Chapter Forty-three

Frodo opened his eyes. "Well, Happy Birthday, Mr. Frodo, and good morning," greeted Sam.

"Good morning, Sam, and thank you. I am afraid I have no gift to give you today."

"That's quite all right Mr. Frodo, just spending this time with you is enough." Sam had let Frodo sleep in, then they spent a leisurely time over breakfast. Frodo said little. Sam allowed Frodo his silence figuring that he was likely thinking of Linwe on this, their fifty-third birthday.

Frodo was thinking of Linwe, but not just because it was their birthday. Frodo wondered where she was. All the day before as he and Sam made their leisurely way through the Shire, Frodo had been haunted by the awareness of Linwe's pain. It had been almost more than he could bear but he had pushed on, it was for the best. When Sam and Frodo had stopped for the night, Frodo wondered if sleep would actually come to him. But as he rolled up in his blanket, the fragrance of dry autumn leaves filled every breath he took. Almost before being aware of it, Frodo drifted off to find himself in a fog filled landscape. Autumn leaves were underfoot. He could just make out the dim shapes of trees lurking in the fog. He looked all around him wondering at where he was. Then he heard a voice carried to him on the mists,"Frodo!" it was Linwe. He tried to call out to her but his voice was gone. Not a whisper would escape his lips. He heard her call again. He heard her beg him to return. He heard her crying. There was nothing he could do for her. All he could do was stand there, listening to her tormented cries and feel the pain of her heart break. Frodo did not know how long he stood there, it seemed like forever, it seemed like no time had passed at all. Then he perceived a lightening in the ebb and flow of the surrounding mist and fog. The light grew brighter, warmer, seeming to surround him until he felt he was shrouded in peace and calm. Frodo closed his eyes, savoring the contentment that filled him. When he opened his eyes once more he saw swaying branches over head with sunlight streaking through the leaves to the ground. He woke up knowing that Linwe was all right now.

The rest of the morning as he and Sam breakfasted and then started once more on their journey, Frodo's mind dwelled on thoughts of Linwe, wondering at what could have brought her so much comfort when she had been so completely distraught.

Free of the sense of Linwe's suffering, infused with the belief that she was truly well again, Frodo found his own mood lightening as he and Sam made their slow way through the Shire. Snatches of Bilbo's songs came to mind. Frodo found himself humming them softly. As they made there way down the sun dappled road Frodo could almost believe that he and Sam were out on a short pleasure journey and that after a few days they would return home to Bag End. However Frodo knew this was not to be. As the sun started to slip down towards the horizon he became increasingly aware that the time would soon come to tell Sam some difficult truths.

Evening settled across the land. Sam's mind dwelt on memories of the past, 'If that isn't the very tree you hid behind when the Black Rider first showed up, Mr. Frodo!' said Sam pointing to the left. 'It seems like a dream now.' Frodo sang softly to himself. As the stars began to make their appearance in the eastern sky, other voices came floating to them from down the path, Elven voices. Frodo knew the time had come.

Together Frodo and Sam waited as a pale ethereal light came towards them, followed by the appearance of Gildor, Elrond, the Lady Galadriel, and a drowsy Bilbo. Elrond greeted them gravely and graciously, and Galadriel smiled upon them. 'Well, Master Samwise,' she said. 'I hear and see that you have used my gift well. The Shire shall now be more than ever blessed and beloved.' Sam bowed, but found nothing to say. He had forgotten how beautiful the Lady was.

Then Bilbo woke up and opened his eyes. 'Hullo, Frodo!' he said. 'Well, I have passed the Old Took today! So that's settled. And now I think I am quite ready to go on another journey. Are you coming?'

'Yes, I am coming,' said Frodo. 'The Ring-Bearers should go together.'

'Where are you going, Master?' cried Sam, though at last he understood what was happening.

'To the Havens, Sam,' said Frodo.

Sam sat in stunned silence. He had known for a long time this was a possibility, that the invitation had been made for Frodo to go with the Elves. However Sam had never taken it seriously. He always believed that Frodo would simply return to the Shire and resume his life of relative comfort and ease. A belief made stronger by Frodo meeting and falling in love with Linwe. It was coming up on two years since Sam was made fully aware of his pretty cousin's existence in the world. Sam was honest enough to admit to himself that he had first loved her because she was the one Hobbit in all the Shire that he knew he and Frodo shared as a relation. But as he got to know her Sam came to love Linwe for herself. He could not have cared for her more if they had been brother and sister. Sam had been able to see that Merry and Pippin's claims to wish to marry her themselves, had only been about half in jest. Sam had supposed that Merry may have been an acceptable match, Pippin needed only to be older to be a possibility, but in Sam's heart the only person truly worthy of Linwe was the Hobbit he knew to truly love her most, his own, dear, Mr. Frodo. Tears filled Sam's eyes. "I thought after everything you would be staying in the Shire. I thought when you married Linwe it was all settled." Sam looked at Frodo with pleading eyes, "Why didn't you tell me, Frodo. Why didn't you at least tell Rosie and me that you and Linwe would be leaving us?"

Frodo tried to take a deep breath, tears started to spill unnoticed down his face. "Linwe is not going, Sam. She must stay here, and you must look after her for me."

"What?" Sam cried out in shock," What do you mean she isn't going with you. She is your wife. You are her husband. Her place is with you. I can accept that you can't stay here anymore, but if you must go then Linwe must also. It's only right!"

"No, Sam, she can't."

"Why can't she? By whose authority?"

"By mine," said Lord Elrond in a low, grave tone.

Sam turned on Elrond in fury, "How can you forbid Linwe to leave with Frodo? How dare you? Do you have any idea of how much they love each other? Do you have any idea of what they mean to each other?"

"Yes, Sam, I do. It is because of all that and more that I have said Linwe may not leave with Frodo."

"That makes no sense!" declared Sam.

"It will in time, Samwise Gamgee. I promise you that in time you will understand why I have acted as I have." Elrond's words were spoken with a sense of finality that Sam knew would not stand for more argument. In desperation Sam turned back to Frodo. "Please, Frodo, don't leave her. Surely you will be all right as long as you are with her."

"No, Sam, I won't. I'm dying, Sam! If I stay I fear that Linwe will die with me."

"You can't be sure of that. You made vows to her, Frodo! You promised you would always love her and care for her."

"You're right, Sam, in that I can't be sure that she would die with me. But what I can be sure of is that she will suffer all that I suffer. Linwe, feels nearly all that I feel, she bares scars from all the wounds I received during the quest. I wish I could stay here with her, spend my last days looking upon her face and feeling the comfort of her presence. But if I were to stay, Linwe would in truth suffer every pain with me. You are right, Sam, I vowed to love her and care for her, and so I shall. I will care for her in the best possible way I can. I will take myself away from her, sparing her a lingering painful death. I will go to the one place in the world where I might finally be able to live without the constant torment of the evil that still poisons me. I will live in some relative peace and thus allow Linwe to do the same. And I will always love her. Neither time nor distance can ever diminish all that I feel for her."

"It wasn't supposed to be this way, Mr. Frodo," Sam said as he wept, "We were all supposed to go on living in Bag End together, raising our children together. I had hoped that one day you would have a son to marry my Elanor."

"I know, Sam, but this is the way it has to be, I have known this for some time now."

"This is why you and Linwe have been moping around, isn't it? It wasn't because the baby you lost it was because you two have known that you were leaving. Why didn't you tell me?"

"I didn't tell you because I wanted my last days with you to be without out taint of sadness. I did not lie to you, Sam, Linwe and I have very much missed the baby we lost. We both hoped that we might be blessed with another, but it wasn't to be."

Sam sat sniffling, tears still trickled down his face as he let the truth of all that he had just been told sink in. He looked down at the ground beneath his pony's hooves, then gazed up at the stars overhead. He ignored those around him, who stayed on their mounts, patiently waiting. Bilbo had dozed back off in his saddle and the pony beneath him appeared to have done the same. Sam pulled out a pocket handkerchief, wiped his eyes and blew his nose and turned back to Frodo, "What will you have me do, Mr. Frodo? Three years ago at the start of the quest I promised that if by word or deed I could help you I would. On your wedding day I vowed as your friend to be there for you and Linwe if as a couple you ever had need of me. Then with Merry and Pippin I made to Linwe the same promise we made you in Rivendell. It seems to me that if this is the way it all has to be then the time has come to make good on those promises. What would you have me do?"

Frodo smiled through his own tears, leaned over to Sam and hugged him, "Bless you, Samwise Gamgee, I know you will not fail me."

The party of Elves and Hobbits took their time riding through the Shire then on to the Grey Havens. Sam and Frodo savored this last journey together. They sang gentle soothing melodies together. Galadriel shared with Sam a song for him to sing to Elanor. Frodo at last told Sam all that had been in his mind and heart for nearly a year, and of the arrangements that had been made for Linwe's own journey. Sam scolded Frodo for not allowing his friends to lend their support while he was faced with the heavy decision to go or stay. "It is true, Mr. Frodo, that we would all have been feeling continually sad knowing that you were to leave us. But you and Linwe were able to go all that time acting as though no such thing was to happen. Surely with such an example the rest of us would have been able to still be mostly cheerful ourselves. If you don't mind my saying so, you went to all that trouble for nothing. Further more you have denied Merry, Pippin, and Rosie a chance to say goodbye to you properly."

"You are right, Sam, I hope that you will all be able to forgive me."

"It's already forgiven, Mr. Frodo."

On the morning of the twenty-ninth the party arrived at the edge of the Grey Havens. Gandalf was there, waiting. Greetings were quickly exchanged. "May I suggest we move on?" said Elrond, "Our ship is waiting."

"In a moment, if you please," replied Gandalf with a twinkle in his eye, "I believe I hear someone coming."

The sound of hooves could be heard drawing nearer. The pace was fast, the riders urging their mounts to run. Everyone turned to see Merry and Pippin come riding up in great haste. And amid his tears Pippin laughed.

'You tried to give us the slip once before and failed, Frodo,' he said. 'This time you have nearly succeeded, but you have failed again. It was not Sam, though, that gave you away this time, but Gandalf himself!'

Merry and Pippin climbed down from their ponies, Sam and Frodo were quick to follow, hugs were exchanged all the way around. "You know then," said Sam, "you know he is leaving and Linwe is to stay behind?"

"We know, Sam," replied Merry, "we know everything. It will be all right Sam. You'll see."

"I am sorry I did not tell you earlier," said Frodo.

"As well you should be," said Pippin while attempting to sound stern and angry.

"I know. Sam has helped me to see that,"

"Don't worry about it, Frodo," said Merry, "Pippin and I know that you just did what you felt you had to."

"Thank you, I did leave letters for you with Linwe. There are instructions in them, for you, but it would do me good to tell you of them now. Aragorn and Eomer have made arrangements for some of their men to escort Linwe to Edoras and then Gondor. All you have to do is take her south and stay with her until she leaves. If she will wait for them, Eowyn and Faramir would like to come and ride with her. I would like it if she did."

"Don't worry, Frodo, Linwe will be well cared for," assured Merry.

"It is time to move on, Frodo," said Elrond. The Hobbits mounted up once more to take one last ride together. The road they followed wound its way through the ruins of a long abandoned city. Though plants and trees had long since grown wild, there was still a sense of presence of the people who had lived here so long before. Merry, Pippin, and Sam rode through letting their thoughts wander away from the awareness that soon they would be saying goodbye forever to their friend and cousin, to thoughts of plans to one day come to this old city to take the time to explore it thoroughly. Frodo tried to keep his mind away from the hard moment which was coming. He tried to take as much notice of his surroundings to commit them to memory as he could, but there was a chiming sound in his head. He tried to ignore it but it seemed to get stronger with each passing moment. With a sigh of resignation he started to concentrate on the sound. It was not an unpleasant sound, rather it was a gentle chiming which gave Frodo a sense of joyous anticipation. It made no sense to him, why should he be feeling happy as though he were looking forward to a particularly special party? He was leaving his home and family. He was leaving all he had ever known all that he had ever loved. He was leaving the one person that was dearest of all to him. He was leaving Linwe. He had left her. He had left her sleeping in their bed. His last memory was of her snuggled sweetly among the pillows and blankets, looking as though there could not be a single thing wrong in the world. Looking as though she would open up her eyes at any moment smile at him as she did every morning, making his heart skip. How could he leave her now? How could he leave her ever? Why was he hearing this chiming in his head that seemed to be trying to make him feel as good as one of Linwe's smiles did?

Onward they rode through the ruins of the past. Soaring towers on either side swept up gracefully giving sense of flight. Then around a turn in the road, past a fountain long claimed by water lilies and frogs, then through an archway in a stone wall and the party found themselves looking out over the sea. Frodo kept his gaze averted. He did not want to look upon the vast ocean nor gaze upon the ship that waited for him. He did not want to think of leaving. The chiming instead in his head became even more jubilant. Images of Linwe, smiling, dancing, and laughing flitted through his mind. All at once Frodo felt he could no longer breathe. He could not leave her. He had to go back to her. There had to be another way. His place was with her. How could he ever live without her? Frodo had was just about to turn his mount when he heard someone say his name. "Frodo," said Sam, laying a hand on Frodo's arm. Frodo looked down at the hand as though he did not know what it was. The bells were louder. Frodo labored for every breath. The hand on his arm shook him gently. "Mr. Frodo!" Why did Sam's voice sound so distant. Frodo looked up at Sam's face "Mr. Frodo! Look!" Sam turned away from Frodo looked out to the sea and pointed. Frodo turned his own gaze in the direction Sam pointed. There was the white boat waiting where it was tied to a stone quay. Frodo's gaze wondered of its own accord down to the end of the quay and came to rest on the site of two figures that stood, with their backs towards him, looking out to see. One was tall with long golden hair and a flowing green cloak. The other figure was small wearing a crimson cloak and had long curling tresses that were unbound by braids, bows, or pins. Frodo gasped. The crimson clad figure turned. Frodo's heart felt as though it had stopped. "Linwe!" Later Frodo would not be able to remember having climbed down off his mount. He would only vaguely remember running and being aware that Linwe was running toward him. Later on Frodo would look back on those few brief moments that seemed to stretch on forever and would remember how the chiming in his head erupted into a loud triumphant chorus at the mere sight of her, and that the moment she flew into his arms he gasped for air as though they were the first breaths of life, each sweet breath was filled with the fragrance of summer, the fragrance of her. "My Linwe!" cried Frodo tears streaming down his face.

Linwe stood silently next to Merenwen looking out to sea. Linwe waited. Her thoughts whirled over all that she had learned from Merenwen. All was not as she had been lead to believe. There was still hope. Her thoughts were accompanied by the music of bells. The bells told her he was drawing nearer. She had only to wait a moment more. "He is here," said Merenwen. Linwe turned around. There he was. There was Frodo. The one she loved most in all the world. Linwe gasped, then sobbed. Every emotion she had felt since she first laid eyes on him nearly two years before seemed to come crashing on her in that moment. All the happiness, all the longing, all the worry, all of the torment, all of the joy, all of the laughter, all of the tears, all of the pain, all of the loss, all of the limitless love, came crashing down on her at that moment and Linwe nearly collapsed beneath the weight of it. "Don't collapse just now, my little one," came Merenwen's quiet words, "hold fast a little while longer. Hold fast and go to him."

Linwe needed no more urging. Linwe ran. Linwe ran as she had never run before. Linwe ran with the strength of every emotion she had ever felt with him or for him. Then suddenly he was there. He was in her arms. She was in his. The power of emotions that had nearly overwhelmed her before then had urged her on now overcame her. Linwe cried. Her body was wracked with great heaving sobs. For so long she had held so much emotion under guard. Never wanting Frodo to know how much she hurt. Never wanting to feel the true depth of her pain herself. In Frodo's arms again she could hold it back no more. She collapsed under the weight of it. She collapsed against him. She let the pent up emotions overwhelm her and with every breath she sobbed, "I'm coming with you! I'm coming with you! I'm going with you!"

Minutes or maybe even hours passed as the Ring Bearer and his soul mate stood clinging to each other weathering the storm of feelings that swept over them and through them. But all storms have their end. This one was no different. The clouds eventually parted. The downpour of tears dissipated to a light sprinkling. Eventually Frodo was able to look up, from where he still held Linwe tightly in his arms. He found that he and she were surrounded by faces wearing a mixture of tears and smiles. Then Lord Elrond stepped forward and did something unexpected, he knelt down on one knee. Frodo and Linwe looked on in astonishment as Lord Elrond then took one of each of their hands then held them together between his own, much in the same way Saradoc had the day he had pronounced Frodo and Linwe to be husband and wife. Frodo Baggins and Linwe Taralom Baggins, I apologize to you for the pain and torment I have had to put you through. You must understand that, Frodo, for your well being and for Linwe's as well, going to he undying lands had to be kept the least of all desirable possibilities for you. I had hoped that once the two of you found each other that you Frodo would find the healing you needed in your home land with the one person you love most. I knew you would not leave Linwe unless you truly felt in your heart that it was for the absolute best. Frodo and Linwe, you have been bound together in spirit since the start of your lives and possibly even before. I have not the will nor desire to separate two who are meant to be together. You will both be given a place on the ship if it is still your wish to go."

Linwe stood a little bit straighter, held her head high, then in her most authoritative voice she said, "Frodo can no longer live in Middle Earth and as it is in every child's best interest to grow up with comfort and love of their father as well as mother then I have no choice but leave with Frodo." Linwe's words were met first with silence as everyone present let their meaning sink in. Only Merenwen looked on in quiet amusement. Frodo looked at Linwe. His lips moved. Sounds escaped his mouth. However there were no words. It was all too much. Too much feeling. First he was leaving her, now she was with him and going where he would go. It was all too much to hope for. In the absence of words Frodo reached up with his hand to touch her face. Savoring the soft feel of her skin beneath his hand he looked deeply into her eyes. After a moment Frodo sighed contentedly, smiled then kissed her.

Elves and wizard alike, looked on, happy to share in some small way in the joy of the two before them. Hobbits on the other hand could not settle for standing on the edges and looking on. Merry, Pippin and Sam quickly piled in around the couple, hugging them and each other, shouting congratulations and wishes of blessings and joy. Only Bilbo did not join in this. The old hobbit had sat down on a near by bench and dozed off once again.

Given the time the Hobbits would have celebrated a month and a day the impending arrival of the newest Baggins. But time they did not have. Merry, Pippin, and Sam bid farewell to old Bilbo, then Elrond led Bilbo onto the ship, followed by Galadriel. Merenwen then said good bye to the three that were staying behind, kissing and hugging each of them. "I shall miss all of you," she said. It was clear to all within hearing that she truly meant it. Sam boldly took hold of one of Merenwen's hands then said, "You were there the day Frodo and Linwe were married. You know what we all promised to them. I would say it is up to you know to take our places and look after them once you have all left us."

Merenwen smiled, "I gladly take on that responsibility, Sam. I hope I do not let you down."

"I don't believe you could," replied Sam.

Gandalf made his farewells. This proved to be a bit much for Merry, Pippin and Sam. It was saying goodbye forever to one of their Fellowship. For Pippin it was especially difficult. On that ride from Rohan to Minis Tirith, Gandalf had become more than a friend to him, but more of a wise and much loved Grandfather.

With tears Linwe started to say good bye to each of her cousins. "Tell me, Linwe, how was Rosie and Elanor when you left?"

"They were very well, Sam. I left them on the twenty-third, six days ago now I guess. You can tell them I started missing them as soon as I stepped away from them to ride off with Merenwen."

"Pardon me for asking, but does Rosie know you are expecting?"

"Yes, Sam, she knows."

"That's good, she was awfully concerned for you that way, we all were. I am going to miss spending the next several months arguing with you over whether or not it is a boy or girl."

"So will I, Sam, so will I."

Linwe gave Sam a hug and kiss then turned to Pippin, "This hardly seems fair," said Pippin, "I did not get to follow you around and adore you near as much as I would have liked to."

"I thought you had forgotten all about that. For the last several months you have spent so much time staring at Diamond North-Took of Long Cleave, I sort of assumed that you had long since lost all thoughts of me."

"I could never forget you. You were my first love after all," Pippin said with deeply felt sincerity.

"I thought Iris Proudfoot was your first love," said Merry.

"Nonsense, I was only six years old when I fell for her obviously I was too young to understand that the nature of my true feelings for her derived from the pieces of candy the would give me whenever I went into her parent's sweet shop."

Linwe laughed then kissed and hugged Pippin, "I am going to miss you Pippin. I wish I could be there if you should happen to marry Diamond one day."

"I'll save a dance for you anyway and name a daughter after you," replied Pippin as he now openly wept. Pippin stole one last hug from Linwe, he kissed her cheek, then let her go to Merry.

Linwe had barely turned to Merry when she found herself swept into his arms and whirled around. "Unlike, Pippin here, I knew the nature of my feelings for you when I was a lad. I was in love with you then and I still am now, but no one else deserves you more than Frodo, here, and only you are worthy enough of, Frodo. Be well, little cousin," said Merry as tears slid down his cheeks.

"Be well, big cousin. I love you, too," Linwe then hugged and kissed, Merry too.

Her farewells said, Linwe turned and went to stand next to Merenwen who still waited on the quay to board the ship. Silently Merenwen knelt down then put her arms around Linwe, a gesture that had been repeated over and over again since Linwe was child. Linwe wrapped her arms tightly around Merenwen's neck for a moment, then looked back to watch as Frodo said his good-byes.

Frodo turned to Sam after saying goodbye to Merry and Pippin, held Sam for several long moments, then pulled back, kissed Sam's brow then turned to walk away. Merenwen stood up then and went on board the ship. Linwe fought back her tears as Frodo came towards her. He slipped one arm around her, turning her around, he paused for a moment to kiss her temple, allowing the relief of knowing she would always be with him now wash over him. Together Frodo walked up the short ramp to the ship. At the top they turned looked back and smiled.

The End

Author's Note- (September 22, 2004) Happy Birthday to Bilbo, Frodo and Linwe.

Works in progress are...

Far and Away, the tale of Frodo and Linwe's voyage across the ocean and the start of their life in the undying lands.

An alternative ending to Enigmas- The Life and Love of Linwe and Frodo.

Thanks Everyone