"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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