1. Sam's Gift
But now? Now that they were all leaving, Sam craved Lothlórien's air like he never had before. No proper hobbit liked boats, whatever Mister Merry said, but Sam's uneasiness was due to more than just the water flowing swiftly beneath his boat. Lothlórien had become home, somehow. Even if this Galadriel could have sent him back in a moment, and Frodo with him -- just made everything like it had been before Gandalf found out about the ring -- even then, Sam would have ached at leaving the Golden Woods.
He looked up at the sound of a fourth boat gliding down the Silverlode, and there she was. She stood, tall and white, her lord seated at her feet, with a circlet of golden flowers in her hair like a crown. No, not like a crown, Sam corrected herself. The Lady was no Queen, though she might act like one. More beautiful than anything in the Shire, at any rate, he thought. Or, at least, handsome in a different way. The Shire has its own splendour. And for a moment he caught a glimpse of what Gimli must see all the time.
She didn't seem this fair last night, Sam reflected. Perilous and great, aye, but not fair.
"Did you not say that you had wished to see Elf-magic?" she had asked him. He and Frodo stood in the glade before the Mirror of Galadriel, now filled with the pure water of the Golden Woods. Galadriel had asked Frodo first -- only fitting -- and then she had turned to Sam. Well, did he? Isn't that why he had followed Frodo to the Mirror, to see something he knew he'd never have the chance to see after he returned to the Shire?
"Aye," Sam said. "I'll have a peep, Lady, if you're willing."
Galadriel smiled at him indulgently. Probably thinks Master Frodo won't look if I don't; that's why she offered, I wager. But now that she had offered he wouldn't waste the chance. So Sam had climbed up on the base -- real dwarf-make, he wagered -- and peered over the edge.
At first he only saw the twinkling reflection of the stars high above. He had expected as much. But then they faded, and Sam gasped. Were even the stars going out, then? The Mirror grew grey, then clear. And then one picture after another appeared, more vibrant than the paintings in Mister Bilbo's books. Frodo asleep under a cliff. An endless stair. The Shire burning. Trees, tall and ancient, turned on their side. His Gaffer walking down the road, all his bits in a barrel, with no home to speak of. A smiling face -- Rose! And then that same face, panting for breath as one of those squint-eyed southern men ran after her!
"I can't stay here!" he cried. "I can't stay. They're rooting up the whole Shire, and she --" He stopped. "They -- They've dug up Bagshot Row, and there's my poor old Gaffer going down the Hill. I must go home!"
Galadriel studied him then. He saw in her ancient eyes that she knew the truth. His Gaffer was reason enough to go home, but that wasn't the real news that drove him to despair, made him willing to leave Frodo to finish the task they'd started together. No, it was the thought of Rose, with no one to protect her from horse-thieves and worse ruffians like he'd seen in Bree. He couldn't do it.
"You cannot go home alone," she had said then. "You did not wish to go home without your master before you looked in the Mirror, and yet you knew that evil things might well be happening in the Shire."
She was silent for a moment, and her eyes filled with pity. Sam heard that voice inside his head again. What would you do, Samwise? Protect her against all that would harm her? But if evil survives, it shall destroy all the world -- including your precious Rose, and the Shire. Sam closed his eyes, trying to order his thoughts, or at least to clear his mind.
"Remember that the Mirror shows many things." He opened his eyes and looked up at her, fear plain on his face. Stepping back from the Mirror, he took his place beside his master. "Some never come to be," she continued, "unless those that behold the visions turn aside from their path to prevent them. The Mirror is dangerous as a guide of deeds."
Sam nodded, trying hard to swallow. He'd go home by the long road, or not at all.
And now the long road stood before him. When he had made up his mind not to return to the Shire but to stay true to his oath and keep Frodo safe, he hadn't imagined it would mean a boat. No matter, he supposed. Then as the Lady began to sing, he forgot all thought.
If now I sang of beauty great, beyond the Sund'ring Seas,
Of things that perished ere the Sun shone down on newborn trees,
Would that convince you brethren brave to hold to path laid out?
For what worth beauty never seen when dangers bar your route?
The words were foreign, that was sure enough; Sam could not say what they meant in any sure words, but they engraved themselves in his mind somehow, and he heard a song in his own head that he thought might be what she meant to sing. Whether they were the words Frodo and Aragorn behind him in the boat heard, he could not say.
And if I sang of home-bound brides who wait for your return,
Of fates they'd face if you should fail, would that ease your concern?
Remember then the truth I warned before you gazed in glass:
For mirrors show what happens now, and also what has passed.
But what shall come, few can foretell, for future's not yet here.
And deeds you do down life's hard road may change what now seems clear.
So recall not the sights you saw; just do what fate demands:
When counsels of the wise fall short, fate falls to smaller hands.
Celeborn guided the swan boat toward the shore, and Galadriel invited them all to one last meal. Long after Sam tried to recall what he ate. Elf-food, he reckoned, but exactly what was beyond him. Not the first time he forgot what he ate when he was surrounded by Elves, and comparing Galadriel to Gildor's elves was like comparing lembas to mushrooms; they both were nice, yes, but there was no comparison, really.
The sun sank low, and finally the hour to leave approached. Galadriel offered her gifts to everyone. A scabbard for Aragorn, a bow for Legolas, a new belt for Boromir, on down the line… and then it was Sam's turn. He hadn't hardly expected a gift, and when the gift-giving began he didn't know what to expect. But even if he'd had some specific present in mind, it certainly wasn't what Galadriel gave him.
She handed him a little box of plain grey wood, unadorned save for a single silver rune upon the lid. "For your little gardener and lover of trees," she said -- and here she smiled warmly at Sam -- "I have only a small gift. In this box there is earth from my orchard, and such blessing as Galadriel has still to bestow upon it." For that blessing I still hold, it is thanks to you, Master Samwise.
Sam snapped his head up, an exasperated look in his eyes. There was that blasted voice in his head again! He wished she'd stay out of his thoughts, and talk to him like was natural. But then the words sank in. "Don't go saying that, my Lady," Sam began, "I didn't do --" But she bent down and laid a single finger on his lip.
I have passed the test. I shall diminish, and go into the West. Diminish. That is where the hope lies, Samwise Gamgee. For wise I name you, more wise even than Galadriel. Hope lies in triviality not in magnificence, and that you have shown me. She continued talking, speaking words for the others to hear, even as she spoke with Sam through their thoughts. Now are you avenged for my testing you at our first meeting. You have given me a great gift.
She kissed him on his brow. Hope that you shall find a use for my gift. Hope for an ordinary rest, and sleep, and waking up to a morning's work in the garden. A time beyond the Quest. I do not foresee, for I can no more tell the future than can my mirror. But if hope lasts, then you shall see your Rose again.
Sam nodded. His will was set, and only death would break it. And if any of the others present had been privy to their thoughts, none there could have decided who had given the greater gift.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.