Time flows differently in the Blessed Lands,
home of Elves and immortals. It flows differently for mortals
there, too, Frodo reflected sadly, sitting cross-legged on the grass
in the center of a glade. A ring of flowering trees grew
there, and their sweet fragrance filled the sparkling air.
Frodo gazed at the smooth grey stone, which lay in the midst of
the ring. Gently he traced the engraved runes that marked
the stone, his fingers trembling slightly.
"I miss you, Bilbo," he said quietly.
Then he smiled as he felt a familiar tug upon his ear, and the
ruffling of his hair. Tears welled in his eyes even as he
laughed. Was it Bilbo's spirit, lingering in this place,
or just the wind? Frodo knew in his heart that his dear
uncle was always close, though he could not see him anymore.
"I have an interesting tale to tell, Uncle
Bilbo. Many strange things have happened, in these lingering
days. Yet the Valar endure, and Middle-earth still waits
beyond the sea.
"I wish that Randir could have met you, dear
Bilbo. He is so very like you." Frodo lay back upon
the grass and began his tale...
Frodo bowed his head over the star-glass,
allowing its light to fill his face and dry his tears. Though
he did not look back he could feel Sam's grief as surely as the
bite of the wind that filled the sails and drove the white ship out
into the night-black sea. He knew in his heart that this was
best, and that Sam would go home to Rosie and Elanor and soon he
would be happy and whole. This was the closure Sam needed,
to help place the pain and fear away and to face the future free
of the yoke of duty.
Frodo had found it difficult to set that
yoke aside, and pain and fear had returned to haunt him, and
self-loathing for his weakness and failure, wearing him to illness
and despair. He could not see beauty without remembering
horror; blackness settled in his heart, and his thoughts turned
constantly to mortality, and longing for the peace of death and
the release of pain. He carefully hid all this from his
friends, who were thriving in the notoriety they had earned or
immersed in work rebuilding their lives and homes, and they did not
notice. He slowly retreated from the doings of the Shire,
spending his time writing, and often simply staring at the fire,
clutching the white jewel of Arwen to ease the ache that filled
his entire being.
He thought often of the gift Arwen had offered
him. More and more it filled his thoughts, until that
autumn when he knew that the time had arrived. He could not
say how he knew, what sign or message he had received. He
put his affairs in order and prepared for the journey quietly.
On that evening, just before he and Sam rode out
toward the Woody End, Frodo dressed himself in his most comfortable
garments. They had been gifts from Elrond's household; creamy
elven-silk bloused shirt and soft suede trews and tunic of leafy
green. He put them on over his mithril shirt, which he had
taken to wear for the feeling of safety it imparted rather than
any real fear of attack. It was a comforting weight.
He left the sword that had been Sam's in the box beneath his bed,
with a note to give it to Frodo-lad 'when he was old enough to learn
its use and not injure himself'. The jewel hung on its chain
over his breast and the Phial of Galadriel lay in a pocket next
to his heart. They mounted their ponies and rode together,
saying little or singing softly, and filling the silences between
with sad acceptance. Frodo knew that Sam was not aware of
exactly where Frodo was going; he thought his master was riding to
Rivendell. But Frodo knew that Bilbo was coming, and Elrond
and Galadriel, coming to cross the Shire in the dark of night on a
journey with no returning. Frodo was content to allow Sam to
be misled; it would be too painful to tell the truth now, without
the support of Bilbo and the Elves. There was enough pain
inside him for them both; he would not share it until he must.
And so they were met in the woods by the Elves,
and traveling by night crossed the Shire in several days.
Sam would not leave his master's side, and Frodo could see the war
going on in his heart plainly on his weatherbeaten face.
He allowed Sam to provide for him all that was needed, knowing
how much it delighted him and also how much Frodo himself would
miss his friend's expert anticipations. But so it must be,
and Frodo grew merrier by the mile, showing real joy to be among
Elrond's household, and to be with Bilbo again, even though the
dear old Hobbit was asleep more often than awake.
The parting at the Havens was very hard, and
while he was delighted that Merry and Pippin were there, it wrenched
his heart to see them, so fair and merry, even as they wept and bade
him farewell. It was good for Sam, not to have to ride back
alone with his pain. Gandalf's presence eased Frodo's grief,
and he broke with Sam with a tearful smile and a tight embrace.
He held the star-glass aloft, for the darkness
of the night and the vastness of the sea frightened him.
The radiance of the Phial was comforting, and made the jewel on
his breast glow. His thought moved to Arwen, and the impact
of the realization that she was behind him, all his friends and
companions forsaken in the darkness as he sailed toward forgetful
bliss, shook him, and he wept, and his tears fell on the Phial
and blazed like diamonds.
So great was Frodo's grief become that Gandalf
and Elrond grew concerned. Frodo could not bear the beauty of
Elrond's pain; his parting from Middle-earth was far more painful
than Frodo's. Only by taking the draught Elrond prepared for
him could he cease his weeping. He stood with his friends
and Bilbo, watching the night pass and the seas foam and the land
rise before them.
They navigated the Enchanted Isles and came
into the Bay of Eldamar. On Tol Eressea they landed,
and were greeted by the gathering of Elves there. Galadriel
was welcomed by her people, who had dwelled upon the Lonely Island
since their return from exile. Elrond, too was much welcomed
and all his household, but one special welcome did he find.
His own wife Celebrian, daughter of Galadriel, waited for him
on the dock, and the reunion of those two lovers long sundered,
was beautiful and poignant beyond description. The Elves
sang until the hills rang, and the far off Jewels of Calacirya
twinkled in response.
Frodo's own heart was lifted by the singing and
the welcome of the Elves, his own being no less than Elrond's or
Gandalf's. He and Bilbo were taken to a fair dwelling that had
been prepared for them, for their coming had been foretold.
And as Frodo joined the feasting and merrymaking, he thought that
at last his darkness was gone, for what shadow could endure the
pure healing light of the land of the Vala?
Frodo dwelt there in peace. He roamed the
land, sometimes with Bilbo, sometimes alone. Beyond each
hill and tree lay a new wonder, another vista, a quiet garden,
a musical fountain. There was no fear, no danger (except
of being lost in wonder until late for dinner), no sickness or
disease or death. There was gentle rain, fragrant sunshine,
sensuous moonlight, and the chorus of stars. Frodo never
slept at night, for the stars were so brilliant and clear here,
they seemed almost to touch the earth. And there was food
and drink surpassing the excellence of all previous delights, even
for a Hobbit. He never experienced great hunger, or thirst,
or any unpleasant sensation. He could walk for leagues
and not tire, and he could watch the sun set, the stars blossom,
and the sun rise again without need or desire to sleep.
But often as he wandered, wonder overcame him
and he would sink down into the warm depth of dreams, where the
light and music never ceased, and still he wandered, though his
body lay still, through the Halls of the Valar on the distant
corners of the great land. Thus he visited the Woods of Orome,
and the pastures of Yavanna, where he suspected the Entwives were,
for he saw great shapes like trees walking there, but never clearly
enough to be sure. Also he went to the Gardens of Lorien
and the Mansions of Aule; there many marvelous things he saw.
Only one place did not go in dreams or
in flesh. The mansions of Mandos he did not see,
though he went to mountain tops and viewed them from afar.
His feet would not lead him there, and his dreams were darkened,
and he did not remember them.
Time was difficult to measure, just as
dreams were sometimes so like waking that no difference could be
told. One day while Frodo wandered about the gardens that
surrounded their dwelling, looking for Bilbo, he realized it had
been a long time since he had seen his uncle. He searched
everywhere, fruitlessly, gradually becoming alarmed enough to ask
Elrond where Bilbo might be.
"Bilbo has chosen his rest, Frodo." he said
gently, laying a comforting arm across Frodo's shoulders.
"But... he did not say good-bye. Why did
he not tell me?" Darkness yawned behind Frodo's heart.
Elrond smiled. "He never was very good at
saying good-bye properly, was he? He saw that you were happy,
and he was very tired and looking forward to peace at last."
"I was happy, because I knew he would always
be here. But now I am alone. I guess I knew that this
day would come, but it is a bitter comfort."
"You will not be alone forever, Frodo. Go
out to the garden were the marble bench attends the fountain.
Sit there and wait, until your heart speaks to you. You will
And Frodo did this, though he did not see how
it could ease him at first. But as he listened to the water
fall upon the stones, and the scent of plants and rich soil filled
his mind, he began to hear beneath the running water, a familiar
voice singing, or speaking poetry, or just talking softly.
His mind was filled with ease, the darkness faded, and he smiled
again. Bilbo would always be with him, for he dwelt now
inside Frodo's heart.
As the ship carried him out of the bay and into
the grey waters, it seemed to Sam that all that he had touched,
made, and loved had left him. He felt cold and very old,
and alone. Then he felt the firm ands of Elrohir and Elladan
gripping his shoulders and for a time he felt less uprooted.
The grey waves embraced the ship, carrying it
steadily above the dark waters. Though many days and nights
passed, it seemed to Sam that for mere moments had he stood upon
the bow, gazing ahead, his heart still behind. Often he
spoke with the solemn Celeborn, for his heart leapt forward toward
reunion with his Golden Lady. Then the cloud curtain, which
had been threatening far off, grew closer, and just as Sam would
have called it rain, it seemed to glisten with light, turning to
silver and pearl, and rolled back, showing beyond a brilliant blue
sky with a green land beneath a sudden sunrise.
The Elves burst into song, as they often do,
and the ship sailed straight toward the island, and as it grew,
they heard music on the water from the land before them.
And as they drew closer, Sam spotted upon the dock among many tall
figures a small person who stood upon his toes and waved wildly at
the ship. A bright gleam of light leapt from its hand.
Faintly, carried over the water by the welcoming song of the Elves,
could be heard a voice calling, "Sam! Sam!"
"Frodo!" Sam leaned forward eagerly,
as if he could reach through the shrinking distance and embrace
his friend. "Master Frodo!"
Years it took to dock, it seemed to the now
impatient Sam. Willing hands passing him off-ship, and then
running into the arms of his dear master; there were no words
for the laughter and the tears, years of separation gone in an
instant. Sam clung to Frodo as if he intended never to
Frodo hugged Sam hard, tears of joy streaming
from his eyes, wetting Sam's wrinkled face. "I have missed
you, my dear friend," he whispered, his voice rough, though to
Sam it was like the music of Elves. Finally, Frodo pulled
himself away, but held to Sam's arms tightly. "I thought
that you were going to jump off of the ship! I daresay,
you still can't swim, Sam!"
"Not very well, Mr. Frodo. Master Merry
tried to teach me, but there's many a thing I can do better,
if you follow me."
Frodo laughed, high and clear, for to him the
voice of his friend was finer that the sweetest song. He
would have led Sam off then and there, but remembered his manners
suddenly, and he greeted Celeborn and Elrond's sons. They had
been waiting patiently, watching the reunion of the Ring-bearers
"Elin sila lummen' omentielvo!
Welcome! Come with us to Tol Eressea. My Lord Elrond
waits to see his sons again, and to greet Lord Celeborn."
Frodo wound Sam's arm in his own, and they led the slow procession
to Elrond's House, fair folk following and greeting, but the two
hobbits were nearly oblivious, deep in talk and jest, as if they
had never been apart.
It was like being in Lorien again for Sam,
especially with Galadriel there. She had greeted Sam on the
steps of the house, warmly kissing his brow, setting off fireworks
inside his skull. Then wordlessly she took Celeborn's hand,
and led him away into the garden. Elrond and his wife
Celebrian greeted their sons with unrestrained joy, then brought
everyone inside for a great feast.
The party had gone on all night, and Sam now
sat on a patio outside his master's room. Here they had
spent the evening after the feast in talk, falling asleep before
the fire. Frodo slept still, his hands curled beneath
his cheek. Sam looked at his own spotted, brown and
weather-stained hands. He looked every year of age he'd
seen, but dear Frodo appeared as youthful as a hobbit-lad just
out of his tweens. Only while he slept could Sam see the
faint lines on his face, as if chiseled by the skillful hand of an
Elven sculptor. They did not make him seem old, but rather
ageless, as if he had been born at the first light of the world,
and had endured wind and sun and time. Sam looked upon him
for a long time, happy just to be near his beloved friend.
A vast garden sprawled around the
patio. The fair plants and elvish flowers and shrubs
seemed to speak with muted voices Sam could almost hear.
He wandered out into the bushes, touching and smelling them,
murmuring with appreciation. Soon he was on his knees,
digging into the rich black soil, and the language of the earth
and plants became clearer and clearer to him.
Thus Elrond found him, covered with dirt and
with a grin upon his face.
"Well met, Master Samwise. Know that
I welcome your skill in my garden, but you need not weary
yourself. You have only just arrived, and Frodo will soon
be looking for you."
"Time just got away from me, Master
Elrond." Sam bobbed a low bow, but Elrond laughed, and led
the hobbit back to the house. "Your garden is lovely, but
even an Elvish garden needs a hand here and there. I hope
you don't mind my digging in, so to speak?"
"Not at all. The Lady Galadriel and I
welcome your assistance and expertise. But now, let us clean
you up for Frodo."
"How is my master, Mr. Elrond? He looks
fit, as if all his hurts and wounds have never happened.
Is he happy?"
Elrond looked deeply at Sam, and answered
slowly. "Yes, Frodo is happy. He has been long healing,
and with your arrival, he is yet more fully healed. His
separation from you has been the latest hurt to be made whole.
"Bless him, Mr. Elrond. He don't look
a day older than when he set off from Bag End with Master Pippin
and me, all those years ago. I feel like a gaffer looking
at him, like he could be my own lad instead of my master."
Sam looked up at the tall Elf. "Will he always be so?
Does time not come here at all, or does it run backward-like?"
"Time flows here, but differently, as it did in
Lorien. Frodo has been changed by all that he has seen and
done, but also he was different from the very beginning.
His soul is like that of the Eldar. He will age, as the
Elves do, only in his mind and heart, but not upon his flesh."
"And what about me, Master Elrond? What
will I do? Mister Frodo don't need his ol' Sam any
more, and I'm too old to be much use."
"Your presence here is of great service.
But you are not here to serve Frodo, or anyone. This is your
reward, to retire here and do as you will. Before
you leave this world, you shall be healed and at peace.
What do you desire?"
Sam looked at the dark soil on his hands, and
out at the garden, which still called to him in soft voices.
He grinned up at the tall Elf. "Oh, I'll find enough to keep
meself busy, I'll warrant."
When Frodo woke, he took Sam with him to all
his favorite places, and together they crossed the Lonely Island
many times, but to Tol Eressea they went once or twice only,
for Sam still did not relish boat-travel. But he loved the
pastures of Yavanna, and the mountainous halls of Aule left him
very impressed. But of all the places they went, Sam loved
Elrond's gardens best. He spent more and more time there,
and Frodo was ready this time, for he saw the signs now that he
had missed with Bilbo.