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The Acceptable Sacrifice
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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54
54: Preparing to Return Home

54: Preparing to Return Home


Frodo did not recover his lightheartedness between the time of the wedding feast and the return of the Rohirrim. He remained solemn and courteous, would smile at times, but was distant and abstracted. He was not ill, but neither would he say he was well.

He didn’t go as often up to the Citadel save to accompany Sam when Sam went to work in the gardens. He continued his visits to the Houses of Healing, and those he visited rejoiced to see him, but now he sat listening quietly more often than speaking on his own part.

On the eighth day after the wedding he, Gimli, Aragorn, and the Lady Arwen were invited to a special feast in the Third Circle, given by the artisans and soldiers who had worked on the wheeled chair in the camp in Ithilien. They now felt they had very much perfected their contrivance, and certainly the model shown to them was a vast improvement over the one wheeled by the paralyzed Man through the camp. It was lighter, the wheels sturdier and now with a special ring allowing the one seated in the chair to sit and wheel himself without having to touch the rim of the wheel and the dirt it must gather as it rolled on the pavement. Eight of these so far had been crafted for Men who’d lost limbs or the use of them in the War, and two for children who were also unable to walk. Those who gave the feast were those who’d continued to work on the project and four of the ten who so far had been outfitted with one of the chairs, and attending were all those who’d taken part in Ithilien.

Healers and some of those lords who’d begun considering how others who’d been crippled, blinded, and otherwise incapacitated in the wars might be helped were meeting regularly with artisans, teachers of children, specialized healers, and some of the soldiers who’d been injured in the many fights that had taken place against the forces of Sauron, and now ways were being found to assist first this individual and then that one, with many of the techniques, tools, and training developed now being applied to children born with such conditions or who had developed such conditions due to injury or illness. Frodo had attended two of these meetings already and had offered his own suggestions; now he reported by letter to Aragorn that more and more those who’d been injured were themselves taking over primary responsibility to find means to aid themselves and one another, again with their discoveries beginning to be shared with those who were so hurt in peaceful pursuits.

The day after the feast of the wheeled chair the Elves from Eryn Lasgalen left to return to their forest, and Legolas watched after them, having announced he would remain in Gondor until the Hobbits were at last ready to return to their own land.

And then there was the memorial.

“He wants what?” Frodo asked.

Pippin gave a great sigh. “Aragorn wishes a monument of statues done of the four of us.”

“Why?” asked Sam.

The youngest of the four shook his head. “I’m not certain whose idea it started as, but he says the main reason is to remind the people of the land that for all everyone worked together to defeat Sauron, yet we four Hobbits, as small as we are and as unready as we were, did the most to see him thrown down.”

Merry shook his head. “That’s all anyone needs, statues of us knocking about the place. Can you imagine how they would make them? As tall as Aragorn himself and twice as unlikely, probably!”

“That’s what I’m ’fraid of,” Sam agreed, “that we’d end up lookin’ unnatural.”

“I don’t want any statues done of me,” Frodo stated flatly. “There’s no reason I can think of anyone needs any statues of me.”

Actually, the other three felt that the one of them who truly deserved to have a monument done of him was Frodo, but they agreed also that he was the one most likely to disagree with that idea, so they decided not to suggest just that to Aragorn.

In spite of their arguments Aragorn was most stubbornly insistent, so they found themselves one day at the Citadel having their portraits done with studies for possible attitudes. Each of the three artists who did studies of them was considered one of the premier sculptors for the realm, or so they were told.

“Why would you want me to stand like that?” Merry asked one sculptor when he was asked to hold his hands in a particular position.

“It is a common attitude for a heroic monument,” the sculptor assured him.

“But I’ve only seen one Man who’s ever stood like that, and all consider him affected. Is it from your idea of a heroic monument the Man got the idea to stand that way?”

Before the sitting was done the Hobbits were all ready to draw the swords they’d been told to wear and use them on the artists, while at least one of the sculptors had a very strong urge to take one of the swords from one of the Hobbits and use it on Sam particularly, who was not being especially cooperative in any case.

The results were a dismal failure, for which the Hobbits, at least, were grateful. Sam was looking at the clothing in which they were depicted by one artist and asked, “And where in Middle Earth did he think them get-ups might come from?”

Pippin was looking at another set of drawings, and broke into peals of laughter. Frodo, who’d been fighting a headache much of the day and wanted only to lie down with a cool, damp cloth over his eyes, examined the picture of what was evidently supposed to be one of them that Pippin held out to him, and fastened his attention to the feet. “Shoes?” he asked, shaking his head. “What could ever possess him to draw us wearing shoes?”

Aragorn entered the receiving room for the Royal Wing where the Hobbits were gathered with the studies and a glass of ale for each, his face somewhat harried, saw the expressions, and gave a particularly deep sigh. “They’re not acceptable, are they?” he asked in a defeated tone.

“They’re awful, Strider,” Pippin insisted.

Merry held out one picture. “This is supposed to be Frodo, and looks nothing like him.

“The clothing this artist did is fantastical,” Frodo complained, “and that one not only drew us in Gondorian dress but put shoes on us. If they won’t depict us as Hobbits of the Shire, I certainly won’t agree to any of these!”

Sam was looking from one to the other picture he was holding, “We don’t even stand natural,” he said, shaking his head. He looked up to the Man’s eyes. “They are horrible, Strider. I suppose as you mean well enough, but if they can’t even make us look as we are, I won’t agree to none of this!”

“Master Iorhael could do a far better job,” Merry said.

Frodo shook his head. “He’s not a sculptor, for which I’m very glad.”

“But at least he could do a picture of you that would look like you, Frodo. I’ll ask him tomorrow.”

Two days later Merry brought Aragorn the suggested portrait executed by Master Iorhael. He’d wanted Frodo to do portraits of the rest of them to use as the basis of the statues Aragorn wanted, but Frodo had gone totally stubborn himself. Indeed, he’d forbidden them all, including Lasgon, from telling the King he was any kind of an artist. “I’m having nothing to do with this,” he insisted. “I don’t want any monument to myself done anywhere, and I’m not going to have any more hand in anyone making fools of you. I couldn’t carve the statues myself--in spite of what my dad did, I’m no carver. Once those fools got the pictures, they’d still put us in unnatural attitudes with those stern expressions on our faces wearing clothes we don’t even wear here, and I’m not having any part in the process.”

It was one time when Aragorn couldn’t manage to outstubborn Frodo, Sam commented later. In the end he surrendered the picture by Master Iorhael of Frodo to Sam, who commented quietly to King and Queen that this was the only time he’d seen a picture of Frodo that actually looked like him. Seeing the tenderness in Sam’s eyes, in spite of the fact he wished to have at least a picture of Frodo to remember him by, Aragorn let the gardener have it. He was disheartened by the pictures which had resulted, which he had to admit were grotesque, and upset by Frodo’s own continued opposition to the idea of the memorial he wished done. He kept the other pictures that had been made, but assumed that this was the end of the project, for the Rohirrim would be returning soon to fetch King Théoden’s body back to Rohan, and the Hobbits and others from the North would be starting on the homeward journey at that time. There was simply no chance now to find another sculptor and start over.

Frodo was continuing to have dreams of the Shire: of looking out the study window in Bag End and seeing not the honeysuckle vine trained about it but a wooden shed wall; of walking down a lane he knew well and seeing the ash trees that had lined it lying cut and abandoned on either side; of Will Whitfoot, thin as a wraith, a bruise on his face and his eyes haunted by fear, sitting in a dark place, listening with terror for the approach of footsteps.

He woke one day from a nap in which his dreams were overwhelmingly of such images and walked up the ramp to the court of the White Tree where Aragorn and Arwen sat, the Queen doing handwork and singing a hymn of the Blessed Lands, Aragorn totally at his ease such as Frodo had never seen him. Frodo had been drawn forward by the song, for it spoke to the longing he himself felt in his heart, and he’d joined them under the Tree, kneeling to be of a level with Aragorn and Arwen, his eyes closed, listening intently, drinking in the images and peace promised by the song. King and Queen exchanged glances once the song was over, for they could so clearly see how strongly it had called to his spirit. For long moments Frodo knelt there, his hands on his upper thighs, even after the song was done. At last the Queen asked gently, “What is it you wish, Ringbearer?”

Regretfully, Frodo opened his eyes and explained he felt strongly it was time for them to go home.

Aragorn looked up regretfully at the branches over him and said softly, “Indeed, the tree grows and blooms best in the land in which it was first planted.” He sighed, for he didn’t wish to have Frodo leave him. He held out his hand and took Frodo’s in his, wishing he could keep Frodo ever thus, here beneath the White Tree where he so appeared to belong. But, if Arwen’s plea was successful, there would be another, greater, far older White Tree to shelter the Hobbit, one he could think on whenever he came beneath this one.

He explained that word had come that Éomer returned within days now, and that they would be leaving the day immediately after to accompany the Riders of Rohan back to Théoden’s funeral and the handfasting of Faramir and Éowyn. “The great Elves, Halladan and many of my kinsmen will be going Northward also,” he said quietly, “and we will ride with you to the Gap of Rohan, at least. In this way you do not ride alone and unprotected through the wild, and we can at least see you fairly far along the way.”

His other concern, which he didn’t voice, was that he didn’t wish Frodo to make that long journey without a healer by him. He saw Frodo’s relief that they would at last start on their way, and saw that the relief was mixed with regret, and felt selfishly glad of that.

Arwen reached up and unfastened the gemmed pendant she wore on a silver chain about her neck, held it quietly in her hand for a moment, invoking the Valar, particularly Ulmo, Estë, and Nienna, to bless it to Frodo’s easing. From her conception it had been foreseen that Arwen would be one to assist much of the world to healing and renewal, which had been the reason her mother had given her the Elessar stone before leaving Middle Earth. The Evenstar gem was also a stone of healing, one by which the wearer could more clearly perceive the portion of the Song that had brought a particular individual to be, and to help bring that Song into harmony with the Light of Being and the Breath of Life. It had come from the Lords of Gondolin, and it was said it had originally come to them from Valinor itself. She’d often used its power when working as healer alongside her father and brothers, or in Lorien. She then turned to Frodo. “Take this to remember Arwen and Aragorn, Undomiel and Elessar. For I would give you a gift.

“I will not sail with my father on the ship now being built in Mithlond, in the Grey Havens, for I gave up that right to cleave to my love. But I would have you go in my place. And when the memory of that great shadow lies over you most strongly, this may offer you ease.”

“I am a mortal, my Lady, and may not go that way.”

“Perhaps, Frodo. But I have laid my plea before the Valar, that you might go in my stead.”

“You would have those there see a mortal’s death?”

“If the plea is granted, you will probably never go beyond Tol Eressëa, Frodo; and I suspect strongly many, many there are well acquainted with the deaths of mortals as well as of those they have loved who are now bound to the Halls of Waiting. It will be nothing new to them. But it would ease us both, Aragorn and myself, to know you could rest there for a time and find full healing.”

Frodo looked at the two of them, his eyes confused, so wanting that gift, so knowing that, as a mortal, it wasn’t his right to claim, so not wishing to bring the taint of his life to that place.

“At least,” Arwen said, “this is fully in my right to give you, to help in those times when all seems darkest.” She rose to her own knees before him and fastened the pendant about his neck. She watched as his hand rose to touch it, and Aragorn was strongly reminded of all the times he’d seen Frodo lift his hand in just that way to touch the Ring. At least now what he wore was wholesome.

His eyes seemed relieved immediately, and he looked at the Queen with mild surprise, his thanks in his expression. Finally he said, “You won’t tell the others about--about the other, will you?”

“No, we won’t. We’ve said all about it that we may, Frodo.”

He gave a small nod, then rose to his feet. “I thank you for word we go home at last,” he said. He gave his graceful bow and turned and left, back down the ramp.

There was now a great deal of sorting going on in the guest house, for they certainly couldn’t carry all they now had with them back to the Shire. Sam, being practical, packed several of the sturdiest and plainest outfits he owned in the saddlebags which had been sent down to them by Aragorn, whether they were of Shire or Gondorian fashion. “Don’t matter all that much,” he said, “for what’s good cloth remains good cloth for all it may appear odd in the Shire.”

Frodo packed the three Shire outfits he had, intending to wear Gondorian dress on the way and discard it perhaps in Bree. “I’ve had enough in my life,” he commented, “of folks thinking me odd. Let them see me in what people wear here and they’ll have no question.”

Merry and Pippin, however, hadn’t bothered to have much in the way of Shire fashions made, having one outfit each, so indicated that the folk back home would have to accept them the way they were once they got back until they could have new wardrobes made. “Mum,” Merry commented, “will be fit to be tied. I mean, she’d just had all new clothes made for me shortly before we left, and it cost a good deal. Now I’ll not be able to wear any of it. Wonder if Beri or Brendi could fit it?”

Pippin just whistled as he put several of his best surcoats into his bags.

Gandalf watched with amusement as the Dwarf set all his own newer finery in a big kist. “I won’t need this for a while,” he commented, “not until I come back. Hopefully my father will have convinced Thorin to allow many of us to keep my promise to Aragorn.”

Legolas did much the same. “At least my father has already assured me I may lead many of our folk here both to work in the city and to settle for a time in Ithilien by the River,” he said,

“My father agrees--it’s King Thorin we must convince, although he’s less testy than Dain was,” Gimli replied.

Much of his Gondorian clothing Frodo placed in the kist he’d been given when they came to live here, knowing there was no way he could carry most of it home with him. Gimli announced, “One thing, Hobbits, I hope to come first back here and then up North perhaps in the early spring. I’ll bring you anything you’ve had to leave behind that you want.”

One of the hardest items for Frodo to make a decision on was the bowl given him by Master Celebrion, for although he loved it dearly he knew it was unlikely to survive the trip to the Shire, even in a Dwarf cart. In the end he carried it next door and gifted it to Mistress Linduriel. “I wish for you to have it to remember us by,” he said.

Linduriel had been overwhelmed, for such an object was far beyond her budget to acquire. She thanked Frodo gently and set it with honor on the dresser in the dining room where ever after she kept it as one of her greatest treasures.

All Frodo found he couldn’t fit in his saddle bags he bade farewell to, having decided he would most likely not see any of it again. But the wind rods were taken down by Gandalf himself and placed in a special pack in which he himself stowed many items he knew the Hobbits would most miss if left behind, and he set it with the saddle bags by the door.

The only one with his original pack was Sam, although it had been all but empty when they were found and rescued. Prince Faramir came to bring him a special gift--a set of nesting pans such as those used by the Rangers of Ithilien during their patrols; and with great ceremony and satisfaction Sam settled these in the bottom of the pack along with his precious box of salt and a coil of hithlain rope. After filling his saddle bags and the pack with his own things and clothing he wished to take back with him, including a bracelet of enameled roses as a promise gift for Rosie, he began going through those things Frodo had indicated he was leaving, rescuing the fine steel pen given him by Master Iorhael, some of his better charcoal and graphite drawing sticks, a stock of the paper, a set of silver shirt studs Aragorn had ordered made for Frodo that Frodo had felt was too fine for the likes of himself, and other similar things Frodo had overlooked or had decided he wouldn’t take as he felt he carried too much as it was.

On the morning the Rohirrim were due, Sam went down through the city to Master Celebrion’s shop to pick up a gift he’d decided to have made for his Master, a delicately shaped bird blown of the volcano glass intended to hang in a sunny window. He intended to keep it until either Yule or possibly his birthday and give it then, and hang it in the window in the study where Frodo could see it whenever he was reading or writing there. He took it back to the house and engaged the aid of Gandalf, who’d just returned himself from his own unstated errand, in seeing to it the thing was carefully packed and stowed with the wind rods.

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