“So that’s the Beacon, is it, Mister Frodo?”
“Yes, Sam. It looks even brighter tonight, and no wonder…And what will it take to get you to drop the ‘Mister’?”
“Sorry, M—erm, Frodo. But the older a habit is, the tougher it is—like the meat on old chickens. But I will try to drop it, since you don’t like it….And the stars are even bigger and beautifuller out here than in Rivendell, they are. They’re like the lanterns in the old party-tree, I feel like I could reach up and pick one like an apple. I s’pose it’s because the Star-kindler is so closer by, attending on all her children. And the colors are still there, dancing amongst them.”
Anemone had said she would stay with Northlight and Raven tonight, so that the hobbits might spend their first night on the Island alone with each other. But they heard Raven, who had come after the dinner party to help mix the evening draughts, speaking softly to her inside the house, “Nana, I think someone should stay here with them...in case they should, you know, have an accident, or something.” And Anemone said, “Perhaps you are right, at that.” And she came out with a thick blanket, and spread it over the two hobbits who were both settled into the one long chair, saying, “You may need this. It gets a bit chilly sometimes at night. Are you sure you don’t wish to sleep in the guest-room tonight?”
They assured her they would be all right, and thanked her for the blanket. She said she was tired and would turn in now, and kissed both, Frodo on the lips and Sam on the cheek, before going back inside.
Amaryllis came out with something behind her back, and said, “I thought you might like to have this,” setting the Rosie-doll between them. Sam smiled up at her.
“Thanks so much, miss,” he said. “That will be just the thing. And might I say once more, I really enjoyed your song and your dance tonight.”
“Thank you,” the girl said, putting her hands behind her back in a show of modesty. “I’m not so good as my mum, but I do like to dance. And I was happy to sing for you, but I didn’t write the song. It was just a silly old one I like.”
“Well, I think you were just fine. And your voice is wondrous fair. Which was that little girl playin’ the harp again?”
“That was my cousin Éowyn. Do you know she plays six instruments? And she’s younger than I am—she’s a mere child.”
“She’s a very gifted mere child,” Frodo said with a little chuckle.
“My father taught her to play the flute,” Amaryllis said as she pulled up a chair and perched daintily on it. “She plays the flute, the harp, the drum, the fiddle, the tabor, and the psaltery. Not all at the same time, though. She's madly in love with Arasirion—Olórin’s son. She’s going to marry him when she grows up, she says.”
Sam chuckled. “Does he know it yet?”
“Probably, the way she’s always gazing at him and all. But I told her he’s likely got every other maiden on the entire Island daft over him, so she’d better not get her hopes up. I told her she’s too young to be thinking of boys anyway. Why get old before your time?”
“Really, why?” Frodo agreed, thoughtfully.
“It’s hard to believe Mister Gandalf has a son,” Sam said. “Even after all this time. It don't seem possible. It’s like he’s gone backwards in time, ’stead of forwards.”
“I would think he would have more than one,” Amaryllis said. “I think his wife is one of the most beautiful ladies on the Island. Do you know she was once a queen, and now she’s a horse-healer?”
“Is she now?” Sam knew this, but decided not to let on. What a lovely lass, he thought. Her face had a pale radiance against the ripply dark hair, her eyes huge and starry, her figure thin and graceful in the dark-pink dress she wore, her long slim fingers lightly playing with each other in her lap as she sat on the edge of her chair with her head just a little forward of the rest of her. There was life in her, fresh and sunlit and fragrant and moist, a garden inside of her, edged in clover, forever in bloom.
“Yes. She loves horses. She’s been raising them for years, then she decided she would study to be a healer of them. There was no horse-healer on the Island, so one from Aman came to teach her. So now she’s the only horse-healer here. I think that was very good of her, to decide to be one. She can just look a horse in the eye and know what’s wrong with him, and she can just talk him out of being sick. She was with Shadowfax when he died. He lived a longggg time, almost a hundred years, Olórin said. He had his head in her lap and everything, Shadowfax did, when he died, and she was singing to him. I wasn’t there to see, but I heard of it. My mum’s friend Findëmaxa, who is an artist, painted a picture of it.”
“He must of gone out happy then,” Sam said smiling.
“Galendur owns one of his descendants now,” Frodo said. “His dam was Shadowfax’s first filly on the Island, Silverdance. She still lives now. And his sire was a horse sired by Nightwind. It was so hard for Galendur to lose Nightwind. His grief was downright frightening, almost as if he had lost one of his own children. I don’t like to remember it. But it's nice that Nightwind and Shadowfax ended their days in friendship with each other, where they were once rivals...of sorts.”
He spoke as though thinking aloud, wondering if it were so hard for Galendur to lose his beloved stallion to the inevitability of old age, how much harder would it be for him to lose his closest friend?
“Éowyn is welcome to Arasirion,” Amaryllis said after a moment. “He’s very beautiful, I suppose, but I’ve no interest in lads. I consider them a big nuisance.”
“You’ll think different one of these days,” Sam assured her smiling.
“I haven’t the impression,” Frodo said to her, “that you find Little Iorhael such a nuisance as all that?”
“Piffle,” Amaryllis tossed her head, but it seemed to Sam her cheeks pinked a bit. “He's only Silivren's brother, as far as I'm concerned. Even if I had any use for him, he’s got eyes only for Lúthien. Not that she ever looks his way. I think she fancies Arasirion also, even though she’s older than he is. And if she does, poor Éowyn doesn’t stand a chance. Not that she’s repulsive, but she can’t hold a candle to Lúthien. No one can. Which means I can’t. Although my father did save Little Iorhael’s life once when he was only a baby.”
“Well, but there’s Eruestan,” Frodo said. “I think he rather fancies you, myself.”
“Eruestan? Ha! He’s only a little boy.”
“Not so much younger than you,” Frodo laughed. “And you’re fond of his sisters, surely?”
“I adore the ground Lyrien walks on,” Amaryllis said, “and Castiel is my bosom friend after Silivren, but as for their little brother? Ugh, ugh, ugh. I would sooner marry a troll.” She gave an elaborate shudder.
“Of course you would,” Raven said laughing, coming out onto the terrace after seeing her mother to bed, “Come, my little loveliness, it’s time we were hastening back, and let these two get some sleep. I’m sure they’ve had a long day, and need their rest.”
“Mayn’t I stay here tonight, mummy?” Amaryllis pleaded. “I can sleep in the room that used to be yours. I simply love that room, it has such an atmosphere.”
“No no no,” Raven said, reaching over to caress her daughter’s curly hair. “You would sit here and talk them to death well into the night, if we gave you half a chance. You may come here tomorrow morning with me if you like, but now we must be getting back. It’s very late.” She smiled down at Sam. “This one would talk all night long if you let her. But I shall try not to let her wear you out.”
“Oh, I don’t mind, my lady,” Sam said. “She’s most interesting, she is. And some of mine was talkers also. ’Specially Goldilocks. She could talk water uphill, as her grandmum used to say.”
“Goldilocks,” Amaryllis giggled at the thought of anyone talking water uphill. She would have to remember that one for her friends.
“That was after Glorfindel,” Frodo said, “whose name means, well, Goldilocks.”
“Beggin’ your pardon sir—maybe it does mean that, but it was after my sister Marigold,” Sam said. “That was her right name, Marigold. But folks started callin’ her Goldilocks when she was a little un—in part for her hair, and in part to keep from confusin’ her with her auntie. And I was considerable of a chatter-box meself when I was a little un—just ask Mist—erm, Frodo. My old Gaffer used to say my tongue was hinged in the middle and swung both ways.”
“I was named for my great-aunt,” Amaryllis said as she stood up. “My granddad’s baby sister. I think it was an enormous honor for me.” And she bent and kissed both hobbits on the forehead with infinite care and grace.
As Raven and Amaryllis made their way in the night toward the bridge, the hobbits heard the girl say, “Mummy, he said I was interesting! No one ever said that of me before!” and they looked at each other with broad grins.
“I was proud of you tonight,” Frodo said when the others were out of sight. “Well, of course I’ve always been proud of you, but tonight...I was a little worried that you would be made uncomfortable and embarrassed by such a crowd, but you held your own with such poise and grace, I must admit I was surprised, although perhaps I shouldn't have been. Small wonder you were elected so many terms. I don’t know if you saw me beaming with pride or not. You were as a true leader.”
Sam held the Rosie-doll and looked at it in abashment at the praise, which he did not expect, and could still overwhelm him coming from Mister Frodo as it could from no one else.
“They made me feel so welcome,” he said, absently fingering the springy woolen yellow curls. “I wasn’t expectin’ that, ‘spite of what you told me of them. I was half worried they’d think I was comin’ to take you away from ‘em. To be truthful, M—Frodo, I was somewhat hopin’, on the ship and all, that you’d be ready to go soon, and I’d go with you. But now I’m here, I feel like stayin’ for a while, that is, if you do. Seems this place is gettin’ itself into my bones already, just like you said.”
“I wish to stay for a while also,” Frodo said. “I feel as though twenty years fell from me when you stepped off that ship. And don’t you realize that I stayed as long as I did because I knew you would come? Because of you, I lived longer than I otherwise would have. They have you to thank for that…along with everything you did for me before I sailed.”
“I’m glad of that. If I should go before you, I don’t ask for you to follow me. I can wait. But whenever you’re ready, I’ll go too. Just say the word.”
“I’m glad you’re with me, Samwise Gamgee,” Frodo said slipping an arm under Sam’s shoulders and drawing him close. “I’m so glad you’re with me…” He almost said, “Here at the end of all things,” but hesitated. Yes…it was, or would be soon, the end of all things as he knew them. Even though he had glimpsed what lay ahead, the prospect of leaving all he knew behind him began to look disturbingly real. Not that he feared what was beyond, but rather what he was leaving behind him. The Beacon...would it continue to burn, there on the little hill above the shore, throughout the ages, or would it diminish little by little, until an age later it burnt itself out, weary with shining for those who forgot to look in its direction, leaving the Island drifting in eternal twilight once more, as Gandalf feared it would?
Do not let it go out, he prayed silently. Let it shine until the true end of all things. Let it be a light when all other lights go out, keeping all evils and terrors at bay. Let it be as a candle that lights other candles, and keep on lighting as many as need it....
And he remembered something, and withdrew from his breast-pocket the Star-glass, and spoke the words to light it, and set it on the small table on Sam's side of the long chair. Sam, whose eyelids had been drooping, lifted his head from Frodo's shoulder and turned to look at it. His lips parted as if to speak, but no words came from them.
“Good night, Sam,” Frodo said as he drew his dearest friend's head to his shoulder once more and laid his cheek on top of the white curls.