Frodo and Gandalf; After the Ring

by Lothithil

July 11, 3019 (S.R. 1419) after the Fall of Barad-dûr

Gandalf climbed the steps slowly, feeling his age not so much as a foreboding of a friend's pain. He had been searching all day for the Ring-bearer, and had met each companion who lingered in the houses in Minas Tirith that they shared, in these days after the War. None had seen Frodo, and each had voiced a heartfelt worry about their bravest and most beloved friend. Gandalf kept looking, finally spotting, with the aid of the sharp Elven eyes of Legolas, a small figure high above the Citadel court, on the platform where the beacon of Minas Tirith had been rebuilt.

What had driven Frodo to this extreme of solitude? Gandalf shook his head and sighed, levering himself up the last few steps. As painful as it was for Gandalf to think about, surely that hurt was worse for Frodo. The Wizard came to help in any way that he might.

Frodo was sitting on the stone bench near the door. Weathered and traveled beyond the endurance of a normal man, let alone a hobbit, he nevertheless had no desire to risk the windy height by walking to the beacon. He was staring out northward, wrapped in his cloak against the chill. He looked up when Gandalf appeared, but he said nothing. He scooted over so that Gandalf could sit beside him if he so chose.

Gandalf joined him in silence for a time. In the distance, the Wizard could see the winking flash of the Falls of Rauros, like a star in the grey-green distance. The lands between were clear but for the occasional cloud that drifted below like islands of cotton, looking almost solid enough to stand on. He pulled his cloak about him. Despite the strong sunlight on this summer day, the shadow of Mindolluin was very cold. The stone bench that he sat on was like a block of ice.

Gandalf knew he was intruding, but he did not leave. He sat quietly and waited for Frodo to speak; to break the barrier of silence and distance that he had sought. To speak first, Gandalf thought, would be to overstep himself.

Frodo did speak first. "I am glad you have come, old friend," he said softly. "I climbed up here to be alone, I had thought, but now you are here I know that I wished to speak with you."

Gandalf smiled down at him and said, "I would have gladly spoken with you, Frodo, even without the climb to this remarkable place. It is cold here, and even three full months are not enough time for wounds to heal such as you have suffered. I am worried about you."

"I don't feel cold," Frodo answered, but he allowed Gandalf to wrap his white cloak around him. He leaned against the Wizard as he had done occasionally as a child, comforted by the warmth and the sound of a great heart beating within the chest. "Pippin told me about this place. It sounded beautiful."

After a while, Frodo spoke again. "I came here to be above everything, to try to see it all from another view. I remember the flight of the eagles, Gandalf. Everything looked so peaceful, even the violence of Orodruin, from the height of an eagle's flight. I needed that peace again."

"What is it you see now that you do not like, Frodo? Changing your point of veiw is good, but it does not change the nature of the thing you see."

Frodo did not answer. Gandalf felt him tremble against him. At last, the hobbit said, "How much of what I see is changed from what it was, and how much is it that not those around me are different, but it is I who have been altered? Gandalf..." Frodo stopped and sighed. "Gandalf, I barely recognize my cousins."

"Meriadoc and Peregrin have been greatly changed by their travels, Frodo. Both the journey they have endured and the Ent draught that they drank have made them grow up. Certainly they have become larger, wiser, and sadder, but they are essencially still the same hobbits that left the Shire with you. Just this morning, I found Pippin trying to persuade the Steward of the House of Healing that he must surrender to him a quantitly of sweet galenas for medicinal purposes!" The Wizard laughed, and Frodo felt a smile thaw on his face to hear that sound again.

"Yes, that is our Pippin," Frodo agreed. "And Merry, too. They are still themselves, and yet they are more. But it grieves me, Gandalf, that they looks so much older; far older than hobbits their age should look.

"Why did you argue for them to accompany me on the Quest, Gandalf, against the council of Lord Elrond?" Frodo said suddenly, and as he voiced this question that had long burned in his heart, indeed, since setting out that twilight from Rivendell, Frodo felt a twinge of resentment against his wise friend, and that grieved him more still. "Why did you decide that they must endure this hardship. to grow into what they have become? Gandalf, I know you as well as any hobbit might know a Wizard, except for Bilbo perhaps, but I cannot understand this. I would have been happier, knowing they were safe in Rivendell or back in the Shire. Many times I feared that they would be harmed or even die; it has been a great pain for me. Why did you let them come?"

Gandalf listened to Frodo speak, a little taken aback by the anger he heard in the hobbit's voice. But wisdom counseled him to listen and hear what Frodo was really asking, and to answer that first. "Frodo, whether your will or mine, your head-strong and courageous cousins would have endured an adventure this past year, as you would know if you allowed yourself to set aside blame. You did not bring them from the Shire; they followed you. Because you were afraid to come alone, does not make it your fault. There was little choice, after the Ringwraiths invaded the Shire. Would you have left them to answer the questioning of the Nazgûl? I thought not."

Frodo began to shiver in earnest as Gandalf spoke of the wraiths. "Yes, I know what you say is true, Gandalf. Their friendship and support helped keep me alive after Weathertop." The hobbit touched his own shoulder gently.

Frodo stood up and paced a few feet away, hazarding a glance down at the white city that spread in circles seeming before his feet. Three hundred feet below, the Court of the White Tree gleamed in the sun. "But they could have stayed in Rivendell." Frodo's voice echoed against the stone behind him, a weight on Gandalf's ears. "Mighty is their stubbornness, but mightier is the will of Elrond and Gandalf. Why did they need to come? Not for my sake, wholly; I do not believe that. Did you foresee what would happen to them? There is need for them to be strong, isn't there?" Frodo turned and looked at Gandalf. His eyes were pleading for comfort, but Gandalf could not give him that and speak fully the truth.

"Yes, I fear that there is need. Your cousins will someday be leaders of your people. They will have need of the things they have learned, so that they can help those simple, carefree hobbits in the Shire and Buckland understand the lesson that all Men have been taught by this War: Freedom and Peace are worth fighting and dying for. Hope exists as long as there is life. And even the small and weak can succeed in all things."

Frodo's shoulders sagged a little. "I do not feel that I have succeeded, Gandalf. I am filled with joy to see my friends safe, and I delight in the clean air and the passing of the Great Danger. But I feel... I am not..." Frodo broke off, unable to say more. He turned back toward the north and tears fell from his eyes, coming like rain to the celebrating city far below.

Gandalf rose and came to stand beside Frodo. "You have not failed, Frodo. The errand you agreed to perform was done, however the means. Powers beyond the comprehension of even this Wizard have had a hand in the completion of this; it is not to be wondered that you feel a little out-of-sorts."

Frodo's voice was a very small thing. "Is it really done, Gandalf? Sometimes I wake up in the night, and I can feel the weight of it again, on my breast or on my finger..." he rubbed his hand absently, still bandaged and healing. "I keep dreaming that I will wake up and find it staring at me... a golden eye..."

Gandalf knelt and took Frodo's shoulders in his hands. He looked the hobbit deep in the eyes and said, "It is destroyed. The Ring is no more, and never again will it trouble the Peoples of Middle-earth. Only those who have touched it will continue to be aware of its power; that is the curse of the One. I wish I could make that go away, Frodo, so that you are spared this torment. Alas! even I have the same dreams, and I touched it but once and never wore it."

Frodo sighed and nodded. "At least I know that it will trouble no one again. That is some comfort. But other dangers are there in the world, and some lie close to home. That is the purpose of Merry and Pippin's education, isn't it? You fear that not all is well in the Shire."

Gandalf nodded, and he turned and faced the south, his long eyes searching through the haze of the distance to the Great Ocean. Seagulls were flying inland, dancing above the Anduin in flashes of white. Gandalf felt Frodo take his hand as the hobbit joined him. "I do fear that the Shire is in need of the heroes of this War, but I do not fear for those heroes. Healing they will find, as long as they continued to seek it." Gandalf squeezed Frodo's hand gently. "That includes you, Baggins."

Frodo stood watching the gulls wheeling. "I'm hungry," he announced. "Let's go and see if we can find something to eat, and if Merry has succeeded in obtaining some pipeweed from the Steward of the House of Healing."

Gandalf allowed Frodo to lead him toward the stair. 'Hobbits!' he said to himself with a smile.