“Here it is, Fosco,” Narcissa said, gently guiding the younger Hobbit’s hand to touch the figure of Frodo Baggins.
Forsythia stood looking at the grouping, her eyes wide with amazement. “Oh, Narcissa, I’ve seen the model, but had no idea the real thing would be so beautiful!” She examined Frodo’s figure carefully. “It is Iorhael, truly Iorhael as I remember him--but so solemn!”
Brendilac stood holding little Frodo, just a year old, both looking on the figure of the bairn’s namefather with great interest, and in Brendi’s case, great longing.
Behind them Merry asked, “Ferdi--is it there?”
Ferdibrand turned unerringly toward the Whte Tree. “No,” he said with regret, “no reflection today.”
“Perhaps tomorrow,” the King said quietly. He held Faramir's son Elboron and Pippin's little Faramir in his arms, and Samwise son of Ruvemir stood beside him, looking up at the young prince and Pippin’s son.
Pippin came from reporting for duty, and reached up to take his son from his friend and King. “I will attend on you at the first hour tomorrow morning, then, Aragorn.”
“I look forward to it.”
Fosco interrupted, “The knee to his trousers is torn, and the cuffs of his shirt loose and frayed. Master Ruvemir has caught so many details into the the figure....”
Brendi stepped closer, shifted his son onto his left hip, reached out to gently touch the outstretched right hand, ran his finger over the gap where the ring finger was missing. “The last time I saw him, he was so very weak, and not certain he’d make it to the Havens, much less all the way to Tol Eressëa. Even then he was such a caring individual, and so worried for Timono and the rest. He told me he didn’t want them to stand alone, that he’d done worse.”
Ordo Goodbody nodded. “He was always caring about others, Mr. Baggins was, always. He and my dad made a good pair for both had a right romantic turn of mind. They were always looking for someone needing a leg up, to give it to them. Old Mr. Bilbo, too--just the same, although he loved to make certain as his gifts left the folks receiving them just a bit confused. But young Master Frodo--for him it was the pleasure of seeing someone finding the light in dark times.”
He sighed as he looked into the face of Frodo’s figure; then he turned to Sam’s. “Now, Mr. Gardner--he’s just as caring, but more likely to make certain his gift teaches something along the way.” He stepped back a bit to get a better view of the whole memorial, then looked at Fosco kneeling on the surround before Frodo’s figure, feeling the feet, then the inscription on the stone base. “First time I worked with Dad and Mr. Baggins was when he first checked up on these two, there just after the Free Fair when they were little ones. That evening we were sitting in the Common in Westhall, we saw some bully chasing little ones down the lane, and Mr. Baggins straightened with indignation, walked forward and stood behind a tree. The little ones were these two, and after they ran past, Master Frodo stepped out in front of the bully, and blocked the path. Was quite polite for all he was angry, asking why he was chasing after little ones so much smaller than himself, and when the bully got smart and asked what he intended to do about it, Master Frodo said something to the effect of, ‘Just this,’ and gave him a single blow. Knocked him flat on the ground. It was quite marvelous to see.
“Shiriffs would do nothing to him the one or two times anyone complained about him stopping someone from beating on another or an animal, always knowing the one complaining had to of been doing something pretty bad for Master Frodo to let his punch loose. Though, as I think on it, I don’t think anyone ever complained but old Sandyman in Hobbiton. He’d be beating on his boy, and Master Frodo’d see it and ask him about it, and Sandyman would start to turn on Master Frodo, and Master Frodo’d just hit him once, and he’d be sitting on the ground. As much as Mr. Baggins would stick up for young Ted, you’d think as the lad would of turned out all right--but, oh, no--had to be his dad’s son instead. Too bad, really.”
Ferdibrand, led by his cousin Isumbard, came forward to Sam’s figure, gently running his fingers over the statue as he’d done before he left the last time. “I wish Sam and Rosie could have come, but she was so close to her time....”
Bard laughed. “Their fifth. Well, Frodo wanted them to fill Bag End with life and children, and the two of them seem intent on doing just that.”
“Wonder if the babe’s come yet?” Estella wondered as she and Merry and small Periadoc walked around the memorial.
The King shook his head. “Not as of three hours ago, and no sign of labor commencing.”
“Spying through the Palantir, are you?” asked Merry. The King just smiled.
The Lady Arwen, heavily pregnant for the second time, and Lady Éowyn joined them, Prince Faramir's wife taking her son from her Lord King's arms, and he reached down to lift Melian onto his shoulder. “It is good to have those who could come here again,” the Queen said.
“Will the Lay of Frodo of the Nine Fingers be sung again tomorrow in the memorial ceremony?” asked Pippin.
“No, not during the ceremony this time,” the King said, “although I believe it will be sung at the end of the feast tomorrow night. Instead, Pippin, the Master of Music wishes to speak with you this evening, and hopes you will join with the musicians tomorrow. And, Merry and Forsythia, if you will sing....”
“You wish me to carry my flute with my uniform?” asked Pippin, intrigued.
“Oh, yes. It would be most appropriate.”
All the group looked at one another with mutual curiosity.
The next day was the tenth New Year of the Fourth Age for the lands outside the Shire, and a group had again come to Minas Anor to join in the celebrations. Pippin and Merry had come with their wives and children, accompanied by Ferdibrand and Reginard and Isumbard Took and their families, Brendilac and Narcissa Brandybuck and their wards and infant son, Berilac Brandybuck, Ordo Goodbody and his wife Lilia, and Emro Gravelly, who’d reluctantly agreed to come south with those he still thought of as his children. From Lebennin had come Folco Boffin and his wife, the mannikin woman Miriel, their fosterlings and daughter Elainen Primula. With them today was Ruvemir and Elise’s son Samwise, a quiet, smiling child with hair as dark as his father's, but curly as his mother’s.
The King leaned down to caress little Samwise’s hair where he stood holding Lorieth’s hand. “It is a wrench not to have your namefather here, but we do have you to remember him by.”
“Where is Ruvemir?” asked Merry.
“Finishing up a figure. He’s most intent on getting it completed tonight so it won’t weigh on his mind tomorrow--says he wants to be able to devote his entire attention to tomorrow’s festivities.” He turned to Emro Gravelly. “It is an honor, Master Gravelly, to have you here this time.”
“Thank you, sir,” the Hobbit farmer said, “but I’m still not quite certain as I ought to of come. I feel so very out of place.”
“I’m certain you must indeed feel that way, Master, and we hope you will feel more comfortable as your stay proceeds. You and your wife managed to raise two extraordinary young Hobbits, and we delight to honor you for it.”
“A good deal of it is due to Mistress Narcissa and Mister Brendilac, I suspect.”
Fosco rose from his completed examination of Frodo’s figure, and put his arm about the waist of his foster father. “But you and Mum had the bulk of the work, Da, and we’ll never stop loving you for it, you know,” he said. “Sythie and I are still happy you agreed to come, though. You deserve to get some honor on your own merits.”
Emro looked at the memorial. “Still hard to think as Hobbits from the Shire are honored out here in the outer world,” he said. “I know they are, but to actually see the monument at the last....” He went quiet, looking at Sam’s figure, the heavy pack, the bent back and raised blade. “And he was but a gardener at the time.”
Merry smiled. “Sam was always more than just a gardener, Master Gravelly. He just never wanted to believe it till he left the Shire, not that he wanted to believe it even then.”
Just then a bell rang, and King and Queen shepherded their guests into the feast hall for an early dinner, leaving the court around the memorial empty once more for a time.
The Master of Music was part of the dinner, and when the Hobbits finally got to the point of filling up the corners, he approached Captain Peregrin about the program for the morrow.
“You’re going to present what?”
“If your people feel up to it, of course. The King tells us that there are several here who know it.”
“Well, yes, he’s right.”
“If you will work with us with the music tonight so that tomorrow we do it aright....”
Pippin laughed. “I will do so gladly, but must tell you I go on duty at the first hour.”
The dawn of the twenty-fifth of March found the populace of Minas Anor already beginning to gather up in the Court of Gathering at the top of the city. Dignitaries had come from many lands, from Angmar, Rhun, Harad, and Dunland--even Umbar. There was even one emissary sent by Ghan Peveset of Mundolië. Together with Éomer and Lothiriel and Elfwine of Rohan, Imrahil and his wife and sons of Dol Amroth, Faramir and Éowyn and small Elboron of Ithilien, Halladan and Mirieth of Arnor, Dwarves and Elves and followers and family of each and the bulk of the population of the White City itself, the memorial ceremony promised to be crowded in spite of a light rain shortly after sunrise. The cloud cover had begun to lift somewhat, and by the time the ceremony was to start at midmorning the sky was almost clear, the spring Sun shining brightly on the memorial to the Pheriannath and the White Tree and the fountain.
All stood silent and still for some time, when at last the sound of viols, drums, and harps heralded the procession, led this time by Dwarf musicians raising a song in praise of Aüle. Next came a party of Elves from the Great Wood and Imladris, who offered their counterpoint to the music of the Dwarves, somehow adding to its majesty as these former enemies cooperated in the singing. The Elves were followed by the various emissaries sent as witnesses and participants from other lands, then the Stewards and officials of Gondor and Arnor, the court of Rohan, and finally the emissaries from the Shire itself preceding the Royal Family, their Lord King Aragorn Elessar, Lady Queen Arwen, Princess Melian, Prince Eldarion carried in his mother’s arms, and the Queen’s grandfather and brothers, led by Captain Peregrin Took guarding the King’s person.
Those in the procession stopped before the memorial to the Periannath, and before all stood the King. When the hymn was at last over, he began to speak.
“It is ten years now since the Hobbits Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee completed their long and dark journey into Mordor itself to the destruction of the Ring of the Enemy, when the hands of the small accomplished what could not be done by the strong or wise--not that these two were not wise in their way. A scholar and a gardener, no one looking at them without eyes to see were likely to think them a pair apt to great accomplishment. Yet, between them they went further than any others could, did what no one else could have managed--got the Ring to the Sammath Naur ere It took one or both of them. At that point the grace of the Creator took over, relieved them of the burden.
“The Lord Samwise commented wisely that one did not have to be a great warrior to accomplish this--one needed only to be stubborn; and that Frodo Baggins was stubborn enough for all. Having traveled through Eriador and Moria and Lothlorien and down the Great River with the two of them, I had chance to see that this was true. Where most would have succumbed to a Morgul wound in a matter of a few days, he stubbornly fought it for seventeen. Where others would have lain down and died of starvation and thirst and exhaustion a few days into Mordor, he went on in spite of the poison of the great spider and the severe beating he’d endured at the hands of guardian orcs, collapsing only when he was crawling up the sides of Mount Doom itself, and then gathering his last strength when he was attacked once again on its slopes for the final push to enter the Sammath Naur to stand with It at the edge of the Crack of Doom.
“He’d intended to sacrifice himself that the Ring be destroyed, but instead It took him, and only because another even more deeply enslaved to Its will was there to take It by force of violence from him was he saved. It was that which at the last broke him where all else had failed--the realization that at last his great will had been overcome. In his mind he came to accept that only the grace of the Creator Himself in the end could have brought the Ring to Its destruction; but until at last he left Middle Earth his heart still named him to himself traitor.
“An Elvish Hobbit, Frodo Baggins and his beloved older cousin Bilbo were granted the grace to sail to the Undying Lands, to dwell on Tol Eressëa until the ends of their lives, hopefully find the healing there for the destruction wrought on their hearts and souls by the Ring, healing which could not come to them here in the mortal lands. We who have been left behind, who knew and loved and honored him, miss him terribly, yet give thanks that at last he is able to know peace again in his heart, and grace again to know joy.
“Frodo Baggins was a scholar, sang sweetly, wrote a fair hand, told stories with joy and animation, delighted in secretly helping others as he could, knew the lands and people of the Shire more intimately than perhaps any other save his cousin Bilbo, and gloried in the light of stars. More than all else he desired to know again the joy of family, and awaited the day he might marry and found a family, know the delight of wife and children. This was another of the joys the Ring stole from him, along with his health and the ability to move easily. Once he was a dancer, and delighted in ease of movement. After the quest he danced but once, for he was left physically weakened. He returned to his stubborn ways, did his best to hide his growing illness and weakness, his growing unease of soul, until at last he finally accepted the grace offered him, knowing if he did not he would die, and mayhaps would die anyway.
“His parents died when he was yet a child, but old enough to have known them well, to appreciate the loss, to begin to understand how the process of death erodes the integrity of the body. He was the only one of several babes his mother bore to survive birth, and all their love had Drogo and Primula Baggins lavished on him, their one living child. Now that was gone, yet he had the need yet for family; the need to give and receive love. And so it was he made all he came to know his brothers and sisters, from his many cousins to the gardener’s lad, and eventually extended that love also to a wizard, an Elf, a Dwarf, and two Men who traveled with him, two of his dearest cousins, and his gardener.
“The Lord Samwise and his wife and family could not come this day, for once again the Lady Rose is ready to give birth, following the desire of Frodo Baggins to fill the home he’d loved so well with a large, active, and loving family. This will be the fifth child Sam and Rosie have brought into this world, and so far all have been sweet, loving, and delightful. Frodo must be fully glad to know this, if he has been given the chance to realize how his legacy of love has dealt with his friend and almost-brother.
“Usually on this day we sing the Lay of Frodo of the Nine Fingers; but today we have decided to do otherwise. Those from the Shire who have come today include many of his kin alongside whom he danced, some of whom he taught to dance. They have agreed to dance today in his honor and for the delight of all. I ask those who know and delight to dance the Husbandmen’s Dance to step forward at this time.”
Several came forward with instruments ready, Pippin with his flute, Piper Took with the flute Ruvemir once gave him and that Pippin had taught him to play, Pando Proudfoot with the horn he’d been learning to play, Elves, Dwarves, and those Men who’d practiced with Pippin the preceding night. Merry and Forsythia prepared to sing the ancient words of the song as they had in Imladris. Brendi, Folco, Berilac, Fosco, Bard, Reginard, and Ordo stood forth, and as the music began they set hands on hips, and before all assembled the Husbandmen’s Dance was performed in the capitol of Arnor and Gondor, in memory of one who used to dance it in the Shire.
Ferdibrand Took stood listening to the music, then turned to face the White Tree, a smile lighting his face. "What is it?" asked his wife's sister Pearl from where she stood nearby, her hands on the shoulders of Pansy and Isumbrand.
"Is Frodo's light reflected there?" asked Diamond in a loud whisper, which caught the attention of the King and his sculptor.
"Yes!" Ferdi replied. "Yes, his light is reflected there, and I'll swear...I'll swear he's dancing, too!"
Aragorn and Ruvemir exchanged glances, and the sculptor noted that as the King returned his attention to the dancing, tears of joy and pride were gently running down his smiling face.
“Do you know what this is about?” Elrond asked the Maia who had been invited to join the company.
“No, not for certain,” Olórin confessed. “But it appears that between them the children and Iorhael have prepared an entertainment for us which they wish to present here in the Garden of the White Tree.”
Galadriel laughed. “They are excited and very pleased with themselves, I must say. They’ve spent days here and in the summer house with the Ringbearer, apparently practicing.”
Celebrían came from where she had been speaking with young Livwen. “She says we are to sit here where we can see and enjoy.”
Livwen’s own parents looked to the rest, shrugged and led the way in sitting down.
The children were gathered about the bole of Nimloth, and Livwen and the three others who’d practiced this tune taught to them by Iorhael readied voice, drum, flute, and harp, and struck up the introduction. Iorhael, dressed today in his Hobbit garb, stood forth as promised to show them how was danced the Husbandmen’s Dance, and all gathered rejoiced to see the grace with which the bright form of Frodo Baggins performed this dance, and how proudly and joyfully he at last ended it, his head held high, smiling with delight, the Light of his Being shining before all in the fullness of his Joy.
And the company of the Valar rejoiced as eight that day danced for the delight of the entire world of Arda.