Chapter 16: To Tom

"Tom," Daisy nervously cleared her throat, "I don't want to disappoint you, but there's nothing left in the chest."

"Are you sure?" Elanor quietly asked.

"Sorry," Daisy said.

Everyone shifted around in embarrassment for their forgotten brother.

"But there's a letter," Bilbo said from the roll top desk.

"Last and least, as always," Tom sighed and went over to the writing desk. He took the remaining letter and unfolded it.

Dearest ?Tom? or is it Tolman?

I do apologize. I cannot seem to see clearly this far into the future, or is it only that my strength of will has grown too weak as my time draws to a close? Are you Tom? Only just come through your coming-of- age? I am not certain. But if you are here and reading this letter, then you are well-loved and of a fine family.

I cannot discern what is to be for you. Your path is hidden from my eyes, no matter how hard I search the magic waters of time. I cannot see anyone else after you, so I will assume you are the last of Sam and Rose's children. Their final flowering in a lifetime of love. You were/are very much wanted, of that I am certain.

Since I cannot foretell your future needs, I am at a loss as to what to give you. You stand upon the threshold of your life, as I stand at the ending of mine. Your father and mother are gone. Your brothers and sisters have their own lives. And there you stand; alone. In the dark. How may I help you to reach what is your destiny?

I will gift you something which was gifted me to help me find my way when there was no other light to turn to. Your father also used it to help in his hour of deepest doubt and fear. He and I carried it all the way through to the bitter end, and back again. May it also bear you up when you have need of a reminder of all that is good and pure.

My gift to you, last child of the purest heart of the Shire, is in my desk. Look in the topmost right hand drawer for a small, rather weather- beaten blue pouch with a drawstring of Elvish rope. Do not take off the stopper. Ever. Else the last light of the Blessed Tree be lost from this world forever.

One last thing. Now I ask you to do something for me. Would you please read aloud my final message to your brothers and sisters? It is written on the back of this note. Thank you, dearest Tom.

Love, Uncle Frodo

Tom turned the letter over. There was a small message inked in red upon the back.

May the Valar bless you all, heirs of my love.
Your father and I walk among the trees of Tol Eressea for awhile longer,
Then we will join your most radiant mother in the world-to-be.
Namarie, children of my heart.
Frodo Baggins

Bilbo opened the topmost right hand drawer and pushed his way past a maze of worn out goose quills and dried up ink wells. In the very back of the drawer he found a small bag. He silently handed it to his youngest brother.

The bag was old and travel-worn, with numerous stains upon its plain blue fabric. The drawstring was of a silken grey-green rope, very fine and smooth. It was tightly knotted shut.

Tom could feel a coolness through the cloth. It was as if the object inside the bag was alive in a strange, other-worldly way. He suddenly had a vision of stars and a path through the heavens. Tom looked around anxiously at his siblings, who were all turned so they might see what was inside the dark bag.

Tom's hands trembled as he unfastened the drawstring. The object inside was small, but curiously heavy. His hand could feel a cool smooth surface. It was a glass or crystal vessel of some type. It yearned to be free from the bag. It cried to him, asking to taste the air again and release its long-dormant power.

Tom suddenly understood that he teetered upon a threshold. He sensed that bringing the object out into the open would somehow propel him into the unknown. Into adventure. Into danger and uncertainty. Or possibly into glory and song. Should he do it? Or should he remain at home, the forgotten thirteenth child of a lowly gardener? Safe and secure and loved, but unremarkable.

In one smooth movement Tom grasped the glass, removed the bag, and held it into the light. It flashed and glowed brilliantly in the sun, swelling its own light as the room blazed in the glory of a thousand stars.

It was the Light of the Future. The Light of Earendil.

***** A/N: Gentle readers. I do not usually place author's notes in my stories, but this one is special. Today, August 19th, my brother died. He was a kind, gifted young man of 44 years. A life-long bachelor who played string bass and loved collecting musical instruments and old cars. His death ends a life-long battle with heart disease. I feel very much like Frodo right now, unstuck in time. I love my brother. I loved him. I hope to see him in the next world. This story is dedicated to the memory of my most beloved brother, Standley Jefferson Wood. Namarie.