A Tale within a Tale

The Tower Hills

1. The Tower Hills

Though they rode through the midst of the Shire all the evening and all the night, none saw them pass, save the wild creatures; or here and there some wanderer in the dark who saw a swift shimmer under the trees, or a light and shadow flowing though the grass as the Moon went westward.

Frodo and Sam and Bilbo rode gently through the night, sustained by the food and drink and song of the Elves. As the Eastern sky grew lighter, they halted in a clearing. The Elves wove tree-branch bowers for the Hobbits' beds as they had years ago. They rested during the day and resumed their travels as the Sun descended West.

As they left the villages and farms behind, they traveled more by day, halting during the darkest part of the night.

One day, after winding through the Downs, they left them behind and began climbing upward among the Tower Hills. They saw off to the South the East-most of the Elf-towers and the second to the North, but taller than either, on the ridge ahead of them rose Elostirion, dark against the Western sky.

As evening drew near, the Road took them to the foot of the hill on which it stood. They made camp there, and to the Hobbits it seemed the tower watched over them unseen in the dark.

The Elves, as usual, sang songs and told tales late into the night. Sam noticed one singer in particular. An Elf-woman named Tasarian sang a song of a maiden who lived in a tower and sang of the sea and sailed away before the Elven-youth who loved her could declare himself.

An elven maid there lived of old,
in tower cold and high she dwelt.
Her lips were red, her hair was long
and fair her song from where she knelt

before the window looking West
and seeking rest. She watched the sea
and dreamed of seeing olden lands
where golden sands and waters free

would heal the questing restless soul.
A flawless whole she would be made.
What ship might bear her back so far,
and bring to shore from where she strayed.

An elven youth among the trees
heard on the breeze the song so fair.
The sad lament from days of yore,
the lays were more than he could bear.

He watched the maiden bright afar
by light of star and moon and sun.
His heart was given ere he knew
her name. His true love had begun

To grow when from the tow'r she rode,
from long abode to shining strand
and there took ship and sailed away.
She left astray his heart and hand.

Now on this hither shore he weeps
and ever keeps within his heart
the songs she sang from tower tall,
and rues the call that did them part.

"I have heard," said Tasarian, "that the maiden lived in this very tower, and that her songs may still be heard by those who know the call of the sea."

In the morning, instead of departing immediately, some of the Elves gathered to climb up to the Tower. "We have business there," said Gildor. "You may come with us, if you will."

So Frodo joined them, Sam beside him, winding up what had once been a broad, smooth stone road. The Tower reached very far above them, slender and white, built of stone. The great metal-bound doors faced West, and narrow arrow-slit windows looked out in all directions, or would have, for they had all been shuttered.

"Long have we used this as a way-station," said Gildor. "Now it is nigh empty, and we must needs carry off a last treasure, and secure the Tower until the King can turn his mind to it." He brought out a silver key and opened the doors. Some of the Elves had brought torches, and they now lit these, for the Tower was, indeed, quite dark within.

The torch-light showed dimly a lofty hall, the ceiling hardly to be seen far above them. It was nearly empty. Against the outer wall wound a broad stone stair. Up this the Elves mounted, Frodo and Sam following. They passed through the floor above and immediately began climbing the next stair-flight.

As he trudged up the steps in the gloom, Sam felt the dark pressing against him as in the stairs of Cirith Ungol. Almost he smelled again the stench of Shelob's Lair. Ahead of him, Frodo stepped upward unconcerned.

Sam lagged behind. The torches dwindled and disappeared before him. Blindly in the dark, shaking he crept up the stairs. They came to an end at last, in utter darkness. He heard the voices of the Elves far above, and knew another stair lay before him. He groped forward and stumbled over the first step of the next flight. Bit by bit, he worked his way ever upward, knowing he would have to come down this same stair again.

As he climbed, he fancied he heard the breeze sighing as over teeth; then it seemed he heard a voice in the breath of air. An eerie chill crept down his back. The voice chanted in Elvish words, beyond Sam's understanding, but with a constant rise and fall.

Finally, the dark lifted. Above him he saw the grey light filtering down. He climbed grimly on, the memory of Torech Ungol receding behind him.

He came out at last to the topmost level of the tower. The stair ended in a perfectly round room, covered with a sort of half dome of copper, which left the other half open to the sky and wind. In the middle stood a large, cloth-shrouded contraption of metal and gears. Outside the room a broad stone walk ran 'round the whole tower.

Though he was as high above the ground as ever he had been in MinasTirith, he went eagerly toward the parapet, drinking in the clear morning sky. The elves gathered mostly on the East side, looking back the way they had come, out over the Hills and the Downs and the Shire, misty green in the distance.

Frodo stood on the West, gazing down the last of the Tower Hills as they tumbled toward a long water that reached in to meet them. Far off under the lightening sky, they saw the water stretching pale shining grey to the horizon, while the hills cast two arms out on either side.

"The Sea," murmured Frodo as Sam came to him. "It must be." Here on the tower-top, the wind tore at their hair and cloaks and whipped tears to their eyes.

The Elves drifted about the walkway; many of them were looking upon Middle-Earth for the final time. At last they sighed and called to Frodo and Sam to descend and depart. They closed the roof, rolling the nested copper half-dome shut.

When the Hobbits reached the stair, Sam faltered. Frodo turned back to him, looking up from a few steps down.

"What is it, Sam?" he asked, his brow furrowed.

"It's them stairs," said Sam. "I don't know if I can do it again. It made me come all over queer, like we was back in them spider cracks of the Black Land."

"Oh, no, Sam," cried Frodo, springing back up the steps. "How, and why did you make it up here at all? And what are we to do?"

"I can carry you, little master," said a tall Elf with dark hair. Sam blushed and backed away.

"I, I, think I can do it," he said, though his heart quaked at the thought. He set his teeth and stepped forward. Frodo went ahead of him step by step. The darkness grew, for the Elves bearing the torches were now well below them.

"Light," whispered Sam. "I wish we had light." Then, again as in the tunnels on the edge of Mordor, he saw in his mind's eye a light, unbearably bright at first. He went weak with relief.

"The star-glass, Mr. Frodo! The light to you in dark places!" he cried.

"The star-glass? Of course! Why didn't I think of that." And Frodo brought from his bosom the phial of Galadriel. It glowed soft but steady on the two Hobbits, dispelling the gloom and lifting their spirits.

Frodo turned and walked slowly down the steps, holding the glass high over his head, that Sam might see his way with ease.

At the first landing, in a high chamber that filled the whole floor, a small group of Elves gathered around a stone pedestal in the very center. The Hobbits went closer, and saw a globe as of crystal, dark but with a fiery center, resting on the pedestal.

Gildor turned to them and said, "The palantír of Elostirion. We will take it with us to the Havens." He gently put the palantír away in a velvet bag, and walked back to the stair. "Long has it stood here, and here we have come to gaze upon it and look across the Sea to Elvenhome."

They continued down the stair, Frodo holding aloft the phial.

The Elves with their long legs had again drawn ahead of the Hobbits, their torches vanishing down the stair.

Sam stayed Frodo with a touch. "Put the glass away," he said. "Let me try the dark."

"But Sam, why should you suffer? The light is here!"

"It won't be here much longer, for it will leave with you."

"There are no stairs like this in the Shire! You'll never have to go through this again."

"Ah, but you're wrong, Mister Frodo. With Strider being King, I can see I'll have to go lots of strange places. Why, back to Minas Tirith or to that new city of his in the North.

"No, I must learn to do it without you."

Frodo's hand fell and the light dimmed. "Then you take the glass, Sam!" And he held it out.

"Oh, no, Mister Frodo. The Lady gave it to you and you shall keep it!" Sam turned and stumped down the stairs into the dark.

Frodo stood a moment, then hurried after Sam. "Alright, my dear Sam. But you must let me walk with you now. I don't think I could bear it if we quarrel, just before I..." He trailed off.

Sam stopped and looked up. He felt the tears start to his eyes. "I would never want to quarrel with you. Stay by me until we get down from this horrible place."

"Tell you what, Sam. I'll put the glass away," Frodo did so as he spoke. The light went out. "But take my hand and we'll walk together down the stairs."

So hand in hand they walked down, and Sam found the memory of Shelob faded somewhat, with his dear master there beside him. And after all, the dry dusty odor of the tower was nothing like the stench of the path to Mordor, nor did the open echoing chambers press against him like Shelob's twisting tunnels.

Frodo spoke softly to him, and he found himself telling Frodo about the odd voice he'd heard while climbing. "But I am no Elf, to go hearing sea-calls and such!"

"But as Ringbearer," said Frodo, "you may cross the Sea at last yourself! If the Sea speaks to you, that may ease the departure from Middle-Earth."

The descent took some time, for the Tower was very tall. When they reached the bottom, Gildor shut and locked the door. He looked a while at the silver key, then turned to the Elf-woman beside him.

"Tasarian, I will give this into your keeping," he said. They turned away from the Tower and continued down the road. At the encampment, all were ready to depart; even Bilbo already sat upon his pony.

And when they had passed from the Shire, going about the south skirts of the White Downs, they came to the Far Downs, and to the Towers, and looked on the distant Sea; and so they rode down at last to Mithlond, to the Grey Havens in the long firth of Lune.


At last the three companions turned away, and never again looking back they rode slowly homewards; and they spoke no word to one another until they came back to the Shire, but each had great comfort in his friends on the long grey road.

On the first night away from the Havens, they camped below Elostirion. Merry and Pippin looked up at the Tower.

"I'd like to go to the top of that tower," said Pippin. "You could see everything from up there. I bet you could see all the way to Tuckborough."

"That just shows you're a Took, and a Knight of the Guard of the White Tower," said Merry. "What other Hobbit would want to climb so high?"

Sam said nothing, but busied himself with building up the fire and starting dinner.

At last they rode over the downs and took the East Road, and then Merry and Pippin rode on to Buckland, and already they were singing again as they went.


A.N.  Italicized quotes at beginning and end from RoTK, "The Grey Havens".  Embedded quote snippets from:
TTT, "The Voice of Saruman", "The Taming of Sméagol", "Shelob's Lair".

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.


In Challenges

Story Information

Author: DrummerWench

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/09/08

Original Post: 07/09/06

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