Summary: A minor Frodo Investigates! mystery. Frodo works out an historical puzzle on his way to the Grey Havens.
Categories: FPS, FPS > Frodo/Sam, FPS > Sam/Frodo Characters: Frodo, Sam
Series: Frodo Investigates!
Chapters: 10 Completed: Yes
Word count: 10183 Read: 27260
Published: May 16, 2009 Updated: May 16, 2009
This story takes place just after Yule, at the beginning of 1425 (S.R.).
Galadriel's stories and the poem Bilbo recites are taken from or based on "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn," in Tolkien's Unfinished Tales.
April 2009The Frodo Investigates! series
1. Chapter 1 by Kathryn Ramage
2. Chapter 2 by Kathryn Ramage
3. Chapter 3 by Kathryn Ramage
4. Chapter 4 by Kathryn Ramage
5. Chapter 5 by Kathryn Ramage
6. Chapter 6 by Kathryn Ramage
7. Chapter 7 by Kathryn Ramage
8. Chapter 8 by Kathryn Ramage
9. Chapter 9 by Kathryn Ramage
10. Chapter 10 by Kathryn Ramage
Chapter 1 by Kathryn Ramage
"Rosie," Frodo asked one chilly midwinter day, "do you mind if I take Sam away on a journey?"
Rosie smiled up at him from her chair by the kitchen hearth. "Of course not, Frodo," she answered softly, so as not to wake Frodo's infant namesake asleep in her lap, fair head pillowed on her growing belly; Rosie was expecting another baby in the spring. "You're always taking Sam off, and you always bring 'm back. I'll have Marigold and little Maya up to stay with us while you're gone. Is it another investigation?"
"No, not this time. Sam won't be gone very long--not more than two weeks. But I may be away somewhat longer."
Although he'd received a message from Gandalf before Yuletide that Bilbo was going to the Grey Havens, Frodo hadn't said anything to Sam about the journey they were to make until the night before. He didn't want to distress Sam before it was necessary. "They'll meet us here at daybreak," he had informed Sam in his study before he'd talked to Rosie. "Merry and Pippin should arrive tonight in time for dinner. I've written to ask them to join us. They'll want to be there, to make their farewells to old friends."
"I thought you was going to Rivendell this spring, to see Mr. Bilbo before it was too late?" Sam asked him.
"It can't wait until spring, Sam. I'm afraid it's already too late for Uncle Bilbo," Frodo replied; his friend's eyes widened in alarm, and he explained in more detail: "They've delayed as long as they dare. Uncle Bilbo had hoped to leave for the Havens on his birthday, our birthday, but according to Gandalf, he won't see another September if he stays on in Middle-Earth. Lord Elrond's done all he can for him here. Uncle Bilbo will recover his wits in the West and be healed. But they can't wait any longer."
What he didn't say was that Bilbo's departure had been delayed so long because Elrond and Gandalf had been waiting for him to decide: would he go to the Undying Lands with his uncle, or stay on in the Shire? In his message, Gandalf had invited Frodo to travel with them as far as he wished to go--to the Grey Havens... or farther, if he too was ready to leave Middle-Earth behind and seek his peace in the West.
Sam didn't dare ask what Frodo had decided. Instead, he said, "I'll pack your bag for you, Frodo. Will you want to bring that along?" He looked at the Red Book, lying open on Frodo's desk. The last lines on the page were still in fresh, wet ink.
"No, Sam. I've finished all I had to say about our adventures. There is still a bit of the tale left to tell, but the last pages are for you."
Chapter 2 by Kathryn Ramage
Besides these four persons--Rosie, Sam, Merry, and Pippin--Frodo had told no one. He'd prefer to slip away quietly, without drawing attention. Hobbiton, after all, had seen the last of Bilbo Baggins more than seven years ago, and most of the old hobbit's relatives considered him long dead already. If anyone had known that Bilbo was in the back of the covered cart that stopped at the stableyard near the Green Dragon early the next morning, or that the inconspicuously cloaked and hooded old Man driving was actually the wizard Gandalf, there would have been much excitement, curiosity, and delay. Frodo was sorry not to say goodbye to some of his friends and relatives, but he thought he would feel very silly if, after he'd made a grand farewell, he were to return home again as if nothing had happened.
Frodo and his companions were waiting outside the stables on their own ponies to meet the cart, then they all continued on to the Great Road, heading west. It wasn't until they'd gone several miles from Hobbiton that they stopped again for more enthusiastic greetings, and Frodo got into the cart to ride with Bilbo. Conversation was difficult, for Bilbo's wits were sadly wandering. While Bilbo was eager to hear all of Frodo's news, he seemed to forget his questions before Frodo had finished answering them, and moved on to new questions that bore no relation to the last. At intervals, he dozed, then awoke to begin all over again.
"What did happen to it?"
Frodo held his breath and felt his stomach clench at this abrupt question. Uncle Bilbo had asked him about the Ring once already. The old hobbit didn't seem to understand what his old magic ring really was, or what had become of it, although he'd heard the tale many times. This morning when the subject had come up, Frodo had simply told his uncle that the Ring was lost; Bilbo was disappointed to hear it, but now he seemed even to forget that. Would he keep asking about it over and over again on their journey? Frodo didn't see how he could bear that. The thought of the Ring's destruction brought a sharp little stab to his heart, and Bilbo's questions made him feel the pain of anew.
"Happened to what, Uncle?" he asked patiently.
So it wasn't the Ring after all! Frodo let out his breath in a sigh of relief, but he was puzzled. "Do you mean Strider?"
His uncle looked up at him, just as bewildered. "What's Aragorn got to do with it?"
"You just said his name, Uncle. One of them."
Bilbo chuckled. "He has so many, my boy. How can we remember them all?"
For that moment, Bilbo seemed so much like his old self that Frodo was encouraged to ask him, "What Elessar did you mean, Uncle Bilbo, if not Aragorn?"
But Bilbo's moment of lucidity was gone. "Does he have it, I wonder? Did it go over the Sea, or not?" he murmured, more to himself than to Frodo, and shut his eyes. He drifted back into his dreams.
While Bilbo napped, Frodo climbed up into the front of the cart to sit beside Gandalf. Sam was riding his pony off to their right, with Frodo's pony tethered and trotting behind, while Merry and Pippin went on ahead. "I think," Frodo said softly, "that it's past time for Uncle Bilbo to go. He would better have gone last autumn."
"And you, Frodo?" asked Gandalf.
"I couldn't go, not in September. I was busy with a private investigation. And in October too." Frodo looked up at the wizard. "I'm sorry I made you wait so long for me, and made Uncle Bilbo wait too. He will be healed, won't he? He'll be as clever again as he once was? I can't understand what he's saying half the time--it makes no sense. Gandalf," he ventured, "what is Elessar, besides the name Arwen calls Strider? Bilbo called it out just a few minutes ago."
"Yes, I heard him. He has spoken of it before. It appears to be much on his mind."
"What is it?"
"There were two famous gemstones among Elven-kind which bore that name," Gandalf answered. "The first was a shining star carried by the mariner Earendil on all his journeys over the Sea. It is said that he bore it with him on his final voyage to the Undying Lands. The other belonged to the Lady Galadriel. She gave it to Aragorn when he was last in Lothlorien, when you were there, Frodo. You've seen it."
"Yes," Frodo recalled the gifts the Lady had given the Fellowship at their parting from Lothlorien, He hadn't seen her bestow any gem upon Aragorn then, for Aragorn and Galadriel had had many private conferences during the days before their departure, but he'd seen the large green gemstone later, when Aragorn had worn it on his breast at his coronation. Aragorn had also officially taken the name Elessar to rule under on that day. "I didn't know that was its name too. But, Gandalf, both gemstones are accounted for. What's Uncle Bilbo talking about when he asks what happened to it? What does he mean?"
"Some tales say that Earendil took his Elessar away with him," Gandalf repeated. "But there are others that claim he didn't keep it when he sailed for the Undying Lands, but left it behind in the hands of his heirs, in case they had need of it. It may still be here on Middle Earth."
"Why does Uncle Bilbo fret over it so?" Frodo asked.
"The last poem he was writing before such tasks grew too much for him was of Earendil's Elessar. You know what a poet he was, and a great scholar of Elven lore. Bilbo sought all the tales he could find in Lord Elrond's libraries. He must have come upon those that say the Elessar remains on Middle Earth, and the thought of it remains with him still."
They both heard soft snorting sounds from the back of the cart as Bilbo woke again. "Frodo?" the old hobbit called out. "Where's the boy gone?"
"Here Uncle!" Frodo responded, and went back to join him.
Chapter 3 by Kathryn Ramage
The day was a cold one, and a hard frost lay on the ground. As nightfall drew near and the wind rose, the hobbits thought they ought to stop at the next inn along the way. None of them wanted to spend a night sleeping rough in the bitter winter cold if they could help it, and such a night would be especially hard on old Bilbo. Frodo broached the subject to Gandalf as they went around Michel Delving, but the wizard replied that other plans had already been made.
Once they were past the town, Gandalf turned the cart off the road and onto a track that led into a wood. The hobbits followed, although they had no idea of their destination. They rode quietly on for several miles, until it grew dark--but even as the last of the twilight faded, a warm glowing light appeared through the trees ahead. Soon, they came upon a clearing amid a circle of pines, where an encampment had been set up. Tall white tents were placed under and around the trees, and glowed from within like huge lanterns. Horses were sheltered under a bower of intertwined pine branches. From within the largest tent, they could hear the high-pitched, plaintive sound of pipe music and low-toned and beautiful voices singing. The scene was almost magical, like an illustration from a book of fairy-stories. The hobbits found it hard to believe they were still in the Shire, but they were barely more than 10 miles beyond Michel Delving.
Elves came out of the large tent to greet them: Elrond, Celeborn, and Galadriel. They had, of course, been expecting the wizard and hobbits; Elrond had accompanied Gandalf and Bilbo from Rivendell into the Shire and only parted from them outside Hobbiton.
Within the tent, warm drinks and a feast awaited the travelers. The chill of the night did not touch them. The deceptively thin material of the tent kept out the wind, and a low fire at the center of the transitory room made it as cozy as any hobbit-hole. Bilbo began to nod soon after he finished his dinner, and Gandalf escorted him to a bed laid out for him in another tent. After the younger hobbits had also gone to bed, Frodo sat up awhile longer, talking with the Elves of old friends, of Bilbo's current health, and of the journey ahead. Then Frodo brought up Elessar.
"What did happen to it? If Gandalf knows, he hasn't told me, nor Bilbo." Frodo looked from one Elf to another. "You do know, don't you?"
"Of course," said Galadriel, and smiled.
Frodo thought that she was teasing him. "Won't you tell me?"
"Perhaps..." the Lady was still smiling as she glanced at Elrond, then her husband, as if she shared an unspoken joke with them. "I know that you have a liking for mysteries, Frodo. This is no great mystery, merely a riddle. Shall we make a game of it, to divert us during our journey?"
Frodo smiled in return. "Yes, if you like. I began my profession as an investigator by finding missing jewels." Why not end it in the same way?
"And you've taken an interest before in the history of Elven-kind, and my family," added Elrond rather more wryly, but he seemed to share Galadriel's amusement and made no objection to her proposed game.
"Each day I will tell you a tale of the gem Elessar. When I am done, you may ask three questions that I shall answer Yes or No," Galadriel laid down her rules. "When we come to the Havens, give me your answer as to what has become of Elessar, and I will tell you whether or not your guess is true."
"Very well. I'd like to find out the truth," said Frodo. "At least, I'd like Bilbo to find it out before he leaves Middle Earth--unless the answer to his question lies on the other side of the Sea. Earendil will be there, won't he, in the Undying Lands? "
"Yes, he is there," answered Galadriel.
"Did he take the gemstone with him when he sailed for the West?"
"Then it still remains in Middle Earth?"
"Yes," the Lady answered. And she would say no more about it, for Frodo had used up his three questions for that night.
A short while later, Frodo went quietly into the smaller tent he would share with Sam and his cousins. Four pallets had been laid out for them. Merry and Pippin had pulled theirs together and were sleeping cuddled close so that they formed a single lump beneath one blanket. Frodo dragged the remaining empty pallet next to the one on which Sam lay sleeping and removed his coat and waistcoat before lying down beside him. As if sensing Frodo's proximity, Sam shifted drowsily and put an arm over him.
"I didn't mean to wake you," said Frodo.
"I was meaning to wait up for you... only it's been such a long day. I didn't know they was all going to be here--the Lady 'n' her husband, Lord Elrond. They're all going, aren't they?" Sam asked. "Off to the lands across the Sea?"
"Yes, that's right," Frodo answered as he nestled against Sam. "They agreed that they would all go together, when Uncle Bilbo went. It's fitting, you see. We are all the Ringbearers--Bilbo and I, Lady Galadriel with Nenya, Lord Elrond with Vilya, and Gandalf has the third Elven ring, Narya."
"And that'll be the last o' the Elves?"
"Of the great ones, yes. A number are still here. Legolas is, certainly. Lord Elrond says he's in Mirkwood, and intends to remain until the last of his people have gone."
"Legolas wouldn't go without Gimli." Pippin's voice from the other pair of pallets startled Frodo; he hadn't realized his cousins were awake and listening. "And you can be sure they would've dropped by to see us on their way West--they wouldn't leave without saying goodbye."
"You'd say if you were going, wouldn't you, Frodo?" Merry asked him directly. "You'd tell us."
"I will tell you," Frodo promised, "when I've decided."
All the Ringbearers were to leave together--that had been Elrond's plan and it seemed fitting to Frodo. His story, after all, was but the final chapter in the great tale of the rings of power. Their Age had come to an end with the destruction of the One Ring. Those who wore the three Elven rings, finding their magic diminished, had decided to carry them all away into the West at once. It should be the end of his story too. It would make a beautiful ending to his book; Frodo could imagine Sam going home to Bag End and writing of how they'd said their last, tearful farewells before he joined Bilbo, Gandalf, and the Elven Lords and Lady on the ship to the Undying Lands.
In some ways, it was a comforting idea. The pain in his heart had faded, but it would never entirely go away while he lived here in the Shire. No medicine or skill in Middle-Earth could mend the wound left by the Ring's effect upon him. But in the West, he would be free of his pain at last. Healed. At peace and at rest. Forever. But there were drawbacks too. He would be among friends, but aside from Uncle Bilbo, there would be no other hobbits. Perhaps Sam would follow him one day, but it was uncertain if that was to be allowed. No one had been able to answer Frodo's question on this point. Sam had carried the Ring for such a short time, and remained untouched by its ill effects.
Could he leave Sam now, leave the Shire forever and put the life he'd made for himself since returning from his quest behind him?
Chapter 4 by Kathryn Ramage
"In Gondolin, there once lived a gemsmith whose name was Enerdhil," Galadriel told her first tale the next day. The Elves rode secretly, for they did not wish to be seen on their way West through the Shire. While Gandalf kept his cart on the road, with Merry keeping Bilbo company and Sam and Pippin riding a little ahead, the Elves took a path some miles north through the woods. Frodo accompanied the Lady, who was on a white palfrey, with his pony trotting beside it.
"Enerdhil loved all things green and growing, and sought to capture the colors of the flowers he saw in the mountain crags and high meadows within the lesser gems he crafted. One day, when his talent was at its height, he perceived the sun shining through the new leaves of the trees in spring and felt the greatest delight at the gleaming sunbeams. He desired to capture this light in the form of a gem. Thus was the gemstone Elessar born. It was a perfect jewel in all its facets, and of a brilliant green. A light like the glimmer of the sun seemed to shine from within it. Enerdhil treasured this gem as his finest creation. He valued it so greatly that he gave it in gift to the one he loved most dearly, the King's daughter, Idril.
"It was said that when Idril wore the gem Elessar, she had the power of healing wounds as well as griefs. Those who were ill even unto death soon became well again at her hands. Some say that Elessar held greater powers too, and that living things which had been blighted or were burned could grow new and green if they were tended by she who bore it. Idril's fame as a great healer grew, but she claimed it was the gem that gave her her astonishing skills and she was never without it. She wore it always upon her breast, and it was thus that she brought Elessar away with her when she fled Gondolin with her husband Tuor, her son Earendil, who was yet a child, and others who escaped that city when it fell. Idril's healing powers were much in need then. She tended those who had been injured when they fled from the destruction of Gondolin, and those who grieved so at the loss of their city that they could do nothing but weep.
"Idril's heart too was saddened by the loss of Gondolin, but she abided in Middle-Earth until her son Earendil was grown. Before she set sail to seek her peace in the Undying Lands, she gave the gem to Earendil, telling him, 'Elessar I leave with thee, my son, for there are grievous hurts to Middle-Earth which thou can heal.' This Earendil did, for it was a time of great pain, after the loss not only of Gondolin, but the sack of Doriath and the burning of that great forest. There were many hurts to heal, of Men and Elves, of the beasts of the forest, and of the trees. Though Earendil's skills were not so great as his mother's, these wounds healed and the land grew green and prospered as it once had. When Earendil made his voyages upon the Sea, he always wore Elessar upon his breast as Idril had. The light from it shone thorough the darkest nights and the thickest mists that lay on the endless waves. Earendil searched, hoping that he might one day find Idril again. Though it was now in his possession, he called Elessar Idril's Stone. His first memories were of the green gem his mother had worn as it hung above his cradle as she sang to him. As he sailed the Sea, he sang those same songs. When at last he sailed into the West, he found Idril again, but he could not return Elessar to her. There is no need of a healing gem in those Undying Lands, but there was still much need for it here in this Middle-Earth. Yet Earendil hopes to see it again one day."
Frodo sighed; though he had heard most of this before, in other stories, he found the last part about Earendil searching for his mother very sad and beautiful. It made him think of his own mother, who had died when he was a child. He would not see her again. But Galadriel was waiting for his questions.
"Last night, you said that Earendil didn't take the gemstone with him when he made his last voyage," he said. "It remains here. Can you tell me, who did Earendil give the gemstone to? Was it you, my lady?"
"No," Galadriel answered this last question.
"Do you have it with you now, to bring to him?"
"But it has at some time been in your possession?"
Chapter 5 by Kathryn Ramage
The next day, they reached the border of the Shire. Frodo had been to the westward Bounds before, farther to the south. The road they were on now headed in a northerly direction. He was traveling with Gandalf's cart again today and had spent the morning with Bilbo, but as the afternoon wore on, he'd ridden ahead. When he came to the foot of the raised earthwork wall that marked the Shire's boundary, he left his pony and climbed up to the top. Sam went with him.
From the top of the earthwork was a good view of the lands to the west. What was immediately beyond the Shire's borders looked no different from the lands they had just passed through: rolling chalk downs covered with frost-blighted brown grass and the occasional bare tree beside the course of a stream. In the distance, the Blue Mountains could be glimpsed like a cloud of smoke on the horizon. Frodo turned from this view for one last look at the Shire behind him. He sighed.
"Are you thinking you won't be seeing it again?" Sam asked him.
"Perhaps," admitted Frodo. "I don't know that I am going away, Sam. I may turn back at the Grey Havens once we've seen Bilbo and the Elves and Gandalf off. There are good reasons why I ought to stay."
"There's lots of reasons for you to stay," Sam agreed hopefully.
"Yes. Don't you think I've considered them? There's you, of course. It'll be very hard for me to say goodbye to you, dear Sam, when the time comes. And there's so much I feel I might do if I stay on the Shire a few years more. I've finished the great tale of our adventures, but there are other stories I'd like to write, about some of our investigations. I might do more investigating too."
"You'd see Rosie's baby born," said Sam. "How can you think of going off West now, when you'd never find out if it was a boy or girl? You'd never get to see little Rosemary or Pippin."
Frodo smiled at these names Rosie and Sam had chosen for their next child. "Rosemary or Pippin?"
"If it's a girl, I want to name her after Rosie, and Rosie wants to name her after Marigold, so we thought as we'd put the two together," Sam explained. "And as for Pippin... Well, Rosie 'n' me thought once that if we had another boy, we'd name him after Tom, only me 'n' Tom aren't such friends as we used to be. Pippin's the next friend I thought of. I couldn't go naming a son o' mine Peregrin, as if a Gamgee was as fine as a Took, but if we start off with plain old Pippin to begin with, that'll do. I asked 'm yesterday while we were riding together if he'd mind, and he said he'd be honored."
"So that's why he's been looking so pleased with himself," Frodo murmured. "I suppose you'll name one after Merry next."
Sam huffed at this suggestion. "As if I'd call a child o' mine after that Master Merry Brandybuck! But you see all you'd leave behind Frodo, if you went away now. And it's not fair! I can't go with you, not when I've got Rosie and the little ones to look after, and more on the way! Why're you thinking of leaving us? Are you in so much pain that you can't bear to go on living with it?" In spite of his own agony at the prospect of losing Frodo, Sam looked even more distressed at this idea. "I don't want you to go, but I don't want you to go on suffering."
"I'm not suffering, Sam. The pain isn't as bad as it was." Frodo's hand went to the gemstone on its chain at his throat, tucked beneath his coat. "I can bear it awhile longer."
"Why then? If you don't have to, please don't go away yet. "
Frodo turned to Sam with wide, dewy eyes, touched by this earnest plea. Whatever else he left behind when he went West, it would break his heart most to leave Sam. "Oh, Sam..." He was ready to throw himself into Sam's arms, when Sam suddenly looked determined and took him by the shoulders.
"If you're going to leave me, Frodo, I want to know about it. I want to give you a proper goodbye." And, pressing Frodo back up against the trunk of a nearby tree, Sam kissed him hard. "There, you'll remember that," he said, rather short of breath when they stopped. "Once you go, you'll never have anything like it again, not in a hundred years. Who'll kiss you when you've gone over the Sea with nobody but the Elves and Mr. Bilbo? You'll miss it, Frodo. You'll miss everything else we do..." He took Frodo's wrist, but Frodo was still sensitive about restraints since the incident at the standing stones in Budlingsbank, and quickly drew free from Sam's grip. Placing both hands on Sam's chest, he pushed him back. The cart was coming along the road below them, passing the spot where they'd left their ponies, and Frodo was aware that they were in full view. He didn't mind so much if Gandalf saw, but who knew who else might be watching them up here?
There was a hedge-gate in a cleft of the Bounds below them; the cart stopped and Pippin left his pony to open the gate for Gandalf. "We ought to go down now," Frodo said. "There's still a long road ahead." Taking Sam by the hand, they returned down the slope to their ponies. They rode quickly to catch up with their friends and so passed out of the Shire into a land where none of the hobbits had even been before.
Chapter 6 by Kathryn Ramage
That evening, after the two parties had met and set up their camp for the night, Galadriel told her second tale:
"Long ago, before the jewel-smiths of Eregion crafted the great rings, Celebrimbor, chief of the Elven-smiths met with me in the Greenwood, which was greater in those days than it is now, and its greenery covered all the land from the Mountains of Mist to the land that would become the blighted Mordor.
"I said unto Celebrimbor, 'My friend, I am grieved for this Middle-Earth, for the leaves of the trees fall at each year's passing and flowers that I have loved fade and wither. The land I have made my own is filled with decay that no returning spring can repair.'
"'How otherwise can it be for the Eldar, if they remain in Middle-earth?' Celebrimbor replied. "Nothing in this land stays as it was, but changes and at last dies. Is your sadness such, my lady, that you will pass over Sea?'
"'No,' I answered him. 'Angrod is gone; Aegnor is gone, and Felagund. Of Finarfin's children I am the last who remains. My heart is still proud, for in this land I am mightier. If it were in my power, I would make this realm of mine as the Undying Lands, as near as can be made here. I would have trees and grass that do not die, and flowers that do not fade with the year. What has become of the skill of the Eldar, that could do this?"
"'There were once such powers in Middle-Earth,' Celebrimbor said. 'Where is the Elessar of Earendil? Has it passed over Sea?"
"'It is here, in other hands,' I told him. 'But even it is now not what it once was. The power of Elessar fades with time. Where once it healed many, now only one at a time may take benefit from its healing powers, and they do not always heal completely of their wounds. Its color has faded too, from the bright green of spring leaves in sunlight to that of a star. It has not the power to revive this realm, and Enerdhil, who made it, is long gone. Must all fair things in this Middle-Earth fade therefore and perish for ever?'"
"'That is its fate,' said Celebrimbor. 'But it may be stayed.' For Celebrimbor was also in Gondolin long ago, and a friend of Enerdhil. Though his skill in the crafting of gems was no rival to his friend's, he was yet a gemsmith of great renown, for he would one day find fame when he crafted the Three Rings of Power.
"For love of me, though I was fated to love to another--" Here, the Lady cast a sidelong glance at her husband and smiled, "and to ease my sorrow at the fading of this world, Celebrimbor created another gem to match Enerdhil's. This gem he also called Elessar. Some have since claimed that it was greater than the first of that name. Its color was a deeper green, but its light had less strength than the first Elessar at the height of its power, for that first gem had been lit by the fires of the Sun's in its birth. But the light and color of that first Elessar had faded with the Sun, as all things on Middle-Earth fade. Celebrimbor set his Elessar in a brooch of mithril in the semblance of an eagle in flight, its wings outstretched.
"With this second Elessar all things grew fair in the Greenwood, until the coming of the Shadow. The light and power of this second gem also faded with time, until its influence could only be wielded over the living things of Lothlorien. Long afterwards, when Nenya was given me by Celebrimbor, I thought I had no more need of this Elessar, and so gave it to my daughter Celebrian as a gift upon her marriage, so that she might make her new home as green and fair as the home she left behind. When Celebrķan went into the West, Elessar for a time came into my keeping again to await the coming of a Man who would bear that same name as the gemstone."
"That's one tale," said Bilbo, surprising the company, for the old hobbit had been listening so quietly that they all thought he was asleep. "But there's another too. Olorin gave the gemstone to the Lady." He began to recite the lines of a poem:
"The golden Lady of the Great Green Wood
Dwelt far from the land of her birth.
Long as she might for news of her home,
She refused to forsake Middle-Earth.
"'I bring tidings of thy kin,' Olorin said.
'Olorin,' spake the Lady, 'I pray, tell them to me.'
But as Olorin spoke, the Lady was grieved,
Rememb'ring those lands far over the Sea.
"'This world is fading,' the Lady sighed.
'Bright flowers die and spring's leaves wither.
Why cannot they remain forever green,
As they do in that fair land hither?'
"'That is their sad fate of all,' Olorin replied.
'Yet that might for a time be delayed.
If Elessar should be returned to you,
Such decay would awhile be stayed.'
"'Elessar!' exclaimed the Lady.
'How can such a thing truly be?
The Stone of Earendil is gone away.
It lies in that land far over the Sea.'
"'It is not so, My Lady. Behold!'
And Olorin brought forth the Elessar.
Green as the Sun upon the trees it was.
A light shone from within like a star.
"'This gift I give to you from the West.
Make your Green Wood a place of fair fame.
But mark this Elessar is not yours to keep,
For there will come a Man of that name...'"
Bilbo stopped there. "It needs a bit of work, I'm afraid," he said apologetically.
Even though the poem was far from Bilbo's best, his friends all applauded. Frodo thought it must be a part of the last poem Bilbo had been writing before his wits had failed him, and marveled that his uncle could remember it so well when so much else had slipped away from him. Galadriel seemed amused at hearing herself made the sad, exiled heroine of a poem written by a hobbit she had never met until a few days ago.
"I thought it was wonderful, Uncle Bilbo," said Pippin. "But who is this Olorin?"
"I am," Gandalf answered the question. "That was my name in the West."
"Too many names," Bilbo said ruefully, and shook his head. "I don't know how you keep track of them all. I've only had the one to call myself all these years, and found it quite sufficient. I always know when I'm being spoken to."
Merry laughed. "Frodo's used other names--Underhill on several occasions."
But Frodo ignored these teasing words, and didn't even bother to blush. He was more interested in Bilbo's poem. If it were Bilbo last work, it must have been adapted from some older story he had read in his researches at the library in Rivendell. The conversation between Olorin and the Lady was very like Galadriel's conversation with Celebrimbor in her own version of the second Elessar's creation, but that might be a conflation of the two tales in their telling and retelling over the years. "Which story is true?" he asked, looking from Gandalf to Galadriel.
"That can't be answered Yes or No," observed Elrond, "if you wish to abide by the rules of your game."
"Yes, of course." Frodo thought for a moment how to reframe his question, then asked Galadriel, "Earendil's Elessar and Aragorn's--the one you gave him--are they actually the same gemstone? Is that the answer to your riddle?"
"No," Galadriel answered. "The tale your uncle tells is not true."
"If I knew the fate of the first Elessar, Frodo, I would have told you when you asked me, before you began this game of riddles," Gandalf pointed out. "I would have told Bilbo long ago."
Frodo acknowledged that he should have realized this, and went on with his questions to Galadriel. "Yesterday, you said that you don't have the original Elessar with you now, my Lady, nor have you kept it at some point in the past. Does someone here with us carry it?"
The lady smiled in that teasing way that Frodo was beginning to find maddening. "Yes."
"Who? Will you tell me the tale of who Earendil left his Elessar to?"
"Yes," promised Galadriel, "tomorrow."
Chapter 7 by Kathryn Ramage
Once they were past the last of the downs, the land grew flatter and bleaker, and the frosty bite in the air grew more sharp. The Blue Mountains rose before them, closer with every mile, but their journey would not take them as far as that. The Elven company now rode openly on the road. Though their horses were far swifter than the one pulling Gandalf's cart, Galadriel, Celeborn, and Elrond frequently kept pace with it and were always in sight. When they were not taking turns keeping Bilbo company, Frodo and the other young hobbits rode alongside the Elves.
"The first Elessar was a healer's stone," Galadriel told her final tale as Frodo rode beside her on his pony. "Idril of Gondolin first wielded it, then her son Earendil. Though he was not the great healer his mother was, whenever he made his home on the shores of Middle-Earth, Earendil used the power of Elessar to ease the sorrow of those who sought haven from the fall of Gondolin and the sack of Doriath together in Sirion. It was in Sirion that Earendil first beheld Elwing, the daughter of Dior, loved her and wed her. Elwing bore Earendil two sons."
"Elros and Elrond..." murmured Frodo, as he gazed at the back of the half-Elven lord who rode several yards ahead of them. "Of course." He should have guessed that right away. But Earendil's day was so many thousands of years ago, it was easy for a short-lived hobbit to forget that one of the famous mariner's sons still remained in Middle-Earth, if only for a few days more. "That's who Earendil gave the Elessar to!"
"Even in his youth, Elrond showed skill as a healer, recalling the great talents of his grandmother Idril," Galadriel continued as if she hadn't heard Frodo's words. "So it was when Earendil sailed at last to seek Idril in the West, he chose Elrond to keep Elessar, knowing his son would use its powers wisely and well until such a time as it would be returned to him.
"Elrond did use the Elessar well, and his skill increased. But there was one he could not heal--his brother, Elros, who had chosen to live the life of a mortal Man rather than share the fate of Elven-kind. Elros grew old and died, and did not pass into the West, but founded a line of great kings. At his brother's death, Elrond mourned, for he knew they would not meet again, but he had chosen another path. He made his own realm in the river-cleft afterwards named Imladris, and used the Elessar to protect it, until the gem's power faded and the ring Vilya came into his keeping through the death of Gil-Galad. Then there came another whom Elrond's skill could not heal, his wife, Celebrian." A look of sadness crossed Galadriel's face at the memory of her daughter. "The power of the Elessar could only relieve her pain, but could not heal her wounds, and so when Celebrian departed for the Undying Lands to seek her peace, Elrond at last set the Elessar aside. But Celebrian, we will see again, and soon."
"But Lord Elrond still has it, doesn't he?" Frodo asked eagerly, unable to keep silent another second. "He bears the Elessar back to his father and grandmother in the West." He wondered why, if that were so, Elrond hadn't told Bilbo when the hobbit first began researching the subject for his poem--but Frodo knew well that Elves could sometimes be very cryptic and keep secrets for unfathomable reasons of their own.
Galadriel answered, 'No."
Frodo's face fell. "Then who has it?" No, Galadriel wouldn't answer that. He must ask a different question to find the truth. "Is it still in Rivendell--in Imladris?" he asked.
Frodo saw immediately that that was a foolish question; Galadriel had said only last night that someone on this current journey was carrying it... Oh. At that moment, he saw the solution to the riddle. "When he set the Elessar aside, did Elrond give it to his daughter Arwen, my Lady?"
Frodo had one last question, but he'd used up his three for today and knew he would receive no answer if he asked another. He could, however, wait until they reached the Havens.
Chapter 8 by Kathryn Ramage
Whenever Frodo talked with Bilbo, he observed how his uncle's mental state improved as they approached their destination. Bilbo's wits still tended to wander, and he dropped off into naps at unexpected moments, but his conversation was more coherent. Frodo began to feel as if he were seeing glimpses of the old Bilbo he'd known so well in his boyhood.
"And what about you, Frodo?" Gandalf asked him when Frodo climbed into the front of the cart during Bilbo's next nap and reported these promising signs.
"You mean, is my health improving as we move toward the West? I don't feel any better--nor worse, thank goodness." His hand went to his heart; Gandalf's eyes followed the gesture.
"You still feel the effects of the Ring?" the wizard asked.
"I have my bad spells."
"Are they so bad as they once were?" Gandalf had seen one of his spells, his very worst one, at Minas Tirith.
"No. I've been able to endure them much better since I began to wear the gemstone Queen Arwen gave me. The pain has become bearable."
Gandalf then asked the same question Sam and Frodo's cousins were waiting for an answer to: "Will you go with your uncle into the West, Frodo?"
Frodo could only give him the same reply he'd given his friends: "I don't know. I haven't made up my mind yet."
The wizard was silent and thoughtful for a few minutes before he spoke again. "In matters of life and death, one rarely has a choice. But you do, Frodo. You can pass into the Undying Lands whenever you are ready."
"How can I be sure whether or not I'm ready?" Frodo asked him.
"The right time to go is when you find you've done all you wish to, and have no reason nor further desire to remain in Middle-Earth. Elves usually choose to leave when they feel very old and weary of their lives here. How old are you, Frodo?"
"Forty," he answered, knowing that to someone of such incalculably vast age as Gandalf's, this was barely the blink of an eye. Even by hobbit standards, he was only just past his first youth.
Gandalf didn't say this, but observed, "That's an early age to be weary of life."
"I'm not weary," said Frodo. "Not all the time. And I am still interested in life. I have my work, my family, my friends." He was thinking of more than Sam, but Sam was foremost in his mind, for Sam would grieve the most at their parting. They hadn't discussed the matter again since they'd left the Shire, but Frodo could feel how distressed Sam was at the possibility of losing him; he saw it in Sam's eyes whenever his friend looked at him, and felt in the way Sam held him so closely when they slept each night. They hadn't kissed since they'd stood on the Bounds, nor anything more--how could they when they were never alone, night or day, and there was no retreat but into the frozen countryside?--but that was in Frodo's mind too. Sam was right; he would miss their intimacy, the kisses and little touches, the love-making, the games. Could he give all that up?
"Then why do you think of going now?"
"It's Uncle Bilbo," Frodo answered, and glanced over his shoulder into the back of the cart; Bilbo was still asleep. "Lord Elrond thinks the Ringbearers ought to leave together. He may be right about that. Besides, I don't like the idea of sending Uncle Bilbo off into a strange world alone."
"He won't be alone," said Gandalf. "He'll be among friends, and he will be his old self again. I think he'll enjoy the adventure of seeing a strange new land. You needn't worry for him. And, Frodo, if that is your only reason to go at this time, then it is a poor one."
That evening, when they left the large tent after dinner, Frodo took Sam by the hand as they walked to the tent they'd been sleeping in the last few nights. Merry and Pippin were there ahead of them, smoking and talking softly and seriously together; they stopped and looked up as the other pair came in.
"Gandalf said we'll be there tomorrow," Merry said to Frodo, bringing him into the conversation. "You promised us that if you were going away with him and Uncle Bilbo, you'd tell us so. If that's what you mean to do, you at least ought to give us fair warning, so we can give you a decent farewell."
"With all of us sleeping in the same tent every night, even Sam hasn't had the chance to give you one," Pippin added.
Frodo didn't answer Merry, but did reply to Pippin, "That's what I'm hoping to have tonight, if the two of you will be kind enough to leave us alone for a little while."
"But it's freezing out!" protested Pippin.
"Just for a half-hour or so, please? Go for a walk, and finish your pipe. As you say, it's our last night before we reach the Havens."
His cousins looked disturbed at this last statement, but they put on their cloaks without further argument and took their pipes outside. "Well then, Sam-" Frodo turned to him and found that Sam, instead of being pleased at this opportunity to give him "one," as Pippin had put it, was regarding him with horror.
"Is it to be our last night. Frodo?" he asked in a choked voice. "Truly?"
Only then did Frodo realize how Sam and his cousins had taken his request. He still hadn't come to a decision; since tonight might be their last chance to be together, he was merely looking to find comfort and perhaps a resolution in Sam's arms--but they had understood it as a declaration of his final intentions. They thought he was saying goodbye. "Oh, Sam- no- I'm not- That is, I don't know-"
Sam burst into tears. As he sank down onto the nearest pallet, sobbing, Frodo crouched down beside him, cradled Sam's head against his chest, stroked his hair, and tried to explain, but couldn't soothe him. No words would console Sam, except the reassurance that Frodo would stay... and Frodo couldn't promise him that. He couldn't make that decision until tomorrow.
"What d'you mean, not `til tomorrow?" Sam asked, lifting his reddened, tear-streaked face.
"I'll know what to do then, when I have the answer to the Lady's puzzle."
"What's that got to do with it?"
"Perhaps nothing, Sam. Perhaps everything."
Sam didn't understand, and when Merry and Pippin returned from their walk, he was still weeping while Frodo held him.
Chapter 9 by Kathryn Ramage
They arrived at the Gray Havens at the following midday. At the southern bank of the River Lune, they did not cross, but followed the course of the river downstream to the point where it cut into a cove between steep cliffs, then opened out into a wide bay.
"Is that the Sea?" Pippin asked at his first sight of this expanse of water.
"No," Gandalf answered, "that is the Gulf of Lhun. But look there, through the opening in the cliffs ahead. The Sea lies beyond."
A small city was built around the cove; buildings crowded either side of the cleft and quays extended into the water, but most had been abandoned long ago. Only one Elf lived here now, Cirdan. He was waiting to welcome the travelers, for he had been expecting them. A ship with golden sails was moored at the end of one pier; this ship, Cirdan informed them, would be ready to sail at the setting sun, when the tide was ebbing from its highest point. Until that time, the party were welcome to enjoy a few hours of rest and take some food. Those who were about to leave Middle-Earth had time to make their last farewells.
The hobbits chose to have luncheon first, then explored the city. In spite of their wonder at the sad and magnificent sight of what must have once been a important port for the Elves, Merry and Pippin, and especially Sam, regarded Frodo with anxious expressions as they wandered the streets and stared up at the tops of the tallest towers. They were all aware that they'd finally arrived at the end of their journey.
"You may have noticed we haven't been bothering you with questions, Frodo--I know you wouldn't tell us what you've decided 'til you were ready anyway," Merry said to his cousin as the foursome headed down an empty boulevard lined with silver-leaved trees back in the direction of the quay. "Will you tell us now what you're going to do?"
"I will, when I have decided," Frodo replied.
"Haven't you made your mind up? I suppose you're going to wait `til we're on the dock and the boat's about to sail."
"I suppose I am," Frodo admitted. "It isn't an easy choice for me to make."
"It ought to be," Sam said sullenly.
Frodo whirled to take in the three of them. "Oh, let me alone, all of you, please!" he begged. "I can think about it better if I'm not pressed. There's isn't much time left."
Merry looked contrite at this explosion. "All right," he agreed. "We'll see you at sunset." He hugged Frodo and gave him a quick kiss on the temple before leaving him. Pippin also gave him a hug and followed Merry.
Sam lingered a few minutes longer until Frodo insisted, "Sam, please!" then he too retreated with a pained and worried look.
Alone, Frodo went down to the water's edge below the breakwater. Walking along the shore of the Sea was something he'd only dreamed of doing before today. This bay wasn't quite the Sea, but it would do. When the party had arrived earlier in the day, there had been a broad, dry strip of sand; now, the water was rising steadily in wave upon wave. This must be the tide that Cirdan had spoken of, coming in. In another hour, there would be no beach left. The water was surprisingly not cold, and the sensation of waves lapping over his feet and drawing his toes into the wet sand rather pleasant. As he walked, he thought about Uncle Bilbo, sailing into the West without him. He thought about the Ring, and that ache unhealed in his heart. But there were other heart-aches too, when he thought about Gandalf's advice, and Sam's tears last night. He couldn't deny that his friends' emotional pleas were persuasive. He thought of Bag End, of Elanor and little Frodo, and the children not yet born who would grow up in his home. He thought of the books he had written, the investigations he had conducted. He thought of Sam again, and how long it might be before he had the arms he wanted most around him again... perhaps a sixty years, or perhaps never. And he considered his answer to Galadriel's riddle, for that would play an important part in his choice.
When the sun had sunk low over the westward cliffs and the tide had come in to wash against the foot of the breakwater, Frodo waded to the steps and went up to find that Bilbo had been left sitting alone on a bench overlooking the pier where the ship was moored.
"What do you think it's like?" Bilbo asked him.
"What's like, Uncle?" Frodo asked in response.
Bilbo's eyes were fixed on the gap between the tall cliffs at the far end of the gulf and the glittering water that could just be glimpsed beyond. "Where we're going, my lad. Out there. The place across the Sea where the Elves come from, and only the Elves can go to... except for you and me." The old hobbit smiled. "What a sight it must be, Frodo! What an adventure!"
Frodo smiled. This was just how Gandalf had said Bilbo would feel about it. He wasn't looking back at the world he was about to leave; the one ahead interested Bilbo far more. "I may not be going today, Uncle," he said cautiously as he sat down. He hadn't spoken to Bilbo about his indecision before--it would only confuse and upset his elderly uncle--but Bilbo seemed more able to understand it now.
"Not going?" Bilbo repeated, surprised. "How you can miss such a chance, my boy? Don't you want to sail upon the Sea, and see what lies beyond it?"
"I do," said Frodo, "but I don't think I'm ready to make that journey. Once we go, we can't turn back, you know. You've been away from the Shire and everyone you knew there for so long, it doesn't matter to you. I still feel bound to them. It would break my heart as much to go as it would to stay. And I feel as if have a part of my life left to live. I can go later on."
"Can you? Isn't that the last ship, waiting to take us?" Bilbo nodded to the ship. Gandalf was standing at the end of the pier, speaking with Cirdan and Celeborn.
Frodo shook his head. "As long as there are still Elves in Middle-Earth, there will be others. I've been promised my passage. Here, see, Uncle Bilbo--I have a token." He reached into his shirt and pulled out the gemstone on its chain. He'd always thought of the gem as being pure white, but now that he held it up for Bilbo to see and the sunlight shone through it, he observed that at its heart lay an elusive gleam of green.
"Now that's a pretty thing!" Bilbo's eyes brightened as he reached for it--Frodo almost recoiled, recalling a similar moment when Bilbo had grasped for the Ring--but the old hobbit only took the jewel between his thumb and forefinger and bent his head closer to examine it. "Very pretty, indeed. It's of Elven-make. I know their work well. Did the Lady give this to you?"
"No, her granddaughter, Queen Arwen. She says that it will allow me to cross the Sea into the Undying Lands in her place, whenever I wish it."
"Well, that's a comfort, at least." Bilbo nodded, as if he understood not only what Frodo had told him, but something more. "Thank you for showing it to me, Frodo-lad. I can go more easily now, without that weight on my mind."
At the sound of his name, Frodo looked up to see that Galadriel was standing on the quay beneath them. She was smiling at the two hobbits, and that smile confirmed to Frodo that the solution to her riddle he had arrived at yesterday was correct. "It's nearly time," she said. "Are you ready to give your answer?"
Frodo tucked the jewel back into his shirt. "I'm ready, my Lady."
Chapter 10 by Kathryn Ramage
"May I have three last questions?" Frodo requested once he had joined Galadriel. The others were assembling at the end of the pier. Frodo had helped his uncle down the steps, where Sam had appeared to take Bilbo's arm and walk with him while Frodo accompanied the Lady.
"Of course," said Galadriel.
"The first Elessar, how large a stone was it?" This wasn't a Yes or No question, and Galadriel didn't answer it. Frodo wasn't expecting her to. "I first imagined it to be a very large gemstone," he explained, "but I think that's because I'd confused it with the Silmaril. That's also associated with Earendil, since Elwing gave it to him." Frodo recalled seeing an illustration in an Elvish book of Elwing bestowing her gift to Earendil; she had held the Silmaril cupped in both her hands. "The Elessar is quite small, isn't it? It would have to be, to be worn comfortably upon the brow or at one's breast."
"Yes," Galadriel told him. "It is a small gem."
"And its green color has faded over time with its powers, hasn't it?"
"But I believe it retains more of its former powers than you said it does," Frodo went on. "It can heal more than one person at once, if they are near each other for enough time." He smiled up at her. "Uncle Bilbo has seen the Elessar, hasn't he? He's even felt a little of its healing effects. Lord Elrond gave it to his daughter, who is also a healer, and Arwen gave it in gift to someone who had great need of healing. To..." Frodo placed his hand over the hollow of his throat, where Arwen's gift lay, "me?"
Galadriel smiled. "Yes. You wear it around your neck. Bilbo has learned its whereabouts before he leaves these shores, just as you hoped. It will be returned to Earendil one day, but not, I think, today."
No," said Frodo, "not today. The Elessar's powers may be diminished from what they once were. It can't completely heal the wound the Ring left inside me, but as long as it allows me live on in Middle-Earth, I will stay. I want to stay."
"Then we must make our farewells, Frodo Baggins, until we meet again." The Lady held out her hand, and Frodo took it. Together, they joined the group waiting at the ship.
"Good-bye, Uncle," Frodo said as he embraced Bilbo. "Enjoy your journey."
Bilbo let out a small *ohh* of disappointment. "Then you're sure you're not coming with me?"
"I can't. I'll follow after you in few years' time, when I can put this world behind me. I can't yet. I still have a great deal to live for." He cast a glance at Sam, who stood at the elderly hobbit's elbow, gaping at Frodo in astonishment.
"I'd hoped we'd see the Sea together," said Bilbo. "It'll be a most marvelous sight."
"Yes, I know. And I will sail upon it someday. We'll see each other again, Uncle Bilbo, never fear."
Bilbo smiled. "I'll be waiting for you, my boy." He kissed Frodo's cheek before he accompanied the Elves onto the ship. Frodo turned to watch them leave and wave goodbye.
"You're not going!" Sam cried out behind him, as if it were only now sinking in. Before Frodo could turn back to him, he was suddenly caught up, tossed into the air, and caught again to be held tightly. "Not going!"
"No," Frodo told him. "I couldn't leave you."
In reply, Sam whooped and kissed his mouth, then they were both hugged by Merry and Pippin, who were also laughing and shouting in delighted relief. The trio would have paraded Frodo around on their shoulders, but then they realized that Gandalf hadn't gotten on the ship. The wizard was still standing on the very end of the pier, watching the ship move silently and swiftly away, its sails spread to catch the rising westward breeze.
"Gandalf," said Frodo, squirming to be set down, "I thought you'd go. All the Elven Rings together--that's what Lord Elrond wanted."
"The Ring Narya has gone," Gandalf replied. "I gave it to Celeborn to bear into the West. It has no power in Middle-Earth now, and I no longer have any use for it. I told you once I would go when you did. Not before."
"But you're not staying entirely on my account?" Having regained his feet and freed himself from the embrace of his friends, Frodo ran up to the wizard, horrified at the thought. The West was Gandalf's home as much as the Shire was his own; he must surely have been looking forward to returning to it at last. Forcing him to stay on was asking for a tremendous sacrifice. "It isn't just for me? You have something left to do as well?"
Gandalf's smile assured him that there was no sacrifice. "If nothing else, Frodo, I am interested in seeing what this new age will bring about," the wizard answered. "And I admit, I'm looking forward to finding out what you will do with the few years more you've chosen to spend here."
Several days later, the hobbits arrived back at Bag End, after seeing Gandalf away on an errand of his own to Minas Tirith.
Elanor, who'd been keeping watch for her father's return at the front windows every day, came running out of the house and down the front steps, shrieking, "Daddy's home! Daddy's home!" Sam picked up his daughter and carried her back to the front door of Bag End, where Rosie had appeared with little Frodo on her hip. Welcoming kisses were bestowed all around, then Sam turned to beam at Frodo, who was coming up the steps with Merry and Pippin.
"Well," he said, "we're back."
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