Disclaimer: Everything is Tolkien's. I just get my inspiration from it.

Chapter I: The Last Ship

He is not half through yet, and to what he will come in the end not even Elrond can foretell. Not to evil, I think. He may become like a glass filled with a clear light for eyes to see that can.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

It was in the autumn of the year when the Fourth Age of this world was still young that the very last of the Elven-ships sailed from Mithlond in the north and passed through the grey rain of the world to the fair shores of Valinor at the dawn. In this last sailing went Celeborn Lord of Lothlórien, and with him were the brethren Elladan and Elrohir, sons of Elrond, and Haldir and many others of the folk of Lórien and of Imladris who had not yet taken ship, and with them also went Samwise Gamgee, last of the Ring-bearers.

So it was that Sam stood at the Havens and heard again the sigh and the murmur of the waves upon the shores of Middle-earth. His daughter Elanor stood beside him, and tears were on her face, but she smiled. 'You told me long ago that this day would come, Sam-dad,' she said. 'And I promised to go with you, and not watch my treasure sail away like you did all those years ago. But now I can't. Still, you go on, Sam-dad. I think may be I was meant to stay here, and I've Fastred and the children to mind. But I don't think you were really meant to be parted from him, at least not for ever.'

'Thank you, Elanorellë,' said Sam. 'But I've something to give you, before I go. Same as he gave to me, but there's fewer pages left now, if you understand me. Still I think you'll find some room, for the story's not ended, not yet.' Then he drew from his jacket the Red Book which Frodo had given to him, and he placed it in her hands and said, 'Farewell, Elanorellë. I go to find my treasure, but I leave many behind me as well. But you have much to do here, and you will keep alive the memory of the great deeds and of those who are gone.'

Then as Sam stepped upon the quay there came a great clatter up the road, and Merry and Pippin rode up in great haste. They were weeping, but they smiled amid their tears, and Pippin bore in one hand a small bundle tied with cord, while Merry had a covered basket slung over his arm.

'Well Sam,' he said as he and Pippin leapt down and stood upon the quayside, 'you tried to give us the slip, just as Frodo did all those years ago. But this time it was your own Goldilocks who gave you away.' Sam stood silent, watching them, and there were tears in his eyes as well.

'We've brought a few things,' said Pippin then, sounding rather hesitant. 'For Frodo…' Then Merry handed his basket to Sam, who smiled when he caught the scent rising from it, and Pippin gave his bundle into Sam's keeping. His eyes were very bright, but he said no word.

Then Sam bid farewell to his friends, and last of all Elanor, and he kissed her white brow, and the sails were drawn up, and the Lord Celeborn called to him, and he went aboard. And the Star of the Dúnedain, which the King Elessar had given into his keeping, glimmered on his brow. Then as Elanor stood watching upon the haven, the great ship like a swan slipped away down the long grey firth, and disappeared into darkness. But it seemed to her that she saw afar off a faint light, and heard a fair song that came over the waters. Though she had never heard that song in waking memory, and she knew the keen voice that sang it only from her dreams, her heart was pierced with the joy of it.

But to Sam aboard the ship the night seemed to grow less, and the stars ever brighter, until at last he beheld, just as Frodo had done, the grey rain curtain all rolled back and turned to silver glass, and he heard the sound of fair voices as they sang across the water. And it seemed to him that he heard above them all a clear joyful voice singing in welcome, though he could not understand the words. Then the bent world fell away beneath him, and beyond the veil he glimpsed the white shores and far green woods and fields of the Blessed Land. And with the rising of the Sun the ship lay docked upon the last shore.

Then as the day broadened behind him, Sam saw a great press of people gathered about the haven, and he saw also, to his never-ending joy, that he was awaited. There upon the quayside were gathered Gandalf and Galadriel and Elrond with Celebrían his wife, and many other fair folk besides, but Sam saw none of them. For there also was Frodo. He gave a glad shout and sprang away down the gang-plank, crying aloud, 'Mr. Frodo, Mr. Frodo! It's your Sam! I've come at last!' Then Frodo laughed aloud for joy, and Sam thought how very long it had been since last he heard that sound, most blessed of all sounds in the world to him. And it seemed to him that he beheld his master for the first time. For Frodo was changed, and yet not so. He seemed old, old and beautiful, like unto the Elves with whom he dwelt, Sam thought. And a great light was revealed in him, that had before been only glimpsed in fleeting moments, and the light of the new-risen sun seemed to shine round and through him as though through glass, or like the light of Eärendil's star caught in the waters of the Lady's phial. His face now was filled with peace, but in his eyes there was a deep wisdom and a bright joy beyond knowing, and he laughed often.

And Sam saw all of these things, yet he did not think of them in this way; his thoughts were turned instead to that far off time in the glades of Ithilien, and to the light that had seemed to shine through his master's features in sleep. And he said to himself, 'Yes, he's like that, and it does shine through. But I love him still, whether or no.'

Then as he stood there watching his master, Frodo laughed suddenly, and crying out, 'My dear Sam!' threw his arms about him. And Gandalf and all the Elves that were gathered there laughed also, for they knew that now the Ring-bearers would be fully healed.

For a time as the ship was unloaded and all put in order Frodo and Sam spoke quietly, standing together upon the last shore. Frodo asked about the Shire, and about Sam's voyage, and they talked of simple things and old memories. Then of a sudden Sam cried out, 'Why, I am a ninnyhammer. Here we stand a-talking about the Shire, Mr. Frodo, and I'd nearly forgot.'

'Forgotten what, Sam?' asked Frodo.

'Well, Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin's gifts, sir. They found me out, you know, just like they did you all those years ago, though it weren't old Gandalf that told them, but my own Goldilocks. And they came as fast as ever they could and just managed to catch me; and they sent gifts for you, sir. I've not looked at them, but I can guess what Mr. Merry's is, at any rate.' Then he handed Frodo the basket, and the little packet from Pippin.

Suddenly Frodo laughed aloud; from the basket in his hand, the scent of mushrooms was rising. 'Why Sam!' he said, 'these smell every bit as good as old Farmer Maggot's best! But of course they can't be,' he added, a bit wistfully.

'Well, they are and they ain't, sir, if you follow me,' said Sam. 'Leastways they're not the Farmer Maggot's you knew, but they are his grandson's, and one of his finest crops, if I may make so bold. Though of course I've not been trying any of yours, Mr. Frodo,' he said quickly.

'Of course not, Sam,' said Frodo, and he laughed again. 'But now you are here, you shall have as many as you like. I insist.' Sam began to protest, but Frodo spoke over him and said, 'Now what's this from Pippin?' Sam shook his head, and so Frodo took the packet and carefully pulled loose the string that bound it and drew away the wrappings.

Within were several letters, each addressed in flowing script 'to Mr. Frodo Baggins, Valinor, Across the Sea' and sealed with the devices of Brandybuck, Took, and another that Frodo did not recognise, a rose held within a star. 'That's the Gamgee seal, that my Elanor made when she was still a lass,' said Sam quietly, 'the rose for her mum and me, and the star for you, Mr. Frodo. And that's her handwriting, too, though I surely didn't know she'd done any such letter as this. Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin had a right secret conspiracy, seemingly.'

Frodo said nothing, but slowly opened each letter and read them over carefully several times. They spoke of the quiet, simple life in the Shire, and all that had happened since the Ring-bearers sailed from the Havens at the end of the Third Age. There were letters from Merry, and Pippin, and Elanor, and, to Sam's great surprise, there was one from Rose as well. When Frodo had read through them several times, he read them aloud to Sam, and they wept together, for sorrow and for joy, and the Elves spoke no word, but honoured the Ring-bearers and left them their peace.