Where are they? It is five days since they left us, since I learned Boromir had been taken by It, and so had tried to take It from Frodo. Are they still lost in the ridges of the Emyn Muil, or have they fallen to their deaths? Have they reached the Dead Marshes? If so, what is the horror of the place doing to them? What is it costing Frodo, looking down on the faces of those three thousand years dead—Men, Elves, orcs, trolls, knowing that what he carries helped bring about that destruction of life?
For all the fruitless running across Rohan, yet we have had the easier way in the end, I think. Our way has been well marked by the trampling of orcs, by iron-soled boots and the crushing by them of fruitful things. We even have had reassurance those we sought were yet alive in the fallen brooch, in footprints left in mud, in signs left on the battlefield. And we have had the unforeseen reunion with Gandalf, past all expectation or hope.
What reassurance do Frodo and Sam know? What guides them in the wilderness, or hides them from the horrors of Eye and Nazgul, orcs and wargs? What reassurance have they that they can slip through the fences of Mordor? What do they know of any routes other than the Black Gate?
We have run fueled by lembas and what water we can snatch from streams and rivers along the way. Did Frodo and Sam take enough water bottles with them to take them through the stony waste and the polluted ways around or through the Marshes? We are not certain how many bottles they might have had with them. Where will Sam find clean water to aid them to cross the blasted lands before the Morannon, or food to supplement their supplies for the push through the plain of Gorgoroth?
Oh, Frodo, my small brother of the heart, how I worry for you and pray for guidance for you and Sam along the way. How I hope that the sharp eyes of orcs are defeated by Elven cloaks and natural Hobbit wariness. How I pray that the fell beasts that now carry the Nazgul do not notice you cowering against the ground, under tilted rocks or in pits, or in the shadows of what trees and shrubs you might find along the way.
What secret way might you find to cross the Ephel Duath or climb through the northern fences of Mordor? Will cloaks from Lorien allow you to slip through the Black Gate or the Morgul Vale? How I pray you are not forced to look upon the corrupted city of Minas Morgul, that dread place where so long ago Eärnur was lost. As for what creatures might guard the way besides orcs—that is a question I do not wish to even think on for myself, much less for you.
O Manwë, I beg you to send them guidance and wisdom. O Varda, light their way. Lord Ulmo, grant them what drink and refreshment they need. Sweet Lady Yavanna, sustain these, your special children, as they learn to tighten their belts against the barrenness of so much of their way. Nienna, wash away the horrors of their journey with your tears. Estë, you whom I’ve learned to honor so well and whose gifts have ever been given to those of my lineage, I must surrender them to your care as I cannot come to them myself.
And Eru, hold these dear ones of Your children in Your hands. Bless and hallow them to their task. And if it is their fate to die upon their journey, I beg You to lead them into Your Presence that I may find them easily when I must follow them at last.
I can ask for little for myself, save for wisdom to choose the way best suited for the needs of the free peoples of Middle Earth. But then, I am guided along the way by your faithful servant and have had years of blessed preparation for this time. For Frodo and Sam it has been so very different. Where I have known tutelage in defense and travel through the waste places of the world, these have known instead the love of family and friends, full bellies, rich fields, and the joy of living fully. Perhaps this is needful for them to sustain them through the lure of the Ring and the deprivation they now know—I know naught of it, I suppose. But I do ask that they do find sufficient reminders of beauty and honor and sufficiency to aid them through the bad times.
One more thing I ask, O Namo—should they come your way, let your gates open for them easily, and let them know rest in your halls if they find themselves needful of it.
I am not yet the King of Arnor or Gondor; but my ancestors stood between you and our peoples both in Númenor and here in the twin realms. I beg that my prayers for these my small companions be acceptable in the sight of Valar and Creator. I know that these two are already blest by all; if by my life or death I might aid them in any way to accomplish their quest and return, I offer myself freely for them. For, in the end, theirs is the hardest road.
"You have been quiet, Aragorn."
"I have been thinking on the other roads our fellowship travel."
"Know this, my friend—Frodo and Sam are not alone—are never alone."
"You reassure me, Gandalf."
"Behold—the golden hall of Meduseld!"
Look upon me, Lord Manwë, as I ride to battle this time not upon a horse, but on the wings of the South Wind. Shortly I shall unfurl the banner my beloved Undomiel has sent to me, declaring at last before all the peoples of Middle Earth my heritage, and claiming for myself the lordship of both Gondor and Arnor, and in so doing laying claim also to the one, the only treasure I have ever wished for myself.
I will fight this time with the Elessar stone upon my breast, the sword of Elendil in my hand, the Elendilmir upon my brow. Halbarad shall ride beside me, the banner of Elendil in his hand, making himself a target for all in so doing. I grieve for this, for I have foreseen that at least once shall the banner bearer fall, although it will never be allowed to touch the ground; but he will not allow any other to bear this for me.
Yet, even as I go to fight before the White City, my thoughts dwell on Frodo and Sam, wondering if they have managed to breach the walls of Mordor, if they have found food and water along the way, if they have managed to evade capture and torture.
Pippin and Merry you have brought through capture and an evil march to safety, and even now Pippin is within Minas Tirith with Gandalf and Merry is left, I hope well guarded, amongst the folk of Rohan. I cannot foresee what they will do to win renown—I can only see that they will do so.
But I cannot see what Frodo and Sam do, where they wander. My few glimpses of them in dreams are of Frodo lying, senseless or dead, here or there in sere landscapes, usually Sam sitting by him, his face stripped of hope or joy, his expression fixed in purpose.
I beg you, Manwë, send them guidance. Lady Varda, let your stars shine upon their path and offer them hope. Lord Ulmo, if you can offer them any aid within that dead land, I pray you do so. Lady Yavanna, these are your children if they are those of any of the Valar—sustain their hope and their joy that these two might find them again when the quest is done with. Oromë, hunt the orcs, wargs, Nazgul, and all others who would endanger them off their path. Lord Aüle, guard them in the dark places and allow your soil to be softened under them as they rest. And Namo, if my small brother of the heart is indeed destined to enter your halls, welcome him gently, I pray you.
I have been ever a Man of war and guard. Frodo and Sam have known but peace until now. Beloved Creator, encompass them about with Your Love.
Go well, Frodo, Sam. Go well and return to me if you can.
"Ah, Aragorn, we approach the quays below the city."
"So I see. Prepare to disembark. Halbarad, I charge you to keep yourself as safe as you can."
"Do not worry for me, cousin. If this is my day to die, it will be a worthwhile sacrifice to see you through to your destiny."
O Lord Ulmo—this night I must trust so many I love and honor to your caring. Bear my adar, my beloved’s daernaneth, Lord Erestor, Gandalf, Bilbo, and these others safely to Tol Eressëa, and particularly my small brother Frodo. Carry them softly to their destination. Grant the aid of the rest of the Valar to come to Frodo’s comfort and strengthening and healing. Let him see your might reflected in the beauty of your realm. Let him find peace surrounded by your waters. Let him find again his laughter and purpose surrounded by your creatures. Wash away from him the feelings of guilt and inadequacy with your cleansing waves. Bear him well, and restore his buoyant spirit.
O Yavanna—your gift of lembas sustained him in his darkest hours—now restore his humor and delight with the bounty of the Undying Lands. At least for Frodo, and perhaps one day for Sam, the sea longing is now assuaged. Let the beauty of your gifts delight him and bring him back to balance.
Sweet Nienna, too many tears has he shed with little relief. Let those he sheds from now on be the tears of healing to wash away the grief and loss; and the tears of joy and delight for which he was created.
My Lady Estë, I have done all for him I can. Grant him healing, and relief from his bodily and spiritual pain.
Manwë, your Eagles drew him and Sam from the ruin of Orodruin, and I praise you for it. They have carried the news of the grace offered them to us. They have offered us guidance and comfort. I can but praise you and thank you for these graces expressed.
And our beloved Lady Varda—your stars have ever sustained him. Let them continue to shine upon him, and may he find his ending in peace under them when the time comes at last.
Eru, thank You for Your gift of love You have expressed in so many who now leave the Mortal Lands; and I beg You continue to encompass my small brother about with the Love and Mercy You Yourself have ever shown him. Again, I ask You hold him safely in the palm of Your hand, and let him never forget how much love and honor all feel toward him.
And when my own time comes, bring me again to his side in Your Presence. I can ask no more than this for myself, that when it is right I may again find my small brother.
And when at last the King saw the flash of light indicating the grey ship on which Frodo had left Middle Earth had indeed found the Straight Path, he could hear the Song of Elbereth’s stars rejoicing that the Ringbearer at last found his way home, and his heart lifted even as he wept at the loss of so many he loved.