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10
10: Arrival

10: Arrival


He felt the tension as he woke in his cabin not long ere dawn, felt the awareness, the focus of attention off the ship, heard the purposeful movement of feet and bodies as clothing was gathered, books placed in personal satchels. Here and there a harp string would sound as a hand brushed it; a flute would be lifted and blown briefly; the skin of a tambour or drum would vibrate; a hasty note would be played on gittern or viol. It was a quick music of anticipation, a dance of preparation for arrival. He felt his own anticipation rise in return as he quitted his bed and used the chamber pot left for him, took it to the door.

Endoril was passing as he looked out into the passage and swiftly relieved him of the pot; realizing how fearful the sea made Sam, knowing he rode upon it and could not touch solid land, the Elves quickly had decided to empty his pot themselves to ease his fear, and so he’d not yet been forced to go up on deck for that purpose. “We’re almost there, then?” Sam asked in the dimness of the passage.

“The glimmering of the isle could be seen starting about an hour after sunset, from about the time you went to retire, small Master,” Endoril answered him over his shoulder. “They tell us we will land with the tide shortly after the dawning.” Then he was gone as he approached the steps--the ladder, to the deck. Sam watched after, still amused at how aboard a ship there were different names for familiar things and concepts.

He hastily washed and changed his clothing, crammed his nightshirt back into his saddlebag, ran a brush over hair and feet, took a last look at himself in the mirror on the back of his door. Would Frodo recognize him? He was so much thinner now, his hair white and far softer than it had been; his face pale with lack of sun after the weeks of avoiding the deck; his skin now mottled. He caught the glimpse of golden light as he turned away from the mirror as it always happened; and as usual he failed to tie it to himself. He’d seen it often during his life, usually at moments of deepest peace, greatest happiness, and most painful griefs; but where others recognized he himself was the source he’d always thought it but a trick of the light or, as now, the glimmer from a window--port hole, he corrected himself.

What he didn’t note was that there was more color in his hair than there’d been for some years, or that the mottling of his skin wasn’t as obvious, or that the wrinkling of his face and hands had begun to smooth. He was unaware that the Hobbit Frodo would see would be very like the Hobbit he’d seen last, far more so than he realized.

He didn’t require a great deal of preparation, for he’d brought relatively little, and had taken out very little at a time. The contents of his pack he’d barely touched; the things from his saddlebags were quickly returned, his brushes stowed, his picture of Rosie replaced reverently. The bag of candles was already in place in the top of his pack. Would he want for anything else? Probably not--he’d been advised to bring only those things that served to lift his own spirits--well, what would lift his own spirits was already there, on that island, waiting for him. And so what he’d brought had been intended mostly to lift the spirits there.

The door opened, and one of the sailors, tall and exquisitely balanced against the slight roll of the ship, stood there with a small dish. On it lay a fruit and a wafer of lembas; with it he brought a goblet of fresh water, cool and clean smelling. His eyes glowed with anticipation, his face calm and competent. “We will enter the breakwater soon, Lord Samwise,” he said quietly as he watched the Hobbit swiftly eat his rations. “Do you desire to come out to see? It is very beautiful as the light brightens. You may leave your bags here, and they will be fetched before we are quite tied to the pier.”

Sam felt the tension rise in himself as he set down empty plate and goblet, and followed the sailor, tall and slender, up the ladder and to the deck. Already most of those who’d come on this sailing were there, looking out, their Lights of Being shining forth in their carefully contained excitement. Sam paused in the doorway, clutching at the solidity of the wood on each side, looking out at the sea and beyond at the shining of a land looking refreshingly permanent, there before them.

“Oh,” he said quietly.

Long fingers rested on his shoulder, and Lord Celeborn looked out over his head. “Oh, indeed,” he said, his voice tight with anticipation. Then, after a moment of quiet he added, “She is there, is coming to the harbor even now.” Sam craned to look up into the Elf’s grey eyes, saw the relief he already felt reflected there, the smile he couldn’t keep schooled already showing.

“It’s been a time, hasn’t it?” Sam asked.

The Elven lord looked down into the Hobbit’s eyes. “Barely the blinking of an eye for us, but better than half a lifetime for your kind.”

Sam looked forward at the shining of the island. “At least he’s had the chance to recover, to find hisself again, to know joy.”

As he turned his own eyes back to the shore Celeborn murmured, “Yes, this is so. You need not worry for that.” And the ship drew ever closer as the sun rose, throwing her light over white shores and a far green country....

Glorinlas and Meliangiloreth came up carrying Sam’s pack and saddlebags. Lord Celeborn reached out to take the pack and sling it over his shoulder, opposite his personal satchel over the other. Somehow Sam had managed, without being precisely certain how, to draw near the forward rail, looking at the shining sand of the beaches where the waves, turquoise and fairest green, rolled up toward the green trees and swards beyond them. White, flat-roofed buildings stood near the pier; beyond them a white-flagged road led up into a white city built on a great hill, one that left Minas Tirith appearing simple and stark by comparison. Green trees and flowers of all colors spilled over walls; vines encircled windows; shining birds as colorful as the flowers flew everywhere, some singing cheerfully, others squawking raucously. And over the piers swooped white, grey, and brown gulls; as the ship drew closer to the pier a strange seabird with a pouch dangling from its lower bill lifted clumsily, then flew southward with a grace concealed earlier. Pigeons and doves rose in clouds with a singing of their wings.

There on the pier a great number of shining figures were gathering, wreaths of flowers in their hands, singing a song of welcome that caused Sam’s heart to lift in his breast. Just the sound of it was a reassurance, and he knew that in moments he would be reunited with his dearer-than-brother. Celeborn heard a low, repetitive murmur from his small companion, and leaned down to realize Sam was whispering, “Oh, my Frodo; oh, my Frodo,” over and over again. He smiled, then realized his own hands were tightening on the strap of his personal satchel almost convulsively. Perhaps, he realized, he was in his own way as anxious as the Perian.

Sam grasped the rail as, with a most gentle bump, the ship reached its berth, as cables were being tossed and caught, as the mat let down over the side of the ship rasped between the quay of Tol Eressëa and the ship newly arrived from Ennor. Celeborn again laid his hand reassuringly on the Hobbit’s shoulder as a wide gangplank was set into place and the railing at that point removed; and finally the first of those aboard the ship moved to take their initial steps ashore.

Meliangiloreth knelt, Celeborn realized, at Sam’s side, her hand on his other shoulder. “Slow, steady breaths, Lord Samwise,” she said in low tones. “Slow and steady.”

Sam flashed her a look at one and the same time amused and annoyed. “I do know how to breathe, lass,” he responded, unconsciously lapsing back into his subvocal chant of “Oh, my Frodo” almost immediately. Celeborn and the healer exchanged glances of amusement.

Folk on the dock were stepping forward, pressing crowns of flowers onto the heads of their loved ones, dropping necklets of green leaves about shoulders, embracing and being embraced. Lights of Being flared as wives greeted husbands, lovers were reunited, children sent away long ago when Sauron first began to rise again saw their parents for the first time in a century or better. Many coming off the ship paused at the sight of a white figure whose Light of Being was a soothing blue, bowed low in recognition, greeted the figure with even deeper respect than they’d known before.

Then at last it was the turn of Celeborn and those with him. Meliangiloreth rose and paced slowly behind Sam, while Endoril walked at the far side of him. Endoril set a steadying hand on Sam’s shoulder this time as he wavered as he stepped onto the plank, and as the light of the day more brightly illuminated the scene before them Sam set himself to cross it, a step at a time, as he’d accepted his right to board the ship he now quitted.

At last Sam set his bare right foot down on the white stone of the pier’s surface, felt its coolness under him, felt the joy it radiated, the reassurance of welcome. He could see little enough ahead of him, for all the figures about him were taller than himself, and there were many involved in the arrival and welcoming.

An Elf woman with dark hair and eyes blue as night skies came forward, a maiden much like herself by her side, a tall, shining youth behind them, to meet Endoril, who left his place by Sam’s side to wrap his arms about his wife, to be reunited with his family. A male Elf dressed in dark greens approached Meliangiloreth. She paused, her eyes riveted on him. “Daeradar?” she asked, then was stepping forward into his embrace.

Then it was Glorinlas who stopped, standing tall, his Light flaring brilliantly as Gildor Inglorion approached accompanied by a lady of great beauty, her eyes green as forest canopies, her hair the rich brown of burnished chestnuts. The pair stopped some feet in front of Glorinlas, and the three stood simply looking at one another wordlessly for some moments. “Adar,” he finally murmured, “Naneth. It has been so long....” And the distance was no more.

Again Sam pressed forward through the thinning throng, seeing again the great white form, paused, then with a formless cry he was hurrying forward to throw himself against the figure’s legs. “Oh, Gandalf,” he said as the figure knelt and shining arms wrapped about him. “Oh, dear Gandalf--it’s been so very long!”

“At last, Sam--at last you are here! Welcome, Samwise Gamgee--how long we’ve awaited you!”

Sam pulled back to look into a face that didn’t resemble that of an elderly Man, one whose visage held the wisdom of great age, the freshness and humor of youth, the freedom of childhood, the warmth of maturity, yet was undeniably Gandalf for all the aura of other it displayed. “I couldn’t come sooner, you know that, Gandalf. I’d married Rosie, and I had to be true to her, stay there by her until she was gone. He made certain as I knew that was true back when he married us, you see. And I promised him I’d live the more for the both of us. I had to see that through, you know. I did that, and now it’s time to share it with him. He is still here, isn’t he? He’s not gone on without me, has he? He was so weak when he left us, after all. I’m certain as old Mr. Bilbo’s gone on, though.”

“Oh, yes, Bilbo did indeed go on, Sam, long ago, not all that long after we arrived. He left us just under a year after our arrival, in fact.”

Sam looked impressed. “Did he last that long?” he asked. “Bless him!”

“He lingered for the sake of Iorhael--for Frodo’s sake. Frodo was very weak when he arrived here, after all.

“Yes, he was fading when he left us.” Sam swallowed and straightened. “Is the Lady Galadriel here on the island?”

“She dwells now on Aman proper, but is often here for Frodo’s sake. She is here today, though, and even now comes to the quay.”

“Good, for I want to see her face....”

But at that moment he saw her coming toward him, saw her height and presence, her hair that was like sunlight and moonlight mixed, her blue eyes in which stars were caught. He realized that the last time he’d seen her she’d been tired, almost to the point of exhaustion, while now she was relaxed and renewed; her Light of Being would have been enough to cause him to blink in Middle Earth, so bright was it now. She was looking down on him, her eyes filled with welcome, laughter of sheer delight reflected there such as he didn’t remember in her from before. Sam felt the smile of sheer admiration and pleasure threaten to split his face, and at that moment Celeborn finally made it through the crowd to stand again at his shoulder.

The Lady’s eyes were drawn upwards; her expression went still for the moment, and she was searching eyes long familiar to her as her Light of Being became almost unbearably bright and that of her husband answered it. “You have come earlier than you had purposed,” she murmured in Sindarin.

“Yes, that we all be together when what must be comes,” Celeborn answered her. “I found I could not face such a loss away from your side. Glorfindel has indicated he will assume that duty for us. Beloved....”

Her smile before was as nothing to what it was now as she looked into his eyes. Sam felt rather than saw the joy and satisfaction in Gandalf as he approved of this reunion unlooked for this day.

Again Galadriel turned her eyes to those of Samwise Gamgee, the delight she felt clearly discernible. Sam’s eyes were drawn to her hand, for it glimmered and shone. Her ring? Did her ring work here in the Undying Lands? he wondered. Then he recognized the quality of that light, and realized he’d held it himself, that it had answered his need and determination. No, not her ring after all--the starglass! And, recognizing what it was she carried, he knew why she’d brought it, to illuminate....

He felt the knot growing again in his throat. It was a bit difficult to speak around it, but he managed. “Thanks, but I don’t need the starglass for to see him.” And he turned to her right, saw the slight figure that was now almost pure Light of Being that stood there, worried he might not be seen and recognized, saw and recognized the anxiety. “Oh, Frodo--do you truly think as I’d not recognize you no matter what you might of come to? Oh, my Frodo!”

Those who stood by saw both Lights of Being flare, pure mithril and the gold of Anor’s light together, as each stepped forward to embrace the other, blending to match the glory of the hair of Galadriel Artanis. “My Sam!” Frodo managed to say aloud. Oh, Sam, my beloved, beloved Samwise Gamgee! he added in thought. Oh, Sam, how long has it been! You’re here at last! Have you ever forgiven me?

“Forgiven you?” Sam asked, pulling back to look into eyes still a remarkable blue. “Forgiven you? For what? For doing what had to be done? For allowing yourself to live at last? You always did worry about the most foolish things, you know, Master!” And he laughed through his tears. “Oh Mister Frodo, Frodo Baggins--you dear, sweet silly!”

And all watched with awe as Iorhael’s Light shone to fill the entire area with glory as he laughed with sheer relief and joy and humor, the blaze of it reflecting from the water and sending sparkles of illumination all around the place. The gulls swooped and circled the knot of those who stood about the two Hobbits at their reunion; colorful song birds joined them and circled also; below the ones with raucous cries also circled, some calling out, “Cormacolindor!” as Sam and Frodo embraced again, Sam’s tears flowing freely, Frodo still laughing, although tears that appeared to be jewels of light fell from his eyes also.

You are so right, Sam--I am the most foolish of the foolish, aren’t I? Oh, but I’ve waited so very long, and it’s been so well worth it! You’ve come at the last, of your own free will, and I will have you beside me when the time comes.

“She told me several times as she wished this, Frodo, that I come to you and have that wound healed afore we both come to her again.”

Gandalf was reaching to take the pack from Celeborn; Glorinlas and his parents stepped forward so that Glorinlas could return Sam’s saddlebags. Glorinlas bowed to the two Hobbits. “It is a joy to see you again, Lord Frodo,” he said formally, “to see you whole and your spirit shining before all to see. Lord Samwise here has been so very eager to come to you once again, although at one point he thought perhaps to flee in terror, I think. That he is by your side and I can see you shining together has proved more than I had anticipated. We are blessed to stand in your presence together.”

I thank you, Frodo answered him, bowing gracefully. Sam was overjoyed to see no hint of pain or weakness in him. Frodo turned to Gildor. And so this is your son? I remember he was one we saw with you when we met in the Woody End, and who traveled with us to the Havens. How wonderful it is to see you reunited once more.

“Yes, Iorhael, our son Glorinlas.”

A bright shining approached down the pier, and Sam turned to see Lord Elrond threading his way through those who yet lingered here, his face shining with a solemn pleasure. “Celeborn?” he was calling out. “You have come indeed? We were not warned!” He stopped before the former Lord of Lothlorien, his eyes filled with joy as they searched those of his friend. “My sons? Did they send word? Undómiel?”

The new arrival from Ennor held out a staying hand. “Sa, sa, mellon nín. Of course they have sent word, although I’d not advised Arwen I had chosen to leave at this time ere I came away from Imladris. Yet on my last visit with them she and Elessar both entrusted me with messages to all here to whom they desired to be remembered.”

And then he stopped, for another had come forward, having worked her way also through the crowd in Elrond’s wake--and looking on her Sam felt a new grin again threaten to split his face.

She was not so tall as either father or mother, her body compact yet still strikingly beautiful. Her eyes were the clear silver-grey seen in Lord Celeborn, and her hair was from him also, the silver of Ithil unmingled with Anor as was that of her mother. Yet her expression was definitely her own, an indication of a tendency to tease along with the look of great responsibility reminiscent of the expressions often seen in her twin sons, and now a smile to light starless nights, should such ever occur here, Sam thought.

Celeborn’s face had gone solemn with mixed emotions--pride, wonder, relief, joy, even surprise. At last he reached forward a hand to stroke her cheek. “Oh, my daughter,” he said in soft Sindarin, “my beloved, beautiful daughter. Remembering how you looked when last I saw you----” And suddenly he was reaching forward gently to gather her to him, then holding her almost fiercely. “Celebrían! My little Celebrían! How wonderful at last to hold you in my arms. Oh, how well worth it it has proved, all the years of separation, to see you as you are once again!”

Adar,” she was murmuring against his robes. “Ada nín--you have come at last! Now I will be encompassed about by the love of those I myself love when....” She didn’t finish, and none expected it of her.

Frodo was gently pulling at Sam’s shoulder. Perhaps we should withdraw and allow them time for their meetings to settle for them, he suggested, his thought focused strictly at Sam. This may be the perfect time for us to slip away privately and allow you to find time to take it all in. I remember I was so very overwhelmed when I arrived, although I’ll admit I was still very fragile at the time. It’s difficult to realize how very, very close to death as I’d come.

But apparently Gandalf had been watching for such a retreat, for he placed a hand on Sam’s other shoulder. “Not yet, Frodo Baggins,” he advised. He looked to Endoril and Meliangiloreth. “Is there aught we should know about the journey?” he asked.

Endoril nodded. “When we were underway Lord Samwise suffered a seizure of the heart, although he is much recovered. Yet we have given him infusions of athelas and willowbark twice daily since. We have yet a few leaves of athelas, for we knew not whether it grows here.”

Gandalf laughed. “And where do you think the plants carried to Middle Earth from Númenor came, Endoril? They were gifts to Elros Tar-Minyatar from those who’d come here after the War of Wrath, in thanks for the aid of Men he led, and in honor of his choosing to accept the Gift of Iluvatar.

“But I thank you for letting us know this, that we may see our Lord Panthail properly relieved that his healing may be as complete as it is possible to be for the duration of his time here.” He turned to look down at the two Hobbits. “And now it is time indeed for the quiet that Sam needs,” he said, and taking one of Sam’s hands in his own, with both pack and saddlebags over the other shoulder, he led them away.

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