#18

[52nd Day]

Frodo is awake before the wakeup knock at his door. He doesn’t feel fully rested and the full memory of the conversation with Lily doesn’t help. He wonders if he should rejoin the festivities, if maybe he should stay away for a while. But no, he’d have to stay away for months probably, in that case. Yule isn’t over yet and he still wants to see it finished. Before leaving his room, he pauses. ‘Maybe I should just leave here today and spare her the trouble of continuing this. But she has brought light into this time for me, I need to say goodbye. Unless of course I stay... what if she is right? What if she could help heal me?’ Too many conflicting thoughts crowd him and he hurries out.

“Torold!” Lily calls. “Whatever is keeping you? We’ll miss Sunrise!”

“I’ll be there, I’ll be there!” he calls back. Lily waits by the door, tapping her fingertip on the doorknob. Torold wanders over, buttoning a winter vest.

“It’s clear as a bell and cold as wellwater out there!” he says. “Now wait one minute, lass. What was the trouble earlier, when I saw you with Frodo? Both of you looked like your best friend had run away.”

“I think I’m losing him,” she says, just above a whisper. “I think he never came back after all.”

“Lily, that’s the way of it sometimes. But I daresay you’ve made him smile and laugh, and he hadn’t done that for a long time, by the looks of him. I know it’s not what you want. Is he leaving?”

“No... I don’t think so... yet, anyway. He promised to think about the whole thing.” She shook her head. “I don’t know, Torold. I don’t have much hope.”

“Hope! Hope is a funny thing, lass. Slippery, determined to go its own way, sometimes. But here it is Sunrise on the last day of Yule, and us standing here like this. Let’s be on our way, then. We don’t want the Sun wonderin’ where we are!”

As they start on the path, they see Frodo come round the hill and wave. Torold waves back. They pick up their pace along with the rest of the late-comers. At the bonfire site, the villagers have clustered as close as they can to the leaping flames. They let Frodo, Lily and Torold in closer and hand them baskets full of the straw and grass decorations. The air is charged as the Sun moves ever so slowly higher. Suddenly some of the youngsters begin throwing their decorations high above their heads, shouting. Everyone follows suit and the first rays of the Sun reach Frodo’s eyes. Its light is blinding, brighter than he can ever recall seeing. As some of the decorations fall, they are caught by the fire and blaze for a moment or two. Everyone cheers and claps. The decorations are thrown repeatedly until they fall into the fire or are tossed in. The same song that broke out the previous morning starts up again. The group starts another song immediately to some accompaniment of flutes and small bells. When that ends, there is more cheering and clapping. “First breakfast!” someone shouts, making everyone rush to the tents.

There is so much merriment that Frodo and Lily both start to feel happier. One of the older women comes up to Lily and thanks her for the dress and for the men’s clothes she made. When Frodo asks if she is referring to the dress she had on, she beams and twirls around, making the gold threads woven in sparkle. “I hope,” she adds before leaving, “That you’ll let me come see you again soon, my children need clothes again!”

***

#19

[Breakfast goes on for some time. No one is in a hurry to end the festivities. Several people sit around the bonfire as the air is still cold. Smoke from the fire mingles with Longbottom Leaf smoke from pipes. Gradually the crowd thins; Frodo, Lily and Torold decide a nap is in order. Before Frodo leaves, Lily asks him to come by for a late lunch. He decides that would be a very nice thing to do.

When his wake-up knock comes, Frodo asks for a mug of tea and while waiting for it, takes his journal out.]

52nd Day: The last day of Yule. I have never seen a Sunrise such as this morning’s! It reminded me of the Ring that the Lady Galadriel bears, and was even brighter. I’ve had much food, drink, laughter and dancing. Folk here are certainly joyful. I’ve learned much I hope to tell Bilbo someday. I’ve also had a fright. Some of these beautiful, intricate decorations the villagers make as gifts to the returning Sun, when held up before a fire, become rings of fire. At least to me. I scared the wits out of poor Lily. But it served to remind me that I am forever changed, forever marked. She refused to admit it at first. I didn’t want to make anything worse for her but I had to make it plain that what she hopes for cannot be.

She is a wonderful creature, as caring and thoughtful as any lass and with great beautiful eyes. She makes me think about it, she makes me wish for it. Wishing, however, I have learned is of no use. She cares so much and I know she would do whatever she could to ease my way, but I fear this is too much. She almost makes me believe that somehow, there is one chance left for me. I don’t know, is there? Should I stay on here a little longer, and try to find out? Now that so much is changing might there be that one chance?

I feel that if the answer is no, there will never be another. Nowhere in Middle-Earth could there be anywhere to escape to. Elrond will be leaving Rivendell and with him will go the Elves that dwell there.... Lórien too will fade. Minas Tirith is home to the new King and Queen, might there be a place for me there? No, if Bilbo leaves with Elrond, as surely he will, I could not live anywhere but the Shire. This is my home if anywhere is. There is much goodness and beauty here. I feel.... stretched out again, as if my mind is in two places at once.

There is that word again, home. I don’t know if I think of the Shire as ‘home’ the way I used to, it seems to be more a case of comfort. I’m more comfortable here, this is where I’ve lived the longest. If I was to go somewhere else, I don’t think I’d miss the Shire terribly. I suppose I’ve been through all that already.

[Frodo sighs as he reads over the last few lines. His tea arrives, steaming and smelling fresh. It tastes splendid and he savors it. Sunshine slants through the only window in his room. ‘Well soon enough the Sun won’t be so low at this time of day. I’m looking forward to Spring. I shall be glad to see the tulips and daffodils, nodding in the mild breeze. Gardens in the Shire are like gardens nowhere else.’

Lunch is quite good. Torold had hidden three of the sweet cakes to bring back and Lily chides him for not leaving them out in the fields. After the table is cleared Torold says he is going out to help feed the cows. Frodo says he’s not being left behind and Lily laughs, saying she must see this for herself. Soon Lily decides to help too, but the afternoon’s work still takes until sunset since some of the men have gone with Iris. Lily doesn’t ask Frodo to stay for dinner; she can see in his face that he wouldn’t.

Before getting into bed, Frodo writes down a few more thoughts.]

Today again I helped feed and look after Torold and Iris’ cows. I can see that farming is hard work, I admire those who do this. Still, Torold said I’m a help rather than hindrance, and that gives me a good feeling. It’s honest work. Is this something I might do? I suppose Torold would take me on, if I asked. Should I stay here and do this for a while? And what would I do if or when something brought back memory, like the decorations and the fire...? I suspect my shoulder will never entirely heal and I must deal with that as well. Is it possible I could work at a trade with these wounds? And of course there’s my hand. I have no answers yet. I’m beginning to feel that I need answers soon, exactly why I’m not sure. I must find those answers myself. The Lady Galadriel’s mirror showed me nothing of this!

***

#20

53rd Day: This morning I decided to ask Torold if I could spend more time helping him, on the basis that since I have a room elsewhere I’m not actually his guest. He took a bit of convincing but gave in. I also explained that it’s good for me to do something so basic and unglorified as caring for cows. That made him laugh. Unglorified it is, he said, and sometimes thankless! Well that suits me. Some of his animals are certainly ungrateful, they kick if they decide they don’t like the look of you. The next day, I’m told, they may let you do as you please around them. Torold is letting me find out their personalities myself which also suits me. This is something I’ve never thought about, what farmers go through to get milk. He says they know they’re treated like princesses, kept warm all winter and never going hungry. Truly, it makes me grateful when I taste sweet butter and fresh milk!

During lunch Lily told me some of her sewing work will be coming up with Iris, so that she will not have to return to Long Cleeve to do it. I was interested that she told me this in Torold’s presence. I suspect she has talked with him before about me and maybe even asked his advice. This was telling me in so many words that she doesn’t want to be away from me, and I’m not sure what to make of this. I don’t know if she is trying to encourage me or if she is simply trying to find answers like me. She seemed set on what she wanted but then she did say she’d try to accept my word.

This is so complicated! Yet, even as I write that, I hear Gandalf’s voice telling me that it is only me who makes it that way. I could simply tell Lily no and go back to Bag End. She might follow me. I could keep telling her no, without trying to explain. But she’s been through much pain already, why should I make it worse? She has given me much happiness and that I was not at all sure I would ever feel again. Is it my right to tell her no? I have been merely an instrument for a great Purpose.... my feelings and wishes on it had no place in accomplishing the Purpose. Is now the time for my feelings to matter? Has my will been returned to me now that the Purpose is realised? But then, has my will ever been truly my own.... Is this yet another part of that Purpose, is there something yet for me to do? How will I ever know?

[Frodo leans back in his chair and rubs his eyes. ‘I know I must wait for the answers. Waiting does not bother me. Knowing whether or not I will recognise the answers I need is what concerns me.’ He lifts the white jewel on its bright chain, looking into its heart. There is a shimmer that no ordinary glass or crystal has ever showed. He remembers Arwen telling him that the gem would bring him comfort in times of need. He is grateful to her for giving it to him, for he has found it comforting many times. It’s warmth is unlike any sunlight but more consoling. It is not like the mirror of Galadriel, it cannot show him pictures, but it makes him feel less alone and less lonely. ‘Strange that a gem should cause those feelings but there it is. I suppose it is because the gem is Elven. It is much the same feeling as I had in Lothlórien. How lucky Bilbo is, to be always surrounded by Elves. Now there is another curious word, lucky. Whatever does it really mean? Good luck, bad luck, where does luck come from? In some ways I could be seen as unlucky, in other ways lucky indeed since I brought about the fall of the Dark Lord. No, it was not truly I, I was only the bearer, the means to that end. Long ago Gandalf made me understand that there are many more powerful Forces than I. I doubt that those Forces pay me much attention. If things are different in the world it is not because of any greatness on my part.’ He stands and looks out at the stars peeking through ragged clouds. ‘Lily can’t see them so bright, it was not her destiny to be part of the movement of those great Forces.’]

***