Author notes: Frodo was given his telescope in "The Man in the Moon". This chapter references "There and Back Again, Part 2". Both ficlets are archived under my "Tales from Tol Eressëa" stories.
Special thanks to Andrea, Cookiefleck, Larner, and Lynda for encouraging me to write this final chapter.
Epilogue: Journey's End
"Well, I've made up my mind, anyway. I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains." 'A Long-expected Party,'The Fellowship of the Ring
At Elrond's urging, Sam held the device up to his right eye again.
"I see them!" he said with great excitement. "What a lovely ship. Legolas is on deck, doing something with a sail. He looks so fine, dressed all in green and gold. There are others with him." He moved the tube back and forth. "I don't see Gimli anywhere."
"He's there," Frodo said confidently. "No, I don't need it, Sam." He shook his head as Sam started to give back the device Elrond had given him; he didn't need the viewing crystal to confirm his dream about who was on board the approaching ship. He closed his eyes for a moment, and took a deep, satisfying breath of the clean, salted air.
He and Sam sat together on the ornately-decorated bench that had been placed at the dock for their use. Just behind them stood Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond, and those silvan Elves who dwelled on Tol Eressëa... and behind them stood a huge throng eager to greet the newest arrivals... as well as Gimli the Dwarf, of whom enough tales had been circulated over the years since the Ring-bearers had arrived to ensure him a welcome worthy of his deeds.
"How old is Gimli?" Frodo asked curiously. He and Sam automatically looked up at Gandalf, who somehow always seemed to be keeping track of their friends and family in Middle-earth.
"His years measure 262, quite a respectable age for a Dwarf," Gandalf answered. "You and Sam are but youngsters in comparison."
"Hardly that!" Frodo laughed, and Sam joined him.
"Gimli is a direct descendant of Durin," Elrond added. "His bloodline is strong, and has enabled him to live to a most impressive old age."
"Just like Aragorn," Frodo said.
"Yes," Elrond said. Now it was he who looked at Gandalf, a question in his eyes.
"Eldarion is now king," Gandalf said, leaving unspoken all that his words implied.
"And my sons?" Elrond asked quietly.
"They'll be along eventually," Frodo murmured, his eyes losing their focus for a moment. Elrond and Galadriel exchanged a startled glance, then Elrond began to chuckle. Just when he thought he had grown used to their small friend's extraordinary clarity of dreaming, Frodo surprised them with something even their combined foresight had not revealed.
"There it is!" Frodo cried out suddenly, spying at last a black speck against the sparkling water. As if to spare those aboard the ship (and on shore) any further delay for their reunion, a fresh, strong wind began to blow in from the east, filling the vessel's sails and surging it forward.
Galadriel walked to the end of the quay, and stood with her arms outstretched, her golden hair streaming behind her. And thus it was that Gimli, climbing up from his quarters to the deck of the ship, saw she whom he most loved, and for whom he had forsaken the home of his kin – and dared the Straight Road – to glimpse once more.
As the ship grew near, Sam realized that it was much larger than he had first thought; Legolas had built a vessel spacious enough to hold the several dozen Elves who had chosen to sail with him and Gimli. With a pang, Sam wondered how many Elves now remained in Middle-earth. His thoughts wandered to Hobbiton's glorious mallorn, its leaves sparkling in the sun, and felt grateful that the Shire would always be graced by the Lady's gift.
The ship slid gracefully to the wharf, and Legolas tossed ropes to the Elves waiting to receive them. When all was secure, he surprised everyone by asking his companions to wait while he brought Gimli forward. Legolas motioned for the Dwarf to disembark first, and with slow, shaky steps Gimli did so, his eyes never leaving those of Galadriel.
"Welcome, Lock-bearer and Elf-friend," Galadriel said in her warm and musical voice. She spoke in Dwarvish, loud enough for the astonished crowd to hear. "To see you again brings me great joy." She repeated her words in Sindarin, Quenya, and finally in the Common Tongue.
"My Lady," Gimli murmured, taking her hand. "Forgive me for not bowing; I find it rather difficult these days."
"Here you will find refreshment of your spirit and body," Galadriel smiled, "as have others who have waited long to greet you." She stepped aside, and Gimli gasped at the sight of two small persons standing behind her.
"Is there nowhere in Arda a weary Dwarf can go to be free of hobbits?" he cried out in mock horror. Frodo and Sam laughed, and came to embrace him.
"Welcome, Gimli!" Frodo said with a grin. "We brought Bilbo's favorite walking stick with us in case you needed it, but I can see you have a fine one." Gimli's stick was crafted of an expensive wood, banded with mithril. His beard was snow-white, and his voice somewhat less booming than the hobbits remembered, but he was otherwise hale, as far as they could see.
"I wish Mr. Bilbo could have seen you once again," Sam said.
"As do I," Gimli said solemnly. "Where would such an esteemed hobbit choose for his final rest in a place this lovely?"
Frodo turned, and pointed straight west. He raised his forefinger up, up… to the distant, staggering heights of Taniquetil, whose highest peak, shrouded in clouds, no mortal eyes could discern.
"He rests there," Frodo said softly. "He requested that one of the eagles bear him hence on his final day." He smiled gently. "How he loved mountains."
"He awaits you in peace," Gimli said reverently. "You will see him again someday."
"I know," Frodo said with perfect trust. "Bilbo found three homes he loved well – Bag End, Rivendell, and here, in the West. Why not a fourth?"
"Why not, indeed," Elrond nodded. The Elves knew little of that place set apart where mortal spirits were gathered when their bodies could no longer support them, but such special souls would surely find themselves in an honored place.
"I am old, and will soon enter into Mahal's halls... free from the endless chatter of Elves," Gimli smiled fondly at Legolas. "I have earned my sleep."
"Indeed, you cantankerous Dwarf," agreed Legolas, at last hopping lightly down from the deck of his ship. "Frodo… Sam… I must admit that I scarcely dared hope to see you again."
"Nor did I," Gimli admitted.
"Hobbits are full of surprises," Frodo said, winking at Gandalf. "Sam and I have both outlived the Old Took by a good measure now. It will eventually be time to move on."
"Aye, sir, it will," Sam nodded. "But not just yet."
"No," Frodo agreed, taking his friend's hand. "Not just yet, dear Sam." He looked up at Legolas, his eyes sparkling with humor. "And how old are you?" he asked teasingly.
Legolas knelt and embraced him and Sam, then looked around, his eyes alight with wonder. "I feel as if I am a child once again," he said softly. He rose to his feet, and bowed deeply. "My Lady, Master Elrond, Gandalf..." He greeted each with joy. "May I present my companions?" One by one, the Elves who had accompanied him left the ship, and were greeted with honor.
Gimli drew Frodo aside.
"My friend," Gimli said hesitantly, "forgive an old Dwarf a strange question, but... do you perhaps know of a meadow, lush and green, with one single tree bearing flowers of light? It would be surrounded by boulders of great age and beauty. I may only have dreamed of-"
"That's amazing," Frodo said in astonishment. "Sam dreamed of it, as well, before he sailed here. There is indeed such a place. The song of that tree must be powerful indeed."
"It is not a tree that sang through my dreams and heart, but the rocks." Gimli fingered the silver hammer at his belt – a gift from Legolas. "There is ancient music within them that I would very much like to hear in the waking world."
"We'll take you there, as soon as you're settled," Sam said. "I hope you won't mind staying with Mr. Frodo and me for a bit, until you know where you'd like to live?"
"For a bit, or permanently," Frodo added. "We have plenty of room."
"I would be most grateful," Gimli said with obvious delight. "I have much to share with you, and wish to hear all that you have to tell."
"And eat all that we have to serve!" Frodo laughed gaily. "I remember Bilbo's tales of your father and his cousins eating everything in his larder."
"I do not suppose there is any ale to be found on this island?" Gimli asked wistfully.
"There is now," Sam said with a grin.
Gandalf stepped forward. "Legolas, Gimli... a feast awaits you and your fellow travelers. There are many here who wish to bid you welcome, son of Gloín. Will you come ashore?"
"Indeed, I would like at last to walk upon this new land!" Gimli said fervently. "Legolas built a sturdy ship, but my feet long for solid ground." He took a deep breath before striding the length of the dock toward the waiting Elves, calmed by Legolas's encouraging hand on one shoulder, and Galadriel's gentle one on the other.
"Have you a mind for feasting, Sam?" Frodo asked.
"Not really," Sam said. "A celebration is well and good, but Gimli'll be wanting a few tastes of home, I imagine. Why don't we have a late supper waiting for him, along with a mug or two of that ale he's longing for?"
"My thoughts exactly," Frodo said with a smile.
They stood watching the crowd greet their friends. The air began to cool as the sun settled behind the western mountains, and as the fisherfolk brought their catch to shore, the hobbits returned their soft greetings as they passed. Suddenly, with a glad cry, Sam pointed out to Frodo the brightest star of evening as it rose above the darkening water. He once again gazed through the viewing crystal for several minutes before setting the tube down on the dock, a contented smile on his face.
"Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima," he and Frodo whispered in unison, as they did each evening.
"Thank you again, sir," Sam added, raising a hand in greeting to the Mariner.
As Vingilot swiftly approached Aman, the hobbits for a moment were bathed in the Silmaril's brilliance as they stood together, hand in hand. Adding their voices to the delicate harmonies coming from shore, they helped sing the starship home.
** END **