Waiting for them just off the pier stood an Elf maiden with hair that reminded Sam of his daughter’s husband Fastred. Livwen! Frodo greeted her. He’s come at last--Sam has come! Oh, Sam, this is Livwen, whom I met soon after my arrival. I’ve watched her grow from childhood to maidenhood, and she helped me greatly in accustoming myself to life here. My first friend among those who lived here on the island before I came.
Sam looked up into her eyes, which were a dark blue in color. “So, you was a child yet when he come, were you?” he asked. “That’s to be expected, I must assume. Always he’s felt most at home with children about him for as long as I’ve known him. Bet as he was missin’ little Cyclamen Proudfoot somethin’ awful at the time.”
Of course I was, Sam. And how is she now?
“She and Mr. Fosco live together in Green Hall, you know, and Holfast, my Frodo-lad’s eldest, is lookin’ to marryin’ their daughter Emerald.”
Frodo’s Light lit brightly. Cyclamen married Fosco? How wonderful! I’d not have expected that. Then he paused and looked intently into Sam’s eyes. They are adult--your children and Fosco and Cyclamen’s?
“Well, yes, Frodo. Emerald is the youngest of theirs, and was quite the surprise, for she was born quite a long time after her brothers. Their eldest, Dudo, was almost of age already, you see. Suppose as it’s the same as Missus Emerald bein’ born when her folks was so old, and then Fosco and Forsythia comin’ so late themselves.”
So they named their eldest for Fosco’s father. What of the others?
“Drogo and Eruhael.”
Not Sancho after her dad?
“No, but he’s still livin’. Missus Angelica died two years past, and he’s moved into Green Hall with Mr. Fosco and Missus Cyclamen. Eruhael lives in Number Five now. And I have a suspicion as he has his eye on Lily.”
“Frodo-lad and Linnet’s older daughter.”
For a moment Frodo stood still, and the others paused as he tried to think things through. Finally he looked up again to meet Sam’s eyes. How long have I been here? he asked.
“You just turned a hundred and fourteen the day as I left Bag End, Mr. Frodo. You joined the Elves on your fifty-third birthday, you’ll member.”
Frodo stood shaking his head, obviously trying to take it in. Finally he looked back up at Sam. Sixty-one years? he asked. I’ve been here that long? He turned questioning eyes to Gandalf. How could I have been unaware of that great a time, Olórin? he asked.
Gandalf sighed as he looked down to meet Frodo’s eyes. “You have never been good at reckoning time in the Elven lands, neither here nor in Lothlorien.”
Frodo’s expression became considering. And the woodland feast in the mallorn grove--was that my birthday?
Livwen laughed. “Finally, Iorhael, you have worked it out!”
He looked at her accusingly. You knew, but didn’t tell me? I wonder how long it’s been since I did a proper toast on my birthday to those left behind as I’d intended?
Gandalf was also laughing. “I think you’ve made five or six, and I believe the last time was on your seventy-fourth birthday.”
And only because I pestered you to remind me when my next birthday came. How you are able to keep track of time here and there at the same time I can’t imagine. Strange how I can remember almost all I’ve ever done here, but can’t keep track of simple things such as Yule, Midsummer, and my birthday or Sam’s. He sighed. The only reason why I can remember the festivals here is because I’m given several days’ warning each time.
Now he led off on the way, going north of the city on the hill. “Then we won’t be livin’ up there,” Sam said with a feeling of relief. “Every time as I’ve been to Minas Tirith we’ve stayed at least in the Sixth Circle, which seems too high; although the year Rosie and Elanor and me visited there for a year, when young Tolman was born, we did stay in the Citadel proper at last.”
Did you? Did you stay in the rooms Aragorn had prepared for us?
“Yes,” Sam answered. “He had them done up proper, though, with a bed for the two of us, Rosie and me, and a wonderful cradle for little Tom when he come. But he’s ever grieved that you didn’t come to visit him again. He’s missed you somethin’ terrible.”
Frodo’s face had gone very gentle, his Light soft. As I’ve missed him, his thought commented. My so-tall brother of the heart. Did you send him notice you were leaving?
Sam shook his head. “No. I know I ought to of done so, but I couldn’t find the words to tell him. I finally left him a message, though, in the stationery box.”
Frodo looked away. As I left my farewell to you there as well. I am sorry for so much of the bitterness I expressed there, Sam.
“Oh, I understand, Frodo. No matter how much we two loved one another as if we was brothers, still I’m the one who was able to marry, was able to have children, was able to live on with most of the bitterness as It left in me forgotten and buried under my happiness. You deserved it more--far more than anyone in all of Arda at the time, but you couldn’t have it. It wasn’t fair, was never fair. Strider, Merry, Pippin and me--we’ve cursed that Ring until if It was still here it would be a meaningless lump of gold. But all the cursin’ of the Ring or the lovin’ of you couldn’t of give you back what you deserved.”
Again Frodo stopped, reached out to Sam and embraced him. I’ll tell you this, Samwise Gamgee, his thought declared solemnly, no matter how I’ve had to accept I’d not marry or father children myself, I do not regret the choice I finally made, and particularly not now. Again they turned to walk onward. At least I did send Aragorn letters, although I suspect he didn’t get them until long after I left.
“Actually, I think as we was on the way to the Havens when he got them,” Sam corrected him. “But he was still a few days south of the Shire at that time, and by the time as he reached the Havens the ship had sailed and the three of us’d returned to the Shire.”
He was indeed on his way north? I dreamt he was on the road, but wasn’t certain if that dream was true. I remember trying to tell him not to come--that I wasn’t certain I could bear another parting.
Sam nodded reluctantly. “I found as I was feelin’ rather frayed myself with all the farewells I made,” he admitted. “It must of been far worse for you.” At Frodo’s acknoweldgment he continued, “He knew when you accepted the choice. I think as the Lady Arwen knew and told him. But Roheryn hurt hisself in Rohan, and it was several days afore Éomer King found him to bring him a new horse----” He turned to the former wizard. “Actually, your Shadowfax would be interested, I’m certain, if’n he was to know. It was his second son as decided it would carry Lord Strider, you see. And Strider said as he was givin’ it the wisest name as he knew.”
The Maia looked down on the gardener with interest. “And what name was that?”
“Olórin. And Olórin’s son as he often rides now--him is named Elrond.”
Again Frodo laughed fully, his Light bright with merriment and joy. Oh--how rich! Bless my tall brother!
Gandalf also laughed, and Sam was reminded of his realization on awakening in Ithilien that the Wizard was a fount of humor enough to set a kingdom laughing if he’d let his joy forth.
So, Iorhael finally continued, he did set out northward to bid us farewell.
“Yes, he did. But when he come to the headlands lookin’ down on Mithlond he could see as the quays was empty and we was gone. He told me later that he sat there on the headland all night long, and knew when your ship left the waters of Middle Earth. Said as he was prayin’ for all as went on that ship. Lord Elrond had left some supplies for him, and as he finally turned back east he come across one of the Bounders as was a Took and they ate breakfast together. Old Beligard makes quite the tale of tellin’ it, he does, of the time he ate with one of them Rangers of Eriador and it turned out it was the King hisself. Had no idea at all at the time, he didn’t. He was tellin’ it to the Thain and all at the Great Smial and was describin’ the cloak from Lorien as the Ranger’d been wearin’, and the Thain and Mr. Ferdibrand and Mr. Isumbard figgered it out, they did.”
Frodo was laughing so hard he again had to stop. He clung to Sam, his face alight in sheer pleasure. Oh, how Aragorn must have enjoyed that! he finally managed. Did you ever tell him?
“Well, of course. And how he laughed, too.”
Iorhael finally calmed. I doubt I’ve laughed so much in--decades, Sam. How wonderful it is to once again be able to enjoy a good story as a Hobbit!
“Well, I wish as Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin was here to see you laugh like this. How happy they’d be!”
The rest of the way to the summerhouse where Frodo had lived since his arrival on Tol Eressëa continued to be punctuated by such stops as Sam continued to describe what had happened in the Shire after Frodo’s departure.
They’d come in sight of the gardens when it was Sam’s turn to stop. He looked at them amazed, his eyes opened wide and his mouth in an O. Frodo placed his hand on Sam’s shoulder. Believe it or not, Sam, they are only gardens, and they are cared for just as gardens are back home in the Shire or Minas Tirith. I’ve helped in the weeding. The one different thing I’ve found is that those plants removed in the weeding tend to be replanted elsewhere about the island. Those who work here regularly will rejoice to have you working alongside of them, you’ll find.
They turned to the summerhouse. When it was known Bilbo and I were on our way, a house was prepared for us, high in the city. Fortunately Gandalf was able to convince them that would be contrary to our nature; and so this summerhouse was made available for us instead. Compared to their dwellings in the city this and its rooms are dreadfully small, although they are far larger than those to which we are accustomed, of course. It hadn’t the food storage a Hobbit’s home would have, and a small extra room was added for that use, although I’ve not made use of it anywhere as much as I would expect to do at home in the Shire. As--as I’ve changed I find I eat less and less. But in the past few weeks as we’ve awaited your coming I’ve seen to it the new larder was filled.
“Thank you. Have you the makings for a cake?”
Frodo looked up into Gandalf’s eyes, then back to Sam. I believe so, he said, although I’ll warn you sugar here isn’t precisely what it is at home. Here it’s from a grass cane rather than from beets as it is in the Shire. But the flour and leavenings are much as they are at home.
“Good enough, then,” Sam answered him. “I promised Lily and Dahlia as I’d make you a cake, a proper birthday cake, although it’s now almost two months late, and light the candles on it for you.”
Candles? Again Frodo’s face was bright with amusement.
“Yes, candles. Dahlia made certain as she sent candles for your birthday cake--and I’ve counted them. She said as she’d sent but a few, but I noted as there are fifty-seven--half as many as you are old.”
I’ve often been aware of the children as they’ve played about the mallorn particularly, and am certain I was aware of each of them as it came. There were thirteen born to you and Rosie, weren’t there? At Sam’s nod he continued, And Elanor has had seven altogether?
“And Frodo-lad and his Linnet have five. Holfast and Frodo-third will share Bag End between their families----”
Frodo-third? Just how many have been saddled with my name?
Sam gave a decided huff. “Now wait just a minute, Frodo Baggins. Not one thing wrong with that name. You want to know that, let’s go inside and I’ll show you.”
An hour later Frodo sat on one of the couches provided for the living room of the summer house, Livwen at his feet and the Maia nearby, surrounded by pictures. So, he commented, you named your first son after me, and Narcissa and Brendi did the same, and Freddy and Melilot followed through on his threat and named their son Frodovacar. And you have one grandson named after me, too?
Sam nodded. “And Faramir Took and my Goldilocks've said as they'll name their son Frodo, also. It’s not a great number of children, after all, really; but there’s some as live in the Shire as will always honor you, you see.”
As he lifted another picture Frodo asked, Is Freddy still living?
“No. He was seventy-five when he died, but he felt as he’d had a good life, and didn’t regret it none.”
Sam smiled. “Oh, that’s one for the books, that is. He’s the first as we’re aware of from the Shire as married a woman from among Men.” At Frodo’s look of amazement he continued, “He married Miriel daughter of Mardil and Elainen of Lebennin. Very gifted, she was--an artist and master embroiderer. I understand as her mum was a weaver of fine tapestries, while her dad was a master woodcarver and her brother was a sculptor. The whole family has been gifted with artistry for generations.”
Suddenly Frodo dropped the picture of all thirteen of Sam and Rosie’s children he’d been admiring to catch Sam’s eyes. And what’s this about you allowing monuments to be made?
Sam laughed. “You know about that, too?”
Wait but a moment.... Frodo gave the family portrait into Livewn’s hands, then rose without disturbing any of the pictures that lay about him and disappeared into the inner room he’d indicated was the bedroom. Sam looked at Olórin and Livwen, both of whom smiled mysteriously and looked back to the doorway. When Frodo returned he appeared to be clad in Light and Color Itself, a mantle about him to put to shame the lord’s mantle Aragorn had once given him.
I can’t tell you precisely how long ago this was given to me, but it was presented by the spirit of one passing Westward, beyond the bounds of Arda. It is full of memories of stories--stories mostly about you and me, it appears, although Aragorn also appears frequently, as do my beloved cousins and Gandalf himself--a few others.
“Ruvemir,” Sam breathed. “Ruvemir son of Mardil. The King’s Sculptor.” He shook his head. “How much he came to love you, Frodo.”
But he never even knew me!
“I’ll tell you this--of all as never met you, he knew you best of all. A dear Man, he was--kind and intelligent, and most curious. Even came to the Shire, he did--the one Man as was given a free pass to enter the Shire whenever he wanted, or at least the first. Now there’s a few others, a few as we’ve found as we can trust. But their passes aren’t to be given to any others after them save we and the King both agree. Don’t know as to how many Dorno Sandheaver might be persuaded to grant----”
Dorno? Will’s grandson?
“Yes. He’s Mayor now, though he told Frodo Brandybuck and me he won’t run again. Suspect as Holfast’ll be Mayor next.” Sam was rooting through the stack of pictures he’d not yet shared, and pulled out a portrait of the oddest Man Frodo had ever seen. “Here’s a portrait of Ruvemir as was done by his sister Miriel, the one as Mr. Folco married,” Sam said. “As I said, they’re of the race of Men, but stunted in their growth, you see. Both wonderful artists--you’d of loved them. Ruvemir came to know Master Iorhael, the one what owned the artists’ shop in the Fifth Circle, you see. When Master Iorhael finally died Ruvemir did the effigy of him for his tomb. I visited it when we went to see the monument unveiled.”
But I have seen this one, standing by Aragorn and his infant daughter, looking down at the lower city and the fields of the Pelennor.
Sam looked attentively at his Master, and smiled. “Did you?” he asked. “In a dream?” At Frodo’s nod, he delved into his pack and brought out a carved plaque to hang on the wall. “Here--this was sent by Rosie--it was in her will I was to bring it with me. Ruvemir carved this for her, the first Yule as we knew him, when him and his sister and their ward Ririon visited in Bag End with us.”
Frodo took the plaque and examined it, and gave a soft cry of sheer pleasure. “Elanor,” he whispered. “Elanorelle.” It was indeed a low relief portrait of Elanor as a tiny child.
Sam explained, “Ruvemir carved that for Rosie, and she loved it. He’s the only one what could do the monument proper, we decided. Oh, and member the one what was doin’ studies of us back when Strider suggested the monument to begin with and drew us with shoes?”
Frodo sat rapt, listening to the story, the plaque held tenderly to his breast as he listened. It was growing late, and several times Livwen had repaired to the kitchen to bring forth small meals for the two Hobbits, who were so intent on the memories being shared they didn’t appear to notice as fruit and bread and seed cakes and goblets of juices were set before them, eating and drinking almost unconsciously. Sunset was a memory outside when the stories paused for a time and they looked up to realize that others had come while they’d sat there. Lord Celeborn sat on another couch with his wife, daughter, and Lord Elrond, all listening intently. Celeborn smiled down at the two from the Shire. “The monument is one of the most impressive I’ve seen anywhere, and mostly because it does not seek to show you or the others as anything but what you were,” he assured Frodo. “The people of Minas Anor come to it daily and set flowers and sprays of greens about the memorial, and often settle wreaths on the heads of the four figures.”
Frodo looked down at the plaque he still held to him. I never wanted such a thing, he shared. But, as Aragorn appears to have been intent on seeing it made, I must suppose that the one who could produce this would be perhaps the best available. And you say it looks like us as we were--no monstrosities of unusual attitudes?
Sam shook his head, his smile gentle. “No, it’s as we were. You probably wouldn’t like it much no matter what it looked like, but the folk of Gondor know as we wasn’t big heroes, larger’n life.” He sighed. “Of course, that’s not the only one as he did, you see. And there’s even a statue of you in the Shire itself, on the grounds for the Free Fair.”
Frodo looked appalled. When was that done? You had nothing to do with it, Sam, did you?
Sam laughed and shook his head. “Only thing as I had to do with it was to decide, along with Merry and Pippin, as to where we was to put it once it arrived. Ruvemir carved it when he was workin’ in Annúminas, he did, and sent it south in a wagon. Gimli and Legolas brought it to us, you see. We all decided as it should go in the fairgrounds afore we saw it. Then, once we saw it, we knew just where it ought to go and all. Didn’t have no unveilin’ or speeches or nothin’ like that, we didn’t. Most folk don’t seem to look close enough to see it’s you or nothin’. The name as they call it by is The Storyteller, and most say as it’s a dad and his daughter. Only it’s you, in green marble, tellin’ a story to Cyclamen with her sittin’ on your lap, and with you sittin’ on an ale barrel. We put it on the edge of the dancin’ ground, there by the ale tent.
“One other thing--the stories are still told there behind the ale tent, and the one of us as tells them sits on an ale barrel.”
Again Frodo was smiling through tears. You have told them there? he asked.
“We’ve all of us told them there, Master, Merry, Pippin, and me. I gave the Red Book into Elanor’s hands--she’ll see to the stories once the rest of us are gone. And I fear as that won’t be all that long now.”
Frodo’s gaze grew distant. No. Merry and Pippin will go south soon, his thought murmured. They will die in Minas Tirith; and when Aragorn dies their tombs will lie by his.
“You have foreseen this?” asked Elrond gently.
Without looking at him, Frodo nodded slowly. I’ve seen the three tombs together. He shivered, then finally looked to catch Elrond’s gaze. I fear I don’t understand Men’s fascination with the appearance of those who’ve died.
Sam shrugged. “I didn’t neither, not until Ruvemir came to us.” Frodo shifted his gaze to his friend’s face, and Sam flushed a bit. “He’d done a little statue of Strider sittin’ on a block of stone, just as he first saw him. Oh, it was Strider all right, Strider the Ranger, almost just as we saw him, too, in his old green leather vest and all, that stained cloak as he wore until we reached Lothlorien around him, his hood up, smokin’ his pipe, only with the sheath as he was give in Lothlorien for Anduril and not the one as he first carried. From the first as I saw it, I loved that little statue, for it was a way to see him every day, even when he wasn’t there. When Ruvemir give it to me for Yule I was that pleased.
“Then he had a dream of you. The two of you in his dream was sittin’ on the bench by the door of Bag End, and you was lookin’ down at the Party Field where they was settin’ up for a party, and you told him it was for me, for when I come of age. You had your pipe in your hand, and was lookin’ mighty proud. He did two little statues of that one, and he give me one and the other to Strider. He keeps that in his and the Lady’s sittin’ room on those shelves there. I kept mine on the hearth in our bedroom, although I moved it to the parlor afore I came away.
“When she was little, Elanor would come and look at that little statue, and she and Cyclamen would make up stories about it. They said you’d come back to watch over us, but was now able to be real small, just the size of the statue, and you’d wait until Rosie and me was asleep and then would get off the bench and slip into the nursery to tell her and Frodo-lad and Rosie-lass stories. And they made up stories of how you lived in the little Hobbit house as Mr. Pippin built in the garden and all.
“When you and Strider, two I loved more than almost all others, had to be so far from me, I was so glad to have those little statues by me. And when Rosie-lass was born, I brought the two statues together and told it to the both of you. Made me feel as if I was speakin’ to you directly, don’t you know.”
Frodo rose, again without stirring the pictures that lay by him, and came to kneel before where Sam sat. You found seeing depictions of us so comforting?
“Oh, Frodo, yes! But how do you feel, holdin’ that plaque of Elanor’s face?”
Frodo looked down at it, seeing how tightly he’d been clasping it to himself. He smiled. All right, he admitted, perhaps it’s not so difficult to understand after all.
He reached out a hand to wipe away a tear from Sam’s eyes. I see you are tiring. I’ve kept you up too late, and you still have some healing to do from your own losses and the illness of your journey. At least you should heal far more swiftly than I did. Oh, I’m so very glad to have you with me as I look to the end at last, Samwise Gamgee. He rose, and the mantle made of Light and Memory shone brightly about him. Come, and I’ll show you how the room of refreshing works and see you to bed. He looked up at Elrond. Or does he require a draught first?
Soon enough Sam had seen more of the summerhouse; and, changed into a nightshirt, he examined the low couch that would serve him as as a bed here. Frodo was carefully draping the mantle over the back of a tall chair, but turned to smile at Sam. I think you should find that comfortable enough. Certainly Bilbo appeared to appreciate it. And I hope you don’t mind once again sleeping in a bed that was once his.
“Can’t think of anyone better whose memory I’d wish to honor more,” Sam answered him. Then he asked, “How was it as Ruvemir was able to give you that?”
Frodo shrugged. I was sitting beneath the White Tree, feeling a bit lonely. I’d been telling stories to some of the children, of Aragorn’s adventures in Harad, stories Bilbo told me while I was healing, and then sat beneath the Tree wishing I were there with him and his family in Minas Tirith, under the White Tree there. Olórin had found me, and I was telling him how lonely I felt, for I could feel that Aragorn was mourning for one who’d died, one he somehow associated with me, one whose loss he wished my comfort for. And then there he was, wearing this over his shoulders, then sweeping it off and offering it to me. I’m not certain how it is that it seems to have reality here, for I’m positive such a thing would be impossible in Middle Earth. But I can and do hold it and wear it, and when I do I can always find stories to distract me from my loneliness, to remind me I’m not isolated after all. In it I’m surrounded by the love of all of you.
Frodo’s gentle, joyful smile lit the room completely. Sam looked at him in wonder. “Don’t know as how I’m to sleep proper,” he joked, “for with you about, the room is full lit up, it is. Oh, Frodo, the wonder of findin’ you and seein’ you as you are----” His own smile was a match for Frodo’s, and the room was even brighter.
Oh, Sam, Frodo returned, your own Light is almost as bright as the day, you know. I barely am aware of my own Light, since I live with it all the time. But yours--I knew it was within you, but to see it so clearly!
Oh, but you do, Samwise Gamgee. Frodo went to a chest standing beneath a window and removed from it a mirror, brought it to Sam. Handing it to his friend, Frodo stepped back. Look into it, Sam.
Sam looked in--and saw how his face appeared illuminated by a warm, golden light. There’s no lamp lit, Sam, Frodo advised him, and my own Light is a silver-white in color, much as Aragorn’s is. The day I first saw the reflection of my own Light revealed much as it now is I was so overwhelmed. I’ve been changing, Sam, since I was stabbed with the Morgul knife, being converted more and more to pure Light of Being all the time. But your Light just shines out in you, freed for all to see now you’re here. It’s strange--I’m somehow less mortal while you’re more, and yet the Lights in both of us are so much stronger, equally bright from what I can perceive through Olórin.
Sam stood thoughtfully. “Less mortal? Does that mean that when the time comes...?”
Frodo interrupted. When the time comes, I will go. But there will be almost nothing left behind, I fear. I don’t eat a great deal, and sometimes can go for days without sleeping, although that appears less true than it once was. Some days I’ve felt as if a brisk breeze would bear me away. But right now, since your arrival, I feel decidedly more--more solid than I’ve felt for quite a while. I haven’t laughed like this in so very long. Elves do have a decided sense of humor, but it is quite different from the humor of mortals, and laughter tends to be at one and the same time more gentle and deeper. I feel a Hobbit again, and it’s good to feel a Hobbit again, Sam.
Sam found himself smiling into those eyes, eyes so familiar and beloved. “And it’s so good to find myself with you again, Frodo, for what time as we have together.”
The Lights of Being for both gently filled the room as they clasped hands.