Dark End

by Lothithil

This is a story I wrote to answer a question from a friend "What would have happened to Frodo if he did not leave Middle earth?"

I almost didn't post this; I do not wish to make anyone sad, and writing this certainly made me cry. But I think that Tolkien used mercy and prudence, ending his story the way he did. The Grey Havens always leaves me with a sense of peace and hope.

This story, on the other hand, I find disturbing. I am glad that this is not the way the story ended.
Read in peace, and comment freely, please. I borrowed the rainbow from the Valar with permission.

Dark End, a Frodo musing

The last few paces up the path to Bag End’s door were some of the hardest steps the old man had ever taken. Years had passed since the Three had departed, and it had been a sad hour when at the last, Frodo had refused to accompany them. He had bade farewell to Bilbo, and then to each of those who were leaving. He was not ready to leave the Shire again, he had said. Elrond had worn a dark face upon hearing this, but he spoke no words, only embracing the hobbit tenderly before taking ship.

Now on the round green door hung a branch from a black oak tree, twisted into a wreathe. The leaves looked not so much black as bloodstained. The wizard hesitated to ring the bell. Instead he knocked softly, then waited patiently for someone to open the door.

When Samwise appeared, if there had been any doubt in Gandalf’s heart, the face of the hobbit would have told all. Grief was etched plainly on that round face, showing the miles that he had travelled to serve his master as well as the more recent scars upon his soul.
"I am sorry to intrude, Master Gamgee," Gandalf bowed.

Sam opened the door wide, "There is no intrusion, Mr Gandalf, sir. I’ve been rather expecting you."

Gandalf stooped and entered the smial, and Sam closed the door quietly behind him. They stood in the hallway and Sam took Gandalf’s hat and cloak. He spoke lightly at first, as if he and the wizard had been having a conversation and this was but a continuation.

"He spoke of his plans to me, but he said that he couldn’t bear to leave so soon. He was so determined to enjoy life and the Shire... but not long after the ship sailed and we returned home, I think he came to regret staying behind. I was hoping that someone would come." Sam’s voice broke as he said this, and he paused with his back to the wizard. "I thought... that you had all left us, sir, when Mr Bilbo sailed."

"It seems I have been sent back once again, with one more task to complete," Gandalf said gently, "May I see him?"

Sam nodded, and led the way. Outside of the door to a guestroom, Sam stopped. He seemed almost apologetic, and his voice was a mere whisper. "He insisted that Rosie and I take the master bedroom, and that his old room be rearranged for the little ones. So he is in here. I suppose he wanted us to know he was only staying a little while..." and Sam sobbed.

Gandalf knelt and embraced the hobbit. "I am sorry I did not come sooner, Sam."

Sam rubbed his eyes, "That’s all right, Mr Gandalf. He told me once that wizards are never late, so I reckon that you are just in time."

Gandalf frowned at him, not believing the hope that flaired in his heart. "Is he yet living?"

Sam nodded, tears flowing freely. "Aye, sir, he lives, but I don’t think it is fair, that he should still suffer so much, after all he’s been through already. He can’t bear the light, nor more than a mouthful of food at a time... and me and Rose, we try to feeding up proper, but it don’t seem to stick on him. He’s just... I am afraid that one day, when I go in to him, he will have... faded away until he just isn’t there anymore."

Gandalf closed his eyes and bowed his head. "I don’t know if even Elrond could help him now, were he here in my stead."

The wizard placed his hands on Sam’s shoulders and said, "You must let him go, Sam. It is not only for his own good that Frodo should leave, but for yours and your family and for the whole of the Shire. You may not see it now, Samwise, but in Time you will understand."

"I do understand, Mr Gandalf. Mr Frodo left something of himself behind in that Dark Land, and he brought home more than he left the Shire with."

"That is why Frodo must come away with me to the West. He may yet find healing there."

Sam said nothing. Sam took a candle from a niche and lit it, his hands shaking a little. He opened the door after a light knock. "Mr Frodo? Sir, you have a visitor."

The room was utterly dark. A fire burned in the hearth warmly, but there was a metal shield blocking the light from the room. The windows were tightly shuttered. A weak voice came out of the shadows, "Please, Sam... tell them to call another time. I really don’t feel up to entertaining guests..."

Sam went inside, shielding the flame with his hand, letting it light his own face. In a voice that was almost cheerful he said, "You needn’t worry about being entertaining, sir. It is Gandalf! He’s come to see you." Sam grasped Gandalf’s hand and drew him into the room. The wizard seemed reluctant to move.

The flickering light illuminated the bed. Frodo had raised a hand to ward off the painful glare of Sam’s candle, but Gandalf could see quite clearly in spite of the shadows. "Leave me with him, Master Samwise," he said, extinguishing the flame of the candle with a wave of his hand. Frodo sighed to feel the wash of the blessed darkness again.

Gandalf knelt beside the bed. His friend was propped up with many pillows, in very much the way he had been in Rivendell a long October ago, and in Cormallen the following spring. And just as he had that October morning, Gandalf took a good look at Frodo. His small body was shrunken as if the health and richness of the Shire could not touch him. He looked old, far older than he ought, even considering what he had borne. The air that was clean and soft seemed to choke him like fumes, and no food could nurish him. It was as if Frodo was still in Mordor, though all around him lay the things he loved; he could no longer see them.

But the shining light that the wizard had seen glowing through Frodo’s face and arm then was now shimmering brightly throughout the hobbit’s body, and to Gandalf’s eyes be appeared beautiful beyond measure.

"Hullo, Gandalf!" Frodo’s voice was a husk of sound, "I am sorry I couldn’t receive you in the parlour... I don’t like to upset Rosie and the children."

Frodo’s face gaunt and hollow-eyed. His hair, that had been once a full and curly halo around his face, was now limp and thin. His hands, outside the thick coverlets, looked like skin stretched over bones. He skin was translucent, showing blue lines and scars over his once fair flesh. Shallowly, his breast rose and fell with his laboured breathing.

"Frodo..." Gandalf took the hobbit’s hand in his own large ones. He was trembling as much as Frodo was, and it was a moment before he could speak. "Will you come away with me now, Frodo?"

"Too late, too late... the ships have sailed," Frodo murmured, then his pale blue eyes seemed to focus on Gandalf again. "Come away with you now? Why, Gandalf! I would like that very much." Autumn leaves dampened by an early snow would make more sound than Frodo’s excited whisper. He raised his head a little, but fell back almost immediately in a swoon.

"Sam, " Gandalf called, and Sam was there just outside the door. He came inside and stared at his master, the candle-stub in his hand. "Sam, gather Frodo’s things. We will be going at once."

"Sam," Frodo called, his eyes still closed, "Sam, would you make some tea for our guest while I prepare myself? We’re going on a short journey..."

"Aye, Mr Frodo." Sam did not obey, but Frodo did not notice. Together the hobbit and the wizard dressed Frodo warmly. Sam had a package ready behind the door, filled with Frodo’s personal things. He hugged the bundle as he watched Gandalf wrap Frodo in his own white cloak. In the gloom of the lightless room, it looked like a shroud.

Sam followed Gandalf to the door. The early evening was falling like violet mist outside, and the rain that had occured earlier was moving off the west, the setting sun shining through the curtain.

On the doorstep, Gandalf paused and knelt. Sam wiped the tears from his face and kissed Frodo softly on the forehead. Frodo opened his eyes and blinked in the light, but smiled at his friend.

"You are my heir, Samwise Gamgee. Use well the days." And the blue eyes closed slowly, leaving a smile of wholeness and peace for Sam’s last memory of his friend.

Gandalf cradled Frodo gently. The hobbit’s weight seemed to the wizard no more than a shadow. To Sam, Gandalf said, "Do not forget that you, too, were a Ring-bearer, if only for a while. When it is time, and if you so choose, you may sail west with the last ship. You may find Frodo waiting for you on the White Shore. Or you will find him Beyond.

"Do not be too sad. You were meant to be one and whole, and now your long over-due healing shall begin." The wizard placed a hand on Sam’s shoulder, then lifting Frodo effortlessly in his arms, he turned and walked briskly down the Hill.

"Gandalf," Frodo opened his eyes again, wincing a little under the brilliant blue of the rainwashed sky. "Gandalf, I don’t think I can wait until we reach the Havens. I am sorry; I know you’ve come a long way, but I am so tired. I shall not live to see the White Ships again."

"No need to sail at all, my dear Frodo!" the wizard said in a proud and tender voice. "You and I, we shall take a little shortcut, shall we?"

"’Short-cuts make long delays’," Frodo smiled at the memory. "What do you mean, a short-cut?"

"Just hang on and don’t give up, Frodo. The road we shall take leads through the veil of rain and sunsets. The light will not hurt your eyes anymore, where we are going."

Gandalf placed a foot on the Rainbow Bridge and bore his friend out of the Mortal Realm into Bliss, and a chorus of stars greeted their arrival in the Undying Lands.