3rd Interlude: September 20, 1421, Shire Reckoning:

The fire was growing low, dying out. Outside, the stars shone bright and cold, illuminating a cool frosty evening. Rosie had returned and thus Frodo's story telling would have to wait for the morning--and the journey. This was precisely as Frodo wanted it; to reveal what had happened next was to reveal too much to Sam, would bring to him the realization of where they were going--not to Bree as he had told Sam as a stop on the way to Rivendell, but west, to the Havens.

Once Sam knew of their destination, Frodo would finish the tale. Then too, he would know how the tale ended. If she had decided to come.

Sam stood before Frodo, his eyes glowing amber by the light of the embers, alook of distress upon his broad face. "But Mr. Frodo, sir, you can't just leave it hanging like that. However am I supposed to sleep now not knowing how things went? You did speak with you, didn't you. While I was asleep, no doubt."

Frodo smiled, bittersweet. Dear Sam. How he would miss his earthy speech. "Yes, Sam; just so. But it is late, and in the morning I mean to leave early. It is enough for now. I am weary." Indeed that was true. It was as if he could still feel the Ring hanging so heavy from his neck--but perhaps more painful yet was its absence. He was so drained, so depleted. He would never be whole of body, mind, soul . . . or heart. Not even in the Blessed Isles.

Sam's face fell as he saw his master stumble, the head drooping and a shaky hand reaching out for support. "So sorry, master Frodo! And me pushing you so hard into talking today. Come; to bed with you. Talking's just as good on a pony ride, I expect, especially through open countryside with a bit of fresh air to liven the senses. It'll be just you and me. Just like old times. To bed with you then, and don't you fret none. Whatever it was, whatever happened, we'll fix things. You'll see her again, and everything will be right as rain, as my Gaffer used to say."

Frodo nodded and allowed Sam to lead him to his room, turning down the blankets as Frodo changed into his nightshirt, fetching him a warmed compress for his shoulder, then blowing out the candle once Frodo was comfortable. Frodo watched him leave, the shadow moving along the rich whitewashed walls of the smial, committing the image to memory. He'd been a good friend. It was sad that soon now they must part. He would make sure Sam understood him--all of him; his hopes and his fears and his love and his failure. Sam would become the record keeper, and Frodo would live on in him.

For some time after, Frodo stared up at the round ceiling, feeling very similar to how he had felt a certain evening in Rivendell--the night he had gone to speak with her. He had been sleepless and anxious, and worried. Perhaps with a little more hope in his breast than he had tonight. How brash he had been, how brave! Would that he had been more courteous as well. More patient. Sighing, Frodo closed his eyes and let weariness claim him. In short order, he was asleep.


It was a pleasant ride the next day, the 21st of September, and as fine a day as could be wished. They rode their favoured ponies and spoke little but of the harvest, the doings of others in Hobbiton, and wondering how other members of the Fellowship were doing. Sam asked of the tale, but Frodo begged off, saying it was too depressing a matter for open blue skies and rich golden fields.

He managed to hold off speaking of it until the next morning.

When they came upon the elves, when Sam found out where exactly they were heading, and to be heading there with Bilbo and Elrond and Galadriel for company, well, Frodo knew all thoughts of his story were wiped clean from his head. Sam's sorrow was heartbreaking to watch; the knowledge that he could not come; not now at least, not with a family and a future waiting at home for him. He nodded numbly as Frodo went over the last matters of business of Bag End. He asked to be left to his thoughts for a bit. But now Frodo needed to speak. Mornenel was not there among the elves of Elrond's house. She had made her decision, obviously.

She would not go to the Havens with Frodo.

As they began riding again, Gandalf settling in beside Frodo and Sam, Frodo drew Sam closer, his heart unbearably heavy, his vision blurred by tears.

"I can now tell you the ending, Sam. Unfortunately, it is not a pleasant one. She did not come."

Sam blanched and reached out a hand to grasp Frodo's knee, possibly afraid he would fall off the pony. "Sir! Was she to be a part of Elrond's company here, then? Is it possible she already left and is waiting for you?"

Frodo shook his head, though it took almost more energy than he could spare. His right hand was clenched tight around the white gem Arwen had bestowed upon him. "Let me tell you what happened while you were sleeping. Then, I think it will all make sense . . ."




A/N: SORRRY!!!!!!!!! Last semester was awful, and the plot bunny nearly died on this one, but I promised to finish, and so I shall! Sorry too that this chapter's so short, but had to start somewhere--be happy to know I'm already halfway through the next chapter and there will only be a chapter or two after that, then we'll be done! THanks to everyone who kept prodding me to keep this alive and for all your feedback.