23. Epilogue: Full Circle (cont)
The journey to Valinor took almost two months but unlike the last return home, there was an underlying atmosphere of tension running through all of them at being so close in proximity to David Saeran’s comatose form. The dark lord remained in his limbo state, kept under tight scrutiny by both Gandalf and Aaron who ensured all the medical equipment attached to the man kept him harmless. Gandalf assured Aaron that if Sauron even to show even the slightest hint of stirring, the Maia would know first. However, that still did not alleviate Aaron’s discomfort at having the man so close. They were on a vessel in the middle of the ocean; it was hardly the place to combat David Saeran if he chose to awake.
Strangely enough, the only person who had little difficulty being in his company other than Gandalf was Fred. The child had kept her visits to the former Lord of Mordor a secret because she knew Bryan and Tory would not be happy about it. However, she was determined to see him nonetheless. While she was certain Gandalf knew of her visits because he was a great wizard like Professor Dumbledore and even Harry Potter could never hide anything from him. Still, Gandalf never made mention of it to her. Fred would enter the room at night, when everyone thought she was in bed and see the enemy lying on the bed, oblivious to everything including her presence.
Then Fred would close her eyes and go to sleep in the big chair because when she did, she could hear him.
She could hear Saeran or rather Sauron.
He was still there inside his head but only when she was near like this. Fred would visit him in his cage, peering through walls and walls of bars that surrounded him as he struggled helplessly in his prison. Sometimes he would curse at her and tell her all the terrible things he would do to her but Fred was not afraid. She was no longer afraid because she had experienced him in the reality and in the strange limbo where they could speak, his words no longer had any power over her. She would simply stare at him with a little smile, knowing that her presence would serve to make him angrier and his impotent threats were as sweet as the vengeance he had meant to exact from her. Fred would remain there for a time, listening to him rant and rave before withdrawing once again, leaving him with a parting farewell that was a sharp as any blade.
"Tomorrow," she would say and he would scream in despair and fury because he knew he would be there waiting.
He could go nowhere else.
Valinor did not fail to disappoint when Bryan and Tory arrived on the shores of the Undying lands after entering the Bay of Eldamar. From the moment they had stepped on the island, they were swept up in a world beyond their reckoning. He was apparently known to the elves and though he had reconciled himself to the fact that he was once Boromir of Gondor, meeting people who only knew of his previous incarnation was rather daunting. With Legolas and Haldir, it had been easier to endure since he had formed a kinship with them. One did not go through what they did together without forging lasting friendships even if Legolas had extended it to him initially because of whom he had been.
An elven artist had committed to canvas images of the third age and Bryan saw for the first time the Fellowship that Legolas and Gandalf spoke so fondly about. He recognized Aragorn Elessar immediately, although it was difficult to identify the worn adventurer, with his long hair and unshaven face, with the man he knew as Aaron Stone. Gandalf and Legolas appeared the same. The dwarf Gimli, whom Legolas spoke of in quiet tones, brought a smile to Bryan’s face because he could imagine the man being quite the bruiser. He could not imagine two unlikelier companions but the grief he saw in Legolas eyes spoke differently.
It took some getting used to seeing Fred as Frodo Baggins. The Ringbearer who had destroyed the One Ring looked fragile even for a hobbit. Sad blue eyes that Bryan knew all too well stared at him and though the image reflected was unmistakably masculine and considerably older than the little girl whose life he had almost died to protect, there was no mistaking the connection. The dark hair, the blue eyes that seemed to capture light and even the delicately shaped features, all of it was Frodo Baggins but it was also Fred Bailey.
However it was not as much of surprise when he sighted the rest of the hobbits. For a minute he thought he was seeing things but he knew he wasn’t. It all fit in with Eve’s crazy theory about cosmic turntables and how fate seemed to throw the same people together. He supposed he was going to have to take Fred to see his nephews, one day since they were not strangers, at least not in this life. The final member of the Fellowship was the one he had delayed most seeing. However, curiosity got the better of him and Bryan found himself looking at the image of Boromir of Gondor.
The first thing that struck Bryan about Boromir, were his eyes. Physically, they were identical but Boromir seemed so tired. In all the years that Bryan had been in the service, he never thought he had ever been so worn down. Legolas had explained that Boromir had sacrificed almost all aspects of a life to defend his people and when Bryan looked into the man’s eyes he could well believe it. All he knew was war and the constant threat that Gondor would be attacked by the enemies in Mordor. Bryan wondered what it would be like to be weighted with that kind of responsibility and found that upon seeing the portrait, was able to understand his Middle Earth incarnation a little better.
Despite the emotional upheavals he endured, Valinor was still an amazing place and as they made their way to the city of Tirion where most of the Noldor elves lived, including Elrond, Legolas and Galadriel, the lady to whom Haldir had pledged his life to serve, Bryan could not help feeling completely overwhelmed. Fortunately, he had good friends who made the transition easier and he was never more grateful to Aaron than at that first few days in the enchanted land because the doctor had been in exactly the same predicament himself more than a year ago. Aaron was more than happy to explain things to both he and Tory while Fred, unsurprisingly accepted her new surroundings with the ease that came naturally with being a child.
At Tirion, Aaron and Eve returned to the house of Elrond whom Aaron had explained to be the father of Eve’s previous incarnation. He met her brothers Elladan and Elrohir and got on famously with the latter who had missed terribly the opportunity to go abroad and wanted to know all the news of the modern world. Bryan decided to introduce him to Yorkshire beer instead. Legolas and his wife Ariel, one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, offered Bryan, Tory and Fred the hospitality of new home for as long as they liked. This was followed by the news that work would begin immediately on constructing a home for the Ringbearer and her guardians. Aside from the fact that children were rare and were therefore a delight to all elves, it appeared that they had not forgotten the service of Frodo Baggins to the fate of world in the Third Age.
For all time, the Ringbearer would have a place in Valinor.
In the meantime, Gandalf travelled to the other side of the island after the Valar’s judgement decreed that the David Saeran should be imprisoned in the halls of Mandos for the span of his mortal life, the termination of which would see a new sentence for his non-corporeal self. It was the first time a captive had been brought to Mandos since before the First Age. Melkor’s lieutenant, though not one of the outcast Valar, was no less dangerous. The Valar were reluctant to obliterate him as they had done so irrevocably to his master almost a year ago but neither were they going to allow him the opportunity to escape that Melkor had taken when they had dared to be merciful.
As long as he existed, Sauron would know imprisonment.
In the meantime, Elrond received the new of Eve’s wedding plans with great pleasure and for the excitement of their return home was replaced by the fanfare of a wedding. Although Aaron and Eve had wanted something simple, there was no way they were going to take the most important vows of their lives with any minimum of extravagance. Celebrian had firmly declared that they were going to get the wedding she deserved since she been absent for the nuptials of Aragorn and Arwen Evenstar in the Third Age and her patience was a well dry, waiting for either Elladan or Elrohir to wed.
Elrond’s efforts to intercede on their behalf were met with a stern glare before the lady returned to her planning.
The wedding when it finally came was a grand affair indeed. It appeared that just about everyone in Tirion was in attendance with people dancing in the streets, singing, drinking, although in Bryan’s opinion the quality of elven draughts were not that dissimilar from American beer and once again, was grateful that he had his own store. The couple were wedded in fairy tale splendour, with flower petals streaming through the air as they walked to what was the elvish equivalent of a wedding march. The ceremony seemed to involve a great feast celebrated by the bride and groom’s family and an exchange of rings.
Aaron appeared decidedly uncomfortable in the clothes he was given to wear but put up with it to please his new mother in law who had become quite insane in the weeks leading to the actual ceremony. Bryan did not envy him and no amount of cajoling by Legolas or Ariel, (Tory had good sense not to bother) would convince him to wear anything that looked remotely burgundy or came in a robe, to attend the festivities. Eve however looked nothing like the tough woman who had fought the Nine and Uruk Hai at his side on her wedding day. For the first time since he arrived in Valinor, he actually saw her resembling the Evenstar whose portrait hung in Elrond’s house. She was easily the most beautiful woman, elf or human that anyone had ever seen and when Aaron looked at her, it was obvious to everyone that he thought the same too.
"Well you’re married now," Bryan congratulated him after the formal part of the festivities was concluded. Guests were now free to move about and Aaron had taken a moment away from Eve who was surrounded by a gaggle of women including Ariel and Tory, to catch his breath after the heady events.
"Yeah," Aaron looked around at the faces gathered and said with a completely straight face, "we should have eloped."
"Your mother in-law would have disembowelled you before you even reached the door," Legolas remarked standing next to him.
"I know," Aaron nodded in agreement as she saw Celebrian presiding over the celebrations, trying to make everything perfect and thoroughly enjoying it at the same time.
"Fortunately," Elrohir grinned, "she will now leave us alone for a century or two before she feels it necessary to find harass us into finding a mate again. I am certain it is the wedding she likes more than either of us marrying."
"That’s women for you," Bryan laughed but he was enjoying this occasion a great deal more than he cared to admit. Who would have thought that he could be happy in an elven paradise?
Suddenly, Gandalf who had been talking to Elrond and Galadriel captured the attention of all the revellers when he stood up from his seat at the table and called for quiet. The rumble of merrymaking guests soon simmered into nothingness as everyone turned their gaze to the respected messenger of Manwe as well as one of their greatest heroes. Gandalf who was now dressed in white looked very much the herald of the Valar as his playful gaze made contact with Aaron and Eve in quick succession and began speaking in his usual commanding tone.
"It has been my privilege to be partially responsible for the presence of the celebrants of this happy occasion among us. Aaron and Eve have come to us from the world beyond, the world we left behind, having risked life and limb to banish the threat, twice now, of great evil. First in the form of Morgoth, where Aaron allowed me to return home and for which I will be eternally grateful and our most recent adventures in bringing Sauron to justice."
A low murmur of agreement and applause followed which made Aaron feel like disappearing into the ground and as he met Eve’s gaze, could see that she was similarly embarrassed by the flush of red across her cheeks.
"I wish your union all the happiness that can be afforded in this life and all others in the future. I have no doubt that you two will find each other whatever the age."
The round of enthusiastic applause forced Eve to join Aaron and he took her hand warmly as they listened to the rest of Gandalf’s toast.
"However, I speak not only on this occasion to present my best wishes for my friends but also because of duty. I am not alone in wishing to express myself on this joyous occasion."
He appeared to them a man in his late fifties, dignified in his appearance, a stature of greatness and beauty that could not be defined in any earthly sense. Aaron had thought him to be one of Elrond’s kin because he was treated with great respect and reverence. He reminded Aaron a little of Sean Connery but more regal in a way that could not be truly explained simply felt. It appeared only Galadriel was unsurprised by Gandalf’s statement while the others who now knew who he was, dropped their heads in reverence.
It took no feat of genius to realise that Gandalf’s master had decided to make a personal appearance at his wedding and as Aaron found himself staring at a living god, the Valar called Manwe, he understood why Saeran had been such an upstart. After seeing the real thing, Aaron would never again be duped by an impostor claiming to be a god or a demi-god for that matter.
"I offer you my fond greetings to you Aaron, bearer of the soul that was once Aragorn Elessar, the Elfstone and to you my dear," he gazed warmly at Eve, his voice was lyrical and very much a component of the Great Music. "Eve, who was once Arwen Evenstar, who proved so poignantly that love tolerates no barriers, not between elf nor humankind, life or death. It pleases me and mine greatly to know that you are now with your kin. For long years, I have seen your father’s sorrow and it is to the grace of Iluvutar that we at last know that the souls of men have their own immortality for you are now returned to us."
Aaron wondered if he was being presumptuous but he sensed that Manwe had not appeared at his wedding simply to offer a wedding toast, there was more to this appearance than met the eye.
"Your arrival in Valinor was the breaking of an oath made long ago that no man should step upon the shores of the Undying Land for yours was a fate not known to us when you passed and we feared interfering in Iluvutar’s plan for you. Of late, I think that perhaps we may have been hasty in this decision to leave man to his fate because like all of us, you are also his children and we, the Valar, would be remiss to care for one child while ignoring the other. Thus, from this day forth all of Iluvutar’s children will be welcome on this shores."
The statement was a shocking one because no one was certain of what it really meant. Fortunately, Manwe knew his audience and began to address the questions running furiously through the minds of all present.
"We will not be lowering the barrier that separates us from the world of men," Manwe said first and foremost, sensing that was the main point of concern. "We will remain as we have but should the men who learn of us choose to return to these lands, we will receive them. Long ago, the Enchanted Isles were built to protect us from Melkor but now that Melkor is no more and we exist in a different plane, there is no need for such protection and those lands can be used to build new cities if there are enough men in this realm to warrant it."
"This is big," Aaron whispered in Eve’s ear.
"No kidding," Eve answered in turn and fell silent again because Manwe was not finished.
"However, we have not forgotten the Eldar who have been our Children for many ages, who have given us joy and delight in their very presence here. Though many of you are happy and content to live as you always had, there is a danger in any race becoming too complacent in its existence. From the very beginning you have proved your ability to rise to any challenge, to defeat the evils of the Melkor and remain true to teachings we have instilled in you. You have graced us with starlight and we love you as we would love the children of our own bodies. As the Valar, we may go where we wish when we wish. The barrier separates our world from what lies beyond but we are not constrained by it. You however, are.
Many have been born since the last of you returned from Arda who know nothing else of the realm beyond and crave the challenges of their forebears. So we have chosen to allow the Eldar to sail once more the Straight Road, to journey once again to Arda if they will. We must do this for you to grow as a race. For we have learnt of late that there is more to living than simple existence, to go from one day to another without change. This was not Iluvutar’s plan and we will no longer perpetuate this circle of stagnancy. We sought to protect you but even children must grow and it is only for our own selfishness that we bind you here. Valinor will always be your home but to those of you who wish it, it is does not necessarily have to be your entire world."
Aaron swept his gaze at the faces present and saw that the reaction to this momentous decision was mixed. There was joy and fear, shock and excitement. He stared at Eve and knew that their life here was going to take on a whole new meaning and Bryan was wearing a smile on his face, no doubt imagining the effect of elves walking in the world again. Aaron doubted that the interaction would be overt at first because elves knew how to be discreet. However one day, mankind would be ready to see the starlight again and when he was, it would be the beginning of a new age.
An age of rediscovery.
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.