For RabidSamFan and Diana Marich for their birthdays, and for GamgeeFest, whose recent essay inspired me to finish this. Joy to all of you! Beta by RiverOtter.
The coming of Lord Panthael was an event Livwen almost dreaded, although she saw that her friend grew more eager for it by the day.
“Why does he wish to leave us?” she one day demanded of Olórin, when the Maia had come to visit her mother’s orchard not long after her sister Lordeth married.
He smiled at her. “It is his right to lay down his life when the time is right for it, Livwen. He knows fully well his spirit is safe, and that he is awaited there with great eagerness and love. His body continues to grow more insubstantial by the day, and as was true with Bilbo he is mostly willing himself to continue here, determined that Sam not be disappointed to find he’s gone on before him.
“It is not so much he wishes to leave you as that he knows he can go on, and he is beginning to know that greater yearning of which the Sea Longing he knew before was only an echo. He will hold off on reaching for that next adventure, much as Legolas does within Middle Earth for as long as his great friend Aragorn remains, until Sam comes--if he can. But he knows his own rest and renewal await him, and he is growing increasingly eager to accept them. Remember, child--he is mortal.”
She sighed, feeling the grief of that future loss gently caressing her fëa, accepting that she’d come to love him, wishing he were merely an ellon so that she could tell him so, and how she wished their fëar and hröar could know the full entwinement known by her sister and her husband, or her parents with one another....
She’d seen many pictures her friend had created, many of them portraits of this one or that. Most he’d shared with her, describing the person and how he’d been tied to that one. Many that he had shared had been of his friend Sam, his so-wise yet simple brother. She ought to be able, she thought, to recognize Samwise Gamgee in any mood or guise.
Yet, when the ship arrived she almost didn’t recognize him at all.
First of all, he was so small--shorter even than Iorhael.
Second, he was old! And in realizing that this Hobbit was old, she realized that the same was true for her Iorhael as well.
Then there was his Light of Being, which she could easily discern--it was so distinctly different from that of he who’d been Frodo Baggins--a warm golden color compared to the mithril purity of his friend’s Light.
But the eagerness and joy with which Iorhael greeted him, and the easy laughter and delight that lay between them was unmistakable.
Sam had brought a great pack filled with letters--letters, portraits, and small locks of hair tied with ribbons; and much of their time, particularly in the first weeks, was spent going over these. And finally she learned of Narcissa--Narcissa Boffin, a relative and first cousin to the oft-mentioned Folco Boffin who’d been as a lesser brother to Frodo Baggins. And although she realized that in a way Frodo had come to accept he might have loved this Hobbitess, he was truly glad she’d found happiness with a Brandybuck cousin he’d also loved as a near-brother.
It was hard to realize, as she did, that the Hobbit she’d been tempted to hate she was coming to love as much as she did Iorhael, although the quality of that love was very different.
She found the summerhouse empty one day, and soon located Panthael working in the nearby garden, carefully cutting off the spent blooms from a rosebush he seemed to particularly favor. “Iorhael isn’t with you?” she asked.
He looked up, appearing surprised to find he wasn’t alone with his memories. “Frodo? No, he’s off that ways somewhere,” he said, waving toward the garden of the White Tree. “May be a-cleanin’ old Mr. Bilbo’s grave. Said somethin’ about setting it all in order, he did.”
She watched him gently cutting off the last few dead blossoms, and saw how gently he laid them in the basket he had with him. “You truly love doing this, don’t you?” she asked him.
He gave her a quick glance, then looked back into the basket as he placed his scissors in it as well. “Yes, that I do, Miss Livwen. It’s like this, see--with a garden, even when the flowers die back, it’s only to make room for the new ones to come. You cut back on what’s spent so as the new buds will form and open. And the flowers love to be loved.
“Nothin’s wasted in a garden, neither. The petals fall, and make the earth lovely where they lie; then they go into the earth itself and make it richer. And most often the seeds won’t form until the flower’s dead completely. Then what you cut away lies in the compost pile or becomes mulch--helps feed and protect what’s there and is still wick. Plant grows and has leaves; then it buds and flowers; then the bloom’s spent and it all dies away; the plant goes back to the earth, and all’s the richer for it havin’ come and gone, all along the way.”
He stopped and gently touched one of the pale coral blossoms on the bush he’d been working on. “This bush--somehow it reminds me of my own Rose. Somehow this is the color of her love, if’n you take my meanin’. Not hot and burnin’, nor pale and insipid; just steady and more’n enough to please ’bout everyone. When she was gone I felt as if all was empty, much as I felt long ago when I--when I let him come away. But then I realized as he wasn’t truly gone--just waitin’ here for me to come join him, his roots healed and him able to bloom fully again. It so scoured him out, that thing did, leavin’ him near dead and his blossoms sweet but sparse; and to see as how happy he’s been able to be again--it made the long time away from him worthwhile, don’t you see. And I know as it’s the same with my Rosie--she’s not gone from me. Couldn’t hear her speakin’ in my heart as long as I focused only on the absence from my side; but now I know as she’s a-waitin’ too, waitin’ for him’n me both to come to join her.”
He looked back to her, and his brown eyes were sparkling, she realized, with anticipation. “Can’t have no seeds if’n the bloom don’t give over; can’t have more extra bulbs to share out the glory of the lily if’n the stem’n leaves don’t die back. It’s the way with gardens, don’t you know? And the Creator--Him is the greatest gardener of’em all. World’s been better ’cause my Mr. Frodo’n me’ve been in it, and now it’s time to let the stems go to the compost pile. And that’ll mean more beautiful blooms in the future.” He smiled, and headed off to where spent blooms were left.
She heard Frodo singing before she came upon him, indeed kneeling over the place where the body of Bilbo Baggins had been laid. The larger basket by him contained a number of carefully uprooted plants that he’d removed as he’d weeded out this small plot, and a second contained seedpods and spent stems. He looked up and saw her as his song ended, and he smiled at her. Hello, Livwen. It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?
She shrugged as she came to kneel by him. “It’s lovely enough. I’m finding everyone gardening today, it seems--you, Lord Panthael, and Naneth. My mother was thinning blossoms on one of her peach trees, for she says that if she doesn’t most of the peaches will be too crowded and will not mature properly.”
He nodded. Yes, so Sam’s father told me years ago when he was doing the same in the orchard on the far side of the Hill--or when he was thinning the irises in the garden at Bag End. I learned to prefer Sam’s way of doing it--he’d cut some clusters of blossoms away and use them to decorate the rooms in Bag End and the homes of those who lived about the Hill, and he’d transplant the extra bulbs instead of just disposing of them. He’s always loved to see beauty continued, my Sam. He considered the seedpods in his one basket. I know that the plants I have weeded from Bilbo’s grave will be replanted, but will you find a place that needs some beauty and scatter the poppy seeds there, please? Sam used to scatter them all about the sides and top of the Hill for my sake; and I’ve tried to do the same as I’ve rambled about the island. But my rambles are almost done.
“Do you truly wish to go, Iorhael?”
He looked into her eyes and examined her face. At last he told her, It’s time, Livwen. Sam would explain it to you in terms of flowers and seeds and bulbs and stems and such, while Bilbo spoke of characters coming and going within stories. But for you to understand---- He sat back on his heels and looked thoughtfully at her. For Elves, he finally began, slowly, your lives are like voyages. You set out upon your birth and sail until you reach the far harbor at the End of Days, unless your ship is lost at sea due to sailing through a particularly harsh storm, or strikes an obstacle and sinks. At her nod of understanding, he continued, For those of us who are mortal, we are the--the little crabs that are swept ashore when the tide is high and are left behind. While the tide is out we clamber over rocks to explore, or hide beneath them until we have grown big enough to return to the depths. At her resulting smile, he smiled back. Then the tide returns, and we might hang on where we are, or we may be swept back to sea. His expression grew more solemn. Untimely tides swept back over me several times, and left me badly battered upon the rocks. I was neither high enough to escape them, nor hidden and anchored well enough underneath to survive them. I had to--had to be placed within a sheltered tide pool, or perhaps a lagoon, in order to survive to reach my proper size. But the proper tide for me is coming, and now I’m ready to go back, back to the depths of the sea where I was spawned and swam freely.
He lifted the weeding tools he’d been using from where they lay upon the ground and set them in the basket, then picked up a poppy pod and shook it, holding it close to his ear to hear the seeds’ soft rattling about inside. I might seemed dried out now, and rattling, but it is now that there is so much more potential of beauty, now my own bloom is over. The seeds are here.
“I don’t want to lose you!”
His smile was gentle. You will find I’ll always be there, just as my parents and Bilbo have been there for me. He set the poppy pod back in the basket and sat back again on his heels. They’ve been by me, all the time, more than when they were with me in the body, even. Once I came here I could hear them clearly. His smile widened. And I will be there for you, and Merry and Pippin and Aragorn. Freddy and Folco are gone on, but those are still there for me to tease! And from now on, you will know I am there every time you look upon poppies blooming upon the hillside, or sail upon the sea, or watch the small crabs along the shore. You will know Sam is there when you watch your mother pruning her trees or your father pulling a net filled with fish from the water, then sorting through the catch to return spawning mothers and fry to the sea. You will hear our voices singing in the wind, and see us dancing when you look up to the stars.
His expression grew more solemn and yet joyful. It is our time, and we are so glad we can go on, and so grateful for all we have been given to do while we were here. Yes, I am even glad now for the time I spent with the Ring! After all, I would most likely never have met you had I never had It by me. The Creator has given me so much reason to rejoice!
He reached out to caress her cheek, his face so filled with light she felt that the presence of Arien overhead was unnecessary. He held out the basket of seedpods, and turned toward the summerhouse where he’d dwelt all these so-short years; and as he left her she could hear him singing in anticipation.
And for the first time she envied him.