The Adventures
Frodo Gardner

Volume I
Where Many Paths and Errands Meet
By Dolores J. Nurss

Chapter 30, Part 30
Life Goes On
(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 and undershirt, 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 might hear.
"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. Yet 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 of."
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 present-giver--were made."
"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, 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 Gardner would not let go.
"Remember love--your father's, May's, Gimli's, Thranduil's, Roin and M�rglin's, M�ryave and Halmer's--for love's enemy has chosen you, the son of his mortal foe, to strike at 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 for Gimli."
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 Legolas's horse.
"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 not?"
"Yeah," Frodo said, patting the pony's neck. "Well, then..."
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.

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