4. The Bent Seas
Frodo stared at Elrond, aghast.
“If he had told me… if I had known…”
“He preferred that you did not know, Frodo.” Elrond smiled at the mortified hobbit. “Círdan wished to speak with you as a friend only.”
“But…” Frodo looked up once more at the brilliant, glittering light low in the evening sky. “He built… he…”
“He did.” Elrond put his arm around the hobbit and followed his gaze. “Vingilot, it is said, is the fairest ship ever built -- hallowed by the Valar, it is steered through skies and pathless void, in voyages unending.”
“By your father,” Frodo murmured in awe.
Frodo still couldn’t quite grasp it all. The kind, gentle Elf who had befriended him -- Círdan of the Havens, a simple shipwright, he had said -- had built the ship that sailed in the skies above them, helmed by Eärendil himself? Eärendil’s star -- the only Silmaril that would ever be seen again -- captured in the very phial that had seen him through a darkness unimaginable. He shivered with a sudden chill, and gratefully let Elrond drape a blanket around him.
“Does he know you’re coming? Your mother, does she know?”
“I am certain of it,” Elrond said quietly. “Círdan gathers and sends news through many sources, and I do not doubt that they know.” He smiled at the hobbit. “…as they know you are coming, as well.”
Frodo sighed. That was far too grand a concept to even think about.
“Do you remember them?”
“Not very well,” Elrond murmured, “but I will know them.”
“And your wife,” Frodo whispered, “you will join her at last?”
“Yes,” Elrond said softly. “At last.”
Elrond, Frodo, and Gildor were sitting together at the prow of the ship, holding onto the carefully strung ropes that were all that kept them from tumbling off the ship into the dark waters below. Frodo loved this spot, and he often came to watch, in endless delight, the friendly fish that frolicked unending, and the foamy water being churned by the bow, and the Sea itself, singing and soothing and ever-changing. Day after day, he never grew tired of watching, and listening, and letting the presence of the Sea calm him. Bilbo sometimes joined him, or one or more of the many Elves who roamed the ship, joy and stars ever-shining in their eyes. This evening Elrond and Gildor had come to sit with him.
“What is Tol Eressëa like?” asked Frodo.
“It is said to be a place of wonder,” Gildor spoke, “with gardens and flowers, and towns of great beauty and peace. The Light of Aman in its glory can be seen and felt, shining through the Calacirya, as it bathes the Island and lifts every heart in song.”
“Aman would be too bright for me, wouldn’t it?” Frodo asked with a sigh.
“Yes, Frodo, it would,” Elrond said gently, “at least, at first. But to the Blessed Isle you, and other mortals, may go in safety, and live in peace.”
“The Elves of Tol Eressëa will welcome you with joy,” Gildor assured Frodo. “They will delight in speech with you, especially as your words grow more fluid by the day.”
“I doubt many in the Blessed Realm speak the Common Tongue!” Frodo laughed merrily. “I am learning more Elvish only just in time!”
Frodo had insisted that the Elves stop speaking to him in the Common Tongue, unless urgency demanded it. His Elvish had never been as good as Bilbo’s, even before the old hobbit’s long residency in Rivendell had sharpened it, but he was learning quickly.
“Your pronunciation is even better than when we met,” said Gildor with a smile. “I have never forgotten that night.”
“Nor have I,” Frodo said quietly. Another chill shook him, and he drew the blanket closer, unaware that Elrond was watching him carefully. “You did not know it, Gildor, but I believe the presence of you and your party drove off a wraith that was following us.”
“I sensed you were being pursued, Frodo. To know that one of the wraiths was near must have…”
Wraiths. Pursued. Gildor’s words faded as Frodo found his gaze pulled down, down into the frothing, churning water. He had crossed the river at last, but the Bruinen was flooding, crashing… it would sweep him away along with the wraiths, but that was all right. He was so tired… tired of resisting and fighting, and tired of the pain and the cold… No, he had to fight, there was still hope. So cold…
“Frodo?” Gildor suddenly realized that Frodo’s face had suddenly gone very pale, and he seemed mesmerized by the water, almost entranced. “Frodo, do you hear me?”
“Gildor, find Mithrandir and Galadriel, and bring them to Frodo’s cabin,” Elrond said quickly. As Gildor leaped to his feet and departed, Elrond grasped the hobbit’s chin in one hand and gazed worriedly into blue eyes suddenly frightened and unfocused.
Frodo gasped as he realized that a shadowy figure was bending over him. They couldn’t have it, no, they wouldn’t get it… One of them had hold of him and was calling his name, over and over. How did they know his name? He had to get away!
Elrond nearly lost his grip as Frodo tried to break free of the blanket that restrained him. Fearing that he would tumble overboard, the Elf lord wrapped both arms around the struggling hobbit and tried to calm him, but it was obvious that Frodo did not recognize him, and no longer knew where he was.
“No, no,” Frodo whispered brokenly, “don’t… please…” Suddenly he clutched his left arm in agony. He tried to scream, but the churning, dark waters were dragging him down…
Elrond rose to his feet, the stricken hobbit held securely in his arms. He carefully made his way across the deck and descended the spiraling, bejeweled staircase that led belowdecks, to the sleeping rooms. Elves that he passed were distressed to realize that the respected Ring-bearer, always laughing and shining with a clear light, had indeed fallen ill, as had been feared.
“He has a fever, that came on suddenly. He no longer knew us, and seemed to be in great pain and distress.” Elrond had settled Frodo in his bed and covered him with several warm, thick blankets.
Gandalf nodded, and pressed his hand to Frodo’s brow; he was indeed hot, but shivered with chill.
“It is good we were with him,” Gildor murmured. He set on a table the mug of hot tea Elrond had sent him to prepare. “We stayed near all day, although I do not believe he suspected anything. As the evening progressed, I was hopeful that the day would pass without incident.”
“As was I,” Gandalf agreed. “But it was at night, on this date, that the Morgul blade struck him, and somehow the memory of that cursed blade strikes at him yet again.”
Galadriel sat on the bed and tucked the blankets around Frodo, then gently pulled the semi-conscious, delirious hobbit into her arms, murmuring gentle words.
Elrond sat next to her, and reached inside Frodo’s shirt to draw out the chain holding his daughter’s gem. He closed one of Frodo’s hands upon it, and the hobbit sighed and became less restless.
“Does he know what this is?” asked Galadriel, motioning to the necklace.
“I do not think so,” Elrond replied. “This small piece of Valinor has been slowly weaving its song through Frodo’s essence.” A small smile touched his lips. “I was surprised that Arwen could part with it, but she told me that she and Aragorn will sing a new song together. She gave Frodo a gift no mortal could ever have imagined.”
“If he draws such comfort from one small gem from the glittering shores of Aman,” Galadriel said softly, “he will know joy indeed in the Blessed Realm, surrounded always by the very energy and song that he wears about his neck.”
Elrond nodded. “Once free of Middle-earth, I doubt he will ever again know illness -- only peace.”
“What…” Frodo slowly opened his eyes, startled to find himself in the arms of the Lady of Light.
“You are safe, Frodo,” Galadriel said softly. “You will soon be well.” She picked up the mug and brought it to Frodo’s lips, urging him to drink.
“Thank you, Lady,” Frodo whispered. His shoulder ached, and he was cold despite the blankets. “I did not realize what day it was.” He tried to sit up, fighting against the weariness pulling at him. “I’ll be fine, you don’t have to---”
“Frodo,” Gandalf reassured him, “One of us will be with you until morning. You are no burden, dear boy.”
Elrond took the mug from Galadriel and urged Frodo to take a few more sips. “Let sleep take you, Frodo, and do not fear. I do not believe any shadows will follow you into the dreams our songs will weave for you.”
Frodo nodded and stopped struggling, his eyelids growing heavy. “Thank you. I… that tea is very…” He sighed and relaxed, his eyes fluttering shut, the Lady’s arms still encircling him. Soon he was deeply asleep.
Gandalf sank into a chair and gazed thoughtfully at Frodo.
“If we had by now sailed far enough to reach the Straight Road, I doubt he would be this ill, if at all.”
“I agree,” Galadriel said. “Middle-earth does not easily release him.”
“When the Seas bend, and we continue on…” Elrond mused.
“He must be prepared,” Galadriel said firmly, “as must Bilbo.”
“We still do not know, for certain, what will happen,” Elrond reminded her. “The Straight Road, so it is said, is a journey that mortal flesh unaided cannot endure.”
“That is true,” Gandalf agreed, “but Manwë would not have put aside the ancient ban without making provision for the Secondborn to pass from Middle-earth unhindered.”
Elrond lightly touched Frodo’s face. The hobbit was still fevered, but in a restful sleep.
“I will stay with him,” Galadriel said softly.
“As will I,” said Gildor. He took Frodo from the Lady’s arms and settled him back in bed, making sure he was well covered.
As Elrond and Gandalf left for a time, Galadriel quietly began to sing of Valinor, the melody sweet and calming, and the concerned Elves outside the Ring-bearer’s door smiled to hear it.
** TBC **
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.