feast. His head seemed sunk in sleep on his breast, and a fold of his dark cloak was drawn over his face. Frodo noticed that Devin was watching the mysterious figure with a kind and knowing smile. She whispered something to Kitty, and the other girl's eyes lit up as she too looked over at the seated figure.Elrond went forward and stood beside the silent figure.
"Awake, little master!" he said, with a smile. Then, turning to Frodo, he beckoned to him. "Now at last the hour has come that you have wished for Frodo." He said. "Here is a friend that you have long missed."
The dark figure raised its head and uncovered its face.
"Bilbo!" cried Frodo with sudden recognition, and he sprang forward. Devin and Kitty smiled as they watched the happy reunion.
"Hullo, Frodo my lad!" said Bilbo. "So you have got here at last. I hoped you would manage it. Well, well! So all this feasting is in your honor, I hear. I hope you enjoyed yourself?"
"Why weren't you there?" cried Frodo. "And why haven't I been allowed to see you before?"
"Because you were asleep. I have seen a good deal of you. I have sat by your side with Sam each day. But as for the feast, I don't go in for such things much now. And I had something else to do."
"What were you doing?" Kitty asked curiously as she and Devin approached the two hobbits.
"Why sitting and thinking, my young lady. I do a lot of that nowadays, and this is the best place to do it in, as a rule. Wake up, indeed!" Bilbo said, cocking an eye at Elrond. There was a bright twinkle in it and no sign of sleepiness that they could see. "Wake up! I was not asleep, Master Elrond. If you want to know, you have all come out from your feast too soon, and you have disturbed me—in the middle of making up a song. I was stuck over a line or two, and was thinking about them; but now I don't suppose I shall ever get them right. There will be such a deal of singing that the ideas will be driven clean out of my head. I shall have to get my friend the Dúnadan to help me. Where is he?" Kitty smirked. She liked old Bilbo he was great, telling off an elf-lord like it was nothing. Apparently Elrond thought so, too, because he laughed.
"He shall be found." He said. "Then you two shall go into a corner and finish your task, and we will hear it and judge it before we end our merrymaking." Messengers were sent to find Bilbo's friend, though none knew where he was or why he had not been present at the feast.
"Come on. Let's give them a little quality family time to catch up." Devin said, leading Kitty away so the uncle and nephew could talk amongst themselves in peace.
"Aw, but I like Bilbo." Kitty said. "He's spicy."
"You can talk to him later." Devin said reasonably. "Let Frodo have dibs for now. He's been wanting to see his uncle for ages."
"I hear you are quite the musician, Miss Kitty." Elrond said, turning to face the girls. "If you would like, I can have your instrument brought here to you."
"Oh, yes, please!" Kitty said excitedly, lighting up like a Christmas tree.
"Thank you." Devin said, smiling at how happy her friend was to be playing for an audience again. The girls took a seat near the fire while they waited and listened to the beautiful music being woven like a spell by the skilled Elven musicians and were soon once again in the company of Gimli, Merry, and Pippin again. Sam had seated himself nearer to Frodo and Bilbo while he also enjoyed the fired listened to the music. Devin found herself unconsciously searching the room for Legolas. He was conversing with some of the Rivendell Elves who appeared to be his age. When she realized what she was doing she quickly looked away before she was noticed and turned her attention back to her friends.Yep. Too much wine.
In the meanwhile Frodo and Bilbo exchanged stories of how they both came to be in Rivendell that night and the most recent news they had heard.
"I hear all kinds of news, from over the Mountains, and out of the South, but hardly anything from the Shire. I heard about the Ring, of course. Gandalf has been here often. Not that he has told me a great deal, he has become closer than ever these last few years. The Dúnadan has told me more. Fancy that ring of mine causing such a disturbance! It is a pity Gandalf did not find out more sooner." Bilbo said. "I could have brought the thing here myself long ago without so much trouble, I have thought several times of going back to Hobbiton for it; but I am getting old, and they would not let me: Gandalf and Elrond, I mean. They seemed to think the Enemy was looking high and low for me, and would make mincemeat of me, if he caught me tottering in the Wild. And Gandalf said: 'The Ring has passed on, Bilbo. It would do no good to you or others if you tried to meddle with it again.' Odd sort of remark, just like Gandalf. But he said he was looking after you, so I let things be. I am frightfully glad to see you safe and sound." He paused and looked at Frodo doubtfully.
"Have you got it here?" he asked in a whisper. "I can't help feeling curious, you know, after all I've heard. I should very much just like to peep at it again."
"Yes, I've got it." Frodo answered, feeling a strange reluctance. "It looks just the same as ever it did."
"Well, I should just like to see it for a moment." Said Bilbo.
When he had dressed, Frodo found that while he slept the Ring had been hung about his neck on a new chain, light but strong. Slowly he drew it out. Bilbo put out his hand. But Frodo quickly drew back the Ring. To his distress and amazement he found that he was no longer looking at Bilbo; a shadow seemed to have fallen between them, and threw it he found himself eyeing a little wrinkled creature with a hungry face and bony groping hands. He felt a desire to strike him.The music and singing around them seemed to falter, and a silence fell. Bilbo looked quickly at Frodo's face and passed his hand across his eyes.
"I understand now." He said. "Put it away! I am sorry: sorry you have come in for this burden: sorry about everything. Don't adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story. Well, it can't be helped. I wonder if it's any good trying to finish my book? But don't let's worry about it now—let's have some real News! Tell me all about the Shire!"
Frodo hid the Ring away, and the shadow passed leaving hardly a shred of memory. The light and music of Rivendell were about him again. With the arrival of her trumpet, Kitty began to wow the Elves and their guests with a jazz song called La Vie en Rose. The soulful style of play was unlike anything they had ever heard before, and the skill with which Kitty's fingers danced over her instrument was impressive. Bilbo smiled and laughed happily. He found the warm tones of her trumpet very pleasant and interesting to listen to. And every item of news from the Shire that Frodo could tell—aided and corrected now and again by Sam—was of the greatest interest to him, from the felling of the least tree to the pranks of the smallest children in Hobbiton. They were so deep in the doings of the Four Farthings that they did not notice the arrival of a man clad in dark green cloth. For many minutes he stood looking down at them with a smile.Devin noticed this and smiled. Curious about where he had been, she got up and crossed the room to talk to him. Bilbo must have caught her movements out the corner of his eye because he suddenly looked up as she approached.
"Ah, there you are at last, Dúnadan!" he cried.
"Strider!" said Frodo. "You seem to have a lot of names."
"Well, Strider is one that I haven't heard before, anyway." Said Bilbo. "What do you call him that for?"
"They call me that in Bree," said Aragorn, laughing, "and that is how I was introduced to him."
"And why do you call him Dúnadan?" Frodo asked as Devin joined them.
"The Dúnadan." Bilbo said. "He is often called that here. But I thought you knew enough Elvish at least to know dún-adan: Man of the West, Númenorean. But this is not the time for lessons! Where have you been, my friend?"
"Yes, why weren't you at the feast?" Devin chimed in. "Lady Arwen was there." Aragorn looked down at them gravely.
"I know." He said. "But often I must put mirth aside. Elladan and Elrohir have returned out of the Wild unlooked-for, and they had tidings that I wished to hear at once." Devin furrowed her brow slightly in concern and was about to ask what tidings they had when Bilbo spoke again.
"Well, my dear fellow," said the old hobbit, "now you've heard the news, can't you spare me a moment? I want your help in something urgent. Elrond says this song of mine is to be finished before the evening, and I am stuck. Let's go off into a corner and polish it up!" Aragorn smiled.
"Come then!" he said. "Let me hear it!" Devin smiled wryly as she watched them go. Either the news had turned out to be less important than it had sounded, or he had already relayed it to Elrond and whoever else needed to know. Well, whatever, Aragorn deserved to have a chance to relax after everything he had done for them.
"What is this song she's playing?" Frodo asked, nodding at Kitty, who was still performing. Devin smiled.
"It's Rhapsody in Blue, adapted to the trumpet." She said. "It's meant to be played with an orchestra or a band, but Kitty liked it so much she sat down and figured out how to make it work on just one trumpet. She's a genius when it comes to music."
Kitty smiled and bowed once she had finished performing, and her audience began to applaud.
"Thank you! Thank you! I'll be here all week." She said with a cheeky grin before stepping aside and giving the floor back to the Elvish musicians.
"That was quite a performance." Gandalf said, approaching Kitty while she put away her trumpet.
"I hear you and Miss Devin have decided to stay?" the wizard asked.
"Yeah. Well, I decided I wasn't ready to go home yet, so naturally Devin couldn't leave either." Kitty replied. "I had a feeling it would turn out like that. She'd never leave behind anyone who needed her, probably because she knows what it feels like to be abandoned." Kitty froze as she shut the trumpet's case and turned to stare at wizard with wide eyes before clapping a hand over her own mouth. "Oh my God! I can't believe I just said that!" she whispered. "Just ignore me! Forget I said anything! Ah, I must've had too much wine! The filter on my mouth is always the first thing to go."
"You seem flushed. Perhaps some cool night air would do you good?" Gandalf suggested. Kitty glanced over at Devin, who was conversing with Frodo.
"Yeah, hopefully the air will be cold enough to sober me up." She said glumly, chagrined at herself. Kitty got up and went to stand on the balcony overlooking the valley. She rubbed her arms. It was a bit nippy.
"You seemed troubled." Gandalf said, following her. "Is there something you wish to talk about?"
"Nice try, Dr. Phil, but I've said too much already." Kitty retorted a bit sassily. Gandalf raised an eyebrow at her. "Uh, it's a pop-culture reference from our world… Like I said, just ignore me." She said a bit more sheepishly, avoiding eye-contact.
"Whatever you say shall not be passed beyond the two of us." Said Gandalf patiently.
"Why?" Kitty asked. "Why go out of your way to talk to me?"
"Perhaps I am curious about the two of you." He said. "I have met people of all sorts from many different lands, but never have I met people from another world before."
"Yeah, it's a new experience for me, too." Kitty said with a wry smile. "Well, I guess I might as well explain so you don't get the wrong idea, as long as you promise not to tell anyone else." She cast a sidelong glance at the wizard before continuing. "Devin's adopted. She's not ashamed of it because she loves her adopted-parents, but for a long time she was really hurt that her real mother didn't want her, so she doesn't like to talk about it. There's this quote I heard somewhere before: 'The loneliest people are the kindest. The saddest people smile the brightest. The most damaged people are the wisest. All because they do not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they have.' I think it sums Devin up pretty well. She's been through a lot, but she hasn't let it make her hard or bitter… She's a lot stronger than I am." Kitty admitted solemnly, staring out into the cold dark night while she listened to the music and merrymaking coming from the warm hall.
"What are the two of you going to do now?" Frodo asked Devin curiously.
"To be honest, I'm not really sure yet." Devin replied. "I suppose it depends on how things go at the Council tomorrow."
"You will be there as well?" Frodo asked.
"Yes, but mostly just as observers." She said. "We want to help, but we also have to be careful not to interfere too much." Frodo was about to ask her what she meant by that when Kitty walked up to them.
"Are you all right?" Devin asked, concerned. To those who didn't know Kitty well, she might appear to be fine, but the usual mischievous gleam in her eyes was gone, and she seemed almost melancholy.
"I'm fine." Kitty said, not wanting to worry the hobbit. "I think I might've had too much wine. Can you come with me for a sec?"
"Yeah, of course." Devin said, immediately getting to her feet. "Sorry, Frodo, but I've got to get Kitty out of here before she dancing on tables like nobody's watching. Goodnight. See you tomorrow."
"Yes, goodnight." Frodo called after the two girls with a wry smile as they left the hall together.
"So, how are you really?" Devin asked once they were in the privacy of Kitty's room. "On a scale of one to ten."
"I feel like I'm at about a four… but I think it's probably more because I had too much wine." Kitty said thoughtfully. "We both now I'm a sad/sentimental drunk. I was just worried I might start crying before I got to my room."
"Do you want me to stay?" Devin asked.
"Yeah. I don't want to be alone." Kitty said quietly as she lay down on her bed. "My ipod died. Can you sing me to sleep?"
"Any requests?" Devin asked as she sat down on the bed beside her.
"My Chemical Romance?" Kitty suggested.
"All right." Devin said with a wan smile and began to sing softly. Kitty soon fell asleep to their song Venom.