Aldamir's Journey

by Frodo Baggins

Chapter 44: Return of an Elf

Many weeks were spent in merrymaking and joy after the coronation of King Elessar, and the visitors from Rohan, Lórien, Rivendell, and the Shire stayed for all of it. Aldamir came to know some inhabitants of Minas Tirith quite well, not to say spending a great deal of time with old friends from Mirkwood and Rivendell. On some mornings, when the sun was just rising in the East and spreading a gold mist over the land, the Elves would ride down to the river and follow it eastwards, talking, laughing, and sometimes just being silent. War was a thought now put away. No longer did the shadow of Mordor hang over their world.

A few times, those who wished to would leave the White City for a few days and ride down to the Sea itself, or perhaps take a ship down the River to Pelargir, now being rebuilt after the rule of the Corsairs. Some would stay there for a while, others would sail further to the very edge of the Sea, where Middle-earth ended and melted into the endless waters. At this place, at the river’s mouth, there was a small city with a great many grey stone towers, looking out to sea.

During one of these visits, Aldamir was standing on one tower’s circular balcony and watching the moonlight play on the waves. It was close to midnight, and not being tired at all, he had left the warm, fire-lit sleeping quarters below for the balcony. Not moving, he stood silent with his hands clasped behind his back. His gaze roamed among the stars in sky, and then their reflection in the lapping waters below him.

When quiet footsteps approached him from behind, he turned slightly. Uruviel was standing there, clad in her grey cloak. Aldamir motioned to her. “Welcome, melda,” he said softly. “The stars are dancing tonight.”

Uruviel came to the balcony’s railing and gazed down into the water beneath her. She shivered slightly and drew her cloak closer about herself.

Aldamir frowned. “Are you cold?” he asked, and drew her close. “Here, let me warm you.”

“Only a little,” she answered, smiling and capturing his hand in her own. “I’ve been walking on the beach. The stars are beautiful tonight.”

“They are indeed,” he said. “I haven’t seen them this clear for a long time.”

For a while both Elves were silent, watching the stars, and then Uruviel sighed. “I’m going to miss them,” she said softly.

“Miss them?”

“The stars,” she said. “Somehow, I don’t think they’ll be the same in Valinor.”

“Why not?” asked Aldamir, but he understood.

“Valinor lies on the other side of the sea,” she answered. “Maybe we’ll see the same stars, but still, it will be different.”

“Aye, it will,” agreed Aldamir quietly, tightening his arm around her shoulders. “It will be different.”

“But how different?” she wondered. “I don’t want to leave Middle-earth. I was born here and have dwelt here for all the years of my life. I wish I could stay here.”

“As do I,” responded Aldamir. “It won’t be easy to leave, and yet we can’t stay.”

“I know.” She sighed. “For a long time, somehow, I’ve known that the day would come, but I always pushed the thought away. I wanted not to think about it, to pretend that it wasn’t going to happen. But you can’t do that forever.”

Aldamir didn’t answer right away; instead, he kissed the top of her head and held her close. “But even if the stars change and the world we know is gone, we will still have each other,” he said at last.

Her only answer was a gentle kiss.

As long and wonderful as the days spent in Minas Tirith were, they could not last forever. The hobbits began to miss their homeland of the Shire, and much as they were loathe to leave, they perceived that it was time. For the Elves, too, it was time to depart.

And so, one morning in the late summer, a great company gathered to depart from Minas Tirith: the Elves, the people of Rohan who were returning to their country, and the hobbits. Elessar would ride with them for a while, at least as far as Rohan for the funeral of Théoden King.

So they departed from the White City among many farewells and leave-takings. Both sides were sad, yet they remembered the long days of happiness they had had in Gondor and were grateful. As they rode away in the sunlight, the Minas Tirith stood behind them, tall and proud, peaking in the tower of Ecthelion, like a sentinel in the mountains.

Aldamir, turning back one last time, remembered a few words he had overheard by chance one night in Lórien while walking. “Have you ever seen it, Aragorn?... The White Tower of Ecthelion, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, its banners caught high in the morning breeze...”

And Aldamir, remembering the proud man with a stern glance and a long sword, bowed his head slightly in honor. “Never did a warrior more deserve to see his home in glory,” he said softly, under his breath, “as did Boromir of Gondor.” But as he turned away and rode onwards, he knew in his heart, that somehow, Boromir did know that his home was safe, and once again rose from the mountainside in unshadowed glory.

Along with the others, the Elves paused in Rohan for the funeral of king Théoden. He was buried just outside Edoras, laid to rest in a mound of green covered with small white blossoms. As all present bowed their heads in remembrance, Merry stepped forward quietly and fell to his knees near the king’s grave. Aldamir saw his lips moving, but his words were inaudible. Then he covered his face in his hands and wept. And yet, when he rose again, there was calm and love on his face, shining through his tears.

Riding onwards and northwards, the company spent a night at Isengard. Despite the fact that the evil had been banished and the filth washed away, there was something unnatural about the black tower of Saruman looming over them that night. Perhaps it was a shred of what had been, some bit of evil that still lurked. Some had uneasy dreams and others could not sleep. But Aldamir spent the night walking through Isengard, speaking with the Ents and exploring the fallen wizard’s domain.

After spending the next night at Fangorn, they rode north over the plains for several days, until at last Aldamir laid eyes on a sight he had longed for since leaving it so many months ago. Glowing in the setting sun’s rays, Lothlórien, the Golden Wood, lay once again before him. As he rode toward it he forgot all else, caught in the wonder of that Wood he called home. This was what he had fought for when he had left with Haldir and the Galadhrim; now it welcomed him home, the mallorns’ leafy boughs seeming to stretch lovingly out toward him.

And so it was, that after six long months of battle, hardship, grief, bloodshed and victory, that Aldamir at last returned to Lothlórien, riding toward it through the last heavy, golden rays of the setting sun...

Chapter 45: The Grey Havens

After his return to Lothlórien, it seemed to Aldamir that he had never loved the Golden Wood so intensely. He had always loved it deeply before, but somehow the months spent away from it, in the battle and darkness of war and despair, had heightened his love for it, and little would tear him away from it again. Yet, during the years after the War of the Ring, he did leave Lórien a few times to pay visits to Mirkwood, Rivendell and once, Gondor . But those visits are another tale, for another time.

Aldamir spent much of his time walking under the mallorns, sometimes alone, sometimes with Lindir or with Uruviel. Among the mallorns he was at peace and at home; he needed nothing. Sometimes he would sit and watch a silver stream babbling in and out between the mallorns’ mossy roots, other times, he would spend nights in the Golden Wood’s observatories, high in the mallorn-tops, watching the stars.

Two years after the War had ended and the Fourth Age of Middle-earth had began, Galadriel called the Galadhrim to her. Her expression was sad as she spoke to them, telling them that the time was in. “Long have we known that our time is ending,” she said, “and now that end is here. Whether we desire it or no, we must leave this land that we love and dwell in. A ship is waiting at the Havens to carry us over the Sea, by the Straight Path, into the East where Valinor lies. We have fought alongside men and renewed the alliance of old, but for the last time. The time of the Elves is over, the power of the Three is ended, and now the dominion of Men has come.

“I am leaving for the Grey Havens soon, and I bid you who will, follow me across the Sea, for no longer do the Elves have a place in Middle-earth...”

The words struck sadness into the hearts of all the Elves. They knew the truth of her words, but that did not ease the pain. Some would not go, and determined to stay in Middle-earth, among the greying trees. Among those remaining was Celeborn, who wished for no life in Valinor but to live out his days in Middle-earth.

Aldamir determined to cross the Sea. Much as he loved Lothlórien and all of Middle-earth, the Sea’s call tugged at his heart. While in Gondor, he had visited the Sea and heard the gulls. Now, though he was happy in Lórien, he desired also to give in to the call and sail the Straight Path. Lindir, too, decided as he did. For Uruviel, it was no choice.

One morning, not long before the Elves going with Galadriel were to depart, Uruviel went looking for Aldamir and found him kneeling in a clearing. His hands were buried in the dirt as he carefully and gently worked to uproot a very small mallorn-sapling from the mossy soil.

“What are you doing?” she asked curiously.

He sat back on his heels. “Haldir loved the mallorns,” he said softly. “He once said that life in a land without mallorn-trees would be a poor life indeed. He did not know if mallorns grew in Valinor; I don’t know if he would have gone. But I am going to take this sapling with me across the Sea, and plant it in Valinor, so that it can grow and blossom forever for Haldir, lover of mallorns....”

The day came at last, and in the light of a quiet morning Galadriel and her company rode forth from Lórien. Aldamir had spent the previous night walking one last time through the Wood, breathing in the beauty and storing it away in his heart. As they rode away slowly, silent and filled with a sadness that was not bitter, he paused once on the top of a hill and looked back. Lothlórien lay golden and beautiful in the dawn, and yet it almost seemed to be disappearing in a mist. A golden mist of memories, of years that had passed and ended. For a long moment he merely gazed at it, and none ever knew what went through his mind during that last moment. Finally, unable to speak, he turned away and rode down the hill.

Never again would he see the Golden Wood, yet forever was it imprinted in his heart.

The company continued north, the last journey of the Elves. Riding at the feet of the Misty Mountains, they passed the West-gate of Moria, came to the Gladden Fields and passed through them, crossing the Mountains into the valley of Rivendell. Here Elrond joined them with those of his house who wished to journey with them, as well as the aged Hobbit Bilbo, and so they left Imladris for the last time and forded the Bruinen. Then they followed the Great East Road past the windy, dark, ruin-crowned hill of Weathertop, and came to Bree.

They did not ride through Bree, but instead rode around it, passing through the wooded parts. Few saw them, and those who did thought afterwards that the beautiful, sad sight must have been a dream. So they came to the Old Forest, and Buckland, and on the 22nd of September they rode through what the Shire-dwellers called the Woody End. As they rode, they sang in many soft voices;

A! Elbereth, Gilthoniel
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath
Gilthoniel, A! Elbereth
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees
The starlight on the Western Seas.*

As if in answer, two small figures on ponies became visible in the trees and rode toward them. They were Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, mounted on the Ponies they had journeyed home from Minas Tirith on.

Galadriel greeted them with welcoming words and a smile, and Sam blushed, having forgotten how beautiful the Lady was. Frodo, however, seemed to Aldamir to be weary and wounded; he still carried pain from the wounds of the Ring-quest. Then he understood: Frodo too was to cross the Sea into the Blessed Realm, to be healed of his hurts and find the peace he so richly deserved.

And so it was that the last company of Elves rode down to the Gulf of Lune and the Grey Havens lying in the sunset. Aldamir’s heart stirred at the sight of the sunlit sea and the sound of gulls crying out; the sea-air swirled about him. A golden light filled the firth as wine would a glass, and a grey stone quay reached out into the waters.

By the quay a white ship lay resting, with white sails furled at the masts, and in the East the sunlight laid a path on the water. Near the ship stood Círdan, the shipwright of the Elves, with a light reminiscent of stars in his eyes. He greeted Galadriel as she walked down to the ship. When he spoke, his voice sounded like an echo of the waves, gentle and ageless. “All is now ready.....”

Then Aldamir went aboard the ship with his kin, and Mithrandir too went aboard, with Frodo and Bilbo. The sails were unfurled to catch an Eastern wind. Aldamir did not go below, but stayed at the ship’s railing as it drew away from the quay, and watched the grey buildings of Mithlond fall away behind him, along with the rest of Middle-earth.

Namárië...... murmured his heart, but he could not speak aloud, not even to whisper.

Aldamir did not stir from the railing until the Havens had faded into the mists and he could no longer see the Eastern edge of Middle-earth. Then he turned his face east into the sunrise, where the mists swept away and Elvenhome lay under the stars......


*J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
The Grey Havens, page 1005