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The Last Journey of Master Samwise
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
The Last Journey of Master Samwise

G-rated Slash content, character death.


~~~

The last rays of a dying sun bathed the gardens at Bag End with a rosy glow. But it brought no comfort to him today. There would be no more rosy days, no more comfortable nights with his Rose by the fire. Today Sam had given her back to the earth he loved so much…had covered her with the Shire’s rich soil and had showered her with his tears.

He could hear the clatter of dishes and the chatter of daughters and granddaughters as they tidied the house, sweeping out the last of the visitors with the dust and crumbs.

“Thank you for coming,” he heard one of them say. “Yes, yes…I’ll be sure to tell him you stopped.”

“No,” another one chimed in; “he’s really not quite up to it yet. Perhaps in a day or two, when he’s rested.”

‘I should go in,’ Sam thought, watching the lights wink on one by one down New Row. But try as he may he couldn’t force his old body to move one inch from the familiar touch of the garden bench.

Shadows lengthened into night as the long, warm day spilled into a chilly evening. They’d be coming for him soon, fussing and fretting these lasses of his. Yes, there was the door opening now, the anxious peering of blue eyes and the bounce of golden curls – his Goldilocks had come to claim him.

“Da?” her call was quiet and respectful of his grief. Such a gentle child this dear daughter of his. “Please come in now. They’ve mostly gone and the rest will be leaving soon.”

He sighed, letting her take his arm and guide him to his feet.

She was like her mother, so much so that it made his heart ache to see her. He shuffled along, feeling all the weight of the long years laying on him – clinging to his shoulders like a darkness he couldn’t shake. He’d known darkness beyond reckoning, had felt the very touch of evil, and yet in his Rose’s company he’d always been able to struggle back to the sunlight.

He hesitated a step from the thresh hold, reluctant to step through the doorway. For the first time in sixty-two years she would not be there to greet him and that thought both grieved and frightened his aching heart.

Sam could picture that bittersweet morning…the last moments they had shared. She’d been sewing by the fire, crafting tiny stitches into stems and blossoms of her own making. He’d stroked her hair, kissing her soft lips in goodbye.

“Be back soon,” she’d demanded of him, her voice a sweet caress teasing him with a saucy wink. “I’ll have your favorite for lunch…”

He’d laughed, remembering many stolen lunches filled with her sweet kisses more delicious than food. After so many years and thirteen babies together his cheeks still colored at the thought.

“I will,” he’d promised with a wink of his own, his heart so full it could burst for love of her. He’d left with a song on his lips, not knowing…not knowing. Had he known, he would never have gone.

He’d only stayed out for a little while, just long enough to gossip with a couple of the other old gaffers on New Row, enjoying a pipe and remembering the good days that were now long gone. Then gathering a bunch of summer flowers, he’d wandered home with a nimble step a happy tune whistling from his lips.

He’d found her in that same chair, hands resting on her lap the sewing set carefully aside. A ray of golden light touched her serene face and for a moment he’d thought she had fallen asleep in the midday sun.

“Rosie,” he’d whispered softly, his bouquet of summer flowers gone limp in his hand. “Rose, my love.”

But the rose had gone from her cheeks, had fled with the last sighing of her breath, and Sam knew in his heart that she had passed beyond his quiet calling. He’d knelt at her side, laying this last bouquet in her lap. Gently taking the hand she’d pledged to him a lifetime ago, he’d held it to his cheek – remembering the sweet feel of her touch on his face, the soothing hands that had guided him through many dark hours filled with loss and sorrow. Who would guide him back from those despair filled moments now…now that his Rosie was gone?

Little Tom had found him that evening, kneeling in the darkness, the door ajar and lamps unlit.

Sam had been holding her cold hand in his, brown eyes dark and distant. He had gazed at his youngest child without seeing or knowing. The wilted flowers had littered the floor with their bruised petals.

But now she was laid to rest, with Sam’s carefully tended flowers scattered on her grave, and he wept once more for their parting.

“Da?” Goldilocks questioned her own eyes welling, as he stood there on feet made of stone. “Please come inside. I’ll make you a cup of tea.”

Tears trickled down his sun-creased cheeks and he raised a weathered hand to brush them away.

“No my dearest,” he whispered, walking through the doorway at last. “I just want to be alone for awhile. I’m tired and the day has already gone on too long for my liking.”

“Of course, Da,” she smiled, touching his face with a soft hand. “I’m sure you are worn out. I’ll just bank up the fire and put on your kettle then head on off myself.”

“That’s a sweet lass,” he mumbled, wandering away from her voice and her touch. He couldn’t bear it any longer; she was so much like her mother.

He tottered off down the hallway, away from those few of his children that remained and slipped into the bedroom shutting the door behind.

It was a room filled with memories, and Sam couldn’t help but smile through his tears. How many wonderful moments had been shared in this room? So many sweet times of life and love, joy and happiness.

The joys of that room had predated even his Rose, going back to another life, another time long distant. He’d lost his heart with his innocence in that room, a willing victim to blue-eyed passion. He’d spent long summer evenings there wrapped in pale arms and legs, drowning in the succulent taste of forbidden fruit. There had been nights of talking too, a sharing of secrets and dreams, and later the taint of fear as darkness fell over their lives and their love.

The room had belonged to another then, his sweet Master Frodo, and Sam felt his presence still, although he’d been gone away over the sea these many long years.

Their partnership had started when Sam was a new tween, just twenty years old, and had filled eighteen carefree years before the Ring brought their world crashing down around them. He’d followed Frodo far from the Shire on their long quest, supporting his master and heart’s friend even as the darkness claimed him beyond recall. When the Ring had been destroyed at last, Sam had hoped for a long and happy life together in peace, though in his heart, he knew it was not to be.

Frodo had encouraged Sam to marry his childhood sweetheart – desiring a wife and children to fill the gardener’s life with the happiness his own damaged soul could no longer provide. It had been Frodo, who’d contrived to bring the newly wedded couple to Bag End. He’d offered to share his home and hearth with Sam and his new bride, even preparing his own room as a honeymoon suite. Sam and Rose had consummated the marriage in that room. In each other’s arms, they had affirmed their commitment to the dark-haired hobbit they both adored.

Sam would see all his children born upon that bed. Each one had taken their first wailing breaths while he and Rose laughed and cried over their love made real in thirteen wonderful little bundles. Frodo had been there for the first one, their sweet little Elanor, and had shared their joy and wonder. Yet he had already gone over sea by the time his little namesake, their second child had come.

Of course there had been dark times too, sweat filled hours of terror, as he lay trembling in the throws of a nightmare that never died. The first years after Frodo had gone were the worst, with hardly a week going by that didn’t find him sobbing in that room – grief stricken over a life and love he had lost and could not reclaim. She’d always respected that sorrow, comforting him when she could and leaving him alone when her words fell too painfully in his empty heart.

And now they were both gone, both just ghosts of memory in the quiet of that room and Sam felt their empty presence as an aching in his soul. He collapsed onto the edge of the bed, his age-lined face supported in his hands and wept.

***

For days he wandered through the motions of his life, finding no joy in the tasks that once filled him with happiness. He puttered about the smial, seeing his Rose in every corner, every room. He felt her presence everywhere. And when he did not see her, he saw his Mister Frodo – writing in the study or reading a book on the garden bench – as if he had never gone.

“Oh Mister Frodo, why does the memory of you haunt me as clearly today as it did sixty years ago?” he wondered, sitting at the kitchen table, hands clenched around a hot mug. Inside, his heart breaking with uneased grief. “And Rose, my dear Rose, how can I go on without you.”

He drove his children from the house and back to their own lives as soon as he could, desiring the peace and quiet that only solitude could bring. Yet when the last of them had gone, his heart found no rest in the memories of that place. Day by day they consumed him.

Whispers assailed him in the night as he lay unsleeping in that bed. At first he’d get up, wandering the dark rooms of Bag End, searching for them in the empty corners. He’d see a fleeting glimpse, the bright wash of a full skirt, swishing through a doorway or catch a scent, the smell of pipe weed in the study and then they’d be gone again, leaving him aching and alone.

“Sam…Sam….” they called, incessant voices pulling at his consciousness. Sometimes it would be her voice, sometimes Frodo’s, but always they beckoned him with a siren song. Crying softly into his pillow, he’d lay with fingers shoved in his ears to dull the sound.

“Where are you Sam…”

“Please,” he pleaded, when he could bear it no longer, “please let me be…”

If he asked, they’d go away for awhile and allow him to fall into a restless sleep filled with dreams. Yet in sleeping, one or the other of them would always be in those visions. And though they filled him with love, Sam could find no peace in their presence.

***

As summer passed to fall, Sam’s resolve hardened. He had to get away from that place. He could no longer find joy in those rooms or even in the once beloved gardens. Sam was adrift in a sea of memories – memories that threatened to drowned him.

“I have to go. There is nothing for me here but sadness.”

Quietly he settled his affairs. Drawing up the papers, he turned ownership of Bag End and all his possessions over to his children. The smial would go to Frodo-lad – a fitting heir, this namesake child, to the roomy home. The rest he carefully labeled, distributing it amongst his progeny – each item in order. He knew, in his heart, that this new adventure would be his last. Once gone he did not mean to return.

When he told them of his plans to leave, to venture out one last time in a true Baggin’s style, they were dismayed. He expected their objections, their pleas for him to change his mind, but he steeled himself against them.

The tears were the hardest.

As Sam glanced sadly at the anxious faces of his children, he felt his heart grow even heavier. Exhaustion marred his mood and colored all his thoughts with gray.

They pleaded with him to stay this madness. He was much too old for such a long trip and they feared for his well being.

“Da,” Tom begged, watching as he packed his bag, shoving a clean shirt and waistcoat in the pack with frustrated vigor, “please don’t do this. We know you’re still upset but it’ll pass. Give it some time.”

Sam smiled indulgently patting his youngest son’s cheek. “Go home Tolman. My mind is made up.”

“Da, you’re not thinking straight,” Rosie-lass continued with gentle sobs. “This is your home, why would you want to leave it now?”

He stopped then, turning to face his beloved children with eyes grown hard with determination. When he spoke again, it was with his “father voice” the one that since their earliest recollections had brooked no arguments. When he spoke to them in that tone, they knew his mind would not be changed.

“No. My home is not this place, not this hole,” he explained, piercing each child in turn with his firm stare. “Home was where your mother dwelled, where she sang and laughed and loved. That is gone now. I cannot bear to be in this place any more. I cannot bear the darkness here, not without her bright light to temper the memories.”

They all knew the darkness of which he spoke, had heard it whispered between their parents in the night. They all knew the story of the Ring, of Mister Frodo and the dark quest their father had suffered at his side. All of them knew of Mister Frodo’s leaving, of the grief their father still bore even after all the long years.

“Then come to Great Smials with Faramir and me,” Goldie begged, taking his hand in hers. “Please da, you don’t have to go away.”

“Yes, my sweet Buttercup,” Sam admitted with a nod, “I do.”

“But why Da? Why must you leave us?” He could see Ruby’s question echoed in the other’s faces.

“Oh my dear ones,” he explained, sighing softly, touching them each in turn. “I’ve lived all these long years with one ghost in this home; my heart cannot bear to stay here with two. Now, my dears, let’s have no more arguing, and no more tears. Let’s not fill our final hours together with sadness.”

***

“Keep it safe, do not let it be forgotten. It is the story of my life, and of yours.”

Sam hugged his eldest child, his beautiful Elanor. Weeping, he handed her the red leather bound book and she cradled it to her breast as delicately as she’d held each of his grandchildren.

“I will Da,” she whispered, clutching the volume to her body as if holding it tight would prevent her father from going away.

“You’re a good lass, Elanor,” he spoke, stroking her hair. “Please don’t grieve; my time has come.”

“And where will you go Da?”

“Past the towers and to the Havens, to the sea,” he admitted, confiding his plan to her alone. “Perhaps there will still be a ship for me, the last of the Ring-bearers. Frodo said it may come to pass.”

“And if not, what then?” Elanor asked, struggling to hold back her tears.

“Then the last journey of Master Samwise will be for naught,” he explained, eyes distant. “And if there is no ship, then I will seek my final rest there on the shores. There at least I will be closer to my heart than I can be here.”

As she watched her father ride away, back straight, shoulders strong, Elanor knew that she would not see him again.

***

The Gray Havens were much as he remembered them, unchanged over the course of time. He slipped from his pony’s back and unharnessed him with trembling fingers. Pulling the saddle and bridle, he slapped the loyal fellow on his rump, sending him on his way.

“Go on Bill. Go home.” he whispered in goodbye, watching the shaggy descendent of his faithful Bill, the Bree pony who had borne him to the Haven’s on that joyless day so long ago. He watched while the sturdy beast trotted off then paused to graze in the tall grass some yards away. He glanced at his master with gentle eyes.

In his heart, Sam was comforted that the little pony remained nearby. He sighed, easing out of his pack and setting it on the rocky ground.

“Well, Samwise,” he muttered, glancing around the abandoned harbor. “Now what?”

He didn’t know what he’d expected to find when he got there. A boat perhaps, though rumor had it that the last boats had gone over the sea many years ago. Or some message or sign left for him, the last of the Ring bearers. Frodo had said that perhaps his time too would come, yet there had been no promise, only a vague reference at their last parting. Now he stood there on the shores of the sea, tears in his eyes, and saw that there would be no final journey for him.

Sam wept for his foolishness, his hope and his belief, and sank to the ground. Exhausted by the journey and hard pressed by the lateness of the hour, he lay down, pillowing his head on his pack. Drawing the familiar fabric of his elven cloak around him, he closed his eyes and drifted into fitful sleep.

***

“Sam…”

Sam jerked awake, hearing his name whispered on the breeze. He sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and looked around. It was not yet dawn and mist slipped over the ground in wispy tendrils, reflecting the silvery moonlight.

“Hello?” he called, softly. “Is someone there?”

He struggled to his feet, feeling the stiffness of a night sleeping on the ground aching through his bones.

“Samwise…” the voice called again, trickling over him like a warm caress. “Sam.”

He knew that voice, had heard it in his dreams all his life. “Frodo?”

Laughter echoed against the stone, slipping around him softly. “Of course, my dear Sam, who else would it be?”

“Where are you?” Sam called, easing forward in the darkness. He squinted into the night, his tired old eyes struggling. “Frodo, I can’t see you?”

“I’m here Sam,” the voice called softly, guiding him towards the water, and the docks that lay there. “Follow my voice.”

He saw it then, the ghostly silhouette of a ship moored at the docks. A figure stood on the deck, gilded by the moonlight and Sam’s heart pounded in his chest.

‘Could it be?’ he wondered, stopping and staring. “Frodo, is it really you? Are you here to take me with you?”

The figure shook with laughter, the musical sound trickling across the water. “Oh Sam. I told you your day would come.” He laughed again softly, walking to the head of the boarding ramp and holding out his hand. “Yes, I’m here for you. I’m here to take you home. Are you ready to go?”

“Oh yes Mister Frodo,” Sam cried, hurrying to climb the ramp.

Sam could finally see Frodo as he reached the top and gasped placing a trembling hand against his mouth. “You haven’t changed…not one bit, not in all these years.”

The dark-haired hobbit took Sam’s aged hand in his own smooth one and drew him onboard the ship.

“Neither have you my dear Sam,” Frodo whispered with a smile, pulling Sam into his embrace. He cupped Sam’s face in his hands and pressed soft lips affectionately to Sam’s forehead.

“Oh, but I have, Mister Frodo,” Sam admitted, leaning his head on Frodo’s shoulder with a sigh. “I’m all used up. The years have not passed me by.”

“Silly hobbit,” Frodo murmured, gently stroking gray curls and kissing the head that they covered. “Do you think the years matter to me? I see you in my heart exactly as I remember you, my sweet Sam. Unchanged, ageless and still filled with the wonder of a child.”

“I don’t know how you can,” Sam sighed, pulling away from Frodo’s embrace. He looked down at his gnarled hands. “I’m old. So much older than you are.”

“That’s because you’re seeing things through tired eyes,” Frodo admitted, placing his arm around Sam’s shoulder and giving it a squeeze. “That will change, once you let go of the past and start this final journey. Do you want to come with me Sam? It’s not too late to change your mind.”

“Do I want to…yes, of course I do,” Sam admitted, hesitantly. “But I don’t want to be a burden to you.”

“Burden, Sam?” Frodo questioned his blue eyes glittering. “I love you Sam, you could never be a burden. You’ve cared for others all your life; it’s time that someone cared for you for awhile. Besides, I’ve been waiting a long time for this day.”

“No, Mister Frodo, I wouldn’t feel right about that.”

“Shhhh,” Frodo ordered softly. “Just answer me, do you want to go or not?”

Sam stared into Frodo’s eyes with longing and after a long moment he smiled. “Yes, I do want to go, whatever the consequences.”

“Then look once more on Middle Earth, my dear Sam, and say your good byes,” Frodo urged gently, “then close your eyes and we’ll be off.”

Sam glanced at the shore, smiling a sad little smile. He’d miss his family, that was one thing he was certain of, but Sam knew they’d be okay in the safety of the Shire – a Shire that Frodo had helped to save for them. Then with a suddenly light heart he closed his eyes and lifted his face to the wet morning breeze.

The ship shuddered softly under his feet and he trembled in fear tinged excitement.

After a long moment, Sam felt Frodo ease up behind him, slipping strong arms around his waist and pulling him close. Warm breath tickled his ear as the dark-haired hobbit leaned his chin on Sam’s shoulder.

“Open you eyes, Sam,” Frodo breathed, brushing a light kiss against his neck.

Sighing, Sam opened his eyes and marveled at how quickly the shore had disappeared into the mist. They were already far from the land and the ship was making a swift journey out to the open sea.

“Oh my,” Sam spoke at last, gazing at the retreating land with wonder. Something seemed strange about his voice; the raspy quality that had come with age seemed lessened now.

Probably the moist sea air,’ he thought.

He leaned back into the body that embraced him and thrilled once more at the feel of those slender arms around his waist. He touched the long fingered hands gently, and traced the lines of a scar that lingered there from long ago. He wondered at the sudden flexibility of his own hands, and gasped when he realized that they no longer stiffened with the aches of his long years of laboring. He glanced down, holding the hands out in front of him for a better view and gaped in wonder at the straight, strong fingers and smooth skin.

“Mister Frodo?” he questioned, easing from Frodo’s arms and turning to face the smiling hobbit.

Sam’s fingertips stroked at his own face, feeling smooth skin where once it had been creased and wrinkled with sun-kissed age. He flexed now limber shoulders, free from the pains that had plagued him for many years, and laughed with easy joy.

“Yes, it’s true,” Frodo explained, smiling. “The years that weighed heavily on you before have slipped away with the disappearing shore.”

“How can this be?”

“Are you ready for your final adventure, Sam?” Frodo wondered, sidestepping the question. “This one will end so much better than the last one – I promise you.”

“But Frodo…”

“No more questions, Samwise Gamgee,” Frodo chided. “You’re just seeing yourself through new eyes, undying eyes. You’re as unchanged now as I am. It is the gift of the Valar to you as a Ring-bearer – just as it was a gift to Cousin Bilbo and me. You’ve earned it my dear Sam, accept it and know that we shall be together – unchanging – until the end of all time.”

The hobbit gardener grinned, throwing his arms around Frodo to give him a tight squeeze. “Oh Frodo, how I’ve dreamed of this day – though I must admit I didn’t expect it to be quite so strange and wonderful.”

“So have I Sam.” Frodo’s eyes were warm and filled with love. “I’ve waited a long time for you to return to me.”

“Yes, I guess I am back then,” Sam agreed, laying his cheek against his master’s shoulder and closing his eyes.

Frodo circled him with his arms and pulled him close. “So you are, my dear Sam.”

***

On the shore a gentle breeze began to blow. Leaves danced and fell, covering the empty shell of a hobbit that rested there, finally at peace.

Sam was home at last.

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