I thought the story was finished! But since I began this tale as a 2004 birthday gift for Melyllot S. Banks (Melnotmeli), I wrote an Epilogue for her 2005 birthday. Just a wee bit more hobbit happiness! (I really do think that this is "The End"... but I suppose you never know...)

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

xxxx

HEALED

Chapter 6 -- Epilogue

To what he will come in the end not even Elrond can foretell ... He may become like a glass filled with a clear light for eyes to see that can. The Fellowship of the Ring

xxxx

It came upon him one early afternoon while out walking. Gandalf paused, and attuned himself even more intently on his surroundings, quickly realizing what he had sensed. Someone dear to his heart was troubled, and needed guidance. Someone...

He found Frodo sitting on his favorite dune, gazing out to Sea. Gazing East.

"May I join you, Frodo?" Gandalf asked quietly, coming to the boy's side.

Frodo looked up and nodded. Gandalf sat down next to the hobbit lad, and waited.

"Was I unhappy, Gandalf?" Frodo asked unexpectedly.

The hobbits' attentive guardians had begun to wonder when one of them would ask about their former life. Elrond had predicted that Merry, with his growing interest in history and tales, would be the first to question things, while Celebrían had thought it would be Sam. She felt that, sooner or later, the earth and growing things to which the gifted lad was so attuned would sing to him of other lands, other life forces. Perhaps Narsilion itself, with which Yavanna had entrusted him -- still a seedling -- would communicate the Song it shared with the White Tree which grew in the courtyard of Minas Tirith... a tree which Sam, himself, had assisted Aragorn in planting.

"Gandalf?"

Gandalf smiled at his wandering thoughts, and put his arm around Frodo's shoulders.

"You were tired, Frodo," he began, choosing his words carefully. Children needed to hear the truth, but told simply. If other questions followed, so be it. "You had accomplished many things in Middle-earth," he continued, "many great things -- deeds which will be sung and told as long as Arda itself endures. You did so much, my boy, that you had very little left to give... in your heart, your body, and your spirit."

Frodo sat, quietly listening, leaning against Gandalf.

"Then, one day, you heard a Music that came from far away -- from over the Sea."

Frodo smiled. "From here?"

"Yes, my boy. From here. This very spot. And Manwë granted you and your friends a rare honor -- a new home, and a new life."

They both looked down at the shoreline below the dunes, where Bilbo and Elrond were teaching Pippin how to swim. Sam and Merry, swimming nearby, called out encouragement to the youngster.

"Were they tired, too?" Frodo asked curiously.

"In a sense," Gandalf explained. "Your friends wanted to be with you, and start over, as you had... and they, too, heard the Music. It brought them great hope, and a sense of wonder and new possibilities."

"It sings to me all the time." Frodo murmured, his face rapturous. "Can't the people in Middle-earth hear it, too?"

"Very few," Gandalf told him. "You are very special."

"Oh," Frodo whispered.

You do not yet know it, Frodo Baggins, Gandalf thought fondly, but your spirit now sings from these shores as well. When others hear the Music, even in Ages yet to come, you will be forever a part of it. And should other mortals be permitted to dwell here, they will find your Light akin to that of the Elves... bright and clear, with a joy that few have known.

Frodo just listened -- to the Sea, the stars, and the Life around him. He sighed happily, and let the delicate Song fill him to overflowing... and wondered how he had ever lived without it.

"Look," Gandalf pointed, as shouts of delight came from the clear, sparkling waters below.

"Oh," Frodo breathed. A family of dolphins were approaching the swimmers, hoping to play.

"Go on," Gandalf said with a gentle smile. "I will join you in a moment."

Frodo leaped to his feet and began bounding down the dune, the white sand warm on his feet and his joyous laughter filling the air.

END