5. The Straight Road
He felt a cool wind in his face, and took a deep breath of fresh, salt-Sea air. Close to his ear a dear, familiar voice murmured, “Come, Frodo-lad, it’s time to wake up.”
Frodo opened his eyes to discover that he was wrapped in warm blankets and lying on one of the large, soft cushions laid down along the white deck of the ship. He stretched and sat up, a bit disoriented, finding that Gandalf sat on one side of him and Bilbo on the other. There were quite a few Elves standing about nearby, and, as each saw with relief that the Ring-bearer had recovered, he or she nodded and smiled at Frodo, then walked off.
“Good morning, Frodo. You’re feeling better, I see,” Gandalf said.
“Yes,” Frodo yawned. “I had the nicest dream -- about the Shire. Rather, it felt like the Shire, only more wonderful. Everything was so green and fresh, and there was light everywhere, and the air smelled of flowers… even the flowers were lit up.” He sighed. “There were waterfalls higher than the ones in Rivendell, so beautiful, and the waters seemed to be singing…”
“That is hardly the Shire I remember,” Bilbo chuckled.
“You are correct, Bilbo,” said Gandalf thoughtfully. “He is describing the western side of Tol Eressëa.”
“Am I?” Frodo asked, surprised. He gazed out at the sunlit Sea, still pink from the rising sun, and smiled. “It must be a truly beautiful place.”
“It is, indeed.”
“I suppose I will have very little time to enjoy it,” sighed Bilbo, “but I have already lived longer than any other hobbit, and do not begrudge a day of it.”
“You may enjoy it longer than you think,” said Galadriel as she came to join them. She sat gracefully next to Bilbo, and several Elves placed bowls of fruit and fresh breads before them.
“How are you feeling, Frodo?”
“I am well, thank you, Lady,” Frodo looked up at her with a grateful smile. “There was pain, and cold, and bitter memories, but then… you were singing, I think, and the darkness lifted, and I remember only wonderful dreams.”
“It is our hope that you will not know such an illness again.” Galadriel’s golden hair sparkled in the sunlight as if gems had been set within it.
“That is my hope, as well,” Frodo said.
“What did you mean when you said I may enjoy the Island longer than I think?” Bilbo asked her.
“It has to do with how the flow of time is perceived,” Galadriel explained. “You felt it, Frodo, most strongly in Lórien, I believe… do you recall that weeks would pass and seem like days?”
“Yes,” Frodo agreed, choosing a sweet apple. “We all noticed that.”
“I believe you will experience it even more strongly in the Blessed Realm,” continued Galadriel, “for what I was able to bestow upon the Golden Wood, through Nenya, was but an echo of Eldamar. In the West, time indeed passes, but gently, and largely unnoticed. Immortality is not one of the gifts any may bestow on the Secondborn, but I suspect that you will live among us in peace and joy for longer than you may have thought.”
“I should hope so,” Bilbo chuckled. “An island that beautiful, and with such a long history, will need to be explored from one end to the other by two adventurous hobbits, wouldn’t you say so, my lad?”
Frodo smiled and put an arm around Bilbo. He doubted that any realm, however, blessed, would return any measure of youth or vigor to his beloved uncle -- but whatever time they would have together, they would have.
“I will go adventuring with you, Bilbo,” Frodo murmured, “for as long as you wish it.” He was struck by a sudden thought. “Lady, if Sam should ever choose to sail…”
“…then you will certainly be there to greet him,” Galadriel replied, perceiving his unspoken question. She smiled. “Should Samwise someday recognize in his heart the song of his new home, and follow it, then you will see him again.”
“I am glad,” Frodo said softly.
It was not yet dawn, perhaps a week after his illness, when Frodo was awakened by Gildor kneeling beside his bed.
“Is something wrong?” Frodo asked, sitting up. He thought the Elf seemed nervous, or holding in check a great excitement.
“I am sorry to wake you,” Gildor said. “You need to join us on deck, Frodo. Gandalf has already awakened Bilbo.”
Frodo rose and quickly drew on some clothes, then preceded Gildor up the winding stairway. The mithril and jewels that decorated the ship glittered in the starlight to such an extent that no other lights were required by which to see his way. Arriving at the vast deck, Frodo saw that it was crowded; nearly everyone aboard, it seemed, appeared to be already there -- standing, or sitting, or singing softly -- all, it seemed, waiting for something.
Gildor steered Frodo through the crowd to where Elrond and Gandalf were sitting. Gandalf had a very sleepy Bilbo on his lap, and Elrond motioned for Frodo to sit between him and the wizard. Gildor sat down near them, and bowed his head.
“What’s happening?” Frodo whispered. He could see that Galadriel stood alone at the prow, her hair streaming behind her in the wind, gazing into the West.
‘You are just in time,” Elrond replied. He took one of Frodo’s hands in his large one, one finger unobtrusively resting against the hobbit’s pulse point, and smiled down at the hobbit.
“Do you feel it, Frodo? Close your eyes…”
Frodo did so, but felt nothing more than the ever-present motion of the ship, and the wind in his hair. He was about to open his eyes when Galadriel’s pure voice rose in a clear, joyous song, and a wave of dizziness suddenly came over him. For a moment he found it difficult to breathe, and he felt Elrond’s arms surround him.
“Breathe, Frodo,” Elrond murmured, “breathe… relax… just listen…”
Frodo clung to the Elf lord, and listened, and began to feel… something… from directly ahead, from the West… It rushed at him, and through him, in a cascade of light, and music, and warmth. It was joyous peace, and acceptance, and a chorus of welcoming voices. He felt safe, and loved, and so suddenly happy that he wondered if he would at any moment burst with joy.
Frodo didn’t realize he was crying until he felt the Elf lord’s gentle hand on his face.
“Ah,” Elrond murmured to the hobbit. “It has been long, has it not, since you have felt like this?”
“Not since…” Frodo, his eyes still tightly closed, could hardly speak. “Not since I was a child, Lord Elrond -- a very, very young child -- before I knew anything of fear, or grief, or emptiness.”
“There is none of that any longer, not for you,” said the Elf Lord, and he and Gandalf exchanged a look of relief. Whatever aid mortals might once have required to pass into the West, they needed no longer. The Straight Road had been opened.
“I don’t want this to end,” murmured Frodo.
“It will not,” Elrond assured him. “Understand this, Frodo -- you fled the Shire with the Ring out of love for your land, and its people, and accomplished things beyond imagining. You loved the Shire, Frodo, but when you returned, it did not return your devotion; it did not cherish, honor, or wrap you to its heart. If it had, you would not have chosen to sail, I suspect.”
“No,” Frodo whispered, opening his eyes at last, “perhaps not.”
“And so, you found the courage to leave the Shire for a second time,” Elrond continued, “in search of healing and peace -- in search of your true home -- that place and energy that would welcome and recognize you.”
Abruptly the wind ceased, the only sound now the soft, joyous singing of the Elves grouped around them.
Frodo wiped his face and looked around. “What is it?”
“At this moment,” said Elrond softly, “beneath this ship, at this very spot, we are leaving the bent Seas behind us and continuing on the Straight Road, toward Aman.”
“Leaving the Seas behind? You never spoke about this,” Frodo said.
“We knew not, truly, what would happen when we reached this spot,” Gandalf said.
“You mean, what would happen… to Bilbo and me?”
“Yes -- and to other mortals yet to journey West.”
“Bilbo, are you all right?”
“Right as rain, my lad.” Bilbo rested in Gandalf’s arms, looking peaceful and content. “Right as rain.”
Frodo looked around. With no wind, and with a sudden cessation of the ship’s movement, it seemed as if they were standing still. A fine mist surrounded the ship, and he could see neither stars nor sun.
“Gandalf, are we still on the water?” Frodo saw several Elves nearby look towards the wizard, as if they had been wondering the same thing.
“In a sense,” the wizard replied, “but not the Sea as you have known it. My dear friends…” the wizard spoke to Frodo and Bilbo, and all who were listening, “…you have left Middle-earth.”
“I feel it,” Frodo whispered in awe. “I do. It’s like something Sam said once… about being inside of a song. And I…” He closed his eyes again. “I know this song.” He pulled out the gem on its chain about his neck, and held it, and with his other hand, reached out for Bilbo, who gently clasped it.
“And it knows you,” Elrond murmured.
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.