Midsummer's Eve in Tookborough

by Nefertiti

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Gandalf/Gerontius ("the Old") Took

Disclaimer: No rights, no income.

Author's note: Book-canon, suggested by passages in the first chapter of The Hobbit and in Appendices B and C of The Lord of the Rings. For those who have not studied Appendix C in detail, Gerontius is Pippin, Merry, and Fredegar ("Fatty") Bolger's great-great grandfather, Frodo's great grandfather, and Bilbo's grandfather. He died at the age of 130, 20 years after this story takes place.

Thanks to Elanor for the betaing and Sarah for her usual kind encouragement.

Early one afternoon in the 2900th year of the Third Age, Gandalf was driving a cart along the Stock Road toward Tookborough. The progress was maddeningly slow, but he dared not drive any faster over the bumpy track, not with a large load of particularly spectacular fireworks. Ordinarily he would have traveled from Rivendell to the Shire on horseback, but this special occasion happened only once a year, and since he had managed to time his visit to coincide with it, the wizard was happy to take a little trouble to bring this welcome addition to the annual gala celebration of Midsummer's Eve held by Gerontius Took. Gandalf was not able to visit every year, for there had long been many dangerous events happening far away to the South. Still, thanks to the vigilance of the doughty men of Gondor, the threat posed by Mordor seemed in recent years to be held uneasily at bay, and the wizard had the occasional luxury of a trip to the peaceful Shire. Summer was a splendid time to come, he reflected cheerfully, gazing rather drowsily at the swaying foliage of the forest that covered much of the Green Hill Country through which he was passing. It was time for a bit of rest after his travels of the past several months.

The Great Smials would not seem to be the ideal place for rest, being crowded as they were with children of all ages. Unlike most hobbit families, the Tooks tended not to leave the Smials and establish a new household when they married-or at least the sons did not--and generations lived there together in harmony (most of the time, at any rate). Still, the lovely countryside around Tookburrow was peaceful, and the pleasant pub in the nearby village provided a haven for quiet storytelling and gossip over a pint or two of good Shire ale. And later, after all the children were asleep and the long, labyrinthine halls of the Took dwelling fell silent, the wizard could retire to share a pleasant night with Gerontius. In recent years, many had taken to calling his long-time friend the "Old Took," though at an age when most hobbits would be greying and becoming sedentary, he remained hale and vigorous, with only patches of silver at his temples and a few strands salted through the remainder of his dark brown hair. As always, Gandalf wondered whether Gerontius could possibly still retain his vigor and zest at the distinctly advanced age of 110, but so far the old fellow had changed remarkably little. They had been lovers since several months after the death at 96 of Gerontius' wife Adamanta eleven years earlier. During all of Gerontius' adult life, they had shared country rambles, celebratory dinners, storytelling and games with the many children, and now their relationship had grown closer through nights of quite lively lovemaking. Although the wizard had lovers elsewhere in the many far-flung regions where his travels took him, he always looked forward to a few weeks spent with Gerontius. Hobbits had a casual friendliness and jollity that had made the Shire occupy a special place in Gandalf's heart, and Gerontius was certainly the wisest and most colorful among all of his kind that the wizard had ever met.

The road became distinctly smoother as it approached Tookburrow, and Gandalf chirruped to his horse to speed up to a trot. As he approached the gate of the weathered wooden fence that enclosed the Great Smials, however, he slowed down considerably again-this time to avoid the many children that would doubtless be darting back and forth inside, intent on their play. And hobbit toddlers were so very small, he thought with a fond chuckle. Easy to get one in among the horse's legs without considerable vigilance. By careful maneuvering, involving a few stops and a detour around a small group squatting, absorbed in a game, in the path to the front door, Gandalf arrived and alighted.

At once several hobbits-mostly the mothers who had been rather unsuccessfully trying to halt some of the more vigorous play and fighting that was going on-converged on the wizard with cheery greetings. One of them hurried off to notify Gerontius, who was, she said, away in the village, settling a dispute among the citizens concerning some small matter. More likely, the wizard reflected as he surveyed the lively scene before him, the Old Took had made an excuse to slip away for some peace and quiet at the pub, Serious disputes seldom arose in Shire villages, since customs long established tended to guide the life of the hobbits without need for much oversight. Still, the patriarch of the Took family, as the acknowledged leader of the Shire, was called upon when some disagreement or unpleasantness arose.

By the time Gerontius returned, Gandalf was seated in the kitchen, having declined the offer to put him in the formal little parlor that held no chair where he could sit comfortably. Indeed, none of the chairs was comfortable for hobbits either, and the room was more for show than use-except on very formal occasions like weddings, when a bit of discomfort was considered an inevitable part of the proceedings. The wizard was perched on a bench by a long table, his knees slightly elevated due to its low height. A generous goblet of wine and some biscuits had been placed at his elbow, but his main concern was to prevent about a dozen small Tooks from trying to crawl into his lap. Although Gandalf enjoyed children, he tended to prefer them in quiet groups, seated on the floor around him listening raptly to one of his tales or on the ground watching his magnificent fireworks in starry-eyed awe. Having them try to pull his beard was quite another matter, and he was relieved when Gerontius arrived and shooed them out with little ceremony.

The relationship between the Old Took and the wizard was common knowledge among the adults of the household, who by now were quite used to it. The old hobbit had had a long and happy marriage that had produced twelve children at regular intervals of two or three years. If he chose this particular way to add one more joy to his already quite pleasant old age, they could hardly object. If they did, they knew that he would ignore them and do what he wanted to anyway. And the Midsummer Eve's parties were more definitely more splendid when the wizard found time to visit.

Now the cooks and other servants occupied in the kitchen slipped discretely away to various pantries and other rooms, and Gerontius stood before the wizard, his fists planted on his waist and a large, affectionate grin on his handsome, round, wind-reddened face. The two examined each other for a moment, and Gandalf shook his head slightly and chuckled. "As usual, you have barely aged at all since I last saw you. I'm very glad to be back, my dear Gerontius!"

"And I to have you back," Gerontius said softly, moving forward and sitting on the bench, twisting to slide one hand across the Gandalf's back and placing the other on his knee, and the wizard turned and embraced him. Their mouths met and moved languidly against each other, lips grasping and releasing and moving to grasp again. A hint of passion to come stirred in each, but they drew apart, content to delay and anticipate it until they could be truly alone.

Gerontius went to pour himself a glass of wine, then rejoined the wizard, sitting slightly further away on the bench this time so that they could talk.

"I saw your cart as I came in. It looks like you have prepared a particularly lavish display for us this year. Am I right?"

"You certainly are. An old century ends this year, and a new one begins next-as always, in both calendars: 2900 of the Third Age and 1300 by Shire Reckoning. I thought a little acknowledgement of that would be appropriate."

"Indeed. I thought the same myself. I have invited more guests than usual. We shall have quite a few Chubbs-my in-laws, as you no doubt remember-and Boffins-no, you need not ask, still no grandchild from Donnamira and Hugo-and Brandybucks-you know of course that Mirabella married Gorbadoc a few years back-and Bagginses-Belladonna and Bungo's only child has grown into quite a sharp lad-oh, and many others."

"Excellent! I shall be busy setting up the pictorial pieces, but I hope we shall find time for some long walks-"

"-and pub visits-"

"Of course, and-"

"Yes, 'and' . . ." Gerontius concluded with a knowing little smile and a waggle of his eyebrows. Gandalf nodded cheerfully. Already he felt far more relaxed than he had in many months. The troubles of Middle-earth seemed far away. He knew that Gerontius would want a full account of events in the outer world. Unlike most hobbits, he was most curious about faraway places and doings, and he had passed that curiosity along to at least some of his children and grandchildren. That reminded the wizard of something, and his smile faded.

"I'm afraid I have neither seen nor heard anything of Hildifons this year. He seems to have traveled even further south than I have ever been. He does love adventure, that lad. Well, I shouldn't say 'lad,' since he is, what, fifty-six now."

"Yes, assuming he is still alive." The old hobbit sighed. "A wayward child, even for a Took. Lured by all your tales of adventure to set out on some of his own."

Gandalf assumed an anxious little frown. "I do hope you don't blame me for that. You know that I only suggest specific adventures to young hobbits-there and back again. But Hildifons just seemed to want to go out and look for trouble wherever he could find it-and keep on looking! He never seemed to lose his relish for travel and for the adventures that he had-not that any of them were very serious or dangerous, mind you-at least for as long as I was able to keep track of him."

Gerontius grinned comfortably and sipped his wine. "No, I don't blame you-at least, not entirely. Dozens of other young Tooks have listened to your tales and not gone rushing off into the Wild. No, he just inherited that side of the Took character in a particularly strong way. He was restless from his youth. I'm afraid, though, that Isengar-my youngest, you know-is showing something of the same tendencies. Well, I did myself, as a boy. Longed to go off on the road, see the world. Being the eldest, though, and standing to inherit the duties as The Took, I couldn't very well do that." He shook his head with a slightly wistful stare, as if envisioning the places he might have visited. Soon, however, he snapped out of his reverie. "I am just lucky that I have had you visit so often and give me such vivid descriptions of the world outside our quiet little land."

The wizard put his hand on his friend's shoulder. "And I am lucky to have such a place to come to get away from that world for awhile." He traced his fingers up the hobbit's cheek, then picked up his goblet. "A toast. To another year that seems to have gone by without touching you." They both grinned, drained their glasses, and set them on the table.

Gerontius looked around and said, "Well, I imagine that the cooks need to get back in here. It's no small task, feeding all these young hobbits, let alone the adults! Besides, my nose tells me that something is ready to come out of the oven. Estella! Daisy! You can come back," he bellowed in the general direction of the pantry," and Gandalf winced. The Took's voice was as hearty as all the rest of him.

As the women returned, smiling and talking, Gandalf and the old hobbit went out to supervise the touchy job of unloading the fireworks.

At about midnight that evening, Gandalf and Gerontius sat propped against a heap of pillows in the guest-room bed, holding hands and exchanging contented little glances as they enjoyed the pleasantly lingering effects of their first lovemaking since the wizard's return. As always, Gerontius had amazed him with his enthusiasm, climbing atop Gandalf as soon as they began and kissing and rubbing energetically against him.

Looking back on that, the wizard reflected, "No wonder he has had twelve children. I'm only surprised that it wasn't more! Probably Adamanta drew the line." He kissed the hobbit's cheek and said aloud, "As usual, the passing time seems not to have diminished your ability to indulge in this sort of thing, you randy old fellow!"

Gerontius chuckled, striving to look modest and managing only to look decidedly smug. Then he sobered. "Every time you visit you say something of the sort, Gandalf, but we have never mentioned your own age. I must confess, I have long worried that your many years will finally catch up with you-that eventually you will not be strong enough to travel." He paused. "Or that you would even die somewhere far from here, and I would never get the news."

Gandalf slipped his arm around the hobbit's shoulders and pulled him against his side. "That will not happen, I assure you. I do not . . . that is, wizards do not age as quickly as do ordinary men. Not nearly as quickly. Unless events in the outside world become much worse, I shall continue to visit whenever I can, for all your long life. No, I am afraid it is I who must eventually hear of your death, and you know that it will grieve me very much." He sighed.

Gerontius pulled back and looked him in the eye searchingly. "Yes. In recent years I have begun to realize that . . . well, that you change even less than I-and you looked just as you do now long ago when I was a boy. I have also begun to wonder just what a 'wizard' is-but don't worry, I shan't pry. If you wanted to tell me more, you would have already. Well, I shall stop being anxious about you, then. It is very good to know that I shan't lose you."

They sat lazily talking and occasionally caressing each other gently for a long while. Finally their eyes met, and each knew that it was time to make an important decision: sleep or . . . The wizard's gaze slid down to Gerontius' nipples, and his breathing seemed to be a trifle deeper than before.

The hobbit smiled and licked his lips. "Oh, who's the randy old fellow now? Aren't you feeling sleepy?"

"Not particularly. I was beginning to, but for some reason . . ." He reached over and pinched and rolled one of the little brown nubs gently. "Are you?"

Gerontius sighed and closed his eyes. "Well, I was . . . but somehow the feeling has passed. No, I much prefer what I'm feeling now. You've definitely caught my interest." He leaned his head against Gandalf's shoulder and sat almost unmoving, sighing occasionally as he let the wizard play with his nipples for a long time. Both their cocks began to react to the first stirrings of reviving desire. At last the hobbit opened slightly glazed eyes and looked up at the wizard, whispering, "Do you really want to do it again tonight?"

The wizard ran his hand up and down Gerontius' torso. "I'm tempted, but I must admit that it would probably take a long time."

"Good!" Gertontius flung the covers aside and pulled himself up to kneel by the wizard and lean against the side of his chest, flicking his tongue repeated all around Gandalf's slightly parted lips and pausing only to add, "Nothing wrong with long, slow lovemaking."

The wizard smiled and murmured, "Well, you've been warned." Gerontius resumed teasingly licking his mouth, and he sat quietly as the hobbit took his turn in stirring them once more to passion. Such small tongues hobbits have, he thought, and yet so adept and eager. He cupped the firm little buttocks and then slipped two long fingers between his lover's thighs to rub his testicles. By this point his own cock was showing noticeable signs of hardening slightly, and Gertontius was moaning softly into his mouth at intervals. Gandalf finally pulled away and resumed tickling and pinching the hobbit's nipples as Gerontius threw one arm over his shoulder and tongued his ear with growing abandon.

Slipping into a haze of arousal, the wizard pulled Gerontius into his arms and across his lap, leaning down to suck eagerly at the erect beads on his chest. The hobbit pressed his lips together and arched up against the wizard's hot mouth, his heels pressing into the mattress. Gandalf stroked his inner thighs, moving upward until he could grasp Gerontius' half-hard member and squeeze and pull it, slowly at first, then more rapidly as the hobbit began to squirm and groan in his arms. Eventually he was nearly rampant, and Gandalf slid down until he was lying flat with his head propped up by the pillows. The hobbit straddled his chest, which was just thin enough to allow him to support himself on his knees. He leaned forward, his hands planted flat against the headboard, bringing his slightly bobbing cock near the wizard's mouth.

Gandalf licked and sucked its crown, pumping the shaft until the hobbit was fully hard, then drew it in further and sucked it energetically. He could barely move his head, however, so he slid his hands up again to grasp the hobbit's bottom with his long fingers, encouraging him to thrust slightly. Gerontius gripped the edge of the headboard, his face grimacing with bliss as he pushed rhythmically through the clinging lips and over the wet, hot, slippery tongue that seemed to swirl around him impossibly quickly and caress him on every side at once. The wizard slid a finger into the cleft to tickle and press at the tiny opening and finally, as the tight ring loosened a little, moved slightly inside. At last that finger reached the spot that made the hobbit stiffen and grunt. "Oh, yes, that's it!" Gerontius sighed, as his rocking hips alternately sank him into the skillful mouth and then impaled him back onto the perfectly positioned finger. Gandalf rubbed the front of the tight passage harder as his lover quivered and whimpered. As predicted, it took a long time, but finally Gerontius' moans took on a desperate, keening tone, and he soon froze as his arousal soared and hovered maddeningly on the brink of ecstasy. Gandalf sucked harder and thrust with his finger, and with a loud, relieved groan Gerontius tipped over into a climax that sent spasms of pleasure through his cock and radiating out into his loins. The wizard coaxed and prolonged the sensations, and they faded only gradually, with the hobbit remaining motionless to feel the last tiny flickers.

Gandalf's own erection had been gradually hardening during this, and it jerked and swelled further as he listened to the blissful sounds that Gerontius was uttering so uninhibitedly. He withdrew his finger and edged into a more upright position, guiding the dazed hobbit down until his sweaty torso was lying atop the wizard's own. Now hard and needy, the wizard discretely reached down over the hobbit and grasped his own member, pushing the top of it up into the hobbit's cleft and holding it there, thrusting slightly. He stifled a moan.

At last Gerontius' panting slowed, and he lifted his head with a bleary smile. Glancing back over his shoulder, he chuckled and rose, brushing the wizard's long beard aside and avidly fastened his mouth over one large brown nipple, suckling wetly at it. Soon Gandalf's erection was straining firmly upward against the hobbit's cleft on its own, and he brought his hands up to gently stroke Gerontius' back. His head fell back against the pillows, and he savored the exquisite jolts of pleasure that the hobbit's mouth was sending through him. Several minutes must have passed, he finally realized dimly, but he had lost any sense of it as he drifted in intense delight. He murmured, "Please . . . now."

Gerontius quickly moved backward until he was kneeling between the wizard's spread, bent legs and began to pump his shaft hard with two hands, one above the other. He watched with fascination as the tip grew an even darker purple and a drop oozed out of the slit. He grinned and leaned forward to lick it off, swirling his tongue over the top. Soon Gandalf began involuntarily to make short, twitching thrusts upward, arching his back slightly and gritting his teeth as he strained toward the release that was barely eluding him. At last with a loud, hoarse groan he sent up three long spurts to arc and fall onto his own belly, then moaned more softly as additional drops gradually appeared and were massaged over the crown of his cock and down the shaft by the hobbit. At last the wizard relaxed and lay drawing in slow, hissing breaths and expelling them in gusts as Gerontius licked his member clean.

Soon, with a sigh of contentment, Gandalf lowered his legs, and the hobbit lay down beside him, pulling the covers over them both. After a pleased silence, Gerontius said, "I have had many hobbit lovers-some of them quite skilled and passionate, mind you-but I've never felt anything to equal that." He rubbed his cheek against the wizard's shoulder and stroked his chest beneath the beard. "Yes, you've certainly set off some-"

"Oh, please, my dear hobbit, no fireworks jokes! They are almost as bad as quips about my 'long staff,' and you know how I feel about those."

"Sorry! But my intension was good, you know."

"Oh, yes, I'm delighted to think that I can pleasure you in a way that tempts you to make such remarks. I shall accept that compliment as understood."

Gerontius yawned. "Good! Well, I don't think either of us wants to attempt this a third time, long though it has been since we have seen each other." He stretched up to kiss the wizard one last time, and they both were soon fast asleep.

On the day of Midsummer's Eve, one could not walk anywhere in Tookborough or its vicinity without smelling a delightful succession of wafting odors: bread, cakes, pies baking, and, if one wandered out to the field where the celebration was to be held, meat roasting over open pits. Just before dinner Gandalf double-checked all the fuses for his fireworks and made a few slight adjustments to the rockets to account for a breeze that had come up. The guests had all arrived by that point, for no hobbit wanted to be late for any meal, let alone that great feast. The wizard was kept busy greeting old friends and meeting new ones until they sat down to dine.

The wizard was very fond of good food, but after a month in Rivendell among the elves, he had to smile at the . . . enthusiasm with which the hobbits went at their meal. Gossip was passed around the table as quickly as the great platters and bowls were, and Gandalf soon felt that he must now know everything that had happened during his year-long absence. Ordinarily the wizard had a perfect memory for anything that was said to him, but some of these conversations, thrown at him from every side, would probably remain something of a blur. As the wine and ale flowed, the babble of voices around the long tables arranged at one edge of the field grew louder, and eventually Gandalf contented himself with amusedly watching the hobbits as they strove to sample as many desserts as possible after an already sumptuous meal.

At last dusk fell, and the silence of pure contentment settled over the group, with only a murmur here and there. They slowly rose and drifted out into the middle of the field to sit on the grass (mown short for the occasion) as Gandalf lit a small fire. Gerontius signaled for the lanterns to be put out and joined him behind the barrier, for he was one of the privileged few whom the wizard ever trusted to assist him in the complicated and risky process of setting off the rockets and displays.

The half hour that followed was a thrilling one, since most of those present had never seen any but the smallest local fireworks display. Even those who remembered Gandalf's contributions to past celebrations were awed by the special show that he put on, with its fountains of colored sparks, its images of boats and animals and plants and landscapes, the great bursts of color in the sky that seemed to explode again and again just as they seemed about to fade to blackness. Even over the noise of the explosions and the hissing of the ground displays, Gandalf could occasionally hear the gasps and cries of surprise and pleasure, and he and Gerontius exchanged many pleased grins.

Finally the last rocket went up, ingeniously devised to send smaller fireworks in different directions, so that when they burst, flowers of many varieties bloomed brightly, scattered across the entire vault above. They hung there for a moment, and then the petals slowly dropped, one by one, as real petals fall from a blossom as it fades. As the last sparks disappeared, and the stars were permitted to regain their rightful place as the ornaments of the sky, there was a collective sigh of enjoyment from the group, and then the lanterns were lit once more as the hobbits clapped and cheered.

The end of the fireworks was the signal for the smaller children to be led or carried, protesting all the way, off to bed. The older ones, however, lingered and begged the wizard to tell them a tale. "Fetch me a mug of ale, then, and I'll oblige you," Gandalf said. He had not had any of the fine ale that was flowing so freely, wanting to keep his wits absolutely sharp during the dangerous process of lighting the various complex fuses. Now he wanted nothing more than to relax and have a drink and thrill an appreciative audience with one of his stories.

As one of the children returned, carefully balancing the large, brimming mug, Gandalf settled himself on a stool, with his auditors cross-legged on the grass in a semi-circle around him. Some of the hobbits in their tweens hovered nearby, pretending to be too grown-up for such tales, but straining nevertheless to hear the wizard's voice. He told a long and convoluted story about three hobbits, two boys and a girl, nearly come into their majority, who made a secret pact to set out in various directions to seek fortune and adventure, and to return to the Shire in one year to reveal how they had fared. One of them had gone east and found himself in the realm of the elves, where he had been dressed in finery and taught to paddle in a boat on the great river that lay beyond the mountains. The children stared at him, astonished by the very concept of a hobbit in a boat-and on a rushing river at that!

Gandalf smiled and went on to the second adventurer, who had gone west and came to the land of the dwarves, who lived in deep caves carved into the living rock-not cozy hobbit-holes under hills. They taught her much about jewels and metals, and she traveled about with them as they delivered their goods to all manner of strange people, and she learned the musical chants of the dwarves, though they would never explain to her what the words meant. The third hobbit had gone south, and for a long time he thought that he had made a terrible mistake, for the lands he passed through were bleak and the farms and villages few and far between. The determined lad came at last, however, to a powerful kingdom where tall men lived in wooden houses and rode great horses everywhere they went. The hobbit himself learned to ride a horse and to climb mountains-this revelation again eliciting surprised incredulity on the faces of the children. In short, all three had many wonderful adventures and learned a great deal that no hobbit had ever known before.

At last the three reunited in the Shire, and that night they went to the local pub, where each boasted of his or her exploits and trying to claim that the land he or she had visited were best. As the patrons of the pub listened to the first traveler tell his tale, they declared that nothing could be more amazing or strange than what he described. Then the second spoke at length, and they allowed that her exploits were just as thrilling and exotic. The third then held forth, and the listeners were equally impressed. After further wrangling, a wise old woman seated by the fire knocked on the floor with her stick, and when silence fell and all faces turned to her. She said with a little smile, "I have never gone a-traveling, but from what I have heard, all parts of the big world outside hold fascinating peoples and marvels. You will never be able to decide among them, and indeed, why should you even try?" The three looked at each other for a moment and smiled. "She's right," one said. "And with that they all lifted their mugs to the great outer world," concluded the wizard, imitating them and taking a sip of ale himself. He surveyed the smiling and expectant-if drowsy-faces ranged around him. "Well, it's quite late, and many of you are looking as if you will topple over and sleep right here in the field. Off you go to bed, and if you're all good and go without complaint, perhaps there will be a story or two tomorrow." Several mothers waiting at the edges of the group sent the wizard grateful looks for making that little bargain, and indeed the youngsters dispersed fairly quickly.

Gandalf sat drinking his ale and watching the process of taking away the leftover food (a brief task) and collecting the dirty dishes (a much longer one). One lad whom he remembered meeting when he and his parents had arrived two days earlier lingered, looking as if he wished he could get up the courage to ask the wizard something. "You're Belladonna and Bungo Baggins' son, aren't you? I don't think I properly caught your name in the bustle of introductions."

"I'm Bilbo."

The lad looked ordinary enough-and his father was certainly a staid and unexceptional fellow. Still, there was something about the sparkle in this little fellow's eyes and his air of alert curiosity that struck the wizard as being unusual for a Baggins. With luck, he might have inherited some of the Took eccentricity from his mother.

"Well, young Bilbo, is this your first time at one of the Took's grand parties? I don't recall you from previous years, though to be sure, it is hard to keep all the youngsters straight."

"Yes, it's my first. I . . . I loved the fireworks. Will you come back and bring more with you next year?"

"I hope so . . . and if not, the next year, or the year after that."

"Where do they come from?"

"The fireworks? Oh, I make them myself, far east of here in a place rather like the one in the story, where lots of elves live."

Bilbo frowned and considered for a moment. "So there really are such things as elves and huge men and mountains and boats and-"

"Well, you have probably seen dwarves, haven't you, since they often travel through the Shire. All those other things are just as real-though of course the story I told about the three hobbits was just made up."

Bilbo nodded sagely. "Yes, because hobbits don't really go off on adventures like that."

Gandalf snorted softly with amusement. "No, not very often. Still, it has been known to happen. Your Uncle Hildifons did it, before you were born. Yes, believe me, he did. Ask the Old Took to tell you about it sometime. And your Uncle Isengar keeps pestering me to take him when I leave here to go west, to the Grey Havens, where more elves live. That's by the sea, and he wants to sail off in a ship and have adventures in far lands."

Bilbo's eyes were wide during all this. "Will you take him with you?"

"Perhaps. If he longs so badly to go and his father does not object too strenuously. Isengar is old enough to make up his own mind."

"Then . . . then maybe someday I could go myself and see elves and mountains and . . ." He trailed off, seeming quite excited by the thought.

"Well, why not, if you want to? You belong to one of the richest families in the whole Shire, so you would presumably have the leisure and resources to travel for a time . . . when you are grown up, of course. Usually, though, hobbits don't just set out to seek adventures, as they did in my tale. In most cases, the chance for adventure comes to you, and you must seize it when it does. Otherwise you'll just sit in comfort at Bag End and dream of adventure without ever having one. Remember that, young Bilbo, and don't let your chance pass you by!"

Bilbo nodded thoughtfully again. He seemed about speak again, but Gandalf yawned and stood up. "I am off to bed now, my lad. Save your other questions for tomorrow. Why don't we go back to the Smials, eh?" He took Bilbo's hand and began to walk toward the great, sprawling house. "As I said, tomorrow I should have the opportunity to tell more stories-I know quite a nice, scary one about a dragon."

"A dragon! Are dragons real, too, like elves?"

"Certainly! Why, hundreds and hundreds of years ago, there were many dragons living in Middle-earth. Small ones who would think that a plumb hobbit like you was quite a sufficient meal, and big ones that could eat whole villages---and sometimes did! The biggest and fiercest of them all, though, was called Ancalagon the Black . . ."

The End