They were walking as usual after the last meal of the day. It was a lovely night, heady with the scents of early summer flowers and yet warm enough to let them walk abroad without their cloaks on. They took the familiar path that led to the foot of the hill, flanked by trees overhung with unseen Elvish lanterns. The brook that ran alongside the white stone steps was singing joyously, and the wind caressed their appled cheeks with the liquid notes of the Elves' night carols.
Frodo stopped and gazed at the sky strewn with white fires, a contented smile on his lips.
"Beautiful night, isn't it, Sam?" he sighed.
"It is, sir, beautiful," commented Sam unenthusiastically.
"I know they're just stars," Frodo went on dreamily, tracing shapes in the sky with his finger. "The same ones I saw yesterday, the ones I will see tomorrow. But every night it feels as if I am looking at them for the first time again. As though every night I made them anew."
"They do shift, Mr. Frodo," said Sam. "You told me yourself. Winter sky, summer sky, nights in spring and nights in fall. They're always different."
Frodo laughed at Sam's practicality. "I did tell you that, didn't I?" he said. He looked back, his eyes widening when he saw Sam sitting on the stone step, cradling his face in hands. "Sam?"
Frodo came over to Sam and sat beside him. "What's the matter, Sam?" he said, putting a hand on Sam's shoulder. "You're not ill, are you?"
Sam stared at him, a look of desperate confusion on his face. "Oh, Mr. Frodo, I…," he stammered. "I've been meaning to tell you that…." But he could not go on.
"What is it, Sam?" Frodo prodded gently, sensing that it must have been something of extraordinary gravity, otherwise Sam, the ever-cheerful, ever-sensible Sam, would not find it so difficult to reveal.
Sam turned and gazed at him with eyes welling with aching love. "I am leaving, Mr. Frodo. Tonight."
"Leaving?" Frodo queried, looking thoroughly baffled. "Where?"
Sam reached out and grasped his hand. "I want to join my Rosie, if you understand, Mr. Frodo. I want to rest beside her at last."
Frodo frowned, trying to make sense of what Sam had just said. He understood fully what Sam had meant. But he could not comprehend what lay beneath the sudden farewell, what prompted the need to go on.
"Isn't Eressea rest enough, Sam?" Frodo said finally. "Aren't you content enough here, with me?"
"Are you, Mr. Frodo?" asked Sam in return.
Frodo flinched at the question.
His days in Eressea had been blessed with healing and joy and beauty. He had gained such a depth of knowledge and wisdom from the Elves that his world, his soul, his heart was blissfully open now, always at the ready to drink in any new facet that life had yet to offer, any new hue that his eyes could feast on, any new note that he could twine into his songs, all the sensations and memories that would run in his blood and be part of his being: the new hobbit, the ever renewing, learning, rejoicing Frodo.
But for Sam, apparently being surrounded by beauty and wisdom alone would not suffice.
Frodo shivered despite the warm night. Why should Sam feel that way? Why could he not feel the same urge?
"Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked worriedly. "I did not mean to alarm you or anything, sir. Believe me. If I hadn't seen just how happy and peaceful you are here, I would have chosen to stay and see to it that you got what you deserve. But you are, Mr. Frodo, home I mean. Even without me, you've found what you need, you are free and you are well."
Frodo wanted to say "You are wrong, Sam. Stay. I need you," but his voice deserted him.
"You have made my life whole, Mr. Frodo," Sam went on quietly. "There is so much happiness in my life: Rosie, the children, my days in Hobbiton, the friends I had in Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin, and the king and Gimli and Legolas… But always I was thinking of you, wondering if you truly had found rest and cure to your wounds. My happiness is now complete, Mr. Frodo. Life couldn't've got any better than when I met you again and saw you so full of joy and vigor. My life here is perfect, Mr. Frodo. I wish to go on."
Go on where, Sam? Frodo questioned silently. What is beyond life? Beyond death? What is there to find?
"Mr. Frodo?" called Sam gently, pressing his hand.
Frodo smiled with an effort. "I understand, Sam," he said softly. "I will not hold you back if it is your wish to leave. I wish I could say I would not miss you, but that would be untrue. But if you must go, Sam, go you must, with my blessings and love."
They embraced. In the soft glow of the moon Frodo saw his right hand resting on Sam's back. He winced at the sight of the gap between the middle and little fingers. He closed his eyes, not wishing to dwell on the thought of how much of his life had run through that rift in his hand, his being, his soul.
He wondered if Sam had felt this bereft and lost when they embraced in the Grey Havens.
He smiled when he let go of Sam. "Come, Sam," he said. "Let's go on with our walk. Our last walk together, as it seems."
Sam stood, still wiping his tears, his lips quivering. But he said nothing as they resumed their walk along the tree-lined path; now strangely quiet despite the singing in the air.
Death. All he wanted was death. When he knew that The Ring was torn from him, no longer his, never would be his, never, he was ravaged with so intense an agony that he still wondered at what kept him from plunging headlong in madness into the raging flames of Sammath Naur. He had wanted nothing, then, but death. Release.
And when he returned to the green hills and silver streams of the Shire and found no respite there from the pain that continued to consume him; when he no longer recognized that beautiful land as home and its people were hobbits who knew little of him and cared even less, he understood why the aged often desired a release from that feeling of weary estrangement. And he thought often of that theme. Death. Salvation.
He even dreamed of it, of death, on his trip to Eressea. A peaceful, swift death. An end.
He dared not hope for a cure to the growing shadows that daily were grinding him to dust. He expected to find the company of Elves in a land described as possessing unsurpassable beauty to be soothing, maybe even pleasing, but no more. But no tales that he heard, no songs that he knew, had prepared him for the powers that saturated the very air of the Lonely Isle. They had touched his heart and broke the manacles of darkness that he wore on hands that once cradled the object which caused countless ruin. The powers swept away all the frost that lingered from the freezing touch of the Morgul blade, the lurking filth and venom from the fangs of the hideous spider, and in their place were lights undimmed, strength unwaned. Unlooked for, he had found healing in the Eressea. To his relief he found that he was still alive.
He lived his days in Eressea in fierce passion, relishing each heartbeat, each breath, each touch, sight, sound, scent and taste, each thought and dream and memory, each laugh and each tear; even more so because he had once believed they were denied him and his was a world of nothing but painful nightmares of longing and hatred. But in Eressea there was only delight upon delight, knowledge upon knowledge, peace, freedom. He could stay under its swift, gentle sun many and many a day, and he thought that he should never weary of it.
He noticed the changes. They happened, he accepted that with bemused resignation. His hair was now silver, falling in silken waves to his shoulders, which were not as sturdy and as straight as they had formerly been. There were lines, fine as they were, about his eyes and mouth; and not all of them are from the smiles and laughs that he seemed to be doing a lot in Eressea. He tired easily and slept more hours than he used to, though he could still boast of the frequent jaunts with his elven friends, and of the nightlong dances and feasts he oft attended. He forgot more and more things, it seemed, and there were moments when groping in his memory felt like fumbling in the mist. It made him fretful sometimes; yet blissfully he forgot even these frustrating periods, and those he did remember were invariably comic so that he was more apt to laugh at himself than mourn for his lurching memory. He had changed, he was resigned to it. But he was yet weary of life.
He could not understand why Sam wished to leave. He could not understand why Sam chose to die.
Living was a gift. A joy. A wonder.
He could not understand death.
"I'm glad I told you, Mr. Frodo," said Sam, smiling, drowsy contentment in his eyes. "I was of a mind not to. I was afraid you might snap at me and tell me to use more sense than to think of leaving this wonderful place. I was afraid you might weep; I could not have borne it. But this is better. This is better. I get to say good-bye."
"I'm glad you told me too, Sam," Frodo said, forcing a smile on his lips. "It would have hurt more to wake up and find you gone."
Sam looked wistfully at Frodo.
"Would that we could go together, Mr. Frodo," Sam said softly. "I hate leaving you alone here."
Frodo stifled a cry and bit his lip. A torrent of pleas roiled in his mind but found no path to his throat.
"But I'm not that troubled, Mr. Frodo," sighed Sam. "You've so much to live for here. Nothing makes me as glad as leaving you here so happy and content." He squeezed Frodo's hand and smiled.
"Farewell, Mr. Frodo dear," Sam whispered. "Until we meet again."
Frodo tried to speak, but was afraid that the effort would unlatch the floodgates of anguish he wished to hide from Sam. He gripped Sam's hand in his and bent to kiss Sam on the brow.
Sam closed his eyes, the smile still etched on his lips.
Frodo watched in mute detachment as Sam's breathing slowed down and finally ceased, feeling the warmth seeping away from Sam's hand in his. Finally he laid the hand on Sam's chest, bending to softly plant a kiss on the cold fingers. He laid his cheek on the folded hand and his tears fell.
Alone now. He chuckled mirthlessly. Alone. It was like being dead, alone like this.
Frodo stared at the gleaming white vault atop the hill. Bilbo was there, and now Sam also lay in it, their face peaceful, as though they were only sleeping, listening to the murmurs of the trees that ringed the Hall of Endless Dream. A mausoleum in the deathless land. It did not seem right somehow.
He wondered what it felt like to be buried in the Shire. Would he still hear the children laugh in the distance; people talk and sing, not the piercingly beautiful elven songs, but plain hobbit songs, all merry tunes and simple words?
Did they deem this justice? Forsaking one alone in a strange, kinless land?
He should know. He had experienced this often enough.
He closed his eyes and saw again, in all its vivid, ghastly details, his mother's face. Eyes closed, wet dark-brown hair crisscrossing her bluish, pale face, her lips white. Was that justice too? Dragging her and his father, into the cold embrace of the Brandywine?
He remembered Bilbo, all roguish Tookishness and steady, down-to-earth Baggins blood mingled in one delightful spirit, who welcomed him heartily into Bag End. And the party. The vanishing trick. Was that just another example of a higher order of justice? Hurling Bilbo at the goblins and bumping him into …
He winced and opened his eyes. He stared disgustedly at his right hand, at the revolting gap between his fingers. It all came down to that, did it not? He was destined to It, his fate entwined with It when It breathed Its first in the fiery cauldron of Orodruin. Fate had designed that he should be born, then be divested of his parents so he could be lumped together with Bilbo, the Ring-finder, then Destiny shoved the Ring at him and he, the Ring-bearer, had to walk to Mordor with the weight of the world on his back. Alone.
Then It ended. But he, defiled by lusting for the Ring, had to be uprooted from his home, so he would not cast his horrible shadow, the shadow of his missing finger and its meaning, on the hallowed earth of the Shire. He was weeded out and stashed instead, in this lovely garden. Yes, he grew strong. Yes, he healed. Yes, he was happy. Yes, he thrived. But they need not worry that he should sully this sacred land, need they? He was short-lived. He would perish soon. There was no danger of his marring Eressea with his presence. End of story. End of worry. Fate had designed so. Wise, was it? Wise and just.
It was supposed to be a gift, a privilege, walking among the immortals, basking in wisdom and ethereal beauty; an honor. And in all honesty, it felt like an honor. He did seem to deserve it, did he not? But what claim had he on the decision to remove him to Eressea? What choice had he in anything? He was but a speck of dust mote, to be blown hither and thither at the whims of the wise and just Higher Intelligence. He was a doll, limp and lifeless but for the strings attached to his limbs. He was made for that; so that glory and honor and valor could keep their meaning, and tainted time could be cleansed. It was all he was good for. It was the purpose of his being. And now that he had attained it, he could be disposed of. He could die. So he was allowed to decide when he would graciously leave. But leave he would, end he should. He would die. Destiny ordained so.
He shook with anger and disgust. He looked down at the long, white lace that ruffled where the sea met the jagged reef at the bottom of the cliff. Clash, spray, retreat. Evanescent grace. He looked away.
"My choice," he whispered defiantly at the sky. "I shall not give in. You shall not have me."
Frodo woke up suddenly, drenched in sweat, to the sound of moaning that he only then realized was his. He pressed his hand to his mouth to check the sobs that were all but leaping from the very depths of his chest. He looked around, listening intently for the sounds of Gandalf waking up and shuffling in the adjoining room. Sam's room, Frodo remembered painfully. Only Sam had left, a month ago today.
Frodo was thankful for Gandalf. The day Sam died, the old wizard had moved back to the tiny elven home where the hobbits dwelt. Frodo knew what it cost Gandalf to stay and keep him company. Gandalf spent most of his time bumping into wooden arches and a chandelier set at hobbit height and grumbling about being too old to be battered. But his presence kept the silence at bay. His was a familiar face, familiar voice, comfort, a refuge.
Still, Gandalf could not stop the nightmare. Frodo rested his pounding head on his bent knees, closing his eyes. Was it a warning? Locked doors to chambers he once occupied, denying him access to memories stored there. Branching corridors leading to dusty paths he did not remember trodding. Distant voices he did not recall, calling him. Snatches of seasons long past, faces he forgot. Unlit lamps hanging forlornly in abandoned rooms. Rubble and ruin, shrouded in mist. Dark and cold. No way out. Trapped.
He felt his heart lurch; his breath came in ragged gasps. He sank back onto his pillow, gazing at the starry sky outside his window.
He aged. He could not stay it, could not deny it. The elves had greatly helped him overcome the mounting discomfort of walking with ancient joints and his room was cluttered with pots and phials of potions and herbs for his increasingly growing complaints. But they could do nothing to undo his deterioration.
He could not escape.
How long would his dignity endure this kind of disgrace, this rising dependence over others, however concerned and devoted they were? How long would it be before he was completely beyond aid, and he was trapped in those dusty, hazy, crumbling corridors, with nothing but memories to accompany him, mocking him by reminding him of days past when he was still in control of his entire being? He shivered, remembering his last meeting with the Old Goldfather, Rorimac Brandybuck, once the undisputed Master of the Hall. Rory was lying, mumbling and rheumy-eyed, in a room that stank of age and decay. He was 106. Frodo was …
He shook his head, canceling the thought before it quite formed itself in his mind.
Maybe death can be sweet.
"No!" he gasped.
Such courage. Hapless, hopeless hobbit. Helpless. And he dared to challenge the Power?
His head throbbed worse.
All he sought was understanding. There had to be more than this, more than a flitting existence that culminated in the dark months between his 50th birthday and a dark vault full of leaping flames, to be followed by nothing but animated death. There had to be.
He sat on the grass on top of the cliff, staring at the horizon. How many years had passed since he first stood there beside Gandalf, as the ancient wizard pointed at the glowing radiance at the end of the Sea?
"Behold, Frodo: Valinor," said Gandalf then, his deep, rough voice tinged with a touch of wistful longing. "Home of the Valar. The Powers."
Frodo had looked at the little spot of brilliance with awed reverence. It was humbling to stand so near to the heart of time and space, where fates were decided and deeds judged. They spent many afternoons afterwards, sitting there looking west, while Gandalf told Frodo the tales of the beginning of time and the conception of the world. Valinor had always seemed a glorious fountain of benevolence and beauty at the time. Indeed, it was a spring of peace and comfort for him when Bilbo left not long after their arrival in Eressea.
But now the sight of Valinor offered him only doubt and bitterness, questions unanswered, bewilderment.
Ar-Pharazon, he reminded himself quietly, had sailed to Valinor in full might, demanding everlasting life. He was thwarted, flung back, his kingdom sunk into the sundering Sea. But Sauron was behind that reckless, conceited deed. Sauron, the true Lord of The Ring.
He moaned softly and covered his face with his hands. Was it yet another vestige of the Ring that he had this qualms and disquiet? Yet another stain in his soul that even Eressea could not wholly cleanse. Greed. Lust. Reluctance to let go.
If he decided to leave, the darkness would have no more power over him. He would finally be truly free. In death was his ultimate gift.
Frodo lifted his face toward the sky. The sun was liquid warmth that bathed his body, sweetened by blossom-scented wind. He always loved mornings best, when the disquiet that threaded his nights was somewhat drowned by the golden promise of the sun. But that morning it was different. As he watched the long shadow of the cliff danced on the deep blue water below him, he thought of the many mornings that he had witnessed in his life. Mornings filled with joyful shrieking as he ran on the grass avoiding his chubby-cheeked pursuers, the dew matting the hair on his feet and the wind like water on his streaming curls. Mornings hushed by drifting snow, mornings noisy with the drone of cicadas and the chirping of birds. Mornings when he woke to a lovely sleeping face by his side on the bed. Mornings spent with familiar faces, familiar voices. He sighed heavily.
He missed it all, his friends, his homeland, himself. He thought that he had long resigned to being exiled, but Sam's brief sojourn had reawakened in him a deeply buried longing for things that he thought he had willingly given up. And now that Sam had left, he was stricken by the finality of his isolation. As much that he loved Eressea and its enchanting people, he yearned for connection, true identity. He needed that sense of belonging to something.
If it would take death to undo the isolation, so be it. Life was precious and beautiful, even more so because once he was certain that he had lost his. But what kind of life was that that denied him the pleasure of kinship and love and the bond between blood-brothers? He shivered….
It should be easy, he thought. Bilbo and Sam made it look effortless enough. He lay back and stared at the billowy clouds above him.
Close your eyes.
Apple blossoms. Dainty little petals that healed the sorrows of winter, strewn wet and white on the ground.
Waterfall. Cool fingers that runneled down his hair and caressed his naked body. Warm sunshine and cold water, the sweet taste of blue sky brought by rippling streams.
Music. Harp and lute and tambourine, voices warm and lovely. The notes quivered in his veins, laughed in his limbs, whirled in his mind. Dance, it beckoned, dance.
Die. Please. It is not that hard.
Honey. Sweet and sensuous on his tongue: the sun distilled.
Laughter. He was flying, floating on the wings of peals of laughter.
Nutty, earthy scent and wayward curls tickling his nostrils as he surrendered to the warmth, of a long, soothing embrace.
An awkward stolen kiss on strawberry flavored lips.
Snow swirling lazily in the winter breeze, melting where it touched his face, cold and sharp on his tongue.
Shades of emotions, flitting, blooming and stabbing deep into his heart.
Die…. Oh, please…. End this.
He could not. He did not desire it, he loathed it. He could not die.
He cried out to the brilliant sky; his shrill voice, full of unnamed pain, rose and echoed in the westward wind, bitter and cold with his tears.
The music is beautiful, so lovely that it brings tears to his eyes. His heart quivers in its rhythm; his mind revels in its splendor. Each note is a spurt of color, a movement in an intricate dance. He opens his eyes and looks around, amazed at what he sees.
The music is spread all around him, pouring from the nothingness that is Silence, the Beginning. It starts with single notes that sound whiter than white, the color of light, that flow in majestic swirls. From them other notes branch out, colors and shades. Then a white streak envelops the colors covetously, and turns them into writhing darkness in its embrace. The other white notes grapple with the shrill brilliance and struggle to free the strangled hues. They succeed, only to have the traitor blaze even more radiantly, so stark that it blinds the eyes and appears dark. In its furious glare it clutches what colors it can snag, distorting and defiling them into a raucous stain that splashes in broad, red-blood swathes across the music. Three blue-white lines weave themselves in and out of the discord, creating patterns of glory and defeat, courage and betrayal, compassion and greed, love and loathing.
He stands there, watching in wonder as the music unravels the tale of the three jewels.
There at the end of despair, when darkness seems about to triumph, when colors are dimmed and scattered, a golden light streams in and decisively washes away the braying splotches. Gold and silver notes soothe the jagged edges of the music, and once more its melody soars unchallenged, unfettered.
But he notices with alarm that a tint of left-behind shadow is beginning to beat its own erratic path. He knows what it is and his heart flutters in dread to see it.
Darkness has returned, disguised in a lovely façade that rings hollow and full of mockery. The golden notes look tarnished and blemished for a while, before shadow engulfs it completely.
He feels tears on his cheeks. "No," he whispers. "No."
But gloom dances on, laughing at him. In its grip the golden notes writhe madly, reaching out and spreading restlessly before….
He screams in anguish when a strip of light, the color of the sea, floods in. In its wrath it drowns the cacophony of lust and obliterates the dissonance of greed. For a while humbled bleakness totters on and he weeps silently, mourning the demise of the Men of the West.
But the pale landscape opens now to more colors, as though the taming of the shadow has given room for more notes to breathe. He watches in fascination as a shade that is unquestionably hobbits begins to bloom in merry exuberance. He laughs to see the streak of color move in bouncing strides across the music, like a child dancing. Other colors cast themselves around that spot of bubbly innocence, and for a while they dance together in peaceful harmony.
Until, yet again, shadow looms sinister above them.
He trembles violently, whimpering and covering his face with his hands. But the repugnant gap between his fingers betrays him and he sees the Ring, a note that glares maliciously and bends the other colors to Its will. His heart races with fear as he watches the Ring warp the fates of many, leaving dark trails in its wake.
Then he sees it. A thin band of soft earth color that is unmistakably Frodo Baggins. He gasps.
He gazes in awe as the narrow ribbon wends its way steadily, albeit unnoticed, through the picture. With terror he observes the dwindling distance between the gentle curve that is him and the spout of flame that is the Ring. The collision takes his breath away and he writhes anew in memory of the repulsion and sorrow and fierce desire. He watches with pained recollection as the Ring coils its ugly hues around the note that is Frodo Baggins. The small strip, isolated from the rest of the hobbits' distinctive cheerfulness, fights defiantly to remain true; quivering, now blurred, now vivid, and his heart bleeds to recall what it had cost him to stay faithful to his cause.
But now he sees other colors, bright hues with sounds that remind him of his companions. They weave themselves around him and he can tell that his color draws strength from them. And he sees also other hues he could not recognize, that sing in defiance to the terrible music of the shadows. But the darkness summons blaring noises too horrible to listen to, and the din that they create drowns his cry for help. The harmony that surrounds his fragile thread seems so feeble and disordered before the terrifying clamor of the dark and he feels weak with despair. A growing horror seizes him as he sees the darkness rises mightily, ready to swallow the light, irreversibly now. The note that is Frodo Baggins wavers and falters, diminishing…dying…yet, with the aid of many notes that traverse his path, he comes at last to that point in the music where….
All sounds pause. Colors cease. Brilliance beyond all light takes over, revealing the Music beneath the interplay of tones and tints. In that radiance he glimpses a glorious vision of Truth, a finished portrait of Destiny, the Song as it should be in the end. He gasps in joy and wonder at the sight. His eyes feast on its beauty, his heart opens up to its song and he understands at last.
Frodo Baggins is but a small speck of soft earth color amid the profusion of strokes and splashes in the vast canvas of time. A tiny sound that is reminiscent of quiet walks under the stars, of peaceful solitude before the fire, of laughter and songs with closest companions, of kind eyes and soft smiles that belie an iron will and steely endurance. He notes with delight how that tiny point of color adds to the beauty and perfection of the whole brilliant picture. How even a hairbreadth lengthening of that color will utterly spoil its symmetry.
He woke up and rubbed his eyes. The sun had slid lower in the west. He stood up slowly, rather laboriously. He was smiling, a glad, serene smile, though his eyes were glistening with tears.
He stood there, atop the white craggy cliff overlooking the sea. The sun was easing into the shimmering horizon and the sky was a palette of red and gold and violet. He was clothed in the unearthly hues of soft crimson that turned his snow-white locks into copper and the trails of tears on his cheeks into rivulets of flame.
His body shook when he finally sighed after a long still silence. The scarlet half-globe of the sun melted into the sapphire of his eyes before he slowly shut them, tear drops glittering diamond between his long silver lashes. He put up his hand, his right hand with the ring finger missing. For a while the waning light of the sun cast a shadow of the deformed hand on his face, a thumb and three fingers, like black claws, with a hideous gap that marred its symmetry and told of a past dark and cruel. But he did not seem to notice it as he slowly wiped the tears from his face.
Twilight, all soothing shades of gentle violet and languid blue, had descended when he opened his eyes. A smile played at the corners of his trembling lips.
"Thank you," he whispered in a tongue long unheard in the Elven-land of Eressea. "I understand now."
His right hand laid over his heart, he bowed to the west.
Night stole in with a sigh of the wind that forever carried with it the songs of the Elves. But in the shapeless darkness that concealed the distant waters, he could see the ever-brilliant light of Valinor like a jewel that shone with a fire of its own.
"I shall come," he whispered. Then he turned and walked away.
He wondered if beyond death there were noises. The sound of waves crashing against jagged reef, distant and muted. The sound of wind rippling his hair, whipping curls against his face, tickling the back of his neck. The sound of wordless song that spoke with vivid images. The sound of his own breathing, the sound of his heart throbbing.
He wondered if he could see anything, if he would even be aware.
Would there be all the colors of sunset on the other side of death? Would there be stars, rising pale and dim in the wash of the remaining sunlight.
Sam was right, he thought. This was better. Taking everything in, saying goodbye, relishing. Bittersweet, yes, but it felt right somehow.
The Elves offered to see him off, but he laughingly declined. "I will not have my death be a spectacle," he said, feigning indignation. "You can come when it is time to dispose of my body." He tried to be off-hand, but the Elves laughed at his futile attempt.
They did not cry, the Elves, he thought. They who had witnessed so many passings and so much malice. Why should they mourn a departing hobbit? He chuckled at the inanity of the idea.
But he had wept. They were having tea, he and Gandalf, in the terrace of his small elven home. And suddenly he wept over his cup. It was not from grief or regret or even gladness. He simply wept, and reveled in the feel of the hot tears rolling down his cheek, of the aching in his throat as he tried to hold back his sob. Would there be tears beyond death?
Gandalf stared at him, saying nothing. In the end, Frodo put down his cup and looked straight at his friend.
"Thank you," he said simply.
That was a short while ago. Gandalf had held his hand and nodded silently. Perhaps he, too, thought that speaking would only betray his tears. Then Frodo went, taking his time, strolling down the lamp-lit avenues towards the havens, but he strayed and came instead to the white beach that opened to the west.
He stood there now, crystalline water swirling around his feet, the light of the resting Sun illuminating his face.
I have come.
The waves whispered as they embraced him, their touch cool, gentle, yet inviting.
I am ready.
I shall follow.
He waded slowly, feeling the water caress his chest. His feet lurched in the shifting sand. He would lose his footing any moment now. Any moment now. And it would all be ended.
"Why the Sea?" Lady Galadriel had asked him the last time they spoke together under the mallorn trees of her grove.
"The Sea carried me here," he replied. "To salvation and healing. The Sea shall take me where I wish to go now."
He found Galadriel on the beach, alone and waiting.
"I did not know you would be coming," he said, taking her hand, kissing it. "You know I do not wish for anyone to be here. I hate to say farewell."
He wondered vaguely if he would miss it. Life.
"Then say it not," Galadriel said, smiling down at him with eyes that spoke of ages of sorrow. "There are fairer words that two friends can say at their parting, although they ease the pain little."
"I do not wish to cause you grief," he said.
She cradled his cheek in one hand and he held that hand in his. He wondered if she would recoil from the touch of his four-fingered hand. He wondered if he would be whole again on the other side of life.
"It is not grief, dear Frodo, that you stir in my heart," said Galadriel. "It is joy. You will go on the path that leads you away from the wearying ages. Your burden is lifted. I am happy for you."
She bent and kissed him on the brow, her eyes sparkling. She still stood there on the white sand, her fair hair gleaming gold in the sun, when he left for the welcoming Sea.
He could taste salt on his lips. Water splashed and sprayed around him, gentle and comforting. All he had to do was let go. Give in.
There was a little song that he thought he had forgotten. A simple rhyme his mother sang to him when he was very little.
When the sun is home, little one, come
I shall await you by the door under the hill
Tell me of your wanderings, little one
Till sleep overtakes us and the night is still
He was smiling when sleep did overtake him.
Galadriel watched as the hobbit stood swaying in the surging waves that danced around him, urging him, calling him. She wondered if he was afraid and her hands clenched as the thought came into her mind. Then suddenly her keen hearing perceived a sharp intake of breath, followed by a little squeal of surprised bliss. A blue green wall of water loomed over the white hair, and she saw him stretching his hands up in an almost supplicating gesture of welcome. The water embraced him, folded him in its clear depths.
She found him later, floating gently in the glass-like water, a tranquil smile on his lips. She cradled him in her arms, brushing back white strands of hair from the beautiful face.
Her voice was steady when she spoke, but tears streamed on her face and fell on the hobbit's serene face. "Nai hiruvalyë Valimar, Frodo Baggins. Nai elyë hiruva. Namarië."