“I do not believe you will regret the choice,” Lord Celeborn said quietly as they watched the ship being pulled into its docking.
“Won’t be the same for me, though,” the elderly Hobbit responded, “without my Master here. He was to of been here, awaitin’ for me, you know.” He went almost quiet; the Elf lord could hear the sad, whispered chant of “Oh, my Frodo!” that the gardener had been repeating almost the whole time he’d stood on the deck, waiting to step foot on the shores of Tol Eressëa.
“It does not do to dwell on might-have-beens, small Lord. You will find healing for your heart here, I believe,” the Elf assured him. “I know that to be reunited with my beloved Galadriel will do so for me.”
Sam nodded thoughtfully. Suddenly he paused, his attention caught. The form they saw ought not to have been familiar, so changed was it; but there could be no mistaking of that Light of Being. Both Hobbit and Elf found themselves responding to the sight, straightening at the recognition, suddenly eager to be off the ship and greeting that one....
“Oh, Gandalf! Dear Gandalf!” Sam cried as the crowds of Elves parted enough to finally allow him to come to the erstwhile Wizard. He threw himself at the Maia, embracing him as Gandalf knelt to wrap his own shining arms about the Hobbit. “It’s been so long!”
“Welcome, Samwise Gamgee,” he heard murmured in his ear. “Oh, how eagerly you’ve been awaited!”
Sam looked up into a visage that was not what he remembered, yet indisputably was indeed his friend. “You’re not as you was,” he said, his voice filled with wonder, “no, not as you was--you’re more!”
He heard and felt the familiar laughter that had sent them all into gales of joy and merriment after the awakening in Ithilien, the comfort of the mere presence that had reassured them through times of trial and apparent darkness. “Ah, my dearest of gardeners, that is to be expected, is it not?” the Maia finally asked, his gaze indicating the fount of delight held within his new form as it had filled that of the White Wizard. “Are you not also more than you were when I saw you last? Husband, father, counselor to the King as well as beloved brother of his heart, Mayor to the Shire how many times? And now grandfather and great-grandfather as well.”
“And widower, as well as one bereft of the other brother of my heart this many years,” Sam said solemnly.
“I understand. Grief, however, has ever been as much a part of life as is joy. But you are granted a time of peace here, Panthael, to know healing for the griefs endured, ere you leave the Bounds of Arda at the last. Know this, there is nothing that has been given up in love and hope that will not be fulfilled in the end.”
“He wished me to come, he did, as did my Rosie.”
“They were both wise ones indeed, Sam.”
A greater glow was advancing toward them, and Sam looked up into another familiar visage, one whose great and overwhelming beauty he’d again been unable to hold complete in his mind, although the face of the Lady Galadriel was even more fair than it had been before as she smiled down at him--the wearing left by the battle of the long defeat she’s spoken of as she and Frodo had talked over the basin of her Mirror had been cleansed away; many griefs had been eased, and much of sheer delight had been restored to her. She was renewed and refreshed, and her smile promised a joyous surprise.
At the unexpected greeting she looked up, and her Light of Being flared brilliantly as she realized her beloved husband had arrived on this ship, so much so that Sam was certain that he would never have been able to bear it had they been within the Mortal Lands. But there were other reunions to be fulfilled, as Elrond worked his own way through the shining throng still engaged in greeting one another over almost the entire surface of the white stone quay. Sam felt the additional relief Lord Celeborn knew as he greeted the former Lord of Imladris and saw that here, too, there was fulfillment and renewal--and then the third came, following in the wake of her husband, who’d gone first as much to make the way easier for her as to come to Celeborn’s side himself.
He who had been advisor to Celebrimbor and Amroth before taking over the lordship of the Golden Woods went at first very still with the shock of it, the realization he’d almost forgotten that this reunion was likely this day, as he saw, after a separation of over five hundred years, his daughter for the first time since she was brought aboard her own grey ship. “Celebrían? My little Celebrían? Sell nín?”
The Light of Being for each flared with exceptional brightness, as did that of the Lady Galadriel and that of Elrond as well, as each heard the songs and prayers of praise and thanksgiving that rose to Celeborn’s lips, and as he enfolded the daughter so long lost to him in his grasp.
Sam looked up to see the pleasure and delight in this scene further reflected in the eyes of the Maia who stood by him, realizing he, too, felt glad for this easing granted the Elf who’d been Sam’s traveling companion since they’d met on the Birthday, as did those other Elves who’d accompanied them who were able to take a moment from their own reunions to watch the special one granted the honored Lord Celeborn. Gandalf looked away briefly to give the Hobbit a special smile, then offered his own blessing toward these he’d come to love and honor so over the many years he’d spent in the Mortal lands.
At last he looked back at Sam. Shall we leave them to it? Sam heard uttered in his heart.
Not trusting himself to speak, the Hobbit nodded, and the Maia spoke briefly to those Elves who had overseen the health of the gardener during the long journey they’d shared and accepted Sam’s sparse luggage, and he led Sam off the pier, turning north rather than westward up into the great city.
“Then--then I’m not to live--up there?” Sam asked. “Not as I’d mind too terrible much, I suppose--after all, I’ve lived on the heights when we’ve visited with Aragorn in Gondor, as you know.”
Gandalf laughed. “When we arrived we learned a house for Bilbo had been prepared for him indeed within the city, but I objected. Yes, he could have brought himself to bear it, but it would have been most unnatural for him after all; so instead a small--by Elven standards, that is--a small summerhouse on the edge of the Gardens was given over to his usage, a place where individuals have gone over the long yeni for periods of peace and contemplation surrounded by the beauty of flowers and shrubs and trees. And he was granted a companion to ease his possible feelings of isolation, one sent here unexpectedly to find his own healing. Bilbo did a most creditable job of helping his companion along before the day came he felt it time to offer back his life and accept the Gift, which he did with utmost ease, delight, and I must admit a certain amount of smugness.”
Sam found himself laughing freely at the idea. “Dear old Master Bilbo,” he said, shaking his head in admiration. “So this companion as he’d been given had found his healin’ with the help of the old fellow, did he?”
“Indeed.” Again the gardener could see the satisfaction the Maia was taking no pains to hide. After a moment the taller being continued, “To further confirm the comfort of Bilbo permission was granted to build a hill of sorts over the summerhouse, an enterprise that has caused a good deal of amusement amongst the Elves who live in the city, and in which many shared. Since the old fellow left, there have been those who’ve nevertheless continued in the maintenance and upkeep of the place. Not truly a smial, mind you, but sufficiently similar to give many an idea of how Hobbits live in their own lands; and others have seen to the continuing comfort of his companion, who has remained in the place, grateful for the memories of comfort and healing granted him there. I hope you don’t mind having such a companion, but he is quite keen to assist you in finding your own easing as Bilbo aided him in finding his.”
The hints of annoyance Sam had begun to know at realizing he wasn’t to be granted privacy faded as he looked into the face of his companion, for it was very plain Gandalf was himself feeling a good deal of smugness at the situation. “And is this a part, perhaps, of his own continued healin’ as well?” he asked.
Gandalf nodded, delight almost oozing out of every pore. “Indeed, my so well beloved Lord Panthael. Ah, so well and properly did Gimli and Aragorn call you this, you know. He would have accompanied me to the quay, but I suggested he remain there and see to the preparation of the house--although if I know him he’ll be up atop the hill we built delighting in the day, having seen to the preparation of the place as soon as word was granted us you indeed had taken ship.”
As they passed the outer bounds of the city, Sam could hear singing from the scattered homes and individuals they passed. The song was familiar, although he’d not heard it sung for some years; and this portion being sung now was one he’d heard only three times, perhaps, in all the years of association he’d known with Elves. He listened carefully. “This is beyond the Lay of Beren and Lúthien,” he said softly. “The full Lay of Leithian it is, isn’t it Gandalf?”
The Maia’s Light flared in his added gratification. “Yes, so it is.”
Sam nodded, smiling softly as they walked, listening and translating to himself as he went. The song was growing louder and more full the further they went. At last he commented, “Beren One-hand, he become, and the two of them knew so much o’ pain and grief, until it was all over. And then----” He stopped, looking up at the Maia thoughtfully. “Is it true, Gandalf, as they was granted life there, in our world, and time to know one another in peace as Man and Wife, afore they went on outside the Bounds of Arda?”
Gandalf’s joy had become more solemn. “Oh, indeed they did. I often attended upon them in those years they knew together, and rejoiced to see them indeed shed the memories of pain and grief, accepting joy and delight in their place.”
“Then--then you wasn’t the only one ever as was sent back.”
Gandalf threw back his head and laughed in sheer delight. “Indeed not!” he finally managed. “Nay, I am not unique in that--not at all, my sweet and delightful Samwise Gamgee! Now and then the Creator has expressed the desire to see some returned within the Bounds of Arda that their Lights be fulfilled ere they go further, you must realize. But come--we’ve not so very far to go now.”
As hills go, this one was rather small, but well shaped and comforting indeed, although the doors and windows remained mostly straight, but with a distinct arch to each--a nice compromise, Sam thought. He looked at the flowers that encircled the place and smiled in joy. “Elanor and niphredil--but so large and even more beautiful than what we knew there!” he noted with pleasure. The Maia nodded, and the song, now approaching its ending at the last, grew louder. There were so many Elves here, singing the Lay.
Toward the top there was a glow as if whoever waited up there indeed was one who knew a delight of anticipation. “A great one among the Elves?” asked Sam.
Gandalf only shrugged as he led Sam to the blue stone steps that led the way to the top, and stepped back to let the Hobbit go first.
He saw first an Elf maiden of great beauty, her own Light of Being flaring to see him approach, looking up from her watch on the one who lay resting before her. Unlike the others, she was not singing, although there was an aching pleasure on her face as she rose from where she’d been seated to approach him. “He fell asleep again, Olórin,” she advised the Maia. “He looks so peaceful.”
“Samwise Gamgee, may I present the Lady Livwen. She was but a child when Bilbo arrived, and has done much over the years to see to it that the residents of this place know the fullness of comfort. Livwen, may I present the last of the Ring-bearers, Master Samwise Gamgee, the Lord Panthael of all the Free Peoples of Middle Earth, and beloved and blessed guest for what time he chooses to spend among us.”
Sam felt himself flushing once more, feeling a great delight in the unique beauty of this elleth, smiling to realize just how much she reminded him of both his Rosie and his Elanor both. “At your service, lady,” he murmured with a profound bow--one he realized he could not have performed before he left the Shire. Had that much healing and renewal been granted him already?
She gave a deep and most graceful curtsey in return. “It is a great honor to meet you at the last. So much has been told of you and your exploits, and the love you ever showed to your masters and the Lord Elessar and your gardens.”
Sam looked about himself, for the hilltop was covered with flowers and flowering shrubs; and about its crown was a circle of----
“Athelas?” he asked, his own Light flaring the stronger at the sight of the familiar plant, but much greater, and with far more colors to its blossoms than the plants he’d always known.
“Yes, Sam, athelas. The plants were gifts to the Lords of Númenor, you must realize; and Elendil, Isildur, Anárion, and the princes that accompanied them back to Middle Earth took pots in which they grew as well as seeds and covered roots with them, as well as the White Tree they carried--and a few other herbs besides.”
“They’re so much more beautiful here,” he breathed, “here as where they was meant to grow.”
“Indeed, Panthael--the flower is always brightest in the land where it is intended to bloom.”
And at last Sam looked down at the form that lay sleeping in the midst of the circle, fragrant with healing, noted the hair was long and silver and shining. Whoever he was, he was covered over with a mantle woven of what appeared to be threads of Light and Color itself. He lay on his right side, his face turned away toward the West, the shining right hand lying palm up, barely to be seen beyond the edge of the equally shining fabric.
“The mantle was gifted to him,” the Maia murmured in his ear, “a few years back by one who passed this way, pausing on his own journey from the Houses of Healing in Minas Anor to the Uttermost West to leave this. It is woven of threads of memories he was gifted.”
Sam looked up at the face of Gandalf, saw the patience and amusement and Joy that filled it, then looked back at the sleeping figure, saw that it was surrounded by a silvery Light of Being of a far different quality than that he’d seen about any of the Elves encountered that day, certainly different from the Light the Maia bore. That Light pulsed regularly and strongly with the heartbeat and breathing of the one who lay there--indeed he seemed almost totally a Being of Light himself.
Then the attention of the gardener was drawn back to that hand, almost hidden, the gap to be seen there where a finger was missing----
“Master!” Sam cried out in a paroxysm of joy and wonder, and he leapt over the border of great flowers to kneel by the side of one he’d not thought to see again this side of death.
Frodo Baggins, the shining Lord Iorhael of the Nine Fingers, sat up, brushing the long and shining curls back from his face, his eyes going swiftly from sleep-filled to wakeful and filled with his own Joy. Sam--you are come at last! Oh, my so beloved Samwise Gamgee!
“But you’re here!” Sam murmured in wonder as he held the long missed form once again in his arms.
Of course, Sam. Oh, I was so foolish not to have sailed. I was so foolish so many times and over so many things. I was sent back, Sam, sent back to have my Light polished and brought to fullness again, and to await you.
“But you were afraid of losin’ yourself,” Sam said, pulling back so he could look into those shining eyes.
Frodo laughed loud and long, and the mithril peals of it filled Sam with an even deeper Joy. Ah, yes--my foolish fears. But how was I, simple, vain Hobbit as I was, to appreciate that it is only in giving ourselves up that we can find ourselves truly, Sam? How was I to know--then--that I wasn’t becoming less myself but more? You were ever the wiser of the two of us, Samwise Gamgee.
And as Sam again held his beloved friend and former master close to him, he heard Frodo murmur in his ears,
“Oh, my Sam!”