Sam awoke to hear singing, more beautiful than he’d ever heard before, filling the room where he’d slept. He sat up quickly, and the light blanket of what appeared to be silk fell from him. The room was cool, almost chilly, and yet he didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. He saw Frodo standing, stripped to the waist, looking out through the unglazed window at the light of dawn as Anor lifted to the east. It was Frodo he’d heard, although his singing voice was different from what he remembered of him. Sam didn’t recognize the song as any of the hymns he’d heard in Imladris or Minas Tirith or during the voyage. Frodo’s whole body seemed to glow more brightly than ever as he sang, and Sam watched and listened, entranced.
At last Frodo went still, and when he turned about again Sam could see the sheer joy that filled him. “Mornin’, Master,” Sam said, feeling almost shy.
A good and blessed morning to you, also, Sam. Did you sleep well?
“Very well. I’d not of expected this to be as comfortable as it was. And it’s wider’n the bed as I had on the ship, so that was more comfortable as well.”
Good. I’m going in to bathe in the rock pool. Wish to join me?
“If’n you don’t mind.”
Soon the two of them were sitting on the shallow outcropping of the pool, and Sam quickly found himself fascinated by the changes he saw in Frodo. He was still extraordinarily thin; but no longer was it the thinness of illness. There was the appearance of healthy muscle to be seen on Frodo’s torso, and the slenderness now appeared more in keeping with that seen in slender Men or Elves rather than in underfed Hobbits. No longer could the knobs on his back be counted, or his ribs played like a washboard.
The scar where Frodo had been stabbed could still be seen, as could many of the other scars; but no longer did they appear horrible or disfiguring. Sam asked, “Did they ever clean out what was in the bite on the back of your neck?”
Frodo looked sideways at him, and gave a shudder. Yes, they did, although it apparently wasn’t until the anniversary of the day when I was bitten by Shelob that they thought to do so. I had to be taken away to the fanes--the sacred place on the West coast of the Island--where certain of the Valar could approach me. I’m afraid that’s one part of my stay here I have little memory of, although I remember promising Nienna that I would seek to remain until you chose to follow me. It was very serious.
“What did they find in there?”
But Frodo was shaking his head. You’ll have to ask Olórin about it, Sam. I know that Bilbo was terribly concerned about it all, and although he’d been wishing to accept the Gift for some time he chose to remain until they learned if I would recover--or leave. I understand that for mortals to face the Valar is very dangerous, for our nature isn’t intended to withstand such holiness or concentrated Power. I wrote it out in a book for you--for you to read, in case as I--changed I should lose the ability to communicate.
Bilbo remained with me still some time after I recovered, and at last realized that I would be all right even without his presence. He finally accepted the Gift here, in the summerhouse, Gandalf and Elrond and Lady Celebrían and Lady Galadriel about us, as well as a few of the Elves from Imladris who’d known him best and a few he’d met here. He was so happy, Sam, that I couldn’t sorrow for his leaving. I followed him to the edge of the Place, saw him cross to the Way, and came back myself. Olórin was slightly worried that I’d not return, and was reassured when I did. After all, I’d promised I’d remain until your coming.
“What’s the Place?”
Again Frodo shook his head and looked off to the left somewhat. I became aware of it as we rode to the Havens--a meadow of the greenest grass, in which a great number of flowers, most I couldn’t name, grew. Across the meadow I could see the Halls of Mandos and the Way to it and beyond it. It wasn’t as it was before, when Aragorn called us back, when we’d reached the Gates themselves. There were no Gates this time--all I needed to do was to cross the meadow and take the Way either to the Halls or beyond. I know that Elrond was concerned, for mortals aren’t supposed to see that Place. I think I may have seen it because of the draught they gave me. Elrond kept having to reduce the strength of the draught, and after we were aboard the ship he stopped using it altogether, changed back to the simpler athelas draught you’d been giving me. I almost didn’t make it here, you must understand. And then after we arrived I was still very weak and ill for some time. Bilbo was very worried for me, and wouldn’t agree to go on until he was certain I’d remain for you.
Sam thought deeply. “I’ve seen that Place myself, while we was on the way. Silman Chubbs, as is the Chubbs healer now in Hobbiton, had warned Rosie and me afore Midsummer that we was both gettin’ near the end, and our hearts was not as strong as they’d been. Rosie died in her sleep, the mornin’ of Midsummer, apparently not long afore I awoke, for her body was still a bit warm and moved easy when I realized as she wasn’t breathin’.
“Silman told me, the last time he saw Rosie and me together, that I probably oughtn’t to ride astride no more. But I did so anyways when I left Bag End to come here, and I was feelin’ rather weak when we stopped for the night; and the healer from Imladris, a lady healer named Meliangiloreth, gave me that draught. I felt almost as if I was drunk, and I found myself lookin’ ’cross that meadow you just spoke of. She changed it, though, to athelas and willowbark and chamomile, and had me help brew it, I think as much to bind me to Arda as for any other reason.”
Frodo nodded his head, his eyes considering Sam. So--both of us almost didn’t arrive here, he noted. And we both responded to that draught the same way, although at first it did help me simply gather strength for what I needed to do before I left the Shire. I wonder if it was because of having borne the Ring?
“I don’t know. Maybe we ought to ask Gandalf, although I suppose as it doesn’t matter a good deal.”
Sam washed his hair and watched as his Master swam about the small, warm pool, smiling as he remembered how much Frodo had loved to swim when he was younger. “Another pleasure give back to you in your healin’,” he commented as Frodo surfaced, grinning broadly, near him and hoisted himself again onto the rim.
Yes, indeed another pleasure returned. And I can dance again as well. Frodo stood and shook himself, then held out a towel for Sam before taking another and drying his hair.
“Your hair is longer again, as it was in Minas Tirith when Strider liked it so.”
Is it? I rarely use a mirror any more--I rather got out of the habit until I realized I was becoming as I am, for there wasn’t one in the house at the time. But I don’t think I’ve had it cut for--for quite a long time. I used to have Olórin cut it for me from time to time; but it doesn’t appear to grow any longer any more.
There were new clothes lying on Sam’s bed when they reentered the bedroom, proper Hobbit garb, he noted, even if the materials were obviously such as Hobbits never used or even saw. Sam watched as his Master drew one of his silvery robes out of the wardrobe and donned it. “Those robes look quite well on you, as you’re almost pure, silver Light now.”
Frodo gave a small, distracted nod. I was given one to wear when I first was able to rise aboard the ship, although at times I’d wear my Hobbit garb. At first I felt decidedly odd wearing them, as though I were becoming something quite different indeed. But all told me that the robes became me well, and so I’ve continued wearing them.
I’d been aware of the fact I was changing somehow almost from the time we entered Lothlorien, Sam. I was able to ignore it most of the time, though, until after we woke in Ithilien. At times I felt the changing vividly, while at others I’d not think of it for weeks at a time. It was distressing, not knowing what I was changing to, however, as was the realization that there wasn’t a promise for healing as I foresaw for you, Merry, and Pippin.
That the changes I felt indicated a far different healing for me was something of which I remained unaware for quite some time. I think this is part of the reason they gave me the robes to wear when I came, rather than allowing me to continue on in Hobbit clothing. I’ve not been a simple Hobbit for a very, very long time, after all; and when at last I leave Arda it won’t be a typical Hobbit death.
“What will it be like?” Sam asked, feeling somehow relieved by these thoughts from his friend.
Frodo shrugged. I suspect it will be similar to what is told of the greatest of the Kings of Númenor, Sam--that when we know the time is right you and I will be granted the ability to simply lay ourselves down and offer ourselves up. That is how it was for Bilbo, and how it will be for Aragorn, I know.
“And we can choose about any time as we please?”
Why not? Neither of us is young, and we can’t be expected to go on all that much longer at any rate. Bilbo only stayed because of me, you know--and once he knew I was committed to remain until you arrived he went gladly.
“Did they bury his body, Master?”
Yes, as he’d indicated he wished it buried, near the White Tree.
“Oh, I wish to see the Tree--it’ll make it easier, feelin’ as if we was closer to Strider.”
Certainly--as soon as you’ve eaten, if you wish. We’ll take some more of the pictures....
“And the letters,” Sam added. “Lots have sent letters, and I’ve not given them to you as yet.”
Sam pulled out his brushes once he was fully dressed and carefully brushed head and feet; then they went out to the outer room, and Frodo began to demonstrate how to fill and light the cooking stove and regulate the ovens. “That cake,” Sam muttered. “Best get that started, and perhaps we can eat it tonight, and make our toasts. How do we ask others to come by after supper and share it with us, Frodo?”
I can summon them, Sam. Don’t worry for that. Whom would you wish to invite?
As Frodo prepared a breakfast for the two of them, Sam worked on the cake. He personally couldn’t see any true difference between the sugar used in the Shire and that used here, and soon had all he desired gathered. Rather than a cool room, there was a special cupboard of stone in which blocks of ice were kept in a stone trough in the bottom, the box serving to keep all within it cold and fresh. Here were stored pitchers of juices and milk, fresh cheeses and some fruits likely to spoil quickly if left out, and a basket of eggs. Sam quickly had the batter readied and was pouring it into cake pans Frodo produced.
When Frodo indicated the oven was ready they set the cake to bake as they ate their breakfast of eggs, cheese, fruit and tea. Frodo shone with satisfaction as he watched his friend eat heartily. I eat little enough, his thought commented. It will be instructive for those of my friends here to realize just what Hobbits are intended to be like, as I’m certainly not typical.
After the meal Elrond and Eldorin arrived and drew Sam to the bedroom, stripped him to his waist, and gave him a thorough examination. “Your heart recovers, Panthail,” Elrond told him. “You should receive a special athelas draught once a day for at least a score of days, and with it you should recover more swiftly. However, this will not change the fact that you are yet elderly by the standards of your people, and does not put off the day on which you accept the Gift by any extreme length of time.”
Sam shook his head as he finished the tying of the laces on his new shirt and drew the straps of his braces back up over his shoulders. “I’ve no desire to remain an unnatural length of time,” Sam informed him. “I’m a Hobbit, and a Hobbit I will be to the end, you’ll find. Mind you, I’ll not be goin’ afore I’ve fully enjoyed the grace as has been given me; but when I know as the time is right I’ll give over gladly enough. I won’t find my way back to my Rosie’s side here in Elvenhome, you see.” And such was the nature of his smile that both Elven healers found themselves smiling in return.
“You’ll both be comin’ tonight with your families for the sharing of Mister Frodo’s birthday cake, as belated as it is?” Sam asked as they rejoined Frodo in the living room.
“Gladly,” Eldorin assured him. “My wife and children look forward to coming to know you and Lord Frodo better.”
Come shortly after sunset, Frodo advised. And Sam has brought wine from the Baggins vineyard as well. We will learn if it is any good.
Eldorin laughed. “I can attest to that, Iorhael. We shared two bottles of it after we met on your birthday.”
Frodo laughed. At least some were keeping the birthday as I’d expected it to be kept. Until tonight, then.
Once the cake was cooling under clean cloths on the table in the kitchen and Sam was convinced all was in order in the small summerhouse, Sam fetched his pack and together they set off for the garden of the White Tree. Frodo sang as he led the way, and today he sang walking songs and one of the harvest songs traditionally sung in the Shire at Last Harvest, Sam joining in the singing. When they finally came around the last stand of lesser trees and bushes to see the White Tree of the island, Sam stopped, his eyes filled with delight. “So,” he whispered reverently, “this is where you’ve spent so much time. Every time as he lays his hand on that afore the Citadel and feels you here, Strider glows with pleasure. And when he doesn’t feel you there, he’s just as happy, for he says as that shows you’re truly livin’ here, and not pinin’ always for what you left behind.”
Frodo glowed with delight. Our tall brother is a wise one, you know, Sam.
Soon they were seated under the tree and Frodo was engaged in opening the packets handed him by Sam. He looked at the portrait of Narcissa Boffin with intense pleasure. And Aragorn himself wedded Narcissa and Brendi, he commented.
“You foresaw that?”
A nod of the head. I was a fool not to accept what I could from her; and yet it is as well I didn’t, I suppose. She looks much as I’d imagined she would at this time, Sam. She always was delightful to look at, although not pretty as Pearl was. Yet I find that she has a beauty, an inner beauty Pearl never fully possessed. And Brendi---- He lifted the portrait of Brendilac Brandybuck. I’ve never seen him happier, even when he was married to Merilinde. And this is my namesake? He held out the picture of Frodo Brandybuck.
“Yes, although that one doesn’t do him proper justice. Quite a strikingly handsome Hobbit, young Frodo is. His eyes is like his dad’s in color, and more like his mum’s in shape and the brows.”
Frodo nodded. He found the pictures of Brendi and Narcissa’s three daughters, and smiled gently. Then he was reading the letter, one written in two separate hands, both little changed by the intervening years.
Oh, Frodo Baggins, I barely know what to say. You know I loved you for so very long, since you were a tween and I was almost one. I’ve never truly stopped loving you, although I’ve learned to be complete with the love I’ve received from Brendi. Thank you, Frodo, for wishing me joy, a joy I’ve truly found. Thank you for the comfort of having known and helped raise Fosco and Forsythia. Thank you for bringing me to an appreciation of Brendi, and for sharing your love of our beloved King Elessar with me.
You are never far from my thoughts, you see. And I hope you aren’t upset we named our firstborn after you. I wish you joy, and look forward to the time we may be reunited with you at last. May the Valar keep you happily until that time comes.
With much love,
So, Frodo, at last Sam is leaving us to come to you. We will miss him dreadfully, although I know it isn’t for all that much longer. Narcissa and I aren’t particularly young any more, after all. And I look forward to seeing you again, and introducing Narcissa and Merilinde to one another at the last. They will love one another, I’m certain.
I so hope you have found the fulfillment there you could no longer know here, and that you know all the beauty your heart could ever desire. I know you’ve been able to resume dancing, and hope to dance by you once more in the Presence. And I’ll never forget the day I saw you enthroned atop the Hill.
Wait for us, Frodo, that we can sit at the Feast together, that we can enter the Presence together and with joy. I’ve never given over the longing for the company of my most beloved Cousin.
My love always,
Your Cousin Brendi
Sam saw that tears like jewels of Light slid slowly down Frodo’s face, saw the gentle, sadly joyful expression as Frodo read the letter, and was glad.
And so it went throughout the day. Near noon Livwen came, carrying her nephew Nabúhuril and a small basket, and after providing a light meal for the two Hobbits she sat nearby and paid attention as Frodo shared the letters and identified the portraits and held the small locks of hair sent him.
Not long after, Meliangiloreth arrived with more food and drink, and listened with approval to what Sam told her of the morning’s meeting with Eldorin and Elrond. She also rejoiced to see the solemn pleasure as Frodo continued to share his letters from those who’d loved him and who continued to love him.
Dear Cousin Frodo Baggins,
I’ve realized that Master Samwise is leaving the Shire to come to you at the last, and so I’m sending this to him by Quick Post in hopes he’ll be able to bring it with him.
My gammer and gaffer grieved for your leaving, particularly Ganda. He felt he was only marking time during his last term as Mayor between your period of service and that of Master Samwise, for he felt the two of you were the best Mayors we’ve ever known; and Gamma spoke of you with love to the end of her life.
My da also thought you and Master Samwise and Thain Peregrin and Master Meriadoc were all among the most special Hobbits as were ever born, and felt honored to have come to know all four of you.
Not long after you left the Shire we learned that Mum had quickened, and a fourth child was born to her and my da. Gamma was allowed to name my little sister once she came, and Gamma named her Primula after your mum. She said as she’d always cared for her cousin Primula after all, and felt that the time you spent with her and Ganda in the house in Michel Delving was her cousin’s gift to her, a gift intended to help them finally heal of the loss of Uncle Fenton.
Gamma loved you very much, and hoped so the grace offered you would allow you to know happiness again. I hope that, too. You were such a special person, you know. And I’m certain as you continue to be a special person.
I remember I used to tell you of my chickens and how I got to have the pennies from selling the eggs. I still do that today, and my own little ones each have a hen or two and a rooster as well.
I go to the Free Fair each year and look at the statue of the Storyteller and remember you, and hope each time I see it you are as happy as Master Ruvemir made you look in the statue. I miss you, and still wish you could come back to the Shire. However, knowing as you can’t do that, I still wish to let you know how very often I think of you, and how very much I still love you and treasure the memory of the time I knew you. I learned to read in order to read the book of Elven stories you left me, and I now read those stories to my own little ones--although they aren’t really so little any more. I hope they, too, will be as faithful and caring as you were, and that they, too, might hold some curiosity about what is out there in this world in which we live.
I’ve now met the King Aragorn Elessar. There’s an inn outside the Shire now, there across the Brandywine Bridge; and when he comes he and the Lady Arwen will often spend the night there, visiting with those they love and care about within the Shire, for he still will not break his own edict and enter in. Their daughters and son are wonderful folk, and to see the happiness and pride of those who serve them is a marvel. My daughter Anna works in the inn there and has served them. They have told me that her name means “gift,” and I do think of her that way. She’s the one who loves the stories of the Eldar days most, and I will leave the book to her when I must leave.
Remember always, Cousin Frodo, that I will never forget you, and that I will always love you and honor your memory. I hope so you know joy there where you are.
Dianthus Sandheaver Underhill
Frodo’s eyes were soft with memory. Dear Dianthus--and she married one of the Underhills. He laughed, sharing the memory of Bree and the name Underhill with Sam.
“We’d best get back so as I can get that cake iced,” Sam suggested, rising.
Frodo started to nod, then paused, his head lifting as if listening. His eyes lit with delight, and he gave a significant look to Sam.
Sam paused for a moment, then asked, “Is he there?” At Frodo’s nod Sam’s face glowed with anticipation, and he hurried forward and set his hand to the trunk of the tree, while Frodo twisted to look up at his expression. “Hello, Strider----” And he could not think of other words to communicate, only let his gladness fill him.
Melian paused at the surprised look on her father’s face. “What is it, Adar?” she asked.
“I’m not certain,” he answered her, his grey eyes somewhat crinkled with concentration, “but I sense both Sam and Frodo, and Sam appears somewhat excited. The pain of the loss of his Rosie appears to have relaxed, and the awareness of both Frodo and myself gives him great pleasure and joy. As for Frodo--he is both joyful and amused.”
“Does that mean that Lord Sam is beneath the mallorn that grows in the Shire?” she asked.
The Lord Aragorn Elessar gave a shrug, closing his eyes to share his own feelings of pleasure at the awareness of two he loved dearly. Then, reluctantly he pulled away from the Tree, for he was to address a meeting of guild masters in half a mark, and he had yet to make his way down through the city to the hall in the First Circle where the meeting was to take place.
Meliangiloreth and Livwen watched the flaring of the Lights of the two Hobbit lords with awe and delight. “Was your tall brother there?” Livwen asked.
Yes, and with one of his daughters, the elder one.
“The Lady Melian,” Sam added, his eyes still filled with excitement. “He couldn’t linger, though--had some kind of commitment, I think.”
I’ve not sensed his son for some time.
“He’s in Arnor, ridin’ with the Rangers of Eriador and spendin’ some time with the Northern Steward, learnin’ more of the runnin’ of the northern kingdom,” Sam said. “When he follows Strider he’ll be well prepared.” He scooped up his pack while Meliangiloreth helped him gather up the portraits and letters Frodo had been reading. Frodo lifted his own arms to take the small Elfling, holding him close in pleasure while Livwen gathered up the remains of the meals brought to the two Perianneth.
Those who came on the last ship told me he and Lady Arwen named their son Eldarion.
“That they did. Looks much like a cross between Lord Elrond and Strider hisself, and you, too, he does. Never grew a beard, and his hair has true curls to it.”
Frodo looked closely at his friend as they began the return journey to the summerhouse. Why should he look like me? he wondered.
“I can’t truly say, Master--only he does--it’s the hair, I think--and the cleft in the chin. And he, too, has the soul of a gardener, like both his dad and his mum. Only had to show him anything to do with plants and growin’ things once and he’d know it.”
Meliangiloreth smiled gently. “Lord Eldarion does indeed resemble you, Lord Iorhael, although he is, of course, much taller and a warrior. One thing in which he excells beyond the skill of his father, however, is in dancing. Estel could have been a great dancer had he ever given himself to the study of it, I always felt, considering the grace he exhibits in practice with sword and knife. But I fear he never had a great deal of patience for dancing.”
I realized that the night he was made King of Gondor. And they named their younger daughter Idril?
I’m still awaiting the pictures of their family.
Sam laughed. “You’ll see those tonight, Master, if’n you can be patient that long.”
Frodo made a face at Sam, then joined in the laughter as they returned to the summerhouse.
The first of the guests arrived shortly after sunset. Those who came each brought something to add to the impromptu feast, and several brought instruments for music and dancing.
Sam watched with great satisfaction as Frodo joined in the dancing, seeing the pleasure displayed and how all seemed to dance the better for Frodo’s participation. It was not as loud an affair as such parties in the Shire would have been; but there was no question that all appeared to be enjoying themselves.
Tales were told, and Frodo requested that Sam recite his poem about the Stone Troll. With a minimum of flushing Sam complied, and all applauded with more enthusiasm than the gardener had expected. The Lay of Gil-galad was sung, as well as a few lays native to Aman. Frodo sang a song he’d composed describing the coronation of the King Elessar and the coming of his bride, and Sam listened with deep pleasure, for it was a song of great beauty. He noted the pride to be seen in the eyes of Lord Elrond--and the grief that gave that pride gravity.
Olórin arrived somewhat after the main body of the rest of the guests, accompanied by two other Maiar. Tonight Olórin wore the aspect of Gandalf the White, and Sam found himself both comforted and discomfited at the same time, a situation that appeared to cause the former wizard a good deal of amusement. “I’m not certain as to how you can appear so many different ways,” Sam tried to explain.
The Maia smiled, humor discernible in the crinkles about his eyes. “When I was sent to Middle Earth I was expected to take a form most Men of honor would respect but that would not cause others either to worship me or see me as more than advisor. And so I became Gandalf. It is an identity I have never fully given over, I find; and so it is that on some days I again become Gandalf, sometimes unwittingly. It is to the honor of the Cormacolindor this evening, however, that I have assumed this form again at this time. After all, who else should light the candles on Frodo’s birthday cake save Gandalf?”
Sam laughed, and saw the cake produced, the fifty-four candles all in place; and with a gesture by Gandalf all were lit before the cake was set before Frodo.
Frodo’s face was bright with a deep happiness. I thank you for attending this party--the second, I’ve learned, given this year in honor of my birthday. The greatest gift I could have received has been granted me at this time, and I have rejoiced to receive it in the form of the arrival of the brother of my heart. It is customary at Hobbit birthdays that gifts be given to those attending the party, but I’ve simply not had time to properly prepare--or rather, I have not had time in which I knew this party was to happen to prepare. And it appears that on the day of my actual birthday I was so distracted the only gift I presented that day was the sculpture of the bird I gave to the Lady Galadriel.
His face grew more solemn, although the underlying joy didn’t disappear. I learn now I have lived in Arda a hundred fourteen years, which is a good long time for a Hobbit. I’ve lived among you for sixty-one years, and I am grateful for them. I have known pleasure and the joy all had wished for me all these years. And now I have received word that many in Middle Earth still remember me and continue to wish me to know joy, and seek to reassure me that I am still loved there.
His eyes searched the company. I thank you--thank you for the acceptance you’ve shown to Bilbo, Sam, and myself as mortals. I thank you for the support you have shown me, the teaching you have given me, the love you’ve expressed. And I thank you for coming to our party. With that he leaned forward and blew out the candles on the cake.
Sam came forward at that time with a packet and entrusted it to Frodo, and Iorhael examined it, reverently touched the address shown, then came about the table on which sat the cake and presented the packet to Lord Elrond. It appears Sam and I have a gift for you and your family, he said as Elrond accepted the packet, then slit it open.
On top was a small painting of the Lady Arwen seated with embroidery, one Sam recognized as having been made by Ruvemir of Lebennin. Under it was one of a young woman, her face Elven fair, her hair a dark gold similar to that of Sam Gamgee, her eyes a clear grey. That of her brother showed a young Man, his face beardless, his eyes as clear a grey as those of his parents and sister, his hair falling in dark curls to his shoulders, his brow high and smooth, the cleft chin firm. The picture of the younger daughter showed one whose hair was mixed silver and gold, her eyes the blue of the eyes of Galadriel, her smile full of the joy of life. Frodo’s smile grew great as he looked on the pictures sent to Arwen’s family here, as he looked on Aragorn’s son and daughters. His eyes flickered from the pictures to the face of the Elven lord.
Elrond’s eyes were damp with tears, his face filled with joy. He looked toward Sam. “You thought to ask for these?” he asked. At Sam’s nod he murmured, “Thank you ever for your thought for us, my Lord Panthail. A worthy one indeed you have proven.” He handed the portraits to his wife, whose face searched the pictures avidly, feasting on the joy to be seen in the eyes of their daughter, the competency of their grandson, the beauty of their granddaughters. Galadriel stood over where her daughter sat on the low couch beside her husband, her own eyes shining as she looked upon the likenesses of her granddaughter and great-grandchildren.
Under the picture of Idril was a formal portrait of Aragorn, the Star of Elendil on his brow, Anduril in the sheath the Lady of Lothlorien had given him at his hip, the Sceptre of Annúminas in his hands, the Elessar Stone holding closed his formal mantle, the Ring of Barahir and the one he wore as marriage token both displayed with pride as he stood before the White Tree of Gondor. Celebrían looked to her husband’s face with surprise, as did several others who attended that evening.
One who stood beside the Lady Galadriel was obviously an Elf of great power and responsibility, his eyes filled with memories of grief and glory. He reached down to take the picture of the King from the hand of Celebrían. He took a deep, almost shuddering breath. He looked finally into the eyes of Samwise Gamgee. “This is he who is now King of Men in Middle Earth?” he asked.
“Yessir,” Sam said with quiet pride, “Aragorn son of Arathorn, heir to Elendil, Isiludur, Valandil, and Arvedui, King of Gondor and Arnor reunited.”
“His face is very familiar, Elrond, for it is so similar to that of your father and even moreso to your brother, though neither sported a beard.”
Elrond paused, then nodded. “I’ve known this all his life,” he said. “If we must leave Middle Earth to the stewardship of Men, then he was the best available, the one in whom the greatness of my brother has shown forth most clearly since the days of Elendil himself.” He reached forward to take the portrait of Eldarion into his hands. “And this is my grandson. How beautiful he is!” He looked first at the Elf lord and then back to his wife. “They are all so beautiful,” he whispered again, “our daughter’s children, Estel’s children.”
The Elven lord reached out to take the portrait into his own hands, examined it closely. He looked to the Lady Galadriel. “Well, sell nín,” he commented, “I find myself well pleased to see what kind of Man is now my great, great-grandson.”
Frodo smiled into the Elf lord’s eyes. Yes, Lord Finarfin, now your progeny will remain in Middle Earth as well as populating Aman. And as Lords of Gondor and Arnor, they will see to it that the greater part of Middle Earth is well governed.
Sam’s eyes were large as he realized the identity of this guest. He bowed deeply. “Lord Finarfin--it is the greatest honor for me to meet you at the last. I’ve read so much of you--you and your brothers and your family....”
Iorhael laughed. You will find, my Lord, that Sam here has been one of the most knowledgable among mortals on the First Age of Middle Earth. Meeting you has been one of the greatest of honors he could know. I am so glad you came this evening.
“To meet my daughter’s husband and father to my granddaughter was my initial intent; but to see these, and to know that my family will be part of the greatness of the Mortal Lands as a counter to much of the shame it brought there in the past has made it well worth the journey from my home. And, of course, to see you again, Iorhael, and to meet at last the great Lord Panthail has made it even more of a worthy occasion.”
Sam flushed again, and Frodo laughed aloud.
The cake was cut and the wine opened, and all rose for the toast. Celeborn lifted his glass. “To the Cormacolindor, to Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, and Samwise Gamgee, who each fought the corrupting influence of Sauron’s Ring beyond the capability of all others. Eglerio!”
And to those we love whom we’ve by necessity left behind--may they ever remember how much they are loved and know Joy, Frodo added.
All lifted their glasses and drank.
Not long after Sam paused in his talk with Lord Finarfin and his son Finrod who’d accompanied him to note that Frodo had drifted off to sleep in the chair in which he sat, and that the three Maiar stood about him as if they made a guard of honor for him.
Soon most left, leaving only Elrond and Celebrían, Galadriel and Celeborn, Finarfin and Finrod, and Olórin and his companions. Livwen and her sister and husband leaned down to kiss the top of Sam’s forehead, and Sam had noted that Livwen had also given a gentle kiss to the sleeping Frodo. She caught Sam’s eye before she left through the door. “He always falls asleep after a few sips of wine any more,” she murmured. “He will not linger with us much longer, and I will miss him deeply.”
Sam nodded. “But he’ll never forget you, Mistress,” he assured her. “He’ll bear the memory of you always in his heart, no matter where his spirit will go.”
She smiled, gave her own small nod, then followed her sister and her brother-in-law out into the night.
When the others had gone, Celeborn reached inside his own tunic to bring forth another packet and present it to Elrond. “The last time Elessar and his family came north, about two years ago, they gave me this, asking me to keep it by me, and promising to bring another when next they come. I brought it with me.”
This packet was wrapped in an envelope of silver silk edged with black, and sealed with black wax shot with silver into which Aragorn had impressed his personal seal of the eight-pointed star and the simple A glyph. Inside were several folded missives.
It has been a long time since you left us. I miss you greatly, you and Lady Galadriel and Lord Erestor and so many I knew and loved for so long. I don’t know how long Lord Celeborn will linger. I know he intended to remain until the last of the Eldar take ship to Aman; but I’ve seen the pain grow each time he must take leave of Arwen, and doubt he will truly choose to stay to see her ending.
I love you, and hope I continue to bring you honor through the exercise of the training and education you showered on me during my youth and those times I could spend with you in the years of wandering.
Three children have we had, Melian, Eldarion, and Idril. Melian is the eldest, the most serious, and the one with the true heart of an Elf in her, observant, wise well beyond her years, quick to see to the heart of whatever issue she faces. She has traveled from the borders of Angmar into Harad and beyond to Camaloa, from the tents of the folk of Mundolië to the quays of Mithlond. She has made it known she will not accept the Winged Crown or Sceptre after me, indicating it is all for Eldarion when the time comes, and Eldarion has bowed to his sister’s wishes and has accepted her will, and will follow me on the thrones of Gondor and Arnor.
Eldarion is the one in whom the gifts of the Eldar are most obvious. He was recently admitted to the Guild of Bards and Musicians; he is a worthy and most canny commander of armies; he dances with a grace second only to that displayed by my small brother Frodo when he danced at our wedding feast; he learns languages with a facility that amazes me, and speaks them clearly and without question as to his meaning; and he has the folk of Umbar terrified of him, although he has never openly spoken a word of threat against them.
Idril is a young woman of an open and loving heart, her compassion beyond bounds, her ability to plan aid beyond expectation. She has undertaken much of the work of seeing to it education is offered to all, and that appropriate training is offered to any with disabling or crippling conditions. She also aids much on the keeping of the archives of Minas Anor and of Annúminas, and coordinates much with those who care for the libraries of Imladris and the Shire as well. Education is now offered to all who are desirous of it throughout Gondor and Arnor.
We send you our love, our respect, our great honor. And if this should reach you before Frodo leaves you, we ask again that you stand by him ever until he chooses to accept the Gift at the last; and welcome Sam when he comes. And if this arrives after they have left, we offer you our thanks for the caring you have shown them, my two closest brothers of the heart.
Elladan and Elrohir have given me my mother’s journal, and I have learned of the two children she bore that were lost to miscarriage. I give thanks for that knowledge, and for the realization that those two lost ones were so cherished as they were. Please lay a blossom on the grave of Bilbo Baggins for my sake, honoring his labor in preparing much of the Hope for all the Free Peoples of Middle Earth as he did.
If Sam comes after this arrives, hold him close for me, for he will be much bereft by the loss of the Lady Rose his wife, for he will not leave Middle Earth until she has left it. Let both Sam and Frodo ever know how deeply I love and miss the two of them, and how deeply loved and honored they are and ever will be, for as long as the Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor remain.
And I rejoice ever I have known all of you, and give thanks for all you’ve ever given me. May you all continue to prosper and know joy.
Letters there were for Elrond, Celebrían, Galadriel, Erestor, and others from Aragorn, Arwen and the children, and some even from Arwen to her grandmother’s father as well. And a letter was there for Frodo, one Sam accepted for his Master’s sake.
Last there were three letters for Gandalf, letters he accepted with surprise. He read each with lifted brows, his face gentling as he did so. “Surprisingly faithful, your young Estel,” he commented to Elrond. “Dear to me they remain, Aragorn and Arwen.” He gave Sam a piercing look. “And where has he had monuments made to me?”
“Well, you appear as one of the Nine Walkers in the groupin’ set off the crossroads north and east of Bree; and in the one commissioned by the remainin’ Elves of the Ridin’ of Elrond and the rest. Your statue stands on guard outside the tower of Orthanc now, and near the new Bridge Inn on the east end of the Brandywine Bridge.
“And of course your statue stands now in the throne room of Minas Anor and that of Annúminas as well. Strider’s intent on makin’ certain as you remain in mind for as long as possible, you see.”
The three Maiar all laughed joyfully. One turned to he who wore the aspect of an elderly Man. We see you are indeed well remembered as well as faithful, Olórin, he commented. The King’s steed named after you, and your image publically displayed. You, at least, are remembered there with honor. His face grew more solemn. If only Saruman had remained as true as yourself and he who is known there as Radagast.
Olórin nodded slowly, and sighed. “If only,” he agreed. “To lose both Sauron and then Saruman both to the lust for power still tears at my heart.”
The third Maia, who appeared female, indicated her agreement, then turned to where Frodo slept in his chair. This one needs his rest, she indicated. Let you see him to his couch, and we will leave them.
Smiling, Gandalf lifted Frodo’s slight form and carried him gently into the bedroom, and with Sam’s assistance saw him into his bed. Gently he laid his hand briefly on Frodo’s brow. “Sleep well, pen neth,” he murmured. “Rest for the joy of the new day, and for those remaining you here in Arda.” He drew the blanket over Frodo, then turned away. Looking down on Sam, he smiled gently. “I am so very relieved you chose to come, Sam. I’m certain that you were tempted to remain in the Shire to rest by Rosie’s side. The choice at the end must have been far harder than you’d ever considered possible.
“We have all come to love your Master as much as you do yourself, and are glad he won’t be alone when at last he must leave us. That time comes ever closer, and already many know grief that that time must come. We have been greatly honored that we were allowed to cherish him, and he has taught many to appreciate that those who are mortal can know as much grace as the highest of Elvenkind.
“And you will, in what time you choose to remain with us, teach them even more about the true meaning of faithfulness, honor, and respect, and that wisdom is granted to all the Children of Iluvatar. Thank you for trusting us with your treasure for so long, and for coming to seek it at the last.”
Not trusting himself to speak, Sam gave a brief inclination of his head to the Maia. He moved to look down on Frodo’s sleeping form and smiled again, setting the letter from Middle Earth beside Frodo’s hand. Then he turned again to Gandalf, and came forward to embrace him once more. The Maia sank to his knees, his smile warming as he held the small gardener to him. At last Sam stepped back, and Olórin rose and bowed deeply, then turned and left the room, joining his companions and going out into the night.
Sam found Elven lords and ladies in the kitchen, seeing to the last of the washing up. He flushed deeply. “It’s not for the likes of you to be clearin’ away after a party,” he began, but Elrond interrupted him.
“Estel doesn’t always allow the servants to do all that needs doing, does he?” he asked.
“Well, no, he never has.”
“And didn’t you continue to pick up dropped items about your home and work some in the gardens until the day you left your kin to begin your journey here?” the former lord of Imladris persisted.
“Well, of course,” Sam admitted.
“Are we any better than the Lord of Gondor and Arnor, or than the Lord Panthail of all the Free Peoples?” Elrond asked. “Shall we refuse to do work that needs doing solely because we have known lordship? No, tonight you have hosted the party, but we will not allow you to need to clear away by yourself. And we again hope you appreciate how glad we are that you chose to come.”
Soon the Lady Celebrían served Sam with his draught, and Elrond ordered him to his couch. Still feeling unsettled to be waited upon so by such great ones among Elves, Sam finally retreated to the bedroom; and in the distance he heard Lord Finarfin raising a song to Yavanna.