Where Many Paths and Errands Meet
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 30, Part 30
(November 10, 1451)
After the healing of
Legolas, the business of preparing for all of the
departures felt kind of gray, like ashes after a fire
with all the warmth leached out. Like Treebeard said, the
chores did help anchor Frodo back into everyday life, but
even so he felt kind of empty to let go of all the
marvels of the past couple days. At least he didn't have
to cook; come supper-time, he, Merry, and Eowyn felt
sufficiently sated by a sandwich of dwarvish sausage
wrapped in elvish bread, nibbled halfheartedly, its
excellent flavor a distant thing.
Frodo wondered if the others would miss Legolas half as
much as he would--the elf had somehow fused in his mind
with the very spirit of strangeness and adventure that
suffused his first grown-up foray into the world. But
Eowyn looked even older today, in Gimli's absence. She
seemed to take comfort in Merry's company, though.
Frodo changed back into his old clothes, which the elves
had laundered for him during the ritual of the night
before. He noticed that the hems came slightly higher on
his limbs but they still fit well enough. (Of course Mama
always did cut them generously, hoping that he'd someday
"fill out" into a proper hobbit shape, bless
her.) Frodo glanced up after pulling on his britches
under the robe, and he realized that all the elves had
gone. Just melted into the woods, he supposed. That made
him even sadder; he had wanted to speak to Thranduil, to
somehow find words enough to tell the elvish king how
much Legolas meant to him. He replaced the robe with his
own shirt, refreshingly clean-feeling and smelling of the
heather it had dried on. But maybe Thranduil would not
have wanted any words from him. Maybe he needed privacy
most of all right now. And how paltry it must seem--a
hobbit's friendship of a couple months, compared to
centuries of fatherhood! "But it didn't seem paltry
to me," Frodo murmured to himself as he pulled on
his waistcoat and then the jacket over it.
He folded up the robe that the dwarves had loaned him and
carried it over to Gloin. All the lines around the old
dwarf's eyes ached with sadness; it couldn't be easy to
let go of a son for such a lonely vigil. At least when
Gimli oversaw the development of Aglarond, his father
could picture him enjoying days of satisfying work and
nights of camaraderie, in one of the best places that a
dwarf could be. Gloin accepted the bundle graciously and
then Frodo just stood there, at a loss for words; he'd
known Gimli even less time than Legolas, and yet Papa's
stories had made him so real and beloved for as far back
as Frodo could remember, just like Legolas. At last Frodo
stammered out, "It'll be all right, sir. In after
years your son will be so glad he did this."
"I know," Gloin said softly, and turned away.
Frodo saw that not all of the dwarves packed up to leave.
Three of the youngest worked instead to pitch a tent, dig
a latreen, and...was that an oven they were building?
Then, to his utter shock, one of the three started to
trim his beard, while another said, "Let me borrow
your shears after you finish, will you?"
"Only if you promise to sharpen them again. And I
suppose Gifur will want them as well?"
Frodo asked, "What's going on?" to anybody who
"Hoom, now, an historic moment, little
hobbit--historic indeed, yes!"
Frodo jumped; he thought he'd been standing under a tree.
Treebeard lifted him up to a more comfortable talking
level; Frodo found himself closer to those legendary
entish eyes than he'd ever imagined he could be.
"Uh, thank you, sir," he said as politely as he
could under the circumstances. "Is it something you
could explain? What the dwarves are doing, I mean?"
"Only if you can keep a secret," the ent said
with an enormous wink.
"Uh, yes, certainly. Cross my heart and hope to
die," he said with appropriate gestures.
Treebeard nodded slowly. "Yes, yes, it is wise for
mortal kind to hope in their mortality, though I did not
know that they also swear by it. Hoom, well, in answer to
your question, the dwarves are rescuing their bloodline.
These three have been chosen as the very flower of their
generation--selected for virtue, wisdom, charm and good
manners. Well, hm, to the best of dwarvish standards,
anyway." He rumbled deep in his throat for a moment,
then sighed. "Ah well, never mind...They shall stay
with me for awhile, drinking ent draughts on a daily
basis--why they think they need an oven I have no
idea!--as I educate them on matters aboveground. When
they reach man-size, they will disperse among humankind
in search of wives."
As Frodo toyed with May's lens, magnifying the fibrous
hide of the fingers holding him, the old ent shook his
head. "You know, young Frodo, I amaze myself to
agree to this scheme at all. But after Gandalf's tale I
have had to reconsider many things." The deep eyes
welled with sadness as the ent gazed down on his guests
setting up camp. "Alas, Aule made a serious mistake
that nothing can entirely amend--I fear that even these
dwarves will never fully understand the living things of
Yavannah's realm, not like you or I do. Everything to
them is gears and compounds--they figure out how things
work and what they're made of, and that is where their
knowledge ends. Some of their children among men will be
much the same, I suppose. But Roin's story taught me that
if they embrace the little knowledge given them with
wonder and an open heart, it will suffice. The love will
still flood in. There is something to be said for
rejoicing in how things work, or what they are made
Even as they spoke, one of the dwarves picked up a leaf
and held it up against the sun, so that the light
illuminated its honeycomb of veins and cells, accented by
the autumn colors. He chuckled with delight and called
over his companions to see.
"Half a minute," Frodo said. "Could you
set me down, please? Thanks." He walked over to the
dwarves and loaned them May's glass. The first to use it
gasped to see the cells of the leaf in its magnification,
as the others hopped up and down eagerly to each take
their turn. Tears welled up in the dwarf's eyes above a
smile of yearning joy, till he handed the lens on to the
next as he wiped his face on his sleeve.
"That was well done, little master," said
Treebeard when Frodo had walked back. "And yes, I
can sense the power in that little bit of glass--I could
feel it through my skin, like sunshine on leaves.
Perception magnified by wonder, in a gift of sacrifice
and love." Treebeard started to stroll around the
meadow, at an idle pace for him, though Frodo had to trot
to keep up. Treebeard noticed Frodo's struggles to catch
up, and scooped him up again. "See, it all ties
together, little hobbit--the elf's healing, the
destruction of Barad-Dur, and the gift of that lens you
just shared. Love defeats the evil in this world. It
does not matter how the dwarves--or your
"Merry didn't!" Frodo clenched Treebeard's hand
so hard he hurt his own fingers.
"Hummmm? Did not what?"
"Tell you about May."
Treebeard looked at him, puzzled. "The month?"
"My sister--the one who gave me the magnifying
glass." But then Frodo felt like a bug under a
magnifying glass himself, as the ent brought him close
and scrutinized him. He couldn't look away from the green
glint deep in the dark eyes. At last Treebeard blinked
and Frodo breathed again.
"No, Merry told me nothing--but I can read a little
in your heart, Frodo Gardner; I have learned that much
from elves, at least. Your thoughts have lingered on
May's origins, and some similarity between her and
dwarves, since you first started playing with that glass
she gave you. You love your....hooooom?...sister very
much, and you feel terrified--because she is not really
your sister, is she?" Frodo froze in his grip.
"You are afraid of losing her because you cannot
fully claim her--am I right?"
"M-maybe. But please don't tell anyone."
Treebeard sighed like a gale in the forest. "Frodo,
you cannot protect a sprout by placing a rock on top of
it. Whatever this lie is, it is a mighty heavy rock for
so small a thing to bear. There will come a time, mark
my words, when the best thing you can do for May is to
lift this weight off of her and let her find out for
herself who she is." Again he made that rumbling
sound; Frodo could feel the vibration of it in the hand
that held him. "Why do the speaking peoples keep
assuming that they can claim any living thing? The lass
belongs to herself!"
Frodo struggled to stand up in the ent's palm.
"Begging your pardon, Mr. Treebeard, but I think
hobbits know more about family life than ents do--we
didn't lose all our wives, for one thing."
Treebeard seemed to wilt just a little at that.
"Maybe not...but we do know love, in our own way.
That lens she gave you is so full of it that it is
downright magical. That is the power to beat whatever
darkness lies on young May's past---hoom, some lingering
malice of Saruman's, if I read you aright...no, the evil
of one taught by Saruman. Hoom, harrumm, 'tis all the
same--the slave of Saruman, slave of Sauron, slave of
Morgoth--and the same force overcomes them all:
Love." Treebeard smiled on Frodo. "You have
nothing to worry about where May is concerned, young
hobbit--she has more than enough in her to conquer
whatever challenges she faces."
"You keep talking about love, and I
won't--can't--deny its power." He looked up.
"But my namesake defeated Sauron by throwing his
ring into the Crack of Doom."
"Harrumph, that deed goes half at least to the
credit of your father! Beyond his heroism in assuring the
Ringbearer's survival (for pride in his duty could have
carried him far in that) it was your father's love that
enabled Frodo Baggins to fight the ring's seduction until
the final hour. Baggins alone could not have lasted half
as long. Sauron's will within the ring made it hard--we
may never know the full tale of just how hard--but
Samwise Gamgee would not let go.
father's, May's, Gimli's, Thranduil's, Roin and
Mírglin's, Míryave and Halmer's--for love's enemy has
chosen you, the son of his mortal foe, to strike out
against in whatever vengeance he can summon. He may be
small now, almost powerless, but he has marked you, and
he can still trick you into defeating yourself--you shall
have to be bigger than him, little Hobbit. To do that,
you must remember always how it is that you defeat
him--never let yourself forget it for a minute."
Then Treebeard glanced over at the dwarves, in ecstasy
over every leaf or blade of grass that they could magnify, now
fully enthralled in the power of the mother-spell, and
the old ent chuckled. "Nevertheless, I think you are
well equipped for the struggle."
"There's just one thing I don't understand,"
said Frodo. "The thing that made Legolas vulnerable
in the first place was a breakdown from caring so much
about folks other than his own."
"What do you think Sauron hates the most? What else
would he rather attack--indeed, make seem like the very
stuff of madness?" Then he turned towards the sound
of hoof-falls, soft against the humus. "Hummm--I see
that your companions are all packed up and ready to
leave. You had best be on your way, young hobbit."
He set Frodo down on his feet again.
"Thanks," said Frodo. "And Treebeard?
Thanks for...for everything."
Treebeard swayed in a kind of bow. "You are most
welcome. Indeed, any of the Little Folk shall always be
welcome in my woods."
"Oh, and Treebeard? One more thing. The oven. I
asked the dwarves when I loaned them the lens. They
understand that they won't need bread. They want to bake
As Treebeard strode away, Frodo could hear him mutter to
himself. "Men will come here," he said,
"long after we leave this Middle-Earth. Men will
practice healing in this place."
Frodo retrieved May's glass again, almost reluctantly.
Each of the dwarves in turn bowed to him and pledged
their service and that of their children to him in
perpetuity. Then he went over to where Merry and Eowyn
had already saddled up, with Billie-Lass beside them,
laden with Frodo's gear and ready to go. Merry now rode
"I traded my pony for him," Merry said, patting
the stallion's neck. "Gimli insisted. He's not going
to spend every minute there in the tree-roots, after all;
he will need to make short journeys now and then."
Then he raised an eyebrow at Frodo staring up,
open-mouthed, at how far above him Merry rode in the
saddle. "Oh, don't look so shocked! The Bullroarer
rode a horse, after all."
Frodo swallowed his surprise and grinned, shaking his
head. "Uncle Pippin will be jealous," he said
and mounted Billie-Lass. "Thanks for saddling her,
Lady Eowyn," he said.
"My pleasure. She is a sweet little thing, is she
"Yeah," Frodo said, patting the pony's neck.
And without more words the three of them rode off to the
south, through twilight into night, as the woods gave way
to grasslands again. They forded the Isen into Rohan
proper (a musical rush of black and silver, cold in the
night) and then just kept on riding till they tired
themselves out, with barely enough energy to tend their
steeds and set up a rudimentary camp before they threw
themselves down into sleep. Edoras lay ahead. And then,
for Frodo, Mordor.
HERE ENDS VOLUME I