Elanor Fairbairn straightened from her gardening, feeling the crick in her back. She was, she thought on reflection, getting on in years herself. She dreaded the day she must get the summons to come to Hobbiton again, for her father’s funeral this time, apparently, as he didn’t seem to be choosing to accept the grace to rejoin his Master. Her dog Ergus raised his grizzled muzzle and watched her.
When younger she’d once declared that when her father sailed she’d go with him. She sighed as she thought of how she’d been as the child who’d made such a declaration. At the time she simply couldn’t imagine loving anyone else as much as she did her Sam-Dad, much less more so, one who’d become her other half as Fastred had become. Nor could she imagine the self-centeredness that had imagined such a thing would be allowed simply because she’d decided that she’d accompany him. Now she found herself wishing he’d get a move on, for she knew how hurt he now was, and how deeply he’d been hurt before, and that only accepting the grace to leave would allow him the healing he needed--that he deserved.
She stood and looked about the garden, glad for its cheer and varied colors. “Oh, Sam-Dad,” she thought, “but I wish you’d just come out here once more and share it with me, if only briefly. And I wish you’d be willing to go on as you can.”
She and Fastred had a good life here in the Westmarches where Fastred served as Warden. They and their children were well loved and respected, as much for their ties to Mayor Sam and Hobbiton as for the fairness and effectiveness of their leadership.
Undertowers, their smial, was dug into the side of the hill supporting the first of the ancient Elf towers that looked out on the Sundering Sea. The windows and doors faced southeast, giving a wonderful view of the dawn and much of the rest of the village that had sprung up about them. To the north of their village was a fir wood bordered by rhododendrons and blueberry bushes; to the south was the village apple garth where ancient apple trees, planted apparently by the Elves who’d once populated the region, produced wonderful varieties of the fruit none had ever seen elsewhere and which, to this day, still delighted all who ate them. The farms that supported the village were mostly to the east, while the sheep farmers grazed their animals on the hillsides.
She looked at the flowers that bloomed about the smial, and the hint of the kitchen garden near the back of it, here in the shelter of the east side of the hill, and smiled. Already pumpkins and early squashes were forming on the vines, and the nasturtiums and columbine bloomed thickly about the door; while the arbor over the gate was heavily twined with honeysuckle. The formal rose arbor was covered with blooms from the climbing roses; and the clump of cabbage roses that stood by the walk to the stable was a bright pink mass, the leaves barely to be seen. As for her peonies---- She smiled more broadly still. Ergus’s tail thumped on the ground, and she bent to scratch his ears.
She was startled and thrilled as she turned to greet the golden-haired Elf who appeared to have materialized beside the garden gate. “My Lord Glorfindel?” she said, “Welcome indeed to you. It is so many years since I saw you last! And what brings you to the western borders of the Shire?”
He smiled upon her. “I am returning from Mithlond to Rivendell. I’ve been bearing messages between Lord Celeborn and Lord Círdan about the ship which has just been completed and is now being outfitted.”
“Lord Celeborn?” she asked, her attention caught. “Does he seek to leave us now? I know that Uncle Frodo had the distinct impression he would seek to remain in Middle Earth until the last of your people return to Aman.”
“And you know this how?” he asked her.
She shrugged, opening the gate and inviting him to enter the garden, indicating the nearby garden bench. Ergus rose and came forward to sniff at his leg, his tail then waving vigorously in approval. She answered once he’d ducked under the arbor and had straightened within to his full height once more. “It is in one of the sets of notes he made of discussions with your people.”
He gave a brief nod as he approached the bench and indicated she should seat herself first. Finally he said, “Yes, that he once intended to do. However, with the increase in the number of those who surround Estel who now age and face death he is rethinking that decision. Aragorn himself ages very slowly for a mortal; yet the time nears when he will be faced with the need to accept the Gift, which I expect he will do with singular grace. This does not disturb Celeborn nearly as much as the realization that Undómiel will not long survive her husband. To remain here to watch his granddaughter fade is an idea that he has found appalls him, and so he has determined to go now, that he be by his Galadriel and their daughter and her husband when that time may come, to the further comfort of all.”
Elanor’s face had become solemn, considering this. “I see,” she said quietly. “I can appreciate his reasoning. To watch one he so loves die of grief would be itself grievous.” Absently she laid her hand on Ergus’s neck, and he nosed her arm.
After a moment of studying her expression, Glorfindel said gently, “You speak as one who has experience.”
She looked up into his eyes. “It’s my dad,” she said sadly. “Mother died the morning of Midsummer, and so much of his laughter and joy was lost and buried with her.”
He sighed. “Yes, we received your letter advising that the Lady Rose had received the Gift.”
She nodded. “The day after Midsummer I wrote to Rivendell and to Lord Halladan in Annúminas and Lord Elessar in Gondor to tell each of you. Sam-Dad can’t seem to bring himself to write to the King, however, according to what my brother Frodo tells me. Frodo’s wife Linnet, who was very devoted to Mum, has herself been deeply affected, although her grief is finally beginning to give way. But as for my father----”
“I see.” The Elf sighed, and looked at his hands, which lay on his knees.
“I’m sorry,” Elanor suddenly remarked, “but I’m being remiss as a hostess. May I offer you any refreshment? We have some remarkably fine elderberry wine if you’d like some. My daughter Mayblossom’s intended pressed it.”
He looked amused. “I would be honored, Mistress,” he said.
Elanor rose and disappeared into the smial followed by the dog, then returned soon after carrying a tray, accompanied by a young Hobbitess who looked much like her, but her hair a dark gold as opposed to Elanor’s still bright golden curls. She moved with the grace of her mother and of her grandmother Rosie, but the eyes she turned on the Elf brought to mind those of Lord Samwise Gamgee, and he bowed his head respectfully. Her mother quickly began to make introductions.
“My Lord Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower, may I present my youngest, Mayblossom Fairbairn, soon to be Mayblossom Thorny.”
“Young Mistress, it is a great honor,” the Elf said. “When is it you are to wed?”
“At Yule,” she said. “We’d thought perhaps to marry on Uncle Frodo’s birthday in September, but in light of my gammer’s death we’ve decided to wait a short time longer.” Ergus came out of the still open door, accompanied by a grey striped cat, which came to wind about the Elf’s legs as the dog returned to his mistress’s side.
The Elf smiled gently. “That you would think to so honor his Master by knowing such joy on that day I would think Lord Samwise would find deeply meaningful, although in the end you are undoubtedly more aware of what might cause him pain than I. Will you marry here?”
“Yes. I’d hoped Gaffer would marry us, but I’m not certain if he’s going to be able to come.”
“Is he enfeebled?”
The younger Hobbitess looked to the elder, then faced the Elf again. “No, not to our knowledge. But he seems to be without plan or direction. Since our gammer died he appears to be somewhat lost.”
Glorfindel responded, “I see.” For a moment he was quiet, accepting the filled goblet offered him by Elanor. He sipped at it appreciatively. “Well done, I must say. Your husband and young Elfstan?”
Elanor replied, “They’ve gone to Michel Delving. They should return in a week’s time.”
“How goes cooperation between your people and those from among Men who live just south of your lands?”
“Remarkably well. There are many of Dúnedain blood who have joined them, and they help to steady the rest. All are respectful of Fastred and me, and they have chosen a highly responsible young Man who is related to Lord Eregiel as their chieftain. We have developed a joint market which benefits both our peoples, and the Dwarves of the Iron Hills and the Blue Mountains also come to it at regular intervals.”
Glorfindel’s smile returned. “Some of Lord Círdan’s people have told me of it.”
“Yes, even a few of the Elves of Mithlond have been known to attend it on occasion, which always seems to cause comment.” Elanor also smiled, although it swiftly faded again. “I so wish Sam-Dad would at least come visit here and let his loss begin to heal some.” As Ergus pressed against her leg she again reached down to stroke his ears.
“I think,” the Elf said quietly, “I may seek to meet with him when I go through the Shire proper.”
Mayblossom looked up at their guest, offering a plate of berry cakes to him. “My Lord, I was reading the Red Book when I was there in Hobbiton for Gammer’s funeral. It said that--that you were revealed to Uncle Frodo as you are there in the Blessed Realm.”
Glorfindel straightened, his brow rising slightly. She flushed. “I was wanting to--to understand better. You are a great lord among the Elves, I understand, and are one of the few to return here to the Mortal Lands who did so with--with permission.” She flushed more strongly. “I’m making quite the mess of it, aren’t I?”
He managed to keep his amusement under control. “I am trying to understand where your reasoning is leading, young Mistress.”
“Uncle Frodo said something about how you partly stand in both realms.”
His expression became gentle. “It is perhaps a difficult thing to fully appreciate, Mistress Mayblossom. In part what Frodo Baggins saw was due to me being one of the Noldor who was born there in Aman and who then was sent here to Ennor. As such I dwell somewhat in both lands simultaneously. But part of it is also because of the intended nature of the Shadow Realm itself. You know that we of Elven blood are bound to the life of Arda itself, and will not be free to pass beyond Arda’s boundaries until the world is remade completely.”
He sighed, then continued. “Yet, we may die--either by being slain outright or by grief, at which time our spirits generally pass to Namo’s halls to wait until they are ready to be rehoused, or until the end of the world as we know it--whichever may come first.”
Again she nodded.
“My death,” he said carefully, “was unique, for I died fighting one of the Maiar themselves, one who’d chosen to follow Morgoth and who’d thus become frozen into the form of a Balrog. As a result my spirit went--perhaps a bit further afield than usually occurs. Because I was willing to offer myself to such a fate, I was rehoused more swiftly than is common among us; and as later happened with Gandalf himself, I was sent back to Middle Earth to help teach all others who were so willing how to stand up against the evil of those among the Powers, greater or lesser, who might seek to make themselves rulers here in the Mortal Lands. Yet my spirit is not bound as fully to the physical plane as is common to the children of Iluvatar.
“There is a border region where those whose spirits have transcended physical reality may enter. It is intended to be a blessed space; but as with all else, Sauron sought to twist its dimensions to make it a place of horror and enslavement. This plane is one of possibilities, wherein those with the ability to enter the space may enter into the Song of Creation to bring what they desire into being and then bring it or the knowledge of it back to make it a reality within Arda. Fëanor and Celebrimbor and other great Elven smiths and lords have learned to enter this space and within it to create the great and wonderful works of our minds. Then as we return within the bounds of time and space proper to the Children of Iluvatar we know how to bring these things into reality here.
“The Rings of Power allowed those who wore them to enter this space at will, to imagine in accordance with the ways of the Ring worn, and to bring back what they could. However, for those who wore the Rings touched by Sauron, each time they did so they lost a bit of their free will, for he managed to corrupt the Rings in the making, to infiltrate some of his own will into the matter of the Rings so that each draw on one infused more of his own will into the mind of the wielder.
“Sauron could no longer create anything once he made the Ring, although as he was of the Maiar and not the Valar that was never his gift nor the intent for his being to begin with. Those who accepted the Rings for Men in time, when their bodies could no longer support their enslavement, found their spirits caught in this space, but in a twisted manner. Frodo was beginning to enter this region himself as a result of the effects of the shard of the Morgul knife he bore; but again in the twisted manner. As such he could see all who are able to enter that plane, but could as yet interact only with those who inflicted the wound, and those he could see clearly.
“The authority granted to me as a result not only of my birth but of my choice is great, and I could therefore reveal all of my personal power to the Nazgul, and thus to Frodo. He saw me unveiled there, and moved toward me. Had he been able to reach my side perhaps he might have been able to pull free of the effects of the shard; but he no longer had the strength to do so.
“To me, because by both birth and choice I can freely enter that space in the blessed manner intended, I can actually partially bridge the gap between the Mortal Lands and the Undying Lands. And so, although I dwell here in Ennor, I yet am partly aware of what goes on there.”
Elanor’s face grew intense. “Then--you know how Uncle Frodo is?”
He shook his head. “I may not speak openly of all I know; but I can tell you that Frodo Baggins recovered and has been able to know joy again.”
“We’ve been able to know hints of that from the glimpses had through the Trees and Ferdibrand Took’s visions from time to time.”
Glorfindel simply smiled at her.
She sipped her own drink, and as she finished what she had in her glass, she looked at him again. “I would so appreciate it if you will meet with my father. Can you wait while I write a quick note to him as well?”
In slightly over an hour she entrusted her own letter to Glorfindel, and he smiled at her and offered both Elanor and Mayblossom his blessing, then turned eastward back toward the center of the Shire and beyond, swiftly disappearing from sight. She laid her hand on Ergus’s head and Mayblossom held the cat in her arms as they watched after him.
Sam had walked down to the small wood at the foot of the Hill, walked into it, and sat on the bench Frodo-lad had set beside the small stream where Sam used to explore with Frodo as a child and watch the life that lived in it. He was feeling increasingly restless, but somehow couldn’t bring himself to examine that restlessness thoroughly enough to see how he ought to react to it. He sat for some time watching the water skimmers moving purposefully across the surface of the stream, and the shadows of young fish moving just below the surface, now and then one breaking it to take a meal.
He’d not heard the Elf approach, but wasn’t startled or even particularly surprised. He looked up into Glorfindel’s eyes, seeing the compassion reflected in his expression. In his turn, the Elven warrior saw the great emptiness in the eyes of the being who sat on the bench, the familiar gaze distant and almost incapable of expressing pleasure.
“Lord Glorfindel,” acknowledged Sam evenly.
“I carry several letters for you.” Glorfindel reached into the personal bag he carried and produced four separate packets, proffering them to the Master of Bag End.
Sam’s eyes widened somewhat, and at last he reached to accept them, laying them beside him on the bench. He opened the one obviously sent by Elanor, read its contents, refolded it, and set it down neatly. He lifted the next in the group, examined the Tengwar lettering that served to direct it to himself, then finally broke the seal and opened it, read it swiftly, and did similarly with the other two as well. Finally he lifted his eyes again to those of the Elf. “Who is this Glorinlas?” he asked.
“You have met him twice--once as you, Peregrin Took, and your Master traveled between here and Buckland, when he was one of those who hosted the three of you near Woods Hall. The second time was during your journey before and then on your return from the Havens after Frodo sailed. He asked then if he might have the honor of sailing with you when you at last chose to follow your Master, and he expects that you would wish to do so now.”
“Would he really decide not to leave at this time if I decide to remain?” Sam asked.
“It matters little enough should he sail in a few years’ time or in a month.”
Sam nodded thoughtfully, and then took a deep breath. “I see,” he finally said. “Although if I choose not to go now, considering my age and my--my condition, I’m not likely to linger to take the next ship as might leave.”
“You know the limitations of your body better than I do, I believe, small Lord.”
Sam gave him a rueful smile. “Yes, I suppose as I do, although you’re a bit more knowledgeable about dyin’ than is common among your kind, I must suppose.” He sighed deeply. “I’m nowhere as bad off as he was afore he left, although I know that my heart is near to failin’ me, much as his was, much as my Rosie’s did. Among us, usually we don’t long survive those we love as I loved her, you know. We die soon enough after, and then are laid aside the ones we stood aside in life. The temptation to stay to that is strong right now, you see. It’s about as strong as the temptation I had in her lifetime to give way to the Sea Longing. Ironic, I think.”
The Elf laid his hand on Sam’s left shoulder. “It is your decision, Samwise son of Hamfast,” he said gently. “And if you choose to lie here beside the one who was your wife, you can be certain he will understand, he who so strongly wished to himself marry and father children as you have done.”
Sam again nodded, turning his gaze back to the stream. “My decision,” he finally said. “Mine, as it was his when he faced it.” He stood, and Glorfindel withdrew his hand. “It’s time, I think. She didn’t want for me to remain torn in two, you see. She wanted for me to know the healin’ of that wound afore I come after her. I’d best get a move on.” He looked back to the Elf’s eyes. “I thank you, my Lord Glorfindel, for takin’ of the time to come speak to me and for bringin’ me those, and for helpin’ me to see my way clear. He’s waitin’ for me, isn’t he? He’s been waitin’ for me for years, waitin’ for me afore lettin’ hisself accept the Gift.” He looked westward. “I’d best not let him keep waitin’ needlessly. He’s already known his own share o’ grief and more’n any individual deserves, you know. I swore to myself and to the Creator Hisself as I’d bring my memories to share with him, as he couldn’t have his own of love and marriage and fatherhood. I’ll do that. I’ll do that now.”
He looked purposely at the Elf. “How do I let ’em know as I’m coming after all?”
Glorfindel smiled. “Merely meet the party on the evening of the twenty-second of September there where you and your Master met Elrond and Galadriel and Gildor. They will linger past nightfall for your coming.”
Sam nodded, accepting this knowledge. “Well, I can make it faster than that on my pony, I think.” He straightened, then bowed deeply. “Thanks again, Lord Glorfindel. Will you have any message for me to carry to them as is gone afore?” he asked.
“I’ll follow through on Celeborn’s intent, and wait to see all our kind who agree to make the journey do so,” he said. “But they will know this of me, I think you’ll find.” He thought for a moment. “Tell Lord Elrond I will do my best to offer Undómiel what comfort she’ll accept from me when the time comes. But Estel, when he goes, will carry with him her heart and her Light, which she after all gifted to him long ago. Until she can follow him she will be so empty, I fear.”
“Worse’n me, I think,” Sam agreed. “I’ll write to her afore I go, then,” he said. “Maybe it’ll offer her some comfort and preparation for when it’s her turn.” He sighed. “Although I suspect as when she follows him it’ll be that much the more joyful for her, you know, havin’ all that restored and more.” He smiled, and the sorrow disappeared momentarily from his face. “She’ll find out that there’s compensations for bein’ mortal.”
Glorfindel couldn’t help smiling in return. Sam gave a last nod of his head, scooped up the four letters, then turned back toward the lane and went up to the smial to prepare for his leaving.