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The Choice of Healing
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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16
Final Preparations

Final Preparations

He was weak but definitely eased when Sam came after sunrise to bring him down the Hill. “Looks as if you slept well, Master, and as if the dreams were kind to you.”

Frodo nodded, “Very kind. I have much to do.”

He spent much of the day in his study, although he took his nap as had become his habit with little Elanor lying over his arm. When he woke again he went back into the study and wrote again, finally came out at tea time with letters to Imladris and Minas Tirith, entrusting them to Sam to pass on to the quick post. Pippin and Merry arrived with Folco the next day and found Frodo alert and relieved as they hadn’t seen him, it seemed, in months. He smiled and laughed, had a cup of wine while they and Sam and Rosie enjoyed an ale together, accepted the last packet to be returned from Fredegar and took it into the study, ate some at dinner, and after they’d left, Pippin for the Great Smial and Merry and Folco for Freddy’s place, walked down to tell a short story to the children, returned slowly back to Bag End, went in and wrote some more until Sam came in with an evening cup of tea and then assisted him to bed.

The next day brought a note from Elrond--he wondered if the Lady had already told him of the decision and suspected she had. They would meet him on the birthday--there was little enough time to prepare.

He strengthened over much of the next week, until the night before his dinner with the Tooks and Brandybucks. The next morning Sam came in to find him holding onto his shoulder. Sam gave him the draught from Budgie Smallfoot, then a cup of his own tea, and after a time Frodo got up on his own, apparently well enough.

Frodo had completed the last writing he would do in the Red Book the night before, now went into the study and marked certain passages he wished to read to his aunts and uncles tonight. For all they were cousins in actuality, he still thought of them as he had when young, and he was looking forward to their coming. But at noon he had more pain in his chest and shoulder, and by the time it could be expected either should arrive he was quite grey. Sam and Rosie, with the assistance of Marigold, had cleaned the hole completely, put out flowers, and had been working on the dinner much of the afternoon. Sam, however, was concerned. He got Frodo settled in the parlor, for he said he didn’t feel he ought to lie down right now, set a light meal by him and told him to eat as he could, and left him to mind Elanor for a time, until Rosie indicated she needed to feed her daughter and came to fetch her.

Frodo watched after with regret as mother and daughter disappeared toward the kitchens, sat back feeling rather empty. Almost all was done--he’d finished his new will, only needed to get it signed and filed. He’d had a list of the properties in which he held interests, the partnership agreements, the accountings of his funds via his banker of discretion all prepared and made a part of it. It was quite a bulky document, and he knew that Sam would be most overwhelmed when he saw it being opened to be read.

He’d also been able to get the document for adoption of an heir completed, and Merry, Pippin, and Folco had all happily signed it already, as had Daddy Twofoot, who had gone about since with a look of superiority toward his neighbor in Number Three that was quite annoying to Hamfast Gamgee, for he hated being left out of the know. He’d been able one day to walk even into Hobbiton where he’d visited the shop Daisy and her husband kept, commissioned them to make two fine suits for Sam to be ready on the sixth of October to be picked up by Brendilac Brandybuck. He chose the fabrics himself, the colors, and added in a box of the finest kerchiefs--even ordered suitable undergarments. He’d also stopped at the Ivy Bush to arrange for a meal to be brought for twenty-five to Bag End on October eighth. All were sworn to secrecy. He’d begun preparing his last bequests of specific items....

Now there was this other last business to complete. A wave of pain hit his chest and he clutched it, and then he heard the bell pulled. He would not allow the rift between Paladin and Peregrin Took to continue. Oh, pray the Valar this evening’s work would bring the needed healing there!

Then--then that was done. He woke in the night, knowing he’d done his best, knowing both Merry’s and Pippin’s stories had been enough told that hopefully their parents could find the ways in which to ask the proper questions to learn what else needed to be said. The pain was gone, but he felt quite weak. He did not know if he’d make it to the Grey Havens if things continued as they were. If not----

Well, if not, then at least he’d be done. But he still did not wish for Sam to find his body empty here. If he went and died on the ship--at least Sam could live on in the hope that Frodo was finding the healing. And, if he made it--maybe he would find the healing indeed. As had happened the preceding autumn, he found himself simply awaiting what came next with no fear, no anticipation. One way or the other, it would be done, and there was no question he was almost ready--if only he could find the strength to get the final papers filed, the final goodbyes--expressed, his saddle bags onto Strider’s back. He thought if he could only get astride his pony he could make it the rest of the way well enough.

He had been lying quietly for about an hour wishing he had strength enough to get to the privy when Sam knocked at his door, came in carrying the large bundle from Rivendell. Frodo thanked him, accepted it, opened it with a strange feeling of incuriosity. It was as if the letter had not been intended for him.

Dearest Frodo,

We are in receipt of your letter indicating the physical condition you now know. As your healer has indicated, your situation is very grave, for you have become quite weak. Yet there is hope.

Suspend all other treatments save the water and the tea that Sam prepares for you. Have him to continue to make it as before, but to add a handful of the herbs contained in the leather packet herein into the water as it steeps, then strain it carefully. You will need to drink of it at least four times a day, the measure of one of your people’s smaller mugs for ale, until you meet with us along the Road. Go north to the West Road, and we will be there when you arrive. All will be in readiness.

There will be little need for much, as I suspect you know already. But do bring those small items that sustain your hope and reflect your loves, for they will assist you.

You may tell Sam what you will, for the offer is open to all of the Ringbearers, and he is one. He, however, need not come now if he does not wish. For you and for Bilbo--if you do not come now, I believe you know there will be no other chance--not through denial, but through the degradation of your bodies.

My daughter delights that you have chosen to accept this gift offered at her behest, and asks that you open yourself as fully as you can for her sake to the healing as it comes.

Bilbo awaits that day with anticipation.

Your servant,
Elrond of Aman


He found the indicated packet and gave it to Sam, checked through the rest of the items against the inventory provided, and awaited the tea from Sam. He was amazed at the effect, feeling the strength return to him, the soothing of his heartbeat. It would not continue to be effective, he suspected, if he exceeded the dosage or if he had to rely on it for more than the week needed, but he would take full advantage of it while he could. He headed for the privy with a distinct feeling of relief.

*******

Will Whitfoot looked up from the document before him to Frodo with surprise. “You are adopting Sam as your heir?”

“Yes.”

“But he’s almost as old as you are!”

“So?”

“Don’t you think you should choose someone younger, someone you can raise to the estate as Bilbo raised you?”

“He is ready now, Will.”

“You aren’t expecting to up and die tomorrow, are you, Frodo Baggins?”

Frodo looked at Will with a certain blankness in his expression. “I don’t know what to expect any more, Will. All I can do now is wait to see what is given me, from one day to the next.”

Will realized that Frodo’s hand was trembling on the desktop, realized it was thin, the fine bones far too easily discerned. He looked up at Frodo’s face again, realized the great weariness that lay behind his eyes. He looked up into Frodo’s face, then looked down at the adoption papers, gestured to the clerks to come near to fill out the remaining witnesses’ signatures, and then with a feeling of finality signed it himself, then the revised will. This will, he realized, was going to be executed all too soon. Once he was done, he rose, came around the desk, reached out his hands to shake Frodo’s, but found himself taking the younger Hobbit into his embrace.

“Whatever happens, Frodo--you are still one of the best the Shire ever produced.”

“Thank you, Will,” the soft reply came.

*******

“Hello, Frodo.”

He looked back to realize that Narcissa was behind him. “Hello, Narcissa,” he said gently.

“You look quite well today.”

“I fear the looks may be deceiving. What are you doing here in Michel Delving?”

“Came to have Mum’s will signed by Will Whitfoot. You?”

“Much the same--updating mine one l--once more, getting some other business done.”

There was a certain distance in his eyes, she thought, as if part of him were somewhere else, somewhere he could see clearly but could not share with others. She could not tell if that place were fair or desert.

“Will you be giving your birthday party next week?”

“No, I will see--a cousin I’ve not seen in a while.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Do you wish to join me for dinner tonight at the inn?”

There was, she realized with delight, true regret in his eyes. “I would like to--but I cannot. I must go home tonight.”

“Perhaps next week, then, back in Hobbiton.”

“Don’t count on it, Narcissa. I collapsed at dinner the other night.” He was searching her eyes. “I doubt I have much time in any case.”

She was shocked. “But you----”

Finally he said softly, “I regret you just arrived as I must leave. I wish you joy, Narcissa.”

He turned away then, toward the stables, his saddlebags over his shoulder.

*******

Frodo had the last letter written--to Fredegar and Budgie. He’d thought to stop by their house on the return from Michel Delving, but had realized the vigor he was experiencing was beginning to wane some. It was difficult to focus to talk. He’d been able to get the letter written, but was there time to get it sent? At that moment there was a knock at the study door. He called “Enter,” and Rosie came in, gently holding the small ginger cat who now shared the smial.

As she had before, she sat on the sofa and looked up at him. “May I talk with you, Master Frodo?”

He nodded.

“I need to know, if you know to say, are you leaving so as you can live, or are you running away to die elsewhere?”

He looked at her for some time, hoped he could answer. “I don’t know. I--I am offered life--healing.”

“But you’re wondering if you’ll live to get there?”

He nodded.

“It’s not in Rivendell, though, is it?”

“No.”

“Cuz you said as even the great Elves weren’t strong enough to heal you--here.”

“True.”

She was giving him a thorough, evaluative stare. Finally she asked, “Are they taking you to Elvenhome?”

At last he nodded--with respect, she realized.

“Then you can’t come back, not ever.”

“No.”

“Cuz of what you did you can go there?”

“Yes.”

“Does he know yet?”

“No.”

“Can he go with you?”

“He’s--he’s given that choice--and for time.”

“He can go, but doesn’t have to now?”

He nodded.

She looked relieved. “They’ll give him the hope of finding you again, then.”

He nodded, finally added, “I hate having torn him in two--all--all this time.” He sighed, rubbed at his shoulder. “But--I might not make it there.”

“You’re right fragile,” she agreed. She thought for quite some time. “Then I won’t see you again.” She was beginning to weep.

“No, you won’t--not this life.”

“Will--will you----” She started over. “Can mortals live there like Elves--as long as Arda?”

“No.”

“Then you’ll still die, even there.”

“Yes.”

“And if he goes later, to be with you--we’ll still be able----”

His sudden, unexpected smile filled her. “Yes, we will still be able--at the right time.”

She saw the wave of pain. “It’s starting again, is it?” He nodded. “Is it time for your tea again?” He looked around, fumbled for his watch, which she realized he no longer wore, gave a wry smile. She rose and hurried to the parlor, checked the time there and returned to tell him. He calculated the hours past, then nodded. She rose and fetched the dosage Sam had left ready. He received it gladly, drank it. “Is it harder to talk now, Master Frodo?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll miss you--very much--and Elanor--she’ll miss you most as much as her dad will.”

He whispered, “I’ll miss you--all. The four--lasses--who mean the Shire to me, have always been you, Pearl,--Narcissa, and my mum.”

“Why haven’t you told him he has the choice, too?”

“I want him--back here--with you, Elanorelle, Frodo-Lad, the others to come. Want them born, this hole full of life.” He sighed. “When we leave--kiss him. Make him want--to come back. Please. Don’t--don’t let him follow me before he’s lived.”

“I promise.”

He brought out the letter to Fredegar and Budgie. “Please--let them know I’ve gone. They were coming for the sixth.”

“The sixth?”

“Weathertop.” He rubbed at his shoulder, and she nodded her understanding. “Were going to see me off--hold my hands--when it started, hopefully help me keep hold of reality--till it was done.”

She paled when she understood.

He rose. “A couple things, before he gets back.” He went back to the bedrooms.

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