"Welcome, my Lord Glorfindel," said my deepest of friends as I left the Last Ship to stand at last on the shores of Tol Eressëa. "It has been a very, very long time."
"You remain here yet, Elrond?" I asked.
He shook his head. "No, Celebrían and I dwell nearer the center of Aman, but I returned to welcome you and my sons." He turned to them now, embraced them with solemn joy. And we were led up into the City for our welcoming and refreshment.
The next day I asked to be taken to the place where the Halflings had lived, for I bore with me a tribute entrusted to me years before by the King Elessar, and others sent by Frodo Gardner and his sisters Elanor and Goldilocks, and still others by younger generations who had continued to seek me out in the remains of Rivendell. Elrond and Celebrían led me, accompanied by a lovely maiden they introduced as Livwen, and by the twin sons of Elrond. These had become more solemn after the death of their sister’s husband, and then her own, and although they still sang, now their songs were more likely to be filled with echoes of loss and grief--that they, too, would remain until the last of our kind chose to leave Middle Earth had been somewhat of a surprise. Almost I’d expected one or both to make the choice of Elros, but they did not do so.
We circled the city to the north, and as we approached the Gardens I saw a small summer house standing alone, and near it stood the form of Legolas Thrandulion, standing solemnly, looking at the small garden immediately in front of the structure. And beside him--Olórin.
We spoke no words in greeting, merely briefly exchanged glances before returning our gaze to the small garden. There lay four memorial stones--one each for Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins also known as Iorhael, Samwise Gamgee also known as Panthail (I smiled to see that one, for it would have pleased Estel), and the most recent, one for Gimli son of Gloin, Lord of the Glittering Caves.
"They are buried here, then?" I asked.
Livwen shook her head. "No, each was buried in a different place, according to his wishes. Only Panthail was buried here, for he said it would gladden his heart to know it was in such a beautiful place." And they told me where it was that Bilbo had asked to be buried near the White Tree, and where Gimli had been laid in a stone tomb in accordance with the ways of his own people, near the fanes on the western shore.
Olórin’s voice was soft. "There was nothing left to bury. What little there was left of his body became sparkles of Anor’s fire as he stepped at last from it."
Elladan spoke: "We saw the stars dance as they quitted Arda. Merry and Pippin both said that it was your fireworks."
Olórin gave us a deep look. "The Lady Elbereth and Lord Manwë themselves sought to do them honor at the last, although at the request of the Lady Livwen here they did allow me to direct how it should be shown. You should have heard them laugh, and laughing still they simply stood up and left their lives behind. Laughter of sheer heart’s joy and ease."
Livwen smiled at the Maia. "Long ago Iorhael had indicated we must one day have you present one of your displays of fireworks, although it was his suggestion that you avoid one portraying dragons." And Olórin's laughter filled the garden and spread to our hearts.
I was shown the rooms where they had lived, and the house was full, I saw, of pictures--pictures of the lives in Middle Earth both had left. And I was shown the thin journal Frodo had written to explain to Samwise how he’d been healed and become what he was in the end, and Sam’s own brief chapter at the end of it.
In the bed chamber stood a chest, and on it a faded book, written in Westron in a childish hand. And by it stood a mate to the strange gift Estel had placed in my hand the last time I saw him, when he knew he would himself soon leave Middle Earth--a shell of red sand and beads. And beside it I placed the crystal box in which lay a second shell of blue, green, and purple stone chips, and a sheaf of pages Estel had written. By that I laid the green volume entrusted to me by Frodo Gardner, old and faded now, and the small locks of hair tied in thin ribbon each of Sam’s progeny had entrusted to me to lie beside the still golden offering that lay there already, and the sealed letters pressed on me by Merry, Pippin, and their offspring.
Legolas smiled. "I’d hoped to come before they left, but that was not to be. They were of a shorter-lived lineage than Aragorn. When we saw the glory of the dancing stars to the West I knew they could wait no longer." I nodded. "Gimli and I knew they had gone before us, and he grieved. But at least he was able to see the Lady Galadriel again, and know she is again dwelling in bliss with her lord husband, and he was content."
On the window sill sat a potted athelas plant, full of flowers of many colors, its scent full of the promise of healing and heart’s ease, and I saw that outside the window stood many more, its progeny rejoicing to grow to honor the Ringbearers.