Long Home of Mortals
Chapter 1: Trees
He heard the music before he opened his eyes. More, he kept them closed deliberately, the better to listen.
The singing reminded him of Lothlorien, and he thought it must be Elves. But the language was nothing he had ever heard, and there was a rhythm he had never felt in Elven music. Familiar, that rhythm was, and he held very still, trying to place it. Finally he realized that it marched with the beat of his own heart, and his eyes flew open all on their own from surprise.
What was this place?
There had been a tree – he thought he remembered that. An enormous mallorn, all golden in its winter foliage. He looked around. There were still trees, but not mallorns. Fruit trees, but not any kind he recognized. He got to his feet and started wandering among them, looking closely at leaf and bark and fruit. There was something very strange about them. They seemed all the same kind, but some were in blossom, others had small green fruit just beginning to form, on some the fruit was full-formed but not yet ripe, and on yet others the fruit was ripe and fragrant. The ripe fruit was beautiful, mouth-watering, and he was tempted to taste it.
He put his hands in his pockets. The trees were well-shaped and cared for, the grass under his feet neatly trimmed. Plainly this was someone's garden, and he had no permission to help himself.
How had he gotten here?
There had been the mallorn. In the Party Field, that was it. The mallorn he had planted long ago, the seed hidden in Galadriel's little box of earth. When they came back from the Quest, he had planted it. And it sprang up that first spring, and grew and grew until it was the grandest tree anywhere in the Shire, towering over Hobbiton, majestic, giving his spirit a lift every time he looked at it.
That was his real gift from Galadriel – not the box, but the mallorn. And it was fitting, now he thought about it, that his gift had been a seed that he had to plant, and wait for it to grow. Just like it was fitting that Frodo's gift had been a phial of light…
He'd been under the mallorn with Frodo.
No, that couldn't be right. The mallorn was enormous, its branches nearly touching the ground, the area underneath a spacious room all full of golden light. The Party Field mallorn had been young, a sapling only, when Frodo left the Shire.
His eyes caught a flash of light off to the right, and he turned aside. A few dozen steps brought him to the bank of a river that seemed to sparkle like crystal, and on the other side another grove of trees. The light on the water glinted and flashed in his eyes, and he looked up, expecting to see the sun high in the sky. The sky was bluer than any sky he had ever seen, the very essence of blueness without the least hint of a cloud, but no matter how he strained his eyes, he couldn't find the sun.
A very odd place this was, however you looked at it.
I must be dreaming, he thought. Wasn't I going to have a nap? Under the mallorn it was, and we'd been talking and having a smoke, and I said, I'm going to have a nap –
I said to Frodo, I'm going to have a nap. And he said, we have to go home, Sam, but we'll go together. And I said, you don't mean the Shire. And then he went to sleep, but it was more than sleep, he wasn't breathing right, and I closed my eyes and hurried to follow him…
I'm dead, then. This is death.
He looked out over the shining water, the groves of fruit trees lining both banks and the golden light lying all around him. He stretched out his arms and looked at them, flexed his fingers, looked down at his feet and wiggled his toes. Suddenly he let out a shout of laughter and slapped his knees.
"Stars and glory, this is death? But I've never been so alive, never, in all my life!"
"No, you never have," said a voice behind him, and he stopped still, listening. He had heard that voice before. Where had he heard that voice before? He turned slowly.
It was the Man he had seen by the waterfall in Tol Eressea. His memory was coming back, and he remembered being there with Frodo, sitting wakeful by the water while Frodo slept, and this Man had been there too. Had been there, and somehow had taken the weight from his heart, the long years of missing Frodo and fretting over him.
"You're Iluvatar's Son," he said, and he knew it was true, but not what it meant.
"Iluvatar's Son, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father, the Beginning and the End. I am all of those."
"You healed him." Sam knelt, looking him in the eye. "He told me how you healed him. Thank you."
The Son came and lifted him up, wrapped his arms around the hobbit and held him close, rocking him back and forth. Sam closed his eyes and yielded to the motion, and although he had felt no need of comforting, he was comforted to the depths of his heart.
"Oh Samwise, you make me glad that I created hobbits! But you've come now to where there is only one Master. Will you give your loyalty to me, as you gave it to Frodo?"
Sam leaned back to look up at him. That was a hard question, that was, and he wasn't sure what was meant by it.
"Do you mean I can't love him no more, sir, nor be his Sam?"
"You can love him, but you must be my Sam, as he is my Frodo, and Rosie is my Rose."
"Because it was you that made us, made all the hobbits."
"Hobbits and Elves and Men, Wizards and Valar and everything that is. Yes, Sam."
Sam remembered something else, and he twisted in the Son's embrace and took one of his hands to look at it. It was just as Frodo had told him, pierced through, the wound open and unhealed, raw, painful to look at. This was worse, far worse, than Frodo's missing finger.
"Seems like you've paid a mighty price, sir, caring for what you made." He looked up into the Son's face, his eyes clear and direct. "I'll be your Sam and thank you for asking. But I'd dearly like to see Frodo again, if you don't mind."
The Man's face shone like the sun that Sam had been unable to find. "You will see him, Sam. You're home now, so go search out the land, and you will find all that your heart desires. And, Sam," he added, "you may eat the fruit. As much as you want."
Sam blinked in a dazzlement of light, and when he could see again, he was alone.