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37
Rejoicing and Speculation

Rejoicing and Speculation

The meal prepared that night was a wedding feast, and all rejoiced as it proceeded. After the meal they repaired to the Hall of Fire once more where an evening was spent listening to songs and stories, but such were very different in large part than that which had been known when Merry and Pippin had visited before. For all the joy and pleasure, the two of them and Sam found themselves sitting on the side of the room quiet, looking at the rest, grieving at what had been lost of the solemnity and grace known here when Elrond was the Lord of Imladris, of the awe and delight they had seen reflected in the face of Frodo as he’d sat here night after night, drinking in the music, the language, the images.

“He belonged here, he did,” Sam said quietly. “When he was ill, I wanted to shake him, make him realize as he could come here, find that beauty again. Didn’t dream he’d come to it, but--but there in the Elven lands.”

“I know,” Merry said quietly. “He was always as my brother, and I was so jealous that here he was so comfortable, that this was such the right place for him. How was I to know....” But he didn’t complete the thought.

Pippin sipped from the goblet of wine he’d accepted. “More and more this will become a hall for meetings of us mortals. When they’ve at last left Middle Earth, Elladan and Elrohir will leave this to the descendants of Aragorn and Arwen. And only they in the long run will keep the memory of the Eldar before the minds of Men. Wonder what they will remember, an age or so down the history of the world, of the glory of the Elves, the secrecy and might of Dwarves, of the laughter of us Hobbits? Will we still be part of Middle Earth, do you think?”

Sam shook his head, refusing to speculate aloud, while Merry examined the thoughtful face of his younger cousin with interest. Pippin hadn’t been in the party which had followed the King on the tour of the place earlier, and didn’t know what the King had found out about the brothers who’d been lost before they came to birth. Merry supposed that of course Pippin would see this room more in light of what had been lost to it, while he himself would now see it in relationship to Frodo, as Sam did. Pippin looked back at him. He still looked much as he’d looked when they first came here, save for the ability to evaluate, to find wisdom inside himself, which had been the gift offered him in exchange for the innocence he’d lost on the quest. Merry suddenly put an arm about Pippin’s shoulders and drew him in a close embrace, and Pippin strongly hugged him back. Pippin had been Frodo’s gift to Merry in so many ways.... Then they pulled apart, smiled into the face of the gardener who sat with them. He looked back at them, then let his own solemnity slip a bit.

“Well, my beloved Lord Samwise,” Merry said quietly, “we’ve all grown a bit since we first sat here, haven’t we?” And he wondered, as he said this, if he’d not been lost before, had Sam been born Aragorn’s brother indeed and not into the Shire, would he still have been a gardener? And he suspected he would. After all, during their trip to Minas Tirith--Minas Anor--they’d all spent time in the herb gardens both behind the Citadel and by the Houses of Healing with Aragorn and Arwen, all of them assisting King and Queen with the plants and weeding. Sam, too, had in part the legacy of healing to this day, had used it for Frodo’s sake, had offered it to Aragorn himself. Would he still address Aragorn primarily as Strider, though? He laughed at the thought, and both Pippin and Sam looked in question, wondering what thought had sparked that laugh in Merry. No, Merry thought, then he’d probably have always and consistently addressed Aragorn as Estel instead.

“Shall I offer you a blossom for your thoughts, Merry?” Pippin’s expression was considering.

“No, you shall not, for it’s a strictly private matter at the moment,” Merry returned.

Pippin continued to examine him for some moments, then he smiled. “I’ve just had a thought about a last prank to pull on Strider. Want to help?”

Sam gave a sigh, then his face brightened as Piper approached carrying Rosie-Lass, followed by Drogo, Elanor, and Frodo-Lad, and the two older Took lads as well as the twins, Forsythia carrying the small Princess Melian. In a moment he had both the tiny lasses in his lap, and he was beginning to tell all a story, and the whole room quieted to hear the story of a small child whose father had died, who had been threatened not for what he’d done to anyone else, but for what his future held, and how he’d come here to Imladris to be raised by Elves, and how he’d been called Estel, Hope. For those who’d been with the King earlier in the afternoon the story was even more poignant.

Aragorn sat across the room in the chair he’d often stood by when he lived here as a child and youth, and when he’d visited after he’d left to join his father’s people. He looked at Sam, sitting there in the midst of the young ones, saw the hint of the golden glow of Sam’s own Light, thought of his own imaginings of the brothers he’d never known until now, the import of his mother’s journal, and smiled, gave thanks to the Creator for this gift at last received.

When the story was done, Aragorn called for Pippin to bring out his flute to play them some Shire music, and soon others were bringing out their own instruments as well. Several of the Dwarves had brought drums and viols, and Dwalin had brought a small lap harp, while many of the Elves had harps, flutes, and pipes of their own; and once Pippin had begun to play one of the shepherd’s tunes he’s played as a lad the others began to join in, weaving about it countermelodies which became more and more complex and beautiful through the three repetitions they did.

Elladan and Elrohir sat beside him and nodded in time to the music, while the Lady Arwen sat in her own chair in the seat of honor, her eyes shining with the light of stars as she listened. When Pippin moved from the shepherd’s tune to the hymn he’d heard at the Havens, the three children of Elrond and Celebrían began to sing the words. The Dwarves stilled their instruments to listen, while Men and Hobbits sat in the fullness of the moment, at one with the song. Only Merry dared to shift his eyes to look into the face of Aragorn, and saw there mirrored the great grief and joy and longing to be seen in the faces of the Elves about him--save for him, that longing could not be assuaged, that grief stilled as it could for the others, not in this lifetime. Sam could perhaps in time pass over the Sea, over Ulmo’s realm, once more be with Frodo; but not Aragorn. He had set his hand to the plow here in this world, and here he must stay until the end of his days. Not, of course, that Aragorn would ever fail in his duty.... Merry looked at Arwen, saw that Aragorn looked on her singing. For Aragorn, Merry realized, his bliss had been given him now, here in Middle Earth itself. And he, after over eight decades of having to learn patience, knew now how to wait till the proper time until he could be reunited with the one he’d considered his friend and brother for the past seven years. If only, he, Merry, could show the same patience, for at times the ache in his heart at the loss of Frodo was almost enough to stop his rising.

Merry closed his eyes, let the music take him, seemed to be flying over the waves of the sea as the sea birds do, seemed to see the shimmering as the Straight Path lifted away from the curving of the world today, saw finally in the distance the shining island with the even more brightly shining realm beyond it, the great White Tree Nimloth shining at the island’s heart, the shining One who sat there, listening to the echoes of this hymn, a hymn sung more fully there, he suspected, there on the boundaries of Ulmo’s own place. Oh, Frodo, Iorhael, Gilorhael, Gil-galadrion, brother, cousin, we miss you so.

*******

He woke, and sat upright, realizing Pippin was looking at him with mixed amusement and concern. “The room seems more--mortal in many ways,” Pippin commented as he offered Merry a sip from his own goblet, “but it can still set us dreaming, can’t it?” Not trusting himself to speak, Merry nodded.

At last the King looked at young Fosco and his sister, where they sat now on footstools near Narcissa and Brendilac. “Now comes the time I’ve waited to see for many years, the dancing of the Husbandmen’s Dance once more. Fosco, Brendilac, do you feel up to it?”

“I’ll join you,” suddenly Paladin Took said, and Isumbard laughed.

“You will do it in public at last, Uncle? It is about time. And I’ll join you, too. Reginard?”

Pippin looked up amazed. He knew his da could dance this, but hadn’t done so since he was made Thain. Now, he thought, this will be interesting. He began the introduction as the five Hobbits stood up and set their hands on their hips....

As he started the second round two of the Elves had joined him, and in the third a couple of the Dwarf drummers. In the fourth more Elves and Dwarves joined in, and Forsythia was singing the words----

Merry was amazed, for he’d not realized many folks knew the words any more. Then he realized, Of course she knows the words! She’s Frodo’s cousin, and who knows how many such poems, songs, and books he’s shared with them over the years? No, it wasn’t just the history of Elves and Men and Dwarves Frodo Baggins had studied so long, after all. Merry smiled and joined in. After all, Frodo had taught him the words, also.

The music finally crashed to a close, and the five dancers stopped, right foot crossed in front of left, hands once more upon hips, heads erect. Paladin Took was breathing deeply, but he stood as tall and proudly as young Fosco, and Reginard and Isumbard were as proud of his performance as that of themselves.

One of the Men who’d come from the land of the Beornings stood up and bowed deeply. “It is long since I’ve seen anyone with the skill to dance that well, small Masters,” he said. “The words are a bit different from those which we sing, but are clearly similar. But to see it danced here, and so well performed--it is an honor.”

Paladin Took looked at him with interest. “We’ve danced it in the Shire, I think, throughout our history. We didn’t know it was danced elsewhere, although I suspect Manco and Balcho brought it from somewhere....” He accepted the mug pressed on him by his wife and drank gratefully.

Barliman Butterbur shook his head. “That was simply wonderful! You come dance that in the Pony, and I’ll let you stay for free.”

The King’s face showed he was remembering the one other time he’d seen the dance performed, when Frodo had danced it in the Hall of Merethrond, how proudly he’d danced it and stood at the end to accept the applause, and how he’d almost collapsed after as he’d started to return to his seat, how Sam had been there to catch him, make it look as if they were but congratulating one another with arms about waists and shoulders, how Aragorn had managed to have Legolas spirit Frodo away after to a quiet room nearby where he could rest until Aragorn himself could come to him offer what healing he could.

Oh, Frodo, little brother, do you dance again without exhausting yourself? I so pray this is true.

Esmeralda and Narcissa were both hovering over Fosco and Brendi, while Diamond’s eyes shone with delight as she looked between her father-in-love and her husband, and Eglantine and Pimpernel and Ferdi were plying the three Tooks with drinks to refresh them. Fosco, however, was pressing forward to the Beorning to ask him about how the dance was done in his own lands, how the words were different, how the music might differ....

Merry came to stand by Aragorn’s chair, placed a hand on where the King’s lay on its padded arm, looked up into the Man’s eyes, saw the tear which trembled there, not quite slipping free. “Frodo would be proud to be here tonight, I think. He’d be so proud of all of us.” Not trusting his voice, Aragorn nodded in return. “And he’d be happy for Brendi and Narcissa, for he loved both and wanted the best for each. And he’d be glad that you married them.” Again Aragorn nodded.

A time later many began to go to their beds, and Aragorn went out into the gardens. It was there that Ruvemir found him.

“You do not sleep now with your wife?” asked the King of his sculptor.

“I could ask the same of you. At least I have an excuse, for it is hot and the babe makes her uncomfortable, so I seek to relieve her for a time of the added heat my body brings to our bed. But I was not aware that our Lady Arwen has conceived yet again.”

“She has not, not as yet.”

“Then what makes you restless, my beloved Lord?” When the taller Man did not answer after a time, he asked, “Is it thoughts of the Lord Frodo, my King?”

Finally the King answered softly, “Yes.”

“What has sparked this unrest?”

Finally, in a soft voice, the King told him about the journal his mother had written, his own imaginary brothers and finding that his mother, also had envisioned two more sons, the babes lost.

“And what has this all to do with the Lord Frodo?”

Ruvemir could see the soft, sad smile the King wore. “It is not just Frodo, but Sam as well.”

“The Lord Samwise? But how----” But then the mannikin went quiet, as the realization hit him of the idea the King considered. Finally he looked up at his King, his own expression full of wonder. “I’ve long thought of the three of you as brothers of the spirit, you and the Lord Frodo sharing so much as you do, and Sam as the one to support both the others of you. To think that perhaps you might have indeed been intended as brothers of the body as well....” He gave himself a shake, and looked off over the Bruinen. Finally he spoke again. “Yet, it does fit so well together. You were--what?--a little less than half your expected lifespan when the quest was begun, and the Lord Frodo much the same. Both of you so much younger in body than your years would indicate for your kinds. Both of you scholars and gifted in languages. Both of you raised in awareness of the Elves in excess for what is ordinarily true of your kinds. Both gifted in music in your ways, you with song and he with dancing, although Sir Merry tells me that he was a sweet singer as well, though not as gifted as Captain Peregrin. Both utterly devoted to duty, and each stubborn beyond bearing in the ways of each. And then Sam there to be his helpmeet, ignoring his own gifts, his own fineness, his own abilities in learning, knowledge, languages, and rule; instead devoted to caring for the one he considered dearer than brother, for whom the Lord Frodo felt the same.”

The King finally spoke again. “The athelas has always answered to his hand. Gandalf thought it was due to him being a gardener and in tune with the earth and the plants that grow there, that the plants simply answer to his need. And perhaps that is how the Creator solved the need, for the one to attend my brother Gil-Galadrion, or my mother’s unborn son Gilorhael, would need to be able to wield the athelas. He is, in his way, as gifted in healing as I am, Sam is. And the caring of both for not only their own land and people but for those outside it as well, is beyond telling. He will be Mayor next, and will be an excellent one. The Shire will grow and bloom under his caring hand.”

“You said of Frodo that his was the spirit of a great King born in the body of a Perian.”

“I still hold to that.”

“As do I,” Elladan said quietly as he came to join them.

“Do you think, then, my Lord Elladan, that Frodo Baggins holds the spirit of the lost Gilorhael, and Samwise that of the lost Anorhael?” the sculptor asked.

“I do not know, but would not be surprised to learn this is so. I do know that the grief the Lady Gilraen expressed for so much of her life was in excess for the loss of her husband. Always when one came to be aided by Adar in a difficult pregnancy one could see her at Adar’s side, intent on helping the child be born safely, and yet envious of those who left with living children at their sides, looking after them with longing.”

“I’ve not seen the direct aftermath of a miscarriage, but I suspect that it must, in many of womankind, bring great grief.” The sculptor looked down again at the water flowing below them.

“And so it is indeed. Adar did not tell us she had lost a babe, much less two. But ever her care for Estel was tender.”

“Perhaps,” he who was also known as Estel said, “that was part of why she let herself go untimely. Perhaps she could not bear to see the coming of those who might have been hers, knowing they would not know her as she felt she knew them.”

Another figure came out into the gardens, saw them, paused, then came to join them. The King looked at him and smiled. “Welcome, Sam.”

“It’s a beautiful evening, Strider.”

“That it is.”

Sam looked down at the swirling water, then up at the stars. Finally he said, “Gives me heart, knowing as he’s seeing them as we are. I think of him there, maybe under their White Tree, looking up at them, too, hearing the sound of the Sea and the wind, smiling up at them, thinking of us doing the same.”

Aragorn nodded. “When we walked on cloudy nights, you could see how disappointed he was, for the stars ever gave him heart.”

“Was like they fed him at times--fed his soul.”

“What brings you out from your bed tonight, my brother?”

Sam shrugged. “Too warm, maybe. But--tonight I just wanted to be with you.”

“Why?”

“Cuz I feel for you as I do him, I suppose. You are both like brothers to me, you know. Not like Hal and Ham, of course, but still....”

Elf and artist looked into one another’s eyes, and tactfully withdrew. As he looked down on them out near one of the bridges over the stream from his balcony later, Ruvemir noted the King had his arm over Sam’s shoulder, and the Hobbit his about the other’s waist as the two of them stood, smoking their pipes, watching the stars above and the water in which they were reflected below.

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