Shadows at Dawn
When the sun drew over the horizon in Gondor, its light first hit the towers and palace in the whitewashed walls of Minas Tirith, and so they seemed to glow all the brighter for the darkness that lingered elsewhere. Not long until the fields of Pelennor glistened with morning dew, until the only shadow lay under Minas Morgul, the land of Ithilien cast into relief under that dark line.
It seemed to Frodo as he stood by the walls, gazing from such a great vantage point as such that the height of the grounds of the Houses of Healing gave, that his eyes were drawn there, and he frowned, looking away purposefully. He need not labor under the shadow any longer. Still, his hand touched his collar where the One Ring once hung, and the stump of his third finger brushed his breast. It was cast into the fires of Orodruin now and would never trouble him again, except in his memories, and those still lay heavy upon him.
Frodo had left Sam sleeping by his bed, and he was a little guilty for that. He had woken unexpectedly and thought to see the sunrise, but he should return before Sam woke up and wondered what had happened to him. But as the sky turned from amethyst to azure, still he stood, quiet and marveling; although he had been awake for nearly a week now, he still could not quite believe he lived to see the sun rise yet again. Perhaps I wish I did not. The thought rose unbidden and Frodo closed his eyes. No, he did not mean that. But in Cirith Ungul, and from that point, he had not thought to survive beyond the destruction of the Ring. It was hard to live, in a way; at times, Frodo wondered if it might have been easier had he not, and he struggled to upkeep himself, even so much as to eat. But then he thought of Sam and the others, and tried to put a halt to such ill musings.
It seemed to him then that he heard a flute, or its like, amongst the songbirds of the garden, but the sound changed and became song, a fair voice singing in the tongue of Elves. It broke the spell of Frodo's thoughts, and he opened his eyes. There could be only one owner of that voice; Frodo looked round to see the Elven part of the Fellowship, crouched on the outer wall of the circle without a care for the long drop below, not thirty paces away. Legolas looked at him then, with a smile, and left off his song. "The sunrise is a great thing to behold here in this city, is it not? Would you watch it with me?"
Frodo wondered that Legolas would pick this place for his vantage point, for he was not confined to the Houses of Healing as Frodo was, but he came to Legolas' side nonetheless. "It is as you say. I shall watch it with you." And for a while, they both turned their eyes outward to the sprawl of the city and the fields beyond, and to the Sea that was but a glitter in the distance to Frodo's eyes. But even as he stared, Frodo realized he touched where he had worn the Ring in Mount Doom and almost brought all he saw to ruin with his final choice.
Legolas made a sound then, a quiet hum, as though he would sing again. But he did not, and Frodo glanced at him. "If you would sing, don't let my presence stop you," Frodo said. "It reminds me of Rivendell and happier times, if the truth were told."
But Legolas frowned slightly at that, although he did not look immediately to Frodo. "Can there be a happier time than this?" he asked at length, catching Frodo's gaze, although he did not hold it long for a strange mercy. "The Shadow has been cast down; the Fellowship is again united. All is well with the world in a way that it has not been since before my birth, and that is, as you reckon it, a very long time indeed!"
Frodo opened his mouth to answer, but he saw immediately that he was selfish in his speech. He was glad that Sauron lay defeated. He was glad that the world could again have peace, as it had not known since the beginning of the Third Age or perhaps before that. But he was most glad to know his task had ended, and the last he had believed such a thing was Rivendell, now so long ago. And in Rivendell, he had not been so weary, despite what had befallen him just ere his arrival. "I … perhaps not," he said in answer.
But Legolas seemed to hear what he did not say. "Perhaps," he said gently, "you speak of simpler times. I have heard aught of the Shire from Merry and Pippin, and at times Sam, although he speaks more of you than anything else. It sounds a happy place with little in the way of cares, and such innocence is something to be preserved." As if troubled by his own words, Legolas grew quiet. "I am sorry."
"What for?" Frodo asked. "You are right. A great weight has lifted off the world." He smiled slightly to think of it, and at once felt lighter and heavier for his own part.
"I do not deny it," Legolas answered. "But I forget your sacrifice for that which brings us joy." The Elf did not look at him, but kept his eyes steadily outwards past the city. Frodo could not guess what Legolas saw with his long sight. "It is different for the Firstborn, and perhaps especially for us Silvan folk, for we are tied to the land in a way Men, and perhaps Hobbits, are not. I feel a peace in my heart as I have not known in all my days, since Arda is free of the evil that sought to rule her. To me, Imladris was a quiet time, but not one of such happiness. Perhaps it is because my home has never been without a shadow as the Shire." He dropped his voice. "But for you, Frodo, I fear that Rivendell was the last quiet you knew with ignorance … no, innocence of what horrors worked in the world. And is there not more bliss where you may not know what lays beyond?"
Frodo frowned. "That is not true. I had been struck with a Morgul blade; I already knew great horrors." He closed his eyes briefly at the memory of it.
"Then Sam did not speak truly when he said you believed your journey was at an end there?" Legolas asked. "Did you not think you had seen the end of horror?"
"I did," Frodo answered, his voice heavy. "Or rather, I hoped that I had gone as far as I would, and seen all I would see of the world beyond the Shire. And I was wrong."
"And for that end, you might rightly grieve," Legolas said. He looked to Frodo and smiled kindly, but with sadness. Frodo said naught, caught up in ill thoughts, and in a short time, Legolas spoke again. "In but a year – hardly a flutter of the lashes! – much has been lost, but also much has been gained. Again I must apologize, for I came down from the heights with hopes to raise your spirits, not lower them."
Frodo laughed, but to his ears it was a weak sound. "I thought it strange that you would choose here to look for the sunrise," he said.
"I had meant to see it from the craggy peak, but I espied you here and thought to come," Legolas replied. "I have seen much of you since you were saved from Orodruin but you have not seen much of me; you slept long and hard as you healed. And it is good to see you hale enough to walk alone in the morning," he said cheerily. "There will still be much healing, but now may you do so with your friends at your side, bound all the tighter for the trials we faced. But think not on those," he hastened to add, "but rather on the present, wherever that would take you."
Frodo cast his eyes outward again, and again his eyes went to the shadow of Minas Morgul; it shrunk before the rising sun, fleeing Ithilien slowly but surely. He remembered his earlier thoughts. "You have naught to apologize for," he confessed. "Before you came my thoughts were heavy, but …" He trailed off. But they were heavy with thoughts of the Ring, for even now it lingers like a beacon in my mind. I am, perhaps, not much different from Gollum in that! "But I do better for the company."
"I thought that they might be," Legolas said in a soft voice, his eyes turned on Frodo. "And I hoped that you would. What, then, would you speak of? I am at your service, Master Hobbit."
Frodo smiled, a bit more genuine. In truth, he thought, he longed for Gandalf, for there were things he dared to burden the wizard with that he would not give to the Elf, for good or ill. But Legolas was still his friend and his presence aided Frodo. "I would hear you sing, if you do not mind it," Frodo admitted. "Presently having heard your voice again, I realize I missed it since the Falls."
"Not mind!" Laughed Legolas. "All goes ill if an Elf does not desire to give voice to the song in his heart! Listen, then, if it will please you, and mayhap it will lift your spirits as my words cannot." And he began to sing thus saying, in his native tongue. He sang of the sun on the fields and trees and the walls of Minas Tirith, and the lifting of a long shadow, even as the darkness of Minas Morgul drew away entirely from Ithilien. And in some small way, his song blotted the shadow from Frodo's heart as well.
But presently he left off and Frodo looked at him, but Legolas had looked back with a smile. "Sam," he said fondly, and Frodo turned to see the gardener shifting awkwardly in the grass. "A good morrow to you, and yours."
Sam was a bit flushed to Frodo's eyes. "Good morning to you too, Mister Legolas, and begging your pardon, sir. I didn't mean to interrupt. I was just looking for Mister Frodo here, since he wasn't in his bed when I woke up."
"You would have to do much worse than walk up behind me to interrupt my song," Legolas answered, and even if Frodo had not been lighter in spirit, Legolas surely was. The meaning behind his words was lost on Sam, but Frodo knew from it that the Elf still sang in his soul. "I am not one to mark the hour but it is surely time for breakfast, or past it?" He made the words a question.
"I suppose it is. I know I'm hungry," Sam exclaimed, but with a worried look for Frodo that abated as he drew near. "Are you aright, Mister Frodo? We shouldn't miss breakfast, and I for one wouldn't want to!"
Frodo smiled for Sam, but he found it wasn't very hard, and there was some truth in his words when he said, "Neither would I! I am hungry, Sam. I am aright enough for that at least!"
"Then I shall take my leave of you." Legolas unfolded himself from his crouch on the wall and leapt lightly to the ground. "I think I can trust you to Master Samwise's capable hands." And with such merry words he departed.
Sam took Frodo's elbow gently, to lead him in again. "If I can, sir, please don't be running off like that often! I was worried for you!"
Frodo could see the remnants of Sam's worry around his eyes. "Where would I have gone?" he asked lightly. "We are safe here in Minas Tirith; you needn't fear if I am out of your sight now and again." Sam said nothing, but in that silence Frodo read what he feared, for Frodo's soundness of mind had been interrupted badly in Mordor and even now he struggled. Frodo ceased to walk, and turned to Sam, his faithful companion to the very end, and he spoke in a sober voice. "I didn't mean to worry you. If it will set your mind at ease, I'll do my best to let you know when I come and go."
Sam's face cleared almost entirely for that assurance. "I'll thank you for that, Mister Frodo. Did you mean what you said, about being hungry?"
"I did," Frodo said, without levity to show he did not lie, but he lightened his tone thereafter. "I think there might be some magic in Elven song after all. I am better than I have been this last week, Sam, I promise you; I do not think I have been as well since Gandalf first came to me upon my waking. And even if the healing is slow, I will heal, and so will you."
Sam shifted a little on his feet. "I don't know so much about myself – I feel well enough, in any case – but it's to your health I'd see, if it's all the same to you."
"And now, that health is best served with breakfast," Frodo said. "So let us go onwards and settle our stomachs! And may there be many more meals in the future."
For the first time since seeing him this morning, Sam smiled. "It's good to hear you say that, Mister Frodo; I don't know if you know half as well how good!" And the sun lit their whole way to the Houses of Healing.
Notes: I have no idea how I did at Sam's voice, although he was easier to write than I expected.
There was a lot of ground I wanted to cover when I started this story: how Frodo feels knowing that in the end, he really failed and it was only Gollum's intervention that sent the Ring into Orodruin, and Legolas' Sea-Longing, but in the end I can't see either of them burdening one another with those things: Legolas out of respect for Frodo's continuing recovery and Frodo because he's pretty reticent. But nonetheless I hope it was a short and enjoyable read!