It could be easily said that Bilbo Baggins was mad, but never forgetful. No, that did not start until that fateful night when he had decided to depart Bag End forever; leaving all his worldly possessions which included his special gold Ring to his nephew, Frodo.
Gandalf had always suspected that the Ring provided longevity to the one who carried it, but once separated, the wearer would age rapidly. There was no exception in Bilbo's case. Once he left the Shire, Bilbo felt his bones start to pop more often and joints ache frequently. When he arrived in Rivendell, his hair had turned white, the lines along his forehead deepened. The old hobbit found that he could not quite get himself out of the bed in the morning like he used to, then skipping merrily down the road. He was most content sitting in his guestroom reading and venturing only to the Fireside chats at night to listen to song, stories and have a good drink.
It had hurt Frodo's heart to see his guardian's health had rapdily declined after returning from Gondor on his way home to the Shire. Eager to tell of his adventures, Frodo realized that as soon as he would tell Bilbo about how his cousins had been brave fighting as warriors for the Gondorian and Rohan armies, and how the Gaffer's son all but fought off Orcs to save him from despair that Bilbo's memory had faltered as well. Frodo never attempted to correct his cousin when he was asked repeatedly what had happened to his hand and what had become of the Ring. "Just an accident, Uncle, I will be able to write again," Frodo would reply with a smile, but as soon as he left for his bedchamber, Sam would be there ready with one of Lord Elrond's special teas to soothe the headaches resulting from all the crying he had done.
The day soon came when Bilbo's adventure was coming to an end and the hobbits found themselves escorting their elder cousin to the shores of the Grey Havens. Upon Sam's and Gandalf's urging, Frodo rode with his uncle in the carriage, a pony ride was too strenuous in his weakened condition. His morgul knife wound never really healing, Frodo succumbed twice a year to illnesses that had taken a toll upon his body. Staying in Middle-Earth would eventually kill him and taking the ship West with Bilbo was to be a surprise.
"Frodo- lad, tell me again what happened to my Ring?" Bilbo asked yawning as he laid his head against his nephew's chest.
The Ringbearer groped for words to tell his uncle, failing to even attempt to tell the story once more. Tears building up quickly, he quietly said, "I lost IT, uncle,".
"Oh, pity. I would have liked to have seen it one last time," Bilbo replied closing tired eyes.
The tears that Frodo held at bay quietly slipped from his eyes caressing pale cheeks as he listened to his uncle's soft snores.
Bilbo had already forgotten what Frodo had told him that he was a guest of the Elves departing on Cirdan's ship harboured at the Grey Havens. His body came to a halt sandwiched between his Gaffer's son and his nephew, awe written all over his face at the grand enormity of the gathering of friends and family to see him off.
"I think I am quite ready for another adventure," Bilbo said immediately, quickly forgetting his kin as Lord Elrond held his hand out for the elderly hobbit to take a hold of, escorting him over the plank that bridged dock to ship.
Memories flooded the old Hobbit's mind just as soon as he touched leathered sole to the bridge of the gleaming deck, halting Bilbo in mid stride.
Lord Elrond felt an odd tug on his shoulder enabling his attempt to continue his stride and was forced to look down at his small charge. It seemed as if years had been taken from the Hobbit's face since their admission onto Cirdan's ship and inquired of Bilbo why they had stopped. "Master Baggins, are you in pain?" the Lord of Imladris ventured noticing the odd quirking of eyebrows that he had acknowledged as a sign of pain during his many years as a healer.
Strong emotions had surfaced all within moments as old blue eyes rested on his kin he was leaving behind on the shores of the Grey Havens. One in particular was his nephew, Frodo. Bilbo tried to place what was bothering him so, but images flashed before him, not in any certain order and all were of Frodo crying at his bedside. Feelings of helplessness and despair erupted with these images and Bilbo had no doubt that Frodo had been hurt, but to what degree he was not sure. Only that his heir's plea for help had gone unnoticed by him.
Startled back to reality at the Elf's concerned voice, Bilbo breathed out heavily "Frodo," staring hard at his young charge while trying to organize his somewhat muddled thoughts.
Elrond followed Bilbo's gaze, laying his own eyes upon the wounded Ringbearer, his fea growing weaker with every passing moment he spent on the shores of Middle-Earth. Understanding the power of Valinor from even this distance, the healing was already starting for the eldest of the Ringbearers and the final resolution that something was amiss with his kin was wearing on the old Hobbit.
Long moments of silence, then like a kettle's whistle alerting that the water was ready, Bilbo recalled the conversation the lad telling him after his return from Minas Tirith. "Frodo is not well, is he Lord Elrond ?" Bilbo asked, staring into concerned eyes.
"No, Bilbo, he is not. His morgul knife wound never fully healed and the Ring's hold of him took every ounce of will he had. Frodo has been weakened and every moment he resides here on Middle-Earth, the shorter his life will be," Lord Elrond said, his mind recalling the evening he and Lady Galadriel spoke with opened minds. She knew as he did that the Quest would claim Frodo's life.
"My poor boy," Bilbo said, a tear trickling from aged eyes. "It is my fault. I gave him that Ring. Gandalf told me to leave it to him. He said he would look after Frodo. No harm would come to him," he spoke continuing to get angrier by each sentence, his body rigid with frustration until a hand gently squeezed his shoulder, instantly relaxing him.
"Be at peace, Bilbo," a soft melodious voice spoke next to his ear. Bilbo quickly turned around to face the most intense, but kindest blue eyes. With a smile, Lady Galadriel continued, "Gandalf did his best to protect Frodo, but in your heart and his you both knew the Ring could have only been carried by such gentle, peace loving folk as yourselves. Frodo knew if he did not destroy IT himself, everything he loved would come under the peril of Sauron. He did not want that to happen anyone, Man or Hobbit and especially for the one he loved so dearly as a father."
"He is in so much pain. I cannot stand to see him thus. I need to be with him. I have to be with him," the old Hobbit said and began to step to the side of the Lady of the Golden Wood before he was intercepted by Celeborn.
"Dear Bilbo, you will be with him. He has also been invited to take this ship to Valinor. To heal and to eventually find peace," Lord Celeborn whispered into the Hobbit's ear. "See," he continued, pointing to the figure taking Gandalf's hand. "He made his decision long ago, but was not able to leave until he knew that his kin and Samwise were healing within. He also knew he would be going when you departed and waited patiently for word of our travel."
Bilbo turned at Celeborn's insistence and found his tears of fear were really tears of joy. Joy that his nephew's life would not be cut short. "Come Bilbo, let us wait for him below. I am sure he will need to rest as soon as we leave the dock and you may be with him then," Lord Elrond spoke this time, once again offering a steady hand to guide the elderly Hobbit below decks. Taking a handkerchief from his vest pocket, because no self respecting Hobbit would not leave home without one, Bilbo dried his eyes and wiped his nose placing the white linen in the breast pocket before taking the proffered hand.
Frodo made the same walk as his Uncle, following the White Wizard across the platform before stepping onto the most exquisite ship he had ever seen. He, living amongst River folk, had seen many boats including the one his cousin Merimac had piloted. But none were as glorious or big for that fact as this one he was to take his final journey on. "Mac, is yours the biggest ship in the whole of Middle-Earth?" Frodo remembered asking as a young inquisitive tweener of his cousin who was threading rope through eyelets on a fine soft silk material.
"No, I have seen much grander and finer vessels than mine Frodo-lad. They say them Elves build a mighty fine ship. Have very talented Shipwrights," Mac answered his curious cousin.
"Uncle Bilbo told stories of meeting Elves. Have you ever seen one? I mean an Elf or one of their Ships?" the questions continued as the skinny lad wound one the tow lines onto the deck of his ship. Mac thought the lad would make a fine Riverman one day.
"Why all the questions?" Mac asked again.
Concentrating on a slip knot, Frodo spoke softly, "I dreamt of sailing into a mist of silvery curtains opening up to a grand green land, gulls were singing. A land of peace. I think it might have been lived on by Elves or something. The ship I was on was really big, not like the one you have Mac," he continued keeping his head down so not to witness his cousin's reaction.
Seeing that Frodo was embarressed for mentioning the dream and the vast difference of size of his vessel compared to an Elf's, Mac patted the lad on the back. "Maybe you will, someday, if your path leads you down that road. As for Shipwrights, yes I have met one at the Grey Havens." This got the tweener's attention as the dark curly head snapped up, ears listening intently to what Mac was saying, intrigued that anyone beside his Uncle 'Mad' Baggins and even the tales told of his mother meeting an Elf. "I had to repair my sail at the time, and there was no material to be found. So, on advice from a certain eccentric Uncle we both know and love, he pointed me in that direction. I too was amazed at the size of the skeleton of a ship he had started. I asked the Shipwright when he might be finished. You know what he said to me?" Frodo shook his head. "Well," Mac continued, he was to build the last ship to leave the Grey Havens. I asked him when that was. He then told me many years from now, when the new King of Men was crowned it would then be time for the Elves to leave Middle-Earth," Mac concluded watching the lad's face light up.
"I suppose it was a magnificant sight, I mean it was only a shell when you saw it, but I am sure it will be," Frodo wondered. Then another question, "Did you get your material?"
"As a matter of fact, I did" Mac said as he finished his task, catching a hold of the sail, hoisting it high into the sky. It billowed out tight, the sun glistening off the white fabric casting a cool shadow. "You're looking at it! Ready to set off?" he smiled at the amazed look upon his cousin's face he had never witnessed since before the lad's parents had drowned.
"Yes!" Frodo yelled out in delight, smiling brightly.
That was where he found himself now, the same ship Mac was referring to. Frodo turned one last time to look at Samwise, tears still caressing sun kissed cheeks, and the red noses of his kin as they tried to hold onto brave faces. Smiling, Frodo gave a final nod to Merry, Pippin, and Sam imprinting their faces in his memory forever knowing he would never see them or his homeland again.
Frodo's muscles began to tremble, a rush of heat to his cheeks. He knew if he made one move, he would falter in front of his kin and he did not want them to believe that he was not going to get better if he left Middle-Earth. Afraid of what to do next, he felt a large but gentle hand on his shoulder then the boom of a voice he grew fond of, "Frodo, I have got you. Come and you can rest," Gandalf encouraged.
Frodo was immediately assaulted by dizziness as soon as his foot touched the deck of Cirdan's ship. The Wizard's hand caught around his belly, scooping the lad toward flowing white robes. Frodo quickly realized Gandalf had broken his fall, as a bead of sweat formed on his upper lip, his limbs feeling like lead. Frodo needed to know if anyone had seen, but he could only gasp out the question, "See? Did...they...see? Have to know...they believe...I will be...all right."
"Do not worry, my dear Hobbit. You have done well. They did not see anything," Gandalf crooned into the hobbit's pointed ear as he stroked Frodo's unruly curly hair. "Just take a deep breath, we will have you comfortable in no time." The Wizard said these things without anyone seeing the fear in his own eyes. He hoped Frodo could make the journey without incident, but time and distance would tell.
Part 1 of 2