The Road Goes Ever On
A Lord of the Rings fanfic
By Princess Artemis
© S.D.Green, 2002, except all that pertains to the Tolkien Estate
It had been growing on Sam for some years...a shadow maybe, a faint little darkness in his mind. He had told his beloved wife Rosie about it once. She didn't quite understand, but she knew the story of the War of the Ring well enough to know what it might be. Of all hands that had ever held that accursed One Ring, Sam's was the only left in Middle-Earth...and he was also the last to have ever borne it or set it on his finger.
Few knew it, but there were two people in the history of the Ruling Ring who had ever given it up of their own free will: Bilbo Baggins, and Samwise Gamgee the Gardener. Maybe they would think Bilbo's the harder and more noteworthy because he had the Ring so long...but then they might forget Sam was in Mordor and the Ring had grown in power as it neared the might of Sauron of whom it was a part.
Rosie had suggested that might be it, the last memories of the darkness that was and would not be again.
Sam had agreed...it seemed likely. He had always considered himself lucky, so very lucky, that he had lived so many years free of any hurt from his brief time as a Ring-bearer. But time wore on, and he grew old...and perhaps the shadow of malice that Sauron had become flitted faintly in the darkness and maybe a tiny finger of it had found Sam, the last left in Middle-Earth to ever have used its power.
Sam was content still, for the shadow was faint, and he still had his Rosie with him then.
But now...Sam wiped tears from his eyes; Rosie had passed away, and he stood now at her grave, grown over with her favorite flowers, tended by his younger sons. She had died three months ago, and the shadow had grown on him darker now that she was gone.
He stood there, with the diary that Bilbo, Frodo, and he himself had kept for over a century. Sam looked at the grave and said finally, "Goodbye Mistress Rose...I think it's time I oughta be going. I miss you lots." Then he walked away, and mounted a pony he had.
The date was September 22, the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo. It was a good day to ride out, he thought. And he left Bag-End at the age of 102.
It took a few days riding to get there, but he reached the Fardowns and left the volumes that would later be known as the Red Book of Westmarch with his eldest daughter Elanor. Then he rode on to the Gray Havens, where a few Elves that had lingered in Middle-Earth were ready to depart. He asked leave to take ship with them, though he hated boats. They allowed him, somehow knowing that he would be allowed to go with them along the Straight Road.
Sam kept his eyes shut while they were still on the waters of the Sea, but opened them and watched when he felt the boat leave the bosom of the ocean. It amazed him...the water fast flowing below him and curving under to flow around the Bent World. Then he looked forward and saw many things he didn't understand.
Not long after he began to smell the faint scent of flowers in the air, the flowers of Valinor, the Uttermost West...
Frodo strayed along the pearl covered shores of Eldamar, watching out at the Sea and the Straight Path. Lately he had come here every day, looking for something he knew not what. The pearls coated his Hobbit toes and fur, making them glitter. Tol Eressëa stood far out in the Sea. He watched, waiting...and then he saw a ship. It was late coming--few ships now came to haven in Eldamar.
He ran up the hill, and looking closer, he saw, or thought he saw, what he had been waiting for. "Ah!" he shouted happily, then ran all the way to Valimar, shouting for Bilbo and Olórin the entire way.
When Sam's ship found its final home, he could barely get himself to disembark. And not because he was afraid, but because the Blessed Realm had struck him speechless and made his legs wobbly. The mountains that towered so high he couldn't see their tops...the flowers he had seen as they passed Tol Eressëa...the glittering sand of Eldamar...it was too much to take in. He rubbed his eyes, and finally an Elf helped him off the boat.
He wandered for a little while, not knowing where to go. Then he saw two figures running up to him, one small, the other taller...and he went running as fast as his old legs would take him. The smaller figure was faster, and Sam recognized him, his heart leaping in his chest.
Soon Frodo had reached Sam and hugged him so hard he actually knocked Sam off his feet. Frodo was grinning like a fool and crying at the same time. "Sam! Sam, I thought you would never come!"
"Oh, sir, I had things to do, you know, I had a lot of things to do...," Sam said, his own eyes springing with tears at seeing Frodo again. But he was so young...he had left Middle-Earth at 53, but even there he had never aged past 33. He looked like a very young Hobbit indeed "Sir, you...you don't look like you aged a day since I last seen you!"
Finally the taller person, Olórin, stepped up, laughing. "Sam, it is good to see you again." He reached down and lifted Frodo off the much older Hobbit, and Frodo struggled to get out of Olórin's grasp. The taller man laughed again and set Frodo on his feet. Then Olórin reached a hand down to help Sam up.
"Sir...begging your pardon, but...have we met?" Sam asked, feeling as if they had; Olórin was tall and ageless though with the appearance of youth, despite the long beard he wore. His robes were white.
"Why of course we have Samwise." And when Olórin's hand touched Sam's, he suddenly knew who he was.
"Gandalf!" Sam shouted. "But, but...why...you look so young!"
Olórin smiled. "Well, yes, I am Gandalf, or I was...but here my name has always been Olórin. And...before you ask, because I know you will, I became rather fond of you Hobbits and decided to keep some of my Wizard appearance here because of that."
After Olórin had helped Sam up, Sam dusted himself off a bit. "Well, I don't think I would know enough to ask that mister Olórin sir."
Frodo went and hugged Sam again, this time more mindful of the fact that Sam was quite old. "Oh dearest Sam, I have missed you!"
"I missed you too sir," Sam said.
Olórin motioned with his hand. "Shall we walk and talk? Bilbo isn't nearly as fast as Frodo."
"Oh yes, certainly Olórin," Frodo said, letting go of Sam. While they walked to Valimar, Frodo said, "Sam, you don't have to call me 'sir' anymore you know."
Sam stopped and looked at Frodo. "Mister Frodo sir, I know. I never did have to, didn't you know?"
"Well, yes, I suppose I did," Frodo answered, a little confused.
"Didn't you know I did that 'cause I loved you? I haven't stopped, so I don't suppose I will stop, if you catch my meaning."
Frodo stood there in silence for a moment. "I...I...well...I knew that too...but maybe I didn't know enough."
"That's OK, sir, you had your own things to worry about, that Ring...Oh! Sorry! I didn't mean to bring that up...oh, there I go, stickin' my foot in it again...oh dear me...I don't think I ever shall learn." Sam looked quite upset.
"Sam, no! It's OK now," Frodo reassured him. "I've been here a long time, and it's very hard to hold on to worries and hurts here. If they ever do come up, I just go visit Lórien for a while."
Olórin produced a wide-brimmed, pointed hat from somewhere in his robes. He looked even more like a young Gandalf now. "No Sam, you needn't worry about such things anymore. The shadows of darkness cannot enter here at all, not until the End."
Sam was very relieved. "So you don't have no more bad days like you did before sir?"
"You're going to keep calling me sir, aren't you?" Frodo asked with a smile.
"Yes sir, unless you really don't want me to."
"Sam, I never realized what that meant to you before...so if you want to, you can...and now I'll know why." Frodo looked deeply touched, and a little upset with himself that he'd missed as much about Sam as he had, even if he had been, as Sam said, rather preoccupied.
"Oh, see, now I've gone and upset you again."
"Dearest Sam! It's me, I've upset myself, it's not your fault." Then he said, "And no, I don't have any bad days like I had before. I did for a while, but they are gone now."
As they stood there talking, finally Bilbo came tottering up. He was older than old by Hobbit reckoning, and Sam almost felt relieved to be in the company of a Hobbit closer to his own age, though he knew Frodo wasn't just barely an adult Hobbit despite the way he looked. "Well hullo, Sam!" Bilbo said, and came and clapped him on the back.
"Bilbo sir! Hello!" Sam answered.
"You have to tell me everything, you know, that's been going on in the Shire, Sam. If it was hard getting news in Rivendell, imagine how it is here!"
Sam laughed, and as Olórin herded the three Hobbits toward Valimar, Sam told them all everything that had happened, about Aragorn and Arwen, and Merry and Pippin, about how he had finished the diary and left it with his daughter, and everything else he could think of. While they walked, Frodo didn't say much, content to hear about his friends, and happy Sam had finally come.
When they arrived in Valimar, Olórin showed Sam to a large ring in the midst of it, which had many seats. "Wait here a moment," he said, then walked off toward a mountain taller than any of the others. Frodo and Bilbo were with Sam, still talking about the Shire. There was quite a lot of history to go over, 50 years worth, and Bilbo actually wanted to hear every last bit of it.
But Sam was distracted from his catching Bilbo up; he looked all around at the beauty of Valinor, and at the bells that rang like water tinkling and falling down. And the Elves! He was only one of the very few mortals who had ever seen a Vanya Elf, and they were surpassingly lovely and noble--Sam could see that none of them had ever known shadows and darkness the way the Elves in Middle-Earth had. That wasn't to say they had never seen shadows, just that they had never been stained by them.
After a short time, Olórin returned, and Bilbo and Frodo grew quiet and stepped back. He was followed by two beings that were so far above beautiful and noble that the words might be insults if they were used to describe them. One was of female shape, the other of male. The woman was very tall and clad in flowing silver, glittering like stars in the darkest velvet night, and she wore a crown of stars. The man was also tall, taller than any man Sam had seen, and he wore robes encrusted with sapphires of the deepest blue, mirroring the sky, and in his hand he held a silver and sapphire rod. Their faces were majestic beyond description.
Sam fell down at their feet. But the man touched his shoulder and said in a sonorous voice, "Stand, great heart." So Sam staggered up, but he couldn't look into his eyes.
Olórin went to Sam and said, "This is Manwë and Varda, the King and Queen of the Valar."
Sam could hardly believe his ears. He looked up in shock at Olórin, and he looked back to Sam with Gandalf's familiar smile.
Varda spoke first. "I heard thy voice call on me from afar." Sam blushed bright red and just stood and stared. Never in all his life had he expected that Elbereth would ever speak to him!
Then he stammered, "Th-th-thank you, your Highness...um...!"
Manwë spoke. "Samwise Gamgee, just for thy unswerving loyalty and love for Frodo I would fain let thee stay here a little while with him. But thou art also touched, I see, by the darkness of Morgoth. So thou shalt have the same fate as the other two Ring-bearers--to tarry here until thou art healed, and to leave when thou wishest. But I cannot give nor take the Gift of Death from thee; mortality is forever thine."
Sam wrung his hands, completely at a loss for words. But Manwë smiled, and after a moment, the two highest Valar left the ring and returned to their home high upon Taniquetil.
Olórin helped the still-shocked Sam turn around and gently nudged him forward. It took him quite a while to get over the astonishment of being addressed by Valar, and so kindly.
Sam and Frodo went to visit Elrond and his sons and Galadriel. Sam told Elrond as much as he could about his daughter Arwen and how she faired with Aragorn, about how they stayed near the Shire often and how Elanor was Queen Arwen's handmaid. Elrond was glad to hear the news, but Sam could see it troubled him, because the Half-Elf knew he would not see his daughter again in Arda. Sam was sad for him, and he came to learn more of what it meant to be an immortal Elf, and how Elves understood death so differently than mortals did.
Sam still felt the darkness that had been growing on him, though it had stopped growing now that he was in the Uttermost West. So Frodo took him to Lórien, the garden of the Vala Lórien, accounted the most beautiful place in all the world. Frodo explained that Lórien was the best place to find healing for the Vala Estë is there, the wife of Lórien.
But as soon as they entered the gardens, Sam fell asleep on his feet and tottered backward, nearly falling. Frodo caught him and laughed.
"I suppose it takes getting used to, doesn't it," he said to the sleeping Sam, and he sat his friend down and then sat next to him. Frodo could stay awake in Lórien now; though for long he had found it nearly impossible, so heavy were dreams and rest laid upon it.
Olórin came by and sat on the other side of Sam. "Yes it does," he answered Frodo. "He is less harmed, though, than you were. Perhaps he will not need to learn to stay awake! But let the power of my mistress and master relieve him of his burdens for awhile."
Frodo watched Sam nodding, then almost smiled when he began snoring. "I don't believe I miss that," Frodo said. "It is as hard to sleep near Sam as it is to stay awake in Lórien! I often wondered how Rosie managed." Then he paused in thought. "I had forgotten. She snored too."
After a while, Olórin said, "She managed because she loved him, I am sure...the same way you managed while you were all together in Bag-End."
Frodo nodded. "Dear Hobbit. It is hard to see him so old."
"Do you wish you could have grown old with them?" When no answer was forthcoming, Olórin said, "Why don't you sleep awhile as well?"
"Maybe I shall."
"I will come and wake you later." Then Olórin smiled. "Sweet dreams."
Frodo was already drowsing; it took very little effort to sleep in Lórien, and even less with one of Lórien's mightiest dreamweavers next to him. "It's almost time," Olórin said to himself. "I shall miss you dear silly Hobbits."
Sam woke with a start. "Oh dear me! I've slept in!" he cried.
Olórin stood over him. "Sam, you cannot oversleep in Valinor, and certainly not in Lórien!" he said with a laugh.
Sam shot up. "It's not a dream...? I had the most wonderful sleep, and I thought I dreamed this all up!"
Frodo stirred and blinked. Then he stretched. "I thought I had too the first time."
"If I recall, you thought the same the first forty or fifty times, Frodo," Olórin commented.
Frodo looked a little embarrassed. "Well, yes...but you make it very difficult not to, dear Olórin."
Olórin smiled. "I thought Sam might like to see something...come along!" The two Hobbits got up, and then realized Bilbo and Elrond were with them.
"Ah!" Frodo said excitedly.
"What?" Sam asked, "What's going on?"
"You'll see," Frodo said with a conspiratorial glance at the others.
It took the five quite a while to walk to wherever Olórin was taking them, but Sam found that even though he was old, he did not grow tired, and the shadow that had darkened his heart seemed fainter.
But eventually they did arrive, and looked out upon the Outer Sea and the Walls of the World. Sam thought them a marvel, but then he gasped and held his chest, for a star was falling slowly to the ground.
Soon he saw it was not a star at all, but rather a ship that shone as bright as a star. And Sam saw a man at the prow, and Elrond waved to him, and he waved back. The man was wearing clothes encrusted with diamond dust, and his ship was built of mithril and glass. Upon the brow of the man sat the most stunning light Sam had ever seen...then he realized what it was he beheld.
"That's, that's Eärendil! With the Silmaril!" he cried, grabbing Frodo's arm.
"Yes, this ship is Vingilot, this is the Star of Eärendil," Frodo answered.
"Ohhhh...!" Sam nearly fainted.
After that, Frodo took Sam to many places he had been in Valinor. Sometimes Olórin joined them, and sometimes Bilbo, or both together, but usually they went alone. They often stayed in Lórien, to heal Sam's hurts, and eventually he felt the shadow had lifted from him entirely.
Sam could never keep track of how long he had been in Valinor. It was to his mind altogether timeless, though he knew he had spent a lot of time with the Elves, and a lot of time with Frodo, Bilbo, and Olórin, and that he had seen Eärendil come to berth a few times, though he never tired of the sight. Perhaps it was days, or months...or years. He didn't know.
One day he said to Frodo as they walked alone along the streets of Valimar, "You know, sir, I think I'm better now. It's...well, it's like I never had that Ring at all, like it never existed."
Frodo smiled. "It is a little like that, isn't it? I remember it, and I remember the Morgul knife, and Shelob...but they are only memories now." He held up his right hand, which was still missing the ring finger. "It still happened, but we are no longer harmed by it." Then he turned thoughtful. "There is one last thing I want to show you Sam. I purposely never took you there...but I think it's time."
"Oh, where are we going?" Sam asked.
Frodo turned toward the western outskirts of Valimar. "To see one of the wonders of the ancient world."
"OK, if you say so, sir." Sam turned to follow Frodo out of Valimar of many bells.
It was not far from the ring where Sam had met Manwë and Varda, and Sam was surprised he hadn't noticed them before; for he stood with Frodo upon Corollairë, the hallowed green hill...and there were the Two Trees. But they were dead; Sam could see this instantly with his eye for gardening. Telperion still had some of his slender leaves upon smooth branches, and Laurelin had upon her branches a few faded many fingered leaves; nevertheless, the Two Trees were dead.
Sam ran up to them, and he set his hand on Telperion's smooth bole and cried. "Why did you bring me here, Frodo?!" Sam shouted, almost in anger, his body shaking.
Frodo stepped slowly to Sam's side and put his hand on Sam's shoulder. "I have been healed for a long time, but I had in my heart the knowledge that I awaited something. And then I saw your ship, and I knew what it was. Sam, I have been waiting for you, for you to come, and you to be healed." He looked up at the Two Trees, and his eyes grew bright with the mist of tears. "We have another journey to make, Sam. And we will go together this time."
The older-seeming Hobbit looked at Frodo. "Another...journey?"
"Remember what Manwë said? We are mortal Sam. This isn't our home."
Sam let his hand fall from dead Telperion's trunk. He looked at Frodo for a very long time. He thought of the wonders he had seen in Valinor, of Vingilot, of Lórien, of Manwë and Varda...and Olórin. And then he thought of his wife. His wife....
"My Rosie is waiting, isn't she?"
Frodo nodded. "Only Mandos in Arda knows where, but yes...Rosie will be there."
Sam looked up at the Trees again. He watched their faded leaves and branches sway in the breeze. He stood like that for a long, long time, almost mesmerized by the Trees. Then, finally, he looked back at Frodo. "I understand sir. But we'll go together this time."
Frodo held out his four-fingered hand to Sam. Sam took it, and they walked down the hill, toward Lórien.
Just as they were reaching the gardens of Lórien, the two Hobbits met Olórin and Bilbo. Bilbo went up and took Frodo's left hand, and Olórin nodded. He seemed sorrowful but not truly sad. "Come here," he said, and led the Hobbits deep into the land of Lórien, farther than any of them had gone, though they had been there many years.
They came by a pool with a surface like glass. There before them stood Lórien himself, and he smiled faintly, but said nothing. Olórin took them a little farther along the side of the pond, and then said, "You should sleep well here, my dear Hobbits."
They nodded, and then sat down on the green grass near the pond. They looked at each other, and suddenly it seemed to Sam that he understood that this was not the end. In fact, he felt light, light as a feather and thought he might float away.
And maybe he did.
Sam watched, and for a flash, a briefest moment, there was darkness, but without shadow.
Then he saw another place, one beyond his ability to describe, so far more beautiful than Valinor than Valinor was of Middle-Earth.
And he saw that he stood in a mansion, his hand still in Frodo's, and Frodo's still in Bilbo's. Then he saw Rosie run up to him, and he ran to her.
Not far away, a Man stood, and it was Boromir. He saluted the Hobbits and smiled.
Then Merry and Pippin, the two Hobbits of the Company that had been left in Middle-Earth appeared from seeming nowhere and nearly tackle-hugged Sam, Frodo, and Bilbo, much the same way Frodo had when he first saw Sam in Valinor after so many years.
Suddenly Sam turned, and looked up, toward a throne it seemed, but greater...and upon it sat One who made all thought of the majesty of the Valar flee his mind. Sam and Frodo and Bilbo looked at the One on the throne, and saw in his face not just majesty beyond comprehension, but also great mercy and love that overflowed and filled all the universe.
"Come, my Children," spoke Eru Ilúvatar, "I have made a place for you."
Sam felt ready to burst into tears of joy...there was his wife, his friends...and the One...but he stepped down from his throne, that mighty Being so majestic, and he kneeled, Eru Ilúvatar kneeled before Sam. And he took Sam's face in his hands and wiped the stray tears away.
"Nevermore, my Child, for here is Joy greater than tears." He looked at them all, and spoke again, "And there will be a Music. And after...."
And after the One did not say, but in his face they knew there would never be another end.
He lead them home.
* * *
Some years later, Olórin stood waiting on the beach of Eldamar, and then he saw them. He smiled and waved, and when the small ship came into the berth, he held his hand out for Legolas and Gimli. They disembarked, and they were filled with wonder.
"It is good to see you again, my friends," Olórin said, and they recognized that it was Gandalf.
"So this is the West you keep talking about?" Gimli asked, sounding scornful, but both Legolas and Olórin knew he was not.
"Yes, it is," Legolas answered. Then the Elf looked to Olórin, a question in his eyes.
Olórin understood without words, and he took Legolas and Gimli to Lórien.
"They are here," Olórin said, motioning to the three Hobbits who slept upon the grass.
Gimli bowed his head, and Legolas looked up at Olórin. "I had hoped...."
"Yes, I know. But the road goes ever on, you know. And I fancy we shall see them again, though it may be far off, when we shall all sing the Second Song before the throne of Eru."
Author's Note – I have heard that Tolkien wrote in one of his letters that Frodo and the other Hobbits did not become immortal because the Valar could not make them so, and that they died indeed. I hope this has a sense in it of beginning and not ending...