The Sails are Set

'. . . lands there are to west of West, where night is quiet and sleep is rest.'
- from Bilbo's Last Song

The old Hobbit gazed about after he was helped to dismount. From the arched gates behind to the waterfront before him, the Grey Havens boasted stonework everywhere he looked. Solid houses with vaulted windows and wide balconies, white fountains and ornate carvings, elegant statues and tall towers stood pale under the darkness of evening, here and there girdled in green foliage. A great lighthouse reached for the sky, alone on the narrow cape marking the border of the Elven-harbour. Few of CĂ­rdan's folk were about, but along the stone quay many fair ships were moored.

The smell of brine borne upon a light breeze stirred Bilbo's senses and brought to mind old memories. He had lived a long and full life, surrounded by those he loved. In his younger days he had been content with living in the Shire, exploring it as he could and having small, childhood adventures with trusted friends. Years and circumstances had matured him, and he had settled down to a respectable life in his parental home. And then a wizard and thirteen Dwarves had whisked him off to his first real adventure, kindling a fire within him that would not abate. And afterwards, even though he had resumed his old life in the Shire, the want to travel and know more of the wide world stayed with him, and he was changed. He learnt the Elven language and took to socialising with people queer to Hobbits. His acquaintances thought him an oddity but he paid them no heed.

The coming of Frodo into his life had given him new purpose; many of his fondest memories included his kinsman, and he was content. His thirst for travel had been re-awakened in earnest when that bone-deep tiredness in his heart began taking over, and he later thought that the journey which had once more taken him to Dale before he finally settled in Rivendell would be his last.

But now, as he came to wait beside the white ship and looked at Frodo saying farewell to his friends, he realised it was not so. His gaze swept over the Elven-havens again, and he breathed the tantalising scent of salt-water. The Sea behind him lapped at the stony wall; the sound was music to his ears. A smile spread upon his face. He was embarking on the last great adventure.