5. The Gate
Bilbo greeted them absently, as if he’d seen them only yesterday. He sat in a small, round room like the inside of a shell, the colors blurring from deep coral on the floor to a translucent white at the ceiling, so the light from outside filtered in. The doorway was low and their guide did not attempt to enter, bending down to say, “I’ve brought you some little cousins, Bilbo. Help them find their way around, won’t you?”
“Yes, yes, as soon as I finish this bit of music. Thank you, yes, they’ll be fine with me. Hullo, Merry, Pippin. Just sit down, will you, while I finish this.”
Merry raised an eyebrow at Pippin and gave an exaggerated sigh. Then he advanced on Bilbo and extricated him from his place behind a small desk of polished wood, pulling him into a proper hug.
“First, you say hello to me, Cousin Bilbo! And then you say hello to Pippin – go on! It’s been quite a while, you know! And now you can get on with your work – what are you doing, anyway?”
He leaned over the papers on the desk. They were covered with some kind of squiggly notation that made no sense to him.
“It’s music, my boy, a new song. It’s almost done; just be patient for a little while, there's a good lad.” He sat back down and rifled through his papers, adding a mark here and there, humming an odd, compelling melody under his breath.
Pippin took Merry by the elbow and drew him to the door.
“Leave him alone – he’ll get done that much faster." They stepped outside and stood leaning against the wall by Bilbo's door, shoulder to shoulder. It was good, very good, to be together.
Merry looked around, trying to take everything in. There was light, a radiance of light that shimmered and danced on every surface, yet didn’t hurt his eyes. It almost seemed alive, that light, teasing him, making him want to laugh and shout, to run and leap over things and turn handsprings down the street.
Handsprings? He smiled to himself. Well, he used to be able to do them – when he was about ten! Why did he feel as if he still could? He glanced at Pippin from the corner of his eye, and was tempted. It would be funny to see Pip's face…….
This street wasn’t crowded like the other. A horse trotted by, ridden by one of the bright Messengers. A small boy sat in the middle of the pavement, a brilliant yellow bird perched on his hand. He seemed to be talking to it, then without warning they both burst into song, boy and bird together. It was Bilbo’s melody, suddenly focused and clear, and it pierced Merry's heart, brought the tears to his eyes again. He wanted something, oh how he wanted it! but he didn’t know what it was.
He turned to Pippin with tears running down his face.
“Come on, Merry,” Pippin said softly. “I know what you need.”
He led him down the street, past the singing boy and out onto a broad thoroughfare. There they stopped for a moment, and Pippin watched to see which way the crowd was moving. The hobbits joined the flow, Pippin’s hand on Merry’s shoulder, steering him. Finally they stopped, and he gave his cousin a little shove forward.
“Now, Merry,” he said.
Merry looked up and into the heart of his deepest fear and his deepest longing, and the tears came in a flood, blinding him. He fell on his knees, reaching out, groping with his hands, and his hands were caught and he was swung up into someone’s arms, weeping on someone’s shoulder.
He cried, and then he looked up, bleary eyed, and smiled. “I've been waiting for you, Meriadoc,” whispered Iluvatar’s Son, and Merry laughed out loud and hugged Him around the neck.
He was set down, then, but he held tight to the Son’s hand, and Pippin grabbed him on the other side. The Son began to lead them down the street, in and out through the crowd. They passed Bilbo’s door again, and Bilbo ran out, pushing between Merry and the Son, taking both their hands. The Son smiled down at him, and Bilbo cleared his throat and began to sing the song he had been humming, strong and clear. After a moment’s hesitation, Pippin joined in, then Merry, and they continued down the thoroughfare, singing all together, with the Son in the lead, pulling them along.
Someone broke in between Pippin and Merry, gripping their hands firmly. Pippin looked up – way up – and it was Boromir. Boromir! He lost the melody for a moment in his astounded joy. Boromir squeezed his hand.
“Well met, Peregrin Took!” he said, and his deep voice joined the song. Pippin took a breath and found his place in the music again.
Other people kept breaking into the line, Big People and Little alike. The boy with the bird ran up, the bird perched on his head now, and found a place the other side of Merry. Frodo appeared suddenly and slid between Bilbo and the Son, gazing into His face with shining eyes. But before he could begin to sing, his face clouded over and he looked down. His thumb had found the deep wound in the Son’s hand, and he stroked it thoughtfully.
The song rose around them, but Frodo couldn’t sing.
“Why?” he asked urgently. “My hand is healed now – why aren’t yours?”
The Son’s voice was quiet, for him alone. “These are the marks of my Quest, Frodo, a sign to everyone who sees me. As your finger was, also – a loss to yourself, but to Middle Earth it was great gain. But it grieved you, and I would not have you grieved; therefore your hand is whole now. Do you wish to carry your mark again?”
“No! Please, no. Your marks can count for mine as well – mine was only a little part of your Great Quest, really.”
“It was.” The Son leaned down and kissed him quickly on the brow. “Go now, Frodo. Get to the end of the line, and be ready.”
Ready? Never mind. Frodo slipped out and the gap closed up as Bilbo linked hands with the Son again. He stood and let the line pass him by – it was long now, a hundred or more, children and grown-ups, hobbits and men and women. Estella had Merry's hand now, and he thought it wouldn't be long before Diamond found Pippin. The singing was rich and full, and the line dipped and twisted as it passed through the crowd on the street. It had become a dance, a long chain of dancers. Pippin was at the tail end, and Frodo latched on and began to sing at last, wondering what he was to be ready for.
Sam and Rosie walked hand in hand through the City, but he only half saw its wonders. His eyes flew to every small figure they passed, but it was never Frodo.
He said I would see him, he thought. He promised.
They came at last to one of the gates, and he blinked and shook his head in disbelief, stroking the cool luster of pearl.
“It’s not possible, you know, lass. They don’t come this big.”
She laughed and wrapped her arms around his waist. “And how would you know how big a pearl can be, Sam Gamgee?”
He had no answer for that, and he stood in her arms by the open gate, staring out to the horizon. It seemed as if the whole world was spread out before him, mountains and prairies, woodlands and immense lakes whose blue reflected back a boundless depth of sky.
It’s not possible, he thought again. Not even an Elf can see the whole earth in one look-see. He clung to Rosie, burying his face in her hair, feeling the solid reality of her, afraid in case he woke up and she vanished away.
"Oh, Sam, it’s not a dream! Nothing is impossible here, nothing,” she said. "Listen!"
There was a sound of singing, far away at first, then coming nearer. He listened, remembering the music that woke him under the trees. This morning, was it, or a month ago? He hadn’t understood the words then, but he understood this song.
Nothing is impossible,
With Him all things are possible,
Nothing is impossible with God!
The singers came sweeping around the corner, Iluvatar’s Son in the lead. He laughed and stretched out his hand. Sam reached out and the Son slapped his hand as He went by, dancing at the head of a long chain of dancers.
“Come along, Samwise, Rosie! Catch on at the end!”
He went out the gate and down into the world beyond, and His chain of dancers followed Him. The music flowed around Sam and swept over him like the waves of the sea, and the dancers passed by him, through the gate, hundreds and hundreds of them, Big People and hobbits alike. And he stood waiting.
The line had nearly all passed now. Here was the last dancer, not singing, but laughing and holding out his hand. Sam looked, and looked again, and their eyes met and held.
“Come on, Sam!” Frodo called to him, his hand outstretched. “What are you waiting for? Come on!”
Sam ran, pulling Rosie after him. He caught Frodo’s hand, and the music pulsed through their clasped hands and into his feet and through his other hand to Rose. Music and joy, laughter and love, coursed from the Son through all the chain of dancers, uniting them with each other and with Him. The hobbits kept pace, at the very end of the chain, caught up in a rollicking joy that held no shadow of the past. And Sam began to sing.
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.