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Sam's Turn - by Dianne H.

Part 1

Frodo sat on a rocky outcrop and dangled his toes in the cool water. Although this particular rock wasn't his favorite in the bay, its sloping surface made it perfect for lying back in the sun, or for making small ripples in the water like he was doing now. And for dreaming. He seemed to spend a lot of his time in daydreams; dreams of the Shire and of friends left far behind.

The gentle motion of the water increased as bubbles disturbed the calm surface, and Frodo bent down to stare into the clear depths. The incredible blue of the water always delighted him and he smiled to see the tiny crabs and shrimps scurry along the sandy bottom.

Suddenly a face loomed up at him from the depths and he jerked back as a lithe body sprang from the water and dropped beside him.

"Hello, Frodo," the man shook out his long brown main and grinned at the startled hobbit. Frodo hadn't expected to see the water god again so soon but with a shrug accepted his good fortune and returned the other's grin.

"What news, Ulmo?" he asked. He's learned long ago that the god had no interest in small pleasantries. Abrupt and brash the creature laughed more than he spoke and found pleasure only in the depths of the sea.

"I saw Ossë a few days ago," he began, speaking of the Maia who dwelt along the shoreline of Middle Earth. He dangled his large feet beside his friend's furry ones. "He told me he saw Elanor walking along the beach. She seemed to be in a hurry and didn't notice him, but later he heard rumors that all was not well with her mother."

Frodo's heart thumped and he reached for the white jewel at his breast. Poor Sam. They'd always known this time would come, but now that it was upon them, how was Sam to bare it alone? Not for the first time did Frodo question his choice in leaving Middle Earth. It was he who often felt torn in two. He missed his cousins whom he'd never see again; and he missed Sam, whom he couldn't help or comfort.

"Take heart, my friend," Ulmo put his arm about Frodo's shoulders and hugged him awkwardly. "I'm to see Ossë this evening. Maybe he'll have better news. You'll see, Sam will smile again."

"I hope so." Frodo closed his eyes against the picture of Sam's coming grief and loneliness. When he opened them again his friend had gone, only the wet stone showing he'd been there at all.

Frodo jumped from the rock and slowly made his way up the glittering beach, head bowed in thought and for once not seeing the beauty of Eldamar all around him. He climbed the green slopes of Túna and followed the narrow path his feet had worn as he made his way home. The path turned north around a rocky outcrop and a sudden tiny valley opened up before him. Tall mallorn trees grew in the bright glade, a silver stream winding merrily through them and leaping to the sandy beaches below.

Frodo's eyes lovingly followed the stream to its source: a wide clear pool seeping from the back wall of the valley. Brilliant flowers sprawled around the pool and spread across the valley floor and up its green slopes. A round red door was set in the wall beside the pool and another blue door could be seen further down. Tiny round windows peeked like eyes between them.

"Hello, Frodo." A small man waved from a bench on the stone patio in front of the red door.

"Bilbo." Frodo waved back, a smile breaking over his face. It always did him good to see how his uncle had regained his health there in the Blessed Realm.

"Any news?" Bilbo asked as Frodo plunked down on the bench beside him.

"Rosie's growing weaker." Frodo leaned his head back against the soft earth of the hillside and closed his eyes. Bilbo shook his head at the strain etched in his nephew's pale face. Will his trials never end? Valinor wasn't a cure for all ailments, although the elves seemed to find it so.

Frodo stirred and pulled his pipe from the worn knapsack on the flagstones. The two friends smoked quietly as they watched the twilight gather in the glen. The first pin pricks of stars began to glitter overhead and thoughts of dinner and a warm fire replaced the memories of friends left far behind.

"Shall we go in, Uncle?" Frodo asked and opened the door to let Bilbo pass. Galadriel's own people had excavated the hillside for them, digging deep into the mountainside to make large airy rooms with lots of windows facing the glen; the support pillars and beams of carved mallorn.

"Better than the Old Took's halls back home," Bilbo would brag to any guests that happened by. The kitchen was Frodo's favorite room. Taken from drawings Bilbo and he had made, with reminders from Gandalf, it mirrored Bag End's kitchen, even to the iron teapot left hot on the stove.

While Frodo put the tea on to brew Bilbo set out cheese and fruit and the honey cakes he'd made that afternoon.

"Well, Frodo, any plans for tomorrow?" Bilbo inquired as they sat down at the long table.

"I'm not sure." He spent most of his time in the record halls of Tirion studying the Noldor's history and culture, particularly the details of the Kinslaying; a tragedy mirrored in the horrors he'd witnessed in his own Middle Earth. As he'd read he'd had come to realize how the Fellowship's quest to destroy the One Ring had finally brought to an end the terrible evils that had been begun by Melkor long before. In that instant shame had touched Frodo's heart as he relived the glorious and horrible moment when he'd claimed the ring for his own. Sméagol had surely saved them all that black day.

Lately though he'd found himself drawn more often to the sea. He'd apprenticed himself to the shipwrights who welcomed him gladly and taught him all he would learn of their craft. He loved to carve the beautiful white wood into the sleek wings of a swan; feeling the eyes and beak take shape under his hands. He loved to sail in the swift crafts but all too often restlessness would seize hold of him and a sudden longing for Middle Earth.

Bilbo watched the play of emotions cross Frodo's face. "Well," he banged his cup down on the table and jumped to his feet. "How about pie for desert?"

They both lifted their heads as silver voices floated in through the open window and grinned. Friends were coming to visit.

"I believe it's the elves coming to help me draw the runes over the doorway," Bilbo cried, pushing passed Frodo on the way to the door.

"No, it's Kala coming to tell me when our next voyage will be," Frodo called close on Bilbo's heels. They both burst through the red door giggling like children, to stop dead on the patio in wonder.

"Gandalf," Frodo found his voice first and took his friend's hand, but it was their other guest who took his breath.

"My lord Elrond," Bilbo bowed low and Frodo hastily followed suite. They had often seen Elrond at the various feasts the elves were fond of giving, but never in their long stay in Valinor had the elf lord ever come to their little glen.

"My dear friends," Elrond took each of their hands in his. The bewildered hobbits watched wide-eyed as elves placed rugs and cushions on the grass beside the spring and set down fruit and wine; bowing quietly to fade back into the night. Soon a haunting melody drifted up from the valley below as the elves made their way homewards. The friends settled onto the rugs and sudden dread crept into Frodo's heart as he guessed why they had come. He opened his mouth several times to speak but no sound would come.

"Rosie has died," he at last choked and the words seemed to clang in the still air like a bell in the Halls of Mandos. He stood.

"Yes," Elrond replied with pity for the little hobbit. "Ulmo came to my home this evening as we dined by the shore and gave me the news. Ossë saw Elanor again this afternoon. He'd noticed she'd been crying and when he asked her what was wrong she confessed that her mother had passed beyond. I'm sorry my friend."

Frodo nodded and with a quick apology he walked off into the trees. Why had he left Sam to face this day alone? He never should have left Middle Earth. He strode about the glen but could find no comfort in the beauty around him. The moon rose and he felt betrayed by its brightness. At last he returned to the others and found Gandalf and Bilbo smoking quietly, Elrond lying back to stare at the glittering stars overhead.

"Come here, my lad," Bilbo motioned, and put a comforting arm around Frodo as he sat beside him once more. Gandalf gave him a keen look, noting the disquiet in his friend's pale features.

"You and I both know you couldn't have stayed in Middle Earth," he began and Frodo squirmed under his stare. "You'd already begun to fade. Sam saw it; that's why he let you go. You wouldn't have lived to see this day if you'd stayed. Or worse, you would have faded to a wraith, eventually forgetting whom you were, doomed to walk the earth in shadows. No, my dear Frodo, you did the right thing in coming with us."

"Of course," Frodo replied, but the ache in his heart wasn't lessened. He wasn't entirely swayed by Gandalf's words either. He should have been stronger. He should have stayed behind.

"Is there nothing I can do?" He missed the quick look Gandalf and Elrond exchanged and Elrond's slight shake of the head. The time wasn't right to reveal their council.

Bilbo had sat quietly during this exchange and Frodo now risked a look at him. The pity in his uncle's eyes struck him hard, but he was also struck by how young Bilbo looked. Almost as if he'd never given up the ring. The thought startled Frodo but he couldn't deny it.

"I'm glad I'm here with you, Bilbo." He put his arms about his uncle and gave a quick squeeze.

The friend's talked quietly for awhile about small matters, then Frodo excused himself to make up the back bedroom for Gandalf. Elrond said goodnight and soon wandered off through the glen and down the trail singing to the stars.

Frodo awoke in the early morning. Pale sunlight filtered through the lace on his window and slowly brightened as dawn approached. Dressing quickly he made his way down numerous hallways to the kitchen. He could hear Gandalf's loud snores echoing from his room beyond, and Bilbo's gentler snores meandering through the halls on his side of the house. He made a quick cup of tea, but restlessness soon drove him from the house with only a pocketful of biscuits and an apple to appease the rumblings in his stomach.

He worked his way down the winding path to the sea below and stalked up and down the white shores, unable to see the beauty of the glittering sand. What was Sam doing at that moment? Was he sleeping? Was he with Elanor? He knew Merry and Pippin were often away from the Shire. Did they know about Rosie? Would they be there for Sam? The questions chased themselves around in his head until he flung himself on the beach with a groan and cradled his aching head in his arms.

"Hail Frodo!" a joyous voice called and Frodo looked up to see his friend Kala sailing by in the little ship they'd built together the past summer. Often they'd take trips around the coast or out into the deep bay.

"Kala!" His spirits lifted and Frodo jumped from the rock and waded out to his friend.

"Quickly, and we'll catch the wind." Kala gripped Frodo's hand and pulled him on board the sleek craft.

"Where to?" Frodo took the tiller as Kala looked to the sails.

"Out to sea, my friend," Kala called over the rising wind. His silver hair flowed out in the breeze and his fair face was lit with joy. Kala delighted in the sea and the wind and the freedom of a swift craft. Frodo lifted his face to the spray of the sea as the ship gained speed and his own heart leapt in joyous freedom.

All too soon they reached the edge of the bay and Kala regretfully turned the ship. They skimmed along the edge between the calm bay and the open sea, both longing to continue, but both aware of the frailty of their small craft. They turned the ship homewards and talked idly as they crossed the bay.

"You're becoming quite a sailor, Frodo. Do all mortals take to the water as you do?"

"Not the people of my land," answered Frodo. "Only the Brandybucks will take a small boat out on the Brandywine River. I used to sail with my parents when I was a child. Then one evening they took a boat out without me were drowned in an accident. I stayed in Brandy Hall near the river after that until Bilbo adopted me. It's nice to be sailing again," he admitted.

"I couldn't imagine life away from the sea." Kala stared over the horizon where the water seemed to go on forever. "I was only a small child when my family left Middle Earth to follow our friends the Noldor. It was a long, arduous voyage; many elves died. My mother died." Grief overcame his features at the memory of a loss Frodo could hardly fathom. Death was a constant in his world; but only a fleeting thought to the elves until some tragedy brought it home.

"I'm sorry, my friend." Frodo stood and gripped Kala's arm. Kala shook his head.

"I do not regret any memory of her. She was sweet and gentle and wonderful, and I shall see her again one day. Here we are."

Frodo swung the tiller over to land neatly on the beach. He jumped over the side and pushed the craft back out to sea so Kala could make his way home. "Thank you." He waved, and with a merry shout Kala headed down the coast, his face lifted in song to the morning and the waves and the sound of the sea.

Part 2

Frodo tramped to the outcropping of rocks he'd sat on the day before and dangled his feet in the cool water. Perhaps Ulmo would pass by on his way back out to sea. The sun rose towards noon and the hobbit grew sleepy in the warm air. He lay back and was just settling into a cozy dream of picnics on the Brandywine with his parents when a strange sensation like fish nibbling on his toes woke him abruptly. He jerked upright and would have fallen if Ulmo hadn't put out a hand to steady him.

"Hello Frodo," his booming voice broke like a wave over the rocks. "Elrond thought I'd find you here."

"Yes?" Frodo asked cautiously, not sure he wanted to hear Ulmo's words.

"Ossë saw Samwise last night," he began without preamble. "He was resting on the beach when the old hobbit came down to the waters edge. The hobbit stared out to sea, still and quiet, but Ossë could see tears glistening on his face. Ossë approached him and asked if anything was wrong. Samwise remained silent a moment, then without taking his eyes off the sea he spoke of his beloved wife who had left the world just hours before and of his master and friend who had passed over the sea long years before. ‘Must I now continue the journey alone?' he'd asked, and with those words had fallen to the sand and hidden his face in his hands. Ossë sat beside him as the cold mist rose around them. Deep in the night the old hobbit had risen to his feet and made his lonely way back up the beach."

Frodo wept at the image Ulmo gave him and the water god put his arm around the small hobbit. "Courage, Frodo. I know you have that. When you set sail from Middle Earth I tried to turn you back, for how dared a mortal cross my sea to Valinor? Yet the more fierce I made the waves, the more tumulus the sea, your spirit seemed to soar. You lifted your face to the wind and laughed. You proved yourself that day, my friend."

Frodo had no words to answer him. He remembered that voyage. His heart had seemed ripped from his breast at leaving his friends. The sea held no fear for him greater than that which he already carried inside; the fear of an eternal parting from those he loved. The two friends sat quietly for awhile, then presently Ulmo left to begin the long journey back to the depths of the sea. Sometimes the world's grief was more than he could bear.

Pity for Sam wrung Frodo's heart but soon a fire sparked instead. He wouldn't leave Sam to carry on in loneliness. He sprang from the rock and strode down the beach as a growing determination kindled his face. He approached the harbor and ran his eyes over the ships anchored there. He didn't know everything about seamanship but he'd learned enough to know what kind of a craft he needed.

"Going somewhere?" Gandalf asked from his perch on a barrel placed on the dock. The wizard seemed to be smoking idly and enjoying the brisk air off the sea, but Frodo eyed him suspiciously.

"You know where." Frodo pushed passed him and Gandalf realized from his set face that the crisis Elrond and he had anticipated had been reached. He jumped from his seat and hurried to Frodo's side.

Frodo ignored him. There was the ‘Silver Star' set low and sleek in the water: swift but needing two crewmen to manage her. He strode passed two others and dismissed them in turn.

"Ah." He stopped before the ‘Evenstar' of Elrond's own fleet: slim and graceful of white carved mallorn wood with trim sails. Easy to maneuver. Perfect.

"You cannot leave here, Frodo," Gandalf said at his side.

"What's to keep me?" Frodo shrugged off his arm and stepped closer to the ship.

"Frodo," Gandalf growled. "Come and sit down." He moved to a bench facing the sea. Frodo took another step towards the ship, then with a sigh turned and joined his friend.

"Don't be a fool, Frodo. Once you left these shores the Grace of the Valar would be withdrawn and you would die. You know that."

"But I can't stay here and do nothing." Frodo jumped up to pace back and forth in agitation.

"Frodo Baggins, sit down!" The sharp command startled Frodo and he scurried to comply, feeling like the young lad who, along with his cousins, Gandalf had had to keep in line, especially when fireworks were present.

"Tell me about it," Gandalf murmured once again his friend and advisor. Taking a deep breath Frodo began.

"I need to help Sam. I never should have left home to begin with. I plan to borrow that ship and sail it to Middle Earth. I must go."

"You can't help Sam if you're dead," Gandalf observed dryly.

"Maybe I won't die. But if I do at least I can meet him in the life beyond this one when his time comes." Frodo stared stonily at the sea and refused to meet Gandalf's eyes.

"That choice has always been open to you Frodo, but are you sure it's a path you're ready to follow?"

Frodo's desperation lessened at Gandalf's words, but then another thought surfaced. "I can't leave Bilbo alone either, can I? What shall I do?" With a groan he drew his feet up on the bench and pressed his aching head against his arms.

"My dear hobbit." Gandalf tousled his friend's black hair. Pity stirred in his heart as he caught sight of the ruined finger on Frodo's hand, a testament to how much his friend had already suffered. "You've told me how much Sam needs you, and of Bilbo's loneliness if you should leave. But what of Frodo? What do you desire in all this?"

Frodo lifted his head and watched the gentle waves lap against the boats that rocked quietly in their berths. A few elves could be seen loading a small craft farther down the harbor, and all was peaceful where they sat. Frodo searched his heart. What would make him the happiest? The answer was simple.

"I would have Sam join us here."

"Indeed? Even though you know it's death for a mortal to set foot in the Undying Lands?"

"But I'm not dead, nor is Bilbo. We were given this special grace for our part in destroying the One Ring. Well, it never would have been destroyed without Sam's help. I was spent; my will was broken. Sauron would have regained the ring but for him." A thought drove Frodo to his feet and he faced Gandalf with hope kindling his face. "Perhaps he could be allowed to come here also."

Gandalf searched the face before him, noting the determination in the honest eyes and set jaw, but even more he saw the core of steel inside the hobbit that would carry him through the coming trial; indeed, which had already carried him through the darkest of times.

"Perhaps," he said with a quiet nod. He ran his hand over his beard thoughtfully. "Perhaps it's time."

"What should I do?" Frodo asked simply, his trust in Gandalf complete. A fond smile touched the old wizard's lips and he put his arm about the small hobbit.

"Elrond will be able to advise us," he answered and drew Frodo away from the boats.

They made their way up the coast toward the elven lord's villa. As they drew near the white structures a nimble figure leaped from the sand and ran up to them.

"My friend," Kala attached himself purposefully to Frodo's side and gave Gandalf a piercing look. "What trouble is Olórin conjuring up for you this time?"

"Don't be a fool, Kala," Gandalf grumbled. "Go back to your boats."

"So what is it to be? An adventure?" Kala ignored the wizard and took Frodo's arm. "I'm with you. Lead on." His grin was infectious and Frodo was reminded suddenly of his cousin Merry who'd had the same joyous spirit. He grinned back but withdrew his arm.

"Gandalf is right. Perhaps you should go."

"Then I'm definitely staying. I know of the trouble you led him into last time, Olórin," he said over Frodo's head. "Someone has to keep an eye on you."

"Kala!" Frodo cried and glanced sheepishly at the wizard. Gandalf only shook his head and mumbled something about young fools and what sounded like ‘Took', but Frodo couldn't be sure. Frodo's heart lifted suddenly. He was on an adventure of a sort, for good or ill, and he felt alive.

"Come along then," he chuckled, and arm in arm the two friends strode up to Elrond's house. It was an exquisite jewel set against the green mountainside with walls of gleaming white stone and golden tiles on the roof. Patios opened towards the sea from its many wings and the sound of merry voices within filled one's heart with gladness.

"Welcome, my friends," Elrond called from the nearest patio and beckoned them inside. Gandalf took a chair beside him and Kala flung himself to one of the many cushioned seats in the low stone wall circling the patio. Frodo remained standing, unsure of himself now that he was facing the elven lord.

"Please, be seated," Elrond motioned to a chair on his left, his eyes kind on the little hobbit. Grave and courteous he'd always been to the Ringbearer who had accomplished what all the wise ones could not. "Thank you," Frodo bowed low as was the custom of his people and took the seat offered. Elves came out of the open archways with fruit and wine for the guests.

"And now, Gandalf," Elrond began as they refreshed themselves. "Have you reached a decision?" "I have," the wizard answered, his keen eyes intent on Frodo. "I believe he is ready, and more importantly, I believe he may truly win their hearts."

"Yet it is not an easy task for any of us. Is his resolve strong enough for the coming trial?"

"His need to help Sam drives him and his love for the brave hobbit will see him through."

Frodo looked from one to the other of the great lords in bewilderment. What were they saying? What great trial did they have in mind that could help Sam? He glanced over at Kala and was disconcerted to find his friend on his feet, distress pinching his fair face.

"What do you mean?" the hobbit asked quietly, preparing himself for whatever dreadful doom they might pronounce.

"I beg your pardon, Frodo. We need to explain," Elrond leaned toward his young friend. "You see, Gandalf and I had discussed Sam's fate even as we took ship from Middle Earth. I was for bringing him with us even then, but Gandalf advised against it, saying Sam still had too much of life ahead of him. I agreed, although my heart misgave me for leaving a Ringbearer behind."

"Yes, Frodo," Gandalf put in at Frodo's startled look. "Even though Sam bore the Ring for only a short time, the Rings of Power held a dangerous allure for mortal men, especially the One Ring. Sam had Rosie to hold him true, but with her loss, who can say how the memory of that great evil will begin to play on his mind."

"What can we do?" Frodo stood in agitation.

"Please, sit," Elrond's quiet voice steadied him and Frodo returned to his chair and stared at his clenched hands as the elven lord continued. "These last few years we've turned our thoughts once again to Samwise, knowing that Rosie's time in Middle Earth was drawing to a close. Frodo, you must understand. We have no power in this matter. Our only hope is to appeal to the Valar. You must appeal to them. Only they can bestow this grace on Sam."

A silence seemed to fall on the world as Frodo heard Elrond's words. The Valar? How would he dare to face them? Who was he to ask them for anything? He felt very small.

"I know this is a lot to ask of you," Gandalf said in his gentle voice. "But your heart is pure and your cause is just. The Valar will listen."

Would they? Frodo had his doubts. The friends sat quietly and watched the sea glide in and out on the shore. Seagulls called overhead, sunlight glinting on their white wings. The turmoil in Frodo's heart could not be stilled. His courage failed at the thought of facing the mighty lords of Valinor, but in the end he realized the only way to find peace was to have Sam with them.

"I will go," he said simply, and smiled wryly at Kala's groan from across the patio.

Part 3

He stayed a week in Elrond's house while preparations were made for his audience with the Valar. Bilbo joined him and they spent the time along the coastline, talking quietly about the Shire and the people they'd left back home. Long evenings were spent in the cove under the emerging stars. Kala was often with them, for although his father needed his help on a new ship, Kala wanted to make sure that Frodo didn't slip away.

"It wouldn't be fair of Frodo to go on this adventure without me," he confided to Bilbo one day when his friend seemed more restless than usual. Bilbo merely smiled, feeling the pull of an adventure himself. Gandalf returned that evening.

"Everything is arranged, Frodo," he announced at dinner. "We'll leave for Valmar with the dawn, and your audience will be at dusk when Vingilot rises."

"Thank you." Frodo took a deep breath and set his nerve.

The trip to Valmar passed quickly on horseback, the hobbits riding small ponies acquired from Elrond's stables. The gleaming city took their breaths; even Kala was unusually silent as they rode up the winding street. Grooms took their mounts at the city's stables and showed them rooms beyond where they could refresh themselves and rest for the afternoon. They sat out on the gilded balustrade overlooking the golden city and Frodo let the warm sun sink into his shivering body. Only once before had a mortal man set foot in the Ring of Doom, and he had been set among the stars. What would happen to a little hobbit from the Shire?

They ate a light meal as the afternoon slipped into dusk; then it was time to go. Many Vanyar stood in the glittering streets as they passed, and the elves marveled at the courage of the little hobbits who sought the doom of the Valar. A lone figure cloaked in shimmering white with tresses of gold stood at the gates of Valmar to greet them, and a merry smile touched her lips at their startled faces.

"My Lady," Frodo ran forward with Bilbo and dropped to a knee before her.

"My friends," Galadriel took their hands and helped them to rise, embracing each in turn. "When I heard of your audience I came with all haste. The Valar are wise beyond all others, but we of Middle Earth should stand together."

Frodo could only kiss her hands in response, his tears dropping freely.

They entered the Ring of Doom. A great host of elves were present in the glade with the seats of the Valar positioned at the far end. Frodo made his way alone to the center of the ring as Gandalf had instructed. He could not lift his eyes to the mighty ones before him. He could not find the courage. Then a hand was placed firmly on his shoulder. He looked up to find Gandalf standing beside him. Galadriel and Elrond joined them as did Bilbo and Kala. Frodo's heart swelled at the loyalty of his dear friends and he lifted his eyes to Manwe. Piercing blue eyes met his own and delved straight into his heart.

"Welcome to Valmar, Frodo son of Drogo," Manwe said in his rich tones and Frodo gasped at the kindness and love that emanated from the highest of all Valar. His fear fell from him like a dark cloak as he realized the Valar would listen to his plea with respect and pity.

A sudden hush fell on the assembly as in strode one that surprised even the Valar.

"I have come to stand with Frodo so that you will know he is a good and true friend. Hear his words."

"That is our desire, Ulmo," Varda said from her throne beside Manwe. "Although it is good to see our young hobbit in so noble a company. It speaks well of his character."

"Indeed," Mandos spoke, and Frodo shivered to hear his deep voice. It was he who had the greatest influence on Sam's fate. Mandos strode across the glade and looked down at the small hobbit.

"Great indeed is the mortal who can step onto the Undying Lands and yet live. The grace of the Valar has already been granted to you far beyond that of any mortal save Eärendil. Do you now dare to ask more of them?"

Frodo felt shame stir in him as he looked at the mighty assemblage. Mandos was right. He shouldn't have come. How dare he ask for another gift? He had to leave. At that moment Gandalf pressed his shoulder. He gathered his courage and turned a pale face to Manwe.

"The gift I ask is not for myself. It is for one who deserves it more. It is for Samwise Gamgee of the Shire. He saved us all. You say I stand in a noble company, and indeed I do. Yet none of us could accomplish what Sam was able to by his loyalty and courage. He is my friend and brother and savior."

Frodo drew a ragged breath and continued, a plea for understanding in his voice he did nothing to conceal. "I've been told that Bilbo and I were granted the grace to live in Valinor for the parts we played in the War of the Rings. Can not this favor be extended to the last Ringbearer? Is Sam to remain alone and suffering in Middle Earth while we live here in peace with dear friends to comfort us?'

"Please, my lord," his voice broke and Frodo strode forward to kneel at Manwe's feet. "I couldn't do it. I had collapsed at the foot of Mt. Doom and couldn't continue. My strength was gone, both of body and will. I surrendered to the Ring. But Sam never gave up. He lifted me and carried me to the end. And afterwards he was there to bring me home. If any deserves your grace, it is he." With his last words Frodo buried his face in Manwe's cloak to hide his tears.

With bowed heads the Valar pondered his words in their hearts. After a time Manwe looked at Mandos, who with a sharp nod reluctantly acquiesced.

"Please stand, Frodo." Manwe helped the small hobbit to his feet. He took Frodo's face in his hands and looked at the noble and gentle spirit within. "Be at peace Frodo. When we first heard of your wish for Samwise we were troubled. It is never our desire to interfere with the destiny of others or to lay aside the Gift of Ilüvatar. It is not given us to know what fate lays in wait for mortals beyond death. We brought you to Valinor in the hopes that your wounds would heal and you could find some peace until such a time as you desired to depart this earth. If you desire this grace for Samwise as well it is in our power to grant. He is fortunate to have such a friend."

"No, my lord. I am the fortunate one," Frodo replied, and bowing low to all the assemblage he turned towards his friends, and stumbled. Gandalf sprang forward and caught him in his arms as he fell, undone by all that had transpired. His friends pressed around him and he struggled to regain his feet. Bilbo caught his eyes.

"Let's go home." His uncle took his arm and Frodo gladly let himself be led away.

Frodo awoke in his own bed a few days later with his heart full of a quiet joy. He rose and dressed quickly, hurrying to the kitchen he shared with Bilbo. His uncle was there before him putting the finishing touches to an elaborate breakfast.

"We should celebrate," he explained at Frodo's laugh.

"By all means," Frodo answered and took his chair quickly. A merry meal ensued; then afterwards they took their tea out to the patio.

"You know, we could excavate into the hill over there beyond the pool," Bilbo mused, picturing the garden he could put in along the waters edge, with maybe a tiny bridge to span the stream.

"Whatever you wish, Uncle." Frodo sprawled on the lawn in the warm sun. Would Sam come? Ossë was to communicate the Valar's intentions to him, but the choice remained with Sam. Frodo was hopeful.

Sam waited in the grey mist on the deserted shore. He'd already given the Red Book to Elanor and said his good-byes. His part in the tale was finished. Perhaps she would continue the chronicle.

A sleek ship appeared out of the fog like a golden swan in flight. The elves were courteous as they helped him to board but Sam hardly noticed them. The sea was so broad; and what really lay beyond? He stood at the prow and let the fine ocean spray sting his face. Gulls called overhead and he took a deep breath. His body felt old and tired and his heart ached. He should have stayed at home where he belonged. His old Gaffer, rest his soul, would have had a thing to say about him traipsing around with elves. He didn't belong with all those fair and noble beings.

The rain began to fall and cool his face. The sea went on forever and a great weariness came over him. Would the voyage never end? Perhaps they had lost their way. But wait. The elves lifted their voices in a song to break his heart. The rain rolled back in a curtain of silver glass and he beheld a green country bathed in brilliant sunshine, its white shores glittering under a blue sky.

A great host was waiting for them. Sam looked at them in bewilderment. What was happening? Perhaps he'd misunderstood Ossë and he wasn't supposed to have come after all. He trembled on the edge of the gangway, a frail little hobbit in a strange land.

"Welcome to Valinor, Samwise," said a familiar voice and suddenly Gandalf was there beside him, with Elrond, and they led him to the shore. A cheer went up from the crowd and he looked around in a panic, feeling lost.

"Hello, Sam lad," he heard another beloved voice from the crowd and Bilbo stepped forward to take his hand. "Glad you came."

"Hello, Sam," and Frodo was there beside Bilbo, the happiness in his face chasing the doubts from Sam's mind. Laughter welled up inside him.

"I'm home," he said, and throwing his arms wide he embraced his friends.

Time passed swiftly in the merry glen. Galadriel sent words of welcome and elves to excavate a hobbit hole for Sam on the far side of the pond. In the meantime a tent was pitched for him and a holiday atmosphere pervaded. Gandalf became a regular visitor, as did Kala, and although Sam never quite lost his fear of boats, he was finally persuaded to join in the daily excursions along the coastline.

Time heals all wounds it is said, and that is especially true in the Blessed Realm. The weariness of age slipped from Sam like a heavy mantle. The world turned; time became meaningless as endless days of bliss and peace followed one upon the other. In the twilight of one spring evening Frodo and Sam stood poised at the edge of the trail leading from their glen.

"Race you to the bottom!" Frodo gave Sam a nudge and the two friends sprang down the path. The last rays of the sun caught them as they ran, and for a brief moment it seemed to Bilbo that it was two young hobbit lads who disappeared into the valley below. He took a deep breath of the sweet air and laughed out loud.

"I think it's time for an adventure," he called as Gandalf appeared on the trail below, and danced in glee at the wizard's nod of agreement.


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