If you're going to read this, be forewarned: this fic is a response to "The Road Ahead," by Sally Gardens, as well as some of her other LotR fanfics...well, most of them, actually. I'm not half so good a writer as she, but I still think I'm right **wink** so I wrote this fic. It was very much fun, and I hope you enjoy it! -I owe Sally the line "Glory and trumpets!" whether canon or not, because I wouldn't have thought of it otherwise. I owe Mainecoon my knowledge of how Sam would act and what he would say. I owe Tolkien for writing the book. I owe my little brother a knuckle sandwich. I owe all reviewers a truckload of candy.
Note: It begins on a ship. If this was obvious, then bless me and call me a ninnyhammer. Really. Mention it in your review.
Disclaimer: (to Tolkien and his estate-keepers) Since none of this belongs to me, / Except a word or two, / If you should want it badly, / I'll give it all to you!
"Awake, little master."
Sam opened his eyes. Through the thick white mist that had set in with age, he could faintly see the face of his Elven attendant.
"Tuilin?" He blinked a few times, but the mist refused to clear, as always. "What is it?"
"We have arrived."
"Yes." A smile appeared on the ghostly face. "The lost children of Valinórë have returned from exile, weary and wise. My heart is joyful, as it has not been for many ages."
Sam felt the gentle touch of Tuilin as he was lifted, cradled like a young child.
"You must be cleansed and healed before entering the Blessed Realm."
One part of his mind that age had not dimmed prompted a question.
"When can I see Frodo?"
"Soon, little master. Soon."
"Welcome, Samwise son of Hamfast."
"Rightly guessed." The familiar voice was directed at Tuilin. "Take him to the Hall of Healing. Lintalorn will guide you."
The voice that called out seemed almost familiar - like one of the Elves of Rivendell to whom he had spoken, long ago, when the Quest was nearly ended and all hearts sang with joy.
"Grant me, my lord, your permission to tend the hobbit Samwise in the task of healing."
"Granted, Melloneledh. Go now."
"Many thanks, my lord."
A sensation of movement: they were going to the Hall.
"Soon," promised Tuilin, "you shall behold the splendor of Valinor with your own eyes."
"Then shall I see Frodo, too?"
What might have been a chuckle rippled in Tuilin's chest.
"Yes, of course."
First, he was bathed in warm water that smelled of chamomile and roses.
"You are as salty as the Sea itself!" laughed the fair-voiced one, he whom the lord Elrond had called 'Melloneledh.' "Did you fall into the waters, Master Samwise?"
No answer was required but a smile, and the healing proceeded.
Next, they rubbed him over with scented oils, giving special attention to his back and legs. Sam could almost feel the years of toil slipping away.
He could certainly feel the difference between his attendants.
Lintalorn, whose voice was like water over smooth stones, was gentle enough, but his touch was that of a stranger. Melloneledh, however, with his joyful voice, had a tender touch and smaller, finer hands than Lintalorn.
Sam was sure he knew this merry Elf from somewhere. Turning over the question in his mind, he stumbled across the meaning of 'seldonya.'
"Are you one of Elrond's sons?" he queried.
Both Elves laughed gaily.
"Nay, little master," replied Melloneledh. "Master Elrond calls me his child only because of his love for me. He has but two sons, Elladan and Elrohir."
Slightly embarrassed, Sam decided to be more careful with his questions.
He still had one to ask.
"When can I see Frodo?"
A slight tremor passed through the hand of Melloneledh.
"When I have healed your eyes, you shall see him."
He was clothed in a tunic, coat, and breeches of some soft, light cloth. The garments reminded him of something.
"How it all comes back!" he marveled. "Why, I remember the rope the Lady gave us, Galadriel's milk-soft rope! It felt just like these clothes!"
"Yes," the fair-voiced Elf murmured, "these garments were made by the Lady's hand, but they are pale as the new light of morning, not silver-gray, as the rope was."
"Are you - were you a Lórien Elf, then?" asked Sam curiously. Melloneledh chuckled.
"Nay, I was no Elf of Lórien, but I was there whilst you were. My home was in the West."
"Near the Havens?"
After giving Sam a draught of miruvor, Melloneledh left to get some brew that was in another part of the Hall. Sam screwed up his courage to ask the other Elf - Lintalorn - a question.
"I almost feel I've met that Mellon-chap somewhere, somehow. What's he look like?"
Lintalorn took a moment to answer.
"He is pale as the moon, with eyes like the stars," he said at last. "His hair is raven-dark. He stands tall for his kindred, yet not so tall as I."
"Proper Elvish answer," Sam muttered. "Could be Elrond, from his telling of it!"
If Lintalorn had heard, he gave no sign of it.
Melloneledh soon returned with the brew.
"Now, I must warn you, Samwise," he cautioned, tender concern in his voice, "to drink this very slowly. It will make you cough, and it may hurt. It will clear your lungs of any impurities." He added softly, "I promise that you will feel better once it is over."
The instructions were not hard to follow, as the brew was very bitter. The scent rose in his throat, entering his lungs.
Then the coughing began - a fit of deep, wracking coughs that hurt his chest abominably. He was hardly aware of the gentle hands of fair-voiced Melloneledh as they steadied him, holding him firmly as the violent coughs shook his body.
After a time, the coughing spell subsided, and Sam leaned weakly against Melloneledh. He was given another drink of miruvor, and quickly felt his strength return.
"There you are," soothed Melloneledh. "You took that more easily than I did when I was cleansed."
"Do Elves get cleansed, then?" whispered Sam, not yet trusting his voice.
At last, it was time for the healing of his eyes.
Melloneledh helped Sam to lie down on a flat bed of cool stone, whilst Lintalorn propped up his head with a downy pillow.
"Open your eyes very widely," instructed Melloneledh.
Sam felt drops of some liquid fall into his eyes. He blinked; the mist seemed unaffected.
"Close them." He did so. "Now, we must wait."
"For how long?"
"Only a few moments. Tell us, little master, how did you lose your eyesight?"
"My wife used to say it was too much sun and too little rest what did it." Sam was glad that the Elves could not see the tears in his eyes. "She...died...on Mid-year's day."
"Ah. I am sorry."
Sam almost recognized the voice as it took on a sorrowful note, but the identity of its owner continued to elude him.
"Now, sit up - slowly."
Melloneledh's gentle hands guided him to an upright position.
"Listen carefully: open your eyes, then blink once." The Elf sounded almost excited.
Sam opened his eyes. The mist seemed to be dripping, falling away; he blinked, and it disappeared.
There before him, smiling in unmasked joy, was Frodo. He spoke, but it was with the voice of Melloneledh.
"Welcome home, Sam."
After a long moment, Sam found his voice.
"Frodo! Oh, Frodo!"
He was caught up in a breathtaking embrace. In the midst of laughter and tears, he exclaimed:
"Glory and trumpets! It was you! It was you all along! Bless me and call me a ninnyhammer! It was you!" Breaking free of the embrace, he looked at Frodo in growing wonder. "Oh, master, but how you've changed!"
"Yes." Frodo tossed his head. His dark curls had a silver sheen, and caught the light of the morning. "I am healed."
"Healed!" Sam took his master's right hand; though the third finger was still missing, the old wound was no longer marked by a scar. "Bless my buttons! It's all I ever hoped for and more! Are you really healed?"
"Yes, dear Sam."
"Them Elves are wonderful creatures!" Sam grinned. "And I thought you were an Elf!"
"I know. My voice must have changed."
"It has." Sam searched for the words he wanted. "You...well...sound like an Elf...young and old and happy and sad and wise, all at once." He stopped and stammered, "Begging your pardon, master..."
Frodo laughed; Sam had not heard such a wonderful sound since his master had laughed at the top of the stair to Torech Ungol.
"Bless you, Sam, bless you a hundred times over! You haven't changed, my dear hobbit." He ruffled Sam's hair, nearly white from age and 'too much sun.' "Not much, at any rate. You are whole and well now."
"Yes, master." Sam looked out at the sky, clearly visible through a large window. "It's a fair morning, and I can see it again!" He looked gratefully at Frodo. "You've healed me, master!"
"Not I, Sam. Some concoction of Elrond's, I think." Frodo helped Sam to his feet, off the stone bed and onto the floor. "But you've healed me, dear one."
"You." Frodo looked over to the true Elf, Lintalorn. "I'm taking Sam outside now. Could you tell Master Elrond that the healing is complete?"
Lintalorn bowed and turned to go out by another exit. Frodo took Sam's hand and led him out of a wide doorway into the open air, on a sandy path surrounded by lush lawns.
Sam blinked in the pure light of morning. Long had it been since he had last seen the world so clearly.
"Well, there's an eye-opener, and no mistake," he muttered, echoing his former self. "Trees and taters!"
"It's beautiful, isn't it?"
Sam nodded, looking back at his master.
"And now you sound like yourself again, Mr. Frodo!" he said delightedly. "You had me thinking you'd gone and become an Elf, after all these years!"
"No, I'm still just a hobbit." Frodo looked sideways at Sam. "And you're a free hobbit yourself, Sam. You needn't call me 'master.'"
Sam was taken aback.
"Not call you 'master!'" He looked quite serious. "I didn't come over the Sea for just any hobbit, Mr. Frodo. I came to find my master."
Frodo looked lovingly at his friend of friends.
"Oh, Sam, you dear silly hobbit!" He pulled Sam over to the pale wall of the Hall of Healing, and they sat down in the grass with their backs against the cold stone. "Now I'll explain how you healed me, if you still want to hear."
For a moment, both were silent, gazing at the indescribable wonders of Valinor. At last, Frodo spoke.
"When I first came, I was healed in body, as you have been. To heal my scars took many days, but, through the grace of Master Elrond and of Galadriel, I was cured at last.
"Then came a longer period of healing: that of my mind and spirit. Lord Elrond has no medicine for a broken mind or a wounded spirit, and he was forced to find another cure.
"Every morning, just before dawn, he would wake me, and we would go together to the pier to watch the sunrise. As the sun rose above the Sea, he would remind me that it was my quest that saved us, that allowed the sun to shine freely upon free lands. Then we would just watch in silence. After a time, I realized the truth of his words, and was comforted.
"However, I was not healed after many weeks of this, and other like treatments. Master Elrond appealed to Lady Galadriel for aid."
"Of course," said Sam with a grin. "It would be the Lady in the end!"
Frodo grinned back before continuing.
"Galadriel has a new Mirror here, and she can see much that before was hidden to her, or so she says.
"Every evening, she would let me look into it, and who do you think I saw?"
Sam gave it some earnest thought.
"Robin Smallburrow?" he guessed, rather hopelessly.
Frodo smiled broadly.
"No, not Cock-robin, silly!" He tapped Sam on the nose. "You."
"You. I would spend the whole day living in earnest, living for the moment when I could look into Galadriel's mirror." Frodo smiled fondly at the memory. "I've watched most of your life, Samwise Gamgee. I saw you living a good life, raising all those wonderful children, teaching half the Shire about the Quest, writing your chapters in the Red Book...everything I had asked you to do, and much more besides."
Sam smiled sheepishly.
"Then you saw me almost give Ted Sandyman the thrashing of his life?"
"That, too." Frodo winked. "I'm very proud of you, Sam, for keeping a cool head."
Sam blushed, but looked quite pleased nonetheless.
"I watched you on your night walks, when you would look at the stars," continued Frodo. "I heard what you would whisper to the clear sky before moonrise, and I saw your tears." He put an arm around Sam. "I saw how much you loved me, Sam. Your love healed me."
Sam reclined his head upon Frodo's shoulder, blinking back joyful tears.
"I'm glad," he said, having no other words to describe his feelings. "I am glad."
For a long while, the hobbits sat in silence, just being together.
Suddenly, Frodo started. Sam looked up quickly.
"What is it?"
"I've just remembered!" He reached into a pocket of his trousers; he was dressed in clothes similar to Sam's, but deep blue in color. "I have to give you this!"
Finding the object of his search, he presented it to Sam. It was a tiny pendant of silver, set with small emeralds, hanging on a fine chain.
Sam took the pendant and gazed at it in awe.
"What is it?"
"Life." Frodo took the pendant and hung it about Sam's neck. "We have forever and always to spend together, my Samwise. Take this and live."
Sam was astonished.
"You mean, we-?"
"Yes. Otherwise, we couldn't have come."
Frodo unbuttoned the top button of his jacket. Hanging over his heart was a similar pendant, set with small sapphires.
"That's enough, Sam."
At a loss for words, Sam fell silent. Frodo took his hand and held it in both his own.
"Have you forgiven me for leaving you?"
At last, Sam knew what to say.
"I forgave you before the ship was out of sight, master."
"Really?" Frodo winked. "It took that long?"
Laughing together, the hobbits rose, and Frodo led Sam to see the land he had waited over half of his life to see.
They had time enough.
Could you do me a huge favor and tell me something specifically-like in your review?
Did you realize that it was Frodo, not an Elf, before Sam did? At what point? How long did I string you along? Was it obvious from the first moment 'Melloneledh' spoke, or did I shock you out of your chair when Sam's eyes were healed? My 12-year-old sister guessed it right after the coughing bit, but that was before I revised it slightly.
If you'd just tell me, it would be very goodnessmuch of you! Cybercandy for everybody! ;-) Thanks millions!