For our beloved Harrowcat for her birthday.
Often Frodo Baggins frequented the western heights of Tol Eressëa, looking ever Westward, and particularly as his time upon the island lengthened and he knew his ending within this world approached. He never evinced fear, those who found him in such contemplation noted. Instead, as time passed his eagerness to go further grew increasingly noticeable.
One day Olórin found him walking along the western shore of the island under the light of the lowering sun, a great twisted shell to his ear, and his hair still damp from a swim in the Sea. His eyes were luminous with contentment as he raised them to meet those of his friend. Hello, Gandalf. A fine afternoon, is it not?
“Indeed, Frodo. You are far from home today.”
The Hobbit laughed delightedly. And how could I remain within the guesthouse with such a blue sky beckoning me to explore? he asked. This is so beautiful a beach, don’t you agree? What can you tell me of the creature that once lived within this shell?
The former Wizard shrugged, smiling at his small friend. “It housed a great snail, one they call a nautilus.” He went on to describe the snail and its habits, Frodo listening attentively, as curious as he’d always been about the lives of other creatures, until a distant hail caught their attention.
“Hail the island!” came the call of a clear, high voice from the direction of the Sea.
Both turned to peer across the waves, and saw there what appeared to be a distant coracle with but a single passenger. However, as the small craft approached the shore with unprecedented swiftness, they realized that it was far smaller than either had appreciated, and that its occupant did not have the usual form as one of the Children of Ilúvatar.
Is that a mouse? asked Frodo, his face filled with surprise.
The Maia murmured, “So it would appear, my friend.”
But it’s wearing a hat, and carrying some sort of sword I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.
And so it was.
There were blossoms lying inside the coracle, blossoms apparently gathered from the lilies that grow in fresh waters, breathing their delicate fragrance into the air. The mouse carefully steered the boat onto the sand with the paddle it held in its forepaws, then leapt ashore, its eyes bright with curiosity. “By the Lion—Aslan has brought me to where he said I might know delightful companions until I am fully ready to return to the Halls of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea. Is one of you the Lord Iorhael?” So saying, it doffed its feather-bedecked hat and bowed with a flourish before Hobbit and Maia. “I am known as Reepicheep of Narnia, one of the former knights to serve King Caspian, at your service!”
Frodo bowed automatically, saying aloud, “Frodo Baggins of the Shire, former Companion to the King Elessar, at that of yourself and your family.”
The mouse smiled broadly. “Then is this Elessar King here of this island? Will he welcome my service, do you think?” It whipped its weapon out of its belt. “My rapier I will lay gladly at his feet.”
Gandalf laughed aloud at the thought of Aragorn’s face should such a valiant—creature—come before him to offer him his sword. Although, as with Hobbits, he realized that all would do well not to underestimate the worth of this one based only on his size and apparent nature. “I fear that you will not find the Lord Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar here on the Lonely Island, friend Reepicheep, although I believe he would be honored to accept your service. But we here in Tol Eressëa will welcome your presence for as long as you choose to stay. Ever has this land been a place offering rest and healing for those come from the trials and stresses of life elsewhere until they feel ready to complete their journeys to their true homes. And one known as Aslan sent you here, did he?”
“Oh, yes. He indicated that I had yet some living and learning to do, and recommended me to the companionship of one he called the Lord Iorhael until I am ready to go on further.”
You came out of the west to here, Frodo noted.
“Oh, yes, I have been seeking the uttermost East and Aslan’s country most of my life.”
While I know increasing curiosity regarding the uttermost West. Well, here they call me by the name Iorhael, so you have found the one recommended to you. I will be glad to offer you room in the house given to my use while I remain here, and to show you about the island.
“You live nearby?” asked the Mouse.
Frodo shook his head. I live across the island, but come here often enough, although rarely right down to the shore as I have today. But I cannot see how you would wish to go east from here back into the Mortal Lands from whence I came.
Olórin interjected, “You do not understand, Frodo—from here for mortals the uttermost East and West are the same direction.”
Reepicheep peered up at the Maia with surprise and even some suspicion. “But how can this be? East and West have ever been opposite to one another!”
Olórin’s appearance clarified into that of the Grey Wizard as he examined the mouse, his eyes twinkling. “For the Creator, my friend, all things are possible. Now, come—if I know my Hobbits, this one will be craving some nourishment soon, and I dare say you will do so as well.” And as he led the two of them toward a fishing settlement nearby, he pondered on the capricious humor and compassion of Ilúvatar as shown by the arrival of what appeared to be a creature from a world he’d not visited as yet. I will need to learn more of Narnia and this one known as Aslan, he thought to himself.