For Midsummer’s all of the children of Sam Gamgee, the Thain, and the Master as well as their children came to the Northern Palace to celebrate with us. Merry and Pippin were there, planning a trip south soon, for word had reached us King Éomer was dying, and summoned his Swordthain to his side one last time; and as their own wives were now gone before them as had Mistress Rose, both had confided to us their desire to end their days near me, for Sam was no longer there to anchor them to their own lands and people. Odd how he who had been the gardener’s lad had, in the end, become the one to help these two as well as Frodo to ground themselves, to define their places within the Shire; and with him gone their ability to remain content among their own had dissolved.
The Hobbits continued to delight and amaze the Men of Arnor and Gondor, among whom the story of their dedication to the destruction of the Enemy had grown to the stuff of legends. Frodo Gardner had found himself inextricably confused with his namefather, and was the focus of a great deal of attention this night, which caused him great dismay and embarrassment as he gave futile explanations which everyone ignored. His younger brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews were demonstrating the Springlering, a very lovely yet energetic dance accompanied by the sound of silver bells worn by the dancers as well as the haunting music of the accompaniment, and Merry watched with a look of intense memory in his aged eyes. He turned to smile up at me.
"They did this at the Party," he commented, the softness of his words making them surprisingly more audible against the noise. "Bilbo was trying to finish his speech, and they drowned him out, dancing on one of the tables." We both laughed.
Arwen stood with her brothers on a rise to our left, the three with that supreme beauty and grace only those of High Elven blood can command, and many eyes turned that way. Then the Lord Glorfindel approached, accompanied by Idril and Melian, the latter just arrived that day from Minas Tirith with a troop of Rangers from Ithilien who would be training with the Dúnedain Rangers of Eriador for the next few months until our return south. It was good to have all our children with us this night. I turned to see Eldarion, his dark hair thrown back from his face, his eyes shining, as he stood, cloaked in silver grey, the silver Star brooch he’d earned over the last few months as he rode among our northern kin shining on his breast, surrounded by young Rangers who watched the entertainment with pleasure. The dancing was growing wilder till it finally reached its climax, and with a final leap and bow it ended to wild applause and cheers. And I smiled to see Loreth, niece of my beloved cousin Halbarad, approach Eldarion, and he turned to her with pleasure in his gaze. It appeared that our lineage would remain strong, I thought.
I embraced my daughters, smiled across at their mother and brother, and greeted Glorfindel. He had continued to remain in Middle Earth, and I realized he saw himself as a sort of rear guard--only when the last of the rest of his kind had gone would he, too, choose to leave us.
"Mae govannen, Lord Glorfindel. Will you now sing as for us as you have indicated you desire?" I asked.
"It will be a stark contrast to what has come before me," he commented, watching the Hobbits all collecting tankards of ale or goblets of wine before they collapsed onto the grass or headed to the refreshment tables (the cooks had learned from the spring visit and were well prepared). We laughed. "I’d not truly realized how old Bilbo was or how sober was Frodo till I saw these," he continued, indicating those who’d danced for us. "It appears young Merry and Pippin were more the models for knowing Halflings than their older kin." I nodded, remembering my two friends among the Shirelings, and the dependable nature of Sam.
"Did you see him go, Glorfindel? Sam?"
He nodded solemnly. "Yes, I accompanied him with Celeborn and others of our people who’d chosen to go at this time to the Havens, stayed to watch after with Círdan, who will remain till the Last Ship sails. He was hale enough, but I sensed his heart was beginning to fail him, and so I took from him his pack and carried it for him during the crossing of the Shire. It was quite heavy."
I laughed. "Ah, yes, I suppose it would be, for he always had tucked away small items to be brought out in triumph when Frodo suddenly realized he’d forgotten an extra set of braces for his trousers, or a pair of scissors to trim their hair, or other such small moments. Do you know what he took with him for his Master?"
"Apparently pictures, mostly. Pictures of his children, of his grandchildren, of his great-grandchildren, of Merry and Pippin’s families...he seemed to believe Frodo would wish to see the faces that came after."
I nodded. "And I suspect there were five others there, too," I suggested as I caught his eyes, "for he’d written a few years ago requesting small portraits of myself, Arwen, and the children." He smiled but did not answer, which was answer enough. The Lord Elrond and Lady Celebrían, I suspected, had now in their possession portraits of their daughter and her family, and I remembered the promise in his last letter to carry words of comfort and remembrance to these two.
Glorfindel nodded across to Elrohir and Elladan, and as the three stepped forward and came together the throng turned to them, gave them its attention. I had thought they would sing the Lay of Lúthien, which was usually sung at the festival of Midsummer, remembering that Arwen and I had been wed at this season; but when Elladan struck the opening chord I realized this was to be a different song. And as the singing began all quieted, for few here had heard this lay before, and its significance took a few minutes to penetrate before the artistry of these three brought the images sung about in the song before the hearts of all.
Two small souls, one holding the hope for the both, the other utterly given to his task, struggled to reach the heart of the Enemy’s realm, the Seat of his Power, taking with them the Bane of Middle Earth, defying Strength with one greater for all it went disguised as weakness, knowing that they would die, probably before their purpose was reached.... It had been long since I’d heard the Lay of Frodo of the Nine Fingers, long indeed, but it stirred me to tears of honor, love, and loss once more. But, I thought, why? Why this Lay tonight? Because so many of their people, their family are here with us? A touch on my arm made me aware Arwen had joined me, her eyes also shining with tears. Our daughters stood together, their arms around one another, their faces solemn and proud. Eldarion and the Rangers of both North and South stood at attention, and turning aside I saw that my shadow in black and silver, Peregrin Took, Thain of the Shire, King’s Counselor, and a Captain of the Guard of the Citadel, had left his place behind me, moved forward to put his arm around the shoulders of his kinsman, and that tears streamed down both faces unashamedly.
And when at last the song ended, all fell completely quiet, and all turned to the West, to honor those two who had left us to find their healing and release elsewhere--and suddenly the western sky was lit in glory! The mouths of all fell open with shock and awe as stars wheeled and rose and fell and circled, spread apart and came back together, and as a distant singing seemed to fill all our hearts.
"Gandalf! Gandalf’s fireworks!" whispered Pippin, and I could see Merry nod in agreement.
And through it all there arose two stars, distant, shining with brilliant glory, one a warm, golden yellow, the other clear and pure as mithril; they lit the sky with a splendor before which Anor and Ithil both bowed, then they turned away, beyond the West....
In Minas Tirith it is written that at the Feast of Lithe while the King and Queen were in the north at the court of Annúminas, there could be seen in the west a spate of falling stars of unprecedented numbers and grandeur, and that in the midst of all two great comets arose briefly to light the sky with a shining unknown in the annals of the Kingdom, and that after a brief time they withdrew beyond the West and were not seen again.