Frodo again woke Sam, standing at the window and singing. Sam saw that Frodo held the letter left by him last night, and that his Light was brightly shining. When the song was done Sam slipped from his couch and came to stand by Frodo, looking out into the gardens under the light of morning. “It’s beautiful,” he said in hushed tones. Frodo nodded in reply.
Soon they were walking out into the gardens, Sam carrying his pack and a trowel and fork provided by Frodo, Frodo carrying a gardening basket. They found an area that hadn’t been weeded recently, and knelt to work for a time, and were quickly joined by an adult elleth and several Elflings. The children appeared fascinated by Sam, and accepted Frodo’s introduction with respectful bows.
Finally a small girlchild looked to Sam and asked, “You came on the latest ship to arrive from Ennor?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Was it a long voyage?”
“At times it seemed like it was takin’ forever, but then us Hobbits, not bein’ a sea-going folk to begin with, wouldn’t really know what it ought to be like takin’ such a voyage. But I think as they told me it took us about five and a half weeks to get here from the Havens of Mithlond.”
“And you knew Iorhael before?”
“I’ve known him since I was but a little one. I was ten years old when he come to live at Bag End with his Uncle Bilbo.”
“Was he but a child, too?”
Sam felt surprised. “A child? No, he was yet a lad still, but not that far from bein’ an adult. He was twenty-one then, almost twenty-two. That a tween would become such friends with the gardener’s youngest lad didn’t seem likely at the time.”
Even as a small child you were yet an old soul, Samwise Gamgee, Frodo assured him. Few of those near my age in Brandy Hall were anywhere as mature or as interested in the same things as me as was true of you.
Sam shrugged, smiling as he carefully uprooted a grass plant. “I only knew at the time as I’d never seen such as you anywhere in all my ten years, I hadn’t. All the tweens in Hobbiton were much heavier and more--solid.”
Frodo turned to the elleth. He thought I was an Elf, actually.
Sam flushed, but laughed. “That I did. But, then I’d never seen an Elf afore, I hadn’t. Lord Gildor and his folk were the first I rightly saw, and that wasn’t till years later.”
The adult elleth gave the two Hobbits each a careful examination. “Yet Lord Panthail appears older than you, Iorhael--or at least the same age, as I remember mortals to appear.”
Frodo gave a deep sigh. You did not see the two of us together at the time I left Middle Earth, for at that time I definitely looked much older than Sam.
“And afore that we looked much of an age, since about the time as I became an adult. Frodo here hadn’t appeared to grow older since the day as he come of age, when the Ring come to him. Only when we neared Mordor did he begin to look older. The quest was agin’ him, and the Ring was startin’ to scour the heart right out of him by then.”
Since I came here I have endured less and less grief and pain; and in the Becoming I have no longer appeared to grow older as I would have done had I remained in Middle Earth.
Sam’s expression grew solemn. “Had you remained in Middle Earth you would of died some sixty years ago, most like.” He turned toward the grown elleth. “My Mr. Frodo was allowed to come here and know healin’ for his body and his spirit. Among mortals, those as knows peace in their hearts tend to appear to age more slowly than those as must always make hard decisions, and so it’s been for my Master.”
An older child asked, “What does it mean to be a ‘tween’?”
Frodo explained, Our people mature more slowly than Men, who are adult usually around the age of twenty years. Hobbits are considered mature at thirty-three, and tweens, those between twenty and thirty-three, are usually expected to behave in an irresponsible manner. Dwarves mature more slowly still, and come of age at around eighty or so. Gimli, who accompanied us from Rivendell, was only in his mid-sixties when his father and the others took Bilbo with them to the Lonely Mountain to face Smaug; he was considered far too young at the time to go on such a dangerous adventure. He will probably survive Aragorn, though, and has been granted permission to sail here to Tol Eressëa with Legolas. I don’t believe, however, that they will do that until Aragorn has died, so we’re unlikely to see them again--not in this life.
“Was Iorhael irresponsible?” asked a young boychild of Sam.
“Frodo, irresponsible? No, never knew him to be that. Although I’ve heard tales now of what he was like as a teen in Buckland. The terror of the Marish, he was, thievin’ from the farms and dairies and all.”
Several pairs of unbelieving eyes were turned on Frodo. “You weren’t!” insisted one of the older children.
Frodo shook his head and looked at Sam. So, they told you all the stories, did they? Yes, I was quite the rogue as a teen--for a few years until I was caught at it and almost had the life frightened right out of me by Farmer Maggot’s dogs, and then a meeting with one whom I believe was Radagast the Brown. I never stole again after that.
The elleth who’d started the conversation was shaking her head. “I’d never have believed you would ever be a thief, Iorhael,” she said in Sindarin.
Sam looked back and forth between her and his Master. “Unfortunately, taking food from fields, gardens, orchards, glasshouses, dairies, and smoke houses is a common failing for young Periannath,” he answered her in the same language. “We usually need so much food when we are teens, you see, and always feel hungry. Most farmers expect it, and will plant the crops they don’t mind being raided usually nearest the fences, or the ones like barley that aren’t as inviting. But Frodo here--he made an art form of his raiding. The stories told by Merry were very instructive.” He switched back to Westron. “And of course my lads--havin’ heard a few of your exploits they had to try them themselves.”
Frodo laughed cheerfully. You ought not to have allowed the tales to be told before young Hobbits, Sam, and you know it.
“So I learned.”
They worked in companionable silence for a time. Finally Sam asked, “What did the letter Strider sent you say?”
How much he loved me and missed me, and how he looked forward to entering the Presence at my side. The Lady Undómiel indicated how very glad she was I agreed to accept her gift to me, and the children each indicated how they wished they’d known me personally, having seen how so many remembered me with such love. And Lord Faramir also sent me his greetings and best wishes. He straightened and sat back on his haunches. You can’t believe, Sam, how heartening it has been, reading these letters, knowing so many I cared for have been able to know such fulfillment in their lives and yet think still of my happiness. I’d expected to be largely forgotten by now.
Sam’s face grew solemn. “In truth, Mr. Frodo, few in the Shire member a great deal about you, save as you was old Mad Baggins’s heir who left the Shire twice and didn’t know how to accept a proper honor when it was give you. There’s been far more like old Odo Proudfoot than I’d expected. But them as knew you best, those as was your close kin and knew you in Hobbiton or workin’ the eight months you did in the Mayor’s office--they all have missed you deeply.”
So I’m learning. Well, as they’re the ones whose opinion actually means something, I’m grateful for each who’s written to me.
In time Frodo tired and sat back on the bench and began telling a story. When at last he was finished Sam looked up, a gentle smile on his face. “That’s the tale you wrote for me for your first birthday in Bag End,” he said. “I’ve always loved that story.”
Yes, the first story I wrote for your sake. Frodo sighed, then after a look of inquiry at Sam he delved himself into the pack to see whose letter he might come up with next. This one was from Brandy Hall, and appeared to have been written years before. Carefully Frodo opened it, and began to share it with the rest.
I don’t know when you will receive this letter or if you ever will, for I’m not truly certain how one sends a letter to the Elven lands across the Sea.
Across the Sea--such a short phrase for so very great a distance in time and space, one I have difficulty in imagining. Indeed I have difficulty imagining you having gone so far from me and from Merry.
Your Uncle Saradoc has just died, and now Merry is Master of Buckland and the Hall, and of the Marish as well. He’s a bit overwhelmed at the moment, having lost his father and then found himself with so much responsibility all at once. I’ve also named him family head, for it’s not a job I feel I can handle. As Paladin’s health has become a bit troublesome, I suspect that he will follow his close friend Sara soon, and I can’t see Lanti and me lingering long after that. We are looking at the end of our lives here in Middle Earth, and will undoubtedly feel relieved once we’re beyond the bounds of Arda.
Sara died as the result of an accident--a wagon that had been caught in the mud lost its purchase as they were lifting it out, and it landed on him, knocking him face down. He appears to have breathed in some of the mud and suffered also some crushed ribs. Within a few days the lung sickness settled in, and he didn’t survive long.
Before he died he called for you, seemed to be reliving the time you lived with us as our ward, was trying to assure you that he now understood why you appeared to be fading then, that he’d never seek to stop you doing things any more. He kept saying how much he loved you, and asking you to watch over Merry and me for him.
He loved you so, Frodo--but then we all did, and I still do. I remember how you looked the last time we saw you, how thin, how pale, how weak. We feared you were dying, and indeed learned we were correct--that had you remained you would still have left us far too soon. We all believe you survived the journey, however, and we so hope you have come to know the healing and happiness denied you here.
I wanted to wish you farewell, Frodo Baggins, to tell you how glad I was to know how very much you love us. I want you to know how proud we have always been of you, even in the difficult times when you were raiding the farms of the Marish and doing it so very thoroughly. And now that we know why you left the Shire, and how brave you were, and how much it cost you, we are amazed at how much you accomplished.
We met your friend Aragorn, and cannot now imagine life without his rule. He is such a wonderful person! And Rivendell is so very beautiful--I now understand why Bilbo chose to live there at the end.
Sam makes a marvelous Mayor--as you tried to explain, he has been so very good for the Shire. But I doubt he’d have been anywhere as wonderful had he not had your example to follow, your love to spark his, your intelligence and curiosity to set his afire. From you he’s learned how to lead, how to think things through; you’ve helped him understand his own capacity for compassion and wisdom.
Thank you, Frodo, for what you did for the Shire and for all of Middle Earth. Thank you for not allowing our folk to learn hatred, fear, and vengeance. Thank you for encouraging us to seek justice without malice, for showing us the true meaning of honor.
And be well, Frodo--be well. I hope that for you above all else, that at last you might be truly well and at ease.
I love you so, dearling. I look forward to the day when we are reunited again at last.
On the back of the letter was written in Merry’s precise writing, Dear Frodo, we found this tucked beneath the tray in Mum’s jewelbox after she died. I’m forwarding this to Sam, hoping that one day he will indeed come to you once more and bring it to you. Mum and Dad both always felt you were as much their son as I was, and were heartbroken when Bilbo took you to Hobbiton--until they saw you regain your joy once more.
I miss you, Frodo--I miss you so very much. Every day I think of something I wish to tell you about being Master and the Brandybuck, about being a husband and father, about fishing on the river or raising my ponies or about the latest trip out to Bree, about the new inn being built on the opposite side of the Brandywine Bridge or what trick Pippin and I have managed to pull on poor Sam. I want to introduce you to Master Ruvemir and Mistress Miriel, to take you Minas Anor to see the city now--it is so much more magnificent than it used to be, to see you holding Strider’s new son.
I wish you could come back. I wish I could go to you. I wish I had a Palantir to see you in.
I miss you, and love you. MB
Frodo considered the letter for several minutes. So, that is how Uncle Sara died, the thought at last came.
Sam nodded. “Yes. Took all by surprise, for he’d remained strong and healthy until the accident. At least he didn’t linger long, and was soothed at the last. Poor Merry was much grieved, of course. Mistress Esmeralda lived six years longer, and saw the first two of her grandchildren born, young Periadoc and Melody. It eased her much to see both come easy, not as it’d been for her or your mum. She fell asleep in her chair in the Master’s parlor one day after luncheon, and passed away in her sleep. Went right easy, she did, smilin’ in her dreams.”
Frodo thought for a moment, then smiled gently. I rejoice that it was easy for her.
And much of the discussion that day was of those who’d died, the older cousins, the husbands and wives of friends and relatives, the characters who’d enlivened the Shire remembered by Frodo.
“Ted Sandyman died thirty years back, taken by drink. Always was a bad’un, you know. When at last those as cooperated with Lotho and Timono was tried he was give a weekend a month servitude to the headman for Bywater for the rest of his life; and after he tried to help Bigelow and Bedro Bracegirdle force a marriage between Bedro and your cousin Forsythia it was made a week a month plus he must work at helpin’ to restore the mills, and he had to return all as was found in his possession as it could be shown wasn’t his to begin with. They found a number of things as had been yours as he was forced to give me, and I saw them give to young Mr. Fosco for you. Thain Paladin hisself identified a pen knife as he’d given you, a fine case for a striker set from Mistress Eglantine, a wrist chain you received for one of Pippin’s birthdays, and at least two sets of shirt studs. Merry and his folks identified even more give you by folk from the Hall or by old Mr. Bilbo and even your own parents. Between times, however, he just kept drinkin’, tellin’ all as couldn’t avoid listenin’ as to how badly used he was. Took his liver, it did.”
Sam could see that as he’d spoken, Frodo had begun to go stiff with righteous anger at what he was being told. What is this about Forsythia being forced to marry Beasty Bracegirdle? he demanded.
Sam shook his head. “Oh, that happened while we was gone south to Gondor to see the unveilin’ of the monument in Minas Tirith. Beasty was give pretty heavy reparations to pay, and a very good deal of that to the Chubbs brothers as had set up the tailor shop there near the old Bridge Inn. He wasn’t payin’ out proper, he wasn’t, and was bein’ pressed by Mr. Benlo to get a proper job so as to keep up the what he owed. Well, he couldn’t find any as was willin’ to hire him to serve as a bully, and wasn’t willin’ to do any more honorable job; so him and his dad decided what was necessary was for him to marry rich and use the dowry he could get to pay the reparations off once and for all. Missus Lilac Gravelly’d died, and they decided that the proper one to force to marry Bedro was Miss Forsythia, and so Bigelow made friends with old Mr. Emro and began usin’ weighted dice with him. Thain Paladin and Pippin themselves investigated, and if that wasn’t a big to-do! Those as took part in the scheme for the most part got enforced servitude and all, but Bedro Bracegirdle was sent for judgment from Lord Strider hisself when he come north for that conference he promised us. Mr. Benlo was that disgusted he struck the lout from the Bracegirdle book, he did.
“Which reminds me, Master....” He gave Frodo a remarkably stern look. “What in Middle Earth possessed you to seek to strike yourself from the Book of Baggins? You’ve never in your life seen two so upset as young Fosco and Forsythia when they realized, which was right away.”
Frodo closed his eyes and shook his head, drawing his knees up before his chest and clasping his hands about them. I’d forgotten I’d done that, his thought said in a remarkably still way. It was near Midsummer, that last Midsummer, and I was having the nightmares nightly, several times a night. I had this particularly vivid one, one the Ring would have enjoyed thoroughly, in which I stood for judgment in a great hall, and was roundly condemned for my tardiness in leaving the Shire, for having failed to reach Mordor and the Mountain before so many died, for having failed to have disposed of the Ring properly, for having failed to serve the Shire as it needed, for having been weak and not strict in seeking justice on Sméagol and Saruman, for my weakness in not--punishing myself properly before, for causing you such prolonged distress.... It went on and on and on. Of course, I myself was the judge, and the jury was made up of all who’d criticized me in my life--Mistress Lalia, Otho and Lotho, Timono Bracegirdle, that orc slave driver, Bill Ferny and the Southerner we saw in Bree, Saruman himself, Tolman Smallburrow, Ted Sandyman crouched at Lotho’s elbow as ever he was, that fellow from Umbar who’d been so horrible, and Bedro Bracegirdle.
I was made to judge myself for my failure, and--and that was the punishment I ordered for myself.
I awoke in the study, the Book of Baggins before me, a pen knife in my hand, the red ink open. And I did it.
Sam sighed. At last he said, “We suspected as that was the way of it, although of course we wasn’t completely certain. Well, you was properly restored once Fosco come of age, and at Midsummers that year, written back into the book along with your proper title, for your ennoblement on the Field of Cormallen was ratified by election that summer.”
Frodo’s Light went a purer white of sheer surprise. You allowed the Shire to know about that ennoblement?
“I’ll admit that most as voted didn’t properly understand as what it was they was votin’ on; but as Benlo Bracegirdle and Bucca Sandheaver’d stood there for about an hour goin’ over each and every good thing as you’d managed to do for the Shire while you was servin’ as deputy Mayor, there was very few as didn’t seem to think as it was a good thing to agree on, particularly after it was made clear as the King was for it. Most don’t think a great deal on Lord Strider, but I’ll have you know as almost all, even those as haven’t seen him, all seem to think of him in the best of terms when they do.”
And did you tell him?
Sam was shaking his head. “No, I didn’t, but you can believe as young Fosco did, allowin’ the King to know as you was properly restored to the Book again, and most honorably so.”
A tall ellon came with a meal for the Hobbits, one Sam found himself greatly thankful for. “I can’t think as why I don’t seem to take thought for bringin’ a meal with us when we come away from the house, Master,” he commented as he looked up from a particularly delicious bread roll spread with crushed berries.
You are falling under the spell of the place, Sam. If it weren’t for those intent on seeing to it I am served in spite of myself I suspect I’d forget to eat completely, and I have no idea as to how long I would have survived. Iorhael looked up at the Elf who’d brought the meal and indicated his own thanks. I simply cannot keep track of time, and for some reason particularly during the day. Sunset and dawn are the two times I appear most aware of, and the rising of Eärendil’s bark. But I sing and rejoice, work in the gardens, tramp about the island, swim on occasion in the sea, visit the groves.
The Elf nodded his agreement. “We’ve found him at times far from his house, seeking shells on the beaches of coves, examining the layers of rock on cliffsides, coaxing tales from our mariners and the fisher folk, watching the deer, walking across fields with fox kits gamboling about him and tugging at the hem of his robe, helping children to sweep clean a stone patio while telling tales from the peoples of the Mortal Lands. Most of the children who spend time near him have learned Westron, although he’s fully fluent in Sindarin and Quenya and a few of the other tongues spoken here. And all compete to see to it he doesn’t fail due to his own lack of thought for his sustenance. He’s a very fine one, we find.”
Not long after that they took leave of the children, one of the older lads having indicated he would see the plants they’d weeded away replanted elsewhere. They returned to the summerhouse and sat and talked, glasses of juice by them, each telling tales of their lives since the separation.
And so passed the days. Frodo would go fearlessly out into all weathers, and brought Sam to many of his favorite places. Sam met Elves and Maiar, listened to the gossip of the shining city and the small settlements here and there across the island. Now he was ashore he found he loved walking along the Sea, although it was not for quite some time he could be coaxed into wading in it; and although he came to feel himself safe in it as long as he stayed by his Master and Gandalf or Lord Celeborn, who often accompanied them during their walks along the shores, he never felt as free there as they did, and refused to go out on the boat built specifically for Frodo.
The maiden Livwen was a common companion for the two of them, and seemed to see herself as Frodo’s primary caretaker. She would check on the house daily and would see to it food was sent to them when they wandered abroad. She saw to it that on the shortest day of the year they came to join a celebration within the city, and partnered Frodo in some dances and sang with Sam. Sam’s use of Quenya and Sindarin came more easily, and he found himself thinking in those languages almost as much as he did his own native tongue.
It was during the Midwinter feast that Sam learned of Frodo’s mastery of clay and his ability to enter the border realm to bring his artistry to fruition. A group of Noldor had come from Aman proper, near to Valinor, Sam learned, bringing with them a large prepared block of fine white clay as a gift to Iorhael. Frodo had been greatly honored, and took some of it, worked it with his hands for a few minutes, then slipped out of himself for some time, returning to himself to work swiftly and surely, at last closed his eyes, and then held out the finished figure, that, Sam realized, of Aragorn himself as pictured in the formal portrait Sam had brought. Sam looked on it amazed, for it was carefully and naturally colored, and appeared both fragile and enduring at the same time. He took the figure into his own hands, his delight in it causing his Light of Being to grow very bright indeed. Several came close to look on what shaping Iorhael had done, and admired the work that stood on Sam’s palm. At last, after Sam had examined it thoroughly Iorhael took it back, and when Olórin came to join them there was a wordless agreement between the two Hobbits, and Frodo gave it into the Maia’s hands.
I believe this is meant for you, Olórin, he explained to the Maia. If your image can reside where he dwells in Middle Earth, surely his can be by you here. His Light was bright with humor.
He who’d been known as Gandalf to the one pictured took a deep breath. “And doubly precious shall it be to me for the sake of the one who shaped it for me, Frodo,” he said quietly. “Thank you.”
Spring arrived, and each day it appeared one or more new variety of flowers would open. Frodo explained, We are apparently far enough south for the weather to remain relatively warm all year round, and for at least some flowers to remain blooming in all seasons. I am told, however, that the weather here was colder in the winter months before the breaking of the world. At that time the current flowed, they’ve told me, from north to south along the coastline of Aman; but when Númenor sank and the waters to the east of the Undying Lands were separated from those of the Mortal Lands the direction of the current changed. Now it flows from south to north, and is warm as it passes Tol Eressëa, making the breeze flowing over the land warmer in the winter, yet keeping it temperate in the summer months. One can comfortably enter the water in all seasons, and the weather remains mostly neither too warm nor too cold.
He gave a sigh, looking about him from where he sat on a bench in the midst of the gardens. I haven’t seen snow since I came here, and I find I rather miss it. I’m told there are many places on the mainland where there is snow in the proper seasons, and there are mountains as great as the Misty or the White Mountains--perhaps even greater. Sometimes I wish I could visit them, perhaps see some truly wild lands again; but there is no question that the island itself is soothing, which I definitely needed when I came here.
Sam was ecstatic with the beauty surrounding him, and spent at least three hours a morning working with those who labored in the gardens.
Frodo watched Sam’s pleasure with a knowing smile, delighted with Sam’s feelings of fulfillment. Sam would then follow Frodo through the rest of the day, and was shown the places where the foxes denned and the deer grazed, where particularly stunning groves of trees stood and where lakes of shining beauty lay surrounded by rolling hills and stands of larch and willow.
One morning, however, after Sam had returned from the gardens to find Frodo working on a drawing of Livwen, Sam realized that Frodo was gently rubbing at his shoulder in a long-familiar way. “What is it, Frodo?” he demanded. “You mean that there are still times when--when the scar troubles you?”
Frodo looked up at him, startled and even briefly confused. The scar? Then it seemed to dawn on him precisely what he was doing, and he looked first thoughtful, and then somewhat rueful as he looked back into Sam’s eyes. No, Sam, not the scar--not this time. I’m afraid that the warnings are being given me. A sweet, gentle smile lit his features. I’m no longer young, Samwise Gamgee. Will you stand by me, and see me off?
“Are you planning on leavin’ me behind, Frodo Baggins? No, not this time.”
I promise I won’t go until you are ready to let me go, Sam.
“That’s not what I mean--not at all, Frodo. I came here to be by you, and I’ll be by you all the way, you see. You leave, and I’ll leave with you this time. You have to member I was warned not to lose you, after all. I let you go once so as you could find yourself once more, and that you’ve done. But I won’t be left behind again. After all, you’re not the only Hobbit on this island as is elderly now.
“Tell you what--I’d sort of promised myself to linger--to linger past Rosie a full year. I know as that’s not come yet. Would you mind if we waited till Midsummer?”
Of course not, Sam. It’s not imperative I leave right away--I’m only being reminded that the time is coming closer when I must go whether or not I believe I’m ready. I doubt all will be very serious for some time as yet; this is only the first sign that my body won’t be able to contain me for a great time longer.
Midsummer would be fine with me, Sam. I’m merely finding that at long last I grow weary again, except that this time it is a blessed weariness, due to having lived a full life and being fully ready this time to rest. But this time I will be most glad to let you lead and I will follow.
After a time of stillness as the two of them accepted the pact to go together, Sam murmured, “We’d thought to go together then, there on the side of Mount Doom. Instead we was granted the grace to live as fully as we could. That we go together now just feels right, you know, as if it was meant.”
Frodo’s brilliant smile that lifted the hearts of those who loved him now lit the summerhouse. You are indeed right, Sam--it does feel right.