This short story takes a loving, AU look at a very unusual, very happy ending in the West for Frodo, Bilbo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. The original version of Chapter 1 was written for the birthday of Melyllot S. Banks (Melnotmeli). (And yes, Chapter 2 will be longer!)

I hope you enjoy this little tale.

DISCLAIMER: Of course. The characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.



Chapter 1 -- A New Life

"May the stars shine upon the end of your road!" Gildor, The Fellowship of the Ring


"Did they know this would occur?" Celebrían asked.

"They knew," Gandalf assured her. "They understood fully, long before we sailed, that this was the only way mortals would be permitted to dwell here; the transformation occurred aboard ship, as they slept."

Celebrían knelt and smiled at the toddlers, who smiled shyly at her in return. Dark hair and golden, eyes deep as the summer sky and the lighter blue of a gentle morn, their spirits were radiantly bright. They are even more exquisite than my dreams showed, Celebrían thought. She held out her arms, and the children came to her without hesitation, both nestling against her contentedly. Oh, to hold children in my arms once again. How I love you already.

"Look, look!" The boys squirmed out of her arms and ran to chase a large yellow butterfly that flitted, playfully, just out of reach. Elrond, Celebrían, and Gandalf stood watching them caper about, listening to the song that filled the air -- the unrestrained laughter of children who had never known pain, or been crushed by grief, or fear, or loss.

And as Frodo and Bilbo ran and tumbled and giggled, Gandalf smiled to himself. In Middle-earth, many years from now -- although it would seem to these children that only a few years had passed -- Sam would be offered the same choice as they, as would Pippin and Merry at the end of their long lives. He foresaw that they would all accept, and five very special youngsters would grow up here together, happy, safe, and loved. He knew that they would flourish, each eventually pursuing the true calling of his heart: explorer, poet, artist, singer, and scribe.

"We will all be their teachers," Gandalf murmured, "and the stars will guide their hearts."

"Little has changed in this land for a long span of years," Celebrían remarked. "I suspect that these little ones will also teach -- and bring joy to many."

And bring new purpose to at least one, Elrond thought, looking at his wife's radiant face.

"Might they wonder, in the years to come, about their past?" Elrond asked quietly. "Although growing up amongst Elves, they will carry within them still the unquenchable curiosity of their race."

"Whatever they wish to know, we will tell them," Gandalf replied.

"Ganalf!" crowed Frodo, tugging on the wizard's robe. "Lunch?"

"Are you to be 'Gandalf', then?" Elrond teased his old friend. "Olórin suits you better."

The wizard smiled. "Others may call me what they will; but I cannot imagine being called anything else by a hobbit." He obligingly swung the child up and settled him securely on one of his shoulders. Bilbo raised his arms to be carried, too, and Elrond, grinning, swooped him up and set him on the wizard's other shoulder.

Celebrían, walking with the small procession back to her home, found herself laughing and singing with joy. Elrond took her hand, and kissed it. At last, his beloved was truly healed.

High up on his perch, Bilbo swung his tiny legs with glee. Frodo, one hand clutching Gandalf's ear, yawned sleepily. After lunch would come naptime, curled up in soft, fragrant blankets while someone sang to him in a language he was just beginning to learn. Gandalf and Elrond exchanged a glance, their hearts light. There would be no shadows in Frodo's life, not this time -- unless one counted a brief flicker that suddenly shaded them all. Both children tilted their heads back, and gazed in wonder at the eagles soaring far overhead, aloft on a gentle wind.

-- TBC --