1. The Last Supper
“The quill… yes. And the ink.”
“You’re starting it tonight?”
“Have to.” Sam nodded, handing over Little Elanor to Rose while she, in turn, handed him the ink and quill.. “Mr. Frodo’s passed it on to me and I’m not supposed to leave it empty and dusty.” Sam reached out to a big book bound in plain red leather kept on a high shelf above the hearth.
“This cannot be left lying around, abandoned and forgotten.” He waved his hand gripping the book to Rose, turned around, and with infinite care, brought it and the scribbling tools to a table under the window. His, Sam’s, table.
Sam flipped open the cover and went through several pages until he reached Chapter 80. It was still half empty, as Frodo’s firm flowing script ended after some leaves. With a flash of remembrance, his eyes fell upon the title Frodo had written:
LORD OF THE RINGS
RETURN OF THE KING
“I have quite finished, Sam. The last pages are for you.”
Frodo was leaving tomorrow after relinquishing the responsibility of completing the Red Book, once belonging to Mr. Bilbo, to Sam, though he was certain his beloved master would come back long before he had the chance to even start writing it. It was only Rivendell, after all, that Frodo intended to visit.
Sam’s mind went blank for a moment, accounts of events of the past flashing across his mind.
The gardener was still standing there, in front of his desk, leaning forward a little as he absentmindedly leafed through the crispy pages of paper. One could easily tell, though, that Sam was not reading.
Well, he did not have to. He knew exactly what was written there, when everything had happened, who was involved in which event, who died and who survived.
He jumped. Blinked.
“Mr. Frodo, sir! I beg your pardon!” Sam yawped as he turned around to face the owner of that gentle and still sweet voice.
Sam was welcomed by the bluest eyes he had ever seen in the Middle Earth. Eyes that once had been filled with life so vibrant and eager. Eyes that did more than just display how the frame had been alive, but the soul as well. Eyes that…
But, ah…there now! Sam saw a glimmer on those eyes that had too long been filled with sorrow. And a dose of unrest. Calmed and resolute, Sam folded his arms in front of his chest.
“What is it, Mr. Frodo? You need me to do something?” Sam could recognize this. Frodo had always been awkward when it came to asking Sam to do some chores.
“Ah, yes, Sam.” Frodo cleared his throat. “I… want you to check on Strider. No! I want you to prepare him. Yes!” Frodo clapped his hands together, bouncing slightly, reminding Sam of a tween suddenly rushed by indescribable excitement. Sam watched him in puzzlement and a slight suspicion.
“But I’ve already done that this afternoon, Mr. Frodo!”
“It’s Frodo to you. But, what? Did you brush him shiny, brush his saddle, too?”
“How about Bill? You have to prepare him as well, my dear Sam.”
The gardener disentangled his limbs and reached out for Frodo’s delicate hands.
“Everything is settled for tomorrow’s journey, Frodo! There is nothing to fuss about.” But to Sam’s dismay, Frodo jerked his hands from his own.
“No, Sam! Not everything yet.” Again, the hobbit’s face flushed as if he were a child once more with a brilliantly bright idea striking within his playful mind. “You’ve not thought of Strider’s shoes. See? I always think ahead of you.”
Sam pouted at the last statement.
“What do you mean? What about its shoes?”
“Why, Sam.” Frodo laughed openly now. “It won’t be all right if we don’t do something about them. Strider will trot painfully with thinning heels like that. I’m sure old Mick is still open for business. Why don’t you bring Strider there, Sam?”
Sam looked shamelessly aghast. What? At this time of day? His master could not be serious, could he?
The trickiest part was making sure that he could be alone in the kitchen that night. He had managed to get rid of Sam by sending him off to the smith. It was not, however, an easy task.
“Strider’s only been shod last week, Mr. Frodo,” Sam had said, his young face looking thoroughly perplexed.
“It’s going to be a long journey, Sam,” he had said, trying to hide his amused exasperation. “Please.”
“Oh, don’t go giving me that look of yours, Mr. Frodo,” Sam chuckled good-naturedly. “You know I can’t stand it. Of course I’ll take Strider to Old Mick’s shop. Only why you should decide to have him checked up this late at night is totally beyond me.”
“We’re starting early tomorrow, Sam,” he had said, trying to ready himself for defeat should Sam keep on questioning his odd request. “And somehow I only remembered about this re-shoeing business at this unholy hour. I’m sorry.”
“Oh, that’s all right, Mr. Frodo,” Sam said, reaching for his cloak. “A bit of walking after dinner would do me good. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of extra caution, I reckon.”
And he left, leaving his master smiling with a glint of the old, rarely seen mischief in his eyes.
Rose, however, was something of a challenge.
“I don’t see why you should have the cloak sent to Widow Bolger for mending. Are you questioning my sewing skills, Mr. Frodo?” she said, her eyes shining with defiance.
“No, Rose…” he had started, but was cut short.
“You never have any problem with my mending your clothes before, now have you?”
He chuckled and shook his head. “For the sound and honest reason that I don’t have any grounds to complain, my dear Rose,” he said.
“Then why all of a sudden have you decided that I’m not good enough to mend a bit of frayed hem on your Elvish cloak, and you have to turn to an old widow who can no longer tell a cloak from an apron?” Rose said, tilting her chin up and folding her hands in front.
He burst out laughing. “Oh, Rose,” he gasped, wiping his eyes. Then, wagging his finger and fighting to look stern, he said, “You really should learn to control that famous wrath of yours, my dear, because it might alarm people before they get the chance to warm to your sweet and generous nature.”
“Now, Mr. Frodo,” she began, blushing scarlet. “It’s not so much wrath as self-respect, if you catch my meaning.”
“Oh, yes, I do, dear Rose,” he said, still smiling. “I do.”
He lowered his voice to make himself sound unduly solemn, while his frown conveyed an urgent conspiratorial message.
“You see, Rose, I esteem your sewing skills above that of any hobbit I know. But I understand that Widow Bolger has been having some…er…difficulties since her son moved to Frogmorton and he visits her only rarely. Now I know that she is proud and is above nagging at her son, let alone at a stranger like me. But I feel for her and wish I could do something for her. I know she won’t receive charity and she is rather proud of her reputation as a seamstress. So…” He stared at her, his eyebrows half-raised and a slight smile curving the corners of his lips.
Rose ‘s mouth, formerly set in a resolute straight line, opened slightly as understanding bloomed in her eyes. “Oh, Mr. Frodo,” she sighed, taking his hands. “I might’ve known. I’m sorry, I was being foolishly vain. Of course I’ll take your cloak to her for mending, if that’s the case. Why didn’t I see it?”
“Thank you, Rose. So that’s settled then, “ he said. “I promise that if she does any damage to the cloak, I will yield to your better judgment and let you go over her work with your skilled needles.”
“Now, Mr. Frodo,” she said, turning red once more. “I’ll not have a gentlehobbit like you saying such nasty things about a poor, old widow.”
He laughed and she smiled indulgently at him, shaking her head in mock exasperation. He noticed that she packed a hefty chunk of leftover cake from tea, as well as some assorted cookies and biscuits, into the basket where she put his cloak. He handed her some money and said, “It won’t take a long time, will it, Rose? You know that I will be wearing it tomorrow?”
“Yes,” she said briskly, donning her shawl about her. “I’ll stay there if you want me to, Mr. Frodo and make sure she finishes any necessary mending tonight. I’ll be back shortly before supper, but if I’m not, Sam can fix something for you.”
“Very well, Rose. Please give my apologies to the Widow for troubling her this late at night. And thank you for leaving Ellie with me.”
“Aye, well…there’s no need to wake up a storm, is there?” she smiled with a twinkle in her eyes. “Not that I am sure that you know how to tame her once she’s up and wanting someone to amuse her.”
He smiled as he waved her goodbye, watching her as she disappeared around the bend down New Row. Then he turned inside, carried Elanor’s crib with some difficulty to the kitchen, put it near the window then stared at her worshipfully before getting up, donning an apron and setting to work.
Sam tightened the cloak around his stout form to fight the chilling blow of the night wind. He was grateful the night did not turn as dark as he thought it would be. Stars were still adorning the autumn sky, illuminating the narrow path along the Bywater Road where he was passing to the horseshoe maker’s place. Hobbiton had gone to sleep; not once did Sam bump into someone. He could only pray that Old Mick was not asleep, as well.
There were whistles of the wind, sending more chills to Sam’s bones, forcing him to pull at Strider’s reins to make him move faster. What he could expect from a pony he could not tell, but Sam hoped the night’s iciness could somehow push some survival instinct in the beast’s tiny brain to walk more swiftly to avoid himself – and his rider –being frozen to death.
In the middle of his subtle misery, a wicked thought crossed Sam’s mind and he grinned at the absurdity of it. Frodo having some time alone with his Rosie? Sam literally swatted the idea away from his tiny brain and grimaced at the pain caused by his rapping his own brow quite powerfully.
Beaming mirthfully to herself as she clasped a rose-shaped brooch at the collar of her velvety, flowing cape – a treasured gift from Queen Arwen, Rose grabbed the basket containing Frodo’s cloak and the cakes, turned the door-handle open, and danced out of Bag End after brushing her lips lightly over Elanor’s forehead.
“Won’t be long, Ellie baby,” Rose had whispered at her daughter’s ears while the six-month-old shifted a little in her sleep. Frodo smiled gently.
“She’s in good hands, Rose.”
A tinge of blush shaded both Rose’s cheeks exquisitely. She glanced at Frodo, who had been standing at her side.
“I didn’t mean… Oh, Mr. Frodo!” Rose fled to the door, half annoyed, half embarrassed, as she found that Frodo had, once again, been teasing her.
Outside, Rose Cotton-Gamgee gratefully welcomed the soft breeze as it slowly wiped the blush on her cheeks away. Yet she regretted that it could not do the same to the stirring tumult in her heart. Rose drew a deep breath. A deep breath, and her lips curved into a smile. Warmth gushed all over her, blanketing her heart as well.
No one. No one could take in Frodo’s smile and not feel anything after that. Rose knew it. She had known it even before the gentlehobbit – and Sam – went away two years ago. She had known it ever since she laid her eyes upon the ever-green look of Frodo – at least at that time, the bright glow of his eyes, the lean features that were more elf-like than a hobbit, the pliant lips, breathtakingly beautiful when they were smiling. The lips that had caused this turmoil in the first place.
Yet Rose had realized since the very beginning that she just could not own all those beauties. Even before the war, Frodo had always seemed withdrawn to his own world. He, of course, had always been polite and respectful to other people but no one could really enter into his heart and read what was in there. Somehow the hobbit had always known that he was destined to do something big, to sacrifice something, to sacrifice himself. And for this, Frodo had mostly kept everything to himself. No one could never fully understand him, befriend him, possess him. Not even the Ring he had destroyed – no matter how fortuitously – though it had succeeded in haunting him to the rest of his days, something that Rose despised from the bottom of her heart.
When Frodo came back to the Shire, Rose was stunned too see how different he had become. He seemed even more distant, unreachable, untouchable. Something must have gone amiss about him. Although Frodo had then gradually returned to himself, Rose knew something inside him would not be fully restored.
Then Rose, with a slight guilt in her heart, would send her deepest gratitude to the Valar that she had long given up hope on Frodo and turned to Sam, her beloved Samwise, instead. A mental slap made her heart cringe. Sam was not her second choice. This hobbit might not be as refined as Mr. Frodo, but Sam was special, too, what with his loyalty, responsibility, and tenderness. Rose had come to realize a long time ago that he would make a great husband and a loving father.
Rose’s heart sang with lightheartedness, contentment, and peace, as her steps took her down the hill to the direction of the New Row, passing a few smials, and finally halted in front of a modest, if not quite shabby and dilapidated, hobbithole where Widow Bolger dwelled. A screeching sound greeted Rose as she pushed open the almost broken-down wooden gate. Rose tried to ignore that, her mind recalling what Frodo had told her about the poor hobbitlady, and walked straight to the round, grey door. She took the ring-shaped metal and rapped it to the door a couple of times. Loud, clanking sounds followed. Rose cleared her throat and was about to call out when the door cracked open.
Not even Sam, an excellent cook even by hobbit standards, could best his mushroom omelet. He knew that. Sam admitted it, Bilbo practically raved about it and he complacently relished the notion. At least that did not change. At least that stayed. His blue-ribbon mushroom omelet.
Supper, by hobbit standards, was usually the simplest meal, though not necessarily the least. He was glad about that. Much as he wanted to make it a special occasion, he knew he had not the strength to prepare a truly magnificent menu, nor, he was certain, did he have the appetite to wolf down even the most delicious food that he could ever hope to cook. But he was determined to at least attempt to prepare this one simple dish.
He was glad that the coming autumn had provided plenty of mushrooms for his purpose, and that Rose, ever anxious to coax him into eating more, always kept an ample store of them in the kitchen. He chuckled in delight when he found the basket in the shady, cool corner of the kitchen, brimming with freshly plucked mushrooms. He deftly made his choice and rinsed them well in a basin, reveling in their delicious smell.
As he patted the mushrooms dry, his mind found its way to a night well nigh twenty years ago, when he was preparing supper for Bilbo and himself.
Bilbo had been watching him as he pottered around the kitchen. The old hobbit puffed bluish grey smoke rings that floated up to the ceiling before vanishing into the shadows. Noises drifted in from the field where people were making last minute preparations for the next day’s Long Expected Party. But in the small kitchen of Bag End there was only the sound of eggs bubbling to soft completion in the frying pan, and the voice of a young hobbit humming a merry tune while setting the table ready for supper.
“How does it feel to be almost 33?” asked Bilbo suddenly.
Frodo raised his eyebrows and smiled. “To be frank, Bilbo, it’s not as exciting as I used to imagine it to be.”
“How so?” muttered Bilbo through his pipe.
He laughed a little as he transferred the cooked omelet onto a platter and carried it to the table.
“For one thing,” he said as he took a bottle of wine from the side table. “I don’t feel all that different from when I was still an…irresponsible tween. I still feel…”
He cut a wedge of omelet for Bilbo, heaped the plate with mashed potato and greens and handed it to the old hobbit.
“Feel what, Frodo?” said Bilbo quietly, staring at his much younger cousin, who, at that moment, seemed to be exceptionally intent on arranging the food on his own plate.
He stared at Bilbo, and smiled sheepishly. “I still feel…naïve, Bilbo.” Then he laughed with some embarrassment, waving his hand dismissively. “I don’t mean naïve, Bilbo, if you understand. I mean, there are still so many things I don’t know. So many things I haven’t seen, people I haven’t met, places I haven’t visited. I’m still…”
His fork hung midway to his lips as he sought for words to express his feeling. “Starving. Hungry for sights and sounds and the feel of new things…”
He looked away from the younger, healthier, more vigorous image of himself, sitting across from Bilbo. He looked away from the eager happiness and innocent inquisitiveness that shone with heartbreaking candor in the Frodo of years and years past, the Frodo of worlds and lives away.
His hand trembled and his knife fell with a clang on the wooden floor. He had to grip the countertop to stop himself from shaking. Slowly he lowered himself to a chair, staring blankly at the halved tomato on the floor. Then he lifted his eyes and looked around him, at all the familiar objects, taking in the familiar sights, sounds and feel of Bag End---his no longer, and not only because he had bequeathed it to Sam, but because he no longer found home within its walls---and slowly, tears began to well in his eyes.
“If that isn’t Young Master Gamgee himself! What brings you here at this late hour, dear sir?”
Sam was glad it was dark so Old Mick did not see his reddened face. He knew it was normal for someone to question this uncommon action – bringing a pony to be shod way after dinner and not before it or on the following day. But what could Sam say to the pleading eyes of his dearest Mr. Frodo – and his reasoning?
So Sam could only tell the old hobbit what he meant to do.
Old Mick scuffed at his head.
“Well, if you say so, young Samwise,” he rebuked hesitantly. “So it was the queer Mr. Frodo Baggins who asked you to trot down here? Always such a strange bloke he is! And correct me if I’m wrong, Strider has just got new shoes some time last week. It can last quite long, I tell ye!”
In the smial of Widow Bolger, Rose had almost as difficult a time as Sam. After welcoming her guest and accepting the basket from Rose, the old widow started to unpack the basket’s content, gloried in the delicious cake and biscuits, and took out Frodo’s cloak, squinting at it. As Rose had predicted, Madam Bolger had difficulties recognizing it, especially in such a dim environment. The widow held up the cloak to Rose.
“A fine shirt indeed! And it seems to have been sewn and rendered perfectly. What else should I do with it?”
Rose took a breath.
“That’s a cloak, Widow Bolger. Mr. Frodo’s cloak. He wants you to mend it.”
The widow lifted her face and frowned at Rose. Then she scrutinized the piece again. And after several moments,
“Ah, I see.” She smiled widely. “I can see it now. It is a cloak – and a stunningly made one!”
“An elven cloak, Madam Bolger.”
“But…” The frown appeared again. “it needs mending?”
“That’s what he said, Madam Bolger,” assured Rose. “That’s why he sent me here.”
Widow Bolger gazed at Rose, a bit puzzled. As far as she could tell, there was nothing wrong with the cape. Why would Frodo want it mended – and what was there to mend? There must be something wrong either with her or with Frodo. Then the widow chuckled a little.
“I’ll give it a thorough check once more. But Rose, next time, tell this Mr. Frodo of yours to give me a real tattered one –one that’s really in need of my needles and thread. Poor chap. He’s that close to getting cracked as his uncle.”
Separated by that much distance, both Sam and Rose flushed with mixed feelings – anger, sorrow, pain. People of Hobbiton had no idea whatsoever of what burden and misery Frodo had gone through, and they did not want to know, either. Sam had tried several times to tell stories about Frodo in many gatherings in the Green Dragon Inn or the Ivy Bush, but people would swat him away, yawning widely. Stories of Mr. Meriadoc and Mr. Peregrin they certainly wanted. Lordly they called the two young Travellers, and they would all enjoy their tales, songs, and wonderful parties.
As Sam observed the old smith nail and hammer at Strider’s feet, his mind went to the day in March when he had found Frodo sitting in a chair in his study, facing the window, his hand holding tightly to the white gem hanging about his neck. Frodo’s face was that of a dying man, pale and deathly, and his eyes were staring blankly to infinity. Another anniversary of one of his wounds. Sam realized that. His master was still suffering and he would never be completely healed.
Sam shifted in his chair, now completely oblivious to all the clatters Old Mick was making. There was a deep longing in Sam’s heart. A longing for his old life, a life in the Shire before the War began. A longing for doing simple things around Bag End, as opposed to his responsibility for the entire Shire right now. A longing for the shiny eyes and merry laughter of Mr. Frodo…
But tonight, to Sam’s surprise, the smile and the gleaming eyes seemed to come back. Was it because tomorrow they would travel together to Rivendell and that excited Frodo? Perhaps. But still, Sam thought, Frodo sounded a little bit too pushy about his bringing Strider to Old Mick’s.
Uneasiness slowly crept into Sam’s heart. The more he recalled their conversation, the more unsure he was of leaving Frodo alone. The ever-smart hobbit must be up to something!
Now Sam was sitting upright, looking impatiently at Old Mick who was still busy with his work.
“How much longer?” demanded Sam, rather too rudely. The other hobbit jerked his head up in surprise.
“Master Gamgee? No longer than one sip of tea. I’ll finish it in a moment, sir!”
Realizing what he had done, Sam bowed a little.
“Oh, I’m very sorry. It’s just that… never mind. Never mind.”
Everything would be fine, Sam convinced himself. Frodo was not alone anyway. Rose was staying with him. And if he ever tried to do anything at all, Rose would be there to accompany him. To reason with him.
“How much longer?”
“Miss Rose,” bid Widow Bolger after taking some time to check and re-check the cloak. “I’m surely willing to give you a hand any time with any of your clothes. But I’m sure I can’t give you one this time. This strong yet silky cloak, if anything, is beyond me to give any more stitches than necessary.’
Rose was dumbfounded. What was Widow Bolger saying? Did she say that the cloak needed no mending? Did she just say that… that it was perfectly all right? Did she just tell her that Frodo had fooled her to come here – to do something that needed not be done… to send her away?
Rose stood up abruptly, startling the old woman before her, and snatched the cloak back. Frodo must be planning on doing something that would not involve even Sam. Sam… Rose swallowed hard. Why did she not think about this earlier? Frodo had successfully sent Sam away, and then her, and she could not even see it!
Rose took her pouch and laid a handsome sum of money in Widow Bolger’s open palm.
“I must leave now, Madam Bolger. I really appreciate your help!” And Rose fled through the door even before the Widow had a chance to say a word.
Well maybe it would not turn out as fluffy as he used to make it. He had found, with some disgust, that he could not wield the egg whisk with quite the strength and speed he used to employ. But the omelet smelled good. Better, it smelled very delicious, and happily, he began to feel the twinges of hunger in both his stomach and his mind. He also felt exhausted though, and debated whether to toast the bread himself or wait until either Rose or Sam returned and let them do it. Finally he decided to fortify himself with a small shot of wine before proceeding with the toast, and this he did.
The red liquid felt cool down his throat. He closed his eyes, savoring the taste. Unbidden, another taste, another night, encroached upon his mind.
It was like walking against a storm. To make each step forward he had to summon all his strength to fight the ever-growing urge to go back, away from the mountain. And the weight against his neck was now of such magnitude that he could feel the chain digging, burning into his flesh, and he had to struggle to keep his head upright….
He was sitting at the end of a long table in a beautiful garden by a stream. There were people in the garden, eating and drinking, dancing, singing. There were harpists and lutists all along the garden, playing steadily, and a minstrel was singing.
It was a song of praises. For him.
He stared at them, elves, dwarves, men, and hobbits most of all, and he knew they were aware of his eyes. They knew he did not merely see their faces and hear their conversation. He saw into their hearts as well, and what he saw filled him with terrible satisfaction.
They loved him.
They worshipped him.
They feared him.
They would do anything he bid.
They would die for him, and they would do it out of love.
He stared at the sky, blue and cloudless. Yet he knew he could summon mist and wind and thunder and make such rain that would drown the entire universe. He could dismiss the sun, and cancel the moon, he could raise valleys and annihilate mountains in his wrath. He could stir the seas and change the courses of even the mightiest rivers. The entire span of the world was his, his alone. Its knowledge, its secrets, its past, its future, belonged to him.
He could kill.
He could grant life.
He could command.
He could show mercy.
Promises. Fulfillment. It took so little to cradle the world in his hands…. He was after all…
The powers surged in his blood, and roiled in his lungs as he breathed. He felt himself quivering with effort to contain its incredible strength, his mind striving to control its ever-agile tendrils from groping and clutching at people’s thoughts. The people he loved with all his heart and soul, he would never suffer them to come to harm. HIS people.
But oh, it was glorious to have such limitless, unchallenged supremacy.
They kissed him in reverent worship. And when he returned their kisses, he bestowed blessings and mercy on them, and they wept in joy at his utter benevolence. And when he raised his hand they would dance, they would dance to the music of his heartbeat and ….
So close, enticingly close. All he had to do was touch It… Put It on… He was, after all…
The beautiful garden was rent with ugly gashes, and glimpses of darkness shot him with unspeakable pain. The music ceased and was replaced by a dry whisper, a hoarse call. “Mr. Frodo?”
He tried to focus his eyes on the face before him. But there was virtually no light to see, Sam was but a swirl of shadows. He tried to remember Sam’s hair, glinting gold in the sun, and his eyes, two pools of peace the color of the Brandywine in summer. But he could not. He could not. Instead, he wanted to snarl at Sam for tearing away at his reality…dream…illusion… His fist clenched at his side. He drew in a ragged breath, the suffocating fumes filling his lungs with darkness so cold it seemed to drag him into it, and he felt dizzy. Suddenly he was glad he was so exhausted and weak that it was simply laughable, the idea of striking Sam down.
“…a little, Mr. Frodo, then you can sleep all you want. Well, until such time that we have to march again at any rate.”
Fingers, chapped and torn by rocky cliffs and merciless thorns, pushed something against his half opened lips.
He tried to chew, but he could only taste ash and dust and the waybread grated against his throat as he swallowed. “I’m thirsty, Sam,” he whispered. A moment later he felt the cool touch of a water bottle on his mouth and he drank gratefully.
The power, its promise of glory, still sang clearly in ears, writhing restlessly in his very muscles, beckoning. He could still feel its caress hot and demanding against his burning skin. He was It. It was him. They were one. Destined to be. Rivendell and the council were merely figments of unquiet dream. The quest and the honor it entailed were parts of a child’s fairy tale. He was above it all. The Ring was above it all. He was The Power, The One….
He saw Sam sitting motionless across from where he lay on the cracked, ash-choked ground.
Everything stilled, even the ever groping, ever calling lust for It and the glory that was It. And in the stillness there was only Sam.
It was another testimony to how much of himself had wasted away in that long journey beset with unspeakable horror and torment. The images, the songs of unbridled glory, had started to emerge at the very beginning of the quest, bonding him to It with chains of fire and passion. It was all he could do to banish the visions and put some semblance of control over that part of his being that longed to claim It and loathed the idea of Its annihilation. But now, when he was weakest, he found himself half-blissfully, half in horror, giving in to Its seduction, letting It be the blood and sinew that propped him up when his strength wavered and his will waned.
He could not fight It. Not now. Not anymore.
But there was Sam…. The very voice and presence of the Shire, of a home he could no longer recall. He closed his eyes, wishing for tears he no longer had, wishing he could remember how it felt to weep in shame and despair. His fist unclenched. In the stillness and dark another voice called out, soft and kind, a voice he knew. His own.
“Aren’t you going to eat, Sam?”
His words startled the younger hobbit. “Later, Mr. Frodo. You go on and sleep now.”
Oh, he was not. He was not the one who wields powers uncontested in his hand. He was only a hobbit, burdened with a quest without hope. But hopeless or not, he knew that he had to summon enough strength to do it. If not to save the world, then to save his friend, to bring him back from the brink of death, safe and unharmed by It. It was his choice, his destiny.
Because he was Frodo Baggins.
Because he was…
…crying. He did not how long he had stood there while the egg sizzled and bubbled on the frying pan. He shook his head rather angrily and lifted the omelet edge to see if it was done. He sighed gratefully to see that it was not burned.
Sam and Rose
Old Mick was one great smith; Sam admitted that as he sped home. It was such a wonder for a pony to run this fast but Strider just did.
A lot of things, good and bad, had crossed Sam’s mind. And one that was bad was the possibility that Frodo had slipped away, leaving all that he loved for good, not just for a suicidal quest like that two years ago, that he might still be back.
“Frodo, Frodo,” Sam repeated Frodo’s name over and over like some kind of a chant. His breath caught when yet another disturbing thought struck him - Frodo could ride on Bill! He had not been so insistent that Sam bring the other pony to Old Mick. Oh, stars!
Sam dismounted Strider even before the pony completely halted and ran to Rose who was fumbling with the hook of Bag End’s gate, tears streaming down her plump cheeks.
“Rose, Rose!” Sam called out. “What’s the matter? What are you doing outside?”
Rose let go of the hook, letting Sam take care of it. Her arms fell to her sides, quivering.
“I – I was so stupid! Frodo asked me to bring his cloak to Widow Bolger! I was so stupid! I didn’t realize he was going to leave this very night. I left him with Ellie, but he could just bring her to the Gaffer!”
Sam froze. So Frodo had made Rose go, too! That would make everything easier for him.
Once the gate flew open, Sam advanced quickly, ahead of Rose. His voice went high-pitched.
He was sitting on the dining chair, cradling Elanor and crooning a lullaby to her, when they returned, almost at the same time.
“Mr. Frodo!” exclaimed Rose as she saw the table laid out neatly and the food on it, steaming appetizingly. “What have…? What did…?”
“I cooked us omelets,” he looked up, grinning. “I’m sorry about the kitchen though. I know you can’t abide mess, Rose.”
“You cooked?” said Sam, his eyes glowing with wonder mingled with worry. “Well, that’s nice to hear, Mr. Frodo. Glad to know you’re feeling well enough to potter around the kitchen. But, seeing as you’re going travel a long way tomorrow, don’t you think….”
“Oh, Sam,” he said, relinquishing Elanor to Rose. “It was just an omelet…well, four anyway, and some toast. And a bit of greens. Even Ellie can cook this and still laugh at every tummy-trumpet you give her.”
“Oh, Mr. Frodo, you’re that hopeless,” Rose shook her head, though a smile was wreathing her face. “I won’t say another word of this on one condition though…”
“Which is, Rosie dear?”
“That you will eat three helpings at the very least of this…this…supposed omelet of yours,” her lips were set in a definite expression of scorn.
He laughed gaily. “Supposed, eh, Rose? Very well. I accept the challenge.” He rose and pulled up a chair for her. “Now sit, my dear. You too, Sam. I know you’re dying to dig into my omelet, renowned in the four farthings of the Shire.”
They all laughed. He sat and watched their glowing, happy faces with contentment welling in his heart. He did not quite know how he did it, but he did manage to eat three helpings of the egg and even nibbled at a slice of spongecake that Rose set before him.
This is the last time we are going to do this, he thought with a feeling of mixed sorrow and resignation: sitting down to supper, talking and laughing. Tomorrow he would have an early breakfast, kiss Elanor and Rose goodbye, and leave. He would not see them again. The thought hurt, a sweet aching that he embraced with desperate relief, knowing that even the agony of longing for people so deeply loved, meant that his heart, his soul, or what was left of it at any rate, had not entirely withered and been rendered lifeless by the still raging, still overpowering yearning. That he might cling yet to what little hope he had, beyond the Havens.
“…I’m telling you, Rosie-wife. Not even the Elves in Rivendell know how to cook mushrooms the way Mr. Frodo does. Well, lucky for them, those Elves, to have you there, Mr. Frodo. Though, I suppose they won’t let you cook there either…”
He smiled, shifting his gaze to the eddies in the content of his glass.
Elanor, besmirched and bespattered with spongecake and jam, made a very timely comment that drew the fond attention of both of her parents.
When their eyes were turned away from him, he raised his glass in his shaking hand, and after silently saluting Sam and Rose, he drank slowly, his eyes shining, but tears were in them.
I should have known, Sam thought, eyeing Rose, who gave him a wink. Frodo would not be so careless as to leave Elanor with her grandpa after promising that he would take care of her. And this cooking thing was just typical of him. Frodo had always been full of surprises. One could never tell only by looking at the outer shell of him. Sam truly wished that his visit to Rivendell this time would really cure him so that he would fully return to himself.
A cooing Elanor diverted Sam’s attention from his master, but it was not enough to turn his gaze completely. From the corner of his eyes Sam could see it all. The trembling hands. The silent toast. The brimming tears.
Sam felt as if an iron hand had crushed his heart. An unfathomable fear started anew in his chest. Frodo was fighting to hide his unshed tears. But why?
“We’d better go to bed as early as possible, right, Mr. Frodo? Otherwise, we won’t be able to catch the rising sun tomorrow morning when we’re heading to Rivendell!”
How Sam wished he were able to say those words. But the cat got his tongue. He was once again clutched in a profound ache of an inexplicable longing.
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.