On October 6, Frodo Baggins fell ill on Tol Eressea, within sight of the Blessed Realm.
In the early morning, before the Sun had reached Tol Eressea, he awoke from a dream of the Sea that lay on the edge of his waking mind. He had wanted to believe that here, within sight of the Undying Lands, the chronic illness that had striken him would disappear, but it had not. He cried out, both in pain and in dismay that his illness had returned. He felt soft, warm hands on his face and body, and gentle voices whispered to him. He opened his eyes slowly, half expecting to see the familiar walls of Bag End. Instead of cozy wood panels, however, he saw beautiful Elvish archetecture with high ceilings and large furniture. It all came back to him: his goodbyes to his friends, leaving Middle-earth, his journey to Tol Eressea. His heart ached for the Shire in that moment, and for Sam, and for all the familiar things he knew across the Sea.
He moaned softly at the pain he felt and the aching in his heart. One of the warm hands went to his forehead, smoothing back his sweaty hair. His shoulder and side had the ache and icy feeling he remembered from his Nazgul wound, but the darkness wasn't as deep around him as it had been before, in Middle-earth. Frodo could make out shapes: two Elves, a male and a female, tended to him. They glowed with a gentle golden light to his eyes and he felt comforted by their presence. He wondered where they had come from and how they had known he was ill.
He heard another voice talking quietly in the Elf-tongue. It was deeper and gruffer than the others and sounded familiar. He turned his head slowly to see who it was, and saw a figure he recognized, robed in white. "Gandalf," Frodo said, his voice barely above a whisper. "Why --"
"Frodo." Gandalf walked over to the bed, laying a hand on his head with care and pity. "We know you are ill. Save your strength." He stroked his hair, a feeling of fondness deep within his touch.
The two Elves gently dressed him in warm clothing, and a thick silky blanket with a clean scent was wrapped around him. "No, please, I'm all right," Frodo insisted in a weak voice that did not sound convincing. "I'm just a bit tired. I want to rest." The Elves either did not understand him or they ignored him. Gandalf lay a gentle hand on his aching shoulder. "Let them take care of you," he said.
After Frodo was well-wrapped, one of the Elves, the male, lifted him out of bed, letting Frodo rest his head on the Elf's strong shoulder. He wondered where they were taking him and why it was necessary to take him out of bed to do it. Were there healers here in Tol Eressea? Elves never became ill, as far as he knew.
The two Elves and Gandalf were walking down a long open hallway, talking in hushed voices. Frodo remembered walking it three days before, when he and Bilbo had first arrived at Avallone, the city of Tol Eressea. It was dimmer now, shadowed in grey. He felt a warm, soft hand clutching his left one, but the sensation was faint and far away. Where was Bilbo?
They had reached the end of the hallway and were now outside, facing a path. Shadowfax, Gandalf's beloved horse, was waiting, and the wizard quickly mounted him. The Elf cradled Frodo in his arms, and when he saw the horse, memories of the endless, painful ride from Weathertop to Rivendell seized him. He cried out again, feebly trying to escape the arms of the Elf that carried him. "Don't worry, Frodo. It will only be a short ride." Gandalf was speaking again. Why did he have to go for a ride anyway? All Frodo really wanted was to rest and let the day pass as quickly as it could.
The Elf lifted Frodo up and handed him to Gandalf. They were both trying to be as gentle as they could as to not hurt him, but the very movement made him feel ill. He let out a small cry and longed to ask Gandalf where he was going. Why didn't they just leave him be? He would be well by the end of the day, he always was.
Frodo now sat in front of Gandalf. He spoke more to the two Elves, and then Shadowfax was running. It was hard for Frodo to tell where they were going, as everything was misty and grey. He saw glimmers of light around him and knew he was still in Avallone. The roaring of the Sea could be heard in the distance and the air smelled slightly of salt.
"Where is Bilbo?" Frodo asked quietly. He had last seen him the night before, when the aging hobbit had fallen asleep as he listened to the after-dinner songs and tales. As a matter of fact, Frodo couldn't remember going to bed at all. He couldn't even remember going to sleep. It was just like in Rivendell, when he had trouble keeping awake in the Hall of Fire...
Frodo's thoughts were broken as Gandalf answered him. "He's fine. He knows about your illness and that you will return. Do not fear for him."
"Where --" Frodo began to ask, but Gandalf quieted him. "No more questions. Sit quietly and try to preserve your strength."
Frodo did as Gandalf asked. He felt exhausted and his body ached. Shadowfax was running over smooth ground, and Frodo could hear singing mixed with the melancholy music of the Sea in the distance. The stars shone like gemstones in the night sky, and they comforted Frodo, enough that he was able to fight off the darkness in his mind. Overcome with weariness, he fell fast asleep.
The fires of Mount Doom flared before him. He held the Ring in his palm and his hand ached to put it on. The rational part of his mind screamed that he must destroy it, that he had come all this way to destroy it, but it was drowned out by the Ring, calling his name strongly. "Frodo. Frodo!" Why shouldn't he keep it? It was his, after all. He'd kept it hidden for seventeen years just so he could throw it away now? "It's mine!" he heard himself saying. "I refuse to throw it away! The Ring is mine!"
Suddenly, Frodo was jarred back to wakefulness. Gandalf had been calling his name, and looked down on him in pity and concern. He tried to sit up, but Gandalf gently held him down. "Lay down, Frodo."
He was in a narrow bed, and the bed was...moving. The movement made him feel sick. It was a rocking that he remembered distantly. Why was it so dark? "Where am I?" he asked quietly. The movement of the room he was in made him feel sick.
"We are going to Valinor." Gandalf sat down at the end of the narrow bed, looking at Frodo.
"Why? I wanted to stay with Bilbo." He paused. "Why are we rocking, Gandalf? I feel sick enough already."
Gandalf laughed. "We're on a ship, Frodo. We have a bit to sail, and then we will reach the shores of Valinor. Then, we have a ride to the gardens of Lorien." He patted Frodo's knee. "You will be back with Bilbo soon. There is someone in Valinor who must see you." He smiled gently at Frodo. "How are you feeling?"
Frodo shivered, and used his good right arm to pull the blanket closer to him. "It is very dark, Gandalf," he said, his voice sounding distant in his own ears. Frodo remembered the pendant that Arwen had given him and found it still hanging on its chain around his neck. He wrapped his right hand around it, trying to remember the way she had looked sitting by the fountain in Minas Tirith just so that it would push the shadows away. A tear slipped down his cheek. Even now, at the very edge of the Blessed Realm, he longed to return home and look upon the city again. The faces of his friends passed before him: Sam...Merry...Pippin...Aragorn. Had he made the wrong decision? Could he ever be healed?
He moaned in pain and Gandalf grabbed his left hand. It felt cold, but did not have the icy stillness that it had after his wounding three years ago. "It will pass, Frodo," he said, trying to comfort the hobbit as best he could. "The darkness is but a memory. The Shadow has departed. Nothing can hurt you here."
"Memory or not, it still hurts. Where will I find rest? I couldn't find it in the Shire and it still escapes me here." After a long pause, Frodo began to cry. It hurt him a great deal, in his weakened state, but he couldn't help it. The last time he had cried like this was in Minas Tirith. He had been trying to teach himself how to write again, now that he only four fingers on his right hand. His lettering had been fair before, back in his days in the Shire, but in Minas Tirith it had been clumsy and his pen kept slipping from his imperfect grasp. He'd broken down and wept in frustration and anger, lying in a heap on the floor, his body choking with violent sobs that had longed to escape.
Gandalf's heart broke as he watched Frodo weep. He'd known that bearing the Ring would take a heavy toll, but seeing his pain firsthand was completely different. The hobbit had done what no one else, even Gandalf himself, could have done. He would never fully recover, never be able to be the person he once was. The quest had been achieved, but the burden had been too much. Gandalf thought back to the first time he had ever seen Frodo, when the hobbit had been a child in the Shire, listening intently to his Uncle Bilbo's fantastic stories about Elves and Trolls and treasures hidden deep in mountains. 'Are you Gandalf, from my uncle's stories?' the young hobbit had asked when they first met. He had been so innocent then, his eyes full of excitement and wonder instead of the dulled light that they often had now.
Jarring Gandalf from his thoughts, Frodo cried out sharply as pain shot down his arm and side. Gandalf whispered his name, holding his cheeks in his hands in an effort to comfort him. Frodo moaned as another wave of pain went through his body, making him cry harder, tears of pain now mixing in with his sadness. His body shook with sobs, his chest ached, and his side and arm throbbed. It was more than he could bear and he started gasping for breath.
Gandalf lifted the hobbit tenderly out of the narrow bed, letting Frodo rest his head on his shoulder. He wrapped a blanket around him as he would a child, rubbing his back, hoping that his touch would give him some comfort. With the sobbing hobbit in his arms, he walked up a short flight of stairs, out to the deck where the stars Elbereth herself had kindled were still shining in the night sky. The water was dark in the starlight and there was peace in the air.
He cradled Frodo gently in his arms. The hobbit's eyes were closed, but his body shook violently with sobs and he was still gasping. "Open your eyes, Frodo," he whispered. Frodo did, tears spilling down his cheeks. He saw the beauty of the night sky here at the edge of Valinor, more breathtaking than it could ever have been in Middle-earth. "Varda the Kindler herself dwells near here, as real as you and I are," Gandalf said. "You might see her someday. She has the light of Illuvatar himself in her face and is too beautiful for any words to describe. Este the Healer has the strength of a thousand proud warriors of Gondor and a hand as gentle as a summer wind. The gardens of Lorien have flowers of every color and the water of the fountains is as silver as the Moon himself. There is also Yavanna the Giver, the mother of all growing things, who is as tall and beautiful as a mallorn tree." Frodo had stopped crying and was now listening to Gandalf's gentle voice, but his body still shook with silent sobs. His dark eyes gazed upward. "Frodo, there is so much beauty and joy here that I ache to think of it. It does not have a dark edge of worry and expectancy, like in Lothlorien or Rivendell. It is perfect, as deep as the Sea which separates it from all else." He paused. "Once you are healed, you will never feel loneliness or pain or fear again. You will no longer feel the call of the Ring haunting your heart, or be troubled by evil dreams. Such is the gift of the Blessed Realm." He looked down at Frodo. The hobbit's body was still. He was pale and his left side was cold, but his breathing was easy. He stared up at the night sky, his right hand clasping the jewel Arwen had given him, and a look of peace in his eyes.
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.