Disclaimer: All the characters and settings (except for the five curious children) belong to J.R.R. Tolkien. This story is my way of working out ideas and concepts already present in The Lord of the Rings. This is done for enjoyment, and for sharing, but not for profit.

Author's note: This has been my first attempt at posting fanfiction. I have had this idea for some time but have been dithering over whether or not to try to write a story around it. I love Frodo-centred fiction, especially when it is written with care and feeling, and I just hope that I have done some justice to this piece.

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GamgeeFest: No, I didn't, actually! But I did want that mood and so wrote that way purposefully. I reread the Grey Havens after I read your review though and realized where (perhaps) my inspiration lay. Thanks!

shirebound: Thanks for your note about "tobacco"! As you already know, I changed one of the instances to "pipeweed" but kept the other in keeping with Tolkien's use of tobacco-jar in The Hobbit. Thanks again! And, yes, it does feel strange - as if I am saying goodbye to a very dear friend. But perhaps soon another one will come along...

lizmybit: You are not the only one to miss a chapter recently. Odd things have been happening to this story during the last few postings. I only hope that this posting goes without incident! And thank you for your kind words.

Ailsa Joy: I too felt like I was sitting with them, as I was writing the scene. I'm glad that it was as vivid for you too.

Ariel3; Silver Flame of a Phoenix; Bookworm2000: Throughout the books, I always felt that, until events brought Sam and Frodo together in great friendship, Merry must have been the closest to Frodo, in friendship, age and temperament. "A Conspiracy Unmasked" is a chapter I am particularly fond of and which shows Merry's regard for Frodo well.

endymion2: He would have been. And too frightened even if he could have understood. And - I was happy to read that you thought it was calm, beautiful and soothing. That was exactly what I was striving for.

ShireElf: Thank you. I enjoyed bringing Strider back after all the stern Aragorn we've had!

shireling: Thank you! And I hope I haven't kept you waiting too long for the Epilogue.

Coriandra: Yes, I thought too that Merry would be able to listen from a perspective that others wouldn't necessarily have had.

helga: Yes, I had read Tolkien's comments, but not until part way through writing this story. But they did help me shape the rest of the story. I do have to tell you, however, that I don't have any plans for a sequel (although I suppose I should never say never). Just this epilogue in this post.

Tangelian Proudfoot: Tack tack! I'm so glad you liked it. And as for Frodo, I have been fascinated with, and cared about his character ever since I first read LOTR when I was 9 years old. And that has never left me.

Raven Aorla: You're the only one who commented on this! You have great attention to detail. But if you re-read that section, it was actually Merry's guess work only. Sam didn't bother to correct him 1) because Merry hit on the essential truth, and 2) Sam didn't want to volunteer anything more than was strictly necessary out of respect for Frodo. However, it is quite possible that Frodo himself told Merry exactly what happened when he told him the story.

FrodoBaggins87; Mysterious Jedi: Thank you for your reviews, and as for reading more from me, see the comment below...

To all reviewers: I wish to give a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has left reviews and have given me encouragement along the way. And I must say thank you to my proofreaders - my mum, Dan, and Chris - with whom I've had many interesting arguments, err, discussions! And, I do have some story ideas floating about: one of them I plan on mapping out over the next couple of months (and hopefully start posting during the Christmas holidays), and another one I hope to write as a collection of vignettes on a theme – hopefully a little sooner.

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Final Author's Note: During the writing of this story, I have used The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien as a guide to Tolkien's feelings on the subject of Frodo's guilt. Aratlithiel kindly pointed out Letters 153, 181 and 191 which helped me clarify my thoughts. Thank you, Aratlithiel! It was very helpful, and I recommend the book to anyone who is interested in this subject. I also include, within the epilogue, a direct quotation from the chapter "Many Partings" in The Return of the King. I have set it in italics and cited it.

Carpenter, H. (Ed.) 1995. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. London: Harper Collins

Tolkien, J.R.R. 1955. The Return of the King. London: George Allen & Unwin




Epilogue



May had nearly drawn to a close when the King Elessar declared the Ring-bearer fit to leave the Houses of Healing. But Frodo begged the Warden to allow him to continue working amongst the sick, for he said: "It gives me both joy to see the sick become healed, and pain to see them suffer. During my own time of healing, it has also reminded me of what I hold dear -- compassion for those in need. For I must look outward to others and not to myself."

The Warden gave him permission, but for mornings only, and he said, "You have worked diligently and with care amongst the sick and have given greatly of yourself. But be sure that your work does not become a means by which you ignore your thoughts and fail to give heed to your own fears or doubts. There is a danger of this, and so I wish you to take time to be with yourself."

Frodo hesitated at this, but then bowed. "I will, and I thank you for your kindness."

But as he turned to leave, the Warden spoke again. "You may be glad to hear that the captain whom you helped heal has returned to duty."

"I am glad," said Frodo. "I knew that he had left the Houses of Healing, but I did not know what befell him after that."



* * *


The Companions dwelt in the White City for two months more, but the time came when Frodo's thoughts turned to Bilbo and the Shire. And he went to the Citadel so that he might beg leave to depart the City. He found the King sitting in the courtyard with the Queen Arwen at his side. And when Frodo had made his plea, Aragorn declared that those who wished to leave could ride with him in the funeral escort for King Theoden which was to depart in seven days.

But the Queen Arwen said: 'A gift I will give you. For I am the daughter of Elrond. I shall not go with him now when he departs to the Havens; for mine is the choice of Luthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter. But in my stead you shall go, Ring-bearer, when the time comes, and if you then desire it. If your hurts grieve you still and the memory of your burden is heavy, then you may pass into the West, until all your wounds and weariness are healed. But wear this now in memory of Elfstone and Evenstar with whom your life has been woven!'

And she took a white gem like a star that lay upon her breast hanging upon a silver chain, and she set the chain about Frodo's neck. 'When the memory of the fear and the darkness troubles you,' she said, 'this will bring you aid.' (Tolkien 1955 p.252-3)

And Frodo held the gem and looked down at it wonderingly, for it seemed as if some light danced within the jewel. But if he looked too deeply, it was for naught for his eyes could discern neither movement nor source. Yet light there was, and it gave him comfort.

"Thank you, fair Queen," he said but then halted, for words failed him. And Arwen smiled gently for she could see that Frodo was overcome.

And Aragorn said, "You may never fully be able to banish all feelings of guilt, Frodo. But I hope that you have now come to a point where you may accept freely this gift of passage should you ever need it. Guilt is a dangerous thing, Ring-bearer. It can overwhelm you past all reason. You should know this well by now. If such feelings of guilt and grief should return, and I cannot foresee whether or not they will, it is my hope that you should temper them with the wisdom you have gained."

To this, Frodo said nothing but held tightly to the gem.

"But come," said Aragorn then, and smiled. "I would have you join us tonight, for I wish you to hear one of the wonders of the West."

And so that evening, in the Great Hall of Kings, among many of the folk of Gondor and surrounding lands, Frodo listened and marvelled at the Singers of Lebennin as their clear voices rose to the lofty roof. And during one piercingly sweet descant, Sam stirred beside Frodo and in an awed voice he whispered, "If they just could hear this at home -- but it wouldn't seem right there, anyhow."


* * *


It was but a day later, and Frodo was sitting on the wall at his accustomed spot by the garden, when a small high voice breathlessly said, "You're still here!"

Frodo looked down from the wall. "And you're back," he said. Reaching down, he helped pull Fellen up onto the perch.

"I was so afraid that you'd be gone when I returned," the boy said. "It took so long -- we were away so long, and I couldn't tell you we were leaving."

Frodo shook his head. "Pippin told me. Bergil told him about it just before he and his father left." He looked at Fellen cautiously. "I hope that your kin are well."

"Oh," said Fellen, "they are all right. But it took ever such a long time to mend things. Those orcs ruined everything!" But a hint of awe was mixed with his indignation.

"Will they be all right?" asked Frodo with concern. "If everything was ruined--"

"Oh, no! Don't worry about them!" Fellen said. "My father said they will be all right. But," and here he peered at Frodo doubtfully, "must you still stay here at these Houses? Or may you leave yet?"

Frodo smiled. "I may leave and go anywhere in the City. I seem to remember that there was something you wanted to show me."

Fellen jumped down from the wall in glee. "Yes! Oh, I was hoping you'd say that!"

And so Fellen led Frodo through all the secret ways of the City where Men seldom went. And if Fellen was occasionally unsure whether or not the Ring-bearer would approve of such dubious passageways, Frodo took delight in moving noiselessly through the streets, unnoticed by all but the lad who guided him.

Nor, despite Fellen's misgivings, did Frodo have any trouble with the uncertain pathways of the overgrown gardens high above the third level of the City. Sure-footed, he scrambled easily over all the crumbling stone work and up the many narrow steps. And so the two came at last to the thick green curtain of ivy.

Very solemnly, Fellen pulled aside, as best he could, the hanging growth. The sun shone on the revealed carving.

"Oh!" said Frodo, intrigued. He peered more closely through the leaves and flowers. "Who is he?"

"I don't know," said Fellen regretfully. "There is some kind of writing, but I can't read it."

Burrowing a little deeper into the foliage, Frodo carefully lifted aside more of the clinging ivy. "It's in Elvish script," he said at last.

"Can you read it?" Fellen asked hopefully.

Frodo almost disappeared amongst the leaves. "I think so," he said, his voice a little muffled. "The name is larger. I cannot read the rest. It is almost worn away."

"What is the name?" cried Fellen, balancing on his toes. He almost hung from the vines, trying to peer over Frodo's shoulder.

"Tarondor," said Frodo at last. He emerged, somewhat greened and grimed (which Fellen noticed with dismay.) "I can't read anything else. Not, at least, without all this covering removed -- which would be a bit of a shame," he added reflectively.

"Tarondor," whispered Fellen. "Who was he? He wasn't a Steward. I know all the names of the Stewards."

"I think," said Frodo slowly, "that he was a King long before the Stewards." When Fellen looked at him impressed, Frodo shook his head. "I don't know much about the Kings of Gondor," ("Except for the one we have now!" interjected Fellen proudly.) "but I do remember this name."

They sat down then on the broken flags of stone warm from the sun. Frodo spoke again. "In the Houses of Healing, they told me about his uncle, the King Telemnar. There was a terrible plague in the City, and the King and his family all died. The Houses were overrun with the sick and the dying. Tarondor, the nephew, was the next in line, and he had to rule the weakened land."

"Oh!" said Fellen. "What happened to him?"

"I don't know," said Frodo. "The healers were telling me about the plague, not about the Kings."

"Oh," said Fellen, crestfallen. "I want to know more about him! Do you think that you could ask them about him?"

"I could," said Frodo doubtfully. "But I must tell you, Fellen, I will be leaving soon. I am going back home."

Fellen gazed at Frodo mournfully. "I thought you might be. Before today, I thought you already had." He was silent for a moment, and he dug at the weeds in the cracks with his foot. "I was hoping we could find more of the carvings."

Frodo looked at Fellen and felt great fondness for the lad. "Then perhaps we might try another day this week. And then, perhaps, you could continue after I'm gone. I am sure there must be many wonderful things to discover that all others have forgotten."

"I could learn to read the Elvish script," said Fellen thoughtfully.

"And you could ask your father, and ask him of others who could tell you more. You could learn many things that you could, one day, teach to others."

A light came to Fellen's eyes. "I would like that," he said wistfully. "And I would think of you each time I found something."

* * *


"There they are! Look, up on the third wall!"

"Under the fourth wall, it looks like," Telgan said. He nudged Manrim aside.

"Hey, lads," protested Sam from where he was sitting. "There's room for all of you. No need to push each other."

"Who are you talking about," asked Pippin curiously. He was chewing the end of a long piece of grass, his arms behind his head.

"It's Fellen," said Felnor. "My younger brother."

"And the Ring-bearer!" said Manrim enviously. He got to his feet. "I know the area where they are... I think. Let's go after them."

"Woah," said Merry, and he shot out an arm to grip Manrim by the collar. "Leave them alone, lad. Frodo's better with only one other. He wouldn't be keen on you lot swarming all over him."

"We wouldn't swarm," said Manrim, but Felnor reached up and pulled him down. "All right. I won't go." He settled back down, looked sideways at Pippin, and plucked a long blade of grass. He chewed the end studiously.

The heat of the mid afternoon settled over the group, and the singing of the insects about them grew ever louder.

And far above them, at the base of the fourth wall, two small figures sat together in companionship.



The End