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8: Decision

8: Decision

Sam dismounted at the quay with a feeling of unreality. It had come at last, the moment he irrevocably left behind all chance to return to his homeland, when he left his children and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren behind as well as his friends and even Strider. He took a deep breath--he would never see Strider again, never in this life. He’d not sent that letter to him either, although at the last he’d left a message for him, one he was certain Frodo-lad would find and deliver when Strider and his Lady came north next summer. He knew, however, that Strider would, in the end, understand.

He looked at the ship which lay before him and realized he was shivering. He was terrified, he realized, terrified and the most excited he’d ever been. His heart was pounding, and he heard a roaring in his ears.

Círdan came forward as he’d done before when he explained to Elrond that all was in readiness, but Sam couldn’t hear him through the roaring. One of the Elves who’d accompanied them to the Havens but who obviously wasn’t sailing this time took Bilberry’s bridle and stroked her nose, but Sam couldn’t hear the reassurances he was certain were being offered to him. Then he heard the singing, the same hymn as that sung when his Master had gone aboard his own ship. Somehow this penetrated the noise, and his heart began to calm.

The Elven horses were being led aboard as Sam fumbled the laces of his saddlebags loose. Lord Celeborn had taken his pack when he rejoined the rest, although Sam still felt that somehow that wasn’t right. But--how did one say no to an Elf lord intent on helping a body? There was no way to do that that Sam could think of, after all. Now Celeborn was walking forward carrying the pack to stand at the gangplank, walking forward in a slow, stately manner; and suddenly Sam realized that this great lord among Elves, this one reknowned for his wisdom and the greatness of his gifts and the fairness of his rule, was as excited as Sam was himself and was also seeking to hide it. Sam had to suppress the strong urge to break out in a helpless, nervous giggle. What had he managed to get himself into?

It was all he could do for a brief moment to keep himself from running forward, grabbing his pack from Celeborn’s arm, and announcing it was all a big mistake and he’d best be getting back home now. He closed his eyes and took a deep, calming breath. Then a hand was laid on his shoulder, and sure fingers were feeling the pulse in his throat, and he looked up to see Meliangiloreth kneeling by him, her eyes both concerned and reassuring at the same time. “That is right, Lord Samwise, take deep breaths to ease your heart and calm your mind. Now another one. Very good.” This helped him again to calm himself more. The roaring receded further, and he felt he could now think more clearly.

Glorinlas took his saddlebags, and all stepped back. Now it was his own decision, his own choice at the end. If he decided at the last to stay here they would understand, and he could go back and expect to lie beside Rosie and it would be as it was expected to be for folk of the Shire.

But if he decided to stay, he’d be betraying Rosie’s last wish for him, and he’d be betraying himself. He wanted to stand one more time at least beside Frodo, wanted to bring him those memories he’d been given solely through Frodo’s own sacrifices, wanted to receive what Frodo could give him.... And he’d be denying a great grace offered to so very few....

Elrond had stood to accept Bilbo’s decision to cross that plank; Gandalf had stood to accept Frodo’s; the Lady had stood to accept his own, had he decided then to accompany his Master, and she’d smiled in pride when he’d shaken his head and remained at the sides of Merry and Pippin, feeling bereft as he’d seen the others step onto the deck.

Now it was Celeborn who stood there in his wife’s place, ready to accept his decision, whether it was to stay or to go....

One last deep breath he took, then stepped forward, one single step...and then another, and another; and then he was looking up into eyes that had seen three ages of the world, that had known joy beyond the appreciation of mere Hobbits and losses greater than he’d ever be able to have withstood, eyes now anticipating reunion with the one he loved as the other half of himself, the one who’d married his daughter, and that daughter restored. Elladan had told Sam of the wounding of his mother, her terrible suffering, the fading she’d begun to know, the last, desperate decision to send her to Elvenhome that she not die and sit for untoward times in the Halls of Mandos, how similar it had been to what had been seen in Frodo but without Frodo’s resilience....

Celeborn looked down into the eyes of the Hobbit before him and saw Sam’s fear, the fear of losing all that had ever defined him and given him identity and comfort, and the grim determination to make that first step, and then the next....

And as the Lord Samwise of all the Free Peoples of Middle Earth looked up into his eyes, Lord Celeborn of Eregion and Lothlorien saw something he never expected to see in the eyes of such a one--compassion for all the losses he’d known and reassurance that all would be restored to him at the right time.

Their hands touched, their fingers entwined; the Elf Lord whose hands had known the bow and the harp; the Hobbit who’d been granted an unwanted Lordship and whose hands had known trowel and pen. And in that moment they realized that, under the skin, they were brethren.

Together, hands clasped, tall Elf lord and small Hobbit gardener turned and walked across the gangplank, stepped onto that deck, commiting themselves to a new life in a new land, one for the remainder of the life of Arda itself, one for the time he and his Master chose to remain there before they set themselves to face the greatest adventure of all.

Reunion awaited the both of them now.


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