Mister Frodo seemed very quiet when at last they left the Palace; it was as if he knew that once they left, he would not be coming back. They had seen Calathiel set up in a very nice suite of rooms overlooking the river; Mirwen would sleep in her bedroom with her, Sadron just across the hallway, and he was very happy about that, for his room at home was tiny and cramped by comparison. The suite opened into a lovely garden with a path leading to the grotto, and Sam could only hope Calathiel would find peace and comfort amongst the Ladies. Mister Frodo said he thought she would, although it would likely take a long time.
Ionwë did not seem happy, especially that Northlight was going, even though he had a new job awaiting him. He lamented that he had ruined Istuion’s life.
“He was but a boy, alone in the world,” he said, “with no parents, and he looked up to me, although Eru knows why. I should have been as an older brother to him, and instead I led him astray. He would be alive now, but for me. I’ve a good mind to return to the books. Among them I found little reproach, at least. Now I feel I've no right to be around innocent creatures. I thought the worst of that lay behind me. And it has risen to confront me again, and I do not know how to get free of it.”
“He did not do so badly,” Arasinya said laying a hand on her brother's shoulder. “From what Narylf has told us, he had a happy and busy life with his wife and child, and his work, out in a lovely spot north of the Lighthouse. Perhaps he would never have met Meril under different circumstances.”
“And now he and Meril are both dead, and their daughter is an orphan,” Ionwë said. He stood up and went to stand with his back to the others, looking out at a garden whose beauties he did not seem to see, hands clasped behind his back. Amaryllis was sitting with Mirwen and the little ones, all of them examining a butterfly Sadron had caught. Narylf sat near the grotto with Calathiel and Lyrien and Lady Celebrían, Bragohil talking with Lord Elrond nearby. Sam saw Narylf thoughtfully run her fingertips over the foot of the little statue that graced the grotto, and for a moment he could have sworn he saw it smile and blink, but told himself his old eyes were playing tricks on him.
He scarcely knew what to tell Ionwë. He looked to Mister Frodo, who did not seem pleased with Ionwë’s guilt, although perhaps once he might have rejoiced in it, saying it was as much as he deserved. Instead, pity shone from those eyes, behind the eyeglass, pity for this fellow who had ruint his own life as well as another’s, and would never really be free of the remorse that haunted him now.
Just before they left, Northlight embraced Ionwë, telling him to come and visit sometime, and tell them what he liked to eat so they might have him over to dinner. Ionwë held Northlight tightly, and it seemed protectively, at the same time hiding his face on the smaller fellow’s shoulder.
“Sam,” Frodo said as they looked on, “did you notice something about him...Ionwë...yesterday evening?”
“Umm…no, M—Frodo, can’t say as I did. Was I supposed to?” Sam lifted puzzled eyebrows.
“He has a light now,” Frodo said smiling.
It was wonderful to see the cottage again. They had been gone but a week, yet the cove looked alive and new, and full of gladness and music and sweet smells. It was a joy to see the children playing on the beach and hear them sing and laugh and shout. Even the birds seemed full of warmth and gaiety. It was as if no evil had ever touched it at all, as though the sea had washed clean any taint that dared permeate the grounds. The falls were still falling, the rainbow hovering over, the butterflies and hummingbirds still visiting the trumpet-shaped blue and white and purple flowers that hung from the vines, falling amid the maidenhair ferns and honeysuckle that laced the white and grey cliffsides, the ibis and flamingo wading the dimpled green-silver pools, the gulls circling and crying over the lichen-spattered sea-side walls and jutting wet boulders and reefs. The sun still set the clouds ablaze with scarlet and gold and silver and purple over the glassy waves, and the Beacon lit itself as faithfully as the rising sun at nightfall...and somehow knowingly.
Mister Frodo recovered but little of his strength upon his return home, and after a little less than a month, it was plain to all that he was most definitely on the decline. The others said little of it, in words, although their eyes said plenty, and all was done in order to make him as comfortable as they might. He did not suffer pain, other than a few minor aches and twinges common to the elderly, and complained very rarely, and joked often. One morning Sam heard him as he sat out on the beach after breakfast, singing in his increasingly weak and cracked voice:
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or secret gate
And oft though I have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the moon, East of the sun….
And many will be left behind
When soon at last that road I find
Who will stay to dry their tears
And lead them gently through the years
When I take those paths that run
West of the moon, East of the sun?
Moonrise kept them all posted as to the fates of Beleg and Raegbund. As yet there had been no date set for their execution, but Lord Elrond said for certain that they would not burn. The Queen thought perhaps beheading was the best way, but she as yet had come up with no one willing to do the job.
They went to Temple regularly each week, until the time came when Mister Frodo no longer had the strength for it. Instead they took him down to his praying-rock on the beach. It seemed to do him good, and he once remarked that perhaps the Creator favored the sunny reaches of his creation to the gemmed and convoluted structure raised in his honor.
“I can see a stairway running up through those clouds,” he said pointing out to sea. “Can you, Sam?”
Sam looked but could see only lacy clouds and sunlight. “I see…somethin’,” he murmured. “It’s a mighty pretty sight. And the sea…it’s a wondrous thing. I don’t fear the water now, somehow. It’s a thing of wonders, the way it’s so wide and deep, and so alive, and full of creatures and treasures and mysteries. More than I ever would of thought possible.”
“Just like life itself,” Mister Frodo said.
He needed his wheelchair always now; he could no longer walk. Just once, they took him into the City, to see a show, but after that he did not want to go any more. It was a good show, for Raven danced in it, and Sam got to see her on the stage for the first time. It was far different from seeing her dance on the beach on his first night on the Island. She scarcely seemed herself, but like some creature too shining and rich and singular for this world, in a costume of white and gold and and scarlet, a band of gems on her hair. The music was amazing also, in a way Sam couldn’t have described. He remembered Frodo telling him that Guilin had come up with a way to write music down, and it had caught on. He would draw straight lines across a sheet of paper and put dots on them representing notes, each note corresponding to a note on the instrument playing. Sounded like a lot of work, Sam remarked. It was, Guilin said, and he was continually coming up with improvements to the idea, and driving everyone quite wild with them. Mister Frodo was rapt, watching Raven, and Sam looked at him in wonder. Yes, this was his daughter, as much as Elanor was his own, and he wondered what she was doing now, and wondering if maybe, just maybe….
“Mister Frodo, may I borrow your glass tonight?” he asked after they returned home. Anemone brought him the glass, and they took it to the terrace where they could see the Beacon glimmering in the distance, and Sam took the glass in his lap as he sat scrooched together with Mister Frodo on the long chair, and he gazed into it after saying the words to light it. And together they combined their energies to look into the brilliance…which spread itself like the breath of a star into their skins and painlessly pierced their eyes and brains…but try as they might, it was all they could see.
“Maybe…she’s doin’ somethin’ not for my eyes,” Sam said after a long while. Frodo put an arm around him tightly, then drew Sam’s head to his shoulder.
“I think that door is not open to us, Sam,” he said very gently. “Let us content ourselves with those that are.”
Amaryllis came over every evening, and sometimes she would pull out one of the six volumes of Mister Frodo’s poetry and read from it. It was wonderful to hear it all again, especially in her voice, and to know it was written down for all to see, so that something of Mister Frodo would live on for his family after the rest of him was out of their reach.
“Look,” she would say between readings. “Here are drawings that Grandmum made to illustrate. Guess who posed for this girl? She’s ME! And this is you, Sam. Perion posed for it. Of course he doesn’t really look like you, but Granddad said he captured your essence. Whatever that means.”
Northlight did try hard to be happy, to try and make the most of the time left to him and his father. It hurt Sam to see at times, and must have hurt Mister Frodo even more. And he had an idea how Mister Frodo must have felt knowing he must leave Middle-earth and leave the others behind, wondering all along how they would fare, how they would deal with their grief…which he knew would heal by and by. But this was worse, knowing he was going where they couldn’t follow. Sam remembered him saying more than once that he was glad to be mortal; now he wondered if maybe he wished otherwise, that he might stay behind, here in his true home with his loved ones all around throughout the ages....
“Sam,” he said one particularly beautiful and star-laden night, which was one of their nights to share, as they sat in the long chair alone together talking quietly and reminiscing, “do you remember me telling of the farewell picnic the Elves gave for Bilbo on his last full day on the Island?”
Sam frowned a little, then nodded. “Yes, I do remember that, M—Frodo. You said they came most unexpected, but knew somehow that it was to be his last day. And...and....” He wondered why Mister Frodo had seen fit to bring up the subject.
And then it seemed a cold breeze blew through all his clothes as he glanced to the Beacon…for he knew why.
“I think...I would like such a picnic...tomorrow,” Mister Frodo said.