2. Grief and Hope
A small fire glimmered in the hearth of Bag End's living room, bathing the chamber in a warm light. The fire crackled as one of the dry logs was greedily swallowed by the bright, red flames. The only other noise was the soft breathing of Samwise Gamgee, who sat motionless in an armchair in front of the hearth, gazing thoughtfully into the flickering flames. Rosie had long gone to bed. They had spent all evening talking, after he had returned at sunset. Sam could not find any sleep. There were still too many thoughts filling his mind: thoughts of Frodo, of their journey, and of the Grey Havens.
The Grey Havens; he could not forget the salty smell of the Sea and the white ship that bore Frodo into the West. Frodo, who had been sad, and yet had smiled light-heartedly as Sam hadn't seen him smile for many years. And in his eyes there had been peace, when he boarded the ship. Sam could still see the light in his eyes and the light of Galadriel's phial glimmering in the growing darkness until at last it was lost, never to be seen again in Middle-earth.
"You cannot be always torn in two," Frodo had said. Yet Sam felt even more torn than before, torn between his joy at having Rosie and little Elanor and the small bit of garden he'd always wanted and the sadness he felt at the loss of Frodo. Frodo, who had given up everything only to lose it again, after all he had taken upon himself was achieved. Now, of course, Frodo had the elves and Gandalf and Mr. Bilbo joining him, but Sam was pretty sure that that was not what his master needed. Yet it had been his decision and Sam would not mistrust Frodo's judgement.
Slowly Sam lifted his head and beheld Sting, which hung over the fireplace as it had always done, even in the days of old Mr. Bilbo. First Frodo had given him Sting, and now he had left Sam Bag End and all he had ever possessed. He was Master of Bag End now, a Gamgee, not a Baggins. Somehow it didn't feel right to Sam, and yet being a gift from Frodo made it right. Still it was Frodo he saw in every room, every teapot, every piece of paper.
His master as he had seen him when he was a child, shortly after Frodo had moved in. Mr. Frodo at Bilbo's party; Frodo sitting on the bench in front of the hobbit-hole and offering him a cup of tea after a long day in the gardens; Frodo at the Cracks of Doom, worn and pale, madness and fear flickering in his eyes, his hand seeking the chain about his neck. And then Sam remembered the peace in Frodo's eyes after the ring had been destroyed, and the joy he had felt in the midst of ruin and destruction. Yet Frodo's eyes had been even more peaceful at the Havens.
With a sigh Sam got to his feet and walked to the window. Stars were shimmering in the sky and the moon cast its pale light across the hills of the Shire. Sam looked down to the party field, to the very place where the mallorn now grew. He smiled as he remembered the trees in fair Lothlórien and wondered how long it would take his mallorn to be as tall as they. But then his thoughts drifted away and he mused if the trees in Lórien would diminish, now that the Lady Galadriel had also departed from Middle-earth.
Sam looked around as one of the beams creaked. To his surprise there was no one there who could have made the noise. Sam stepped into the hallway and looked about, but still everything was dark and silent. His eyes wandered to the entrance. He half expected it to open as Mr. Frodo entered, and he would smile at him and tell him that he would never leave, neither Bag End nor the Shire.
"Don't leave me here alone!" Sam had begged his master after they had escaped Shelob's tunnel. Yet Frodo had left him and he would not return. Sam waited a little longer, looking expectantly at the door, but it did not open. Eventually he bowed his head and leaned heavily against the wall, sadness filling his heart.
Sam felt tears welling up inside him and swallowed hard. Frodo would not return.
'It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.'
But why him? Why did it have to be his master and dearest friend? He had already been through so many perils and Sam had hoped that he could rest now, sitting on the bench in front of Bag End and smoking his pipe, just as he had often done before. Sometimes Sam had sat beside him and they had talked far into the night. But no more. Life in Bag End would be empty without Frodo.
Blinking away his tears Sam slowly went down the hallway. He noticed a pale light under the threshold of the study, frowned and slowly reached out his hand to open the door. His eyes first fell upon Frodo's desk and the vase which stood beside the quills glittering in the silver light of the moon. As Sam's gaze wandered across the room he realised how very tidy it was. Too tidy for the study of Bag End; no more books and scrolls were lying about, scattered all over the room. In the pale moonlight it seemed forlorn, bereft of all its former comfort. Sam sighed and leaned against the door frame. The study had always been dearest to Mr. Frodo. He closed his eyes for a moment and when he opened them again it was no longer moonlight that streamed into the chamber but sunlight and the warm, comfortable feeling slowly returned.
Sam hadn't been inside Bag End very often, and not before Mr. Frodo had moved in almost a year ago. But every time he entered the big, cosy hobbit-hole he was taken aback by its grandness. He couldn't stop gazing from one side to the other, risking a short glimpse into every chamber. If someone saw him, he would just say that he was looking for Mr. Frodo, which was indeed what he was doing inside Bag End. Anyway, he wouldn't add that Mr. Bilbo had told him that Mr. Frodo would probably be found in the study, brooding over some books. Sam was very curious about books and the tales they told, but right at the moment Bag End seemed even more interesting. When he eventually decided to look for the study, he suddenly found himself wondering where to go, for he had never been anywhere other than Frodo's room, the kitchen and the parlour.
As he trotted along the hallway Sam suddenly got nervous for there was neither sound nor sight of Frodo. Briefly he wondered if one could get lost in a hobbithole as big as Bag End.
"Mr. Frodo?" he called though his voice was no more than a shy whisper. Sam looked around nervously waiting for an answer that didn't come. Swallowing, Sam turned around. Maybe it would be better to go back and ask Mr. Bilbo to look for Mr. Frodo. Determinedly he shook his head and, gathering all his courage, he called again, louder this time.
"I'm here," he heard the answer, "in the study. Come in!"
Sam smiled from one ear to the other as he headed for the door Frodo's voice came from and swung it open. The heavy smell of leather, mingled with that of narcissus, met his nose. Dazzled by the sunlight streaming in from the window, he blinked. Small specks of dust were dancing in the sunbeams, swirling about the vase filled with narcissus that stood on the desk. Frodo, who sat on the floor under the window, surrounded by a pile of books, looked up in surprise.
"Begging your pardon, Mr. Frodo," Sam muttered, blushing slightly. "Mr. Bilbo told me to…" He didn't get any further for he suddenly caught sight of the many books standing in shelves on the left side of the room. He stared at them, his mouth wide open. "Have you read all these?" he exclaimed, turning around in amazement.
Frodo laughed. "No, I haven't, but I'm determined to do so."
Sam stared at him no less amazed, but felt himself blush as Frodo chuckled. "Begging your pardon," he muttered again, becoming slightly embarrassed. Still he couldn't stop himself from asking more questions. "Can you really read them all? What kind of books are they? Are there some of those tales about dragons and great kings going on adventures?"
"I daresay there are," said Frodo with a smile. "I may read something to you if you wish."
Sam's eyes brightened even more. He was almost bursting with excitement. "You'd do that?"
Frodo nodded with a grin and, waving Sam to him, he pushed aside some of the books. Sam hesitated, suddenly unsure if it was proper to sit beside his master's nephew and listen to him read. His eyes wandered across the room crammed with books, papers and scrolls, until at last they came to rest upon Frodo, who was looking expectantly at him, his face still brightened by a heart-warming smile. At length Sam cast away his doubts and sat down cross-legged beside him, waiting curiously for the tale to begin. Frodo grinned and as soon as he started to read, Sam drew a little closer, so he could catch a glimpse of the pages in the book. There were no pictures, but Sam was already amazed by the flowing script that filled the pages.
When Frodo recognised the young boy's curiosity, he chuckled. "I might ask Bilbo if he could teach you how to read," he suggested.
Sam beamed at him. "Me, reading books and all? I'd be the only one in my family. I could read all those wonderful tales by myself and…" Sam gasped for breath, his eyes shining with pure joy.
Frodo nodded. "I'm sure Bilbo would be happy to teach you letters. And if he isn't I might have a try."
Without any warning Sam suddenly flung his arms around Frodo's neck. Tears of joy glittered in his eyes. He couldn't think of anything but the stories and songs written down in books. He would read every single one of them, as soon as he could.
"Thank you," he whispered and took a deep breath before releasing Frodo from his embrace. As he did so he noticed for the first time that, not only the study, but also Frodo seemed to smell of books, though he wasn't quite sure. He had, after all, never been surrounded by books before.
When he looked into Frodo's eyes again he blushed, suddenly realising what he had just done, and turned hastily away, muttering excuses.
Frodo shook his head, chuckling, and patted the young hobbit on the shoulder. "There's no need to excuse yourself, Samwise."
As Sam lifted his head again, Frodo was still smiling at him and he couldn't help but smile as well.
There under the window they sat and smiled at each other, while the sunlight slowly faded and the specks of dust were lost in the dim light of evening. And Mr. Frodo read to him the first of many tales he had heard in Bag End. For Sam it had always been on this very day that his friendship with Frodo truly began.
Sam blinked as the images slowly faded and it grew dark in the study once again, with only the moonlight glimmering through the small window. Yet the smell of books lingered and mingled with some others: ink, pipe-weed, rose hip tea and lavender; all those smells that were definitely Frodo.
Frodo, who had left seven days ago; on the shores of Middle-earth they had shared their last embrace, which meant so much more than the one almost thirty years earlier. The bond between them was now stronger even than the elven-rope Sam had gotten from the elves of Lórien. Their relationship had been put to the test and they had passed it, leaving behind the shadow and the darkness which threatened to destroy not only their friendship but also themselves.
They had escaped the shadow and yet it had gained on them, especially on Frodo. Sam had been worried about his master ever since their return to the Shire. Frodo had dropped out of all doings and Sam was grieved to notice that his master had hardly been honoured in his own land. Also, Sam knew that Frodo had been ill, though he tried to conceal it. He always knew when Frodo was unwell. He had been at his side too long, helping him up when he fell and easing his pain with comforting words of happier days. Sam left him in the belief that he had succeeded. It had been on the sixth of October when Sam became aware that the shadow was still heavy on Mr. Frodo.
Sam had found Frodo in the study, sitting at the desk, his face pale as death. His eyes were unfocused and he seemed to see things far away.
'I am wounded, wounded; it will never really heal.'
The strange tone in Frodo's voice had frightened Sam and though Frodo seemed to be perfectly well the next day, Sam had been concerned. He knew Frodo's voice and the voice that had spoken to him had not been his beloved master's, but the one he had last heard at the top of Mount Doom, telling him that there was no veil between Frodo and the wheel of fire. It was only some days later that Sam realised that it had been exactly two years after the attack at Weathertop.
Ever since, he had kept a close eye upon his master and he soon realised that Frodo was fingering the gem Queen Arwen had given him, far more often than Sam liked. The light in Frodo's eyes was again overshadowed by grief, though Sam could not make out exactly why. It was not until their journey to the Havens that Sam learned the severity of Frodo's injuries.
Tears glittered in Sam's eyes as he remembered Frodo's words to him. Mr. Frodo hoped to find healing in the West and though Sam was grieved that Frodo did not, or maybe could not, look for healing in the Shire, he hoped that his master was granted the peace he so longed for. He deserved it, and Sam would give all he could to ensure that Mr. Frodo could be without any sorrow or pain again. Sam felt sorry for his master. He knew Frodo had wished to return to the Shire and find that nothing had changed. But all had been different when they returned: the Shire, Mr. Frodo, even Sam himself was not the same as when they left.
Sam sighed as his eyes wandered once more across the study which looked as if it hadn't been used for years, except for the vase filled with asters standing on the desk. Tentatively he stepped inside, gliding his fingers gently across the shelf without knowing that Frodo had done likewise only a month earlier. Sam shivered. It felt strange, to enter the study and find everything was dark and cold and Frodo not inside, writing or reading or just seeking a little time for himself.
Suddenly Sam froze and a shiver ran down his spine as a dreadful thought struck him. Today was the sixth of October. It was now three years ago that Frodo had been wounded by the Witch-king. Another shiver shook him, as he remembered the horror he had felt at the Nazgûl and the dread which had filled him after Strider had told him about the purposes of the enemy. Never would he forget the fears he'd had for Frodo, fears that still worrying him. Sam clenched his fists and, biting his lips, he blinked away the tears in his eyes. He could not help Frodo, not anymore.
'Gandalf's with him,' he tried to reassure himself, 'He'll look after him. I'm sure he will. Mr. Frodo's all right, he has to be. Maybe he's reaching the western shores right this moment, and how could he enjoy his first sight of them when he's ill? He just has to be well, so stop your worries! He's hale.'
"He's well," he repeated in a whisper and took a deep breath, relaxing slowly again. While his fingers continued their movement across the shelf, Sam listened thoughtfully to the quiet soughing of the wind outside and finally became aware of how weary he was. After seven days of riding his body finally demanded a little rest, especially now that he was back home and could sleep in his own soft bed. Sam sighed. It was probably best if he went to bed now. After a proper amount of sleep he might feel a little better.
Yet Sam found it hard to leave the study again, now that he had entered it. Something held him there, maybe the same feeling that had made Frodo love the study the way he did. Though it was still dark and chilly in the room, the feeling of comfort returned slowly, as if the study was wary of a stranger and not willing to welcome him as warmly as it had welcomed Frodo.
Sam suddenly found himself standing in front of the desk, gazing down at a big book with plain red leather covers. He swallowed hard.
'I have quite finished, Sam. The last pages are for you.'
Hesitating a few seconds, Sam finally pulled out the chair and sat down. It was the first time he had sat at the desk in the study and somehow it felt strange and pleasant at the same time. He leaned back in the chair and waited until he was wholly comfortable with the fact that he was sitting in Mr. Frodo's chair. No-one but the Master of Bag End sat in it, and now it was Samwise Gamgee's. Sam sighed. It would take some time until he became familiar with being Master of Bag End.
His fingers lightly brushed the cover of the book. The last pages were for him. Sam looked for a candle and found one beside the quills. He lit it. The flame flickered and cast strange shadows on Sam's face. Once more Sam paused, listening again to the soughing of the wind. Then he took out an ink bottle from one of the drawers and also reached for a quill. Yet he did not open the book, but searched for a piece of paper. When he found one, he carefully dipped the tip of the quill into the ink and took a deep breath. His hand trembled slightly as he began to write.
Your presence still lingers here and it won't leave me alone. I've tried so hard to tell myself now you're gone. And though you're still with me I've been alone all along.
It is difficult to part with you and yet I should learn to let go. I know you had your reasons and though my mind understands them, my heart can not.
When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears. When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears. And I've held your hand through all of these years. But you still have all of me.
Sam felt tears stinging in his eyes as he wrote down those words which seemed to come from nowhere. His heart felt somewhat lighter, and yet it seemed to him that the lines he had written down grieved him even more than the thoughts of Frodo.
'Do not be too sad, Sam. You cannot be always torn in two. You will have to be one and whole, for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do. And also you have Rose, and Elanor; and Frodo-lad will come, and Rosie-lass, and Merry, and Goldilocks, and Pippin; and perhaps more that I cannot see.'
Mr. Frodo was right. He had so much to look forward to. He should not give in to the sadness he felt at the loss of his dear friend. Frodo had known what he was doing. He had made this sacrifice to maybe receive a greater blessing than he had been able to find here. Frodo's story in Middle-earth had ended; his was still going on. Never before had Sam given up hope and he would not begin to do so now. He would be one and whole as Frodo had wanted him to be.
"Don't go where I can't follow!" Sam had once begged him and yet Frodo had gone where he could not. Not yet.
"Your time may come," Frodo had said, though Sam had hardly realised it, so shocked was he to learn that Frodo was about to leave. But Frodo had talked to him again. When they shared their last embrace he had whispered into his ear. "Do not grieve, Sam. This is not a farewell forever. You may follow me, when the time comes. On white shores we will meet again, watching the silver waves of the Sea on a starry night, and no more fears and sorrows will trouble us. One day, we will meet again."
Amidst his tears Sam was smiling. He had forgotten Frodo's words in his grief. But now that he had remembered them, Sam knew that he would not forget them again. He would be happy in the Shire for many years, and when one day he was old and weary he would go to the Havens and pass into the West as Frodo had done. And when they saw each other, they would embrace, and Sam would tell Frodo everything that had happened in the Shire after he had gone, and they would laugh and be happy together, just as they used to be.
Wiping away his tears, Sam dipped the tip of the quill into the ink again and wrote some more words. The candle burned low, as the wind soughed and Sam waited for the ink to dry. Then he carefully folded the piece of paper, opened the big book in front of him on the first empty page and laid it inside. Sam smiled as he closed the book again, stroking the leather cover gently and blowing out the candle. Only the pale silver light of the moon shone into the study again, as Sam silently left the room.
The piece of paper was never read by anyone but Sam himself. It remained in the book secretly, until one day many years later it was taken out again by old and weary hands. Their touch was almost a caress, as they slowly unfolded it with trembling fingers. "The time has come," whispered a throaty voice and there was a silent chuckle.
A salty smell was in the air and in the distance the far cry of gulls stirred a secret longing. A smile brightened the wrinkled face of the hobbit wrapped in a grey cloak, and made him look younger. A sudden gust of wind snatched the paper from his hands and bore it away. The words once written on it were almost illegible. Only one line could still be made out.
Your words will stay in my mind, and if one day white shores are calling me I will remember them and follow you. Farewell, my dear Frodo, until our next meeting.
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.