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32
At the Harbor

For Tracy Claybon for her birthday; written for the LOTR Community Young/Old Challenge. Thanks so to RiverOtter for the beta.


~~~

At the Harbor


The children of Samwise Gamgee all became quiet as the family came through the archway that led to the quays of Mithlond. It was here their father had come with Uncle Frodo some years back to see him take ship for Tol Eressëa, and the solemnity of his attitude had proven contagious. Frodo-lad and Rosie-lass crowded close on either side of their father, while little Merry clung to Elanor’s hand, his other hand to his mouth, sucking at his fingers as he stared, wide-eyed, at the Firth of Lhûn for the first time. Rosie cradled Pippin-lad in her arms, shifting him about so he could see, and his mouth rounded in surprise as he looked at the light dancing upon the water.

There were a few boats along the quays, but no grey ship such as Sam had seen before. Only one appeared sufficiently large to support a voyage, but it was of different configuration than had been the ship on which his Master had sailed.

One of the Elves working along the quays set aside the nets that he’d been folding, rose and came to meet them. He examined them closely, then bowed quite deeply. “My Lord Samwise--it is an honor. And this is your family? I am Galdor of Mithlond, at the service of you all.”

Sam bowed back solemnly. “And I’m ever at yours, Master Galdor. I member you from the Council. You work with nets?”

The Elf smiled. “We who work here in the Havens have become too few for any one of us to avoid whatever tasks need doing. If the nets need folding and I am the one available, then I fold nets.” He indicated the boats. “Mostly these are fishing craft, although a few are used also for patrolling the coasts of Eriador. The large ship is for our merchant traders, and is patterned after the crafts of Men, for many will not trade with those who are readily identified as Elves. Some of the Dúnedain help to crew it and do much of the direct trading. There are two other such ships, one owned by Lord Aragorn Elessar’s kinsmen. You have come for the unveiling of the memorial to the riding of the Ringbearers?”

This memorial had been commissioned by the sons of Elrond to mark the departure of their father, grandmother, Gandalf the Grey, and Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, along with many others of the remaining great Elves, from Middle Earth. They had wished it placed near the walls of Mithlond, that for what time the memorial might last, all passing should remember the greatness that had passed from Middle Earth after the end of the War of the Ring. The King’s own sculptor had come north to see it raised, and was to join them with those who had assisted him the following day.

Sam nodded. “We were invited special,” he told him. “Merry and Pippin--they’re seein’ to the rooms as we’ve been offered, them and their families. But Frodo-lad here and our Ellë--they wanted to see the water. They’ve not seen nothin’ larger’n the Brandywine afore, and I don’t think as they could imagine somethin’ so big and bright as the Sea.”

Galdor smiled more broadly. “And this is but a portion of the Sea,” he told the children. “It is so much larger when one passes out the gates there of the firth.”

Frodo-lad’s eyes were wide with wonder and a great pleasure that plainly wasn’t shared by his father. “And Unca Frodo went sailin’ there?” he asked, pointing down the length of the firth.

The Elf’s expression became more solemn. “That he did, young sir,” he said with a great gentleness to his voice. “We were honored to serve him, considering what he did for all of us.”

The Hobbit lad nodded thoughtfully as he stared toward the distant narrowing of the firth and the shining of the open Sea beyond it. “How I wish as he could of come back again,” he said softly. “I’d love to of knowed him.”

Elanor remained quiet, looking down the firth with what the Elf recognized as a look of longing. He asked, “Do you remember him, small mistress?”

“I think I do,” she said. “I know I sing songs he used to sing to me. I know he loved me--loved me a lot.”

“That he did, sweet Ellë,” her mother said. “Never doubt that--never doubt that. And if’n him could of stayed here with you, you know as he would of.”

The small, delicate lass nodded, staring off down the firth while reaching up to take her father’s hand.

After another moment in which the Elf noted the still-healing grief in Lord Samwise’s eyes, the Hobbit gave himself a shake and said, “Well, we need to find as where we’ll sleep tonight, and I’m thinkin’ as your little brother needs changin’. Come now, children.” And with great dignity he turned away from the sight of the path his Master and friend had taken, but not before Galdor noted that this one, too, felt the Sea Longing--felt it strongly! He watched after the small family as they went back toward the guesthouses to find where they would stay for the next few days.

*******


Galdor and Círdan watched early the next morning as the tiny Hobbitess slipped out of the guesthouse door and slowly and carefully made her way toward the quays. “There, my lord, walks Elanor daughter of Samwise,” Galdor advised the other.

“I see,” the Shipwright said, his gaze intent on the small lass. After a moment he said, “I shall go and speak with her.” So saying, he turned to follow her, leaving Galdor near the entrance to the shipyard where even now timber was being gathered for the crafting of the next ship intended to set sail, never to return.

As he approached the very small figure of Lord Samwise’s older daughter he could tell that she was aware of his approach and was watching his shadow advance. However it was not until he spoke to her that she actually looked up at him. “Greetings, child. I am Círdan, who has been granted lordship here over the Elven havens. And what might we do for you, my Lady Elanor?” he asked.

At that she turned to face him more directly. A twisted smile quirked her lips. “I’m not a lady,” she informed him. “I’m only a lass.”

“You are Lord Perhael’s daughter, which makes you a lady in the eyes of those outside the Shire, sweet mistress,” he advised her. “We have waited a time to greet you and your sister and brethren.”

“Oh?” She thought on that. “Did you know about us, then?”

He smiled as he nodded. “Yes--Lords Elladan and Elrohir as well as the son of Gildor Inglorion have kept us apprised of the increases in your family. They all hold your adar in great esteem.”

She gave a small nod, then said, “He loves Elves. Says he always has, even when he was a littler one than me.” She examined him. “You have a beard,” she noted.

“Yes, there are some amongst the Eldar who do grow beards.”

“I never saw an Elf with a beard afore--before,” she corrected herself, confiding, “Daddy says as I ought to talk more educated than him and Mummy.”

The Elf felt a smile quirking at the corner of his mouth, but maintained his courteous demeanor. “Does he, now? That will undoubtedly serve you well as you mature, my lady.”

She smiled more fully in response to that, and he could see a charming dimple on her right cheek before she turned back to her earlier interest. “How come you have a beard and most Elves don’t?”

“It is because I am one of the most ancient of Elves of all, certainly the oldest of those remaining within the mortal lands. I awakened under Elbereth’s starlight long, long ago, before the creation of the two Trees or the rising of Moon and Sun.”

Her eyes had widened. “Ooh, but that’s a long, long time ago, isn’t it?”

He nodded. “A very, very long time ago. I was there when Lord Oromë found us and then returned to call us to follow him to Aman.”

It was plain she didn’t fully understand that statement, but he did not feel compelled to explain.

Elanor Gamgee turned her attention back to the length of the Firth of Lhûn. “Master Galdor told my brother that out there the water’s even bigger.”

“He spoke truly. It stretches west, north, and south as far as you can see once you get past the gates to the firth.”

“And that’s where Uncle Frodo went?”

“Yes.”

After a moment she said in a low voice, “Daddy cried last night. For all he loves us, he loves Uncle Frodo more.”

He felt himself shake his head. “Never believe that, small lady. No, he does not love his Master more than you--if he had, he would never have stayed behind when he came to bear Lord Iorhael company and fare him well. Nay, it was love of you and your mother and those who would yet come and of your people and your land that kept him here within Ennor then, and that keeps him here now.”

Suddenly she straightened, standing on tiptoe to see. “A ship!” she whispered. “There’s a ship there? Is it Uncle Frodo’s ship, come back again?”

He dropped his hand to the top of her head. “Nay, sweet one, but that is not. He cannot return again, not that way.”

She looked up at him, her face saddened. “You mean it’s impossible?”

He smiled gently in comfort, stroking the golden curls. “No, small lady, not impossible, but very, very improbable. Nor, if he could return, would he be able to remain with you long, I fear. Already his being was changing, and had he stayed before I deem he would have died shortly. How much the transformation has continued and to what he will come in the end I cannot say, for I have little experience with the magics that were twisted by Morgoth’s lackey when he first sought to construct Morgul blades. I do not know if Lord Frodo’s body, already changing, could sustain him were he to return here.”

She looked at the boat there in the distance of the firth again. “Then, if that’s not his ship, what ship is it?”

He smiled. “It is a fishing boat belonging to the Men who live in the harbor there,” he explained, pointing northward. “Most there are kinsmen of the Lord Aragorn Elessar. Some are coming here to learn from us what we can teach them before all of us abandon Middle Earth, but some remain there yet on the site of what was the port city of Dûnestelilond.”

He could feel her disappointment. At last she said sadly, “Then he can’t come home again, then?”

“No, beloved daughter of Eru, he cannot come home again. He has had to find a new home, one fit for him and apt to his healing.”

“Yes,” she said slowly. “Yes, Daddy said he was bad hurt.”

“Very badly hurt indeed, Elanor Perhaelieth.”

She giggled briefly. “My last name’s Gamgee--or Gardner, I suppose. Lots of folks call us the Gardners now as we own Bag End.”

Perhaelieth means daughter of Samwise.”

“Oh.” Again she went quiet, staring back down the firth toward the distant fishing boat as it came closer to its harbor. At last she continued, “What you said, that about my daddy could of gone----” She twisted to look up at him again. “You mean he’d of been let go, with Uncle Frodo, I mean?”

“He also was one of the Ringbearers. Yes, he has been granted that grace, although he chose not to take ship then.”

“But, he can go, too? Sometime?”

He smiled gently down at her. “Yes, at some time he chooses, when there is a ship ready, he may follow his Master and, I hope, be reunited with him. But I deem your adar will not do so for some time yet, not until you and your brethren and sisters have homes, families, and lives of your own to live, and not unless your naneth is gone as well.”

Her expression became defiant. “My mummy’s not going to die!”

He felt the compassion he knew for mortals rise up in his heart. “I do not mean that she will die soon, sweet Lady Elanor. Indeed, what foresight is granted to me shows that it will not be for quite some time as your people reckon it, and not until your family has increased to twice what it is now, or perhaps more. But you all are mortals, and it is the Creator’s gift to you that you need not remain here ever within Arda, seeing lands and delights come and go and knowing the griefs common to Elves. For every mortal there is appointed a time to leave this life behind, that you may go beyond the Bounds of Arda. And I do not doubt that when that day comes your mother will rejoice to return the gift of her life to accept that Gift and go where Eru brings her.”

She looked puzzled by that, but aloud she merely said, “Oh.” She turned her attention back to the fishing boat again. Her face was growing determined. “Well, when it’s time and my dad decides to go, I’ll go with him. He’ll need me, if my mummy’s not there, to help take care of him.”

He could not withhold a soft laugh. “Ah, dear child, but you do not know how it will be for you when that day comes. Your father never thought to ever leave off following his Master, wherever Lord Frodo ever might go; but it proved different when the day came for Frodo Baggins to take ship. By then there were you and your mother to anchor him here, here within Ennor, and he would not abandon you nor betray your mother’s love.”

Again she looked up at him, tears swimming at the corners of her eyes. “You mean as I can’t go?” she asked in a small voice.

“I mean that you, too, will most likely find your other loves will bind you here until your proper time comes, child. For you will not always remain merely Lord Samwise Gamgee’s daughter--one day you will be a worthy Hobbit’s wife, and mother and grandmother to delightful children, as well as a friend to King and Queen all through your life. And to whom will they look for companionship and the delight of sharing memories if you abandon them? For they have bound themselves here, also, here within the mortal lands until the fullness of their days has come and they, too, at last look to accept the Gift.”

She looked up at him as if startled to consider that idea. “You mean I’ll be friends with the King and Queen, like my daddy is now?” she asked.

He nodded. “Yes, child.”

Slowly her face grew brighter, joyous even at the thought. “Friends with the King and Queen! I do love them, you know.”

“I see.” A bell rang from the guesthouses. He straightened. “Ah, the dawn meal is ready. Shall we go together, you and I, to see what is prepared for your repast, Lady Elanor?”

She gave him a curtsey. “I’d be glad to, Mr. Círdan, sir.” Straightening proudly, she reached up to take his hand and turned to accompany him back toward the guesthouse where her family had spent the night. Before they made it halfway, however, her dignity had melted away and she was skipping at his side, a small eager Hobbit lass with the thought of a delightful breakfast on her mind.

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