On other days, Frodo loved the Sea, but today it provided him with little comfort. The salty smell of the air left a bitter tang in his mouth, and the wind felt colder than usual, making him want to pull his jacket tighter around his frame. The gentle roar of the waves and the high-pitched calls of the sea birds flying above the rocks sounded mournful rather than peaceful.

Frodo had chosen to bury Bilbo on a high green cliff overlooking the Sea, but within view of Avallone, which lay southwest. The cliff faced East, toward Middle-earth, and the view of the water stretched out before it. On either side below the cliff wall, the white beach flowed like a ribbon. Bilbo had loved this place and he and Frodo had visited it often when they walked together.

He was surprised to see how many of the Elves had come for Bilbo's funeral. Nearly two hundred of them had come to honor him, and they stood silently a bit behind Frodo. He recognized most of the faces: there were Elves from Rivendell that had known Bilbo while he stayed there, and others from Eressea that they had known, but there were others that he did not remember seeing before. Above all, he was gladdened to see Lord Elrond and his wife, Celebrian, and the Lady Galadriel, who shone white in the afternoon sunlight.

Olorin had come as well. He had arrived in the city the day after Bilbo died, as if he had somehow sensed it, and gone in search of Frodo immediately. He had left the hobbit little since then, helping Frodo properly arrange Bilbo's funeral and keeping quiet company with him. Frodo was glad that he had come; Olorin had been an invaluable companion to him through so much of his life.

Olorin sang now, his voice having a slightly gruffy quality to it that was more Mannish than Elvish. It was quite fair, though, in its own way -- it reminded Frodo of the voices of the Rohirrim as they had sang over the grave of their fallen King, Theoden. Olorin sang at first of Bilbo's deeds in the Battle of the Five Armies and how he came to be respected among both the Elves and the Dwarves, but later he turned to more personal matters: Bilbo's friendship and loyalty, and his great love and care for Frodo. The song made the dull ache in Frodo's chest even heavier, but no more tears came to his eyes.

The song was over. "Frodo? Would you like to speak?" Olorin was looking at him, his bright blue eyes filled with concern and tenderness. Frodo swallowed hard, trying to decide. He felt he did not have Bilbo's talent for poetry or speeches, especially in front of the Elves. He closed his eyes for a moment, breathing deeply, trying to calm himself and ease the ache he felt. He walked forward, standing next to Olorin and facing the assembled Elves, who looked back at him with kind faces and keen eyes. He started speaking, trying to raise his voice above the strong wind that blew in from the water.

"I have not Bilbo's talent for song or poetry, so I would like to honor him with a simple speech. As I was growing up, Bilbo would amaze and entertain me with his wild stories of faraway places and fantastical creatures. I took a child's delight in everything he said, and I developed a great fondness for him almost as soon as I could understand his tales. When I lost my parents, Bilbo became an even stronger presence in my life. Much of what he was, he instilled in me -- his curiousity of the world outside of the Shire, his knowledge of history and the Elder Days, and his respect and admiration for your folk. In the Shire, he was seen more often than not as an odd eccentric, but to those of us who loved him, he was our teacher and our leader. I do not think that I would be quite the same hobbit I am today had I not had his love and friendship. I was truly honored by knowing him.

"I would like to thank all of you for coming today and honoring his memory with your presence. I am greatly touched and appreciative of your kindness, and I know Bilbo would have appreciated it as well."

Olorin took a freshly-cut lily from one of the Elves, handing it to Frodo. "Goodbye, Bilbo," Frodo whispered as he knelt and gently tossed the lily into Bilbo's grave. He rose and stepped back, and Olorin put an arm around his shoulders. The assembly began to turn away slowly and make their way back to the city, but Frodo stood for a few long minutes, gazing into Bilbo's grave and then East into the blue-green water of the Sea. Olorin stood behind him until Frodo turned around, and together they walked back towards Avallone.

Frodo sat silently on his cushioned chair in the dining hall, playing with the food on his plate. He wasn't hungry at all, though this feast was in Bilbo's honor. The musical conversation of the Elves was more subdued than usual; Frodo suspected it was for his sake and comfort. They were keeping an eye on him -- Frodo could tell, even though they were quite good at hiding it. Most of the Elves on Eressea had known grief in their lives: the loss of loved ones and their homes in Middle-earth, or the horror of war and suffering under the Enemy. They knew Frodo had experienced all of these things, and understood his sadness and did not think of him any less for it. They treated him with such honor and care that Frodo felt unworthy of it at times.

He placed down his silverware and sipped his wine as he looked at the host around him. Olorin sat nearby, talking to some of the Elves. He could not hear enough of the conversation to understand it, but let the sound of the words flow over him. Then he looked over to Bilbo's empty seat near the end of the table, and the ache in his chest flared up again. He stood and excused himself and silently left the hall. No one followed him, though Olorin looked at him intently as he rose and left.

The large, beautiful Elven house where he dwelt was quiet. It was nearly evening and the light of the lowering Sun felt warm and peaceful on his face. He wandered through the house and outside into the city, not paying much attention to where his feet were carrying him. He walked along a high wall, towards an archway that led into the woods. There was an ancient, well-kept path that Frodo often walked that led down to a quiet garden just north of the city. The air was filled with the sweet scent of flowers and the mustier smell of the trees. He walked leisurely, simply trying to clear his head and relax. The only sounds were the songs of birds.

At last he came down to the garden, walking down the stone steps in wide strides. The gardens of the Elves were quite different from the ones he'd known in the Shire or Gondor -- the Elves let the plants grow freely, so that after a while it because hard to discern where the flowers ended and the shrubs and trees began. Flowers, sweet-smelling in their perpetual full bloom, climbed the stone columns and statues, coloring and clothing them in living beauty. Trees and shrubs grew freely except where the narrow pathways had been maintained, and their branches reached out as Frodo quietly walked by them. The golden light of the setting sun in the West peeked out of gaps in the branches. He walked deeper and deeper along one of the paths, one that he had walked many times.

Eventually he came to a small, simple wooden bridge where underneath a stream babbled forth in a gentle song. Though it was several feet wide, it was not very deep and the bed underneath the water was made of soft pebbles and soil. He had often seen Elven children playing in it, jumping fearlessly into the clear water from the thin handrails of the bridge when their parents were not looking. Elven children were a tremendous handful to their parents...much like the hobbit children Frodo had known.

He sat down at the highest point on the bridge, grabbing a wooden column securely and dangling his feet over the side. He didn't want to fall, as he did not have the deftness of the Firstborn and might hurt himself if he fell into the stream. It flowed about two meters below him, and the rapidly fading light of the Sun glowed on it and set off golden sparks along the surface. Large fish with spotted backs swam back and forth in the stream, their movements swift and deft in the water.

When he was settled, Frodo let go of the column and folded his hands together on his lap, the left one on top of the right. It was a habit he acquired after the loss of his finger and one that he had not successfully broken. He sat silently watching the stream for a long while, listening to the sound of the water and watching the fish swim up and down the current. His chest still ached, and he focused on trying to calm himself and turn away his thoughts from his grief. He sat on the bridge, watching as the Sun disappeared and the sky darkened, and Varda's stars appeared in the sky.

After a while, he heard a noise near his left side and realized that someone was walking towards him, making a bit of noise so that he would not be startled. He turned, seeing an Elf woman with long silver hair and a silver raiment embroidered with golden leaves. She shone white in the starlight, her soft blue eyes sparkling. "Good evening, Frodo," she said in her gentle deep voice.

Frodo smiled softly up at her. "Good evening, Lady Celebrian," he replied. He expected her to continue walking but instead she tucked her dress underneath her and sat facing him near the edge of the bridge. She laughed softly and Frodo smiled at her. "May I sit with you a while, or would you like to be alone?" she asked.

"I would enjoy your company," he said.

"How are you?" she asked, looking deep into his eyes, almost searchingly. "You left dinner early, and I thought I may find you here. I have seen you sitting here quite often."

"I am well, Lady," he said quietly, meeting her gaze evenly. "Thank you for coming to Bilbo's funeral today; it was a great comfort to see you and Lord Elrond there, along with the Lady Galadriel."

"It was our pleasure to honor him," Celebrian said. "My lord Elrond greatly respected Bilbo, and though my mother only spoke with him a few times, she had respect for him as well. He was truly rare among your kind, and a great friend to ours."

"He was rare." Frodo paused. "He was quite remarkable among our kind, and I loved him dearly. He was very weary of this world, and he wanted to go, He asked not to mourn for him too much, but while I know that he's at peace, I still feel his loss deeply. He was the only real family I had here, and my last tie to Middle-earth. After my parents died, there were family members that took care of me, but none were ever as close to me as Bilbo was. He made me feel as if I belonged somewhere, as if I had a family again. And now that he is gone, I have no one left. I am alone here among my kind."

Celebrian nodded. "I understand how you feel, Frodo. For many years, I was alone here, and the most beloved of my family living far across the Sea. While I had hope I would see them again someday, I did not know when it would be. It was quite difficult for me to start a new life without them. And now my husband and mother have come, which brought me great joy, but I also have suffered a great loss -- the loss of my daughter. When I said farewell to her, I expected to see her again. 'Go, mother, and be healed,' she said to me. 'Find joy in the West, and I will wait until the day we meet again.' I boarded the ship and looked at her one last time, thinking of how she might have changed when next I saw her. I did not realize at the time that I would never see her again." She paused, bowing her head, and Frodo's heart ached again. "She made her choice, as she was allowed to do, and I both rejoice for her happiness and grieve for our parting, for I will not see her again, and her spirit will never be reborn. My sons will journey here one day and I will see them again, but my daughter is lost to me until the day where we all join together with Illuvatar."

Frodo paused for a few moments, then reached into his tunic and pulled out the chain he wore that still bore the white gem Arwen had given him. Celebrian raised her head, and a small gasp escaped her when she saw the stone. He slipped the chain off his neck and held the stone in his palm. It seemed to glow with its own inner light, like a tiny star had settled down on his hand. "Arwen gave this to me before we parted in Minas Tirith, seeing that I was filled with grief and guilt. She told me that it would bring me aid when I was troubled by darkness and fear, and it did. I would look at it or finger it when I was in pain and it helped me to remember all the beautiful things I had seen, and that I was loved and cared for by both of them. And when I wanted for the Ring around my neck, her stone gave me strength and comfort instead." He looked deep into Celebrian's kind eyes, holding out the stone towards her. "It did help me when my wounds were too much to bear, but I have less need of it now that I am here. If you like, Lady, you may have it to remember her by."

Celebrian looked down at Frodo, her eyes shining. "It was well given, indeed, and I would not take it away from you. It was her gift, and I am glad to know it brought you aid." She took Frodo's small hand in hers, covering the stone. "I still grieve for her, but I have enough to remember her. I have centuries of memories of her. I can remember how beautiful she was, more beautiful than her father and I ever expected her to be. I have the sound of her voice embedded into my heart. I have the comfort of knowing that she will find peace with someone whom she loves, and who loves her as well. That is enough for me."

Frodo stared at the stone in his palm for a few moments, then slipped the chain back over his head, letting the gem hang outside his tunic. He closed his eyes and held it closely in his right hand, rubbing his thumb over it. Celebrian watched him silently, then reached out and clasped his left hand. Frodo opened his eyes and looked at her.

"We are not so different, you and I," she said. "We both bear wounds from the Enemy, though yours are much deeper than mine." Frodo opened his mouth to protest but she went on. "The poison of the Enemy is strong, Ringbearer, but you are stronger still. The evil has never truly quenched your heart or conquered your spirit. Do not let your grief for Bilbo open you up to it again. Remember him, and love him, and let yourself enjoy the honor and blessings that you have earned."

Frodo felt hot tears sting his eyes, but he held them back. "You have healed from your wounds, Lady, but I feel sometimes that it is impossible with mine. I have had so much help, from Bilbo, and Este, and Lorien, and Olorin, and I thought that I was doing better. But Bilbo is gone now, and I feel so lost without him."

Celebrian smiled gently at him, and great wisdom shone through her glance. "It is a long path we walk to healing, Frodo. There are those who help us along the way, but they can only walk with us, not force our steps. We must keep along the path ourselves, even when it is dark and the way is not entirely clear. But if we prevail, the light will come again and it will be easier to find our way. And sooner or later, if we keep walking the path long enough, we will find the place we have been seaching for."

Frodo smiled at her, and a few tears escaped, rolling down his cheeks. "Thank you, Lady."

After a short silence, they rose together and walked slowly out of the garden, both of their figures shining in the moonlight. Celebrian sang as she walked, and Frodo realized that it was the same song he had heard Arwen sing the day she had given him her gem. Her voice rose sweetly like birdsong as she sang of the peak of Tanquetil, the sparkling city of Tirion, and the light of the Two Trees. The melody of the beautiful song echoed with profound joy. Tears ran silently down his cheeks as he listened to her. She put an arm around his shoulder and smiled down at him, and he smiled back. They walked through the archway and back into the city, its towers and houses sparkling with gentle light.

Frodo returned to his room and lay down on his bed, the songs of the Elves luring him to sleep. He dreamed that he was back in the Shire, on one of the long walks he had with Bilbo before he went away. The world was quiet and peaceful, and Bilbo sang his favorite songs while Frodo hummed alongside him. Suddenly a soft sunshower fell, and the air filled with the sweet scent of the rain. It was one of those days of Frodo's youth where the world had been perfect and everything seemed safe. Then memory came back to him, and he began to cry, and Bilbo wrapped his arms around him tightly. He let Frodo weep as the rain fell softly around them, holding him close and stroking a hand through his curls. Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the rain stopped and Frodo raised his head, breaking slightly from Bilbo's embrace. His tears were drying, and the ache in his chest felt better, though it was not wholly gone.

"Rainshowers never last forever," Bilbo said, cradling Frodo's cheeks in his hands. "The Sun comes out again, and the world sparkles with new life and is even more beautiful than before." He put an arm around Frodo's shoulders, facing him so that he could look down upon the green hills of the Shire. It was vibrant in the warm sunlight, all greens and golds and browns with a clear blue sky overhead.

"You're going to be just fine," Bilbo kissed him on his forehead, then smiled at him tenderly. "Walk with me a while longer, my lad. This path isn't easy to follow, but I won't let you get lost. I'll be with you the entire way." With that, they struck the path again, side by side.