Sam was fairly blinded by the sunlight just above the western horizon. He could barely see the water in front of him, and that would have suited him just fine, were it not that he could not see the harbor ahead. How could the captain see where to go?
He felt Lord Celeborn’s hand on his shoulder once more, and hear his voice asking him if he were all right.
“Is your leg hurting you any now, Master Samwise?” he asked. “I think it has been nearly an hour since your last draught.”
“It feels all right now, Lord Celeborn,” Sam murmured, “but I’d feel a heap better if’n I could see where we’re goin’.”
“Almost here, my friend,” the elf-lord chuckled. “Our voyage is at an end…and we both have ample cause for great rejoicing. I can hear the singing, can you?”
“I hear…somethin’,” Sam said, “but singin’? It just sounds like the wind rattlin’ the sails to me. But then I don’t have elf-ears, if you take my meanin’. And anything sounds good to me now that we’re ‘most here. Meanin’ no disrespect, but it seems like we’ve been on the sea ever since I can remember now. At first I didn’t think I’d make it…but thanks mostly to you, I managed to get used to it by and by. Don’t rightly know how, but I did.”
“Again I must marvel at the size of the heart inside of that small body,” the elf-lord said seriously. Sam looked up at the tall figure with the long pale hair fluttering in the wind. “And according to you, not only your master, but an entire throng awaits your coming with joy.”
“I’m still havin’ a hard time believin’ it myself,” Sam said, turning his eyes back to the western horizon. Now he could make out a vast shape, although it was still leagues away, that appeared to be mountains, floating in a gold-tinted mist, stretching out either way as far as he could see, dark against the impossibly blue sky banked with scarlet and bronze and rose-gold clouds. “Even if Mister Legolas did say he knew that what’s-is-name that’s Mister Frodo’s friend here. It all just seems too good for true. But I hope it’s not, for his sake. And he says they’re all just wild to meet me. THAT’s what I find hardest to believe. They none of ‘em never laid eyes on me. I just hope they won’t be disappointed in what they see.”
Celeborn suppressed a mighty impulse to laugh out loud. “I very seriously doubt they will be!” he said, then sobered. “And I seriously hope that my daughter will not have forgotten me, and that she has found true healing and joy here.”
“Of course she has!” Sam said in simple astonishment. “Mister Frodo said she did. He wouldn’t lie about such a thing as that.”
Now it was his turn to wonder, not for the first time, about the endurance of Elves, how they could contain so much sorrow for such unimaginable periods of time, such anguish as would destroy a mortal soul in a matter of weeks. He shook his head. It was hard enough to have to give up Mister Frodo for sixty-odd years. How did Lord Celeborn manage without his lady? How had he done separated from his daughter for five centuries? He couldn’t think upon it.
And he was getting impatient. Seems the wind had died down, and had picked a mighty nice time to do it…but no, it was blowing just the same…it was just some of the crew, trimming the sails…and singing one of the songs they sometimes sang, with words he didn’t understand, and now he could see more clearly, now that the sun was behind the clouds. It was still daylight, and he could see the water which seemed to be on fire below them, glittering and sparking…and what was this? A big fish had leaped up from the water, quite high in the air—silvery-white it was, and seemed to have a smile on its face, and it seemed to laugh as it bounded upward and back down again with a loud splash. Then it came up again, with three more just like it, and if they didn’t turn flips in the air as they rose, all four of them, and land on their backs in the water, splashing it every which way!
“Did you see that?” Sam asked Lord Celeborn—a fool question, he was sure, since the elf-lord could scarcely have missed it. “Are they…them fishes that…”
“Dolphins? Yes, Master Samwise, indeed they are,” Lord Celeborn smiled. “It has been many years indeed since I’ve seen them.”
“I wonder if…never mind,” Sam stared in wonder. “Oi—the sea-birds! They’re flyin’ out to us!”
NOW he could hear singing!
As the ship drew ever closer, Frodo felt his knees go wobbly under him, and Northlight’s arm around his waist steadying him, and Anemone’s hand clutching tightly at his, and he heard her ask if he was all right, and he did not answer. His lips formed the word Sam but no one heard. His feet wanted to skip and dance as they had not done in many years. The singing grew louder but he did not join in. The moment was beyond words, beyond music, to him.
Sam. Sam. At last. So many years have passed, and now it seems I have always lived here. I scarce can remember a time when I did not. The time before the Quest seems merely a period of a very long childhood to me. And it seems that it was not until the Quest that I really began to live, to know what life really was, and I did not like what I saw. Now it seems to me merely a very hard and long travail, during which joy began to get itself born, until finally it emerged and lay soft and warm and incredibly sweet before me, and grew into what it is today, and I cannot imagine a time now when it was not. And now the full culmination of it is coming to pass…
I can see you now! Is that Lord Celeborn beside you? My eyesight is not what it once was…nothing about me is what it was…perhaps I should put on this special eye-glass Lord Elrond made for me, which pocket is it in? Yes, that helps. I see you…your hair is all white, as Bilbo’s was, and you are stouter than I remember…you are leaning on a stick, as I do. I am glad you are not down below the deck. I thought maybe you would stay there the whole voyage at first…then I later I told myself, no, you would come forth eventually, you could not stay down there the whole time! I am thankful you had Lord Celeborn to look after you; I prayed that someone would do so. And now the ship is drawing nearer, ever nearer…seems it has slowed…but no, the sun is still above the western horizon. You are leaning on the rail now; are you trying to see if you can pick me out of the crowd? I dare say your eye-sight is not what it once was either. Do you see how many people besides myself are anxiously awaiting your arrival? How does that make you feel?
“Ada, why don’t you sit down for a few minutes?” he heard Northlight ask him. “It will be nearly a quarter of an hour before she docks. We have time yet.”
“No no no no,” Frodo resisted his son’s efforts to draw him toward a bench, fearing Sam would lose sight of him. “I’m all right, truly.”
Some of the children, getting restless with the long wait, had gotten up a game with balls and sticks nearby, and babies whimpered in the arms of their mothers and nurses. Even Amaryllis couldn’t stand still any longer; she and her girl-cousins and Silivren had all taken hands and were dancing in a ring, and Lyrien’s little sister Castiel ran up and joined them, giggling, and her brother Eruestan tried to join but she mouthed at him primly, “No boys!” He stuck out his tongue and turned away in scorn, then glanced aside at Amaryllis, who assayed to ignore him, turning her eyes to look toward Little Iorhael as she skipped past him, but the Princess Lúthien had all of his attention although she was not looking his way. Frodo smiled to himself, then turned his own eyes back toward the ship….
…which was drawing still closer…
No ship ever had
such a gem at her prow.
And I wave and skip,
my loved ones looking on
in worried delight
catching my joy
in basins of gladness
as it overflows
in an endless fountain……
Anemone looked to him once more and he to her. She was all in blue, he noted with approval, wearing a little straw hat, and he hoped she did not feel self-conscious here in such a crowd…but she did not seem to be thinking of how she looked. He pressed Northlight’s arm, remembering how Northlight had resigned his post at the college where he taught Marine Sciences, after Frodo had taken his fall, to come and care for his grounds. He did so gladly, and his brothers Moonrise and Ebbtide helped. Northlight did greatly enjoy being with his brothers, and Frodo thought he might not go back to the college, although he was very well thought of there, and not just because he was the Ringbearer’s stepson….
The twins drew in closer, along with their husbands. Frodo looked to them, and to Calanon and Amonost. Amonost was the grandson of the sculptor Annûnlanthir…who was the son of the greatest sculptor in the world, Alkhaklëion…who had designed the Argonath. Frodo still could hardly take it in that he had a descendent of the designer of the Arogonath in his own family. Well, five of them, now.
Frodo found he had to take off his eyeglass and wipe it with his handkerchief, for it kept misting up. Once again Anemone and Northlight tried to draw him to a bench, and this time he allowed it, for his legs were beginning to feel achy and wobbly. The bench had people sitting on it, but when Anemone gently asked them if he might sit there, they sprang up readily and allowed him to sit. He pulled her down beside him and she yielded, but Northlight remained standing, and Raven came to stand beside him.
The ship’s sails looked bright gold by now, like windows of colored glass, and the swan designs on them stood out darkly. Eruestan asked Frodo what it was like to be on a big ship and Frodo said it was so long ago, he couldn’t remember exactly.
“I was sick much of the time, anyway,” he said to the little fellow, who much favored his father Seragon, but had a more reddish tinge to his hair. “And so I kept below the deck. But once in a while I did come above, when I was feeling better, and it was often rather exciting, at the first. People made much over me and Bilbo, and I liked the attention. Bilbo told them all manner of tales, and I loved the way they all listened and showed him so much respect…and to me, although at the time I did not feel deserving of it. I—“
“Why not?” Eruestan exclaimed.
“Oh…it’s a long story,” Frodo felt rather sorry he had brought up the matter at all now. “I was very silly to feel that way, but I was much younger then. Then one day, a flock of dolphins came swimming up along with us, following our ship…” He glanced aside at Anemone, who was pretending to gaze at the approaching vessel, but had a little half-smile on her lips. “…and I felt a sudden wild urge to go swimming with them. And I asked the captain if he might stop the ship so that I might do so. Of course he must have thought I’d gone a bit daft, but Lord Elrond bade him stop the ship. I really do not know what came over either of us. But in I went, and I dived much too far down and nearly drowned, and one of the dolphins pushed me up above the water and saved my life. Very kind and clever creatures, the dolphins.”
He smiled sweetly at Eruestan. Lyrien, standing close to her little brother, stifled a giggle.
“What is so funny?” he asked. He had inherited a good deal of his father’s seriousness also.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Frodo shrugged elaborately. “Perhaps it is the fact that I ended up wedded to that same dolphin. It’s not so much that it’s funny, rather than it was, you know, such an unusual situation, that worked out so beautifully in the end.”
Eruestan puckered his brow and wrinkled his nose in the way he had when he was thinking over what he’d just been told.
“You are pulling my leg, right?” he said.
“He’s really not,” Lyrien said. “There she is right beside him.”
“She’s not a dolphin,” Eruestan pointed out. “She’s the Princess. She’s his wife. She’s a lady.”
“You are certainly right about that,” Frodo said. “Perhaps I am pulling your leg a bit, Eruestan. But all that is what I remember best about my voyage. And I am glad you asked me, for I was feeling just a little too excited, and too much of that is not good for me, at my age.”
“I’m sooooo glad Sam is finally coming,” Lyrien said. “I’ve been longing to meet him ever since I was a little girl. I don’t know if I ever told you this before…I’m sure I did, I’m so silly…but when I first fell in love with Perion was when I was watching the play, the third part, when he was holding you, I mean Dínlad, in his arms in the tower…I’m sorry, Iorhael, I KNOW you don’t like to be reminded of that, but…”
“It’s all right, sweet one,” Frodo said smiling. She had told him before, long ago, but he liked to hear it again, and he doubted Eruestan knew of it. “Go on?”
“Well, that was the big moment,” she said. “I was only a child then, of course, but when he ran in there and killed the ‘orc’ and then picked you, I mean Dínlad up, and just held him like that…it was so real, and I just melted all over the place like a pool of butter…and I knew then and there I was going to marry him when I grew up. Even though he had so many sweethearts at that time and how was he ever going to look at me…but of course he did, and now here I am, I mean, here WE are…isn’t it wonderful, Iorhael? How we all got our heart’s desires here, just like you said?”
He reach over and took her hand without answering, remembering the day of her wedding. She had been rather young, he had thought, but she had so wanted him to marry them, and was afraid he wouldn’t be around anymore to do so if they waited too long. She would just die if he didn’t perform it, she assured him. And her mother did dote on Perion, and so did Frodo, and Lyrien had always been mature for her age anyway…and just seven years ago he had performed the ceremony and was not at all sorry. He had lost count of all the weddings he had performed. All around him now were young couples he had joined, and some not so young couples….
“I wish you and Sam would come to stay at the Palace,” Lyrien went on. “So we’d get to see you every day. It’s hard for me to get away out where you live so often now.”
“Lord Elrond wished me to come to live there after I had my accident,” Frodo said, “and so did Gan—Olórin, but you know, the Palace is just too big and grand for me. I truly prefer to live out my life in my cove, together with all my family. It’s my home now. But you are welcome to come out there as much as you like. We would always be happy to see one of the first friends I had on the Island.”
“You can say ‘Gandalf’ to me, you know,” Lyrien said gently. “Sometimes I call him that too. When Sam comes, may I call him Sam? If I say ‘Perhael,’ he might think I mean my son.”
“Of course you may,” Frodo said.
“It’s not fair that I didn’t get to see the play,” Eruestan grumbled. “I can’t help it if I wasn’t borned yet. Why don’t they play it again?”
“Perhaps they will,” his sister said. “And maybe you’ll get to play Sam this time…or you’ll play Iorhael, and Perhael can play Sam.”
She grinned over at her son, who was standing a few yards away with his grandparents now, holding onto his daddy’s hand. Frodo felt profoundly grateful that he would never have to watch the play again, yet regretful at the same time. It had only ever been performed once on the Island. It had been given in Aman, more than once, with different players, of course, but he hadn’t seen it, nor wanted to, and from what he had heard, it had not gone down so well over there as it had on the Island….
A gasp went up from the crowd. The ship was almost here! Tiredness and age forgotten, Frodo sprang to his feet—yes, sprang, albeit a bit creakily, and Anemone had to steady him, laughing a little, but with some sadness in her eyes, which he didn’t notice. The ship was less than half a league away from the port, as far as he could tell, adjusting his double-eyeglass. Then he took it off and put it in his vest pocket, fearing it would get knocked off and broken, barely noticing how his hands were shaking….
The ship was getting closer…and the little girls had broken up their ring-dance…and Lyrien was telling her brother something too softly for Frodo to understand, although he caught the words “Sam” and “Rosie” and had to wonder…and Gandalf was coming to stand nearby…closer…and the sun was still high above the horizon…and the twins were gathering in their children, Calanon breaking up a fight between his son and another lad who had claimed that his father could beat Calanon at board-racing…closer…and Eruestan said he needed to go someplace and don’t anybody move till he got back and his sister laughed at him…and Guilin showed up with Arthion and Turin, and Turin asked brightly if anything interesting was going on…closer…and Amaryllis said she couldn’t stand all this waiting much longer, she was going to lose her mind, and Little Iorhael said that happened a long time ago and she hit him and so did Silivren…and Frodo could see Sam peeking over the ship’s prow and he wondered if he should wave, then he put his eyeglass back on so he could see Sam’s expression…closer…closer…the sea-bell was clanging, the gulls were wheeling…
“SHE’S DROPPING ANCHOR!” squealed Amaryllis, as members of the crew could be seen taking hold of the capstan and the cable bearing the anchor began slipping little by little. “Do you SEE??? They’re trimming sail…they’re heaving-to…”
“I can see Sam,” Lyrien whispered to Frodo, gripping his arm, at the same time glancing back to make sure her small son wasn’t getting trampled by the crowd, or pecked by gulls, or taking it into his head to run down the dock and throw himself into the water. “That’s him peeking over the hull, isn’t it?”
Frodo nodded, in tremulous silence. The crowd began singing again.
And Sam’s eyes met his.
Sam could not see what any of the crew were doing, and he feared they’d capsize the way the sails were flapping madly in the breeze, he hoped they knew what they were about…but the helm was a-lee, according to the Captain…who did indeed have a monkey, being the same Captain with whom Guilin and Raven had sailed so many years ago…although of course it was not the same monkey, but one of it’s descendants. That critter had afforded Sam plenty of amusement throughout the voyage, once he got used to her, and he was profoundly grateful to her for that. He didn’t know if he could have stood it otherwise. She had curled up with him many a time below deck when he was napping, and a comfort it was to him.
Now the monkey had climbed up on the hull beside Sam, and he reached up absently to pet her.
“That’s ’im, lass,” he told her. “He can see us! The little ’un with the silver hair, see ’im? That’s ‘is lady standin’ with him, or my name ain’t Samwise Gamgee. She really is real, after all. I hope they don’t let him fall in the water. That cold water won’t do ‘im no good at his age. He’s got to be all of one ‘undred an’ fourteen years, or gettin’ on for it. And here I am a hundred and two, meself. And not likely to go much higher’n that. My old Gaffer would have a fit if he could see me now. He’d of said I never did have sense enough to get in out of the rain and now I’d proved it once and f’r all. But I wish he could of lived to know of it. Wouldn’t it of made him feel proud to have one son that sailed the seas?”
Mugs made a sympathetic chitter, brushing back a white curl behind Sam’s ear.
“They say Mister Bilbo’s mum had a brother as went to sea,” Sam told her, “and he never did come back. Some said that was Mister Gandalf’s doin’, but I never did take much stock in that. Speakin’ of whom, I think that’s ‘im, standin’ near Mister Frodo. See ‘im, the one in white? Only his hair’s all black now, and he’s got no beard, but I can see it’s ‘im, just like in them dreams I sometimes used to have. And he’s got no staff now. Don’t need it no more, of course. I wonder where HIS lady is. Oh, I wish them folks wouldn’t crowd in so, they must be makin’ Mister Frodo nervous. I know I would be, at his age, if they was a jostlin’ around me like that. They’d ort to have more consideration, like. But, at least we’re almost there. And the sun’s behind a cloud so it ain’t so much in my eyes now.”
“I think she likes you as much as her master,” Lord Celeborn said as he came up behind Sam, who started at his voice. “She won’t want to turn loose of you, I fear.”
Sam laughed a little. “I’m right fond o’ her too,” he said, “and it won’t be no easier for me. It’s nice not to be the only one on board with foot hair, if you take my meanin’. Or at least, it wouldn’t be easier to turn loose of her, but for Mister Frodo and meetin’ him again and all that. Can you see him now, Lord Celeborn?”
“I can,” the elf-lord said, as his eyes scanned the crowd for a much taller figure, then paused at sight of a small, silver-haired, transfixed one. “So he really does have a lady now.”
Lord Celeborn, as it turned out, had seen sea-folk before. A very long time ago, when crossing the Seas, he had seen some small people sunning themselves on some reefs, and had taken them to be victims of a ship-wreck and wanted to stop and pick them up, but the captain had looked horrified at the very idea of it. As Lord Celeborn had looked back at them, one of them, a female, smiled at him and waved. He had never forgotten it. Then there was the legend of Nimrodel…how it was she had lost her way, he had always wondered. Perhaps she had wandered out to sea, and had spawned what were the ancestors of the creatures he had seen….
And then he caught sight of his own Lady as she emerged from the crowd, and all else was forgotten….
The gangplank was being lowered.
Elves were descending, some two by two…and then there was one who looked familiar, even after all these years…and with him, with him, was….
And the crowd began singing once more as two small figures came together in a precipitous and tearful embrace that was as a thunder-clap in the harbor, and the little girls took hands once more and formed a ring all around them and began to move, but with more solemnity this time, like priestesses in a temple ceremony, and bells rang in all the towers unheeded, and Lord Celeborn embraced first his wife, then his daughter, and then his granddaughter, and then all three of them together…and Mugs jumped up and down on the bowsprit, screaming, then swung herself on the rigging and rejoined her master, perching on his shoulder and looking on with wondering little bright black eyes….