1. A Glimpse of Eternity
Our greatest gratitude went to MBradford who has so kindly beta-ed this in such a short notice.
~ S.R. 1421, Halimath 22 ~
~ Frodo ~
Woody End. Everything is still the same. The trees with their strong, outstretched limbs are still bearing dense, thick leaves, warding off any rays the afternoon sun is trying to push through them. And the roots. The trees’ roots are bulging out of the mushy earth, reaching out to every direction, and posing the problem of whether our poor ponies, Strider and Bill, should halt and choose another way or continue on. I hear a faint call as if from a distance.
“If it isn’t the very tree you hid behind when the Black Rider first showed up, Mr. Frodo!” A short silence follows, and then, “It seems like a dream now.”
Sam. I turn around and look at him wearily. It does feel like a dream to walk this path again. To relive the painful memories of things that happened what seemed like countless summers ago, back to the days when innocence was intact, when purity of our youth was blessed above anything else, protected from evil and malicious deeds. Or even from our own ignorance that those things indeed existed.
Sam. As I am swaying a little in time with the pony’s leisurely pace, I remember how I asked my former gardener to come with me tonight. I must consider now that there is Rosie, and Sam does have piles of work to do. But for this journey, a journey whose destination I will not reveal to anyone, I need Sam to be with me.
I need him to see that it might take a long time before we can finally meet each other again. I might even pass away long before the opportunity finally arrives. I have known from the very beginning that I will not slip away without him knowing it. I tried once and I was not successful – for which I have been so grateful until now. What could I do without my Sam?
I look down at the leather reins, winding them more tightly around my hands. Such a foolish, vain thing to do, as if it is my grasp on my pony that needs tightening. Deep in my heart I realize it is my emotion that I ought to grip harder, otherwise it will break apart soon.
Suddenly there is a sound to my left and my head whirls around quite abruptly to acknowledge it.
“Merry?” I mutter faintly yet loudly enough for Sam to hear.
“Mr. Frodo?” he asks. I glance back straight wise, ignoring Sam without realizing it. “Mr. Frodo, sir. Are you all right?”
I keep on staring – at everything and nothing – hardly noticing Sam or the ponies or even the canopy of the trees that feel even closer under the blanket of the dim sky.
“Of course it wasn’t Merry,” I mumble to myself, as if in a swoon. Merry was waiting in Crickhollow although in the end impatience got the better of him and he chose to pick us up near Farmer Maggot’s farm.
I feel Sam’s gaze on my back and a moment later find his pony Bill has caught up with me. Sam reaches out to my shoulder, I turn to him with my eyes gazing blankly, betraying my heavy heart.
“I’m sorry, Sam. I’m all right. It’s just…” I choke. “Like you said, everything seems like a dream now.”
~ Sam ~
I frown. Poor Mr. Frodo. What was he thinking? Me poor, dear, dear master.
I watch you as we ride slowly under the dancing lights that rain down among the overlapping and shifting leaves. I watch you the way I always have on our walks. Before. And after. Some things do not change. You still reach out your hand and idly brush the leaves of the bushes and saplings along the way.
You still stop occasionally, merely to listen, with your eyes closed, to all the sounds of the wood near twilight. You still hum softly as you go along, snatches of old songs and rhymes, reminiscent of the days when we sometimes went for walks together, Mr. Bilbo, you and I. Some things stay, Mr. Frodo.
But some things are different. You are no longer the young and vigorous Mr. Frodo of old. You stoop slightly on your pony, and I know you are trying to hide the tremor in your hands by clutching at your reins. Your hair, ruffled slightly by the teasing fingers of early autumn wind, is no longer dark brown, shot with copper. There are silver locks in your curls now, growing more and more numerous by the day. And I know that under the grey hood of your elven-cloak, your eyes carry the haunting sorrow of one that has sacrificed everything only to find that he has been robbed of his life, his heart, his very soul, and is doomed to roam homeless and alone, even in the land of his forefathers and among those who love him profoundly. You may think you can hide the pain from me, Mr. Frodo, from me, from Rose, from Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin. But we know. You have never returned home from the black lands. The shadows follow you even here.
~ Frodo ~
Strider trots forward again as I pull the reins a little. I am leaving. Truly I am. Leaving behind everything I have loved and will love forever, and at the same time leaving all my anguish behind, if that is possible. All the heavy burdens. All the terrible attacks of stinging pains that I still have to endure. Leaving the land of shadows eternally with the hope to replace it with the fair land of the elves.
Yet, how could I? How could I leave Sam?
I am not worried about Merry or Pippin. The scars from the war have gradually healed for them and they have been easily coping with their new lives.
How about Sam?
A tiny voice scolds me from inside.
“You are saying how can you bear being without Sam? He’s always been such a light for you when all the others go out.”
I sigh heavily, stopping again unintentionally. Flashes of memories play cruelly in my mind. The sensation of being dragged forward and downward by the thing hanging from my neck comes again. The image of me stooping as I was unable to right myself almost suffocates me.
“It’s getting heavier, Sam.”
Weariness had swept over me. I was hopeless. Almost submissive to the invisible yet powerfully evil force.
The One Eye glared over me, demanding what belonged to It, that which I was holding. It persuaded me, reaching out for me with its unseen claws, asking me to kindly take It to its master. I gasped at the realization of how simple this whole matter had been, only a story of a long lost child, a child that was so precious he could help his ‘father’ prevail over the entirety of Middle Earth.
I heard its voice over and over, and cursed silently at the results of its call. I should have thrashed and thrown it away but I could not. I forgot when I had last eaten, my body started to refuse to heed the instruction of my mind. And my mind had become so affected it declined vehemently the idea of casting the Ring away. My knees weakened, buckling down, and I collapsed upon my two hands. What previously was ‘a kind’ request turned to a harsh one as I insisted on resisting the urge to put It on my finger.
“Frodo!” An anxious voice interrupted the intertwining realms of the Ring and I. Sam. Beloved Sam. You were still there…
I desperately struggled to lift up my head and to fight the evil power within me. I almost succeeded. I had to…
“Be gone, you devil! Get away from Mr. Frodo!” I felt myself being lifted up and shaken. My head was spinning around but my mind was clearing up. I gaped hazily at my loyal gardener, who clutched my forearms so tightly it almost hurt.
I blinked, casting away the last remnants of the Ring’s weight for the time being, but not the weakness, the hunger, the fear, and the shadows. “S – sam,” I whispered feebly. And before I realized it, I found myself in the warm embrace of the familiar figure. Elbereth knew I missed this. I missed everything from my past as I almost could not see them in my mind, my fellow hobbits, Bag End, the tree beneath which I used to lay myself down, and Bilbo. I knew them all but they were all vanishing from me.
Halfheartedly, I pulled myself back.
“I thought I’d lost you, Mr. Frodo,” admitted Sam slowly, looking down. “I thought I’d failed Gandalf.”
I shook my head. No, no. There was no way he could fail. If ever, it was I who would. “Then help me, Sam. Help me keep myself whole. I can’t do this alone. I need you.”
Warmth showered my entire body. I felt a peculiar strength as I gazed deeply into his brown eyes. I saw something there, a glimpse of some kind of eternity. Elbereth, thank you. You have bestowed upon me the unsurpassed of friends.
~ Sam ~
You turn suddenly, a twinkle in your blue eyes, now ringed with age and pain and exhaustion. You smile at me, but it’s a different smile. Your smile has always been beautiful, Mr. Frodo, and it never fails to rouse me to smile in return. But you have gone through the darkest, vilest places, where there is no right reason to smile. You have lived through terror and torment and the memories alone should never allow you to smile again. For what could dispel the nightmare that haunts you even in your waking hours? But you smile at me, Mr. Frodo, and knowing how I could have lost that smile, knowing what strength and courage it takes to smile when you have experienced such things, my throat closes and my eyes start to prickle. But I return your smile all the same, Mr. Frodo. I have no other choice.
“Come on, Sam,” you call to me, somewhat heavily. “Have Rosie’s meals made you so weighty that Bill can only carry you with great difficulty, or is it that your luncheon is affecting your eyesight?”
You always used to tease me, Mr. Frodo and it is nice to know that has not changed. “Come on,” you say smiling, tilting your head slightly to the side in a gesture that I know so well.
Some things do stay, Mr. Frodo. But I know you will not.
* * *
I wonder if you still remember that September, Mr. Frodo, ages and ages ago it seems, when we first met. You came with Mr. Bilbo on a rainy afternoon. My Gaffer had set a blazing fire on the hearth in the kitchen, and my Mum’s little cakes were sitting on the table while the kettle started steaming. I sat next to him, munching on a crumpet and sipping tea. Then there was a knock on the back door and my Gaffer went to open it.
You stepped in. Laughing.
Of course there was Mr. Bilbo with you, smiling and nodding at me and telling my Gaffer to mind the ponies and help with the baggage. But my eyes were riveted on you. You were wet through, your cloak dripping mud on the kitchen floor, and water flew in every direction when you shook your dark russet hair. You were laughing, Mr. Frodo. Laughing. I could not take my eyes off you. I never saw anyone so happy.
“If anything, Bilbo,” you said, turning to Mr. Bilbo, “running in the rain soaked us faster, so it was either getting slowly drenched or instantly waterlogged.”
Mr. Bilbo laughed too. I did not remember ever seeing his old grey eyes shining that way before. He looked much younger, given that, admittedly, at ninety -nine, he still looked the picture of a perfectly stout and hale hobbit. But basking in your laughter, he seemed to glow in good health and humor. I could see even then, young as I was, that he not only loved you, but worshipped you, and your presence was a tonic in his otherwise solitary life. For that alone, Mr. Frodo, for giving dear Mr. Bilbo a reason to laugh so joyously, I love you.
* * *
“I know that you have been busy, Sam, what with a wife and a new baby,” Mr. Merry had said, his tone accusatory. “But that is no reason to neglect your duties to Frodo.”
“Now, Merry,” said Mr. Pippin. “You know Sam would never do that.”
I was too dumbfounded to say anything.
We were in Crickhollow at the time, Mr. Frodo. It was July, and the weather was nice and warm. But much as I am fond of Ellie, I could not let you travel all the way to Buckland on your own, so I had come. Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin were overjoyed to see you, and you behaved just as badly as they, sitting up late, talking, and drinking far too much for your own good. It was nearly dawn when I finally could coax you to go to bed. But in the morning when I came with your tea, you had gone.
Mr. Merry looked away, and when his eyes met mine again, he looked apologetic. “I’m sorry, Sam. It’s just…” He waved his hand impatiently. “Well, just look at him! People would think we’re starving him! And I know he’s still having those nightmares. I heard him scream last night.”
Mr. Pippin nodded. “I heard it too,” he said. “He isn’t getting any better, is he?”
“He’s only 52,” said Mr. Merry. “And he’s….”
I knew what he was about to say, what he could not bring himself to say.
You are dying, Mr. Frodo.
We found you late that morning, standing beside your parents’ grave, a bunch of flowers in your hand, your eyes vacant, your fingers clutching Lady Arwen’s white jewel.
* * *
Rivendell is lovely, Mr. Frodo. I cannot think of another place more apt for you. You can rest there, maybe you can even heal, maybe you can find peace there, peace and home. But if you have to leave, Mr. Frodo, leave for good and never to return, I cannot think of a better place to be than in Rivendell.
That is where we are going, are we not, Mr. Frodo? To Rivendell. You want to be with Mr. Bilbo, I expect. Together you can laugh and be merry again, the way you laughed when I first saw you, even if only for a short spell.
Rivendell is far from Hobbiton, but it is well worth the trip to go there. I shall come and visit you as often as Rose and Ellie allow me. I am sure Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin will come regularly too. We love you that much, Mr. Frodo, and it pains us that you have to leave the Shire to find peace. But we will come and visit, mark my words.
You are singing again, Mr. Frodo, Mr. Bilbo’s old walking song. But there are changes there, in the rhyme.
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun
Iorhael’s note: All reviews will be forwarded to Illyria Pffyffin.
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.