As they departed, Frodo said farewell to Bethilien, who was returning to dwell in Tol Eressea for a while with her kindred and friends. "I hope to see you again soon, Frodo," she said, kissing him on his forehead. He asked her if she could send his love and greetings to Bilbo, and she agreed. "I'm sure he will try to be content among us until you return," she said, and Frodo laughed. She climbed back on the quay and stood for a moment, raising her hand to them in parting.
Frodo and Gandalf had ridden together on Shadowfax, who ran at his own pace. Sometimes Gandalf had told him stories of Aman and all the things that were built there, and other times they both were silent, watching the beautiful landscape as it passed by. Now that he was in Valinor, it felt much more real to Frodo, although he still had trouble thinking of it as home. He missed his friends terribly and thought of them often. Gandalf seemed to sense when he thought of them, because he would pat Frodo's shoulder as if to let him know he knew how the hobbit felt.
Frodo had noticed a change in Gandalf since they had reached Valinor. It seemed to him that all the care he had worn in Middle-earth had been cast away: he still resembled an old man with a long white beard, but his eyes were bright as stars and a look of joy and contentment was always in them. He laughed often in pure merriment, and often put his arms around Frodo, which he had rarely done before.
After ten days of journey, they reached their destination. "The gardens of Lorien are the fairest in all of Arda. It is a place where even the Valar themselves find rest and peace." "Like Lothlorien?" Frodo had asked, and Gandalf laughed. "Better than Lothlorien," he replied. It was late afternoon when they arrived, and Gandalf had bade Frodo to drink from the fountains. "The water will heal your weariness for a time." The water was cool with a slightly sweet taste, and it did make him feel better. It reminded him of the waters of the Nimrodel on the border of Lothlorien.
He and Gandalf had sat down on the grass, and Gandalf had pulled out his much-loved pipe and had a long smoke. "I must enjoy the weed I have left, because there's no going back to the Southfarthing to get any more," he remarked.
Frodo laughed. "I figured there wouldn't be a single thing you would miss about the Shire."
A look of false shock appeared on Gandalf's face. "Now what would make you think that, my dear hobbit? Of course I'll miss the Shire -- your wine and pipe-weed were renowned in Middle-earth, and the Elves certainly can't throw a party like you could." His eyes twinkled with merriment and Frodo almost fell over laughing. "Ah, so that's why you spent so much time with us!" Frodo exclaimed. They both laughed together -- it was the best laugh that Frodo had had in a very long time.
He and Gandalf had sat together until night fell, talking about old times. Once sunset had passed and night had fallen, Gandalf had left. "There is someone I wish to speak to," he had said. "I will be back shortly." Now Frodo sat, listening to the sounds of the voices around him, deep and musical with knowledge and time. The night air felt cool on his skin and a gentle breeze blew, the leaves of the willow trees flowing with it. The stars glowed above in the sky, and candles and lamps filled his vision with golden light.
Suddenly, he felt a gentle hand on his left shoulder. It paused there, and Frodo turned around to see who was touching him. A woman knelt behind him. She looked Elvish, but was different from any Elf he'd ever seen. She seemed much taller than was normal for an Elf, and she shone with a light that was so bright, her body was barely able to contain it. Her ramient was grey and embroidered with leaves that sparkled in the moonlight. The linen she wore seemed to be made of moonlight itself. Her hair was silver and it shone with a blue sheen, and her face was both wise and fair. Her eyes were closed and she looked deep in thought. She was one of the most beautiful women Frodo had ever seen.
"Lady?" Frodo whispered, trying to get her attention. She did not move, her eyes still closed deep in thought and her hand on his shoulder. She opened her eyes, which were grey as the Sea on a stormy day, and smiled at him gently. "Frodo Baggins," he heard her say, in a deep yet musical voice filled with a sense of ages past. A moment later he realized that she had never opened her mouth. He stared at her in amazement, a breath catching in his throat. Who was this woman?
Rising up and walking around him, she then knelt on the grass in front of Frodo. She took his hands into hers, his tiny hands dwarfed by her large and beautiful ones. She stroked them gently, looking at his palms and then staring deep into his eyes. Frodo remembered when the Lady Galadriel had looked at him like that, long ago in Lothlorien. He had felt naked in the sheer power of her gaze, but this time it was different. He felt nothing but love and kindness from this woman. She could see right into his soul with her wise grey eyes, but he didn't feel as if she were testing him. It seemed to Frodo that she was only curious, seeking not to judge but only understand him.
"You carry deep wounds, Frodo Baggins," he heard her say. "It will not be easy for you to be healed."
He felt tears sting his eyes and his chest burned. "Is there no hope for me, Lady?" he whispered. One slipped down his cheek, but the Lady brushed it away, laying her hand on his cheek. Her eyes were kind. She stroked his right hand, grasping his fingers, placing her thumb where his missing finger should have been. "There is always hope, Ringbearer," she said. "But you must face the darkness inside you before you can see the light."
More tears slipped down his cheeks, but the Lady brushed them away. He felt ashamed for crying in front of her. "Do not be ashamed," she said. "You have done what no other could, and you pay for it dearly. You have come so far, from everything you know, to seek what aid we can give you here. But you fear that it has been in vain."
"That is what I fear, Lady," he whispered. "Can you help me?"
"Yes," she replied. "I am Este, the Healer. I can heal all wounds and all weariness. You have been brought to me because I am the only one who can."
Valar. He remembered the word from Bilbo's and Gandalf's stories. They were the most powerful beings in Arda, the servants of Illuvatar himself, more powerful than anything he had encountered in Middle-earth. "You are Valar?" he asked. She smiled, caressing his cheek. Love emulated from her touch. Frodo had never felt a touch like hers since his mother had died. She touched him as a mother would touch her son, with all the love and tenderness a mother's hands could hold. "Yes, Frodo," she said.
Este stood up to her full height. She was indeed taller than any living being he had ever seen. He felt like a child again, staring up at his mother, thinking she was the most beautiful thing alive. "Rest for a while," she said. "Drink from my fountains and enjoy peace. I will return for you." She bent slightly and stroked his cheek again, then turned and walked away silently. Frodo watched her leave, the light of her form shining in the starlight.
Frodo spent what seemed like many days in the gardens of Lorien. Time was strange in Valinor -- it seemed to move more slowly, and some moments were filled with what seemed hours of thought. There were no seasons, only night and day, and nothing withered and died. All hours were filled with music and the sweet songs of nightengales.
There were some Elves who stayed there: some sought rest while others assisted the Valar and Maiar who dwelt there. They sang and spoke often in Quenya, the High Speech of story and song that was spoken in Valinor. Gandalf translated what they said so Frodo could understand. Some of them also spoke Sindarin, the Elven tongue of Middle-earth. Like all Elves Frodo had known, they were also fond of stories. They told many stories of both Valinor and Middle-earth, things even Bilbo had known nothing about. He walked with them and marveled at the tapestries hanging in the gardens of Lorien which told the story of the Valar before the Elves awoke. They always treated him with great respect and kindness, and some even marveled at him, never having laid eyes on a halfling. When they heard of his deeds, they admired him even more. Frodo would often blush and hang his head when they commended him, but they would just laugh at him, their voices joyful and musical.
He also spent time exploring the gardens of Lorien. Galadriel's realm in Middle-earth, that which he had thought most fair, had been a mere echo of their beauty. There were flowers in the gardens in every color he could have imagined, and fountains made of silver and marble filled with clear water that flowed endlessly. The grasses were filled with elanor, reminding him with a touch of sadness of Sam and Rose and their little daughter who would never remember him. The air was always filled with sweet scents.
Frodo was content, as content as he had been since before Bilbo had left the Shire. He missed Bilbo and often wondered what he was doing. Frodo imagined him never missing a meal, smoking his pipe in contentment and listening to the stories of the Elves. Thinking of him always brought a smile to his face.
One night, Frodo was sleeping peacefully, warm and comfortable on the soft couch the Elves had given him. He felt a gentle hand on his cheek and woke up. Este was standing in front of him, as beautiful as the reflection of the moon on the water in her fountains.
"Lady!" he said, nearly falling off the couch in his amazement and eagerness that she had returned. He tried to stand up to greet her, but his feet ended up tangled in the blankets and he had to quickly detatch himself, looking up sheepishly. She smiled at him, a look of tenderness in her grey eyes. "Have you rested, Frodo?" she asked. "Yes, Lady," he answered. "Thank you."
"I am afraid that I must take you from your rest for a while. Come with me." She placed her hand on his shoulder, wanting him to walk beside her. It took two of his small steps to keep up with her wide ones, but she did not hurry. He did not ask her questions, but enjoyed the feeling of the soft grass on his feet, cool with the night air.
After a few miles, they reached a clearing in the trees where a low circular stone building sat. They entered it through an archway and stood on the grass in the courtyard. In the center sat a beautifully carved pedestal. A silver basin of water sat on it. There were lamps all around the building that glowed with gentle candlelight. Two servants, a male and a female, stood by the pedestal and nodded their heads when Este came into view. There was a tall man with them. He was easily Este's height, if not taller, and he had long dark hair and grey eyes. Like Este, he looked Elvish, but was different from the Elves Frodo knew. He was dressed in beautiful silver robes and smiled slightly at Frodo.
"Frodo, look at me," he heard Este say beside him. He turned around to face her and looked up at her, a slight smile on his face. She smiled softly at him, a look of pity in her eyes. She touched him on his cheeks and whispered a few soft words. Suddenly, Frodo felt weak and he swayed. Este caught him as darkness swept over him and he fell.
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.